Marvin Lurie

Birge’s Western Sharpshooters (2019)

“That darn Yankee rifle that could be
loaded on Sunday and fired all week.”
Colonel John Mosby, CSA

Father wasn't much for farming.
My brothers did the work.
He'd sit in the woods, his back to a tree,
his long rifle across his knees.
Most days he'd bring home meat for the pot.
I was his youngest. As soon as I could sit still
he'd take me along.
I was of a generally quiet nature so it suited me.
When I was able to hold up the rifle, he taught me to load and shoot it.
It wasn't long before I could hit a squirrel in the eye at 100 paces.
One day, Mr. Ellis Mercer, who owned the saw mill at Pond Creek,
came by to say he was looking to form a regiment
of Bureau and Logan Counties sharpshooters.
That's how I came to be in Company C, 66th Illinois Infantry Regiment
at Pittsburgh Landing in April, '62, sitting high up, my back to a tree,
my Dimick Target Rifle rifle across my knees,
watching some Johnny Reb unlimber their cannon to turn our right flank.
They were so far away
they didn't seem more than uniforms.
I waited until they were all set up, standing along side their gun,
when I tumbled the first one.
They crouched down behind their gun.
I heard the Henry repeater to my right go off and they ducked around the other side.
The sharpshooter to my left tumbled another.
An officer tried but couldn't find us with a glass.
Some skirmishers ran up the field toward us.
We tumbled three and right away another three
so they dropped and crawled back to their lines.
The Rebels pulled their guns out of sight in the trees.
After that it was quiet all afternoon.
At dusk we came back to camp, sat quiet around a fire cleaning our guns.
We never had any watch or drill.
At first light we'd usually fill our canteens,
stuff biscuits in our pockets and look for likely spots.
After the war I came home to try farming.
But like my father, I'd rather sit in the woods,
my back to a tree, my rifle across my knees.
I've tried to write down my thoughts about the war,
but the the words jumble.



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