The bitter cup
Of that hard countermand
Which gave the Envoys up,
Still was wormwood in the mouth,
And clouds involved the land,
When, pelted by sleet in the icy street,
About the bulletin-board a band
Of eager, anxious people met,
And every wakeful heart was set
On latest news from West or South.
"No seeing here," cries one—"don't crowd—"
"You tall man, pray you, read aloud."
We learn that General Grant,
Marching from Henry overland,
And joined by a force up the Cumberland sent
(Some thirty thousand the command),
On Wednesday a good position won—
Began the siege of Donelson.
The stronghold crowns a river-bluff,
A good broad mile of leveled top;
Inland the ground rolls off
Deep-gorged, and rocky, and broken up—
A wilderness of trees and brush.
The spaded summit shows the roods
Of fixed intrenchments in their hush;
Breast-works and rifle-pits in woods
Perplex the base.—
The welcome weather
Is clear and mild; 'tis much like May.
The ancient boughs that lace together
Along the stream, and hang far forth,
Strange with green mistletoe, betray
A dreamy contrast to the North.
Our troops are full of spirits—say
The siege won't prove a creeping one.
They purpose not the lingering stay
Of old beleaguerers; not that way;
But, full of vim from Western prairies won,
They'll make, ere long, a dash at Donelson.
Washed by the storm till the paper grew
Every shade of a streaky blue,
That bulletin stood. The next day brought
Later from the Fort.
Grant's investment is complete—
A semicircular one.
Both wings the Cumberland's margin meet,
Then, backwkard curving, clasp the rebel seat.
On Wednesday this good work was done;
But of the doers some lie prone.
Each wood, each hill, each glen was fought for;
The bold inclosing line we wrought for
Flamed with sharpshooters. Each cliff cost
A limb or life. But back we forced
Reserves and all; made good our hold;
And so we rest.
On Thursday added ground was won,
A long bold steep: we near the Den.
Later the foe came shouting down
In sortie, which was quelled; and then
We stormed them on their left.
A chilly change in the afternoon;
The sky, late clear, is now bereft
Of sun. Last night the ground froze hard—
Rings to the enemy as they run
Within their works. A ramrod bites
The lip it meets. The cold incites
To swinging of arms with brisk rebound.
Smart blows 'gainst lusty chests resound.
Along the outer line we ward
A crackle of skirmishing goes on.
Our lads creep round on hand and knee,
They fight from behind each trunk and stone;
And sometimes, flying for refuge, one
Finds 'tis an enemy shares the tree.
Some scores are maimed by boughs shot off
In the glades by the Fort's big gun.
We mourn the loss of colonel Morrison,
Killed while cheering his regiment on.
Their far sharpshooters try our stuff;
And ours return them puff for puff:
'Tis diamond-cutting-diamond work.
Woe on the rebel cannoneer
Who shows his head. Our fellows lurk
Like Indians that waylay the deer
By the wild salt-spring.—The sky is dun,
Fordooming the fall of Donelson.
Stern weather is all unwonted here.
The people of the country own
We brought it. Yea, the earnest North
Has elementally issued forth
To storm this Donelson.
A yelling rout
Of ragamuffins broke profuse
To-day from out the Fort.
Sole uniform they wore, a sort
Of patch, or white badge (as you choose)
Upon the arm. But leading these,
Or mingling, were men of face
And bearing of patrician race,
Splendid in courage and gold lace—
The officers. Before the breeze
Made by their charge, down went our line;
But, rallying, charged back in force,
And broke the sally; yet with loss.
This on the left; upon the right
Meanwhile there was an answering fight;
Assailants and assailed reversed.
The charge too upward, and not down—
Up a steep ridge-side, toward its crown,
A strong redoubt. But they who first
Gained the fort's base, and marked the trees
Felled, heaped in horned perplexities,
And shagged with brush; and swarming there
Fierce wasps whose sting was present death—
They faltered, drawing bated breath,
And felt it was in vain to dare;
Yet still, perforce, returned the ball,
Firing into the tangled wall
Till ordered to come down. They came;
But left some comrades in their fame,
Red on the ridge in icy wreath
And hanging gardens of cold Death.
But not quite unavenged these fell;
Our ranks once out of range, a blast
Of shrapnel and quick shell
Burst on the rebel horde, still massed,
Scattering them pell-mell.
(This fighting—judging what we read—
Both charge and countercharge,
Would seem but Thursday's told at large,
Before in brief reported.—Ed.)
Night closed in about the Den
Murky and lowering. Ere long, chill rains.
A night not soon to be forgot,
Reviving old rheumatic pains
And longings for a cot.
No blankets, overcoats, or tents.
Coats thrown aside on the warm march here—
We looked not then for changeful cheer;
Tents, coats, and blankets too much care.
No fires; a fire a mark presents;
Near by, the trees show bullet-dents.
Rations were eaten cold and raw.
The men well soaked, come snow; and more—
A midnight sally. Small sleeping done—
But such is war;
No matter, we'll have Fort Donelson.
'Twill drag along—drag along"
Growled a cross patriot in the throng,
His battered umbrella like an ambulance-cover
Riddled with bullet-holes, spattered all over.
"Hurrah for Grant!" cried a stripling shrill;
Three urchins joined him with a will,
And some of taller stature cheered.
Meantime a Copperhead passed; he sneered.
"Win or lose," he pausing said,
"Caps fly the same; all boys, mere boys;
Any thing to make a noise.
Like to see the list of the dead;
These 'craven Southerners' hold out;
Ay, ay, they'll give you many a bout"
"We'll beat in the end, sir"
Firmly said one in staid rebuke,
A solid merchant, square and stout.
"And do you think it? that way tend, sir"
Asked the lean Cooperhead, with a look
Of splenetic pity. "Yes, I do"
His yellow death's head the croaker shook:
"The country's ruined, that I know"
A shower of broken ice and snow,
In lieu of words, confuted him;
They saw him hustled round the corner go,
And each by-stander said—Well suited him.
Next day another crowd was seen
In the dark weather's sleety spleen.
Bald-headed to the storm came out
A man, who, 'mid a joyous shout,
Silently posted this brief sheet:
Glorious Victory of the Fleet!
The enemy's water-batteries beat!
The old Commodore's compliments sent
Plump into Donelson!
"Well, well, go on!" exclaimed the crowd
To him who thus much read aloud.
"That's all," he said. "What! nothing more"
"Enough for a cheer, though—hip, hurrah!"
"But here's old Baldy come again—
More news!—" And now a different strain.
(Our own reporter a dispatch compiles,
As best he may, from varied sources.)
Large re-enforcements have arrived—
Munitions, men, and horses—
For Grant, and all debarked, with stores.
The enemy's field-works extend six miles—
The gate still hid; so well contrived.
Yesterday stung us; frozen shores
Snow-clad, and through the drear defiles
And over the desolate ridges blew
A Lapland wind.
The main affair
Was a good two hours' steady fight
Between our gun-boats and the Fort.
The Louisville's wheel was smashed outright.
A hundred-and-twenty-eight-pound ball
Came planet-like through a starboard port,
Killing three men, and wounding all
The rest of that gun's crew,
(The captain of the gun was cut in two);
Then splintering and ripping went—
Nothing could be its continent.
In the narrow stream the Louisville,
Unhelmed, grew lawless; swung around,
And would have thumped and drifted, till
All the fleet was driven aground,
But for the timely order to retire.
Some damage from our fire, 'tis thought,
Was done the water-batteries of the Fort.
Little else took place that day,
Except the field artillery in line
Would now and then—for love, they say—
Exchange a valentine.
The old sharpshooting going on.
Some plan afoot as yet unknown;
So Friday closed round Donelson.
Great suffering through the night—
A stinging one. Our heedless boys
Were nipped like blossoms. Some dozen
Hapless wounded men were frozen.
During day being struck down out of sight,
And help-cries drowned in roaring noise,
They were left just where the skirmish shifted—
Left in dense underbrush now-drifted.
Some, seeking to crawl in crippled plight,
Yet in spite
Of pangs for these, no heart is lost.
Hungry, and clothing stiff with frost,
Our men declare a nearing sun
Shall see the fall of Donelson.
And this they say, yet not disown
The dark redoubts round Donelson,
And ice-glazed corpses, each a stone—
A sacrifice to Donelson;
They swear it, and swerve not, gazing on
A flag, deemed black, flying from Donelson.
Some of the wounded in the wood
Were cared for by the foe last night,
Though he could do them little needed good,
Himself being all in shivering plight.
The rebel is wrong, but human yet;
He's got a heart, and thrusts a bayonet.
He gives us battle with wondrous will—
The bluff's a perverted Bunker Hill.
The stillness stealing through the throng
The silent thought and dismal fear revealed;
They turned and went,
Musing on right and wrong
And mysteries dimly sealed—
Breasting the storm in daring discontent;
The storm, whose black flag showed in heaven,
As if to say no quarter there was given
To wounded men in wood,
Or true hearts yearning for the good—
All fatherless seemed the human soul.
But next day brought a bitterer bowl—
On the bulletin-board this stood;
Saturday morning at 3 A.M.
A stir within the Fort betrayed
That the rebels were getting under arms;
Some plot these early birds had laid.
But a lancing sleet cut him who stared
Into the storm. After some vague alarms,
Which left our lads unscared,
Out sallied the enemy at dim of dawn,
With cavalry and artillery, and went
In fury at our environment.
Under cover of shot and shell
Three columns of infantry rolled on,
Vomited out of Donelson—
Rolled down the slopes like rivers of hell,
Surged at our line, and swelled and poured
Like breaking surf. But unsubmerged
Our men stood up, except where roared
The enemy through one gap. We urged
Our all of manhood to the stress,
But still showed shattered in our desperateness.
