Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Ship's Bell


An Old Soldier's Reminiscence of a Companion In the Civil War.

"I was in the land service," said an old soldier, "but everything about the naval service has always had the greatest fascination for me, perhaps on account of the fact that my regiment, like many another, for that matter, had more or less of service on the coast or by navigable waters, within sight or sound of gunboats. I think the landsman generally when he first hears the sound of a ship's bell is pretty sure to be struck by it, even more than by the sound of the ship's cannon, for cannon speak alike on land and sea, but there is a distinctly salty flavor about the ship's bell, and one soon comes to like it very much.

"The sight of the gunboat by day is cheerful, but the sound of the ship's bell at night is more cheering still. Time and again, on guard at night, I have listened for the bell. I met, to be sure, at either end of the post the man on the next post, yet all the camp was asleep, and the sound of the bell was a welcome companionship. It meant that somebody was up on the gunboat, too, and not only up, but alert. The ship may not be visible, but the exact striking of the hours means presence, readiness and power. And what's this it strikes? Seven belle. Half past 3, and you smile a little as you think that at eight bells comes the relief.

"It maybe that you are on picket, far from the camp, with its friendly suggestion of support even though it be asleep, with the other men on post sleeping now, and yourself alone, meeting at the ends of the little beat you pace no one. Then, through the darkness and stillness comes, doubly welcome now, the sound of the ship's bell, distant, but heard." — New York Sun.

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