Whisperin’ Bill

This is a beautiful poem written during the Civil War, just wanted to share it with you-

Al-Vis 7/26/2011


So yer takin’ the census, eh Mister.

Lemme tell ye about my son.

He was a soldier thet fought fer the North

Until the war wuz won.

This dooryard’s now his battlefield.

Lesee, he wuz nigh sixteen

When Sumpter fell and as likely a boy

As this world’s ever seen

And what with the news of battles lost

And shoutin’ and all the noise

Ah giss every farm in the neighborhood

Lost a part of it’s crop of boys.

‘Twas harvest time when Bill left home

Every stalk in the field of rye

Seemed to stand tip toe to see him off

And wave him a fond goodbye.

His momma used to tell him

When she knowed he wuz goin’ away

That God’d surely take care of him

If’n he didn’t fergit to pray.

And on the bloodiest battlefields

When bullets whizzed through the air

And Bill wuz a-fightin’ desprit

He used to whisper a prayer.

His comrads has often tol’ me

That Bill never flinched a bit

When every second a gap in the ranks

Showed where a ball had hit.

Then one night when the field wuz covered

With the awful harvest of war,

They found my boy ‘mongst the martyrs

Of the cause he wuz fightin’ for.

His fingers wuz clutched in the dewy grass,

Oh no Sir, he wasn’t dead.

He just lay there sort of helpless and crazy

With a rifle ball in his head.

And if Bill had only died that night

I’d give all I got worth givin’

‘Cause ya see that bullet killed his mind

But left his body livin’.

An officer he wrote and told us

How the boy’d been hurt in a fight

But he said that the doctors reckoned

They could bring him ’round alright.

Well, we waited and watched fer a month or more.

The summer wuz almost past

When we got a letter one day that said

Bill had started fer home at last.

I’ll ne’er fergit when Bill come home,

“Twas harvest time again.

The air blowing o’er the yaller fields

Was sweet with the smell of grain.

The dooryard wuz full of neighbors

That come to share our joy

And we all set out a rousin’ cheer

At the sight of that solier boy.

Then all of a sudden some-one said,

“My God, don’t that boy know his mother?”

And Bill stood a-whisperin’ fearful like

And starin’ from one to another.

“Don’t be afraid Bill.” said he to himself

As he stood in his coat of blue.

“God’ll take care of you, Bill

God’ll take care of you.”

Bill seemed to keep loadin’ and firin’ a gun

And actin’ like a man who hears

The awful sounds of the battlefield

A-poundin’ in his ears.

Ten thousand ghosts from that bloody day

Was a-marchin’ through his brain

And his feet they kind of picked their way

As if they could feel the slain.

He ain’t never knowed us since that day

Nor his sweetheart and never will.

Mother and father and sweetheart,

We all the same to Bill.

And he groans like a wounded soldier

Sometimes the whole night through

And we just smooth his head and say, “Yes Bill,

God’ll take care of you.”

Irving Bacheller (written in the 1860’s during civil war)

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