Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WITH CORSE AT ALLATOONA, by SAMUEL HAWKINS MARSHALL BYERS



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WITH CORSE AT ALLATOONA, by            
First Line: It was less than two thousand we numbered
Last Line: "this morning up there on the hill."
Subject(s): Allatoona Pass, Georgia; American Civil War; Atlanta Campaign (1864); Corse, John Murray (1835-1893); United States - History


IT was less than two thousand we numbered
In the fort sitting up on the hill;
That night not a soldier that slumbered;
We watched by the starlight until
Daybreak showed us all of their forces;
About us their gray columns ran,
To left and to right they were round us,
Five thousand if there was a man.

"Surrender your fort," bawled the rebel;
"Five minutes I give, or you're dead."
"Not a man," answered Corse, in his treble
"Perhaps you can take us instead!"
Then pealed forth their cannon infernal;
We fought them outside of the pass,
Two hours, the time seemed eternal;
The dead lay in lines on the grass.

But who cared for dead or for dying?
The fort we were there to defend,
And across from yon far mountain flying,
Came a message, "Hold on to the end;
Hold on to the fort." It was Sherman,
Who signalled from Kenesaw's height,
Far over the heads of our foemen,
"Hold on -- I am coming to-night."

Quick fluttered our flag to the signal,
We answered him back with a will,
And fired on the gray-coated rebels
That charged up the slope of the hill.
"Load double," cried Corse, "every cannon
Who cares for their ten to our one?"
We looked at the swift-coming rebels,
And answered their yell with a gun.

With the grape from our fort in their faces,
They rush to the ramparts, but stop;
Ah! few of the gray-columned army
That day left alive at the top.
On the parapets, too, lie our wounded,
Each porthole a grave for the dead;
No room for our cannon, the corpses
Fill up the embrasures instead.

Again through the cannon's red weather
They charge up the hill and the pass,
Their dead and our dead lie together
Out there on the slope in the grass.
A crash from our rifles -- they falter;
A gleam from our steel -- it is by.
"Recall and retreat," sound their bugles;
We cheer from the fort as they fly.

Once more and the signal is flying --
"How many the wounded and dead?"
"Six hundred," says Corse, "with the dying,"
The blood streaming down from his head.
"But what of that? Look! the old banner
Shines out there as peaceful and still
As if there had not been a battle
This morning up there on the hill."





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