Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by David Maddock
Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War.
By Herman Melville.
The Battle-Pieces in this volume are dedicated to the memory of the
THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND who in the war for the maintenance of the Union
fell devotedly under the flag of their fathers.
[With few exceptions, the Pieces in this volume originated in an impulse
imparted by the fall of Richmond. They were composed without reference
to collective arrangement, but being brought together in review,
naturally fall into the order assumed.
The events and incidents of the conflict--making up a whole, in varied
amplitude, corresponding with the geographical area covered by the
war--from these but a few themes have been taken, such as for any cause
chanced to imprint themselves upon the mind.
The aspects which the strife as a memory assumes are as manifold as are
the moods of involuntary meditation--moods variable, and at times widely
at variance. Yielding instinctively, one after another, to feelings not
inspired from any one source exclusively, and unmindful, without
purposing to be, of consistency, I seem, in most of these verses, to
have but placed a harp in a window, and noted the contrasted airs which
wayward wilds have played upon the strings.]
Hanging from the beam,
Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.
Hidden in the cap
Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
But the streaming beard is shown
(Weird John Brown),
The meteor of the the war.
When ocean-clouds over inland hills
Sweep storming in late autumn brown,
And horror the sodden valley fills,
And the spire falls crashing in the town,
I muse upon my country's ills--
The tempest bursting from the waste of Time
On the world's fairest hope linked with man's foulest crime.
Nature's dark side is heeded now--
(Ah! optimist-cheer disheartened flown)--
A child may read the moody brow
Of yon black mountain lone.
With shouts the torrents down the gorges go,
And storms are formed behind the storm we feel:
The hemlock shakes in the rafter, the oak in the driving keel.
The Conflict of Convictions.
On starry heights
A bugle wails the long recall;
Derision stirs the deep abyss,
Heaven's ominous silence over all.
Return, return, O eager Hope,
And face man's latter fall.
Events, they make the dreamers quail;
Satan's old age is strong and hale,
A disciplined captain, gray in skill,
And Raphael a white enthusiast still;
Dashed aims, at which Christ's martyrs pale,
Shall Mammon's slaves fulfill?
(_Dismantle the fort,
Cut down the fleet--
Battle no more shall be!
While the fields for fight in aeons to come
Congeal beneath the sea._)
The terrors of truth and dart of death
To faith alike are vain;
Though comets, gone a thousand years,
Patient she stands--she can no more--
And waits, nor heeds she waxes hoar.
(_At a stony gate,
A statue of stone,
Long 'twill wait!_)
But God his former mind retains,
Confirms his old decree;
The generations are inured to pains,
And strong Necessity
Surges, and heaps Time's strand with wrecks.
The People spread like a weedy grass,
The thing they will they bring to pass,
And prosper to the apoplex.
The rout it herds around the heart,
The ghost is yielded in the gloom;
Kings wag their heads--Now save thyself
Who wouldst rebuild the world in bloom.
And top of the ages' strike,
Verge where they called the world to come,
The last advance of life--
Ha ha, the rust on the Iron Dome!_)
Nay, but revere the hid event;
In the cloud a sword is girded on,
I mark a twinkling in the tent
Of Michael the warrior one.
Senior wisdom suits not now,
The light is on the youthful brow.
(_Ay, in caves the miner see:
His forehead bears a blinking light;
Darkness so he feebly braves--
A meagre wight!_)
But He who rules is old--is old;
Ah! faith is warm, but heaven with age is cold.
(_Ho ho, ho ho,
The cloistered doubt
Of olden times
Is blurted out!_)
The Ancient of Days forever is young,
Forever the scheme of Nature thrives;
I know a wind in purpose strong--
It spins _against_ the way it drives.
What if the gulfs their slimed foundations bare?
So deep must the stones be hurled
Whereon the throes of ages rear
The final empire and the happier world.
(_The poor old Past,
The Future's slave,
She drudged through pain and crime
To bring about the blissful Prime,
Then--perished. There's a grave!_)
Power unanointed may come--
Dominion (unsought by the free)
And the Iron Dome,
Stronger for stress and strain,
Fling her huge shadow athwart the main;
But the Founders' dream shall flee.
Agee after age shall be
As age after age has been,
(From man's changeless heart their way they win);
And death be busy with all who strive--
Death, with silent negative.
YEA, AND NAY--
EACH HATH HIS SAY;
BUT GOD HE KEEPS THE MIDDLE WAY.
NONE WAS BY
WHEN HE SPREAD THE SKY;
WISDOM IS VAIN, AND PROPHESY.
Apathy and Enthusiasm.
O the clammy cold November,
And the winter white and dead,
And the terror dumb with stupor,
And the sky a sheet of lead;
And events that came resounding
With the cry that _All was lost_,
Like the thunder-cracks of massy ice
In intensity of frost--
Bursting one upon another
Through the horror of the calm.
The paralysis of arm
In the anguish of the heart;
And the hollowness and dearth.
The appealings of the mother
To brother and to brother
Not in hatred so to part--
And the fissure in the hearth
Growing momently more wide.
Then the glances 'tween the Fates,
And the doubt on every side,
And the patience under gloom
In the stoniness that waits
The finality of doom.
So the winter died despairing,
And the weary weeks of Lent;
And the ice-bound rivers melted,
And the tomb of Faith was rent.
O, the rising of the People
Came with springing of the grass,
They rebounded from dejection
And Easter came to pass.
And the young were all elation
Hearing Sumter's cannon roar,
And they thought how tame the Nation
In the age that went before.
And Michael seemed gigantical,
The Arch-fiend but a dwarf;
And at the towers of Erebus
Our striplings flung the scoff.
But the elders with foreboding
Mourned the days forever o'er,
And re called the forest proverb,
The Iroquois' old saw:
_Grief to every graybeard
When young Indians lead the war._
The March into Virginia,
Ending in the First Manassas.
Did all the lets and bars appear
To every just or larger end,
Whence should come the trust and cheer?
Youth must its ignorant impulse lend--
Age finds place in the rear.
All wars are boyish, and are fought by boys,
The champions and enthusiasts of the state:
Turbid ardors and vain joys
Not barrenly abate--
Stimulants to the power mature,
Preparatives of fate.
Who here forecasteth the event?
What heart but spurns at precedent
And warnings of the wise,
Contemned foreclosures of surprise?
The banners play, the bugles call,
The air is blue and prodigal.
No berrying party, pleasure-wooed,
No picnic party in the May,
Ever went less loth than they
Into that leafy neighborhood.
In Bacchic glee they file toward Fate,
Expectancy, and glad surmise
Of battle's unknown mysteries.
