‘Cavalry, charge!’ Not a man of them shrank.
Their sharp, full cheer, from rank to rank,
Rose joyously, with a willing breath—
Rose like a greeting hail to death.
Then forward they sprang, and spurred, and clashed;
Shouted the officers, crimson-sashed;
Rode well the men, each brave as his fellow,
In their faded coats of the blue and yellow;
And above in the air, with an instinct true,
Like a bird of war their pennon flew.
With clank of scabbards and thunder of steeds
And blades that shine like sunlit reeds,
And strong brown faces bravely pale
For fear their proud attempt shall fail,
Three hundred Pennsylvanians close
On twice ten thousand gallant foes.
Line after line the troopers came
To the edge of the wood that was ring'd with flame;
Rode in, and sabred, and shot—and fell;
Nor came one back his wounds to tell.
And full in the midst rose Keenan tall
In the gloom, like a martyr awaiting his fall, While the circle-stroke of his sabre, swung
'Round his head, like a halo there, luminous hung.
Line after line—aye, whole platoons,
Struck dead in their saddles, of brave dragoons
By the maddened horses were onward borne
And into the vortex flung, trampled and torn;
As Keenan fought with his men, side by side.
So they rode, till there were no more to ride.
But over them, lying there shattered and mute,
What deep echo rolls?—'Tis a death-salute
From the cannon in place; for, heroes, you braved
Your fate not in vain; the army was saved!
Over them now—year following year—
Over their graves the pine-cones fall,
And the whippoorwill chants his spectre-call;
But they stir not again: they raise no cheer:
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