Back set the tide,
But soon afresh rolled in;
And so it swayed from side to side—
Far batteries joining in the din,
Though sharing in another fray—
Till all became an Indian fight,
Intricate, dusky, stretching far away,
Yet not without spontaneous plan
However tangled showed the plight;
Duels all over 'tween man and man,
Duels on cliff-side, and down in ravine,
Duels at long range, and bone to bone;
Duels every where flitting and half unseen.
Only by courage good as their own,
And strength outlasting theirs,
Did our boys at last drive the rebels off.
Yet they went not back to their distant lairs
In strong-hold, but loud in scoff
Maintained themselves on conquered ground—
Uplands; built works, or stalked around.
Our right wing bore this onset. Noon
Brought calm to Donelson.
The reader ceased; the storm beat hard;
'Twas day, but the office-gas was lit;
Nature retained her sulking-fit,
In her hand the shard.
Flitting faces took the hue
Of that washed bulletin-board in view,
And seemed to bear the public grief
As private, and uncertain of relief;
Yea, many an earnest heart was won,
As broodingly he plodded on,
To find in himself some bitter thing,
Some hardness in his lot as harrowing
That night the board stood barren there,
Oft eyes by wistful people passing,
Who nothing saw but the rain-beads chasing
Each other down the wafered square,
As down some storm-beat grave-yard stone.
But next day showed—
Story of Saturday afternoon.
The damaged gun-boats can't wage fight
For days; so says the Commodore.
Thus no diversion can be had.
Under a sunless sky of lead
Our grim-faced boys in blacked plight
Gaze toward the ground they held before,
And then on Grant. He marks their mood,
And hails it, and will turn the same to good.
Spite all that they have undergone,
Their desperate hearts are set upon
This winter fort, this stubborn fort,
This castle of the last resort,
An order given
Requires withdrawal from the front
Of regiments that bore the brunt
Of morning's fray. Their ranks all riven
Are being replaced by fresh, strong men.
Great vigilance in the foeman's Den;
He snuffs the stormers. Need it is
That for that fell assault of his,
That rout inflicted, and self-scorn—
Immoderate in noble natures, torn
By sense of being through slackness overborne—
The rebel be given a quick return:
The kindest face looks now half stern.
Balked of their prey in airs that freeze,
Some fierce ones glare like savages.
And yet, and yet, strange moments are—
Well—blood, and tears, and anguished War!
The morning's battle-ground is seen
In lifted glades, like meadows rare;
The blood-drops on the snow-crust there
Like clover in the white-week show—
Flushed fields of death, that call again—
Call to our men, and not in vain,
For that way must the stormers go.
The work begins.
Light drifts of men thrown forward, fade
In skirmish-line along the slope,
Where some dislodgments must be made
Ere the stormer with the strong-hold cope.
Lew Wallace, moving to retake
The heights late lost—
(Herewith a break.
Storms at the West derange the wires.
Doubtless, ere morning, we shall hear
The end; we look for news to cheer—
Let Hope fan all her fires.)
Next day in large bold hand was seen
The closing bulletin:
Our troops have retrieved the day
By one grand surge along the line;
The spirit that urged them was divine.
The first works flooded, naught could stay
The stormers: on! still on!
Bayonets for Donelson!
Over the ground that morning lost
Rolled the blue billows, tempest-tossed,
Following a hat on the point of a sword.
Spite shell and round-shot, grape and canister,
Up they climbed without rail or banister—
Up the steep hill-sides long and broad,
Driving the rebel deep within his works.
'Tis nightfall; not an enemy lurks
In sight. The chafing men
Fret for more fight:
"To-night, to-night let us take the Den"
But night is treacherous, Grant is wary;
Of brave blood be a little chary.
Patience! the Fort is good as won;
To-morrow, and into Donelson.
A flag came out at early morn
Bringing surrender. From their towers
Floats out the banner late their scorn.
In Dover, hut and house are full
Of rebels dead or dying.
The national flag is flying
From the crammed court-house pinnacle.
Great boat-loads of our wounded go
To-day to Nashville. The sleet-winds blow;
But all is right: the fight is won,
The winter-fight for Donelson.
The spell of old defeat is broke,
The Habit of victory begun;
Grant strikes the war's first sounding stroke
For lists of killed and wounded, see
The morrow's dispatch: to-day 'tis victory.
The man who read this to the crowd
Shouted as the end he gained;
And though the unflagging tempest rained,
They answered him aloud.
And hand grasped hand, and glances met
In happy triumph; eyes grew wet.
O, to the punches brewed that night
Went little water. Windows bright
Beamed rosy on the sleet without,
And from the deep street came the frequent shout;
While some in prayer, as these in glee,
Blessed heaven for the winter-victory.
But others were who wakeful laid
In midnight beds, and early rose,
And, feverish in the foggy snows,
Snatched the damp paper—wife and maid.
The death-list like a river flows
Down the pale sheet,
And there the whelming waters meet.
Ah God! may Time with happy haste
Bring wail and triumph to a waste,
And war be done;
The battle flag-staff fall athwart
The curs'd ravine, and wither; naught
Be left of trench or gun;
The bastion, let it ebb away,
Washed with the river bed; and Day
In vain seek Donelson.
The Armies of the Wilderness.
Like snows the camps on southern hills
Lay all the winter long,
Our levies there in patience stood—
They stood in patience strong.
On fronting slopes gleamed other camps
Where faith as firmly clung:
Ah, froward king! so brave miss—
The zealots of the Wrong.
In this strife of brothers
(God, hear their country call),
However it be, whatever betide,
Let not the just one fall.
Through the pointed glass our soldiers saw
The base-ball bounding sent;
They could have joined them in their sport
But for the vale's deep rent.
And others turned the reddish soil,
Like diggers of graves they bent:
The reddish soil and tranching toil
Did the Fathers feel mistrust?
Can no final good be wrought?
Over and over, again and again
Must the fight for the Right be fought?
They lead a Gray-back to the crag:
"Your earth-works yonder—tell us, man"
"A prisoner—no deserter, I,
Nor one of the tell-tale clan"
His rags they mark: "True-blue like you
Should wear the color—your Country's, man"
He grinds his teeth: "However that be,
Yon earth-works have their plan."
Such brave ones, foully snared
By Belial's wily plea,
Were faithful unto the evil end—
"Well, then, your camps—come, tell the names"
Freely he leveled his finger then:
"Yonder—see—are our Georgians; on the crest,
The Carolinians; lower, past the glen,
(Follow my finger)—Tennesseeans; and the ten
Camps there—ask your grave-pits; they'll tell.
Halloa! I see the picket-hut, the den
Where I last night lay." "Where's Lee"
"In the hearts and bayonets of all yon men!"
The tribes swarm up to war
As in ages long ago,
Ere the palm of promise leaved
And the lily of Christ did blow.
Their mounted pickets for miles are spied
Dotting the lowland plain,
The nearer ones in their veteran-rags—
Loutish they loll in lazy disdain.
But ours in perilous places bide
With rifles ready and eyes that strain
Deep through the dim suspected wood
Where the Rapidan rolls amain.
The Indian has passed away,
But creeping comes another—
Deadlier far. Picket,
Take heed—take heed of thy brother!
From a wood-hung height, an outpost lone,
Crowned with a woodman's fort,
The sentinel looks on a land of dole,
Like Paran, all amort.
Black chimneys, gigantic in moor-like wastes,
The scowl of the clouded sky retort;
The hearth is a houseless stone again—
Ah! where shall the people be sought?
Since the venom such blastment deals,
The south should have paused, and thrice,
Ere with heat of her hate she hatched
The egg with the cockatrice.
A path down the mountain winds to the glade
Where the dead of the Moonlight Fight lie low;
A hand reaches out of the thin-laid mould
As begging help which none can bestow.
But the field-mouse small and busy ant
Heap their hillocks, to hide if they may the woe:
By the bubbling spring lies the rusted canteen,
And the drum which the drummer-boy dying let go.
Dust to dust, and blood for blood—
Passion and pangs! Has Time
Gone back? or is this the Age
Of the world's great Prime?
The wagon mired and cannon dragged
Have trenched their scar; the plain
Tramped like the cindery beach of the damned—
A site for the city of Cain.
And stumps of forests for dreary leagues
Like a massacre show. The armies have lain
By fires where gums and balms did burn,
And the seeds of Summer's reign.
Where are the birds and boys?
Who shall go chestnutting when
October returns? The nuts—
O, long ere they grow again.
They snug their huts with the chapel-pews,
In court-houses stable their steeds—
Kindle their fires with indentures and bonds,
And old Lord Fairfax's parchment deeds;
And Virginian gentlemen's libraries old—
Books which only the scholar heeds—
Are flung to his kennel. It is ravage and range,
And gardens are left to weeds.
Turned adrift into war
Man runs wild on the plain,
Like the jennets let loose
On the Pampas—zebras again.
Like the Pleiads dim, see the tents through the storm—
Aloft by the hill-side hamlet's graves,
On a head-stone used for a hearth-stone there
The water is bubbling for punch for our braves.
What if the night be drear, and the blast
Ghostly shrieks? their rollicking staves
Make frolic the heart; beating time with their swords,
What care they if Winter raves?
Is life but a dream? and so,
In the dream do men laugh aloud?
So strange seems mirth in a camp,
So like a white tent to a shroud.
The May-weed springs; and comes a Man
And mounts our Signal Hill;
A quiet Man, and plain in garb—
Briefly he looks his fill,
Then drops his gray eye on the ground,
Like a loaded mortar he is still:
Meekness and grimness meet in him—
The silent General.
Were men but strong and wise,
Honest as Grant, and calm,
War would be left to the red and black ants,
And the happy world disarm.
