Civil War Poem: “Kentucky Belle,” by Constance Fenimore Woolson
[The Confederate battle flag, called the "Southern Cross" or the cross of St. Andrew]
My father's been typing up Civil War material he's found in old magazines. This is quite a feat as Pop types with a 4 finger hunt and peck style. I'll be posting these in a series so you can follow. --JGR
by Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840-1894)
Found in "Songs and Poems of Yester year" April, 1968
Summer of sixty three, Sir, and Conrad was gone away--
Gone to the country town, Sir, to sell our first load of hay--
We lived in the log house, yonder, poor as ever you've seen.
Rochen, there, was a baby, and I was only seventeen.
Conrad, he took the oxen, but he left Kentucky Belle.
How much we thought of Kentucky, I couldn't begin to tell.
Came from the Bluegrass country, my father gave her to me.
When I rode north with Conrad, Away from the Tennessee.
Conrad lived in Ohio--a German he is, you know--
The house stood in broad corn fields, stretching on, row after row.
The old folks made me welcome, they were kind as kind could be.
But I kept longing, longing for the hills of Tennessee.
O for the sight of water, the shadowed slope of a hill!
Clouds that hung on a summit, a wind that never is still!
But the level land went stretching away to meet the sky--
Never a rise from north to south, to rest the weary eye!
From east to west, no river to shine out under the moon.
Nothing to make a shadow in the yellow afternoon;
Only the breathless sunshine, I looked out, all forlorn.
Only the "rustle, rustle" as I walked among the corn.
When I fell sick with pining, we didn't wait any more,
But moved away from the corn lands, out to this river's shore
The Tuscarawas, it's called, Sir! Off there, Sir, you see.
And now I've learned to like it, next best to Tennessee.
I was at work, one morning, someone came riding like mad--
Over the bridge and up the road, Farmer Rouf's little lad;
Bareback he rode, he had no hat, he hardly stopped to say:
"Morgan's men are coming!, Frau, they're galloping on this way.
"I'm sent to warn the neighbors, he isn't a mile behind.
He sweeps up all the horses, all the horses he can find--
Morgan; Morgan the raider, and Morgan's terrible men!
With bowie knife and pistols, are galloping up the glen!"
The lad rode down the valley, and I stood by the door.
The baby laughed and prattled, playing with spools on the floor.
Kentucky was out in the pasture, Conrad, my man was gone.
Nearer, nearer, Morgan's men were galloping, galloping on!
Suddenly I picked up baby, and ran to the pasture bar;
Kentucky! Kentucky! I called her, she knew me, ever so far!
I led her down to the gully, that turns off to the right;
And tied her to the bushes, he head was just out of sight.
As I ran back to the log house, at once there came a sound--
The ring of hoofs, galloping hoofs, trembling over the ground.
Coming into the turnpike, out of White Woman Glen--
Morgan, Morgan the raider, and Morgan's terrible men.
As near they drew, and nearer, my heart beat fast in alarm;
But still I stood in the doorway, with baby on my arm.
They came. They passed, with spur and whip they sped along--
Morgan, Morgan, the Raider, and his band six hundred strong!
Weary, they looked, and jaded, riding through night and day;
Pushing on east to the river, many long miles away.
To the border strip where Virginia runs up to the west,
And ford the Upper Ohio, before they could stop to rest.
On, like the wind they hurried, and Morgan rode in advance.
Bright were his eyes, like live coals, as he gave me a sideways glance;
And I was just breathing freely, after my choking pain,
When the last one of the troopers suddenly drew his rein.
Frightened I was, to death, Sir, I scarce dared look in his face,
As he asked for a cup of water, and glanced around the place. I gave him a cup and he smiled--'twas only a boy, you see
Faint and worn, with dim blue eyes, and he's sailed the Tennessee!
Only sixteen, he was, Sir, a fond mother's only son.
Off and away with Morgan, before his life had begun!
The damp drops stood on his temples, drawn was his boyish mouth,
And I thought of the mother, waiting -- Down in the tortured South!
Oh pluck he was to the backbone, and clear grit through and through.
Boasted and bragged like a trooper, but big words wouldn't do.
The boy was dying, Sir, dying, as plain as plain could be.
Worn out by his ride with Morgan up from Tennessee!
But when I told the laddie that I, too, was from the South,
Water came into his dim eyes, and quivers 'round his mouth.
"Do you know the Bluegrass country?" he wistfully began to say--
Then he swayed like a willow sapling, and fainted dead away.
I got him into the log house, and finally brought him to.
I fed him, and coaxed him, as I knew his mother would do
And when the lad got better, and the noise in his head was gone,
Morgan's men were miles away, galloping, galloping on!
"Oh, I must go," he muttered, "I must be up and away!
Morgan, Morgan is waiting for me, I must be up and away!"
But I heard the sound of trampling, and kept him back from the door
The ringing sound of horses' hoofs that I had heard before.
And on, on came the soldiers, the Michigan Cavalry.
And fast they rode, and black they looked, galloping rapidly
They had followed hard on Morgan's track, they had followed day and night.
But of Morgan, and Morgan's Raiders, they had never caught a sight.
And rich Ohio sat startled, through all those summer days,
For strange wild men were galloping over her broad highways
Now here, now there, now seen, now gone, now north, now east, now west.
Through river valleys and corn lands, sweeping away her best.
A bold ride, and a long ride! But they were taken at last;
They almost reached the river, by riding hard and fast.
But the boys in blue were upon them, ere ever gained the ford.
And Morgan, Morgan the Raider, laid down his terrible sword!
Well, I kept the boy 'till evening--kept him against his will.
But he was too weak to follow, and he sat there pale and still.
When it was cool and dusky, you'll wonder to hear me tell ---
But I stole down to the gully, and brought up Kentucky Belle.
I kissed the star on her forehead--my pretty, gentle lass--
But I knew that she would be happy, back in the old Bluegrass.
A suit of clothes of Conrad's, with all the money I had;
And Kentucky, pretty Kentucky, I gave to the worn out lad.
I guided him to the southward, as well as I knew how.
The boy rode off with many thanks, and many a backward bow.
And then the glow it faded, my heart began to swell,
As down the glen she went, my lost Kentucky Belle!
When Conrad came in the evening, the moon was shining high,
Baby and I were both crying, I couldn't tell him why.
But a battered suit of clothing, gray, was hanging on the wall,
And a thin old horse with drooping head stood in Kentucky' stall.
Well, he was kind, and never said a hard word to me,
He knew I couldn't help it--it was all for Tennessee!
But after the was over, just think what came to pass--
A letter, Sir, and the two were safe, back in the old Bluegrass!
The lad got across the border, riding Kentucky Belle;
And Kentuck, she was thriving, and fat and hearty and well
He cared for her and kept her, nor touched her with whip or spur.
Ah--We have had many horses, but never a horse like her!
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