South Mountain by Rick Reeve

South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland

Thursday, March 24, 2011

South Mountain poem from Harper's Weekly

The following is a poem that appeared in the October 25, 1862 issue of Harper's Weekly, a newspaper based out of New York City. It is well known for its inclusion of illustrations showing distant battlefields to the public. This poem, the author is unknown, shows how a peaceful Sunday morning along South Mountain, with church bells ringing and sermons prepared, suddenly turned into a hellish brawl between two opposing armies. It tells of the Union victory and at the very end, it shows the tragic nature of how this war had turned American against American.

At South Mountain.

Like plates of brassy armor
The yellow plowed lands lay Upon the valley's bosom
For leagues and leagues away. Along them shines and shimmers
The lazy moving stream,
As o'er a child's soft bosom
The idle ribbons gleam.
The mountain's velvet helmet
Nods darkly on her crest,
As though some untold passion
Was trembling in her breast.
The green leaves chant together
A weird and mystic strain,
And the feathery tenants mingle
Their notes in the wild refrain.
The shadows sweep o'er the valley
Like an evanescent blot,
That seems like a holy feeling
Begrimed with an impure thought. —'Twas thus lay the quiet valley
And the sentry hills held sway,
Ere the bugle notes scared the song-birds,
Or the reveille woke the day.
And now was the smiling Sabbath,
And the sweet-tongued meeting bells
Rang out like an incense wafted
O'er listening hills and dells.
The soldiers catch the cadence
Borne out on the distant air,
And it comes to their weary spirits
Like the thought of an angel's prayer.
But vain the holy summons—
The prayer remains unsaid,
The singer's lips are silent,

The sermon lies unread;
While long and dusty columns
Of sun-browned troops file by,
Nerved by the rigid purpose
To win the day—or die!
Along the paths of the mountain
Moves up the dark-blue line,
The gun-wheels grind o'er the boulders,
The burnished bayonets shine.
Way up in the leafy covert
The curling smoke betrays
Where the foe throw down the gauntlet,
And the answering cannons blaze.
The crack of the Minie rifle,
The shriek of the crashing shell,
The ring of the flashing sabre,
Their tale of the conflict tell.
They tell of the dear lives lying,
War's food in Nature's lap,

Ere the Starry Flag in triumph
Waves through the Mountain Gap.
Night drops her pitying mantle
To hide the bloody scene—
Next morn a thousand dead men
Mark where the foe had been.
And where the fight was hottest
Two mangled corpses lay,
One clad in bright blue jacket,
And one in homespun gray.
Their hands are clasped together,
Their bloody bosoms show
Each fought with a dauntless purpose,
And fell 'neath each other's blow! They fell, and the crimson mingled,
And before the paling eye
Back rolled the storm of the conflict
To the peaceful days gone by.
Emit thought of the mystic token—
The talismanic sign;
Each recognized a Brother!
Two firm right hands entwine! The fire of the noble order
Touched not their hearts in vain.
All hate fades out, uniting
Two hearts with the triple chain!


Harper's Weekly website by Son of the South

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