Lee to the rear.
by John R. Thompson.Dawn of a pleasant morning in May
Broke through the Wilderness, cool and gray,
While perched in the tallest tree-tops, the birds
Were carrolling Mendelsshon's “Songs without words,”
Far from the haunts of men remote,
The brook brawled on with a liquid note,
And Nature, all tranquil and lovely, wore
The smile of the spring, as in Eden of yore.
Little by little, as daylight increased,
And deepened the roseate flush in the East;
Little by little did morn reveal
Two long, glittering lines of steel,
 Where two hundred thousand bayonets gleam,
Tipped with the light of the earliest beam,
And the faces are sullen and grim to see,
In the hostile armies of Grant and Lee.
All of a sudden, ere rose the sun,
Pealed on the silence the opening gun--
A little white puff of smoke there came,
And anon the valley was wreathed in flame.
Down on the left of the Rebel lines,
Where a breastwork stands in a copse of pines,
Before the Rebels their ranks can form,
The Yankees have carried the place by storm.
Stars and stripes o'er the salient wave,
Where many a hero has found his grave,
And the gallant Confederates strive in vain
The ground they have drenched with their blood to regain!
Yet louder the thunder of battle roared,
Yet a deadlier fire on their columns poured--
Slaughter infernal rode with despair,
Furies twain, through the smoky air.
Not far off, in the saddle, there sat
A grey-bearded man, with a black slouch hat,
Not much moved by the fire was he,
Calm and resolute, Robert Lee.
Quick and watchful, he kept his eye
On two bold Rebel brigades close by--
Reserves, that were standing (and dying) at ease,
Where the tempest of wrath toppled over the trees.
For still with their loud, deep, bull-dog bay,
The Yankee batteries blazed away,
And with every murderous second that sped,
A dozen brave fellows, alas! fell dead.
The grand old gray-beard rode to the space,
Where Death and his victims stood face to face,
And silently waved his old slouch hat--
A world of meaning there was in that!
“Follow me! Steady! We'll save the day!”
This is what he seemed to say;
And to the light of his glorious eye
The bold brigades thus made reply:
 “We'll go forward, but you must go back!”
And they moved not an inch in the perilous track.
“Go to the rear, and we'll send them to h--! ”
Then the sound of the battle was lost in their yell.
Turning his bridle, Robert Lee
Rode to the rear. Like the waves of the sea,
Bursting the dykes in their overflow,
Madly his veterans dashed on the foe.
And backward in terror that foe was driven,
Their banners rent and their columns riven,
Wherever the tide of battle rolled,
Over the Wilderness, wood and wold.
Sunset out of a crimson sky
Streamed o'er a field of a ruddier dye,
And the brook ran on with a purple stain,
From the blood of ten thousand foemen slain.
Seasons have passed since that day and year;
Again o'er its pebbles the brook runs clear,
And the field in a richer green is drest,
Where the dead of the terrible conflict rest.
Hushed is the roll of the Rebel drum,
The sabres are sheathed and the cannon are dumb;
And Fate, with pitiless hand has furled
The flag that once challenged the gaze of the world.
But the fame of the Wilderness fight abides,
And down into history grandly rides,
Calm and unmoved as in battle he sat,
The grey-bearded man in the black slouch hat.