To the memory of my devoted wife dead and gone yet always with me I dedicate
The Flower of my heart nursed into bloom by her loving care and ofttimes watered with her tears
Fair morning sat upon the mountain-top,
Night skulking crept into the mountain-chasm.
The silent ships slept in the silent bay;
One broad blue bent of ether domed the heavens,
One broad blue distance lay the shadowy land,
One broad blue vast of silence slept the sea.
Now from the dewy groves the joyful birds
In carol-concert sang their matin songs
Softly and sweetly full of prayer and praise.
Then silver-chiming, solemn-voiced bells
Rung out their music on the morning air,
And Lisbon gathered to the festival
In chapel and cathedral. Choral hymns
And psalms of sea-toned organs mingling rose
With sweetest incense floating up to heaven,
Bearing the praises of the multitudes;
And all was holy peace and holy happiness.
A rumbling of deep thunders in the deep;
The vast sea shuddered and the mountains groaned;
Up-heaved the solid earth the nether rocks
Burst and the sea the earth the echoing heavens
Thundered infernal ruin. On their knees
The trembling multitudes received the shock,
And dumb with sudden terror bowed their heads
To toppling spire and plunging wall and dome.
So shook the mighty North the sudden roar
Of Treason thundering on the April air
An earthquake shock that jarred the granite hills
And westward rolled against th' eternal walls
Rock-built Titanic for a moment shook:
Uprose a giant and with iron hands
Grasped his huge hammer, claspt his belt of steel,
And o'er the Midgard-monster mighty Thor
Loomed for the combat.
Peace O blessed Peace!
The war-worn veterans hailed thee with a shout
Of Alleluias; homeward wound the trains,
And homeward marched the bayonet-bristling columns
To "Hail Columbia" from a thousand horns
Marched to the jubilee of chiming bells,
Marched to the joyful peals of cannon, marched
With blazing banners and victorious songs
Into the outstretched arms of love and home.
But there be columns columns of the dead
That slumber on an hundred battle-fields
No bugle-blast shall waken till the trump
Of the Archangel. O the loved and lost!
For them no jubilee of chiming bells;
For them no cannon-peal of victory;
For them no outstretched arms of love and home.
God's peace be with them. Heroes who went down,
Wearing their stars, live in the nation's songs
And stories there be greater heroes still,
That molder in unnumbered nameless graves
Erst bleached unburied on the fields of fame
Won by their valor. Who will sing of these
Sing of the patriot-deeds on field and flood
Of these the truer heroes all unsung?
Where sleeps the modest bard in Quaker gray
Who blew the pibroch ere the battle lowered,
Then pitched his tent upon the balmy beach?
"Snow-bound," I ween, among his native hills.
And where the master hand that swept the lyre
Till wrinkled critics cried "Excelsior"?
Gathering the "Aftermath" in frosted fields.
Then, timid Muse, no longer shake thy wings
For airy realms and fold again in fear;
A broken flight is better than no flight;
Be thine the task, as best you may, to sing
The deeds of one who sleeps at Gettysburg
Among the thousands in a common grave.
The story of his life I bid you tell
As it was told one windy winter night
To veterans gathered around the festal board,
Fighting old battles over where the field
Ran red with wine, and all the battle-blare
Was merry laughter and the merry songs
Told when the songs were sung by him who heard
The pith of it from the dying soldier's lips
His Captain tell it as the Captain told.
THE CAPTAIN'S STORY
"Well, comrades, let us fight one battle more;
Let the cock crow we'll guard the camp till morn.
And since the singers and the merry ones
Are hors de combat fill the cups again;
Nod if you must, but listen to a tale
Romantic but the warp thereof is truth.
When the old Flag on Sumter's sea-girt walls
From its proud perch a fluttering ruin fell,
I swore an oath as big as Bunker Hill;
For I was younger then, nor battle-scarred,
And full of patriot-faith and patriot-fire.
"I raised a company of riflemen,
Marched to the front, and proud of my command,
Nor seeking higher, led them till the day
Of triumph and the nation's jubilee.
Among the first that answered to my call
The hero came whose story you shall hear.
'Tis better I describe him: He was young
Near two and twenty neither short nor tall
A slender student, and his tapering hands
Had better graced a maiden than a man:
Sad, thoughtful face a wealth of raven hair
Brushed back in waves from forehead prominent;
A classic nose half Roman and half Greek;
Dark, lustrous eyes beneath dark, jutting brows,
Wearing a shade of sorrow, yet so keen,
And in the storm of battle flashing fire.
"'Well, boy,' I said, 'I doubt if you will do;
I need stout men for picket-line and march
Men that have bone and muscle men inured
To toil and hardships men, in short, my boy,
To march and fight and march and fight again.'
A queer expression lit his earnest face
Half frown half smile.
"'Well try me.' That was all
He answered, and I put him on the roll
Paul Douglas, private and he donned the blue.
Paul proved himself the best in my command;
I found him first at reveille, and first
In all the varied duties of the day.
His rough-hewn comrades, bred to boisterous ways,
Jeered at the slender youth with maiden hands,
Nicknamed him 'Nel,' and for a month or more
Kept up a fusillade of jokes and jeers.
Their jokes and jeers he heard but heeded not,
Or heeding did a kindly act for him
That jeered him loudest; so the hardy men
Came to look up to Paul as one above
The level of their rough and roistering ways.
He never joined the jolly soldier-sports,
But ever was the first at bugle-call,
Mastered the drill and often drilled the men.
Fatigued with duty, weary with the march
Under the blaze of the midsummer sun,
He murmured not alike in sun or rain
His utmost duty eager to perform,
And ever ready always just the same
Patient and earnest, sad and silent Paul.
"The day of battle came that Sabbath day,
Midsummer.[A] Hot and blistering as the flames
Of prairie-fires wind-driven, the burning sun
Blazed down upon us and the blinding dust
Wheeled in dense clouds and covered all our ranks,
As we marched on to battle. Then the roar
Of batteries broke upon us. Glad indeed
That music to my soldiers, and they cheered
And cheered again and boasted all but Paul
And shouted 'On to Richmond!' He alone
Was silent but his eyes were full of fire.