All they feel is this: 'tis glory,
A rapture sharp, though transitory,
Yet lasting in belaureled story.
So they gayly go to fight,
Chatting left and laughing right.
But some who this blithe mood present,
As on in lightsome files they fare,
Shall die experienced ere three days are spent--
Perish, enlightened by the vollied glare;
Or shame survive, and, like to adamant,
The throe of Second Manassas share.
Battle of Springfield, Missouri.
Some hearts there are of deeper sort,
Which yet for cause are trebly clad;
Known death they fly on:
This wizard-heart and heart-of-oak had Lyon.
"They are more than twenty thousand strong,
We less than five,
Too few with such a host to strive"
"Such counsel, fie on!
'Tis battle, or 'tis shame;" and firm stood Lyon.
"For help at need in van we wait--
Retreat or fight:
Retreat the foe would take for flight,
And each proud scion
Feel more elate; the end must come," said Lyon.
By candlelight he wrote the will,
And left his all
To Her for whom 'twas not enough to fall;
Loud neighed Orion
Without the tent; drums beat; we marched with Lyon.
The night-tramp done, we spied the Vale
With guard-fires lit;
Day broke, but trooping clouds made gloom of it:
"A field to die on"
Presaged in his unfaltering heart, brave Lyon.
We fought on the grass, we bled in the corn--
Fate seemed malign;
His horse the Leader led along the line--
Bitterly fearless, he rallied us there, brave Lyon.
There came a sound like the slitting of air
By a swift sharp sword--
A rush of the sound; and the sleek chest broad
Of black Orion
Heaved, and was fixed; the dead mane waved toward Lyon.
"General, you're hurt--this sleet of balls!"
He seemed half spent;
With moody and bloody brow, he lowly bent:
"The field to die on;
But not--not yet; the day is long," breathed Lyon.
For a time becharmed there fell a lull
In the heart of the fight;
The tree-tops nod, the slain sleep light;
Warm noon-winds sigh on,
And thoughts which he never spake had Lyon.
Texans and Indians trim for a charge:
"Stand ready, men!
Let them come close, right up, and then
After the lead, the iron;
Fire, and charge back!" So strength returned to Lyon.
The Iowa men who held the van,
Half drilled, were new
To battle: "Some one lead us, then we'll do"
Said Corporal Tryon:
"Men! _I_ will lead," and a light glared in Lyon.
On they came: they yelped, and fired;
His spirit sped;
We leveled right in, and the half-breeds fled,
Nor stayed the iron,
Nor captured the crimson corse of Lyon.
This seer foresaw his soldier-doom,
Yet willed the fight.
He never turned; his only flight
Was up to Zion,
Where prophets now and armies greet brave Lyon.
One noonday, at my window in the town,
I saw a sight--saddest that eyes can see--
Young soldiers marching lustily
Unto the wars,
With fifes, and flags in mottoed pageantry;
While all the porches, walks, and doors
Were rich with ladies cheering royally.
They moved like Juny morning on the wave,
Their hearts were fresh as clover in its prime
(It was the breezy summer time),
Life throbbed so strong,
How should they dream that Death in a rosy clime
Would come to thin their shining throng?
Youth feels immortal, like the gods sublime.
Weeks passed; and at my window, leaving bed,
By night I mused, of easeful sleep bereft,
On those brave boys (Ah War! thy theft);
Some marching feet
Found pause at last by cliffs Potomac cleft;
Wakeful I mused, while in the street
Far footfalls died away till none were left.
Dupont's Round Fight.
In time and measure perfect moves
All Art whose aim is sure;
Evolving ryhme and stars divine
Have rules, and they endure.
Nor less the Fleet that warred for Right,
And, warring so, prevailed,
In geometric beauty curved,
And in an orbit sailed.
The rebel at Port Royal felt
The Unity overawe,
And rued the spell. A type was here,
And victory of Law.
The Stone Fleet.
An Old Sailor's Lament.
I have a feeling for those ships,
Each worn and ancient one,
With great bluff bows, and broad in the beam;
Ay, it was unkindly done.
But so they serve the Obsolete--
Even so, Stone Fleet!
You'll say I'm doting; do but think
I scudded round the Horn in one--
The Tenedos, a glorious
Good old craft as ever run--
Sunk (how all unmeet!)
With the Old Stone Fleet.
An India ship of fame was she,
Spices and shawls and fans she bore;
A whaler when her wrinkles came--
Turned off! till, spent and poor,
Her bones were sold (escheat)!
Ah! Stone Fleet.
Four were erst patrician keels
(Names attest what families be),
The Kensington, and Richmond too,
Leonidas, and Lee:
But now they have their seat
With the Old Stone Fleet.
To scuttle them--a pirate deed--
Sack them, and dismast;
They sunk so slow, they died so hard,
But gurgling dropped at last.
Their ghosts in gales repeat
_Woe's us, Stone Fleet!_
And all for naught. The waters pass--
Currents will have their way;
Nature is nobody's ally; 'tis well;
The harbor is bettered--will stay.
A failure, and complete,
Was your Old Stone Fleet.
The bitter cup
Of that hard countermand
Which gave the Envoys up,
Still was wormwood in the mouth,
And clouds involved the land,
When, pelted by sleet in the icy street,
About the bulletin-board a band
Of eager, anxious people met,
And every wakeful heart was set
On latest news from West or South.
"No seeing here," cries one--"don't crowd--"
"You tall man, pray you, read aloud."
_We learn that General Grant,
Marching from Henry overland,
And joined by a force up the Cumberland sent
(Some thirty thousand the command),
On Wednesday a good position won--
Began the siege of Donelson.
The stronghold crowns a river-bluff,
A good broad mile of leveled top;
Inland the ground rolls off
Deep-gorged, and rocky, and broken up--
A wilderness of trees and brush.
The spaded summit shows the roods
Of fixed intrenchments in their hush;
Breast-works and rifle-pits in woods
Perplex the base.--
The welcome weather
Is clear and mild; 'tis much like May.
The ancient boughs that lace together
Along the stream, and hang far forth,
Strange with green mistletoe, betray
A dreamy contrast to the North.
Our troops are full of spirits--say
The siege won't prove a creeping one.
They purpose not the lingering stay
Of old beleaguerers; not that way;
But, full of _vim_ from Western prairies won,
They'll make, ere long, a dash at Donelson._
Washed by the storm till the paper grew
Every shade of a streaky blue,
That bulletin stood. The next day brought
LATER FROM THE FORT.
_Grant's investment is complete--
A semicircular one.
