HEADQUARTERS 54TH REGT. O. V. INF. U. S. A.,
ENCAMPED ON THE BATTLEFIELD OF SHILOH,
April 27, 1862.
“Backward, turn backward, oh time, — in your flight,
Make me a child again just for to-night.
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair,
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep,
Rock me to sleep, mother, rock me to sleep.”
If there can be, dear mother, a perfect realization of all the dreams of romance in which my youthful fancy ever indulged, that realization is now mine. Imagine me as I lie in my tent, pitched upon a hard-fought battlefield, my tried sword and trusty pistols at my head. I look through the fly at three as gallant horses as ever sniffed the breeze, picketed close at hand; just beyond them the encampment of my regiment, a band of devoted followers, all of whom, if actions speak fairly, worship me, every one of whom has been ready to rush to death at my bidding, whose ranks have been fearfully thinned, but still contain as true hearts and strong arms as ever did or dared on battlefield. My flag that fluttered while thousands of bullets were aimed at it, that came from the conflict unstained with dishonor, still ripples in the balmy air of this lovely day. I have a great deal to make me exultant, but oh, if I could only roll back the tide of time for one moment, if I could only be a little child again with your hand upon my brow, if you could only take me again to your heart as of yore, how gladly would I exchange all the pomp and circumstance of glorious war!
We shall have another great fight, though the delay has been disastrous to us. We ought to have followed up the flying foe on Monday night. We had them then beyond all doubt. They have been heavily reinforced since, and are very stubborn. At the rate we are going on, this war will last twenty-five years, and will cost the North the lives of a million of men.
SOURCE: Walter George Smith, Life and letters of Thomas Kilby Smith, p. 198-9