"Then came the order 'Forward, double quick!'
And we rushed into battle formed our line
Facing the foe the ambushed, deadly foe,
Hid in the thicket, with the Union flag
A cheat hung out before it luring us
Into a blazing hell. The battle broke
With wildest fury on us crashed and roared
The rolling thunder of continuous fire.
We broke and rallied charged and broke again,
And rallied still broke counter-charge and charged
Loud-yelling, furious, on the hidden foe;
Met thrice our numbers and came flying back
Disordered and disheartened. Yet again
I strove to rally my discouraged men,
But hell was fairly howling; only Paul
Eager, but bleeding from a bullet-wound
In the left arm came bounding to my side.
But at that moment I was struck and fell
Fell prostrate; and a swooning sense of death
Came on me, and I saw and heard no more
Of battle on that Sabbath.
Confined and jolted in an ambulance
Piled with the wounded driven recklessly
By one who chiefly cared to save himself.
Dizzy and faint I raised my head: my wound
Was not as dangerous as it might have been
A scalp-wound on the temple; there, you see "
He put his finger on the ugly scar
"Half an inch deeper and some soldier friend,
Among the veterans gathered here to-night,
Perchance had told a briefer tale than mine.
"In front and rear I saw the reckless rout
A broken army flying panic-struck
Our proud brigades of undulating steel
That marched at sunrise under blazoned flags,
Singing the victory ere the cannon roared,
And eager for the honors of the day
Like bison Indian-chased on windy plains,
Now broken and commingled fled the field.
Words of command were only wasted breath;
Colonels and brigadiers, on foot and soiled,
Were pushed and jostled by the hurrying hordes.
Anon the cry of 'Cavalry!' arose,
And army-teams came dashing down the road
And plunged into the panic. All the way
Was strewn with broken wagons, battery-guns,
Tents, muskets, knapsacks and exhausted men.
My men were mingled with the lawless crowd,
And in the swarm behind us, there was Paul
Silent and soldier-like, with knapsack on
And rifle on his shoulder, guarding me
And marching on behind the ambulance.
So all that dark and dreadful night we marched,
Each man a captain captain of himself
Nor cared for orders on that wild retreat
To safety from disaster. All that night,
Silent and soldier-like my wounded Paul
Marched close behind and kept his faithful watch.
For ever and anon the jaded men,
Clamorous and threat'ning, sought to clamber in;
Whom Paul drove off at point of bayonet,
Wielding his musket with his good right arm.
But when the night was waning to the morn
I saw that he was weary and I made
A place for Paul and begged him to get in.
'No, Captain; no,' he answered, 'I will walk
I'm making bone and muscle learning how
To march and fight and march and fight again.'
That silenced me, and we went rumbling on.
Till morning found us safe at Arlington.
"A month off duty and a faithful nurse
Worked wonders and my head was whole again
Nay to be candid cracked a little yet.
My nurse was Paul. Albeit his left arm,
Flesh-wounded, pained him sorely for a time,
With filial care he dressed my battered head,
And wrote for me to anxious friends at home
But never wrote a letter for himself.
Thinking of this one day, I spoke of it:
A cloud came o'er his face.
"'My friends,' he said,
'Are here among my comrades in the camp.'
That made a mystery and I questioned him:
He gave no answer or evasive ones
Seeming to shrink from question, and to wrap
Himself within himself and live within.
"Again we joined our regiment and marched;
Over the hills and dales of Maryland
Along the famous river wound our way.
On picket-duty at the frequent fords
For weary, laggard months were we employed
Guarding the broad Potomac, while our foes,
Stealthily watching for their human game,
Lurked like Apaches on the wooded shores.
Bands of enemy's cavalry by night
Along the line of river prowled, and sought
To dash across and raid in Maryland.
Three regiments guarded miles of river-bank,
And drilled alternately, and one was ours.
Off picket duty, alike in fair or foul,
With knapsacks on and bearing forty rounds,
From morn till night we drilled battalion-drill
Often at double-quick for weary hours
Bearing our burdens in the blazing sun,
Till strong men staggered from the ranks and fell.
Aye, many a hardy man in those hard days
Was drilled and disciplined into his grave. Arose
Murmurs of discontent, and loud complaints
Fell on dull ears till patience was worn out
And mutiny was hinted. As for Paul
I never heard a murmur from his lips;
Nor did he ask a reason for the things
Unreasonable and hard required of him,
But straightway did his duty just as if
The nation's fate hung on it. I pitied Paul;
Slender of form and delicate, he bore
The toils and duties of the hardiest.
Ill from exposure, or fatigued and worn,
On picket hungered, shivering in the rain,
Or sweltering in full dress, with knapsack on,
Beneath the blaze of the mid-summer sun,
He held his spirit always still the same
Patient and earnest, sad and silent Paul.
"We posted pickets two by two. At night,
By turns each comrade slept and took the watch.
Once in September, in a drenching storm,
Three days and nights with neither tent nor fire
Paul and a comrade held a picket-post.
The equinox raged madly. Chilling winds
In angry gusts roared from the northern hills,
Dashing the dismal rain-clouds into showers
That fell in torrents over all the land.
In camp the soldiers crouched in dripping tents,
Or shivered by the camp-fires. I was ill
And gladly sought the shelter of a hut.
Orders were strict and often hard to bear
Nor tents nor fire upon the picket-posts
Cold rations and a canopy of storms.
I pitied Paul and would have called him in,
But that I had no man to take his place;
Nor did I know he took upon himself
A double task. His comrade on the post
Was ill, and so he made a shelter for him
With his own blankets and a bed within;
And took the watch of both upon himself.
And on the third night near the dawn of day,
In rubber cloak stole in upon the post
A pompous major, on the nightly round,
Unchallenged. All fatigued and drenched with rain,
Still on his post with rifle in his hand
Against a sheltering elm Paul stood and slept.
