Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

William Haines Lytle


[Carte de Visite Photograph, Ball and Thomas Photographers, 1863]


W. H. Venable, Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley: Historical and Biographical Sketches 284-85 (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1891) [online text]:

William Haines Lytle was born in Cincinnati, November 2, 1826. He served in the Mexican war as captain; became a member of the Ohio legislature; ran for lieutenaut-governor in 1857; was major-general of the Ohio militia; commanded the Fourth Ohio Regiment in General O.M. Mitchel's brigade in the civil war; was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga [Georgia], September 20, 1863. Illustrious in arms, this well-loved Ohio hero is also admired in the field of letters. His best poem, 'Anthony and Cleopatra,' seems to be booked for immortality. Periodically, it goes the rounds of the newspaper press as an 'old favorite,' having about it that indescribable quality of sustained excellence which marks it as permanently acceptable to the muse. Both the imagination and the ear of the critic must grant that there is melody, verve, dramatic vividness, and bold imagery in every stanza of the six which make up this fine lyric which reaches its climax in the words:

'And for thee, star-eyed Egyptian!
    Glorious sorceress of the Nile,
Light the path of Stygean horrors
    With the splendor of thy smile;
Give the Caesar crowns and arches,
    Let his brow the laurel twine,
I can scorn the Senate's triumphs,
    Triumphing in love like thine.' "

Pheron the king of ancient Egypt is moving an unthinkable amount of soldiers and supplies across the Nile.

[Jacob Abbott, The History of Xerxes the Great (New York: Harper & Brothers)] [Used with permission of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology]

Venable provides the following story on the composition of "Anthony and Cleopatra":

"Anthony and Cleopatra" was written at the Lytle Homestead, Lawrence street, Cincinnati, in July, 1858. The author dashed it off in a glow of poetic excitement, and left the manuscript lying upon the writing-table, in his private room, where it was found by his friend, Wm. W. Fosdick, the poet. 'Who wrote that, Lytle?' inquired Fodsick. 'Why, I did,' answered Lytle, 'How do you like it?' Fosdick expressed admiration for the poem, and taking the liberty of a literary comrade, he carried the manuscript away, and sent it to the edition of the Cincinnati Commercial. . . . [Id., fn. at p. 284]

William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West: With Biographical and Critical Notices 565 (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860):

WILLIAM H. LYTLE was born in Cincinnati, about the year 1828, of an old and much respected American family. His great grandfather, William Lytle, held a captain's commission in the Pennsylvania line during the old French war, and emigrated to Kentucky in the year 1779. His grandfather, William Lytle, was famous in the early border warfare of the West, and one of the earliest and most distinguished
pioneers of Ohio. He was the intimate, personal friend of Andrew Jackson, under whom, when President, he held the office of Surveyor General of Public Lands.

Robert T. Lytle, the father of the subject of this sketch, was, for many years, a very influential politician. He represented the Cincinnati district in Congress, and was long the favorite orator of the Democracy of south-western Ohio. His only son, William, was educated in the West, and his fine abilities as a thinker, speaker and writer, were early the subject of remark. After the completion of his scholastic education, he studied law in the office of his uncle, E. S. Haines. Upon the breaking out of the Mexican war, the military spirit which had distinguished his family, showed itself in him. He volunteered, was elected captain of company L, second Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, commanded by Colonel Irvin of Lancaster, and served with distinction during the war. While in Mexico, he wrote some letters which were much admired for their poetic tone and beautiful description of tropical scenery. At the close of the war he returned to the practice of the law, but was soon elected a member of the first Ohio Legislature under the present Constitution of that State. He did not speak often in that body, but when he did address the House, he commanded its attention by a strain of eloquence and argument not quite so common in this country as some people suppose. In 1857 he was nominated to the office of Lieutenant
Governor by the Democratic party of Ohio. The ticket was beaten by a few hundred votes. He was afterward elected Major General of the First Division of the Ohio Militia, embracing within its limits the city of Cincinnati. This was a deserved honor, for in disposition and bearing he is the beau ideal of a citizen soldier; yet, considering the force and beauty with which he writes, his friends are constrained to think, that even in his soldierly hands "the pen is mightier than the sword."

