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

March 2

Ulric Dahlgren

By Kate Brownlee Sherwood (1841–1914)

  • A son of Admiral Dahlgren, U.S.N., distinguished by his dashing exploits with the Army of the Potomac. He lost a leg at Gettysburg, and, while still on crutches, led an expedition to free the Union prisoners in Libby Prison at Richmond and fell in a midnight ambush on March 2, 1864, at the age of twenty-two.

  • A FLASH of light across the night,

    An eager face, an eye afire!

    O lad so true, you yet may rue

    The courage of your deep desire!

    “Nay, tempt me not; the way is plain—

    ’Tis but the coward checks his rein;

    For there they lie,

    And there they cry,

    For whose dear sake ’t were joy to die!”

    He bends unto his saddlebow,

    The steeds they follow two and two;

    Their flanks are wet with foam and sweat,

    Their rider’s locks are damp with dew.

    “O comrades, haste! the way is long,

    The dirge it drowns the battle-song;

    The hunger preys,

    The famine slays,

    An awful horror veils our ways!”

    Beneath the pall of prison wall

    The rush of hoofs they seem to hear;

    From loathsome guise they lift their eyes,

    And beat their bars and bend their ear.

    “Ah, God be thanked! our friends are nigh;

    He wills it not that thus we die;

    O fiends accurst

    Of Want and Thirst,

    Our comrades gather,—do your worst!”

    A sharp affright runs through the night,

    An ambush stirred, a column reined;

    The hurrying steed has checked his speed,

    His smoking flanks are crimson stained.

    O noble son of noble sire,

    Thine ears are deaf to our desire!

    O knightly grace

    Of valiant race,

    The grave is honor’s trysting-place!

    O life so pure! O faith so sure!

    O heart so brave, and true, and strong!

    With tips of flame is writ your name,

    In annaled deed and storied song!

    It flares across the solemn night,

    It glitters in the radiant light;

    A jewel set,

    Unnumbered yet,

    In our Republic’s coronet!