That eve a stir was in the camps,
Forerunning quiet soon to come
Among the streets of beechen huts
No more to know the drum.
The weed shall choke the lowly door,
And foxes peer within the gloom,
Till scared perchange by Mosby's prowling men,
Who ride in the rear of doom.
Far West, and farther South,
Wherever the sword has been,
Deserted camps are met,
And desert graves are seen.
The livelong night they ford the flood;
With guns held high they silent press,
Till shimmers the grass in their bayonets' sheen—
On Morning's banks their ranks they dress;
Then by the forests lightly wind,
Whose waving boughs the pennons seem to bless,
Borne by the cavalry scouting on—
Sounding the Wilderness.
Like shoals of fish in spring
That visit Crusoe's isle,
The host in the lonesome place—
The hundred thousand file.
The foe that held his guarded hills
Must speed to woods afar;
For the scheme that was nursed by the Culpepper hearth
With the slowly-smoked cigar—
The scheme that smouldered through winter long
Now bursts into act—into waw—
The resolute scheme of a heart as calm
As the Cyclone's core.
The fight for the city is fought
In Nature's old domain;
Man goes out to the wilds,
And Orpheus' charm is vain.
In glades they meet skull after skull
Where pine-cones lay—the rusted gun,
Green shoes full of bones, the mouldering coat
And cuddled-up skeleton;
And scores of such. Some start as in dreams,
And comrades lost bemoan:
By the edge of those wilds Stonewall had charged—
But the Year and the Man were gone.
At the height of their madness
The night winds pause,
But no lull in these wars.
A gleam!—a volley! And who shall go
Storming the swarmers in jungles dread?
No cannon-ball answers, no proxies are sent—
They rush in the shrapnel's stead.
Plume and sash are vanities now—
Let them deck the pall of the dead;
They go where the shade is, perhaps into Hades,
Where the brave of all times have led.
There's a dust of hurrying feet,
Bitten lips and bated breath,
And drums that challenge to the grave,
And faces fixed, forefeeling death.
What husky huzzahs in the hazy groves—
What flying encounters fell;
Pursuer and pursued like ghosts disappear
In gloomed shade—their end who shall tell?
The crippled, a ragged-barked stick for a crutch,
Limp to some elfin dell—
Hobble from the sight of dead faces—white
As pebbles in a well.
Few burial rites shall be;
No priest with book and band
Shall come to the secret place
Of the corpse in the foeman's land.
Watch and fast, march and fight—clutch your gun?
Day-fights and night-fights; sore is the strees;
Look, through the pines what line comes on?
Longstreet slants through the hauntedness?
'Tis charge for charge, and shout for yell:
Such battles on battles oppress—
But Heaven lent strength, the Right strove well,
And emerged from the Wilderness.
Emerged, for the way was won;
But the Pillar of Smoke that led
Was brand-like with ghosts that went up
Ashy and red.
None can narrate that strife in the pines,
A seal is on it—Sabaean lore!
Obscure as the wood, the entangled rhyme
But hints at the maze of war—
Vivid glimpses or livid through peopled gloom,
And fires which creep and char—
A riddle of death, of which the slain
Sole solvers are.
Long they withhold the roll
Of the shroudless dead. It is right;
Not yet can we bear the flare
Of the funeral light.
The Scout toward Aldie.
The cavalry-camp lies on the slope
Of what was late a vernal hill,
But now like a pavement bare—
An outpost in the perilous wilds
Which ever are lone and still;
But Mosby's men are there—
Of Mosby best beware.
Great trees the troopers felled, and leaned
In antlered walls about their tents;
Strict watch they kept; 'twas Hark! and Mark!
Unarmed none cared to stir abroad
For berries beyond their forest-fence:
As glides in seas the shark,
Rides Mosby through green dark.
All spake of him, but few had seen
Except the maimed ones or the low;
Yet rumor made him every thing—
The man who crossed the field but now;
A spell about his life did cling—
Who to the ground shall Mosby bring?
The morning-bugles lonely play,
Lonely the evening-bugle calls—
Unanswered voices in the wild;
The settled hush of birds in nest
Becharms, and all the wood enthralls:
Memory's self is so beguiled
That Mosby seems a satyr's child.
They lived as in the Eerie Land—
The fire-flies showed with fairy gleam;
And yet from pine-tops one might ken
The Capitol dome—hazy—sublime—
A vision breaking on a dream:
So strange it was that Mosby's men
Should dare to prowl where the Dome was seen.
A scout toward Aldie broke the spell.—
The Leader lies before his tent
Gazing at heaven's all-cheering lamp
Through blandness of a morning rare;
His thoughts on bitter-sweets are bent:
His sunny bride is in the camp—
But Mosby—graves are beds of damp!
The trumpet calls; he goes within;
But none the prayer and sob may know:
Her hero he, but bridegroom too.
Ah, love in a tent is a queenly thing,
And fame, be sure, refines the vow;
But fame fond wives have lived to rue,
And Mosby's men fell deeds can do.
Tan-tara! tan-tara! tan-tara!
Mounted and armed he sits a king;
For pride she smiles if now she peep—
Elate he rides at the head of his men;
He is young, and command is a boyish thing:
They file out into the forest deep—
Do Mosby and his rangers sleep?
The sun is gold, and the world is green,
Opal the vapors of morning roll;
The champing horses lightly prance—
Full of caprice, and the riders too
Curving in many a caricole.
But marshaled soon, by fours advance—
Mosby had checked that airy dance.
By the hospital-tent the cripples stand—
Bandage, and crutch, and cane, and sling,
And palely eye the brave array;
The froth of the cup is gone for them
(Caw! caw! the crows through the blueness wing);
Yet these were late as bold, as gay;
But Mosby—a clip, and grass is hay.
How strong they feel on their horses free,
Tingles the tendoned thigh with life;
Their cavalry-jackets make boys of all—
With golden breasts like the oriole;
The chat, the jest, and laugh are rife.
But word is passed from the front—a call
For order; the wood is Mosby's hall.
To which behest one rider sly
(Spurred, but unarmed) gave little heed—
Of dexterous fun not slow or spare,
He teased his neighbors of touchy mood,
Into plungings he pricked his steed:
A black-eyed man on a coal-black mare,
Alive as Mosby in mountain air.
His limbs were long, and large and round;
He whispered, winked—did all but shout:
A healthy man for the sick to view;
The taste in his mouth was sweet at morn;
Little of care he cared about.
And yet of pains and pangs he knew—
In others, maimed by Mosby's crew.
The Hospital Steward—even he
(Sacred in person as a priest),
And on his coat-sleeve broidered nice
Wore the caduceus, black and green.
No wonder he sat so light on his beast;
This cheery man in suit of price
Not even Mosby dared to slice.
They pass the picket by the pine
And hollow log—a lonesome place;
His horse adroop, and pistol clean;
'Tis cocked—kept leveled toward the wood;
Strained vigilance ages his childish face.
Since midnight has that stripling been
Peering for Mosby through the green.
Splashing they cross the freshet-flood,
And up the muddy bank they strain;
A horse at the spectral white-ash shies—
One of the span of the ambulance,
Black as a hearse. They give the rein:
Silent speed on a scout were wise,
Could cunning baffle Mosby's spies.
Rumor had come that a band was lodged
In green retreats of hills that peer
By Aldie (famed for the swordless charge
Much store they'd heaped of captured arms
And, peradventure, pilfered cheer;
For Mosby's lads oft hearts enlarge
In revelry by some gorge's marge.
 In one of Kilpatrick's earlier cavalry fights near Aldie, a Colonel
who, being under arrest, had been temporarily deprived of his sword,
nevertheless, unarmed, insisted upon charging at the head of his men,
which he did, and the onset proved victorious.
"Don't let your sabres rattle and ring;
To his oat-bag let each man give heed—
There now, that fellow's bag's untied,
Sowing the road with the precious grain.
Your carbines swing at hand—you need!
Look to yourselves, and your nags beside,
Men who after Mosby ride."
Picked lads and keen went sharp before—
A guard, though scarce against surprise;
And rearmost rode an answering troop,
But flankers none to right or left.
No bugle peals, no pennon flies:
Silent they sweep, and fail would swoop
On Mosby with an Indian whoop.
On, right on through the forest land,
Nor man, nor maid, nor child was seen—
Not even a dog. The air was still;
The blackened hut they turned to see,
And spied charred benches on the green;
A squirrel sprang from the rotting mill
Whence Mosby sallied late, brave blood to spill.
By worn-out fields they cantered on—
Drear fields amid the woodlands wide;
By cross-roads of some olden time,
In which grew groves; by gate-stones down—
Grassed ruins of secluded pride:
A strange lone land, long past the prime,
Fit land for Mosby or for crime.
The brook in the dell they pass. One peers
Between the leaves: "Ay, there's the place—
There, on the oozy ledge—'twas there
We found the body (Blake's you know);
Such whirlings, gurglings round the face—
Shot drinking! Well, in war all's fair—
So Mosby says. The bough—take care!"
Hard by, a chapel. Flower-pot mould
Danked and decayed the shaded roof;
The porch was punk; the clapboards spanned
With ruffled lichens gray or green;
Red coral-moss was not aloof;
And mid dry leaves green dead-man's-hand
Groped toward that chapel in Mosby-land.
They leave the road and take the wood,
And mark the trace of ridges there—
A wood where once had slept the farm—
A wood where once tobacco grew
Drowsily in the hazy air,
And wrought in all kind things a calm—
Such influence, Mosby! bids disarm.
To ease even yet the place did woo—
To ease which pines unstirring share,
For ease the weary horses sighed:
Halting, and slackening girths, they feed,
Their pipes they light, they loiter there;
Then up, and urging still the Guide,
On, and after Mosby ride.
