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Nobody could know General Washington that had not seen him, as we did, at that dark hour of the struggle. It seemed as if that man never slept. All day he was planning, directing, contriving; and all night long he would write, write, write, - letters to Congress, begging them to give him full powers, and all would go well; for he did not want power for himself, but only power to serve them; letters to the generals at the north, warning, comforting, and advising them; letters to his family and friends, bidding them look at him and do as he did; letters to influential men every where, entreating them to enlist men and money for the holy cause.
He never rested; and with the cold gray dawning, would order out his horse, and ride through and round the miserable tents, where we often slept under the bare heavens; and every heart was of bolder and better cheer as he passed. His look never changed. It was just the same steady face, whatever went on before it; whether he saw us provincials beaten back, or watched a thousand British regulars pile their arms after the victory at Trenton. He looked as he does in the great picture at Faneuil Hall. He stands there by his horse, just as I saw him before the passage of the Delaware, with the steady, serious, immovable look that puts difficulties out of countenance. It is the look of a man of sense and judgment, who has come to the determination to save the country, and means to transact that piece of business without fail.
I never saw that quiet, iron look change but once. I will tell you about it. It was one of those days after the battle of Trenton, when he tried to concentrate the troops scattered over the country, and bring them to bear upon the British in such a way as to show them that they could not keep their foothold.
Between Trenton and Princeton he ordered the assault. The Virginians were broken at the enemy's first charge, and could not be rallied a second time against the British bayonets. General Washington commanded, and threatened, and entreated in vain.
We of New England saw the crisis, marched rapidly up, and poured in our fire at the exact moment, Judah Loring and I in the very front. They could not stand the fire. Judah Loring loaded and I fired over and over again, till it seemed as if he and I were one creature. A musket, I should explain to you, feels nothing of itself, but only receives a double share of the nature that carries it. I felt alive that day. Judah was hot, but I was hotter; and before the cartridge box was empty, he pulled down his homespun blue and white frock sleeve over his wrists, and rested me upon it when he took aim. "She's so hot," says he, doubling his sleeve into his palm, "that I can't hold her; but I can't stop firing now." I met his wishes exactly, I knew by that word; for he always called every thing he liked she. The sun was she; so was his father's old London-made watch; so was the Continental Congress.
General Washington saw the whole: the enemy, driven back before our fire, could never be brought to look us in the face again. We held the ground; the Virginia troops rallied; General Washington took off his cocked hat, and lifted it high, like a finished gentleman as he was. "Hurrah!" he shouted; "God bless the New England troops! God bless the Massachusetts line." * And his steady face flamed and gave way like melting metal. Ah, what a set of men were those! I felt the firm trip-hammer beat of all their pulses through the whole fight; for we stood in line, shoulder to shoulder. They had more steel in their nerves and more iron in their blood than other men. Not a man cared a straw for his life, so he saved from wrong and bondage the lives of them that should come after him.
*This is all fact, related one who was present.
IN slumbers of midnight the sailor boy lay:
His hammock* swung loose at the sport of the wind; But watch-worn and weary, his cares flew away,
And visions of happiness danced o'er his mind.
He dreamed of his home, of his dear native bowers,
Then Fancy her magical pinions spread wide,
And bade the young dreamer in ecstasy rise: Now far, far behind him the green waters glide,
And the cot of his forefathers blesses his eyes.
The jessamine clambers in flowers o'er the thatch,
And the swallow chirps sweet from her nest in the wall; All trembling with transport, he raises the latch, And the voices of loved ones reply to his call.
A father bends o'er him with looks of delight;
His cheek is impearled with a mother's warm tear, And the lips of the boy in a love kiss unite
With the lips of the maid whom his bosom holds dear.
The heart of the sleeper beats high in his breast;
Joy quickens his pulse; all his hardships seem o'er; And a murmur of happiness steals through his rest"O God, thou hast blessed me; I ask for no more."
Ah! whence is that flame which now glares on his eye? Ah! what is that sound which now bursts on his ear?
* Hammock, a kind of hanging bed suspended by hooks, on board ships.
'Tis the lightning's red glare painting hell on the sky! 'Tis the crashing of thunders, the groan of the sphere !
He springs from his hammock he flies to the deck;
Wild winds and mad waves drive the vessel a-wreck ;
Like mountains the billows tremendously swell;
In vain the lost wretch calls on mercy to save; Unseen hands of spirits are ringing his knell,
And the death angel flaps his broad wing o'er the wave.
O sailor boy, woe to thy dream of delight!
In darkness dissolves the gay frostwork of bliss; Where now is the picture that Fancy touched bright, Thy parents' fond pressure and love's honeyed kiss?
O sailor-boy, sailor-boy, never again
Shall home, love, or kindred thy wishes repay; Unblessed and unhonored, down deep in the main, Full many a fathom, thy frame shall decay.
No tomb shall e'er plead to remembrance for thee,
Or redeem thy lost form from the merciless surge; But the white foam of waves shall thy winding sheet be, And winds, in the midnight of winter, thy dirge.
On a bed of green sea-flower thy limbs shall be laid;
Days, months, years, and ages shall circle away,
And still the vast waters above thee shall roll; Earth loses thy pattern forever and aye:
O sailor boy, sailor boy, peace to thy soul!
XXXI. — ADVERTISEMENT OF A LOST DAY.
LOST! lost! lost!
And graved in Paradise;
Large diamonds, clear and bright,
Lost where the thoughtless throng
Lost! lost! lost!
I feel all search is vain;
Can ne'er be mine again;
For though these heart-strings sever,
But when the sea and land
Like burning scroll have fled.
I'll see it in His hand,
Who judgeth quick and dead;