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Subject: [GM-L] Grandmother's Story ~ Bunker Hill 1775 Part 2 of 2
Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 15:24:13 EDT
Subject: Grandmother's Story ~ Bunker Hill 1775
By Oliver Wendell Holmes
Part 2 of 2 - Bunker Hill
O the sight our eyes discover as the blue-black smoke
The red-coats stretched in windrows as a mower rakes
Here a scarlet heap is lying, there a headlong crown
Like a billow that has broken and is shivered into
Then we cried, "The troops are routed! They are
beat - it cant be doubted!
God be thanked, the fight is over!
An old soldier's smile!
Are they beaten? Are they beaten? Are they
beaten?" "Wait a while."
O the trembling and the terror! we have driven them
back in vain;
And the columns that were scattered, round the colors
that were tattered,
Toward the sullen silent fortress turn their belted
All at once, as we are gazing, lo! the roofs of Charles-
They have fired the harmless village; in an hour it
will be down!
The robbing, murdering red-coats that would burn a
They are marching, stern and solemn; we can see
each massive column -
As they near the naked earth-mound with the slanting
walls so steep.
Have our soldiers got faint-hearted, and in noiseless
Are they panic-struck and helpless? Are they palsied
Now! the walls they're almost under! scarce a rod
the foes asunder!
Not a firelock flashed against them! up the earth-
work they will swarm!
But the words have scarce been spoken, when the
ominous calm is broken,
And a bellowing crash has emptied all the vengeance
of the storm!
So again, with murderous slaughter, pelted backwards
to the water,
Fly Pigot's running heroes and the frightened braves
And we shout, "At last they're done for, it's their
barges they have run for;
They are beaten, beaten, beaten; and the battles's over
And we looked, poor timid creatures, on the rough
old soldier's features,
Our lips afraid to question, but he knew what we
would ask -
"Not sure," he said, "keep quiet - once more,
I guess, they'll try it -
Here's damnation to the cut-throats!" then he
handed me his flask,
Saying, "Gal you're looking shaky; have a drop of
I'm afeard there'll be more trouble afore the job is
So I took one scorching swallow; dreadful faint I felt
Standing there from early morning when the firing
And through those hours of trial I had watched a calm
As the hands kept creeping, creeping - they were
creeping round to four,
When the old man said "They're forming with their
bayonets fixed for storming;
It's the death-grip that's a coming - they will try
the works once more."
With brazen trumpets blaring, the flames behind them
The deadly wall before them, in close array they
Still onward, upward toiling, like a dragon's fold
Like the rattlesnake's shrill warning the reverberating
Over heaps all torn and gory - shall I tell the fearful
How they surged above the breastwork, as a sea
breaks o'er a deck;
How, driven, yet scarce defeated, our worn-out men
With the powder-horns all emptied, like the swimmers
from a wreck.
It has all been told and painted; as for me, they say
And the wooden-legged old Corporal stumped with
me down the stair;
When I woke from dreams afrighted the evening
lamps were lighted,
On the floor a youth was lying; his bleeding breast
And I heard through all the flurry, "Send for
Warren! hurry! hurry!
Tell him here's a soldier bleeding and he'll come and
dress his wound!"
Ah, we knew not till the morrow told its tale of death
How the starlight found him stiffened on the dark
and bloody ground.
Who the youth was, what his name was, where the
place from which he came was,
Who had brought him from the battle, and had left
him at our door,
He could not speak to tell us; but 'twas one of our
As the homespun plainly showed us which the dying
For they all thought he was dying, as they gathered
round him crying,
And they said, "Oh, how they'll miss him!" and,
"What will his mother do?"
Then his eyelids just unclosing like a child's that has
He faintly murmured, "Mother!" and, I saw his
eyes were blue.
"Why, grandma, how you're winking!" Ah,
my child, it sets me thinking
Of a story not like this one. Well, he somehow lived
So we came to know each other, and I nursed him like
Till at last he stood before me, tall and rosy-cheeked
And we sometimes walked together in the pleasant
"Please to tell us what his name was?
Just your own, my little dear.
There's his picture Copley painted; we became so
That, in short, that's why I'm grandma and you
children are all here!"
Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth
In 1875 the poet laureate of Boston, Oliver Wendell Holmes, called upon to
commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill in verse, he produced a verse of the
tragedy and heroics of the fateful day - the dawn of American freedom. Holmes
tells the story from an original angle: Grandmother's Story of Bunker Hill
Battle (as she saw it from the belfry.)
Celebration of the centennial anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill.
With an appendix containing a survey of the literature of the battle, its
antecedents and results. Boston, Printed by order of the City council,
es/oliverwendellholmes.html">Oliver Wendell Holmes</A>