The Civil War Connections Blog

“Shall we give them a broadside, my boys, as she goes?”

Inspired by the reports of the bravery of the USS Cumberland‘s crew against the might of the CSS Virginia on March 8, 1862 – and by the words supposedly uttered by Lt. George Upham Morris even as his ship was sinking beneath the waves, poet Elizabeth T. Porter Beach wrote the following lines sometime in 1862. The poem was eventually printed in the book with the impossibly long title of Pen-pictures of the war: Lyrics, incidents, and sketches of the rebellion; comprising a choice selection of pieces by our best poets, also, current and well authenticated anecdotes and incidents of the war. Together with a full account of many of the great battles, also, a complete historical record of all events, both civil and military, from the commencement of the rebellion which was published in 1864. It became an (aptly named) broadside ballad in 1862 – and we know, we know…..we’ve printed this before. But here it is again, in its poetic form.

The Last Broadside – Elizabeth T. Porter Beach

Shall we give them a broadside, my boys, as she goes?
Shall we send yet another to tell,
In iron-tongued words, to Columbia’s foes
How bravely her sons say ‘Farewell’?

“Aye! what though we sink ‘neath the turbulent wave,
‘Tis with DUTY and RIGHT at the helm!
And over the form should the fierce waters rave
No tide can the spirit o’erwhelm!

For swift o’er the billows of Charon’s dark stream
We’ll pass to the immortal shore,
Where the ‘waters of life’ in brilliancy beam,
And the pure float in peace evermore!

“Shall we give them a broadside once more my brave men?”
“Aye, aye!” rose the full, earnest cry.
“A broadside! A broadside we’ll give them again!
Then, for God and the Right nobly die!”

“Haste, haste!” For amid all that battering din
Comes a gurgling sound fraught with fear
As swift flowing waters pour rushingly in
Up! up! ’till her portholes they near.

No blenching. No faltering! Still fearless all seem.
Each man firm to duty doth bide.
A flash! and a “Broadside!” A shout! A careen!
And the Cumberland sinks ‘neath the tide!

The “Star Spangled Banner” still floating above
As a beacon upon the dark wave!
Our Ensign of Glory, proud streaming in love,
O’er the tomb of the Loyal and Brave!

Bold hearts! Mighty spirits! “Tried gold” of our land!
A halo of glory your meed!
All honored, the noble-souled Cumberland band!
So true in Columbia’s need!