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Title: A Belle of the Fifties - Memoirs of Mrs. Clay of Alabama, covering social and - political life in Washington and the South, 1853-1866. Put - into narrative form by Ada Sterling
Author: Clay-Clopton, Virginia
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Belle of the Fifties - Memoirs of Mrs. Clay of Alabama, covering social and - political life in Washington and the South, 1853-1866. Put - into narrative form by Ada Sterling" ***

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                         A BELLE OF THE FIFTIES



  of Alabama

                         A Belle of the Fifties
Memoirs of Mrs. Clay, of Alabama, covering Social and Political Life in
    Washington and the South, 1853–66 Put into narrative form by Ada

               _Illustrated from contemporary portraits_


                                New York
                       Doubleday, Page & Company

                          Copyright, 1904, by
                       Doubleday, Page & Company

                       Published, September, 1904

                         CLEMENT CLAIBORNE CLAY

                                                   VIRGINIA CLAY-CLOPTON



The memoirs of “Mrs. Clay, of Alabama,” by which title Mrs. Clement C.
Clay, Jr. (now Mrs. Clay-Clopton), was known during the period comprised
by 1850–87, begin in the middle of the second decade of the nineteenth
century, the scenes being laid among the affluent plantations of North
Carolina and Alabama, and, continuing through two brilliant
administrations at the national capital, close, as she emerges from the
distresses which overtook her and her husband after the
never-to-be-forgotten tragedy that plunged a nation into mourning—the
death of Mr. Lincoln.

In the researches made in order to obviate all possible inaccuracies in
these memoirs (a precaution always necessary where one’s life has been
long and experiences so varied), I have come upon no record of any other
woman of her time who has filled so powerful a place politically, whose
belleship has been so long sustained, or whose magnetism and compelling
fascinations have swayed others so universally as have those of Mrs.
Clay-Clopton. In the unrestful days at the capital which preceded the
Civil War her winning personality was such as to cause even those whom
she esteemed the enemies of her section, in those days when “sections”
were, to be covetous of her smiles. At no period of her long career have
her unique courage, her beautiful optimism, her inspiring buoyancy been
more accentuated than during the making of the present book. The
recalling of incident after incident, step by step, of so great a
procession of memories as are here set down is a task from which many
persons of twoscore years might shrink. At the ripe age of almost eight
decades Mrs. Clay-Clopton entered into the work with a heart as light as
a girl’s and a sustained energy and enthusiasm that have been as
remarkable as they are unparalleled. While preparing these pages I
enjoyed a daily intercourse with her extending over eight months, during
which time I often found myself spellbound by the descriptive powers
which nearly a half century ago compelled the admiration of leading men
and women of that day.

“My wife was amazed at your eloquence,” wrote Attorney-General Jeremiah
Black in 1866, and in succeeding letters urged Mrs. Clay to put her
experiences with Messrs. Johnson, Holt and Stanton into book form. To
these and urgings as powerful from many quarters, reiterated during the
past forty years, until the present work was undertaken, Mrs.
Clay-Clopton has remained indifferent. Her recollections of a long life
are now gathered in response to a wide and insistently expressed desire
to see them preserved in a concrete form ere the crowding years shall
have made impossible the valuable testimony she is able to bear to
ante-bellum and bellum conditions in her dearly loved South land. To
that end many friends of Mrs. Clay-Clopton have lent an eager aid, and
it is an acknowledgment due to them that their names be linked here with
the work they have so lovingly fostered.

The inception of the work as now presented is primarily due to Mrs.
Milton Humes, of Abingdon Place, Huntsville, Alabama, a daughter of the
late Governor Chapman, of that State, and the friend from her childhood
of Mrs. Clay-Clopton. For many years Mrs. Humes has ardently urged upon
our heroine the necessity for preserving her rich memories as a legacy,
not alone to the South, but to all lovers of the romantic and eventful
in our national history, to whatsoever quarter of the country they may
claim a particular allegiance. Through Mrs. Humes Mrs. Clay-Clopton and
I met; through her unintermitting energy obstacles that at first
threatened to postpone the beginning of the work were removed, and from
these initial steps she has brought a very Minerva-like wisdom and
kindness to aid the work to its completion. At the instance of Mrs.
Humes General Joseph Wheeler lent me a valuable sympathy; through the
courtesy of General Wheeler General James H. Wilson, to whom Clement C.
Clay, Jr., surrendered in 1865, kindly gave his consideration to the
chapters of the memoirs in which he personally is mentioned, correcting
one or two minor inaccuracies, such as misapplied military titles.
Through the continued forethought of Mrs. Humes and General Wheeler
Colonel Henry Watterson’s attention was directed to the work, and he,
too, generously scanned the manuscript then ready, at a considerable
expense of time, guiding my pen, all untutored in political phrases,
from some misleading slips. I owe a large debt of gratitude to Colonel
Robert Barnwell Rhett, who, though an invalid while I was a guest of Mr.
and Mrs. Humes in Huntsville, gave his unsparing counsels to me,
enlightening me as to personages and events appertaining to the
formation of the Confederate Government, which would have been
unobtainable from any books at present known to me. For the acquaintance
with Colonel Rhett I am, on behalf of the memoirs and for my personal
pleasure, again the debtor of Mrs. Humes.

The aid of Mrs. Paul Hammond, formerly of Beech Island, South Carolina,
but now residing in Jacksonville, Florida, has been peculiarly valuable.
Possessed of a fine literary taste, a keen observer, and retaining a
vivid recollection of the personages she encountered when a _debutante_
under Mrs. Clay’s chaperonage in 1857–’58 in Washington, the six or
seven weeks over which our intercourse extended were a continual
striking of rare lodes of incident, which lay almost forgotten in the
memory of her kinswoman, Mrs. Clay-Clopton, but which have contributed
greatly to the interest of certain chapters dealing with Washington life
in ante-bellum days.

Thanks are due to Mrs. Bettie Adams for her unsparing efforts to
facilitate the getting together of the necessary manuscripts to support,
and, in some instances, to authenticate and amplify the remembrances
carried by our heroine of the crucial times of the great internecine
war; to Miss Jennie Clay, who in her editorial pursuits discovered
special dates and records and placed them at my disposal in order that
the repetition of certain commonly accepted errors might be avoided; and
to Mrs. Frederick Myers of Savannah, daughter of Mrs. Philip Phillips,
who sent for my perusal (thereby giving me valuable sidelights on the
times of ’61–62), her mother’s letters from Ship Island, together with
the latter’s journal, kept during her imprisonment by General Benjamin
F. Butler.

The letters of Judge John A. Campbell, contributed by his daughter, Mrs.
Henrietta Lay, have been so well prized that they have become part of
the structure of her friend’s memoirs; to Mrs. Lay, therefore, also to
Mrs. Myra Knox Semmes, of New Orleans, Mrs. Cora Semmes Ives, of
Alexandria, Virginia; Mrs. Corinne Goodman, of Memphis, Tennessee; Mrs.
Mary Glenn Brickell, of Huntsville, Alabama; Mrs. George Collins Levey,
of England, and Judge John V. Wright, of Washington, D.C., thanks are
hereby given for incidents recalled and for suggestive letters received
since the work on the memoirs began.

                                                           ADA STERLING.

NEW YORK CITY, September 15, 1904.



   A Bit of Family History—Plantation Scenes in North Carolina and
   Alabama—A Caravan of the Early Thirties—“De Year de Stars
   Fell”—I Partially “Scalp” My Cousin—The Strange Experience of an
   Early Alabama Instructress—Miss Brooks, a Distinguished
   Educator—My Uncle Takes My Training in Hand—A First Flight into
   the Beautiful World—Charles Kean and Ellen Tree—I Meet a Famous
   Belle—Mme. Le Vert Instructs Me in the Dance—An Intense Love
   Affair—My Knight Fails Me—A Gallant Lover Appears—Social Doings
   at a Primitive Capital—Poetswains in the Early Forties—A Dance
   with William L. Yancey—My Premonitions Are Realised and “My Own
   Comes to Me”—Marriage in the Morn of Life—The Homecoming of the
   Bride                                                               3


   Journey to the Capital—An Early “Congressional Limited”—A Stump
   Orator of Alabama, the “Maker of Senators”—Arrival at the
   Capital—The Night Clerk Refuses Us Accommodations at the
   National Hotel—Undercurrents of Strife in Society—Mrs.
   Pierce—Pennsylvania Avenue in the Fifties—Survey of Washington’s
   Hostesses—Mme. de Bodisco and the Glacées—Her Second Marriage at
   Old St. John’s—Foreign Legations—Reminiscence of Octavia Walton
   in Washington—Mrs. Riggs Gives a Midnight Supper to Patti—Heller
   Appears; Likewise the Grand Elephant Hannibal                      19


   Our Mess at Historic Brown’s Hotel and at the Ebbitt House—Mrs.
   Pugh and the Baron Hulseman—The Boy Henry Watterson—Congressmen
   Clopton, Curry, Dowdell, L. Q. C. Lamar, and Shorter, Senator
   Fitzpatrick, and Their Wives—Mr. Dowdell Goes to Hear
   Gottschalk—Circumstances of the Sudden Death of Preston
   Brooks—The Stockton Mansion and Its Romances—Our “Mess”
   Considers the Prudence of Calling on a Certain Lady—Retribution
   Overtakes Us—Master Benny, the Hotel Terror                        42


   Washington in 1856—Secret Visit of President Pierce—Personal
   Recollections of Him—Secretaries Marcy, Cushing, and
   Dobbin—Incidents of the Latter’s Kindness of Heart—Secretary of
   War Jefferson Davis—Postmaster-General Brown—Secretary of State
   Guthrie—Story of the Conquest of Chevalier Bertinatti              58


   Society of Supreme Court Circles—Chief Justice Taney—Judge
   Campbell—Professors Henry and Maury—A Visit to the Latter’s
   Observatory—Thomas Hart Benton—George Wallace Tones: His
   Romantic History as Surveyor-General of the Great Northwest. At
   the Age of Ninety-one He Recalls a Day When He Meant to Kill
   Seward—Meeting with Myra Clarke Gaines—Senator and Mrs.
   Crittenden, a “Perfectly Happy Woman”                              73


   Aspect of Fashionable Society of the Pierce and Buchanan
   Administrations—Perditas of the Period—Low Necks and Lace
   Berthas—Kind Offices of American Consuls—Mr. Thomson and Miss
   Lane’s Toy Terrier—He Reports Upon the Petticoats at
   Brighton—Washington Dressmakers as Miracle-Workers—Mrs. Rich, a
   True Reconstructionist—Belles and Beaux of the Period—Barton
   Key—His Murder—Mrs. Sickles at Home—Revival of
   Moustaches—General Sam Houston; His Strange Attire—A Glimpse of
   This Hero in the Senate and in Society                             86


   Public Recreation—Flights to New York—Jenny Lind—Charlotte
   Cushman—Mrs. Gilbert and the Comedian Brougham in
   “Pocahontas”—Mr. Thackeray—Dr. Maynard—Blind Tom at the White
   House—Marine Band Concerts on the White House Lawn—President
   Pierce and the Countryman—President Buchanan and the
   Indians—Apothleohola, a Cherokee Patriarch—Dr. Morrow and the
   Expedition to Japan—Return of Same—Ruse of the Oriental
   Potentate to Prevent Our Securing Germinating Rice—A Plague of
   Japanese Handkerchiefs                                            101


   Miss Lane Becomes Lady of the White House—Her Influence on
   Washington Life—The Coming of Lord and Lady Napier—Their
   Hospitality—They Give a Ball to Lords Cavendish and Ashley—Mrs.
   Crittenden Puts to Rout a Younger Belle—Lord Napier Proposes a
   Toast to the Chevalier Bayard—Washington Citizens Give a Ball to
   the Napiers, at Which James Gordon Bennett Is Seen in the
   Dance—Some Prominent Citizen Hostesses—Lilly Price, the Future
   Duchess of Marlborough—Mr. W. W. Corcoran—His Lavish
   Entertainments—Howell Cobb’s Appreciation—A Stranger’s Lack of
   It—I Take the Daughter of a Constituent to See the Capitol        114


   Mrs. Gwin’s Fancy Ball—To the White House for Inspection—Aunt
   Ruthy Partington Presents Herself to Mrs. Gwin—Mrs. Pendleton is
   Mystified—Senator Gwin and “My Boy Ike”—Lord and Lady Napier and
   Others of “Our Furrin Relations”—The Squelching of a Brave
   Baltimorean—Senator Seward Gives Welcome to the Stranger from
   Beanville—Mr. Shillaber Offers “to Immortalise” Me                126


   Gayety Begins to Wane in the Capital—A Wedding in Old St.
   John’s—Lord Lyons Replaces the Napiers—Anson Burlingame Rescues
   Me from a Dilemma—Political Climax—Scenes in the Senate—Admiral
   Semmes Declares His Intentions—Mr. Ruffin’s Menacing
   Arsenal—Ex-President Tyler’s Grief—We Hear News from Morris
   Island—Senators Clay, Davis, Fitzpatrick, Mallory, and Yulee
   Withdraw from the Senate—Visits of Representatives Pendleton and
   Vallandigham, and Senator Pugh, of Ohio—Joseph Holt Writes
   Deploring the Possible Loss to Our Country of Senator Clay’s
   “Genius and Patriotism” “A Plain New Hampshire Minister” Writes
   of the Times—We Leave the Federal City—Mrs. Philip Phillips
   Describes It a Few Weeks Later—Blair’s Alarm at Loss of Lee,
   Magruder, and Other “Good Officers”                               138


   I Go with Senator Clay to Minnesota—“Let’s Mob the
   Fire-eater”—We See Our First Federal Soldiers at Cairo—Echoes of
   Sumter—Once More in the Blossomy South—In Picturesque
   Huntsville—We Hear from Montgomery of President Davis’s
   Unceasing Industry—A Survey of Huntsville—The “Plebs” and
   Aristocrats Compete for the Naming of the Town, and the
   Descendants of a Poet Give Way before Its Discoverer—A Nursing
   Mother of Alabama’s Great Men—The Fascinations of the Fair
   Vixens of the Early Nineteenth Century—A Baptism at the Big
   Spring—The Make-up of Our Army in ’61—We Hear from a Hero at
   Harper’s Ferry—Letters from Washington—We Prepare to Go to
   Richmond                                                          153


   We Arrive in Richmond, Where We Meet Many Old Friends—An Evening
   at the Mallorys’—We Establish Our Mess at Mrs. Du Val’s—Some of
   Our Heroes—We Feast on Oysters and Terrapin—Greenbacks,
   Canvas-backs, and Drawbacks—We Hear of the Fall of Nashville,
   and General Buell’s Designs Upon Huntsville—Some of Richmond’s
   Hostesses—Mrs. Stannard entertains; and the Famous Private
   Theatrical Performance of “The Rivals”—Mrs. Burton Harrison
   Recalls Her Triumph as Lydia Languish—The Caste—Mrs. Drew Acts
   as “Coach”—Mrs. Ives, Our Hostess, Is Saved from Stage Fright by
   a Bonnet Which Has Run the Blockade                               168


   Richmond in ’62—John A. Campbell Gives an Opinion on Confederate
   Money—An Exodus from the Capital—Mrs. Roger A. Pryor Rebukes a
   Contemptuous Lady—Our Mail a Pandora’s Box—News of New
   Orleans—William L. Yancey Returns from a Fruitless Trip to
   England—And Mr. Lamar from Russia—An Astronomer Turns Martinet—A
   Careful Search Is Made for General Pope Walker—Our Pastor’s
   Prayers Curtailed—The Federals Are Worried by General Roddy—Miss
   Mitchell “Confiscates” Some of My Property—“Hey! Git off ’Ginie
   Clay’s Mare!”—General Logan, a Case of Mistaken Identity—My
   Refugee Days Begin—A Glimpse of North Carolinian Hospitality—And
   of the Battle of Seven Pines—The Seed-corn of Our Race Is
   Taken—Return to Huntsville                                        178


   Detained in Macon—General Tracy Tells of Conditions at
   Vicksburg—Senator Clay Writes of Grave Conditions in Richmond—A
   War-time Dinner with President Davis—My Sister and I Turn
   Seamstresses—Looking for Big Battles—Travel in ’63—Cliff and Sid
   Lanier Write from “Tented Field”—News from “Homosassa”            193


   A Memory of Dahlgren’s Raid—Mr. Clay Accepts a Mission to
   Canada—Mr. Lamar’s Ideas on National Friendships—My Husband
   Takes His Departure—Troubled Petersburg and Still More Troubled
   Richmond—Hospital Experiences—My Sister Accuses Me of “Running
   from Yankees,” and Overtakes Me—We Nurse a Sick Soldier—I Get a
   Passport, but Fail to Use It—A Distinguished Watermelon Man       203


   A Typical Plantation—Senator Hammond’s Little Republic on Beech
   Island—Its General Influence—The Mill and the Miller—My Cousin,
   Mrs. Paul Hammond, Writes a Description of “Redcliffe”—The
   Hammond Negro as I Have Found Him—She Wins Them by
   Subterfuge—Senator Clay Dances a Highland Fling and Startles
   Some Gentle Methodists—St. Catharine’s; a Solemn Service There—A
   Sight for Abolitionists—Choristers of the Field—A Comparison      211


   Cost of Clothing—Scarcity of Necessities—Memphis in Yankee
   Hands—Revival of Spinning and Weaving—A Salt Famine—Senator
   Hammond’s Sagacity—Potato Coffee and Peanut Chocolate—Mrs. Redd
   Weaves Me a Notable Dress—London Takes Note of Richmond
   Fashions—I Send a List of “Desirables” to Mr. Clay in
   Canada—Novelties for the Toilette and Writing-Table—Difficulties
   of Getting News—The President Writes Me of My Absent One, and
   Secretary Mallory Rejoices at His Conduct of Canadian
   Interest—Postal Deficiencies—Adventures of an Editor—Price of
   Candles Rises—Telegrams Become Costly and My Sister
   Protests—“Redcliffe” Mourns Her Master—Gloom and Apprehension at
   News of Sherman’s March—We Are Visited by Two of Wheeler’s
   Brigade—They Give Us Warning and the Family Silver Is Solemnly
   Sunk in the Ground—I Hear a Story of Sherman and Wheeler          222


   Conflicting Advice Reaches Me from the Capital—Also Sad News
   from Huntsville—Our Brother Tells of Political Opposition to the
   President—Soldiers and Citizens Desire the Presence of General
   Johnston in the Tennessee—Mr. Clay Communicates with Me by
   “Personals”—I Beg to Be Sent to Canada, but am Met by
   Opposition—The President Bids Me Take Refuge in the Capital—But
   Another Urges Me to Leave the Line of Sherman’s Army—I Place
   Myself Under General Howell Cobb’s Protection and Go to Macon—My
   Husband Runs the Blockade, but Is Shipwrecked Off Fort
   Moultrie—After Some Adventures He Reaches Macon—At the Home of
   General Toombs—We Hear News from Richmond—Mr. Clay Makes for the
   Capital and Reaches It—He Returns to Georgia—The Death of Mr.
   Lincoln: “The Worst Blow Yet Struck at the South!”                235


   We Go to Lagrange—A Nest of “Rebels”—We Hear of President
   Johnson’s Proclamation Concerning Mr. Clay—My Husband Resolves
   to Surrender—He Telegraphs to General Wilson—We Proceed to
   Atlanta—Courtesy of Colonel Eggleston—He Gives Us a Guard—On to
   Macon—“Madam, Your Chief Is Taken”—Arrival at Macon—General
   Wilson Relieves Us of Our Guard—The Generosity of Women
   Friends—We Drive to Station—And See a Pathetic Cortege—“Say,
   Johnny Reb, We’ve Got Your President!”                            246


   We Have an All-Night Ride to Augusta—Our Party of Prisoners
   Augments—I am Made Responsible for My Husband’s Appearance and
   We Go Visiting—We Return to Captivity—I Board the Boat Somewhat
   Hastily—And Unexpectedly Find Myself in the Arms of General
   Wheeler—He Gives Me a Lesson in Forbearance—A Dismal Voyage—We
   Reach Savannah and Are Transferred to the _Clyde_—Extracts from
   My Diary—Mr. Davis’s Stoicism—We Anchor Off Fortress Monroe—Mr.
   Clay Is Invited “to Take a Ride in a Tug”—Pathetic Separation of
   the Davis Family—Little Jeff Becomes Our Champion—We See a Gay
   Shallop Approaching—Two Ladies Appear and Search Us in the Name
   of the United States Government—A Serio-comic Encounter—And
   Still Another in Which “Mrs. Clay Lost Her Temper and Counselled
   Resistance!”—We Undertake to Deceive Lieutenant Hudson, but
   “Laugh on the Other Side” of Our Faces!                           258


   On Board the _Clyde_—I Find a Guard at My Door—An Unknown Hands
   Me the Daily Papers—The News—I Write to Thirteen Distinguished
   Men—To Joseph Holt—A Friendly Soldier Posts My Letters—We Arrive
   in Savannah and Make Our Way to the Pulaski House—Savannah’s
   Generous People—Soldiers, Black and White—The Chaining of Mr.
   Davis—I Write to General Miles—Little Jeff Makes a Friend—“Bully
   for Jeff”—“Mordecai and Haman”                                    269


   I Arrive in Macon After Various Discomforts—My Baggage Is
   “Examined” by General Baker—A Curious Oversight of the
   Government’s Agents—I Am Rescued from a Dilemma by John A.
   Wyeth, Knight-Errant—I Recover My Letters from the War
   Department, but with Difficulty—A Stricken Patriarch and a
   Spartan Mother—Huntsville Metamorphosed—“Reconstruction” Signs
   Appear—A Slave Emulates His New Masters—He, too, in Time, Is
   Metamorphosed—The Freedman’s Bureau versus “Ole
   Missus’s”—Southern Ladies and Camomile Flowers                    278


   We Hear Discouraging News of the Nation’s Prisoners—Denunciation
   of Joseph Holt and His Witnesses by the Reverend Stuart
   Robinson—He Exposes the “Infamous Perjuries of the Bureau of
   Military Justice”—Their Confession and Flight from the
   Country—Charles O’Conor Writes Me; Also Ben Wood, Who Offers to
   Advance the Cost of Mr. Clay’s Defense; Also Judge Black Writes
   Cheeringly—I Hear Through R. J. Haldeman of the Friendliness of
   Thaddeus Stevens; and from General Miles; Also, in Time, from
   Mr. Clay—His Letter Prophesies Future Racial Conditions, and
   Advises Me How to Escape the Evils to Come—Freed from Espionage,
   He Describes the “Comforts” of Life in Fortress Monroe—One of
   the Tortures of the Inquisition Revived                           286


   Communications Are Reopened with Washington—Duff Green Makes
   Application to the President on My Behalf—I Hear from Mrs. Davis
   of Her Misfortunes—I Borrow $100 and Start for the
   Capital—Scenes on Cars and Boat—I Meet Many Sympathisers—And
   Arrive at Last at Cincinnati—Yankee Ideas and Yankee
   Notions—Mrs. Pugh Visits Me—Also Senator and Mrs. Pendleton, Who
   Take Me Home—Once More en Route for Washington—Within Its
   Precincts                                                         300


   Arrival at Willard’s—Expecting Enemies, I Find Many Old
   Friends—General Ihrie, of Grant’s Staff, Calls On Me—Also a
   Nameless Lady—Judge Hughes and Judge Black Counsel Me—I Visit
   the White House to Plead with Mr. Johnson—Mrs. Douglas Is My
   Companion—Mr. Johnson “Lives up to His Reputation” and Tells Me
   to See Mr. Stanton—Which I Do—The Secretary’s Manner—“I am Not
   Your Husband’s Judge, Neither am I His Accuser”—I Call Upon
   General Grant, Who Writes to President Johnson on Behalf of Mr.
   Clay                                                              307


   I Send General Grant’s Letter to Mr. Johnson—And Beg to Be
   Allowed to Visit Fortress Monroe—I Begin to Feel the Strength of
   a Concealed Enemy—I Refuse to Go to Mr. Stanton, and Have a
   First Pass-at-Arms with the President—Mr. Holt Presents His
   “Report on the Case of C. C. Clay, Jr.”—His Several Opinions of
   Mr. Clay in Parallel—Denied an Examination of the Infamous
   Document by the War Department, the President’s “Official Copy”
   Is Placed at My Disposal—Some of Its Remarkable Features—The
   President Promises Me He Will Not Deliver My Husband and Mr.
   Davis up to the Military Court, and Agrees to Issue on His Own
   Responsibility a Permit to Visit Fortress Monroe—I Go to New
   York and Hobnob with “An Old Abolitionist”                        317


   President Johnson Issues a Permit on His Own Responsibility—I
   Leave Washington for Fortress Monroe—And Meet with Kindness on
   the Way—Dr. Craven Admonishes Me to Look for No Favours from His
   Successor—I Meet General Miles in His Headquarters, Which Have
   Been Furnished by General Butler—I Experience a Weary Delay—Am
   Refused Explanation or Use of Telegraph Wires—Dr. Vogell
   Intercedes—At Nightfall I Am Taken to My Husband’s Cell—I Return
   to the Capital—Death of Mrs. C. C. Clay, Sr.—I Report to the
   President the Incidents of My Visit to the Fortress—He Assures
   Me They Shall Not Be Repeated—He Issues Another Permit and
   Promises to Read a Letter in His Cabinet                          331


   Again at the Fortress—My Husband’s Cell and Room in Carroll
   Hall—Some of the Comforts of Fortress Monroe and of Mr. Clay’s
   Position—I am Told of Some of His Experiences—A Statement of
   Others—Mr. Davis at the Fortress—An Exchange of Notes—My Husband
   Turns Caretaker—With a Soft Answer He Turns Away a Soldier’s
   Wrath—I Have a Curious Adventure in Which I Meet a Lamb in
   Wolf’s Clothing                                                   345


   President Johnson Is Kind but Vacillating—Straws That Show a
   Veering of the Wind—Colonel Rhett Talks with Mr. Bennett, and
   the _Herald_ Grows Curious as to the Mysteriously Detained
   Prisoners—Thaddeus Stevens Writes to Mr. Johnson on Behalf of
   Mr. Clay—I Have a Nicodemus-like Visitor—Mr. Wilson,
   Vice-President of the United States, Writes to the President on
   Mr. Clay’s Behalf—Signs of Political Disquiet—Parties and
   Partisans—I Receive Some Political Advice and Determine to Act
   Upon It—I Have a _rencontre_ in the Corridors of the White
   House—And Tell Mr. Johnson What “the People Say”                  354


   Old Friends and New—Mme. Le Vert and Other Famous Personages
   Return to the Capital—General Lee is Lionised—I Secure the
   Liberty of the Fort for My Husband, and Indulge in a Little
   Recreation—I Visit the Studio of Vinnie Reames and the
   Confederate Fair at Baltimore—I Return to Washington and Resume
   My Pleadings with the President—Mr. Mallory, Admiral Semmes, and
   Alexander Stephens Are Released—Mr. Mallory and Judge Black
   Counsel Me to Take Out the Writ of Habeas Corpus—The Release
   Papers Are Promised—I Visit the Executive Mansion to Claim Them
   and at Last Receive Them—“You Are Released!”—Congratulations Are
   Offered—The Context of Some of These—“God Has Decreed That No
   Lie Shall Live Forever”—We Turn Our Faces Once More to the
   Purple Mountains of Alabama                                       367

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

 MRS. CLAY, of Alabama                                    _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

 MRS. BENJAMIN FITZPATRICK, of Alabama                                26

 ADELINA PATTI, aged sixteen                                          38

 MRS. ROGER A. PRYOR, of Virginia                                     44

   most beautiful woman in Washington”                                46

 FRANKLIN PIERCE, President of the United States,
   1853–’57                                                           60

 MRS. WILLIAM L. MARCY, of New York                                   62

 MRS. J. J. CRITTENDEN, of Kentucky                                   84

 MRS. CHESTNUT, of South Carolina                                     94

 JENNY LIND                                                          102

 JAMES BUCHANAN, President of the United States, 1857–’61            108

 MISS HARRIET LANE, mistress of the White House, 1857–’61            114

 LADY NAPIER AND HER SONS                                            116

 MRS. JEFFERSON DAVIS, of Mississippi                                134

 LORD LYONS, British Ambassador to the United States                 140

 CLEMENT C. CLAY, JR., United States Senator, 1853–’61               148

 L. Q. C. LAMAR, 1862                                                164

 MRS. PHILIP PHILLIPS, of Washington, D. C.                          166

 SENATOR JAMES H. HAMMOND, of South Carolina                         212

 GENERAL JOSEPH WHEELER, of Alabama                                  232

 DR. HENRY C. VOGELL, Fortress Monroe, 1866                          334

 DR. GEORGE COOPER, Fortress Monroe, 1866                            350

 MRS. A. S. PARKER, of Washington, D. C.                             368

 JEFFERSON DAVIS and CLEMENT C. CLAY, JR. (after release
   from Fortress Monroe)                                             374

                         A BELLE OF THE FIFTIES

                               CHAPTER I
                     CHILDHOOD, GIRLHOOD, MARRIAGE

My infant days were spent in North Carolina among the kinsmen of my
mother. I do not remember her, save that she was young and fair, being
but twenty when she died. She was the twenty-fifth child of the family
united under her father’s roof, which remarkable circumstance may be
explained as follows:

My grandfather, General William Arrington, who won his title in the
Revolutionary War, having been left a widower with twelve children,
wearying of his solitude, mounted his horse and rode over to visit the
comely widow Battle, whose children also numbered twelve. The two
plantations lay near together in the old “Tar Heel” State. My gallant
ancestor was a successful wooer, and Mrs. Battle, _née_ Williams, soon
became Mrs. Arrington. Thus it happened that the little Anne—my
mother—the one daughter of this union, entered the world and
simultaneously into the affections of one dozen half-brothers and
sisters Arrington, and as many of the Battle blood. This was a fortunate
prevision for me, for, though orphaned at the outset of my earthly
pilgrimage—I was but three years old when my girl-mother passed away—I
found myself by no means alone, though my dear father, Dr. Peyton
Randolph Tunstall, grief-stricken and sorrowful, left my native State at
the death of his wife, and I was a half-grown girl ere we met again and
learned to know each other.

My recollections of those early days are necessarily few; yet, were I a
painter, I might limn one awful figure that lingers in my memory. She
was a mulatto, to whose care for some time I was nightly confided. This
crafty maid, Pleasant by name, though ’twas a misnomer, anxious to join
in the diversions of the other domestics among the outlying cabins on
the plantation, would no sooner tuck me into bed than she would begin to
unfold to me blood-curdling stories of “sperrits an’ ghoses,” and of
“old blue eyes an’ bloody bones” who would be sure to come out of the
plum orchard and carry me to the graveyard if I did not go quickly to
sleep. Fortunately, old Major Drake, of whose family I was then a
member, chanced one evening to overhear this soothing lullaby, and put
an end to her stories ere serious harm had been done; yet so wonderful
is the retentive power of the human mind that though seventy and more
momentous years have passed since I, a little fearsome child, huddled
under the coverings breathless in my dread of the “bogie man,” I still
recall my heartless, or perhaps my thoughtless, nurse vividly.

At the age of six I was carried to Tuscaloosa, then the capital of the
young State of Alabama, where I was placed in the care of my aunt, whose
husband, Henry W. Collier, then a young lawyer, afterward became Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court of his State, and its Governor. That first
journey stretches out in my memory as an interminable pilgrimage. Mr.
Fort, of Mississippi, his wife, my mother’s sister, and their two
children, Mary and Martha, accompanied by a large following of Negroes,
being en route for their plantation in Mississippi territory, I was
given into their care for delivery to my kin in Tuscaloosa. No
palace-car of later days has ever eclipsed the wonders of the cavalcade
our company made as we passed along through towns and villages and the
occasional Indian settlements that here and there dotted the untilled
lands of those early nineteenth-century days!

My uncle drove in his gig at the head of the procession, while my aunt
and the children made the journey in a big pudding-shaped carriage in
charge of a trusty driver, beside whom my aunt’s maid sat. The carriage
was built with windows at the sides, and adjustable steps, which were
let down when we halted and secured in place by our Negro attendants.
These followed behind the vehicles and were at hand to serve us when
need arose.

Our cortege included several “Dearborns,” similar in shape to the
ambulances of the present, in which the old and ailing Negroes were
carried, and numerous wagons containing our household goods and
provisions followed behind. At night, tents were pitched, in which my
aunt and the children slept, unless by chance a storm arose, when the
shelter of some hostelry or farmhouse was sought. The preparations for
camping were altogether exciting, the erection of tents, the kindling of
fires, the unharnessing and watering and feeding of the stock, and the
eager industry of the cooks and their assistants in the midst of the
array of shining utensils all combining to stamp the scene upon the mind
of an impressionable child.

However, in the course of time the slow rolling of our carriage became
monotonous to the restive children of the caravan, and the novelty of
standing at the windows and gazing over the lifting hills soon wore off.
My aunt felt the fatigue less, we thought, for she was a famous
soliloquist, and often talked to herself as we rode, sometimes laughing
aloud at her own good company. I think we children regarded her as
deranged, if harmless, until one day she proved her sanity to our
complete satisfaction. In a moment of insupportable tedium we conceived
the idea of dropping the little tin cups, with which each was provided,
in order to see if the wheels would run over them. One after another the
vessels were lowered, and each, to our intense delight, was smashed flat
as the proverbial pancake. When my aunt discovered our mischief, being a
gentle soul, she merely reprimanded us, and at the next settlement
purchased others; but when these and yet others followed the fate of the
first, she became less indulgent. Switches were cut from the forest
trees, three pairs of pink palms tingled with the punishment then and
there administered, and the remembrance thereof restrained my cousins’
and my own destructiveness for the remainder of the journey.

Arrived at Tuscaloosa, I spent four years in the shelter of the motherly
affection of my aunt, Mrs. Collier, when, her health failing, I was
placed in the home of my mother’s brother, Alfred Battle, a wealthy
planter, residing a day’s journey from the little capital. My
recollections of that early Alabama life centre themselves about a great
white house set in widening grounds, in the midst of which was a
wondrous sloe-tree, white with blooms. Many times I and my cousins
played under it by moonlight, watching the shadows of the branches as
they trembled on the white-sanded earth below, wondering at them, and
not sure whether they were fairies’ or angels’ or witches’ shapes.
Around that tree, too, we played “Chickamy, Chickamy, Craney Crow,” and,
at the climax, “What o’clock, Old Witch?” would scamper wildly to elude
the pursuit of the imaginary old witch. Here, a healthy and happy child,
I pursued my studies. My uncle’s wife, a woman of marked domestic
tastes, taught me to sew and knit and to make a buttonhole, and I made
progress in books under the guidance of a visiting teacher; but, my task
ended, I flew to the meadows and orchards and to the full-flowering
clover-field, or to the plantation nursery to see the old mammies feed
the babies with “clabber,” with bread well crumbed in it, or _cush_,
made of bread soaked in gravy and softly mashed.

It was during this bucolic period of my life that the stars fell. I did
not witness these celestial phenomena, being sound asleep as a child
should be; but, for years afterward, time was marked from that great
event. I remember perfectly my aunt’s description of it. People ran from
their houses weeping and falling on their knees, praying for mercy and
forgiveness. Everywhere the terrifying belief spread that the Day of
Judgment was at hand; and nights were made vocal with the exhortations
of the black preachers who now became numerous upon the plantation. To
very recent days old Negroes have dated their calendar from “de year
when de stars fell.”

Ah, me! how long ago that time of childhood’s terrors and delights in
that young open country! Of all my early playmates, but one, my cousin
William Battle, remains, a twin relic of antiquity! From the first we
were cronies; yet we had a memorable disagreement upon one occasion
which caused a slight breach between us. We were both intensely fond of
my aunt’s piano, but my cousin was compelled to satisfy his affection
for music in secret; for Uncle Battle, who heartily encouraged my
efforts, was positive in his disapproval of those of my cousin. He
thought piano-playing in a man to be little short of a crime, and was
quite resolved his son should not be guilty of it. My cousin and I,
therefore, connived to arrange our practice in such a way as would allow
him to finish his practice at the instrument before my uncle’s return
from the day’s duties.

Upon the fatal occasion of our disagreement, however, I refused, upon my
cousin’s appearance, to yield my seat, whereupon, losing his temper, he
gave me a tap on the cheek. In a moment the struggle was on! Our tussle
was at its height, I on top and pummelling with all my might, when, the
door opening suddenly, a startled cousin appeared.

“La!” she exclaimed in terror, “Cousin Will and Virginia are fighting!”

“No, we’re not!” I replied stoutly. “We’re just playing;” and I retired
with tufts of reddish hair in both hands, but leaving redder spots on
the face of my cousinly antagonist. He, thoroughly satisfied to be
released, no longer desired to play the piano, nor _with me_. His head
has long been innocent of hair, an hereditary development, but he has
always asserted that his baldness is attributable to “My cousin, Mrs.
Clay, who, in our youthful gambols, scalped me.”

During my twelfth year, my uncle removed to Tuscaloosa, where my real
school days began. It was the good fortune of the young State at that
time to have in the neighbourhood of its capital many excellent
teachers, among whom was my instructress at the school in Tuscaloosa to
which I now was sent. I cannot refrain from telling a strange incident
in her altogether remarkable life. From the beginning it was full of
unusual vicissitudes. By birth an English gentlewoman, her mother had
died while she was yet an infant. In the care of a young aunt, the child
was sent to America to be brought up by family connections residing
here. On the long sailing voyage the infant sickened and, to all
appearances, died. The ship was in midocean, and the young guardian,
blaming her own inexperience, wept bitterly as preparations went on for
the burial. At last, all else being ready, the captain himself came
forward to sew the little body in the sack, which when weighted would
sink the hapless baby into the sea. He bent over the little form,
arranging it, when by some strange fortune a bottle of whisky, which he
carried in his pocket, was spilled and the contents began to flow upon
the child’s face. Before an exclamation could be made the little one
opened its eyes and gave so many evidences of life that restoratives
were applied promptly. The infant recovered and grew to womanhood. She
became, when widowed, the mistress of a school in our little capital,
and her descendants, in many instances, have risen to places of
distinction in public life.

An instructress of that period to whom the women of early Alabama owed
much was Maria Brewster Brooks, who, as Mrs. Stafford, the wife of
Professor Samuel M. Stafford, became celebrated, and fills a page of
conspicuous value in the educational history of the State. She was born
on the banks of the Merrimac and came to Tuscaloosa in her freshest
womanhood. First her pupil, and afterward her friend, our mutual
affection, begun in the early thirties, continued until her demise in
the eighties. Many of her wards became in after years notable figures in
the social life of the national capital, among them Mrs. Hilary Herbert.

In Tuscaloosa there resided, besides my Aunt Collier, few of my father’s
and mother’s kin, and by a natural affinity I fell under the
guardianship of my father’s brother, Thomas B. Tunstall, Secretary of
State of Alabama. He was a bachelor; but all that I lacked in my
separation from my father my uncle supplied, feeding the finer sides of
my nature, and inspiring in me a love of things literary even at an age
when I had scarce handled a book. My uncle’s influence began with my
earliest days in Alabama. My aunt, Mrs. Collier, was delicate, Mrs.
Battle domestic; Uncle Battle was a famous business man; and Uncle
Collier was immersed in law and increasing political interests; but my
memory crowds with pictures of my Uncle Tom, walking slowly up and down,
playing his violin, and interspersing his numbers with some wise counsel
to the child beside him. He taught me orally of poetry, and music, of
letters and philosophy, and of the great world’s great interests. He
early instilled in me a pride of family, while reading to me Scott’s
fine tribute to Brian Tunstall, “the stainless knight,” or, as he
rehearsed stories of Sir Cuthbert Tunstall, Knight of the Garter, and
Bishop of London in the time of gentle Queen Anne; and it was in good
Uncle Tom’s and my father’s company that the fascinations of the drama
were first revealed to me.

While I was yet a schoolgirl, and so green that, had I not been
protected by these two loving guardians, I would have been eaten up by
the cows on the Mobile meadows, I was taken to see “The Gamester,” in
which Charles Kean and Ellen Tree were playing. It was a remarkable and
ever-remembered experience. As the play proceeded, I became so absorbed
in the story, so real and so thrillingly portrayed, that from silent
weeping I took to sniffling and from sniffling to ill-repressed sobbing.
I leaned forward in my seat tensely, keeping my eyes upon the stage, and
equally oblivious of my father and uncle and the strangers who were
gazing at me on every side. Now and then, as I sopped the briny outflow
of my grief, realising in some mechanical manner that my handkerchief
was wet, I would take it by two corners and wave it back and forth in an
effort to dry it; but all the while the tears gushed from my eyes in
rivulets. My guardians saw little of the play that night, for the
amusement I afforded these experienced theatre-goers altogether exceeded
in interest the mimic tragedy that so enthralled me.

When the curtain fell upon the death-scene I was exhausted; but another
and counteracting experience awaited me, for the after-piece was “Robert
Macaire,” and now, heartily as I had wept before, I became convulsed
with laughter as I saw the deft pickpocket (impersonated by Crisp, the
comedian), courtly as a king, bowing in the dance, while removing from
the unsuspecting ladies and gentlemen about him their brooches and
jewels! My absorption in the performance was so great that I scarce
heard the admonitions of my father and uncle, who begged me, in
whispers, to control myself. Nor did I realise there was another person
in the house but the performers on the stage and myself.

Years afterward, while travelling with my husband, he recognised in a
fellow traveller a former friend from southern Alabama, a Mr. Montague,
and brought him to me to present him. To my chagrin, he had scarcely
taken my hand when he burst into immoderate and inexplicable laughter.

“Never,” said he to Mr. Clay, “shall I forget the time when I first saw
your wife! We went to see Tree; but, sir, not half the house knew what
was going on on the stage for watching the little girl in the
auditorium! Never till then had I imagined the full power of the drama!
Her delight, her tears and laughter, I am sure, were remembered by the
Mobilians long after the ‘stars’ acting was forgotten.”

That visit to Mobile was my first flight into the beautiful world that
lay beyond the horizon of my school life. In the enjoyments devised for
me by my father in those few charmed days, I saw, if not clearly, at
least prophetically, what of beauty and joy life might hold for me. Upon
our arrival in the lovely little Bay city, my father, learning of a ball
for which preparations were on foot, determined I should attend it.
Guided perhaps in his choice of colour by the tints of health that lay
in his little daughter’s cheeks, he selected for me a gown of
peach-blossom silk, which all my life I have remembered as the most
beautiful of dresses, and one which transformed me, heretofore confined
to brown holland gowns by my prudent aunt, Mrs. Battle, as truly as
Cinderella was changed into a princess.

Upon the evening of that never-to-be-forgotten Boat Club Ball, blushing
and happy, eager, with delightful anticipations, yet timorous, too, for
my guardians, the Battles, had disapproved of dancing and had rigorously
excluded this and other worldly pleasures from their ward’s
accomplishments, I was conducted by my father to the ball. In my heart
lay the fear that I would be, after all, a mere looker-on, or appear
awkward if I should venture to dance as did the others; but neither of
these misgivings proved to have been well founded.

My father led me at once to Mme. Le Vert, then the reigning queen of
every gathering at which she appeared, and in her safe hands every fear
vanished. I had heard my elders speak frequently of her beauty, and
somehow had imagined her tall. She was less so than I had pictured, but
so winning and cordial to me, a timid child, that I at once capitulated
before the charm she cast over everyone who came into conversation with
her. I thought her face the sweetest I had ever seen. She had a grace
and frankness which made everyone with whom she talked feel that he or
she alone commanded her attention. I do not recall her making a single
_bon mot_, but she was vivacious and smiling. Her charm, it seemed to
me, lay in her lovely manners and person and her permeating

I remember Mme. Le Vert’s appearance on that occasion distinctly, though
to describe it now seems garish. To see her then was bewildering, and
all her colour was harmony. She wore a gown of golden satin, and on her
hair a wreath of coral flowers, which her morocco shoes matched in hue.
In the dance she moved like a bird on the wing. I can see her now in her
shining robe, as she swayed and glided, holding the shimmering gown
aside as she floated through the “ladies’ chain.” The first dance of my
life was a quadrille, _vis-à-vis_ with this renowned beauty, who took me
under her protection and encouraged me from time to time.

“Don’t be afraid, my dear,” she would sweetly say, “Do just as I do,”
and I glided after my wonderful instructress like one enchanted, with
never a mishap.

Mme. Le Vert, who in years to come became internationally celebrated,
was a kinswoman of Clement Claiborne Clay, and in after times, when I
became his wife, I often met her, but throughout my long life I have
remembered that first meeting in Mobile, and her charm and grace have
remained a prized picture in my memory. It was of this exquisite belle
that Washington Irving remarked: “But one such woman is born in the
course of an empire.”

It was to my Uncle Tom that I owed the one love sorrow of my life. It
was an affair of the greatest intensity while it endured, and was
attended by the utmost anguish for some twelve or fourteen hours. During
that space of time I endured all the hopes and fears, the yearnings and
despairs to which the human heart is victim.

I was nearing the age of fifteen when my uncle one evening bade me put
on my prettiest frock and accompany him to the home of a friend, where a
dance was to be given. I was dressed with all the alacrity my old mammy
was capable of summoning, and was soon ensconced in the carriage and on
my way to the hospitable scene. En route we stopped at the hotel, where
my uncle alighted, reappearing in a moment with a very handsome young
man, who entered the carriage with him and drove with us to the house,
where he, too, was to be a guest.

Never had my eyes beheld so pleasing a masculine wonder! He was the
personification of manly beauty! His head was shapely as Tasso’s (in
after life I often heard the comparison made), and in his eyes there
burned a romantic fire that enslaved me from the moment their gaze
rested upon me. At their warmth all the ardour, all the ideals upon
which a romantic heart had fed rose in recognition of their realisation
in him. During the evening he paid me some pretty compliments, remarking
upon my hazel eyes and the gleam of gold in my hair, and he touched my
curls admiringly, as if they were revered by him.

My head swam! Lohengrin never dazzled Elsa more completely than did this
knight of the poet’s head charm the maiden that was I! We danced
together frequently throughout the evening, and my hero rendered me
every attention a kind man may offer to the little daughter of a valued
friend. When at last we stepped into the carriage and turned homeward,
the whole world was changed for me.

My first apprehension of approaching sorrow came as we neared the hotel.
To my surprise, the knight was willing, nay, desired to be set down
there. A dark suspicion crept into my mind that perhaps, after all, my
hero might be less gallant than I had supposed, else why did he not seek
this opportunity of riding home with me? If this wonderful emotion that
possessed me also had actuated him—and how could I doubt it after his
devotion throughout the evening?—how could he bear to part from me in
this way without a single word or look of tenderness?

As the door closed behind him I leaned back in the darkest corner of the
carriage and thought hard, though not hardly of him. After a little my
uncle roused me by saying, “Did my little daughter enjoy this evening?”

I responded enthusiastically.

“And was I not kind to provide you with such a gallant cavalier? Isn’t
Colonel Jere Clemens a handsome man?”

Ah, was he not? My full heart sang out his praises with an unmistakable
note. My uncle listened sympathetically. Then he continued, “Yes, he’s a
fine fellow! A fine fellow, Virginia, and he has a nice little wife and

No thunderbolt ever fell more crushingly upon the unsuspecting than did
these awful words from the lips of my uncle! I know not how I reached my
room, but once there I wept passionately throughout the night and much
of the following morning. Within my own heart I accused my erstwhile
hero of the rankest perfidy; of villainy of every imaginable quality;
and in this recoil of injured pride perished my first love dream,
vanished the heroic wrappings of my quondam knight!

Having finished the curriculum of the institute presided over by Miss
Brooks, I was sent to the “Female Academy” at Nashville, Tennessee, to
perfect my studies in music and literature, whence I returned to
Tuscaloosa all but betrothed to Alexander Keith McClung, already a
famous duellist. I met him during a visit to my Uncle Fort’s home, in
Columbus, Mississippi, and the Colonel’s devotion to me for many months
was the talk of two States. He was the gallantest lover that ever knelt
at a lady’s feet! Many a winsome girl admired him, and my sweet cousin,
Martha Fort, was wont to say she would “rather marry Colonel McClung
than any man alive”; but I—I loved him madly while with him, but feared
him when away from him; for he was a man of fitful, uncertain moods and
given to periods of the deepest melancholy. At such times he would mount
his horse “Rob Roy,” wild and untamable as himself, and dash to the
cemetery, where he would throw himself down on a convenient grave and
stare like a madman into the sky for hours. A man of reckless bravery,
in after years he was the first to mount the ramparts of Monterey
shouting victory. As he ran, carrying his country’s flag in his right
hand, a shot whizzing by took off two fingers of his left.

I was thrown much in the company of Colonel McClung while at my uncle’s
home, but resisted his pleading for a binding engagement, telling him
with a strange courage and frankness, ere I left Columbus, my reason for
this persistent indecision. Before leaving for the academy at Nashville,
I had met, at my Uncle Collier’s, in Tuscaloosa, the young legislator,
Clement C. Clay, Jr., and had then had a premonition that if we should
meet when I returned from school I would marry him. At that time I was
an unformed girl, and he, Mr. Clay, was devoted to a young lady of the
capital; but this, as I knew, was a matter of the past. I would surely
meet him again at Uncle Collier’s (I told Mr. McClung), and, if the
attraction continued, I felt sure I would marry him. If not, I would
marry him, Colonel McClung. So we parted, and, though at that time the
Colonel did not doubt but that mine was a dreaming girl’s talk, my
premonitions were promptly realised.

