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58. Colonel Lewis Benedict.

by Alfred B. Street.
[The following lines on the death of Colonel Lewis Benedict, who fell while leading his brigade at the battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, April 9, 1864, were recited by James E. Murdoch, before the New-York Legislature, on the second of February, 1865.]

We laid him in his last and patriot rest;
Dark Death but couched him on Fame's living breast.
We twine the sorrowing cypress o'er his grave,
And let the star-bright banner loftier wave
At mention of his deeds! In manhood's prime,
Blossoms the pinions waved by smiling Time,
He left life's warbling bowers for duty's path,
Where the fierce war-storm flashed its reddest wrath;
Path proud, though rough; outrang the trumpet's blast:
“To arms, to arms! down to the dust is cast
The flag, the dear old flag, by treason's hand!”
And the deep thundering sound rolled onward through the land.

In the quick throngs of fiery life that rushed
To smite for native land till wrong was crushed
And right stood planted firm upon its rock,
None rose more glad, none bore the battle shock
More brave. At blood-stained Williamsburgh he drew
First his good sword; his eagle daring flew
Into the storm so deep it wrapt him round;
But, scorning still to yield, he strove, till bound
Fast by the grasp of the admiring foe,
Struggling though in the toil, still striking blow on blow.

Pent in close prison-walls long, long black hours,
Yet the strong, skyward-pinioned spirit cowers [49]
To naught; that steel-nerved will the loftier towers,
Treading the painful thorns like pleasant flowers.
Free once again, war's trumpet-clangors ring
The warrior to the birthplace of the Spring.
Where the stern Mississippi sea-like sweeps,
To summer flowers, pine cones of wintry steeps,
Into Death's eyes again he fixed his gaze.
Lo! where Port Hudson's deadly batteries blaze,
Whose that tall form that towers when all lie low,
Brow to the sun and bosom to the foe?
Brow to the sun, his brave sword in his hand,
Pointing “There — up and onward, patriot band!”
Again! red batteries' hurling awful hail
Like the fierce sleet that loads the thundering gale.
Ranks crushed beneath showered shot and shell, like grain
By that same sleet, across the heaped — up plain
Full in the fort's hot, gaping hell, he leads
His stormers; slaughter drives his flashing steeds
Trampling broad lanes amid the serried might;
But on, bathed deep in battle's awful light,
On that tall form with-lightnings all around;
Firm his proud step along the streaming ground,
Quaking with cannon-thunders; up his tread,
Up to the parapet, above his head
The starry flag borne by a hand that falls,
Death-struck; he grasps the flag — the rebel walls
See the waved stars in that strong clutch, till back
The ebbing conflict drags him in its track.

Once more in other scenes he meets the foe.
O'ermatched, our columns stagger to their blow;
Vain on their squares bold Emory's files are hurled;
Backward the dashing cataract is whirled
Splintered to spray. O banner of the skies!
Flag of the rising constellations, dyes
Of dawn not sunset! shalt thou trail in dust?
Shall blind, dead darkness hide our blazing trust?
On, braves! but no — they pause — they reel — they break!
Now like some towering crag no storm can shake,
Like some tall pine that soars when all the wood
Bows to the winds — some rock amid the flood,
Our hero stands! he forms each tottering square.
Through them the blazing thunderbolts may tear,
But vain: the bulwark stands, a living wall,
Between the foeman and that banner's fall.

Then, the dread last — O woful, woful day!
Ah! the dimmed glory of that trophied fray!
Ah! the fell shadow of that triumph's ray!
Hurling the foeman's might back, back, at last
Onward he sweeps — on, on, as sweeps the blast!
On through the keen, red, hissing air — ah! woe!
That ruthless fate should deal such cruel blow!
On, through the keen, red, hurtlihg air — but see
That form — it reels — it sinks! that heart, so free
To dare the battle-tempest's direst might,
Winged with the quick, fierce lightning of the fight,
And soaring through the victory's gladdening light,
Up to untroubled realms, hath passed in instant flight!
Death, where he fell, in roses red inurned1
His form — war's hue and love's — and they were turned
To laurels at the touch, and one green twine
From them the land hath wrought to deck the hero's shrine.

He fell in conflict's fiercest, wildest flame;
And now his loved and laurelled ashes claim
Our heartfelt sorrow! for among the brave,
None braver; and when battle left his eye,
None softer! Let the stricken nation sigh
For such as he who perish by the way,
While up on crimson feet she toils to greet the day.

Ah! the bright hour he came, though weak and low
With prison languors! Cheerily on were borne
The merry clang of the bells. Clang, clang, they rang!
Joy in our hearts in jocund music sprang!
And all shone pleasureful. One long, long toll,
One long, deep, lingering sound that tells the goal
Of some spent life, then moans along the air
As sorrowing hands our hero's ashes bear
To lie in honored state. We saw his form
Sprinkled with blossoms breathing fresh and warm;
That form so still, so peaceful to our gaze,
That soared so grand amid the battle's blaze,
Scorning the shrieking shell, the whizzing ball,
Sleeping so still beneath his warrior-pall!

We bore him to his sylvan home; there flowers
Should o'er him smile; but chief, the oak that towers
Unbent by blasts, and breaks but to the dart
Of tile red bolt, from that heroic heart
Should spring; for, 'mid his kindly graces soared
A firm-knit will — a purpose strong that warred
In deep disdain of Fortune's fitful breath,
And only bowed its rock-clutched strength to Death.
There shall he lie. When our new-kindled sun
Shall dawn, his first rejoicing rays shall run
In gold o'er graves like his — Fame's gold — that Time
Shall brighten — and his monument sublime,
Oh! seek it not in stone, but in piled hearts
That loved him! The carved marble soon departs,
But the heart's token, sent through ages down,
Warm in its living might, mocks Time's most withering frown.

Blessed is he who suffers,2 and we know
A solemn joy, that one whose manhood's glow
Faded so soon, should die to mark how grand
Above all fleeting life, to die for Native Land.

1 Colonel Benedict fell literally on a bed of crimson roses — the the wild Louisiana rose.

2 Benedictus qui patitur. Motto of the Benedict family.

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