The Orphan Brigade by Nathaniel Southgate Shaler

Eighteen hundred and sixty-one:
There in the echo of Sumter’s gun
Marches the host of the Orphan Brigade,
Lit by their banners, in hopes best arrayed.
Five thousand strong, never legion hath borne
Might as this bears it forth in that morn:
Hastings and Cressy, Naseby, Dunbar,
Cowpens and Yorktown, Thousand Years’ War,
Is writ on their hearts as onward afar
They shout to the roar of their drums.

Eighteen hundred and sixty-two:
Well have they paid to the earth its due.
Close up, steady! the half are yet here
And all of the might, for the living bear
The dead in their hearts over Shiloh’s field —
Rich, O God, is thy harvest’s yield!
Where faith swings the sickle, trust binds the sheaves,
To the roll of the surging drums.

Eighteen hundred and sixty-three:
Barring Sherman’s march to the sea —
Shorn to a thousand; face to the foe
Back, ever back, but stubborn and slow.
Nineteen hundred wounds they take
In that service of Hell, yet the hills they shake
With the roar of their charge as onward they go
To the roll of their throbbing drums.

Eighteen hundred and sixty-four:
Their banners are tattered, and scarce twelve score,
Battered and wearied and seared and old,
Stay by the staves where the Orphans hold
Firm as a rock when the surges break —
Shield of a land where men die for His sake,
For the sake of the brothers whom they have laid low,
To the roll of their muffled drums.

Eighteen hundred and sixty-five:
The Devil is dead and the Lord is alive,
In the earth that springs where the heroes sleep,
And in love new born where the stricken weep.
That legion hath marched past the setting of sun:
Beaten? nay, victors: the realms they have won
Are the hearts of men who forever shall hear
The throb of their far-off drums.

From: Shaler, Nathaniel Southgate, From Old Fields: Poems of the Civil War, 1906, Houghton Mifflin & Company: Boston, pp. 307-308.
(https://archive.org/stream/fromoldfieldspoe00shal#page/306/mode/2up)

Date: 1906

By: Nathaniel Southgate Shaler (1841-1906)

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