River Ran Red - Poem by Kim Barney
The Union troops were on the left,
the Rebels on the right.
Both sides prepared their cannonballs
and muskets for the fight.
A little skirmish was in store,
at least that's what they thought;
but there would never any more
be such a battle fought!
Now with the dawn the battle's on;
the guns begin to sound,
and before long there is a throng
of bodies on the ground.
Both sides expected victory
would be forthcoming soon
and were most surprised when they realized
it was already noon.
The bodies fell and landed not
upon the grass or ground,
for there was not a single spot
still empty to be found.
Instead the bodies piled there
upon each other deep
as each began to undertake
his last, eternal sleep.
The hillside now was drenched in blood,
could not hold any more,
and so into the stream it flowed,
all of that excess gore.
'Twas twenty thousand fell that day,
and yet two thousand more.
The stream ran red from all the dead
who fell there near the shore.
Major General George McClellan
led those arrayed in blue.
Had he not been so cautious,
the war would have been through.
For General Lee began to flee
and George just let him go,
his troops too tired to pursue
his almost conquered foe.
Who won the fight? Nobody won!
It seems that both sides lost.
Somebody's brother, someone's son- -
Oh, what an awful cost!
The battlefield is peaceful now,
so solemn and so still,
yet one can almost see somehow
those bodies on that hill.
Their voices cry up from the soil,
Yes, I can hear them plain.
Such wasted effort, wasted toil,
Why did we die in vain?
Poet's Notes about The Poem
The official toll was 22,717 dead, wounded, and missing.
Confederate Major General Robert E. Lee was outnumbered two to one, but used his entire army, while McClellan sent in less than three fourths of his, enabling Lee to fight the Federals to a standstill.
At the end of the day McClellan was informed that Lee was trying to slip away into Virginia. McClellan chose not to follow him, claiming that his troops were too tired, but he had over a fourth of his troops that had seen no action at all!
The war should have ended on that very day. Instead it dragged on for years.
I have been to the battlefield a few times. It is a sobering place.
finished writing 20 December 2014
Recife, Pernambuco, Brasil
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