Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
April 12
By Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908)
          On the 12th of April, 1861, Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, garrisoned by United States troops, was bombarded by the Confederate forces, and, after resisting for thirty-four hours, capitulated. This was the first battle of the war.

CAME the morning of that day
When the God to whom we pray
Gave the soul of Henry Clay
        To the land;
How we loved him, living, dying!        5
But his birthday banners flying
Saw us asking and replying
        Hand to hand.
For we knew that far away,
Round the fort in Charleston Bay,        10
Hung the dark impending fray,
        Soon to fall;
And that Sumter’s brave defender
Had the summons to surrender
Seventy loyal hearts and tender—        15
        (Those were all!)
And we knew the April sun
Lit the length of many a gun—
Hosts of batteries to the one
        Island crag;        20
Guns and mortars grimly frowning,
Johnson, Moultrie, Pinckney, crowning,
And ten thousand men disowning
        The old flag.
Oh, the fury of the fight        25
Even then was at its height!
Yet no breath, from noon till night,
        Reached us here;
We had almost ceased to wonder,
And the day had faded under,        30
When the echo of the thunder
        Filled each ear!
Then our hearts more fiercely beat,
As we crowded on the street,
Hot to gather and repeat        35
        All the tale;
All the doubtful chances turning,
Till our souls with shame were burning,
As if twice our bitter yearning
        Could avail!        40
Who had fired the earliest gun?
Was the fort by traitors won?
Was there succor? What was done
        Who could know?
And once more our thoughts would wander        45
To the gallant lone commander,
On his battered ramparts grander
        Than the foe.
Not too long the brave shall wait;
On their own heads be their fate,        50
Who against the hallowed State
        Dare begin;
Flag defied and compact riven!
In the record of high Heaven
How shall Southern men be shriven        55
        For the sin!

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