Both wings the Cumberland's margin meet,
Then, backwkard curving, clasp the rebel seat.
On Wednesday this good work was done;
But of the doers some lie prone.
Each wood, each hill, each glen was fought for;
The bold inclosing line we wrought for
Flamed with sharpshooters. Each cliff cost
A limb or life. But back we forced
Reserves and all; made good our hold;
And so we rest.
On Thursday added ground was won,
A long bold steep: we near the Den.
Later the foe came shouting down
In sortie, which was quelled; and then
We stormed them on their left.
A chilly change in the afternoon;
The sky, late clear, is now bereft
Of sun. Last night the ground froze hard--
Rings to the enemy as they run
Within their works. A ramrod bites
The lip it meets. The cold incites
To swinging of arms with brisk rebound.
Smart blows 'gainst lusty chests resound.
Along the outer line we ward
A crackle of skirmishing goes on.
Our lads creep round on hand and knee,
They fight from behind each trunk and stone;
And sometimes, flying for refuge, one
Finds 'tis an enemy shares the tree.
Some scores are maimed by boughs shot off
In the glades by the Fort's big gun.
We mourn the loss of colonel Morrison,
Killed while cheering his regiment on.
Their far sharpshooters try our stuff;
And ours return them puff for puff:
'Tis diamond-cutting-diamond work.
Woe on the rebel cannoneer
Who shows his head. Our fellows lurk
Like Indians that waylay the deer
By the wild salt-spring.--The sky is dun,
Fordooming the fall of Donelson.
Stern weather is all unwonted here.
The people of the country own
We brought it. Yea, the earnest North
Has elementally issued forth
To storm this Donelson._
A yelling rout
Of ragamuffins broke profuse
To-day from out the Fort.
Sole uniform they wore, a sort
Of patch, or white badge (as you choose)
Upon the arm. But leading these,
Or mingling, were men of face
And bearing of patrician race,
Splendid in courage and gold lace--
The officers. Before the breeze
Made by their charge, down went our line;
But, rallying, charged back in force,
And broke the sally; yet with loss.
This on the left; upon the right
Meanwhile there was an answering fight;
Assailants and assailed reversed.
The charge too upward, and not down--
Up a steep ridge-side, toward its crown,
A strong redoubt. But they who first
Gained the fort's base, and marked the trees
Felled, heaped in horned perplexities,
And shagged with brush; and swarming there
Fierce wasps whose sting was present death--
They faltered, drawing bated breath,
And felt it was in vain to dare;
Yet still, perforce, returned the ball,
Firing into the tangled wall
Till ordered to come down. They came;
But left some comrades in their fame,
Red on the ridge in icy wreath
And hanging gardens of cold Death.
But not quite unavenged these fell;
Our ranks once out of range, a blast
Of shrapnel and quick shell
Burst on the rebel horde, still massed,
Scattering them pell-mell.
(This fighting--judging what we read--
Both charge and countercharge,
Would seem but Thursday's told at large,
Before in brief reported.--Ed.)
Night closed in about the Den
Murky and lowering. Ere long, chill rains.
A night not soon to be forgot,
Reviving old rheumatic pains
And longings for a cot.
No blankets, overcoats, or tents.
Coats thrown aside on the warm march here--
We looked not then for changeful cheer;
Tents, coats, and blankets too much care.
No fires; a fire a mark presents;
Near by, the trees show bullet-dents.
Rations were eaten cold and raw.
The men well soaked, come snow; and more--
A midnight sally. Small sleeping done--
But such is war;
No matter, we'll have Fort Donelson._
'Twill drag along--drag along"
Growled a cross patriot in the throng,
His battered umbrella like an ambulance-cover
Riddled with bullet-holes, spattered all over.
"Hurrah for Grant!" cried a stripling shrill;
Three urchins joined him with a will,
And some of taller stature cheered.
Meantime a Copperhead passed; he sneered.
"Win or lose," he pausing said,
"Caps fly the same; all boys, mere boys;
Any thing to make a noise.
Like to see the list of the dead;
These '_craven Southerners_' hold out;
Ay, ay, they'll give you many a bout"
"We'll beat in the end, sir"
Firmly said one in staid rebuke,
A solid merchant, square and stout.
"And do you think it? that way tend, sir"
Asked the lean Cooperhead, with a look
Of splenetic pity. "Yes, I do"
His yellow death's head the croaker shook:
"The country's ruined, that I know"
A shower of broken ice and snow,
In lieu of words, confuted him;
They saw him hustled round the corner go,
And each by-stander said--Well suited him.
Next day another crowd was seen
In the dark weather's sleety spleen.
Bald-headed to the storm came out
A man, who, 'mid a joyous shout,
Silently posted this brief sheet:
GLORIOUS VICTORY OF THE FLEET!
FRIDAY'S GREAT EVENT!
THE ENEMY'S WATER-BATTERIES BEAT!
WE SILENCED EVERY GUN!
THE OLD COMMODORE'S COMPLIMENTS SENT
PLUMP INTO DONELSON!
"Well, well, go on!" exclaimed the crowd
To him who thus much read aloud.
"That's all," he said. "What! nothing more"
"Enough for a cheer, though--hip, hurrah!"
"But here's old Baldy come again--"
"More news!"--And now a different strain.
(Our own reporter a dispatch compiles,
As best he may, from varied sources.)
Large re-enforcements have arrived--
Munitions, men, and horses--
For Grant, and all debarked, with stores.
The enemy's field-works extend six miles--
The gate still hid; so well contrived.
Yesterday stung us; frozen shores
Snow-clad, and through the drear defiles
And over the desolate ridges blew
A Lapland wind.
The main affair
Was a good two hours' steady fight
Between our gun-boats and the Fort.
The Louisville's wheel was smashed outright.
A hundred-and-twenty-eight-pound ball
Came planet-like through a starboard port,
Killing three men, and wounding all
The rest of that gun's crew,
(The captain of the gun was cut in two);
Then splintering and ripping went--
Nothing could be its continent.
In the narrow stream the Louisville,
Unhelmed, grew lawless; swung around,
And would have thumped and drifted, till
All the fleet was driven aground,
But for the timely order to retire.
Some damage from our fire, 'tis thought,
Was done the water-batteries of the Fort.
Little else took place that day,
Except the field artillery in line
Would now and then--for love, they say--
Exchange a valentine.
The old sharpshooting going on.
Some plan afoot as yet unknown;
So Friday closed round Donelson.
Great suffering through the night--
A stinging one. Our heedless boys
Were nipped like blossoms. Some dozen
Hapless wounded men were frozen.
