From the National Tribune, 9/15/1904

The Poem He Wrote in Libby Prison on New Year’s 1863-’64.

EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: Every page - aye, every paragraph - in your paper must reawaken in the hearts of thousands of the “old boys” the memory of scenes and incidents of the great Southern conflict. But there is no spot in the whole South the mere mention of which creates more interest than that of Libby Prison. Thousands of your readers, I know, have become familiar with every nook and corner of the famous old Confederate prison. So very much has been written and spoken of the place, and yet, something new and interesting is all the time being told, as if for no other reason than to keep alive the memories of the sunshine and shadow in which the brave men participated while in that cruel prison.

It is only to recall the memory of one of “the bravest of the brave” that I pen you these lines. Who that was in “Libby” in the Winter of 1863-4, will not recall with pleasure the genial association of Col. Frederick Bartleson? I think, either before his capture or afterward, he commanded the 100th Ill.

During Col. Bartleson’s imprisonment he wrote the following beautiful poem, which was inscribed on the dingy wall of his “quarters:”


‘Tis twelve o’clock! Within my prison dreary -
My head upon my hand - sitting so weary,
Scanning the future, musing upon the past,
Pondering the fate that here my lot is cast;
The hoarse cry of the sentry, pacing his beat,
Wakes the echo of the silent street:
                                                       “All is well!”

And is it so? My fellow-captives sleeping
Where the barr’d windows strictest watch is keeping;
Dreaming of home and wife and prattling child -
Of the sequestered vale and the mountain wild -
Tell me, when cruel morn shall break again,
Wilt thou repeat the sentinel’s refrain:
                                                       “All is well!”

And then, my country, wounded, pale and bleeding,
Thy children deaf to a fond mother’s pleading -
Stabbing with cruel hate the nurturing breast
To which their infancy in love was pressed -
Recount thy wrongs, thy many sorrows name;
Then to the nations - if thou canst - proclaim:
                                                       “All is well!”

But through the clouds the sun is slowly breaking -
Hope from her long, deep sleep is waking;
Speed the time, Father, when the bow of peace,
Spanning the gulf, shall bud the tempest cease -
When foemen, clasping each other by the hand,
Shall shout together in a united land,
                                                       “All is well!”

Poor Fred. Bartleson! In that awful charnal house, the Wilderness, he led his regiment in a desperate charge and fell. As they rushed on, they left all that was mortal of him to rest amid the carnage and the dead. - IRA K. MORRIS.


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