Herman Melville never knew that he was one of America’s greatest writers and would become a world literary figure. Disappointed by the poor reception his novels initially received, he became a customs inspector and turned his literary focus to poetry. He expected to be remembered, if at all, as a poet. Moby Dick insured that this would never happen.
Melville volunteered in hospitals during the Civil War. His experiences with the wounded – their suffering and their bravery – greatly influenced him and resulted in some great American poems. One of these is Shiloh.
I encourage you to use this poem and its common core activities to open discussions about our shared history. I’ve provided directed reading, scripted reading, reciprocal teaching, research questions and a poster assignment to help you involve your students with Melville’s words.
This unit was endorsed by the Civil War Trust Teachers Regiment.