During day being struck down out of sight,
And help-cries drowned in roaring noise,
They were left just where the skirmish shifted--
Left in dense underbrush now-drifted.
Some, seeking to crawl in crippled plight,
Yet in spite
Of pangs for these, no heart is lost.
Hungry, and clothing stiff with frost,
Our men declare a nearing sun
Shall see the fall of Donelson.
And this they say, yet not disown
The dark redoubts round Donelson,
And ice-glazed corpses, each a stone--
A sacrifice to Donelson;
They swear it, and swerve not, gazing on
A flag, deemed black, flying from Donelson.
Some of the wounded in the wood
Were cared for by the foe last night,
Though he could do them little needed good,
Himself being all in shivering plight.
The rebel is wrong, but human yet;
He's got a heart, and thrusts a bayonet.
He gives us battle with wondrous will--
The bluff's a perverted Bunker Hill._
The stillness stealing through the throng
The silent thought and dismal fear revealed;
They turned and went,
Musing on right and wrong
And mysteries dimly sealed--
Breasting the storm in daring discontent;
The storm, whose black flag showed in heaven,
As if to say no quarter there was given
To wounded men in wood,
Or true hearts yearning for the good--
All fatherless seemed the human soul.
But next day brought a bitterer bowl--
On the bulletin-board this stood;
_Saturday morning at 3 A.M.
A stir within the Fort betrayed
That the rebels were getting under arms;
Some plot these early birds had laid.
But a lancing sleet cut him who stared
Into the storm. After some vague alarms,
Which left our lads unscared,
Out sallied the enemy at dim of dawn,
With cavalry and artillery, and went
In fury at our environment.
Under cover of shot and shell
Three columns of infantry rolled on,
Vomited out of Donelson--
Rolled down the slopes like rivers of hell,
Surged at our line, and swelled and poured
Like breaking surf. But unsubmerged
Our men stood up, except where roared
The enemy through one gap. We urged
Our all of manhood to the stress,
But still showed shattered in our desperateness.
Back set the tide,
But soon afresh rolled in;
And so it swayed from side to side--
Far batteries joining in the din,
Though sharing in another fray--
Till all became an Indian fight,
Intricate, dusky, stretching far away,
Yet not without spontaneous plan
However tangled showed the plight;
Duels all over 'tween man and man,
Duels on cliff-side, and down in ravine,
Duels at long range, and bone to bone;
Duels every where flitting and half unseen.
Only by courage good as their own,
And strength outlasting theirs,
Did our boys at last drive the rebels off.
Yet they went not back to their distant lairs
In strong-hold, but loud in scoff
Maintained themselves on conquered ground--
Uplands; built works, or stalked around.
Our right wing bore this onset. Noon
Brought calm to Donelson.
The reader ceased; the storm beat hard;
'Twas day, but the office-gas was lit;
Nature retained her sulking-fit,
In her hand the shard.
Flitting faces took the hue
Of that washed bulletin-board in view,
And seemed to bear the public grief
As private, and uncertain of relief;
Yea, many an earnest heart was won,
As broodingly he plodded on,
To find in himself some bitter thing,
Some hardness in his lot as harrowing
That night the board stood barren there,
Oft eyes by wistful people passing,
Who nothing saw but the rain-beads chasing
Each other down the wafered square,
As down some storm-beat grave-yard stone.
But next day showed--
MORE NEWS LAST NIGHT.
STORY OF SATURDAY AFTERNOON.
VICISSITUDES OF THE WAR.
_The damaged gun-boats can't wage fight
For days; so says the Commodore.
Thus no diversion can be had.
Under a sunless sky of lead
Our grim-faced boys in blacked plight
Gaze toward the ground they held before,
And then on Grant. He marks their mood,
And hails it, and will turn the same to good.
Spite all that they have undergone,
Their desperate hearts are set upon
This winter fort, this stubborn fort,
This castle of the last resort,
An order given
Requires withdrawal from the front
Of regiments that bore the brunt
Of morning's fray. Their ranks all riven
Are being replaced by fresh, strong men.
Great vigilance in the foeman's Den;
He snuffs the stormers. Need it is
That for that fell assault of his,
That rout inflicted, and self-scorn--
Immoderate in noble natures, torn
By sense of being through slackness overborne--
The rebel be given a quick return:
The kindest face looks now half stern.
Balked of their prey in airs that freeze,
Some fierce ones glare like savages.
And yet, and yet, strange moments are--
Well--blood, and tears, and anguished War!
The morning's battle-ground is seen
In lifted glades, like meadows rare;
The blood-drops on the snow-crust there
Like clover in the white-week show--
Flushed fields of death, that call again--
Call to our men, and not in vain,
For that way must the stormers go.
The work begins.
Light drifts of men thrown forward, fade
In skirmish-line along the slope,
Where some dislodgments must be made
Ere the stormer with the strong-hold cope.
Lew Wallace, moving to retake
The heights late lost--
(Herewith a break.
Storms at the West derange the wires.
Doubtless, ere morning, we shall hear
The end; we look for news to cheer--
Let Hope fan all her fires.)_
Next day in large bold hand was seen
The closing bulletin:
_Our troops have retrieved the day
By one grand surge along the line;
The spirit that urged them was divine.
The first works flooded, naught could stay
The stormers: on! still on!
Bayonets for Donelson!
Over the ground that morning lost
Rolled the blue billows, tempest-tossed,
Following a hat on the point of a sword.
Spite shell and round-shot, grape and canister,
Up they climbed without rail or banister--
Up the steep hill-sides long and broad,
Driving the rebel deep within his works.
'Tis nightfall; not an enemy lurks
In sight. The chafing men
Fret for more fight:
"To-night, to-night let us take the Den"
But night is treacherous, Grant is wary;
Of brave blood be a little chary.
Patience! the Fort is good as won;
To-morrow, and into Donelson._
LATER AND LAST.
THE FORT IS OURS.
_A flag came out at early morn
Bringing surrender. From their towers
Floats out the banner late their scorn.
In Dover, hut and house are full
Of rebels dead or dying.
The national flag is flying
From the crammed court-house pinnacle.
Great boat-loads of our wounded go
To-day to Nashville. The sleet-winds blow;
But all is right: the fight is won,
The winter-fight for Donelson.
The spell of old defeat is broke,
The Habit of victory begun;
Grant strikes the war's first sounding stroke
For lists of killed and wounded, see
The morrow's dispatch: to-day 'tis victory._
The man who read this to the crowd
Shouted as the end he gained;
And though the unflagging tempest rained,
They answered him aloud.
And hand grasped hand, and glances met
In happy triumph; eyes grew wet.
