The Bay Fight

Henry Howard Brownell

Three days through sapphire seas we sailed,
    The steady Trade blew strong and free,
  The Northern Light his banners paled,
  The Ocean Stream our channels wet,
    We rounded low Canaveral's lee,
  And passed the isles of emerald set
    In blue Bahama's turquoise sea.

  By reef and shoal obscurely mapped,
    And hauntings of the gray sea-wolf,
  The palmy Western Key lay lapped
    In the warm washing of the Gulf.

  But weary to the hearts of all
    The burning glare, the barren reach
    Of Santa Rosa's withered beach,
  And Pensacola's ruined wall.

  And weary was the long patrol,
    The thousand miles of shapeless strand,
  From Brazos to San Blas that roll
    Their drifting dunes of desert sand.

  Yet, coast-wise as we cruised or lay,
    The land-breeze still at nightfall bore,
  By beach and fortress-guarded bay,
    Sweet odors from the enemy's shore,

  Fresh from the forest solitudes,
    Unchallenged of his sentry lines—
  The bursting of his cypress buds,
    And the warm fragrance of his pines.

  Ah, never braver bark and crew,
    Nor bolder Flag a foe to dare.
  Had left a wake on ocean blue
    Since Lion-Heart sailed Trenc-le-mer!

  But little gain by that dark ground
    Was ours, save, sometime, freer breath
  For friend or brother strangely found,
    'Scaped from the drear domain of death.

  And little venture for the bold,
    Or laurel for our valiant Chief,
    Save some blockaded British thief,
  Full fraught with murder in his hold,

  Caught unawares at ebb or flood—
    Or dull bombardment, day by day,
    With fort and earth-work, far away,
  Low couched in sullen leagues of mud.

  A weary time,—but to the strong
    The day at last, as ever, came;
  And the volcano, laid so long,
    Leaped forth in thunder and in flame!

  "Man your starboard battery!"
    Kimberly shouted—
  The ship, with her hearts of oak,
  Was going, mid roar and smoke,
      On to victory!
    None of us doubted—
    No, not our dying—
    Farragut's flag was flying!

  Gaines growled low on our left,
    Morgan roared on our right—
  Before us, gloomy and fell,
  With breath like the fume of hell,
  Lay the Dragon of iron shell,
    Driven at last to the fight!

...

    Steadily nearing the head,
  The great Flag-Ship led,
    Grandest of sights!
  On her lofty mizzen flew
  Our Leader's dauntless Blue,
    That had waved o'er twenty fights—
  So we went, with the first of the tide,
    Slowly, mid the roar
    Of the Rebel guns ashore
  And the thunder of each full broadside.

...

   
  Right abreast of the Fort
    In an awful shroud they lay,
    Broadsides thundering away,
  And lightning from every port—
    Scene of glory and dread!

  A storm-cloud all aglow
    With flashes of fiery red—
  The thunder raging below,
    And the forest of flags o'erhead!

...
 
    A league from the Fort we lay,
    And deemed that the end must lag;
  When lo! looking down the Bay,
    There flaunted the Rebel Rag—
  The Ram is again under way,
    And heading dead for the Flag!

    Steering up with the stream,
      Boldly his course, he lay,
  Though the fleet all answered his fire,
  And, as he still drew nigher,
    Ever on bow and beam
      Our Monitors pounded away—
      How the Chickasaw hammered away!

...

  Up went the White! Ah then
  The hurrahs that, once and agen,
  Rang from three thousand men
    All flushed and savage with fight!

  Our dead lay cold and stark,
  But our dying, down in the dark,
    Answered as best they might—
  Lifting their poor lost arms,
    And cheering for God and Right!

(Extracts)

The Battle of Mobile Bay was fought on August 5th, 1864. Henry Brownell was ensign on the ship of Admiral Farragut, who led the victorious Union fleet.