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A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown.

Part of the cluster DRUM-TAPS.


A MARCH in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown; A route through a heavy wood, with muffled steps in  
 the darkness;
Our army foil'd with loss severe, and the sullen remnant  
Till after midnight glimmer upon us, the lights of a  
 dim-lighted building;
We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by  
 the dim-lighted building;
'Tis a large old church at the crossing roads—'tis now  
 an impromptu hospital;
—Entering but for a minute, I see a sight beyond all  
 the pictures and poems ever made;
Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving  
 candles and lamps,
And by one great pitchy torch, stationary, with wild red  
 flame, and clouds of smoke;
By these, crowds, groups of forms, vaguely I see, on the  
 floor, some in the pews laid down;
  [ begin page 282 ]ppp.00270.284.jpg At my feet more distinctly, a soldier, a mere lad, in  
 danger of bleeding to death, (he is shot in the  
I staunch the blood temporarily, (the youngster's face  
 is white as a lily;)
Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o'er the scene,  
 fain to absorb it all;
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in  
 obscurity, some of them dead;
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell  
 of ether, the odor of blood;
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms of soldiers  
 —the yard outside also fill'd;
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers,  
 some in the death-spasm sweating;
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor's shouted orders  
 or calls;
The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the  
 glint of the torches;
These I resume as I chant—I see again the forms, I  
 smell the odor;
Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men,  
  Fall in;
But first I bend to the dying lad—his eyes open—a  
 half-smile gives he me;
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to  
 the darkness,
Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in  
 the ranks,
The unknown road still marching.

Part of the cluster DRUM-TAPS.

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