In memory of the thousands
and Union soldiers buried in
graves on this battlefield
At Pleasant Hill
On the Battle-field at Pleasant Hill, the night following the engagement, a boy only nineteen years of age and an old man were found dead, lying side by side, each face wearing a smile.
Two faces lying pale and stark
beneath the solemn midnight calm;
two rifles gleaming in the dark,
dropped from the unnerved dying palm;
two faces bleak and stark and white,
in silence fading through the night.
One face a boy's, with auburn hair
its outlines fringing like a veil;
a forehead rounded, soft, and fair,
that until then no pelting hail
in all life's storm had scarred or torn,
that never one sad look had work.
Still on the lips a smile remained,
as if some dream had loitered there-
some dream of home that, travel-stained,
had come to him with holy prayer-
had come and whispered words of cheer,
and fond good-byes from kindred dear.
One face a boy's; - the others own
and seamed with prints of weary years -
sad years that in their march had strewn
way with shadows, losses, tears -
a face with beard of silver white,
wet with the falling dews of night.
No braver souls than theirs that day
had faced the battle's fiery rain -
through all, sweet voices far away
talked with them, soothing all their pain -
the pain of wounds they panted for
and, having won, as trophies wore.
Death came at last - came in the flash
of desperate charge, and here they lie -
lie in a sleep no cannon's crash
shall ever break - no storms that fly
shall ever smite with harsh alarm -
a sleep god - watched against all harm.
The noble Dead! - Not lost are they:
through all the years their worth shall shine;
their deeds shall live, and light our way
to those far heights were God shall twine
all royal souls with garlands white
as were these faces on that night.
Originally published in Harper's Weekly, May 14, 1864