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“ [558] might soon obtain an asylum on a foreign shore.” When Davis and his companions left Richmond in pursuance of this plan, they believed that Lee could avoid surrender only a short time longer. A few days thereafter the news of this expected calamity reached them, when they turned their faces again toward the South.1

1 In reference to the incidents which followed upon Mr. Davis' flight from Goldsboro‘, North Carolina, I again quote from the historian of “The lost cause:”

The resumption of Mr. Davis' flight toward the South was in consequence of what had taken place in his interview with Generals Johnston and Beauregard. It was an interview of inevitable embarrassment and pain. The two generals were those who had experienced most of the prejudice and injustice of the President; he had always felt aversion for them, and it would have been an almost impossible excess of Christian magnanimity if they had not returned something of resentment and coldness to the man who, they believed, had arrogantly domineered over them, and more than once sought their ruin. We have seen how unceremoniously and cruelly Johnston had been hustled off the stage of Atlanta. True, he had now been restored to command; but under circumstances which made it no concession to the public and no favor to him, for he was restored only to the conduct of a campaign that was already lost, and put in command of a broken and disorganized force that Sherman had already driven through two States. When, some time before, public sentiment was demanding his return to service, he wrote bitterly that he was quite sure that if the authorities at Richmond restored him to command, they were resolved not to act toward him in good faith and with proper support, but to put him in circumstances where defeat was inevitable, and thus confirm to the populace the military judgment of the President. He had no reason to thank Mr. Davis for his present command in the forests of North Carolina, where the President had now come to him to ask little less than a miracle at his hands. As for General Beauregard, his painful relations with Mr. Davis had been public gossip ever since the battle of Manassas. There had been, too, a recently unpleasantness, fresh in the minds of both, on account of General Beauregard having evacuated Charleston against the orders of the President, although what idea the latter could have had, within the limits of sanity, in attempting to hold this city after Sherman's army had flanked it, is difficult to imagine.

These three men were now to meet to consult of the condition of the country, and the occasion invoked that they should rise above personal feelings in the circumstances of a great public sorrow and anxiety. There was obtained for the interview a mean room on the second floor of a house owned by a Confederate officer. Mr. Davis sat cold, dignified, evidently braced for an unpleasant task. He spoke in a musing, absent way, and it was remarked that, while speaking, he never looked toward either commander, his eyes being amused by a strip of paper which he was twisting in his hands. His heart must have beat with a great anxiety, for he must have known how much depended on these generals countenancing his plans of continuing the war; and yet he spoke as one who had merely resolved to state his case, and who cared not to influence the decision one way or the other. It was as if he had said openly to his generals: “If you decide to continue the war, to keep your armies in the field, well and good; but understand, it is no obligation conferred upon me, and I shall regard it as no concession to me.” And yet his heart secretly hung on their replies, and beneath his cold exterior the practised eye might have seen the deep under-play of the nerve, the flutter of the suppressed emotion.

The President spoke at length. General Johnston sat at as great a distance from him as the room allowed. He was, evidently, impatient; he knew what was coming; he had anticipated all that the President said before he had come into the room, and he listened as one oppressed with the fulness and readiness of reply. Yet, when the President stopped speaking, he remained profoundly silent. “General Johnston,” Mr. Davis said, “we should like to now hear your views.” It was a reply that came with a bluntness and defiance that brought a sudden color to the cheeks of the President. “Sir,” blurted out General Johnston, “my views are, that our people are tired of war, feel themselves whipped, and will not fight! ” In these few words he had said all that was necessary; and he spoke them suddenly, without preface. But he continued to speak in short, decisive, jerky sentences, as if in haste to deliver his mind. He suggested that the enemy's military power and resources were now greater than they had ever been. What could the President hope to oppose to them in the present demoralized condition of the South? “My men,” he said, “ are, daily, deserting in large numbers, and are taking my artillery teams to aid their escape to their homes. Since Lee's defeat, they regard the war as at an end. If I march out of North Carolina her people will all leave my ranks. It will be the same as I proceed south through South Carolina and Georgia, and I shall expect to retain no man beyond the by-road or cow-path that leads to his house. My small force is melting away like snow before the sun, and I am hopeless of recruiting it. We may, perhaps, obtain terms which we ought to accept.” A silence ensued. It was broken by the President saying, in a low, even tone: “What do you say, General Beauregard?” “I concur in all General Johnston has said,” he replied. There was another pause in the conversation, when, presently, General Johnston, as if regretting the cruel plainness of his remarks, and thinking he had wounded enough the unhappy President, who was still twisting, abstractedly, the piece of paper in his hands, proceeded to suggest, at some length, the hope of getting favorable terms from the enemy. He thought it would be legitimate, and according with military usage for him to open a correspondence with General Sherman, to see how far the generals in the field might go in arranging terms of peace. Mr. Davis could not but be sensible of the wisdom of this suggestion, although he listened coldly to it, and it was very little of consolation for the destruction of such towering and grotesque hopes as he had brought into the interview. General Breckenridge, who had been present at the whole of the interview, now ventured to advise that General Johnston should, at once, and on the spot, address a letter to Sherman to prepare an interview. “No,” replied General Johnston-probably anxious to show a mark of deference to the President, out of pity for the mortification already inflicted upon him-“ let the President dictate the letter.” The letter, proposing a suspension of hostilities, was dictated by the President. And thus, Mr. Davis himself virtually subscribed the token of submission of the Confederate army, second in importance and numbers to that of Lee, yet unwilling to go further in the sequel and to write gracefully his entire submission to the inevitable.

