“For the Sick and Wounded of our Army.”
Written for the Miners’ Journal, November 23, 1861
The last strain of music is lost to our ears.
The roll of the drum speaks no more to the heart –
They are gone – all are gone – and they’ve left us in tears.
Tho’ we wept not to them when we bade them depart.
We return to the homes that their absence makes sad,
We look at the vacant seats where they sat last.
And think never more can our bosoms be glad,
Until all these tumults and troubles are past.
We look at our babes, as they lie fast asleep,
And wonder what fate is for us and for them, –
Perhaps widows and orphans – and wildly we weep,
And our cup of sorrow seems full to the brim.
And another thought, too, – perhaps sickness will bend
The forms of our loved ones in weakness and pain,
And the lead or the steel may with agony rend
That bosom so true, where so often we’ve lain.
And must we sit idle, while brother and friend
In the great cause of Liberty offer their lives?
We can’t fight, it is true, but perhaps we can send
An offering worthy of mothers and wives.
So we’ll dry up our tears, till our work is all done,
Or the rust on our needles will hinder our sewing;
From the breaking of day till the set of the sun,
Shall our hands and our needles, and our tongues, too, be going.
For we’ll talk, while we sew, of the loved and the brave,
Who have left us to fight for the cause that we love;
And daily and nightly, to guide them and save,
We will pray to the Author of Freedom above.
[Mary Adelaide Kennedy]
Pottsville, November, 1861
These verses were written shortly after the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched from Pottsville, boarded trains, and left for the front. Author Mary Kennedy wrote this poem at a time when Schuylkill County had volunteered thousands of young men to the Union Army. They were in November 1861 serving near the nation’s capital at Washington, but also along the Carolina coastline with General Ambrose Burnside.
She had watched as these young men — fathers, sons, brothers, husbands — left home without knowing whether they or not they would return home when the war was over. The anxiety among these communities was redirected into organizations like the Ladies’ Relief, where mothers, wives, and daughters worked tirelessly to supply their soldiers with clothing, food, and supplies to make them comfortable in the service.