previous next

83. “only A private killed.”

by H. L. Gordon.
“We've had a fight,” a captain said,
     “Much rebel blood we've spilled;
We've put the saucy foe to flight,
     Our loss — but a private killed!”
“Ah! yes,” said a sergeant on the spot,
     As he drew a long, deep breath,
“Poor fellow, he was badly shot,
     Then bayoneted to death!”

When again was hushed the martial din,
     And back the foe had fled,
They brought the private's body in;
     I went to see the dead.
For I could not think the rebel foe,
     Though under curse and ban,
So vaunting of their chivalry,
     Could kill a wounded man.

A Minie ball had broke his thigh,
     A frightful, crushing wound,
And then with savage bayonets
     They pinned him to the ground.
One stab was through the abdomen,
     Another through the head;
The last was through his pulseless breast,
     Done after he was dead.

His hair was matted with his gore,
     His hands were clenched with might,
As though he still his musket bore
     So firmly in the fight:
He had grasped the foeman's bayonet,
     His bosom to defend.
They raised the coat-cape from his face--
     My God! it was my friend!

Think what a shudder thrilled my heart!
     “Twas but the day before
We laughed together merrily,
     As we talked of days of yore.”
“How happy we shall be,” he said,
     “When the war is o'er, and when,
The rebels all subdued or fled,
     We all go home again.”

Ah! little he thought, that soldier brave,
     So near his journey's goal,
That God had sent a messenger
     To claim his Christian soul.
But he fell like a hero, fighting,
     And hearts with grief are filled,
And honor is his, though our chief shall say:
     “Only a private killed!”

I knew him well, he was my friend;
     He loved our land and laws;
And he fell a blessed martyr
     To our country's holy cause.
And, soldiers, the time will come, perhaps,
     When our blood will thus be spilled,
And then of us our chief will say:
     “Only a private killed!”

But we fight our country's battles,
     And our hopes are not forlorn,
And our death shall be a blessing
     To millions yet unborn.
To our children and their children!
     Then as each grave is filled,
What care we if our chief shall say:
     “Only a private killed!”

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
H. L. Gordon (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: