DUGANNE - TWENTY MONTHS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF

C H A P T E R   X X X V I .

A CELEBRATION.


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Reproduced with the permission of the East Texas Historical Association

 

I ARRIVED at Camp Ford about the middle of February, 1864; at the time a caravan of wagons -- forty-five in number -- filled with negro families, was passing the stockade, while its migrating owners, on horseback and in coaches, led their chattels into exile. I had encountered many other corteges and coffles on the road; for this Lone Star State has become a general refuge for rebels now, as in former days it was a refuge for malefactors of all descriptions. The corral, at this period, was not so densely populated as it afterwards became, and I soon grew familiar with its bounds and inhabitants.

The latter were as varied in character as they were motley in appearance. A hundred officers, who had abdicated all pretensions to rank, as they had worn out all insignio of it; a score of Kansas privates and Louisiana "citizens;" and a couple of venerable mules, the property of two gallant sea-captains; these constituted the population of Camp Ford Borough, as it was called in the local newspaper.

Does not a newspaper follow a Yankee march everywhere? So, of course, Camp Ford possessed its journal; though we boasted neither types nor printing-press; so, notably, we discussed our prison-affairs in editorial columns, and trumpeted the merits of our small wares in flaming advertisements.

Captain May, of the Twenty Third Connecticut regiment, who had been "gobbled" by rebels at his sick quarters in Terrebonne; Captain May, whose musical skill brought to us "Sounds from Home" through the deftly-fingered chords of his violin; Captain May was our publisher, printer, and general advertising medium. For this accomplished captain acted as "admirable Crichton" in the entertainment-line. He could write a sensation-story, and illustrate it with his pencil; and he could print a mezzotinto in writing-fluid or imprint a newspaper with the steel-pen. So, betimes, we presented our Connecticut "confrere" with a fiddle; purchased notably from speculating guards for a hundred Confederate dollar-promises. So, moreover, we furnished paper-stock, to the bulk of a half quire, or less; and, on the score of literary antecedents, I was myself impressed as a contributor to the "Old Flag" columns.

Thus I became, very speedily, one of the leading citizens of our Federal "borough." My "real estate" entitled me to be classed among men of substance, though corn-bread diet lamentably failed to make me personally substantial. But it is sufficient that I became a householder, and, after inaugurating my "log-pen" by Sabbath-services at the door, settled down to the monotone experience of prison-life.

But "public men have public duties," we are told; and one of mine, presently, was to figure in that peculiarly American entertainment -- an "order of exercises." The Twenty-second day of February drew near, and, as dutiful scions of a patriotic stock, we resolved to "celebrate" the birthday of our Pater Patrie. I need not dwell upon the momentous preliminaries to this great event. Are they not written and published in a facsimile edition of the "Old Flag," whereof Captain May hath copyright? Let it suffice that I extract from that enlightened organ.

(From the "OLD FLAG" of March 1st, 1864.)

THE CELEBRATION.

"At about eleven o'clock, A. M., of the 22d of February, the buildings and squares about FIFTH AVENUE and 42d Street, were literally blue with the "Yanks" assembled preparatory to some remarks from LIEUT. COL. T. B. LEAKE and an original POEM, from LIEUT. COL. A. J. H. DUGANNE.

In the remarks made by LT. COL. LEAKE was exhibited and communicated through the entire assembly a flow of pure patriotism that was virtually a powerful appeal to all to imitate the glorious example shown in the life of Gen. GEORGE WASHINGTON; to remain, in the hour of trial and darkness for our Good Cause, firm and true to the principles of our Government and to its administrators-placing faith in the moral power of the Union for final and complete success, till its restoration shall make the nation mightier than it ever was before. It was no elaborate and prepared Oration, yet lacked nothing in interest or delivery from the fact of its being extempore.

"At the conclusion of this address, LT. COL. A. J. H. DUGGANE arose and delivered the following POEM:

WHO bids me sing? What theme my soul dilates?
A captive whispering to its captive mates!
Can Glory's raptures thrill the fettered thralls
Whose flags axe trophies now, on Treason's walls?
Can Valor's story nerve the shackled hands
Whose broken sword-blades rust in rebel sands
Or lifted, murderous, threat with cruel strife
Our Nation's Union and our Freedom's life?
In vain my harp the charms of home would sing;
Quick-gathering tears from answering eyelids spring;
And all the heart's deep fountains, softly stirred,
O'erwhelm our manhood, at that one dear word:
HOME! where the Wife sits, numbering, day by day,
The long, long hours that steal her hopes away;
With low-drawn sigh, and voiceless prayer, to wait
The step that COMES NOT to her lonely gate!
Home! where the children, prattling War's acclaim,
Through mimic trumpets lisp their father's name
But, wondering, pause, to note, with childish fears,
The eyes that watch them dimmed with sudden tears,
And, trembling, ask, of lips that must be dumb,
Why Mother weeps ? -- why Father will not come?

