Orange Scott Cummins was born in May of 1846 in Zenia, Ohio. At the age of 2 his family moved to Appanose County, Iowa where Scott learned the plains Indian ways and language, and developed his love for the land. He was a member of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry during the Civil War. In the years that followed the War, Scott became well known as the ‘Pilgrim Bard’ in most areas of Kansas and the Oklahoma Territory. He wrote the poem below for a Memorial GAR reunion about 1896.
A MEMORIAL POEM
Attention! comrades! the bugle calls-
And hark to the stirring notes of the drum;
Proudly the old flag rises and falls,
Kissing the rays of the morning sun.
Though our steps be languid and slow,
While the crutch and cane swing to and fro,
Though time has whitened our locks as snow,
Yet a duty remains undone.
Years have flown since the battle cloud
Rolled from the blood-dyed fields away;
When treason wrapped in her rebel shroud,
'Neath the broken chains of the bondman lay.
Time has plowed many a furrow, I ween,
And death has kept busy his sickle keen,
And o'er the graves with grass grown green
Let us strew the loveliest flowers of May.
Graves of four hundred thousand men,
Men who fell in the battle fray;
Men who starved in the prison pens
Claim a tribute from us today.
Softly the breezes of summer sigh,
O'er graves unmarked to the human eye;
Ne'er be it said those comrades lie
Forgotten, to mingle with kindred clay.
Up from the trenches of glade and fen-
Up from the weather-bleached bones on the lea;
Up from the graves of the prison pen
Cometh a whisper, "remember me;"
Who these weird words shall unsay,
Spirits are watching with joy today,
To witness the tribute their comrades pay
To the fallen hero's memory.
Other graves will be strewn with flowers,
Others this beautiful tribute pay;
'Neath the moaning pines and magnolia bowers
Many are sleeping who wore the gray.
"Peace to their ashes," we chide them not,
Let friends strew sweet flowers on each sacred spot,
We cherish of malice not even a thought,
One flag floats over all today.
Softly, comrades; a time will come
When our ranks must form on the other shore;
When the narrow walls of the rayless tomb
On the last of our number has closed its door.
Then will the strangers who fill the land
Neglect the rites of our sleeping band?
Will they strew the flowers with a careless hand,
Or, perchance, remember us never more?
No, thank God, though the oak tree fall,
And the mildew of time hides every trace,
Up from the acorn, straight and tall,
Cometh another to fill its place.
So will the son of each veteran sire,
And their children's children awake the lyre,
And breathe on the altar of memory's fire,
Until time to eternity giveth place.
["Musings of the Pilgrim Bard", O.S. Cummins, 1903]