lines for decoration day

by Frederick H. Pilch

Image: Jordan Allen
Image: Jordan Allen

We meet to-day to decorate
        Our soldiers’ graves with flowers,
And vow their way to emulate
        Whenever danger lowers;
We gladly call their chieftains great,
        And welcome them with cheers,
For love of all who met dread Fate
        Like Union Volunteers.

In dark morass where mosses trail,–
        By bayous lone and still,–
In mountain pass where rainbows vail
        The limpid plunging rill,–
On quagmire’s crust, or arid plain,
        Afar from human tears,
Interred by dust and leaves and rain,
        Sleep Union Volunteers.

In barren sands along the shore
        Where ocean billows beat,
In forest lands where men no more
        In awful warfare meet,
On slopes remote where battles raged
        And warriors fought their peers,
With nought to note who were engaged,–
        Lie Union Volunteers.

They loved their soil, their homes, their wives,
        Their children, sweethearts, sires;–
Their honest toil brought quiet lives,
        And moderate desires;
With high resolve they said farewell
        To all that life endears,
Determined Treason to repel
        As Union Volunteers.

The few lie here,–the many there
        Still slumber where they fell,
Roses and clover blossoms fair
        And violets mark them well:
And though so far from home they lie
        We give them smiles and tears,
And honor with both shout and sigh
        Those Union Volunteers.

But as they bravely bled and died
        In agony and pain,
We say to-day with honest pride
        They did not die in vain;
For though the thinning legions go
        Adown the slope of years,
Freedom and Unity we owe
        To Union Volunteers.

Another generation bold
        Crowds on the stage of life.
To them the war’s a story told
        Of other people’s strife;
But in their hands our flag will fly
        Above all foes and fears,
On them our Nation can rely
        For Union Volunteers.

Six Civil War regiments were formed and trained at Camp Frelinghuysen, then an open field between the Morris Canal and Roseville Avenue. The first of these, the 13th New Jersey Infantry, left Newark on August 31, 1862, fought at Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and participated in the siege of Atlanta and the March to the Sea. The Volunteers of the 13th remained in the Union service until the war’s end.

Attorney Frederick Pilch published this poem in the 1882 compilation Homespun verses.

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