Henry Jerome Stockard

The Last Charge At Appomattox

Scarred on a hundred fields before,
Naked and starved and travel-sore,
Each man a tiger hunted,
They stood at bay as brave as Huns--
Last of the Old South's splendid sons,
Flanked by ten thousand shotted guns,
And by ten thousand fronted.

Scorched by the cannon's molten breath,
They'd climbed the trembling walls of death
And set their standards tattered --
Had charged at the bugle's stirring blare
Through bolted gloom and godless glare
From the dead's reddened gulches, where
The searching shrapnel shattered.

They formed -- that Carolina band --
With Grimes, the Spartan, in command.
And, at the word of Gordan,
Through splintered fire and stifling smoke --
They struck with lightning's scathing stoke, --
Those doomed and desperate men -- and broke
Across the iron cordon.

They turned in sullen, slow retreat --
Ah, there are laurels of defeat --
Turned, for the chief had spoken;
With one last shot hurled back the foes,
And prayed the trump of doom to blow,
Now that the Southern stars were low,
The Southern bars were broken.

Some time the calm, impartial years
Will tell what made them dead to tears
Of loved ones left to languish: --
What nerved them for the lonely guard,
For cleaving blade and mangling shard, --
What gave them strength in tent and ward
To drain the dregs of anguish.

But the far ages will propound
What never sage hath lore to sound; --
Why, in such fires of rancor,
The God of love should find it meet
For Him, with Grant as sledge to beat
On Lee, the anvil at such heat,
Our nation's great sheet-anchor.

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