The Pride Of Battery

By Frank H. Gassaway

South Mountain towered on our right, far off the river lay,
And over on the wooded height we held their lines at bay.
At last the mutt’ring guns were stilled; the day died slow and wan;
At last the gunners’ pipes were filled, the Sergeant’s yarns began.
When,—as the wind a moment blew aside the fragrant flood
Our brierwoods raised,—within our view a little maiden stood.
A tiny tot of six or seven, from fireside fresh she seemed
(Of such a little one in heaven one soldier often dreamed).
And, as we stared, her little hand went to her curly head
In grave salute: “And who are you?” at length the Sergeant said.
“And where’s your home?” he growled again. Shelispedout,“Who is me?
Why, don’t you know? I’m little Jane, the Pride of Battery ‘B.’
My home? Why, that was burned away, and pa and ma are dead,
And so, so I ride the guns all day along with Sergeant Ned.
And I’ve a drum that’s not a toy, a cap with feathers, too,
And I march beside the drummer boy on Sundays at review;
But now our ’bacca’s all give out, the men can’t have their smoke,
And so they’re cross—why, even Ned won’t play with me and joke,
And the big Colonel said to-day—I hate to hear him swear—
He’d give a leg for a good pipe like the Yanks had over there
And so I thought when beat the drum and the big guns were still,
I’d creep beneath the tent and come out here across the hill,
And beg, good Mister Yankee men, you’d give me some tobac;
Please do—when we get some again I’ll surely bring it back.
Indeed I will, for Ned—says he—if I do what I say,
I’ll be a general yet, maybe, and ride a prancing bay.”
We brimmed her tiny apron o’er; you should have heard her laugh
As each man from his scanty store shook out a generous half.
To kiss the little mouth stooped down a score of grimy men,
Until the Sergeant’s husky voice said “’Tention, squad and then
We gave her escort, till good night the pretty waif we bid.
And watched her toddle out of sight—or else ’twas tears that hid
Her tiny form—nor turned about a man, nor spoke a word,
’Till after while a far, hoarse shout upon the wind was heard!
We sent it hack—then cast sad eye upon the scene around,
A baby’s hand had touched the tie that brothers once had bound.
That’s all—save when the dawn awoke again the work of hell,
And through the sullen clouds of smoke the screaming missiles fell;
Our General often rubbed his glass and marveled much to see
Not a single shell that whole day fell in the lines of Battery “B.”

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