Southern Memory

I was looking for some information in the Charleston Mercury newspaper ( the old one, not the current newspaper) for an 1864 article. As often happens when I peruse, I find myself on other topics. I happened across a poem that somehow touched an ancient retained memory, one barely discernible in an age so far removed from the time of the War Between the States. You see, my family was burned out by Sherman’s March. So many people move here from other places, with no understanding of Southern Memory. Perhaps this poignant poem will lend perspective.

Published in the Charleston Mercury
May 1864

At Fort Pillow.
By James R. Randall
You shudder as
you think upon         
The carnage of the grim report–
The desolation when we won
The inner trenches of the fort.
But there are
deeds you may not know         
That scourge the pulses into strife;
Dark memories of deathless woe       
Pointing the bayonet and knife.
The house is
ashes, where I dwelt     
Beyond the mighty inland sea;
The tombstones shattered where I knelt        
By that old Church in Pointe Coupee.
The Yankee
fiend! that came with fire,         
Camped on the consecrated sod,
And trampled in the dust and mire    
The Holy Eucharist of God!
The spot where
darling mother sleeps,           
Beneath the glimpse of yon sad moon,
Is crushed with splintered marble heaps        
To stall the horse of some dragoon!
God! when I
ponder that black day, 
It makes my frantic spirit wince–
I marched–with Longstreet–far away,         
But have beheld the ravage since.
The tears are
hot upon my face          
When thinking about what bleak fate befell
The only sister of our race–   
A thing too horrible to tell.
They say that,
ere her senses fled,     
The rescue of her brothers cried;
Then feebly bowed her stricken head,           
Too pure to live thus–so she died.
Two of those
brothers heard no plea,
With their proud hearts forever still–
John shrouded by the Tennessee,      
And Arthur there at Malvern Hill.
But I have
heard it everywhere         
Vibrating like a passing knell;
‘Tis as perpetual as the air      
And solemn as a funeral bell.
By scorched
lagoon and murky swamp         
My wrath was never in the lurch;
I’ve killed the picket in his camp       
And many a pilot on his perch.
With Deadly
rifle, sharpened brand,  
A week ago, upon my steed,
With Forrest and his warrior band     
I made the hellhounds writhe and bleed.
You should
have seen our leader go  
Upon the battle’s burning marge,
Swooping like a falcon on the foe,       
Heading the grey line’s iron charge!
All outcasts
from our ruined marts,   
We heard th’ undying serpent hiss,
And in the desert of our hearts          
The fatal spell of Nemesis.
The Southern
yell rang loud and high
The moment that we thundered in,
Smiting the demon’s hip and thigh,    
Cleaving them to the very chin.
My right arm
bared for fiercer play,  
The left one held the rein in slack;
In all the fury of the fray       
I sought the white man, not the black.
The dabbled
clots of brain and gore  
Across the swirling sabers ran;
To me, each brutal visage bore
The front of one accursed man.
along the frenzied vein,    
My blood seemed kindled into song–
The death dirge of the sacred slain,   
The slogan of immortal wrong.
It glared
athwart the dripping glaives,           
It blazed in each avenging eye–
The thought of desecrated graves       
And some lone sister’s desperate cry
April 25.
Charleston Old Walled City Tours offers themed tours of Historic Charleston including the Old Walled City Tour, the Home and Garden Tour, the Slavery and Freedom Tour, and the Charleston Ghost Walk. Go to to learn more!



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