Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LITTLE DRUMMER, by RICHARD HENRY STODDARD

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THE LITTLE DRUMMER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Tis of a little drummer
Last Line: With his rat-tat-too.
Subject(s): American Civil War; Courage; Missouri; U.s. - History; Valor; Bravery

'T is of a little drummer,
The story I shall tell;
Of how he marched to battle,
Of all that there befell,
Out in the west with Lyon
(For once the name was true!)
For whom the little drummer beat
His rat-tat-too.

Our army rose at midnight,
Ten thousand men as one,
Each slinging off his knapsack
And snatching up his gun.
"Forward!" and off they started,
As all good soldiers do,
When the little drummer beats for them
The rat-tat-too.

Across a rolling country,
Where the mist began to rise;
Past many a blackened farmhouse,
Till the sun was in the skies;
Then we met the rebel pickets,
Who skirmished and withdrew,
While the little drummer beat, and beat
The rat-tat-too.

Along the wooded hollows
The line of battle ran,
Our centre poured a volley,
And the fight at once began;
For the rebels answered shouting,
And a shower of bullets flew;
But still the little drummer beat
His rat-tat-too.

He stood among his comrades,
As they quickly formed the line,
And when they raised their muskets
He watched the barrels shine.
When the volley rang, he started,
For war to him was new;
But still the little drummer beat
His rat-tat-too.

It was a sight to see them,
That early autumn day,
Our soldiers in their blue coats,
And the rebel ranks in gray;
The smoke that rolled between them,
The balls that whistled through,
And the little drummer as he beat
His rat-tat-too!

His comrades dropped around him, --
By fives and tens they fell,
Some pierced by minie bullets,
Some torn by shot and shell;
They played against our cannon,
And a caisson's splinters flew;
But still the little drummer beat
His rat-tat-too!

The right, the left, the centre, --
The fight was everywhere;
They pushed us here, -- we wavered, --
We drove and broke them there.
The graybacks fixed their bayonets,
And charged the coats of blue,
But still the little drummer beat
His rat-tat-too!

"Where is our little drummer?"
His nearest comrades say,
When the dreadful fight is over,
And the smoke has cleared away.
As the rebel corps was scattering
He urged them to pursue,
So furiously he beat, and beat
The rat-tat-too!

He stood no more among them,
For a bullet, as it sped,
Had glanced and struck his ankle,
And stretched him with the dead!
He crawled behind a cannon,
And pale and paler grew;
But still the little drummer beat
His rat-tat-too!

They bore him to the surgeon,
A busy man was he:
"A drummer boy -- what ails him?"
His comrades answered, "See!"
As they took him from the stretcher
A heavy breath he drew,
And his little fingers strove to beat
The rat-tat-too!

The ball had spent its fury:
"A scratch!" the surgeon said,
As he wound the snowy bandage
Which the lint was staining red.
"I must leave you now, old fellow!"
"Oh, take me back with you,
For I know the men are missing me
And the rat-tat-too!"

Upon his comrade's shoulder
They lifted him so grand,
With his dusty drum before him,
And his drumsticks in his hand!
To the fiery front of battle,
That nearer, nearer drew, --
And evermore he beat, and beat
His rat-tat-too!

The wounded as he passed them
Looked up and gave a cheer;
And one in dying blessed him,
Between a smile and tear.
And the graybacks -- they are flying
Before the coats of blue,
For whom the little drummer beats
His rat-tat-too.

When the west was red with sunset,
The last pursuit was o'er;
Brave Lyon rode the foremost,
And looked the name he bore.
And before him on his saddle,
As a weary child would do,
Sat the little drummer, fast asleep,
With his rat-tat-too.

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