This Guide in frowzy coat of brown,
And beard of ancient growth and mould,
Bestrode a bony steed and strong,
As suited well with bulk he bore—
A wheezy man with depth of hold
Who jouncing went. A staff he swung—
A wight whom Mosby's wasp had stung.
Burnt out and homeless—hunted long!
That wheeze he caught in autumn-wood
Crouching (a fat man) for his life,
And spied his lean son 'mong the crew
That probed the covert. Ah! black blood
Was his 'gainst even child and wife—
Fast friends to Mosby. Such the strife.
A lad, unhorsed by sliding girths,
Strains hard to readjust his seat
Ere the main body show the gap
'Twixt them and the read-guard; scrub-oaks near
He sidelong eyes, while hands move fleet;
Then mounts and spurs. One drop his cap—
"Let Mosby fine!" nor heeds mishap.
A gable time-stained peeps through trees:
"You mind the fight in the haunted house?
That's it; we clenched them in the room—
An ambuscade of ghosts, we thought,
But proved sly rebels on a bouse!
Luke lies in the yard." The chimneys loom:
Some muse on Mosby—some on doom.
Less nimbly now through brakes they wind,
And ford wild creeks where men have drowned;
They skirt the pool, a void the fen,
And so till night, when down they lie,
They steeds still saddled, in wooded ground:
Rein in hand they slumber then,
Dreaming of Mosby's cedarn den.
But Colonel and Major friendly sat
Where boughs deformed low made a seat.
The Young Man talked (all sworded and spurred)
Of the partisan's blade he longed to win,
And frays in which he meant to beat.
The grizzled Major smoked, and heard:
"But what's that—Mosby?" "No, a bird."
A contrast here like sire and son,
Hope and Experience sage did meet;
The Youth was brave, the Senior too;
But through the Seven Days one had served,
And gasped with the rear-guard in retreat:
So he smoked and smoked, and the wreath he blew—
"Any sure news of Mosby's crew?"
He smoked and smoked, eying the while
A huge tree hydra-like in growth—
Moon-tinged—with crook'd boughs rent or lopped—
Itself a haggard forest. "Come"
The Colonel cried, "to talk you're loath;
D've hear? I say he must be stopped,
This Mosby—caged, and hair close cropped."
"Of course; but what's that dangling there"
"Where?" "From the tree—that gallows-bough;
"A bit of frayed bark, is it not"
"Ay—or a rope; did we hang last?—
Don't like my neckerchief any how"
He loosened it: "O ay, we'll stop
This Mosby—but that vile jerk and drop!"
 Certain of Mosby's followers, on the charge of being unlicensed
foragers or fighters, being hung by order of a Union cavalry commander,
the Partisan promptly retaliated in the woods. In turn, this also was
retaliated, it is said. To what extent such deplorable proceedings were
carried, it is not easy to learn.
South of the Potamac in Virginia, and within a gallop of the Long Bridge
at Washington, is the confine of a country, in some places wild, which
throughout the war it was unsafe for a Union man to traverse except with
an armed escort. This was the chase of Mosby, the scene of many of his
exploits or those of his men. In the heart of this region at least one
fortified camp was maintained by our cavalry, and from time to time
expeditions ended disastrously. Such results were helped by the
exceeding cunning of the enemy, born of his wood-craft, and, in some
instances, by undue confidence on the part of our men. A body of
cavalry, starting from camp with the view of breaking up a nest of
rangers, and absent say three days, would return with a number of their
own forces killed and wounded (ambushed), without being able to
retaliate farther than by foraging on the country, destroying a house or
two reported to be haunts of the guerrillas, or capturing non-combatants
accused of being secretly active in their behalf.
In the verse the name of Mosby is invested with some of those
associations with which the popular mind is familiar. But facts do not
warrant the belief that every clandestine attack of men who passed for
Mosby's was made under his eye or even by his knowledge.
In partisan warfare he proved himself shrewd, able, and enterprising,
and always a wary fighter. He stood well in the confidence of his
superior officers, and was empoyed by them at times in furtherance of
important movements. To our wounded on more than one occasion he showed
considerate kindness. Officers and civilians captured by forces under
his immediate command were, so long as remaining under his orders,
treated with civility. These things are well known to those personally
familiar with the irregular fighting in Virginia.
By peep of light they feed and ride,
Gaining a grove's green edge at morn,
And mark the Aldie hills upread
And five gigantic horsemen carved
Clear-cut against the sky withdrawn;
Are more behind? an open snare?
Or Mosby's men but watchmen there?
The ravaged land was miles behind,
And Loudon spread her landscape rare;
Orchards in pleasant lowlands stood,
Cows were feeding, a cock loud crew,
But not a friend at need was there;
The valley-folk were only good
To Mosby and his wandering brood.
What best to do? what mean yon men?
Colonel and Guide their minds compare;
Be sure some looked their Leader through;
Dismsounted, on his sword he leaned
As one who feigns an easy air;
And yet perplexed he was they knew—
Perplexed by Mosby's mountain-crew.
The Major hemmed as he would speak,
But checked himself, and left the ring
Of cavalrymen about their Chief—
Young courtiers mute who paid their court
By looking with confidence on their king;
They knew him brave, foresaw no grief—
But Mosby—the time to think is brief.
The Surgeon (sashed in sacred green)
Was glad 'twas not for him to say
What next should be; if a trooper bleeds,
Why he will do his best, as wont,
And his partner in black will aid and pray;
But judgment bides with him who leads,
And Mosby many a problem breeds.
The Surgeon was the kindliest man
That ever a callous trace professed;
He felt for him, that Leader young,
And offered medicine from his flask:
The Colonel took it with marvelous zest.
For such fine medicine good and strong,
Oft Mosby and his foresters long.
A charm of proof. "Ho, Major, come—
Pounce on yon men! Take half your troop,
Through the thickets wind—pray speedy be—
And gain their read. And, Captain Morn,
Picket these roads—all travelers stop;
The rest to the edge of this crest with me,
That Mosby and his scouts may see."
Commanded and done. Ere the sun stood steep,
Back came the Blues, with a troop of Grays,
Ten riding double—luckless ten!—
Five horses gone, and looped hats lost,
And love-locks dancing in a maze—
Certes, but sophomores from the glen
Of Mosby—not his veteran men.
"Colonel," said the Major, touching his cap,
"We've had our ride, and here they are"
"Well done! how many found you there"
"As many as I bring you here"
"And no one hurt?" "There'll be no scar—
One fool was battered." "Find their lair"
"Why, Mosby's brood camp every where."
He sighed, and slid down from his horse,
And limping went to a spring-head nigh.
"Why, bless me, Major, not hurt, I hope"
"Battered my knee against a bar
When the rush was made; all right by-and-by.—
Halloa! they gave you too much rope—
Go back to Mosby, eh? elope?"
Just by the low-hanging skirt of wood
The guard, remiss, had given a chance
For a sudden sally into the cover—
But foiled the intent, nor fired a shot,
Though the issue was a deadly trance;
For, hurled 'gainst an oak that humped low over,
Mosby's man fell, pale as a lover.
They pulled some grass his head to ease
(Lined with blue shreds a ground-nest stirred).
The Surgeon came—"Here's a to-do"
"Ah!" cried the Major, darting a glance,
"This fellow's the one that fired and spurred
Down hill, but met reserves below—
My boys, not Mosby's—so we go!"
The Surgeon—bluff, red, goodly man—
Kneeled by the hurt one; like a bee
He toiled. The pale young Chaplain too—
(Who went to the wars for cure of souls,
And his own student-ailments)—he
Bent over likewise; spite the two,
Mosby's poor man more pallid grew.
Meanwhile the mounted captives near
Jested; and yet they anxious showed;
Virginians; some of family-pride,
And young, and full of fire, and fine
In open feature and cheek that glowed;
And here thralled vagabonds now they ride—
But list! one speaks for Mosby's side.
"Why, three to one—your horses strong—
Revolvers, rifles, and a surprise—
Surrender we account no shame!
We live, are gay, and life is hope;
We'll fight again when fight is wise.
There are plenty more from where we came;
But go find Mosby—start the game!"
Yet one there was who looked but glum;
In middle-age, a father he,
And this his first experience too:
"They shot at my heart when my hands were up—
This fighting's crazy work, I see"
But noon is high; what next do?
The woods are mute, and Mosby is the foe.
"Save what we've got," the Major said;
"Bad plan to make a scout too long;
The tide may turn, and drag them back,
And more beside. These rides I've been,
And every time a mine was sprung.
To rescue, mind, they won't be slack—
Look out for Mosby's rifle-crack."
"We'll welcome it! give crack for crack!
Peril, old lad, is what I seek"
"O then, there's plenty to be had—
By all means on, and have our fill"
With that, grotesque, he writhed his neck,
Showing a scar by buck-shot made—
Kind Mosby's Christmas gift, he said.
"But, Colonel, my prisoners—let a guard
Make sure of them, and lead to camp.
That done, we're free for a dark-room fight
If so you say." The other laughed;
"Trust me, Major, nor throw a damp.
But first to try a little sleight—
Sure news of Mosby would suit me quite."
Herewith he turned—"Reb, have a dram"
Holding the Surgeon's flask with a smile
To a young scapegrace from the glen.
"O yes!" he eagerly replied,
"And thank you, Colonel, but—any guile?
For if you think we'll blab—why, then
You don't know Mosby or his men."
The Leader's genial air relaxed.
"Best give it up," a whisperer said.
"By heaven, I'll range their rebel den"
"They'll treat you well," the captive cried;
"They're all like us—handsome—well bred:
In wood or town, with sword or pen,
Polite is Mosby, bland his men."
