Our columns are broken, defeated, and fled;
We are gathered, a few from the flying and dead,
Where the green flag is up and our wounded remain
Imploring for water and groaning in pain.
Lo the blood-spattered bosom, the shot-shattered limb,
The hand-clutch of fear as the vision grows dim,
The half-uttered prayer and the blood-fettered breath,
The cold marble brow and the calm face of death.
O proud were these forms at the dawning of morn,
When they sprang to the call of the shrill bugle-horn:
There are mothers and wives that await them afar;
God help them! Is this then the glory of war?
But hark! hear the cries from the field of despair;
"The Black-Horse" are charging the fugitives there;
They gallop the field o'er the dying and dead,
And their blades with the blood of their victims are red.
The cries of the fallen and flying are vain;
They saber the wounded and trample the slain;
And the plumes of the riders wave red in the sun,
As they stoop for the stroke and the murder goes on.
They halt for a moment they form and they stand;
Then with sabers aloft they ride down on our band
Like the samiel that sweeps o'er Arabia's sand.
"Halt! down with your sabers! the dying are here!
Let the foeman respect while the friend sheds a tear."
Nay; the merciless butchers were thirsting for blood,
And mad for the murder still onward they rode.
"Stand firm and be ready!" Our brave, gallant few
Have faced to the foe, and our rifles are true;
Fire! a score of grim riders go down in a breath
At the flash of our guns in the tempest of death!
They wheel, and they clutch in despair at the mane!
They reel in their saddles and fall to the plain!
The riderless steeds, wild with wounds and with fear,
Dash away o'er the field in unbridled career;
Their stirrups swing loose and their manes are all gore
From the mad cavaliers that shall ride them no more.
Of the hundred so bold that rode down on us there
But few rode away with the tale of despair;
Their proud, plumèd comrades so reckless, alas,
Slept their long, dreamless sleep on the blood-spattered grass.