Soldier Boy

Dear Madam,

           I am a soldier and my speech is rough and plain

          I’m not much used to writing and I hate to give you pain

          But I promised I would do it and he thought it might be so

          If it came from one who loved him perhaps it would ease the blow

          By this time you must have guessed the truth I fain will hide

          And you’ll pardon me for rough soldier words while I tell you how he died


          It was in the mortal battle, it rained the shot and shell

          I was standing close beside him and I saw him when he fell

          So I took him in my arms and laid him on the grass

          It was going against orders but they thought to let it pass

          ‘Twas a minie ball that struck him, it entered at his side

          But we didn’t think it fatal till this morning when he died


          “Last night I wanted so to live, I seemed so young to go.

          This week I passed my birthday. I was just nineteen, you know.

          When I thought of all I planned to do it seemed so hard to die

          But now I pray to God for grace and all my cares gone by.”

          And here his voice grew weaker as he partly raised his head

          And whispered “Goodbye, mother,” and your soldier boy was dead


          I carved another headboard as skillful as I could

          And if you wish to find it I can tell you where it stood

          I send you back his hymn book and the cap he used to wear

          The lock I cut the night before of his bright, curly hair

          I send you back his Bible. The night before he died

          I turned its leaves together and read it by his side

          I’ll keep the belt he was wearing, he told me so to do

          It had a hole upon the side just where the ball went through


          So now I’ve done his bidding, there’s nothing more to tell

          But I shall always mourn with you the boy we loved so well


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