The Battle of Chickamauga was fought on September 19 through 21, 1863, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The forces of Confederate General Braxton Bragg defeated Federal troops under General William Rosecrans in a ferocious battle that claimed a combined total of almost 35,000 lives. As was so often the case, the victorious Confederates were unable to take advantage of their success and allowed the Federals to retire to Chattanooga unmolested.

Melville's poem is a tribute to those who gave their lives in a contest the outcome of which they were never to know.

"Memorial on the Slain at Chickamauga"