A Georgia Volunteer

 

By Mary Ashley Townsend (1832-1901)

 

Far up the lonely mountain-side

      My wandering footsteps led;

The moss lay thick beneath my feet,

      The pine sighed overhead.

The trace of a dismantled fort

      Lay in the forest nave,

And in the shadow near my path

      I saw a soldier’s grave.

 

The bramble wrestled with the weed

      Upon the lowly mound; —

The simple head-board, rudely writ,

      Had rotted to the ground;

I raised it with a reverent hand,

      From the dust its words to clear,

But time had blotted all but these—

      “A Georgia Volunteer!”

 

I saw the toad and scaly snake

      From tangled cover start,

And hide themselves among the weeds

      Above the dead man’s heart;

But undisturbed in sleep profound,

      Unheeding, there he lay;

His coffin but the mountain soil,

      His shroud Confederate gray.

 

I heard the Shenandoah roll

      Along the vale below,

I saw the Alleghanies rise

      Towards the realm of snow.

The “Valley Campaign” rose to mind—

      Its leader’s name —and then

I knew the sleeper had been one

      Of Stonewall Jackson’s men.

 


Yet whence he came, what lip shall say—

      Whose tongue will ever tell

What desolated hearth and hearts

      Have been because he fell?

What sad-eyed maiden braids her hair,

      Her hair which he held dear?

One lock of which perchance lies with

      The Georgia Volunteer!

 

What mother, with long watching eyes,

      And white lips cold and dumb,

Waits with appalling patience for

      Her darling boy to come?

Her boy! whose mountain grave swells up

      But one of many a scar,

Cut on the face of our fair land,

      By gory-handed war.

 

What fights he fought, what wounds he wore,

      Are all unknown to fame;

Remember, on his lonely grave

      There is not e’en a name!

That he fought well and bravely too,

      And held his country dear,

We know, else he had never been

      A Georgia Volunteer.

 

He sleeps—what need to question now

      If he were wrong or right?

He knows, ere this, whose cause was just

      In God the Father’s sight.

He wields no warlike weapons now,

      Returns no foeman’s thrust—

Who but a coward would revile

      An honest soldier’s dust?

 

Roll, Shenandoah, proudly roll,

      Adown thy rocky glen,

Above thee lies the grave of one

      Of Stonewall Jackson’s men.

Beneath the cedar and the pine,

      In solitude austere,

Unknown, unnamed, forgotten, lies

      A Georgia Volunteer.

 

                         The Old Flag My Grandpa Knew

 

I remember how each morning, he'd rise before us all, and I'd hear his muffled footsteps as he padded down the hall.

 

The many years he'd labored left his body bent and gray, but Grandpa had a reason for getting up each day.

 

A well-worn box, a tattered cloth, of crimson, blue and white... and he'd gaze at it each morning, with tears that dimmed his sight.

 

On special days he raised it still, on the pole outside our door,  He'd tell us kids, in reverent tones what that tattered cloth stood for.

 

The red reminds of the Wheatfield, where Pickett's men were slain, when several thousand good men fell admidst the bloodied grain.

 

The blue, brings back to mind, the loneliness and cold of a Shenandoah winter, a thousand miles from Georgia , and home.

 

The pure white stars are generals, Jackson, Stuart, and Johnston, and the big one in the middle there, is for Robert Edward Lee.

 

Each bullet hole a battle won, each tear a comrade lost, each stain is for a wounded friend who paid the final cost.

 

 Ol' Grandpa must have loved that flag, 'cause he stayed near it every day, and so Grandpa took it with him when he finally passed away. 

 

If there's a flagpole up in Heaven, there's no tear in Grandpa's eye, 'Cause I know he's back in uniform, and his beloved flag flies high!