Christmas night of 1862William Gordon McCabe entered the Confederate Army in the artillery and rose from private to captain. At the time of writing this poem he was with the Army of Northern Virginia encamped about Fredericksburg. The sanguinary repulse of Burnside was only twelve days in the past, but the thoughts of the soldiers were turned toward family and home.
The wintry blast goes wailing by,
The snow is falling overhead;
I hear the lonely sentry's tread,
And distant watch-fires light the sky.
Dim forms go flitting through the gloom;
The soldiers cluster round the blaze
To talk of other Christmas days,
And softly speak of home and home.
My sabre swinging overhead
Gleams in the watch-fire's fitful glow,
While fiercely drives the blinding snow,
And memory leads me to the dead.
My thoughts go wandering to and fro,
Vibrating 'twixt the Now and Then;
I see the low-browed home again,
The old hall wreathed with mistletoe.
And sweetly from the far-off years
Comes borne the laughter faint and low,
The voices of the Long Ago!
My eyes are wet with tender tears.
I feel again the mother-kiss,
I see again the glad surprise
That lightened up the tranquil eyes
And brimmed them o'er with tears of bliss,
As, rushing from the old hall-door,
She fondly clasped her wayward boy—
Her face all radiant with the joy
She felt to see him home once more.