"Tonight we'll water our horses
In the Tennessee River."

General Albert Sidney Johnston C.S.A.

Sunday dawned with misty covered treetops
while ravens called and mocked what lay ahead
and from their leafy boughs above the soldiers
sent taunts and jeers at marching men instead

of letting bluebirds light atop the fencepost,
to give the men a faint reprieve from war
but as the sun was burning misty shadows
the vultures hung with ravens as before.

Johnston sat atop his old war charger
and told his men to take a careful aim,
"Tonight we'll water horses in the river,
push the federals back to where they came."

Soon cannons belched their smoke and deadly grapeshot
while minie balls ripped through the souls of men;
Shiloh rumbled with the sounds of the engagement
over fields of corn and past the willowed glen.

The 53rd Ohio saw no action,
with confidence they pushed through creek and brier;
anxious for the bragging rights of battle
but broke beneath the baptism of fire.

Private Holliday was taking Sherman's orders
when suddenly he could no longer stand;
death called and claimed another for a victim,
sending buckshot through the general's rein and hand.

Albert Sidney Johnston's leg was bleeding
but men had bled much worse throughout the day
and so believed the wound to not be lethal;
did not worry as they rode into the fray.

By two o'clock flies landed on the wounded,
those who were not dead would all be soon;
the ravens mocked in trees above the general
and watched their supper grow all afternoon.

Before the darkness settled on the battle,
before the vulture and the raven claimed their prize;
dry grass began to burn form all the bullets
and deafened heaven's door with dying cries.

Today the cannons rest beneath the oak trees,
I, in the eerie silence feel a shiver
and strain my eyes to see the ghostly shadows
of men that water horses in the river.


Copyright © Linda Lee. Reprinted by permission.