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Chapter 78: the commencement and completion of the Rise and fall of the Confederate States of America.—the death of Jefferson Davis, Jr.—Honors Awarded by Mr. Davis's countrymen.

When the affairs of the Mississippi Valley Company were wound up, Mr. Davis looked about for a place so quiet and secluded that he could write his history uninterrupted. This he found after inquiry in the neighborhood of Beauvoir Station, near which he owned a tract of land, and of which he knew something. Then there were only three or four houses occupied there, and the isolation seemed favorable to his purpose.

Beauvoir House was owned and occupied by Mrs. Sarah A. Dorsey, an old schoolmate of mine, and a literary woman of some note. Several of her female relations and her young brother lived with her. Mr. Davis rented one of the cottages called the pavilion, to the left of the main house, engaged board from her for himself and family when they should be with him, furnished it, put up shelves for his [826] books and papers, and with his servant settled himself there for the work, having written previously to an assistant to join him and establish himself at some convenient distance on the coast. Mrs. Dorsey offered her clerical services at stated hours during the day, and thus a part of the first volume was written.

As soon as it was considered advisable, ill April of 1878, leaving my little girl in Carlsruhe, I returned home. After a short time spent with our daughter, Mrs. Hayes, and our only remaining son Jefferson, now grown a strong, sober, industrious, and witty young man, who was exceedingly intimate with his father, and loved him devotedly-indeed they were like two young friends together — I joined my husband at Beauvoir.

As Mr. Davis had lost all his papers, the history of the Confederacy was unwritten save by the deeds of its defenders, and he soon felt he could not attempt to give anything worthy of the name of history without reliable data; he therefore decided to give an account of his administration of the government, and explain his policy. This he prefaced by his constitutional argument, setting forth the grounds of his faith, How he has done this, the approval of the lawyers and statesmen of the country has declared better than I could. Several causes delayed the completion of the book. [827]

In the course of this summer a virulent kind of yellow fever broke out in Memphis and in New Orleans, and from these two centres spread over the whole country, not alone in the towns but for miles in the interior. Our daughter Margaret had taken refuge from the heat of Memphis in the West, but as her husband could not leave his bank in Memphis, she, fearless of the consequences to herself, returned to the neighborhood of that place to be near him in case he should be ill. Our only son Jefferson was also in the bank, and insisted on remaining near his sister. We were environed by yellow fever on all sides at Beauvoir. Mr. Davis thought he could not leave on account of his literary labor to join our children, and I feared to leave him.

The long summer passed and autumn began while we were racked with the most acute anxiety. In October our son was taken with the fever very violently. I prepared at once to go to him, as his father was not physically able to make the journey; but he persuaded me to wait a day because the physicians would not let me see him, as even a pleasurable excitement would kill our boy, and if I should take the fever our heroic daughter would insist on nursing me and thus take the disease. I was taken very ill in two [828] days, and our son died after a short, sharp illness in which he knew his danger and expressed his willingness to obey God's will. He died as he lived, at peace with God and man; and tenderly mindful of those who would have no strong young man to sustain them when his noble spirit went to its rest. The last of our sons, at the age of twentyone, was now taken from us, and we had but two children left.

Mr. Davis was crushed by the blow and could not rally. He ceased to labor on his book and sat all day, silent in his wordless grief. Occasionally he would say: “I do not know why I suffer so much, it cannot be long before I am reunited to my boy.”

Mrs. Dorsey about this time felt the persistent advances of a fatal malady under which she had been suffering for many years, and concluded to seek the aid of an eminent surgeon in New Orleans, and while I was absent in attendance upon my daughter, Mrs. Hayes, who was quite ill, Mrs. Dorsey sold Beauvoir House to Mr. Davis at a fair valuation, and went to New Orleans. She seemed for a while to recuperate, but eventually died from the reappearance of her disease. Before her death she extracted a promise from my husband to be her executor, to which he objected on the score that he was old and could not [829] administer very well any trust; but upon her showing persistence, he, believing the trust to be one of an eleemosynary nature, consented After her death he discovered that the property was devised to him, but in order that he might not refuse it, the reversion was made to our youngest daughter, then a minor. Mrs. Dorsey's uniform kindness to him and deference to his wishes had endeared her to him, and he felt her death very much. This again interrupted the progress of the book.

