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 found 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
By James R. Randall
you think upon
The carnage of the grim report–
The desolation when we won
The inner trenches of the fort.
deeds you may not know
That scourge the pulses into strife;
Dark memories of deathless woe
Pointing the bayonet and knife.
ashes, where I dwelt
Beyond the mighty inland sea;
The tombstones shattered where I knelt
By that old Church in Pointe Coupee.
fiend! that came with fire,
Camped on the consecrated sod,
And trampled in the dust and mire
The Holy Eucharist of God!
darling mother sleeps,
Beneath the glimpse of yon sad moon,
Is crushed with splintered marble heaps
To stall the horse of some dragoon!
ponder that black day,
It makes my frantic spirit wince–
I marched–with Longstreet–far away,
But have beheld the ravage since.
hot upon my face
When thinking what bleak fate befell
The only sister of our race–
A thing too horrible to tell.
ere her senses fled,
The rescue of her brothers cried;
Then feebly bowed her stricken head,
Too pure to live thus–so she died.
brothers heard no plea,
With their proud hearts forever still–
John shrouded by the Tennessee,
And Arthur there at Malvern Hill.
heard it everywhere
Vibrating like a passing knell;
‘Tis as perpetual as the air
And solemn as a funeral bell.
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.
rifle, sharpened brand,
A week ago, upon my steed,
With Forrest and his warrior band
I made the hell hounds writhe and bleed.
have seen our leader go
Upon the battle’s burning marge,
Swooping like falcon on the foe,
Heading the grey line’s iron charge!
from our ruined marts,
We heard th’ undying serpent hiss,
And in the desert of our hearts
The fatal spell of Nemesis.
yell rang loud and high
The moment that we thundered in,
Smiting the demons hip and thigh,
Cleaving them to the very chin.
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.
clots of brain and gore
Across the swirling sabres 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.
athwart the dripping glaives,
It blazed in each avenging eye–
The thought of desecrated graves
And some lone sister’s desperate cry.