The Soldier’s Burial

Updated: May 25, 2014

By Jack Mandaville

When I was 13 years old I got my hands on an old family poem that had been sitting in a nondescript box in my parent’s basement. In it was one one of the most heart-wrenching poems I’ve ever read – a testament to sacrifice and personal loss.  It bore the story of an affluent family stricken with grief. My great-great grandmother, Irene Lameroux Pratt, wife of the Mayor of Minneapolis ( which at the time and to this day was a booming Midwestern city), Robert Pratt, had penned this piece in a grief-stricken moment in her life.


Sidney Pratt, 1898

Her son, Sidney Pratt, was the first Minnesotan to die in the Spanish-American War while serving in the Philippines. This young man had dropped out of the University of Minnesota during his freshman year to join the war effort – eager to follow in his father’s footsteps. Robert was a decorated veteran of the Civil War and Sidney’s namesake came from Robert’s brother who was wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness, eventually succumbing to his wounds in 1866. Our family has a day-to-day account of all these events and more.

The beauty of this poem is more sacred to me than just my family history. It’s something I’m not yet ready to put into words. In it’s simplest form, this is the story of life blossoming after death. It’s the story of the warrior fertilizing the seeds of freedom. But much more, it’s the story of a Gold Star Mother and her boy – before that term came into existence.                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                How tenderly they bore him

     How tenderly made his grave

   How tenderly placed within it

 The form of their comrade brave.

Neath the palm-trees by the river,

Far from the homeland dear

The lonely lads who loved him

Dropped on his grave, a tear.

Theirs was no costly tribute,

No flowers were there to hide

The grim hardness of the casket

With their soldier friend inside.

But a little rose-bush flourished,

And its perfume gently shed

Neath the palm trees by the river

In that city of the dead.

Then tenderly they lifted

This emblem of life to come,

And tenderly they set it,

Near the foot of their comrade’s tomb.

“Our father who art in heaven

Thy will be done below,”

With voices choked and tearful

Together they murmured low.

“Lights out” was gently sounded

As they sadly marched away

From the hero who had fallen

On the eve of the battle day.

Honor to these true-hearted

Who spread with a mother’s care

The couch of their sleeping comrade

And planted the rose-bush there.

-Irene L. Pratt, Minneapolis. 1899



One Comment

  1. nancy gordon

    May 26, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    Such peaceful prayer…you can sense the love that wrote it…always a Mother’s love.
    It must be special to have something to honor him with.He gave his best,he gave his all…so we could freely live.May he be with the Lord watching down over all his loved ones,some unknown,yet I am sure he knew them before they were born.

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