Friday, March 16, 2012

Union Poems - 1861

The theme of these poems is about knitting. Knitting was one of the activities women did to support the war efforts in the Union and in the Confederacy.

Boston Daily Advertiser [Massachusetts] Friday, October 18, 1861
The Warriors to the Women.

Oh! Women at home!—list awhile, we implore ye,
To us as we tell the sad tale of our woes;
Though ‘tis chilly and damp out, we forced are to camp out,
And march o’er rough roads in the thinnest of hose;
While in comfort your sitting—thick stockings be knitting,
For Winter is coming on, bitter and dreary
Through  benevolent channels, send blankest and flannels,
And show that our welfare to women dear!

Let the long needles flash ‘mid the drawing-room’s splendor,
And gleam in the light of the cottage’s fire,
Laps of matron and maiden, with worsted be laden,
And the fair hands that knit never falter not tire;
Such labors delight in, when we are out fighting,
They’ll give us fresh vigor to strike at the foe;
While the garments may warm us, the donors shall charm us,
For our hearts like our bodies shall feel the rich glow.

Then knit away, mothers, wives-sisters and daughters;
Our sweethearts (of course) will their fingers employ;
And when this inhuman war’s over-each woman
We’ll thank for remembering the “bold soldier boy.”
Thus in active communion, defending the Union,
A Needle Brigade will support with their charms,
And the Rebels confounded—our weapons all grounded,
We’ll swiftly obey your sweet order—“To Arms!”

Vanity Fair, 1861
The Knitting of the Socks.

The winter is upon us—we have passed the equinox:
Call the wives and maids and widows to the Knitting of the Socks!

By the Potomac river the wind is blowing cold;
The frost-nip rusts the maple, and dims the marigold;

And on Missouri’s borders are waving to and fro
The pine-trees and dry reeds that beckon to the snow:

And the sea-board is rebounding to the surging of the main,
As the fog-bells and the light-ships ring and rock in the hurricane.

O! a voice comes through the tempest, ringing clear like a crystal bell—
“All’s well!” adown the wind-gust, from the pacing sentinel:

And in the lull of the night-blast, between the swirls of sleet,
Comes the “stamp, stamp” of the sentinel, for cold, cold are his feet.

Fifty thousand maids and matrons, and widows a hundred score,
Up, up! and ply the needles, let our soldiers freeze no more!

And sweet music to your hearts will steal, as each pacing sentinel
Feels the sentiment he utters in his baritone,“All’s well!”

 Ho! buxom wife and widow, and maid with the glossy locks,
Draw round the loyal hearthstone to the Knitting of the Socks!
The Living Age, 1861
Knitting Socks.
Click, click, click! how the needles go
Through the busy fingers, to and fro-

With no bright colors of Berlin wool
Delicate hands to-day are full;

Only a yarn of deep, dull blue,
Socks for the feet of the brave and true.

Yet click, click, how the needles go,
‘Tis a power within that nerves them so.

In the sunny hours of the bright spring day,
And still in the night-time far away,

Maiden, mother, and granddame sit
Earnest and thoughtful while they knit.

Many the silent prayer they pray,
Many the teardrops brushed away,

While busy on the needles go,
Widen and narrow, heel and toe.

The granddame thinks with a thrill of pride
How her mother-knit and spun beside

For that patriot band in olden days
Who died the ‘Stars and Stripes” to raise—

Now she in turn knits for the brave
Who’d die that glorious flag to save.

She is glad, she says, “the boys” have gone,
‘Tis just as their grandfathers would have done.

But she heaves a sigh and the tears will start,
For “the boys” were the pride of grandame’s heart.

The mother’s look is calm and high,
God only hears her soul’s deep cry—

In Freedom’s name, at Freedom’s call,
She gave her sons—in them her all.

The maiden’s cheek wears a paler shade,
But the light in her eye is undismayed.

Faith and hope give strength to her sight,
She sees a red dawn after the night.

O soldiers brave, will it brighten the day,
And shorten the march on the weary way,

To knot that at home the loving and true
Are knitting and hoping and praying for you!

Soft are their voices when speaking your name,
Proud are their glories when hearing your fame,

And the gladdest hour in their lives will be
When they greet you after the victory.

The Living Age, 1861
Knitting Socks for Our Boys
Away with the “Shetland” that busied our hands
Last year, when the autumn the forests was dyeing!
Away with the “zephyrs” too bright and too soft
For our brave-hearted boys to the battle-field flying!

The knitting our grandmothers taught us to do,
With fingers as patient as ours were unsteady,
The course, homely work, long neglected, ignored,
Now rallies our efforts, and finds us all ready!

All ready! “All forward!” come swell the fair ranks;
Dear girls, we are knitting the Union together!
There’s enough of stanch timber about the old ship;
We have made up our minds the storm to out weather.

The Living Age, 1861
Knitting the Socks

By the fireside cosily seated,
With spectacles riding her nose,
The lively old lady is knitting
A wonderful pair of hose.
She pities the shivering soldier
Who is out in the pelting storm,
And busily plies her needles
To keep him hearty and warm.

Her eyes are reading the embers,
But her heart is off to the war,
For she knows what those brave fellows
Are gallantly fighting for.
Her fingers as  well as her fancy
Are cheering them on their way,
Who under the good old banner
Are saving their country to-day.

She ponders how in her childhood
Her grandmother used to tell
The story of barefoot soldiers
Who fought so long and well:
And the men of the Revolution
Are nearer to her than us,
And that, perhaps, is the reason
Why she is toiling thus.

