Sometime last year I posted an article detailing the chain of command
involved in granting or denying a soldier a medical discharge. Below is a poem I
came across that perhaps expresses even better than that article the frustration
and anger of the soldier in awaiting a disability discharge that might not
come or might come too late, as it did for John Gaston. The poet does not mince
words and places blame where he feels it belongs, whether fairly or not.
The Vinton Eagle
Vinton, Benton Co., Iowa
Wed., August 6, 1862
For the Eagle.
Written on the Death of John Gaston,
By a Fellow Soldier.
Oh! is it true that he is dead,
That he has passed from earth away?
The mind that light upon us shed,
Alas! has left its home of clay,
He went so nobly to the fight,
He battled bravely for our land,
For well he knew our cause was right,
And with the cause he'd fall or stand.
The rebel bullets did not do
The hellish work on which 'twas sent;
He passed the battles safely through,
Then started home, but life was spent.--
For sickness long had bound her chain
Upon his noble, manly form;
He strove, alas, it was in vain,
To reach home's fireside so warm.
In honor he gets his discharge,
He starts to visit friends so dear,
His noble heart does now enlarge
Because his friends and home are near.
Alas! that home he'll never see;
Death meets and bids his victim stay.
No friend is near to bend the hand--
"Mid those unknown he passed away.
Alas! 'tis hard to give him up--
To know he sleeps within the grave.
The bitter drop within the cup,
No friendly hand was near to save.
Why does "Red Tape" have such a range?
Why so much sin 'gainst earth and heaven
To give to officers the power
To crush the life that God has given?
Had but a furlough once been given,
And he gone home to friendships care,
The chains of death would have been riven
And he in health been with us here.
His soul, alas, has left its clay
And gone to God from whence it came,
May God but justly judge, this day,
The officers that are to blame.
Buckingham, Iowa, Aug. 1st, 1862.
[A John Gaston served in Co. G, 14th Iowa Infantry, was 25 at enlistment on
Oct. 9, 1861, in Tama Co. He was discharged July 17, 1862, at Corinth,
The only "T" surname of a soldier with a Buckingham address was John R.
Thomas, 25, who did not enlist until Jan. 1864. He died aboard the steamer "South
Western" on April 13, 1864. He also served in Co. G, 14th Iowa Infantry.
However, this might not be the author of the poem.
Source: "Roster and Records of Iowa Troops in the Rebellion, Vol. 2." Civil
War and Iowa: Greyhounds and Hawkeyes. CD-ROM. Creston, IA: O. J. Fargo,
Sue Trout Reisdorph