"Where were you, lads, last night?—come, tell"
"We?—at a wedding in the Vale—
The bridegroom our comrade; by his side
Belisent, my cousin—O, so proud
Of her young love with old wounds pale—
A Virginian girl! God bless her pride—
Of a crippled Mosby-man the bride!"
"Four wall shall mend that saucy mood,
And moping prisons tame him down"
Said Captain Cloud. "God help that day"
Cried Captain Morn, "and he so young.
But hark, he sings—a madcap one"
"O we multiply merrily in the May,
The birds and Mosby's men, they say!"
While echoes ran, a wagon old,
Under stout guard of Corporal Chew
Came up; a lame horse, dingy white,
With clouted harness; ropes in hand,
Cringed the humped driver, black in hue;
By him (for Mosby's band a sight)
A sister-rebel sat, her veil held tight.
"I picked them up," the Corporal said,
"Crunching their way over stick and root,
Through yonder wood. The man here—Cuff—
Says they are going to Leesburg town"
The Colonel's eye took in the group;
The veiled one's hand he spied—enough!
Not Mosby's. Spite the gown's poor stuff,
Off went his hat: "Lady, fear not;
We soldiers do what we deplore—
I must detain you till we march"
The stranger nodded. Nettled now,
He grew politer than before:—
"'Tis Mosby's fault, this halt and search"
The lady stiffened in her starch.
"My duty, madam, bids me now
Ask what may seem a little rude.
Pardon—that veil—withdraw it, please
(Corporal! make every man fall back);
Pray, now I do but what I should;
Bethink you, 'tis in masks like these
That Mosby haunts the villages."
Slowly the stranger drew her veil,
And looked the Soldier in the eye—
A glance of mingled foul and fair;
Sad patience in a proud disdain,
And more than quietude. A sigh
She heaved, and if all unaware,
And far seemed Mosby from her care.
She came from Yewton Place, her home,
So ravaged by the war's wild play—
Campings, and foragings, and fires—
That now she sought an aunt's abode.
Her Kinsmen? In Lee's army, they.
The black? A servant, late her sire's.
And Mosby? Vainly he inquires.
He gazed, and sad she met his eye;
"In the wood yonder were you lost"
No; at the forks they left the road
Because of hoof-prints (thick they were—
Thick as the words in notes thrice crossed),
And fearful, made that episode.
In fear of Mosby? None she showed.
Her poor attire again he scanned:
"Lady, once more; I grieve to jar
On all sweet usage, but must plead
To have what peeps there from your dress;
That letter—'tis justly prize of war"
She started—gave it—she must need.
"'Tis not from Mosby? May I read?"
And straight such matter he perused
That with the Guide he went apart.
The Hospital Steward's turn began:
"Must squeeze this darkey; every tap
Of knowledge we are bound to start"
"Garry," she said, "tell all you can
Of Colonel Mosby—that brave man."
"Dun know much, sare; and missis here
Know less dan me. But dis I know—"
"Well, what?" "I dun know what I know"
"A knowing answer!" The hump-back coughed,
Rubbing his yellowish wool like tow.
"Come—Mosby—tell!" "O dun look so!
My gal nursed missis—let we go."
"Go where?" demanded Captain Cloud;
"Back into bondage? Man, you're free"
"Well, let we free!" The Captain's brow
Lowered; the Colonel came—had heard:
"Pooh! pooh! his simple heart I see—
A faithful servant.—Lady" (a bow),
"Mosby's abroad—with us you'll go.
"Guard! look to your prisoners; back to camp!
The man in the grass—can he mount and away?
Why, how he groans!" "Bad inward bruise—
Might lug him along in the ambulance"
"Coals to Newcastle! let him stay.
Boots and saddles!—our pains we lose,
Nor care I if Mosby hear the news!"
But word was sent to a house at hand,
And a flask was left by the hurt one's side.
They seized in that same house a man,
Neutral by day, by night a foe—
So charged his neighbor late, the Guide.
A grudge? Hate will do what it can;
Along he went for a Mosby-man.
No secrets now; the bugle calls;
The open road they take, nor shun
The hill; retrace the weary way.
But one there was who whispered low,
"This is a feint—we'll back anon;
Young Hair-Brains don't retreat, they say;
A brush with Mosby is the play!"
They rode till eve. Then on a farm
That lay along a hill-side green,
Bivouacked. Fires were made, and then
Coffee was boiled; a cow was coaxed
And killed, and savory roasts were seen;
And under the lee of a cattle-pen
The guard supped freely with Mosby's men.
The ball was bandied to and fro;
Hits were given and hits were met;
"Chickamauga, Feds—take off your hat"
"But the Fight in the Clouds repaid you, Rebs"
"Forgotten about Manassas yet"
Chatting and chaffing, and tit for tat,
Mosby's clan with the troopers sat.
"Here comes the moon!" a captive cried;
"A song! what say? Archy, my lad"
Hailing are still one of the clan
(A boyish face with girlish hair),
"Give us that thing poor Pansy made
Last Year." He brightened, and began;
And this was the song of Mosby's man:
Spring is come; she shows her pass—
Wild violets cool!
South of woods a small close grass—
A vernal wool!
Leaves are a'bud on the sassafras—
They'll soon be full;
Blessings on the friendly screen—
I'm for the South! says the leafage green.
Robins! fly, and take your fill
Garden, orchard, meadow, hill,
Barns and bowers;
Take your fill, and have your will—
But, bluebirds! keep away, and fear
The ambuscade in bushes here.
"A green song that," a seargeant said;
"But where's poor Pansy? gone, I fear"
"Ay, mustered out at Ashby's Gap"
"I see; now for a live man's song;
Ditty for ditty—prepare to cheer.
My bluebirds, you can fling a cap!
You barehead Mosby-boys—why—clap!"
Nine Blue-coats went a-nutting
Slyly in Tennessee—
Not for chestnuts—better than that—
Hugh, you bumble-bee!
All through the year there's nutting!
A tree they spied so yellow,
Rustling in motion queer;
In they fired, and down they dropped—
Butternuts, my dear!
Who'll 'list to go a-nutting?
Ah! why should good fellows foemen be?
And who would dream that foes they were—
Larking and singing so friendly then—
A family likeness in every face.
But Captain Cloud made sour demur:
"Guard! keep your prisoners in the pen,
And let none talk with Mosby's men."
That captain was a valorous one
(No irony, but honest truth),
Yet down from his brain cold drops distilled,
Making stalactites in his heart—
A conscientious soul, forsooth;
And with a formal hate was filled
Of Mosby's band; and some he'd killed.
Meantime the lady rueful sat,
Watching the flicker of a fire
Were the Colonel played the outdoor host
In brave old hall of ancient Night.
But ever the dame grew shyer and shyer,
Seeming with private grief engrossed—
Grief far from Mosby, housed or lost.
The ruddy embers showed her pale.
The Soldier did his best devoir:
Cared for her servant—sought to cheer:
"I know, I know—a cruel war!
But wait—even Mosby'll eat his bun;
The Old Hearth—back to it anon!"
But cordial words no balm could bring;
She sighed, and kept her inward chafe,
And seemed to hate the voice of glee—
Joyless and tearless. Soon he called
An escort: "See this lady safe
In yonder house.—Madam, you're free.
And now for Mosby.—Guide! with me."
("A night-ride, eh?") "Tighten your girths!
But, buglers! not a note from you.
Fling more rails on the fires—a blaze"
("Sergeant, a feint—I told you so—
Toward Aldie again. Bivouac, adieu!")
After the cheery flames they gaze,
Then back for Mosby through the maze.
The moon looked through the trees, and tipped
The scabbards with her elfin beam;
The Leader backward cast his glance,
Proud of the cavalcade that came—
A hundred horses, bay and cream:
"Major! look how the lads advance—
Mosby we'll have in the ambulance!"
"No doubt, no doubt:—was that a hare?—
First catch, then cook; and cook him brown"
"Trust me to catch," the other cried—
"The lady's letter!—a dance, man, dance
This night is given in Leesburg town"
"He'll be there too!" wheezed out the Guide;
"That Mosby loves a dance and ride!"
"The lady, ah!—the lady's letter—
A lady, then, is in the case"
Muttered the Major. "Ay, her aunt
Writes her to come by Friday eve
(To-night), for people of the place,
At Mosby's last fight jubilant,
A party give, though table-cheer be scant."
The Major hemmed. "Then this night-ride
We owe to her?—One lighted house
In a town else dark.—The moths, begar!
Are not quite yet all dead!" "How? how"
"A mute, meek mournful little mouse!—
Mosby has wiles which subtle are—
But woman's wiles in wiles of war!"
"Tut, Major! by what craft or guile—"
"Can't tell! but he'll be found in wait.
Softly we enter, say, the town—
Good! pickets post, and all so sure—
When—crack! the rifles from every gate,
The Gray-backs fire—dashes up and down—
Each alley unto Mosby known!"
"Now, Major, now—you take dark views
Of a moonlight night." "Well, well, we'll see"
And smoked as if each whiff were gain.
The other mused; then sudden asked,
"What would you do in grand decree"
I'd beat, if I could, Lee's armies—then
Send constables after Mosby's men."
"Ay! ay!—you're odd." The moon sailed up;
On through the shadowy land they went.
"Names must be made and printed be!"
Hummed the blithe Colonel. "Doc, your flask!
Major, I drink to your good content.
My pipe is out—enough for me!
One's buttons shine—does Mosby see?
"But what comes here?" A man from the front
Reported a tree athwart the road.
"Go round it, then; no time to bide;
All right—go on! Were one to stay
For each distrust of a nervous mood,
Long miles we'd make in this our ride
Through Mosby-land.—Oh! with the Guide!"
