Denton Jaques Snider.

Lincoln in the Black Hawk war, an epos of the Northwest online

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Black Hawk ran from the chieftain 's side,

Skulking away he sneaked through forests

* ' With our regiment, ' ' said Tom, ' ' hot on his

Till in his prairie hole he slunk,
And there he stunk us out, the skunk. ' y
Blunt Tom could blurt as well as blow,
His mind he let the people know,
Who would sing back his vengeful note,
And merciless would cut a race's throat.
He held aloft his instrument
Batoning with it his intent :
"Abe Lincoln, I shall go with you,
And blow the boys the battle through —
Blow the last note of my old life,
And breathe my dying breath through this

deai fife.
I have to tell the tale in every talk
Of the red devil and his tomahawk
Lifted against the border all my youth,


The lying Indian never told the truth;

Could I but help you gain your goal,

I fain would whistle out my soul,

And then my ghastly ghost would fife as well

Against that red-skinned Splayfoot down in

An Indian is old Nick, I know,
To fife him out I'd go below."
But Abe spoke quickly up, "No, no !
We do not want him too up here,
Just let him stay down there, so so,
He would be sure to volunteer,
So many friends he has, I fear,
He might be chosen captain in my place,
I know that he would make the race ;
The Devil, even though he scoff us,
Is always ready for an office."
No answer Tom made with his tongue,
Perchance he was a little stung.
He gave his fife a sudden tip,
And raised it to his puckered lip,
When all at once he made it scream
The infernal tune of "Devil's Dream."
Then Tom his hollow stick caressed
As if it were a baby blest,
And that dull leaden nib he kissed,
Which his fond lips had never missed;
Then all the people shouted glory,
For he had told each man's own story,
Which tingled every borderer


Until each blood-drop ran to war.
That time the Indian had no friend
On the frontier from end to end,
His doomed day none dared to fend.

And yet to be excepted was one man
Who silent slid about the crowd to scan,
As if he came from the other side
So airily his step would glide
Within and out the throbbing throng
To which he could not quite belong;
He held aloof, but not in hate,
He seemed to be a child of fate,
Some took him as a loafer lazy,
And many said he was half crazy,
Though not unknown, he was a stranger,
Along the whole frontier a ranger,
Flitting between the white and red,
No blood he could be brought to shed,
He would not kill a snake or toad
E'en if it lay upon his road,
And though his garments looked forlorn,
His eye benignant traced no scorn;
He skirted round the cheering crowd,
Said naught e 'en to himself aloud,
But in his lank low-furrowed face
No harbour held the hate of race.
Within that town he turned a dream
Drowned in the roll of drum and fife ;
Yet of some other world a gleam


He glanced beyond the present strife.

On Lincoln he a look of hope would dart,

As if he sought to ray it to the heart

Of that one chosen man

And all its worth to him impart

As bearer of a mightier plan ;

The Captain caught the glance at last,

And recognized it well ;

But then it was already past,

And spent the spirit's spell;

It ran into the ready air,

No one could tell exactly where.


Meanwhile into New Salem's center
The jolly joking soldiers enter,
Each of them plays his little pranks,
Or quips the crowd out of the ranks ;
The girls too trip in step along
Each had a lover in the throng,
Some showed a welling tear in the eye,
They wanted both to laugh and cry.
"Halt," shouted Lincoln to his band.
Each move of him gave the command,
The soldier boys came to a stand.
The village life flowed to one place,
It was the little squared space
Where stood the tavern just one-storied,
Which in its fragrant fire-place gloried,
Where steamed the turkey and the pheasant


Wreathing the room with odours pleasant,
And roasted pig with belly cloven
Made music from the old Dutch oven.
James Rutledge was the worthy host,
Who well might of his lineage boast ; .
A Rutledge signed the Declaration
Which independenced us a nation,
A Rutledge signed the Constitution
Which voiced to us our Government,
In lofty words from Heaven sent,
Of History's node the last solution.
High up to hold Astraea's beam,
A Rutledge was first Judge Supreme
Of these so young United States,
Appointed by George Washington
To balance justice 'gainst the fates
Which had the nations hitherto undone.
Such lofty-lined ancestry
Lay hidden in that hostelry,
Which, perched aloft upon a hill,
Looked downward at a little mill,
Whose wheel was rumbling with the spill
Of water pouring it upon
Out of the singing Sangamon ;
The Rutledge mill had too its fame,
And meekly bore its mighty name,
A dam held up the stream, small-sized,
Which too our Lincoln has immortalized,
When once he made his laden boat
In triumph over the fall to float.


