Scathing Civil War Manuscript Poem, Our Officers, sent from the Field by a Private in the 50th Illinois Infantry

A fascinating and scathing poem written by Union soldier Private Edward D. Roe (1836-1908), of Richfield, Illinois. Roe enlisted on August 20, 1861, mustered into "C" Company 50th Illinois Infantry Regiment on September 12, 1861, and was mustered out on September 27, 1864. The 50th Illinois Volunteers engaged in battles at Ft. Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, and Town Creek among others.

Private Roe was was assigned to the Army of Tennessee from February 1862 through the end of his enlistment, and it was while stationed near Nashville, Tennessee, that he wrote this poem which casts a critical and bitter eye upon the actions of his superiors. Titled "Our Officers," the poem reflects upon the cowardice and self-serving nature of Union officers who avoid danger leaving enlisted soldiers to do the fighting and claiming the glory for themselves. Written in 20 rhyming stanzas. Measuring 7.5 x 12.5 in. Accompanied by original cover. 

The poem begins "I sit me down to talk about/A singular Class of men/Now to portray their talents/T'would take a poets pen...Now by their looks you would suppose/They were gentle and refined/But when the truth is known dear sir/Th're of a dif'rent kind...." The poem then goes on to recount how a Colonel, a Major, the Adjutant and a Captain all describe their fear over the impending battle arriving at a conclusion, "Then did the Captain's talk about/The terrors of a fight/And for to fly and save their lives/They all believed was right." Finally, in the absence of leadership, the enlisted soldiers fight the good fight, "And now the crisis came at last/The officers had all fled/Except the Corporals who were drunk/And lying round us dead/Now then the soldiers saw that they/Had got to fight or die/They went into it on their own hook/And made the Rebels fly." 

Private Roe survived the war, married, had six children, and died in Kansas.

Provenance:Property from the Inventory of Rex Stark


Toned with some soil and a minor loss along bottom edge line. Creased along fold lines, with one large vertical tear along fold. 

Estimate: $200 - $400
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium


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