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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Middle States: Springfield, N. J.

Caldwell of Springfield

By Bret Harte (1836–1902)


HERE ’s the spot. Look around you. Above on the height.

Lay the Hessians encamped. By that church on the right

Stood the gaunt Jersey farmers. And here ran a wall,—

You may dig anywhere and you ’ll turn up a ball.

Nothing more. Grasses spring, waters run, flowers blow,

Pretty much as they did ninety-three years ago.

Nothing more, did I say? Stay one moment; you ’ve heard

Of Caldwell, the parson, who once preached the Word

Down at Springfield? What, no? Come—that ’s bad, why he had

All the Jerseys aflame! And they gave him the name

Of the “rebel high-priest.” He stuck in their gorge,

For he loved the Lord God,—and he hated King George!

He had cause, you might say! When the Hessians that day

Marched up with Knyphausen they stopped on their way

At the “Farms,” where his wife, with a child in her arms,

Sat alone in the house. How it happened none knew

But God—and that one of the hireling crew

Who fired the shot! Enough!—there she lay,

And Caldwell, the chaplain, her husband, away!

Did he bear it,—what way? Think of him as you stand

By the old church to-day;—think of him and that band

Of militant ploughboys! See the smoke and the heat

Of that reckless advance,—of that straggling retreat!

Keep the ghost of that wife, foully slain, in your view,—

And what could you, what should you, what would you do?

Why, just what he did! They were left in the lurch

For the want of more wadding. He ran to the church,

Broke the door, stripped the pews, and dashed out in the road

With his arms full of hymn-books, and threw down his load

At their feet! then above all the shouting and shots,

Rang his voice,—“Put Watts into ’em,—Boys, give ’em Watts!”

And they did. That is all. Grasses spring, flowers blow

Pretty much as they did ninety-three years ago.

You may dig anywhere and you ’ll turn up a ball,—

But not always a hero like this,—and that ’s all.