MY BOY BILL.
By William D. Hall.
What's all the excitement, stranger?
What's the meanin' o' this 'ere throng?
There's goin' to be a parade, you say?
Oh! I thought there wuz somethin' wrong.
There's going to be a parade, eh?
Well, I reckon they'll pass this way;
Be hit any particular 'casion?
Oh! I see, "Decoration Day."
Well, I'm 'bliged fer your infermation,
But parades don't interest me,
'Cause the very sight o' a soldier
Recalls scenes I don't like to see.
I once wuz one o' these fellers
What carries a knapsack an' gun;
An' I remember the time when paradin'
To me would heve be'n lots o' fun.
But now, fer some reason er 'nother,
I can't be contented no more;
Fer I met with a loss what I can't replace
In the times o' our last cruel war.
When I says I met with a loss, sir,
I hain't thinkin' 'bout my gone arm,
I refer's tu a bullet what one day came
Tu a lad with hits deadly charm.
Hit came from the enemy's forces.
From one who made shoot in' a skill;
Fer hit pierced the heart o' a drummer-lad,
An' that lad wuz my boy Bill.
This happened 'way back in the sixties,
When the war had 'bout reached hits height;
When I gave In the country my service
Tu help in that long lastin' light.
My boy he heard o' my intentions
An' made up his mind tu go, too;
Tho' I tried to get him tu stop tu hum,
But that he objected tu do.
So, finally, I gave my permission,
An' tugether we went tu our fate;
He jined a band es a drummer-boy,
An' I volunteered a private.
My wife wuz dead-that's the reason
I wanted tu be near my boy,
An' the day that he got his cap an' drum
He leaped in the air wild with joy.
At times he wuz bad ez a hornet,
But show me the boy what hain't;
'Cause I know when I wuz a youngster
I never wuz much o' a saint.
Well, at last word arrived to load up,
We knew then the time was nigh;
So I called my boy back o' the camp
An' kissed him, which meant "good-bye."
All that day we kept loadin' an' shootin',
Till the dead lay 'bout at our feet;
An' every time I would think o' my boy,
How my poor heart would beat.
We fought all day till night came on,
Then the bright moon crept to hits place;
An' ez we went out tu find our men,
Hits light made plain every face.
On we went till a voice said low,
"Why, here's a drummer, an' dead;"
I tell you stranger, 'twas 'em few words
What completily turned my head.
I stood there dazed, 'fraid tu look,
An' all fer a minute wuz still;
But the silence wuz broken by one who said:
"nits our young drummer, Will."
I took his hand intu my own.
In hopes that he wuzu't dead;
But there I found where life once wuz,
Cold death had come instead.
Each man drew close beside my boy
With caps hung at each side.
An' ez they stood there lookin' on
All o' 'em sob'd an' cried.
They had hearts o' oak within 'em,
An' would laugh at a cannon's ball;
But my grief riled their feelings,
An' they couldn't stop cryin' 'tall.
Some of 'em must o' had children,
Fer they carried on ez if mad;
An' even our hard-hearted sergeant
Show'd signs ez if he wuz sad.
But there wuz one, an evil-tongued capt'un,
Who wuz classed by all ez a scamp;
'Cause he'd ways like those o' a villain,
Not a friend had the man in our camp.
He wuz overseein' some comrades
That were digin' a trench close by,
An' the instant he came across us men.
An evil look show'd in his eye.
Then an oath that would 'stonish a sailor
Came forth from his p'isened tongue;
Such words ez would make a man tremble,
Into a our bosoms stung.
'Round his neck my boy had a locket
That his fond mother told him tu wear;
In one side wuz seen her sweet picture,
In the other a lock o' her hair.
I thought that I'd like fer to have hit,
'Fore they laid him intu his last bed;
But ez soon ez the cap. saw me take hit.
He 'cused me o' robbin' the dead.
He swore that he'd have me court-martialed,
An' shot on the next comin' day;
An' he meant every word that he uttered,
'Cause he wuzu't a man what would play.
Then ez the moon shined down upon us,
He made a plunge arter my boy,
An' grabbed his body tu throw in a trench,
Ez an infant would handle a toy.
His eyes bulged each socket with anger,
Ez he started tu go from the place:
While the moon threw hits rays on the features
O' my darlin' boy's pretty face.
Then the capt'n stood still fer a minute.
An' hit seemed that his harshness had fled,
Fer a big lump came up in his throat, sir,
Au' he, too, took his cap off his head.
Then 'fore we could learn his intentions.
He laid my boy down on the ground.
An', at seein' 'twas only a youngster.
He glared with surprise all around.
Then he spoke out, "Who be this young feller
That you men are tryin' tu rob?
Come, speak, or I'll send you tu Satan,
An' make you pay dear fer this job."
His face fer a while wuz a study,
Durin" which time all wuz still;
Then I mustered up courage an' told him,
That the dead one wuz my boy Bill.
That explained 'bout me takin' the locket
Away from the lifeless lad;
Then he hug'd my boy tu his bosom,
Fer he knew he had wronged his dad.
Then he said to the crowd what had gathered,
Ez his cheeks wuz streamin' with tears,
That he once had a boy like my William,
Who'd be'n dead fer many long years.
Next he said: "fer the way I have acted
Give me my dues fer this sin;
I'm not worthy o' any one's mercy,
Tear me from limb tu limb.
"Don't stand there cryin' like babies,
Come, collect every muscle an' nerve.
An' sweep down upon me like panthers,
Hit's jes' 'bout what I deserve.
I'm unfit, tu be here among you,
I'm a brute, I'm a hound, an' a cur;
Intu my heart with your bayonets;
Come, I say; won't no one stir?
"Then you mean tu show me your mercy?
More than I would have shown you;
Oh, God! this torture is terrible;
I wish that I wuz dead, too."
But I told him that I would forgive him.
Then he reached fer a flag-pole quick.
An' ez swift ez a flash o' lightnin,
He'd the buntin' from off the stick.
Then he wrap'd my boy up in hit,
An' we slowly made off from the spot
To give him a sort o' a funeral,
Such ez few soldiers got;
Side by side we walked together.
Wrapped in our mournful gloom;
An' the owls in the trees, tu add distress,
Were singin' a dreary tune.
'Twarn't long 'fore the walk wuz ended;
Then halt, the capt'u did say;
An' he who we thought wuz hard-hearted,
Wruz the first tu kneel down an' pray.
He wuzn't so well edgercated,
But he preached the best that he could.
An' the way he spoke fer my dear boy,
Did do my old heart good.
Then a grave the men quickly opened,
An' my boy in hit wuz quickly lowered down
To slumber an' rest in a shady spot.
Where a willow-tree bent with a frown.
Then we all from the spot separated,
An' each man went his own way,
To turn ourselves intu our blankets
Fer tu wait on the next comin" day.
Next mornin' drums rolled bright and early.
An' we all got up with the sun,
But 'afore we received any orders,
A skirmish fer life had begun.
Hit wuz a terrible engagement,
Fer friends o' the day 'afore
Didn't 'pear that night at roll-call,
So I reckon they hain't no more.
Now you know the reason, stranger,
Why I asked you 'bout this throng;
An' ez hit's not bin' but soldiers,
I'll jes' quietly journey along.
'Cause I know the sight o' these comrades
Would intu my heart send a chill.
An' bring tu mind that dreadful day
That I parted with my boy Bill.