Crouched on a hillside
Lies a lone soldier.
Eighteen, he claimed to be,
A lad of just fifteen.

Hated soldiers advance upward;
Lone soldier squints and takes aim.
Many a day he trained for this—
For freedom’s sake, he whispers.

A crack, a cry, a crumpled man—
Death snatches an enemy of freedom.
Lone soldier rejoices not,
Yet relief glistens in his eyes.

Lone soldier thwarts the advance,
Man after man, boy after boy.
The rifle that ravages foes
Merely blisters its owner’s hands.

A trumpet shakes lone soldier;
Captain’s bellow calls him thence.
Retreating from his hideaway,
Guerrilla rejoins his comrades.

Captain’s orders strike fear:
A frontal assault, his behest.
Lone soldier would protest
But dreads the captain’s wrath.

Reluctant soldier prepares to charge,
Heart thundering, palms sweating.
A trumpet pierces the sky, then
The volcano of blue-clad boys erupts.

Feet fly, eyes dart, hearts pound,
Bayonets glint, rifles crackle—
Two Americas collide.
Smoke swallows all.

Amid reigning chaos,
A rider tumbles from his horse.
Lone soldier rushes to his aid,
But brazen Captain is dead.

A whizzing bullet finds its mark,
And down lone soldier tumbles.
By the grace of God, he would not die,
Saved by a simple belt buckle.

Author’s Note: This poem is loosely based on a true story. My great-great-great-grandfather, William Scott Flower, enlisted in the Union Army around the age of fifteen or sixteen. During one battle, a bullet struck his belt buckle. The force of the bullet knocked William down, but he avoided what would likely have been a fatal injury.