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Civil War Poetry

By J.C.C. 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry


[Reveille.—The sunrise call in camp and bivouac; the first daily call, which warns the soldier that it is time to rise and prepare for the duties of the day.]

A beautiful and glorious light is beaming
In the bright regions of dawning day.
And to my fancy, in its restless dreaming,
Speaks of the loved ones who are far away

Perchance they now are gazing on the glory
So richly beaming round the night's decline,
And reading thence the bright, immortal story
How the terrestrial, becomes divine.

The blue o'er arching heavens, above us bending,
Speak the same language; though so far apart.
And ever to our souls are lessons sending,
To fix on the unchanging the strong heart.

The glorious stars! They gradually fade
Before the dazzling approach of day,
On which the soldier's hopes are fondly laid
Ere he is summoned forever away.

When the day's radiant glory all has parted
Their smile illumines the solemn night;
So, when our friends have left us broken hearted,
The light of God shines more serenely bright.

Thus to my heart, kind Nature ever preacheth
Lessons of faith, and hope, and trust;
In all her moods, she ever gently teacheth
That the immortal riseth from the dust.


[Retreat.—The sunset call in camp or bivouac, at which a roll-call and inspection of arms and accoutrements take place. The music of this call on the bugle is the sweetest of all the military calls.]

The scene is still before me. In the west
The waning sun wheeled low his fiery car,
Sinking and dying silently afar.
Upon the dim horizon's belted breast,

His latest glories gilded earth and sky,
Touching with burnished hand the placid stream,
Soft as the colors of a happy dream,
So eloquent in silence as to seem
Too bright a picture thus to wan and die!

And as the day's strong pulses flickered low,
And dusky twilight hovered from on high,
Where, in the halo of the golden glow,
Beside the tranquil river's quiet flow,
The tented walls stood strongly sentinelled,

Forth from the camp, in strains majestic welled,
The martial bugle's solemn, dirgelike cry!
Flooding the forest, stream, and lonely plains,
With the wild rapture of their swelling strains.


[Tattoo.—The last Bugle call of the day generally sounded about 9 P.M., at which time all soldiers are required to retire to their tents, and go to rest.]

Good night to all the world! there's none,
Beneath the overgoing sun,
For whom I feel a hate or spite,
And so, to all a fair good night.

Would I could say "good night" to pain,
Good night to conscience and her train,
To cheerless poverty, and shame,
That I am yet unknown to fame.

But ere another sun doth rise
My spirit may be wafted to the skies,
Sped onward by a traitor's shot,—
But then—the difference in our lot!

But if the good God wills it so,
That for my country I must go,
I'll rest, and say good night to dreams,
That haunt me with delusive gleams.

Would I could say a long good night
To halting between wrong and right,
And, like a giant with new force,
Awake prepared to meet my course.

But if time is good, and sweeps well on,
And a few more years will have come and gone,
The past will be to me as naught,
Whether remembered or forgot.

Yet let me hope, at home some faithful friend,
O'er my last couch there shall sadly bend.
And though remembrance of me, be not bright;
They shall bid me at least a long "Good night."


Once this soft turf, this rivulet's sands,
Were trampled by a hurrying crowd,
And fiery hearts and armed hands
Encountered in the battle cloud.

—Ah! shall the land forget,
How gushed the life blood of the brave;
Gushed warm with hope and courage yet,
Upon the soil they sought to save.

Now all is calm and fresh and still;
Above, the chirp of flitting bird,
And talk of children on the hill,
And bell of wandering kine are heard.

No solemn host goes trailing by,
The black mouthed gun, and staggering wain.
Man start not at the battle cry,
Oh, let it never be heard again.


A friendless warfare lingering long,
Thro' weary day and weary year;
A wild and many weaponed throng
Hung on thy front, and flank, and rear.

Yet nerve thy spirit to the proof,
And blench not at thy chosen lot;
The true and good may stand aloof,
The sage may frown—yet faint thou not.

Yea, though thou lie upon the dust,
When they who helped thee fled in fear;
Die full of hope and manly trust,
Like those who fell in battle here!

Another hand thy sword shall wield,
Another hand thy standard wave,
Till from the trumpet's mouth in pealed,
The blast of triumph o'er thy grave.

Jacob C. Cohen Letters