But look above at the quadrangle!

The crowd is surging in a tangle ;

Into their midst a cart is whirled,

And on it see a flag unfurled !

Lincoln stands there and peeps around,

Not altogether satisfied

Until a maiden's face is found,

And at the tavern's window spied —

The fact will never be denied.

Then through his shape there throbs a thrill

So tense it seems a heated chill ;

Suddenly his wan and weazen face

Ran full of blood in a red race

Through every furrow of its skin,

He scarce could hold himself within,

So fierce it fought there to get out and fly —

[ think you know the reason why.

Hark ! Who has mounted on the cart
And of the speaking makes a start !
The schoolmaster of the perched village,
The sower of its mental tillage ;
The crop grew fair in his deft hands,
Though stony sometimes were the lands ;
He wielded well the tongue and pen,
For long in use they both had been,
Graham his name, his forename Mentor,
Of all the brains in town the center ;
Nor did he fail to use the gad
When once the boys had made him mad ;


And e 'en a naughty girl would twitch

Her hand aback beneath his switch,

While facial muscles twisted in reply

Until a stubborn tear would globe the eye.

But pupils liked him all the more

For flogging into them his learned store,

Which was not small and yet not great ;

It seems he did not graduate,

Though he had been a while at College

Where he picked up some classic knowledge

Of that fair storied time of antique date —

That fascinating fateless world of fate.

Indeed he had been long a roamer

Herein he too was like old Homer.

Greek fables of the Gods he knew,

And he could tell of heroes too —

The wooden horse in tale of Troy,

That was his everlasting joy,

Which to impart to others there

Did seem to be his heart's sweet care,

Until the story showed the wear.

Sing it he would if in the mood,

Lilting off-hand in measure rude,

Upon the step would take his perch,

Twirling in hand a little birch

In sign perchance of his high calling,

And to his Muse the folk enthralling.

But here upon the cart he springs,
His birch is changed into a flag


Which now he flaps around zigzag,

And thus a sort of speech he sings,

About like that which I am making here,

Falling in ups and downs across the ear :

1 ' Abe Lincoln, I believe in thee —

Keep firm thy step with destiny;

Thou hast a spirit to aspire,

'Tis in thee to be mounting higher,

I saw thee take the stranded boat

Over yonder dam and make it float

In safety down the troubled stream ;

A Captain then thou wert I deem,

And of a far-off future gav'st a gleam.

In thee I saw heroic mould

Slipped through to us from ages old,

Whereof the world-long songs have told.

A Captain now thou hast to be,

Nor is it thy last Captaincy,

When of this fight thou mayst be free.

A pilot of the ship of State,

When in the very pinch of fate

It rolls unsteady in the storm —

Methinks I see thy stalwart form.

But now this flag I wave to thee,

And give it to thy company

That they beneath its wavy blessings fight,

And in its stars see shining God's own light

Until the niggard Death

Refuses them more breath.

Whoever be the foe in sight


He is now red — he may be white —

On land or sea — abroad, at home —

All will reply : Just let him come !

Whatever be the war,

It may be near or far,

This banner be your consecration

Now and forever to preserve the Nation.' '

"Amen!" they in response cried out,

"Amen," was Lincoln's thunder shout,

Eesounding over all the rest,

Though each had yelled his very best.

It seemed to echo through the West

Where prairies still keep the reverberation

Boiling in answer to the Nation.

Then Lincoln took the flag in his own hand —

Flag of the worthy pedagogue

Whose soul felt a prophetic jog —

Long arms outspreading it above his band,

He looked as if he waved it over all the land.

The village inn they stood before,

A person now stepped out its door,

And raised his finger at the crowd,

In bearing dignified, not proud,

To signal not to talk so loud,

As he had something there to say

Ere Lincoln start upon his way.

It was James Rutledge, the first citizen

He would be called by all those men,

His neighbors of the blooming town,


Who gave to him of civic worth the crown.

Lofty and lordly in his stature,

He looked nobility of nature ;

Of South Carolina he was a son,

But quit that State for a Northwestern one,

For he forefelt the future storm,

It was already there a little warm.

The Southern gentleman he did appear,

Eetained the mien of the cavalier,

Though living on the wild frontier ;

He took delight in his degree,

And loved his genealogy.

