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A Portion of the People
This Happy Land First Families · Pledging Allegiance · Palmetto Jews 
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A Mother’s Poems by Octavia Harby Moses, 1915, with a photograph of a portrait of Joshua Lazarus Moses
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“To My Dead Son, J. L. Moses, Killed at the Battle of Blakely, Ala.,” in A Mother’s Poems
Octavia Harby Moses
“Published by her children and grandchildren,”
South Carolina, 1915
Paper and ink, with gilded cloth cover
Private collection

Lt. Joshua Lazarus Moses (1839–1865)
Company C, 3rd (Palmetto) Battalion,
South Carolina Light Artillery
Photograph of a portrait (possibly posthumous)
Artist unknown, ca. 1865
Gouache on paper
Private collection

When peace returned Octavia Harby Moses used the medium of poetry—she had been writing since she was 12—to express her grief and rage over her personal losses and the defeat of her beloved Southland. She and her husband sent five sons to fight in the Civil War. Four came home; their eldest, Joshua Lazarus Moses, did not.

In her 1868 poem, “To My Dead Son,” Octavia lamented:

Yes, thou art dead! forever gone
That tender smile, that pleasant tone;
And I, oh God! have lived to say,
“’Tis well, my son, thou’rt dead to-day;
Thou could’st not view with spirit tame,
Thy Country’s wrongs, thy Country’s shame!

The lovely land thou died’st to save,
Is ruled by traitor and by slave;
Wretches who in their thirst for gain,
An eminence of guilt attain;
Whose Parricidal fingers tear
The very breast, that did them bear!’

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Last updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2006