So yer takin' the census, eh Mister.
Lemme tell ye about my son.
He was a soldier thet fought fer the North
Until the war wuz won.
This dooryard's now his battlefield.
Lesee, he wuz nigh sixteen
When Sumpter fell and as likely a boy
As this world's ever seen
And what with the news of battles lost
And shoutin' and all the noise
Ah giss every farm in the neighborhood
Lost a part of it's crop of boys.
‘Twas harvest time when Bill left home
Every stalk in the field of rye
Seemed to stand tip toe to see him off
And wave him a fond goodbye.
His momma used to tell him
When she knowed he wuz goin' away
That God’d surely take care of him
If'n he didn't fergit to pray.
And on the bloodiest battlefields
When bullets whizzed through the air
And Bill wuz a-fightin' desprit
He used to whisper a prayer.
His comrads has often tol' me
That Bill never flinched a bit
When every second a gap in the ranks
Showed where a ball had hit.
Then one night when the field wuz covered
With the awful harvest of war,
They found my boy 'mongst the martyrs
Of the cause he wuz fightin' for.
His fingers wuz clutched in the dewy grass,
Oh no Sir, he wasn't dead.
He just lay there sort of helpless and crazy
With a rifle ball in his head.
And if Bill had only died that night
I'd give all I got worth givin'
'Cause ya see that bullet killed his mind
But left his body livin’.
An officer he wrote and told us
How the boy'd been hurt in a fight
But he said that the doctors reckoned
They could bring him 'round alright.
Well, we waited and watched fer a month or more.
The summer wuz almost past
When we got a letter one day that said
Bill had started fer home at last.
I'll ne'er fergit when Bill come home,
"Twas harvest time again.
The air blowing o’er the yaller fields
Was sweet with the smell of grain.
The dooryard wuz full of neighbors
That come to share our joy
And we all set out a rousin' cheer
At the sight of that solier boy.
Then all of a sudden some-one said,
"My God, don't that boy know his mother?"
And Bill stood a-whisperin' fearful like
And starin' from one to another.
"Don't be afraid Bill." said he to himself
As he stood in his coat of blue.
"God'll take care of you, Bill
God'll take care of you."
Bill seemed to keep loadin' and firin' a gun
And actin' like a man who hears
The awful sounds of the battlefield
A-poundin' in his ears.
Ten thousand ghosts from that bloody day
Was a-marchin' through his brain
And his feet they kind of picked their way
As if they could feel the slain.
He ain’t never knowed us since that day
Nor his sweetheart and never will.
Mother and father and sweetheart,
We all the same to Bill.
And he groans like a wounded soldier
Sometimes the whole night through
And we just smooth his head and say, "Yes Bill,
God'll take care of you."
Irving Batchelder (written in the 1860's during civil war)