Now in his hand he bore a sword

With guarded hilt and baldric fine,

Burnished afresh and made to shine,

Holding it up he spoke a word

To Lincoln, yet by all was heard :

"I know you for a noble youth,
Honor is yours and also truth,
The virtues of a valiant knight
Belong to you by own birthright.
This sword of my great ancestor
Worn in the Eevolutionary War —
I deem thee worthy it to wear,
Since I no longer can it bear,
As did I twenty years ago,
To fight the Eed and British foe
With aged Shelby's cavalrymen,
Defying river, wood and fen ;


In fair Kentucky lived I then.
But now I love my Illinois,
Its prairie free is my first joy —
And may it be
Forever free!

Come daughter, gird it on this youth
To wield for honor and for truth ;
Lincoln, ascend upon this stand,
And knighted be by lady's hand!"

The lucky fellow forward strode,
In every drop of blood he glowed,
At once his face's fiery flushes
Bespoke his heart's volcanic gushes;
The fairest maid of all the land
Was to engird him with a brand,
Affixing it with her own hand —
The flower of all gentleness
And daughter of the Eutledges.
In troth a knightly virtue third,
Besides the two of which we've heard,
Begins to bud in Lincoln's heart,
And makes it from its chambers start,
Until the twain is felt as one,
By maiden is this magic done !
A virtue new rays out upon her
From him, as well as truth and honor,
And seems to join them from above,
That knightly virtue third is — love.



Ann Rutledge then stepped to the front

With gracious look as was her wont,

From father's grip the sword she grasped,

Its belt round Lincoln's waist she clasped

Before the applauding multitude

Who there on eager tiptoe stood ;

And then the rosy daring maid

Drew from its sheath the gleaming blade ;

She flashed it before that little band

As if they were the entire land,

And read on it : " Man is born free, ' '

With voice of sweetest melody

Jeweled by gentle courtesy.

She placed it then in Lincoln's hand

And every eye- shot of him scanned;

His brawny knuckles clutched the hilt,

He rose aloft as man new-built,

Before whom Fear itself would wilt ;

The blade he brandished back and forth.

He fiercely shook it toward the North

Where Black Hawk was supposed to be

Burning and slaying in savage glee.

Then all that band of soldiery

Their flintlocks pointed that same way,

As if they saw the Indians in a fray,

Whom they would start at once to slay,

While two or three excited ones

Shot off into the clouds their guns

At the red specters of the air,


Now haunting in their eyesight everywhere.
But Lincoln by some thought was stopped,
His arm he for a moment dropped,
Then raised again that written sword —
The sword of the old Eutledges
Who with it braved the stormiest stress —
He glanced at its engraven word,
"Man is born free —
How can that be?"
Suddenly he whirled about,
Southward his eye looked sharply out,
As if he sought a little speck to see
Which on the far horizon there might be ;
The people wondered at his close inspection,
And turned their faces in that same direction,
When up he whisked his sword again
And smote the wind with might and main ;
In both his hands he took the blade,
And e'en a lurch south-east he made
As if he sought a foe to smite
In the hottest sort of fight.
What image sees he on the air!
Surely no Indian stands out there ;
All wheeled around in order to descry
What seemed to threaten Lincoln's eye
Upon that part of sky.

But naught they saw, and more than ever won-
When out the crowd a voice like Stentor's
thundered :


"Shake it again and do it double;

Shake it at Calhoun who made the trouble ! ' p

Then all the men in chorus cried,

Into one shout now unified

Which swelled up to a universal will —

Even the women could not keep still :

1 * Shake it again and then once more ! ? '

That shout the very welkin tore

To streaming shreds of far-off roar:

"At South Carolina strike a blow,

What was your meaning now we know. ' '

Then Lincoln gave a fiercer lunge,

As if from platform he might plunge

Afar into some future Ocean,

Whereof he caught a dreamy notion ;

He stood erect yet held the sword,

Sword of the Rutledges, the same

Which once from South Carolina came ;

Full solemnly he spoke a word :

" If it should ever happen, the great defection,

We '11 have to march in the other direction.

God save our band from such a task !

And yet my mind bids me to ask

Have you already that intent

If called for by the President !"

The thunder voice again upwent,

As if from one big windpipe sent

Up to the top tip of the firmament :

"We'll go, and Lincoln shall the Captain be,

The only man for Captaincy !"


