Mary Ashley Townsend

Mary Ashley Townsend1832-1901: Less than 10 years after Wayne County was formed, a little girl by the name of Mary Ashely VanVoorhis was born on a farm on one of the back roads between Lyons and Newark. She was frail and, having no other child in the family to play with, she discovered the pleasures of reading and of writing poetry. She attended country school at Fellows Corners and later the Academy in Lyons.

Mary Ashley VanVoorhis was only 17 when her verses began to appear in print. Starting in 1850 and for the next fifty years, she produced hundreds of poems and one novel, “The Brothers Clerks.” In 1852 she married Gideon Townsend of Fishkill, New York. In 1860 the Townsends moved to New Orleans where they spent practically all of the rest of their lives.

A GEORGIA VOLUNTEER

Far up the lonely mountain-side
My wandering footsteps led;
The moss lay thick beneath my feet,
The pine sighed overhead.
The trace of a dismantled fort
Lay in the forest nave,
And in the shadow near my path
I saw a soldier’s grave.

The bramble wrestled with the weed
Upon the lowly mound;—
The simple head-board, rudely writ,
Had rotted to the ground;
I raised it with a reverent hand,
From dust its words to clear,
But time had blotted all but these—
“A Georgia Volunteer!”

I saw the toad and scaly snake
From tangled covert start,
And hide themselves among the weeds
Above the dead man’s heart;
But undisturbed, in sleep profound,
Unheeding, there he lay;
His coffin but the mountain soil,
His shroud Confederate gray.

I heard the Shenandoah roll
Along the vale below,
I saw the Alleghanies rise
Towards the realms of snow.
The “Valley Campaign” rose to mind—
Its leader’s name—and then
I knew the sleeper had been one
Of Stonewall Jackson’s men.

Yet whence he came, what lip shall say—
Whose tongue will ever tell
What desolated hearths and hearts
Have been because he fell?
What sad-eyed maiden braids her hair,
Her hair which he held dear?
One lock of which perchance lies with
The Georgia Volunteer!

What mother, with long watching eyes,
And white lips cold and dumb,
Waits with appalling patience for
Her darling boy to come?
Her boy! whose mountain grave swells up
But one of many a scar,
Cut on the face of our fair land,
By gory-handed war.

What fights he fought, what wounds he wore,
Are all unknown to fame;
Remember, on his lonely grave
There is not e’en a name!
That he fought well and bravely too,
And held his country dear,
We know, else he had never been
A Georgia Volunteer.

He sleeps—what need to question now
If he were wrong or right?
He knows, ere this, whose cause was just
In God the Father’s sight.
He wields no warlike weapons now,
Returns no foeman’s thrust—
Who but a coward would revile
An honest soldier’s dust?

Roll, Shenandoah, proudly roll,
Adown thy rocky glen,
Above thee lies the grave of one
Of Stonewall Jackson’s men.
Beneath the cedar and the pine,
In solitude austere,
Unknown, unnamed, forgotten, lies
A Georgia Volunteer.