Muttering of death the brutal major stormed,
Then pitiless pricked the comrade with his sword,
And from his shelter drove him to the watch,
Burning with fever. There Paul interposed
"'I ask no mercy at your hands;
I shall not whimper, but my comrade here
Is ill of fever; I have stood his watch:
Sir, if a human heart beats in your breast,
Send him to camp, or he will surely die.'
"The pompous brute vaingloriously great
In straps and buttons haughtily silenced Paul,
Hand-bound and sent him guarded to the camp,
And the poor comrade shivering stood the watch
Till dawn of day and I was made aware.
Among the true were some vainglorious fools
Called by the fife and drum from native mire
To lord and strut in shoulder-straps and buttons.
Scrubs, born to brush the boots of gentlemen,
By sudden freak of fortune found themselves
Masters of better men, and lorded it
As only base and brutish natures can
Braves on parade and cowards under fire.
"I interceded in my Paul's behalf,
Else he had suffered graver punishment,
But as himself for mercy would not beg
'A stubborn boy,' our bluff old colonel said
To extra duty for a month he went
Unmurmuring, storm or shine. When the cold rain
Poured down most pitiless Paul, drenched and wan,
Guarded the baggage and the braying mules.
When the hot sun at mid-day blazed and burned,
Like the red flame on Mauna Loa's top,
Withering the grass and parching earth and air,
I often saw him knapsacked and full-dressed,
Drilling the raw recruits at double-quick;
And yet he wore a patient countenance,
And went about his duty earnestly
As if it were a pleasure to obey.
"The month wore off and mad disaster came
Gorging the blood of heroes at Ball's Bluff.
'Twas there the brave, unfaltering Baker fell
Fighting despair between the jaws of death.
Quenched was the flame that fired a thousand hearts;
Hushed was the voice that shook the senate-walls,
And rang defiance like a bugle-blast.
Broad o'er the rugged mountains to the north
Fell the incessant rain till, like a sea,
Him and the deadly ambush of the foe
The swollen river rolled and roared between.
Brave Baker saw the peril, but not his
The soul to shrink or falter, though he saw
His death-warrant in his orders. Forth he led
His proud brigade across the roaring chasm,
Firm and unfaltering into the chasm of death.
From morn till mid-day in a single boat
Unfit, by companies, the fearless band
Passed over the raging river; then advanced
Upon the ambushed foe. We heard the roll
Of volleys in the forest, and uprose,
From out the wood, a cloud of battle-smoke.
Then came the yell of foemen charging down
Rank upon rank and furious. Hand to hand,
The little band of heroes, flanked and pressed,
Fought thrice their numbers; fearless Baker led
In prodigies of valor; front and flank
Volleyed the deadly rifles; in the rear
The rapid, raging river rolled and roared.
Along the Maryland shore a mile below,
Eager to cross and reinforce our friends,
Ten thousand soldiers lay upon their arms;
And we had boats to spare. In all our ranks
There was not one who did not comprehend
The peril and the instant need of aid.
Chafing we waited orders. We could see
That Baker's men were fighting in retreat;
For ever nearer o'er the forest rolled
The smoke of battle. Orders came at last,
And up along the shore our regiment ran,
Eager to aid our comrades, but too late!
Baker had fallen in the battle-front;
He fought like Spartan and like Spartan fell
Defiant, clutching at the throat of fate.
Their leader lost, confusion followed fast;
Wild panic and red slaughter swept the field.
Powerless to saves we saw the farther shore
Covered with wounded and wild fugitives
Our own defeated and defenseless friends.
Shattered and piled with wounded men the boat
Pushed off to brave the river, while the foe
Pressed on the charge with fury, and refused
Mercy to the vanquished. Officers and men,
Cheating the savage foemen of their spoils,
Their flags and arms into the gurgling depths
Despairing hurled, and following plunged amain.
As numerous as the wild aquatic flocks
That float in autumn on Lake Nepigon,
The heads of swimmers moved upon the flood.
And still upon the shore a Spartan few
Shoulder to shoulder back to back, as one
Amid the din and clang of clashing steel,
Surrounded held the swarming foes at bay.
As in the pre-historic centuries
Unnumbered ages ere the Pyramids
Whereof we read on pre-diluvian bones
And fretted flints in excavated caves,
When savage men abode in rocky dens,
And wrought their weapons from the fiery flint,
And clothed their tawny thighs in lion-skins
Before the mouth of some well-guarded cave,
Where smoked the savory flesh of mammoth, came
The great cave-bear unbidden to the feast.
Around the monster swarm the brawny men,
Wielding with sinewy arms and savage cries
Their flinty spears and tomahawks of stone.
Erect old bruin growls upon his foes,
And swings with mighty power his ponderous paws
Woe unto him who feels the crushing blow
Till, bleeding from an hundred wounds and blind,
With sudden plunge he falls at last, and dies
Amid the shouts of his wild enemies.
So fought the Spartan few, till one by one,
They fell surrounded by a wall of foes.
The river boiled beneath the storm of lead;
Weighed down with wounded comrades many sunk,
But more went down with bullets in their heads.
O! it was pitiful. The outstretched hands
Of men that erst had faced the battle-storm
Unshaken, grasping now in wild despair,
Wrung cries of pity from us. Vain our fire
The range too long it fell upon our friends;
At which the foemen yelled their mad delight.
A storm of bullets poured upon the boat,
Mangling the mangled on her, till at last,
Shattered and over-laden, suddenly
She made a lurch to leeward and went down.
"A shallow boat lay moored upon the shore;
Our gallant Colonel called for volunteers
In mercy's name to man it and push out.
But all could see the peril. Stout the heart
Would dare to face the raging flood and fire,
And to his call responded not a man
Save Paul and one who perished at the helm.
They went as if at bugle-call to drill;
Their comrades said, 'They never will return.'
Stoutly and steadily Paul rowed the boat
Athwart the turbid river's sullen tide,
And reached the wounded struggling in the flood.
Bravely they worked away and lifted in
The helpless till the boat would hold no more;
Others they helped to holds upon the rails,
Then pulled away the over-laden craft.