Upon my return to our provincial little capital, then a community of six
thousand souls, I found it thronging with gallants from every county in
the State. The belles of the town, in preparation for the gayety of the
legislative “season” of two months, were resplendent in fresh and
fashionable toilettes. Escritoires were stocked with stationery suitable
for the _billet-doux_ that were sure to be required; and there, too,
were the little boxes of glazed mottoed wafers, then all the fashion,
with which to seal the pretty missives. All the swains of that day wrote
in verse to the ladies they admired, and each tender rhyme required a
suitably presented acknowledgment. I remember, though I have preserved
none save those my husband wrote me, several creditable effusions by
Colonel McClung, one of which began:

“Fearful and green your breathless poet stands,” etc.

Shortly after my return from Columbus, I attended a ball where I danced
with William L. Yancey, even then recognised for the splendour of his
intellectual powers and his eloquence in the forum. I had heard him
speak, and thought his address superb, and I told him so.

“Ah,” he answered gayly, “if it had not been for one pair of hazel eyes
I should have been submerged in a mere sea of rhetoric!”

On the night of my dance with him I wore a white feather in my hair, and
on the morrow a messenger from Mr. Yancey bore me some charming verses,
addressed “To the lady with the snow-white plume!”

I have said my strange premonitions regarding Mr. Clay were realised.
Ten days after we met we were affianced. There was a hastily gathered
trousseau selected in part by Mme. LeVert in Mobile, and hurried on to
my aunt’s home. A month later, and our marriage was celebrated with all
the _éclat_ our little city could provide, and the congratulations of a
circle of friends that included half the inhabitants. It is sixty years
since that wonderful wedding day, and of the maidens who attended
me—there were six—and the happy company that thronged Judge Collier’s
home on that crisp February morning when I crossed the Rubicon of life,
all—even the bridegroom—have passed long since into the shadowy company
of memory and the dead.

That marriage feast in the morn of my life was beautiful; the low,
spacious house of primitive architecture was white with hyacinths, and
foliage decorated every available space. The legislature came in a body,
solons of the State, and young aspirants for fame; the president and
faculty of the State University, of which Mr. Clay was a favoured son;
Dr. Capers, afterward Bishop of South Carolina, officiated, and, in that
glorious company of old Alabamians, my identity as Virginia Tunstall was
merged forever with that of the rising young statesman, Clement C. Clay,

A week of festivity followed the ceremony, and then my husband took me
to my future home, among his people, in the northern part of the State.
There being no railroad connection between Tuscaloosa and Huntsville in
those days (the early forties), we made the journey from the capital in
a big four-wheeled stage-coach. The stretch of country now comprised in
the active city of Birmingham, the southern Pittsburg, was then a rugged
place of rocks and boulders over which our vehicle pitched perilously.
Stone Mountain reached, we were obliged to descend and pick our way on
foot, the roughness of the road making the passage of the coach a very
dangerous one. But these difficulties only lent a charm to us, for the
whole world was enwrapped in the glamour of our youthful joys. The
sunsets, blazing crimson on the horizon, seemed gloriously to proclaim
the sunrise of our life.

We arrived in Huntsville on the evening of the second day of our
journey. Our driver, enthusiastically proud of his part in the
home-bringing of the bride, touched up the spirited horses as we crossed
the Public Square and blew a bugle blast as we wheeled round the corner;
when, fairly dashing down Clinton Street, he pulled up in masterly style
in front of “Clay Castle.” It was wide and low and spacious, as were all
the affluent homes of that day, and now was ablaze with candles to
welcome the travellers. All along the streets friendly hands and
kerchiefs had waved a welcome to us. Here, within, awaited a great
gathering of family and friends eager to see the chosen bride of a
well-loved son. This was my home-coming to Huntsville, thereafter to be
my haven for all time, though called in a few years by my husband’s
growing reputation to take my place beside him in Congressional circles
at Washington.

                               CHAPTER II

When my husband’s parents were members of the Congressional circle in
Washington—1829–’35—the journey to the capital from their home in
northern Alabama was no light undertaking. In those early days
Congressman (afterward Governor, and United States Senator) and Mrs. C.
C. Clay, Sr., travelled by coach to the Federal City, accompanied by
their coloured coachman, Toney (who, because of his expert driving, soon
became notable in Washington), and a maid-servant, Milly, who were
necessary to their comfort and station. Many days were consumed in these
journeys, that lay through Tennessee, the Carolinas and Virginia, during
which the travellers were exposed to all the dangers common to a young
and often unsettled forest country. The tangled woods of the South land,
odorous with the cedar or blossoming with dogwood, mimosa or magnolias,
were often Arcadias of beauty. The land of the sky, now the object of
pilgrimages for the wealthy and become the site of palaces built by
kings of commerce, was then still more beautiful with primeval
freshness. Far as the eye could see, as hills were scaled and valleys
crossed, were verdured slopes and wooded mountain crests. The Palisades
of the Tennessee, as yet scarcely penetrated by Northern tourists, were
then the wonder as they still are the pride of the traveller from the

In 1853, my husband was elected a United States Senator, to take the
seat of a former college friend, Jere Clemens, whose term had just
expired, and succeeding his father C. C. Clay, Sr., after eleven years.
In December of the same year, we began our trip to the capital under
comparatively modern conditions. My several visits to Vermont and New
Jersey Hydropathic Cures, then the fashionable sanitariums, had already
inured me to long journeys. By this time steam railways had been
established, and, though not so systematically connected as to make
possible the taking of long trips over great distances without devious
and tiresome changes, they had lessened the time spent upon the road
between Alabama and Washington very appreciably; but, while in
comparison with those in common use to-day, the cars were primitive,
nevertheless they were marvels of comfort and speed to the travellers of
the fifties. Sleeping cars were not yet invented, but the double-action
seatbacks of the regular coaches, not then, as now, screwed down
inexorably, made it a simple matter to convert two seats into a kind of
couch, on which, with the aid of a pillow, one managed very well to
secure a half repose as the cars moved soberly along.

Our train on that first official journey to Washington proved to be a
kind of inchoative “Congressional Limited.” We found many of our
fellow-passengers to be native Alabamians, the majority being on
government business bent. Among them were my husband’s confrère from
southern Alabama, Senator Fitzpatrick and his wife, and a friendship was
then and there begun among us, which lasted uninterruptedly until death
detached some of the parties to it; also Congressman Dowdell, “dear old
Dowdell,” as my husband and everyone in the House shortly learned to
call him, and James L. Orr of South Carolina, who afterward became
Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Minister to Russia under
President Grant. Mr. Orr, late in 1860, was one of the three
commissioners sent by South Carolina to President Buchanan to arbitrate
on the question of the withdrawal of United States troops from Forts
Sumter and Moultrie, in Charleston Harbour.

Nor should I omit to name the most conspicuous man on that memorable
north-bound train, Congressman W. R. W. Cobb, who called himself the
“maker of Senators,” and whom people called the most successful
vote-poller in the State of Alabama. Mr. Cobb resorted to all sorts of
tricks to catch the popular votes, such as the rattling of tinware and
crockery—he had introduced bills to secure indigent whites from a
seizure for debt that would engulf all their possessions, and in them
had minutely defined all articles that were to be thus exempt, not
scorning to enumerate the smallest items of the kitchen—, and he
delighted in the singing of homely songs composed for stump purposes.
One of these which he was wont to introduce at the end of a speech, and
which always seemed to be especially his own, was called “The Homestead
Bill.” Of this remarkable composition there were a score of verses, at
least, that covered every possible possession which the heart of the
poor man might crave, ranging from land and mules to household
furniture. The song began,

           “Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a farm!”

and Mr. Cobb would sing it in stentorian tones, winking, as he did so,
to first one and then another of his admiring listeners, and punctuating
his phrases by chewing, with great gusto, a piece of onion and the
coarsest of corn “pone.” These evidences of his democracy gave huge
delight to the masses, though it aroused in me, a young wife, great
indignation, that, in the exigencies of a public career my husband
should be compelled to enter a contest with such a man. To me it was the
meeting of a Damascus blade and a meat-axe, and in my soul I resented

In 1849 this stump-favourite had defeated the brilliant Jere Clemens,
then a candidate for Congress, but immediately thereafter Mr. Clemens
was named for the higher office of U. S. Senator and elected. In 1853 an
exactly similar conjunction of circumstances resulted in the election of
Mr. Clay. I accompanied my husband during the canvass in which he was
defeated, and thereby became, though altogether innocently, the one
obstacle to Mr. Cobb’s usually unanimous election.

It happened that during the campaign Mr. Clay and I stopped at a little
hostelry, that lay in the very centre of one of Mr. Cobb’s strongest
counties. It was little more than a flower-embowered cottage, kept by
“Aunt Hannah,” a kindly soul, whose greatest treasure was a fresh-faced,
pretty daughter, then entering her “teens.” I returned to our room after
a short absence, just in time to see this village beauty before my
mirror, arrayed in all the glory of a beautiful and picturesque hat
which I had left upon the bed during my absence. It was a lovely thing
of the period, which I had but recently brought back from the North,
having purchased it while _en route_ for Doctor Wesselhœft’s Hydropathic
Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont.

The little rustic girl of Alabama looked very winsome and blossomy in
the pretty gew-gaw, and I asked her impulsively if she liked it. Her
confusion was sufficient answer, and I promptly presented it to her, on
condition that she would give me her sunbonnet in return.

The exchange was quickly made, and when Mr. Clay and I departed I wore a
pea-green cambric bonnet, lined with pink and stiffened with pasteboard
slats. I little dreamed that this exchange of millinery, so
unpremeditated, and certainly uncalculating, was a political
master-stroke; but, so it proved. It undermined Mr. Cobb’s Gibraltar;
for at the election that followed, the vote in that county was
practically solid for Mr. Clay, where formerly Mr. Cobb had swept it

When, upon the train _en route_ for the capital in the winter of ’53,
Senator Fitzpatrick insisted upon presenting the erstwhile triumphant
politician, I took the long, flail-like hand he offered me with no
accentuated cordiality; my reserve, however, seemed not to disturb Mr.
Cobb’s proverbial complacency.

“I’ve got a crow to pick with you, Mrs. Clay,” he began, “for that pink
bonnet trick at old Aunt Hannah’s!”

“And I have a buzzard to pick with you!” I responded promptly, “for
defeating my husband!”

“You ought to feel obliged to me,” retorted the Congressman, continuing
“For I made your husband a Senator!”

“Well,” I rejoined, “I’ll promise not to repeat the bonnet business, if
you’ll give me your word never again to sing against my husband! That’s
unfair, for you know _he_ can’t sing!” which, amid the laughter of our
fellow-passengers, Mr. Cobb promised.

Our entrance into the Federal City was not without its humorous side. We
arrived in the early morning, about two o’clock, driving up to the
National Hotel, where, owing to a mistake on the part of the
night-clerk, an incident occurred with which for many a day I twitted my
husband and our male companions on that eventful occasion.

At that period it was the almost universal custom for Southern gentlemen
to wear soft felt hats, and the fashion was invariable when travelling.
In winter, too, long-distance voyagers as commonly wrapped themselves in
the blanket shawl, which was thrown around the shoulders in picturesque
fashion and was certainly comfortable, if not strictly _à la mode_. My
husband and the other gentlemen of our party were so provided on our
journey northward, and upon our arrival, it must be admitted, none in
that travel-stained and weary company would have been mistaken for a
Washington exquisite of the period.

As our carriage stopped in front of the hotel door, Mr. Dowdell, muffled
to the ears, his soft-brimmed hat well down over his face (for the wind
was keen), stepped out quickly to arrange for our accommodation. The
night was bitterly cold, and the others of our company were glad to
remain under cover until our spokesman returned.

This he did in a moment or two. He appeared crestfallen, and quite at a

“Nothing here, Clay!” he said to my husband. “Man says they have no

“Nonsense, Dowdell!” was Senator Clay’s response. “You must be mistaken.
Here, step inside while I inquire!” He, muffled as mysteriously, and in
no whit more trust-inspiring than the dejected Mr. Dowdell, strode
confidently in. Not many minutes elapsed ere he, too, returned.

“Well!” he said. “I don’t understand it, but Dowdell’s right! They say
they have no rooms for us!”

At this we were dismayed, and a chorus of exclamations went up from men
and women alike. What were we to do? In a moment, I had resolved.

“There’s some mistake! I don’t believe it,” I said. “I’ll go and see;”
and, notwithstanding my husband’s remonstrances, I hurried out of the
carriage and into the hotel. Stepping to the desk I said to the clerk in
charge: “Is it possible you have no rooms for our party in this large
hostelry? Is it possible, Sir, that at this season, when Congress is
convening, you have reserved no rooms for Congressional guests?” He
stammered out some confused reply, but I hurried on.

“I am Mrs. Clay, of Alabama. You have refused my husband, Senator Clay,
and his friend, Representative Dowdell. What does it mean?”

“Why, certainly, Madam,” he hastened to say, “I have rooms for _those_.”
And forthwith ordered the porters to go for our luggage. Then, reaching
hurriedly for various keys, he added, “I beg your pardon, Madam! I did
not know you were those!”

What he did believe us to be, piloted as we were by two such
brigand-like gentlemen as Senator Clay and Mr. Dowdell, we never knew;
enough that our tired party were soon installed in comfortable
apartments. It was by reason of this significant episode that I first
realized the potency in Washington of conventional apparel and
Congressional titles.

My husband being duly sworn in on the 14th of December, 1853, in a few
days our “mess” was established at the home of Mr. Charles Gardner, at
Thirteenth and G Streets. Here my first season in Washington was spent.
Besides Senator Clay and myself, our party was composed of Senator and
Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and Representatives Dowdell and Orr, and to this
little nucleus of congenial spirits were afterward added in our later
residences at historic old Brown’s Hotel and the Ebbitt House, many
whose names are known to the nation.

Though a sad winter for me, for in it I bore and buried my only child,
yet my recollections of that season, as its echoes reached our quiet
parlours, are those of boundless entertainment and bewildering ceremony.
The season was made notable in the fashionable world by the great _fête
champêtre_ given by the British Minister, Mr. Crampton, and the pompous
obsequies of Baron Bodisco, for many years resident Minister from
Russia; but of these I learned only through my ever kind friend, Mrs.
Fitzpatrick, who for months was my one medium of communication with the
fashionable outside world. She was a beautiful woman, with superb
carriage and rare and rich colouring, and possessed, besides, a voice of
great sweetness, with which, during that winter of seclusion, she often
made our simple evenings a delight. While shortly she became a leader in
matters social, Mrs. Fitzpatrick was still more exalted in our own
little circle for her singing of such charming songs as “Roy’s Wife of
Aldivalloch,” and other quaint Scotch ditties. Nor was Mrs. Fitzpatrick
the one musician of our “mess,” for Mr. Dowdell had a goodly voice and
sang with lusty enjoyment the simpler ballads of the day, to say nothing
of many melodious Methodist hymns.

My experiences as an active member of Washington society, therefore,
began in the autumn of 1854 and the succeeding spring, when,
notwithstanding an air of gravity and reserve that was perceptible at
that social pivot, the White House, the gaiety of the capital was
gaining an impetus in what later appeared to me to be a veritable “merry

It is true that it did not even then require the insight of a keen
observer to detect in social, as in political gatherings, the constantly
widening division between the Northern and Southern elements gathered in
the Government City. For myself, I knew little of politics,
notwithstanding the fact that from my childhood I had called myself “a
pronounced Jeffersonian Democrat.” Naturally, I was an hereditary
believer in States’ Rights, the real question, which, in an attempt to
settle it, culminated in our Civil War; and I had been bred among the
law-makers of the sturdy young State of Alabama, many of whom had served
at the State and National capitals with marked distinction; but from my
earliest girlhood three lessons had been taught me religiously, viz.: to
be proud alike of my name and blood and section; to read my Bible; and,
last, to know my “Richmond Enquirer.” Often, as an aid to the
performance of this last duty, have I read aloud its full contents, from
the rates of advertisement down, until my dear uncle Tom Tunstall has
fallen asleep over my childish efforts. It is not, then, remarkable
that, upon my arrival, I was at once cognisant of the feeling which was
so thinly concealed between the strenuous parties established in the



  of Alabama

During the first half of the Pierce administration, however, though
feeling ran high in the Senate and the House, the surface of social life
was smiling and peaceful. The President had every reason to feel kindly
toward the people of the South who had so unanimously supported him, and
he was as indiscriminating and impartial in his attitude to the opposing
parties as even the most critical could desire; but, gradually, by a
mutual instinct of repulsion that resolved itself into a general
consent, the representatives of the two antagonistic sections seldom met
save at promiscuous assemblages to which the exigencies of public life
compelled them. To be sure, courtesies were exchanged between the wives
of some of the Northern and Southern Senators, and formal calls were
paid on Cabinet days, as etiquette demanded, upon the ladies of the
Cabinet circle; but, by a tacit understanding, even at the
entertainments given at the foreign legations, and at the houses of
famous Washington citizens, this opposition of parties was carefully
considered in the sending out of invitations, in order that no
unfortunate _rencontre_ might occur between uncongenial guests.

The White House, as I have said, was scarcely a place of gaiety. Mrs.
Pierce’s first appearance in public occurred at the Presidential levee,
late in 1853. An invalid for several years, she had recently received a
shock, which was still a subject of pitying conversation throughout the
country. It had left a terrible impress upon Mrs. Pierce’s spirits.
While travelling from her home in New Hampshire to Washington to witness
her husband’s exaltation as the President of the United States, an
accident, occurring at Norwalk, Connecticut, suddenly deprived her of
her little son, the last surviving of her several children. At her first
public appearance at the White House, clad in black velvet and diamonds,
her natural pallor being thereby greatly accentuated, a universal
sympathy was awakened for her. To us who knew her, the stricken heart
was none the less apparent because hidden under such brave and jewelled
apparel, which she had donned, the better to go through the ordeal
exacted by “the dear people.”

I had made the acquaintance of General and Mrs. Pierce during the
preceding year while on a visit to the New England States; my husband’s
father had been the President’s confrère in the Senate early in the
forties; and my brother-in-law, Colonel Hugh Lawson Clay, had fought
beside the New Hampshire General in the Mexican War. The occupants of
the Executive Mansion therefore were no strangers to us; yet Mrs.
Pierce’s sweet graciousness and adaptability came freshly to me as I saw
her assume her place as the social head of the nation. Her sympathetic
nature and very kind heart, qualities not always to be perceived through
the formalities of governmental etiquette, were demonstrated to me on
many occasions. My own ill-health proved to be a bond between us, and,
while custom forbade the paying of calls by the wife of the Chief
Magistrate upon the wives of Senators, I was indebted to Mrs. Pierce for
many acts of friendliness, not the least of which were occasional drives
with her in the Presidential equipage.

A favourite drive in those days was throughout the length of
Pennsylvania Avenue, then but sparsely and irregularly built up. The
greatest contrasts in architecture existed, hovels often all but
touching the mansions of the rich. The great boulevard was a perfect
romping ground for the winds. Chevy Chase and Georgetown were popular
objective points, and the banks of the Potomac, in shad-seining season,
were alive with gay sight-seers. The markets of Washington have always
excelled, affording every luxury of earth and sea, and that at a price
which gives to the owner of even a moderate purse a leaning toward
epicureanism. In the houses of the rich the serving of dinners became a
fine art.

On the first occasion of my dining at the President’s table, I was
struck with the spaciousness of the White House, and the air of
simplicity which everywhere pervaded. Very elaborate alterations were
made in the mansion for Mr. Pierce’s successor, but in the day of
President and Mrs. Pierce it remained practically as unimposing as in
the time of President Monroe.

The most remarkable features in all the mansion, to my then unaccustomed
eyes, were the gold spoons which were used invariably at all State
dinners. They were said to have been brought from Paris by President
Monroe, who had been roundly criticised for introducing into the White
House a table accessory so undemocratic! Besides these extraordinary
golden implements, there were as remarkable bouquets, made at the
government greenhouses. They were stiff and formal things, as big round
as a breakfast plate, and invariably composed of a half-dozen wired
japonicas ornamented with a pretentious cape of marvellously wrought
lace-paper. At every plate, at every State dinner, lay one of these
memorable rigid bouquets. This fashion, originating at the White House,
was taken up by all Washington. For an entire season the japonica was
the only flower seen at the houses of the fashionable or mixing in the
toilettes of the belles.

But if, for that, my first winter in Washington, the White House itself
was sober, the houses of the rich Senators and citizens of Washington,
of the brilliant diplomatic corps, and of some of the Cabinet Ministers,
made ample amends for it. In the fifties American hospitality acquired a
reputation, and that of the capital was synonymous with an unceasing, an
augmenting round of dinners and dances, receptions and balls. A hundred
hostesses renowned for their beauty and wit and vivacity vied with each
other in evolving novel social relaxations. Notable among these were
Mrs. Slidell, Mrs. Jacob Thompson, Miss Belle Cass, and the daughters of
Secretary Guthrie; Mrs. Senator Toombs and Mrs. Ogle Tayloe, the
Riggses, the Countess de Sartiges and Mrs. Cobb, wife of that jolly
Falstaff of President Buchanan’s Cabinet, Howell Cobb. Mrs. Cobb was of
the celebrated Lamar family, so famous for its brilliant and brave men,
and lovely women. Highly cultured, modest as a wild wood-violet,
inclined, moreover, to reserve, she was nevertheless capable of
engrossing the attention of the most cultivated minds in the capital,
and a conversation with her was ever a thing to be remembered. No more
hospitable home was known in Washington than that of the Cobbs. The
Secretary was a _bon vivant_, and his home the rendezvous of the
epicurean as well as the witty and the intellectual.

Probably the most brilliant of all the embassies, until the coming of
Lord and Lady Napier, was that of France. The Countess de Sartiges, who
presided over it, was an unsurpassed hostess, besides being a woman of
much _manner_ and personal beauty; and, as did many others of the suite,
she entertained on a lavish scale.

Mrs. Slidell, wife of the Senator from Louisiana, whose daughter
Mathilde is now the wife of the Parisian banker, Baron Erlanger, became
famous in the fifties for her matinée dances at which all the beauties
and beaux of Washington thronged. Previous to her marriage with Senator
Slidell she was Mlle. des Londes of New Orleans. A leader in all things
fashionable, she was also one of the most devout worshippers at St.
Aloysius’s church. I remember with what astonishment and admiration I
watched her devotions one Sunday morning when, as the guest of Senator
Mallory, himself a strict Romanist, I attended that church for the
purpose of hearing a mass sung.

I knew Mrs. Slidell as the devotée of fashion, the wearer of
unapproachable Parisian gowns, the giver of unsurpassed entertainments,
the smiling, tireless hostess; but that Sunday morning as I saw her
enter a pew just ahead of Senator Mallory and myself, sink upon her
knees, and, with her eyes fixed upon the cross, repeating her prayers
with a concentration that proved the sincerity of them, I felt as if
another and greater side of her nature were being revealed to me. I
never met her thereafter without a remembrance of that morning flitting
through my mind.

During the early spring of 1854 I heard much of the imposing ceremonials
attending the funeral of Baron Alexandre de Bodisco, Minister from
Russia since 1838, the days of Van Buren. His young wife, a native of
Georgetown, was one of the first to draw the attention of foreigners to
the beauty of American women. The romantic old diplomat had learned to
admire his future wife when, as a little girl, upon her daily return
from school, he carried her books for her. Her beauty developed with her
growth, and, before she was really of an age to appear in society,
though already spoken of as the most beautiful woman in Georgetown,
Harriet Williams became the Baroness de Bodisco, and was carried abroad
for presentation at the Russian Court. Her appearance in that critical
circle created a _furore_, echoes of which preceded her return to
America. I have heard it said that this young bride was the first woman
to whom was given the title, “the American Rose.”

I remember an amusing incident in which this lovely Baroness,
unconsciously to herself, played the part of instructress to me. It was
at one of my earliest dinners at the White House, ere I had thoroughly
familiarised myself with the gastronomic novelties devised by the
Gautiers (then the leading restaurateurs and confectioners of the
capital), and the other foreign _chefs_ who vied with them. Scarcely a
dinner of consequence but saw some surprise in the way of a heretofore
unknown dish. Many a time I have seen some one distinguished for his
_aplomb_ look about helplessly as the feast progressed, and gaze
questioningly at the preparation before him, as if uncertain as to how
it should be manipulated. Whenever I was in doubt as to the proper thing
to do at these dignified dinners, I turned, as was natural, to those
whose longer experience in the gay world was calculated to establish
them as exemplars to the novice.

On the evening of which I write, the courses had proceeded without the
appearance of unusual or alarm-inspiring dishes until we had neared the
end of the _menu_, when I saw a waiter approaching with a large salver
on which were dozens of mysterious parallelograms of paper, each of
which was about five inches long and three broad, and appeared to be
full of some novel conserve. Beside them lay a silver trowel. The
packages were folded daintily, the gilt edges of their wrapping
glittering attractively. What they contained I could not guess, nor
could I imagine what we were supposed to do with them.

However, while still struggling to read the mystery of the salver, my
eye fell upon Mme. de Bodisco, my _vis-à-vis_. She was a mountain of
lace and jewels, of blonde beauty and composure, for even at this early
period her proportions were larger than those which by common consent
are accredited to the sylph. I could have no better instructress than
this lady of international renown. I watched her; saw her take up the
little trowel, deftly remove one of the packages from the salver to her
plate, and composedly proceed to empty the paper receptacle of its
contents—a delicious glacé. My suspense was at an end. I followed her
example, very well satisfied with my good fortune in escaping a pitfall
which a moment ago I felt sure yawned before me, for this method of
serving creams and ices was the latest of culinary novelties.

I wondered if there were others at the great board who were equally
uncertain as to what to do with the carefully concealed dainties.
Looking down to the other side of the table, I saw our friend Mr. Blank,
of Virginia, hesitatingly regarding the pile of paper which the waiter
was holding toward him. Presently, as if resigned to his fate, he took
up the trowel and began to devote considerable energy to an attempt to
dig out the contents of the package nearest him, when, as I glanced
toward him, he looked up, full of self-consciousness, and turned his
gaze directly upon me. His expression told plainly of growing

I shook my head in withering pseudo-rebuke and swiftly indicated to him
“to take a whole one.” Fortunately, he was quick-witted and caught my
meaning, and, taking the hint, took likewise the cream without further
mishap. After dinner we retired to the green-room, where, as was the
custom, coffee and liqueurs were served. Here Mr. Blank approached, and,
shaking my hand most gratefully, he whispered, “God bless my soul, Mrs.
Clay! You’re the sweetest woman in the world! But for your goodness,
heaven only knows what would have happened! Perhaps,” and he sipped his
liqueur contemplatively, “perhaps I might have been struggling with
that, _that problem_ yet!”

I met Mme. de Bodisco many times during her widowhood, and was present
at old St. John’s when her second marriage, with Captain Scott of Her
British Majesty’s Life Guards, was celebrated. It was early in the
Buchanan administration, and the bride was given away by the President.
While St. John’s, I may add, was often referred to as a fashionable
centre, yet much of genuine piety throve there, too.

Mme. de Bodisco, who, during her widowhood, had continued her belleship
and had received, it was said, many offers of marriage from
distinguished men, capitulated at last to the young guardsman just
named. Great therefore was the interest in the second nuptials of so
popular a beauty. Old St. John’s was crowded with the most distinguished
personages in the capital. The aisles of the old edifice are narrow, and
the march of the bride and the President to the altar was memorable, not
only because of the distinction, but also by reason of the imposing
proportions of both principals in it. In fact, the plumpness of the
stately bride and the President’s ample figure, made the walk, side by
side, an almost impossible feat. The difficulty was overcome, however,
by the tactfulness of the President, who led the lady slightly in
advance of himself until the chancel was reached. Here the slender young
groom, garbed in the scarlet and gold uniform of his rank, stepped
forward to claim her, and, though it was seen that he stood upon a
hassock in order to lessen the difference in height between himself and
his bride, it was everywhere admitted that Captain Scott was a handsome
and gallant groom, and worthy the prize he had won.

This was Mme. de Bodisco’s last appearance in Washington. With her
husband she went to India, where, it was said, the climate soon made
havoc of her health and beauty; but her fame lingered long on the lips
of her hosts of admirers in Washington. Nor did the name of de Bodisco
disappear from the social list, for, though his sons were sent to
Russia, there to be educated, Waldemar de Bodisco, nephew of the late
Minister, long continued to be the most popular leader of the German in

Throughout the fifties, and indeed for several preceding decades, the
foreign representatives and their suites formed a very important element
in society in the capital. In some degree their members, the majority of
whom were travelled and accomplished, and many representative of the
highest culture in Europe, were our critics, if not our mentors. The
standard of education was higher in Europe fifty years ago than in our
own land, and to be a favourite at the foreign legations was equivalent
to a certificate of accomplishment and social charms. An acquaintance
with the languages necessarily was not the least of these.

The celebrated Octavia Walton, afterward famous as Mme. Le Vert, won her
first social distinction in Washington, where, chaperoned by Mrs. C. C.
Clay, Sr., a recognition of her grace and beauty, her intellectuality
and charming manner was instantaneous. At a time when a knowledge of the
foreign tongues was seldom acquired by American women, Miss Walton, who
spoke French, Spanish and Italian with ease, speedily became the
favourite of the Legations, and thence began her fame which afterward
became international.

During my early residence in Washington, Addie Cutts (who became first
the wife of Stephen A. Douglas and some years after his death married
General Williams) was the admired of all foreigners. Miss Cutts was the
niece of Mrs. Greenhow, a wealthy and brilliant woman of the capital,
and, when she became Mrs. Douglas, held a remarkable sway for years. As
a linguist Miss Cutts was reputed to be greatly gifted. If she spoke the
many languages of which she was said to be mistress but half so
eloquently as she uttered her own when, in 1865, she appealed to
President Johnson on behalf of “her loved friend” my husband, the
explanation of her remarkable nightly levees of the late fifties is
readily found.

Though never, strictly speaking, a member of our “mess,” Mrs. Douglas
and I were always firm friends. While she was still Miss Cutts, and
feeling keenly the deprivations that fall to the lot of the beautiful
daughter of a poor department clerk,[1] she once complained to me
poutingly of the cost of gloves.

“Nonsense,” I answered. “Were I Addie Cutts, with hands that might have
been chiselled by Phidias, I would never disguise them in gloves,
whatever the fashion!”

Miss Cutts entered into the enjoyment of the wealth and position which
her marriage with Stephen A. Douglas gave her, with the regal manner of
a princess. Her toilettes were of the richest and at all times were
models of taste and picturesqueness. The effect she produced upon
strangers was invariably one of instant admiration. Writing to me in
1863, my cousin, Mrs. Paul Hammond (who, before her marriage, had spent
a winter with me at Washington), thus recalled her meeting with the
noted beauty:

“Yesterday, with its green leaves and pearl-white flowers, called to my
memory how Mrs. Douglas looked when I first saw her. She was receiving
at her own house in a crêpe dress looped with pearls, and her hair was
ornamented with green leaves and lilies. She was a beautiful picture!”

I had the pleasure, on one occasion, of bringing together Mrs. Douglas
and Miss Betty Beirne, the tallest and the shortest belles of their
time. They had long desired to meet, and each viewed the other with
astonishment and pleasure. Miss Beirne, who afterward became the wife of
Porcher Miles of South Carolina, was one of the tiniest of women, as
Mrs. Douglas was one of the queenliest, and both were toasted
continually in the capital.

During the incumbency of Mr. Crampton, he being a bachelor, few
functions were given at the British Embassy which ladies attended. Not
that the Minister and his suite were eremites. On the contrary, Mr.
Crampton was exceedingly fond of “cutting a figure.” His traps were
especially conspicuous on the Washington avenues. Always his own
reinsman, the Minister’s fast tandem driving and the stiffly upright
“tiger” behind him, for several years were one of the sights of the
city. In social life the British Embassy was admirably represented by
Mr. Lumley, Chargé d’Affaires, an affable young man who entered frankly
into the life of the city and won the friendly feeling of all who met
him. He was one of the four young men who took each the novel part of
the elephant’s leg at a most amusing impromptu affair given by Mrs.
George Riggs in honour of the girl _prima donna_, Adelina Patti. It was,
I think, the evening of the latter’s début in “la Traviata.” Her
appearance was the occasion of one of the most brilliant audiences ever
seen in Washington. Everyone of note was present, and the glistening of
silk and the flash of jewels no doubt contributed their quota of
stimulus to the youthful star.

Within a day of the performance, Senator Clay and I received a note from
Mrs. Riggs, inviting us informally, not to say secretly, to an
after-the-opera supper, to meet the new diva and her supporting artists.
We responded cordially and drove to the Riggs residence shortly after
the close of the performance.

There, upon our arrival, we found representatives from all the foreign
legations, Patti’s entire troupe, and perhaps a dozen others, exclusive
of the family of our hostess. The _prima donna_ soon came in, a lovely
little maiden in evening dress, with a manner as winsome as was her
appearance. The entertainment now began by graceful compliment from all
present to the new opera queen, after which Mr. Riggs led her to the
dining-room where the sumptuous supper was spread.

The table was almost as wide as that of the White House. Its dazzling
silver and gold and crystal vessels, and viands well worthy these
receptacles, made a brilliant centre around which the decorated
foreigners seemed appropriately to cluster. The little cantatrice’s
undisguised pleasure was good to see. She had worked hard during the
performance of the opera, and her appetite was keen. She did ample
justice, therefore, to Mrs. Riggs’s good cheer, and goblets were kept
brimming for quite two hours.

This important part of the programme over, a young Englishman, by name
Mr. Palmer, who, as the Chevalier Bertinatti (the Sardinian Minister)
whispered to me, had been asked “to make some leetle fun for leetle Mees
Patti,” opened the evening’s merriment by an amusing exhibition of
legerdemain. Mr. Palmer, at that time a favourite music-teacher, who
spent his time between Washington and Baltimore, Philadelphia and New
York, having in each city numerous fashionable pupils, afterward became
known to the world as the great prestidigitator, Heller.

On the evening of the Riggses’ supper the young magician was in his best
form. Handkerchiefs and trinkets disappeared mysteriously, only to come
to light again in the most unexpected places, until the company became
almost silent with wonder. Mr. Palmer’s last trick required a pack of
cards, which were promptly forthcoming. Selecting the queen of hearts,
he said, looking archly in the direction of the diminutive Patti: “This
is also a queen; but she is a naughty girl and we will not have her!”
saying which, with a whiff and a toss, he threw the card into the air,
where it vanished!

Everyone was mystified; but Baron de Staeckl, the Russian Minister,
incontinently broke the spell Mr. Palmer was weaving around us by
picking up a card and pronouncing the same formula. Then, as all waited
to see what he was about to do, in a most serio-comic manner he deftly
and deliberately crammed it down Mr. Palmer’s collar! Amid peals of
laughter from all present, the young man gave place to other and more
general entertainment, in which the most dignified ambassadors indulged
with the hilarity of schoolboys.



  Aged Sixteen

From the foregoing incident it will be seen that Baron de Staeckl was
the buffo of the evening. He was a large man of inspiring, not to say
portly figure, and his lapels glittered with the insignia of honours
that had been conferred upon him. Like his predecessor, the late Baron
de Bodisco, he had allied himself with our country by marrying an
American girl, a native of New Haven, whose family name I have now
forgotten. She was a lovely and amiable hostess, whose unassuming manner
never lost a certain pleasing modesty, notwithstanding the compliments
she, too, invariably evoked. Her table was remarkable for its
napery—Russian linen for the larger part, with embroidered monograms of
unusual size and perfection of workmanship, which were said to be the
handiwork of Slav needlewomen. Although I had enjoyed their hospitality
and had met the de Staeckles frequently elsewhere, until this evening at
the Riggses’ home I had never suspected the genial Baron’s full capacity
for the enjoyment of pure nonsense.

There were many amateur musicians among the guests, first among them
being the Sicilian Minister, Massoni. He was a finished vocalist, with a
full operatic repertory at his easy command. His son Lorenzo was as fine
a pianist, and accompanied his father with a sympathy that was most
rare. That evening the Massonis responded again and again to the eager
urgings of the other guests, but at last the Minister, doubtless
desiring to “cut it short,” broke into the “Anvil Chorus.” Instantly he
was joined by the entire company.

At the opening strain, the jolly Baron de Staeckl disappeared for a
second, but ere we had finished, his glittering form was seen to
re-enter the door, with a stride like Vulcan’s and an air as mighty. In
one hand he held a pair of Mrs. Riggs’s glowing brass tongs, in the
other a poker, with which, in faultless rhythm, he was beating time to
his own deep-bellowing basso. He stalked to the centre of the room with
all the pomposity of a genuine king of _opera bouffe_, a sly twinkle in
his eye being the only hint to the beholders that he was conscious of
his own ludicrous appearance.

Meantime, Mile. Patti had mounted a chair, where her liquid notes in alt
joined the deep ones of the baron. As he stopped in the centre of the
room, however, the little diva’s amusement reached a climax. She clapped
her hands and fairly shouted with glee. Her mirth was infectious and
quite upset the solemnity of the basso. Breaking into a sonorous roar of
laughter, he made as hasty an exit as his cumbrous form would allow. I
think a walrus would have succeeded as gracefully.

We were about to withdraw from this gay scene when the Chevalier
Bertinatti, with the utmost enthusiasm, begged us to stay. “You must!”
he cried. “Ze elephant is coming! I assure you zere ees not hees equal
for ze fun!” A moment more and we fully agreed with him. Even as he
spoke, the doors opened and Mr. Palmer bounded in, a gorgeously got-up
ring-master. I saw my own crimson opera cloak about his shoulders and a
turban formed of many coloured _rebozos_ of other guests twisted
together in truly artistic manner.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” he began grandiloquently, “I have the honour to
present to your astonished eyes the grand elephant, Hannibal, costing to
import twenty thousand dollars, and weighing six thousand pounds! An
elephant, ladies and gentlemen, whose average cost is three and one-half
dollars a pound! He is a marvellous animal, ladies and gentlemen,
warranted to be as intrepid as his namesake! He has been called a
vicious creature, but in the present company I intend to prove him as
docile as—the ladies themselves! Advance, Hannibal!”

He threw himself prone upon the floor as the wide doors opened and
“Hannibal” lumbered in, deliberately wagging his trunk from side to
side, in a manner that was startlingly lifelike.

Arrived at the prostrate ring-master, he put out one shapeless leg (at
the bottom of which a handsomely shod man’s foot appeared) and touched
the prostrate one lightly, as if fearful of hurting him; he advanced and
retreated several times, wagging his trunk the while; until, at last, at
the urgings of the recumbent hero, the animal stepped cleanly over him.
Now, with a motion of triumph, Mr. Palmer sprang up and, crossing his
arms proudly over his bosom, cried, “Ladies and gentlemen! I _live_!”
and awaited the applause which rang out merrily. Then, leaping lightly
upon his docile pet’s back, the latter galloped madly around the room
and made for the door amid screams and shouts of laughter.

In the mad exit, however, the mystery of the elephant was revealed; for
his hide, the rubber cover of Mrs. Riggs’s grand piano, slipped from the
shoulders of the hilarious young men who supported it, and “Hannibal”
disappeared in a confusion of brilliant opera cloaks, black coats,
fleeing patent-leathers, and trailing piano cover!

This climax was a fitting close to our evening’s funmaking. As our host
accompanied us to the door, he said slyly to my husband, “Not a word of
this, Clay! To-night must be as secret as a Democratic caucus, or we
shall all be tabooed.”

                              CHAPTER III

Our “mess” at Brown’s Hotel shortly became so well-known, because of the
interest attaching to so many of its members, that the enterprising
proprietress of (what afterward became known as) the Ebbitt House, Mrs.
Smith, came in person, with tempting terms to lure us to her newer

Heretofore our quarters in the historic old hostelry had been altogether
satisfactory. It was the rendezvous of Southern Congressmen, and
therefore was “very agreeable and advantageous,” as my husband wrote of
it. For thirty-five years Brown’s Hotel had been the gathering-place for
distinguished people. So long ago as 1820, Thomas Hart Benton met there
the representatives of the rich fur-trader, John Jacob Astor, who had
been sent to the capital to induce Congressional indorsement in
perfecting a great scheme that should secure to us the trade of Asia as
well as the occupation of the Columbia River. Within its lobbies, many a
portentous conference had taken place. Indeed, the foundations of its
good reputation were laid while it was yet the Indian Queen’s Tavern,
renowned for its juleps and bitters. It was an unimposing structure even
for Pennsylvania Avenue, then but a ragged thoroughfare, and, as I have
said, notable for the great gaps between houses; but the cuisine of
Brown’s Hotel, as, until a few years ago, this famous house continued to
be known, was excellent.

In my days there, the presence of good Mrs. Brown, the hostess, and her
sweet daughter Rose (who married Mr. Wallach, one of Washington’s rich
citizens, and afterward entertained in the mansion that became famous as
the residence of Mrs. Stephen A. Douglas) added much to the attractions
of the old house. Nevertheless, those of the new also tempted us.
Thither we went in a body, and there we spent one or two gay winters;
but, the Ebbitt becoming more and more heterogeneous, and therefore less
congenial to our strictly legislative circles, we retraced our ways, our
forces still intact, to good old Brown’s.

In the interim, our continually enlarging numbers found the new quarters
convenient and in many respects even desirable. “Our ‘mess,’ so far from
being willing to separate,” I wrote to my husband’s father, late in ’57,
“has insisted upon becoming enlarged. We are located in a delightful
part of the city, on F Street, near the Treasury Buildings, the Court
end as well as the convenient end; for all the Departments as well as
the White House are in a stone’s throw. Old Guthrie’s is opposite, and
we have, within two blocks, some true-line Senators, among them Bell,
Slidell, Weller, Brodhead, Thomson, of New Jersey, who are married and
housekeeping, to say naught of Butler, Benjamin, Mason and Goode in a
‘mess’ near us. Our ‘mess’ is a very pleasant one. Orr, Shorter,
Dowdell, Sandidge and Taylor, of Louisiana, with the young Senator Pugh
and his bride, Governor Fitzpatrick and wife, and ourselves compose the
party. Taylor is a true Democrat, and Pugh is as strongly Anti-Free-soil
as we. We keep Free-soilers, Black Republicans and Bloomers on the other
side of the street. They are afraid even to inquire for board at this

To the choice list then recorded were added shortly Congressmen L. Q. C.
and Mrs. Lamar, David Clopton, Jabez L. M. Curry and Mrs. Curry, and
General and Mrs. Chestnut. Our circle included representatives from
several States. Messrs. Fitzpatrick, Shorter, Dowdell, David Clopton and
Jabez L. M. Curry were fellow-Alabamians, and had been the long-time
friends of my husband and his father, ex-Governor Clay, and of my uncle,
Governor Collier; Congressmen Lamar and Sandidge were from Mississippi
and Louisiana, respectively; Congressmen Orr and Chestnut represented
South Carolina, and Senator Pugh was from Ohio. It was a distinguished
company. Scarcely a male member of it but had won or was destined to win
a conspicuous position in the Nation’s affairs; scarcely a woman in the
circle who was not acknowledged to be a wit or beauty.

When Mrs. Pugh joined us, her precedence over the belles of the capital
was already established, for, as Thérèse Chalfant, her reign had begun a
year or two previous to her marriage to the brilliant young Senator from
Ohio; Miss Cutts, afterward Mrs. Douglas, and Mrs. Pendleton and the
beautiful _brune_, Mrs. Roger A. Pryor, being estimated as next in order
of beauty. Like Mrs. Chestnut, also a renowned belle, Mrs. Pugh was
something more than a woman of great personal loveliness. She was
intellectual, and remarked as such even in Washington, where wits
gathered. Both of these prized associates remained unspoiled by the
adulation which is the common tribute to such unusual feminine



  of Virginia

I was not present when the Austrian Minister, the Chevalier Hulseman,
paid his great compliment (now a classic in the capital) to Miss
Chalfant; but it was soon thereafter repeated to me. It was at a ball at
which pretty women thronged. As the Minister’s gaze rested upon Miss
Chalfant, his eyes expanded with admiration. Approaching, he knelt
suddenly before her, exclaiming, “Madame! I have from my Empress a piece
of precious lace” (and he fumbled, but, alas! vainly, in his pockets as
he spoke) “which her Majesty has commanded me to present to the most
beautiful woman in Washington. You—you are more, the most beautiful in
the world! I have not with me the lace, but I will send it if you will
permit me!” And he kept his word. We were glad to welcome to our “mess”
so lovely and famous a bride. Mrs. Pugh’s beauty was of so exquisite a
type, the bodily so permeated by the spiritual, that she shone
preëminent wherever she appeared, and this wholly independent of showy
attire. Though always presenting an appearance of elegance, Mrs. Pugh’s
gowns were invariably of the simplest. Our “mess” soon became aware that
our beautiful favourite was primarily a lovely woman, and no mere gay
butterfly. Her nature was grave rather than vivacious, the maternal in
her being exceedingly strong.

I recall the reply she gave me on the afternoon of a certain Cabinet
day. It was the custom on this weekly recurring occasion for several of
the ladies of our “mess” to make their calls together, thus obviating
the need for more than one carriage. As my parlours were the only ones
that boasted a pier-glass, and, besides, had the advantage of being on
the drawing-room floor of the hotel, it became a custom for the women
composing our circle to come to my rooms before going out, in order to
see how their dresses hung. Those were the days of hoop-skirts, and the
set of the outer skirt must needs be adjusted before beginning a round
of calls. As we gathered there, it was no uncommon thing for one of us
to remark: “Here comes Pugh, simply dressed, but superb, as usual. She
would eclipse us all were she in calico!” On the occasion alluded to, I
commented to Mrs. Pugh upon the beauty and style of her bonnet.

“My own make,” she answered sweetly. “I can’t afford French bonnets for
every-day use when I have ’tockies and shoes to buy for my little

My friendship for Mrs. Pugh is a dear memory of that life of perpetual
gaiety ere the face of Washington society was marred by war and scarred
by the moral pestilences that followed in its train; nor can I resist
the desire to quote her own remembrance of our association as she wrote
it in a letter to Senator Clay late in ’64, when the glories of those
earlier days had passed away, and the faces of erstwhile friends from
the North were hidden by the smoke of cannon and a barrier of the slain.

“Your dear wife,” she wrote, “was the first and best friend of my early
married life; and, when I was ushered into a strange and trying world,
she at once took me into her heart and counsel and made me a better
woman and wife than I would have been alone. No one in this world ever
treated me with the same love outside of my own family. When I cease to
remember either of you accordingly, it will be when I forget all

Strangely enough, there comes before my mind a picture of Mrs. Pugh in
affliction that overshadows all the memories of the homage I have seen
paid to her. It was late in the spring of 1859; Congress had adjourned
and many of our “mess” had gone their several ways, to mountain or
seashore, bent on rest or recreation, when the little daughter of
Senator and Mrs. Pugh was suddenly taken ill. For weeks the distracted
mother hovered over the sick-bed of the child, until her haggard
appearance was pitiful to see. My husband and I could not bear to leave
her, and often I shared her vigils, watching hours beside the dying
little Alice.

On an occasion like this (it was evening), my cousin Miss Hilliard, her
cheeks glowing and eyes shining with all the mysterious glow of
expectant youth, came into the sick-room for a few moments on her way to
some social gathering. She was dressed in a pale green, filmy gown,
which lent to her appearance a flower-like semblance that was very fresh
and lovely. As Miss Hilliard entered, Mrs. Pugh lifted her burning eyes
from the couch where the rapidly declining little one lay, and gazed at
her visitor like one in a dream. We were all silent for a moment. Then
the worn mother spoke.



  of Ohio

  “The most beautiful woman in Washington”

“So radiant! So beautiful!” she said in a voice of indescribable pathos,
“And to think you, too, may come to this!”

I have spoken of Mrs. Pryor, the beautiful wife of the young diplomat,
who had won general public approbation for his success in conducting a
mission to Greece. Not of our especial mess, Mrs. Pryor frequently
mingled with us, being the friend of Mrs. Douglas and Mrs. Pugh. They
were, in truth, a very harmonious trio, Mrs. Pugh being a perfect
brunette, Mrs. Douglas a blonde, and Mrs. Pryor a lighter brunette with
soft-brown hair and eyes. She wore a distinctive coiffure, and carried
her head charmingly. Even at that time Mrs. Pryor was notable for the
intellectuality which has since uttered itself in several charming

Though not members of our resident circle, my memories of dear old
Brown’s would scarcely be complete without a mention of little Henry
Watterson, with whose parents our “mess” continually exchanged visits
for years. Henry, their only child, was then an invalid, debarred from
the usual recreations of other boys, by weak eyes that made the light
unbearable and reading all but impossible; yet at fifteen the boy was a
born politician and eager for every item of news from the Senate or

“What bills were introduced to-day? Who spoke? Please tell me what took
place to-day?” were among the questions (in substance) with which the
lad was wont to greet the ladies of our “mess,” when he knew them to be
returning from a few hours spent in the Senate gallery; and, though none
foresaw the later distinction which awaited the invalid boy, no one of
us was ever so hurried and impatient that she could not and did not take
time to answer his earnest inquiries.