On the 16th of April, the President, his staff-and Cabinet left Greensboroa. It was a slow travel, in ambulances and on horseback, and the dejection of the party was visible enough. Mr. Davis was the first to rally from it. When he and his companions had left Richmond, it was in the belief of the majority that Lee could avoid surrender but a few days longer, and with the intention, as we have already said, of making their way to the Florida coast, and embarking there for a foreign land. The President had clung, at Danville, to the hope that Lee might effect a retreat to Southwestern Virginia, and he had remained there long enough to see that hope disappointed. Again, when he had sought General Johnston's demoralized and inconsiderable army, it had been from a feeble diversion of hope that it might not yield to the example of Lee's surrender, and that, under the inspiration of the presence and the direct command of the President, it might be induced to keep the field. That expectation had been brought to a painful end, and it appeared as if the President would be recommitted now to the original design of fleeing the Confederacy, and would now make an earnest effort to escape. But his mind was disordered and undecided. It was distressing to see how he hesitated between assured safety in flight from the country, and the possible hope that the cause of the Confederacy might not be beyond redemption. Anyhow, there were no signs yet that he was pursued by the enemy, and he had appeared to consider himself sure of ultimately making good his escape after he had once got out of sight of Richmond. He had shown great trepidation in getting out of the Capital, but in the leisure of a journey, unmolested by pursuit, and entertained by the fresh air and pleasing sights of spring, he had time to recover, to some extent, his self-possession, and to cast about for something to be saved from the wreck of his hopes.

In the meditations of his journey through North Carolina, the fugitive President, although anxious for his personal safety, appears to have conceived the alternative of venturing to the Southwest, within reach of the forces of Taylor and Forrest, in the hope of reviving the fortunes of the Confederacy within a limited territory. He suggested the alternative to General Breckenridge, as they traveled together, after the news of Johnston's surrender, but received only an evasive reply, the latter not sharing his hopes, but unwilling to mortify them by a candid declaration of opinion. Mr. Davis was remarkable for a sanguine temperament, but it was that which we observe in weak characters, “hoping against hope,” fickle, flaring, extravagant, rather than that practical energy which renews itself on disaster, and conquers fortune. The vision he had conjured up of a limited Confederacy around the mouths of the Mississippi might have looked plausible upon paper, but it was fatally defective in omitting the moral condition of the South. The unhappy President had not yet perceived that he had lost the faculty of encouraging others, that the Southern people were in despair, and that wherever he might go he would find their countenances averted, their hopes abandoned, and their thoughts already committed to submission. But he was to realize very shortly how morally deserted and practically helpless he was. His first discovery of it was at Abbeville, South Carolina, where occurred one of the most pathetic scenes in history, over which the tenderness and charity of some of the actors have been disposed to draw the curtain, committing its sorrows to secrecy.

Mr. Davis reached Abbeville on the 1st of May. So far he had been accompanied by the fragments of five brigades, amounting in number to less than one thousand men, and reorganized into two battalions, at the front and in the rear of the long train which signaled his flight and foolishly obstructed his effort at escape. There were already painful evidences of the demoralization of the escort, and the story told almost at every mile, by stragglers from Johnston's command, was not calculated to inspire them. At Abbeville, Mr. Davis resolved upon a council of war. It was composed of the five brigade commanders, and General Braxton Bragg (for the year past the “military adviser” of the President) was admitted to the last scene of the deliberations of the lost cause.

In the council Mr. Davis spoke with more than his accustomed facility and earnestness, inspired by hope, but without volubility or extravagance. He made a statement of surpassing plausibility. The South, he declared, was suffering from a panic; it yet had resources to continue the war; it was for those who remained with arms in their hands to give an example to reanimate others; such an act of devotion, beside being the most sublime thing in history, might yet save the country, and erect again its declining resolution.