We cheered them from the shore. The maddened foe
With furious volleys answered hitting oft
The little craft of mercy hands anon
Let go their holds and sunk into the deep.
And in that storm Paul's gallant comrade fell.
Trimming his craft with caution Paul could make
But little headway with a single oar
Clutched in despair and madly wrenched away
By drowning souls the other. Firm and cool
Paul stood unscathed; then fell a sudden shower
That broke his bended oar-stem at the blade.
Down to the brink we crept and stretched our hands,
And shouted, 'Overboard, Paul! and save yourself.'
"He stood a moment as if all were lost,
Then caught the rope, and stretching forth his hand,
Waved to the foe and plunged into the flood.
Slowly he towed the clumsy craft and swam,
Down-drifting with the rapid, rolling stream.
Cheering him on adown the shore we ran;
The current lent its aid and bore him in
Toward us, and beyond the range at last
Of foemen's fire he safely came to land,
Mooring his boat amid a storm of cheers.
"Confined in hospital three days he lay
Fatigued and feverous, but tender hands
Nursed and restored him. Our old Colonel came
And thanked him patting Paul paternally
And praised his daring. 'My brave boy,' he said,
'Had I a regiment of such men, by Jove!
I'd hew a path to Richmond and to fame.'
Paul made reply, and in his smile and tone
Mingled a touch of sarcasm:
"'Thank you, sir;
But let me add I fear the wary foe
Would nab your regiment napping on the field.
You have forgotten, Colonel not so fast
I am the man that slept upon his post.'
Our bluff old Colonel laughed and turned away;
Ten minutes later came his kind reply
A basketful of luxuries from his mess.
"Paul marched and fought and marched and fought again,
Patient and earnest through the bootless toils
And fiery trials of that dread campaign
Upon the Peninsula. 'Twas fitly called
'Campaign of Battles.' Aye, it sorely pierced
The scarred and bleeding nation, and drew blood
Deep from her vitals till she shook and reeled,
Like some huge giant staggering to his fall
Blinded with blood, yet struggling with his soul,
And stretching forth his ponderous, brawny arms,
Like Samson in the Temple, to o'erwhelm
And crush his mocking enemies in his fall.
"Ah, Malvern! you remember Malvern Hill
That night of dreadful butchery! Round the top
Of the entrenchèd summit, parked and aimed,
Blazed like Vesuvius when he bellows fire
And molten lava into the midnight heavens,
An hundred crashing cannon, and the hill
Shook to the thunder of the mighty guns,
As ocean trembles to the bursting throes
Of submarine volcanoes; and the shells
From the embattled gun-boats fiery fiends
Shrieked on the night and through the ether hissed
Like hell's infernals. Line supporting line,
From base to summit round the blazing hill,
Our infantry was posted. Crowned with fire,
And zoned by many a burning, blazing belt
From head to foot, and belching sulphurous flames,
The embattled hill appeared a raging fiend
The Lucifer of hell let loose to reign
Over a world wrapt in the final fires.
"In solid columns massed our frenzied foes
Beat out their life against the blazing hill
Broke and re-formed and madly charged again,
And thundered like the storm-lashed, furious sea
Beating in vain against the solid cliffs.
Foremost in from our veteran regiment
Breasted the brunt of battle, but we bent
Beneath the onsets as the red-hot bar
Bends to the sledge, until our furious foes
Mown as the withered prairie-grass is mown
By wild October fires fell back and left
A field of bloody agony and death
About the base, and victory on the hill.
"I lost a score of riflemen that night;
My first lieutenant his last battle over
Lay cut in twain upon the battle-line.
With lantern dim wide o'er the slaughter-field
I searched at midnight for my wounded men,
But chiefly searched for Paul. An hour or more
I sought among the groaning and the dead,
Stooping and to the dim light turning up
The ghastly faces, till at last I found
Him whom I sought, and on the outer line
Feet to the foe and silent face to heaven
Death pale and bleeding from a ragged wound
Pleading with feeble voice to let him be
And die upon the field, we bore him thence;
And tenderly his comrades carried him,
Sheltered with blankets, on the weary march
At dead of night in dismal storm begun.
We made a stand at Harrison's, and there
With careful hands we laid him on a cot.
Now I had learned to prize the noble boy;
My heart was touched with pity. Patiently
I watched o'er Paul and bathed his fevered brow,
And pressed the cooling sponge upon his lips,
And washed his wound and gave him nourishment.
'Twas all in vain, the surgeon said. I felt
That I could save him and I kept my watch.
A rib was crushed beneath it one could see
The throbbing vitals torn as we supposed,
But found unwounded. In his feverish sleep
He often moaned and muttered mysteries,
And, dreaming, spoke in low and tender tones
As if some loved one sat beside his cot.
I questioned him and sought the secret key
To solve his mystery, but all in vain.
A month of careful nursing turned the scale,
And he began to gain upon his wound.
Propt in his cot one evening as he sat
And I sat by him, thus I questioned him:
'There is a mystery about your life
That I would gladly fathom. Paul, I think
You well may trust me, and I fain would hear
The story of your life; right well I know
There is a secret sorrow in your heart.'
"He turned his face and fixed his lustrous eyes
Upon mine own inquiringly, and held
His gaze upon me till his vacant stare
Told me full well his thoughts had wandered back
Into the depth of his own silent soul;
Then he looked down and sadly smiled and said:
"'Captain, I have no history not one page;
My book of life is but a blotted blank.
Let it be sealed; I would not open it,
Even to one who saved a worthless life,
Only to add a few more leaves in blank
To the blank volume. All that I now am
I offer to my country. If I live
And from this cot walk forth, 'twill only be
To march and fight and march and fight again,'
Until a surer aim shall bring me down
Where care and kindness can no more avail.
Under our country's flag a soldier's death
I hope to die and leave no name behind.
My only wish is this for what I am,
Or have been, or have hoped to be, is now
A blank misfortune. I will say no more.'
"I questioned Paul and pressed him further still
To tell his story, but he only shook
His head in silence sadly and lay back
And closed his eyes and whispered 'All is blank.'
