The Countersign

A poem by Michael Earls

Along Virginia's wondering roads
While armies hastened on,
To Beauregard's great Southern host,
Manassas fields upon,
Came Colonel Smith's good regiment,
Eager for Washington.

But Colonel Smith must halt his men
In a dangerous delay,
Though well he knows the countryside
To the distant host of grey.
He cannot join with Beauregard
For Bull Run's bloody fray.

And does he halt for storm or ford,
Or does he stay to dine?
Say, No! but death will meet his men,
Onward if moves the line:
He dares not hurry to Beauregard,
Not knowing the countersign.

Flashed in the sun his waving sword;
"Who rides for me?" he cried,
"And ask of the Chief the countersign,
Upon a daring ride;
Though never the lad come back again
With the good that will betide.

"I will send a letter to Beauregard,"
The Colonel slowly said;
"The bearer dies at the pickets' line,
But the letter shall be read
When the pickets find it for the Chief,
In the brave hand of the dead."

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