“ It is but necessary,” he said, “that the brave men yet with me should renew their determination to continue the war; they will be a nucleus for rapid reinforcements and will raise the signal of reanimation for the whole country.” No one of the council answered him at length; the replies of the commanders were almost sunk to whispers; the scene was becoming painful, and it was at last agreed that each in his turn should announce his decision. Each answered slowly, reluctantly, in the negative. The only words added were that, though they considered the war hopeless, they would not disband their men until they had guarded the President to a place of safety. “No,” exclaimed Mr. Davis, passionately, “I will listen now to no proposition for my safety. I appeal to you for the cause of the country.” Again he urged the commanders to accept his views.

“ We were silent,” says General Basil Duke, one of the council, “for we could not agree with him, and we respected him too much to reply.”

Mr. Davis yet stood erect, raised his hands to his head, as if in pain, and suddenly exclaiming, “All hope is gone! ” added haughtily, “I see that the friends of the South are prepared to consent to her degradation;” and then, sweeping the company with a proud and despairing glance, he attempted to pass from the room. But the blow was too much for his feeble organization. His face was white with anger and disappointment, and the mist of unshed tears was in his eyes-tears which pride struggled to keep back. The sentiment that all was lost went through his heart like the slow and measured thrust of a sword; as the wound sunk into it it left him speechless; loose and tottering, he would have fallen to the floor, had not General Breckenridge ended the scene by leading him faltering from the room. In a dead and oppressive silence the deserted leader, the fallen chief, secured a decent retreat for agonies which tears only could relieve.

It was the last council of the Confederacy. The hateful selfishness which originates in the attempt of each individual to extricate himself from a common misfortune soon broke out, no longer restrained by the presence of the President. The soldiers were discharged, but they clamored that they had no money to take them home. What of the Treasury gold that remained was divided among them. So fearful were they of marauders that many buried their coin in the woods and in unfrequented places. With the disbandment of the troops Mr. Benjamin suggested a separation of the Cabinet officers from the President, making an excuse that so large a party would advertise their flight and increase the chances of capture. Mr. Davis was left to make his way to Georgia, Postmaster General Reagan continuing to journey with him, and General Breckenridge only to a point where he thought it convenient to leave for Florida. There were also in the party two or three of his staff officers and a few straggling soldiers, who still kept up some show of an escort. Mrs. Davis had already preceded her husband to Georgia, and he now traveled slowly, and almost desolately, on horseback, having arranged that she should await him in the town of Washington.

From this place the now hunted President was soon driven again on his journey by news of the occupation of Augusta. He had also received news of the assassination of President Lincoln, and that event, he declared, confirmed his resolution not to leave the country. He inferred from the newspapers that he was accused as an accomplice in the crime, and he remarked to one of his staff officers that he “would prefer death to the dishonor of leaving the country under such an imputation.” But with such a sentiment, it will occur to the reader that it would have been noble and decorous for Mr. Davis to have surrendered himself at the nearest Federal post and to have demanded a trial. It would have placed him in a grand and winning attitude, one becoming a great man, one honorable to himself and the South, and redeeming him more than anything else in the eyes of the world. But, unfortunately, he accepted the base alternative of continuing his flight, and that, too, with the artifice of a mean disguise.

On continuing his journey, accompanied by his wife, whom he had overtaken at Washington, it was determined that the President and his friends should thereafter travel as an emigrant party. Mr. Reagan was still in his company. General Breckenridge had left outside the town of Washington, taking with him forty-five Kentucky soldiers, a straggling remnant of Morgan's Brigade. Ten mounted men had offered to escort Mrs. Davis, and although they had accepted their paroles, justly considered that they might protect a distressed lady from marauders. All tokens of the President's importance, in dress and air, were left aside; a covered wagon, pack-mule, and cooking utensils, were provided at Washington; and it was designed that Mr. Davis, his wife, and his wife's sister, should pass as a simple country family, emigrating from Georgia, and having fallen in with straggling soldiers for their protection. Mr. Davis' dignity was laid aside without much difficulty. Carlisle said: “A king in the midst of his body-guard, with all his trumpets, war-horses, and gilt standard-bearers, will look great, though he be little; but only some Roman Carus can give audience to satrap ambassadors while seated on the ground, with a woolen cap, and supping on boiled peas, like a common soldier.” Mr. Davis, in the dress of a country farmer, had none of these traces of imperialism which cling to those “born to purple.” His features, just and handsome, without being remarkable, were those which might command by assumed airs, or might be practiced to particular expressions, but scarcely those which could assert superiority without an effort and at a glance. He incurred but little chance of detection in the dress he had assumed of an honest, well-to-do emigrant.

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