Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
By George Hooker Colton (1818–1847)
FORTH at the peal each charger sped,
The hard earth shook beneath their tread,
The dim woods, all around them spread,
  Shone with their armour’s light:
Yet in those stern, still lines assail’d,        5
No eyeball shrunk, no bosom quail’d,
  No foot was turn’d for flight;
But, thundering as their foemen came,
Each rifle flash’d its deadly flame.
A moment, then recoil and rout,        10
With reeling horse and struggling shout,
  Confused the onset fair;
But, rallying each dark steed once more,
Like billows borne the low reefs o’er
  With foamy crest in air,        15
Right on and over them they bore,
With gun and bayonet thrust before,
  And swift swords brandish’d bare.
Then madly was the conflict waged,
Then terribly red Slaughter raged!        20
How still is yet yon dense morass
  The bloody sun below!
Where’er yon chosen horsemen pass,
There stirs no bough nor blade of grass,
  There moves no secret foe!        25
Yet on, quick eye and cautious tread,
His bold ranks Johnson darkling led.
Sudden from tree and thicket green,
From trunk, and mound, and bushy screen,
Sharp lightning flash’d with instant sheen,        30
  A thousand death-bolts sung!
Like ripen’d fruit before the blast,
Rider and horse to earth were cast,
  Its miry roots among;
Then wild, as if that earth were riven,        35
And, pour’d beneath the cope of heaven,
All hell to upper air were given,
  One fearful whoop was rung;
And, bounding each from covert forth,
Burst on their front the demon birth.        40
“Off! off! each horseman to the ground!
  On foot we’ll quell the foe!”
And instant, with impetuous bound,
  They hurl’d them down below.
Then loud the crash of arms arose,        45
As when two forest whirlwinds close;
Then fill’d all heaven their shout and yell,
As if the forests on them fell!
I see, where swells the thickest fight,
With sword and hatchet brandish’d bright,        50
And rifles flashing sulphurous light
  Through green leaves gleaming red—
I see a plume, now near, now far,
Now high, now low, like falling star,
Wide waving o’er the tide of war,        55
  Where’er the onslaught’s led;
I see, beneath, a bare arm swing,
  As tempest whirls the oak,
Bosom and high crest shivering
  The war-club’s deadly stroke;        60
The eager infantry rush in,
Before their ranks, with wilder din,
  The wavering strife is driven—
Above the struggling storm I hear
A lofty voice the war-bands cheer,        65
Still, as they quail with doubt or fear,
  Yet loud and louder given;
And, rallying to the clarion cry,
With club and red axe raging high,
  And sharp knives sheathing low,        70
Fast back again confusedly
  They drive the staggering foe.

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