Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis—the Parting of the Ways

When we returned to the boat Mr. Singleton had not stirred, but lay as if dead or asleep. Going straight to him, Mr. Davis laid his hand on his shoulder, and this with some impatience, if not anger, I thought. At first Mr. Singleton did not move, but after a while looked up confused and blurred, as if awakening from a debauch. Collecting himself, he arose and extended his hand in greeting, as if he had not known before of Mr. Davis’ presence on the boat. Accepting his overtures, but somewhat curtly, it was apparent, Mr. Davis said:
“I come to tell you, Singleton, that Burke has left the boat, but before going wished to return the money he had of you, as he has designed doing from the first, he says. To accomplish this he has made me his messenger, as you see.” Saying which, Mr. Davis laid the money and papers Burke had turned over on the table before him. At this Singleton drew back, flushed and scowling, replying in a harsh voice:
“I’ll not accept it, Davis. It is his, and the more scoundrel I for risking it and ruining my family. No, he won, and that is the end of it.” Saying which he sank down and buried his face in his arms as before.
“Very well,” Mr. Davis answered, curtly, and placing the money in his pocket without saying more, proceeded to the cabin set apart for ladies. Here finding Mrs. Singleton, he called her aside, and after telling her as much as he thought proper of what had occurred, leaving out indeed all reference to the encounter, I thought, he handed her the package. When she was able finally to comprehend that the fortune of her children had thus been restored, she burst into a flood of tears, and would have fallen had he not supported her. Recovering herself after a while, she sought to kneel to him in gratitude, but he, lifting her up, made such light of the affair that she was able presently to resume in a measure her natural cheerfulness of manner. Then, and as if in remembrance of her husband’s dignity, she said, tears dimming her eyes:
“Will you not oblige me, Jefferson, by giving the money to Mr. Singleton. Please do this for me.”
“I have already offered it to him, dear lady,” Mr. Davis, answered, “but he will by no means accept it. So there is nothing for you to do but take charge of it, for Burke has left the boat and will not return.”
“God will surely bless you for your kindness in saving my husband and protecting my children,” Mrs. Singleton responded, her emotion again overcoming her. Upon this ending, Mr. Davis stooping down with grave respect took her hand and kissed it, saying:
“I have a favor to ask of you in return, dear lady, and it is that I may present the gentlemen who have acted with me, and without whom I could have done nothing. You already know and admire them, and they are every way worthy of your high regard.”
Saying which, and without waiting for a reply, he went forward, and finding Mr. Lincoln and Uncle Job, presented them to her with every expression of regard and friendship that one can in speaking of another. Taking the hand of each in turn, Mrs. Singleton pressed it between both her own, but overcome so that she could not speak. Then inclining her head and smiling upon them her tender thanks, she went to her husband, and seating herself beside him, put her arm about his neck in loving embrace.
Thus this dear lady’s sorrows came to a happy ending through the efforts of the gentlemen who had been brought together in the strange manner I have related. Never before, I must believe, have men stood beside each other in such unconscious regard of the greatness of their souls and the exalted destiny fate had in store for them as Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Davis. Looking back now to that far-off day through the mists of gathering years and over the heads of intervening men, I see them again, as then, distinct and apart from all others; and thus I shall always see them. In many things they were alike, differing only in unimportant particulars. Mr. Davis’ bearing was truly great, his carriage and dignity and chivalrous character stamping him as one born to command. Yet in all things his kingly air, for it was truly so, was softened into sweet conventionality by gentle courtesy and regard for the small things of life. Of his countenance, how shall I describe it, except to say that it was singularly handsome, and so exquisitely refined and attractive that no one could look upon it except with favor.[*]
[*] The painting of Mr. Davis in the War Department at Washington fully bears out what Gilbert Holmes says of Mr. Davis in this respect. For of all the faces there grouped of the War Secretaries, since the foundation of our Government, his is by far the most refined and attractive.—THE AUTHOR.
Differing from Mr. Lincoln, with whom he afterward came to share the events of a great epoch in the world’s history, Mr. Davis’s life had been nurtured in love and amid surroundings every way attractive. The crucible of misery through which Mr. Lincoln had passed, and that ever caused his heart to pulsate with tender emotion, Mr. Davis had happily escaped. Yet in all things he was not less gentle, nor did he in any way lack in conception of men’s needs or desire to further them so far as lay in his power.
