I could not find a copy of that poem anywhere, so I transcribed the lyrics and I have recited them at our Confederate Memorial Day Observances ever since.
Some years later I encountered a gentleman selling his little book of poetry at the Olustee Reenactment and realized that he was the man I had seen on the video. I am thankful that I was able to meet him and shake his hand. Of course, I purchased a copy of his book and secured an inscription.
Unfortunately (for us who remain anyway) Sgt. Benjamin R. Gormley passed in March of 2005 at the young age of 59.
His booklet of poems is entitled “Haunted Fields” and is out of print, but may occasionally be found for sale on the internet.
The poem that so moved me was entitled “Atlanta’s Son.”
Below are the lyrics, as I transcribed them from the video, somewhat abridged from the version found in the little booklet.
Above the banks of Peachtree Creek,
The Georgia sky, looks down and weeps—
On soldiers’ blood in trenches spilled,
‘Midst dreams of a Nation unfulfilled.
As part of freedom’s price to pay—
Atlanta’s son came home today.
Atlanta’s son came home today;
His friends marched with him all the way.
In his tattered coat faded gray,
They lowered down into Oakland’s clay—
His grave unmarked until the day
When the wounded lion turned at bay,
Still clutching our flag in his gory paws,
He roared defiance at Yankee laws—
Then bowed his head and in slumber lay
To guard the earth that enshrouds the gray.
Atlanta’s son came home today—
And this time he’s come home to stay.
You will note that the poem makes reference to Oakland Cemetery and the magnificent “Lion of Atlanta” which until recently overlooked some 3,000 unknown Confederates buried there: “Still clutching our flag in his gory paws, . . .He roared defiance at Yankee laws— . . . Then bowed his head and in slumber lay . . . To guard the earth that enshrouds the gray.”
The monument was carved from Georgia marble by T. M. Brady and was dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day in 1894. It depicts a wounded lion, with a spear broken off in his back. The lion slumbers upon a Confederate flag.
My wife and I were fortunate to be able to visit the lion almost 20 years ago. At that time the lion had been unmolested and the gate to his enclosure was unlocked.
Of more recent years the lion, who resides in very secluded spot within the cemetery, has been vandalized on several occasions.
During one of the most recent criminal assaults someone actually attempted to destroy his beautiful muzzle.
To add insult to injury the elected officials (criminals) in Atlanta have recently removed the lion from where it had reposed for some 127 years.
Next I suppose they will seek to dig up and destroy the remains of all the Confederate soldiers in the cemetery -- and eventually in all the cemeteries.
And then they shall come for us, their living descendants and advocates.
All that remains in Oakland Cemetery is an ugly scar.
Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Rest assured, there will be an accounting . . . a reckoning.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
The old Baptist preacher R. G. Lee (1886-1978) was well-known for his sermon: “Pay Day, Some Day.” Pay day is certainly coming.
I accept that vengeance belongs to the Lord. But should He decide to sub-contract out that work, as He sometimes has in the past, I’ll be applying for the job.
And that’s all I have to say about that!