Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BALLAD OF CHICKAMAUGA [SEPTEMBER 19-20, 1863], by JAMES MAURICE THOMPSON



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THE BALLAD OF CHICKAMAUGA [SEPTEMBER 19-20, 1863], by             Poet's Biography
First Line: By chickamauga's crooked stream the martial trumpets blew
Last Line: As one old soldier's ballad borne on breath of battle-song.
Alternate Author Name(s): Thompson, Maurice
Subject(s): American Civil War; Chickamauga, Battle Of (1863); Thomas, George Henry (1816-1870); United States - History


BY Chickamauga's crooked stream the martial trumpets blew;
The North and South stood face to face, with War's dread work to do.
O lion-strong, unselfish, brave, twin athletes battle-wise,
Brothers yet enemies, the fire of conflict in their eyes,
All banner-led and bugle-stirred, they set them to the fight,
Hearing the god of slaughter laugh from mountain height to height.

The ruddy, fair-haired, giant North breathed loud and strove amain;
The swarthy shoulders of the South did heave them to the strain;
An earthquake shuddered underfoot, a cloud rolled overhead:
And serpent-tongues of flame cut through and lapped and twinkled red,
Where back and forth a bullet-stream went singing like a breeze,
What time the snarling cannon-balls to splinters tore the trees.

"Make way, make way!" a voice boomed out, "I'm marching to the sea!"
The answer was a rebel yell and Bragg's artillery.
Where Negley struck, the cohorts gray like storm-tossed
clouds were rent;
Where Buckner charged, a cyclone fell, the blue to tatters went;
The noble Brannan cheered his men, Pat Cleburne answered back,
And Lytle stormed, and life was naught in Walthall's bloody track.

Old Taylor's Ridge rocked to its base, and Pigeon Mountain shook;
And Helm went down, and Lytle died, and broken was McCook.
Van Cleve moved like a hurricane, a tempest blew with Hood,
Awful the sweep of Breckenridge across the flaming wood.
Never before did battle-roar such chords of thunder make,
Never again shall tides of men over such barriers break.

"Stand fast, stand fast!" cried Rosecrans; and Thomas said, "I will!"
And, crash on crash, his batteries dashed their broadsides
down the hill.
Brave Longstreet's splendid rush tore through whatever
barred its track,
Till the Rock of Chickamauga hurled the roaring columns back,
And gave the tide of victory a red tinge of defeat,
Adding a noble dignity to that hard word, retreat.

Two days they fought, and evermore those days shall stand apart,
Keynotes of epic chivalry within the nation's heart.
Come, come, and set the carven rocks to mark this glorious spot;
Here let the deeds of heroes live, their hatreds be forgot.
Build, build, but never monument of stone shall last as long
As one old soldier's ballad borne on breath of battle-song.





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