Dear Home! sweet Home! how many a warm heart beats
How many a lip the loved one's name repeats
Where MAINE exults, on stormy Ocean's brim,
And HAMPSHIRE lifts to Heaven her mountain hymn;
Where MASSACHUSETTS sits, like matron free,
And fair RHODE ISLAND slumbers at her knee;
Where dwells CONNECTICUT, midst emerald vales,
And where MANHATTAN spreads her snowy sails,
And rolls her iron chariot-wheels, and shakes
Her golden garners o'er the Northern lakes!

God bless our Homes! from East through boundless West
The hallowed shrines of all the heart loves best;
From blue OHIO to COLORADO'S marge,
And over IOWA'S prairies, green and large,
And where the winding ILLINOIS outflows,
Or INDIANA, with silvery harvest glows,
And fair ARKANSAS skirts the Indian land
And where the Red Men's loyal wigwams stand
There sleep our Homes, where tender hearts, like doves,
Brood o'er the memory of their absent loves!

Awake, my Harp! Thy song to Heaven aspires!
A Nation's memories climb thy sounding wires!
Awake, my Harp! and thrill with loftier away:
A Nation's Father bends from Heaven this day;
From Heaven's high hills, where Freedom's angel waits,
Closest to God, within the eternal gates
Where Freedom's martyrs, wing'd with crimson soars,
Gleam through the azure fields of endless stars!
From Heaven the HERO comes! -- his awful mien
Troubled, yet calm, and sorrowing, but serene.
With trembling glance his kingly shade I mark
Break through the storm and cleave the midnight dark:
O'er ice browed Andes leans his sworded hand
His rushing footfall spurns Pacific's strand;
His helmet gleams o'er Alleghanian snows
His lifted shield o'er hushed Atlantic glows;
His breast I see, beneath celestial wings
And there -- O! there -- my bleeding Country clings;
Clings as a mother to her first-born son
Her Hero-child -- her god-like WASHINGTON!

Land of the NORTH! where loud Niagara's roll
Voices to Heaven a free-born Nation's soul!
Land of the NORTH! where wild Atlantic waves
Baptize for Freedom's faith the souls of slaves!
From all thy plains, on all thy breezes borne,
How swells the exulting song this sacred morn!
Where Manhood's shout and Childhood's lisping sweet
The dear-loved name of WASHINGTON repeat.
By tranquil Hudson's sunlit waves they kneel,
Where Washington first turned the invader's steel;
On TRENTON'S plain and MONMOUTH'S field they pray,
Where Washington retrieved the eventful day;
And roll their hymns through Schuylkill's wintry gorge,
Where once arose HIS prayer -- from VALLEY FORGE!

And thou, imperial WEST! whose sylvan tongue
Hymned unto God while Saturn yet was young;
From voiceful symphonies of waving woods,
And solemn calms of silent solitudes;
And low, soft melodies of breezes bland,
And rolling harmonies of rivers grand:
Thou Nurse of Empires! at whose fostering head
All nations drink, and all have equal part;
Enthroned on harvests -- girt by garners wide
Thy wealth our wonder, and thy power our pride!
Majestic WEST! thy millions kneel, this hour,
To praise the Eternal for their Freedom's dower;
By Mississippi's shores their anthem flows,
And where Missouri laps her mountain snows;
And where the Ohio, nursed by crystal rills,
Leaps to thine arms from Pennsylvanian hills;
There shalt thou kneel, 0! mightiest WEST, and tell
Where Washington survived and Braddock fell
When the young hero jarred, with mailed hand,
The mystic gates that sealed our sunset land!

Land of the SOUTH! whose glorious life distils
Balm from thy vales and odors from thy hills!
Thy brow all sunshine, and thy heart all fire,
Thy breath a vintage, and thy voice a lyre;
Land, where the air with wildering fragrance swoons,
And all the woodlands thrill with golden runes;

Land, where the Morn with nectar'd kisses woos,
And where the soft Night weeps ambrosial dews
0, queenly Southland! crowned and gemmed with flowers;
Thy silken dials, that mark the year's sweet hours;
Lilies, whose silvery moons no tempest mars,
Roses like suns, and violets like the stars!
Thy throne the summer, and thy realm the Soul,
Whose charmed senses own thy soft control;
All-beauteous SOUTH! thy heart must Share and claim
Our Father's kindred and our Hero's fame!
Thy myrtle blooms his radiant brows to twine
His name, his heritage, his birthplace - thine!
We yield thee this, bright Mistress of the Sun!
Thy bosoming flowers first cradled WASHINGTON!

