Artillery Poetry

Hurrah for the Artillery

On the unstained sward of the gentle slope,
Full of valor and nerved by hope,
The infantry sways like a coming sea;
Why lingers the light artillery?
"Action front!"

Whirling the Parrotts like children's toys,
The horses strain to the rushing noise;
To right and to left, so fast and free,
They carry the light artillery.
"Drive on!"

The gunner cries with a tug and a jerk,
The limbers fly, and we bend to our work;
The handspike in, and the implements out--
We wait for the word, and it comes with a shout--

The foes pour on their billowy line;
Can nothing check their bold design?
With yells and oaths of fiendish glee,
They rush for the light artillery.
"Commence firing!"

Hurrah! Hurrah! our bulldogs bark,
And the enemy's line is a glorious mark;
Hundreds fall like grain on the lea,
Mowed down by the light artillery.
"Fire!" and "Load!" are the only cries,

Thundered and rolled to the vaulted skies;
Aha! they falter, they halt, they flee
From the hail of the light artillery.
"Cease firing!"

The battle is over, the victory won,
Ere the dew is dried by the rising sun;
While the shout bursts out, like a full-voiced sea,
"Hurrah for the light artillery!"
"Hurrah for the light artillery!

Author Unknown

The Artilleryman's Vision

While my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars are over long,
And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the vacant midnight passes,
And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear, just hear, the breath of my infant,
There in the room as I wake from sleep this vision presses upon me;

The engagement opens there and then in fantasy unreal,
The skirmishers begin, they crawl cautiously ahead, I hear the irregular snap! snap!
I hear the sound of the different missiles, the short t-h-t! t-h-t! of the rifle-balls,
I see the shells exploding leaving small white clouds,

I hear the great shells shrieking as they pass,
The grape like the hum and whir of wind through the trees (tumultuous now the contest rages),
All the scenes at the batteries rise in detail before me again,
The crashing and smoking, the pride of the men in their pieces,

The chief-gunner ranges and sights his piece and selects a fuse of the right time,
After firing I see him lean aside and look eagerly off to note the effect;
Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging (the young colonel leads himself this time with brandished sword),
I see the gaps cut by the enemy's volleys (quickly filled up, no delay),
I breathe the suffocating smoke, then the flat clouds hover low concealing all;

Now a strange lull for a few seconds, not a shot fired on either side,
Then resumed the chaos louder than ever, with eager calls and orders of officers,
While from some distant part of the field the wind wafts to my ears a shout of applause (some special success),
And ever the sound of the cannon far or near (rousing even in dreams a devilish exultation and all the old mad joy in the depths of my soul),

And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions, batteries, cavalry, moving hither and thither,
(The falling, dying, I heed not, the wounded dripping and red I heed not, some to the rear are hobbling),
Grime, heat, rush, aide-de-camps galloping by or on a full run,
With the patter of small arms, the warning s-s-t of the rifles (these in my vision I hear or see),
And bombs bursting in air, and at night the vari-colour'd rockets.

Walt Whitman

On Seeing A Piece of Our Heavy Artillery

Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great Gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse;
Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse
Huge imprecations like a blasting charm!
Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse.
Spend our resentment, cannon, -- yea, disburse
Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.

Yet, for men's sakes whom thy vast malison
Must wither innocent of enmity,
Be not withdrawn, dark arm, thy spoilure done,
Safe to the bosom of our prosperity.
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!

Wilfred Owen

For the sad duty of turning over the guns of the Battery to the Federal Army on May 8th, 1865,
Dr. W. I. Bull prepared the following inscriptions for the guns:

Shouldst thou in thy Captor’s cause
Thy old comrades face,
Remember then honor’s laws -
And burst thy chase.

Loaded with shot and shell,
I’ve often reaped for death and hell.



They Stand

In small Southern towns and large, they stand. On the square by the courthouse, in a park, or in a lonesome field, they stand.
Some large and ornate, others more the image of the hard times in which they were erected than the soldiers they honor. Remind- ers of glorious deeds and sacrifices which often go beyond our ability to comprehend. They are silent, proud and patient. Waiting
for the day when again they will be objects of affection, attention and care.