After a few months Judge Tenney, a man of just and cultivated mind, had been sent down by the publishers to assist Mr. Davis in compilation, and Mr. Davis derived much aid from his labors, and comfort from the profound confidence he felt in his rectitude and piety. I wrote to Mr. Davis's dictation, for we knew nothing of typewriters then.

Finally, after three years from the commencement of the book, it was finished. It was four o'clock, and I had been writing since eight o'clock in the evening, when Mr. Davis dictated: “In asserting the right of secession it has not been my wish to incite to its exercise. I recognize the fact that the war showed it to be impracticable, but this did not prove it to be wrong; and now, that it may not be again attempted, and the Union may promote the general welfare, it is needful [830] that the truth, the whole truth, should be known, so that crimination and recrimination may forever cease, and then, on the basis of fraternity and faithful regard for the rights of the States, there may be written on the arch of the UnionEsto perpetua”.” I looked up after a momentary silence to remind him that he had forgotten to continue, and he smilingly said, “I think I am done.” And so was finished his life's work for his countrymen; but a foot-note amusingly attests the strength of his convictions even about small things. “Note: The publishers are responsible for the authography of these volumes.” He would not change his mode of spelling, and insisted that sabre and theatre were correct, and if the publishers insisted upon saber and theater, they must take the discredit of the innovation.

The expense of an assistant, and the price of the book, which placed it beyond the reach of poor Confederates, as well as the fact that an inadequate compensation to him had been agreed upon by his agent with the Messrs. Appleton, prevented the book from being pecuniarily remunerative to him; but he said he had not undertaken it as a matter of profit, and therefore must be satisfied if the end was gained of setting the righteous motives of the South before the world. [831]

As soon as “The Rise and fall” was completed we embarked at New Orleans, and went to Liverpool, and from there to meet our young daughter, who had left Germany for the advantage of a few months in Paris before quitting school. We remained three months in Paris, and during this time Mr. Davis spent the greater part of his time with his old friend, A. Dudley Mann, at Chantilly. Mr. Benjamin came to us there, older, but the same cheerful buoyant person, and that proved to be our last farewell to him. We returned home in November of the same year, and took up our abode at Beauvoir.

The people of Alabama invited Mr. Davis to visit them the next year, and our daughter Varina, known as Winnie in the family, accompanied him. The enthusiasm with which he was received could not be described. All classes came to do him honor, and the journey was extended to Atlanta and Savannah, and at the former place Governor Gordon, our heroic paladin of the “long ago,” presented Varina to an enthusiastic crowd as “The daughter of the Confederacy.” She was adopted then by the rank and file of our veterans, and now values their suffrages more than any earthly privilege. Some years later, our whole family were urged to be present at the yearly agricultural fair at Macon. We [832] were asked by, and accepted the kind invitation of Mr.Johnson and Mrs. Marsh Johnson, to remain with them during our stay. The enthusiasm baffled description, and on Veterans' Day, as it rained steadily, they were to march to Colonel Johnson's house to greet Mr. Davis; but they were too impatient to pursue the circuitous carriage route, but jumped over the fence and came running and shouting all the way to greet their old chief; the tattered battle flags were borne in the strong hands that saved them twenty years before from capture, and with tender words “they called him worthy to be loved,” who looked his last at them through eyes shining with a pride in them too great for words; but the strong, brave heart that had not quailed under danger, imprisonment, and vilification, sunk under the weight of his people's love, and he was stricken with heart failure. After days of suffering and imminent danger, Dr. H. Mc-Hatton, his able physician, ordered him back to Beauvoir, and enjoined quiet upon him for the future.

Never defeated man had such a following, and never had people a leader who so loved them.

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