That night he muttered often in his sleep;
I could not catch the sense of what he said;
I caught a name that he repeated oft
Pauline so softly whispered that I knew
She was the blissful burden of his dreams.
"Two moons had waxed and waned, and Paul arose,
Came to the camp and shared my tent and bed.
While in the hospital he helpless lay
To him unknown, and as the choice of all
Came his promotion to the vacant rank
Of him who fell at Malvern. But, alas,
Say what we would he would not take the place.
To us who importuned him, he replied:
'Comrades and friends, I did not join your ranks
For honor or for profit. All I am
A wreck perhaps of what I might have been
I freely offer in our country's cause;
And in her cause it is my wish to serve
A private soldier; I aspire to naught
But victory and there be better men
Braver and hardier such should have the place.'
"His comrades cheered, but Paul, methought, was sad.
One evening as he sat upon his couch,
Communing with himself as he was wont,
I stood before him; looking in his face,
I said, 'Pauline her name is then, Pauline.'
All of a sudden up he rose amazed,
And looked upon me with such startled eyes
That I was pained and feared that I had done
A wrong to him whom I had learned to love.
Then he sat down upon his couch and groaned,
Pressing his hand upon his wound, and said:
'Captain, I pray you, tell me truthfully,
Wherefore you speak that name.'
"I told him all
That I had heard him mutter in his dreams.
He listened calmly to the close and said:
'My friend, if you have any kind regard
For me who suffer more than you may know,
I pray you utter not that name again.'
And thereupon he turned and hid his face.
"There was a mystery I might not fathom,
There was a history I might not hear:
Nor could I further press that saddened heart
To pour its secret sorrow in my ears.
Thereafter Paul was tenant of my tent
Sat at my mess and slept upon my couch,
Save when his duty called him from my side,
And not a word escaped his lips or mine
About his secret yet how oft I found
My eyes upon him and my bridled tongue
Prone to a question; but that solemn face
Forbade me and he wore his mystery.
"At that stern battle on Antietam's banks,
Where gallant Hooker led the fierce attack,
Paul bore a glorious part. Our starry flag,
Before a whirlwind of terrific fire,
Advancing proudly on the foe, went down.
Grim death and pale-faced panic seized the ranks.
Paul caught the flag and waving it aloft
Rallied our regiment. He came out unscathed.
"At Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville he fought:
Grim in disaster bravest in defeat,
He leaped not into danger without cause,
Nor shrunk he from it though a gulf of fire,
When duty bade him face it. All his aim
To win the victory; applause and praise
He almost hated; grimly he endured
The fulsome flattery of his comrades nerved
By his calm courage up to manlier deeds.
"I saw him angered once if one might call
His sullen silence anger as by night
Across the Rappahannock, from the field
Where brave and gallant 'Stonewall' Jackson fell,
With hopeless hearts and heavy steps we marched.
Such sullen wrath on other human face
I never saw in all those bloody years.
One evening after, as he read to me
The fulsome General Order of our Chief
Congratulating officers and men
On their achievements in the late defeat
His handsome face grew rigid as he read,
And as he closed, down like a thunder-clap
Upon the mess-chest fell his clinchèd fist:
'Fit pap for fools!' he said 'an Iron Duke
Had ground the Southern legions into dust,
Or, by the gods! the field of Chancellorsville
Had furnished graves for ninety thousand men!'[B]
"That dark disaster sickened many a soul;
Stout hearts were sad and cowards cried for peace.
The vulture, perched hard by the eagle's crag,
Loud cawed his fellows from afar to feast.
Ill-omened bird his carrion-cries were vain!
Again our veteran eagles plumed their wings,
And forth he fled from Montezuma's shores
A dastard flight betraying unto death
Him whom he dazzled with a bauble crown.
Just retribution followed swift and sure
Germania's eagles plucked him at Sedan.
A gloomy month wore off, and then the news
That Lee, emboldened by his late success,
Had poured his legions upon Northern soil,
Rung through the camps, and thrilled the mighty heart
Of the Grand Army. Louder than the roar
Of brazen cannon on the battle-field.
Then rose and rolled our thunder-rounds of cheers.
We saw the dawn of victory we should meet
Our wary foe upon familiar soil.
We cheered the news, we cheered the marching-orders,
We cheered our brave commander till the tears
Ran down his cheeks. Up from its sullen gloom
Leaped the Grand Army, as if God had writ
With fiery finger 'thwart the vault of heaven
A solemn promise of swift victory.
"We marched. As rolls the deep, resistless flood
Of Mississippi, when the rains of June
Have swelled his thousand northern fountain-lakes
Above their barriers rolls with restless roar,
Anon through rock-built gorges, and anon
Down through the prairied valley to the sea,
Gleaming and glittering in the summer sun,
By field and forest on his winding way,
So stretched and rolled the mighty column forth,
Winding among the hills and pouring out
Along the vernal valleys; so the sheen
Of moving bayonets glittered in the sun.
And as we marched there rolled upon the air,
Up from the vanguard-corps, a choral chant,
Feeble at first and far and far away,
But gathering volume as it rolled along
And regiment after regiment joined the choir,
Until an hundred thousand voices swelled
The surging chorus, and the solid hills
Shook to the thunder of the mighty song.
And ere it died away along the line,
The hill-tops caught the chorus rolled away
From peak to peak the pealing thunder-chant,
Clear as the chime of bells on Sabbath morn:
"'John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave;
John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave;
John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave;
But his soul is marching on.
Glory, Glory, Halleluia!
Glory, Glory, Halleluia!
Glory, Glory, Halleluia!
His soul is marching on!'
"And far away
The mountains echoed and re-echoed still
"'Glory, Glory, Halleluia!
Glory, Glory, Halleluia!
Glory, Glory, Halleluia!
His soul is marching on!'
"Until the winds
Bore the retreating echoes southward far,
And the dull distance murmured in our ears.
"Fast by the field where gallant Baker fell,
We crossed the famous river and advanced
To Frederick. There a transitory cloud
Gloomed the Grand Army Hooker was relieved:
Fell from command at victory's open gate
The dashing, daring, soul-inspiring chief,
The idol of his soldiers, and they mourned.
