GENERAL LEE AT THE BATTLE OF THE WILDERNESS.
|There he stood, the grand old hero, great Virginia’s god-like son,|
Second unto none in glory—equal of her Washington;
Gazing on his line of battle, as it wavered to and fro
’Neath the front and flank advances of the almost conquering foe;
Calm as was that clear May morning, ere the furious death-roar broke
From the iron-throated war lions crouching ’neath the cloudy smoke;
Cool, as tho’ the battle raging was but mimicry of fight,
Each brigade an ivory castle, and each regiment a knight;
Chafing in reserve beside him, two brigades of Texans lay,
All impatient for their portion in the fortune of the day.
Shot and shell are ’mong them falling, yet unmov’d they silent stand,
Longing, eager for the battle, but awaiting his command:
Suddenly he rode before them, as the forward line gave way,
Rais’d his hat with courtly gesture, “Follow me and save the day!”
But, as tho’ by terror stricken, still and silent stood that troop,
Who were wont to rush to battle with a fierce avenging whoop.
It was but a single moment, then a murmur thro’ them ran,
Heard above the cannon’s roaring, as it passed from man to man,
“You go back and we’ll go forward!” now the waiting leader hears,
Mixed with deep impatient sobbing, as of strong men moved to tears,
Once again he gives the order, “I’ll lead you on the foe!”
Then, thro’ all the line of battle rang a loud determined “No!”
Quick as thought a gallant Major, with a firm and vice-like grasp,
Seized the General’s bridle, shouting, “Forward, boys! I’ll hold him fast!”
Then again the hat was lifted, “Sir, I am the older man:
Loose my bridle, I will lead them!” in a measured tone and calm.
Trembling with suppressed emotion, with intense excitement hot,
In a quivering voice, the Texan, “No, by God, sir, you shall not!”
By them swept the charging squadron, with a loud exultant cheer,
“We’ll retake the salient, General, if you’ll watch us from the rear!”
And they kept their word right nobly, sweeping every foe away,
With that grand grey head uncovered, watching how they saved the day—
But the god-like calm was shaken, which no battle shock could move,
By this true, spontaneous token of his soldiers’ child-like love!