From “Passing of the Armies”

Have they all passed, — the Fifth Corps? Or will it ever pass? Am I left alone, or still with you all?

You, of the thirteen young colonels, colleagues with me in the courts-martial and army schools of the winter camps of 1862:

Vincent, of the 83d Pennsylvania, caught up in the fiery chariot from the heights of Round Top; O’Rorke, of the 140th New York, pressing to that glorious defense, swiftly called from the head of his regiment to serener heights; Jeffords, of the 4th Michigan, thrust through by bayonets as he snatched back his lost colors from the deadly reapers of the wheat-field; Rice, of the 44th New York, crimsoning the harrowed crests at Spottsylvania with his life-blood, — his intense soul snatched far otherwhere than his last earthly thought — “Turn my face towards the enemy!”; Welch, of the 16th Michigan, first on the ramparts at Peebles’ Farm, shouting “On, boys, and over!” and receiving from on high the same order for his own daring spirit; Prescott, of the 32d Massachusetts, who lay touching feet with me after mortal Petersburg of June 8th, under the midnight requiem of the somber pines, — I doomed of all to go, and bidding him stay, — but the weird winds were calling otherwise; Winthrop, of the 12th Regulars, before Five Forks just risen from a guest-seat at my homely luncheon on a log, within a half hour shot dead in the fore-front of the whirling charge. These gone, — and of the rest: Varney, of the 2d Maine, worn down by prison cruelties, and returning, severely wounded in the head on the storm-swept slopes of Fredericksburg, and forced to resign the service; Hayes, of the 8th Massachusetts, cut down in the tangles of the Wilderness; Gwyn, of the 118th Pennsylvania, also sorely wounded there; Herring, of the same regiment, with a leg off at Dabney’s Mill; Webb, then of the corps staff, since, highly promoted, shot in his uplifted head, fronting his brigade to the leaden storm of Spottsylvania ; Locke, adjutant-general of the corps, — a bullet cutting from his very mouth the order he was giving on the flaming crests of Laurel Hill!


You thirteen — seven, before the year was out —shot dead at the head of your commands; of the rest, every one desperately wounded in the thick of battle ; I last of all, but here to-day, — with you, earthly or ethereal forms.

Waes Hael!’ — across the rifts of vision — “Be Whole again, My Thirteen!”

–Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Passing of the Armies.

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