American History Stories—Volume IV - Mara L. Pratt

Sheridan's Ride

Up from the South, at break of day,

Bringing to Winchester, fresh dismay,

The affrighted air with a shudder bore,

Like a herald in haste to the chieftain's door,

The terrible grumble and rumble and roar,

Telling the battle was on once more,

And Sheridan twenty miles away.

And wider still those billows of war

Thundered along the horizon's bar,

And louder yet into Winchester rolled

The roar of that red sea, uncontrolled,

Making the blood of the listener cold

As he thought of the stake in that fiery fray,

And Sheridan twenty miles away.

But there is a road to Winchester town,

A good, broad highway, leading down;

And there, through the flush of the morning light,

A steed, as black as the steeds of night,

Was seen to pass as with eagle flight;

As if he knew the terrible need,

He stretched away with his utmost speed.

Hill rose and fell; but his heart was gay,

With Sheridan fifteen miles away.

Still sprung from those swift hoofs, thundering south.

The dust, like the smoke from the cannon's mouth,

Or the trail of a comet sweeping faster and faster,

Foreboding to traitors the doom of disaster;

The heart of the steed and the heart of the master

Were beating like prisoners assaulting their walls,

Impatient to be where the battle-field calls.

Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play,

With Sheridan only ten miles away.

Under his spurning feet the road

Like an arrowy Alpine river flowed;

And the landscape sped away behind

Like an ocean flying before the wind;

Swept on with his wild eyes full of fire.

And the steed, like a bark fed with furnace fire.

But lo! he is nearing his heart's desire;

He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray,

With Sheridan only five miles away.

The first that the General saw were the groups

Of stragglers, and then the retreating troops.

What was done—what to do—a glance told him both;

Then striking his spurs, with a terrible oath,

He dashed down the line, 'mid a storm of huzzas,

And the wave of retreat checked his course there, because

The sight of the master compelled it to pause.

With foam and with dust the black charger was gray.

By the flash of his eye, and his red nostril's play

He seemed to the whole great army to say

"I have brought you Sheridan all the way

From Winchester down to save you the day!"

Hurrah, hurrah, for Sheridan!

Hurrah, hurrah, for horse and man!

And when their statues are placed on high,

Under the dome of the Union sky—

The American soldier's Temple of Fame,—

There, with the glorious General's name,

Be it said in letters, bold and bright:

"Here is the steed that saved the day

By carrying Sheridan into the fight,

From Winchester, twenty miles away!"

-T. Buchanan Reed,

[Illustration] from American History Stories - IV by Mara L. Pratt