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And the elements were waging
Ruthless war — amid that gale.
But the sentinels kept pacing--
Pacing — up and down their track;
While the storm-king still kept tracing
Snowy ridges — front and back.
Ah! that air was deathly frigid,
And the sleet came tempest-tost!
But the orders out were rigid--
“Not a man must quit his post.”
For, in front, (we'd had the warning,)
Massed, in force, the rebels lay,
Yet we looked for--prayed for morning,
Though 't should prove our final day!
Hours passed. One watcher, weary--
Faltered, halted, breathed a moan;
Then, amidst the darkness dreary,
Failed — and sank to earth, alone.
When the gray light broke, at dawning,
Calm, beneath a friendly tree--
Blanched, and still, lay Harry Corning!
Sleeping on his post--was he?
Surely, no! A soldier braver
Never met or charged the foe.
Such true hearts are few! And never
Could he fail in duty so.
“Forward!” came the word. We lifted
Quickly up his stiffened form,
Round it wreaths of snow had drifted,
But his heart no more was warm.
He had frozen, dead — on picket.
Dreadful fate was this, alack!
And we laid him 'neath the thicket,
Where he died--en bivouac.
In camp, near the Rapidan, Va., first division, Second corps, January, 1864.
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