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A Memorial Poem for a Fallen Member of the 84th

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  • A Memorial Poem for a Fallen Member of the 84th

    An anonymous poem published in the Macomb Eagle in honor of a member of the 84th Illinois who fell at Stone's River.

    Macomb Eagle
    April 9, 1864

    [By request.]

    On the Death of Vatchel Benson.

    Among the pines that overlook,
    Stone River’s rocky bed,
    Illinois knows full many a son
    There numbered with the dead.

    ‘Tis hard to die mid scenes of strife,
    No friend or kindred near
    To wipe the death damp from the brow,
    Or shed affection’s tear.

    That day when all along our lines,
    Rained showers of shot and shell,
    There many a brave young soldier died,
    There many a hero fell.

    When night closed o’er the bloody scene,
    Returning o’er the ground,
    I heard Vatchel’s piteous moan,
    Laid low by mortal wound.

    It was by the ford we fought that day,
    The ground so dearly bought;
    Where Waters led his valiant men,
    And gallant Moody fought.

    Then Vatchel’s cheek was wan,
    And lusterless was his eye;
    I knew, before another morn
    The wounded man must die.

    I built a fire of cedar falls,
    (The air was cold and damp,)
    And filled his canteen from the spring
    Below the river bank.

    And then I sat me down to ask
    If he would wish to send
    A last request, or parting word,
    To mother, sister, friend.

    “I have some word,” poor Vatchel said,
    “My friends would like to hear --
    Would fill my sister’s soul with joy,
    My mother’s heart would cheer.

    “Tell them I died a soldier’s death
    Upon the battle field,
    But lived to know the day was ours
    And see the rebels yield.

    “But most of all I’ll have them know,
    That with my latest breath
    I spoke of him I loved in life,
    ‘Twas joy and peace in death.

    “Tell sister I have read with care,
    From holy ties endeared,
    The Bible mother gave to me
    Before I volunteered.”

    In silent converse with his God,
    The wounded hero lay --
    It seemed to him communion sweet,
    No agony to pray.

    He smiled as does the gentle child
    When angels whisper near;
    No anguish marked up his brow,
    Nor blanched his cheek with fear.

    And thus he died that stormy night,
    No friend or kindred near
    To wipe the death damp from his brow,
    Or shed affection’s tear.

    And should you wander o’er the ground
    Where fell so many brave,
    Among the cedars on the hill
    You’ll find his lonely grave.

    The flowers will soon light with smiles
    Stone River’s rocky shore;
    But his spirit knows a brighter clime,
    Where flowers bloom ever more.

    Mild-eyed Pence may visit soon
    Stone River’s rocky shore,
    But Murfreesboro’s Sabbath bells
    Shall never wake Vatchel Benson more.

    According to the Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls, Vachael Benson was a 23 year old farmer at the time of his enlistment. Born in Belmont County, Ohio, he resided in Salem Township, McDonough County, Illinois, prior to entering the service. He was killed in action on December 31, 1862.
    Bob Welch

    The Eagle and The Journal
    My blog, following one Illinois community from Lincoln's election through the end of the Civil War through the articles originally printed in its two newspapers.