James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 10

The Death of Lyon

By Anonymous

  • General Nathaniel Lyon was killed in the battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, while in command of the Union forces, August 10, 1861. His last words were: “Come on, my brave boys! I will lead you!”

  • SING, bird, on green Missouri’s plain,

    The saddest song of sorrow;

    Drop tears, O clouds, in gentlest rain

    Ye from the winds can borrow;

    Breathe out, ye winds, your softest sigh,

    Weep, flowers, in dewy splendor,

    For him who knew well how to die,

    But never to surrender.

    Up rose serene the August sun

    Upon that day of glory;

    Up curled from musket and from gun

    The war-cloud, gray and hoary;

    It gathered like a funeral pall,

    Now broken, and now blended,

    Where rang the bugle’s angry call,

    And rank with rank contended.

    Four thousand men, as brave and true

    As e’er went forth in daring,

    Upon the foe that morning threw

    The strength of their despairing.

    They feared not death—men bless the field

    That patriot soldiers die on;

    Fair Freedom’s cause was sword and shield,

    And at their head was Lyon.

    Their leader’s troubled soul looked forth

    From eyes of troubled brightness;

    Sad soul! the burden of the North

    Had pressed out all its lightness.

    He gazed upon the unequal fight,

    His ranks all rent and gory,

    And felt the shadows close like night

    Round his career of glory.

    “General, come lead us!” loud the cry

    From a brave band was ringing—

    “Lead us, and we will stop, or die,

    That battery’s awful singing!”

    He spurred to where his heroes stood—

    Twice wounded, no one knowing—

    The fire of battle in his blood

    And on his forehead glowing.

    Oh! cursed for aye that traitor’s hand,

    And cursed that aim so deadly,

    Which smote the bravest of the land,

    And dyed his bosom redly!

    Serene he lay, while past him pressed

    The battle’s furious billow,

    As calmly as a babe may rest

    Upon its mother’s pillow.

    So Lyon died; and well may flowers

    His place of burial cover,

    For never had this land of ours

    A more devoted lover.

    Living, his country was his bride;

    His life he gave her, dying;

    Life, fortune, love, he nought denied

    To her, and to her sighing.

    Rest, patriot, in thy hillside grave,

    Beside her form who bore thee!

    Long may the land thou diedst to save

    Her bannered stars wave o’er thee!

    Upon her history’s brightest page,

    And on fame’s glowing portal,

    She’ll write thy grand, heroic age,

    And grave thy name immortal.