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

April 19


By Richard Realf (1832–1878)

  • Written in memory of Private Luther C. Ladd, killed by a mob, which attacked his regiment, the Sixth Massachusetts, while passing through Baltimore on the way to Washington, April 19, 1861. His was the first life lost in the war.

  • STRAIGHT to his heart the bullet crushed;

    Down from his breast the red blood gushed,

    And o’er his face a glory rushed.

    A sudden spasm shook his frame,

    And in his ears there went and came

    A sound as of devouring flame,

    Which in a moment ceased, and then

    The great light clasped his brows again,

    So that they shone like Stephen’s when

    Saul stood apart a little space

    And shook with shuddering awe to trace

    God’s splendors settling o’er his face.

    Thus, like a king, erect in pride,

    Raising clean hands toward heaven, he cried,

    “All hail the Star and Stripes!” and died—

    Died grandly. But before he fell,

    (O blessedness ineffable!)

    Vision apocalyptical

    Was granted to him, and his eyes

    All radiant with glad surprise

    Looked forward through the centuries,

    And saw the seeds which sages cast

    In the world’s soil in cycles past

    Spring up and blossom at the last.

    Saw how the souls of men had grown,

    And where the scythes of Truth had mown

    Clear space for Liberty’s white throne.

    Saw how, by sorrow tried and proved,

    The blackening stains had been removed

    Forever from the land he loved.

    Saw Treason crushed and Freedom crowned,

    And clamorous Faction, gagged and bound,

    Gasping its life out on the ground.

    Saw how, across his country’s slopes,

    Walked swarming troops of cheerful hopes,

    Which evermore to broader scopes

    Increased, with power that comprehends

    The world’s weal in its own, and bends

    Self-needs to large, unselfish ends.

    Saw how, throughout the vast extents

    Of Earth’s most populous continents,

    She dropped such rare heart affluence

    That from beyond the utmost seas,

    The wondering peoples thronged to seize

    Her proffered pure benignities.

    Saw how, of all her trebled host

    Of widening empires, none might boast

    Whose love were best or strength were most,

    Because they grew so equal there

    Beneath the flag which, debonaire,

    Waved joyous in the cleansed air.

    With far-off vision gazing clear

    Beyond this gloomy atmosphere

    Which shuts us in with doubt and fear,

    He—marking how here high increase

    Ran greatening in perpetual lease

    Through balmy years of odorous peace—

    Greeted, in one transcendent cry

    Of intense passionate ecstasy,

    The sight which thrilled him utterly.

    Saluting with most proud disdain

    Of murder and of mortal pain,

    The vision which shall be again!

    So, lifted with prophetic pride,

    Raised conquering hands toward heaven and cried,

    “All hail the Star and Stripes!” and died.