The History of Keokuk County, Iowa



The following beautiful poem, which has won for its author a national reputation, and has been sung in the theaters of Europe, was written in a Southern prison, by Adjutant S. H. M. Byers, at present (1879), U. S. Consul, at Zurich, Switzerland.  In his little book, "What I saw in Dixie," on pages 73—4, he copies from his diary, December 25, 1865, as follows: "This is my second Christmas in prison. *      *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *
Lieutenant Tower, of Ottumwa, Iowa, who had lost a leg in the army, and who was afterward captured, is now to be exchanged and sent home.  He wears a hollow, artificial limb, in place of the one lost; this we packed full of letters, one of which contained 'Sherman's March to the Sea.’  The rebels little suspected our novel way of communication with our friends.  The Lieutenant went safely through, and the letters were all safely delivered":

Our camp fires shone bright on the mountains
That frowned on the river below,
While we stood by our guns in the morning
And eagerly watched for the foe—
When a rider came out from the darkness
That hung over mountain and sea,
And shouted "Boys up and be ready,
For Sherman will march to the sea."

Then cheer upon cheer for bold Sherman
Went up from each valley and glen,
And the bugles re-echoed the music
That came from the lips of the men.
For we knew that the stars in our banner
More bright in their splendor would be,
And that blessings from Northland would greet us
When Sherman marched down to the sea.

Then forward, boys, forward to battle,
We marched on our wearisome way,
And we stormed the wild hills of Resaca,
—God bless those who fell on that day—
Then Kenesaw, dark in its glory,
Frowned down on the flag of the free,
But the East and the West bore our standards,
And Sherman marched on to the sea.

Still onward we pressed, till our banners
Swept out from Atlanta's grim walls,
And the blood of the patriot dampened
The soil where the traitor flag falls;
But we paused not to weep for the fallen,
Who slept by each river and tree,
Yet we twined them a wreath of the laurel,
As Sherman marched down to the sea.

0, proud was our army that morning
That stood where the pine darkly towers,
When Sherman said, "Boys, you are weary.
This day fair Savannah is ours."
Then sang we a song for our chieftain
That echoed o'er river and lea,
And the stars in our banner shone brighter,
When Sherman marched down to the sea.

Transcribed by Steven McBride. Thank you, Steve!


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