! ' That point we need not yet decide,
I hope we never may, ' *
The Captain modestly replied :
i i But let us not forget to-day ;
Another duty we have now to do,
That is what first we must get through,
Though we are made of the best stuff,
One war at a time — that is enough.' '

So Lincoln shook at Carolina proud
That Revolutionary sword,
And sharped its point with the right word,
Whereat the overflowing crowd
Applauded to the dome the act
Which seemed a forecast of the fact.
The waves of sound rolled heaven-high,
And with it rose the people up the sky,
Who soon would sink into a silent vale
Between the surges of the soulful gale.
Then next that shoutless moment's chasm
Burst up with new enthusiasm.

But see ! James Rutledge stands once more
Upon the platform at his door,
He seems more lofty in his whole being,
His eyes flash sparkles in their seeing,
A crimson burns along his cheeks
As he in prophet's rapture speaks:
" The sword of the great Rutledges
With all its bright appendages —


More noble than Excalibar

Which shone as Arthur's very star,

And cut his way in every war ;

Mightier than Durandal,

The most romantic sword of all,

Which Eoland bore with Charlemain,

Cleaving the Pyronees atwain ;

Sword of the rending Eevolution,

Sword of the healing Constitution —

The Eutledge name is writ on both

With a sword's point, backed by God's oath.

Now, Lincoln, thou art girded with the same

And thou wilt give it a still higher fame,

Wilt make it gleam with a far greater glory

Than all the fabled swords of knightly story."

So said the Eutledge of the West

Who always did his patriotic best ;

His dignity had not a flaw,

His chivalry obeyed the law

Disdaining all unchecked defiance,

His character was writ reliance.

But now he could hurrah with zest
And let a laugh loose with the rest,
Could e'en unlock a little jest.
But aye the daughter, rosy Ann,
She was the one for whom each man,
And woman too, not jealousied,
His own dear self in love outran,
Whatever way she was espied.


All had her chosen, there was no doubt,
The secret everywhere came out,
But whom the maiden fair would choose,
All still were looking for the news.
She seemed at Lincoln not affrighted,
But with his warlike trappings quite delighted
And on the hero smiled whom she had

But here comes Uncle Jimmy Short
With smileful easy-going port,
Of man he looked the generous sort ;
He sat upon his horse so globular
That he did seem to roll along its back
As he leaped down without a jar,
And held it prancing in its track.
A farmer living some miles out
Was Uncle Jimmy when at home ;
And now from Sand Eidge he had come,
As soon as he had heard about
Lincoln's good luck, and brought a steed
Saddled and bridled just to Abe's need.
"Here, lad," he cried, "take my best nag,
I shall not of his mettle brag,
But backed on him you will not lag.
At sight of you bay Speedwell prances,
And neighs to take with you the chances
Of the curst redskin's ruthless rifle,
His horse-talk fierce you cannot stifle.
Captain, now leap into this saddle


To show how you may look a-straddle ;
I want to see your long thin shanks
Dangle far down the horse 's flanks,
And when you grip in hand his bridle,
You must not think of being idle ;
Your foot doth bulk a little bit,
But in this stirrup it will fit.
See the dear fellow's rolling mane!
There ! he whinnies for you once again ;
Now mount! let's see how well you sit,
And what boy Speedwell says to it ;
He'll make a war-speech, I'll bet a dollar,
Hark ! already he begins to holler. ' '
Then Lincoln's look did kindly bend
And speak unto his all-round friend :
i i Dear Uncle Jimmy, some voice you heeded
Which told yiou just what I most needed ;
But wait ! I have aught first to do,
One minute more I shall be through. ' '

Lincoln had glimpsed a furrowed face
Which gleamed across that crowded space,
And thence be shone him with its grace
Of pure maternal sheen,
Transfigured like to Heaven's queen.
Who is it gently pushing through the street
Centerwards, where her idol she would meet ?
Ah Mother Sallie Lincoln hastes to greet
The youth she loves as her salvation,
Although a step-child is the relation


Between the mother and the son —
Two souls transmuted into one,
A kinship deeper than of blood
Inspires her holy motherhood.
A little gift she also bears,
And holds it out with trickling tears :
A pair of stockings she has knitted,
'Twas all her poverty permitted,
The yarn with her own hand she spun
On spindle of her spinning wheel,
And then she wound it on her reel,
From sun-up to the setting sun,
Until her happy-making work was done.
With every turn of her deft fingers
Over the lad her feeling lingers,
Every loup had in it a good thought
As she with knitting-needle wrought ;
Sometimes she would a stitch let drop,
Or e'en in meditation stop;
Nay, she would fall asleep and dream
What might his coming life beseem,
And of it caught she many a gleam
Escaping from Time's formless deep,
Despite the future's bolted keep.

