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Arnold At Stillwater - Poem by Thomas Dunn English
Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Stillwater, 1777
Ah, you mistake me, comrades, to think that my heart is steel!
Cased in a cold endurance, nor pleasure nor pain to feel;
Cold as I am in my manner, yet over these cheeks so seared
Teardrops have fallen in torrents, thrice since my chin grew beard.
Thrice since my chin was bearded I suffered the tears to fall;
Benedict Arnold, the traitor, he was the cause of them all!
Once, when he carried Stillwater, proud of his valor, I cried;
Then, with my rage at his treason- with pity when André died.
Benedict Arnold, the traitor, sank deep in the pit of shame,
Bartered for vengeance his honor, blackened for profit his fame;
Yet never a gallanter soldier, whatever his after crime,
Fought on the red field of honor than he in his early time.
Ah, I remember Stillwater, as it were yesterday!
Then first I shouldered a firelock, and set out the foemen to slay.
The country was up all around us, racing and chasing Burgoyne,
And I had gone out with my neighbors, Gates and his forces to join.
Marched we with Poor and with Learned, ready and eager to fight;
There stood the foemen before us, cannon and men on the height;
Onward we trod with no shouting, forbidden to fire till the word;
As silent their long line of scarlet- not one of them whispered or stirred.
Suddenly, then, from among them smoke rose and spread on the breeze;
Grapeshot flew over us sharply, cutting the limbs from the trees;
But onward we pressed till the order of Cilley fell full on the ear;
Then we leveled our pieces and fired them, and rushed up the slope with a cheer.
Fiercely we charged on their center, and beat back the stout grenadiers,
And wounded the brave Major Ackland, and grappled the swart cannoneers;
Five times we captured their cannons, and five times they took them again;
But the sixth time we had them we kept them, and with them a share of their men.
Our colonel who led us dismounted, high on a cannon he sprang;
Over the noise of our shouting clearly his joyous words rang;
'These are our own brazen beauties! Here to America's cause
I dedicate each, and to freedom!- foes to King George and his laws!'
Worn as we were with the struggle, wounded and bleeding and sore,
Some stood all pale and exhausted; some lay there stiff in their gore;
And round through the mass went a murmur, that grew to a whispering clear,
And then to reproaches outspoken- 'If General Arnold were here!'
For Gates, in his folly and envy, had given the chief no command,
And far in the rear some had seen him horseless and moodily stand,
Knitting his forehead in anger, gnawing his red lip in pain,
Fretting himself like a bloodhound held back from his prey by a chain.
Hark, at our right there is cheering! there is the ruffle of drums!
Here is the well-known brown charger! Spurring it madly he comes!
Learned's brigade have espied him, rending the air with a cheer;
Woe to the terrified foeman, now that our leader is here!
Piercing the tumult behind him, Armstrong is out on his track;
Gates has dispatched his lieutenant to summon the fugitive back.
Armstrong might summon the tempest, order the whirlwind to stay,
Issue commands to the earthquake- would they the mandate obey?
Wounds, they were healed in a moment! weariness instantly gone!
Forward he pointed his saber- led us, not ordered us on.
Down on the Hessians we thundered, he, like a madman ahead;
Vainly they strove to withstand us; raging, they shivered and fled.
On to their earthworks we drove them, shaking with ire and dismay;
There they made stand with a purpose to beat back the tide of the day.
Onward we followed, then faltered; deadly their balls whistled free.
Where was our death-daring leader? Arnold, our hope, where was he?
He? He was everywhere riding! hither and thither his form,
On the brown charger careering, showed us the path of the storm;
Over the roar of the cannon, over the musketry's crash,
Sounded his voice, while his saber lit up the way with its flash.
Throwing quick glances around him, reining a moment his steed-
'Brooks, that redoubt!' was his order; 'let the rest follow my lead!
Mark where the smoke-cloud is parting! see where the gun-barrels glance!
Livingston, forward! On, Wesson, charge them! Let Morgan advance!'
'Forward!' he shouted, and, spurring on through the sally-port then,
Fell sword in hand on the Hessians, closely behind him our men.
Back shrank the foemen in terror; off went their forces pellmell,
Firing one Parthian volley; struck by it, Arnold, he fell.
Ours was the day. Up we raised him; spurted the blood from his knee-
'Take my cravat, boys, and bind it; I am not dead yet,' said he.
'What! did you follow me, Armstrong? Pray, do you think it quite right,
Leaving your duties out yonder, to risk your dear self in the fight?'
'General Gates sent his orders'- faltering the aid-de-camp spoke-
'You're to return, lest some rashness- ' Fiercely the speech Arnold broke:
'Rashness! Why, yes, tell the general the rashness he dreaded is done!
Tell him his kinsfolk are beaten! tell him the battle is won!'
Oh, that a soldier so glorious, ever victorious in fight,
Passed from a daylight of honor into the terrible night!-
Fell as the mighty archangel, ere the earth glowed in space, fell-
Fell from the patriot's heaven down to the loyalist's hell!
Comments about Arnold At Stillwater by Thomas Dunn English
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