Lewis, Patrick J. The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. ISBN: 9781426300370
Lewis’s recounting of the Civil War through poetry and photographs creates a compelling collection. Through The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse, the legacy of the Civil War is made visible through the use of poetry inspired by photographs and actual letters from this time period. Actual photographs from the Civil War are paired with poetry to give readers context.
The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse is a stunning depiction of the Civil War and how the war began. Beginning with the Table of Contents and ending with detailed Author’s Notes, the black and gold pages give the poems a feeling of antiquity that balances the photographs nicely. Each poem is paired with a photograph from the Civil War. The photographs are emotionally stirring which works to invoke a feeling of empathy in readers. Additionally, Lewis includes detailed footnotes that give readers more information about particular events that inspired each poem.
The poetry and photographs in this collection create a timeline in prose and picture. The poems are well-placed in chronological order. After the introduction, Lewis lays a foundation for the start of the war with a stirring poem about slavery called “Down on the Plantation”.
Down on the Plantation
(Picking Cotton near Savannah, Georgia – Early 1860’s)
I stopped to stoop
And stooped to chop,
The clipped to scoop
The cotton crop.
The way it went
Long after dark. . .
A woman bent
Like a question mark.
Special consideration needs to be given to Lewis’ attention to detail. A two-page spread gives readers key historical information about the Civil War and those who sought to document it through photographs. Lewis includes a detailed United States map along with a timeline of the Civil War. Additionally, a note is included about the photography detailing how the war was documented while giving readers more information on where to find more photographs from the Civil War not included in this collection. In addition to a detailed bibliography, the Author’s Notes provides with insight as to how each poem was inspired.
Lewis concludes the collection with a poem that speaks of sacrifice and honor. “Passing in Review” sums up the anthology with a somber reminder of the savage beast that is war. Paired with a particularly stirring photograph, this poem serves to remind us of war and all that it implies.
Passing in Review
The tortured howls,
The wretched noise,
The lives it dooms or redeploys. . .
A civil war breaks men from boys.
Surprise attacks –
Such eerie stillness now and then
Is when a war churns boys to men.
Young men-at-arms who would increase
By inches some foothold on peace.
Salute the boys
You never knew
For valor. It’s long overdue.
Young men still passing in review.
Don not require
A great parade,
A big brass band or cavalcade
To sing the sacrifice they made.
History teachers could use this collection throughout their Civil War unit to supplement their teaching and provide context for learning. Infusing the poetry and photographs throughout the unit, teachers would create a more meaningful learning experience.
Using a poem from the collection as a mentor text, students could choose a photograph from the Civil War, research the event behind it, and create a poem inspired from the photograph and their research.