Drenching his golden beard. The weeping stopped
when the heavy dose of Laudanum kicked in,
Yankee Laudanum looted by Bedford Forrest,
a necessary remedy for Hood, who rode
strapped to the saddle, his right leg taken off
at the hip at Chickamauga, and his left arm
hanging dead in its sleeve, mangled at Gettysburg.
Now, high as a barn owl, he remembered hearing,
“The Charge of the Light Brigade,” in Mary Chesnut’s garden,
“Someone had blundered,” and it was John Bell Hood,
the wrecker of the Army of Tennessee,
in Tupelo as stoned as Samuel Taylor Coleridge
ever was, as stoned as Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Twelve generals had been killed, including Pat Cleburne,
who, if commanding with the aid of Forrest,
could have whipped The Army of the Cumberland,
and then, God help us all, prolonged the war.
But Hood, now in a visionary state,
remained incapable of comprehending
the agony that ramified from his tent,
his army starved and freezing without blankets,
and T. B. Smith at twenty-six, his youngest
brigadier, lying with his brain laid open by
a Yankee colonel’s saber. He survived
another sixty years to fight his longest battle
with the mice who scurried nightly underneath
his lumpy bed, the lumpy, sodden bed
that he was fastened down to every night
and where he lay awake, mostly, and helpless,
untended in the dark rundown asylum.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 38 Number 4, on page 38
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