VIRGINIA! from whose breast the milk outran,
That nursed with godlike strength the immortal man;
Whose sacred groves enshrine the hero's clay,
Where wondering pilgrims pause and patriots pray;
Virginia! underneath whose trampling heel
Sceptres lie crushed, and crownless tyrants kneel;
From thee, from thine, he drank his impulse brave;
For thee, for ALL, this broad, free land he gave!
From thy blue hills his soaring sense he caught;
They share his fame -- but all the world his thought!
Thy gates the portals whence his soul outspeeds
But all the earth a temple for his deeds!
Thy hero-chiefs the priesthood of his shrine,
That all mankind might learn his faith divine;
The faith that shatters thrones and sunders chains,
And floods with Freedom's tide the bondman's veins,
And shapes from freemen's souls the Almighty's fanes!

O, proud Virginia! loftiest was thy trust
His grand example, and his peaceful dust.
Thou wert our Mecca, thou our Delphic ground,
Where kneeling seers were awed by voice profound.
Thee clustering round, uptowered the shielding States,
And young Republics kept thy sunset gates!
From Northern mountains and from Southern leas,
From orient headlands and from westering seas,
Each gladsome breeze new freights of blessings won,
For OLD VIRGINIA Nurse of WASHINGTON!

And o'er thy hills it stoops, O, perjured land!
Through Vernon's shades, and by Potomac's strand;
And o'er thy vales it broods -- that form of might,
Parting the Storm, and towering through the Night!
That awful Presence, moving from above;
Grief on its brow, but in its glances - Love!
From Heaven it comes -- through Vernon's gloom descends,
And where my mournful Country kneels, it bends;
And softly murmurs -- sheltering her head
"What ails thee, Mother? Are thy children dead?"
She hears his voice, and wakes from swooning trance,
Her ebbing life-tides swayed beneath his glance.
That mailed breast, that soaring helm she sees,
And the strong hand that lifts her from her knees.
And now she speaks, whilst all my fluttering breath
Waits for her voice, but hears no word she saith;
For muttering winds upswell, and thunders roll,
And the wild tempest frights my listening soul;
I only hear-around Mount Vernon's dells
The roar of cannon and the crash of shells;
I only hear -- upon Virginia's air
The drum's wild rattle and the trumpet's blare;
While charging armies shake the shuddering meads,
And the hills reel with mingling men and steeds,
And the wide land with mortal wound outbleeds!
I only hear the shout, the curse, the groan;
I only hear a low, sad, shivering moan,
Where sinks my Country's heart, where droops her head,
And the great Voice demands, in whisper dread,
"What ails thee, Mother? Are thy children dead?"
Dead? worse than dead! The child is worse than dead
Who scorns the fount where first his fondness fed!
O, worse than dead! whose heart, untouched with ruth,
That mother hates who watched his tenderest youth!
Dead! worse than dead! the impious and unblest
Who tears the mantle from his mother's breast
Who spurns the matron crown that mother wore,
And leaves her sorrowing for the sons she bore!

And whence the gain? What heritage survives
O'er wasted treasures and o'er squandered lives?
Are Hatred's heirlooms, hurled from sire to son,
More dear than Loves, that linked all hearts as one?
Can sundered hearthstones gleam with ruddier blaze
Than the old fireside of our fathers' days?
Can alien halls the old, old HOME replace,
Or alien births our kindred's graves efface?
In vain Rebellion strives! Would Balaam curse?
His trembling lips God's blessings still rehearse!
Would Korah rule? The earth drinks Korah's cries,
And plagues descend where Israel's rebels rise.
Sanballat's seed may drop from Judah's stem,
But Israel dwells where dwells Jerusalem!
Samaria's shrines way rise on rival sod,
But Mount Moriah is still the Mount of God!

O, WASHINGTON! thou drewest our faith from Heaven!
By Heaven, through thee, our freedom's life was given;
Thy goal our Union, and our homes thy gift,
To thee, this day, our Nation's Soul we lift!
Thy God is ours! on Him our hopes we cast;
We trust the Future, as we read the Past;
While Truth is steadfast, and while Time is just,
Thy path we tread, and in thy faith we trust!
Though man be weak, we know that God is strong,
And come what may, the Right shall rule the Wrong!
For ceaseless still, o'er traitors quick or dead,
Our Nation's feet their destined course must tread;
And where the ARK OF FREEDOM heads our march,
God's Pillar leads, and Angel wings o'erarch!

 

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12/17/2000