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

Maurice N. Corbett, "The Cuban War" (1914)

When those misguided sons of Spain
In deviltry, blew up the Maine,
Their monarch heard the eagle's scream,
And bayonets were seen to gleam
Like polished brass before the sun,
The Negro soldier took his gun
In answer to his country's call
Which sought the aid of yeomen all.

Together with white troops they land,
Together on strange soil they stand,
Together with the whites they share
Their rations of the poorest fare;
Together fall they by disease,
Together camp they 'neath the trees,
Together 'neath their country's flag
Charge they the yellow Spanish rag.

Together faced they cannon's breath,
Together lay they cold in death.
'Gainst Spanish trench at Siboney,
And block-house forts at El Caney,
'Gainst musketry from hidden foe
'Gainst barbed wire in marshes low,
The colored soldiers side by side
With their white comrades, bled and died.

On San Juan Hill is seen to fly
The flag of Spanish tyranny,
While in the valley far below
Is heard the thrilling bugle's blow.
Men clad in khaki uniform
Began that deadly hill to storm;
'Tis but a Spanish compliment
From the Rough Rider regiment.

The hill they climb with flying feet;
When suddenly the Spaniards greet
Their dauntless ranks with shot and shell,
And from the lines their comrades fell;
But on, with courage bold they go
Not heeding wounds nor death, when lo!
Their lines become inmeshed in wire,
And hotter grows the Spanish fire.

And while they stand like beasts at bay,
Those Spanish lines are swept away,
Their ranks completely put -to route
And Roosevelt's troopers with a shout
Acknowledge their delivery
From massacre and butchery—
By colored troopers true as flint
Known as the "Fighting Ninth and Tenth."

No military history
Can show that works of infantry,
By cavalry dismounted, form,
And with their carbines, take by storm.
But this by colored troop was done,
And by the victory which they won
Was Roosevelt succored in his tent
To be "Rough Rider" President.

A nation for its fairness famed,
Stands in the eyes of nations shamed,
Reviled, condemned, and held to scorn,
Its boasted love of justice gone,
Its flag no more a shield to those
Escaping from oppression's doors,
Its honest men ashamed to speak
When other nations press their weak.

The cloak of right is cast aside,
The club of might is now applied;
Fair Justice has been gagged and bound;
Injustice reigns, in harshness gowned;
Proud Liberty lies murdered by,
A beam is thrust in Mercy's eye;
Dame Charity on stones is fed;
Religion is to hatred wed.

* Brave Mingo Sanders, grizzled, scarred
From years of service, now stands: barred
From soldier's rights; his honor gone,
Though not for aught that he has done,
And though were spent his days in strife,
An outcast must he be for life.
Of nobleness he shows no lack,
But none the less—his skin is black.

Not in disgrace, alone, he went;
Three companies of his regiment,
All veterans of many wars,
All, covered with their battle scars,
All, of the foulest crimes accused,
All, trial by the law refused,
And all as felons, cast adrift
Forever, for themselves to shift.

This seems the irony of fate 
For Negro men who serve their state.
Their bravest deeds are all forgot
And they are styled a sorry lot,
Unworthy of the rights of men,
Because some brute with dusky skin
A crime revolting should commit
Which would a savage beast befit.

* Mingo Sanders was a Sergeant in the 25th Infantry, who had seen service on the frontier, in Cuba, China, and the Philippines. He was in continuous service for twenty-six years, without a reprimand or black mark against him as a man or soldier. He was the possessor of medals of reward for deeds of daring and heroism. He was covered with scars of battle and held the esteem of the whole country, yet he was dishonorably discharged from the service because some member or members of his regiment "Shot up Brownsville, Texas," or were supposed to have done so, though no proof was ever adduced to connect one man with the crime.

Published in The Harp of Ethiopia, 1914

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