He had his faults they were not faults of heart
His gravest fiery valor. Since that day,
The self-same fault or virtue crowned a chief
With laurel plucked on rugged Kenesaw.
Envy it was that wrought the hero's fall,
Envy, with hydra-heads and serpent-tongues,
Hissed on the wolfish clamors of the Press.
O fickle Fortune, how thy favors fall
Like rain upon the just and the unjust!
Throughout the army, as the soldiers read
The farewell-order, gloomy murmurs ran;
But our new chieftain cheered our drooping hearts.
"That Meade would choose his battle-ground we knew,
And if not his the gallant dash and dare
That on Antietam's bloody battle-field
Snatched victory from defeat, our faith was firm
That he would fight to win, and hold the reins
Firmly in hand, nor sacrifice our lives
In wild assaults and fruitless daring deeds.
"From Taneytown, at mid-day, on the hills
Of Gettysburg we heard the cannon boom.
Our gallant Hancock rode full speed away;
We under Gibbon swiftly following him
At midnight camped on Cemetery Hill.
Sharp the initial combat of the grand
On-coming battle, and the sulphurous smoke
Hung in blue wreaths above the silent vale
Between two hostile armies, mightier far
Than met upon the field of Marathon.
Or where the proud Carthago bowed to Rome.
Hope of the North and Liberty the one;
Pride of the South the other. On the hills
A rolling range of rugged, broken hills,
Stretching from Round-Top northward, bending off
And butting down upon a silver stream
In open field our veteran regiments lay.
Facing our battle-line and parallel
Beyond the golden valley to the west
Lay Seminary Ridge a crest of hills
Covered with emerald groves and fields of gold
Ripe for the harvest: on this rolling range,
As numerous as the swarming ocean-fowl
That perch in squadrons on some barren isle
Far in the Arctic sea when summer's sun
With slanting spears invades the icy realm,
The Southern legions lay upon their arms.
As countless as the winter-evening stars
That glint and glow above the frosted fields
Twinkled and blazed upon that crest of hills
The camp-fires of the foe. Two mighty hosts,
Ready and panoplied for deadliest war,
And eager for the combat where the prize
Of victory was empire for the foe
An empire borne upon the bended backs
Of toiling slaves in millions but for us,
An empire grounded on the rights of man
Lay on their arms awaiting innocent morn
To light the field for slaughter to begin.
"Silent above us spread the dusky heavens,
Silent below us lay the smoky vale,
Silent beyond, the dreadful crest of hills.
Anon the neigh of horse, a sentry's call,
Or rapid hoof-beats of a flying steed
Bearing an aid and orders, broke the dread,
Portentous silence. I was worn and slept.
"The call of bugles wakened me. The dawn
Was stealing softly o'er the shadowy land,
And morning grew apace. Broad in the east
Uprose above the crest of hazy hills
Like some broad shield by fabled giant borne,
The golden sun, and flashed upon the field.
Ripe for the harvest stood the golden grain,
Nodding on gentle slopes and dewy hills.
Ready for the harvest death's grim reapers stood
Waiting the signal with impatient steel;
And morning passed, and mid-day. Here and there
The crack of rifles on the picket-line,
Or boom of solitary cannon broke
The myriad-voiced and dreadful monotone.
So fled the anxious hours until the hills
Sent forth their silent shadows to the east
And then their batteries opened on our left
Advanced into the valley. All along
The rolling crest of Seminary Ridge
Rolled up the smoke of cannon. Answered then
The grim artillery on our chain of hills'
And heaven was hideous with the bellowing boom,
The whiz of shot, the infernal shrieks of shells.
Down from the hills their charging columns came
A glittering mass of steel. As when the snow
Piled by an hundred winters on the peak
Of cloud-robed Bernard thunders down the cliffs,
Nor rocks nor forests stay the mighty mass,
And men and flocks in terror fly the death,
So thundering fell the columns of the foe,
Crushing through Sickles' corps in front and flank;
And, roaring onward like a mighty wind,
They rushed for Little Round-Top rugged hill,
Key to our left and center all exposed
Manned by a broken battery half unmanned.
But Hancock saw the peril. On stalwart steed
Foam-flecked, wide-nostriled, panting like a hound,
That stalwart soldier Spartan to the soles
Came dashing down where, prone along the ridge
Upon the right, our sheltered regiment lay.
'By the left flank, forward double-quick!' We sprang
And dashed for Little Round-Top; formed our line
Flanking the broken battery. Up the slope,
Like frightened sheep when howling wolves pursue,
Fled Sickles' men in panic: hard behind
On came the Rebel columns. Hat in hand
Waving and shouting to his eager corps
Rode gallant Longstreet leading on the foe.
"Where yonder field-wall bounds the trampled wheat
By grove and meadow, see among the trees
Their bayonets gleam advancing. Line on line,
Column on column, in the field beyond,
Their hurrying ranks crowd glittering on and on.
High at the head their flaunting colors fly;
High o'er the roar their wild, triumphant yell
Shrills like the scream of panthers.
Rang down our lines above the cannons' roar:
'Advance, and take those colors'[C] Adown the slope
Like Bengal tigers springing at the hounds,
We sprang and met them at the border wall:
Muzzle to muzzle steel to steel we met,
And fought like Romans and like Romans fell.
Even as a cyclone, growling thunder, roars
Down through a dusky forest, and its path
Is strown with broken and uprooted pines
Promiscuous piled in broad and broken swaths,
So crashed our volleys through their serried ranks,
Mowing great swaths of death; yet on and on,
Closing the gaps and yelling like the fiends
That Dante heard along the gulf of hell,
Still came our furious foes. A cloud of smoke
Dense, sulphurous, stifling covered all our ranks.
Our steady, deadly rifles crackled still,
And still their crashing volleys rolled and roared.
Our rifles blazed upon the blaze below;
The blaze below upon the blaze above,
And in the blaze the buzz of myriad bees
Whose stings were deadlier than the Libyan asp.