O, to the punches brewed that night
Went little water. Windows bright
Beamed rosy on the sleet without,
And from the deep street came the frequent shout;
While some in prayer, as these in glee,
Blessed heaven for the winter-victory.
But others were who wakeful laid
In midnight beds, and early rose,
And, feverish in the foggy snows,
Snatched the damp paper--wife and maid.
The death-list like a river flows
Down the pale sheet,
And there the whelming waters meet.
Ah God! may Time with happy haste
Bring wail and triumph to a waste,
And war be done;
The battle flag-staff fall athwart
The curs'd ravine, and wither; naught
Be left of trench or gun;
The bastion, let it ebb away,
Washed with the river bed; and Day
In vain seek Donelson.
Some names there are of telling sound,
Whose voweled syllables free
Are pledge that they shall ever live renowned;
Such seem to be
A Frigate's name (by present glory spanned)--
Sounding name as ere was sung,
Flowing, rolling on the tongue--
She warred and sunk. There's no denying
That she was ended--quelled;
And yet her flag above her fate is flying,
As when it swelled
Unswallowed by the swallowing sea: so grand--
Goodly name as ere was sung,
Roundly rolling on the tongue--
What need to tell how she was fought--
The sinking flaming gun--
The gunner leaping out the port--
Washed back, undone!
Her dead unconquerably manned
Noble name as ere was sung,
Slowly roll it on the tongue--
Long as hearts shall share the flame
Which burned in that brave crew,
Her fame shall live--outlive the victor's name;
For this is due.
Your flag and flag-staff shall in story stand--
Sounding name as ere was sung,
Long they'll roll it on the tongue--
In the Turret.
Your honest heart of duty, Worden,
So helped you that in fame you dwell;
You bore the first iron battle's burden
Sealed as in a diving-bell.
Alcides, groping into haunted hell
To bring forth King Admetus' bride,
Braved naught more vaguely direful and untried.
What poet shall uplift his charm,
Bold Sailor, to your height of daring,
And interblend therewith the calm,
And build a goodly style upon your bearing.
Escaped the gale of outer ocean--
Cribbed in a craft which like a log
Was washed by every billow's motion--
By night you heard of Og
The huge; nor felt your courage clog
At tokens of his onset grim:
You marked the sunk ship's flag-staff slim,
Lit by her burning sister's heart;
You marked, and mused: "Day brings the trial:
Then be it proved if I have part
With men whose manhood never took denial."
A prayer went up--a champion's. Morning
Beheld you in the Turret walled
by adamant, where a spirit forewarning
And all-deriding called:
"Man, darest thou--desperate, unappalled--
Be first to lock thee in the armored tower?
I have thee now; and what the battle-hour
To me shall bring--heed well--thou'lt share;
This plot-work, planned to be the foeman's terror,
To thee may prove a goblin-snare;
Its very strength and cunning--monstrous error!"
"Stand up, my heart; be strong; what matter
If here thou seest thy welded tomb?
And let huge Og with thunders batter--
Duty be still my doom,
Though drowning come in liquid gloom;
First duty, duty next, and duty last;
Ay, Turret, rivet me here to duty fast!--"
So nerved, you fought wisely and well;
And live, twice live in life and story;
But over your Monitor dirges swell,
In wind and wave that keep the rites of glory.
_(Supposed to have been suggested to an Englishman of the old order by
the fight of the Monitor and Merrimac.)_
The gloomy hulls, in armor grim,
Like clouds o'er moors have met,
And prove that oak, and iron, and man
Are tough in fibre yet.
But Splendors wane. The sea-fight yields
No front of old display;
The garniture, emblazonment,
And heraldry all decay.
Towering afar in parting light,
The fleets like Albion's forelands shine--
The full-sailed fleets, the shrouded show
The fighting Temeraire,
Built of a thousand trees,
Lunging out her lightnings,
And beetling o'er the seas--
O Ship, how brave and fair,
That fought so oft and well,
On open decks you manned the gun
What cheering did you share,
Impulsive in the van,
When down upon leagued France and Spain
We English ran--
The freshet at your bowsprit
Like the foam upon the can.
Bickering, your colors
Licked up the Spanish air,
You flapped with flames of battle-flags--
Your challenge, Temeraire!
The rear ones of our fleet
They yearned to share your place,
Still vying with the Victory
Throughout that earnest race--
The Victory, whose Admiral,
With orders nobly won,
Shone in the globe of the battle glow--
The angel in that sun.
Parallel in story,
Lo, the stately pair,
As late in grapple ranging,
The foe between them there--
When four great hulls lay tiered,
And the fiery tempest cleared,
And your prizes twain appeared,
But Trafalgar' is over now,
The quarter-deck undone;
The carved and castled navies fire
O, Tital Temeraire,
Your stern-lights fade away;
Your bulwarks to the years must yield,
And heart-of-oak decay.
A pigmy steam-tug tows you,
Gigantic, to the shore--
Dismantled of your guns and spars,
And sweeping wings of war.
The rivets clinch the iron-clads,
Men learn a deadlier lore;
But Fame has nailed your battle-flags--
Your ghost it sails before:
O, the navies old and oaken,
O, the Temeraire no more!
A Utilitarian View of the Monitors Fight.
Plain be the phrase, yet apt the verse,
More ponderous than nimble;
For since grimed War here laid aside
His Orient pomp, 'twould ill befit
Overmuch to ply
The Rhyme's barbaric cymbal.
Hail to victory without the gaud
Of glory; zeal that needs no fans
Of banners; plain mechanic power
Plied cogently in War now placed--
Where War belongs--
Among the trades and artisans.
Yet this was battle, and intense--
Beyond the strife of fleets heroic;
Deadlier, closer, calm 'mid storm;
No passion; all went on by crank,
Pivot, and screw,
And calculations of caloric.
Needless to dwell; the story's known.
the ringing of those plates on plates
Still ringeth round the world--
The clangor of that blacksmith's fray.
Resounds this message from the Fates:
War shall yet be, and to the end;
But war-paint shows the streaks of weather;
War yet shall be, but warriors
Are now but operatives; War's made
Less grand than Peace,
And a singe runs through lace and feather.
Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
The swallows fly low
Over the field in clouded days,
The forest-field of Shiloh--
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain
Through the pause of night
That followed the Sunday fight
Around the church of Shiloh--
The church so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
And natural prayer
Of dying foemen mingled there--
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve--
Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
And all is hushed at Shiloh.
The Battle for the Mississipppi.
When Israel camped by Migdol hoar,
Down at her feet her shawm she threw,
But Moses sung and timbrels rung
For Pharaoh's standed crew.
