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Poem by Ellis Parker Butler

The Charge of the Second Iowa Cavalry

Comrades, many a year and day
    Have fled since that glorious 9th of May
    When we made the charge at Farmington.
    But until our days on earth are done
    Our blood will burn and our hearts beat fast
    As we tell of the glorious moments we passed,
    When we rode on the guns with a mighty shout
    And saved Paines army from utter rout;
    And our children in years to come will tell
    How the 2nd rose through the shot and shell
    Rode with a cheer on that 9th of May
    And held the whole rebel army at bay.

    Behind lay the swamp, a dank morass.
    A marsh - no horse nor man could pass
    Save by one road, one narrow way.
    But beyond that road our safety lay,
    In front rose the hills which the rebels held
    With his howling cannon that raked and shelled
    Our troops.
    We lay in the centre.
    Our general saw he must cross again
    The narrow road, or his men were lost
    The road was narrow. It must be crossed,
    And crossed in haste, and the deadly rain
    of the rebel guns Must be stopped! said Paine.

    Twenty-four cannon thundered and roared!
    Twenty-four cannon into us poured.
    Twenty-four cannon! A devils den
    Backed by full fifteen thousand men.
    Must be held at bay till our troops could pass
    In order over the dank morass.
    Up to where the cavalry stand,
    Waiting in order the word of command,
    Gallops Paine. And his mighty shout
    Rings the daring order out -
    Take and hold that battery!
    Take it! Whatever the hazards be!
    Draw sabres! They flash in the startled air.
    Forward! Gallop! March! Away
    We ride. We must show our steel today!

    Gallop! Charge! On the rebels ears
    Ring the thundering Yankee cheers!
    And on, like a wave of maddened sea,
    On - Dash the Iowa cavalry!
    Into the torrents of shot and shell
    That shrieks and screams like the fiends of hell!
    Into the torrent of shot that kills!
    Into the torrent of shell that stills
    The cheer on many a lip, we ride
    Like the onward rush of a whirling tide
    Up to the cannons mouth,
    Our cheers
    Curdle the blood of the cannoneers
    To right and left from his silenced guns
    In wild retreat the rebel runs.
    And the charge of the Iowa cavalry
    Rushes on!

    Can you stop the sea
    When the storm waves break on the sandy shore
    Driving the driftwood awrack? No more
    Can the rebel resist the terrible charge
    As we ride right up to their armys marge -
    They waver - the fifteen thousand men,
    Waver and rally, and waver, and then
    Our work is done.
    Paines men had crossed
    The swamp while our little band was lost
    In the smoke and dust of the eager ride,
    And are safe at last on the other side.
    Then we ride back! We had saved the day
    By holding the whole rebel army at bay,
    While Paine made a hasty and safe retreat
    Over the swamp.

    We had conquered defeat!

    Comrades, many a year and day
    Have fled since that glorious 9th of May
    When we made the charge at Farmington.
    And our time on earth is almost run,
    But when we are gone our children will tell
    How we rode through rebel shots and shell.
    How we rode on the guns with a mighty shout,
    And saved Paines army from utter route.
    And carved in the temple of glory will be
    The roll of the 2nd Iowa Cavalry.
    The brave old 2nd, that never knew
    A deed too hard or rash to do.
    The dear old 2nd, that would have spurred
    Into Hell itself, if Hatch said the word.

Ellis Parker Butler

Ellis Parker Butler's other poems:
  1. New England Magazine
  2. The Ballade of the Automobile
  3. The Rich Boys Christmas
  4. Why I Went to the Foot
  5. Jabed Meeker, Humorist

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