From Little Goose Neck Prairie all the way
She came, arriving just that day
In time to see the triumph of her boy,
Which made her heart walls thump with joy.
And yet her hope had one alloy,


She felt some lurking counterstroke

Whose pang anxiety awoke,

Starting a far presentiment

Which she could never quite prevent

Despite her intellect's dissent.

And as her work she handed fearful

She spake to him in accents tearful :

' ' I do not like to see you go to war,

My Abe, my spirit's son,

Your life in mine is spun ;

A cloud is hung across your star

Just where it shines above

With everybody's love.

My heart bespeaks some day you will be slain,

I feel a bullet crashing through your brain,

Oft have you said to me the same,

Presaging it as an ancestral trait;

Your father's father had that fate,

From whom you take your name,

And also take your doom

Which sends you to the tomb ;

The image of that little drop of lead

How much it makes me dread !

That time may still be far away

Or yet to-day ;

Farewell I must endure the pain —

Abe I may never see again. ' '

With one embrace she turned aside

Her tear-wet face to hide ;

To soothe her sorrow Lincoln sought


And playful gave to her this thought,

' i Nay, mother, I am good for many years,

Of flesh and blood I am still made,

I do not look much like a shade,

Here on your apron dry your tears. ' '

And yet she touched with her dread word

In Lincoln's soul a quivering chord,

Responsive to his deep foreboding bent :

But now another task was sent ;

A mutual smile each smiled at any rate,

Though both forefelt the stir of fate,

And both seemed minded in a common tether

So that they always thought together.


But now the twain of single soul

The time will tear apart ;

Each must pursue a separate goal,

Already they have made a start ;

The one has still to keep her home,

The other in the world must roam.

Between them surged the crowd

With acclamations loud,

Bringing the village rhymer too,

Whom Lincoln also knew.

1 \ A new man for our company, ' '

The shout arose in boisterous glee ;

* ' Here comes the merry man Jack Kelso,

Of all the town he's the good fellow!"

Then spoke to Abe a single voice


Yelling above the buzzing noise :

"Jack Kelso wishes to enlist,

And bring along his jolly grist

Of songs and ballads and old rhymes,

Which will amuse us at odd times,

And even 'twill console us dying

If we can hear him versifying.

The fiddle too he gaily brings,

Can pour his soul into the strings,

And to his tunes will make us dance

Even our nags will have to prance.

In all the West he is the champion spouter

Of Shakespeare and of Bobbie Burns ;

Of Indians he will be the mighty router

Shooting verses at them of all turns ;

And cunning lines he has of his own make,

Which he will not forsake ;

Of love he knows the very tune,

Some of us boys will need him soon.

Now Captain Lincoln, him enroll

As prairie poet on thy scroll,

And f ellowed deeply with thy soul. ' '

1 ' I '11 do it, ' ' says Abe, ' ' to round our plan

He comes in time the very man ;

Our outfit now will be complete,

The enemy we '11 gaily meet,

And serve him with a grand defeat;

And then to cap the glorious deed

A song of triumph will be our meed. ,,

So Lincoln spoke, the name inscribed,



Whereat the poet a swig of grog imbibed.
For Jack's loved Muse had a Bacchic vein,
And the corn-god too could inspire his strain.

But say, who was this happy Jack,

Who had such strange melodious knack!

The village vagabond he must be called,

The Muses sweet had him enthralled,

So that he could not work for bread,

And hardly knew where he might rest his

Yet him the people liked and fed,
Though they despised him and his verses.
And would sometimes hurl at him curses.
Jack too had been a far-off roamer,
American descendant of old Homer.
Wanderer shiftless
Made singer thriftless.
Abe liked this entertaining Jack,
Would slap him freely on the back,
And grade his friendship by the thwack.
Both loved along the sunny Sangamon to laze
And pass in poetry their summer days ;
With hook and line Abe soon would find him

And start him on the bank to spouting
The rhymes of the great bards well-known,
And then he added verses of his own.
To Captain Lincoln Jack drew near,
And spoke to him that all might hear :


1 * Captain, I wish to take with you this walk,

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Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderLincoln in the Black Hawk war, an epos of the Northwest → online text (page 4 of 16)