So God appears in apt events--
The Lord is a man of war!
So the strong wind to the muse is given
In victory's roar.
Deep be the ode that hymns the fleet--
The fight by night--the fray
Which bore our Flag against the powerful stream,
And led it up to day.
Dully through din of larger strife
Shall bay that warring gun;
But none the less to us who live
It peals--an echoing one.
The shock of ships, the jar of walls,
The rush through thick and thin--
The flaring fire-rafts, glare and gloom--
Eddies, and shells that spin--
The boom-chain burst, the hulks dislodged,
The jam of gun-boats driven,
Or fired, or sunk--made up a war
Like Michael's waged with leven.
The manned Varuna stemmed and quelled
The odds which hard beset;
The oaken flag-ship, half ablaze,
Passed on and thundered yet;
While foundering, gloomed in grimy flame,
The Ram Manassas--hark the yell!--
Plunged, and was gone; in joy or fright,
The River gave a startled swell.
They fought through lurid dark till dawn;
The war-smoke rolled away
With clouds of night, and showed the fleet
In scarred yet firm array,
Above the forts, above the drift
Of wrecks which strife had made;
And Farragut sailed up to the town
And anchored--sheathed the blade.
The moody broadsides, brooding deep,
Hold the lewd mob at bay,
While o'er the armed decks' solemn aisles
The meek church-pennons play;
By shotted guns the sailors stand,
With foreheads bound or bare;
The captains and the conquering crews
Humble their pride in prayer.
They pray; and after victory, prayer
Is meet for men who mourn their slain;
The living shall unmoor and sail,
But Death's dark anchor secret deeps detain.
Yet glory slants her shaft of rays
Far through the undisturbed abyss;
There must be other, nobler worlds for them
Who nobly yield their lives in this.
Ye elms that wave on Malvern Hill
In prime of morn and May,
Recall ye how McClellan's men
Here stood at bay?
While deep within yon forest dim
Our rigid comrades lay--
Some with the cartridge in their mouth,
Others with fixed arms lifted South--
The cypress glades? Ah wilds of woe!
The spires of Richmond, late beheld
Through rifts in musket-haze,
Were closed from view in clouds of dust
On leaf-walled ways,
Where streamed our wagons in caravan;
And the Seven Nights and Days
Of march and fast, retreat and fight,
Pinched our grimed faces to ghastly plight--
Does the elm wood
Recall the haggard beards of blood?
The battle-smoked flag, with stars eclipsed,
We followed (it never fell!)--
In silence husbanded our strength--
Received their yell;
Till on this slope we patient turned
With cannon ordered well;
Reverse we proved was not defeat;
But ah, the sod what thousands meet!--
Does Malvern Wood
Bethink itself, and muse and brood?
_We elms of Malvern Hill
Remember every thing;
But sap the twig will fill:
Wag the world how it will,
Leaves must be green in Spring._
The Victor of Antietam.
When tempest winnowed grain from bran;
And men were looking for a man,
Authority called you to the van,
Along the line the plaudit ran,
As later when Antietam's cheers began.
Through storm-cloud and eclipse must move
Each Cause and Man, dear to the stars and Jove;
Nor always can the wisest tell
Deferred fulfillment from the hopeless knell--
The struggler from the floundering ne'er-do-well.
A pall-cloth on the Seven Days fell,
Who could Antietam's wreath foretell?
Authority called you; then, in mist
And loom of jeopardy--dismissed.
But staring peril soon appalled;
You, the Discarded, she recalled--
Recalled you, nor endured delay;
And forth you rode upon a blasted way,
Arrayed Pope's rout, and routed Lee's array,
Your tent was choked with captured flags that day,
Antietam was a telling fray.
Recalled you; and she heard your drum
Advancing through the glastly gloom.
You manned the wall, you propped the Dome,
You stormed the powerful stormer home,
Antietam's cannon long shall boom.
At Alexandria, left alone,
Your veterans sent from you, and thrown
To fields and fortunes all unknown--
What thoughts were yours, revealed to none,
While faithful still you labored on--
Hearing the far Manassas gun!
Only Antietam could atone.
You fought in the front (an evil day,
The fore-front of the first assay;
The Cause went sounding, groped its way;
The leadsmen quarrelled in the bay;
Quills thwarted swords; divided sway;
The rebel flushed in his lusty May:
You did your best, as in you lay,
Antietam's sun-burst sheds a ray.
Your medalled soldiers love you well,
Name your name, their true hearts swell;
With you they shook dread Stonewall's spell,
With you they braved the blended yell
Of rebel and maligner fell;
With you in shame or fame they dwell,
Antietam-braves a brave can tell.
And when your comrades (now so few,
Such ravage in deep files they rue)
Meet round the board, and sadly view
The empty places; tribute due
They render to the dead--and you!
Absent and silent o'er the blue;
The one-armed lift the wine to _you_,
And great Antietam's cheers renew.
Battle of Stone River, Tennessee.
A View from Oxford Cloisters.
With Tewksbury and Barnet heath
In days to come the field shall blend,
The story dim and date obscure;
In legend all shall end.
Even now, involved in forest shade
A Druid-dream the strife appears,
The fray of yesterday assumes
The haziness of years.
In North and South still beats the vein
Of Yorkist and Lancastrian.
Our rival Roses warred for Sway--
For Sway, but named the name of Right;
And Passion, scorning pain and death,
Lent sacred fervor to the fight.
Each lifted up a broidered cross,
While crossing blades profaned the sign;
Monks blessed the fraticidal lance,
And sisters scarfs could twine.
Do North and South the sin retain
Of Yorkist and Lancastrian?
But Rosecrans in the cedarn glade,
And, deep in denser cypress gloom,
Dark Breckenridge, shall fade away
Or thinly loom.
The pale throngs who in forest cowed
Before the spell of battle's pause,
Forefelt the stillness that shall dwell
On them and on their wars.
North and South shall join the train
Of Yorkist and Lancastrian.
But where the sword has plunged so deep,
And then been turned within the wound
By deadly Hate; where Climes contend
On vasty ground--
No warning Alps or seas between,
And small the curb of creed or law,
And blood is quick, and quick the brain;
Shall North and South their rage deplore,
And reunited thrive amain
Like Yorkist and Lancastrian?
Running the Batteries,
As observed from the Anchorage above Vicksburgh.
A moonless night--a friendly one;
A haze dimmed the shadowy shore
As the first lampless boat slid silent on;
Hist! and we spake no more;
We but pointed, and stilly, to what we saw.
We felt the dew, and seemed to feel
The secret like a burden laid.
