The themes Henry Timrod wrote about
- steel arms
Henry Timrod was an American poet, often called the poet laureate of the Confederacy.
Timrod was born on December 8, 1828, in Charleston, South Carolina, to a family of German descent. His grandfather Heinrich Dimroth emigrated to the United States in 1765 and Anglicized his name. His father was an officer in the Seminole Wars and a poet himself. The elder Timrod died on July 28, 1838, at the age of 44; his son was nine. A few years later, their home burned down, leaving the family impoverished.
Timrod studied at the University of Georgia beginning in 1847 with the help of a financial benefactor. He was soon forced by illness to end his formal studies, however, and returned to Charleston. He took a position with a lawyer and planned to begin a law practice. From 1848 to 1853 he submitted a number of poems to the Southern Literary Messenger under the pen name Aglaus, where he attracted some attention for his abilities. He left his legal studies by December 1850, calling it "distasteful", and focused more on writing and tutoring.
In 1856 he accepted a post as a teacher at the plantation of Col. William Henry Cannon in the area that would later become Florence, South Carolina. The single-room school building (still preserved in Timrod Park in Florence) was built to provide for the education of the plantation children. Among his students was the young lady who would later become his bride and the object of a number of his poems - the fair Saxon Katie Godwin.
While teaching and tutoring he continued also to publish his poems in literary magazines. In 1860, he published a small book, which, although a commercial failure, increased his fame. The best-known poem from the book was "A Vision of Poesy".
With the outbreak of American Civil War, Henry returned to Charleston, soon publishing his best-known poems, which drew many young men to enlist in the service of the Confederacy. His best-known poems of the time are "Ethnogenesis", "A Cry to Arms", "Carolina" and "Katie." He was a frequent contributor of poems to Russell's Magazine and to The Southern Literary Messenger.
Timrod soon followed into the military as a private in Company B, 20th South Carolina Infantry, but illness prevented much service, and he was sent home. After the bloody Battle of Shiloh, he tried again to live the camp life as a western war correspondent for the Charleston Mercury, but this too was short lived as he was not strong enough for the rugged task.
He returned from the front and settled in Columbia, to become associate editor of the newspaper, The South Carolinian. In February 1864 he married his beloved Katie, and they soon had a son, Willie, born on Christmas Eve. During the occupation by General Sherman's troops in February 1865, he was forced into hiding, and the newspaper office was destroyed.
The aftermath of war brought his family poverty and to him, increasing illness. He took a post as correspondent for a new newspaper based in Charleston, The Carolinian, but after several months of work he was never paid and the paper folded. His son Willie soon died, and Henry was to join him in death, of consumption, in 1867. He is interred in the churchyard at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbia.
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