Bivouac of the Dead

The title comes from the epitaph on the monument built to the Otranto dead on Islay Island.

On Fame’s eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread
While Glory keeps, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

This famous poem by Theodore O’Hara has been used to eulogize fallen soldiers since the Mexican-American War.   Among other monuments it graces the Confederate Monument in Cynthiana, Kentucky, and the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, where Otranto victims John Franklin Moore and William C. Zeigler, of Berrien County, GA are interred.

When HMS Otranto went down in WWI no county lost more sons than Berrien County, GA.  Two soldiers lost from Ray City,GA were Pvt. Ralph Knight and Pvt. Shellie Loyed Webb.  The October 13, 1918 edition of the Atlanta Constitution reported the burial of the Otranto dead.

Buried in Wide Grave

Island of Islay, Scotland, Thursday October 10.  – American dead from the transport ship Otranto will be buried in the little churchyard at Kilchoman in wide graves accommodating twenty bodies each. The church was too small to hold more than a hundred bodies, and scores were placed under improvised shelters in the churchyard.
As rapidly as the bodies can be assembled from now on they will be buried in groups of twenty in an open field on the edge of a cliff commanding a wide view of the sea and directly overlooking the scene of the wreck.
A memorial service will be held tomorrow at the church. It will be conducted by the Rev. Donald Grant, who, with Mrs. Grant, were leaders in rescue work.  American and British officers, the Islay authorities and islanders will attend. After the simple service has been read a military salute will be fired over the graves.
Owing to the heavy surf and the extreme difficulty of combing the long stretches of rock-bound, high-cliffed coast of the island, the progress of the searching parties is slow, and it may be many days before the bodies of all the victims are recovered.
The task of conveying the dead over the rough ground from distant points to Kilchoman is proving a difficult problem. No four-wheeled vehicles can be used, and the bodies are being transported in carts.

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1 Comment

  1. September 12, 2011 at 6:39 am

    […] Bivouac of the Dead […]

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