John Reuben Thompson

[On the appointment of General Joseph E. Johnston to the
command of the Confederate armies of the West, November, 1862]

Once more to the breach for the Land of the West!
And a leader we give, of our bravest and best,
    Of his State and his army the pride;
Hope shines like the plume of Navarre on his crest,
    And gleams in the glaive at his side.
For his courage is keen and his honor is bright
As the trusty Toledo he wears to the fight,
    Newly wrought in the forges of Spain,
And this weapon, like all he has brandished for Right,
    Will never be dimmed by a stain.  
He leaves the loved soil of Virginia behind,
Where the dust of his fathers is fitly enshrined,
    Where lie the fresh fields of his fame;
Where the murmurous pines, as they sway in the wind,
    Seem ever to whisper his name.
The Johnstons have always borne wings on their spurs,
And their motto a noble distinction confers,
    "Ever ready" -- for friend or foe --
With a patriot's fervor the sentiment stirs
    The large manly heart of our Joe.
We recall that a former bold chief of the clan
Fell, bravely defending the West, in the van
    On Shiloh's illustrious day;
And with reason we reckon our Johnston the man
    The dark bloody debt to repay.
There is much to be done: if not glory to seek,
There's a just and a terrible vengeance to wreak
    For crimes of a terrible dye,
While the plaints of the helpless, the wail of the weak
    In a chorus rise up to the sky.
For the Wolf of the North we once drove to his den,
That quailed in affright 'neath the stern glance of men,
    With his pack has returned to the spoil;
Then come from the hamlet, the mountain, the glen,
    And drive him again from the soil!
Brave-born Tennesseans, so loyal, so true,
Who have hunted the beast in your highlands, of you
    Our leader has never a doubt;
You will troop by the thousands the chase to renew
    The day when his bugles ring out.
But ye "Hunters" so famed "of Kentucky" of yore,
Where, where are the rifles that kept from your door
    The wolf and the robber as well?
Of a truth, you have never been laggard before
    To deal with a savage so fell.
Has the love you once bore to your country grown cold?
Has the fire on the altar died out? Do you hold
    Your lives than your freedom more dear?
Can you shamefully barter your birthright for gold,
    Or basely take counsel of fear?
We will not believe it! Kentucky, the land
Of a Clay, will not tamely submit to the brand
    That disgraces the dastard, the slave;
The hour of redemption draws nigh -- is at hand --
    Her own sons her own honor shall save!
Mighty men of Missouri, come forth to the call,
With the rush of your rivers when tempests appall,
    And the torrents their sources unseal;
And this be the watchword of one and of all --
    "Remember the butcher, McNiel!"
Then once more to the breach for the land of the West!
Strike home for your hearts -- for the lips you love best --
    Follow on where your leader you see!
One flash of his sword when the foe is hard pressed,
    And the Land of the West shall be free!
          J.E. Johnston
General Joseph
E. Johnston


This page is http://civilwarpoetry.org/confederate/officers/jej.html
Last modified 16-April-2001