The following beautiful and touching lines were written by Lieut. John McKee, of company K. 74th Ohio regiment, who was accidentally drowned at Cincinnati, on his way home:
AMONG the pines that overlook
Stone River’s rocky bed,
Ohio knows full many a son
There numbered with the dead.
‘Tis hard to die ‘mid scenes of strife,
No friend or kindred near,
To wipe the death damp from the brow,
Or shed affection’s tear.
To soothe the sufferer, in his pain,
With words of holy cheer,
Or bend the knee, in earnest prayer,
For the dying volunteer.
That day, when all along our lines
Rained showers of shot and shell,
Thus many a brave young soldier died–
Thus many a hero fell.
When night closed o’er this bloody scene,
Returning o’er the ground,
I heard the piteous moans of one
Laid low by mortal wound.
‘Twas by the ford we crossed that day–
The ground so dearly bought–
Where Miller led his stalwart men,
And gallant Moody fought.
The wounded soldier’s cheek was wan,
And beamless was his eye;
I knew before another morn
The wounded man must die.
I built a fire of cedar rails,–
The air was cold and damp,
And filled his canteen from the spring,
Below the river’s bank.
And then I sat me down to ask
If he would wish to sent
A last request or parting word
To mother, sister, friend.
“I have some word,” the boy replied,
“My friends would love to hear;
T’would fill my sister’s soul with joy,
My mother’s heart would cheer.
Tell them I died a soldier’s death,
Upon the battle-field,
But lived to know the day was ours,
And see the rebels yield;–
“That ere I died their colors fell,
Their columns broke, and then
I heard the wild, victorious shouts
Of Negley’s valiant men.
‘But most of all I’d have them know
That with my latest breath
I spoke of Him I loved in life;
‘Twas joy and peace in death.
‘Tell sister I have read with care–
For holy ties endeared–
The Bible mother gave to me
Before I volunteered.
“I’m very tired with talking now;
Please raise my head some higher,
And fold my blanket closely down,
And build a larger fire.
“The air is very cold to-night.”
I raised his head with care;
He closed his eyes as if to sleep,
But clasped his hands in prayer.
In silent converse with his God
The wounded hero lay;
It seemed to him communion sweet,
No agony to pray.
He smiled as does the gentle child
When angels whisper near;
No anguish worked upon his brow,
Nor blanched his cheek with fear.
I saw that death was coming fast;
His mind was all in prayer;
I asked him for his regiment,
And where his comrades were.
“My Captain’s dead,” the boy replied,
In accents low and mild;
“I’ve heard my mother speak of him
When I was but a child.”
I know his mind was wandering,
That he was thinking then
Of him who gave his life to save
His faithful, valiant men.
And thus he died that stormy night,
No friend or kindred near
To wipe the death damp from his brow,
Or shed affection’s tear.
Thus I have known the love of God
Joy, peace, and comfort yield
To one who fell with mortal wound
On the bloody battle-field.
And should you wander o’er the ground
Where fell so many brave,
Among the cedars on the hill
There lied his lonely grave.
The flowers will soon light up with smiles
Stone River’s rocky shore;
His spirit knows a brighter clime,
Where flowers bloom evermore.
And mild-eyed Peace may visit soon
Stone River’s rocky shore,
But Murfrees’ chiming Sabbath bells
Will never wake him more.
Originally posted 2008-11-23 14:20:10.