The Old Gray Coat

Rev. John K. White


In the garret it was resting in the bottom of a trunk,

And for years it had been hidden in the deepest slumber sunk;

As I raised it slowly, gently, bitter tears rushed to my eyes,

For it brought back recollection which, though sleeping, never dies.


As I pressed my lips upon it, soft a voice within it spoke;

It at first seemed misty, dreamy, but at last it full awoke.

Where and why, I pray you tell me, am I resting quiet now?

And the way in which I came here, will you please inform me how?”


You were placed here by your master when he found no use for you.

And why, I’d have you tell me, could I nothing further do?”

Did I not through toilsome marches ever stay close by his side?

Did I not the scorching sunshine and the biting blast abide?”


Did I ever shrink from bullets? Did I ever seem to fear

When the bayonets clashed around me or the bombshells burst so near,

Was I not a faithful servant? Did I not my duty well?

Why, then, am I thus discarded? I entreat you now to tell.”


Tis because the war is over; yes, the fighting all is done;

For the northern armies conquered, and the country now is one.

Well, but where are Lee and Jackson, with their armies strong and brave?”

They have fought their final battle; they are sleeping in the grave.


But not all, not all most surely, are there not a number left

Who have not with courage parted and are not of honor ‘reft?

Cannot these with Southern valor, sweep the land from sea to sea

And from every hated foeman thus the Southern Nation free?”


But the South is not a nation, and the war is long since o’re;

And I tell you peace is reigning through the land from shore to shore.

Did my master e’er surrender? Sure he died upon the field;

For I know that he would never for a moment deign to yield?”


But he did indeed surrender, and he preaches now the Word;

He’s an active, earnest worker in the vineyard of the Lord.


The Old Gray Coat was worn by Major Giles B. Cooke of General Lee’s Staff, and given after the surrender to his nephew,

Reverend John K. White. (From: Confederate Veteran Magazine, Vol. XVI, No. 2, February 1908)