The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn

Last summer I made a visit

To the City of Lacon,

To see my friends and nephews,

Nieces and brother John.

There are the finest horses

That I have ever seen,

And in the largest flocks

A feeding on the green.

Greenbacks will not buy them

Nor gold take them away,

For they are carefully reserving them

Against an evil day.

If the traitor or abolitionist

Should get up an insurrection,

For Democrats to ride

And give them some correction.

There is as brave a set of lawyers

As ever yet were tried,

And quite a host of clerks

And tradesmen there beside.

And in that vicinity

A living all around,

Are patriotic Democrats

As ever yet were found.

The Democrats are peaceable,

Law abiding men,

They love the constitution

And the Union as it’s been.

But the traitorous Abolitionists,

That bloody, wicked crew,

They have drenched the earth with blood,

‘Tis horrible, yet true.

Their cup of indignation

Must now be nearly full,

Such battles as at Fredericksburg

And on the run called Bull.

Should glut this thirst for carnage,

And of blood be satisfied,

To quit the field of slaughter,

Go home, and there abide.

he traitorous politicians

That millions have been making,

Destroying of the Nation,

Their blood and treasure taking.

But avaricious principle

Wealth cannot satisfy,

With Dives they’ll have their portion,

I fear, soon as they die.

By your underhanded meanness,

Your lying and deception,

You’ve got our Democratic boys

In such a sad condition.

They are still writing home

How bad they were deceived,

To have to fight for the Constitution

And the Union, they are grieved.

Poor men, before they started,

They thought they would send home,

A part of each month’s wages,

That to their families would come.

Month after month passed by,

No money they received,

And when the winter came,

Oh! How their hearts were grieved.

To think of their poor families

In a deplorable condition,

Themselves half clothed, half fed,

All for abolition.

But, O, their suffering families,

Perhaps starving, freezing, dying,

Resolved they would go to them

Or kill themselves a trying.

Soon after they got there,

A posse came to take them,

Put cold irons on their limbs,

And back to slaughter takes them.

Their children clinging to them,

Crying, “Father, do not go!”

The wife in deepest anguish

Sobbing, “Why must this be so?”

For the Negro, Madam, for the Negro,

For the Negro, don’t you see?

If every white man’s blood is shed,

The Negro must be free.

The clock has struck eleven,

I must try to go to sleep,

The suffering and the bloodshed

Often makes we weep.

It is a cold and stormy night,

And sadly still I feel,

As I think how many widows

Have neither fire nor meal.

I should be very thankful,

For I am in good care,

My room is tight and pleasant,

Secure from the cold air.

My bed is soft and easy,

And I am warm enough,

While thousands on the floor or ground

Are lying cold and rough.

Our friends have gathered brush

To keep them out of water,

At night lay on a brush heap,

Next day be led to slaughter.


Written from the account of my son, Washington, after his return from visiting his sons in the army in 1863.

On the river down below,

At a city called Natchez,

Thousands of the Negroes there

Have assembled for their ease.

The confiscation proclamation

There seems working well,

From forty full to sixty

Daily freed from that corral.

They are daily freed and sent

To the land of Kingdom Come,

Twenty-eight put in one grave,

And gone to their long home.

When dead, the dead and living

Lay in one bed together,

No animals do so,

But swine in coldest weather.

For three or four days,

Till they decompose and rot,

For fear they’ll have to bury them

Report it, they will not.

Sometimes so badly putrid

They can’t be moved at all,

Then the shanty, down must come,

Burn Negroes, house and all.

They must be compelled to bury them,

They are such a lazy crew,

At the bayonet’s point the whites

Must compel them what to do.

Then they take the shortest cut,

Pile dozens in a heap,

Without a straw or cornstalk,

Earth from their skins to keep.

Our Government is feeding them

Five days’ rations at a time,

And when they get their rations,

Gluttony to them is no crime.

They eat and eat and eat,

The more part at the first meal,

Soon after they quit eating,

Much worse for it they feel.

A disease like cholera morbus

In its worst form sets in,

Nor many hours after

Death closes up the scene.

Then thousand little vermin,

Surprising strange to tell,

All crawling on the ground,

That off of them fell.

Filth, disease and pestilence,

Small pox and measles, too,

Are freeing of the Negroes

As fast as they can go.

In company with my abolition friends that asked me
if I didn’t like Mr. Lincoln. I said “
No, I never liked his character.”

Remember, Mr. Lincoln

Is nothing but a man,

And of late he was a member

Of a most inferior clan.

When he stole from Illinois

Such a vast amount of cash,

And with the thieving abolitionists,

He was found among the trash.

And a traitor to his country

In the war of Mexico,

To starve to death the soldiers,

His lubber length did go.

And he wished they might receive them,

Our friends with bloody hands,

And hospitable graves

Away in foreign lands.

And it was but a small minority,

Compared with the whole nation,

That set him on that seat

And gave him that commission.

And then he dare not go there

To be seen in broad daylight,

But like another thief

He stole there in the night.

Dressed in Scotchman’s garb

He went there in disguise,

Now assumes despotic power,

To a tyrant’s height doth rise.

We have read in history

How tyrants lose their heads,

But if he changes his course

He may yet die in his bed.

Oh! This cruel war!

‘Tis horrible to tell!

Forty thousand men,

In one battle fell!

From the fifth to the tenth

Of this bloody month of May,

Seventy-five thousand men

On the battlefield lay.

Some said that ninety thousand

Of our nation then were slain,

All for abolition

Without profit, cause or gain.

Twenty-eight thousand

To hospitals were sent,

To amputate their limbs,

Surgeons to them went.

Some were so badly wounded,

They could not get away,

And in the scorching sun

Two days they had to lay.

Without one bite of food

Of any sort or kind,

Nor yet one drop of water

To cheer their fainting mind.

How many more lay dead,

To decompose and rot,

For dogs and wolves to eat,

The numbers we have not.

With stumps of legs and arms

Upon the naked floor,

Without a sheet beneath them,

Or blanket to spread o’er.

They could find no help

In the sanitary stores,

Neither rag nor bandage

To dress their mortal sores.

And there they had to lie,

In their clothes all stiff with blood,

Oh! Grant our rulers wisdom,

Have mercy, O, my God!

They must lie in wait and agony

Till relieved by death’s sleep,

I must try to dry my tears,

For it is no use to weep.

All this to free the Negroes

And scatter them abroad,

Away from their kind masters,

O, What a wicked fraud!

They’ll find their Yankee taskmasters

Will work them twice as hard,

Because they’re not their property

Their lives they’ll not regard.

Their masters who have raised them,

Whose property they are,

For their health and lives

Will have ten times the care.

In the Sunny South

Is their proper place,

Because from head to foot,

They are an inferior race.

They never have sustained themselves,

And they never can,

For they were made for servants

To superior man.

And since the proclamation,

Thousands of them are dying,

And ‘tis not far from here

Some most piteously crying.

And say they were forced to leave,

For at home they could not stay,

Because the Yankee army came

And took everything away.

They lament and moan most piteously,

And say they will go back,

And some of them are gone,

And others on the track.

They say they don’t know how

To do the work, and cry,

And to live among the Yankees

They would rather die.

No doubt more than two millions

Have gone to their long home,

Since this wicked war began,

Oh! When will it be done?

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