[no day] 1865 September, place unknown: “Where is the flag that once floated so proudly . . .”

[Postwar poem by an anonymous ex-Confederate soldier.]

The Lament

“Where is the flag that once floated so proudly,
Where the bright arms that once sung out so loudly?
Where the brave hearts that so long held at bay
All the hosts of the North? Where the jackets of gray?

Down is the flag that once floated high,
Low lie the hearts that would conquer or die;
Sheathed are the swords that oft-flashed in the van,
Lost is the cause of Truth, Freedom and Man.

Hope has departed, life has lost all its charms;
Our armies disbanded; Oh! comrades in arms,
Taunted and scorned in our jackets of gray,
We may envy the brave souls who fell in the fray.

Lonely and weary the soldier returns,
Tells he’s paroled, and his manly cheek burns.
Can life without liberty happiness yield?
Oh! would I had died on the red battle-field.

Hardships and toil for four long years endured,
Honor and triumphs by true hearts procured,
Now to be lost by cowards and knaves
Deserting their standard in haste to be slaves.
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Hush, hush, my poor heart! be at ease, be at rest!
One comfort is mine, that the noblest and best:
I stood by our banner, I heard the last gun,
And can now say with pride, I my duty have done.”
September 1865

[Editor: From the autograph album of University of Virginia student James A. Harden (b. 1841) of Richmond, Virginia. He attended during 1860 and studied Latin, chemistry and moral philosophy. Possibly a man of the same name enrolled at Virginia Military Institute in 1861.  A Greenville, Virginia, native of the same name was appointed adjutant of the 23rd Battalion Virginia Infantry in May 1862 and served until his capture at the Battle of Winchester during September 1864 and became a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware until his June 1865 release. This Harden resided postwar in Augusta County, Virginia, and was employed by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad; he lived in Dillwyn during 1901 and was still alive in 1905 at age sixty-four. Autograph albums (as precursors of college yearbooks) were a popular means of expressing friendship among nineteenth-century students, including those at the University. Harden’s unpaginated album, printed and sold by J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, contains eight entries by his classmates, two unsigned postwar poems, and July 14-16 diary entries, year unknown.]


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