The Boy in Gray by Mary Bradley
A Ballad for Memorial Day
Fredericksburg had had her fray,
And the armies stood at bay;
Back of wall, and top of hill,
Union men and men in gray
Glowered at each other still.
In the space between the two
Many a hapless boy in blue
Lay face upward to the skies;
Many another, just as true,
Filled the air with frantic cries.
"Love of God!" with pity stirred,
Cried a rebel lad who heard.
"This is more than I can bear!
General, only say the word,
They shall have some water there."
"What's the use?" his general,
Frowning, asked. "A Yankee ball
Drops you dead, or worse, half way,
Once you go beyond the wall."
"May be!" said the boy in gray.
"Still I'll risk it, if you please."
And the senior, ill at ease,
Nodded, growling under breath,
"For his mortal enemies
I have sent the lad to death."
Then a hotter fire began
As across the field he ran,—
Yankee shooters marked a prey,—
But beside each wounded man
Heedless knelt the boy in gray.
Parched lips hailed him as he came;
Throats with fever all aflame,
While the balls were spinning by,
Drained the cup he offered them,
Blessed him with their dying cry.
Suddenly, through rain of those
Pattering shots, a shout uprose;
Din of voices filled his ears;
Firing ceased, and eager foes
Made the welkin ring with cheers.
"BUT BESIDE EACH WOUNDED MAN
HEEDLESS KNELT THE BOY IN GRAY"
Foes they were, of bitter need,
Still to every noble deed
Hearts of men, thank God, must thrill;
And we thrill, too, as we read
Of those cheers on Marye's Hill.
Days of battle long since done,
Days of peace and blessing won,
Better is it to forget
Cruel work of sword and gun:
But some deeds are treasures yet.
While a grateful nation showers
Graves of heroes with her flowers,
Here's a wreath for one to-day:
North or South, we claim him ours—
Honor to the Boy in Gray!