The first boat melts; and a second keel
Is blent with the foliaged shade--
Their midnight rounds have the rebel officers made?
Unspied as yet. A third--a fourth--
Gun-boat and transport in Indian file
Upon the war-path, smooth from the North;
But the watch may they hope to beguile?
The manned river-batteries stretch for mile on mile.
A flame leaps out; they are seen;
Another and another gun roars;
We tell the course of the boats through the screen
By each further fort that pours,
And we guess how they jump from their beds on those shrouded shores.
Converging fires. We speak, though low:
"That blastful furnace can they thread"
"Why, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego
Came out all right, we read;
The Lord, be sure, he helps his people, Ned."
How we strain our gaze. On bluffs they shun
A golden growing flame appears--
Confirms to a silvery steadfast one:
"The town is afire!" crows Hugh: "three cheers"
Lot stops his mouth: "Nay, lad, better three tears."
A purposed light; it shows our fleet;
Yet a little late in its searching ray,
So far and strong, that in phantom cheat
Lank on the deck our shadows lay;
The shining flag-ship stings their guns to furious play.
How dread to mark her near the glare
And glade of death the beacon throws
Athwart the racing waters there;
One by one each plainer grows,
Then speeds a blazoned target to our gladdened foes.
The impartial cresset lights as well
The fixed forts to the boats that run;
And, plunged from the ports, their answers swell
Back to each fortress dun:
Ponderous words speaks every monster gun.
Fearless they flash through gates of flame,
The salamanders hard to hit,
Though vivid shows each bulky frame;
And never the batteries intermit,
Nor the boats huge guns; they fire and flit.
Anon a lull. The beacon dies:
"Are they out of that strait accurst"
But other flames now dawning rise,
Not mellowly brilliant like the first,
But rolled in smoke, whose whitish volumes burst.
A baleful brand, a hurrying torch
Whereby anew the boats are seen--
A burning transport all alurch!
Breathless we gaze; yet still we glean
Glimpses of beauty as we eager lean.
The effulgence takes an amber glow
Which bathes the hill-side villas far;
Affrighted ladies mark the show
Painting the pale magnolia--
The fair, false, Circe light of cruel War.
The barge drifts doomed, a plague-struck one.
Shoreward in yawls the sailors fly.
But the gauntlet now is nearly run,
The spleenful forts by fits reply,
And the burning boat dies down in morning's sky.
All out of range. Adieu, Messieurs!
Jeers, as it speeds, our parting gun.
So burst we through their barriers
And menaces every one:
So Porter proves himself a brave man's son.
Mortally wounded at Chancellorsville.
The Man who fiercest charged in fight,
Whose sword and prayer were long--
Even him who stoutly stood for Wrong,
How can we praise? Yet coming days
Shall not forget him with this song.
Dead is the Man whose Cause is dead,
Vainly he died and set his seal--
Earnest in error, as we feel;
True to the thing he deemed was due,
True as John Brown or steel.
Relentlessly he routed us;
But _we_ relent, for he is low--
Justly his fame we outlaw; so
We drop a tear on the bold Virginian's bier,
Because no wreath we owe.
(Ascribed to a Virginian.)
One man we claim of wrought renown
Which not the North shall care to slur;
A Modern lived who sleeps in death,
Calm as the marble Ancients are:
'Tis he whose life, though a vapor's wreath,
Was charged with the lightning's burning breath--
Stonewall, stormer of the war.
But who shall hymn the roman heart?
A stoic he, but even more:
The iron will and lion thew
Were strong to inflict as to endure:
Who like him could stand, or pursue?
His fate the fatalist followed through;
In all his great soul found to do
Stonewall followed his star.
He followed his star on the Romney march
Through the sleet to the wintry war;
And he followed it on when he bowed the grain--
The Wind of the Shenandoah;
At Gaines's Mill in the giant's strain--
On the fierce forced stride to Manassas-plain,
Where his sword with thunder was clothed again,
Stonewall followed his star.
His star he followed athwart the flood
To Potomac's Northern shore,
When midway wading, his host of braves
"_My Maryland!_" loud did roar--
To red Antietam's field of graves,
Through mountain-passes, woods and waves,
They followed their pagod with hymns and glaives,
For Stonewall followed a star.
Back it led him to Marye's slope,
Where the shock and the fame he bore;
And to green Moss-Neck it guided him--
Brief respite from throes of war:
To the laurel glade by the Wilderness grim,
Through climaxed victory naught shall dim,
Even unto death it piloted him--
Stonewall followed his star.
Its lead he followed in gentle ways
Which never the valiant mar;
A cap we sent him, bestarred, to replace
The sun-scorched helm of war:
A fillet he made of the shining lace
Childhood's laughing brow to grace--
Not his was a goldsmith's star.
O, much of doubt in after days
Shall cling, as now, to the war;
Of the right and the wrong they'll still debate,
Puzzled by Stonewall's star:
"Fortune went with the North elate"
"Ay, but the south had Stonewall's weight,
And he fell in the South's vain war."
O pride of the days in prime of the months
Now trebled in great renown,
When before the ark of our holy cause
Fell Dagon down--
Dagon foredoomed, who, armed and targed,
Never his impious heart enlarged
Beyond that hour; god walled his power,
And there the last invader charged.
He charged, and in that charge condensed
His all of hate and all of fire;
He sought to blast us in his scorn,
And wither us in his ire.
Before him went the shriek of shells--
Aerial screamings, taunts and yells;
Then the three waves in flashed advance
Surged, but were met, and back they set:
Pride was repelled by sterner pride,
And Right is a strong-hold yet.
Before our lines it seemed a beach
Which wild September gales have strown
With havoc on wreck, and dashed therewith
Pale crews unknown--
Men, arms, and steeds. The evening sun
Died on the face of each lifeless one,
And died along the winding marge of fight
And searching-parties lone.
Sloped on the hill the mounds were green,
Our center held that place of graves,
And some still hold it in their swoon,
And over these a glory waves.
The warrior-monument, crashed in fight,
Shall soar transfigured in loftier light,
A meaning ampler bear;
Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer
Have laid the stone, and every bone
Shall rest in honor there.
A Night Piece.
No sleep. The sultriness pervades the air
And binds the brain--a dense oppression, such
As tawny tigers feel in matted shades,
Vexing their blood and making apt for ravage.
Beneath the stars the roofy desert spreads
Vacant as Libya. All is hushed near by.
Yet fitfully from far breaks a mixed surf
Of muffled sound, the Atheist roar of riot.
Yonder, where parching Sirius set in drought,
Balefully glares red Arson--there-and there.
