February 6, 2012

McCabe on Pegram: our gentle knight

John Pegram (pictured) was a graduate of West Point from Virginia who joined the Confederacy at the start of the Civil War. He eventually rose to the rank of Major-General and married in January 1865 (Confederate President Jefferson Davis was in attendance). Less than three weeks later, Pegram was killed during the Battle of Hatcher's Run on February 6, 1865.

Pegram's death inspired fellow Virginian William Gordon McCabe to write a poem two days later in camp. It is titled "John Pegram, Fell at the Head of His Division, February 6, 1865":

What shall we say now of our gentle knight?
Or how express the measure of our woe
For him who rode the foremost in the fight,
Whose good blade flashed so far amid the foe?

Of all his knightly deeds what need to tell—
That good blade now lies fast within its sheath—
What can we do but point to where he fell,
And, like a soldier, met a soldier's death.

We sorrow not as those who have no hope,
For he was pure in heart as brave in deed —
God pardon us, if blind with tears we grope,
And love be questioned by the hearts that bleed.

And yet — O foolish and of little faith ! —
We cannot choose but weep our useless tears —
We loved him so I we never dreamed that Death
Would dare to touch him in his brave young years.

Ah! dear bronzed face, so fearless and so bright!
As kind to friend as thou wast stern to foe —
No more we'll see thee radiant in the fight,
The eager eyes — the flush on cheek and brow.

No more we'll greet the lithe, familiar form
Amid the surging smoke with deaf'ning cheer —
No more shall soar above the iron storm
Thy ringing voice in accents sweet and clear.

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