The Spectral Army

Since Halloween will soon be on us, I wanted to share a halloween themed poem that has a Civil War connection. The poem is entitled “The Spectral Army,” and it was written by Samuel Newton Berryhill. Berryhill was born in Choctaw (Now Webster) County Mississippi, on October 22, 1832. As a child he was afflicted with what was termed a “serious spinal affection,” which left him unable to walk. Because of this Berryhill was unable to participate in the Civil War as a soldier, but he was an ardent supporter of the Confederacy. His first book of poetry, a modest volume entitled “The Vision of Blood,” was published by John N. Bowen at the Southern Motive office in Grenada in 1864.

Samuel Newton Berryhill - Image from his book, BACKWOOD POEMS

Berryhill’s best known work is “Backwood Poems,” which was published in 1878. The following poem was but one of the many excellent verses that were published in this volume. The brother that the author alludes to in the poem was Lieutenant William Harvey Berryhill, who served in Company D, 43rd Mississippi Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Nashville on December 15, 1864.

THE SPECTRAL ARMY

The deep-toned clock strikes twelve;

the winds are lulled to rest;

And the cuspate moon, long past her noon,

Sinks slowly in the west.

Like serpents on the ground

The lengthning shadows creep;

Each shrub assumes a phantom form

To eyes that can not sleep;

That can not sleep to-night

For the spirits wild unrest-

The grief for stricken mother-land

Which weights upon my breast;

Which weights more heavy now,

While all is still around,

And the mind turns inward on itself,

Unswayed by sight or sound.

But hark! Upon the hills

A rustling sound is heard,

Like the noise of trees, when by the breeze

The frost-browned leaves are stirred.

And now a bugle-blast

And a muffled drum I hear;

And soon, dark moving lines of men

Upon the hills appear.

From every battle-field,

In solemn long array,

At the tap of the drum, they come – they come

The men that wore the gray!

The men that wore the gray

That died our land to save

Have heard the clanking of our chains,

And come from the silent grave.

The flag they loved so well

Above them floats once more;

And the starry cross shines bright again

As it shone in days of yore.

O, how my spirit yearns,

As many a once-loved face

Looks on me from the spectral lines

That move with measured pace!

My brother, brave and kind,

And ever to duty true,

One moment halts, and lifts his hand

To wave a last adieu.

On-On-still on they come,

Like the flow of a mighty stream;

And burnished guns and bayonets

In the silvery moonlight gleam.

The prancing steeds move by;

The cannons lumbering car;

Caisson, and ambulance, and all

The oppurtenants of war.

Here Stonewall Jackson rides,

In the quaint old garb he wore,

When he hurled his ranks against the foe

On Shenandoahs shore.

And Sidney Johnston there

His gleaming sabre draws

The noblest man that ever died

For freedoms holy cause.

On a snowy steed I see,

Robed in a sable gown,

The martyr Polk blest man of God

Wearing a starry crown.

Here Zollicoffer moves,

Calm as a summer morn;

And Patrick Cleburne bravest son

Of the isle where he was born.

The Christian warrior Hill,

And Bee, together ride;

Stuart, Virginias chevalier,

And Ashby by his side.

Garnett and Hanson now

Upon the scene appear;

And Barksdale waves his sword, and smiles

As if the foe were near.

McCulloch rushes by,

And McIntosh the brave;

And Hatton leads the long brigade

That with him found a grave.

John Morgan comes let foes,

Fear-stricken, hold their breath;

And Adams spurs the steed which leaped

Into the jaws of death.

The long, long spectral lines

At last have all passed by,

And the moon has dipped one silver horn

Beneath the western sky.

The shadows of the trees

Have mingled on the ground;

And faint and fainter on the hills

Now grows the rustling sound.

The roll of the muffled drum

In the distance dies away,

And veil of night conceals from sight

The men that wore the gray.

O gallant men in gray!

Our countrys hope and pride!

Time can not mar the laurels green

Which crowned ye when ye died!

The cause for which ye bled,

Shall rise from the dust again;

The God is just in whom we trust

Ye have not died in vain.

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