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- Poems of American Patriotism - 20/30 -

So raged the battle. You know the rest: How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge, and ran. At which John Burns--a practical man-- Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.

That is the story of old John Burns; This is the moral the reader learns: In fighting the battle, the question's whether You'll show a hat that's white, or a feather!



[Sidenote: Aug. 24, 1863] _After the surrender of Major Anderson, the Confederates strengthened the fort; but, in the spring of 1863, the U. S. guns on Morris Island battered it into a shapeless ruin._

Still and dark along the sea Sumter lay; A light was overhead, As from burning cities shed, And the clouds were battle-red, Far away. Not a solitary gun Left to tell the fort had won, Or lost the day! Nothing but the tattered rag Of the drooping Rebel flag, And the sea-birds screaming round it in their play.

How it woke one April morn, Fame shall tell; As from Moultrie, close at hand, And the batteries on the land, Round its faint but fearless band Shot and shell Raining hid the doubtful light; But they fought the hopeless fight Long and well, (Theirs the glory, ours the shame!) Till the walls were wrapt in flame, Then their flag was proudly struck, and Sumter fell.

Now--oh, look at Sumter now, In the gloom! Mark its scarred and shattered walls, (Hark! the ruined rampart falls!) There's a justice that appals In its doom; For this blasted spot of earth Where Rebellion had its birth Is its tomb! And when Sumter sinks at last From the heavens, that shrink aghast, Hell shall rise in grim derision and make room!



[Sidenote: August 5, 1864] _The poet was acting ensign on the staff of Admiral Farragut, when he led his squadron past Forts Morgan and Gaines, and into a victorious fight with the Confederate fleet in the Bay of Mobile. The poem is here somewhat shortened._

Three days through sapphire seas we sailed, The steady Trade blew strong and free, The Northern Light his banners paled, The Ocean Stream our channels wet, We rounded low Canaveral's lee, And passed the isles of emerald set In blue Bahama's turquoise sea.

By reef and shoal obscurely mapped, And hauntings of the gray sea-wolf, The palmy Western Key lay lapped In the warm washing of the Gulf.

But weary to the hearts of all The burning glare, the barren reach Of Santa Rosa's withered beach, And Pensacola's ruined wall.

And weary was the long patrol, The thousand miles of shapeless strand, From Brazos to San Blas that roll Their drifting dunes of desert sand.

Yet, coast-wise as we cruised or lay, The land-breeze still at nightfall bore, By beach and fortress-guarded bay, Sweet odors from the enemy's shore,

Fresh from the forest solitudes, Unchallenged of his sentry lines-- The bursting of his cypress buds, And the warm fragrance of his pines.

Ah, never braver bark and crew, Nor bolder Flag a foe to dare. Had left a wake on ocean blue Since Lion-Heart sailed _Trenc-le-mer_!

But little gain by that dark ground Was ours, save, sometime, freer breath For friend or brother strangely found, 'Scaped from the drear domain of death.

And little venture for the bold, Or laurel for our valiant Chief, Save some blockaded British thief, Full fraught with murder in his hold,

Caught unawares at ebb or flood-- Or dull bombardment, day by day, With fort and earth-work, far away, Low couched in sullen leagues of mud.

A weary time,--but to the strong The day at last, as ever, came; And the volcano, laid so long, Leaped forth in thunder and in flame!

"Man your starboard battery!" Kimberly shouted-- The ship, with her hearts of oak, Was going, mid roar and smoke, On to victory! None of us doubted-- No, not our dying-- Farragut's flag was flying!

Gaines growled low on our left, Morgan roared on our right-- Before us, gloomy and fell, With breath like the fume of hell, Lay the Dragon of iron shell, Driven at last to the fight!

Ha, old ship! do they thrill, The brave two hundred scars You got in the River-Wars? That were leeched with clamorous skill, (Surgery savage and hard), Splinted with bolt and beam, Probed in scarfing and seam, Rudely linted and tarred With oakum and boiling pitch, And sutured with splice and hitch At the Brooklyn Navy-Yard!

Our lofty spars were down, To bide the battle's frown (Wont of old renown)-- But every ship was drest In her bravest and her best, As if for a July day; Sixty flags and three, As we floated up the bay-- Every peak and mast-head flew The brave Red, White, and Blue-- We were eighteen ships that day.

With hawsers strong and taut, The weaker lashed to port, On we sailed, two by two-- That if either a bolt should feel Crash through caldron or wheel, Fin of bronze or sinew of steel, Her mate might bear her through.

Steadily nearing the head, The great Flag-Ship led, Grandest of sights! On her lofty mizzen flew Our Leader's dauntless Blue, That had waved o'er twenty fights-- So we went, with the first of the tide, Slowly, mid the roar Of the Rebel guns ashore And the thunder of each full broadside.

Ah, how poor the prate Of statute and state, We once held with these fellows--

Poems of American Patriotism - 20/30

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