Comrades, many a year and day
Have fled since that glorious 9th of May
When we made the charge at Farmington.
But until our days on earth are done
Our blood will burn and our hearts beat fast
As we tell of the glorious moments we passed,
When we rode on the guns with a mighty shout
And saved Paine’s army from utter rout;
And our children in years to come will tell
How the 2nd rose through the shot and shell
Rode with a cheer on that 9th of May
And held the whole rebel army at bay.

Behind lay the swamp, a dank morass.
A marsh – no horse nor man could pass
Save by one road, one narrow way.
But beyond that road our safety lay,
In front rose the hills which the rebels held
With his howling cannon that raked and shelled
Our troops.
We lay in the centre.
Our general saw he must cross again
The narrow road, or his men were lost
The road was narrow. It must be crossed,
And crossed in haste, and the deadly rain
of the rebel guns “Must be stopped!” said Paine.

Twenty-four cannon thundered and roared!
Twenty-four cannon into us poured.
Twenty-four cannon! A devil’s den
Backed by full fifteen thousand men.
Must be held at bay till our troops could pass
In order over the dank morass.
Up to where the cavalry stand,
Waiting in order the word of command,
Gallops Paine. And his mighty shout
Rings the daring order out –
“Take and hold that battery!
Take it! Whatever the hazards be!”
“Draw sabres!” They flash in the startled air.
“Forward! Gallop! March!” Away
We ride. We must show our steel today!

“Gallop! Charge!” On the rebels ears
Ring the thundering Yankee cheers!
And on, like a wave of maddened sea,
On – Dash the Iowa cavalry!
Into the torrents of shot and shell
That shrieks and screams like the fiends of hell!
Into the torrent of shot that kills!
Into the torrent of shell that stills
The cheer on many a lip, we ride
Like the onward rush of a whirling tide
Up to the cannon’s mouth,
Our cheers
Curdle the blood of the cannoneers
To right and left from his silenced guns
In wild retreat the rebel runs.
And the charge of the Iowa cavalry
Rushes on!

Can you stop the sea
When the storm waves break on the sandy shore
Driving the driftwood awrack? No more
Can the rebel resist the terrible charge
As we ride right up to their army’s marge –
They waver – the fifteen thousand men,
Waver and rally, and waver, and then
Our work is done.
Paine’s men had crossed
The swamp while our little band was lost
In the smoke and dust of the eager ride,
And are safe at last on the other side.
Then we ride back! We had saved the day
By holding the whole rebel army at bay,
While Paine made a hasty and safe retreat
Over the swamp.

We had conquered defeat!

Comrades, many a year and day
Have fled since that glorious 9th of May
When we made the charge at Farmington.
And our time on earth is almost run,
But when we are gone our children will tell
How we rode through rebel shots and shell.
How we rode on the guns with a mighty shout,
And saved Paine’s army from utter route.
And carved in the temple of glory will be
The roll of the 2nd Iowa Cavalry.
The brave old 2nd, that never knew
A deed too hard or rash to do.
The dear old 2nd, that would have spurred
Into Hell itself, if Hatch said the word.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Ellis Parker Butler's poem The Charge of the Second Iowa Cavalry

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