Robert E. Lee and His Family, by John W. Wayland, Appendix (“Hero of the Pedegral”)

Robert E. Lee and His Family


The Hero of the Pedregal

Now perhaps you’ve heard my story,
   For it comes of long ago,
When young Robert Lee was captain
   In the war with Mexico.

It was after strong Contreras
   Had been wrested from the foe,
And the guns of Churubusco
   Had been laid in ruins low.

All around were shattered ramparts—
   Forts and towers all awreck;
Yet the strongest held out proudly—
   Cannon-crowned Chapultepec.

It was there that Santa Anna
   Held the troops of Scott at bay,
And behind that frowning fortress
   Mexico’s proud city lay.

So the pride of Montezuma
   Well refused to bow its neck,
For if Scott would take the city,
   First must fall Chapultepec.

Then one night there met a council,
   While the storm blew fierce withal,
And the men who took Contreras
   Vowed Chapultepec should fall.

There were Worth and Wool and Pillow,
   Quitman bold and Taylor true;
They declared that on the morrow
   Mexico should float the Blue.

Hurriedly were plans completed,
   Which at rising of the sun
Should combine attacking forces
   Till the victory be won.

But there first must be a message
   To the chief’s headquarters borne,
Ere the time to act be over
   With the coming of the morn.

“Who’s the man will hear the message?”
   Rang the challenge through the hall;
“Who can pass Valencia’s pickets?
   Who dares cross the Pedregal?”

Then a hush and sudden stillness
   On that midnight council fell,
For the perils of that mission
   Knew each man, and knew full well.

All without was death and darkness;
   Stormy blackness, like a pall,
Hid the pitfalls and the chasms
   Of the rugged Pedregal,

Save when chanced the flashing lightning
   An uncertain path to show,
Or reveal the hapless courier
   To the rifles of the foe.

Who would risk to fall unheeded?
   Or in some dark depth to lie,
There to writhe in pain and anguish,
   And at last alone to die?

Heeding not the storm’s mad fury
   Or the perils of his way,
Robert Lee in haste pushed onward—
   He to win must not delay.

In the camp his comrades waited,
   Painful dread upon them all,
For their hearts were with the hero
   Out upon the Pedregal.

But when early in the morning
   Boomed the first assaulting gun,
Then they Imew Lee’s midnight mission
   Had been well and timely done;

And in one loud shout of triumph
   Joined a thousand hearty cheers,
Praising Lee, the army’s hero—
   Captain Lee of the engineers.

Well they might heap praises on him
   For the deed so nobly done,
When unseen and unapplauded
   He had courted death alone.

Well was that among a thousand
   Called the bravest deed of all,
When to die or do his duty,
   Lee went through the Pedregal.

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