It is safe to say that no member of our pleasant circle was more
generally valued than that most lovable of men, Lucius Q. C. Lamar,
“Moody Lamar,” as he was sometimes called; for he was then, as he always
continued to be, full of dreams and ideals and big, warm impulses, with
a capacity for the most enduring and strongest of friendships, and a
tenderness rarely displayed by men so strong as was he.[2] Mr. Lamar was
full of quaint and caressing ways even with his fellow-men, which frank
utterance of his own feelings was irresistibly engaging. I have seen him
walk softly up behind Mr. Clay, when the latter was deep in thought,
touch him lightly on the shoulder, and, as my husband turned quickly to
see what was wanted, “Lushe” or “big Lushe,” as all called him, would
kiss him suddenly and lightly on the forehead.

Yes! Mr. Lamar and his sparkling, bright-souled wife, Jennie Longstreet,
were beloved members of that memorable “mess” in ante-bellum Washington.

Next to Congressman Lamar, I suppose it may safely be said no man was
more affectionately held than another of our mess-mates, Congressman
Dowdell, “old Dowdell,” “dear old Dowdell,” and sometimes “poor, dear
old Dowdell” being among the forms by which he was continually
designated. Mr. Dowdell had a large and loose frame, and walked about
with a countryman’s easy indifference to appearances. A born wag, he
sometimes took a quiet delight in accentuating this seeming

One evening he came strolling in to dinner, prepared for a comfortable
chat over the table, though all the rest of our little coterie were even
then dressing for attendance at a grand concert. It was an event of
great importance, for Gottschalk, the young Créole musician, of whom all
the country was talking, was to be heard in his own compositions.

“What!” I exclaimed as I saw Mr. Dowdell’s every-day attire, “You don’t
mean to tell me you’re not going to the concert! I can’t allow it,
brother Dowdell! Go right out and get your ticket and attend that
concert with all the rest of the world, or I’ll tell your constituents
what sort of a country representative they’ve sent to the capital!”

My laughing threat had its effect, and he hurried off in quest of the
ticket, which, after some difficulty, was procured.

The concert was a memorable one. During the evening I saw Mr. Dowdell
across the hall, scanning the performers with an enigmatical expression.
At that time Gottschalk’s popularity was at its height. Every concert
programme contained, and every ambitious amateur included in her
repertory, the young composer’s “Last Hope.” At his appearance,
therefore, slender, agile and Gallic to a degree, enthusiasm ran so high
that we forgot to hunt up our friend in the short interval between each
brilliant number.

When Mr. Dowdell appeared at the breakfast table the following morning,
I asked him how he had enjoyed the evening. The Congressman’s response
came less enthusiastically than I had hoped.

“Well,” he began, drawing his words out slowly and a bit quizzically, “I
went out and got my ticket; did the right thing and got a seat as near
Harriet Lane’s box as I could; even invested in new white gloves, so I
felt all right; but I can’t say the music struck me exactly! Mr.
Gottschalk played mighty pretty; hopped up on the black keys and then
down on the white ones” (and the Congressman illustrated by spanning the
table rapidly in a most ludicrous manner). “He played slow and then
fast, and never seemed to get his hands tangled up once. But for all
that I can’t say I was struck by his music! He played mighty pretty, but
he didn’t play nary _tchune_!”

Two interesting members of our “mess” were General and Mrs. Chestnut.
The General, a member from South Carolina, who became afterward one of
the staff of Jefferson Davis, was among the princes in wealth in the
South in the fifties. Approximately one thousand slaves owned by him
were manumitted by Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863, when, childless,
property-less, our well-loved Mrs. Chestnut suffered a terrible eclipse
after her brilliant youth and middle age. She was the only daughter of
Governor Miller, of South Carolina, and having been educated abroad, was
an accomplished linguist and ranked high among the cultured women of the

Moreover, Mrs. Chestnut was continually the recipient of toilette
elegancies, for which the bazaars of Paris were ransacked, and in this
way the curiosity of the emulative stay-at-home fashionables was
constantly piqued. Her part in that brilliant world was not a small one,
for, in addition to her superior personal charms, Mrs. Chestnut
chaperoned the lovely Preston girls of South Carolina, belles, all, and
the fashionable Miss Stevens, of Stevens Castle, who married Muscoe
Garnett of Virginia. Indeed, the zest for social pleasures among our
circle was often increased by the coming of guests from other cities.
Among others whom I particularly recall was my cousin Miss Collier,
daughter of Governor Collier of Alabama, and who married the nephew of
William Rufus King, Vice-President of the United States under Mr.
Pierce; and our cousins Loula Comer, Hattie Withers, and Miss Hilliard.
The latter’s wedding with Mr. Hamilton Glentworth of New York was one of
the social events of the winter of 1859.

Nor should I forget to mention the presence, at the Ebbitt House and at
Brown’s Hotel, of another much admired South Carolinian, Mrs. General
McQueen, who was a Miss Pickens, of the famous family of that name. My
remembrance of Mrs. McQueen is always associated with that of the sudden
death of Preston Brooks, our neighbour at Brown’s Hotel. At the time of
this fatality, Dr. May, the eminent surgeon, was in the building in
attendance upon Mrs. McQueen’s little boy, who was suffering from some
throat trouble.

Mr. Brooks had been indisposed for several days, and, being absent from
his seat in the House, it was the custom for one or the other of his
confrères to drop into his room each afternoon, to give him news of the
proceedings. On that fatal day, Colonel Orr (“Larry,” as his friends
affectionately designated him) had called upon the invalid and was in
the midst of narrating the day’s doings, when Mr. Brooks clutched
suddenly at his throat and cried out huskily, “Air! Orr, air!”

Mr. Orr hastily threw open the window and began to fan the sufferer, but
became bewildered at the alarming continuation of his struggles. Had the
Congressman but known it, even as he tried to relieve his friend, Dr.
May passed the door of Mr. Brooks’s room, on his way out of the house,
his surgical case in hand; but the suddenness of the attack, and a total
absence of suspicion as to its gravity, coupled with the swiftness with
which it acted, confused the watcher, and, ere assistance could be
obtained, the handsome young Southern member had passed away!

Congressman Orr, as has been said, was one of our original “mess” in the
capital. From the first he was a conspicuous figure, nature having made
him so. He was of gigantic stature, weighing then somewhat over two
hundred pounds. His voice was of bugle-like clearness, and when, in
1857, he became speaker of the House of Representatives, it was a source
of remark how wonderfully his words penetrated to the farthermost corner
of the hall. He was extremely tender-hearted and devoted to his family,
around the members of which his affections were closely bound.

Just previous to our arrival in the capital, Mr. Orr had lost a little
daughter, and often, ere he brought his family to the Federal City, in a
quiet hour he would come to our parlours and ask me to sing to him. He
dearly loved simple ballads, his favourite song being “Lilly Dale,” the
singing of which invariably stirred him greatly. Often I have turned
from the piano to find his eyes gushing with tears at the memories that
pathetic old-fashioned ditty had awakened. Mr. Orr was a famous
flatterer, too, who ranked my simple singing as greater than that of the
piquant Patti; and I question the success of any one who would have
debated with him the respective merits of that great _artiste_ and my
modest self.

When Mr. Orr became Speaker of the House, Mrs. Orr and his children
having joined him, the family resided in the famous Stockton Mansion for
a season or two. Here brilliant receptions were held, and Mrs. Orr, a
_distinguée_ woman, made her entrée into Washington society, often being
assisted in receiving by the members of the mess of which, for so long,
Mr. Orr had formed a part. Mrs. Orr was tall and lithe in figure, of a
Spanish type of face. She soon became a great favourite in the capital,
where one daughter, now a widow, Mrs. Earle, still lives.

It was at the Stockton Mansion that Daniel E. and Mrs. Sickles lived
when the tragedy of which they formed two of the principals took place.
Here, too, was run the American career of another much-talked-of lady,
which, for meteoric brilliancy and brevity, perhaps outshines any other
episode in the chronicles of social life in Washington.

The lady’s husband was a statesman of prominence, celebrated for his
scholarly tastes and the fineness of his mental qualities. The arrival
of the lady, after a marked absence abroad, during which some curious
gossip had reached American ears, was attended by great _éclat_; and not
a little conjecture was current as to how she would be received. For her
home-coming, however, the Stockton Mansion was fitted up in hitherto
undreamed-of magnificence, works of art and of _vertu_, which were the
envy of local connoisseurs, being imported to grace it, regardless of
cost. So far, so good!

The report of these domiciliary wonders left no doubt but that
entertaining on a large scale was being projected. The world was slow in
declaring its intentions in its own behalf; for, notwithstanding her
rumoured delinquencies, the lady’s husband was high in the councils of
the nation, and as such was a figure of dignity. Shortly after her
arrival our “mess” held a conclave, in which we discussed the propriety
of calling upon the new-comer, but a conclusion seeming impossible
(opinions being so widely divergent), it was decided to submit the
important question to our husbands.

This was done duly, and Senator Clay’s counsel to me was coincided in

“By all means, call,” said he. “You have nothing to do with the lady’s
private life, and, as a mark of esteem to a statesman of her husband’s
prominence, it will be better to call.”

Upon a certain day, therefore, it was agreed that we should pay a “mess”
call, going in a body. We drove accordingly, in dignity and in state,
and, truth to tell, in soberness and ceremony, to the mansion
aforenamed. It was the lady’s reception day. We entered the drawing-room
with great circumspection, tempering our usually cordial manner with a
fine prudence; we paid our devoirs to the hostess and retired. But now a
curious retribution overtook us, social faint-hearts that we were; for,
though we heard much gossip of the regality and originality of one or
more dinners given to the several diplomatic corps (the lady especially
affected the French Legation), I never heard of a gathering of
Washingtonians at her home, nor of invitations extended to them, nor,
indeed, anything more of her until two months had flown. Then,
Arab-like, the lady rose in the night, “silently folded her tent and
stole away” (to meet a handsome German officer, it was said), leaving
our calls unanswered, save by the sending of her card, and her silver
and china and crystal, her paintings, and hangings, and furniture to be
auctioned off to the highest bidder!

Everyone in Washington now thronged to see the beautiful things, and
many purchased specimens from among them, among others Mrs. Davis. By a
curious turn of fate, the majority of these treasures were acquired by
Mrs. Senator Yulee, who was so devoutly religious that her piety caused
her friends to speak of her as “the Madonna of the Wickliffe sisters!”
The superb furniture of the whilom hostess was carried to “Homosassa,”
the romantic home of the Yulees in Florida, where in later years it was
reduced to ashes.

Of the Wickliffe sisters there were three, all notably good as well as
handsome women, with whom I enjoyed a life-time friendship. One became
the wife of Judge Merrick, and another, who dearly loved Senator Clay
and me, married Joseph Holt, who rose high in Federal honours after the
breaking out of the war, having sold his Southern birthright for a mess
of Northern pottage.

For several years before her death, Mrs. Holt was an invalid and a
recluse, yet she was no inconspicuous figure in Washington, where the
beauty of the “three graces” (as the sisters of Governor Wickliffe were
always designated) was long a criterion by which other belles were
judged. Mrs. Mallory, the wife of Senator Yulee’s confrère from Florida,
was particularly a favourite in the capital. The Mallorys were the
owners of great orange groves in that lovely State, and were wont from
time to time to distribute among their friends boxes of choicest fruit.

Of our “mess,” Congressman and Mrs. Curry were least frequently to be
met with in social gatherings. Mrs. Curry, who was a Miss Bowie, devoted
her time wholly to her children, apparently feeling no interest in the
gay world about her, being as gentle and retiring as her doughty
relative (the inventor of the Bowie knife) was warlike. Mr. Curry was an
uncommonly handsome man, who, in the fifties and early sixties, was an
ambitious and strenuous politician. He died early in 1903, full of years
and honours, while still acting as the General Agent of the Peabody

Nor should I fail to recall the lovely Mrs. Clopton, wife of one of
Senator Clay’s most trusted friends, Congressman David Clopton. She
joined our “mess” late in the fifties, and at once added to its fame by
her charm and beauty. She was a sister of Governor Ligon of Alabama. One
of her daughters married the poet, Clifford Lanier, and another became
the wife of Judge William L. Chambers, who for several exciting years
represented our Government at Samoa.

But my oldest and dearest mess-mate during nearly a decade in the
capital was, as I have said elsewhere, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, whose husband,
Senator Benjamin Fitzpatrick, was President of the Senate for four
consecutive sessions. Senator Fitzpatrick was very many years older than
his wife, having, indeed, held office in 1818, when Alabama was a
territory, and when few of his Alabamian associates in Congress had been
ushered upon the stage of life. Between Mrs. Fitzpatrick and me there
was an undeviating attachment which was a source of wonder, as it
doubtless was rare, among women in fashionable life. As confrères in the
Senate, our husbands, despite the disparity in their years, were fully
in accord; and a more congenial quartette it would have been hard to

I think of all the harmonious couples I have known, Senator and Mrs.
Fitzpatrick easily led, though near to them I must place General and
Mrs. McQueen. It was a standing topic in Brown’s Hotel, the devotion of
the two middle-aged gentlemen—Messrs. Fitzpatrick and McQueen—to their
young wives and to their boys, _enfants terribles_, both of them of a
most emphatic type. “The Heavenly Twins” as a title had not yet been
evolved, or these two young autocrats of the hostelry would surely have
won it from the sarcastic.

Benny Fitzpatrick was at once the idol of his parents and the terror of
the hotel; and, as Mrs. Fitzpatrick and I were cordially united in other
interests of life, so we shared the maternal duties as became two
devoted sisters, “Our boy Benny” receiving the motherly oversight of
whichsoever of us happened to be near him when occasion arose for aid or
admonition. “Mrs. Fitz” delivered her rebukes with “Oh, Benny dear! How
could you!” but I, his foster-mother, was constrained to resort betimes
to a certain old-fashioned punishment usually administered with the
broadside of a slipper, or, what shortly became as efficacious, a threat
to do so.

Benny, like George Washington, was the possessor of a little hatchet,
with which he worked a dreadful havoc. He chopped at the rosewood
furniture of his mother’s drawing-room, while his proud parents, amazed
at his precocity, not to say prowess, stood by awestruck, and—paid the
bill! The child was plump and healthy, and boys will be boys! Thus were
we all become his subjects; thus he overran Hannah, his coloured nurse,
until one day Pat came—, Pat Dolan.

Pat had been a page at the Senate, and in some forgotten way he and
little Benny had become inseparable friends. Thereafter, Benny was taken
by his fond guardian, into whose hands his three anxious parents
consented to consign him, to see the varying sights and the various
quarters of the city. As his experiences multiplied, so his reputation
for precocity increased in exact ratio.

One day Hannah’s excitement ran high. “Lor! Miss ’Relia,” she burst out
impetuously to Mrs. Fitzpatrick, “Pat Dolan done carried Benny to the
Cath’lic church an’ got him sprinkled, ’n den he brung him to communion,
an’ first thing Pat knowed, Benny he drunk up all the holy water an’ eat
up the whole wafer!”

                               CHAPTER IV

Writing to my father-in-law, ex-Governor Clay, on Christmas night, 1856,
of the deep inward excitement of the times, I said: “We feel a little as
Fanny Fern says Eugénie felt when she espoused Louis Napoleon, as if we
are ‘dancing over a powder magazine!’ Everything is excitement and
confusion. I tell you Fusion reigns in truth, and Southern blood is at
boiling temperature all over the city, and with good cause, too. Old
Giddings, Thurlow Weed, Sumner, Seward, Chase (who is here for a few
days prior to his inauguration[3]) are daily taunting and insulting all
whom they dare. There is no more prospect of a Speaker now than there
was at first; indeed, less, and our men have despaired of Christmas
holidays at home. Desertion of their post would mean death to their
party and themselves, and they know and appreciate it, and, so far,
stand firm as a Roman phalanx. Should there prove one deserter, the
‘game is up,’ for there is a Black Republican at every corner of our
political fence, and if ever the gap is down we are gone. I wish you
could be here to witness the scenes daily enacted in the halls of
Congress, to hear the hot taunts of defiance hurled into the very teeth
of the Northerners by our goaded but spirited patriots. I expect any day
to hear of bloodshed and death, and would not be surprised at any time
to witness (repeated here) the Civil War of Kansas! We still hope for
Orr, though _he_ is not sanguine. The President still holds his message,
fearing to give it to the press, and it is thought it will go to
Congress in manuscript. He, poor fellow, is worn and weary, and his wife
in extremely delicate health.”

President Pierce was, in fact, a very harassed man, as none knew better
than did Senator Clay. My husband’s friendship was unwearying toward all
to whom his reserved nature yielded it, and his devotion to Mr. Pierce
was unswerving. Though twelve years the President’s junior, from the
first my husband was known as one of the President’s counsellors, and
none of those who surrounded the Nation’s executive head more sacredly
preserved his confidence. Senator Clay believed unequivocally that our
President was “not in the roll of common men.”

Bold and dauntless where a principle was involved, Mr. Pierce’s message
of ’5 fell like a bombshell on the Black Republican party. Its bold
pro-slaveryism startled even his friends; for, never had a predecessor,
while in the Executive Chair, talked so strongly or so harshly to
sectionalists and fanatics. To this stand, so bravely taken, his defeat
at the next Presidential election was doubtless at least partially
attributable. Meantime, the South owed him much, and none of its
representatives was more staunchly devoted to President Pierce than was
the Senator from northern Alabama. How fully Mr. Pierce relied upon
Senator Clay’s discretion may be illustrated by an incident which lives
still very vividly in my memory.

My husband and I were seated one evening before a blazing fire in our
parlour at the Ebbitt House, in the first enjoyment of an evening at
home (a rare luxury to public folk in the capital), when we heard a low
and unusual knock at the door. My trim maid, Emily, hastened to open it,
when there entered hastily a tall figure, wrapped in a long storm-cloak
on which the snow-flakes still lay thickly. The new-comer was muffled to
the eyes. He glanced quickly about the rooms, making a motion to us, as
he did so, to remain silent. My husband rose inquiringly, failing, as
did I, to recognise our mysterious visitor. In a second more, however,
perceiving that we were alone, he threw off his outer coat and soft hat,
when, to our astonishment, our unceremonious and unexpected guest stood
revealed as the President!

“Lock that door, Clay!” he said, almost pathetically, “and don’t let a
soul know I’m here!” Then, turning, he handed me a small package which
he had carried under his coat.

“For you, Mrs. Clay,” he said. “It is my picture. I hope you will care
to take it with you to Alabama, and sometimes remember me!”

I thanked him delightedly as I untied the package and saw within a
handsome photograph superbly framed. Then, as he wearily sat down before
our crackling fire, I hastened to assist Emily in her preparation of a
friendly egg-nog.

“Ah, my dear friends!” said Mr. Pierce, leaning forward in his arm-chair
and warming his hands as he spoke; “I am so tired of the shackles of
Presidential life that I can scarcely endure it! I long for quiet—for—”
and he looked around our restful parlours—“for this! Oh! for relaxation
and privacy once more, and a chance for home!”

His voice and every action betrayed the weary man. We were deeply moved,
and my husband uttered such sympathetic words as only a wise man may.
The egg-nog prepared, I soon had the pleasure of seeing the President
and Mr. Clay in all the comfort of a friendly chat. Primarily, the
object of his visit was to discuss an affair of national moment which
was to be brought before the Senate the next day; but the outlook of the
times which also fell naturally under discussion formed no small part in
the topics thus intimately scanned. Both were men to whom the horrid
sounds of coming combat were audible, and both were patriots seeking how
they might do their part to avert it. It was midnight ere Mr. Pierce
rose to go. Then, fortified by another of Emily’s incomparable egg-nogs,
he was again, incognito, on his way to the White House.



  President of the United States, 1853–57

My remembrances of that secret visit have ever remained most keen.
Often, when I think of the lonely grave on the quiet hillside at
Concord, I recall the night when weariness of body and State formalities
impelled the President to our cozy fireside, though he beat his way to
it through snow and winds, stealing from the trammels of his position
for the mere pleasure of walking the streets unimpeded and free as any
other citizen.

President Pierce entered the White House in 1853, full as a youth of
leaping life. A year before his inauguration I had seen him bound up the
stairs with the elasticity and lightness of a schoolboy. He went out
after four years a staid and grave man, on whom the stamp of care and
illness was ineradicably impressed.

I often contrasted the pale, worn, haggard man whose “wine of life was
drawn, and the mere lees left i’ the vault,” ere his term (so coveted by
many) was spent, with the buoyant person I first met on the breezy New
Hampshire hills!

Especially a lovable man in his private character, President Pierce was
a man of whom our nation might well be proud to have at its head. Graced
with an unusually fine presence, he was most courtly and polished in
manner. Fair rather than dark, of graceful carriage,[4] he was also an
eloquent speaker, and, though reserved to a degree, was very winning in
manner. He was still in middle life when elected to the Presidency,
being less than forty-nine years of age when inaugurated.

Taken all in all, the Cabinet circle formed by Mr. Pierce was one of the
most interesting bodies that has ever surrounded an American Chief
Magistrate. Selected wisely, the ministerial body remained unchanged
throughout the entire Administration, and this at a time of unceasing
and general contention. But three such instances are recorded in the
histories of the twenty-six Presidents of the United States, the others
occurring in the terms of J. Q. Adams and James A. Garfield. The tie
which bound President Pierce and his Cabinet so inalienably was one of
mutual confidence and personal friendship. Perhaps the closest ally of
the President’s was his Secretary of State, William L. Marcy. That great
Secretary was a man whose unusual poise and uniform complacency were
often as much a source of envy to his friends as of confusion to his
enemies. I commented upon it to my husband on one occasion, wondering
interrogatively at his composure, whereupon Senator Clay told me the
following story:

Some one as curious as I once asked the Secretary how he preserved his
unvarying calmness. “Well,” he answered, confidentially, “I’ll tell you,
I have given my secretary orders that whenever he sees an article
eulogistic of me, praising my ‘astuteness,’ my ‘far-seeing diplomacy,’
my ‘incomparable statesmanship,’ etc., he is to cut it out and place it
conspicuously on my desk where I can see it first thing in the morning;
everything to the contrary he is to cut out and up and consign to the
waste-basket. By this means, hearing nothing but good of myself, I have
come naturally to regard myself as a pretty good fellow! Who wouldn’t be
serene under such circumstances?”



  of New York

To add to his contentment thus philosophically assured, the Secretary’s
home surroundings were peculiarly satisfactory to him. Mrs. Marcy was a
demure and retiring woman, taking little part in the gayer happenings of
the city, but on Cabinet days her welcome was always diplomatically
cordial and her full parlours gave evidence of her personal popularity.
A charming member of her family, Nellie, daughter of General R. B.
Marcy, became the wife of General McClellan, whose son, named for that
military hero, at this writing is Mayor of America’s metropolis. Between
President and Mrs. Pierce and Secretary and Mrs. Marcy a firm friendship
existed. It was to the home of the Secretary that President and Mrs.
Pierce retired while the White House was being rehabilitated for the
occupancy of Mr. Buchanan, who had just returned from his residence
abroad, where, as Mr. Pierce’s appointee, he served as Minister to the
Court of St. James.

On the day of Mr. Buchanan’s inauguration a curious oversight occurred
which demonstrated in marked manner how eagerly a populace hastens to
shout “The king is dead! Long live the King!” The procession of
carriages had already formed and the moment for beginning the march to
the Capitol had almost arrived ere it was observed that the vehicle set
apart for President Pierce was unoccupied. Inquiry was hastily
instituted, when it was discovered that, owing to some omission on the
part of the Master of Ceremonies, his Excellency had not been sent for!
The horses’ heads were turned in a trice, and they were driven furiously
to the Marcy residence, where the quiet gentleman who was still the
President of the United States awaited them.

Late in the afternoon my husband called upon Mr. Pierce, and, during the
conversation that followed, Mr. Clay referred indignantly to the
unfortunate affair.

“Ah, Clay!” said Mr. Pierce, smiling quietly. “Have you lived so long
without knowing that all the homage is given to the rising sun, never to
the setting, however resplendent its noonday?”

Of Secretaries Campbell and McClelland, the gay, and especially the
Southern world, saw but little; nor did Caleb Cushing, the
Attorney-General, for whom every Southerner must ever feel a thrill of
admiration for his spirited speech on their behalf in Faneuil Hall,
mingle much with the lighter element. He was a silent man, a bachelor,
who entertained not at all, though paying dutifully such formal calls as
seemed obligatory; and Senator Clay, whose delicate health and naturally
studious mind made continual attendance upon society an onerous and
often shirked duty, had much in common with and greatly esteemed Mr.
Cushing, at that time regarded as one of the most earnest statesmen in
the capital.

In later life, one who had been a conspicuous Senator from Mississippi
in ante-bellum days, appraised him differently, for in 1872 he wrote to
my husband in this wise: “I had no confidence in Cushing beyond that of
a follower to a quicker intellect and a braver heart. He could
appreciate the gallantry and fidelity of Pierce, so he followed him.
Like the chameleon, he was green, or blue, or brown, according to what
he rested upon.”

An affable young man, Mr. Spofford, member of Mr. Cushing’s household,
and serving as that gentleman’s secretary, was no inconsiderable figure
in Washington. He became a great favourite in all the notable
drawing-rooms, especially with young ladies, and the names of a
half-dozen belles were given who had fallen in love with him; but he
remained invulnerable to the flashing eyes and bright spirits about him,
and married a clever authoress, whose writings, as Harriet Prescott
Spofford, have become familiar to a large class of American readers.

My personal favourite of all the Cabinet Ministers was the Secretary of
the Navy, J. C. Dobbin. He was a North Carolinian, and the children of
my native State were always dear to me. Being a widower, Mr. Dobbin’s
home was also closed from formal entertainment, but the Secretary was
seen now and then in society, where he was much sought after (though not
always found) by the leading hostesses, whenever he consented to mingle
with it. In his parlours, which now and then he opened to his most
favoured friends, he kept on exhibition for years, sealed under a glass
case, the suit in which Dr. Kane, the Arctic explorer, had lived during
his sojourn among the icy seas.

Secretary Dobbin was a small man; in truth, a duodecimo edition of his
sex, and exquisitely presented—a fact which was as freely yielded by his
confrères as by his gentler admirers. A man of conspicuous
intellectuality and firmness in the administration of his department,
his heart was also very tender. Of this he once gave me an especially
treasured demonstration.

My friend, Emily Spicer, wife of Lieutenant William F. Spicer, afterward
Commander of the Boston Navy Yard, at a very critical time, was suddenly
obliged, by the exigencies of the Naval Service, to see her husband
prepare for what promised to be a long, and, it might prove, a final
separation. Tenderly attached to each other, the young husband at last
literally tore himself from his wife, leaving her in an unconscious
state, from which she did not recover for many hours. Grave fears were
entertained as to the disastrous effect the parting would have upon the
young matron.

Having witnessed the sad scene, I went at once to Secretary Dobbin and
told him of it. His eyes lighted up most sympathetically, even while he
explained to me the necessity for adhering strictly to the rules of the
Service, but, even as he marshalled the obstacles to my plea, by
intuition I knew his heart was stirred, and when I parted from him, he
said, “Comfort her, dear Mrs. Clay, with this assurance: If Spicer is on
the high seas he shall be ordered home; if he has arrived in Italy” (for
which coast the Lieutenant’s ship was booked) “he shall remain there and
his wife may join him.” I went away grateful for his sympathy for my
stricken friend, and hastened to soothe her.

The Secretary kept his word. In a few passing weeks the young couple
were reunited on the coast of Italy. “God bless you, my dear Madame,”
wrote Lieutenant Spicer, thereupon. “I am forever thankfully yours!” And
they kept a promise I had exacted, and named the baby, which proved to
be a boy, after my dear husband! Long after his distinguished namesake
had vanished from the world’s stage, a bearded man of thirty came across
the ocean and a continent to greet me, his “second mother,” as he had
been taught to think of me by my grateful friend, his mother, Mrs.

Once more I called upon Secretary Dobbin, on behalf of a young naval
officer, but this time with a less pathetic request. Our young friend
Lieutenant ——, having returned from a long cruise (which, while it
lasted, had seemed to be all but unbearable because of its many social
deprivations), upon his arrival was so swiftly enthralled by the
attractions of a certain young lady (who shall be as nameless as is he)
that in his augmenting fervour he proposed to her at once.

The lady accepted. She was very young, very beautiful, very romantic,
and, alas! very poor! He was scarcely older, fully as romantic, and
also, alas! was, if anything, poorer than she—a fact of which his
swashing and naval display of gold-plated buttons and braid gave no

The romance lasted about two weeks, with waning enthusiasm on the
youth’s side, when, in great distress, he came to see me. He made a
clean breast of the dilemma into which he had plunged.

“I beg you will rescue me, Mrs. Clay,” he said. “Get me transferred, or
sent out anywhere! I’ve made a fool of myself. I can’t marry her,” he
declared. “I haven’t income enough to buy my own clothes, and, as for
providing for a girl of her tastes, I don’t know whether I shall ever be
able to do so.”

“But,” I remonstrated, “how can I help you? You’ve only just returned,
and in the ordinary course of events you would remain on shore at least
six weeks. That isn’t long. Try to bear it a while!”

“Long enough for a marriage in naval life,” he declared, ruefully. “And
I can’t break it off without your assistance. Help me, Mrs. Clay! If you
don’t—” He looked sheepish, but dogged. “I’ll do what the Irishman did
in Charleston!”

“What was that?” I asked.

“Well! he was in exactly the same pickle I am in, so he hired a man and
a wheel-barrow, and lying down, face up in it, had himself rolled past
the lady’s house at a time when he knew she was at home. Then, as the
barrow arrived at this point, he had his man stop for a few moments to
wipe the sweat of honest toil from his forehead, and, incidentally, to
give the lookers-on an opportunity for complete identification.... Only
difficulty with that is, how would it affect me in the service?” And the
Lieutenant became dubious and I thoughtful.

“If I knew on what grounds to approach Secretary Dobbin,” I began.

“There aren’t any,” the Lieutenant answered eagerly. “But there are two
ships just fitting out, and lots of men on them would be glad to get off
from a three-years’ cruise. I would ship for six years, nine—anything
that would get me out of this fix!”

On this desperate statement I applied to the Secretary. Within ten days
my gallant “friend” was on the sea, and one of Washington’s beautiful
maidens in tears. Glancing over my letters, I see that at the end of ten
years the young Naval officer was still unwed, though not altogether
scarless as to intervening love affairs; but the lady was now the happy
wife of a member of one of the oldest and wealthiest families in the
United States!

Secretary Dobbin was my escort on my first (a most memorable) visit to
Fort Monroe. The occasion was a brilliant one, for the President and his
Cabinet had come in a body to review the troops. Jefferson Davis, then
Secretary of War, and but recently the hero of the battle of Buena
Vista, directed the manœuvres, his spirited figure, superb horsemanship,
and warlike bearing attracting general attention. An entire day was
given up to this holiday-making, and the scene was one of splendid
excitement. At night the Fort and the waters beyond were lit up by a
pyrotechnic display of great gorgeousness, and enthusiasm rose to its
highest when, amid the booming of cannon and the plaudits of happy
people, an especially ingenious device blazed across the night sky the
names of Franklin Pierce and Jefferson Davis!

Always a man of distinguished appearance, Secretary Davis at that time
was exceedingly slender, but his step was springy, and he carried
himself with such an air of conscious strength and ease and purpose as
often to cause a stranger to turn and look at him. His voice was very
rich and sonorous, his enunciation most pleasing. In public speech he
was eloquent and magnetic, but, curiously enough, he was a poor reader,
often “mouthing” his phrases in a way that would have aroused Hamlet’s
scorn. Though spoken of as cold and haughty, in private his friends
found him refreshingly informal and frank. From their first meeting,
Secretary Davis was the intimate friend of my husband, whose loyalty to
Mr. Davis in the momentous closing days of the Confederacy reacted so
unfortunately upon his own liberty and welfare.

Neither the Secretary of War nor his wife appeared frequently in society
in the earlier days of his appointment, the attention of Mr. Davis being
concentrated upon the duties of his office, and a young family engaging
that of his wife. I have heard it said that so wonderful was Mr. Davis’s
oversight of the Department of War while under his charge, that it would
have been impossible for the Government to have been cheated out of the
value of a brass button! So proud was his adopted State of him, that at
the close of Mr. Pierce’s administration, Mississippi promptly returned
Mr. Davis to Washington as Senator. Almost immediately thereafter he
became the victim of a serious illness, which lasted many weeks, and a
complication of troubles set in which culminated in the loss of sight in
one eye. During that period my husband gave up many nights to the
nursing of the invalid, who was tortured by neuralgic pains and nervous
tension. Senator Clay’s solicitude for Mr. Davis was ever of the
deepest, as his efforts to sustain and defend him to the last were of
the most unselfish.

Aaron V. Brown, who became Postmaster-General in 1857, was at once one
of the kindest-hearted and simplest of men, loving his home and being
especially indifferent to all things that savoured of the merely
fashionable and superficial. He occupied a house which by long
association with distinguished people had become prominently known. Not
infrequently the Brown residence was alluded to as the “Cabinet
Mansion.” Here, among other celebrities, had lived Attorney-General
Wirt, and in it Mrs. Wirt had compiled the first “Flora’s Dictionary.”
The hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Brown, being boundless, served to
accentuate its reputation, for, unlike her husband, Mrs. Brown was
socially most industrious, and, being exceedingly well-to-do, was full
of enterprise in the invention of novel surprises for her guests. Mrs.
Brown, who was the sister of the afterward distinguished Major-General
Pillow, of the Confederate Army, was the first hostess in Washington, I
think, to introduce orchestral music at dinner, and her daughter,
Narcissa Sanders, with as pronounced a spirit of innovation,[5] sent out
enormous cards of invitation in her own name, inviting the distinguished
folk of the capital to the house of the Postmaster-General to

I remember a dinner at this luxurious home of Mr. Brown, at which my
host, who took me in, amused me immensely at the expense of the
elaborate feast before us, and at some of his wife’s kindly, if costly,
foibles. Behind a barrier of plants a band played softly; around us were
the obsequious waiters from Gautier’s.

“All from Gautier’s!” sighed the Postmaster-General, in mock despair.
“My wife’s napery is the best to be had, but she will have Gautier’s!
Our silver is—certainly not the plainest in the city, but Mrs. Brown
must have Gautier’s! We have an incomparable _chef_, but nothing will
please my wife but these”; and he scanned the mysterious _menu_ with its
tier after tier of unknown French names. Then he turned suddenly and
asked me, pointing to a line, “My child, what’s this? Don’t know, eh?
Well, neither do I, but let’s try it, anyway. I don’t suppose it will
kill us,” and so on, the good old gentleman keeping me in a continual
bubble of smothered laughter to the end of the dinner.

A member of Mr. Pierce’s Cabinet, whose house was as conspicuous for its
large and lavish entertaining as was Mr. Brown’s, was the Secretary of
the Treasury, Guthrie, the wealthy Kentuckian. Mr. Guthrie was no
society lover (it was a time when statesmen had need to be absorbed in
weightier things), but he entertained, I always thought, as a part of
his public duty. His was a big, square-shouldered and angular figure,
and his appearance, it was obvious, at receptions was perfunctory rather
than a pleasure. A widower, his home was presided over by his two
daughters, Mrs. Polk and Mrs. Coke, both also widowed. I often thought
Secretary Guthrie’s capacious ballroom suggestive, in its proportions,
of a public hall.

Here, one evening, I had my never-to-be-forgotten _rencontre_ with
Chevalier Bertinatti, the Sardinian Minister. Dear old Bertinatti! In
all the diplomatic circle of the Pierce and Buchanan administrations
there was not to be found a personage at once more dignified and genial.
Serious, yet enthusiastic, his naturally kind heart adding warmth to the
gallantry for which foreigners are famous, the Chevalier was a typical
ambassador of the Latin people. He was a learned man, especially in
matters American, and knew our Constitution better than did many of our
native representatives in Washington. He encountered bravely, though not
always successfully, the difficulties of the English language, and his
defeats in this field (such is the irony of fate) have served to keep
him longer in the minds of many than have his successes.

Upon the occasion to which I have referred, a soirée was held at
Secretary Guthrie’s house, at which half the world was present. I wore
that evening a gown of foreign silk, the colour of the pomegranate
blossom, and with it a Sardinian head-dress and ornaments which had been
sent me by a Consular friend. Seeing me at some distance, the Chevalier
failed to recognise me and asked one of the hostesses, with whom he was
conversing, “Who is zat lady wis my kontree-woman’s ornaments?”

Upon learning my identity he came forward quickly and, gazing admiringly
at me, he threw himself on his knee before me (kissing my hand as he did
so, with ardent gallantry) as he exclaimed: “Madame, you are charming
wis zat head-dress like my kontree-women! Madame! I assure you, you have
conquest me behind and now you conquest me before!” and he bowed

This remarkable compliment was long remembered and recounted wherever
the name of the kind-hearted diplomat was mentioned. A great many ties
bound Monsieur Bertinatti to Washington society, not the least of which
was his marriage to Mrs. Bass of Mississippi, an admired member of the
Southern and predominating element in the capital. Her daughter, who
returned to die in her native land (she was buried from the Cathedral in
Memphis, Tennessee), became the Marquise Incisa di Camerana.

When, after decades of political strife, the crucial time of separation
came between the North and the South, and we of the South were preparing
to leave the Federal City, I could not conceal my sorrow; and tears,
ever a blessed boon to women, frequently blinded me as I bade first one
and then another of our associates what was to be a long good-bye. At
such an expression of my grief the Chevalier Bertinatti was much

“Don’t weep,” he said. “Don’t weep, my dear Mrs. Clay. You have had
sixty years of uninterrupted peace! This is but a revolution, and all
countries must suffer from them at times! Look at my poor country! I was
born in revolution, and reared in revolution, and I expect to die in
revolution!” And with this offering of philosophic consolation we

                               CHAPTER V
                         SOLONS OF THE CAPITAL

The classes of Washington society in the fifties were peculiarly
distinct. They were not unlike its topography, which is made up of many
small circles and triangles, into each of which run tributary streets
and avenues. In the social life, each division in the Congressional body
was as a magnetic circle, attracting to itself by way of defined radii
those whose tastes or political interests were in sympathy with it. Not
less prominent than the Cabinet circle (outranking it, in fact), and
fully as interesting by reason of its undisguised preference for things
solid, scientific and intellectual, was the Judiciary or Supreme Court
set. The several Justices that composed this august body, together with
their wives and daughters, formed a charmed circle into which the merely
light-minded would scarcely have ventured. Here one met the wittiest and
the weightiest minds of the capital, and here, perhaps more than in any
other coterie, the new-comer was impressed with what Messrs. Nicolay and
Hay describe as “the singular charm of Washington life.” In the Supreme
Court circle, the conditions attending Congressional life in those
strenuous times forced themselves less boldly upon one. Here one
discussed philosophies, inventions, history, perhaps, and the arts;
seldom the fashions, and as seldom the _on dits_.

The Nestor of that circle in the fifties was quaint old Roger B. Taney
(pronounced Tawney), who, after various political disappointments,
including a refusal by the Senate to confirm his appointment as a member
of the Cabinet, had received his appointment to the Supreme Court bench
in 1836. Upon the death of Chief Justice Marshall, Judge Taney became
the head of the Supreme Court body; thus, for more than thirty years, he
had been a prominent personage in the country’s legal circles and a
conspicuous resident in Washington. He was an extremely plain-looking
man, with frail body, which once rose tall and erect, but now was so
bent that one always thought of him as small, and with a head which made
me think of a withered nut. Swarthy of skin, but grey-haired, Judge
Taney was a veritable skeleton, “all mind and no body”; yet his opinion
settled questions that agitated the nation, and his contemporaries
agreed he was the ablest man who had ever sat upon the Supreme Court
bench. Judge Taney’s daughters, gifted and brilliant women, were seldom
seen in society, but from choice or necessity chose bread-winning
careers. They were great draughtswomen and made coloured maps, for
which, in those days of expanding territory, there was a great and
constant need.

Of Chief Justice Taney’s associates, Judges Catron and John A. Campbell
became best known to Senator Clay and myself. These, and other statesmen
equally distinguished and later to be mentioned, having been the friends
of ex-Governor (then Senator) C. C. Clay, Sr., my husband had been known
to them from the days when, as a schoolboy, he had visited his parents
in the Federal City. Mrs. Judge Catron, whom I met soon after my arrival
in Washington, was a woman of great elegance of manner and dress, and
always brought to my mind the thought of a dowager Duchess. An associate
of my husband’s mother, and a native of gay Nashville, Mrs. Catron had
been a social queen in Washington in the late thirties, and her position
of interest was still preserved in 1855.

Judge and Mrs. Campbell, being rich beyond many others, their home was
widely known for sumptuous entertaining as well as for its intellectual
atmosphere. Sharing to an extent the public favour, Judge Campbell,
Reverdy Johnson, and Robt. J. Walker were the three legal giants of
their day. Judge Campbell’s clients were among the wealthiest in the
country, and his fees were said to be enormous. Had not the war ensued,
undoubtedly he would have been appointed to the Chief Justiceship, as
was commonly predicted for him. He was a man of great penetration and
erudition, and was held in high esteem by everyone in the capital. In
1861 he cast his lot with the people of the South, among whom he was
born, and went out of the Federal City to meet whatsoever fate the
future held. Judge Campbell became the earnest adviser of Mr. Davis, and
was a Commissioner of the Confederate Government, together with
Alexander H. Stephens and R. M. T. Hunter, when the three conferred with
Mr. Seward, acting as delegate from the Northern President, Lincoln. Nor
did the ensuing years diminish the great regard of great men for our
beloved Southern scholar.[6] Writing to Judge Campbell from Washington
on December 10, 1884, Thomas F. Bayard thus reveals the exalted regard
which the former sustained to the close of a long life:

“Mr. Lamar, now Associate Judge of the Supreme Court, concurs with me,”
he wrote, “in considering it highly important that your counsel and
opinions should be freely given to Mr. Cleveland at this important
juncture, and respectfully and earnestly I trust you will concur in our
judgment in the matter. Mr. Cleveland will resign from his present
office early in January, but can easily and conveniently receive you for
the purpose suggested in the interview.”[7]

In those days of Washington’s splendour, Mrs. Campbell and her daughter
Henrietta were no less distinguished for their culture, intellectuality,
and exclusiveness. Mrs. Campbell was the first Southern woman to adopt
the English custom of designating her coloured servant as “my man.” At
the home of the Campbells one met not only the legal lights of
Washington, but scientists and travellers, as if law and the sciences
were drawn near to each other by natural selection. Professor Henry, of
the Smithsonian Institution, was a frequent visitor at this home, as was
also Professor Maury, the grand road-master of the ocean, who, by the
distribution of his buoys, made a track in the billows of the Atlantic
for the safe passing of ships.

I remember an amusing visit paid by a party from our mess to the
observatory of Professor Maury. It was an occasion of special interest.
Jupiter was displaying his brilliancy in a marvellous way. For no
particular reason, in so far as I could see, the Professor’s great
telescope seemed to require adjusting for the benefit of each of the
bevy present. I noticed Professor Maury’s eye twinkling as he went on
with this necessary (?) preliminary, asking, betimes: “What do you see?
Nothing clearly? Well, permit me!” And after several experiments he
would secure, at last, the right focus. When all of his guests had been
treated to a satisfactory view of the wonders of the sky, Professor
Maury delivered himself somewhat as follows:

“Now, ladies, whilst you have been studying the heavenly bodies, I have
been studying you!” and the quizzical expression deepened in his eye.

“Go on,” we assented.

“Well,” said the Professor, “I have a bill before Congress,” (mentioning
its nature) “and if you ladies don’t influence your husbands to vote for
it, I intend _to publish the ages of each and every one of you to the
whole of Washington_!”

Remembering the mutability of political life, it was and remains a
source of astonishment to me that in the Government circles of the
fifties were comprised so many distinguished men who had retained their
positions in the political foreground for so many years; years,
moreover, in which an expanding territory was causing the envy for
office to spread, infecting the ignorant as well as the wise, and
causing contestants to multiply in number and their passions to increase
in violence at each election.

When Senator Clay and I took up our residence in the Federal City, there
were at least a dozen great statesmen who had dwelt almost continuously
in Washington for nearly twoscore years. Writing of these to Governor
Clay, in 1858, my husband said “Mr. Buchanan looks as ruddy as ever;
General Cass as young and vigorous as in 1844, and Mr. Dickens[8]
appears as he did in 1834, when with you I was at his home at an evening
party!” Thomas Hart Benton, the great Missourian, who for seven long
years struggled against such allied competitors as Senators Henry Clay,
Calhoun, and Webster, in his fight against the Bank of the United
States, probably out-ranked all others in length of public service; but,
besides Mr. Benton, there were Chief Justice Taney and his associates,
Judges Catron, James M. Wayne, and John McLean, of Ohio; Senator
Crittenden, of Kentucky, and General George Wallace Jones—all men who
had entered political life when the century was young.

Among my pleasantest memories of Washington are the evenings spent at
the home of Mr. Benton. His household, but recently bereft of its
mistress, who had been a long-time invalid, was presided over by his
daughters, Mrs. General Frémont, Mrs. Thomas Benton Jones, and Mme.
Boileau. The last-named shared, with the Misses Bayard and Maury, a
reputation for superior elegance among the young women of the capital.
The daughters of Mr. Benton had been splendidly educated, it was said,
by their distinguished father, and they repaid his care of them by a
lifelong adoration. A handsome man in ordinary attire, the great old
author and statesman was yet a more striking figure when mounted. He
rode with a stately dignity, quite unlike the pace indulged in by some
other equestrians of that city and day; a day, it may be said in
passing, when equestrianism was common. Mr. Benton’s appearance and the
slow gait of his horse impressed me as powerful and even majestic, and
often (as I remarked to him at dinner one evening) there flashed through
my mind, as I saw him, a remembrance of Byron’s Moorish King as he rode
benignly through the streets of Granada. He seemed gratified at my

“I’m glad you approve of my pace,” he said. “I ride slowly because I do
not wish to be confounded with post-boys and messengers sent in haste
for the surgeon. They may gallop if they will, but not Senators.”

At his own table Mr. Benton was an oracle to whom everyone listened
eagerly. I have seen twenty guests held spellbound as he recited, with
thrilling realism, a history of the Clay-Randolph duel, with the details
of which he was so familiarly acquainted. I never heard him allude to
his great fight in the Senate, when, the galleries crowded with men
inimical to him, his wife and General Jones sent out for arms to protect
the fearless Senator from the onslaught which seemed impending; nor to
his nearly thirty years’ strife for the removal of the onerous Salt Tax;
but the dinners before which his guests sat down were flavoured with the
finest of Attic salt, of which he was a connoisseur, which served to
sting into increased eagerness our interest in his rich store of

Wherever Mr. Benton was seen he was a marked personage. There was
something of distinction in the very manner in which he wore his cravat,
and when he spoke, men listened instinctively. Of his daughters, Mrs.
Frémont was probably the most gifted, and Mme. Boileau the most devoted
to fashionable society. Mme. Boileau was the wife of a French attaché,
and was remarked as she drove about in the streets with a be-ribboned
spaniel upon the front seat of her calash. Many years after my
acquaintance in Washington with Mr. Benton’s family (it was during the
Cleveland Administration), I was present at a reception given by Mrs.
Endicott when I observed among the guests a very busy little woman, in
simple black apparel, whose face was familiar to me, but whom I found
myself unable to place; yet everyone seemed to know her. I heard her
address several foreigners, in each case employing the language of his
country, and, my curiosity increasing, I asked at last, “Who is that
small lady in black?”

To my surprise, she proved to be Mrs. Frémont!

I soon made my way to her. She seemed almost impatient as I said, “Mrs.
Frémont, I can never forget you, nor the charming evenings at your
father’s house, though you, I am sure, have forgotten me!” She looked at
me searchingly and then spoke, impetuously:

“Yes! yes! I remember your face perfectly, but your name—Tell me who you
are, quick. Don’t keep me waiting!” I promptly gratified her, and in the
conversation that followed, I added some reference to her father’s great
book, “Thirty Years’ View,” which, until the destruction of my home
during the Civil War, had formed two of our most valued volumes.

“Ah!” cried Mrs. Frémont. “You are a woman of penetration! I have always
said my father’s book is the Political Bible of America. I know it will
not perish!”

I have referred to General George Wallace Jones. No memory of
ante-bellum Washington and its moving personages would be complete were
he, the pet of women and the idol of men, left out. He was born in 1804,
when the Union was young; and adventure and patriotism, then sweeping
over our country, were blended in him. As a child he came out of the
young West, still a wilderness, to be educated in Kentucky. He had been
a sergeant of the body-guard of General Jackson, and to the Marquis de
la Fayette upon the latter’s last visit to the United States in 1824.
Thereafter he figured in the Black Hawk War as aid to General Dodge. His
life was a continual panorama of strange events. In the Great Indian War
he became a Major-General; then a County Judge; and appeared at the
capital as delegate from the Territory of Michigan early in 1835.
General Jones’s personal activity becoming known to the Government, he
was made Surveyor-General of the Northwest. It was about this time that
he, being on the Senate floor, sprang to the side of Mr. Benton while
the gallery hummed ominously with the angry threats of the friends of
the Bank defenders, and personal violence seemed unavoidable. I never
knew how many of the Western States were laid out by General Jones, but
they were numerous. In his work of surveying he was accompanied by young
military men, many of whom played conspicuous parts in the history of
the country, at that time but half of its present size. Among these was
Jefferson Davis, then a civil engineer.

