Artillary Horses Under Fire
That slap the minie balls make when they strike
sickens the heart. Sounds just like pebbles
Mostly they fall straight off, then struggle
up again, shivering and stiff, but strangely
quiet till the next round comes.
Some simply twitch their flanks or slash
their tails across the wound , staring ahead.
You’d think it was a blowfly at them,
nothing more. I remember at Cold Harbor we watched
as the last from a team of six stood firm
in harness with five bullets in her side.
She toppled only when the sixth ball sheared
through bone. Not one was spooked, nor ran;
but then, the living were left limbered
to the dead. We could hear the rebels cheer
as horse after horse dropped through its traces,
kicking the caisson sides.
They hardly make no sound—that’s what I hate.
Die as they must, God damn them.
I don’t know. Some beasts act more like men.
-John Glenday, from “Whitman's War" in Undark