APRIL 20, 1864.
BY PRIVATE MILES O’REILLY.
Three years ago to-day
We raised our hands to heaven,
And on the rolls of muster
Our names were thirty-seven,
As we took the oath of service
With our right hand raised to heaven.
O ‘twas a gallant day
In memory still adored,
That day of our sun-bright nuptials
With the musket and the sword!
Shrill rank the fifes, the bugles blared,
And beneath a cloudless heaven
Twinkled a thousand bayonets,
And the swords were thirty-seven.
Of the thousand stalwart bayonets
Two hundred march to-day;
Hundreds lie in Virginia swamps,
And hundreds in Maryland clay;
And other hundreds, less happy, drag
Their shattered limbs around,
And envy the deep, long, blessed sleep
Of the battle-field’s holy ground.
For the swords – one night, a week ago,
The remnant, just eleven,
Gathered around a banqueting board
With seats for thirty-seven;
There were two limped in on crutches,
And two had each but a hand
To pour the wine and raise the cup
As we toasted “Our flag and land!”
And the room seemed filled with whispers
As we looked at the vacant seats,
And with choaking throats, we pushed aside
The rich but untasted meats;
Then in silence we brimmed our glasses,
As we rose up – just eleven,
And bowed as we drank to the loved and the dead
Who had made us thirty-seven!
- Harper’s Weekly.
Title:April 20, 1864
Author:Private Miles O'Reilly
Publication:The Blackburn Times
Date:May 14, 1864
This pro-Union poem is purportedly by Private Miles O’Reilly, but this is actually a pseudonym for the Irish writer Charles G. Halpine who enlisted in the 69th New York infantry in 1861. His poems on the subject of the American Civil War became famous and this one was originally published in Harper’s Magazine. – SR