BYU Today

I Left Him to Lay


Lorenzo Dow Watson, Latter-day Saint Civil War veteran

Lorenzo Dow Watson was only 16 when he enlisted in the Union army. Lorenzo witnessed the death of thousands in the Battle of Shiloh, including his cousin John Watson, in whose memory he penned this poem, included in Kenneth L. Alford’s (BA ’79) Civil War Saints.

At night we lay together

Near the waters of the Tennessee

When before the dawn

We woke at the alarm

Of the advancing enemy.

That day when forced from cover

Under a merciless hail of lead

Together we sank

At the river’s bank

While all ’round us lay the dead

“Buell is coming,” he shouted

As I handed him my bruised canteen.

He took it and drank,

Returned it, and sank

Suddenly down, the dead between.

A red stream ’neath his visor

Showed why he utter no cry,

I knelt in the sand

As I grasped his hand

And ’midst the dying watched him die.

That night with a broken mess-pan

I there hollowed his grave in the sand

And at break of day

I left him to lay

At rest in peace in that southern land.

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