Only A Private Killed

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

"We've had a brush," the Captain said,
"And Rebel blood we've spilled;
We came off victors with the loss
Of only a private killed."
"Ah," said the orderly "it was hot,"
Then he breathed a heavy breath
"Poor fellow! he was badly shot,
Then bayoneted to death."

And now was hushed the martial din;
The saucy foe had fled;
They brought the private's body in;
I went to see the dead;
For I could not think our Rebel foes
So valiant in the van
So boastful of their chivalry
Could kill a wounded man.

A musket ball had pierced his thigh
A frightful, crushing wound
And then with savage bayonets
They pinned him to the ground.
One deadly thrust drove through the heart,
Another through the head;
Three times they stabbed his pulseless breast
When he lay cold and dead.

His hair was matted with his gore,
His hands were clinched with might,
As if he still his musket bore
So firmly in the fight.
He had grasped the foemen's bayonets
Their murderous thrusts to fend:
They raised the coat-cape from his face,
And lo it was my friend!

Think what a shudder chilled my heart!
'Twas but the day before
We laughed together merrily,
As we talked of days of yore.
"How happy we shall be," he said,
"When the war is o'er, and when
With victory's song and victory's tread
We all march home again."

Ah little he dreamed that soldier brave
So near his journey's goal
How soon a heavenly messenger
Would claim his Christian soul.
But he fell like a hero fighting,
And hearts with grief are filled;
And honor is his, tho' the Captain says
"Only a private killed."

I knew him well, he was my friend;
He loved our land and laws,
And he fell a blessed martyr
To our Country's holy cause;
And I know a cottage in the West
Where eyes with tears are filled
As they read the careless telegram
"Only a private killed."

Comrades, bury him under the oak,
Wrapped in his army-blue;
He is done with the battle's din and smoke,
With drill and the proud review.
And the time will come ere long, perchance,
When our blood will thus be spilled,
And what care we if the Captain say
"Only a private killed."

For the glorious Old Flag beckons.
We have pledged her heart and hand,
And we'll brave even death to rescue
Our dear old Fatherland.
We ask not praise nor honors,
Then as each grave is filled
What care we if the Captain say
"Only a private killed."

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