"I was with the 23rd New York at South Mountain and Antietam." —Ed Lincoln
Was it a moment's madness, caused by acts
of rebels firing on their country's flag?
The Union had to be preserved! The facts
are that three brothers left their plow and drag
to sign up with the 23rd New York.
Farm tough as nails, they shared their family name
with their President, and went from carving pork
to carving up the enemy, a game
both fraught with peril and a grand adventure.
The youngest, Ed, in 1861
was just 18 when he gave his indenture,
then spent two years of terror, hardship, fun,
at war with men who were a lot like him.
He survived the bloodiest day in our history*
without a scratch. A leader, full of vim
and vinegar, among the brothers he
was first promoted. When the campfires soared
and songs instead of bullets rent the air,
could his imagination see the horde
of his descendants who would come, a pair
of West Point army generals included?
He did not escape unscathed; one quiet day
when stillness reigned a minie ball intruded
on the peace, and soon Ed's buddy lay
upon the ground, his body pierced, quite dead.
The ball, now almost spent, still had some harm
in mind; it penetrated the skin of Ed
and for 50 years it resided in his arm.
*Antietam, September 17, 1862; over 22,000
Americans killed or wounded.