Five times our colors fell five times arose
Defiant, flapping on the broken wall.
"We hold the perilous breach; on either hand
Our foes out-flank us, leap the sheltering wall
And pour their deadly, enfilading fire.
God shield our shattered ranks! God help us!
'Stars and Stripes' on the right! Hurra! Hurra!
The Green Mountain Boys to our aid! Hurra! Hurra.
Cannon-roar down on the left! Our batteries are there
Hurling hot hell-fire' See! like sickled corn
The close-ranked foemen fall in toppling swaths:
But still with hurried steps and steady steel
They close the gaps like madmen they press on!
With one wild yell they rush upon the wall!
Lo from our lines a sheet of crackling fire
Scorches their grimy faces back they reel
And tumble down and down a writhing mass
Of slaughter and defeat!
"Leaped on the wall
A thousand Blues and swung their caps in air,
Thundering their wild Hurra! above the roar
And crash of cannon; victory was ours.
Back to his crest of hills the baffled foe
Reluctant turned and fled the storm of death.
"The smoke of battle floated from the field,
And lo the woodside piled with slaughter-heaps!
And lo the meadow dotted with the slain!
And lo the ranks of dead and dying men
That fighting fell behind the broken wall!
"Only a handful of my men remained;
The rest lay dead or wounded on the field;
Nor skulked their captain, but by grace was spared.
Behold the miracle! This Bible holds,
Embedded in its leaves, the Rebel lead
Aimed at my heart. But here a scratch and there
Not worth the mention where so many fell.
Paul, foremost ever in the deadly hail,
As if protected by a shield unseen,
"We camped upon the hill.
Night hovered o'er us on her dusky wings;
Then all along our lines upon the hills
Blazed up the evening camp-fires. Facing us
Beyond the smoke-robed valley sparkled up
A chain of fires on Seminary Ridge.
A hum of mingled voices filled the air.
As when upon the vast, hoarse-moaning sea
And all along the rock-built somber shore
Murmurs the menace of the coming storm
The muttering of the tempest from afar,
The plash and seethe of surf upon the sand,
The roll of distant thunder in the heavens,
Unite and blend in one prevailing voice
So rose the mingled murmurs of our camps,
So rose the groans and moans of wounded men
Along the slope and valley, and so rolled
From yonder frowning parallel of hills
The muttered menace of our baffled foes;
And so from camp to camp and hill to hill
Rolled the deep mutter and the dreadful moan
Of an hundred thousand voices blent in one.
"That night a multitude of friends and foes
Slept soundly but they slept to wake no more.
But few indeed among the living slept;
We lay upon our arms and courted sleep
With open eyes and ears: the fears and hopes
That centered in the half-fought battle held
The balm of slumber from our weary limbs.
Anon the rattle of the random fire
Broke on our drowsy ears and startled us,
As one is startled by some horrid dream;
Whereat old veterans muttered in their sleep.
"Midnight had passed, and I lay wakeful still,
When Paul arose and sat upon the sward.
He said: 'I cannot sleep; unbidden thoughts
That will not down crowd on my restless brain.
Captain, I know not how, but still I know
That I shall see but one more sunrise. Morn
Will bring the clash of arms to-morrow's sun
Will look upon unnumbered ghastly heaps
And gory ranks of dead and dying men,
And ere it sink beyond the western hills
Up from this field will roll a mighty shout
Victorious, echoed over all the land,
Proclaiming joy to freemen everywhere.
And I shall fall. I cannot tell you how
I know it but I feel it in my soul.
I pray that death may spare me till I hear
Our shout of "Victory!" rolling o'er these hills:
Then will I lay me down and die in peace.'
"I lightly said 'Sheer superstition, Paul;
I'll wager a month's pay you'll live to fight
A dozen battles yet. They ill become
A gallant soldier on the battle field
Such grandam superstitions. You have fought
Ever like a hero do you falter now?'
"'Captain,' he said, 'I shall not falter now,
But gladlier will I hail the rising sun.
Death has no terror for a heart like mine:
Say what you may and call it what you will
I know that I shall fall to rise no more
Before the sunset of the coming day.
If this be superstition still I know;
If this be fear it will not hold me back.'
"'Friend, I hope this prophecy
Will prove you a false prophet; but, my Paul,
Have you no farewells for your friends at home?
No message for a nearer, dearer one?'
"'None; there is none I knew in other days
Knows where or what I am. So let it be.
If there be those not many who may care
For one who cares so little for himself,
Surely my soldier-name in the gazette
Among the killed will bring no pang to them.
And then he laid himself upon the sward;
Perhaps he slept I know not, for fatigue
O'ercame me and I slept.
"The picket guns
At random firing wakened me. The morn
Came stealing softly o'er the somber hills;
Dark clouds of smoke hung hovering o'er the field.
Blood-red as risen from a sea of blood,
The tardy sun as if in dread arose,
And hid his face in the uprising smoke.
As when the pale moon, envious of the glow
And gleam and glory of the god of day,
Creeps in by stealth between the earth and him,
Eclipsing all his glory, and the green
Of hills and dales is changed to yellowish dun,
So fell the strange and lurid light of morn.
And as I gazed I heard the hunger-cries
Of vultures circling on their dusky wings
Above the smoke-hid valley; then they plunged
To gorge themselves upon the slaughter-heaps,
As at the Buddhist temples in Siam
Whereto the hideous vultures flock to feast
With famished dogs upon the pauper dead.
"The day wore on. Two mighty armies stood
Defiant watching dreading to assault;
Each hoping that the other would assault
And madly dash against its glittering steel.
As in the jungles of the Chambezè
Glaring defiance with their fiery eyes
Two tawny lions rival monarchs meet
And fright the forest with their horrid roar;
But ere they close in bloody combat crouch
And wait and watch for vantage in attack;
So on their bannered hills the opposing hosts,
Eager to grapple in the tug of death,
Waited and watched for vantage in the fight.
Noon came. The fire of pickets died away.
All eyes were turned to Seminary Ridge,
For lo our sullen foemen park on park
Had massed their grim artillery on our corps.
