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[332]

Mr. Stephens never forgot that New year's dinner,” said Mrs. Semmes, and she took from an old scrap-book, carefully put away, an autograph letter from Mr. Stephens, dated ‘New Year's, 1866. My dear Mrs. Semmes: Two years ago to-day we were at your house, in Richmond, and had Bishop McGill at dinner. What changes have taken place since then, and what reminiscences crowd upon my mind in taking this short retrospect. A whole train of these mixed with many pleasant as well as sad memories was awakened by your letter, which lies on the table before me.’ And then he goes on to speak, does the great Confederate statesman, of many things already told in this sketch—incidents in which he was pleasantly interested and closed by wishing both her and Mr. Semmes long life and happiness.

There were rumors and rumors that the war would have to be brought to a close, but Robert E. Lee, on whom all eyes were turned, still held out bravely. A small slip of paper, sent to President Davis, as he sat in his pew in St. Paul's church, contained the most momentous news of the war. It advised that everything should be in readiness to evacuate Richmond the coming night, unless before that time dispatches should be received to the contrary. The slip of paper was from General Lee. Many of the cabinet officers had sent their families from Richmond the previous week as also the congressmen. Mr. Semmes had sent Mrs. Semmes in a box-car, by the Richmond and Danville road, towards Montgomery. A week later he joined her in Georgia, and in Augusta heard of Lee's surrender. Thence the way was made by wagon and stage to Montgomery. Reaching here Mrs. Semmes heard that her husband would be pursued and she determined to save him. She drove to a farm-house, some miles distant from Montgomery, and asked the farmer to give her husband shelter. All this was without Mr. Semmes' knowledge. ‘Bring him to me,’ said the loyal old Southerner, ‘and he can stay at my farm and be known as the uncle of my children.’ But in a few days Mr. Knox sent word to his daughter that concealment was impossible; that it was known everywhere that Mr. Semmes was in Alabama and that he would join her in her father's house. This was already occupied by Yankee soldiers, but they were very courteous and kind to us, said Mrs. Semmes.

Speaking of the surrender, Mr. Semmes said:

‘Though the sword was surrendered we did not surrender one jot or tittle of the principles for which we fought; they still live, and time is fully vindicating their truth. A few days later came the news ’

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