The war through their eyes: A Civil War poem

Benjamin Perkins, left, and his brother Thomas pose for a photograph during the Civil War. Both men, along with their brother, William Perkins, were officers during the war.
Benjamin Perkins, left, and his brother Thomas pose for a photograph during the Civil War. Both men, along with their brother, William Perkins, were officers during the war. Courtesy NL County Historical Society

Editor's note: This article is part of an occasional series marking the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.

Two of the first local young men to enlist after the shelling of Fort Sumter were Benjamin and William Perkins, descendants of the Shaws and residents of the Shaw mansion on Blinman Street in New London.

An item in the April 20, 1861, edition of The Daily Chronicle reports: "Benjamin R. Perkins of this city yesterday joined the Volunteer Rifle Company just formed at Hartford."

The New London County Historical Society has only a handful of papers from the brothers, one of which is the following poem, written in a fine hand on a yellowed sheet of paper, from the files of Benjamin Perkins.

Was he the author of this poem? The paper doesn't say.

The drums are beating in the camp

The tents have all been struck

The Order comes, we march away

Yes, such is soldier's luck

But though our music gaily sounds

And brightly our bayonets gleam

There's many a face that wears no smile

And eyes where no joys gleam

And now we're marching through the town

The town we know so well

We pass where dwell those sisters three

And where the reigning belle

And gaily sound, our bands' loud notes

That Polka; they know so well

Ah! will they shed One little tear

While waving that farewell

And may we never meet again

Those Girls so sweet and fair

With nought to cheer our breaking hearts

But a ring, or a (whisp?) of hair

In answer sound our bands gay notes

And seem to us to say

A soldier must love wherever he is

For soon he must march Away

Also among the items in the society's collection is a note on a piece of cardboard, about the Dec. 14, 1862, Battle of Kinston, that reads:

"William Williams Perkins was killed at Kingston (sic), N.C. Dec 14 '62 in his third Battle. Just twenty one years of his age. His commission as Captain was on the way to him, when he was killed.

1862"

Benjamin survived the war, spending part of it in prison in Charleston. He seems to have received fairly humane treatment there compared to the inmates at Andersonville, Ga. After the war, Benjamin stayed in the Army and went west to fight Indians.

k.robinson@theday.com

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