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

July 4

Before Vicksburg

By George H. Boker (1823–1890)

  • Vicksburg, the capital of Mississippi, and a point of great strategic importance during the Civil War, was besieged May 18, 1863, by General Grant and held out until July 4, of the same year, when the Confederates under General Pemberton surrendered.

  • WHILE Sherman stood beneath the hottest fire,

    That from the lines of Vicksburg gleamed,

    And bomb-shells tumbled in their smoky gyre,

    And grape-shot hissed, and case-shot screamed;

    Back from the front there came,

    Weeping and sorely lame,

    The merest child, the youngest face

    Man ever saw in such a fearful place.

    Stifling his tears, he limped his chief to meet;

    But when he paused, and tottering stood,

    Around the circle of his little feet

    There spread a pool of bright, young blood.

    Shocked at his doleful case,

    Sherman cried, “Halt! front face!

    Who are you? Speak my gallant boy!”

    “A drummer, sir:—Fifty-fifth Illinois.”

    “Are you not hit?” “That’s nothing. Only send

    Some cartridges: our men are out;

    And the foe press us.” “But, my little friend—”

    “Don’t mind me! Did you hear that shout?

    What if our men be driven?

    O, for the love of Heaven,

    Send to my Colonel, General dear!”

    “But you?” “O I shall easily find the rear.”

    “I’ll see to that,” cried Sherman; and a drop,

    Angels might envy, dimmed his eye,

    As the boy, toiling towards the hill’s hard top,

    Turned round, and with his shrill child’s cry

    Shouted, “O don’t forget!

    We’ll win the battle yet!

    But let our soldiers have some more,

    More cartridges,—calibre fifty-four!”