Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Of Poems and Roundtables

Poetry isn't a usual feature on this blog, but I recently unearthed this poem by Joseph Mills Hanson and thought it was worth sharing. It was in the Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States, Vol. 49, July-August 1911, page 142. It was originally published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, date unknown.

The Cavalry Veteran

This sabre-cut on my forehead scored?
I picked it up at Beverly Ford
The day we turned “Jeb” Stuart’s flank
And hurled him from the river bank.
It was parry and thrust with a hearty will
As we fought for the guns on Fleetwood Hill,
While over the fields and through the pines
Backward and forward surged the lines;
Twelve thousand men in a frenzied fray;
Charge and rally and mad melee ---
Oh, the crash and roar as the squadrons met,
The cheers and yells --- I can hear them yet!
But we’d forced the fords, so our work was done,
And we galloped away ere set of sun.

This welt of a bullet across my arm?
It’s a scratch I caught at McPherson’s farm
That morning our outposts chanced to strike
Hill’s solid corps on the Cashtown pike.
Hour by hour or thin ranks stood
Stubbornly holding each fence and wood,
Till, down the road where the wheat-fields grew
And the spires of Gettysburg pierced the blue,
WE saw a column of dust arise,
A welcome sight to our anxious eyes,
And into the hell of the battle’s roar
Reynolds marched with the old First Corps;
But the field where the rebel flood was stayed
Was held by the stand that Buford made.

This limp I got as my horse went down
When Fitz Lee ran us through Buckland town.
Out of the woods with a spurt of flame,
Driving backward our van, he came.
Custer struggled to turn the thrust,
But they whirled him off like a fleck of dust;
Davies, shattered in front and flanks,
Took to the fields with flying ranks,
And off we scampered, like boys at play,
Over the hills and far away.
Crack! A shot through my good steed’s knee;
Down he tumbled on top of me,
And I crawled to a thicket, right glad to lie
Till the jubilant rebels had thundered by.

This scar on my neck was a bayonet blow
From a stalwart Johnnie sat Waynesboro,
Where we routed Early from hill to hill
And tossed him over to Charlottesville,
Clearing the valley, all seamed and scored
By waste and pillage and fire and sword,
Down we galloped like Attila’s Huns,
Capturing trenches and flags and guns,
Bagging the foe ere the fight began.
(That was a habit with Sheridan!)
I seized a flag, but the color guard
Passed my parry and thrust me hard ---
Though we made it up and were friends for aye
When I shared my rations with him next day!

As often happens, this thread led somewhere unexpected. Reading the poem, it sounds as though the rider was a veteran of Buford's 1st Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac, most likely a volunteer from either the 1st or 2nd Brigade. A quick check of the NPS Soldiers & Sailors database didn't turn up a cavalryman by that name, so I did a generic internet search.

Here's what I turned up in a biography on a South Dakota State Historical Society website (look here for the remainder of the biographical sketch)

"In later years, deriving from his enthusiasm and expertise in military history, especially Civil War history, the National Park Service hired Joseph as Historical Assistant. He compiled maps for battles at Petersburg, Antietam, Kennesaw Mountain, and Richmond. He had a short stint as archeologist at Jamestown, from which he believed himself unqualified. His final assignment with the National Park Service placed him as first superintendent of the newly established Manassas Battlefield Park in Virginia where he was instrumental in researching, mapping and designating historical signage and landmarks throughout the park.

"In 1935, Joseph, along with 3 other Civil War enthusiasts from Manassas formed a group calling themselves the Battlefield Crackpates. In 1952, the group formally organized and expanded into the Civil War Roundtable of Washington D.C. Joseph was one of 18 as a founding member. The Roundtable promotes the preservation of Civil War historical fields and landmarks. Joseph and the members of the Roundtable actively lobbied and successfully prevented the federal government from building part of the interstate highway through the Manassas Battlefield. In 1957, Joseph received the Roundtable’s Gold Medal Award for distinguished achievement in Civil War history. One of the original Crackpates, artist Garnet Jex, painted Joseph’s portrait for the National Park Service at the Manassas Battlefield Park. In 1953, Joseph’s last book, Bull Run Remembers, was published, compiled from his extensive research for the Manassas Battlefield Park. Joseph retired from the National Park Service in December 1947 and lived with his second wife, Rosamond, in Manassas until his death on February 11, 1960. He is buried next to his parents in the Yankton Cemetery."

I will refrain from nominating any new members for the Battlefield Crackpates.

From poetry to the birth of the Civil War Round Table in one brief entry. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That's just fabulous, Don.

Thanks for posting that.