The Home Legion

In a farm-house, snug and cheery,
When the sun was west declining,
Sat a housewife with her knitting—
Knitting prayers with heart spun, home spun
Yarn, into the soldiers’ stockings—
When a light step on the door-stone
And a rap upon the panel,
Told a neighbor kind was coming,
Told that hearts with hers were beating
Warmly, for the soldiers weary,
Who had left their homes and kindred,
And were then our battles fighting.
Others came, and with them bringing
Bandages, and lint, and linen,
Sat them down to making garments,
For the lov’d ones who were weary,
With the marching and the drilling,
And the digging and the ditching,
And the picket guard and duties,
Of the faithful volunteers.
While they sat and worked and wonder’d,
While they read and talked of battles,
Some were thinking, sadly thinking,
How their means so scant and homely,
Could with little more econ’my,
Make a bedgown, shirt, or slippers,
For a sick or wounded soldier.
Some had look’d their stores of bedding
Over, for the warmest blanket,
And had thought with tears of girlhood’s
Hand that spun it—when a mother,
Long since gone to rest from labor,
Sat beside her, helped to plan the
Stripe, or check, and dyed the colors.
Others, too, had sent their parcels,
Some of dried fruits, some of jellies,
And such dainties as the housewife,
With her skilful hand prepares,
Hoping that the soldiers absent
From their homes, in tents and barracks,
Will with better hearts and courage,
Do their duties, faithful, willing,
With such tokens of remembrance.
Some there were who could not join them,
But with hearts and hands as willin,
Sat at home beside their sick ones,
Doing there a double duty,
By the sick bed, with their working
on the garments that would shelter
From the cold winds, and the rain storms,
Those to whom we owe a nation’s
Independence, such as ours.
In a cottage by the roadside,
Not in sight of neighbor’s dwelling,
By her little ones surrounded,
As the twilight shades of evening,
Sat a mother with her grandsire,
Listening to the tales he’s telling
(As she’s working for the soldiers)
“O! the hardships and the labors
He in boyhood had encountered,
When our nation was recovering
From the losses and the suffering,
And its sacrifice for freedom—
When a furlough let his father
Home to do a little ploughing
For himself, and for a neighbour;
Woman’s hand helped get the grain in,
Shear’d the sheep, and did the reaping,
Carding, spinning, dying, weaving—
Made the garments for their husbands,
Brothers, who were continental soldiers,
And against the British struggling,
To secure an independence,
Which should light benighted nations
With the gospel’s glorious freedom.”
Soon a friendly neighbor “drops in,”
On his homeward way returning
From the village with the “paper,”
And the news he there had gathered,
What was known , and what was guess’d at,
Talked of taxes and of tariffs,
And of treasury notes and duties,
And of loans, and rise of cotton—
But with hopeful, cheerful courage,
Bade the war speed on to victory,
And with patriotic ardour,
Pledged himself and his last dollar.

Title:The Home Legion


Publication:The Wooster Republican

Published in:

Date:May 29th 1862

Keywords:domesticity, gender, politics


Taken from the Hartford Courant but published here in Ohio, this poem addresses subjects including gender, domesticity and patriotism, but appears to have a preoccupation with textiles, including the reference to ‘the rise of cotton’. Although it presents as a narrative of the War for Independence of the 1770s, it speaks to Union patriotism and also to anti-British feeling in the aftermath of the Trent Affair of 1861. – SR