Then sportful to the Surgeon turned:
"Green sashes hardly serve by night"
"Nor bullets nor bottles," the Major sighed,
"Against these moccasin-snakes—such foes
As seldom come to solid fight:
They kill and vanish; through grass they glide;
Devil take Mosby!—" his horse here shied.
"Hold! look—the tree, like a dragged balloon;
A globe of leaves—some trickery here;
My nag is right—best now be shy"
A movement was made, a hubbub and snarl;
Little was plain—they blindly steer.
The Pleiads, as from ambush sly,
Peep out—Mosby's men in the sky!
As restive they turn, how sore they feel,
And cross, and sleepy, and full of spleen,
And curse the war. "Fools, North and South"
Said one right out. "O for a bed!
O now to drop in this woodland green"
He drops as the syllables leave his mouth—
Mosby speaks from the undergrowth—
Speaks in a volley! out jets the flame!
Men fall from their saddles like plums from trees;
Horses take fright, reins tangle and bind;
"Steady—Dismount—form—and into the wood"
They go, but find what scarce can please:
Their steeds have been tied in the field behind,
And Mosby's men are off like the wind.
Sound the recall! vain to pursue—
The enemy scatters in wilds he knows,
To reunite in his own good time;
And, to follow, they need divide—
To come lone and lost on crouching foes:
Maple and hemlock, beech and lime,
Are Mosby's confederates, share the crime.
"Major," burst in a bugler small,
"The fellow we left in Loudon grass—
Sir slyboots with the inward bruise,
His voice I heard—the very same—
Some watchword in the ambush pass;
Ay, sir, we had him in his shoes—
We caught him—Mosby—but to lose!"
"Go, go!—these saddle-dreamers! Well,
And here's another.—Cool, sir, cool"
"Major, I saw them mount and sweep,
And one was humped, or I mistake,
And in the skurry dropped his wool"
"A wig! go fetch it:—the lads need sleep;
They'll next see Mosby in a sheep!
"Come, come, fall back! reform yours ranks—
All's jackstraws here! Where's Captain Morn?—
We've parted like boats in a raging tide!
But stay-the Colonel—did he charge?
And comes he there? 'Tis streak of dawn;
Mosby is off, the woods are wide—
Hist! there's a groan—this crazy ride!"
As they searched for the fallen, the dawn grew chill;
They lay in the dew: "Ah! hurt much, Mink?
And—yes—the Colonel!" Dead! but so calm
That death seemed nothing—even death,
The thing we deem every thing heart can think;
Amid wilding roses that shed their balm,
Careless of Mosby he lay—in a charm!
The Major took him by the Hand—
Into the friendly clasp it bled
(A ball through heart and hand he rued):
"Good-by" and gazed with humid glance;
Then in a hollow revery said
"The weakness thing is lustihood;
But Mosby—" and he checked his mood.
"Where's the advance?—cut off, by heaven!
Come, Surgeon, how with your wounded there"
"The ambulance will carry all"
"Well, get them in; we go to camp.
Seven prisoners gone? for the rest have care"
Then to himself, "This grief is gall;
That Mosby!—I'll cast a silver ball!"
"Ho!" turning—"Captain Cloud, you mind
The place where the escort went—so shady?
Go search every closet low and high,
And barn, and bin, and hidden bower—
Every covert—find that lady!
And yet I may misjudge her—ay,
Women (like Mosby) mystify.
"We'll see. Ay, Captain, go—with speed!
Surround and search; each living thing
Secure; that done, await us where
We last turned off. Stay! fire the cage
If the birds be flown." By the cross-road spring
The bands rejoined; no words; the glare
Told all. Had Mosby plotted there?
The weary troop that wended now—
Hardly it seemed the same that pricked
Forth to the forest from the camp:
Foot-sore horses, jaded men;
Every backbone felt as nicked,
Each eye dim as a sick-room lamp,
All faces stamped with Mosby's stamp.
In order due the Major rode—
Chaplain and Surgeon on either hand;
A riderless horse a negro led;
In a wagon the blanketed sleeper went;
Then the ambulance with the bleeding band;
And, an emptied oat-bag on each head,
Went Mosby's men, and marked the dead.
What gloomed them? what so cast them down,
And changed the cheer that late they took,
As double-guarded now they rode
Between the files of moody men?
Some sudden consciousness they brook,
Or dread the sequel. That night's blood
Disturbed even Mosby's brotherhood.
The flagging horses stumbled at roots,
Floundered in mires, or clinked the stones;
No rider spake except aside;
But the wounded cramped in the ambulance,
It was horror to hear their groans—
Jerked along in the woodland ride,
While Mosby's clan their revery hide.
The Hospital Steward—even he—
Who on the sleeper kept his glance,
Was changed; late bright-black beard and eye
Looked now hearse-black; his heavy heart,
Like his fagged mare, no more could dance;
His grape was now a raisin dry:
'Tis Mosby's homily—Man must die.
The amber sunset flushed the camp
As on the hill their eyes they fed;
The pickets dumb looks at the wagon dart;
A handkerchief waves from the bannered tent—
As white, alas! the face of the dead:
Who shall the withering news impart?
The bullet of Mosby goes through heart to heart!
They buried him where the lone ones lie
(Lone sentries shot on midnight post)—
A green-wood grave-yard hid from ken,
Where sweet-fern flings an odor nigh—
Yet held in fear for the gleaming ghost!
Though the bride should see threescore and ten,
She will dream of Mosby and his men.
Now halt the verse, and turn aside—
The cypress falls athwart the way;
No joy remains for bard to sing;
And heaviest dole of all is this,
That other hearts shall be as gay
As hers that now no more shall spring:
To Mosby-land the dirges cling.
Lee in the Capitol.
 Among those summoned during the spring just passed to appear before
the Reconstruction Committee of Congress was Robert E. Lee. His
testimony is deeply interesting, both in itself and as coming from him.
After various questions had been put and briefly answered, these words
were addressed to him:
"If there be any other matter about which you wish to speak on this
occasions, do so freely." Waiving this invitation, he responded by a
short personal explanation of some point in a previous answer, and after
a few more brief questions and replies, the interview closed.
In the verse a poetical liberty has been ventured. Lee is not only
represented as responding to the invitation, but also as at last
renouncing his cold reserve, doubtless the cloak to feelings more or
less poignant. If for such freedom warrant be necessary the speeches in
ancient histories, not to speak of those in Shakespeare's historic
plays, may not unfitly perhaps be cited.
The character of the original measures proposed about time in the
National Legislature for the treatment of the (as yet) Congressionally
excluded South, and the spirit in which those measures were
advocated—these are circumstances which it is fairly supposable would
have deeply influenced the thoughts, whether spoken or withheld, of a
Southerner placed in the position of Lee before the Reconstruction
Hard pressed by numbers in his strait,
Rebellion's soldier-chief no more contends—
Feels that the hour is come of Fate,
Lays down one sword, and widened warfare ends.
The captain who fierce armies led
Becomes a quiet seminary's head—
Poor as his privates, earns his bread.
In studious cares and aims engrossed,
Strives to forget Stuart and Stonewall dead—
Comrades and cause, station and riches lost,
And all the ills that flock when fortune's fled.
No word he breathes of vain lament,
Mute to reproach, nor hears applause—
His doom accepts, perforce content,
And acquiesces in asserted laws;
Secluded now would pass his life,
And leave to time the sequel of the strife.
But missives from the Senators ran;
Not that they now would gaze upon a swordless foe,
And power made powerless and brought low:
Reasons of state, 'tis claimed, require the man.
Demurring not, promptly he comes
By ways which show the blackened homes,
And—last—the seat no more his own,
But Honor's; patriot grave-yards fill
The forfeit slopes of that patrician hill,
And fling a shroud on Arlington.
The oaks ancestral all are low;
No more from the porch his glance shall go
Ranging the varied landscape o'er,
Far as the looming Dome—no more.
One look he gives, then turns aside,
Solace he summons from his pride:
"So be it! They await me now
Who wrought this stinging overthrow;
They wait me; not as on the day
Of Pope's impelled retreat in disarray—
By me impelled—when toward yon Dome
The clouds of war came rolling home"
The burst, the bitterness was spent,
The heart-burst bitterly turbulent,
And on he fared.
In nearness now
He marks the Capitol—a show
Lifted in amplitude, and set
With standards flushed with a glow of Richmond yet;
Trees and green terraces sleep below.
Through the clear air, in sunny light,
The marble dazes—a temple white.
Intrepid soldier! had his blade been drawn
For yon stirred flag, never as now
Bid to the Senate-house had he gone,
But freely, and in pageant borne,
As when brave numbers without number, massed,
Plumed the broad way, and pouring passed—
Bannered, beflowered—between the shores
Of faces, and the dinn'd huzzas,
And balconies kindling at the sabre-flash,
'Mid roar of drums and guns, and cymbal-crash,
While Grant and Sherman shone in blue—
Close of the war and victory's long review.
Yet pride at hand still aidful swelled,
And up the hard ascent he held.
The meeting follows. In his mien
The victor and the vanquished both are seen—
All that he is, and what he late had been.
Awhile, with curious eyes they scan
The Chief who led invasion's van—
Allied by family to one,
Founder of the Arch the Invader warred upon:
Who looks at Lee must think of Washington;
In pain must think, and hide the thought,
So deep with grievous meaning it is fraught.
Secession in her soldier shows
Silent and patient; and they feel
(Developed even in just success)
Dim inklings of a hazy future steal;
Their thoughts their questions well express:
"Does the sad South still cherish hate?
Freely will Southen men with Northern mate?
The blacks—should we our arm withdraw,
Would that betray them? some distrust your law.
And how if foreign fleets should come—
Would the South then drive her wedges home"
And more hereof. The Virginian sees—
Replies to such anxieties.