General Jones was indefatigable in his attendance at social gatherings,
and continued to out-dance young men, even when threescore rich years
were his. He had been a great favourite with my husband’s parents during
their Congressional life, so great indeed that father’s message of
introduction spoke of him as “My son!” and his fraternal offices to us
are among the brightest memories I hold of life at the capital. The
General was a small, wiry man, renowned for his long black hair, glossy
and well-kept as was any belle’s, and which seemed even to a very late
period to defy time to change it. In society he was sprightly as a
kitten, and at seventy-five would poke his glistening black head at me,
declaring as he did so, “I’ll give you anything you ask, from a horse to
a kiss, if you can find one grey hair among the black!”

General Jones died in the West, just before the close of the nineteenth
century, but to the end he was gay and brave, and elastic in body and
mind. So indomitable was his spirit even in those closing days, that he
revived a memory of the war days in the following spirited letter
written in 1894, just after the celebration of his ninetieth birthday.
At this time he was made King of the Carnival, was complimented by the
Governor of Iowa, “the two branches of the General Assembly, and by the
Supreme Court, they, too, being Republicans and total strangers to me
save one Republican Senator and one Democratic representative from this
County,” as his gay account of the episode ran.

“I told several times,” he added, “of how you and dear Mrs. Bouligny
prevented me from killing Seward. It was the day you stopped me, as you
sat in your carriage in front of Corcoran & Riggs’s bank, and I was
about to pass you. I would certainly have killed Seward with my
sword-cane but that you stopped me. I was about to follow the Secretary
as he passed the bank door, between his son Frederick and some other
men. I would have run my sword through him and immediately have been cut
into mince-meat by the hundreds of negro guards who stood all round. Do
you recollect that fearful incident? God sent two guardian angels to
save my life. How can I feel otherwise than grateful to you for saving
me that day!”

The recalling of this pioneer-surveyor of the great Western wilderness
revives, too, the name of as notable a character in the Southwest, and
one who will always be identified with the introduction of cotton in the
Southern States, and the land-grants of the territory of Louisiana. I
never met Daniel Clarke, but very early in my married life, and some
years before I went to the capital to reside, I became acquainted with
that remarkable woman, his daughter, Mrs. Myra Clarke Gaines.

I had accompanied my husband to New Orleans, where we stopped at the St.
Charles Hotel, then two steps or more above the ground level, though it
settled, as all New Orleans buildings do sooner or later, owing to the
moist soil.

The evening of our arrival we were seated in the dining-room when my
attention was attracted by the entrance of a very unusual couple. The
man was well-advanced in years, but bore himself with a dignified and
military air that made him at once conspicuous. There was a marked
disparity between this tall, commanding soldier and the very small young
woman who hung upon his arm “like a reticule or a knitting-pocket,” as I
remarked _sotto voce_ to Mr. Clay. Her hair was bright, glistening
chestnut, her colour very fresh and rich, and her golden-hazel eyes
glowed like young suns. These orbs were singularly searching, and seemed
to gauge everyone at a glance. Mr. Clay, having already an acquaintance
with General Gaines, in a few moments I was presented to the (even then)
much-talked-of daughter of General Clarke.

Never did woman exhibit more wifely solicitude, From the beginning of
that dinner Mrs. Gaines became the General’s guardian. She arranged his
napkin, tucking it carefully into the V of his waistcoat, read the menu
and selected his food, waiting upon him as each course arrived, and
herself preparing the dressing for his salad. All was done in so
matter-of-fact and quiet a manner that the flow of General Gaines’s
discourse was not once interrupted. Though I met this interesting woman
a number of times in later years, in Washington and elsewhere, that
first picture of Mrs. Gaines, probably the bravest woman, morally, of
her time, has remained most vividly. When, as a widow, accompanied by
her daughter, Mrs. Gaines visited Washington, she was the cynosure of
all eyes in every assemblage in which she was seen. Her fearless
pleading in the Supreme Court was the theme of conversation the country
over. People thronged to see a woman whose courage was so indomitable,
and none but were surprised at the diminutive and modest heroine.

Senator Crittenden, of Kentucky, was already a Solon in the counsels of
the Nation, when, in 1841, Senator C. C. Clay, Sr., left the Senate. A
major in the army in 1812, Mr. Crittenden had made his appearance in
Congress in 1817, and thereafter continued prominent in Washington life,
as Senator or Cabinet member (in the Cabinets of Presidents Harrison and
Fillmore), so that for thirty or more years his name had been associated
with the names of our great law-makers, especially with those of the
second quarter of the century. When I met Senator Crittenden in the
middle fifties, he was a carefully preserved gentleman of courtly and
genial manners. Besides the brilliancy that attached to his long career
in Congressional life, he was distinguished as the husband of a still
charming woman, whose proud boast it was that she was perfectly happy.
This declaration alone was enough to make any woman in society
remarkable; yet, to judge from her serene and smiling appearance, Mrs.
Crittenden did not exaggerate her felicity. She was a sweet type of the
elderly fashionable woman, her face reflecting the utmost kindness, her
corsage and silvery hair gleaming with brilliants, her silken petticoats
rustling musically, and, over the lustrous folds of her rich and by no
means sombre costumes, priceless lace fell prodigally.

Nor were there lacking notes and even whole gowns of warm colour
significant of the lady’s persistent cheeriness. I remember my cousin,
Miss Comer, a débutante of seventeen at that time, remarking upon Mrs.
Crittenden’s dress one evening at a ball.

“It’s exactly like mine, cousin!” she said, not without a pout of
disappointment. And so, in truth, it was, both being of bright, cherry
corded silk, the only difference between them being that the modest
round-necked bodice of my little cousin by no means could compete with
the noble _décolleté_ of the older lady. But, in justice to the most
estimable Mrs. Crittenden, it must be added that her neck and shoulders
were superbly moulded, and, even in middle age, excited the envy of her
less fortunate sisters.

“Lady” Crittenden, as she was often called, accounted for her
contentment in this wise: “I have been married three times, and in each
alliance I have got just what I wanted. My first marriage was for love,
and it was mine as fully as I could wish; my second for money, and
Heaven was as good to me in this instance; my third was for position,
and that, too, is mine. What more could I ask?”

What more, indeed!



  of Kentucky

One met dear old Mrs. Crittenden everywhere. She was of the most social
disposition, a fact which sometimes aroused the good-natured irony of
her distinguished husband. I remember an instance in which this was
demonstrated, at the White House, which greatly amused me at the time.
It was at a dinner party, and Senator Crittenden, who boasted that he
had eaten at the White House table with every President since the days
of Monroe, assumed the _blasé_ air which everyone who knew him
recognised as a conscious affectation.

“Now there’s ‘Lady’ Crittenden,” he began, nodding in the direction of
that smiling personage, “in all the glory of a new and becoming gown,
and perfectly happy in the glamour of this.” And he waved his hand about
the room with an air of fatigue and, at the same time, a
comprehensiveness that swept in every member, grave or giddy, in the
large assemblage. “If I had my way,” and he sighed as he said it,
“nothing would give me greater pleasure than to hie me back to the wilds
of dear old Kentucky! Ah! to don my buckskins once more, shoulder a
rifle, and wander through life a free man, away from all this flummery!”

He sighed again (for the tangled woods?) as he detected a speck upon his
faultless sleeve and fastidiously brushed it off!

“Pshaw! Stuff and nonsense, Senator!” I retorted, rallying him
heartlessly. “Fancy your being condemned to that! You wouldn’t stand it
two days, unless an election were in progress and there were country
constituents to interview. Everyone knows you are as fond of fat plums
and plump capons, both real and metaphorical, as any man in the capital!
As for society being disagreeable to you, with a good dinner in view and
pretty women about you—Fie, Senator! I don’t believe you!” Whereat our
Solon laughed guiltily, like one whose pet pretense has been discovered,
and entered forthwith into the evening’s pleasures as heartily as did
his spouse, the perfectly happy “Lady” Crittenden.

                               CHAPTER VI
                        FASHIONS OF THE FIFTIES

To estimate at anything like their value ante-bellum days at the
capital, it must be borne in mind that the period was one of general
prosperity and competitive expenditure. While a life-and-death struggle
raged between political parties, and oratorical battles of ominous
import were fought daily in Senate Chamber and House, a very reckless
gaiety was everywhere apparent in social circles. Especially was this to
be observed in the predominant and hospitable Southern division in the
capital; for predominant Southern society was, as even such deliberately
partisan historians as Messrs. Nicolay and Hay admit; and, what these
gentlemen designate as “the blandishments of Southern hospitality,” lent
a charm to life in the Government circles of that day which lifted the
capital to the very apex of its social glory. Writing of these phases of
life in the capital, in a letter dated March, 1858, I said to Governor
Clay: “People are mad with rivalry and vanity. It is said that Gwin is
spending money at the rate of $75,000 a year, and Brown and Thompson
quite the same. Mrs. Thompson (of Mississippi) is a great favourite
here. Mrs. Toombs, who is sober, and has but one daughter, Sally, who is
quite a belle, says _they_ spend $1,800 per month, or $21,000 per

The four years’ war, which began in ’1, changed these social conditions.
As the result of that strife poverty spread both North and South. The
social world at Washington, which but an administration before had been
scarcely less fascinating and brilliant than the Court of Louis
Napoleon, underwent a radical change; and the White House itself, within
a month after it went into the hands of the new Black Republican party,
became degraded to a point where even Northern men recoiled at the sight
of the metamorphosed conditions.[9]

In the days of Presidents Pierce and Buchanan, Washington was a city of
statesmen, and in the foreground, relieving the solemnity of their
deliberations in that decade which preceded the Nation’s great disaster,
were fashion and mirth, beauty and wit. It was then, as the government
city of a Republic must ever be, a place of continuous novelty, of
perpetual changes, of new faces. The fashionable world comes and goes in
the Federal City with each Presidential term of four and Senatorial term
of six years, and its longer or shorter stays of the army and navy
contingent, and always it gathers its personnel from as many points as
there are States in the Union, and as many parts of the world as those
to which our diplomatic relations extend.

In the fifties, when the number of States was but two dozen, the list of
representatives gathering at the capital was proportionately smaller
than in the present day, and society was correspondingly select.
Moreover, political distinction and offices not infrequently continued
in many families through several generations, sons often succeeding
their fathers in Congress, inheriting, in some degree, their ancestors’
friends, until a social security had been established which greatly
assisted to give charm and prestige to the fashionable coteries of the
Federal centre. For example, for forty years previous to my husband’s
election to the Senate, the two branches of the Clay family had been
prominent in the life of the capital. In the late twenties, C. C. Clay,
Sr., had been active in the House, while the great Henry Clay was
stirring the country through his speeches in the Senate; in the fifties,
Mr. James B. Clay, son of the great Kentuckian, was a Congressman when
the scholarly statesmanship of Senator C. C. Clay, Jr., of Alabama, was
attracting the admiration and praise of North and South alike. It is a
pathetic coincidence that to my husband, during his sojourn in Canada,
fell the sad privilege of ministering at the death-bed of Mr. Clay, of
Kentucky, who died in that alien land without the solacing presence of
wife or children. Shortly before the end came, he presented to Senator
Clay the cane which for years had been carried by the great orator,
Henry Clay.[10]

The fashions of the times were graceful, rich and picturesque. Those of
the next decade, conspicuous for huge _chignons_, false hair, and
distorting bustles, rose like an ugly barrier between the lovely
costuming of the fifties and the dressing of to-day. A half century ago,
the beauties of the capital wore their hair _à la Grecque_, with flowers
wreathed over it, or a simple golden dagger or arrow to secure it. Their
gowns were festooned with blossoms that trailed over bodice and skirt
until not seldom they became, by reason of their graceful ornaments,
veritable Perditas. These delicate fashions continued until nearly the
end of the decade, when they were superseded by more complicated
coiffures and a general adoption of heavy materials and styles.

In 1858–’9 the hair was arranged on the top of the head in heavy braids
wound like a coronet over the head, and the coiffure was varied now and
then with a tiara of velvet and pearls, or jet or coral. Ruffled dresses
gave place to panelled skirts in which two materials, a plain and
embossed or brocaded fabric, were combined, and basques with postillion
backs became the order of the day. The low-coiled hair and brow free
from frizzes and bangs (_à l’idiote_, as our satirical friends, the
French, describe them) was the style adopted by such preëminent beauties
as Mrs. Senator Pugh, who was regarded by Baron Hulseman as without a
peer, and Mrs. Senator Pendleton, who, in Lord Napier’s opinion, had the
most classic head he had seen in America.

Low necks and lace berthas, made fashionable because of their adoption
by Miss Lane, were worn almost universally, either with open sleeves
revealing inner ones of filmy lace, or sleeves of the shortest possible
form, allowing the rounded length of a pretty arm to be seen in its
perfection. Evening gloves were half-length only, or as often reaching
only half-way to the elbow. They were of kid or silk with backs
embroidered in delicate silks, with now and then a jewel sparkling among
the colours. Jewels, indeed, were conspicuous even in men’s dressing,
and gentlemen of fashion were rare who did not have varieties of
sparkling studs and cravat-pins to add to the brightness of their
vari-coloured vests. The latter not infrequently were of richest satin
and velvet, brocaded and embroidered. They lent a desirable note of
colour, by no means inconspicuous, to the swallow-tailed evening dress
of that time, a note, by-the-bye, which was supplemented by a tie of
bright soft silk, and of ample proportions. President Buchanan was
remarkable for his undeviating choice of pure white cravats. Fashion was
not then arbitrary in the matter of gentlemen’s neckwear, and high or
low collars were worn, as best suited the taste of the individual.

To the attire of the women of the Government City in that day our home
manufacturers contributed but little. In fact, the industries of our
country yielded but a common grade of materials designed for wearing
apparel, and were altogether unequal to the demands of a capital in
which the wealthy vied with their own class in foreign cities in the
acquisition of all that goes to make up the moods and character of
fashion. Our gloves and fans and handkerchiefs, our bonnets and the
larger part of our dress accessories, as well as such beautiful gown
patterns as were purchased ready to be made up by a New York or
Washington dressmaker, were all imported directly from foreign houses,
and the services of our travelling and consular friends were in constant
requisition for the selection of fine laces, shawls, flounces,
undersleeves and the other fashionable garnitures. Scarcely a steamer
but brought to the capital dainty boxes of Parisian flowers, bonnets and
other foreign novelties, despatched by such interested deputies.

It was astonishing how astute even our bachelor representatives abroad
became in the selection of these articles for the wives of their
Senatorial indorsers in Washington. I was frequently indebted for such
friendly remembrances to my cousin, Tom Tait Tunstall, Consul at Cadiz,
and to Mrs. Leese, wife of the Consul at Spezia and sister of Rose
Kierulf and Mrs. Spicer. Thanks to the acumen of these thoughtful
friends, my laces, especially, and a velvet gown, the material of which
was woven to order at Genoa, were the particular envy of my less
fortunate “mess-mates.”

I remember with much pleasure the many courtesies of William Thomson,
Consul at Southampton, England, who was one of the many from whom the
war afterward separated us. From the time of his appointment in 1857 his
expressions of friendliness were frequent toward Miss Lane, Mrs.
Fitzpatrick, myself, and, I doubt not, toward many other fortunate ones
of the capital.

To the first named he sent a remarkable toy-terrier, so small that “it
might be put under a quart bowl,” as he wrote to me. The little stranger
was a nine-days’ curiosity at the White House, where it was exhibited to
all who were on visiting terms with Miss Lane. That I was not the
recipient of a similar midget was due to the death of “Nettle,” the
animal selected for me.

“Please ask Miss Lane,” he wrote, “to show you her terrier, and you will
be sure it is the identical ‘Nettle.’ I shall succeed in time in finding
a good specimen for you!”

But Mr. Thomson’s efforts and discrimination were by no means directed
solely toward the selection of canine rarities. In truth, he showed
himself in every way fitted to become a most satisfactory Benedick
(which I sincerely hope was his fate in the course of time), for,
besides picking up now and then odd and choice bits of quaint jewelry,
such as may please a woman’s fancy, and many an interesting legend about
which to gossip, he discovered a power of discernment in regard to the
wearing apparel of my sex, which was as refreshing in its epistolary
revelations as it was rare among his sex.

“I did think of sending you and Mrs. Fitzpatrick one of the new style
petticoats,” he wrote in March, 1858, “so novel, it seems, at the seat
of government; but, upon inquiry for the material, my bachelor wits were
quite outdone, for I could not even guess what size might suit both you
ladies! Since sending a few lines to you, I have spent a day at
Brighton, which is in my district, and I saw quite a new style and
decided improvement on the petticoat. A reversible crimson and black
striped linsey-wolsey under a white cambric skirt, with five, seven, or
nine tucks of handsome work, not less than ten or twelve inches deep.
This style of new garment is very _distingué_ to my feeble bachelor eye,
and would attract amazingly in Washington just now.”

Among the first to introduce in the capital the fashion of holding up
the skirt to show these ravishing petticoats were the lovely sisters of
Thomas F. Bayard, afterward Secretary of State and Minister to England
under President Cleveland, and the Misses Maury, daughters of the
ex-Mayor of Washington, all of whom were conspicuous for their Parisian
daintiness. None of this bevy but looked as if she might have stepped
directly from the rue St. Germain.

The bewildering description by Mr. Thomson had scarcely arrived, ere
fashion was busy evolving other petticoat novelties and adjuncts. A
quaint dress accessory at this time, and one which remained very much in
vogue for carriage, walking, and dancing dresses, consisted of several
little metal hands, which, depending from fine chains attached at the
waist, held up the skirt artistically at a sufficient height to show the
flounces beneath. The handkerchiefs of the time, which were appreciably
larger than those in use to-day, and very often of costly point-lace,
were drawn through a small ring that hung from a six-inch gold or silver
chain, on the other end of which was a circlet which just fitted over
the little finger.

I have spoken of our Washington dressmakers; how incomplete would be my
memories of the capital did I fail to mention here Mrs. Rich, the
favourite mantua-maker of those days, within whose power it lay to
transform provincial new-comers, often already over-stocked with
ill-made costumes and absurdly trimmed bonnets, into women of fashion!
Mrs. Rich was the only Reconstructionist, I think I may safely say, on
whom Southern ladies looked with unqualified approval. A
Reconstructionist? She was more; she was a physician who cured many ills
for the women of the Congressional circles, ills of a kind that could
never be reached by our favourite physician, Dr. Johnston, though he had
turned surgeon and competed in a contest of stitches; for, to the care
of the wives of our statesmen each season, came pretty heiresses from
far-off States, to see the gay Government City, under their experienced
guardianship, and to meet its celebrities. These, often mere buds of
girls, were wont to come to the capital supplied with costly brocade and
heavy velvet gowns, fit in quality for the stateliest dame; with hats
weighty with plumes that might only be worn appropriately in the helmet
of a prince or a Gainsborough duchess, and with diamonds enough to
please the heart of a matron. To strip these slim maidens of such
untoward finery, often of antediluvian, not to say outlandish, cut and
fashion, and to reapparel them in such soft fabrics as became their
youth and station, was no small or easy task for her who had undertaken
to chaperone them.

Nor were these sartorial _faux pas_ confined to the girl novices and
their far-off kind, and usually lavish parents. Many a charming matron
came to the capital as innocent of any knowledge of the demands of
fashionable life as a schoolgirl. There was the wife of a distinguished
legislator who afterward presided over an American embassy abroad, a
sweet little nun of a woman, who arrived in Washington with a wardrobe
that doubtless had caused her country neighbours many a pang of envy. It
comprised garments made of the costliest fabrics, but, alas! which had
been cut up so ridiculously by the local seamstress that the innocent
wearer’s first appearance in the gay world of the capital was the signal
for irrepressible smiles of amusement and simpers of derision from the
more heartless.

Because of a friendship between our husbands, our little nun fell into
my hands, and I promptly convoyed her to the crucible of Mrs. Rich, that
dauntless spirit, and my unfailing resource, sure of her ability to work
the necessary transmutation. Alas! as we were about to step out of our
carriage, I was startled by the appearance, above a shapely enough foot,
of a bright, yes! a brilliant indigo-blue stocking! Not even Mr.
Shillaber’s heroine from Beanville could boast a trapping more blatantly
blue! I held my breath in alarm! What if the eye of any of the more
scornful fashionables should detect its mate? I hurried my charge back
into the vehicle at once and summoned our good friend Mrs. Rich to the
door; and our errand that morning was accomplished by the aid of a trim
apprentice, who brought to our calash boxes of samples and
fashion-plates for our scanning.

Many, indeed, were the debtors to Mrs. Rich in those days, for the taste
and despatch with which she performed her incomparable miracles. And I
would not refrain from acknowledging an act of kindness at her hands in
darker days; for, when I returned to Washington in 1865 to plead with
the President for my husband’s release from Fortress Monroe, she
generously refused payment for the making of the modest dress I ordered,
declaring that she longed to serve one who had directed so many clients
to her in former days!



  of South Carolina

But there were occasions when a pressure upon the time of Mrs. Rich
necessitated the seeking of other assistance, and a hasty journey was
made to Mlle. Rountree, of Philadelphia, or even to New York, where the
fashionable dressmakers were capable of marvellous expedition in filling
one’s order completely, even to the furnishing of handkerchiefs and
hosiery and slippers to suit a special gown. I remember the arrival of
some wonderful “creations” made in the metropolis for Miss Stevens, of
Stevens Castle, who was spending the season with my “mess-mate,” Mrs.
Chestnut, and boxes of gowns as admirable, and from the same source, for
the lovely Marian Ramsey, who became Mrs. Brockholst Cutting, of New
York. Miss Ramsey, who was an especially admired belle in Washington,
was the daughter of that delightfully irascible old Admiral, who, it was
said, was such a disciplinarian that he never entered port without
having one or more of his crew in irons.

Brilliant as was the social life in Washington at this time, and
remarkable for its numbers of handsome men and lovely women, I remember
no exquisites of the Beau Brummel or Disraeli type, though there were
many who were distinguished as men of fashion, of social graces and

Foremost among the popular men of the capital were Philip Barton Key
(brother of the classic Mrs. Pendleton, Mrs. Howard of Baltimore, and of
Mrs. Blount, who attained a reputation among her contemporaries upon the
stage), Preston Brooks, and Laurence Keitt, members of Congress from
South Carolina, the last named of whom married the wealthy Miss Sparks.
For a long time previous to that alliance, Mr. Keitt and his colleague
from North Carolina, Mr. Clingman, were looked upon as rival suitors for
the hand of Miss Lane. Mr. Keitt was the friend of Preston Brooks, who
was one of the most magnetic and widely admired men in the capital. Were
half of the compliments here repeated which the name alone of Mr. Brooks
at that time elicited, they must serve to modify the disfavour into
which this spirited young legislator from South Carolina fell after his
historic assault upon Mr. Sumner in the Senate. When, a few months after
that unfortunate affair, the body of Mr. Brooks lay on view in the
Federal City, mourning for him became general, and his obsequies were
remarkable for the crowds that hastened to pay their last tribute to

I recall an amusing incident by which I offended (happily, only
momentarily) our good friends Congressman and Mrs. Keitt, owing to a
tendency I possessed to indulge in nonsense whenever furnished with the
slightest pretext for it. When the former arrived at the capital, he was
commonly addressed and alluded to as “Kitt,” a wholly unwarrantable
mispronunciation of his name, but one which had become current in the
vernacular of his State, and which, from sheer force of habit, continued
in use in the Federal City. To the retention of this nickname, however,
his bride strongly objected, and so persistently did she correct all who
misscalled the name, that the Congressman’s old friends, though publicly
conforming to the lady’s wishes, smiled in private, and among themselves
clung fondly to the old pronunciation.

This little contention was still in operation when an interesting event
took place in the Keitt household. On the evening of the happy day,
meeting Senator Hammond at dinner, he asked me casually, “What’s the

“Why! haven’t you heard?” I replied. “Kitt has a kitten!”

My poor joke, so unexpected, exploded Senator Hammond’s gravity
immediately. So well did the sally please him, that it speedily became
an _on dit_, alas! to the passing annoyance of the happy young pair.
Mrs. Keitt was one of Washington’s most admired young matrons, a
graceful hostess, and famous for her social enterprise. It was she who
introduced in the capital the fashion of sending out birth-cards to
announce the arrival of infants.

I have spoken of Barton Key. He was a widower during my acquaintance
with him, and I recall him as the handsomest man in all Washington
society. In appearance an Apollo, he was a prominent figure at all the
principal fashionable functions; a graceful dancer, he was a favourite
with every hostess of the day. Clever at repartee, a generous and
pleasing man, who was even more popular with other men than with women,
his death at the hands of Daniel E. Sickles in February, 1859, stirred
Washington to its centre.

I remember very vividly how, one Sunday morning, as I was putting the
finishing touches to my toilette for attendance at St. John’s, Senator
Clay burst into the room, his face pale and awe-stricken, exclaiming: “A
horrible, horrible thing has happened, Virginia! Sickles, who for a year
or more has forced his wife into Barton’s company, has killed Key;
killed him most brutally, while he was unarmed!”

This untimely death of a man allied to a famous family, and himself so
generally admired, caused a remarkable and long depression in society.
Yet, so strenuous were the political needs of the time, and so tragic
and compelling the demands of national strife now centred in Washington,
that the horrible calamity entailed no punishment upon its author.

Only the Thursday before the tragedy, in company with Mrs. Pugh and Miss
Acklin, I called upon the unfortunate cause of the tragedy. She was so
young and fair, at most not more than twenty-two years of age, and so
naïve, that none of the party of which I was one was willing to harbour
a belief in the rumours which were then in circulation. On that, Mrs.
Sickles’ last “at home,” her parlours were thronged, one-half of the
hundred or more guests present being men. The girl hostess was even more
lovely than usual. Of an Italian type in feature and colouring (she was
the daughter of a famous musician, Baggioli, of New York), Mrs. Sickles
was dressed in a painted muslin gown, filmy and graceful, on which the
outlines of the crocus might be traced. A broad sash of brocaded ribbon
girdled her slender waist, and in her dark hair were yellow crocus
blooms. I never saw her again, but the picture of which she formed the
centre was so fair and innocent, it fixed itself permanently upon my

When my husband first entered the United States Senate, in 1853, there
were not more than four men in that body who wore moustaches. Indeed,
the prejudice against them was great. I remember a moustached gallant
who called upon me on one occasion, to whom my aunt greatly objected,
for, she said, referring to the growth upon his upper lip, “No one but
Tennessee hog-drivers and brigands dress like that!” When Mr. Clay
withdrew from the Senate, in January, 1861, there were scarcely as many
without them. Side and chin whiskers were worn, if any, though the front
of the chin was seldom covered. Many of the most distinguished statesmen
wore their faces as smoothly shaven as the Romans of old. Until late in
the fifties, men, particularly legislators, wore their hair rather long,
a fashion which has been followed more or less continuously among
statesmen and scholars since wigs were abandoned.

This decade was also notable as that in which the first radical efforts
of women were made toward suffrage, and the “Bloomer” costume became
conspicuous in the capital. “Bloomers are ‘most as plenty as
blackberries,’” I wrote home late in ’6, “and generally are followed by
a long train of little boys and ditto ‘niggers’!”

Nor were there lacking figures among the “stronger” sex as eccentric as
those of our women innovators. Of these, none was more remarkable than
“old Sam Houston.” Whether in the street or in his seat in the Senate,
he was sure to arrest the attention of everyone. He wore a leopard-skin
vest, with a voluminous scarlet neck-tie, and over his bushy grey locks
rested an immense sombrero. This remarkable headgear was made, it was
said, from an individual block to which the General reserved the
exclusive right. It was of grey felt, with a brim seven or eight inches
wide. Wrapped around his broad shoulders he wore a gaily coloured
Mexican _serape_, in which scarlet predominated. So arrayed, his huge
form, which, notwithstanding this remarkable garb, was distinguished by
a kind of inborn grandeur, towered above the heads of ordinary
pedestrians, and the appearance of the old warrior, whether viewed from
the front or the rear, was altogether unique. Strangers stared at him,
and street urchins covertly grinned, but the Senatorial Hercules
received all such attentions from the public with extreme composure, not
to say gratification, as a recognition to which he was entitled.

In the Senate, General Houston was an indefatigable whittler. A
seemingly inexhaustible supply of soft wood was always kept in his desk
and out of it he whittled stars and hearts and other fanciful shapes,
while he cogitated, his brows pleated in deep vertical folds, over the
grave arguments of his confrères. A great many conjectures were made as
to the ultimate use of these curious devices. I can, however, explain
the fate of one.

As our party entered the gallery of the Senate on one occasion, we
caught the eye of the whittling Senator, who, with completest
_sang-froid_, suspended his occupation and blew us a kiss; then with a
plainly perceptible twinkle in his eye, he resumed his usual occupation.
A little while afterward one of the Senate pages came up and handed me a
most pretentious envelope. It was capacious enough to have contained a
package of government bonds. I began to open the wrappings; they were
mysteriously manifold. When at last I had removed them all, I found
within a tiny, shiny, freshly whittled wooden heart, on which the
roguish old hero had inscribed, “Lady! I send thee my heart! Sam

This remarkable veteran was seldom to be seen at social gatherings, and
I do not remember ever to have met him at a dinner, but he called
sometimes upon me on my weekly reception days, and always in the
remarkable costume I have described. He had acquired, besides the
Mexican-Spanish _patois_, a number of Indian dialects, and nothing
amused him more than to reduce to a confused silence those who
surrounded him, by suddenly addressing them in all sorts of unknown
words in these tongues. My own spirit was not so to be crushed, and,
besides, I had a lurking doubt as to the linguistic value of the sounds
he uttered. They bore many of the indicia of the newly invented, and I
did not hesitate upon one occasion to enter upon a verbal contest of
gibberish on my side, and possibly on his, running the gamut of emphasis
throughout it; and, notwithstanding General Houston’s deprecations (in
_Indian dialect_), sustained my part so seriously that the tall hero at
last yielded the floor and, wrapping his scarlet _serape_ about him,
made his exit, laughing hilariously at his own defeat.

                              CHAPTER VII

In that period of social activity it was no uncommon thing for society
women to find themselves completely exhausted ere bedtime arrived. Often
so tired was I that I have declared I couldn’t have wiggled an antennae
had I numbered anything so absurd and minute among my members! For my
quicker recuperation, after a day spent in the making of calls, or in
entertainment, with, it may be, an hour or two in the Senate gallery, in
preparation for the evening’s pleasure, my invaluable maid, Emily (for
whom my husband paid $1,600), was wont to get out my “shocking-box” (for
so she termed the electrical apparatus upon which I often depended),
and, to a full charge of the magical current and a half-hour’s nap
before dinner, I was indebted for many a happy evening.

Amid the round of dinners, and dances, and receptions, to which
Congressional circles are necessarily compelled, the pleasures of the
theatre were only occasionally to be enjoyed. Nor were the great artists
of that day always to be heard at the capital, and resident theatre and
musiclovers not infrequently made excursions to Baltimore, Philadelphia,
or New York, in order to hear to advantage some particularly noted star.
Before our advent in the capital it had been my good fortune, while
travelling in the North, to hear Grisi and Mario, the lovely Bozio, and
Jenny Lind, the incomparable Swede, whose concerts at Castle Garden were
such epoch-marking events to musiclovers in America. I remember that one
estimate of the audience present on the occasion of my hearing the
last-named cantatrice was placed at ten thousand. Whether or not this
number was approximately correct I do not know, but seats and aisles in
the great hall were densely packed, and gentlemen in evening dress came
with camp-stools under their arms, in the hope of finding an opportunity
to place them, during a lull in the programme, where they might rest for
a moment.

The wild enthusiasm of the vast crowds, the simplicity of the singer who
elicited it, have been recorded by many an abler pen. Suffice to say
that none have borne, I think, for a longer time, a clearer remembrance
of that triumphant evening. When, at the end of the programme the fair,
modest songstress came out, music in hand, to win her crowning triumph
in the rendering of a familiar melody, the beauty of her marvellous art
rose superior to the amusement which her broken English might have
aroused, and men and women wept freely and unashamed as she sang.

                      “Mid bleasures and balaces,
                      Do we may roam,” etc.

It was by way of a flight from the capital that Senator Clay and I and a
few congenial friends were enabled to hear Parepa Rosa and Forrest; and
Julia Dean, in “Ingomar,” drew us to the metropolis, as did Agnes
Robertson, who set the town wild in the “Siege of Sebastopol.”



  From a photograph made about 1851

I remember very well my first impression of Broadway, which designation
seemed to me a downright misnomer; for its narrowness, after the great
width of Pennsylvania Avenue, was at once striking and absurd to the
visitor from the capital. Upon one of my visits to New York my attention
was caught by a most unusual sight. It was an immense equipage, glowing
and gaudy under the sun as one of Mrs. Jarley’s vans. It was drawn by
six prancing steeds, all gaily caparisoned, while in the huge structure
(a young house, “all but”——) were women in gaudy costumes. A band of
musicians were concealed within, and these gave out some lively melodies
as the vehicle dashed gaily by the Astor House (then the popular
_up-town_ hotel), attracting general attention as it passed. Thinking a
circus had come to town, I made inquiry, when I learned to my amusement
that the gorgeous cavalcade was but an ingenious advertisement of the
new Sewing Machine!

Charlotte Cushman, giving her unapproachable “Meg Merrilies” in
Washington, stirred the city to its depths. Her histrionism was
splendid, and her conversation in private proved no less remarkable and
delightful. “I could listen to her all day,” wrote a friend in a brief
note. “I envy her her genius, and would willingly take her ugliness for
it! What is beauty compared with such genius!”

A most amusing metrical farce, “Pocahontas,” was given during the winter
of ’7–58, which set all Washington a-laughing. In the cast were Mrs.
Gilbert, and Brougham, the comedian and author. Two of the ridiculous
couplets come back to me, and, as if it were yesterday, revive the
amusing scenes in which they were spoken.

Mrs. Gilbert’s rôle was that of a Yankee schoolma’am, whose continual
effort it was to make her naughty young Indian charges behave
themselves. “Young ladies!” she cried, with that inimitable austerity
behind which one always feels the actress’s consciousness of the “fun of
the thing” which she is dissembling,

           “Young Ladies! Stand with your feet right square!
           Miss Pocahontas! just _look_ at your hair!”

and as she wandered off, a top-knot of feathers waving over her head,
her wand, with which she had been drilling her dusky maidens, held
firmly in hand, she cut a pigeonwing that brought forth a perfect shout
of laughter from the audience.

This troupe appeared just after the Brooks-Sumner encounter, of which
the capital talked still excitedly, and the comedian did not hesitate to
introduce a mild local allusion which was generally understood. Breaking
in upon her as Pocahontas wept, between ear-splitting cries of woe at
the bier of Captain Smith, he called out impatiently,

               “What’s all this noise? Be done! Be done!
               D’you think you are in Washington?”

Mr. Thackeray’s lecture on poetry was a red-letter occasion, and the
simplicity of that great man of letters as he recited “Lord Lovel” and
“Barbara Allen” was long afterward a criterion by which others were
judged. Notable soloists now and then appeared at the capital, among
them Ap Thomas, the great Welsh harpist, and Bochsa, as great a
performer, whose concerts gained so much in interest by the singing of
the romantic French woman, Mme. Anna Bishop. Her rendering of “On the
Banks of the Gaudalquiver” made her a great favourite and gave the song
a vogue. That musical prodigy, Blind Tom, also made his appearance in
ante-bellum Washington, and I was one of several ladies of the capital
invited by Miss Lane to hear him play at the White House. Among the
guests on that occasion were Miss Phillips of Alabama and her cousin
Miss Cohen of South Carolina, who were brilliant amateur players with a
local reputation. They were the daughter and niece, respectively, of
Mrs. Eugenia Phillips, who, less than two years afterward, was
imprisoned by the Federal authorities for alleged assistance to the
newly formed Confederate Government.

At the invitation of Miss Lane, the Misses Phillips and Cohen took their
places at the piano and performed a brilliant and intricate duet, during
which Blind Tom’s face twitched with what, it must be confessed, were
horrible grimaces. He was evidently greatly excited by the music he was
listening to, and was eager to reproduce it. As the piece was concluded,
he shuffled about nervously. Seeing his excitement, one of the pianistes
volunteered to play with him and took her seat at the instrument.
Desiring to test him, however, in the second rendering, the lady
cleverly, as she supposed, elided a page of the composition; when,
drawing himself back angrily, this remarkable idiot exclaimed
indignantly, “You cheat me! You cheat me!”

While a visit to the dentist, be he never so famous, may hardly be
regarded as among the recreations of Congressional folk, yet a trip to
Dr. Maynard, the fashionable operator of that day, was certainly among
the luxuries of the time; as costly, for example, as a trip to New York,
to hear sweet Jenny Lind. Dr. Maynard was distinctively one of
Washington’s famous characters. He was not only the expert dentist of
his day, being as great an element in life at the capital as was Dr.
Evans in Paris, but he was also the inventor of the world-renowned
three-barrelled rifle known as the Maynard. His office was like an
arsenal, every inch of wall-space being taken up with glittering arms.

A peculiarity of Dr. Maynard was his dislike for the odour of the
geranium, from which he shrank as from some deadly poison. Upon the
occasion of one necessary visit to him, unaware of this eccentricity, I
wore a sprig of that blossom upon my corsage. As I entered the office
the doctor detected it.

“Pardon me, Mrs. Clay,” he said at once, “I must ask you to remove that
geranium!” I was astonished, but of course the offending flower was at
once detached and discarded; but so sensitive were the olfactories of
the doctor, that before he could begin his operating, I was obliged to
bury the spot on which the blossom had lain under several folds of

Dr. Maynard was exceedingly fond of sleight of hand, and on one occasion
bought for his children an outfit which Heller had owned. In after years
the Czar of Russia made tempting offers to this celebrated dentist, with
a view to inducing him to take up his residence in St. Petersburg, but
his Imperial allurements were unavailing, and Dr. Maynard returned again
to his own orbit.

A feature of weekly recurrence, and one to which all Washington and
every visitor thronged, was the concert of the Marine Band, given within
the White House grounds on the green slope back of the Executive Mansion
overlooking the Potomac. Strolling among the multitude, I remember often
to have seen Miss Cutts, in the simplest of white muslin gowns, but
conspicuous for her beauty wherever she passed. Here military uniforms
glistened or glowed, as the case might be, among a crowd of black-coated
sight-seers, and one was likely to meet with the President or his
Cabinet, mingling democratically with the crowd of smiling citizens.

At one of these concerts a provincial visitor was observed to linger in
the vicinity of the President, whom it was obvious he recognised.
Presently, in an accession of sudden courage, he approached Mr. Pierce,
and, uncovering his head respectfully, said, “Mr. President, can’t I go
through your fine house? I’ve heard so much about it that I’d give a
great deal to see it.”

“Why, my dear sir!” responded the President, kindly, “that is not my
house. It’s the people’s house. You shall certainly go through it if you
wish!” and, calling an attendant, he instructed him to take the grateful
stranger through the White House.

The recounting of that episode revives the recollection of another which
took place in the time of President Buchanan, and which was the subject
of discussion for full many a day after its occurrence. It was on the
occasion of an annual visit of the redmen, always a rather exciting
event in the capital.

The delegations which came to Washington in the winters of ’4–58
numbered several hundred. They camped in a square in the Barracks,
where, with almost naked bodies, scalps at belt and tomahawks in hand,
they were viewed daily by crowds of curious folk as they beat their
monotonous drums, danced, or threw their tomahawks dexterously in air.
Here and there one redskin, more fortunate than the rest, was wrapped in
a gaudy blanket, and many were decked out with large earrings and huge
feather-duster head-dresses. A single chain only separated the savages
from the assembled spectators, who were often thrown into somewhat of a
panic by the sullen or belligerent behaviour of the former. When in this
mood, the surest means of conciliating the Indians was to pass over the
barrier (which some spectator was sure to do) some whisky, whereupon
their sullenness immediately would give place to an amiable desire to
display their prowess by twirling the tomahawk, or in the dance.

To see the copper-hued sons of the Far West, clad in buckskin and
moccasins, paint and feathers, stalking about the East Room of the White
House at any time was a spectacle not easily to be forgotten; but, upon
the occasion of which I write, and at which I was present, a scene took
place, the character of which became so spirited that many of the ladies
became frightened and rose hurriedly to withdraw. A number of chiefs
were present, accompanied by their interpreter, Mr. Garrett, of Alabama,
and many of them had expressed their pleasure at seeing the President.
They desired peace and good-will to be continued; they wished for
agricultural implements for the advancement of husbandry among their
tribes; and grist mills, that their squaws no longer need grind their
corn between stones to make “sofky” (and the spokesman illustrated the
process by a circular motion of the hand). In fact, they wished to smoke
the Calumet pipe of peace with their white brothers.

Thus far their discourse was most comfortable and pleasing to our white
man’s _amour propre_; but, ere the last warrior had ceased his placating
speech, the dusky form of a younger redskin sprang from the floor,
where, with the others of the delegation, he had been squatting. He was
lithe and graceful as Longfellow’s dream of Hiawatha. The muscles of his
upper body, bare of all drapery, glistened like burnished metal. His
gesticulations were fierce and imperative, his voice strangely

“These walls and these halls belong to the redmen!” he cried. “The very
ground on which they stand is ours! You have stolen it from us and I am
for war, that the wrongs of my people may be righted!”

Here his motions became so violent and threatening that many of the
ladies, alarmed, rose up instinctively, as I have said, as if they would
fly the room; but our dear old Mr. Buchanan, with admirable diplomacy,
replied in most kindly manner, bidding the interpreter assure the
spirited young brave that the White House was his possession in common
with all the people of the Great Spirit, and that he did but welcome his
red brothers to their own on behalf of the country. This was the gist of
his speech, which calmed the excitement of the savage, and relieved the
apprehension of the ladies about.

A conspicuous member of the delegation of ’4–55 was the old chief
Apothleohola, who was brought to see me by the interpreter Garrett. His
accumulated wealth was said to be $80,000, and he had a farm in the
West, it was added, which was worked entirely by negroes. Apothleohola
was a patriarch of his tribe, some eighty years of age, but erect and
powerful still. His face on the occasion of his afternoon visit to me
was gaudy with paint, and he was wrapped in a brilliant red blanket,
around which was a black border; but despite his gay attire there was
about him an air of weariness and even sadness.



  President of the United States, 1857–61

While I was still a child I had seen this now aged warrior. At that
time, five thousand Cherokees and Choctaws, passing west to their new
reservations beyond the Mississippi, had rested in Tuscaloosa, where
they camped for several weeks. The occasion was a notable one. All the
city turned out to see the Indian youths dash through the streets on
their ponies. They were superb horsemen and their animals were as
remarkable. Many of the latter, for a consideration, were left in the
hands of the emulous white youth of the town. Along the river banks,
too, carriages stood, crowded with sight-seers watching the squaws as
they tossed their young children into the stream that they might learn
to swim. Very picturesque were the roomy vehicles of that day as they
grouped themselves along the leafy shore of the Black Warrior, their
capacity tested to the fullest by the belles of the little city, arrayed
in dainty muslins, and bonneted in the sweet fashions of the time.

During that encampment a redman was set upon by some quarrelsome
rowdies, and in the altercation was killed. Fearing the vengeance of the
allied tribes about them, the miscreants disembowelled their victim,
and, filling the cavity with rocks, sank the body in the river. The
Indians, missing their companion, and suspecting some evil had befallen
him, appealed to Governor C. C. Clay, who immediately uttered a
proclamation for the recovery of the body. In a few days the crime and
its perpetrators were discovered, and justice was meted out to them. By
this prompt act Governor Clay, to whose wisdom is accredited by
historians the repression of the Indian troubles in Alabama in 1835–’7,
won the good-will of the savages, among whom was the great warrior,

It was at ex-Governor Clay’s request I sent for the now aged brave. He
gravely inclined his head when I asked him whether he remembered the
Governor. I told him my father wished to know whether the chief Nea
Mathla still lived and if the brave Apothleohola was happy in his
western home. His sadness deepened as he answered, slowly, “Me happy,

Before the close of his visit, Mr. Garrett, the interpreter, asked me if
I would not talk Indian to his charge. “You must know some!” he urged,
“having been brought up in an Indian country!”

I knew three or four words, as it happened, and these I pronounced, to
the great chief’s amusement; for, pointing his finger at me he said,
with a half-smile, “She talk Creek!”

A few days after this memorable call, I happened into the house of
Harper & Mitchell, then a famous drygoods emporium in the capital, just
as the old warrior was beginning to bargain, and I had the pleasure and
entertainment of assisting him to select two crêpe shawls which he
purchased for his daughters at one hundred dollars apiece!

It was my good fortune to witness the arrival of the Japanese Embassy,
which was the outcome of Commodore Perry’s expedition to the Orient. The
horticulturist of the party, Dr. Morrow, of South Carolina, was a
frequent visitor to my parlours, and upon his return from the East
regaled me with many amusing stories of his Eastern experiences. A
special object of his visit to Japan was to obtain, if possible, some
specimens of the world-famous rice of that country, with which to
experiment in the United States. Until that period our native rice was
inferior; but, despite every effort made and inducement offered, our
Government had been unable to obtain even a kernel of the unhusked rice
which would germinate.

During his stay in the Orient, Dr. Morrow made numberless futile
attempts to supply himself with even a stealthy pocketful of the
precious grain, and in one instance, he told us, remembering how
Professor Henry had introduced millet seed by planting so little as a
single seed that fell from the wrappings of a mummy,[11] he had offered
a purse of gold to a native for a single grain; but the Japanese only
shook his head, declining the proposition, and drew his finger
significantly across his throat to indicate his probable fate if he were
to become party to such commerce.

On the arrival of the Japanese embassy in Washington, to the doctor’s
delight, it was found that among the presents sent by the picturesque
Emperor of Japan to the President of the United States was a hogshead of
rice. Alas! the doctor’s hopes were again dashed when the case was
opened, for the wily donors had carefully sifted their gift, and, though
minutely examined, there was not in all the myriad grains a single
kernel in which the germinal vesicle was still intact!

The arrival of the browned Asiatics was made a gala occasion in the
capital. Half the town repaired to the Barracks to witness the
debarkation of the strange and gorgeously apparelled voyagers from the
gaily decorated vessel. Their usually yellow skins, now, after a long
sea-trip, were burned to the colour of copper; and not stranger to our
eyes would have been the sight of Paul du Chaillu’s newly discovered
gorillas, than were these Orientals as they descended the flag-bedecked
gangplanks and passed out through a corridor formed of eager people,
crowding curiously to gaze at them. Some of the Japanese had acquired a
little English during the journey to America, and, as friendly shouts of
“Welcome to America” greeted them, they nodded cordially to the people,
shaking hands here and there as they passed along, and saying, to our
great amusement, “How de!”

Dr. Morrow had brought a gift to me from the East, a scarf of crêpe,
delicate as the blossom of the mountain laurel, the texture being very
similar to that of the petals of that bloom, and, to do honour to the
occasion, I wore it conspicuously draped over my corsage. Observing this
drapery, one of the strangers, his oily face wreathed in smiles, his
well-pomatumed top-knot meantime giving out under the heat of a
scorching sun a peculiar and never-to-be-forgotten odour, advanced
toward me as our party called their welcome, and, pointing to my
beautiful trophy, said, “Me lakee! me lakee!” Then, parting his silken
robe over his breast, he pulled out a bit of an undergarment (the
character of which it required no shrewdness to surmise) which proved
identical in weave with my lovely scarf! Holding the bit of crêpe out
toward us, the Oriental smiled complacently, as if in this discovery we
had established a kind of preliminary international _entente cordiale_!

This same pomatum upon which I have remarked was a source of great
chagrin to the proprietor of Willard’s Hotel, who, after the departure
of his Oriental visitors, found several coats of paint and a general
repapering to be necessary ere the pristine purity of atmosphere which
had characterised that hostelry could again be depended upon not to
offend the delicate olfactories of American guests.

During the stay of this embassy, its members attracted universal
attention as they strolled about the streets or drawing-rooms which
opened for their entertainment. Their garments were marvellously rich
and massed with elaborate ornamentation in glistening silks and gold
thread. They carried innumerable paper handkerchiefs tucked away
somewhere in their capacious sleeves, the chief purpose of these filmy
things seeming to be the removal of superfluous oil from the foreheads
of their yellow owners. A happy circumstance; for, having once so
served, the little squares were dropped forthwith wherever the Oriental
happened to be standing, whether in street or parlour, and the Asiatic
dignitary passed on innocently, ignorant alike of his social and
hygienic shortcoming.

It was no uncommon thing during the sojourn of these strangers at the
capital, to see some distinguished Senator or Cabinet Minister stoop at
the sight of one of these gauzy trifles (looking quite like the
_mouchoir_ of some fastidious woman) and pick it up, only to throw it
from him in disgust a moment later. He was fortunate when his error
passed unseen by his confrères; for the Japanese handkerchief joke went
the round of the capital, and the victim of such misplaced gallantry was
sure to be the laughing-stock of his fellows if caught in the act.

