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The Old Sergeant.
“Come a little nearer, Doctor,-thank you l-let me take
Draw your chair up,—draw it closer,-just another little
sup! May be you may think I 'm better; but I'm pretty well
used up, —
Doctor, you 've done all you could do, but I 'm just a
“Feel my pulse, sir, if you want to, but it ain't much use to
try “Never say that,” said the Surgeon, as he smothered down
a sigh; “It will never do, old comrade, for a soldier to say die!" “What you say will make no difference, Doctor, when you
come to die.
“Doctor, what has been the matter ?” “You were very
faint, they say ; You must try to get to sleep now.” “Doctor, have I been
“Not that anybody knows of!” Doctor-Doctor, please
to stay! There is something I must tell you, and you won't have
long to stay!
“I have got my marching orders, and I'm ready now to go; Doctor, did you say I fainted ?—but it could n't ha' been
80,For as sure as I 'm a Sergeant, and was wounded at Shi
loh, I've this very night been back there, on the old field of Shi
THE OLD SERGEANT.
" This is all that I remember: The last time the Lighter
came, And the lights had all been lowered, and the noises much
He had not been gone five minutes before something called
my name: ORDERLY SERGEANT-ROBERT BURTON!'—just that way it
called my name.
And I wondered who could call me so distinctly and so
slow, Knew it could n't be the Lighter,-he could not have
spoken so; And I tried to answer, 'Here, sir !' but I could n't make
it go ;
For I could n't move a muscle, and I could n't make it go!
“Then I thought: It 's all a nightmare, all a humbug and a
Just another foolish grape-vine*—and it won't come any
more; But it came, sir, notwithstanding, just the same way as be
fore: 'ORDERLY SERGEANT-ROBERT BURTON!' even plainer than
“That is all that I remember, till a sudden burst of light, And I stood beside the River, where we stood that Sunday
night, Waiting to be ferried over to the dark bluffs opposite, When the river was perdition and all hell was opposite !
“And the same old palpitation came again in all its power, And I heard a Bugle sounding, as from some celestial
And the same mysterious voice said: 'IT IS THE ELEVENTH
“Doctor Austin |--what day is this?” “It is Wednesday
night, you know." “Yes,-to-morrow will be New Year's, and a right good
time below! What time is it, Doctor Austin ?” “Nearly Twelve." Then
do n't you go! Can it be that all this happened-all this—not an hour ago!
“There was where the gun-boats opened on the dark, re
bellious host; And where Webster semicircled his last guns upon the
coast; There were still the two log-houses, just the same, or else
their ghost, And the same old transport came and took me over-or its
“And the old field lay before me all deserted far and wide; There was where they fell on Prentiss,—there McClernand
met the tide; There was where stern Sherman rallied, and where Hurl
but's heroes died, Lower down, where Wallace charged them, and kept
charging till he died.
“There was where Lew Wallace showed them he was of
the canny kin, There was where old Nelson thundered, and where Rous
seau waded in; There McCook sent 'em to breakfast, and we all began to
winThere was where the grape-shot took me, just as we began
THE OLD SERGEANT.
“Now, a shroud of snow and silence over everything was
spread; And but for this old blue mantle and the old hat on my
head, I should not have even doubted, to this moment, I was
dead, For my footsteps were as silent as the snow upon the dead !
“Death and silence l-Death and silencel all around me as
I sped! And behold, a mighty Tower, as if builded to the dead, To the Heaven of the heavens, lifted up its mighty head, Till the Stars and Stripes of Heaven all seemed waving
from its head!
"Round and mighty-based it towered-up into the infiniteAnd I knew no mortal mason could have built a shaft so
bright; For it shone like solid sunshine; and a winding stair of
light, Wound around it and around it till it wound clear out of
“And, behold, as I approached it with a rapt and dazzled
stare, Thinking that I saw old comrades just ascending the great
Stair,Suddenly the solemn challenge broke of—'Halt, and who
'I'm a friend,' I said, “if you are.'—' Then advance, sir, to
“I advanced !—That sentry, Doctor, was Elijah Ballan
tynelFirst of all to fall on Monday, after we had formed the *Welcome, my old Sergeant, welcome! Welcome by that
countersign!' And he pointed to the scar there, under this old cloak of
"As he grasped my hand, I shuddered, thinking only of the
grave; But he smiled and pointed upward with a bright and
bloodless glaive: "That 's the way, sir, to Head-quarters.'—'What Head
quarters? '--' Of the Brave.' But the great Tower?'—' That,' he answered, 'Is the way,
sir, of the Brave!'
“Then a sudden shame came o'er me at his uniform of light; At my own so old and tattered, and at his so new and
bright; 'Ah!' said he, 'you have forgotten the New Uniform to
night, Hurry back, for you must be here at just twelve o'clock
“And the next thing I remember, you were sitting there,
and IDoctor-did you hear a footstep? Hark!—God bless you
all! Good-by! Doctor, please to give my musket and my knapsack, when
To my Son-my Son that 's coming, -he won't get here
till I die!
“ Tell him his old father blessed him as he never did before, And to carry that old musket”-Hark! a knock is at the
door! Till the Union"-Seel it opens !—"Father! Father! speak
once more!" “ Bless you !"-gasped the old gray Sergeant, and he lay and said no more.