MUSIC IN CAMP by John Reuben Thompson (1823-1873)

Two armies covered hill and plain, Where Rappahannock's waters Ran deeply crimsoned with the stain Of battle's recent slaughters. The summer clouds lay pitched like tents In meads of heavenly azure; And each dread gun of the elements Slept in its hid embrasure. The breeze so softly blew it made No forest leaf to quiver, And the smoke of the random cannonade Rolled slowly from the river. And now, where circling hills looked down With cannon grimly planted, O'er listless camp and silent town The golden sunset slanted. When on the fervid air there came A strain--now rich, now tender; The music seemed itself aflame With day's departing splendor. A Federal band, which, eve and morn, Played measures brave and nimble, Had just struck up, with flute and horn And lively clash of cymbal. Down flocked the soldiers to the banks, Till, margined with its pebbles, One wooded shore was blue with "Yanks," and one was gray with "Rebels." Then all was still, and then the band, With movement light and tricksy, Made stream and forest, hill and strand, Reverberate with "Dixie." The conscious stream with burnished glow Went proudly o'er its pebbles, But thrilled throughout its deepest flow With yelling of the Rebels. Again a pause, and then again The trumpets pealed sonorous, And "Yankee Doodle" was the strain To which the shore gave chorus. The laughing ripple shoreward flew, To kiss the shining pebbles; Loud shrieked the swarming Boys in Blue Defiance to the Rebels. And yet once more the bugles sang Above the stormy riot; No shout upon the evening rang-- There reigned a holy quiet. The sad, slow stream its noiseless flood Poured o'er the glistening pebbles; All silent now the Yankees stood, And silent stood the Rebels. No unresponsive soul had heard That plaintive note's appealing, So deeply "Home Sweet Home" had stirred The hidden founts of feeling. Or Blue or Gray, the soldier sees, As by the wand of fairy, The cottage 'neath the live-oak trees, The cabin by the prairie. Or cold or warm his native skies Bend in their beauty o'er him; Seen through the tear-mist in his eyes, His loved ones stand before him. As fades the iris after rain In April's tearful weather, The vision vanished, as the strain And daylight died together. But memory, waked by music's art, Expressed in simplest numbers, Subdued the sternest Yankee heart, Made light the Rebel's slumbers. And fair the form of music shines, That bright, celestial creature, Who still, 'mid war's embattled lines, Gave this one touch of Nature.

Music of the War Between the States