from The Webster Times, December 28, 1861 (Volume III # 42), 
“Only A Private Killed.”

(Composed on the death of a member of Company I, who was killed in a skirmish on the Virginia side of the Potomac, near Edward’s Ferry. October 21, 1861. The event and circumstances are literally true.)

“We’ve had a fight, a Captain said;

Much rebel blood we’ve spilled;

We’ve put the saucy foe to flight;

Our loss, but a private killed!”

“Ah yes” said a sergeant on the spot,

As he drew a long, deep breath,

“Poor fellow, he was badly shot,

Then, bayoneted to death!”

When again was hushed the martial din,

And back the foe had fled,

They brought the privates body in;

I went to see the dead.

For I could not think the rebel foe,

(tho' under curse and ban,)

So vaunting of their chivalry,

Could kill a wounded man.

A minnie ball had broke his thigh,

A frightful, crushing wound,

And then with savage bayonet, They had pinned him to the ground.

One stab was through the abdomen,

Another through the head,

The last was through his pulseless breast,

Done after he was dead.

His hair was matted with his gore;

His hands were clenched with might,

As though he still his musket bore

So firmly in the fight.

He had grasped the foeman’s bayonet,

His bosom to defend!

They raised the coat- cape from his face,

My God! it was my friend!

Think what a shudder thrilled my heart!

‘Twas but the day before,

We laughed together merrily,

As we talked of days of yore.

“How happy we shall be’ he said,

When the war is o’re, and when

the rebels all subdued or dead,

We all go home again!

Ah, little he dreamed, that soldier brave,

(So near to journey’s goal)

That God had sent a messenger

To claim his Christian soul!

But he fell like a hero fighting,

And hearts with grief are filled; And honor is his, though our Chief shall say

Only a private killed!”

I knew him well, he was my friend;

He loved our Land and Laws,

And he fell a blessed martyr

To his county’s holy cause.

Soldiers, the time will come, most like,

When our blood will thus be spilled,

And then of us our Chiefs will say

Only a private killed!

But we fight our country’s battles,

And our hopes are not forlorn;

Our deaths shall be a blessing

To “Millions yet unborn;”

To our children and their children!

And as each grave is filled,

We will but ask our Chief to say

Only a private killed!”


15th Massachusetts VI