Mine eyes have seen the glory: ancestor’s Civil War poem turns 155

A family photo of Thomas Gordon taken near the time of the Civil War

Coy A. Pederson

A family photo of Thomas Gordon taken near the time of the Civil War

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This January marks 155 years since my 3 times great-grandfather, Thomas Gordon, wrote a poem during his service with the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Division as one of its commanding officers.

My family has a copy of Thomas Gordon’s diary which he kept during his time in the Grand Army of The Republic along with his musket.

Gordon was an aspiring poet and accomplished writer.  He is mentioned in many memoirs, most notably Brother of Mine, a book of collected letters.

Thomas Gordon emigrated from Lancashire, Scotland prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War. He married Martha Lawrence, granddaughter to Sir William Dawson Lawrence, who is credited with building the largest wooden ship to ever sail in maritime history.

Gordon accompanied Gen. Tecumseh Sherman during his March to The Sea. Sherman practiced total war and “scorched earth policy.” Gordon wrote in his spare time to take his mind off the horrors he witnessed during the campaign.

Here’s the text of the poem:

“Savannah’s Wake”

When the battle is over and the sounds of fight

Having closed with the closing day,

How happy around the watch fire’s light

To chat the long hours away;

To chat the long hours away, my boy,

And talk of the days to come Or a better still and purer joy

To think of our far off home.


How many a cheek then grows pale

That never felt a tear,

And many a stalwart heart will quail

That never quailed in fear;

And the breast that like some mighty rock

Amid the foaming sea

Bore high against the battle’s shock

Now heaves like infancy.


And those that knew each other not

Their hands together steal,

Each think of some long hallowed spot

And all like brothers feel.

Such holy thoughts to all are given,

The lowliest has his part;

The love of home like love of heaven

Is movin’ in our hearts


After the war Thomas and his wife lived on their New Hartford farm where he died in 1909, he is buried in Mabel, Minn.

Gravestone of Thomas Gordon in Mabel, Minn.

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