Discreet his answers run—appear
Briefly straightforward, coldly clear.
"If now," the Senators, closing, say,
"Aught else remain, speak out, we pray"
Hereat he paused; his better heart
Strove strongly then; prompted a worthier part
Than coldly to endure his doom.
Speak out? Ay, speak, and for the brave,
Who else no voice or proxy have;
Frankly their spokesman here become,
And the flushed North from her own victory save.
That inspiration overrode—
Hardly it quelled the galling load
Of personal ill. The inner feud
He, self-contained, a while withstood;
They waiting. In his troubled eye
Shadows from clouds unseen they spy;
They could not mark within his breast
The pang which pleading thought oppressed:
He spoke, nor felt the bitterness die.
"My word is given—it ties my sword;
Even were banners still abroad,
Never could I strive in arms again
While you, as fit, that pledge retain.
Our cause I followed, stood in field and gate—
All's over now, and now I follow Fate.
But this is naught. A People call—
A desolted land, and all
The brood of ills that press so sore,
The natural offspring of this civil war,
Which ending not in fame, such as might rear
Fitly its sculptured trophy here,
Yields harvest large of doubt and dread
To all who have the heart and head
To feel and know. How shall I speak?
Thoughts knot with thoughts, and utterance check.
Before my eyes there swims a haze,
Through mists departed comrades gaze—
First to encourage, last that shall upbraid!
How shall I speak? The South would fain
Feel peace, have quiet law again—
Replant the trees for homestead-shade.
You ask if she recants: she yields.
Nay, and would more; would blend anew,
As the bones of the slain in her forests do,
Bewailed alike by us and you.
A voice comes out from these charnel-fields,
A plaintive yet unheeded one:
'Died all in vain? both sides undone'
Push not your triumph; do not urge
Submissiveness beyond the verge.
Intestine rancor would you bide,
Nursing eleven sliding daggers in your side?
Far from my thought to school or threat;
I speak the things which hard beset.
Where various hazards meet the eyes,
To elect in magnanimity is wise.
Reap victory's fruit while sound the core;
What sounder fruit than re-established law?
I know your partial thoughts do press
Solely on us for war's unhappy stress;
But weigh—consider—look at all,
And broad anathema you'll recall.
The censor's charge I'll not repeat,
The meddlers kindled the war's white heat—
Vain intermeddlers and malign,
Both of the palm and of the pine;
I waive the thought—which never can be rife—
Common's the crime in every civil strife:
But this I feel, that North and South were driven
By Fate to arms. For our unshriven,
What thousands, truest souls, were tried—
As never may any be again—
All those who stemmed Secession's pride,
But at last were swept by the urgent tide
Into the chasm. I know their pain.
A story here may be applied:
'In Moorish lands there lived a maid
Brought to confess by vow the creed
Of Christians. Fain would priests persuade
That now she must approve by deed
The faith she kept. "What dead?" she asked.
"Your old sire leave, nor deem it sin,
And come with us." Still more they tasked
The sad one: "If heaven you'd win—
Far from the burning pit withdraw,
Then must you learn to hate your kin,
Yea, side against them—such the law,
For Moor and Christian are at war"
"Then will I never quit my sire,
But here with him through every trial go,
Nor leave him though in flames below—
God help me in his fire!"
So in the South; vain every plea
'Gainst Nature's strong fidelity;
True to the home and to the heart,
Throngs cast their lot with kith and kin,
Foreboding, cleaved to the natural part—
Was this the unforgivable sin?
These noble spirits are yet yours to win.
Shall the great North go Sylla's way?
Proscribe? prolong the evil day?
Confirm the curse? infix the hate?
In Unions name forever alienate?
"From reason who can urge the plea—
Freemen conquerors of the free?
When blood returns to the shrunken vein,
Shall the wound of the Nation bleed again?
Well may the wars wan thought supply,
And kill the kindling of the hopeful eye,
Unless you do what even kings have done
In leniency—unless you shun
To copy Europe in her worst estate—
Avoid the tyranny you reprobate."
He ceased. His earnestness unforeseen
Moved, but not swayed their former mien;
And they dismissed him. Forth he went
Through vaulted walks in lengthened line
Like porches erst upon the Palatine:
Historic reveries their lesson lent,
The Past her shadow through the Future sent.
But no. Brave though the Soldier, grave his plea—
Catching the light in the future's skies,
Instinct disowns each darkening prophecy:
Faith in America never dies;
Heaven shall the end ordained fulfill,
We march with Providence cheery still.
Were I fastidiously anxious for the symmetry of this book, it would
close with the notes. But the times are such that patriotism—not free
from solicitude—urges a claim overriding all literary scruples.
It is more than a year since the memorable surrender, but events have
not yet rounded themselves into completion. Not justly can we complain
of this. There has been an upheavel affecting the basis of things; to
altered circumstances complicated adaptations are to be made; there are
difficulties great and novel. But is Reason still waiting for Passion to
spend itself? We have sung of the soldiers and sailors, but who shall
hymn the politicians?
In view of the infinite desirableness of Re-establishment, and
considering that, so far as feeling is concerned, it depends not mainly
on the temper in which the South regards the North, but rather
conversely; one who never was a blind adherent feels constrained to
submit some thoughts, counting on the indulgence of his countrymen.
And, first, it may be said that, if among the feelings and opinions
growing immediately out of a great civil convulsion, there are any which
time shall modify or do away, they are presumably those of a less
temperate and charitable cast.
There seems no reason why patriotism and narrowness should go together,
or why intellectual impartiality should be confounded with political
trimming, or why serviceable truth should keep cloistered be a cause not
partisan. Yet the work of Reconstruction, if admitted to be feasible at
all, demands little but common sense and Christian charity. Little but
these? These are much.
Some of us are concerned because as yet the South shows no penitence.
But what exactly do we mean by this? Since down to the close of the war
she never confessed any for braving it, the only penitence now left her
is that which springs solely from the sense of discomfiture; and since
this evidently would be a contrition hypocritical, it would be unworthy
in us to demand it. Certain it is that penitence, in the sense of
voluntary humiliation, will never be displayed. Nor does this afford
just ground for unreserved condemnation. It is enough, for all practical
purposes, if the South have been taught by the terrors of civil war to
feel that Secession, like Slavery, is against Destiny; that both now lie
buried in one grave; that her fate is linked with ours; and that
together we comprise the Nation.
The clouds of heroes who battled for the Union it is needless to
eulogize here. But how of the soldiers on the other side? And when of a
free community we name the soldiers, we thereby name the people. It was
in subserviency to the slave-interest that Secession was plotted; but it
was under the plea, plausibly urged, that certain inestimable rights
guaranteed by the Constitution were directly menaced, that the people of
the South were cajoled into revolution. Through the arts of the
conspirators and the perversity of fortune, the most sensitive love of
liberty was entrapped into the support of a war whose implied end was
the erecting in our advanced century of an Anglo-American empire based
upon the systematic degradation of man.
Spite this clinging reproach, however, signal military virtues and
achievements have conferred upon the Confederate arms historic fame, and
upon certain of the commanders a renown extending beyond the sea—a
renown which we of the North could not suppress even if we would. In
personal character, also, not a few of the military leaders of the South
enforce forbearance; the memory of others the North refrains from
disparaging; and some, with more or less of reluctance, she can respect.
Posterity, sympathizing with our convictions, but removed from our
passions, may perhaps go farther here. If George IV. could out of the
graceful instinct of a gentleman, raise an honorable monument in the
great fane of Christendom over the remains of the enemy of his dynasty,
Charles Edward, the invader of England and victor in the rout at Preston
Pans—Upon whose head the king's ancestor but one reign removed has set
a price—is it probable that the grandchildren of General Grant will
pursue with rancor, or slur by sour neglect, the memory of Stonewall
But the South herself is not wanting in recent histories and biographies
which record the deeds of her chieftains—writings freely published at
the North by loyal houses, widely read here, and with a deep though
saddened interest. By students of the war such works are hailed as
welcome accessories, and tending to the completeness of the record.
Supposing a happy issue out of present perplexities, then, in the
generation next to come, Southerners there will be yielding allegiance
to the Union, feeling all their interests bound up in it, and yet
cherishing unrebuked that kind of feeling for the memory of the soldiers
of the fallen Confederacy that Burns, Scott, and the Ettrick Shepherd
felt for the memory of the gallant clansmen ruined through their
fidelity to the Stuarts—a feeling whose passion was tempered by the
poetry imbuing it, and which in no wise affected their loyalty to the
Georges, and which, it may be added, indirectly contributed excellent
things to literature. But, setting this view aside, dishonorable would
it be in the South were she willing to abandon to shame the memory of
brave men who with signal personal disinterestedness warred in her
behalf, though from motives, as we believe, so deplorably astray.
Patriotism is not baseness, neither is it inhumanity. The mourners who
this summer bear flowers to the mounds of the Virginian and Georgian
dead are, in their domestic bereavement and proud affection, as sacred
in the eye of Heaven as are those who go with similar offerings of
tender grief and love into the cemeteries of our Northern martyrs. And
yet, in one aspect, how needless to point the contrast.
Cherishing such sentiments, it will hardly occasion surprise that, in
looking over the battle-pieces in the foregoing collection, I have been
tempted to withdraw or modify some of them, fearful lest in presenting,
though but dramatically and by way of a poetic record, the passions and
epithets of civil war, I might be contributing to a bitterness which
every sensible American must wish at an end. So, too, with the emotion
of victory as reproduced on some pages, and particularly toward the
close. It should not be construed into an exultation misapplied—an
exultation as ungenerous as unwise, and made to minister, however
indirectly, to that kind of censoriousness too apt to be produced in
certain natures by success after trying reverses. Zeal is not of
necessity religion, neither is it always of the same essence with poetry
There were excesses which marked the conflict, most of which are perhaps
inseparable from a civil strife so intense and prolonged, and involving
warfare in some border countries new and imperfectly civilized.
