It strikes me as appropriate on Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day for the Civil War dead, to post on a fallen soldier. And I do not think I can do so more eloquently than this family member did in 1863. Jimmy and I both loved this poem and had hoped to include it in our history of the 6th U.S. Cavalry, but unfortunately there wasn’t room.
“Lines on the Death of Mr. Edward Falkner, Jun., of the 6th Regiment U.S. Cavalry, Who fell in a Cavalry Charge at Brandy Station, on the ‘Rappahannock,’ 9th June, 1863.
The freest land the sun illumes,
Resounds with shouts of war;
The South a hostile form assumes
‘Gainst freedom’s sacred law;
And freedom’s sons pour out their life
Her Honour to sustain,
And kindred meet in bloody strife
Upon the battle plain;
And happy homes are rudely shorn
Of all that gave them joy,
For sire and son away are borne
Upon the field to die.
The maiden mourns in deep distress
For him she once caressed;
The widow strains the fatherless
Upon her sobbing breast.
Thousands that left their native land,
In search of peaceful toil,
Are stretched by war’s relentless hand
Upon the gory soil.
One home of five left England’s shore
With all she boasts behind,
And crossed the wide Atlantic o’er
A better land to fnd.
These dwelt in peace till age’s frost
Upon the parents came,
And boyhood of their sons was lost,
In manhood’s hardy frame; —
Who fired with zeal for freedom’s cause,
The Federal army join,
And in defence of righteous laws
Confront the Southern line.
The eldest chose the horseman’s ground,
Where swords and lances gleam,
And soon among his comrades found
Respect and high esteem;
For though his rough and stalwart frame
Could fearless meet the foe,
His dauntless heart knew mercy’s name,
And felt for others’ woe.
Long did the starry banner wave,
As emblem of the free,
Where manfully he fought to save
The flag of liberty.
But on the 9th of June he fell
By Rappahannock’s side,
When in a noble charge to quell
The advanced rebel tide.
Two thousand of the choicest horse
From out the Federal band,
Were marched against the Southern force
At General Lee’s command.
The armies met, the fight began,
And tumult filled the air,
While streams of fire like lightning ran,
Midst the conflict there.
Charge! Charge!! my men, their leader cried,
And ere the bugle sounds,
The gallant horsemen fiercely ride
Across the rebel bounds.
Where, through dense clouds of dust and smoke,
The bullets fell like rain,
While the hoarse cannon’s thunder spoke
A requiem for the slain.
But in that charge our hero died,
Pierced by a musket ball,
And o’er his foaming charger’s side
Was lifeless seen to fall.
The missile through his heart had broke,
And did its work too well;
For not a word the soldier spoke
When to the ground he fell.
Swift from its cell, amid the strife,
The soldier’s spirit fled,
Nor lingered long that moral life
‘Twixt dying and the dead.
With willing hands the corpse to save,
From the stern fate of war,
His comrades bore it o’er the wave,
To a more peaceful shore;
And dug with mournful haste a grave,
For him they loved so well,
While tears of manly sorrow strayed,
Down their rough cheeks, and fell
On the uncoffin’d form that lies,
In death’s cold slumber there,
And turned to heaven their tearful eyes,
In mute but earnest prayer.
Thus broke the sacred chain that bound
That home in life and love,
But firmer will its links be found,
That bind that home above.
Green be the memory of the brave
That fought for freedom’s right,
And nobly died her flag to save
From the slave tyrant’s might.
Honour to England’s sons of toil,
That left their native shores,
And fell upon a foreign soil
For freedom’s righteous laws.
Edward Falkner was born in England in 1838, and was a farmer in New York before the war. He enlisted into Company I, 6th U.S. Cavalry at Rochester, New York on September 7, 1861. He was killed in action as the poem states at Beverly Ford on June 9, 1863.
Clark B. Hall said:
Thanks much, Don, for generously sharing this poignant ode in memory of Trooper Edward Falkner, killed at Brandy Station, June 9, 1863. This poem reminds us there were many foreign-born soldiers on both sides who served (and were killed) in the Civil War, and although one supposes that as a “nation of immigrants” we should not be surprised at this fact, we nevertheless retain a special obligation to recall the honorable service of those who were not born on those shores–and yet died under their adopted banner.
It is a fact the 6th US Cavalry (Edward Falkner’s outfit, of course), plus the 2nd and 5th US Cavalry Regiments and the 8th Illinois and the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, saw more of the Brandy Station Battlefield and fought longer on June 9 than any other regiments, Blue or Gray. These regiments gamely fought south down Beverly’s Ford Road in the morning against Grumble Jones’s Brigade, and then they confronted Rooney Lee’s Brigade late morning and all afternoon on Yew Ridge and northern Fleetwood Hill. Point being, they fought all day long on June 9.. And no other regiments but these five can make that stout claim. (And I think John Buford would be proud of this fact.)
Absent a specific eyewitness account–which I don’t have–it would be tough to know at exactly which point on the battlefield Trooper Falkner was killed. But if I had to guess, it would be on the Federal right somewhere around the Green farm where the 6th US Cav was so heavily engaged.