The Doctor’s Letter

Daisy always claimed that this occurred to a family who lived near them in Grafton

Dear Madam,

I am a soldier and my speech is rough and plain.
I’m not much used to writing, and I hate to give you pain.
But I promised I would do it, and he thought it might be so,
If it came from one that loved him, perhaps it would ease the blow.

By this time you must surely guess the truth I feign would hide
And you’ll pardon me for rough soldier words, while I tell you how he died.
Twas the night before the battle, and in our crowded tent,
More than one brave boy was sobbing, and every knee was bent.

For we knew not on the morrow, when this bloody work was done,
How many of us that was kneeling there, would see the setting sun.
Twas not so much for self we cared, as for the loved at home
It is always worse to think of, than to hear the cannon’s boom

It was then we left the crowded tent, your soldier boy and I
And we both breathed freer standing underneath the clear blue sky.
I was more than ten years older, but he seemed to take to me
And more oftener than the younger ones, he sought my company.

He seemed to want to talk of home, and those that he held dear,
While I had none to talk of. But I always liked to hear.
And so he told me of the night and the time he came away
And how you sorely grieved for him but you didn’t bid him stay.

And how his own fond hopes had been when this war was through
He might go back with honor to his home, to his friends and you.
He named his sisters one by one, and then a deep flush came
When he told me of another, but he didn’t speak her name.

And then he said, “Dear Doctor, it may be that I shall fall.
And if so, will you write to those and home, how I loved and spoke of all.”
So I promised, but I did not think the time would come so soon..
The fight was just three days ago. He died today at noon.

It seemed so hard that one so loved as he was should be gone.
While I should still be living here who had no friends at home.
It was in the morrow’s battle: fast rained the shot and shell.
I was standing close beside him, and I saw him when he fell.

And so I took him in my arms and laid him on the grass.
It was going against orders, but I think they let it pass.
It was a mini-ball that struck him. It entered at his side.
But we didn’t think it fatal till this morning when he died.

And when he found that he must go, he called me to his bed and said,
“Do not forget to write when you hear that I am dead
Tell them how I loved them, how I bid them all goodbye.
Say I tried to do the best I could, that I didn’t fear to die.

And underneath my pillow , there’s a curl of golden hair.
There’s a name upon the paper. Send it to my mother’s care
Last night I wanted so to live, I seemed so young to go.
Last week I passed my last birthday, I was just 19 you know.

When I thought of all I’d planned to do, it seemed so hard to die.
But now I’ve prayed to God for grace and all my cares have gone by.”
And here his voice grew weaker as he partly raised his head,
And whispered, “Goodbye, mother.” And your soldier boy was dead.

I wrapped his cloak around him as we bore him out tonight,
And laid him in a clump of trees where the moon was shining bright.
I carved him out a headboard, as skillful as I could,
And if you wish to find it, I can tell you where it stood.

I’ll send you back his hymn books and the caps he used to wear.
And the lock I cut the night before of his bright curly hair.
I’ll send you back his Bible, the night before he died,
We turned its leaves together, and I read it by his side.

I’ll keep the belt he was wearing, he told me so to do.
It has a hole up on the side, just where the ball went through.
So now I’ve done his bidding. There is nothing more to tell.
But I shall always mourn with you, that boy we loved so well.