William H. Lytle

Lytle Park
Cincinnati, Ohio

Lytle Homestead

For Honor Glory and Union: The Mexican and Civil War Letters
of Brig. Gen. William Haines Lytle

10th Ohio Infantry


"Antony and Cleopatra" || "Antony and Cleopatra"


William Haines Lytle, "Song of the Ragged Attorney," in Ina Russelle Warren (ed.), The Lawyer's Alcove: Poems by the Lawyer, for the Lawyer and about the Lawyer 80-81 (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1900)(Buffalo, New York: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., 1990)(See "Song of the Ragged Attorney," in William H. Venable (ed.), Poems of Wiliam Haines Lytle 128-130 (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke Co., 1894)(This is the only law-related poem to be found in the Venable collection of Lytle poetry)


William Haines Lytle, Poems of William Haines Lytle (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke Company, 1894)(William H. Venable ed.)


Ruth C. Carter, For Honor, Glory, and Union: The Mexican and Civil War Letters of Brig. Gen. William Haines Lytle (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999)

Research Resources

Lytle Family Papers
Cincinnati Historical Society, Museum Center Library
Cincinnati, Ohio

[Frank Leslie's Illustrated Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War
(New York: Mrs. Frank Leslie, 1896)]

[Used with permission of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology]

Frank Leslie, Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War (New York: Mrs. Frank Leslie, 1896): "Battle of Chickamauga, Ga., September 19th-20th, 1863, between Generals Rosecrans and Bragg. Our sketch of this most important battle shows General Thomas and his staff anxiously looking for re-enforcements as his gallant troops from their temporary breastwork of loggs and knapsacks, are repulsing the retreated assaults of the overpowering Confederate forces and saving the whole Army of the Cumberland from destruction. After skirmishing on Thursday and Friday, September 17th and 18th, General Rosecrans on Saturday formed his line, with General Thomas on the left, having under him Brannan, Baird and Reynolds; Negley and Wood held the extreme right at Owen's Ford and Gordon's Mill. Crittenden's corps, consisting of Palmer's and Van Cleve's divisions, formed the centre, with part of McCook's on each side. The line generally followed the Chickamauga, though on the left it took the course of the Lafayette Road. Between ten and eleven A. M. Cranston's brigade, of Brannan's division, met the first attack, and in a few moments the whole division was forced back, Thomas then ordered his entire line to advance, and Longstreet was driven back with slaughter, losing the ground and cannon he had gained, and his corps was fast melting under the blows of Thomas, when Polk and Hill threw their corps with impetuosity on Crittenden, and after a fierce struggle routed him, and drove to the right, in similar disorder, Davis's division, of McCook's corps, leaving a wide gap in the line and exposing Thomas to a heavy flank attack. Back then his victorious troops returned to meet the new enemy, and Thomas, with Negley and Wood, from the right, rallying some of the routed centre, drove the enemy back. Before the deadly fire of this new line the Confederates everywhere retired, and before sunset Rosecrans's army held its old line. During the night Rosecrans fell back to a new line, resting Negley with his right on Missionary Ridge, Van Cleve, Wood and Sheridan on the left, and Thomas more in the centre. The fight commenced on the extreme left, and the Confederates, about ten in the morning, attacked Negley with all their strength, and Longstreet again rolled his verterans on Thomas, and again a bitterly contested fight took place. At last General Reynolds began to give way, and Wood was sent to his relief. As Davis moved to fill Wood's place the Confederates took them in flank, and routing them, severed Rosecrans's line, leaving him, with Sheridan, Davis and Wilder, cut off entirely from the mass of his army. Thomas gathered up the other portion of the army in a strong line on Missionary Ridge, and prepared to resist the last Confederate attack, made with all the inspiration of victory; but his men stood firm, and a cloud of dust to the left soon showed a line advancing on the Lafayette Road. Every eye was strained; a moment would tell whether the day's disaster must close in irreparable ruin or there was yet hope of repulsing the foe. It was General Granger with two fresh brigades, which, fresh for battle, now rushed on the enemy and drove them from a hill which they had gained; and thus aided, Thomas repulsed the enemy, and fell back, unmolested, to Rossville."