She cannot shoulder a musket,
Nor ride with the cavalry crew,
But nevertheless she is ready
To work for the boys who do.
And yet in official despatches
That come from the army or fleet,
Her feats may have never a notice
Though ever so mighty the feet!

So prithee, young owner of muscle,
Or purse-proud owner of stocks,
Don’t sneer at the labors of woman,
Or smile at her bundle of socks.
Her heart may be larger and braver
Than his who is tallest of all;
The work of her hands as important
As cash that buys powder and ball.

And thus wile her quiet performance
Is being recorded in rhyme,
The tools in her tremulous fingers
Are running a race with Time.
Strange that four needles can form
A perfect triangular bound-
And equally strange that their antics
Result in perfecting “the round.”

And now, while beginning “to narrow,”
She thinks of the Maryland mud,
And wonders if ever the stocking
Will wade to the ankle in blood.
And now she is shaping the heel,”
And now she is ready “to bind,”
And hopes, if the soldier is wounded,
It never will be from behind.

And now she is “raining the instep,”
Now “narrowing off at the toe,”
And prays that this end of the worsted
May ever be turned to the foe.
She “gathers” the last of the stitches,
As if a new laurel were won,
And placing the ball in the basket
Announces the stocking as “done.”

Ye men who are fighting our battles,
Away from the comforts of life,
Who thoughtfully muse by your camp-fires
On sweetheart or sister or wife,
Just think of their elders a little,
And pray for the grandmothers too,
Who patiently sitting in corners,
Are knitting the stockings for you.
--Hartford Courant.

The Ladies’ Repository, 1861
If you’ve patriot blood in your veins!
For our boys on Southern plains,
Our boys on Southern hills,
Our boys in Southern vales,
By the woods and seams of Dixie’s land,
Are feeling the wintry gales.

For our Northern soldiers brave!
While the Stars and Stripes they wave!
While they the rebels in battle meet,
Be yours to fashion with fingers fleet,
The nice warm socks for the weary feet—
Knit-knit-knit !
For our boys on Southern vales,
By the woods and steams of Dixie’s land,
Are feeling the wintry gales.

The socks and mittens and gloves!
Each one that her country loves!
Lay by the useless, though beautiful toy,
With which you many hour employ,
And knit instead for the soldier boy==
For our boys on Southern hills,
Our boys on in Southern vales,
By the hills and streams of Dixie’s land,
Are feeling the wintry gales,

Narrow, and widen, and seam—
Till the flying needles gleam.
Knit till the mitten lies complete—
Knit till the socks for the weary feet
The eye of each patient soldier greet—
For our boys on Southern hills,

Our boys in Southern vales,
By the woods and steams of Dixie’s Land,
 Are feeling the wintry gales.
Work at it early and late:
Let no body’s zeal abate.
While rebels would ruin this glorious land,
Between us and them our brave boys stand,
Ready to peril their lives at command—
For our boys on southern hills,
Our boys in Southern vales,
By the woods and steams of Dixie’s land,
Are feeling the wintry gales.

With a warm heart and a true!
The stockings warm and new.
The mittens with finger and thumb complete,
The gloves for the drummers their drums to beat—
And the nice warm socks for the shivering feet—
For our boys on Southern hills,
Our boys in Southern vales,
By the woods and steams of Dixie’s land,
Are feeling the wintry gales.

And knit with many a prayer!
Pray God the lives to spare
Of loved ones soon on the battle field
The deadly weapons of war to wield,--
And pray that the foe before them yield—
For our boys on Southern hills,
 Our boys on Southern vales,
By the woods and steams of Dixie’s land,
Are feeling the wintry gales.

The Smokey Hill and Republican [Kansas] December 26, 1861
The Soldier’s Mother.
By the low west window dreaming,
With the lingering sunlight gleaming
Softly on her saintly brow –
Of her boy to battle marching,
Heat and thirst the loved lips parching,
Dreams she in the twilight now.

Yet with rapid fingers knitting,
In the ancient arm-chair sitting,
Musing of her soldier son –
Pausing in her thoughts of sorrow,
Wond’ring if upon the morrow
She can have the blue socks done.

Thinking of the soldiers steading
As she saw them on the landing,
Thinking how they sternly drill them –
Back and forth the needles going
From the socks, God only knowing,
If or not his feet shall fill them.

But a sound her quick ear greeting,
Starts her frightened heart to beating
With a troubled throb and surge,
For she hears the church-bell tolling,
And the solemn muffled rolling
Of slow music like a dirge.

Heeds she not the stitches falling,
As with eager accents calling
Some one passing by the door,
All her wild forebodings masking,
And with lips unfalt’ring asking
Whom this mournful dirge is for?

But she strives her grief to smother,
‘Tis not meet a solder’s mother
Thus should yield to sorrow vain.
Are there not a hundred others,
Stricken, desolated mothers,
Weeping for their brave one slain?

For their country still are bleeding
Soldiers brave who will be needing
Warm socks for their valiant feet –
Feet which ne’re before the traitors,
Like the feet of some bold praters,
Beat a cowardly retreat.

Other days have waned to twilight
Since the eve when such sad heart blight
Came down on that lonely one;
Yet beside the window sitting,
When her aged fingers knitting,
Dreams she still at set of sun.

On her brow a shadow resting,
And the sunset glory cresting
Like a crown the silver hair.
Back and forth the needles going,
Inch by inch the socks are growing,
And the tears her eyes o’erflowing
Are inwrought with silent prayer.
Could men see as see the angels,
These dumb socks, like sweet evangels,
 Would a wond’rous tale unfold;
Every stitch would tell its story,
And each seam would wear a glory
Fairer than refiner’s gold.

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