Written 12 years after the conclusion of the War, Whitman's poem expresses the anguish felt by many when Virginia ("the noble sire") left the Union ("the Mother of All") and cast her lot with the Confederacy.

Virginia had always prided herself on being "the mother of states and statesman." Not only had she provided many of the most prominent political leaders and military men of the Revolutionary War era, but many of those who moved further west as the new nation expanded its borders could boast of roots in the Old Dominion as well. Whitman's poem points out the folly of Virginia's rebelling against a government and a country that she herself had done so much to establish. Those who came from Ohio, Indiana, and other Midwestern states to join the Union Army were, in a sense, returning to bear arms against the one who had sent them forth to begin with -- an irony that was not lost on Whitman.

"Virginia -- The West"