The most popular member of this notable commission was an Oriental who
was nicknamed “Tommy.” He had scarce arrived when he capitulated to the
charms of the American lady; in fact, he became so devoted to them that,
it was said, he had no sooner returned to Japan than he paid the price
of his devotion by the forfeit of his head in a basket!

                              CHAPTER VIII

The advent of Lord and Lady Napier was practically coincident with the
installation of Miss Harriet Lane at the White House, and, in each
instance, the _entrée_ of Miss Lane and Lady Napier had its share in
quickening the pace at which society was so merrily going, and in
accentuating its allurements. Miss Lane’s reign at the White House was
one of completest charm. Nature, education and experience were combined
in the President’s niece in such manner as eminently to qualify her to
meet the responsibilities that for four years were to be hers. Miss Lane
possessed great tact, and a perfect knowledge of Mr. Buchanan’s wishes.
Her education had been largely directed and her mind formed under his
careful guardianship; she had presided for several years over her
uncle’s household while Mr. Buchanan served as Minister to England. The
charms of young womanhood still lingered about her, but to these was
added an _aplomb_ rare in a woman of fifty, so that, during her
residence in it, White House functions rose to their highest degree of
elegance; to a standard, indeed, that has not since been approached save
during the occupancy of the beautiful bride of President Cleveland.



  Mistress of the White House, 1857–61

Miss Lane’s entrance into life at the American capital, at a trying
time, served to keep the surface of society in Washington serene and
smiling, though the fires of a volcano raged in the under-political
world, and the vibrations of Congressional strife spread to the
furthermost ends of the country the knowledge that the Government was
tottering. The young Lady of the White House came to her new honours
with the prestige of Queen Victoria’s favour. In her conquest of
statesmen, and, it was added, even in feature, she was said to resemble
the Queen in her younger days. Miss Lane was a little above the medium
height, and both in colour and physique was of an English rather than an
American type—a characteristic which was also marked in the President.
The latter’s complexion was of the rosiest and freshest, and his
presence exceedingly fine, notwithstanding a slight infirmity which
caused him to hold his head to one side, and gave him a quizzical
expression that was, however, pleasing rather than the contrary.

In figure, Miss Lane was full; her complexion was clear and brilliant.
In her cheeks there was always a rich, pretty colour, and her hair, a
bright chestnut, had a glow approaching gold upon it. She had a
columnar, full neck, upon which her head was set superbly. I thought her
not beautiful so much as handsome and healthful and good to look upon. I
told her once she was like a poet’s ideal of an English dairymaid, who
fed upon blush roses and the milk of her charges; but a lifting of the
head and a heightening of the pretty colour in her cheeks told me my
bucolic simile had not pleased her.

Of the Napiers it may be said that no ministerial representatives from a
foreign power ever more completely won the hearts of Washingtonians than
did that delightful Scotch couple. In appearance, Lady Napier was fair
and distinctly a patrician. She was perhaps thirty years of age when she
began her two-years’ residence in the American capital. Her manner was
unaffected and simple; her retinue small. During the Napiers’ occupancy,
the British Embassy was conspicuous for its complete absence of
ostentation and its generous hospitality. Their equipages were of the
handsomest, but in no instance showy, and this at a period when
Washington streets thronged with the conspicuous vehicles affected by
the foreign Legations. Indeed, at that time the foreigner was as
distinguished for his elaborate carriages as was the Southerner for his
blooded horses.[12]

Lady Napier’s avoidance of display extended to her gowning, which was of
the quietest, except when some great public function demanded more
elaborate preparation. On such occasions her laces—heirlooms for
centuries—were called into requisition, and coiffure and corsage blazed
with diamonds and emeralds. Her cozy at-homes were remarkable for their
informality and the ease which seemed to emanate from the hostess and
communicate itself to her guests. A quartette of handsome boys comprised
the Napier family, and often these princely little fellows, clad in
velvet costumes, assisted their mother at her afternoons, competing with
each other for the privilege of passing refreshments. At such times it
was no infrequent thing to hear Lady Napier compared with “Cornelia and
her Jewels.”

Lord Napier was especially fond of music, and I recall an evening dinner
given at this embassy to Miss Emily Schaumberg, of Philadelphia, in
which that lady’s singing roused the host to a high pitch of enthusiasm.
Miss Schaumberg was a great beauty, as well as a finished singer, and
was most admired in the capital, though she stayed but a very short time



A ball or formal dinner at the British Embassy (and these were not
infrequent) was always a memorable event. One met there the talented and
distinguished; heard good music; listened to the flow of wholesome wit;
and enjoyed delectable repasts. Early in 1859 the Napiers gave a large
ball to the young Lords Cavendish and Ashley, to which all the resident
and visiting belles were invited; and, I doubt not, both lords and
ladies were mutually delighted. Miss Corinne Acklin, who was under my
wing that season (she was a true beauty and thoroughly enjoyed her
belleship), was escorted to supper by Lord Cavendish, and, indeed, had
the lion’s share of the attentions of both of the visiting noblemen,
until our dear, ubiquitous Mrs. Crittenden appeared. That good lady was
arrayed, as usual, with remarkable splendour and frankly décolleté gown.
She approached Miss Acklin as the latter, glowing with her triumphs,
stood chatting vivaciously with her lordly admirers. “Lady” Crittenden
smilingly interrupted the trio by whispering in the young lady’s ear,
though by no means _sotto voce_: “Present me to Lord Ashley, my dear.
Ashley was my second husband’s name, you know, and maybe they were kin!”

“I thought her so silly,” said the pouting beauty afterward. “She must
be almost sixty!” But Mrs. Crittenden’s kindly inquiry was not an
unnatural one, for, as the rich widow Ashley, whose husband’s family
connections in some branches were known to be foreign, she had been
renowned from Florida to Maine for years before she became Mrs.

At the home of the Napiers one frequently met Mr. Bayard, between whom
and the English Ambassador there existed a close intimacy. Mr. Bayard
was the most unobtrusive of men, modesty being his dominant social
characteristic. When I visited England in 1885, I had a signal testimony
to Lord Napier’s long-continued regard for the great Delaware statesman.
During my stay in London, the former Minister constituted himself
cicerone to our party, and, upon one memorable afternoon, he insisted
upon drinking a toast with us.

“Oh, no!” I demurred. “Toasts are obsolete!”

“Very well, then,” Lord Napier declared. “If you won’t, I will. Here’s
to your President, Mr. Cleveland! But,” he continued with a suddenly
added depth, “Were it your Chevalier Bayard, I would drink it on my

Upon my return to America I had the pleasure of shouting to Mr. Bayard,
then Secretary of State, a recital of this great tribute. He had now
grown very deaf, but my words reached him at last, and he smiled in a
most happy way as he asked, almost shyly, but with a warm glance in the
eye, despite his effort to remain composed, “Did Napier really say

A feeling of universal regret spread over the capital when it became
known that the Napiers were to return to England; and the admiration of
the citizens for the popular diplomat expressed itself in the getting-up
of a farewell ball, which, in point of size, was one of the most
prodigious entertainments ever given in Washington. One group of that
great assemblage is vividly before me. In it the young James Gordon
Bennett, whom I had seen in earlier days at a fashionable water-cure
(and whose general naughtiness as a little boy defies description by my
feeble pen), danced _vis-à-vis_, a handsome, courtly youth, with his
mother and Daniel E. Sickles.

During the Pierce administration the old-fashioned quadrilles and
cotillions, with an occasional waltz number, were danced to the
exclusion of all other Terpsichorean forms; but in the term of his
successor, the German was introduced, when Miss Josephine Ward, of New
York, afterward Mrs. John R. Thomson, of New Jersey, became prominent as
a leader.

When I review those brilliant scenes in which passed and smiled, and
danced and chatted, the vast multitude of those who called me “friend,”
the army of those now numbered with the dead—I am lost in wonder! My
memory seems a Herculaneum, in which, let but a spade of thought be
sunk, and some long-hidden treasure is unearthed. I have referred to the
citizens of Washington. The term unrolls a scroll in which are listed
men and women renowned in those days as hostesses and entertainers. They
were a rich and exclusive, and, at the same time, a numerous class, that
gave body to the social life of the Federal City. Conspicuous among
these were Mrs. A. S. Parker and Mrs. Ogle Tayloe. The home of the
former was especially the rendezvous of the young. In the late fifties
and sixties it was a palatial residence, famous for its fine
conservatories, its spacious parlours, and glistening dancing floors.
To-day, so greatly has the city changed, that what is left of that once
luxurious home has been converted into small tenements which are rented
out for a trifle to the very poor. At the marriage of Mrs. Parker’s
daughter, Mary E., in 1860, to Congressman J. E. Bouligny, of Louisiana,
crowds thronged in these now forgotten parlours. The President himself
was present to give the pretty bride away, and half of Congress came to
wish Godspeed to their fellow-member.

The home of Mr. and Mrs. Ogle Tayloe was a museum of things rare and
beautiful, vying in this respect with the Corcoran Mansion and the homes
of the several members of the Riggs family. One of its treasured
mementos was a cane that had been used by Napoleon Bonaparte. Mrs.
Tayloe belonged to a New York family; the Tayloes to Virginia. She was a
woman of fine taste and broad views, a very gracious hostess, who shrank
from the coarse or vulgar wherever she detected it. When Washington
became metamorphosed by the strangers who poured into its precincts
following the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln in 1861, the Tayloe Mansion
was shrouded, its pictures were covered, and its chandeliers wound with
protective wrappings. Entertaining there ceased for years. “Nor have I,”
said Mrs. Tayloe to me in 1866, “crossed the threshold of the White
House since Harriet Lane went out.”

At the Tayloe home I often exchanged a smile and a greeting with Lilly
Price, my hostess’s niece, who, when she reached womanhood, was
distinguished first as Mrs. Hamersley, and afterward as Lillian, Duchess
of Marlborough. At that time she was a fairy-like little slip of a
schoolgirl, who, in the intervals between Fridays and Mondays, was
permitted to have a peep at the gay gatherings in her aunt’s home. Many
years afterward, being a passenger on an outgoing steamer, I learned
that Mrs. Hamersley, too, was on board; but before I could make my
presence known to her, as had been my intention, she had discovered me
and came seeking her “old friend, Mrs. Clay,” and I found that there
lingered in the manner of the brilliant society leader, Mrs. Hamersley,
much of the same bright charm that had distinguished the little Lilly
Price as she smiled down at me from her coign of vantage at the top of
the stairway of the Tayloe residence.

But the prince of entertainers, whether citizen or official, who was
also a prince among men, the father of unnumbered benefactions and
patron of the arts, was dear Mr. Corcoran. When my thoughts turn back to
him they invariably resolve themselves into

“And, lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest”

Throughout our long acquaintance Mr. Corcoran proved himself to be what
he wrote himself down, “one of the dearest friends of my dear husband.”
He was already a widower when, shortly after our arrival in Washington,
I met him; and, though many a well-known beauty would have been willing
to assume his distinguished name, my own conviction is that Mr. Corcoran
never thought of marriage with any woman after he committed to the grave
the body of his well-beloved wife, Louise Morris, daughter of the brave

Mr. Corcoran was a tall and handsome man, even in his old age. In his
younger days his expression was the most benignant I have ever seen,
though in repose it was tinged with a peculiar mournfulness. The
banker’s weekly dinners were an institution in Washington life. During
each session he dined half of Congress, to say nothing of the foreign
representatives and the families of his fellow-citizens.

Evening dances were also of frequent occurrence at the Corcoran Mansion,
the giving of which always seemed to me proof of the host’s large and
great nature; for Louise Corcoran, his daughter, afterward Mrs. Eustis,
was a delicate girl, who, owing to some weakness of the heart, was
debarred from taking part in the pleasures of the dance. Nevertheless,
Mr. Corcoran opened his home to the young daughters of other men, and
took pleasure in the happiness he thus gave them. The “Greek Slave,” now
a principal object of interest in the Corcoran Art Gallery, was then an
ornament to the banker’s home, and stood in an alcove allotted to it,
protected by a gilded chain.

The hospitality of Mr. Corcoran’s home, which Senator Clay and I often
enjoyed, was a synonym for “good cheer” of the most generous and
epicurean sort. I remember an amusing meeting which my husband and I had
one evening with Secretary Cobb. It took place on the Treasury pavement.
Recognising us as we approached, the bland good humour which was
habitual to the Secretary deepened into a broad smile.

“Ah, Clay!” he said to my husband, pulling down his vest with a look of
completest satisfaction, “Been to Corcoran’s. Johannisberg and
_tar_repin, sir! I wish,” and he gave his waistcoat another pull,
glancing up significantly at the tall stone pile before us, “I wish the
Treasury were as full as I!”

Mr. Corcoran was famous for his Johannisberg, and I recall a dinner at
his home when, being escorted to the table by the Danish Minister, who
had somewhat the reputation of a connoisseur, our host and my companion
immediately began a discussion on the merits of this favourite wine,
which the Minister declared was of prime quality, and which, if I
remember rightly, Mr. Corcoran said was all made on the estate of the
Prince de Metternich. When the Minister announced his approval, our host
turned quietly to me and said, _sotto voce_, “I hoped it was pure. I
paid fifteen dollars for it!”

I wish it might be said that all the lavish hospitality of that
incomparable gentleman had been appreciated with never a record to the
contrary to mar the pleasure he gave; but it must be confessed that the
host at the capital whose reputation for liberality extends so widely as
did Mr. Corcoran’s runs the risk of entertaining some others than angels
unaware. The receptions at the Corcoran residence, as at the White House
and other famous homes, were occasionally, necessarily, somewhat
promiscuous. During the sessions of Congress the city thronged with
visitors, many of them constituents of Senators and Congressmen, who
came to Washington expecting to receive, as they usually did receive,
social courtesies at the hands of their Representatives. Many kindly
hosts, aware of these continually arising emergencies, gave latitude to
Congressional folk in their invitations sufficient to meet them.

At the Corcoran receptions, a feature of the decorations was the
elaborate festooning and grouping of growing plants, which were
distributed in profusion about the banker’s great parlours. Upon one
occasion, in addition to these natural flowers, there was displayed a
handsome _epergne_, in which was placed a most realistic bunch of
artificial blooms. These proved irresistibly tempting to an unidentified
woman visitor; for, in the course of the afternoon, Mr. Corcoran, moving
quietly among his guests, saw the stranger take hold of a bunch of these
curious ornaments and twist it violently in an effort to detach it from
the rest. At this surprising sight Mr. Corcoran stepped to the lady’s
side, and said with a gentle dignity: “I would not do that, Madam.
Please desist. The blossoms are not real. They are rare, however, and
have been brought from Europe only by the exercise of the greatest

“Well! If they have? What’s that to you?” snapped the lady defiantly.

“Nothing, Madam!” he responded, quietly. “Except that I am Mr.

Fortunately, not all strangers who were so entertained were of this
unpleasant sort. Sometimes the amusement the more provincial afforded
quite out-balanced the trouble their entertainment cost our resident
representatives. I remember an occasion on which I, acting for my
husband, was called upon to show a young woman the sights of the
capital. She was the daughter of an important constituent. One morning,
as I was about to step into the calash of a friend who had called to
take me for a drive, a note was handed to me. It read: “My dear Mrs.
Clay: I hope you will recall my name and, in your generosity of heart,
will do me a favour. My daughter is passing through Washington and will
be at the —— Hotel for one day,” naming that very day! “She is very
unsophisticated and will be most grateful for anything you can do toward
showing her the sights of the capital,” etc., etc.

As I knew I might command the services of my escort for the morning (he
was a Mr. Parrish, recently from the mines of Africa, and in Washington
for the purpose of securing our Government’s aid in pressing certain of
his claims against a foreign power), I proposed that we proceed at once
to the —— Hotel and take the young woman with us on our drive. To this a
kind consent was given, and in a short time I had sent my card to the
young stranger. I found her a typical, somewhat callow schoolgirl,
overdressed and self-conscious, who answered every question in the most
agitated manner, and who volunteered nothing in the way of a remark upon
any subject whatsoever, though she assented gaspingly to all my
questions, and went with a nervous alacrity to put on her hat when I
invited her to accompany us upon our drive.

We began our tour by taking her directly to the Capitol. We mounted to
the dome to view the wonderful plan of the Government City; thence to
the House and the Senate Chamber, and into such rooms of state as we
might enter; and on to the Government greenhouses, with their
horticultural wonders. We paused from time to time in our walk to give
the young lady an opportunity to admire and to consider the rare things
before her—to remark upon them, if she would; but all our inviting
enthusiasm was received in dull silence.

Failing to arouse her interest in the gardens, we next directed our
steps to the Smithsonian Institution, where corridor after corridor was
explored, in which were specimens from the obscurest comers of the
earth, monsters of the deep, and tiny denizens of the air, purchased at
fabulous sums of money, but now spread freely before the gaze of
whomsoever might desire to look upon them. The Smithsonian Institution,
at that time still a novelty even to Washingtonians, has ever been to me
a marvellous example of man’s humanity to man. I hoped it would so
reveal itself to my whilom protégée.

Alas for my hopes! Her apathy seemed to increase. We arrived presently
at the Ornithological Department. A multitude of specimens of the
feathered tribes were here, together with their nests and eggs; still
nothing appeared to interest my guest or lessen what I was rapidly
beginning to regard as a case of hebetude, pure and simple. I was
perplexed; Mr. Parrish, it was plain, was bored when, arriving almost at
the end of the cases, to my relief the girl’s attention seemed arrested.
More, she stood literally transfixed before the nest of the great Auk,
and uttered her first comment of the day:

“Lor’!” she said, in a tone of awestruck amazement, “What a big egg!”

                               CHAPTER IX
                       A CELEBRATED SOCIAL EVENT

Early in the season of 1857–’8, our friend Mrs. Senator Gwin announced
her intention of giving a ball which should eclipse every gathering of
the kind that had ever been seen in Washington. Just what its character
was to be was not yet decided; but, after numerous conferences with her
friends in which many and various suggestions were weighed, the
advocates for the fancy ball prevailed over those in favour of a
masquerade, to which, indeed, Senator Gwin himself was averse, and these
carried the day.

Surely no hostess ever more happily realised her ambitions! When the
function was formally announced, all Washington was agog. For the
ensuing weeks men as well as women were busy consulting costumers,
ransacking the private collections in the capital, and conning precious
volumes of coloured engravings in a zealous search for original and
accurate costuming. Only the Senators who were to be present were exempt
from this anticipatory excitement, for Senator Gwin, declaring that
nothing was more dignified for members of this body than their usual
garb, refused to appear in an assumed one, and so set the example for
his colleagues.

As the time approached, expectation ran high. Those who were to attend
were busy rehearsing their characters and urging the dressmakers and
costumers to the perfect completion of their tasks, while those who were
debarred deplored their misfortune. I recall a pathetic lament from my
friend Lieutenant Henry Myers, who was obliged to leave on the United
States ship _Marion_ on the fourth of April (the ball was to occur on
the ninth), in which he bemoaned the deprivations of a naval officer’s
life, and especially his inability to attend the coming entertainment.

When the evening of the ball arrived there was a flutter in every
boudoir in Washington, in which preparation for the great event was
accelerated by the pleasurable nervousness of maid and mistress. Mrs.
Gwin’s costume, and those of other leading Washingtonians, it was known,
had been selected in New York, and rumours were rife on the elegant
surprises that were to be sprung upon the eventful occasion.

With Senator Clay and me that winter were three charming cousins, the
Misses Comer, Hilliard and Withers. They impersonated, respectively, a
gypsy fortune-teller, a Constantinople girl, and “Titania”; and, to
begin at the last (as a woman may do if she will), a wonderful “Titania”
the tiny Miss Withers was, robed in innumerable spangled tulle
petticoats that floated as she danced, her gauze wings quivering like
those of a butterfly, and her unusually small feet glistening no less
brilliantly with spangles.

“Miss Withers, yon tiny fairy,” wrote Major de Havilland, who in his
“Metrical Glance at the Fancy Ball” immortalised the evening, “as
‘Titania’ caused many a Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Miss Hilliard, whose
beauty was well set off in a costly and picturesque costume of the East,
owed her triumph of the evening to the kindness of Mrs. Joseph Holt, who
had bought the costume (which she generously placed at my cousin’s
disposal) during a tour of the Orient. So attractive was my cousin’s
charming array, and so correct in all its details, that as she entered
Mrs. Gwin’s ballroom, a party of Turkish onlookers, seeing the familiar
garb, broke into applause.

Miss Comer, in a brilliant gown that was plentifully covered with
playing-cards, carried also a convenient pack of the same, with which
she told fortunes in a mystifying manner, for I had coached her
carefully in all the secrets of the day. I must admit she proved a
clever pupil, for she used her knowledge well whenever an opportunity
presented, to the confusion of many whose private weaknesses she most
tormentingly exposed.

My chosen character was an unusual one, being none other than that
remarkable figure created by Mr. Shillaber, Aunt Ruthy Partington. It
was the one character assumed during that memorable evening, by one of
my sex, in which age and personal attractions were sacrificed ruthlessly
for its more complete delineation.

I was not the only one anxious to impersonate the quaint lady from
Beanville, over whose grammatical _faux pas_ all America was amusing
itself. Ben Perley Poore no sooner heard of my selection of this
character than he begged me to yield to him, but I was not to be
deterred, having committed to heart the whole of Mrs. Partington’s
homely wit. Moreover, I had already, the previous summer, experimented
with the character while at Red Sweet Springs, where a fancy ball had
been given with much success, and I was resolved to repeat the amusing
experience at Mrs. Gwin’s ball.

Finding me inexorable, Mr. Poore at last desisted and chose another
character, that of Major Jack Downing. He made a dashing figure, too,
and we an amusing pair, as, at the “heel of the morning,” we galloped
wildly over Mrs. Gwin’s wonderfully waxed floors. The galop, I may add
in passing, was but just introduced in Washington, and its popularity
was wonderful.

If I dwell on that evening with particular satisfaction, the onus of
such egotism must be laid at the door of my flattering friends; for even
now, when nearly twoscore years and ten have passed, those who remain of
that merry assemblage of long ago recall it with a smile and a tender
recollection. “I can see you now, in my mind’s eye,” wrote General
George Wallace Jones, in 1894; “how you vexed and tortured dear old
President Buchanan at Doctor and Mrs. Gwin’s famous fancy party! You
were that night the observed of all observers!” And still more recently
another, recalling the scene, said, “The orchestra stopped, for the
dancers lagged, laughing convulsively at dear Aunt Ruthy!”

Nor would I seem to undervalue by omitting the tribute in verse paid me
by the musical Major de Havilland:

          “Mark how the grace that gilds an honoured name,
          Gives a strange zest to that loquacious dame
          Whose ready tongue and easy blundering wit
          Provoke fresh uproar at each happy hit!
          Note how her humour into strange grimace
          Tempts the smooth meekness of yon Quaker’s face.[13]
                 ·       ·       ·       ·       ·
          But—denser grows the crowd round Partington;
          ’T’were vain to try to name them one by one.”[14]

It was not without some trepidation of spirit that I surrendered myself
into the hands of a professional maker-up of theatrical folk and saw him
lay in the shadows and wrinkles necessary to the character, and adjust
my front piece of grey hair into position; and, as my conception of the
quaint Mrs. Partington was that of a kindly soul, I counselled the
attendant—a Hungarian attaché of the local theatre—to make good-natured
vertical wrinkles over my brow, and not horizontal ones, which indicate
the cynical and harsh character.

My disguise was soon so perfect that my friend Mrs. L. Q. C. Lamar, who
came in shortly after the ordeal of making-up was over, utterly failed
to recognise me in the country woman before her. She looked about the
room with a slight reserve aroused by finding herself thus in the
presence of a stranger, and asked of Emily, “Where is Mrs. Clay?” At
this my cousins burst into merry laughter, in which Mrs. Lamar joined
when assured of my identity.

Thus convinced of the success of my costume, I was glad to comply with a
request that came by messenger from Miss Lane, for our party to go to
the White House on our way to Mrs. Gwin’s, to show her our “pretty
dresses,” a point of etiquette intervening to prevent the Lady of the
White House from attending the great ball of a private citizen.
Forthwith we drove to the Executive Mansion, where we were carried _sans
cérémonie_ to Miss Lane’s apartments. Here Mrs. Partington found herself
in the presence of her first audience. Miss Lane and the President
apparently were much amused at her verdancy, and, after a few initiative
malapropisms, some pirouettes by “Titania” and our maid from the Orient,
done to the shuffling of our little fortune-teller’s cards, we departed,
our zest stimulated, for the Gwin residence.

My very first conquest as Mrs. Partington, as I recall it now, was of
Mrs. Representative Pendleton, whom I met on the stairs. She was
radiantly beautiful as the “Star-Spangled Banner,” symbolising the poem
by which her father, Francis Scott Key, immortalised himself. As we met,
her face broke into a smile of delicious surprise.

“How inimitable!” she cried. “Who is it? No! you shan’t pass till you
tell me!” And when I laughingly informed her in Aunt Ruthy’s own
vernacular, she exclaimed: “What! Mrs. Clay? Why! there isn’t a vestige
of my friend left!”

My costume was ingeniously devised. It consisted of a plain black alpaca
dress and black satin apron; stockings as blue as a certain pair of
indigos I have previously described, and large, loose-fitting buskin
shoes. Over my soft grey front piece I wore a high-crowned cap, which,
finished with a prim ruff, set closely around the face. On the top was a
diminutive bow of narrowest ribbon, while ties of similarly economical
width secured it under the chin. My disguise was further completed by a
pair of stone-cutter’s glasses with nickel rims, which entirely
concealed my eyes. A white kerchief was drawn primly over my shoulders,
and was secured by a huge medallion pin, in which was encased the
likeness, as large as the palm of my hand, of “my poor Paul.”

On my arm I carried a reticule in which were various herbs, elecampane
and catnip, and other homely remedies, and a handkerchief in brilliant
colours on which was printed with fearless and emphatic type the
Declaration of Independence. This bit of “stage property” was used
ostentatiously betimes, especially when Aunt Ruthy’s tears were called
forth by some sad allusion to her lost “Paul.” In my apron pocket was an
antique snuff-box which had been presented to me, as I afterward told
Senator Seward, by the Governor of Rhode Island, “a lover of the
Kawnstitution, Sir.”

But, that nothing might be lacking, behind me trotted my boy “Ike,” dear
little “Jimmy” Sandidge (son of the member from Louisiana), aged ten,
who for days, in the secrecy of my parlour, I had drilled in the aid he
was to lend me. He was a wonderful little second, and the fidelity to
truth in his make-up was so amusing that I came near to losing him at
the very outset. His ostentatiously darned stockings and patched
breeches, long since outgrown, were a surprising sight in the great
parlours of our host, and Senator Gwin, seeing the little urchin who, he
thought, had strayed in from the street, took him by the shoulder and
was about to lead him out when some one called to him, “Look out,
Senator! You’ll be getting yourself into trouble! That’s Aunt Ruthy’s
boy, Ike!”

Mrs. Partington was not the only Yankee character among that throng of
princes and queens, and dames of high degree, for Mr. Eugene Baylor, of
Louisiana, impersonated a figure as amusing—that of “Hezekiah Swipes,”
of Vermont. He entered into his part with a zest as great as my own, and
kept “a-whittlin’ and a-whittlin’ jes’ as if he was ter hum!” For
myself, I enjoyed a peculiar exhilaration in the thought that, despite
my amusing dress, the belles of the capital (and many were radiant
beauties, too) gave way before Aunt Ruthy and her nonsense. As I
observed this my zeal increased, and not even Senator Clay, who feared
my gay spirits would react and cause me to become exhausted, could
prevail upon me to yield a serious word or one out of my character
throughout the festal night. If I paid for it, as I did, by several
days’ retirement, I did not regret it, since the evening itself went off
so happily.

Mrs. Gwin, as the Queen of Louis Quatorze, a regal lady, stood receiving
her guests with President Buchanan beside her as Aunt Ruthy entered,
knitting industriously, but stopping ever and anon to pick up a stitch
which the glory of her surroundings caused her to drop. Approaching my
hostess and her companion, I first made my greetings to Mrs. Gwin, with
comments on her “invite,” and wondered, looking up at the windows, if
she “had enough venerators to take off the execrations of that large
assemblage”; but, when she presented Mrs. Partington to the President,
“Lor!” exclaimed that lady, “Air you ralely ‘Old Buck’? I’ve often heern
tell o’ Old Buck up in Beanville, but I don’t see no horns!”

“No, Madam,” gravely responded the President, assuming for the nonce the
cynic, “I’m not a married man!”

It was at this memorable function that Lord Napier (who appeared in the
character of Mr. Hammond, the first British Minister to the United
States) paid his great tribute to Mrs. Pendleton. Her appearance on that
occasion was lovely. She was robed in a white satin gown made dancing
length, over which were rare lace flounces. A golden eagle with wings
outstretched covered her corsage, and from her left shoulder floated a
long tricolour sash on which, in silver letters, were the words “_E
Pluribus Unum_.” A crown of thirteen flashing stars was set upon her
well-poised head, and a more charming interpretation in dress of the
national emblem could scarcely have been devised.

Ah! but that was a remarkable throng! My memory, as I recall that night,
seems like a long chain, of which, if I strike but a single link, the
entire length rattles! Beautiful Thérèse Chalfant Pugh as “Night”—what a
vision she was, and what a companion picture Mrs. Douglas, who, as
“Aurora,” was radiant in the pale tints of the morning! There were mimic
Marchionesses, and Kings of England and France and Prussia; White Ladies
of Avenel and Dukes of Buckingham, Maids of Athens and Saragossa,
gypsies and fairies, milkmaids, and even a buxom barmaid; Antipholus
himself and the Priestess Norma, Pierrots and Follies, peasants and
Highland chiefs moving in heterogeneous fashion in the great ballrooms.

Barton Key, as an English hunter, clad in white satin breeks,
cherry-velvet jacket, and jaunty cap, with lemon-coloured high-top
boots, and a silver bugle (upon which he blew from time to time) hung
across his breast, was a conspicuous figure in that splendid happy
assemblage, and Mlle. de Montillon was a picture in the Polish character
costume in which her mother had appeared when she danced in a Polonaise
before the Empress at the Tuilleries.

Sir William Gore Ouseley, the “Knight of the Mysterious Mission,”
attracted general attention in his character of Knight Commander of the
Bath. The Baroness de Staeckl and Miss Cass were models of elegance as
French Court beauties, and Mrs. Jefferson Davis as Mme. de Staël dealt
in caustic repartee as became her part, delivered now in French and
again in broken English, to the annihilation of all who had the temerity
to cross swords with her.

Among the guests “our furrin relations” were numerously represented, and
I remember well the burst of laughter which greeted Mrs. Partington when
she asked Lady Napier, with a confidential and sympathetic air, “whether
the Queen had got safely over her last encroachment.” Incidentally she
added some good advice on the bringing up of children, illustrating its
efficacy by pointing to Ike, whom _she_ “was teaching religiously both
the lethargy and the cataplasm!”

My memories of Mrs. Gwin’s ball would be incomplete did I not mention
two or more of Aunt Ruthy’s escapades during the evening. The rumour of
my intended impersonation had aroused in the breast of a certain
Baltimorean youth the determination to disturb, “to break up Mrs. Clay’s
composure.” I heard of the young man’s intention through some friend
early in the evening, and my mother-wit, keyed as it was to a pitch of
alertness, promptly aided me to the overthrow of the venturesome hero.
He came garbed as a newsboy, and, nature having provided him with lusty
lungs, he made amusing announcements as to the attractions of his wares,
at the most unexpected moments. Under his arm he carried a bundle of
papers which he hawked about in a most professional manner. At an
unfortunate moment he walked hurriedly by as if on his rounds, and
stopping beside me he called out confidently, “_Baltimore Sun!_ Have a
‘_Sun_,’ Madam?”



  of Mississippi

“Tut, tut! Man!” said Mrs. Partington, horrified. “How dare you ask such
a question of a virtuous female widow woman?” Then bursting into sobs
and covering her eyes with the broad text of the “Declaration of
Independence,” she cried, “What would my poor Paul think of that?” To
the hilarious laughter of those who had gathered about us, the routed
hero retreated hastily, and, for the remainder of the evening,
restrained by a wholesome caution, he gave Aunt Ruthy a wide berth.

Such kind greetings as came to this unsophisticated visitor to the ball!
“You’re the sweetest-looking old thing!” exclaimed “Lushe” Lamar before
he had penetrated my disguise. “I’d just like to buss you!”

I had an amusing _rencontre_ with Senator Seward that evening. That this
pronounced Northerner had made numerous efforts in the past to meet me I
was well aware; but my Southern sentiments were wholly disapproving of
him, and I had resisted even my kinder-hearted husband’s plea, and had
steadily refused to permit him to be introduced to me. “Not even to save
the Nation could I be induced to eat his bread, to drink his wine, to
enter his domicile, to _speak_ to him!” I once impetuously declared,
when the question came up in private of attending some function which
the Northern Senator was projecting.

At Mrs. Gwin’s ball, however, I noticed Mr. Seward hovering in my
neighbourhood, and I was not surprised when he, “who could scrape any
angle to attain an end,” as my cousin Miss Comer said so aptly, finding
none brave enough to present him, took advantage of my temporary merging
into Mr. Shillaber’s character, and presented himself to “Mrs.
Partington.” He was very courteous, if a little uncertain of his
welcome, as he approached me, and said, “Aunt Ruthy, can’t I, too, have
the pleasure of welcoming you to the Federal City? May I have a pinch of
snuff with you?” It was here that Mrs. Partington reminded him that the
donor of her snuff-box “loved the Kawnstitewtion.” I gave him the snuff
and with it a number of Partingtonian shots about his opinions
concerning “Slave Oligawky,” which were fearless even if “funny,” as the
Senator seemed to find them, and I passed on. This was my first and only
meeting with Mr. Seward.[15]

I was so exhilarated at the success of my rôle that I had scarce seen
our cousins during the evening (I am sure they thought me an ideal
chaperone), though I caught an occasional glimpse of the gauzy-winged
“Titania,” and once I saw the equally tiny Miss Comer go whirling down
the room in a wild galop with the tall Lieutenant Scarlett, of Her
Majesty’s Guards, who was conspicuous in a uniform as rubescent as his
patronymic. And I recall seeing an amusing little bit of human nature in
connection with our hostess, which showed how even the giving of this
superb entertainment could not disturb Mrs. Gwin’s perfect oversight of
her household.

The “wee sma’ hours” had come, and I had just finished complimenting my
hostess on her “cold hash and _cider_,” when the butler stepped up to
her and, in discreet pantomime, announced that the wine had given out.

Then she, Queen for the nonce of the most magnificent of the Bourbons,
did step aside and, lifting her stiff moiré skirt and its costly train
of cherry satin (quilled with white, it was), did extract from some
secret pocket the key to the wine cellar, and pass it right royally to
her menial. This functionary shortly afterward returned and rendered it
again to her, when, by the same deft manipulation of her rich
petticoats, the implement was replaced in its repository, and the Queen
once more emerged to look upon her merrymakers.

For years Mrs. Gwin’s fancy ball has remained one of the most brilliant
episodes in the annals of ante-bellum days in the capital. For weeks
after its occurrence the local photograph and daguerreotype galleries
were thronged with patrons who wished to be portrayed in the costumes
they had worn upon the great occasion; and a few days after the ball,
supposing I would be among that number, Mr. Shillaber sent me a request
for my likeness, adding that he “would immortalise me.” But, flushed
with my own success, and grown daring by reason of it, I replied that,
being _hors de combat_, I could not respond as he wished. I thanked him
for his proffer, however, and reminded him that the public had
anticipated him, and that by their verdict I had already immortalised

                               CHAPTER X

In the winter of ’9 and ’0 it became obvious to everyone that gaiety at
the capital was waning. Aside from public receptions, now become
palpably perfunctory, only an occasional wedding served to give social
zest to the rapidly sobering Congressional circles. Ordinary “at-homes”
were slighted. Women went daily to the Senate gallery to listen to the
angry debates on the floor below. When belles met they no longer
discussed furbelows and flounces, but talked of forts and fusillades.
The weddings of my cousin, Miss Hilliard, in 1859, and of Miss Parker,
in 1860, already described, were the most notable matrimonial events of
those closing days of Washington’s splendour.

To Miss Hilliard’s marriage to Mr. Hamilton Glentworth, of New York,
which occurred at mid-day at old St. John’s, and to the reception that
followed, came many of the Senatorial body and dignitaries of the
capital. A procession of carriages drawn by white horses accompanied the
bridal party to the church, where the celebrated Bishop Doane, of New
Jersey, performed the ceremony. The bride’s gown and that of one of the
bridesmaids were “gophered,” this being the first appearance of the new
French style of trimming in the capital. One of the bridesmaids, I
remember, was gowned in pink crêpe, which was looped back with coral,
then a most fashionable garniture; the costume of another was of
embroidered tulle caught up with bunches of grapes; and each of the
accompanying ushers—such were the fashions of the day—wore inner vests
of satin, embroidered in colour to match the gown of the bridesmaid
allotted to his charge.

Notable artists appeared in the capital, among them Charlotte Cushman,
and there were stately, not to say stiff and formal, dinners at the
British Embassy, now presided over by Lord Lyons. This Minister’s
arrival was looked upon as a great event. Much gossip had preceded it,
and all the world was agog to know if it were true that feminine-kind
was debarred from his menage. It was said that his personally chartered
vessel had conveyed to our shores not only the personages comprising his
household, but also his domestics and skilful gardeners, and even the
growing plants for his conservatory. It was whispered that when his
Lordship entertained ladies his dinner-service was to be of solid gold;
that when gentlemen were his guests they were to dine from the costliest
of silver plate. Moreover, the gossips at once set about predicting that
the new-comer would capitulate to the charms of some American woman, and
speculation was already rife as to who would be the probable bride.

Lord Lyons began his American career by entertaining at dinner the
Diplomatic Corps, and afterward the officials of our country, in the
established order of precedence, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, and
Senate circles leading, according to custom. His Lordship’s invitations
being sent out alphabetically, Senator Clay and I received a foreign and
formidable card to the first Senatorial dinner given by the newly
arrived diplomat. My husband’s appearance at this function, I remember,
was particularly distinguished. He was clad in conventional black, and
wore with it a cream-coloured vest of brocaded velvet; yet,
notwithstanding my wifely pride in him, we had what almost amounted to a
disagreement on our way to the famous feast. We drove to Lord Lyons’s
domicile with Senator and Mrs. Crittenden, and my perturbation furnished
them with much amusement. For some reason or for lack of one I was
obsessed by a suspicion that the new Minister, probably being unaware of
the state of feeling which continually manifested itself between
Northern and Southern people in the capital, might assign to me, as my
escort to table, some pronounced Republican.

“What would you do in that event?” asked Senator Clay.

“Do?” I asked, hotly and promptly. “I would refuse to accept him!”

My husband’s voice was grave as he said, “I hope there will be no need!”

Arriving at the Embassy, I soon discovered that, as had been rumoured,
the maid ordinarily at hand to assist women guests had been replaced by
a fair young English serving-man, who took charge of my wraps, and knelt
to remove my overshoes with all the deftness of a practised _femme de
chambre_. These preliminaries over, I rejoined my husband in the
corridor, and together we proceeded to our host, and, having greeted
him, turned aside to speak to other friends.

Presently Senator Brown, Mr. Davis’s confrère from Mississippi, made his
way to me. Senator Brown was one of the brightest men in Congress. As he
approached, my misgivings vanished and I smiled as I said, “Ah! you are
to be my gallant this evening!”

“Not so,” replied he. “I’m to go in with Mme. ——, and shall be compelled
to smell ‘camphired’ cleaned gloves for hours!”



  British Ambassador to the United States

He left my side. Presently he was replaced by Mr. Eames, ex-Minister to
Venezuela. Again I conjectured him to be the man who was destined to
escort me; but, after the exchange of a few words, he, too, excused
himself, and I saw him take his place at the side of his rightful
partner. In this way several others came and went, and still I stood
alone. I wondered what it all meant, and gave a despairing look at my
husband, who, I knew, was rapidly becoming as perturbed as was I.
Presently the massive doors slid apart, and a voice proclaimed, “Dinner,
my Lord!” Now my consternation gave way to overwhelming surprise and
confusion, for our host, glancing inquiringly around the circle, stepped
to my side, and, bowing profoundly, offered his arm with, “I have the
honour, Madam!” Once at the table, I quickly regained my composure,
assisted, perhaps, to this desirable state, by a feeling of triumph as I
caught from across the table the amused glance of my erstwhile
companion, Mrs. Crittenden.

Lord Lyons’s manner was so unconstrained and easy that I soon became
emboldened to the point of suggesting to him the possibility of some
lovely American consenting to become “Lyonised.” His Lordship’s prompt
rejoinder and quizzical look quite abashed me, and brought me swiftly to
the conclusion that I would best let this old lion alone; for he said,
“Ah, Madam! do you remember what Uncle Toby said to his nephew when he
informed him of his intended marriage?” Then, without waiting for my
assent, he added, “Alas! alas! quoth my Uncle Toby, you will never sleep
slantindicularly in your bed more!”

I had an adventure at a ball in 1859, which, though unimportant in
itself, turns a pleasing side-light upon one of the more courteous of
our political opponents. A dance had been announced, the music had
begun, and the dancers had already taken their places, when my partner
was called aside suddenly. Something occurred to detain him longer than
he had expected, and the time for us to lead having arrived, there was a
call for the missing gallant, who was nowhere to be seen. I looked about
helplessly, wondering what I was to do, when Anson Burlingame, who was
standing near, seeing my dilemma, stepped promptly forward, and, taking
my hand in most courtly manner, he said, “Pardon me, Madam!” and led me,
bewildered, through the first steps of the dance!

Lost in amazement at his courtesy, I had no time to demur, and, when we
returned to my place, the delinquent had reappeared. Bowing politely,
Mr. Burlingame withdrew. The circumstance caused quite a ripple among
those who witnessed it. Those who knew me best were amused at my
docility in allowing myself thus to be led through the dance by a rank
Abolitionist; but many were the comments made upon “Mr. Burlingame’s
audacity in daring to speak to Mrs. Clement Clay!”

Such were the scenes, both grave and gay, that preceded what was surely
the saddest day of my life—January 21, 1861—when, after years of
augmenting dissension between the Sections, I saw my husband take his
portfolio under his arm and leave the United States Senate Chamber in
company with other no less earnest Southern Senators. For weeks the
pretense of amity between parties had ceased, and social formalities no
longer concealed the gaping chasm that divided them. When the members of
each met, save for a glare of defiance or contempt, each ignored the
other, or, if they spoke, it was by way of a taunt or a challenge. Every
sentence uttered in Senate or House was full of hot feeling born of many
wrongs and long-sustained struggle. For weeks, men would not leave their
seats by day or by night, lest they might lose their votes on the vital
questions of the times. At the elbows of Senators, drowsy with long
vigils, pages stood, ready to waken them at the calling of the roll.

Not a Southern woman but felt, with her husband, the stress of that
session, the sting of the wrongs the Southern faction of that great body
was struggling to right. For forty years the North and the South had
striven for the balance of power, and the admission of each new State
was become the subject of bitter contention. There was, on the part of
the North, a palpable envy of the hold the South had retained so long
upon the Federal City, whether in politics or society, and the
resolution to quell us, by physical force, was everywhere obvious. The
face of the city was lowering, and some of the North agreed with us of
the South that a nation’s suicide was about to be precipitated.

Senator Clay, than whom the South has borne no more self-sacrificing
son, nor the Nation a truer patriot, was an ill man as that “winter of
national agony and shame” (_vide_ the Northern witness, Judge Hoar)
progressed. The incertitude of President Buchanan was alarming; but the
courage of our people to enter upon what they knew must be a defense of
everything they held dear in State and family institution rose higher
and higher to meet each advancing danger. The seizure by South Carolina
of United States forts that lay, a menace, within her very doorway,
acted like a spur upon the courage of the South.

“We have been hard at work all day,” wrote a defender of our cause from
Morris Island, January 17, 1861, “helping to make, with our own hands, a
battery, and moving into place some of the biggest guns you ever saw,
and all immediately under the guns of old Anderson.[16] He fired a shell
down the Bay this afternoon to let us know what he could do. But he had
a little idea what _we_ can do from his observation of our firing the
other morning,[17] at the ‘_Star of the West_,’ all of which he saw, and
he thought we had ruined the ship, as Lieutenant Hall represented in the
city that morning.... We learn to-day that in Washington they are trying
to procrastinate. That does not stop our most earnest preparation, for
we are going to work all night to receive from the steamboat three more
enormous guns and place them ready to batter down Fort Sumter, and we
can do it. We hope the other points are as forward in their preparations
as we are. If so, we can _smoke him out_ in a week. We are nearest to
him, and he may fire on us to-night, but if he were to kill everybody in
the State, and only one woman was left, and she should bear a child,
that child would be a secessionist. Our women are even more spirited
than we are, though, bless the dear creatures, I have not seen one in a
long time.”

Yet, despite these buoyant preparations for defense, there was a
lingering sentiment among us that caused us to deplore the necessity
that urged our men to arms. My husband was exceedingly depressed at the
futility of the Peace Commission, for he foresaw that the impending
conflict would be bloody and ruinous. One incident that followed the
dissolution of that body impressed itself ineradicably upon my mind.
Just after its close ex-President Tyler came to our home. He was now an
old man and very attenuated. He was completely undone at the failure of
the Peace men, and tears trickled down his cheeks as he said to Senator
Clay, with indescribable sadness, “Clay, the end has come!”

In those days men eyed each other warily and spoke guardedly, save to
the most tried and proved friend. One evening early in 1861, Commander
Semmes, U. S. N., called upon us, and happened to arrive just as another
naval officer, whose name I have now forgotten, was announced. The
surprise that spread over the faces of our visitors when they beheld
each other was great, but Senator Clay’s and my own was greater, as hour
after hour was consumed in obvious constraint. Neither of the officers
appeared to be at ease, yet for hours neither seemed to desire to
relieve the situation by taking his departure. Midnight had arrived ere
our now forgotten guest rose and bade us “good night.” Then Commander
Semmes hastened to unbosom himself. He had resolved to out-sit the other
gentleman if it took all night.

“As my Senator, Mr. Clay,” he said, “I want to report to you my decision
on an important matter. I have resolved to hand in my resignation to the
United States Government, and tender my services to that of the
Confederate States. I don’t know what the intention of my brother
officer is, but I could take no risk with him,” he added. Many a scene
as secret, as grave, and as “treasonable,” took place in those last
lowering weeks.

I have often mused upon the impression held by the younger generation of
those who were adverse to the South, viz.: that she “was prepared for
the war” into which we were precipitated practically by the admission of
Kansas; that our men, with treasonable foresight, had armed themselves
individually and collectively for resistance to our guileless and
unsuspicious oppressors. Had this been true, the result of that terrible
civil strife would surely have been two nations where now we have one.
To the last, alas! too few of our people realised that war was
inevitable. Even our provisional Secretary of War for the Confederate
States,[18] early in ’1, publicly prophesied that, should fighting
actually begin, it would be over in three months! It must be apparent to
thinkers that such gay dreamers do not form deep or “deadly plots.”

Personally I knew of but one man whose ferocity led him to collect and
secrete weapons of warfare. He was Edmund Ruffin, of Virginia, with whom
I entered into collusion. For months my parlour was made an arsenal for
the storing of a dozen lengthy spears. They were handsome weapons, made,
I suspect, for some decorative purpose, but I never knew their origin
nor learned of their destination. On them were engraved these
revolutionary words:

“Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck the flower of safety.”

As Senator Clay’s unequivocal position as a Southern man was everywhere
understood, our parlours were frequently the gathering-place of
statesmen from our own section and such others as were friendly to our
people and believed in our right to defend the principles we had
maintained since the administration of the first President of the United
States. Among the last mentioned were Senators Pendleton and Pugh, and
the ardent member of Congress from Ohio, Mr. Vallandigham. Often the
“dread arms” deposited by Mr. Ruffin proved a subject of conjecture and
mirth, with which closed some weightier conversation. As the day drew
near, however, for the agreed upon withdrawal of our Senators, the
tension under which all laboured made jests impossible, and keyed every
heart to the utmost solemnity. Monday, January 21st, was the day
privately agreed upon by a number of Senators for their public
declaration of secession; but, as an example of the uncertainty which
hobbled our men, until within a day or two of the appointed time several
still awaited the instructions from their States by which their final
act must be governed. Early on Sunday morning, January 20th, my husband
received from a distinguished colleague the following letter:

             “WASHINGTON, Saturday night, January 19, 1861.

  “_My Dear Clay_: By telegraph I am informed that the copy of the
  ordinance of secession of my State was sent by mail _to-day_, one to
  each of two branches of representation, and that _my_ immediate
  presence at —— is required. It thus appears that —— was expected to
  present the paper in the Senate and some one of the members to do so
  in the House. All have gone save me, I, alone, and I am called away.
  _We have piped and they would not dance, and now the devil may

  “I am grieved to hear that you are sick, the more so that I cannot
  go to you. God grant your attack may be slight.”

