Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Civil War Heart

When given the chance at our dorm meeting last night to do some contemplating and writing, I found myself thinking about an instance I had learned about a while ago in my Civil War Era class. It was at the Battle of Stones River in late 1862. The authors of our main textbook put it well, so I'll let them set the scene for you:

"After many delays caused by cavalry raids in their rear, Rosecrans's 42,000 troops marched from Nashville the day after Christmas to confront Bragg's 36,000-strong Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro. They found the Confederates drawn up astride Stones River, a shallow stream a mile northwest of town. On the night of December 30, the two armies bivouacked only a few hundred yards apart. Their bands engaged in a musical battle in the still winter air, one side blaring out 'Dixie' in challenge to the other's 'Yankee Doodle,' and so on. Finally, one band began to play 'Home, Sweet Home.' Others took it up until all the bands in both armies were playing and thousands of soldiers, Yankees and Rebels together, sang the familiar words. Perhaps some of them wondered at the tragic irony of a war in which they could sing together one night and butcher each other on the morrow."

(Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, 4th ed. by James M. McPherson and James K. Hogue, p. 332)

What a bitter-sweet, heart-breaking moment in history! Around 620,000 men died during the Civil War. Destruction and death were part of the results of the country's divide.

The following is a poem I wrote that was inspired by that "battle of the bands." Perhaps you're in a place like me, where you're desperately trying to grab hold of the future - symbolized by the North and progress. Or perhaps you're clinging tight to the past and all its pain or former "glory" - symbolized by the South. This poem isn't polished or perfect by any means. But I thought I would share it with you now anyway.

As C.S. Lewis noted, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” We all long for a forever Home, and nothing here on earth can satisfy that desire.

So may that night in the middle of the Civil War remind us of the beauty in an eternity far beyond and yet very near our everyday lives.

Civil War Heart
By Amber Stokes

Look away, dear brother, look away.
Sing sweet "Dixie" beneath the stars -
Not so far above the frosty, bitter ground
Where the old ways have brought you
To this moment when heartfelt discord
Chases sweet melodies away. Away.

Not so fine and dandy, dear brother,
When all you glimpse of progress -
Future - is fight and struggle, endless
Grasping at blood-soaked dirt
Where you must sleep another night
Beneath stars you never can reach.

Let those songs fade away. Away.
Tonight hold close thoughts of home,
Sweet home.
Beyond North.
Beyond South.
Beyond mere survival.
Where harmony reveals a candle
In the window not so far away.

(Ordeal by Fire cover image from Amazon.com. Stones River image from CivilWar.org - with more pictures and information on that site.)


Unknown said...

I love your poem, Amber! It's beautiful!

Amber Holcomb said...

Thank you so much, Gwendolyn! :) I appreciate you stopping by!

God bless!


Renee said...

Great poem, Amber!

Amber Holcomb said...


Aww, thank you! That means a lot to me coming from a wonderful writer (and teacher!) like you! :)

Thank you for stopping by!


felícia said...

Dear Amber I've loved your poem!I'm descendent of an american family that came to Brasil imediataly civil war!
They were a brave people. They left
their loved country to start a new life.Their left to never return, but their souls stayed forever in the South! Oh Mississipi! I1m the seventh
generations but it hurts me a lot!
So what surprise to see someaone that feels like me!
Felícia from Brazil

Amber Holcomb said...


Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to read my poem! :) I'm honored that you loved it!

And thank you for sharing a little of your family's story here. So many people were hurt by the Civil War, and so many people needed a new start after all the hardships they went through. It sounds like your family found that new start, but still had a difficult time leaving their home in the South...

May God bless you and your family!