Barbarities also there were, for which the Southern people collectively
can hardly be held responsible, though perpetrated by ruffians in their
name. But surely other qualities—exalted ones—courage and fortitude
matchless, were likewise displayed, and largely; and justly may these be
held the characteristic traits, and not the former.
In this view, what Northern writer, however patriotic, but must revolt
from acting on paper a part any way akin to that of the live dog to the
dead lion; and yet it is right to rejoice for our triumph, so far as it
may justly imply an advance for our whole country and for humanity.
Let it be held no reproach to any one that he pleads for reasonable
consideration for our late enemies, now stricken down and unavoidably
debarred, for the time, from speaking through authorized agencies for
themselves. Nothing has been urged here in the foolish hope of
conciliating those men—few in number, we trust—who have resolved never
to be reconciled to the Union. On such hearts every thing is thrown away
except it be religious commiseration, and the sincerest. Yet let them
call to mind that unhappy Secessionist, not a military man, who with
impious alacrity fired the first shot of the Civil War at Sumter, and a
little more than four years afterward fired the last one into his own
heart at Richmond.
Noble was the gesture into which patriotic passion surprised the people
in a utilitarian time and country; yet the glory of the war falls short
of its pathos—a pathos which now at last ought to disarm all animosity.
How many and earnest thoughts still rise, and how hard to repress them.
We feel what past years have been, and years, unretarded years, shall
come. May we all have moderation; may we all show candor. Though,
perhaps, nothing could ultimately have averted the strife, and though to
treat of human actions is to deal wholly with second causes,
nevertheless, let us not cover up or try to extenuate what, humanly
speaking, is the truth—namely, that those unfraternal denunciations,
continued through years, and which at last inflamed to deeds that ended
in bloodshed, were reciprocal; and that, had the preponderating strength
and the prospect of its unlimited increase lain on the other side, on
ours might have lain those actions which now in our late opponents we
stigmatize under the name of Rebellion. As frankly let us own—what it
would be unbecoming to parade were foreigners concerned—that our
triumph was won not more by skill and bravery than by superior resources
and crushing numbers; that it was a triumph, too, over a people for
years politically misled by designing men, and also by some
honestly-erring men, who from their position could not have been
otherwise than broadly influential; a people who, though indeed, they
sought to perpetuate the curse of slavery, and even extend it, were not
the authors of it, but (less fortunate, not less righteous than we) were
the fated inheritors; a people who, having a like origin with ourselves,
share essentially in whatever worthy qualities we may possess. No one
can add to the lasting reproach which hopeless defeat has now cast upon
Secession by withholding the recognition of these verities.
Surely we ought to take it to heart that that kind of pacification,
based upon principles operating equally all over the land, which lovers
of their country yearn for, and which our arms, though signally
triumphant, did not bring about, and which law-making, however anxious,
or energetic, or repressive, never by itself can achieve, may yet be
largely aided by generosity of sentiment public and private. Some
revisionary legislation and adaptive is indispensable; but with this
should harmoniously work another kind of prudence not unallied with
entire magnanimity. Benevolence and policy—Christianity and
Machiavelli—dissuade from penal severities toward the subdued.
Abstinence here is as obligatory as considerate care for our unfortunate
fellow-men late in bonds, and, if observed, would equally prove to be
wise forecast. The great qualities of the South, those attested in the
War, we can perilously alienate, or we may make them nationally
available at need.
The blacks, in their infant pupilage to freedom, appeal to the
sympathies of every humane mind. The paternal guardianship which for the
interval government exercises over them was prompted equally by duty and
benevolence. Yet such kindliness should not be allowed to exclude
kindliness to communities who stand nearer to us in nature. For the
future of the freed slaves we may well be concerned; but the future of
the whole country, involving the future of the blacks, urges a paramount
claim upon our anxiety. Effective benignity, like the Nile, is not
narrow in its bounty, and true policy is always broad. To be sure, it is
vain to seek to glide, with moulded words, over the difficulties of the
situation. And for them who are neither partisans, nor enthusiasts, nor
theorists, nor cynics, there are some doubts not readily to be solved.
And there are fears. Why is not the cessation of war now at length
attended with the settled calm of peace? Wherefore in a clear sky do we
still turn our eyes toward the South, as the Neapolitan, months after
the eruption, turns his toward Vesuvius? Do we dread lest the repose may
be deceptive? In the recent convulsion has the crater but shifted? Let
us revere that sacred uncertainty which forever impends over men and
nations. Those of us who always abhorred slavery as an atheistical
iniquity, gladly we join in the exulting chorus of humanity over its
downfall. But we should remember that emancipation was accomplished not
by deliberate legislation; only through agonized violence could so
mighty a result be effected. In our natural solicitude to confirm the
benefit of liberty to the blacks, let us forbear from measures of
dubious constitutional rightfulness toward our white
countrymen—measures of a nature to provoke, among other of the last
evils, exterminating hatred of race toward race. In imagination let us
place ourselves in the unprecedented position of the Southerners—their
position as regards the millions of ignorant manumitted slaves in their
midst, for whom some of us now claim the suffrage. Let us be Christians
toward our fellow-whites, as well as philanthropists toward the blacks
our fellow-men. In all things, and toward all, we are enjoined to do as
we would be done by. Nor should we forget that benevolent desires, after
passing a certain point, can not undertake their own fulfillment without
incurring the risk of evils beyond those sought to be remedied.
Something may well be left to the graduated care of future legislation,
and to heaven. In one point of view the co-existence of the two races in
the South—whether the negro be bond or free—seems (even as it did to
Abraham Lincoln) a grave evil. Emancipation has ridded the country of
the reproach, but not wholly of the calamity. Especially in the present
transition period for both races in the South, more or less of trouble
may not unreasonably be anticipated; but let us not hereafter be too
swift to charge the blame exclusively in any one quarter. With certain
evils men must be more or less patient. Our institutions have a potent
digestion, and may in time convert and assimilate to good all elements
thrown in, however originally alien.
But, so far as immediate measures looking toward permanent
Re-establishment are concerned, no consideration should tempt us to
pervert the national victory into oppression for the vanquished. Should
plausible promise of eventual good, or a deceptive or spurious sense of
duty, lead us to essay this, count we must on serious consequences, not
the least of which would be divisions among the Northern adherents of
the Union. Assuredly, if any honest Catos there be who thus far have
gone with us, no longer will they do so, but oppose us, and as
resolutely as hitherto they have supported. But this path of thought
leads toward those waters of bitterness from which one can only turn
aside and be silent.
But supposing Re-establishment so far advanced that the Southern seats
in Congress are occupied, and by men qualified in accordance with those
cardinal principles of representative government which hitherto have
prevailed in the land—what then? Why the Congressman elected by the
people of the South will—represent the people of the South. This may
seem a flat conclusion; but in view of the last five years, may there
not be latent significance in it? What will be the temper of those
Southern members? and, confronted by them, what will be the mood of our
own representatives? In private life true reconciliation seldom follows
a violent quarrel; but if subsequent intercourse be unavoidable, nice
observances and mutual are indispensable to the prevention of a new
rupture. Amity itelf can only be maintained by reciprocal respect, and
true friends are punctilious equals. On the floor of Congress North and
South are to come together after a passionate duel, in which the South
though proving her valor, has been made to bite the dust. Upon
differences in debate shall acrimonious recriminations be exchanged?
shall censorious superiority assumed by one section provoke defiant
self-assertion on the other? shall Manassas and Chickamauga be retorted
for Chattanooga and Richmond? Under the supposition that the full
Congress will be composed of gentlemen, all this is impossible. Yet if
otherwise, it needs no prophet of Israel to foretell the end. The
maintenance of Congressional decency in the future will rest mainly with
the North. Rightly will more forbearance be required from the North than
the South, for the North is victor.
But some there are who may deem these latter thoughts inapplicable, and
for this reason: Since the test-oath opertively excludes from Congress
all who in any way participated in Secession, therefore none but
Southerners wholly in harmony with the North are eligible to seats. This
is true for the time being. But the oath is alterable; and in the wonted
fluctuations of parties not improbably it will undergo alteration,
assuming such a form, perhaps, as not to bar the admission into the
National Legislature of men who represent the populations lately in
revolt. Such a result would involve no violation of the principles of
democratic government. Not readily can one perceive how the political
existence of the millions of late Secessionists can permanently be
ignored by this Republic. The years of the war tried our devotion to the
Union; the time of peace may test the sincerity of our faith in
In no spirit of opposition, not by way of challenge, is any thing here
thrown out. These thoughts are sincere ones; they seem
natural—inevitable. Here and there they must have suggested themselves
to many thoughtful patriots. And, if they be just thoughts, ere long
they must have that weight with the public which already they have had
For that heroic band—those children of the furnace who, in regions like
Texas and Tennessee, maintained their fidelity through terrible
trials—we of the North felt for them, and profoundly we honor them. Yet
passionate sympathy, with resentments so close as to be almost domestic
in their bitterness, would hardly in the present juncture tend to
discreet legislation. Were the Unionists and Secessionists but as
Guelphs and Ghibellines? If not, then far be it from a great nation now
to act in the spirit that animated a triumphant town-faction in the
Middle Ages. But crowding thoughts must at last be checked; and, in
times like the present, one who desires to be impartially just in the
expression of his views, moves as among sword-points presented on every
Let us pray that the terrible historic tragedy of our time may not have
been enacted without instructing our whole beloved country through
terror and pity; and may fulfillment verify in the end those
expectations which kindle the bards of Progress and Humanity.