And now the morning dawned of what all knew would be a day of awful
import. I accompanied my husband to the Senate, and everywhere the
greeting or gaze of absorbed, unrecognising men and women was serious
and full of trouble. The galleries of the Senate, which hold, it is
estimated, one thousand people, were packed densely, principally with
women, who, trembling with excitement, awaited the denouement of the
day. As, one by one, Senators David Yulee, Stephen K. Mallory, Clement
C. Clay, Benjamin Fitzpatrick, and Jefferson Davis rose, the emotion of
their brother Senators and of us in the galleries increased; and, when I
heard the voice of my husband, steady and clear, notwithstanding his
illness, declare in that Council Chamber:

“Mr. President, I rise to announce that the people of Alabama have
adopted an ordinance whereby they withdraw from the Union, formed under
a compact styled the United States, resume the powers delegated to it,
and assume their separate station as a sovereign and independent
people,” it seemed as if the blood within me congealed.

As each Senator, speaking for his State, concluded his solemn
renunciation of allegiance to the United States, women grew hysterical
and waved their handkerchiefs, encouraging them with cries of sympathy
and admiration. Men wept and embraced each other mournfully. At times
the murmurs among the onlookers grew so deep that the Sergeant-at-Arms
was ordered to clear the galleries; and, as each speaker took up his
portfolio and gravely left the Senate Chamber, sympathetic shouts rang
from the assemblage above. Scarcely a member of that Senatorial body but
was pale with the terrible significance of the hour. There was
everywhere a feeling of suspense, as if, visibly, the pillars of the
temple were being withdrawn and the great Government structure was
tottering; nor was there a patriot on either side who did not deplore
and whiten before the evil that brooded so low over the nation.

When Senator Clay concluded his speech, many of his colleagues, among
them several from Republican ranks, came forward to shake hands with
him. For months his illness had been a theme of public regret and
apprehension among our friends. “A painful rumour reached me this
morning,” wrote Joseph Holt to me late in 1860, “in relation to the
health of your excellent husband.... While I hope sincerely this is an
exaggeration, yet the apprehensions awakened are so distressing, that I
cannot resist the impulse of my heart to write you in the trust that
your reply will relieve me from all anxiety. It is my earnest prayer
that a life adorned by so many graces may be long spared to yourself, so
worthy of its devotion, and to our country, whose councils so need its
genius and patriotism.... Believe me most sincerely your friend, Joseph

In fact, the news of Senator Clay’s physical sufferings had been
telegraphed far and near, and, merged with the fear for our country,
there was, in my own heart, great anxiety and sadness for him. Our mail
was full of inquiries as to his welfare, many from kindly strangers and
even from States that were bitterly inimical to our cause. One of these
came from the far North, from one who signed himself, “A plain New
Hampshire minister, Henry E. Parker.” Nor can I refrain from quoting a
portion of his letter, which bears the never-to-be-forgotten date of
January 21st, 1861. He wrote as follows:

“I am utterly appalled at this projected dissolution of our Government.
To lose, to throw away our place and name among the nations of the
earth, seems not merely like the madness of suicide, but the very
blackness of annihilation. If this thing shall be accomplished, it will
be, to my view, the crime of the nineteenth century; the partition of
Poland will be nothing in comparison....



  United States Senator, 1853–61

“Born and educated as we are at the North, sensible men at the South
cannot wonder at the views we entertain, nor do sensible men at the
North think it strange that, born and educated as the Southerner is, he
should feel very differently from the Northerner in some things; but why
should not all these difficulties sink before our common love for our
common country?”

Why, indeed! Yet the cry of “disunion” had been heard for forty
years[19] and still our Southern men had forborne, until the party
belligerents, whose encroachments had now, at last, become unbearable,
had begun to look upon our protests as it were a mere cry of “wolf.” Of
those crucial times, and of that dramatic scene in the United States
Senate, no Southern pen has written in permanent words; and such
Northern historians as Messrs. Nicolay and Hay elide, as if their
purpose were to obscure, the deliberate and public withdrawal of those
representatives, our martyrs to their convictions, their institutions
and their children’s heritages; and would so bury them under the
sweeping charges of “conspiracy” and “treason” that the casual reader of
the future is not likely to realise with what candour to their
opponents, with what dignity to themselves, out of what loyalty to their
States, and yet again with what grief for the nation and sacrifice of
life-time associations, the various seceding Senators went out at last
from that august body!

For months the struggle of decades had been swiftly approximating to its
bloody culmination. Our physical prosperity, no less than the social
security we enjoyed, had caused us to become objects of envy to the
rough elements in the new settlements, especially of the Northwest.[20]
So inimical was the North to us that though the South was the treasury
of the nation; though she had contributed from her territory the very
land upon which the Federal City was built; though her sons ranked among
the most brilliant of whom the young Republic could boast—it was
impossible for the South to get an appropriation of even a few hundred
thousand dollars, to provide for the building of a lighthouse on that
most dangerous portion of the Atlantic coast, the shore of North

An era of discovery and expansion preceded the outbreak of the war. By
means of costly embassies to the Eastern countries, new avenues of
commerce had been opened. The acquisition of Cuba and of the Mexican
States became an ambition on the part of Mr. Buchanan, who was anxious
to repeat during his Administration the successes of his predecessors,
Presidents Fillmore and Pierce. So long ago as ’5, the question of the
purchase of the island of St. Thomas from the Danish Government was a
subject that called for earnest diplomacy on the part of Mr. Raasloff,
the Danish Minister; and the gold fever which made Northern adventurers
mad carried many to rifle the distant Pacific coast of its treasures. By
this time the cotton gin had demonstrated its great worth, and the greed
of acquisition saw in our cotton fields a new source of envy, for we had
no need to dig or to delve—we shook our cotton plants and golden dollars
dropped from them. Had the gathering of riches been our object in life,
men of the South had it in their power to have rivalled the wealth of
the fabled Midas; but, as was early observed by a statesman who never
was partisan, the “Southern statesmen went for the honours and the
Northern for the benefits.” In consequence, wrote Mr. Benton (1839),
“the North has become rich upon the benefits of the Government; the
South has grown lean upon its honours.”

From the hour of this exodus of Senators from the official body, all
Washington seemed to change. Imagination can scarcely conjure up an
atmosphere at once so ominous and so sad. Each step preparatory to our
departure was a pang. Carriages and messengers dashed through the
streets excitedly. Farewells were to be spoken, and many, we knew, would
be final. Vehicles lumbered on their way to wharf or station filled with
the baggage of departing Senators and Members. The brows of
hotel-keepers darkened with misgivings, for the disappearance from the
Federal City of the families of Congressional representatives from the
fifteen slave-holding States made a terrible thinning out of its
population; and, in the strange persons of the politicians, already
beginning to press into the capital, there was little indication that
these might prove satisfactory substitutes for us who were withdrawing.

“How shall I commence my letter to you?” wrote the wife of Colonel
Philip Phillips to me a month or two after we had left Washington. “What
can I tell you, but of despair, of broken hearts, of ruined fortunes,
the sobs of women, and sighs of men!... I am still in this _horrible
city_ ... but, distracted as I am at the idea of being forced to remain,
we feel the hard necessity of keeping quiet.... For days I saw nothing
but despairing women leaving [Washington] suddenly, their husbands
having resigned and sacrificed their all for their beloved States. You
would not know this God-forsaken city, our beautiful capital, with all
its artistic wealth, desecrated, disgraced with Lincoln’s low soldiery.
The respectable part [of the soldiers] view it also in the same spirit,
for one of the Seventh Regiment told me that never in his life had he
seen such ruin going on as is now enacted in the halls of our once
honoured Capitol! I cannot but think that the presentiment that the
South would wish to keep Washington must have induced this desecration
of all that should have been respected by the mob in power.... The Gwins
are the only ones left of our intimates, and Mrs. G—— is packed up ready
to leave. Poor thing! her eyes are never without tears.... There are
30,000 troops here. Think of it! They go about the avenue insulting
women and taking property without paying for it.... Such are the men
waged to subjugate us of the South.... We hear constantly from
Montgomery. Everything betokens a deep, abiding faith in the cause.

“I was told that those _giant_ intellects, the Blairs, who are acting
under the idea of being second Jacksons, wishing to get a good officer
to do some of their dirty work (destroying public property), wished
Colonel Lee sent for. ‘Why, he has resigned!’ ‘Then tell Magruder!’ ‘He
has resigned, too.’ ‘General Joe Johnston, then!’—‘He, too, has gone
out!’ ‘Smith Lee?’ Ditto!

“‘Good God!’ said Blair. ‘Have all our good officers left us?’

“I hear these Blairs are at the bottom of all this war policy. Old
Blair’s country place was threatened, and his family, including the
fanatical Mrs. Lee, had to fly into the city. This lady was the one who
said to me that ‘she wished the North to be deluged with the blood of
the South ere Lincoln should yield one iota!’

“Do not believe all you hear about the Northern sympathy for Lincoln.
The Democrats still feel for the South. If Congress does not denounce
Lincoln for his unlawful and unconstitutional proceedings, I shall begin
to think we have no country!”

                               CHAPTER XI
                           WAR IS PROCLAIMED

Upon leaving the Federal capital we proceeded to the home of Senator
Clay’s cousin, Doctor Thomas Withers, at Petersburg, Va. My husband’s
health, already feeble, had suffered greatly from the months of strife
which culminated in the scenes through which we had just passed, and we
had scarcely arrived in Petersburg when a serious collapse occurred. Mr.
Clay now became so weakened that fears were reiterated by all who saw
him that he could not survive. I was urged to take him at once to
Minnesota, the attending physicians all agreeing that this was the one
experiment in which lay a chance for prolonging his life. In those days
the air of that far western State was supposed to have a phenomenally
curative effect upon the victims of asthma, from which for years Mr.
Clay had suffered an almost “daily death.” In the present acute attack,
his body sick and his heart sore from our late ordeals, fearful of the
danger of delay, I at once put into execution plans for the northward
trip in which lay even a slender hope for his recovery. No one who had
witnessed my husband’s dignified withdrawal from the Senate, who had
heard his firm utterance of what was at once a challenge to arms and a
warning that Alabama would defend her decision to stand alone, would
have recognised the invalid now struggling for his life against the
dread disease. He was extremely emaciated.

“When I last saw you,” wrote John T. Morgan[21] from camp, some months
later, “your health scarcely justified the hope that you would become
one of the first Senators in a new Confederacy. I was grieved that when
we came to meet the great struggle in Alabama you were not permitted to
aid us further than by your counsels and recorded opinions. I rejoice
that you are again our representative in a Senate where the South is not
to be defended against foes within her own bosom, but to reap the
advantage of the wisdom and experience of her own statesmen.”

My brother-in-law, Hugh Lawson Clay, afterward Colonel on the staff of
our friend, General E. Kirby Smith, hurried, therefore, from Alabama to
accompany us upon the slow journey made necessary by Mr. Clay’s extreme

In due time we arrived at the International Hotel, St. Paul. Here,
though our stay was short, we had an unpleasant experience, a single
one, due to sectional feeling. Having safely bestowed Mr. Clay in his
room, our brother made his way to the drug-store, which, as we entered,
we had observed was below the hotel, to purchase a necessary restorative
for my husband. While waiting there for the wrapping of the medicine,
two young men entering met, and one exclaimed to the other:

“Here’s a good chance! Clay, the fire-eating Senator from Alabama, is in
this house. Let’s mob him!”

My brother, both indignant and surprised, was also fearful lest they
should carry out their threat and thereby work incalculable evil to our
invalid. He turned promptly and addressed them:

“Mr. Clay, of whom you speak,” he said, “is my brother, and, it may be,
a hopeless invalid. He is here seeking health. You can molest him only
through me!”

But now a second surprise met him, for the two youths began a very duet
of apology, declaring they “had only been joking.” They meant no
offense, they said, and, in fact, themselves were democrats. Feeling,
they continued, was at high tide, and it was the fashion of the times to
denounce the South. Upon this frank acknowledgment the trio shook hands
and parted, nor did Senator Clay and I hear of the altercation until the
next day, when it was repeated to us by a kind friend, Mr. George
Culver, at whose home, in St. Paul, we lingered for several weeks. Here
the wonderful climate appreciably restored the invalid, and Mr. Clay was
soon able to move about, and added to his weight almost visibly.

In the meantime, the news of the gathering together of armies, both
North and South, came more and more frequently. Everywhere around us
preparations were making for conflict. The news from the seceding States
was inspiring. My husband’s impatience to return to Alabama increased
daily, stimulated, as it was, by the ardour of our many correspondents
from Montgomery and Huntsville, civil and military.

“I was improving continuously and rapidly,” he wrote to our friend E. D.
Tracy, “when Lincoln’s proclamation and that of the Governor of
Minnesota reached me, and I think I should have been entirely restored
to health in a month or two had I remained there with an easy conscience
and a quiet mind. But after those bulletins, the demonstrations against
the “Rebels” were so offensive as to become intolerable. So we left on
the 22d [April], much to the regret of the few real friends we found or
made. Many, with exceeding frankness, expressed their deep sorrow at our
departure, since I was improving so rapidly; but, while appreciating
their solicitude for me, I told them I preferred dying in my own country
to living among her enemies.”

Shortly after the breaking up of the ice in Lake Minnetonka, we bade
farewell to the good Samaritans at St. Paul and took passage on the
_Grey Eagle_. She was a celebrated boat of that day, and annually took
the prize for being the first to cut through the frozen waters. I have
never forgotten the wonders and beauties of that trip, beginning in the
still partially ice-locked lake, and progressing gradually until the
emerald glories of late April met us in the South! It was on this
journey that we caught the first real echoes of the booming guns of Fort
Sumter. The passengers on board the _Grey Eagle_ discussed the outlook
with gravity. To a friendly lady, whose sympathies were aroused on
behalf of my husband, still pale and obviously an invalid, I remember
expressing my sorrows and fears. I think I wept, for it was a time to
start the tears; but her reply checked my complainings.

“Ah, Mrs. Clay!” she said, “think how my heart is riven! I was born in
New Orleans and live in New York. One of my sons is in the Seventh New
York Regiment, and another in the New Orleans Zouaves!”

At Cairo, already a great centre of military activity for the Federals,
we caught a first gleam of the muskets of United States soldiery. A
company was drawn up in line on the river bank, for what purpose we did
not know, but we heard a rumour that it had to do with the presence on
the boat of the Southern Senator Clay, and I remember I was requested by
an oficer of the _Grey Eagle_ to place in my trunk my husband’s fine
Maynard rifle, which had been much admired by our fellow-passengers, and
which once had been shot off during the trip, to show its wonderful
carrying power. Needless to say, the possibly offending firearm was
promptly put away. After a short colloquy between the captain of the
vessel and the military officer, who appeared to catechise him, the
_Grey Eagle_ again swung out on the broad, muddy river, and turned her
nose toward Memphis. Now, as we proceeded down the important
water-course, at many a point were multiplying evidences that the
fratricidal war had begun.

Memphis, at which we soon arrived, and which was destined within a year
to be taken and held by our enemy, was now beautiful with blossoms.
Spirea and bridal wreaths whitened the bushes, and roses everywhere
shaking their fragrance to the breezes made the world appear to smile.
My heart was filled with gratitude and joy to find myself once more
among the witchery and wonders of my “ain countree”; where again I might
hear the delightful mockery of that “Yorick of the Glade,” whose
bubbling melody is only to be heard in the South land! It was a
wonderful home-coming for our invalid, too eager by much to assume his
share of the responsibilities that now rested upon the shoulders of our
men of the South. A period of complete physical weakness followed our
arrival in Mr. Clay’s native city, a busy political and military centre
in those early days.

We spent our summer in “Cosy Cot,” our mountain home, set upon the crest
of Monte Sano, which overlooks the town of Huntsville below, distant
about three miles; nor, save in the making of comparatively short trips,
did we again leave this vicinity until Mr. Clay, his health improved,
was called to take his seat in the Senate of the new Confederate
Government, at Richmond, late in the following autumn. In the meantime
Senator Clay had declined the office of Secretary of War in Mr. Davis’s
Cabinet, privately proffered, believing his physical condition to be
such as to render his assumption of the duties of that department an
impossibility. In his stead he had urged the appointment of Leroy Pope
Walker, our fellow-townsman and long-time friend, though often a legal
and political opponent of my husband.

Now, at the time of our return, Secretary Walker was at the side of our
Executive head, deep in the problems of the military control of our
forces. Communications between Huntsville and Montgomery, where the
provisional Government temporarily was established, were frequent. A
special session of Congress was sitting, and every one identified with
our newly formed Legislature at the little capital was alert and eager
in perfecting our plans for defense. We were given a side glimpse of our
President’s personal activity in the following letter received a few
days after our return to Alabama:

                                   “MONTGOMERY, Alabama, May 10, 1861.

  “... Mr. Davis seems just now only conscious of things left undone,
  and to ignore the much which has been achieved. Consequently, his
  time seems all taken up with the Cabinet, planning (I presume)
  future operations.... Sometimes the Cabinet depart surreptitiously,
  one at a time, and Mr. Davis, while making things as plain as did
  the preacher the virtues of the baptismal, finds his demonstrations
  made to one weak, weary man, who has no vim to contend. To make a
  long story short, he overworks himself and all the rest of mankind,
  but is so far quite well, though not fleshily inclined.

  “There is a good deal of talk here of his going to Richmond as
  commander of the forces. I hope it may be done, for to him military
  command is a perfect system of hygiene.... There have been some here
  who thought, with a view to the sanitary condition, that the
  Government had better be moved to Richmond, and also that it would
  strengthen the weak-fleshed but willing-spirited border States....
  This is a very pretty place, and, were not the climate as warm as is
  the temperament of the people, it would be pleasant; but nearly all
  my patriotism oozes out, not unlike Bob Acres’ courage, at the
  pores, and I have come to the conclusion that Roman matrons
  performed their patriotism and such like duties in the winter. I
  wish your health would suffice for you to come and see the Congress.
  They are the finest-looking set of men I have ever seen collected
  together—grave, quiet and thoughtful-looking men, with an air of
  refinement which makes my mind’s picture gallery a gratifying
  pendant to Hamlin, Durkee, Doolittle, Chandler, etc....

  “The market is forlorn, but then we give our best and a warm
  welcome. If you are able to come and make us a visit, we will have
  the concordances of Washington and Montgomery.... Mrs. Mallory is in
  town on a short visit, Mrs. Fitzpatrick and the Governor, Mrs.
  Memminger, Constitution Brown and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Toombs (the
  latter is the only person who has a house). I could gossip on _ad

In Huntsville a feeling of diligence in preparation was everywhere
evident. Our historic little town was not only in the direct line of
travel between larger cities, and therefore a natural stopping place for
travellers; but, by reason of the many legal and political lights
residing there, and because of its being the county seat of one of the
most affluent counties in northern Alabama, was, and is, a town of
general interest throughout the State. Almost in an unbroken line, the
United States Senators of northern Alabama have been citizens of my
husband’s native town.

Situate among the low hills that separate the higher points of the
Cumberland range, Huntsville smiles up at the sky from a rare
amphitheatre, hollowed in the cedar-covered mountains. It is in the
heart of one of the most fertile portions of the Tennessee Valley.
Within an hour’s swift ride, the Tennessee flood rolls on its romantic
way, and as near in another direction is the forked Flint River, every
bend along its leafy edges a place of beauty. Up hill and down dale,
ride wherever one will, may be seen the hazy tops of mountains,
disappearing in the blue ether, and intervening valleys yellow with corn
or white with cotton, or green with the just risen grain. In the summer
the sweetness of magnolia and jasmine, of honeysuckle and mimosa, scents
the shady avenues along which are seen, beyond gardens and magnolia
trees, the commodious town houses of the prosperous planters. Among
these affluent surroundings a high public spirit had been nourished.
Here the first State Legislature of Alabama was convened and that body
met which formed the State Constitution. The simple structure in which
those early statesmen gathered (being, in general, representatives from
the families of Virginia and the Carolinas) stood yet intact in the
early part of 1903. The first newspaper printed in Alabama, yclept the
_Madison Gazette_, was published in Huntsville, and Green Academy
(taking its name from the rich sward that surrounded it), a renowned
institution of learning, was long a famous feature of Twickenham Town,
by which name Huntsville was once known.

In the early days of the township’s existence, a hot contest continued
for years to wage between the followers of two of its richest settlers
as to the future appellation of the pretty place. The friends of Colonel
Pope, who had contributed from the very centre of his plantation the
square upon which was built the County Court House, for a time overbore
the opposing parties and named the town in honour of the birthplace of
the immortal poet; but, though this choice was ratified by legislative
act, the adherents of the pioneer, John Hunt, refused to yield their
wishes. Mr. Hunt had discovered the site of the town while still the
valley was part of the Territory of Mississippi. Lured by the deer he
was stalking, he had come upon the big spring, gushing with limpid
waters. Here he pitched his tent, and, gathering others about him, he
fostered the building of the town which, until the contest that arose
with the aristocratic Colonel Pope, was known as Huntsville. For two
years, until the original name was restored by a second act of
Legislature, the little city was known as “Twickingham Town,” and to
many of its old families this name remains so dear that among themselves
it still continues to be affectionately applied.

Half the youth of Alabama in that early day delved in the classics under
the guidance of the studious professors of Green Academy. It was
situated in a large plot of ground which commanded a view of the
mountain. Its site was given to the town by Judge William Smith (the
warm friend of Andrew Jackson) on the condition that it should be used
only for a building for educational purposes forever. This distinguished
judge was, I think, the only man until Roscoe Conkling to refuse a seat
on the Supreme Court Bench of the United States.[22]

The charms and fascinations and general winsomeness of the girls of the
lovely vale, even in that early period, in a measure may be imagined
from the references to them in the following letter, written to Clement
C. Clay, Jr., by this time entered at the State University at

                                                    “FEBRUARY 2, 1833.

  “_My Dear Clement_: Richard Peete, Jere Clemens, Richard Perkins,
  Withers Clay, John E. Moore[23] and myself are in a class reading
  Horace and _Graeca Majora_. Clio is nearly broken up, and I fear it
  will never be revived, as the members do nothing but walk with the
  girls, nor do they appear to think of anything else. The girls in
  this town are the most jealous little vixens that ever breathed. I
  would advise you as a friend (for I have gone through the fiery
  ordeal, and should know something of the character of woman) to keep
  a respectful distance from the fair ones; for, if you mingle with
  them at all, you will be persuaded to mingle with them more and
  more. How much I would give if they would never harass me more!”

The roll of Huntsville’s prominent men includes a peculiarly large
number of names that have been potent in State and National capitals, in
civil and in military life. Scarcely a stone in its picturesque “God’s
Acre” but bears a name familiar to the Southern ear. From under the low
hill on which the columned Court House and historic National Bank
building stand, the Big Spring gushe, which has had its part in swelling
the city’s fame. Where its source lies none can say, though myths are
plenty that tell of subterranean caves through which it passes, and
which gleam with stalactite glories. Trickling freely from the sides of
the mountain beyond are numerous medicinal springs, and silver streams
thread their way among the valleys; but nowhere within the Tennessee
region exists a flow that at all may be compared with Huntsville’s “Big
Spring.” If Hygeia still exercises her functions, her modern home is
surely here. The flow of clear limestone water as it issues from the
rocks is wonderfully full and seemingly boundless. Since the founding of
the town the spring has supplied all the needs of the residents, and
that of armies camped about it. So late as 1898 its splendid daily yield
of twenty-four million gallons influenced the present Government to
locate in and about the pretty city, while awaiting the development of
the Cuban War, an army of twenty thousand men.

In the sixties the spring was already famous. From time immemorial the
pool below it had served the same purpose for the negroes about as did
the River Jordan for the earlier Christians, and a baptism at the Big
Spring, both impressive and ludicrous, was a sight never to be
forgotten. The negroes came down the hill, marching with solemn steps to
weird strains of their own composing, until they reached the edge of the
stream that forms below the spring. Here the eager candidates for
immersion were led into the water, when, doused for a moment, they would
come up again shrieking shrilly a fervent Hallelujah! As a rule, two
companions were stationed near to seize the person of the baptised one
as it rose, lest in a paroxysm of religious fervour he should harm
himself or others. As the baptisms, always numerous, continued, the
ardour of the crowd of participants and onlookers was sure to augment,
until a maniacal mingling of voices followed, that verged toward
pandemonium. The ceremony was as strange and blood-curdling as any rite
that might be imagined in the interior of the Dark Continent.

Once, upon the occasion of a visit of two New York friends, one
candidate for baptism, a black man, a veritable Goliath, broke loose
from those who tried to hold him and ran up the hill in his ecstasy,
bellowing like a wounded buffalo. The sounds were enough to excite
unmixed horror in the unaccustomed listener, but the appearance of the
enthusiast to me was more comical than terrifying; for, being in his
stockings, and these conspicuous by reason of their enormous holes, his
heels, revealed at every step, appeared as they flashed up the acclivity
like the spots on a bull-bat’s wings. When this sable son of Anak took
the field, the spectators scattering right and left, my friends turned
toward me as if panic-stricken. They paused but a brief moment, then,
“standing not upon the order of their going,” they, too, fled from the
possible charge of the half-crazed enthusiast. It was no uncommon thing
at such baptisms for the candidates to suffer from an attack of “Jerks,”
a kind of spasm which resulted from their excited imaginations. I have
seen the strength of four stout men tested to its utmost to hold down
one seemingly delicate negress, who, fired by the “glory in her soul,”
was now become its victim, jerking and screaming in a manner altogether
horrible to witness.

Above the spring and about the picturesque Square and Court House, in
the spring and early summer of ’1, the gay-hearted youth of Madison
County, thronging to the county seat, met in companies to drill and
prepare themselves for service in the war now upon us. Already, by the
early part of June, Alabama had “contributed to the Confederacy about
20,000 muskets and rifles,” though she retained of these, “for her own
immediate protection and defense, only four thousand! I hope,” wrote
Governor A. B. Moore, in sending this information to Mr. Clay, “that
volunteer companies throughout the State will put the rifles and
double-barrelled shot-guns in order, and drill them until called into
actual service.”

The youths and men of Madison County needed small urging. They were
heart and soul for the conflict that at last must be waged to preserve
the homes of their fathers, the heritages that were to be theirs, and
their right to independent government. These were the incentives of our
soldiers, allied to each other, regiment by regiment, by blood and long
association. There was no need for alien hirelings to swell our ranks.
The questions at issue were vital, and every Southern man who could bear
arms sprang eagerly to assume them.

Upon our arrival in Huntsville we found the city alive with preparations
for defense, our mail heavy with reports from every quarter of the
South, of friends and kinsmen who had entered the army, and many
exhilarated by the battles already won. An idea may be gathered of the
confluent interests that bound together our Southern army, by a mention,
as an example, by no means unique, of the ramifications of the two
families represented by Senator Clay and myself. My husband’s uncle,
General Withers, was already in command at Mobile; his brother, Hugh
Lawson Clay, was in Lynchburg, recruiting; his cousin, Eli S. Shorter,
was enrolled as Colonel in the C. S. A., besides whom there were
enlisted numerous cousins of the Withers, Comer, and Clayton families.
Thirty-nine cousins of my own, bearing the name of Williams, were in the
field at one time, and innumerable Arlingtons, Drakes and Boddies,
Hilliards, Tunstalls and Battles served the beloved cause in various
capacities in civil and military life.


  L. Q. C. LAMAR


These conditions knit neighbourhoods as well as regiments very closely
together, and largely go to furnish an explanation of our long struggle
against the numerically superior armies of our invaders. Our victories
in those early days were great, though the blood spilled to gain them
was precious; but the sound of mourning was stilled before the greater
need for encouragement to the living. “Beauregard and Johnston have
given the fanatics something to meditate upon,” wrote a cousin in July
of ’1. “A despatch says that our loss was three thousand, theirs seven
thousand. Steady Beauregard and brave Johnston! We owe them our

Yes! we owed them gratitude and we gave it to them and to every man in
the ranks. The women at home knitted and sewed, sacrificed and prayed,
and wept, too, especially the aged, as they packed away the socks and
underwear and such comforts for the young men in the field as might be
pressed into a soldier’s knapsack. “I met Mr. Lamar’s mother,” wrote my
sister from Macon, late in May, “and spoke to her of her son’s having
gone to Montgomery. She had not heard of it before and burst into tears!
This is her fourth and last son gone to the war!”

From Huntsville had gone out the gallant E. D. Tracy, who, now at
Harper’s Ferry, wrote back most thrilling accounts of military
proceedings in that important section of our Confederate States:

“I continue entirely well,” began a letter dated from Camp, near
Harper’s Ferry, June 8, 1861: “And, while I perfectly agree with, since
conversing with, General Smith, in regard to our situation, am in good
spirits. I trust I am ready to die _when my hour comes_, as becomes a
Christian soldier and gentleman; until that hour, I am proof against
shell and shot. If the enemy attacks us ‘we’ll memorise another
Golgotha’ and achieve a victory, or martyrdom. Our men believe the post
to be impregnable and are anxious for fight; if they were better
informed, I have no idea that their courage would be in the least

“From the arrival of troops during the last few days, I conclude that it
is the purpose of Government to hold Harper’s Ferry. At one time I think
that point was undecided, and am glad to believe that it is now settled
as stated. The moral effect of an evacuation of a place believed to be a
Gibraltar would be terribly disastrous to our cause; it would encourage
our enemies, depress our troops, and disappoint the expectation of the
world. Better that we perish in making a gallant defense than that such
consequences should be risked.”

My sister, Mrs. Hugh Lawson Clay, who had joined her husband in
Lynchburg, wrote buoyantly, yet gravely, from that troubled centre: “I
wrote you a long, long letter last Saturday,” begins one epistle from
her, “but Mr. Clay would not let me send it, because, he said, I told
too much. He was afraid it might be read by other eyes than yours.... I
look hourly to hear the result of an awful battle. I cannot but fear,
for we cannot hope to gain such victories often as the one at Bethel
Church.... Here we hear everything, for there are persons passing all
the time to and from Winchester and Manassas Junction. So many men from
this place are stationed there that mothers and sisters manage to hear
every day. Mr. Tracy wrote in his last that he fully expected to be in a
big battle. His men were eager for the fight, and he would be sure to
write as to the result, if it did not result in a termination of his
life’s candle!”



  of Washington, D. C.

As the time drew near for the opening of Congress in Richmond, Mr.
Clay’s health, spurred to a better state by an eager patriotism, eager
to express itself in the forum if debarred from the field, became
appreciably restored, and preparations were begun for an absence of a
few months from Huntsville. Anxious as everyone was throughout the
South, and feeling the strain even of victory, now flowing toward us and
again ebbing to our enemies, my husband and I had few misgivings
concerning the safety of the home we were leaving. A hundred greater
dangers surrounded Richmond (as it was thought), that lay so near to the
Federal lines and was the prize above all others which we looked to see
grappled for. Yet our field lay there, and, in anticipation, it seemed a
pleasant and an active one, for already it was peopled with throngs of
our former friends.

“I almost imagined myself in Washington,” wrote Mrs. Philip Phillips,
now returning from the Federal capital, where for months she had been a
prisoner. “There are so many dear, old friends [in Richmond]—Mrs.
Mallory, Mrs. Joe Johnston, and others—awaited us at the Spottswood
Hotel. I spent an evening with Mrs. Davis, who received me with great
feeling.... We have a terrible struggle before us. The resources of
Lincoln’s army are great, and a defensive war will prove our greatest
safeguard, but, it is presumption in speaking thus; only, having come so
recently from the seat of war, my ideas, founded upon practical
knowledge of what is going on at the North, may derive some value. I
brought on from Washington, sewed in my corsets, a programme of the war
sent to me by a Federal officer, many of whom are disaffected. The
capitalists of the North demand a decisive blow, else they will not back
the Government.”

                              CHAPTER XII

Richmond, as seen from the hill, with the James River flowing by, its
broad, level streets, full foliaged trees, and spacious homes, is a
beautiful city. Rich in historic association, never did it appear more
attractive to Southern eyes than when, arriving in the late autumn of
’1, we found our Confederate Government established there, and the air
full of activity. To accommodate the influx of Congressional and
military folk, the houses of the patriotic residents were thrown open,
until the capacity of every residence, hotel and lodging-house was
tested to the fullest. By the time Senator Clay and I arrived, there was
scarcely an extra bed to be had in the city, and though everywhere it
was apparent that an unsettled feeling existed, there was nothing either
indeterminate or volatile in the zeal with which the dense community was
fired. As the new-comers, for the greater part, represented families
which a season before had been conspicuous in Washington, society was in
the most buoyant of spirits. Our courage was high, for our army had won
glorious battles against remarkable odds, and, though gallant men had
fallen, as occasion demanded them, new heroes sprang to meet it.

For a few months we revelled in canvas-backs and greenbacks, undisturbed
by forewarnings of coming draw-backs. To furnish the tables of Richmond
nearly all the ducks in Chesapeake Bay fell victims. We feasted on
oysters and terrapin of the finest, and unmeasured hospitality was the
order of the day on every side. Never had I looked upon so great an
activity, whether military, political, or social. I had demurred when,
as we were about to start for the capital, my maid packed an evening
dress or two.

“We are going to war, Emily,” I said; “we shall have no need for velvet
or jewels. We are going to nurse the sick; not to dress and dance.” But
Emily’s ardour on my behalf led her to rebel.

“There’s bound to be somethin’ goin’ on, Miss ‘Ginie,’” she declared,
“an’ I ain’t goin’ to let my Mistis be outshined by Mis’ —— an’ dem
other ladies!” And, despite my protests, the gowns were duly packed.
There were many occasions afterward when I blessed the thoughtfulness of
my little gingerbread-tinted maid; for there were heroes to dine and to
cheer in Richmond, both civil and military, and sombre garments are a
sorry garb in which to greet or brighten the thoughts of men tired with
the strain of building or fighting for a government.

A sororal spirit actuated our women, and while our greatest
entertainment missed some of the mere display which had marked the
social events in the Federal City, they were happier gatherings, for we
were a people united in interest and in heart. Some of the brightest
memories I carry of that first session are of informal evenings where
neighbours gathered _sans cérémonie_. I recall one such spent at the
home of the Mallorys, the occasion being a dinner given to Brigadier
General John H. Morgan, who did the Confederacy such gallant service,
and was rewarded while in Richmond by the hand of one of its prettiest
daughters, Miss Reedy, who had been a favourite in Washington society. A
daughter of Mr. Reedy, M.C., from Tennessee, she was the first girl of
her day in Washington to wear a curl upon her forehead, which coquettish
item of coiffure was soon imitated by a hundred others.

The family of Mr. Mallory was a model one, every member seeming to have
his or her share in rounding out the general attractiveness. An informal
meal taken with that family was an experience long to be remembered, for
the little children took each his turn in asking the blessing, which was
never omitted, and which was especially impressive in those days, in
which the shadows of growing privations soon grew to be recognised if
not openly discussed or admitted. Our Secretary of the Navy, Mr.
Mallory, was the merriest of hosts, with a wit as sudden and as
brilliant as sheet-lightning, and a power of summing up, when he chose
to exert it, both events and people, in the most amusing manner. A
picture remains clearly in my mind of the evening devoted to General
Morgan. Ruby Mallory, then about thirteen years of age, recited for us
Holmes’s “The Punch-bowl,” while our host, in hearty enjoyment of the

                  “Stirred the posset with his ladle,”

to the rhythm of his little daughter’s speech.

During our first winter in Richmond my husband and I made our home with
Mrs. Du Val, near to the Exchange Hotel, a terrifically overcrowded
hostelry at all Confederate times, and within a short walk of the Seddon
home, now the Executive Mansion. It was a commodious and stately
structure, in which our President, now domiciled, lived with an
admirable disdain of display. Statesmen passing through the halls on
their way to the discussion of weighty things were likely to hear the
ringing laughter of the care-free and happy Davis children issuing from
somewhere above stairs or the gardens. The circle at Mrs. Du Val’s, our
headquarters, as it came and went for three eventful years, comprised
some of our former Washington mess-mates, and others newly called into
public service. Among the favourites was General J. E. B. Stuart, a
rollicking fellow, who loved music, and himself could sing a most
pleasing ballad. He was wont to dash up to the gate on his horse, his
plumes waving, and he appearing to our hopeful eyes a veritable Murat.
He was a gallant soldier, what might be termed delightful company, and
one of the most daring cavalry officers our service boasted. Twice, with
comparatively but a handful of men, he circled McClellan’s big,
unwieldly force as it lay massed, for months at a time, contemplating
the possibility of closing in upon our capital. It may be said that upon
his return to Richmond after his first brilliant feat, General Stuart
was the idol of the hour. When the exigencies of the service brought him
again and again to the capital, he entered heartily into its social
relaxations. Two years passed. He was conspicuous one night in charades,
and the next they brought him in, dying from a ghastly wound received
upon the battle-field.

I have said we were in gay spirits during that first session of the
Confederate Congress; but this condition was resolved upon rather than
the spontaneous expression of our real mood, though hope was strong and
we were armed with a conviction of right upon our side, and with the
assurance of the courage of our soldiers, which filled us with a fine
feminine scorn of the mere might of our assailants. Our editors, filled
with patriotism and alert, kept us informed of the stirring events of
the field and of the great victories which, until the loss of Fort
Donelson and the fall of Nashville, so often stood to our credit.
Scarcely a triumph, nevertheless, in which was not borne down some
friend who was dear to us, so that all news of victory gained might be
matched with the story of fearful loss. However, such was our loyalty to
the cause, that the stimulus of our victories overbore the sorrow for
our losses, sustaining our courage on every side. Before that first
session of Congress adjourned, we had buried an army of brave men, among
them Generals Zollicoffer and Albert Sidney Johnston. Our coast was
closed by the blockading fleets of the Federal Government. We had lost
New Orleans, and the Tennessee Valley was slipping from us. Huntsville,
which lay directly in the path of the invading army, itself threatened,
was now become a hospital for the wounded from abandoned Nashville. By
the early spring the news from our family was ominous of deeper disaster
to our beloved town.

“The public stores have been sent on from Nashville,” wrote mother,
early in March of ’2, from Huntsville, “and from four to ten thousand
men are said to be here or expected.... Yesterday the excitement was
greater than I have known. Men were seen walking or riding quickly, and
martial music told the tale of danger.... There are said to be a
thousand sick and wounded here. They have no bedding but a blanket, and
are placed in houses through which the wind blows. Rain spurts over the
sick men’s couches, cooling their fever and making their blood congeal,
so that death interposes for their relief! It is rumoured that the
President will be here to-night. People were up (last night) till two
o’clock, waiting to see him....”

“General Pillow is at the hotel, but told Dr. Slaughter he would not
bring Mrs. Pillow here, as General Buell intends to make this place his
headquarters!... I have no time to speculate on the future, but try to
encourage others to have courage and faith, and not to discourage our
soldiers by permitting their fears to be known; but to stimulate them by
letting them see the firmness and calm trustfulness with which we commit
more than our lives to their keeping!”

The news of Huntsville’s danger was our private anxiety in Richmond,
where each Senator and Congressman carried the burden of apprehension
for his own kin and family possessions well concealed; for at the
capital the nation’s losses and gains loomed large and obscured the
lesser ones of individuals. Moreover, always before us was the stimulus
of the presence of fearless men and the unceasing energy of our

I remember on one occasion seeing President Davis passing down the
street, beside him, on the left, General Buckner; on the right, General
Breckenridge—three stalwart and gallant men as ever walked abreast; and
as I watched them the thought came involuntarily, “Can a cause fail with
such men at the head?”

Throughout the life of Richmond as a capital, the streets were peopled
with soldiers on their way to or from the several headquarters. There
was an unintermitting beating of drums, too often muffled, and the
singing of merry bugles. With the knowledge that we were in the city
which, more than any other, invited and defied the attacks of the enemy,
a sense of danger spurred our spirits. Though the boom of guns was often
not a distant sound, and the solemn carrying in of our wounded became
increasingly frequent, few gave way to apprehensions or doubts; for, as
I have said, there were heroes in Richmond to cheer, and our women,
putting away from their minds the remembrance of the wounds they had
dressed in the morning visit to the hospitals, smiled and devised
entertainments well calculated to lift the burden of responsibility, at
least for the time being, from the minds and hearts of our leaders,
legislative and military. Among the most active hostesses were Mrs.
Randolph, wife of one of the members of President Davis’s Cabinet, and
Mrs. Ives, who put on some charming private theatricals in their
parlours; there were the Lees and Harrimans; the Ritchies and Pegrams
and Welfords; the Masons and Warwicks, MacFarlanes, Seldens, Leighs
(near relatives, these, of Patrick Henry); besides the Branders, West
Robinsons, Walkers, Scotts, Coxes, Cabells, Semmes, Ives, and other
hostesses of renown and long pedigree, whose homes dispensed the
friendliest hospitality.

“Do you not remember?” wrote Mrs. Semmes, of New Orleans, to whom I put
some queries concerning an episode of that life in Richmond, “do you not
remember Mrs. Stannard, who had such a charming house and gave such
delicious teas, alluring such men as Soulé, Commodore Barrow, Henry
Marshall, of Louisiana, Butler King, and last, though not least, our
dear old Vice-President Stephens? She boasted that she never read a
book, and yet all these distinguished gentlemen gathered around her
board and ate those hot muffins and broiled chicken with gusto!”

These, and unnumbered other faces, rise before me as I recall the great
amateur performance of “The Rivals,” which made that first winter in
Richmond memorable and our hostess, Mrs. Ives, famous. In that
performance Constance Cary, a beauty of the Fairfax family, captured all
hearts as the languishing Lydia, among them that of our President’s
Secretary, Colonel Burton Harrison, whose wife she afterward became.

Recalling that interesting evening, Mrs. Harrison wrote very recently,
“It seems an aeon since that time, but I have a very vivid recollection
of the fun we had and of how prettily Mrs. Ives did everything, spite of
grim-visaged war! How I wish I could do anything now with the same zest
and rapture with which I put on Lydia’s paduasoy and patches! Brother
Clarence, then a very youthful midshipman, was the Fag, and my hero,
Captain Absolute, was Mr. Lee Tucker, who has vanished, for me, into the
mists of time! I have not heard his name in years!”

The fame of that entertainment, the excitement which the preparation for
it caused, spread far beyond the picket lines, and we heard afterward
that a daring officer of McClellan’s army had planned to don the
Confederate uniform and cross the lines to take a peep at the
much-talked-of performance. “There was a galaxy of talent and beauty in
that fairest city of the South,” writes my friend, Mrs. Ives, recalling,
in 1903, those scenes of the early sixties, “from which I was able to
select a strong cast which pre-assured us a brilliant performance. Miss
Cary was bewitching, her fair beauty accentuated by the rich costumes
she donned for the occasion and which had been worn by her distinguished
ancestors in the days of the Old Dominion’s glory! Your sister-in-law,
Mrs. H. L. Clay, was so fascinating as Lucy that she captivated her
husband anew, as he afterward told me; and then, besides, there was
pretty Miss Herndon, who tortured her Falkland into jealousy.”[24]

As that historic evening’s pleasures crown all other recollections of
social life in the Confederate capital, so soon to be in the eclipse of
sorrow and undreamed-of privations, I cannot refrain from recording some
incidents of it. Those who took part in the performance (or their
descendants) are now scattered in every State of the Union, and it is
only by the coöperation of some who remember, among them Mrs. Cora
Semmes Ives, of Alexandria, Va., Mrs. Myra Knox Semmes, of New Orleans,
and Mrs. Burton Harrison, of New York, that I am enabled to gather
together again the names of the cast which charmed Richmond’s three
hundred during the first session of the C. S. A. Congress. They were:

 Sir Anthony Absolute                          Mr. Randolph, of Richmond
 Captain Absolute                                         Mr. Lee Tucker
 Sir Lucius O’Trigger (and he had an
   unapproachable brogue)                   Robert W. Brown, N. Carolina
 Fag                                            Midshipman Clarence Cary
 David                                         Mr. Robinson, of Richmond
 Lydia Languish                            Miss Constance Cary, Virginia
 Julia                                            Miss Herndon, Virginia
 Lucy, maid to Lydia                      Mrs. Hugh Lawson Clay, Alabama
 Mrs. Malaprop                             Mrs. Clement C. Clay, Alabama
                    Harpist,  Mrs. Semmes Fitzgerald
                        Pianist,  Miss Robinson.

For this great occasion no efforts were spared in the rehearsing of our
cast, nor in the preparation of our wardrobe. Mrs. Drew, being at that
time engaged in playing a precarious engagement at the local theatre
(the price of seats not exceeding seventy-five cents, as befitted the
times), was invited to a private consultation and criticism of the
parts, and it gives me some pleasure, even at this day, to remember her
approval of my interpretation of the difficult rôle I had had the
hardihood to assume. Our Sir Lucius acquired for the occasion a brogue
so rich that almost as much time (and trouble) were necessary to
eradicate it from his speech in the weeks that followed as had been
spent in attaining it.

The defection of one of the cast for the after-piece (Bombastes Furioso)
caused our hostess to display a genuine ability for stage management.
Unacquainted with the part she was herself compelled to assume, Mrs.
Ives resolved to bring her audience to a state of leniency for any
possible shortcomings by dazzling them with the beauty of her apparel. A
picture hat from Paris had just run the blockade and arrived safely to
the hands of little Miss Ruby Mallory, for whom it had been destined. It
was a Leghorn, trimmed with azure velvet and plumes of the same shade.
It was an especially appropriate headgear for a character given to
dreaming “that all the pots and pans had turned to gold,” and an appeal
made to the owner brought it swiftly into the possession of Mrs. Ives.
Her success was instantaneous. “I declare,” she said when the play was
over, “nothing but that Paris hat saved me from an attack of stage

The home of Lieutenant Ives on this occasion was crowded to its utmost
capacity, the guests comprising President and Mrs. Davis, the Cabinet
and Congressional members, together with prominent generals, numbering
in all three hundred. The stage, erected under the supervision of our
host, an expert engineer, was a wonderful demonstration of his
ingenuity. Placed at one end of the long Colonial parlours, it commanded
the eye of every visitor. The performance gave the utmost delight to our
audience, and Secretary Mallory, who had seen “The Rivals” (so he told
me) in every large city of the United States, and on the boards at Drury
Lane, declared it had never been given by a cast at once so brilliant
and so able! Be that as it may, the remembrance of that performance for
forty years has remained as the most ambitious social event in the
Confederate States’ capital.

                              CHAPTER XIII

While few, I think, perceived it clearly at that early day, yet in the
spring of ’2 the fortunes of the Confederacy were declining. Many of our
wisest men were already doubtful of the issue even where belief in the
justice of our cause never wavered. Looking back upon the prophecies of
ultimate defeat that were uttered in those days, by men accustomed to
sound the security of governments, I am thrilled at the flood of
patriotic feeling on which our men and women were borne to continue in
arms against such overwhelming forces and conditions as were brought
against them. For months before that first Congress adjourned, from
every part of our federated States, eager petitioning, complaints and
ominous news reached us. Gold, that universal talisman, was scarce, and
Confederate currency began to be looked upon with a doubtful eye. So
far-seeing a man as Judge John A. Campbell, writing to Mrs. Campbell
from New Orleans early in April, 1862, said: “In the event of the
restoration of Northern rule, Confederate money may be worthless. I
proceed on that assumption. It will certainly depreciate more and more.
Hence, your expenditures should be Confederate money, and, in any event,
the bank-notes of Georgia, Virginia and Louisiana are preferable to
Confederate bills. If the war should last another year, the
embarrassments of everyone will be increased tenfold!”

Within a few months the face of our capital had changed. McClellan’s
ever-swelling army in the peninsula became more and more menacing. The
shadow of coming battles fell over the city, and timid ones hastened
away to points that promised more security. Some went to the mountain
resorts “to escape the hot term” in Richmond, but many of the wives and
daughters of non-householders, even among those known to possess a cool
courage, moved on to the Carolinas or returned to their native States.
As the close of the Congressional session drew near, there was a
continual round of good-byes and hand-shakings, and even an attempt now
and then at a gaiety which no one actually felt.

Our markets grew suddenly poor, and following quickly upon the heels of
a seeming prosperity, a stringency in every department of life in the
city was felt. The cost of living was doubled, and if, indeed, any
epicures remained, they were glad to put aside their fastidiousness.
Within a year our vermicelli, when we had it at all, would have
warranted an anglicising of its first two syllables, and our rice,
beans, and peas, as well as our store of grains and meal, began to
discover a lively interest in their war-time surroundings. We heard
tales of a sudden demand for green persimmons, since a soldier, feeding
upon one of these, could feel his stomach draw up and at once forget
that he was “hawngry.” I remember hearing the story of a certain
superficial lady who spoke disdainfully, in the hearing of Mrs. Roger A.
Pryor, of a barrel of sorghum which some friend had sent her from a
distance. Full of contempt, she ordered the offending gift to be taken
away. “Horrid stuff!” she said.

“Horrid?” asked Mrs. Pryor, gently. “Why! in these days, with our
country in peril, I am grateful when I am able to get a pitcher of
sorghum, and I teach my children to thank God for it!”

Our mail, from many quarters, was now become a Pandora’s box, from which
escaped, as we opened it, myriad apprehensions, dissatisfactions or
distresses. “Pray,” wrote a friend from New Orleans, “when you see the
President, beg him to give some attention to the disloyal element in the
cities, and particularly in _this city_, which is filled with strangers
who appear and disappear in the most mysterious manner, go to private
boardinghouses, examine the defenses, etc., etc.”