Hoarse voices sunk to whispers or were hushed;
The rugged hills stood listening in awe;
So dread the ominous silence that I heard
The hearts of soldiers throbbing along the line.
"Up from yon battery curled a cloud of smoke,
Shrieked o'er our heads a solitary shell,
Then instantly in horrid concert roared
Two hundred cannon on the Rebel hills
Hurling their hissing thunderbolts and then
An hundred bellowing cannon from our lines
Thundered their iron answer. Horrible
Rolled in the heavens the infernal thunders rolled
From hill to hill the reverberating roar,
As if the earth were bursting with the throes
Of some vast pent volcano; rocked and reeled,
As in an earthquake-shock, the solid hills;
Anon huge fragments of the hillside rocks,
And limbs and splinters of shot-shattered trees
Danced in the smoke like demons; hissed and howled
The crashing shell-storm bursting over us.
Prone on the earth awaiting the grand charge,
To which we knew the heavy cannonade
Was but a prelude, for two hours we lay
Two hours that tried the very souls of men
And many a brave man never rose again.
Then ceased our guns to swell the infernal roar;
The roll and crash of cannon in our front
Lulled, and we heard the foeman's bugle-calls.
Then from the slopes of Seminary Ridge
Poured down the storming columns of the foe.
As when the rain-clouds from the rim of heaven
Are gathered by the four contending winds,
And madly whirled until they meet and clash
Above the hills and burst down pours a sea
And plunges roaring down through gorge and glen,
So poured the surging columns of our foes
Adown the slopes and spread along the vale
In glittering ranks of battle line on line
Mile-long. Above the roar of cannon rose
In one wild yell the Rebel battle-cry.
Flash in the sun their serried ranks of steel;
Before them swarm a cloud of skirmishers.
That eager host the gallant Pickett leads;
He right and left his fiery charger wheels;
Steadies the lines with clarion voice; anon
His outstretched saber gleaming points the way.
As mid the myriad twinkling stars of heaven
Flashes the blazing comet, and a column
Of fiery fury follows it, so flashed
The dauntless chief, so followed his wild host.
"We waited grim and silent till they crossed
The center and began the dread ascent.
Then brazen bugles rang the clarion call;
Arose as one twice twenty thousand men,
And all our hillsides blazed with crackling fire.
With sudden crash and simultaneous roar
An hundred cannon opened instantly,
And all the vast hills shuddered under us.
Yelling their mad defiance to our fire
Still on and upward came our daring foes.
As when upon the wooded mountain-side
The unchained Loki[D] riots and the winds
Of an autumnal tempest lash the flames,
Whirling the burning fragments through the air
Huge blazing limbs and tops of blasted pines
Mowing wide swaths with circling scythes of fire,
So fell our fire upon the advancing host,
And lashed their ranks and mowed them into heaps,
Cleaving broad avenues of death. Still on
And up they come undaunted, closing up
The ghastly gaps and firing as they come.
As if protected by the hand of heaven,
Rides at their head their gallant leader still;
The tempest drowns his voice his naming sword
Gleams in the flash of rifles. One wild yell Like
the mad hunger-howl of famished wolves
Midwinter on the flying cabris'[E] trail,
Swelled by ten thousand hideous voices, shrills,
And through the battle-smoke the bravest burst.
Flutters their tattered banner on our wall!
Thunders their shout of victory! Appalled
Our serried ranks are broken but in vain!
On either hand our cannon enfilade,
Crushing great gaps along the stalwart lines;
In front our deadly rifles volley still,
Mowing the toppling swaths of daring men.
Behold they falter! Ho! they break! they fly!
With one wild cheer that shakes the solid hills
Spring to the charge our eager infantry.
Headlong we press them down the bloody slope,
Headlong they fall before our leveled steel
And break in wild disorder, cast away
Their arms and fly in panic. All the vale
Is spread with slaughter and wild fugitives.
Wide o'er the field the scattered foemen fly;
Dread havoc and mad terror swift pursue
Till battle is but slaughter. Thousands fall
Thousands surrender, and the Southern flag
Is trailed upon the field.
"The day was ours,
And well we knew the worth of victory.
Loud rolled the rounds of cheers from corps to corps;
Comrades embraced each other; iron men
Shed tears of joy like women; men profane
Fell on their knees and thanked Almighty God.
Then 'Hail Columbia' rang the brazen horns,
And all the hill-tops shouted unto heaven;
The welkin shouted to the shouting hills And
heavens and hill-tops shouted 'Victory!'
"Night with her pall had wrapped the bloody field.
The little remnants of our regiment
Were gathered and encamped upon the hill.
Paul was not with them, and they could not tell
Aught of him. I had seen him in the fight
Bravest of all the brave. I saw him last
When first the foremost foemen reached our wall,
Thrusting them off with bloody bayonet,
And shouting to his comrades, 'Steady, men!'
Sadly I wandered back where we had met
The onset of the foe. The rounds of cheers
Repeated oft still swept from corps to corps,
And as I passed along the line I saw
Our dying comrades raise their weary heads,
And cheer with feeble voices. Even in death
The cry of victory warmed their hearts again.
Paul lay upon the ground where he had fought,
Fast by the flag that floated on the line.
He slept or seemed to sleep, but on his brow
Sat such a deadly pallor that I feared
My Paul would never march and fight again.
I raised his head he woke as from a dream;
I said, 'Be quiet you are badly hurt;
I'll call a surgeon; we will dress your wound.'
He gravely said:
"'Tis vain; for I have done
With camp and march and battle. Ere the dawn
Shall I be mustered out of your command,
And mustered into the Grand Host of heaven.'
"I sought a surgeon on the field and found;
With me he came and opened the bloody blouse,
Felt the dull pulse and sagely shook his head.
A musket ball had done its deadly work;
There was no hope, he said, the man might live
A day perchance but had no need of him.
I called his comrades and we carried him,
Stretched on his blankets, gently to our camp,
And laid him by the camp-fire. As the light
Fell on Paul's face he took my hand and said: