African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Charles Frederick White, "The Eighth Illinois in Cuba" (1899/1908)


[From an essay read before our Sunday School in camp near San Luis, Santiago de Cuba.]

Camped in Cuba in the mountains,
Far away from home and friends.
From the precious civil fountains,
In a land of marsh and fens,
* In this church of thatch and palm leaf,
Cut and built by our own hands,
We are holding Sunday service
As is done in many lands.
Far away o'er hill and valley,
Over marsh and mountain top,
Over battle-ground where rallied
Man and horse at freedom's knock,
Over ruined mill and city,
Over waste of richest loam

Where the dove of peace once flitted,
But was driven from its home
By the shells of cruel cannon
And the swords of treachery,
Fly our thoughts to home and loved ones
Whom we soon expect to see.
Over barren devastation,
O'er a land of wasted wealth,
Over what was once plantation,
But now lies untilled, undwelt,
Far across the stretch of ocean,
Far beyond the sunken Maine,
Pray our friends in deep devotion
For our safe return again.
But, instead of tears of pleasure,
Some must shed their tears for grief,
For depleted is our measure;—
+Fourteen rest the sod beneath.
No more reveille shall wake them;
Taps has blown for them its last;
Nor shall ever foe o'ertake them,
For their fighting all is past.
Comrades, over our departed
We have fired the death salute;

Let us cheer their broken-hearted
Loved ones, grieved and destitute.
Jan., 1899.


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