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The Picket Guard


The Nov. 30, 1861, issue of Harper’s Weekly featured a poem destined to become one of the essential texts of the Civil War, Ethel Lynn Beers’s “The Picket-Guard.” Beers, a 34-year-old native of Goshen, N.Y., said later that she wrote her only famous work in a single morning, after a boardinghouse breakfast at which one of her fellow residents relayed a newspaper report of “all quiet along the Potomac, as usual.” Beers had answered by reading aloud the sub-headline, “except a poor picket shot.” Her versified elaboration on the dispatch, in which a lonely guard is killed by a sniper early one morning, posed moral questions about the culture of war-making that have proved far more durable than her sentimental literary style.

Continue reading "Picket Lines," by Thomas J. Brown at the NY Times

The Picket Guard
Ethyl Lynn Beers

``ALL quiet along the Potomac to-night!"
Except here and there a stray picket
Is shot, as he walks on his beat, to and fro,
By a rifleman hid in the thicket.
'Tis nothing! a private or two now and then
Will not count in the news of a battle;
Not an officer lost, only one of the men
Moaning out, all alone, the death rattle.

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