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Phillip E. Carpenter

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Sad State of Affairs
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(the civil war was very uncivil)

The press gang came a’knockin’ to my little log cabin in the Smokies of Tennessee
T’was nigh on suppertime so I ast the bearded officer what he wanted with me
“Call to arms, son,” he stated, “Defend our precious ways and the freedom of the South.”
I didn’t cotton to him much, he had a mean and shifty mouth.

“Not I,” I opined, “I’m a peaceable man, don’t own no niggers, got no bottom land,
Cain’t see much use for fightin’ with bluebellies so I ain’t marchin’ in your band.”
The rough fellers grabbed me, threw me on the ground, butted me with their muskets then took me to town
Put me up in the hoosegow with some they called outliers, men they’d beaten right smartly down.

Only had me on pantaloons and old work boots too, no blouse, only long Johns, they’d hafta do.
Come sunup they brung us out, chained us all up like slaves then gave each a cup of watery stew.
“Move out, you sorry sons of the South,” yelled the cutlassed rider with the big grey hat.
So we shuffled down the red dusty road, some quiet, some cryin’, one screamin’ like a cat.

No trainin’ for battle, we was just like cattle, herded to the front for this God-awful war.
My first day at Bull Run shorely weren’t a peck o’ fun, still didn’t see what all the fightin’ was for.
Them Federal tunnelers dug underneath our line, set off a powder charge that was powerful fine.
Blew ‘em a big crater, killed lots'a our boys. Couldn’t hear from my ear from the God-awful noise.

Three-pounders blasted us with grape, some ol' boys I knowed wound up just a bloody shape
A mini creased my left hand side, I was thankin’ God I hadn’t died, you know, like some dumb ape.
Got buck fever, forgot to take out my rod, fired anyways like an addled galoot
Without rod to tamp powder, waddin' and ball, din't have the wherewithal to shoot.

Saw them bodies pilin’ deep, some was youngish fellers, only twelve or so, made me wanta weep.
No tellin’ how many thousands died, brothers on both sides, we went two days fightin' without no sleep.
This were the second Bull Run fight of ‘sixty-two, Lee again carried the day, we were told
But in September at a place called Antietam, Bluecoat McLellan done stopped him cold.

Then I was next secured to old Jeb Stuart’s command, the befeathered dandy took us in hand
We all were well met at Fredicksburg where Lee and Longstreet planned a great stand.
But it were a dire vicious rout that came about, us Sons were shootin’ fine that day
Them poor dumb northern factory workers just kept walkin’ inta bullets ‘stead'a smartly runnin’ away.

I got me so sick of watchin’ blue and grey boys die, couldn’t hardly see for the water in my eye.
Cannon and musket smoke and dust kept buildin’ up til it were nigh as high as the sky.
So I looked around in the heat and terrible loud sound and decided me to call it a day.
Crept off down the line to the beechtree groves, took off at the run, threw my grey hat away.

An outlier myself now, waitin’ for this craziness to end. Hidin’ up in the pineys with none for a friend.
Sleepin’ cold on the dirt, one eye open, always hopin’ I’d not hear the jingle of Home Guard horses comin’ round the bend
I ate me some raw turnips day before last, gettin’ mighty skinny on this unplanned fast.
But mebbe someday again this nation’ll be as one and I kin go back to my home at last.

Don’t understand all the reasons for this war but landed gentry in big mansions seem to set by it much store.
Protectin’ their proppity, slaves, gold and such, is that why poor boys need to face the cannon’s roar?
No, you ignoramuses, it’s rights, they say, got to keep our rights and our freedom to choose.
Seems I ain’t never had much rights lessn’ the rich say so, nor proppity, nor gold and such to lose.

All I really ever cared about was my dog Blue, my gun, kinfolks and sweet Becky Anne.
But not just in that partiklar order, I hope you all understand.
An’ I’d fight like a mountain catamount to keep ‘em all safe from harm.
But damned if I see killin’ thousands of boys just so some old muttonchop can keep his slaves and fancy farm.

Yep, rights is one of them difficult ideas, but as far as it seems to me
havin’ the right to keep on livin’ appears about as big o’ right as can be.
So I done decided that of all the world’s sins, Guvmint is probably one a’ the worst,
if it decides poor hard-workin’ folks protectin’ a few other’s lordly airs has got to die first.

But now if some foreign bunch comes to our natural shores and tries to start a fight,
‘course reckon I’d take up arms and defend our own, now I knows that’s truly right.
But fightin’ wars ‘mongst ourselves just to be tellin’ t’other feller what to do
seems about as smart as takin’ a hard hit once, then sayin’ “Thanky and please, I’ll take another two.”

Well, I hear old Grant’s a drunken fool and they say Lee’s a dandy who thinks he’s mighty fine
And Lincoln, well he’s the great orator who spiels a fine turn o’ speech from time to time.
But time goes on and me and my kind are starvin’ and freezin’ our behinds, like near on to die from this here state’s rights, unification, emancipation war
So, don’t think I cotton to help any damned fool who works for either Guvmint any more.


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Reviewed by Judy Lloyd (Reader) 2/11/2005
Wow this is one powerful write here and I am glad that I read it.
Reviewed by Steve Edwards 7/14/2003
This should be mandantory reading in all junior high school history classes. Powerful, educational, uncannily accurate for such lyrical poetry.
Reviewed by Ariana Cherry (Reader) 12/2/2002
HI Phil..
I just got done updating a couple of things at my place and saw your rated one of my poems last month..I wanted to do the same for you..And must i say--You tell quite the story in your poetry!....ITs cool!..and its so true!....This sounds like something i would have read in one of my Lit classes back in H.S :)...Great Piece :)..I hope to be more out there with my work someday!.I hope you're getting the recognition that you deserve with yours! :)
Reviewed by Cathy Montgomery (Reader) 11/7/2002
Excellently done as told from the viewpoint
of this man...had a great-great grandfather
who fought as a 'Johnny Rebel' and another
one who fought as a 'Blue-belly'.
And, I can still remember the remnants of
animosity and unforgiveness that remained in
this ancient generation of the South and the
next two, as well, mostly because of Reconstruction.
Reviewed by Calendula Petal (Reader) 11/7/2002
that was an eye opener, really interesting. Have seen many films of the TV about this but Have never really thought a great deal of this particular moment in history being English, but you have hooked me in. I want to read more now.
Reviewed by Sandie Angel 11/7/2002
Wow!!!!! Totally awesome write!!!!!.....and a wonderful valuable pic that speaks!!!!!

Sandie Angel :o) / May Lu $*_*$
Reviewed by La Belle Rouge (Reader) 11/7/2002
What a truly awesome and very historically correct write. Enjoyed every word and the dialect is perfect. I do, however has to say after reading several biographies of Lee, I feel he was a great general and gentleman of the South. No doubt he was more tender in temperament than many warriors of that era, as proven by his broken spirit after the war. I hope you will do more of these historical pieces.
Reviewed by jing javier 11/7/2002
long but good read.
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