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

June 10


By Augustine Joseph Hickey Duganne (1823–1884)

  • Battle of Big Bethel, June 10, 1861. Through a mistake the Federal troops fired upon each other, resulting in great confusion and defeat by the Confederates. The Federal loss in killed and wounded was about one hundred men. The Confederate loss was said to be one killed and seven wounded.

  • WE mustered at midnight, in darkness we formed,

    And the whisper went round of a fort to be stormed;

    But no drum-beat had called us, no trumpet we heard,

    And no voice of command, but our colonel’s low word—

    “Column! Forward!”

    And out, through the mist, and the murk of the morn,

    From the beaches of Hampton our barges were borne;

    And we heard not a sound, save the sweep of the oar,

    Till the word of our colonel came up from the shore—

    “Column! Forward!”

    With hearts bounding bravely, and eyes all alight,

    As ye dance to soft music, so trod we that night;

    Through the aisles of the greenwood, with vines over arched,

    Tossing dew-drops, like gems, from our feet, as we marched—

    “Column! Forward!”

    As ye dance with the damsels, to viol and flute,

    So we skipped from the shadows, and mocked their pursuit;

    But the soft zephyrs chased us, with scents of the morn,

    As we passed by the hay-fields and green waving corn—

    “Column! Forward!”

    For the leaves were all laden with fragrance of June,

    And the flowers and the foliage with sweets were in tune;

    And the air was so calm, and the forest so dumb,

    That we heard our own heart-beats, like taps of a drum—

    “Column! Forward!”

    Till the lull of the lowlands was stirred by the breeze,

    And the buskins of morn brushed the tops of the trees,

    And the glintings of glory that slid from her track

    By the sheen of our rifles were gayly flung back—

    “Column! Forward!”

    And the woodlands grew purple with sunshiny mist,

    And the blue-crested hill-tops with rose-light were kissed,

    And the earth gave her prayers to the sun in perfumes,

    Till we marched as through gardens, and trampled on blooms—

    “Column! Forward!”

    Ay, trampled on blossoms, and seared the sweet breath

    Of the greenwood with low-brooding vapors of death;

    O’er the flowers and the corn we were borne like a blast,

    And away to the forefront of battle we passed—

    “Column! Forward!”

    For the cannon’s hoarse thunder roared out from the glades,

    And the sun was like lightning on banners and blades,

    When the long line of chanting Zouaves, like a flood,

    From the green of the woodlands rolled, crimson as blood—

    “Column! Forward!”

    While the sound of their song, like the surge of the seas,

    With the “Star-Spangled Banner” swelled over the leas;

    And the sword of Duryea, like a torch, led the way,

    Bearing down on the batteries of Bethel that day—

    “Column! Forward!”

    Through green tasselled cornfields our columns were thrown,

    And like corn by the red scythe of fire we were mown;

    While the cannon’s fierce ploughings new-furrowed the plain,

    That our blood might be planted for Liberty’s grain—

    “Column! Forward!”

    Oh! the fields of fair June have no lack of sweet flowers,

    But their rarest and best breathe no fragrance like ours;

    And the sunshine of June, sprinkling gold on the corn,

    Hath no harvest that ripeneth like Bethel’s red morn—

    “Column! Forward!”

    When our heroes, like bridegrooms, with lips and with breath,

    Drank the first kiss of Danger and clasped her in death;

    And the heart of brave Winthrop grew mute with his lyre,

    When the plumes of his genius lay moulting in fire—

    “Column! Forward!”

    Where he fell shall be sunshine as bright as his name,

    And the grass where he slept shall be green as his fame;

    For the gold of the pen and the steel of the sword

    Write his deeds—in his blood—on the land he adored—

    “Column! Forward!”

    And the soul of our comrade shall sweeten the air,

    And the flowers and the grass-blades his memory upbear;

    While the breath of his genius, like music in leaves,

    With the corn-tassels whispers, and sings in the sheaves—

    “Column! Forward!”