The adventures of young drummer boys and standard-bearers must have thrilled many a young reader. In “The Color-Bearer,” John Townsend Trowbridge, one of the founding editors of Our Young Folks makes his young hero not just a brave boy bearing his flag, but the standard-bearer of truth and honor, in this conflict and in life.
“The Color-Bearer,” by J. T. Trowbridge (from Our Young Folks, January 1865; pp. 30-32)
a boy holds the American flag amidst a furious battle

’T was a fortress to be stormed:

Boldly right in view they formed,

All as quiet as a regiment parading:

Then in front a line of flame!

Then at left and right the same!

Two platoons received a furious enfilading,

To their places still they filed,

And they smiled at the wild


“ ’T will be over in an hour!

’T will not be much of a shower!

Never mind, my boys,” said he, “a little drizzling!”

Then to cross that fatal plain,

Through the whirring, hurtling rain

Of the grape-shot, and the minie-bullets’ whistling!

But he nothing heeds nor shuns,

As he runs with the guns

Brightly bristling!

p. 31

Leaving trails of dead and dying

In their track, yet forward flying

Like a breaker where the gale of conflict rolled them,

With a foam of flashing light

Borne before them on their bright

Burnished barrels,—O, ’t was fearful to behold them!

While from ramparts roaring loud

Swept a cloud like a shroud

To enfold them!

O, his color was the first!

Through the burying cloud he burst,

With the standard to the battle forward slanted!

Through the belching, blinding breath

Of the flaming jaws of Death,

Till his banner on the bastion he had planted!

By the screaming shot that fell,

And the yell of the shell,

Nothing daunted.

Right against the bulwark dashing,

Over tangled branches crashing,

’Mid the plunging volleys thundering ever louder!

There he clambers, there he stands,

With the ensign in his hands,—

O, was ever hero handsomer or prouder?

Streaked with battle-sweat and slime,

And sublime in the grime

Of the powder!

’T was six minutes, at the least,

Ere the closing combat ceased,—

Near as we the mighty moments then could measure,—

And we held our souls with awe,

Till his haughty flag we saw

On the lifting vapors drifting o’er the embrasure!

Saw it glimmer in our tears,

While our ears heard the cheers

Rend the azure!

Through the abatis they broke,

Through the surging cannon-smoke,

And they drove the foe before like frightened cattle!

O, but never wound was his,

For in other wars in this,

p. 32

Where the volleys of Life’s conflict roar and rattle,

He must still, as he was wont,

In the front bear the brunt

Of the battle.

He shall guide the van of Truth!

And in manhood, as in youth,

Be her fearless, be her peerless Color-Bearer!

With his high and bright example,

Like a banner brave and ample,

Ever leading through receding clouds of Error,

To the empire of the Strong,

And to Wrong he shall long

Be a terror!

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
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