“I am thus far on my way home,” wrote William L. Yancey, from the same
city, in a letter dated March 14, 1862, “having left Havana on the 26th
ultimo on a small schooner, and arrived at Sabine Pass on the 6th. Two
of Lincoln’s vessels had been anchored in the channel of that harbour
for a week and only left twenty-four hours before my arrival.... This
city is almost in a state of revolution,” he added. “Fifteen hundred of
its wealthiest and most respectable citizens and good Southerners have
organised an association and resolved to assume executive and judicial
functions to arrest, try, imprison, banish or hang!... There is
undoubtedly a deep-seated feeling of wrong done them and of anxiety for
the city’s safety at the bottom of all this, and this association should
not be treated as a mere lawless mob. Their success, however, would be
the knell of our cause in England, and perhaps on the Continent. I am
doing all I can to throw oil on the troubled waters, and I hope with
some effect.”

Shortly after his arrival in Richmond, Mr. Yancey, whom my husband
greatly admired, spent a morning in our chamber—space was too costly at
this time to admit of our having a private parlour—in conference with
Mr. Clay, and a more hopeless and unhappy statesman I never saw. The
people in England, he declared, were for, but Parliament opposed to us,
and his mission, therefore, had been fruitless. Every action and each
word he uttered demonstrated that he knew and felt the ultimate downfall
of the Confederacy.

By a singular coincidence, almost under the same circumstances but some
months later, a similar conference took place in our rooms, but Mr.
Lamar was now the returned diplomat. But recently home from an
unfinished mission to Russia, our long-time friend talked, as had Mr.
Yancey, with a conviction that our cause was hopeless. Mr. Lamar had
proceeded only so far as London and Paris, when, observing the drift of
public feeling abroad, he took ship again, arriving, as did many of our
returned foreign emissaries, on the top of a friendly wave. The sea was
peculiarly inimical to the cause of the Confederate States, sinking many
of the merchant ships we succeeded in sending through the blockading
fleets that beset our coast, and wrecking our ambassadors wherever it
could grapple them, even on our very shores.

By the time Congress closed in the spring of ’2, the news from the
Tennessee Valley was distracting. The enemy had succeeded in reaching
our home, and Huntsville was now become the headquarters of General O.
M. Mitchell. If that gentleman had taken delight in anything besides the
vigorous exercise of an unwelcome authority, he might have found there
an ideal spot for the prosecution of his astronomical researches. The
span that rests upon the opposite apices of Monte Sano and Lookout
Mountain is one of gorgeous beauty. Upon a clear night the planets glow
benignly upon the valley, the little stars laugh and leap and go
shooting down great distances in a manner unparalleled in more northerly
latitudes. Though generally loyal to the cause of the Confederacy, the
people of Huntsville were not indisposed to look upon the author-soldier
with considerate eyes, had that General adopted a humane course toward
them. Unfortunately, his career in our valley from beginning to end was
that of a martinet bent upon the subjugation of the old and helpless and
the very young, our youths and strong men being away in the field.

The accounts that reached us by letter and by eyewitnesses of the scenes
in the Clay home were alarming. Everything belonging to the Clays, it
was rumoured, was to be confiscated. “Judge Scruggs told Stanley,” wrote
mother, “that the Clays are to be stript of all.” Father’s negroes, and
most of our own, were conducting themselves in an insolent manner,
taking to the mountains when there was work to be done, or wandering in
the train of straggling Union soldiers, but returning when hungry to
feed upon their master’s rapidly diminishing stores. In some instances,
relying upon the protection of the soldiers, the negroes of the town
would take possession of the home of an absent master, revelling in an
opportunity to sleep in his bed or to eat from the family silver and

A dozen times a day, and at unreasonable hours, if the invading soldiery
saw fit, they entered the houses of the citizens in what was often
merely a pretended search for some concealed Confederate, or to demand
food or drink or horses. They were constantly on the lookout for the
possible visits, to their families, of the distinguished citizens in
temporary banishment from Huntsville. The presence of General Pope
Walker being suspected (though no longer Secretary of War, he would have
been a desirable prize to take, since he had issued orders for the
firing of the first gun at Fort Sumter), for months the home of our
friend ex-Governor Chapman, in which the family of General Walker had
taken refuge, was searched daily, the vigilants being so scrupulous in
their investigations that even the leaves of a dictionary were parted,
lest the wily late Secretary should spirit himself away between its

“The enemy came demanding food or horses,” wrote mother, “taking all
they could of breadstuffs, meat stock, and all the able-bodied negroes,
whether willing or not. Our men hid, but they took the horses and mules,
and promised to return in a week and take everything!”

Alas, poor little mother! Those were but the beginning of bitterer days
and yet sterner deprivations! For months the only hope of our beleagured
neighbours in Huntsville lay in the prayed-for advance of General Bragg,
though their prayers, too, were interdicted when made in the church;
and, upon the investment of the town, our pastor, Doctor Bannister,[26]
was quickly instructed as to the limited petitions with which he might
address his God on behalf of his people.

In the meanwhile, the courage of our citizens was kept alive by General
Roddy, who lay over the crest of Monte Sano. The forays of his men were
a perpetual worry to the Federals in the valley. So audacious, indeed,
did they become that the Federal general razed the houses on “The Hill”
and threw up breastworks, behind which he built a stout fort, the better
to resist the possible attacks from the mountain side by brave General
Roddy and his merry men.

During General Mitchell’s investment of Huntsville he was accompanied by
his daughters, who, in the ransacking of our home, fell heiresses to
certain coveted and “confiscated” articles of my own, but the possession
of which could scarcely have been an unmixed pleasure. I heard of my
losses first through a letter written late in August. “Mr. Hammond,”
began the epistle, “says in Atlanta he saw a lady just from Nashville
who told him that Miss Mitchell rode out in _your green habit on your
mare_! This part of the story,” continued my witty sister, “may be true,
but there is another: that the other Miss Mitchell rode in my habit on
_my_ mare! I’m glad I had no mare, and am sorry for poor ‘Jenny Lind’!”

Months afterward I heard (and any who asks may still hear the story in
the town, for it has become one of Huntsville’s war-time annals) an
account of Miss Mitchell’s outings in my now celebrated green habit. Her
path, it seems, as she trotted my pretty mare about the streets, was not
strewn with roses; for, though absent from our beloved little city, I
was not forgotten. One day the horsewoman, passing proudly on her way,
saw, looking over the garden gate of a pretty cottage, the laughing face
of sweet Alice Spence, a right loyal admirer of my undeserving self.
Alice looked up at the passing apparition, and, full of daring, half
mischievously, half indignantly, cried out after it, “Hey! Git off
’Ginie Clay’s mare! Git—off—’Ginie Clay’s ma—are!”

At the sound of these words Miss Mitchell galloped away in great anger.
While Alice was still regaling her mother with a jubilant account of her
championship of my property, a proof reached her of General Mitchell’s
implacability. That afternoon her brother was ordered into arrest, and
for months thereafter was kept in custody as a guarantee for his
sister’s good behaviour!

When, later, Mr. Clay and I were enabled to visit Huntsville (the
Federals having been beaten back for a time), I heard of an amusing
encounter which took place at the home of the Spences between Mrs.
Spence and John A. Logan. A swarthy stripling in appearance, the young
officer stood carelessly about, whilst several soldiers of his command
were engaged in a search of the premises. As Mrs. Spence entered the
room in which the officer stood, she eyed him with genuine curiosity.

“Whose boy are you?” she asked at last. Her daughter, who was beside
her, caught her mother’s arm in alarm.

“Why, ma!” she gasped. “That’s General Logan!”

“General Logan!” repeated her mother, contemptuously. “I tell you he’s
nothing of the kind! He’s black!”

It was already early summer when we left the troubled capital, where
everyone was keyed to a high pitch of excitement by the manœuvrings of
the enemy, now so near that the reverberating sound of distant cannon
was plainly audible. Our way was southward. Though withdrawing, as I
supposed, for a change of scene during the Congressional recess only, in
reality my refugee days had now begun; for, notwithstanding I made
several later stays of varying duration at Richmond, the greater part of
the two succeeding years was spent at the homes of hospitable kin far
away from that centre of anxiety and deprivation. Upon leaving Richmond,
in May of ’2, Senator Clay and I, stopping _en route_ at the home of my
uncle, Buxton Williams, in Warrenton, North Carolina, proceeded by easy
stages to Augusta, Macon and Columbus, where many of our kinfolks and
friends resided, and to which cities I often returned, when, from time
to time, the exigencies of the war compelled my husband and me to
separate. Georgia, save when Sherman’s men marched through it, two years
later, was the safest and most affluent State in the Confederacy; but in
the summer of ’2 there were few localities which did not retain, here
and there at least, an affluent estate or two. Until almost the end of
hostilities the home of my uncle Williams in Warrenton continued to be
with us in Richmond the synonym for plenty. When I had starved in the
capital, I dropped down to “Buxton Place,” whence I was sure to return
laden with hampers of sweets and meats and bread made of the finest
“Number One” flour, which proved a fine relief to the “seconds” to which
the bread-eaters of the Confederate capital were now reduced. In the
course of a year molasses and “seconds” (brown flour with the bran still
in it) came to be regarded as luxuries by many who but a short time ago
had feasted capriciously upon the dainties of a limitless market.

My uncle Williams was an astute man, and when he was assured that war
had become a settled fact, instead of hoarding his means for the benefit
of invading soldiers, he retired to his country home, bought out the
contents of a local store, which he transferred to his own cupboards and
pantry, and made “Buxton Place” to “kith and kin” the most generous and
hospitable of asylums. It was a peaceful, happy place, set among ample
grounds, with noble trees rising about, in which birds carolled as they
coquetted among the foliage and squirrels gambolled at their will
through the long, lazy days. No chicory and sugar, adopting the _alias_
of coffee, found place on that sumptuous board in those first years, but
only the _bona fide_ stuff! We had sugar in abundance, and pyramids of
the richest butter, bowls of thick cream, and a marvellous plenitude of
incomparable “clabber.”

Once, during our wandering that autumn, we slipped over to “Millbrook,”
the home of my cousins the Hilliards, and thence to Shocco Springs, long
a famous North Carolina resort, where, to the music of a negro band, the
feet of a merry little company went flying over the polished floor as if
the world were still a happy place, despite its wars and wounds and
graves and weeping women.

Life at dear old “Millbrook,” rich with a thousand associations of my
childhood and family, still ran serenely on. The loudest sound one heard
was the hum of the bee on the wing as it rushed to riot in the amber
honey sacs of the flowers. But whether at “Millbrook” or “Buxton Place,”
whether we outwardly smiled or joined in the mirth about us, inwardly my
husband and I were tortured with fears born of an intimate knowledge of
our national situation. We watched eagerly for our despatches, and, when
they came, trembled as we opened them. Some of our communications rang
with triumph, others with an overwhelming sadness.

A thrilling letter from Richmond reached us after the terrible “Battle
of Seven Pines.” A mere mention of that deadly conflict for years was
enough to start the tears in Southern eyes, and sons and daughters, as
they grew up, were taken back to look upon the bloody field as to a
sacred mausoleum. The letter was written by Robert Brown, our erstwhile
Sir Lucius, of Mrs. Ives’s famous performance, and now serving as
aide-de-camp to General Winder.

“I have been beholding scenes of carnage,” he wrote on the 10th of June.
“On the afternoon of the 31st ult. Winder and myself rode down to the
battle-field. The reports of the cannon were distinctly heard here, and
as we approached the field, the firing became terrific! We met wounded
and dying men, borne upon litters and supported by solicitous friends.
The scene was revolting to me, but, singular to say, in a very short
time I became accustomed to this sight of horror, and the nearer we
approached the line of battle, the nearer we wished to get; but we were
quite satisfied to get so near the line (proper) as the headquarters of
General Longstreet, which was under a fine old oak tree on a slight
elevation. The General was there, sitting most complacently upon a fine
horse, surrounded by his staff, who were riding away at intervals
bearing his orders to the line and returning. We were about a quarter of
a mile from the engagement, and we could distinctly hear the shouts of
victory of our gallant troops, literally driving the enemy before them.
Entrenchment and battery after battery were wrested from the Yankees by
our splendid troops, old North Carolina leading them!

“Imagine the powder burnt! I tell you, the firing was awful, but
glorious! Near the headquarters of Longstreet were regiments of
splendid, eager troops drawn up in line as a reserve. Amid the heavy
firing, the glorious cheering of our troops, squad after squad of Yankee
prisoners were brought up to Longstreet under guards buoyant with
victory; and, as each reached headquarters, I tell you that the reserve
force would send up a _yell_ of delight that split the air and made old
earth tremble! One little brave band of fifty-five South Carolinians
brought in one hundred and sixty-six live Yankees and a Captain whom
_they had taken_! The excitement was intense! The firing ceased at seven
o’clock. I remained in the field until the last gun was fired. Our
troops occupied the enemy’s camp that night and all the next day; and
Monday our military talent thought it prudent and best to fall back and
give the enemy the vantage ground we had gained!

“General Johnston was wounded, but not seriously, it is said. Smith’s
horse was shot in two places, on the shoulder and just back of the
saddle; the General’s coat-tail, they say, was _seriously_ injured.
Lieutenant-Colonel Sydenham Moore was wounded; the ball struck his
watch, literally shattering it! General Pettigrew was _not_ killed, but
seriously wounded, and fell into the hands of the enemy. _They_, thank
God, lost two brigadier generals and one seriously wounded. Our total
loss, killed and wounded, was thirty-five hundred. The enemy acknowledge
eight hundred killed and four thousand wounded. It was a fearful fight!

“We have good news every day from Jackson! To-day brings us the news of
his having ‘completely routed the enemy, taking six pieces of
artillery!’ Old Stonewall is certainly the Hero of the War, and unless
our Generals Beauregard and Johnston look sharp, he will entirely take
the wind out of their sails and leave them in the _Lee_-ward!”

“The city is filled with the wounded and dead,” echoed our cousin John
Withers. “It is fortunate you are away and saved the necessity of
beholding the horrible sights which are now so common here! Great
numbers of Alabamians are killed and wounded....” And he added in a
letter, written in an interval of the awful Seven Days Battles: “For
four days I have been awaiting some decisive move on the part of our
forces, but nothing has been done yet to settle affairs. McClellan has
not been routed, but his army is, no doubt, demoralised to such an
extent as to render any other demonstration against Richmond out of the
question for many weeks.... The President has come up from the
battle-field, and I hear that a courier from the French and British
Consuls is to leave here for Washington to-night or in the morning. We
will secure between thirty and forty thousand small arms by our late
operations; many of them much injured by being bent. The enemy have a
position now which we cannot well assail successfully. They are under
their gunboats and have gotten reinforcements.... There is a report
to-night that Magruder has captured eight hundred Yankees to-day, but I
place no reliance upon any rumour until it is confirmed as truth.
General Beauregard has made a most successful retreat to Baldwin,
thirty-five miles south of Corinth, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. The
move was necessary, and I have no doubt will be a great blow to the
enemy. He carried all his heavy guns, tents, and so on. General Lee is
in command of the army hereabouts, and I am sure we will whip
McClellan’s army when the grand contest shall take place. The rain of
last night will forbid any movement for two or three days. When the
fight opens again, we will have thousands upon thousands of wounded

Such were the accruing records of woe and of personal and national loss
which followed Senator Clay and me throughout those autumn months of ’2.
The inroad made upon the gallant regiments of our own State were
frightful. The ranks of the splendid Fourth Alabama Regiment, picked men
of our finest blood, the flower of our hopes, as handsome a body as a
State might muster, were terribly thinned. Wherever a call came our
Alabamians were found in the front, the envy and admiration of the army,
quickening the courage and firing the imaginations of every company that
beheld them. But oh! our men had need of a mighty courage, for soon the
very seed-corn of our race became a sacrifice. The picture rises before
me of a youthful cousin[27] who fell at Malvern Hill, shot down as he
bore aloft the banner which he fondly hoped would lead to victory. His
blood-stained cap, marked by a bullet hole, was all that returned of our
fair young soldier boy. Another youth,[28] on whom the love and hope of
a dear circle was settled, fell with his heart pierced, and so swift was
the passing of his soul that he felt no pain nor sorrow. They say an
eager smile was on his face when they found him. For years his loved
ones, gazing upon it with weeping eyes, treasured the blood-stained,
bullet-torn handkerchief that had lain over the wounded heart of the

The tears start afresh when, looking into my memory, there passes before
me that army of the dead and gone. Oh! the sorrow that overcame all who
knew him (and the circle was wide as half the South itself) when the
news came of the death of Colonel Sydenham Moore, who fell at Seven
Pines; and even the enemy spoke solemnly at the passing of our beloved
General Tracy, who died so courageously fighting in the battle of Port
Gibson, within three-quarters of a year! “I have little active service
at this post,” he complained from Vicksburg, in March of ’3, “and the
very fact incapacitates me for the discharge of duties of other kinds.
In fact, I am _ennuied_ past description!” So, chafing impatiently to
write his name in brave deeds across some page of the Confederate
States’ history, he sprang to meet the call when it came, and fell,
crowned with immortal glory in the hearts of a loving people.

General Tracy’s young wife was awaiting him, an infant at her bosom,
when we returned late in November of ’2 for a brief stay at Huntsville,
from which, for a time, the Union soldiers had been beaten back. By this
time our valley seemed so safe that families from other threatened
districts came to take refuge in it. Colonel Basil Duke, among others,
brought his wife to Huntsville. Numerous absentee householders came
back; and interest in local enterprises was resumed. When, in December,
my husband returned to his duties in the Senate, there was small reason
to apprehend an early reappearance, in Huntsville, of the Federals.
“North Alabama,” General Bragg assured my husband, “is as secure now as
it was when I held Murfreesboro!” And on this assurance our spirits rose
and we departed again, promising ourselves and our parents we would
return within a few months at most.

Mr. Clay proceeded at once to Richmond, beset now with deadly enemies
within as well as without. Smallpox and scarlet fever raged there, as in
many of our larger cities, and I pleaded in vain to be allowed to
accompany him. I turned my way, therefore, in company with others of our
kin, toward Macon, where was sojourning our sweet sister, Mrs. Hugh
Lawson Clay, at the home of Major Anderson Comer, her father. Thence it
was proposed I should proceed with her later to Richmond under the
escort of Colonel Clay.

That winter the weather was peculiarly cold, so much so that on the
plantations where wheat had been sown, a fear was general lest the grain
be killed in the ground. The journey to Macon, therefore, was anything
but comfortable, but it had its amusing sides nevertheless. We were a
party of women.

“We arrived safely (self, Kate, Alice and servants),” I wrote in a
kaleidoscopic account which I gave my husband of the indications of the
times as seen _en route_. “We rode from Stevenson to Chattanooga on the
freight train, the baggage-cars on the passenger-train being unable to
receive a single trunk. Arriving at Chattanooga, we would have been
forced to go to the small-pox hotel or remain in the streets but for the
gallantry of an acquaintance of ours, an army officer of Washington
memory, who gave up his room to us, and furnished some wagons to have
our baggage hauled to the depot. At Atlanta there was a scatteration of
our forces.... When night came” (being fearful of robbery, for hotels
were unsafe) “I stuffed in one stocking all my money, and in the other,
mine and Alice’s watches, chains, pins, and charms. I felt not unlike
Miss Kilmansegg, of the precious Leg. We fumigated the room, had a bed
brought in for Emily, and retired. At breakfast Colonel Garner told me
that Uncle Jones [Withers] was in the house, and in a few minutes he
presented himself. He got in at three that morning, _en route_ for
Mobile with thirty days’ leave; looked worn, and was sad, I thought.
Colonel George Johnson, of Marion, also called, and we had them all and
Dr. W., of Macon, to accompany us to the cars. The guard at the gate
said ‘Passport, Madam,’ but I replied, ‘Look at my squad; General
Withers, Colonel Garner of Bragg’s staff, and a Colonel and Lieutenant
in the Confederate service. I think I’ll _pass_!’” And I passed!

                              CHAPTER XIV
                        REFUGEE DAYS IN GEORGIA

Our stay in Macon, where it had been my intention to remain but a few
weeks, lengthened into months; for, upon his arrival in Richmond,
Senator Clay found the conditions such as to render my joining him, if
not impracticable, at least inadvisable. The evils of a year agone had
multiplied tenfold. Food was growing scarcer; the city’s capacity was
tested to the uttermost, and lodgings difficult to obtain. The price of
board for my husband alone now amounted to more than his income. Feeling
in legislative circles was tense, the times engendering a troublesome
discontent and strife among eager and anxious politicians. Complaints
from the army poured in. Our soldiers were suffering the harshest
deprivations. Wearing apparel was scarce. Many of our men marched in
ragged and weather-stained garments and tattered shoes, and even these
were luxuries that threatened soon to be unattainable. Our treasury was
terribly depleted, and our food supply for the army was diminishing at a
lamentable rate.

“You will be surprised to know,” wrote General Tracy from Vicksburg, in
March, 1863, “that in this garrisoned town, upon which the hopes of a
whole people are set, and which is liable at any time to be cut off from
its interior lines of communication, there is not now subsistence for
one week. The meat ration has already been virtually discontinued, the
quality being such that the men utterly refuse to eat it, though the
contract continues to be worth between one thousand and fifteen hundred
dollars per diem.”

“A general gloom prevails here because of the scarcity and high price of
food,” ran a letter from my husband, written in the same month from
Richmond. “Our soldiers are on half rations of meat, one-quarter pound
of salt, and one-half pound of fresh meat, without vegetables, or fruit,
or coffee or sugar! Don’t mention this, as it will do harm to let it get
abroad. Really there is serious apprehension of having to disband part
of the army for want of food. In this city the poor clerks and subaltern
military officers are threatened with starvation, as they cannot get
board on their pay. God only knows what is to become of us, if we do not
soon drive the enemy from Tennessee and Kentucky and get food from their
granaries.... I dined with the President yesterday at six P. M., _en
famille_, on beef soup, beef stew, meat pie, potatoes, coffee and bread.
I approved his simple fare and expressed the wish that the army in the
field had more to eat and that out of the field less!”

The receipt of this news stirred me to the core. Spring was in its
freshest beauty in Macon. Its gardens glowed with brilliant blossoms. A
thousand fragrant odours mingled in the air; the voices of myriad birds
sang about the foliaged avenues. I thought Aunt Comer’s home a
terrestrial Paradise. The contrast between the comfort in this pretty
city of lower Georgia, a city of beautiful homes and plentiful tables,
and our poverty-stricken capital and meagre starving camps, was terrible
to picture. I wrote impulsively (and, alas! impotently) in reply to my
husband’s letter:

“Why does not the President or some proper authority order on from here
and other wealthy towns, and immediately at that, the thousands of
provisions that fill the land? Monopolists and misers hold enough meat
and grain in their clutches to feed our army and Lincoln’s! Put down the
screws and make them release it! Talk of disbanding an army at a time
like this? No! empty the coffers and graneries and meat houses of every
civilian in the land first!”

Many an eager and impatient hour my sister and I spent in those months
of waiting for the call from our husbands to join them in the capital.
Her sprightly wit and unfailing courage made her a most enjoyable
companion, and a great favourite with all who knew her. “Give my love to
your sunbeam of a sister,” Secretary Mallory wrote me during those dark
days. “If not one of the lost Pleiads, at least she is a heavenly body!”
And when I quoted this to dear “Lushe” Lamar, he answered from the
fulness of his heart: “Mallory’s compliments grow languid in their
impotence to do justice to that beautiful embodiment of bright thoughts
and ideal graces, your sister, Celeste.” I found her all this and more
in that spring we spent together in Macon, as we daily sat and planned
and compared our news of the battle-fields, or discussed the movements
of the army. We did a prodigious amount of sewing and knitting for our
absent husbands, to whom we sent packages of home-made wearing apparel
by whomsoever we could find to carry them. I remember one such which
gave us considerable anxiety; for, proving too large to impose upon
General Alf. Colquitt, who had undertaken to deliver another to Senator
Clay, we sent the bundle by express. The robe which General Colquitt
carried was soon in the hands of its future wearer, but not so the
express package, which contained a pair of much-needed boots for Colonel
Clay. It lingered provokingly along the road until we were filled with
apprehension for its safety.

“Won’t it break us if all those things are stolen?” I wrote my husband.
“A thousand dollars would not buy them now!” And I said truly, for the
prices of the commonest materials were enormous. “Men’s boots here are
from sixty to eighty dollars,” wrote Mr. Clay from Richmond; and in
Macon all goods were a hundred per cent. higher than they had been in
Huntsville. Ordinary fifteen-cent muslin now sold in Georgia at two and
a half dollars per yard, and “sold like hot-cakes” at that. My sister
and I bought what we could and made our husbands’ shirts—knitting the
heavier ones—and hemmed their handkerchiefs; and we rose to such a
proficiency with the needle that we did not hesitate to undertake the
manufacture of vests and trousers of washable stuffs. I made a pair of
the last-named for my husband’s little god-son, Joe Davis, and sent them
to Richmond by Colonel Lamar; but I think the dear child did not live to
don them. He died tragically at the Executive home within a year, the
waves of the war quickly obscuring from the world about the remembrance
of the sweet baby face.

April had arrived when, journeying from Macon to Richmond, I had my
first real experience of war-time travel. By this time people were
hurrying from place to place in every direction, some to seek refuge,
and some to find or to bring back their dead. The country beyond the
Georgia boundary was alert, apprehending the approach of the steadily
advancing Federals. Throughout the spring the feeling had been rife that
a crucial period was approaching. My husband wrote cautioning me to
prepare to meet it. “During the months of April and May,” he said, in a
letter dated March 22d, “the result of the war will be decided by at
least four of the greatest battles the world has ever witnessed, near
Charleston or Savannah, Fredericksburg, Murfreesboro, and Vicksburg or
Port Hudson. If they triumph on the Mississippi, the war will continue
for years; if they fail there, I cannot think it will last longer than
Lincoln’s administration, or till March of 1865.[29] I regard events
there as the most important, because the Northwest will not aid the war
much longer if the Mississippi is not opened to their trade. The result
of the grand battle to come off at the first opportunity between Bragg
and Rosecrans will determine our movements during the recess of
Congress, and, it may be, our destiny for life. If we whip the enemy,
our home will again be open to us; if he whips us, it will fall under
his dominion for many months to come, and nothing will be left to us
that he can use or destroy.” Almost as Mr. Clay wrote, Huntsville was
again invested by Federal soldiery, and we could not, if we had wished,
have returned to it.

When my sister and I departed from Georgia, passenger-cars generally
were impressed for the use of soldiers, sick or wounded, or for those
who were hurrying to the front. I heard of instances in which
travellers, unable to find room in the regular cars, and eager to get to
some given point, begged for the privilege of squeezing into the car in
which express packages were carried.

Having held ourselves for some months in readiness for the journey, we
had kept informed as to the presence of possible escorts in Macon. Once
we planned to travel under the protection of Captain Harry Flash, a poet
who had won some distinction for his affecting lines on the death of
General Zollicoffer, and his stirring verses on the Confederate Flag. It
fell to our lot, however, to travel with two poets, who in days to come
were to be known to a wider world. They were Sidney and Clifford Lanier,
young soldiers, then, on their way to Virginia. Sidney’s sweetheart
lived in the town, and the brothers had stopped at Macon to make their
adieux. Upon learning of the objective destination of the young men, my
sister and I held out the bribe to them, if they would undertake to
escort us, of a fine luncheon _en route_; “broiled partridges, sho’ nuf’
sugar and sho’ nuf butter, and spring chickens, ‘quality size,’” to
which allurements, I am glad to say, the youthful poets succumbed with
grace and gallantry, and we began our journey.

The aisles of the cars were crowded. At many stations, as we came
through North Carolina, women entered the car with baskets of “big
blues,” the luscious native huckleberries, with full, deep bloom upon
them; these and other tempting edibles were brought aboard at almost
every station along the way. When our pleasant party separated at
Lynchburg, and the youths sat alone in their tents, they recalled in
pages truly characteristic the memories of that long journey, in which,
like tired children, they had sometimes fallen asleep, Clifford’s head
upon my sister’s shoulder, and Sid’s upon mine.

“I will wait no longer,” wrote Clifford,[30] from the camp near Suffolk
(Virginia), on April 17th, “but at once, and without _cérémonie_, write
the little love-letter I have promised, disarming (if men, as some one
says of flowers, ‘be jealous things’) the jealousy of your Lieges, by
addressing it to my _Two Dear Friends_ and quondam fellow-travellers.
What a transition is this—from the spring and peace of Macon, to this
muddy and war-distracted country! Going to sleep in the moonlight and
soft air of Italy, I seem to have waked imbedded in Lapland snow. Yet,
as I would not be an Antony, with a genius bold, and confident in Egypt,
but a trembler and white-livered, in presence of Octavius at Rome, I
summon all my heroism, doff that which became me when environed by
flowers, poetry, music and blooming maidens, and don shield and mail
(that’s figurative for Kersey), prepared to resist ruder shocks than
those of love’s arrows. Par _parenthese_, how the Yankees would suffer,
if we could do our _devoirs_ as bravely and as heartily in the heat and
dust and smoke of battle, as in the charmed air of ladies!

“Enough about us. I wonder what this will find our friends doing? My
dear Mrs. Celeste? Embroidering the Senatorial _laticlave_ or musing on
sweet Macon, sweeter Huntsville? Mrs. Virginia? In whatever mood or
occupation, it is agreed you have this advantage of us: you carry your
sunshine with you; we men, being but opaque and lunatic bodies, can give
light only by reflection. Imagine, then, in what ‘Cimmerian darkness’ we
revolve here. If you would throw a ray through this darkness, show us
one glimpse of the blue sky through all this battle-smoke, write to us,
directing care General French, Franklin, Virginia. I shall regard, most
affectionately, the carrier who brings such intelligence from that
office to these headquarters. The huge shell that has just shrieked
across the intervening distance from the enemy’s trenches to our
pickets, and exploding, is not yet done reverberating, reminds me that I
might tell you a little of our situation here.

“The reticence of our General forbids all knowledge of his plans and
ultimate designs. I can only say that our army, embracing three
divisions, closely invests Suffolk on three sides, its water and
railroad communications into Norfolk being still complete, except that
General French, having possession of one bank of the river, is working
hard to get into position guns of sufficient calibre to destroy their
gunboats. That, in the meantime, large foraging parties and immense
wagontrains have been sent out for provisions. So that this of forage
may be the grand design after all, and instead of living that we may
fight, are fighting that we may live, the latter being a very desperate
situation, but the more laudable endeavour of the two, perilling our
lives, not only for the vitality of our principles as patriots, but for
the very sustenance of our lives as men, seeking corn and bacon as well
as the ‘bubble reputation at the cannon’s mouth.’ But I began a
love-letter; I fear I am ending most unetherially. Starting to wing a
flight across the sea, Icarus-like, my wings have proved to be of wax,
melting with a too near approach to the sun, and I find myself
floundering, and clearing my nose and eyes and mouth of the enveloping
salt water. Being not even a swimmer, I escape drowning by ending
(Icarus found nereids and yellow-haired nymphs to assist him), with much
love to your husbands, and an infinite quantity to yourselves,


                                                         “CLIFF LANIER.”

“God bless you both. Write to us!” said Sid., our dear Orpheus of the
South. “Have you ever, my Two Good Friends, wandered, in an all-night’s
dream, through exquisite flowery mosses, through labyrinthine grottoes,
‘full of all sparkling and sparry loveliness,’ over mountains of unknown
height, by abysses of unfathomable depth, all beneath skies of an
infinite brightness caused by no sun; strangest of all, wandered about
in wonder, as if you had lived an eternity in the familiar contemplation
of such things?

“And when, at morning, you have waked from such a dream and gone about
your commonplace round of life, have you never stopped suddenly to gaze
at the sun and exclaimed to yourself, ‘what a singular thing it is up
there; and these houses, bless me, what funny institutions, not at all
like my grottoes and bowers, in which I have lived for all eternity; and
those men and women walking about there, uttering strange gibberish, and
cramming horrid messes of stuff in their mouths, what dear, odd
creatures! What does it all mean, anyhow, and who did it, and how is one
to act, under the circumstances?’ ...

“If you have dreamed, thought and felt _so_, you can realise the
imbecile stare with which I gaze on all this life that goes on around me
here. Macon was my twoweeks’ dream. I wake from that into Petersburg, an
indefinitely long, real life....

                                                           “SID LANIER.”

Of the after months of ’3, the story of my life is one of continuous
change. I migrated between Richmond and our kin at Petersburg, paying an
occasional visit to Warrenton, North Carolina, so long as the roads were
open, or sometimes visiting our friends, the McDaniels, at Danville;
sometimes, accompanied by our sister, I made a visit to the nearby
camps, or to the multiplying colonies of the sick and wounded. He was a
fortunate soldier in those terrible days, who fell into the hands of
private nurses. Patients in the hospitals suffered, even for necessary
medicines. Sugar was sold at fifty Confederate dollars a pound.
Vegetables and small fruits were exceedingly scarce. My visits to the
hospital wards were by no means so constant as those of many of my
friends, yet I remember one poor little Arkansas boy in whom I became
interested, and went frequently to see, wending my way to his cot
through endless wards, where an army of sick men lay, minus an arm, or
leg, or with bandaged heads that told of fearful encounters. The
drip—drip of the water upon their wounds to prevent the development of a
greater evil is one of the most horrible remembrances I carry of those
days. I went through the aisles of the sick one morning, to see my
little patient, a lad of seventeen, not more. Above the pillow his hat
was hung, and a sheet was drawn over the cot—and the tale was told.

In Richmond, Miss Emily Mason (sister of John Y. and James M. Mason),
and Mrs. General Lee were indefatigable in their hospital work; and Mrs.
Phoebe Pember, sister of Mrs. Philip Phillips, was a prominent member of
a regularly organised Hospital Committee, who, afterward, recorded her
experiences in an interesting volume, reflecting the gay as well as the
grave scenes through which she had passed; for, happily, in the
experiences of these self-sacrificing nurses there was often a mingling
of the comical with the serious which had its part in relieving the
nerve-tension of our noble women. On every side the inevitable was
plainly creeping toward us. The turmoil in the governmental body
augmented constantly. The more patriotic recognised that only in
increased taxation lay the prolonging of our national life; but, at the
mention of such measure, protests poured in from many sides. Our poor,
wearied citizens could ill sustain a further drain upon them. To the
credit of my sex, however, we never complained. No Roman matron, no
Spartan mother, ever thrilled more to the task of supporting her
warriors, than did we women of the South land! To the end we held it to
be a proud privilege to sacrifice where by so doing we might hold up the
hands of our heroes in field or forum.

“I pity those who have no country to love or to fight for!” wrote Mrs.
Yulee, the “Madonna of the Wickliffe sisters,” from her home in Florida.
“It is this very country of yours and mine that induces me to write this
letter. I want you to use your influence (you have much) to induce those
law-makers to come up to our necessities. Tax! tax! tax our people to
half we have, if necessary, but let the world know we are paying! Ten
victories will not give the Yankees such a blow as this fact. Now, Mrs.
Clay, God has given you many friends. Stir them up to their duty!...
Bragg’s defeat fills us all with gloom, yet we are not discouraged. I
have never felt a doubt of my country, but dark and painful trials are
yet before us, perhaps!”

Alas! Alas!

                               CHAPTER XV
                  C. C. CLAY, JR., DEPARTS FOR CANADA

I was in Richmond at my husband’s side when Dahlgren’s raid was made.
Early one morning the cry of danger came. We were still at breakfast,
when Senator Henry, of Tennessee, hurried in. “No Senate to-day, Clay!”
he cried. “A big force of the enemy is at Lyons’s, and every man in the
city is needed! Arm yourself, and come on!” and he hastened on his way
to warn others. Members of Congress shouldered guns, where they could
get them, and mounted guard around the capital. They were an untrained
mass, but they came back victors and deliverers of the city.

The armies having gone into winter quarters, as the close of Mr. Clay’s
Senatorial career in Richmond drew near, he seriously contemplated a
period of needed rest from public duties. Bent upon this, he declined a
judgeship in the Military Court, which had been pressed upon him by Mr.
Davis. We dallied with enticing invitations that reached us from
Florida, and planned what was to be a veritable vacation at last,

“Mr. Yulee is delighted with the hope of seeing you!” wrote the lovely
_chatelaine_ of “Homosassa.” “He will fish with Mr. Clay, and _we_ will
do the same! Just think how good oysters will be in these sad times! Do
come, dear Mr. and Mrs. Clay, just as soon as Congress adjourns! My dear
sister, Mrs. Holt, had a tender and sincere affection for you....”

The prospect of a visit to that lovely retreat, built upon an island,
deep in the green glades of Florida and far away from the political and
martial strife of the intervening States, was very tempting to my
wearied husband, a true lover of woods and trees and the sweet solitudes
of a bucolic life; but we were destined not to enjoy it. Early in the
spring of ’4, Mr. Clay felt it his duty to accept the high
responsibility of a diplomatic mission to Canada, with a view to
arousing in the public mind of this nearby British territory a sympathy
for our cause and country that should induce a suspension of
hostilities. Despite the failure of our representatives in European
countries to rouse apathetic kings and dilly-dallying emperors to come
to our aid, it was hard for us to believe that our courage would not be
rewarded at length by some powerful succour, or yielding.

“I send you my speech,” wrote dear Lamar to me from his sick-bed in
Oxford, Georgia, so late as June,’64. “The views presented in reference
to Louis Napoleon may strike you as at variance with some of the acts,
in which his Imperial Highness has done some very uncivil things in a
very civil way. But his sympathy is with us. It is his policy to
frighten the Yankees into acquiescence in his Mexican enterprise, and he
no doubt would be glad to give French neutrality in American affairs for
Yankee neutrality in Mexican affairs. In this he will fail, and he will
sooner or later find his policy and inclinations jump together. After
all, the British people are more friendly to us than all the world
besides, outside of the [question of] Southern Confederacy. This
friendship, like most national friendships, is mixed up with a large
part of alloy, fear of the Yankees forming the base. But respect for the
South and admiration of her position is the pure metal, and there is
enough of it to make their good-will valuable to us.”

So thought many of our noblest statesmen, when, early in the Spring, Mr.
Clay started on his way through our blockaded coast for Canada. “I
earnestly desire that his services may prove effectual in securing a
permanent peace to our bleeding country; that his efforts may be
recorded as one of the brightest pages in its history,” wrote one; and
from every quarter Mr. Clay and his companions were followed by the
prayers of a people, wrung from hearts agonised by our long, exhausting
strife. When the parting came, the shadow of impending evil fell so
blackly upon my soul, I hastened away from disturbed Petersburg,
accompanied by my faithful maid, Emily, and her child, determined to act
upon Mr. Clay’s suggestion and seek my kin in Georgia. Petersburg was in
the greatest confusion, guns resounding in every direction. Our dear
Aunt Dollie Walker, the saint, whose faith (her Bishop said) had kept
Episcopalianism alive in Virginia through those troublous times, told us
in after days of having been literally chased up the streets by cannon
balls. It was one of the best cities in the Confederacy at that period
to get away from.

I began my journey southward, pausing a day or two at Danville; but,
fearing each moment to hear news of the appearance of impeding armies,
blocking my way through the Carolinas, I hastened on. The news from the
capital which reached us while in Petersburg had been of the worst.

“You have no idea of the intense excitement,” wrote my sister. “I am so
nervous I know not what to write! No one goes to bed here at night. For
several nights past no one could have slept for the confusion and noise.
The city has been in a perfect uproar for a week. We have heard firing
in two directions all the morning, on the Brook Turnpike and at Drewry’s
Bluff. The wounded are being brought into the city in great numbers.
General Walker is wounded! Poor General Stafford’s death cast a gloom
over the city. I went with Mr. Davis to his funeral, and carried
flowers!... General Benning is wounded, and Colonel Lamar, our dear L.
Q. C.’s brother, also.... At the wedding” [of Miss Lyons] “you never saw
such disorder in God’s house before in your life. Mrs. Davis and Mrs.
Mallory and Mrs. Most-everybody-else, stood up in the pews, and you
could not hear one word of the service for the noise. Mr. Davis was
there—Mrs. Chestnut sat with me. She is going home very _soon_, so the
Colonel told me. He said it was impossible for her to remain in Richmond
with nothing to eat!”

To my sister’s panorama of horrors, our brother, who was stationed in
Richmond, added a masculine picture.

“The enemy press us sorely with powerful forces of cavalry and
infantry,” he wrote. “The former cut off our communications everywhere,
hoping to reduce Lee to starvation, and the presence of the latter keeps
from him reinforcements that otherwise would be promptly sent. We have
lost severely around the city. General Stuart was shot by a Yankee
soldier who fired upon him at ten paces as he galloped past him. He died
last night, about twenty-eight hours after he received the wound.
Brigadier General Gordon, also of the cavalry, had his arm shattered
yesterday above the elbow, and ’tis said will probably have to suffer
amputation. Mr. Randolph, the ‘Sir Anthony Absolute’ of your play, was
wounded yesterday in the shoulder and thigh, and will lose the limb
to-day. All the clerks of the office are in the intrenchments and no
work goes on!”

Upon learning of my determination to push on to Georgia, our sister put
away her anxiety and grew facetious at my expense. “I am inclined to
think you are a great coward,” she wrote. “Why did you run from
Petersburg?... I am almost ashamed of you! You never catch me running
from Yankees! Georgia is certainly a _safe_ place.... When we have
killed _all the Yankees_ and the city is perfectly quiet, I invite you
to come on and see us.... I am weary from walking (not _running_) to see
the wounded!”

A month or so later and my sweet sister, speeding _to overtake me_,
joined me at Macon, in time to accompany me to the home of our friend,
Mrs. Winter, in Columbus. Here, to compensate for the tribulations of
the past months, we were promised the most care-free of summers.
Refugees were flocking to that land of safety and plenty just then, and
whether in Macon or Columbus, our time was spent in welcoming
late-comers, in visiting and exchanging news or comment of the times, or
making little excursions to nearby towns. Once we formed a party and
visited the “White Farm” of Augusta Evans, then unmarried. It was a
unique place and celebrated for the unsullied whiteness of every bird
and beast on the place.

Upon our arrival at our friend’s home in Columbus, we found a very
active field awaiting us. It was now mid-summer of ’4, somewhat after
the bloody battle of Atlanta. In anticipation of our coming, Mrs. Winter
had prepared her largest and coolest rooms for us. All was ready and we
about due to arrive, when an unforeseen incident frustrated our
hostess’s plans in regard of our intended pleasuring, and put us all to
more serious work. It was in the late afternoon when our friend, driving
in her calash along the boundaries of the town, came upon a pitiful
sight. Near a group of tents a sick man, a soldier, lay writhing upon
the ground in a delirium, while near by and watching him stood his
alarmed and helpless coloured servant. Mrs. Winter, aroused to pity by
the sight, immediately gave orders that the sufferer be carried to her
home, where he was placed in the room that had been prepared for me.

When my sister and I arrived, a few hours afterward, our sympathies,
too, were at once enlisted for the unfortunate man. He proved to be
Captain Octave Vallette, a Creole, who, previous to his enlistment, with
his brother, had been a ship-builder at Algiers, Louisiana.

A physician was already in attendance when my sister and I arrived, and
an examination of the invalid’s wounds was making.

A week had elapsed since the first hasty dressing of the wound, and the
blackened flesh now suggested the approach of the dreaded gangrene.

The cleansing of the dreadful wound was a terrible ordeal. For days the
patient raved, and to us, just from the camps and hospitals of Virginia,
his frenzied words conveyed most vivid pictures of the experiences our
men were meeting in the deadly fray.

“God! What a hole for soldiers to be in!” he would cry; and then would
mumble on incoherently until, in an accession of fevered strength, he
would burst out, “Give them hell, boys!” while his negro man stood by,
blinded by tears.

Finally, however, our care was rewarded, and our invalid began slowly to
recover. The first day he was able to endure it, we took the Captain to
drive in Mrs. Winter’s calash. He was still weak, and very melancholy;
the injured arm was stiff and all but a useless member. We tried to
cheer him by merry talk. “Surely,” we said at last, as we drove by a
new-made cemetery, with its bare little whitewashed head-boards, “weak
as you are, isn’t this a great deal better than lying out there with a
board at your head marked ‘O. V.’?” At this he smiled, but grimly.

The ensuing months to me were a time of indecision. My sister departed
to rejoin her husband in Richmond, and I, feeling quite cut off from
those nearest to me, formed numerous plans for leaving the Confederate
States. I wished to go to Mr. Clay in Canada, or to England, where so
many dear friends were already installed; and so earnestly did this
desire fix itself in my mind that wheels were set in motion for the
securing of a passport. My friends in Richmond and in Georgia urged me
to reconsider. Mr. Clay might even then be on his way home; would I not
come to the capital and wait? But I declined, and kind Secretary Mallory
acceded to my wishes, though cautioning me against our enemies on the
seas. “I only wish I could send you abroad in a public vessel,” he
wrote, as he inclosed Mr. Seddon’s passport, “but I have not a blockade
runner under my control.

“You will, of course, avoid Bermuda and Nassau. The yellow-fever still
rages and embraces new-comers at the very beach; and knowing that
nothing on earth would ever fail to embrace you that had the power of
doing so, and having a painful experience of his warm and glowing
nature, I am anxious that you shall keep out of his way.... Angela and
Ruby send their love. They regret, with me, that your promised visit to
us is not to be paid.”

Yet, after all these preparations I remained; for, as the weeks passed,
it seemed clear Mr. Clay was likely to arrive at any time. His
associate, Professor Holcombe, had already returned, though wrecked off
the coast of Wilmington. Whole ship-loads of cotton, which had succeeded
in running the blockade and which we fondly hoped would replenish our
pocket-books, had gone to the bottom. On the whole, travel by sea grew
less and less attractive. I concluded to remain on _terra firma_, but to
go on toward Augusta and Beech Island, South Carolina, that I might be
nearer the coast when Mr. Clay should arrive. Ere I left Columbus I had
a ludicrous adventure. Upon coming downstairs one morning, I saw,
approaching the outer, wide-open door, a large, portly figure clad in
Macon Mills muslin. Beyond him, in the street, a wagon stood, or was
passing. It was loaded with watermelons. As I noted them and the figure
approaching, I connected the two at once, and called back to my hostess,
with all the enthusiasm for which I was ever famous at the near prospect
of a “million,” “Cousin Victoria! Don’t you want some melons? Here’s a
watermelon man!” To my surprise, as I neared the door a hearty laugh
rang out; a cordial hand was extended to me, and I recognised before me
genial, jovial General Howell Cobb, who had left his military duties for
the moment, in order to welcome me to Georgia. His long beard, which he
declared he never would shave until our cause was won, together with the
copperas and unbleached suit of muslin, had quite disguised him for the

                              CHAPTER XVI

My memories would be incomplete were I to fail to include in them a
description of plantation life that may be taken as a type of the
beautiful homes of the South in that long ago before the Civil War. From
Maryland to Louisiana there had reigned, since colonial times, an
undisturbed, peaceful, prosperous democracy, based upon an institution
beneficial alike to master and servant. It was implanted in the South by
the English settlers, approved by the English rulers, and fostered by
thrifty merchants of New England, glad to traffic in black men so long
as there were black men upon the African coasts who might be had in
exchange for a barrel of rum. Generations living under these conditions
had evolved a domestic discipline in Southern homes which was of an
ideal order. Nothing resembling it had existed in modern times. To
paraphrase the nursery rhyme, the planter was in his counting-house
counting out his money; his wife was in the parlour eating bread and
honey; the man servant was by his master’s side, the maid with her
mistress, the meat-cook at his spit and the bread-cook at the marble
block where the delicious beaten biscuit were made in plenty. The
laundress was in the laundry (Chinamen then in China), and in the
nursery lived, ever at her post, the sable sentinel of cribs and
cradles, the skilful manufacturer of possets and potions. None but a
Southerner to the manner born can appreciate or imagine the tie that
bound us of that old-time South to our dear black mammy, in whose
capacious lap the little ones confided to her care cuddled in innocent

Fruitful vineyards and gardens furnished our luxuries, and talent and
faithful public service were the criterion of social standing. Of those
bygone days, Mr. E. Spann Hammond[31] recently wrote, “To me it seems as
if I had been in two worlds, and two existences, the old and the new,
and to those knowing only the latter, the old will appear almost like
mythology and romance, so thorough has been the upheaval and
obliteration of the methods and surroundings of the past.”

