At South Mountain
Like plates of brassy armor
The yellow plowed lands lay
Upon the valley's bosom
For leagues and leagues away.
Along them shines and shimmers
The lazy moving stream,
As o'er a child's soft bosom
The idle ribbons gleam.
The mountain's velvet helmet
Nods darkly on her crest,
As though some untold passion
Was trembling in her breast.
The green leaves chant together
A weird and mystic strain,
And the feathery tenants mingle
Their notes in the wild refrain.
The shadows sweep o'er the valley
Like an evanescent blot,
That seems like a holy feeling
Begrimed with an impure thought.
'Twas thus lay the quiet valley
And the sentry hills held sway,
Ere the bugle notes scared the song-birds,
Or the reveille woke the day.
And now was the smiling Sabbath,
And the sweet-tongued meeting bells
Rang out like an incense wafted
O'er listening hills and dells.
The soldiers catch the cadence
Borne out on the distant air,
And it comes to their weary spirits
Like the thought of an angel's prayer.
But vain the holy summons—
The prayer remains unsaid,
The singer's lips are silent,
The sermon lies unread;
While long and dusty columns
Of sun-browned troops file by,
Nerved by the rigid purpose
To win the day—or die!
Along the paths of the mountain
Moves up the dark-blue line,
The gun-wheels grind o'er the boulders,
The burnished bayonets shine.
Way up in the leafy covert
The curling smoke betrays
Where the foe throw down the gauntlet,
And the answering cannons blaze.
The crack of the Minie rifle,
The shriek of the crashing shell,
The ring of the flashing sabre,
Their tale of the conflict tell.
They tell of the dear lives lying,
War's food in Nature's lap,
Ere the Starry Flag in triumph
Waves through the Mountain Gap.
Night drops her pitying mantle
To hide the bloody scene—
Next morn a thousand dead men
Mark where the foe had been.
And where the fight was hottest
Two mangled corpses lay,
One clad in bright blue jacket,
And one in homespun gray.
Their hands are clasped together,
Their bloody bosoms show
Each fought with a dauntless purpose,
And fell 'neath each other's blow!
They fell, and the crimson mingled,
And before the paling eye
Back rolled the storm of the conflict
To the peaceful days gone by.
Emit thought of the mystic token—
The talismanic sign;
Each recognized a Brother!
Two firm right hands entwine!
The fire of the noble order
Touched not their hearts in vain.
All hate fades out, uniting
Two hearts with the triple chain!
I found this poem Son of the South, which has reproduced online the complete run of Harper's Weekly newspapers during the Civil War. Maddeningly, I can't find the page that names the poet!
As you may have guessed from the poem, we spent September 11th in the vicinity of South Mountain, where it is not quite the anniversary of the Civil War battle and the nearby town of Boonsboro is celebrating autumn with its annual Boonesborough Days festival. We started at Washington Monument State Park, where we had a picnic near the museum, then hiked up the bit of the Appalachian Trail that leads to the monument at the summit. There were many Boy Scouts and hikers visiting as well, and we all had great views of Boonsboro below plus the mountains further off. Then we went to Shafer Memorial Park in Boonsboro, where in addition to a permanent playground, bandstand, Civil War cannon and Korean War naval gun, there are hundreds of craft exhibitors and vendors, plus lots of food. We bought some homemade kettle corn and cold drinks and walked by the tents on both sides of the stream, where I subjected my kids to jewelry stalls but we also saw candle-dipping, broom-making, flour-milling, and raptors from Trego Mountain Sanctuary, which rehabilitates the birds.
Late in the afternoon, we walked back through Boonsboro -- which was having a town-wide yard sale, with many people out on their porches selling Halloween and Christmas items (one woman had a dozen historic Barbies in mint condition boxes for $10 each, but I behaved, since I had bought a little cross body purse from Sassy Bags at the fair, plus two different varieties of Marco's Not Yet Famous Salsa). Before driving home, we stopped at South Mountain Creamery, where we dropped in on the calves and bunnies in the barn, paid a visit to the cows, chickens, and cat in the fields, and went to the creamery store for buttermilk, cheese, and ice cream. The University of Maryland's game against Morgan State wasn't on TV, but we learned from the internet that they were winning easily throughout; the Terrapins ultimately won 62-3.
It was a beautiful day and we had great views of Boonsboro and Middletown from the mountaintop.
Then we went to Boonesborough Days, the annual fall festival of Boonsboro...
...where we saw many crafts, including crocheted doll clothes, felted Christmas ornaments, carved Halloween gourds, and hand-dipped candles...
...plus we got to visit with rescued raptors like this barred owl, great horned owl, and peregrine falcon (in hood because he gets nervous when he sees crowds).
This calf at South Mountain Creamery was very interested in eating my shirt.
The very young calves live in a large barn, along with whichever free-range chickens decide to stay indoors with them...
...while the milking cows get to wander and free-feed. You can see part of the fleet of delivery trucks behind this one.