Bivouac of the Dead Markers
Their shivered swords are red with rust;
Their plumed heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
Are free from anguish now.
Nor war’s wild note, nor glory’s peal,
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that nevermore may feel
The rapture of the fight.
Like the fierce northern hurricane
That sweeps his great plateau,
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
Came down the serried foe.
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o’er the field beneath,
Knew well the watchword of that day
Was “Victory or Death.”
Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O’er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the glory tide;
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.
‘T was in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr’s grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation’s flag to save.
By rivers of their fathers’ gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.
Full many a norther’s breath has swept
O’er Angostura’s plain,
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its mouldered slain.
The raven’s scream or eagle’s flight,
Or shepherd’s pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o’er that dread fray.
Sons of the dark and bloody ground,
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.
Thus ‘neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the glory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother’s breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes’ sepulcher.
Nor shall your story be forgot,
While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.
Yon marble minstrel’s voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanished age hath flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter’s blight,
Nor Time’s remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory’s light
That gilds your deathless tomb.
Location: The National Cemetery.
Description: Series of eight tablets (originally seventeen) to the valor of the dead soldiers interred in the National Cemetery. Tablets are cast iron, inscribed with stanzas from Theodore O’Hara’s “Bivouac of the Dead”, seven stanzas remain, one repeated in tablet series.