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31. the Eagle of Corinth.1

Did you hear of the fight at Corinth,
     How we whipped out Price and Van Dorn?
Ah! that day we earned our rations--
     (Our cause was God's and the Nation's,
Or we'd have come out forlorn!)
     A long and a terrible day!
And, at last, when night grew gray,
     By the hundred, there they lay,
(Heavy sleepers, you'd say)--
     That wouldn't wake on the morn.

Our staff was bare of a flag,
     We didn't carry a rag
In those brave marching days--
     Ah! no — but a finer thing!
With never a cord or string,
     An Eagle, of ruffled wing,
And an eye of awful gaze!

The grape it rattled like hail,
     The Minies were dropping like rain,
The first of a thunder-shower--
     The wads were blowing like chaff,
(There was pounding, like floor and flail,
     All the front of our line!)
So we stood it, hour after hour--
     But our eagle, he felt fine!
'Twould have made you cheer and laugh,
     To see, through that iron gale,
How the Old Fellow'd swoop and sail
     Above the racket and roar--
To right and to left he'd soar,
     But ever came back, without fail,
And perched on his standard-staff.

All that day, I tell you true,
     They had pressed us, steady and fair,
Till we fought in street and square--
     (The affair, you might think, looked blue,)
But we knew we had them there!
     Our works and batteries were few,
Every gun, they'd have sworn, they knew--
     But, you see, there was one or two
We had fixed for them, unaware.

They reckon they've got us now!
     For the next half-hour 'twill be warm--
Ay, ay, look yonder!--I vow,
     If they weren't secesh, how I'd love them I
Only see how grandly they form,
     (Our eagle whirling above them,)
To take Robinette by storm!
     They're timing!--it can't be long--
Now for the nub of the fight!
     (You may guess that we held our breath,)
By the Lord, 'tis a splendid sight!
     A column two thousand strong
Marching square to the death!

On they came, in solid column,
     For once, no whooping nor yell--
(Ah! I dare say they felt solemn.)
     Front and flank — grape and shell
Our batteries pounded away!
     And the Minies hummed to remind 'em
They had started on no child's play!
     Steady they kept a-going,
But a grim wake settled behind 'em--
     From the edge of the abattis,
(Where our dead and dying lay
     Under fence and fallen tree,)
Up to Robinette, all the way
     The dreadful swath kept growing!
'Twas butternut, flecked with gray.

Now for it, at Robinette!
     Muzzle to muzzle we met--
(Not a breath of bluster or brag,
     Not a lisp for quarter or favor)--
Three times, there, by Robinette,
     With a rush, their feet they set
On the logs of our parapet,
     And waved their bit of a flag--
What could be finer or braver!

But our cross-fire stunned them in flank,
     They melted, rank after rank--
(O'er them, with terrible poise,
     Our Bird did circle and wheel!)
Their whole line began to waver--
     Now for the bayonet, boys!
On them with the cold steel!

Ah! well-you know how it ended--
     We did for them, there and then,
But their pluck, throughout, was splendid.
     (As I said before, I could love them!)
They stood, to the last, like men--
     Only a handful of then
Found the way back again. [29]
     Red as blood, o'er the town,
The angry sun went down,
     Firing flag-staff and vane--
And our eagle — as for him,
     There, all ruffled and grim,
He sat, o'erlooking the slain!

Next morning, you'd have wondered
     How we had to drive the spade!
There, in great trenches and holes,
     (Ah! God rest their poor souls!)
We piled some fifteen hundred,
     Where that last charge was made!

Sad enough, I must say.
     No mother to mourn and search,
No priest to bless or to pray--
     We buried them where they lay,
Without a rite of the church--
     But our eagle, all that day,
Stood solemn and still on his perch.

'Tis many a stormy day
     Since, out of the cold, bleak North,
Our Great War Eagle sailed forth
     To swoop o'er battle and fray.
Many and many a day
     O'er charge and storm hath he wheeled--
Foray and foughten-field--
     Tramp, and volley, and rattle!--
Over crimson trench and turf,
     Over climbing clouds of surf,
Through tempest and cannon-rack,
     Have his terrible pinions whirled--
(A thousand fields of battle!
     A million leagues of foam!)
But our Bird shall yet come back,
     He shall soar to his eyrie-home--
And his thunderous wings be furled,
     In the gaze of a gladdened world,
On the Nation's loftiest Dome.

H. H. B. December, 1862.

1 “the finest thing I ever saw was a live American Eagle, carried by the Eighth Iowa, in the place of a flag. It would fly off over the enemy during the hottest of the fight, then would return and seat himself upon his pole, clap his pinions, shake his head and start again. Many and hearty were the cheers that arose from our lines as the old fellow would sail around, first to the right, then to the left, and always return to his post, regardless of the storm of leaden hail that was around him. Something seemed to tell us that that battle was to result in our favor, and when the order was given to charge, every man went at them with fixed bayonets, and the enemy scattered in all directions, leaving us in possession of the battle-field.” --letter from Chester D. Howe, Co. E, Twelfth Illinois volunteers.

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Robinette (2)
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