“Conyers might not join the ranks of Whitman, Melville, and Benet, but Immortals
is a worthy addition to any American poetry collection.”
—School Library Journal
This greatly moving poem about July 3, 1863—the first epic poem dedicated solely to Gettysburg—reveals the fear, innocence, bravery, and camaraderie of that fateful day by presenting poems written in the voices of various Confederate and Union participants.
The story begins at dawn as members of the gray Army of North Virginia gather their strength and wits for battle. Images of flickering pole lanterns and the summer smells of earth in the early morning set the stage, while profound questions of duty, love, glory, and faith are offered as the inner thoughts of these brave and sometimes bewildered men. We become privy to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s concerns and doubts, Lt. General James Longstreet’s sentimental feelings towards the soldiers, and George Pickett’s intoxicating confidence. We overhear the revealing comments of additional characters such as a fifteen-year-old drummer boy in Pickett’s Division, Abner Applewhite, and his mother, home in Stantonsburg, North Carolina, as well as field medic Charles Olsen, and the surprising commentary by a mule with Porter Alexander’s military, who scoffs at the soldiers: “Stubborn they call us . . . ha! It is they who refuse to learn the simple lessons not to kill.”
The second half of the book takes us to the gathering place of the Army of the Potomac, where Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain surveys the long valley below him, musing about the advantage of his position. Gen. George Meade stockpiles his determination to beat Lee, while Maj. Gen. Winfield Hancock ponders mortality before writing a letter to his wife. A Gettysburg citizen named Jennie Wade bakes and sings, seemingly safe from the raging battle, until pierced by a bullet through her kitchen window as another young woman prays for Jeb Stuart, who showed her kindness while riding past her with his cavalry the day before. Surgeon William Watson shares his rage about the mayhem as infantryman Jake Applewhite sadly reflects that he is about to fight against his own kin—and later watches his younger brother die at the hands of a Union soldier.
This story encompasses all the raging emotions of war, taking readers through a startling range of characters and perceptions, bringing us closer to the truth than nonfiction might.