The Town is taken by its rats--ship-rats.
And rats of the wharves. All civil charms
And priestly spells which late held hearts in awe--
Fear-bound, subjected to a better sway
Than sway of self; these like a dream dissolve,
And man rebounds whole aeons back in nature.
Hail to the low dull rumble, dull and dead,
And ponderous drag that shakes the wall.
Wise Draco comes, deep in the midnight roll
Of black artillery; he comes, though late;
In code corroborating Calvin's creed
And cynic tyrannies of honest kings;
He comes, nor parlies; and the Town redeemed,
Give thanks devout; nor, being thankful, heeds
The grimy slur on the Republic's faith implied,
Which holds that Man is naturally good,
And--more--is Nature's Roman, never to be scourged.
The Night Fight.
Who inhabiteth the Mountain
That it shines in lurid light,
And is rolled about with thunders,
And terrors, and a blight,
Like Kaf the peak of Eblis--
Kaf, the evil height?
Who has gone up with a shouting
And a trumpet in the night?
There is battle in the Mountain--
Might assaulteth Might;
'Tis the fastness of the Anarch,
Torrent-torn, an ancient height;
The crags resound the clangor
Of the war of Wrong and Right;
And the armies in the valley
Watch and pray for dawning light.
Joy, Joy, the day is breaking,
And the cloud is rolled from sight;
There is triumph in the Morning
For the Anarch's plunging flight;
God has glorified the Mountain
Where a Banner burneth bright,
And the armies in the valley
They are fortified in right.
A kindling impulse seized the host
Inspired by heaven's elastic air;
Their hearts outran their General's plan,
Though Grant commanded there--
Grant, who without reserve can dare;
And, "Well, go on and do your will"
He said, and measured the mountain then:
So master-riders fling the rein--
But you must know your men.
On yester-morn in grayish mist,
Armies like ghosts on hills had fought,
And rolled from the cloud their thunders loud
The Cumberlands far had caught:
To-day the sunlit steeps are sought.
Grant stood on cliffs whence all was plain,
And smoked as one who feels no cares;
But mastered nervousness intense
Alone such calmness wears.
The summit-cannon plunge their flame
Sheer down the primal wall,
But up and up each linking troop
In stretching festoons crawl--
Nor fire a shot. Such men appall
The foe, though brave. He, from the brink,
Looks far along the breadth of slope,
And sees two miles of dark dots creep,
And knows they mean the cope.
He sees them creep. Yet here and there
Half hid 'mid leafless groves they go;
As men who ply through traceries high
Of turreted marbles show--
So dwindle these to eyes below.
But fronting shot and flanking shell
Sliver and rive the inwoven ways;
High tops of oaks and high hearts fall,
But never the climbing stays.
From right to left, from left to right
They roll the rallying cheer--
Vie with each other, brother with brother,
Who shall the first appear--
What color-bearer with colors clear
In sharp relief, like sky-drawn Grant,
Whose cigar must now be near the stump--
While in solicitude his back
Heap slowly to a hump.
Near and more near; till now the flags
Run like a catching flame;
And one flares highest, to peril nighest--
_He_ means to make a name:
Salvos! they give him his fame.
The staff is caught, and next the rush,
And then the leap where death has led;
Flag answered flag along the crest,
And swarms of rebels fled.
But some who gained the envied Alp,
And--eager, ardent, earnest there--
Dropped into Death's wide-open arms,
Quelled on the wing like eagles struck in air--
Forever they slumber young and fair,
The smile upon them as they died;
Their end attained, that end a height:
Life was to these a dream fulfilled,
And death a starry night.
The Armies of the Wilderness.
Like snows the camps on southern hills
Lay all the winter long,
Our levies there in patience stood--
They stood in patience strong.
On fronting slopes gleamed other camps
Where faith as firmly clung:
Ah, froward king! so brave miss--
The zealots of the Wrong.
_In this strife of brothers
(God, hear their country call),
However it be, whatever betide,
Let not the just one fall._
Through the pointed glass our soldiers saw
The base-ball bounding sent;
They could have joined them in their sport
But for the vale's deep rent.
And others turned the reddish soil,
Like diggers of graves they bent:
The reddish soil and tranching toil
_Did the Fathers feel mistrust?
Can no final good be wrought?
Over and over, again and again
Must the fight for the Right be fought?_
They lead a Gray-back to the crag:
"Your earth-works yonder--tell us, man"
"A prisoner--no deserter, I,
Nor one of the tell-tale clan"
His rags they mark: "True-blue like you
Should wear the color--your Country's, man"
He grinds his teeth: "However that be,
Yon earth-works have their plan."
_Such brave ones, foully snared
By Belial's wily plea,
Were faithful unto the evil end--
"Well, then, your camps--come, tell the names"
Freely he leveled his finger then:
"Yonder--see--are our Georgians; on the crest,
The Carolinians; lower, past the glen,
(Follow my finger)--Tennesseeans; and the ten
Camps _there_--ask your grave-pits; they'll tell.
Halloa! I see the picket-hut, the den
Where I last night lay." "Where's Lee"
"In the hearts and bayonets of all yon men!"
_The tribes swarm up to war
As in ages long ago,
Ere the palm of promise leaved
And the lily of Christ did blow._
Their mounted pickets for miles are spied
Dotting the lowland plain,
The nearer ones in their veteran-rags--
Loutish they loll in lazy disdain.
But ours in perilous places bide
With rifles ready and eyes that strain
Deep through the dim suspected wood
Where the Rapidan rolls amain.
_The Indian has passed away,
But creeping comes another--
Deadlier far. Picket,
Take heed--take heed of thy brother!_
From a wood-hung height, an outpost lone,
Crowned with a woodman's fort,
The sentinel looks on a land of dole,
Like Paran, all amort.
Black chimneys, gigantic in moor-like wastes,
The scowl of the clouded sky retort;
The hearth is a houseless stone again--
Ah! where shall the people be sought?
_Since the venom such blastment deals,
The south should have paused, and thrice,
Ere with heat of her hate she hatched
The egg with the cockatrice._
A path down the mountain winds to the glade
Where the dead of the Moonlight Fight lie low;
A hand reaches out of the thin-laid mould
As begging help which none can bestow.
But the field-mouse small and busy ant
Heap their hillocks, to hide if they may the woe:
By the bubbling spring lies the rusted canteen,
And the drum which the drummer-boy dying let go.
_Dust to dust, and blood for blood--
Passion and pangs! Has Time
Gone back? or is this the Age
Of the world's great Prime?_
The wagon mired and cannon dragged
Back to Full Books