Victor Galbraith

Note: Based on conflicting sources during my research while writing this, most of the information is based on the overall consensus of the facts during that time.

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…

Many have heard or at least heard of the poem Paul Revere’s Ride, but how many have heard of the poem titled Victor Galbraith, also by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Before you read it, let’s get a little background:

The Mexican-American War waged from 1846 to 1848, pulling in soldiers from all over the 28 states, including Victor Galbraith, of Middletown, Ohio. Before the war, Victor’s claim to fame was his father Joseph, who was Middletown’s first public school teacher.

While stationed in Monterey, Victor volunteered as a bugler in the Calvary. Reports state that Victor was a very good bugler, his call being known as “Victor’s Call.”

One night, Victor’s camp was visited by a woman only known in records as “the Portuguese woman,” who played her harp and sang. This woman had long been suspected of spilling secrets about the U.S. to Mexico, and she was escorted quickly from the camp. While being escorted, Victor was heard to make a comment “not becoming that of a soldier” as she left. Immediately, people became suspicious of Victor and he was arrested, suspected of being the person giving the Portuguese woman the information.

Shortly after, it was decided that Victor would be executed for his crime. Although still declaring himself innocent of the crime, he accepted his fate.

Victor’s last words were reported to be, “My only desire is that posterity will efface the brand of suspected traitor from my name. Take good aim my comrades. I am ready to die the death of a soldier, a mistaken sacrifice to army discipline. I bid you farewell.

Victor was shot dead by firing squad on December 27, 1847 and buried on site. Although his body is still buried in Mexico, there is a memorial in Middletown dedicated to him.

After his death, Victor was proven to be innocent of spilling military secrets. In the months following his execution, fellow soldiers declared that his bugle could be heard playing night after night at camp.

Under the walls of Monterey
At daybreak the bugles began to play,
Victor Galbraith!
In the mist of the morning damp and gray,
These were the words they seemed to say:
“Come forth to thy death,
Victor Galbraith!”

Forth he came, with a martial tread;
Firm was his step, erect his head;
Victor Galbraith,
He who so well the bugle played,
Could not mistake the words it said:
“Come forth to thy death,
Victor Galbraith!”

He looked at the earth, he looked at the sky,
He looked at the files of musketry,
Victor Galbraith!
And he said, with a steady voice and eye,
“Take good aim; I am ready to die!”
Thus challenges death
Victor Galbraith.

Twelve fiery tongues flashed straight and red,
Six leaden balls on their errand sped;
Victor Galbraith
Falls to the ground, but he is not dead;
His name was not stamped on those balls of lead,
And they only scath
Victor Galbraith.

Three balls are in his breast and brain,
But he rises out of the dust again,
Victor Galbraith!
The water he drinks has a bloody stain;
“O kill me, and put me out of my pain!”
In his agony prayeth
Victor Galbraith.

Forth dart once more those tongues of flame,
And the bugler has died a death of shame,
Victor Galbraith!
His soul has gone back to whence it came,
And no one answers to the name,
When the Sergeant saith,
“Victor Galbraith!”

Under the walls of Monterey
By night a bugle is heard to play,
Victor Galbraith!
Through the mist of the valley damp and gray
The sentinels hear the sound, and say,
“That is the wraith
Of Victor Galbraith!”

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