This is a poem I was required to memorize in high school American Literature. Achilles Deatheridge is responding to his commanding officer .......
A Poem by Edgar Lee Masters – An Incident in the Civil War ……
“Your name is Achilles Deatheridge?
How old are you, my boy?”
“I’m sixteen past and I went to the war
From Athens, Illinois.”
You have done a deed of dreadful note.
It comes of his wearing a battered hat,
And a rusty, wrinkled coat.”
“Why didn’t you know how plain he is?
And didn’t you ever hear,
He goes through the lines by day or night,
Like a sooty cannoneer?
“You must have been half dead for sleep,
For the dawn was growing bright.”
“Well, Captain, I had stood right there
Since six o’clock last night.”
“I cocked my gun at the swish of the grass
And how am I at fault?
When a dangerous looking man won’t stop
When a sentry hollers, ‘Halt?’ ”
“I cried out, ‘halt,’ and he only smiled
And waved his hand like that.
Why any Johnnie could wear that coat
And any fellow the hat.”
“I hollered, ‘halt’ again and he stopped
And lighted a fresh cigar.
I never noticed his shoulder badge,
And I never noticed a star.”
“So you arrested him? Well, Achilles Deatheridge,
When you hear the swish of the grass
If it’s General Grant inspecting the lines
Hereafter let him pass!”