1I had no thought, in recounting the story of my life, it is proper for me to tell you, to say aught of Mr. Davis or his chivalrous action in Mrs. Singleton’s behalf, as my share therein was not worthy of mention. I have, however, been led to change my mind in this, for the reason that afterward, in the great struggle between the North and South, I had occasion to experience his gentleness and kindness of heart in my own person. At the time to which I refer I was confined in Libby Prison, broken in health by long confinement and irritating wounds, and above all, distressed on account of my dear wife, who was ill and sorely afflicted. Fearing a disastrous termination to my troubles, after many days’ anxious thought I wrote to the President of my distressful plight, and doing so, recommended myself to him by recalling the memories of the past, and especially the link of friendship that bound each of us to Mrs. Singleton, who was now grown to old age, but still beautiful and kindly as in the years that were gone. Sealing my letter with much trepidation of heart, it had scarcely left my hand when a Confederate officer came with directions for me to accompany him, and doing so, he took me straight to the President. Mr. Davis received me with every show of hospitality, afterward plying me with tender inquiries about the Singletons and their life in the new home. Then, so great was his courtesy, he took me to sup with his family, where it was my good fortune to meet many of the officers of the Confederacy, and among them that great and serene man General Lee. Very kind they were to me too, and amiable of countenance and full of gentle speech, solicitous in all things of my comfort and ease of mind, that I should not feel myself to be a stranger in an enemy’s country. When I returned to my prison, which I did much cheered in mind and body, the officer in command presently brought me word that the President had directed I should be permitted to be at large in Richmond, on my giving my word of honor to respect the parole. That is how it happened, you must know, that I was not among those who escaped from Libby Prison, some to reach their homes in safety, but many to suffer recapture or perish by the way. Directly after this Mr. Davis sent for me again, and receiving me graciously, as in the first instance, gave me a pass through the lines, there to remain on parole until exchanged. This with many kind messages to the Singletons and expressions of good will toward myself. For his act of unsolicited grace, by which I was able once more to be with my dear wife and children, I cherish him in grateful remembrance, as you may well believe, and each day with deeper and more tender affection.
Mr. Lincoln took leave of us the third day, much to the regret of every one, for in so short a time his kindness of heart and the simplicity of his nature had won the regard of all, as they never failed to do throughout his eventful life. This exalted man had many peculiarities, and all of them agreeable. The angularity of his features, not the least, lent piquancy of interest to what he said, and discovering this in early life, he used it, and wisely, to further his ambitious ends. For his story-telling was but a political device, designed to win and control the rude and impulsive men among whom his lot was at first cast. Afterward, when President, it became an instrument of vast significance to his country, to be used in the divertisement of those who surged about him in greed of place and preferment, or for other objects not consistent with the good of the state. In that moment of the nation’s peril, when wealth melted away unnoticed and men sunk into the ground without a cry, this simple device of an alert mind, not less than what was truly great and majestic in his nature, helped in its place, and as intended, to control and hold the government on its appointed course. NORFLOXACIN HCL
Of Mr. Lincoln I saw but little more as a youth, but in after days the chance fell to me to have been of supreme service to him, had I been wiser or more alert. This on the fatal night of his assassination, in April, 1865, when the hearts of men stood still and the nation cried out in anguish; but being dilatory, without knowing it, the chance passed. I was in Washington at the time, brought there by some small affair of the army, and late in the afternoon, loitering about my hotel, a rumor reached me, though how I did not know, that some demonstration was contemplated in connection with Mr. Lincoln at the theater that night. Regarding it as unimportant, and yet thinking it otherwise in the disturbed condition of affairs, I determined to be present. Arriving at the theater, and observing Mr. Lincoln’s unprotected state, and remembering why I came, and yet not knowing why, I passed to the side where he sat, striving as I went, but vainly, to think of some excuse for going to him, or, indeed, for being there at all. As I pressed forward, perplexed whether to go on or turn back, a gentleman brushed past me, going in the direction of the President’s box. Upon the moment, and in impulse of thought, I reached out my hand to stay him; and this I had done, but looking up, saw it to be the actor Booth, whom I knew to have access to places of this kind. Thinking idly that he was on his way to the stage, I stepped aside and let him pass; and alas that I did so, for while I was yet deliberating, and some distance from the President, I heard the report of a pistol, and a moment afterward saw the assassin leap upon the stage, with that strange cry of his mad brain, “Sic semper tyrannis.” Thus the opportunity to serve my benefactor came without my knowing it, and the strangeness of it all has closed my lips till now; but it recurs to me at this time, to add to the mournfulness of the picture as I look back to that far-off parting on the great river in May, 1838.