They represent the heroes of the South - those who fought, those who died, and those who refuse to let the memory of our history
die. They are modest, but essential reminders of a people who sacrificed everything. They are a link, however tenuous,
to our past.

Often names of the dead are etched in stone. They are indeed heroes, but there are so many more whose
names do not appear. Those who fought and lived with the terrible images of war. Those who tried to
keep a place where tired soldiers could once again become husbands and fathers. Those who lost
husbands and brothers and fathers and sons. Those who were forced to watch as their country was
destroyed town by town and farm by farm. Those who worked so hard to see that we could not forget.

Stop a moment, bow your head and honor them. Never let their battles be forgotten; never let their story be
forgotten; never let their banners be dishonored; never let their lives be cause for shame.

They stand; though some would tear them down.

They stand; though many turn their backs.

They stand; thank God, they stand.



"A battery of field artillery is worth a thousand muskets."
William Tecumseh Sherman

"God fights on the side with the best artillery."
Napoleon Bonaparte, a trained artilleryman

"Nothing is more destructive than the charge of artillery on a crowd."
Napoleon Bonaparte

"The best generals are those who have served in the artillery."
Napoleon Bonaparte

"Leave the Artillerymen alone, they are an obstinate lot."
Napoleon Bonaparte

"Do not forget your dogs of war, your big guns, which are the
most-to-be-respected arguments of the rights of kings."

Frederick the Great

"Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them,
Volley'ed and thundered."

- from "The Charge of the Light Brigade"

"The work for serve well the guns!"
Walt Whitman

"...Hush! I now hear the approach of battle. That low, rumbling sound in the west is the roar of
cannon in the distance."

Sam Watkins, 1st Tennessee Infantry, CSA

The War Prayer

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came--next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams--visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!--then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation-- "God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory--

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside--which the startled minister did--and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne--bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import--that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of--except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two--one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this--keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer-the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it-that part which the pastor--and also you in your hearts--fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words-- 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle--be Thou near them! With them--in spirit--we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it--for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Mark Twain

Beauregard's Bells

O, swing them merrily to and fro;
They'll not boom with a traitorous blow,
Shaped into cannon, not one - they lie
Eloquent tokens of victory.
Sing out, O bells, on the summer wind;
Farragut's name with thy music twined.
The Crescent slips from the serpent's hold,
Though bound in many an angry fold.
Oft ye have pealed for the bridal morn,
Tolled for souls into mystery born,
Roused, on plantation, master and slave;
Yet, ye were doomed, till won by the Brave.
O, ring ere long for the shout of peace;
Jubilant ring when this strife shall cease.
Ring out Rebellion, dark as a pall;
Ring for Stars and Stripes floating o'er all.
Laugh out on the Northern winds, I pray;
Peal out, for this is your marriage day.
Wedded to Freedom, 'mid hills and dells,
Ye are no longer Beauregard's bells.

General Beauregard made an appeal to loyal southerners to contribute their bronze bells to the Confederate war effort. The bells were shipped to New Orleans where they were to be melted down and cast into cannon barrels. Before this could happen New Orleans fell to Union forces and the bells were seized by General Butler, the military commander of occupied New Orleans.

Author Unkown

Under the Washington Elm

Eighty years have passed, and more,
Since under the brave old tree
Our fathers gathered in arms, and swore
They would follow the sign their banners bore,
and fight till the land was free.

Half of their work was done,
Half is left to do-
Cambridge and Concord and Lexington!
When the battle is fought and won,
What shall be told of you?

Hark! 'tis the south wind moans-
Who are the martyrs down?
Ah, the marrow was true in your children's bones,
That sprinkled with blood the cursed stones
Of the murder haunted town!

What if the storm clouds blow?
What if the green leaves fall?
Better the crashing tempest's throe,
Than the army of worms that gnawed below;
Trample them one and all!

Then when the battle is won,
And the land from traitors free,
Our children shall tell of the strife begun
When Liberty's second April sun
Was bright on our brave old tree!

Oliver Wendell Holmes (Cambridge, Massachusetts - April 27, 1861)


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