James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 6

Albert Sidney Johnston

By Kate Brownlee Sherwood (1841–1914)

  • At the battle of Shiloh or Pittsburgh Landing, April 6, 1862, the Federals, under Grant, were surprised by the Confederates under A. S. Johnston and forced back to the river. Johnston was killed and Beauregard succeeded him. On the next day Grant, reinforced by Buell’s army, drove the Confederates from the battlefield.

  • I HEAR again the tread of war go thundering through the land,

    And Puritan and Cavalier are clinching neck and hand,

    Round Shiloh church the furious foes have met to thrust and slay,

    Where erst the peaceful sons of Christ were wont to kneel and pray.

    The wrestling of the ages shakes the hills of Tennessee,

    With all their echoing mounts a-throb with war’s wild minstrelsy;

    A galaxy of stars new-born round the shield of Mars,

    And set against the Stars and Stripes the flashing Stars and Bars.

    ’Twas Albert Sidney Johnston led the columns of the Gray,

    Like Hector on the plains of Troy his presence fired the fray;

    And dashing horse and gleaming sword spake out his royal will

    As on the slopes of Shiloh field the blasts of war blew shrill.

    “Down with the base invaders,” the Gray shout forth the cry,

    “Death to presumptous rebels,” the Blue ring out reply;

    All day the conflict rages and yet again all day,

    Though Grant is on the Union side he cannot stem nor stay.

    They are a royal race of men, these brothers face to face,

    Their fury speaking through their guns, their frenzy in their pace;

    The sweeping onset of the Gray bears down the sturdy Blue,

    Though Sherman and his legions are heroes through and through.

    Though Prentiss and his gallant men are forcing scaur and crag,

    They fall like sheaves before the scythes of Hardee and of Bragg;

    Ah, who shall tell the victor’s tale when all the strife is past,

    When man and man in one great mould the men who strive are cast.

    As when the Trojan hero came from that fair city’s gates,

    With tossing mane and flaming crest to scorn the scowling fates,

    His legions gather round him and madly charge and cheer,

    And fill the besieging armies with wild disheveled fear;

    Then bares his breast unto the dart the daring spearsman sends,

    And dying hears his cheering foes, the wailing of his friends,

    So Albert Sidney Johnston, the chief of belt and scar,

    Lay down to die at Shiloh and turned the scales of war.

    Now five and twenty years are gone, and lo, to-day they come,

    The Blue and Gray in proud array with throbbing fife and drum;

    But not as rivals, not as foes, as brothers reconciled,

    To twine love’s fragrant roses where the thorns of hate grew wild.

    They tell the hero of three wars, the lion-hearted man,

    Who wore his valor like a star—uncrowned American;

    Above his heart serene and still the folded Stars and Bars,

    Above his head like mother-wings, the sheltering Stripes and Stars.

    Aye, five and twenty years, and lo, the manhood of the South

    Has held its valor staunch and strong as at the cannon’s mouth,

    With patient heart and silent tongue has kept its true parole,

    And in the conquests born of peace has crowned its battle roll.

    But ever while we sing of war, of courage tried and true,

    Of heroes wed to gallant deeds, or be it Gray or Blue,

    Then Albert Sidney Johnston’s name shall flash before our sight

    Like some resplendent meteor across the sombre night.

    America, thy sons are knit with sinews wrought of steel,

    They will not bend, they will not break, beneath the tyrant’s heel;

    But in the white-hot flame of love, to silken cobwebs spun,

    They whirl the engines of the world, all keeping time as one.

    To-day they stand abreast and strong, who stood as foes of yore,

    The world leaps up to bless their feet, heaven scatters blessings o’er;

    Their robes are wrought of gleaming gold, their wings are freedom’s own,

    The trampling of their conquering hosts shakes pinnacle and throne.

    O, veterans of the Blue and Gray, who fought on Shiloh field,

    The purposes of God are true, His judgment stands revealed;

    The pangs of war have rent the veil, and lo, His high decree:

    One heart, one hope, one destiny, one flag from sea to sea.