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

Maurice Corbett, "Negroes Contrabands of War" (1914)

Negroes Contrabands of War.

Began the South to use the blacks
As cooks and teamsters for their packs,
To bridge the streams and build redoubts,
And trees to fell for wagon routes.
To have done by these Negroes sooty,
The army's heavy fatigue duty;
Relieving thus thousands of men
To mingle in the battle's din.

But that awoke the sleeping North
To realize the Negroes' worth.
Since built they works Yank's way to bar,
Why not as contraband of war
Be given right to wear the blue,
And heavy fatigue duty do;
Relieving thus those valiant men,
Who yearned for firing lines again?

At length was tried the novelty,
And a success it proved to be.
No task so hard, no hour too long;
No risk so great but that these strong,
Muscular limbs and willing minds,
With eagerness and skill combine,
And prove to army lords at length
Were those black boys a tower of strength.

But fiercer still the conflict grew,
And not a Southern state withdrew
Its soldiers from secession's cause,
Nor in its work of treason pause;

The humble slaves were not deceived;
The days of freedom they believed
Were coming rapidly their way,
And strong in faith they daily pray.

Published in The Harp of Ethiopia, 1914

This page has tags: