Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BATTLE OF LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN [NOVEMBER 24, 1863], by GEORGE HENRY BOKER



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THE BATTLE OF LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN [NOVEMBER 24, 1863], by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Give me but two brigades,' said hooker, frowning at fortified lookout
Last Line: Standing, like demigods, in light and triumph upon their own lookout!
Subject(s): American Civil War; Hooker, Joseph (1814-1879); Lookout Mountain, Battle Of (1863); United States - History


"GIVE me but two brigades," said Hooker, frowning at
fortified Lookout;
"And I'll engage to sweep yon mountain clear of that
mocking rebel rout."
At early morning came an order, that set the General's face aglow:
"Now," said he to his staff, "draw out my soldiers! Grant
says that I may go."

Hither and thither dashed each eager Colonel, to join his regiment,
While a low rumor of the daring purpose ran on from tent to tent.
For the long roll was sounding through the valley, and the
keen trumpet's bray,
And the wild laughter of the swarthy veterans, who cried,
"We fight to-day!"

The solid tramp of infantry, the rumble of the great jolting gun,
The sharp, clear order, and the fierce steeds neighing,
"Why's not the fight begun?"
All these plain harbingers of sudden conflict broke on the
startled ear;
And last arose a sound that made your blood leap, the
ringing battle-cheer.

The lower works were carried at one onset; like a vast roaring sea
Of steel and fire, our soldiers from the trenches swept out the enemy;
And we could see the gray-coats swarming up from the
mountain's leafy base,
To join their comrades in the higher fastness, -- for life
or death the race!

Then our long line went winding up the mountain, in a huge
serpent-track,
And the slant sun upon it flashed and glimmered as on a dragon's back.
Higher and higher the column's head pushed onward, ere the
rear moved a man;
And soon the skirmish-lines their straggling volleys and
single shots began.

Then the bald head of Lookout flamed and bellowed, and all
its batteries woke,
And down the mountain poured the bombshells, puffing into
our eyes their smoke;
And balls and grape-shot rained upon our column, that bore
the angry shower
As if it were no more than that soft dropping which
scarcely stirs the flower.

Oh, glorious courage that inspires the hero, and runs
through all his men!
The heart that failed beside the Rappahannock, it was itself again!
The star that circumstance and jealous faction shrouded in
envious night
Here shone with all the splendor of its nature, and with a
freer light!

Hark, hark! there go the well-known crashing volleys, the
long-continued roar
That swells and falls, but never ceases wholly until the
fight is o'er.
Up towards the crystal gates of heaven ascending, the
mortal tempest beat,
As if they sought to try their cause together before God's very feet.

We saw our troops had gained a footing almost beneath the
topmost ledge,
And back and forth the rival lines went surging upon the dizzy edge.
We saw, sometimes, our men fall backward slowly, and
groaned in our despair;
Or cheered when now and then a stricken rebel plunged out in open air,
Down, down, a thousand empty fathoms dropping, -- his God
alone knows where!

At eve thick haze upon the mountain gathered, with rising
smoke stained black,
And not a glimpse of the contending armies shone through
the swirling rack.
Night fell o'er all; but still they flashed their
lightnings and rolled their thunders loud,
Though no man knew upon which side was going that battle in the cloud.

Night -- what a night! -- of anxious thought and wonder,
but still no tidings came
From the bare summit of the trembling mountain, still
wrapped in mist and flame.
But towards the sleepless dawn, stillness, more dreadful
than the fierce sound of war,
Settled o'er Nature, as if she stood breathless before the
morning star.

As the sun rose, dense clouds of smoky vapor boiled from
the valley's deeps,
Dragging their torn and ragged edges slowly up through the
tree-clad steeps;
And rose and rose, till Lookout, like a vision, above us
grandly stood,
And over his bleak crags and storm-blanched headlands burst
the warm golden flood.

Thousands of eyes were fixed upon the mountain, and
thousands held their breath,
And the vast army, in the valley watching, seemed touched
with sudden death.
High o'er us soared great Lookout, robed in purple, a glory
on his face,
A human meaning in his hard, calm features, beneath that
heavenly grace.

Out on a crag walked something -- what? an eagle, that
treads yon giddy height?
Surely no man! but still he clambered forward into the
full, rich light.
Then up he started, with a sudden motion, and from the blazing crag
Flung to the morning breeze and sunny radiance the dear old
starry flag!

Ah! then what followed? Scarred and warworn soldiers, like
girls, flushed through their tan,
And down the thousand wrinkles of the battles a thousand
tear-drops ran.
Men seized each other in returned embraces, and sobbed for very love;
A spirit, which made all that moment brothers, seemed
falling from above.

And as we gazed, around the mountain's summit our
glittering files appeared,
Into the rebel works we saw them moving; and we -- we
cheered, we cheered!
And they above waved all their flags before us, and joined
our frantic shout,
Standing, like demigods, in light and triumph upon their own Lookout!





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