Friday, February 4, 2022

"One day there came a message..."

A cousin has emailed me a poem composed by my great-uncle, AJC Bond. The poem is largely about his father's brother, Levi Bond, who was killed in the Civil War. From AJC's Introduction:
My grandfather, Richard Bond, living in Virginia, voted for secession. He did not believe in slavery, but voted for secession on the issue of states' rights. His eldest son, Levi, joined the Union army at the age of 19 years, with no conflict of purpose between father and son. Before Levi was killed in battle near Berryville, Virginia, the new state of West Virginia had been formed from the northern counties of Virginia and my grandfather was pleased to find himself living in a free state.

Our father used to tell us about his older brother in the war, and about his own experiences with soldiers, both Northern and Southern, who used to pass along the old Weston and Gauley Bridge turnpike that went past his boyhood home. Union soldiers took the last horse from the plow at one time. They took my father's knife on another occasion, and he escaped with his watch only because he had forethought enough to hide it in the leg of his boot. At another time, when he was going up the road to school, soldiers in the van advised him to leave the road and go across the fields, for the road was "full of soldiers." This first poem in this group was written a good many years ago, and is the result of my attempt to express the feelings often aroused in me as we sat by the old wood fire and father told of those distressing days, difficult especially for those living just south of the Mason and Dixon line.
From "THE SOLDIER BOY FROM THE HILLS," apparently written for Memorial Day:
The stars and stripes had been torn down,
Fort Sumter fired upon,
Not by a cruel foreign foe
As in the days agone,
The Rebs had won, our boys fell back,
The van became the rear,
And when the roll was called that night,
He failed to answer "Here."
But those who used to love the flag
Would tear it now in twain.
The stars and stripes, the freeman's flag,
Is doomed to suffer stain.
Some days had passed when boys in blue
Looked on that mortal place,
And saw half-buried bodies lie,
Unrecognized each face.
The call has come for volunteers,
And from the old home nest
The first-born son will soon depart,
And sorrow fills each breast.
But those who marched out from the hills,
The boys from Comp'ny B,
Were looking closely 'mong the dead
Familiar forms to see.
They give him up in freedom's name;
They would not have him stay.
But shall they see his face again,
When peace has won the day?
Ah, here their comrade's body lies,
They know him by his hair;
For ghastly are his form and face
That lately were so fair.
Some don the blue, and some the gray,
But whether blue or gray
'Tis hard for those who love them most
To see them march away.
Beyond the reach of loving hands,
Beneath soft southern skies,
Unknown the spot to mortal man,
There many a loved one lies.
So from this home among the hills
A boy marched forth in blue,
He loved the friends he left behind;
He loved his country too.
These lives were giv'n for our sakes,
And mothers' hearts were wrung,
That freedom's banner still might wave,
And freedom's song be sung.
The days speed on, and weeks and months,    
While parents longing wait;
Now, standing anxious at the door,
Now, at the old yard gate.
Give honor to the boys in blue,
And, on occasion, cheer;
But voiceless be your thoughts today,
And drop a silent tear.
One day there came a message brief;
There was not much to tell.
'Twas in a skirmish in the woods
Our brave young hero fell.
Today we pause before each mound,
And leave a flower there;
Have for the living kindly thoughts,
The sorrowing, a prayer.

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