A friend sends this poem written by his ancestor highlighting the lot of those who put their money where the government's mouth was. Written after the American Civil War (the 150th anniversary of its start being this month), it is unfortunately not a dated piece:
The following was written by J. H. Whitney in a book entitled "War Time Ballads". He was my Grandmother's Great-Grandfather and served for the State of Massachusetts in the Artillery during the Civil War. After the war he became a Methodist Minister and moved to Wisconsin. The poem is called "Bob Ridley":
Yes, I am Bob Ridley, who once wore the blue,
Or what there is left of the comrade you knew;
I've lost my discharge, and cannot tell where,
Just look in the record and see if it's there.
Just forty-one winters ago to a day
Bob Ridley enlisted in Company "K,"
Signed his name with a flourish, and swore to defend
The Flag, 'til rebellion should come to an end.
Three years in the face of the vigilant "gray,"
And never off duty, not even a day!
Never wounded, though bullets with devilish glee,
Through twenty odd battles seemed calling for me.
That was luck; but as soon as they mustered me out,
I lost the old vigor, and wandered about.
Somehow I'm a failure - and scarcely know why;
Doomed to live, when it's harder to live than to die.
These hands lose their cunning - my steps are too slow;
Into camp for the winter, I'm anxious to go,
Unable to labor, too weary to roam,
Please help me to enter the Veterans' Home.
A pension? Oh, no sir! The trouble with me
Is, lack of the hospital record, you see;
No proof in my case, though freely I gave
The best of Bob Ridley, the country to save.
They say that a soldier should never complain,
Whatever the struggle, whatever the pain.
Such a gospel is easy to preach; but the one
Who gives this advice never carried a gun.
We are told that the thing for a soldier to do,
Is, to stand to his gun for the good and the true
With no hope of reward for the victory won,
Except the remembrance of what he has done.
I sought no return for the life of my youth
But the glory that comes from defending the truth;
When in battle I prayed that the standard we bore
Might always be honored, I asked nothing more.
But now I am weary, and longing for rest,
And the comforts of home in the land we have blest.
Is this claiming too much? But I must away.
Remember Bob Ridley, of Company "K."
(Thank you, Nick, for sharing this.)