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, plumed comrades so reckless, alas,
Slept their long, dreamless sleep on the blood-spattered grass.
[The soldier was Louis Mitchell, of Co. 1, 1st Minn. Vols., killed in a skirmish, near Ball’s Bluff, October 22, 1861.]
“We’ve had a brush,” the Captain
“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.”