Yes! the old glories have passed away, but even those who destroyed
them, looking back to that time and that Southern civilisation,
recognise to-day how enviable were our solidarity as a people, our
prosperity and the moral qualities that are characteristic of the South.
“I have learned not only to respect, but to love the great qualities
which belong to my fellow-citizens of the Southern States,” said Senator
Hoar, recently. “Their love of home, their chivalrous respect for women,
their courage, their delicate sense of honour, their constancy, which
can abide by an appearance or a purpose or an interest for their States
through adversity, and through prosperity, through years and through
generations, are things by which the more mercurial people of the North
may take a lesson. And there is another thing,” he added, “the low
temptation of money has not found any place in our Southern politics.”



  of South Carolina

It was my good fortune during the late autumn and winter of 1864 to be
invited to take refuge in a spacious and representative plantation home
in South Carolina, where the conditions that obtained were so typically
those of the Southern home that I could choose no better example for
description, were I to scan here the numberless instances of a similar
character, known to me before those unquiet days. “Redcliffe,” the home
of Senator Hammond, is still a point of interest to travellers, and a
beautiful feature of the landscape in which it is set. It is built upon
a high knoll on Beech Island, South Carolina, and is visible to the
naked eye at a distance of thirty-five miles. It lies within view of
Sand Hill, where the famous Madame Le Vert spent her declining years,
and is pointed out to the visitor by the residents of Augusta, Georgia,
and the smaller towns about, as an object of local admiration and pride.
In the decades preceding the war it was owned by Governor, afterward
Senator, James H. Hammond, a wealthy man in his own right, whose
possessions were greatly increased by his marriage to Miss Catherine
Fitzsimmons. Miss Fitzsimmons was a daughter of one of South Carolina’s
richest citizens, and brought to Governor Hammond a splendid dowry. Her
sister became the wife of Colonel Wade Hampton, who had been on General
Jackson’s staff at the battle of New Orleans, and whose son, General and
Senator Wade Hampton, served in the same Congress with Senator Hammond.
While in Washington, the latter, distinguished alike for his reserve and
scholarliness, became known as the “Napoleon of the Senate.” He was no
lover of public life, however, and the senatorial office was literally
thrust upon him. Especially as the strenuousness in Congress increased,
his desire deepened to remain among his people and to develop what was,
in fact, one of the most productive plantations in South Carolina. The
estate of “Redcliffe” was stocked with the finest of Southdowns, with
sleek, blooded kine, and horses, and a full flock of Angora goats. The
prolific “Redcliffe” vineyards yielded unusual varieties of grapes,
planted and cared for by white labourers. Four hundred slaves or more
were owned by Senator Hammond, but these were set to less
skill-demanding duties. For the planting of this vineyard, forty acres
of land, sub-soiled to a depth of three feet, were set apart, and the
clear, straw-coloured wine for which the Senator’s cellar was famous
came from his own wine-presses.

On the plantation was a large grist-mill, from which every human
creature in that vast family was fed. It was a big, heavy timbered
building, grey even then with age, and run by water. Here the corn was
crushed between the upper and the nether mill-stones, and so skilful was
the miller that each could have his hominy ground as coarse or as fine
as his fancy dictated, and all the sweetness of the corn left in it
besides. The miller could neither read nor write, but he needed no aid
to his memory. For years he had known whose mealbag it was that had the
red patch in the corner. He knew each different knot as well as he knew
the negros’ faces, and if any of the bags presented had holes in it the
miller would surely make its owner wait till the last.

Lower down on the same water-course was the sawmill, which had turned
out all the lumber used in the building of “Redcliffe.” On one occasion
it happened that this mill, needing some repairs, a great difficulty was
encountered in the adjustment of the mud-sills, upon which the solidity
of the whole superstructure depended. The obstacles to be removed were
great, and it cost much time and money to overcome them. While Mr.
Hammond was Senator, and in the official chamber was grappling with the
problem of labour and capital, his experience with the mud-sills was
opportunely recalled, and his application of that name to certain of the
labouring classes at once added to his reputation for ready wit.

On the “Redcliffe” plantation the blacksmith was to be found at his
forge, the wheelwright in his shop, and the stock-minder guarding the
welfare of his charges. Measured by the standard that a man has not
lived in vain who makes two blades of grass to grow where but one grew
before, Senator Hammond might have been crowned King of agricultural
enterprise, for his highest producing corn-lands before he rescued them
had been impassible swamp-lands. Drained and put under cultivation,
their yield was enormous, no less than eighty bushels of corn being the
average quantity to the acre. There was scarcely a corner of the old
“stake-and-rider fences” in which Mr. Hammond did not cause to be
planted a peach or apple or other fruit tree.

Our cousin Miss Comer, who late in the fifties married the son of
Senator Hammond, and made her home at “Redcliffe,” though accustomed to
affluent plantation life, was at once impressed by the splendid system
that directed the colony of slaves at Beech Island. Each marriage and
birth and death that took place among them was registered with great
exactness. The Senator’s business ability was remarkable. He knew his
every possession to the most minute particular. The Hammond slaves
formed an exclusive colony, which was conducted with all the strictness
of a little republic. They were a happy, orderly, cleanly, and care-free
lot, and Mr. Hammond was wont to say that if the doctrine of
transmigration of souls was true, he would like to have his soul come
back and inhabit one of his “darkies.”

I have said they were an exclusive colony. My pretty little cousin
realised this upon her arrival at “Glen Loula,” a charming residence
named for her, and set apart for the young couple by the owner of

“The Hammond negro, as I have found him,” she wrote, “has a decided
personal vanity, and nothing will offend him more than to have you
forget his name. For a long time after coming I felt I was not exactly
admitted by the different servants as ‘one ob de fambly.’ In fact, it
was plain I was on trial, being ‘weighed in the balance!’ How I wished I
knew all about diplomacy! I never saw a more august appearance than
Daddy ‘Henry,’ an old African, who remembers the slave ship on which he
was brought over, his foreign name, and, perhaps, many things which he
never tells about. He cleans the silver, polishes the floors and windows
and the brasses in the fireplaces, and, besides this, claims the boys’
guns as his by some divine right.

“In order to hasten an expression of their good-will, I thought one day
of making a Sterling exchange with the aid of some Washington finery;
and, with a black silk dress to one servant and a morning-robe to
another, I have pulled through famously, even with Marm Jane, the cook,
who is supreme in her kitchen. I have heard her turn my husband out. But
the silk dress brought me a _carte blanche_. ‘Come on, Missy, jes w’en
you feels like it!’ is the way she greets me now.

“I cannot help seeing the wise arrangement of every part of this
extensive plantation, especially for the negroes. The house of the
overseer is in the midst of a grove of live oaks, and in each street are
a certain number of cabins, each in the midst of a little garden with
space in which to raise chickens. The hospital is well arranged, and
there is a separate house where the children, especially the babies, are
left to be fed and cared for while their mothers are at work.

“My poor memory for faces would be my undoing but for Paul, who always
tells me as we come upon any of the negroes, ‘Now this is Jethro! Be
sure to call him distinctly.’ I fall in with this righteous deception
and it works like a charm. They admire what they think wit, and
especially love to memorise some easy little rhyme. Every one makes the
same atrocious wish to me:

              ‘God blass you, ma Missie. I wishes you joy
              An’ every year a gal or a boy.’

“I thought I would die when I heard it first, but I’ve gotten over it
now. Senator Hammond gives a barbecue to the slaves every Fourth of July
and Christmas, and the dances of the negroes are very amusing. There is
a tall black man, called Robin, on this plantation, who has originated a
dance which he calls the turkey-buzzard dance. He holds his hands under
his coat-tails, which he flirts out as he jumps, first to one side, and
then to the other, and looks exactly like the ugly bird he imitates.”

In the uncertain days of the war, Huntsville being unapproachable, and
we having no fixed abode in the intervals between Congressional sessions
at Richmond, Senator Clay and I made several enjoyable visits to the
sheltered home of Mr. Hammond, even while battles raged and every heart
was burdened with apprehension. The hospitality of the owner of
“Redcliffe” was well known. It was his custom in those uncertain days,
whether guests were known to be coming or not, to send his carriage
daily to Augusta to meet the afternoon train, and the unexpected or
chance arrival who might be seeking a conference or a refuge at
“Redcliffe”; and once a year, like a great feudal landlord, he gave a
fête or grand dinner to all the country people about, at which he always
contrived to have some distinguished guest present. Senator Clay and I
had the good fortune to be visiting Mr. Hammond on such an occasion,
when every neighbour, poor or rich, for miles about was present. They
made a memorable picture; for the majority were stiff and prim and of
the quaint, simple, religious class often to be found in back districts.
They seemed ill at ease, if not consciously out of place, in Senator
Hammond’s parlours, filled as those great rooms were with evidences of a
cosmopolitan culture, with paintings and statuary, bronze and marble

In their efforts to entertain their guests, our host and hostess’s
ingenuity had been tested to its utmost, when suddenly Senator Hammond’s
eye twinkled, and he turned to Senator Clay.

“I remember once seeing you dance at our home in Washington, Mr. Clay,”
he began, and then proceeded to recall an amusing evening, where,
strictly _en famille_, Senator Butler, of South Carolina, together with
Secretary and Mrs. Cobb, Senator Clay and myself, had dined, finishing
up the hours together by singing our favourite ballads. Upon my playing
a merry tune, Secretary Cobb, rotund and jolly, suddenly seized my
husband, slender and sedate, and together they whirled madly about the
room to the music of the piano, and the great amusement of dear old
Senator Butler, who laughed until the tears rolled down his cheeks.

When Mr. Hammond at “Redcliffe” proposed that Mr. Clay repeat his
terpsichorean success for the pleasure of the Beach Islanders there
gathered, my husband at first (emulating the distinguished artist
wherever he is encountered) demurred. He “could not dance without
music,” he said.

“Well,” said our host, “Mrs. Clay can play!”

“But I need a partner!” my husband persisted. At last, however, he
yielded to Senator Hammond’s persuasion and danced an impromptu Highland
fling, abandoning himself completely to the fun of the moment. As the
music went on and his spirit of frolic rose, the faces of some of the
spectators around us grew longer and longer, and, I am sure, those good
people felt themselves to be a little nearer to the burning pit than
they had ever been before. Their prim glances at my husband’s capers
increased the natural sedateness of our hostess, who, seeing the
expressions of alarm, plainly was relieved when at last the terrible
Bacchanalian outburst was over! I felt sure it would be a difficult task
to try to convince my husband’s audience that his own religious feelings
and convictions were of the deepest and most spiritual quality.

For his black dependents, Senator Hammond had built several churches;
the favourite one, called St. Catherine’s (named for Mrs. Hammond),
being nearest the “Redcliffe” residence and most frequently visited by
the family. Once a month a white preacher came, and all the slaves
gathered to listen to the monthly sermon. Senator Hammond’s views for
the civilising of the negroes led him to forbid the presence of exciting
negro preachers, for the religion of the black man, left to himself, is
generally a mixture of hysteria and superstition. The conversion of the
negroes under their own spiritual guides was a blood-curdling process in
those days, for they screamed to Heaven as if the Indians with their
tomahawks were after them, or danced, twisting their bodies in most
remarkable manner.[33] As their emotion increased, as they “got
feelin’,” and the moment of conversion approached, as a rule they fell
all in a heap, though in thus “coming through” the wenches were
altogether likely to fall into the arms of the best-looking young
brother who happened to be near. By reason of Senator Hammond’s wise
discipline, such religious excesses were impossible at “Redcliffe,” and
I can recall no church service at once more thrilling and reverential
than that I attended, with Senator Clay, at quaint St. Catherine’s on
the “Redcliffe” plantation shortly before my husband’s departure for

The negroes, clean, thrifty, strong, all dressed in their best, vied
with each other in their deference to Mars’ Paul’s guests, as we entered
the church. They listened quietly to the sermon as the service

It was a solemn and impressive scene. There was the little company of
white people, the flower of centuries of civilisation, among hundreds of
blacks, but yesterday in the age of the world, wandering in savagery,
now peaceful, contented, respectful and comprehending the worship of
God. Within a day’s ride, cannon roared, and a hunter, laying his ear to
the ground, might have heard the tread of armies, bent upon the blotting
out of just such scenes as these. Only God might record our thoughts
that morning, as the preacher alluded in prayer and sermon to the issues
of the times. At the close of the morning, the hymn “There is rest for
the weary” was given out, and when the slaves about us had wailed out
the lines

                   “On the other side of Jordan
                          ·       ·       ·       ·       ·
                   Where the tree of life is blooming
                   There is rest for you!”

my husband, at the signal for prayer, fell upon his knees, relieving his
pent-up feelings in tears which he could not restrain. My own
commingling emotions were indescribably strange and sad. Would
abolitionists, I thought, could they look upon that scene, fail to admit
the blessings American “slavery” had brought to the savage black men,
thus, within a few generations at most, become at home in a condition of

There were many fine voices on the plantation at “Redcliffe,” and as
they followed their leader down the row “chopping out” cotton, or, when
later they worked in gangs at picking it, it was their custom, seeming
to act from instinct in the matter, to sing. One voice usually began the
song, then another would join him, and then another, until dozens of
voices blended in weird and melodious harmonies that floated from the
distant cotton fields to the house of the master, and the music of the
unseen choristers, a natural and rhythmic song, was of a kind we shall
not hear again in these later practical times. Sometimes, one by one,
all would drop out of the song, until only the leader’s high voice was
heard; then, gradually, they would join in again, and often, when all
seemed finished, a challenge would come from some distant gang, and a
fuller and freer antiphonal song would be heard, answering from field to

When I remember that throng of well-fed, plump and happy coloured
people, and compare it with the ragged and destitute communities common
among the freedmen of to-day, the contrast is a sad one. “What’s de
reason?” asked an old darky of me during Reconstruction days, “dat de
Yankees caint make linsey-wolsey like ole Mistis did in de ole time? ’N
dose days one par breeches las me mos a year! I could cut trees, roll
logs, burn bresh-heaps an’ cut briers an’ I couldn’t wear dem breeches
out! Now when I buys dis shoddy stuff de Yankees done bro’t an’ sets
down on de lawg ter eat ma grub, bress Gawd! when I gits up, I leaves de
seat O’ my breeches on de lawg! I done got down on my knees an’ prayed
for God ter send me linsey-wolsey clothes so I won’t have rheumatiz an’
aint none come. Where’s dat mule an’ forty acres? When is dey a comin’,
dat’s what I wants ter know!”

                              CHAPTER XVII
                         CONDITIONS IN 1863–’4

By the autumn of 1864 the Southern States found themselves ravaged of
everything either edible or wearable. Food was enormously high in cities
and in locations which proved tempting to foragers. Delicately bred
women were grateful when they were able to secure a pair of rough brogan
shoes at one hundred dollars a pair, and coarse cotton cloth from the
Macon Mills served to make our gowns. For nearly three years the
blockade of our ports and frontier had made the purchase of anything
really needful, impracticable. Nor could we utilise the stores in
Southern cities once these had fallen into the enemies’ clutches. A
correspondent, Mrs. Captain du Barry,[34] who in December, 1863, was
permitted to visit Memphis, now in the enemy’s possession, wrote, “I
deeply regretted not being able to fill your commissions. I put them on
my list that I sent in to General Hurlburt, when I requested a passport,
but they were refused. All the principal stores were closed and their
contents confiscated. There is a perfect reign of terror in Memphis. Not
even a spool of cotton can be purchased without registering your name
and address, and “swearing it is for personal or family use,” and no
_number_ of articles can be taken from the store without, after
selection, going with a list of them in your hand, to the “Board of
Trade,” accompanied by the clerk of the store, and there swearing on the
Bible that the articles mentioned are for family use and not to be taken
out of the United States. So many necessary articles are pronounced
contraband by the United States authorities, that one is in momentary
chance of being arrested, by ignorantly inquiring for them. The place is
swarming with detectives who make a trade of arresting unfortunate
people. They are paid by the United States Government two hundred and
fifty dollars for detecting and arresting a person, and that person pays
the Provost Marshal fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars to get off,
that being the way matters are conducted in Memphis!”

All over the South old spinning wheels and handlooms were brought out
from dusty corners, and the whirr of the wheel became a very real song
to us. Every scrap of old leather from furniture, trunk, belt or saddle
was saved for the manufacture of rough shoes, often made by the mother
who had been fortunate enough to have hoarded them, for herself and
children. I, myself, saw my aunt, Eloisa, wife of General Jones M.
Withers, putting soles on the tops of once cast-off shoes of her
children’s, and she, who had known so well the luxuries of life, was
compelled to perform her task by the meagre light of a precious tallow
candle. Complaints, however, were few, from our Spartan-spirited women.
Writing to my husband, in November, 1864, I said, “A lady told me
yesterday that she fattened daily on Confederate fare—for, since she
could obtain no useless luxuries, her health, heretofore poor, has
become perfect.”

The country was stripped not alone of the simpler refinements of life,
but of even so necessary a commodity as salt. Scarcely a smoke-house in
the South having an earthen floor, which had received the drippings from
the hams or bacon sides of earlier days, but underwent a scraping and
sifting in an effort to secure the precious grains deposited there. It
happened that my host at “Redcliffe,” just previous to the breaking out
of hostilities, had ordered a boat-load of salt, to use upon certain
unsatisfactory land, and realising that a blockaded coast would result
in a salt famine, he hoarded his supply until the time of need should
come. When it became known that Senator Hammond’s salt supply was
available, every one from far and near came asking for it. It was like
going down into Egypt for corn, and the precious crystals were
distributed to all who came, according to the number in each family.

Compared with those of many of my friends in other parts of the South,
our surroundings and fare at Beech Island were sumptuous. Save at my
Uncle Williams’s home, I had nowhere seen such an abundance of good
things as “Redcliffe” yielded. Meats and vegetables were plenty; the
river nearby was full of shad which were caught readily in seines; and
canvas-backs and teal, English ducks and game birds, especially
partridges, abounded. “Indian summer is here in all its glory,” I wrote
to my husband late in ’4. “The hues of the forests are gorgeous, the
roses wonderful! Millions of violets scent the air, and everything is so
peaceful and lovely on this island it is hard to realise War is in the
land. Splendid crops prevail, and the spirit of the people is

As times grew more and more stringent, tea and coffee proved to be our
greatest lack, and here, as we had done in the last days at Warrenton,
we were glad to drink potato coffee and peanut chocolate. The skin of
the raw potato was scraped off—to pare it might have been to waste
it—and the potato cut into slices or discs as thin as paper. It was then
carefully dried, toasted and ground, and made into what proved to be a
really delicious beverage.[35] Our chocolate was made in this wise:
Peanuts, or pinders, or goobers, as they were variously called, were
roasted and the skin slipped off. They were next pounded in a mortar;
when, blended with boiled milk and a little sugar (a sparing use of this
most costly luxury was also necessary), the drink was ready for serving,
and we found it delightful to our palates.

There were spinners and weavers on Beech Island, too, and unceasing
industry was necessary to prepare and weave cloth, both cotton and wool,
sufficient for the clothing of the army of slaves and the family on the
great plantation. One of the island residents, Mrs. Redd, was a
wonderful worker, and wove me a cotton gown of many colours which had
all the beauty of a fine Scotch plaid. She spun her own cotton and made
her own dyes, gathering her colours from the mysterious laboratories of
the woods, and great was the fame her handiwork attained wherever it was
seen. Calico of the commonest in those days was sold at twenty-five
dollars a yard; and we women of the Confederacy cultivated such an
outward indifference to Paris fashions as would have astonished our
former competitors in the Federal capital. Nor did our appearance, I am
constrained to think, suffer appreciably more than our spirits; for the
glories of an unbleached Macon Mills muslin gown, trimmed with
gourd-seed buttons, dyed crimson, in which I appeared at Richmond in the
spring of ’4, so impressed the mind of an English newspaper
correspondent there, that he straightway wrote and forwarded an account
of it to London, whence our friends who had taken refuge there sent it
back to us, cut from a morning journal.

Not that our love for pretty things was dead; a letter preserved by Mr.
Clay is fine testimony to the fact that mine was “scotched, and not
killed.” It was dated Beech Island, November 18, 1864, and was addressed
to Mr. Clay, now on the eve of departure from Canada.

“Bring me at least two silk dresses of black and purple. I prefer the
purple to be _moire antique_, if it is fashionable. If French
importations are to be had, bring me a spring bonnet and a walking hat,
for the benefit of all my lady friends as well as myself, and do bring
some books of fashions—September, October, and November numbers (_Ruling
passion strong in war_), and bring——.” The list grew unconscionably. In
after years I found a copy of it carefully made out in my husband’s
handwriting, and showing marks of having been carried in his pocket
until each article I had indicated for myself or others had been
selected, Here it is:

 1.  At least, 2 silk dresses, black and purple (for ’Ginie).

 2.  French spring bonnet.

 3.  Walking hat.

 4.  Some books of fashion.

 5.  Corsets—4—6, 22 inches in waist.

 6.  Slippers with heels, No. 3 1–2.

 7.  Gloves—1 doz. light coloured, 1 doz. dark.

 8.  Handkerchiefs, extra fine.

 9.  Two handsome black silk dresses for Lestia.

 10. Flannel, white and red.

 11. A set of fine, dark furs, not exceeding $25.

 12. Set of Hudson Bay Sables, at any price, for Victoria, large cape,
       cuffs and muff.

 13. Two Black Hernanis or Tissue dresses, one tissue dress to be
       brochetted for ’Ginie.

 14. 3 or 4 pieces of black velvet ribbon, different widths.

 15. Bolt of white bonnet ribbon; ditto pink, green and magenta.

 16. French flowers for bonnet.

 17. Shell Tuck comb for ’Ginie.

 18. Present for little Jeff Davis, Claude and J. Winter.

 19. Needles, pins, _hairpins_, tooth-brushes, coarse combs, cosmetics,
       hair oil, cologne.

 20. Domestic, linen, muslin, nainsook, swiss, jaconet, mull muslin,
       each a full piece.

 21. Dresses of brilliantine.

 22. Black silk spring wrapping.

 23. Chlorine tooth wash and Rowland’s Kalydor.

 24. A cut coral necklace.

 25. Lace collars, large and pointed now worn.

Alas! my husband’s zeal in fulfilling my commissions all went for
naught, for the boxes containing them (save two, which were deposited
with Mrs. Chestnut, at Columbia, and later fell prey to the Federals or
to the flames, we never knew which) were swallowed by the sea, and only
he himself came home with the Government papers he had guarded, as the
sole baggage he was able to save from the wreck of the _Rattlesnake_ of
all he had carried. And yet not all, for a long-lost pet which he had
been enabled to reclaim for General Lee[36] was also brought safely to

“Tell him,” wrote my sister, from Richmond, that “General Lee’s dog
arrived safely. Poor dog! I’m sorry for him, for he will find the
Confederacy a poor place to come to to get anything to eat! I trust for
the country’s sake, he knows how to live without eating!”

For the making of our toilette we discovered the value of certain
gourds, when used as wash cloths. Their wearing qualities were
wonderful; the more one used them the softer they became. Needles were
becoming precious as heirlooms; pins were the rarest of luxuries; for
the greater part of the time locust thorns served us instead. Writing
paper was scarcely to be had, and the letters of that period which were
sent out by private persons were often unique testimony to the ingenuity
of the senders. Wall-paper, perhaps, was most frequently resorted to,
and we made our crude envelopes of anything we could find. We made our
own writing fluids, our commonest resource being the oak ball, a
parasite, which, next to the walnut burr, is the blackest thing in the
vegetable world. Or, this failing us, soot was scooped from the chimney,
and, after a careful sifting, was mixed with water and “fixed” with a
few drops of vinegar. Sometimes we used pokeberries, manufacturing a
kind of red ink, or, made thin with water, some bit of miraculously
saved shoe polish provided us with an adhesive black fluid.

Our difficulties were as great in the matter of transmitting our
letters, when once they were written. We might intrust them to the
mails, but these particularly were prey to our invaders; or we might
charge with the care of them some traveller who was known to be making
his way to the city for which the letters were addressed. Stray
newspapers reached us at “Redcliffe” occasionally, from even so distant
a point as our capital, and efforts were made by local editors to purvey
the news of battles and the movements of the armies, but the supply of
paper necessary for the issuing of a daily journal and even a weekly
edition was difficult to obtain. What at first had appeared as morning
papers were changed to evening editions, as the cost of candles, by
which the compositors must work, had risen in ’3 to three and one-half
dollars a pound. Our brother, J. Withers Clay, who owned and edited the
_Confederate_, turned peripatetic, and issued his paper where he could,
being obliged to keep shifting, printing paraphernalia and all, with the
movements of the army in the Tennessee region. Writing us from
Chattanooga, on August 16, 1863, he thus described his life: “I am
living in camp style. I mess with my office boys and our fare is frugal.
My bed is a piece of carpet, laid on a door, with one end elevated on
two bricks and the other resting on the floor. I lay my blue blanket on
this, and my bones on that, with my head supported by my overcoat and
carpet sack, and cover myself with a Mexican scarf when it is cool!”

On the whole, our condition was almost like that of the ancients who
depended on passing travellers for gossip or news of the welfare or
whereabouts of friends or kin. Thus my sister (by every tie of
affection), writing from Richmond in the spring of ’4, said: “Have no
idea where you are, but send this letter by General Sparrow to Macon,
care of Mrs. Whittle. The last intelligence I had of you was through
Colonel Phillips. He told me he saw you between Augusta and Macon

Nor dared we avail ourselves of our telegraph wires, so costly had the
sending of a few lines become. For the briefest message sent C. O. D.
from Macon to Richmond, my sister paid sixteen dollars and implored me
to send no more! The chief resource of the people was the arrival of the
local train, at which time the railway stations swarmed with inquirers
on foot, hedged in by others as eager, who had driven long distances in
such vehicles as were at their command.

My life was one of continual suspense, notwithstanding the arrival of
special couriers who came from time to time from Richmond bearing
tidings of my absent husband. All lives that lie in close parallels to
governments carry heavy anxieties. Mine, in those days of strife and
terror, was no exception to this general rule. As negotiator at Niagara
Falls with Professor Holcombe and others, the eyes of the North as well
as those of the South for months had been fixed upon Mr. Clay, his
interviews with Horace Greeley and the messengers sent to him by Mr.
Lincoln having excited varying comments and criticisms that were
anything but reassuring. Our friends in Richmond, however, wrote

  “... I hear occasionally of Mr. Clay,” ran a letter from the
  Executive Mansion, dated August 31st, ’4, “but for some time past
  nothing has been received from him. The company he keeps[37] as
  reported by the newspapers cannot render you apprehensive of his
  being too happy to wish to return, though your desire to be with him
  may have increased his probable want of more congenial communion
  when the day’s work is done. I am assured that his health has
  improved by Canadian air, and we may hope that he will bring back
  increased ability to labour in the cause of the Confederacy, if it
  should not be his portion to relieve us of the need for further toil
  such as now is imposed. The carping spirit which prompted the
  criticism[38] on his course would have found sufficient cause
  whatever he might have done; or, if nothing had been done, that
  would have served equally. No one can hope to please everybody. You
  would not wish your husband to escape the reviling of those who envy
  such as they cannot rival, and strive to drag others down from the
  heights to which they cannot rise?”

Messages were numerous, urging my return to Richmond, which our
President and the Mallorys assured me was the safest of places.

“Now that Sherman’s barbarians are in unpleasant proximity to you,”
wrote Secretary Mallory, “why not come to the front where security,
sympathy, mint juleps, an admiring audience, the freshest gossip and the
most unselfish regard, all combine with the boom and flash of guns to
welcome your coming? The correspondence between your lord and master and
Holcombe on one side, and Greeley on the other, is doing good service.
The parties, fragments, cliques and individuals in the United States who
desire peace, but differ upon the _modus operandi_ of getting it, will
now learn that with Lincoln at the head of affairs, no peace is
possible; while our weak brothers in North Carolina and Georgia who have
clamoured so loudly that peace propositions should be made to us, cannot
fail to see that, at present, peace with Lincoln means degradation. I am
very glad Mr. Clay went, for I see that his presence must be beneficial
to our cause.”

These, and other letters as urgent and as desirous of quieting my
apprehensions, came frequently. Nevertheless, my husband’s stay in the
severe climate of Canada caused me constant apprehension. For months my
only direct news of him was through “personals,” variously disguised, in
the Richmond papers, which Colonel Clay was prompt to forward to me.
Occasionally, however, one of the numerous letters each endeavoured to
send to the other successfully reached its destination. “It gives me
great pain,” I wrote on November 18, ’4, “to learn from yours just
received that none of my numerous letters have reached you since the
30th June! I have sent you dozens, my dearest, filled with all the news
of the day, of every character, and more love than ever filled my heart
before!... My last intelligence of you was sent me from Richmond through
the bearer of despatches, I presume, and bore the date of September
fifteenth, more than two months ago!”

In this letter, which was dated from Beech Island, I conveyed
intelligence to Mr. Clay of Senator Hammond’s death, he being, at the
time, a few days less than fifty-seven years of age. It occurred while
all the affluent colourings of the autumn were tingeing his world at
“Redcliffe.” The circumstances attending his decease and burial were
unique, and to be likened only to those which, in mediæval days,
surrounded the passing away of some Gothic baron or feudal lord. Mr.
Hammond had been failing in health for some time, when, feeling his end
drawing near, he asked for a carriage that he might drive out and select
his last resting-place. He chose, at last, a high knoll, from which a
fine view was to be had of Augusta and the Sand Hills; and, having done
this, being opposed to private burial grounds, he bequeathed the
surrounding acres to the town in the precincts of which his estate lay,
on consideration that they turn the plot into a public cemetery. First,
however, he laid an injunction upon his wife and sons, that if the
Yankee army penetrated there (the end of the war was not yet, nor came
for six months thereafter), they should have his grave ploughed over
that none of the hated enemy should see it.

Again and again in the remaining days he reiterated his wish. Fears were
spreading of the approach of Sherman’s devastating army, and the
destruction of “Redcliffe,” conspicuous as it was to all the surrounding
country, seemed inevitable. Marvellous to relate, however, when at last
the spoiler came, his legions marched in a straight line to the sea,
some fourteen miles away from the Hammond plantation, leaving it
untouched by shell or the irreverent hand of the invader.

The funeral of Mr. Hammond was solemn and made especially impressive by
the procession of two hundred of the older slaves, who marched, two by
two, into the baronial parlors, to look for the last time upon their
master’s face. Save for this retinue, “Redcliffe” was now practically
without a defender, Mr. Paul Hammond being absent much of the time,
detailed upon home guard duty. In his absence, my maid, Emily, and I
kept the armory of the household, now grown more and more fearful of
invasion with its train of insult and the destruction of property. There
were many nights when, all the rest in slumber and a dead hush without,
I waited, breathless, until I caught the sound of Paul Hammond’s
returning steps.

Just before the close of my refugee days on Beach Island, a young
kinsman, George Tunstall, who filled the sublime post of corporal in
Wheeler’s Brigade in camp a few hundred miles away, learning of my
presence there, obtained leave of absence and made his way, accompanied
by another youth, to Mrs. Hammond’s to see me. The two soldiers were
full of tales of thrilling interest, of hairbreadth escapes and camp
happenings, both grave and gay; and, rumours of Sherman’s advance being
rife, our young heroes urged my cousin to take time by the forelock and
bury the family silver. “Redcliffe” being almost in direct line of the
Yankee general’s march, the advice seemed good, and preparations at once
began to put it into operation. Though there was little doubt of the
loyalty of the majority of the Hammond slaves, yet it seemed but prudent
to surround our operations with all possible secrecy. We therefore
collected the silver, piece by piece, secreting it in “crocus” bags,
which, when all was ready, we deposited in a capacious carryall, into
which we crowded. It was at early dusk when lurking figures easily might
be descried in corn-field or behind a wayside tree by our alert eyes.
Declaring to those of the servants who stood about as we entered the
carriage, that we were taking some provisions to Mrs. Redd, much to
Lot’s[39] surprise, we dispensed with a coachman, and drove off. We had
many a laugh as we proceeded through the woods, at our absurdity in
concealing our errand from the family servants and in confiding our
precious secret to two of Wheeler’s men. They had a terrible reputation
for chicken stealing.[40]



  of Alabama

  From a war-time photograph

When we had driven a mile or more, Mr. Tunstall produced a hatchet and
began to blaze the trees. “There!” he said, after instructing us as to
the signs he had made, “when you come to where the blaze stops, you’ll
find your valuables!” and under his directions the silver was silently
sunk in the ground and the earth replaced.[41]

Apropos of General Sherman, when a month or two later I was in Macon, I
heard a very excellent story. A party of his men one day dashed up to
the house of a Mrs. Whitehead, a fine old lady (a sister of my
informant), and demanded dinner at once. The lady long since had learned
that resistance to such imperative demands would be in vain, and
preparations were at once begun for the meal. Notwithstanding her
obliging and prompt compliance, the men immediately started a forage in
the poultry yard and the outhouses beyond. One of the officers
penetrated the servants’ quarters, and entered a cabin in which a young
black woman lay sick.

“What’s the matter, Sis?” he asked, in a tone that was meant to convey

“Ain’t no Sis of yourn!” was the sullen reply. “God knows I ain’t no kin
to no Yankee!” At that moment an infant’s cry was heard.

“Hello!” said the officer. “Got a little pickaninny, hey? Boy or girl?”

“Boy chile! What’s that ter you?” snapped the woman.

“What’s his name?” persisted the soldier.

“Name’s Wheeler, dat’s what ’tis!” answered the invalid triumphantly,
and the colloquy ended abruptly.

As the soldiers sat down to the table, some one, going to the door, saw
Wheeler’s men come tearing down the road flat on their horses. Instantly
he shouted back to his companions, “Wheeler!” but they, believing the
cry to be a ruse, continued to eat. The sounds of the galloping steeds
soon became audible, however, and a stampede that was highly amusing to
the now relieved household took place through doors and windows. When
General Wheeler arrived, he found a steaming repast already prepared,
and a cordial welcome from Mrs. Whitehead and her family, including

                             CHAPTER XVIII
                      THE DEATH OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

The South was now sadly crippled. Our bulwarks were demolished and our
granaries emptied, our most fertile valleys occupied by the Northern
army, and Confederate money was depreciated to such an extent as to make
it practically useless.[42] Our army was thinning daily, and even the
news from Richmond, save from Mr. Davis himself, seemed to carry an
undertone prophetic of coming collapse. “The enemy, yesterday and
to-day,” wrote Mr. Mallory, from the capital, late in October, “is, in
the graphic gorillaisms, ‘pegging away’ close at us; and the flash of
his guns is visible and their roar was audible from my piazza yesterday.
His approaches have been very slow, to be sure, but nevertheless, he has
taken no step backward, but is ‘inching’ upon Richmond surely and
methodically in a way that seems as gopherlike as it is certain; and he
will keep up this system unless we can, by hard fighting, push him

Supported by the hope of Mr. Clay’s return, and knowing he would seek me
first among those of our kin who were nearest to the coast, I lingered
on Beech Island until late in January, 1865, though I did so against the
advice of Colonel Clay, who urged me to go southward, and the assurances
of Mr. Davis that I might safely return to Richmond, which city, the
President was confident, would continue to prove an impregnable refuge.
In the last days of December two such messages, equally positive and
each positively opposed to the other in its significance, sped to me by
courier from the capital. Who was to decide when such correspondents
disagreed? Yet the need for some move became more and more urgent. To
return to Huntsville was out of the question. Northern Alabama was
overrun with Federal soldiers, to whom the name alone of Clay, borne as
it was by three men all actively labouring for the preservation of the
Confederate States, was a challenge to the exercise of fresh authority.
I heard distressing news of the contemplated transportation, to
Nashville, of the aged ex-Governor Clay (our uncle, Mr. McDowell, a
non-combatant full of years, had already died in that prison under most
pitiful circumstances), yet I was powerless to send him even a line of
comfort or encouragement. Mail routes in every direction were in
possession of the enemy, or liable to be interrupted by them, and
straggling companies of Union soldiers were on the lookout to intercept
such messengers as might attempt to bear our letters from point to

My husband was in Canada, or on the seas, I knew not where; J. Withers
Clay, the second son of the ex-Governor, was active with pen and press
in lower Alabama; Colonel Clay was stationed in Richmond in the thick of
the political battle. Our parents were left alone in the old home, to
brave the discomforts put upon them by their sometimes cruel and
sometimes merely thoughtless oppressors. A grandson, Clement, a mere
lad, but a hero in spirit, venturing into the town to succour the old
people, was promptly arrested. “I wonder,” wrote one who visited our
parents, “that their heartstrings have not long since snapped!”

All through the Tennessee Valley dejection was spreading. “If Mr. Davis
does not restore General Johnston to the army of the Tennessee,” wrote
J. Withers Clay, “his friends generally out here believe that he will
never recover his lost popularity, or be able to get back the thousands
of soldiers (now) absent without leave. I wish you would tell the
President this. You have no idea of the extent of demoralisation among
soldiers and citizens produced by his persistent refusal to restore

For now several months I had been secretly tortured by an indecision as
to what course to pursue. Though urged by a hundred generous
correspondents to share their homes (for I have ever been blessed by
loyal friends), I had a deepening conviction that my interests were
detached from all. I was homeless, husbandless, childless, debarred from
contributing to the comfort of my husband’s parents, and I chafed at my
separation from those to whom my presence might have proved useful. As
time went on, all deprivations and anxieties were obscured by one
consuming determination to join my husband at all hazards; but, despite
every effort toward accomplishing this, I found myself swept helplessly
along by the strong currents of the times. My sole means of
communication with Mr. Clay was now through occasional “personals,”
which were published in the Richmond _Enquirer_, coöperating with the
New York _Daily News_. One of these, which appeared early in November,
1864, indicates the indecision and anxiety which by this time was felt,
also, by my husband in his exile:

“To Honourable H. L. Clay, Richmond, Virginia. I am well. Have written
every week, but received no answer later than the 30th of June. Can I
return at once? If not, send my wife to me by flag of truce, via
Washington, but not by sea. Do write by flag of truce care John Potts
Brown, No. 93 Beaver Street, New York. Answer by personal through
Richmond _Enquirer_ and New York _News_.”

“I inclose you a ‘personal’ from Brother Clement, published in
yesterday’s _Enquirer_,” Colonel Clay wrote on November 11, 1864. “I
consulted Mr. Mallory, Mr. Benjamin and the President, and then sent him
the following: ‘Your friends think the sooner you return the better. At
the point where you change vessels you can ascertain whether it is best
to proceed direct or by Mexico. Your wife cannot go by flag of truce.
She is well. I send you letters to-day by safe hands. H. L. C.’ The
reason why the earliest return is advised is that the fleet off
Wilmington is not yet increased to the degree intended; and during the
rough weather, before the hard winter sets in, it is much easier for
vessels to run the blockade. I shall tell him that the statistics kept
in the Export and Import Office show five out of six vessels, inward and
outward bound, safely run the blockade, but that he must himself
consider the risk from what he learns after reaching Bermuda.”

Colonel Clay’s prompt decision, such was my distracted state of mind, by
no means satisfied me. The suggestion contained in my husband’s words
seemed feasible to my courageous mind. I despatched a note of inquiry at
once to Richmond, begging Mr. Davis to write to Mr. Seward to secure my
safe passage by land to Canada. I told him of my unrest, the increasing
uncertainty that prevailed in the neighbourhood of “Redcliffe,” and my
desire to join my husband. The President’s reply was reassuring and full
of the confidence which sustained him to the end of the remaining days
of the Confederacy. “There is no danger in coming here now,” ran his
message from the capital, dated December 29, 1864. “When he (Mr. Clay)
returns he will, of course, visit this place, and can conveniently meet
you here.” But, when I proposed to try to make my way to this haven,
Colonel Clay wrote excitedly, animated by an anxiety as great as my own:

“Don’t come to Richmond! Don’t send the President letters or telegrams.
He is in a sea of trouble, and has no time or thought for anything
except the safety of the country. I fear the Congress is turning madly
against him. It is the old story of the sick lion whom even the jackass
can kick without fear. It is a very struggle for life with him. I do not
know that he has any reliable friends in Congress, who will sustain him
upon principle, fearlessly and ably. He has less and less power to
intimidate his enemies, and they grow more numerous every day.... If he
were preëminently gifted in all respects, the present moment is perilous
enough to call forth all his energies no matter how great.... Before
this reaches you, you will have read my private letter to Hammond, in
regard to the military situation in South Carolina and Georgia. I think
as soon as Sherman reduces Savannah, he will move promptly up the
Savannah River, and endeavour to capture Charleston by taking it in
reverse. That success would be a feather in any general’s cap. We cannot
hope to make fight on that river, I think, but must take the Edesto as
our line of defense. Now, look upon the map and you will see that the
whole of Beech Island lies between the two rivers, and in the event
Sherman moves up (as he will do, to cut off supplies from Charleston and
Virginia), the South Carolina Railroad will fall within the line of his
advance. I only give you my personal opinion; for, of course, no one can
speak assuredly of Sherman’s intentions. If I am right, I think you had
better move in the direction of Alabama before there is any rush of
travel, and as soon as you can well do so.... In Alabama or western
Georgia there will be plenty of food; more, indeed, because of the
inability to bring it east of Augusta. I write to advise you to go as
far away from the line of the enemy’s march as you can ... I dare not
look into the future, after Hood’s battles in Tennessee, if the Yankee
accounts are verified. God knows we are pressed hard on every side by
the enemy, and have no wise counsellors to give proper direction to our
weak, erring efforts for independence. Passion and prejudice and
personal feelings govern in many instances where patriotism should rule.
Congress is discussing questions of the smallest moment while the
Confederacy is in the grip of the Yankees struggling for existence.... I
fear the pending attack upon Wilmington will prevent Brother Clement
from coming in at the Port (if he should conclude not to go to Mexico)
for some time yet. Until the flotilla set sail from Fortress Monroe I
looked for him to come in about the last of this month or the first of
the next. Now I shall not know when to expect him, for no vessels will
attempt the blockade there at Washington.”

It now became apparent that to wait at our exposed Island was no longer
prudent. A family council was called, and it was decided that, upon the
first sign of a suitable escort, I should make my way to Macon. I had
not long to wait. Within a few days we learned of the presence of
General Howell Cobb in Augusta. I wrote to him at once, telling him of
my contemplated exodus and of my desire to place myself under his
protection upon his return journey to his headquarters at Macon. He
replied with the gallant cordiality which was ever a characteristic with
him, and which I think would never have deserted him even in the midst
of the roar of cannon:

                                  “AUGUSTA, Georgia, January 21, 1865.

  _“My Dear Friend_: ... I assure you that your threat to cling to me
  like the old man of the sea to Sinbad is the most agreeable threat
  that ever was made to me, and it shall not be my fault if it is not
  executed. I am here under orders from Richmond, which leave me in
  doubt whether I am to remain a day, a month, or a year. My opinion
  is that I will be ordered back to Macon in a very few days, and
  there is no telling at what hour I may receive the order. To make it
  certain, however, that I can give you timely notice, you ought to be
  in Augusta. I am ready to receive the acceptable trust and devote my
  best efforts to your comfort and happiness.

                                          Very truly your friend,
                                                        “HOWELL COBB.”

Early in February I arrived in Macon without misadventure, and here, on
February 10th, my husband joined me, having learned of my whereabouts
from our friends in Augusta.

Mr. Clay’s experiences since leaving Nassau had been exciting. _The
Rattlesnake_, a hitherto skilful blockade runner, on which he had taken
passage, was bound for Charleston; but, finding an entrance at that port
impossible for the moment, she had crept cautiously up to Wilmington,
only to be obliged again to show her heels to the wary and enlarged
blockading fleet. After numerous efforts to find a friendly harbour, the
little ship, reconnoitering about the South Carolinian coast, ran
aground four miles away from Fort Moultrie, grounded, it was rumoured,
by the pilot. Here the little craft, which quickly became the target of
the enemies’ guns, was abandoned, her timbers ablaze, while passengers
and crew, taking to the life-boats, bore with them such baggage as might
be gathered in their haste; and now, to cap the climax of their
disasters, the life-boats, too, ran aground, and sailors and passengers
were compelled repeatedly to wade through the waves, which dashed
throat-high about them, in an effort to rescue the pieces of baggage
they had been able to save from the ship. On that cold, blustery day in
early February, in garments saturated with brine, Mr. Clay was taken in
a yawl to Fort Moultrie, whence, ill from the exposure he had undergone,
he was carried in a sail-boat to Charleston by the Reverend Mr. Aldrich,
an accidental visitor to the Fort. By that kindly man he was put to bed
and to sleep under the stimulus of orange-leaf tea, while his clothing
and few rescued belongings were undergoing a drying.

Upon awakening, Mr. Clay’s first effort was to forward to Richmond to
the care of Colonel Clay, to be held until his own arrival in the
capital, a small hand-trunk addressed to Judah P. Benjamin, and to
General Lee, his restored pet; his second, to find me. This
accomplished, it was his intention to proceed at once to Richmond, to
deliver in person his State papers, the most important of which he had
carried in an oil-silk bag suspended about his neck. To the complete
frustration of his plans, however, my hapless husband found the railway
route between Augusta, where he supposed me to be, and Charleston, now
effectually closed. It was by a roundabout road, therefore, made partly
by carriage, that he reached the desired point on the seventh of
February, only to learn of my departure a few days before under the
escort of General Cobb. By the 10th, when Mr. Clay arrived at last in
Macon, he had informed himself of the grave plight of our armies, and of
the lamentable political differences existing in the capital, to which
Colonel Clay, in his letter to me, had alluded. A few hurried
conferences with General Cobb and others, and together we took our
departure for Richmond. Everything which might become an impediment to
the rough travel that lay before us was dispensed with, even my
invaluable maid, Emily, being left behind at the home of Major Whittle.
We proceeded first to Washington, Georgia, going, upon our arrival, to
the home of General Toombs, where was sojourning Mr. Stephens, our
Vice-President. The hearts of all were heavy as the gentlemen conferred
together upon the outlook of our country and arms. Letters from Richmond
which reached our hands at this point were excited in tone, and added to
our apprehension and sorrow.

“On every side,” wrote our sister, “the city rings with the cries of
Rachels weeping for their children!”

“Don’t come to Richmond!” urged Colonel Clay, “[or] if you think it
necessary to come on, do so at once; don’t delay. Leave sister; don’t
undertake to bring her in the present uncertain condition of the
railroad connections between here and the Georgia line.... Our armies
have been dwindling, until none is large enough to withstand an attack
in the open field. There is a collapse in every department, and, worse
than all, there is an utter lack of confidence by the people, in the
administration, in Congress, and in the success of the cause itself....
Campbell _will_ go out. He cannot see any benefit to be derived from his
longer continuance in office as the _drudge_ of the War Department,
especially when the Treasury is bankrupt, and Congress cannot devise a
new scheme for reëstablishing faith in the currency. That department is
$400,000,000 in arrears, it is said. I know it is enormously in debt to
the War Department ($32,000,000), and that the Quartermaster General and
the Commissary General cannot obtain the means to pay current expenses.
If we cannot have transportation and bread for the soldiers in the
field, to say nothing of clothing and pay, ... what becomes of our
army?... As I see the present and argue thence what the future has in
store for us, ... I see nothing but defeat and disaster and ruin!”

Characterised throughout his life by a punctilious observance of
everything which in his eyes appeared a duty, Mr. Clay was not to be
deterred by even such grave news from carrying out his intention to
deliver in person, to the President and Mr. Benjamin, an account of his
stewardship in Canada. Late in February, therefore, he resumed his
journey, mounted upon General Toomb’s grey mare, and accompanied by the
General’s man, Wallace. He had not proceeded far, however, when,
overtaken by an illness, the result of his exposure at Charleston, he
was obliged to return to Washington. A month elapsed ere he was able
again to set out for Richmond, the city which was so soon to be the
theatre of our national collapse.

The roads now, in many places, were impassible. The number of Union
soldiers was increasing daily in the States which Mr. Clay must cross in
his northward journey. My husband, with his precious documents, would
have been a rich prize to any who might have seized him. Through many
vicissitudes he made his cautious way toward the capital, securing a
horse, when he could, or a mule team, or following the railroad tracks
where necessary. Much of the journey he made alone, but he sometimes
found himself in company, and that not always wholly desirable. On one
occasion he fell in with two straggling Confederate soldiers, and, being
near the home of a distant kinsman, Robert Withers, upon the arrival of
the trio he asked Mr. Withers’ hospitality for them all. Consent was
promptly forthcoming, but my husband’s feelings were somewhat less
cordial toward his whilom companions when one was allotted to him as a
bedfellow. “Had to sleep with ——,” reads his diary, “much to my dread of

Eight days were consumed in that journey to the capital, by this time
the scene of an excitement truly anarchistic. Mr. Clay was probably the
last man in the Confederate service to seek to enter Richmond. The trend
of Confederate travel just then was in an opposite direction.

Making at once for Colonel Clay’s headquarters, my husband secured the
trunk destined for Mr. Benjamin, to whom he shortly afterward
transferred his papers. The transaction was a hurried one, and Mr. Clay
pushed on to the apartment of Mr. Davis. In after days I often heard him
describe the scene which there met him. He found the President engaged
in hastily packing a valise, his clothing and papers scattered in little
heaps about. I think he assisted his hapless friend in these
preparations. An hour or two later and Mr. Clay was _en route_ for
Danville, on the last of the over-laden trains to draw out from the once
dear but now desolated city. Of the sad journey of the President through
the Carolinas, with his company of legislative friends, of which, for a
portion of the way, my husband was one, I remember no particulars. I
recall a hasty return to Macon, where Mr. Clay joined me, whence we
hurried on in a few days to the home of former Senator B. H. Hill, at
Lagrange, in western Georgia. The remembrance of the days that
immediately succeeded the evacuation of Richmond, followed, as that
event was, by the murder of Abraham Lincoln, is a confused one. A kind
of horror seized my husband when he realised the truth of the reports
that reached us of this tragedy. At first he had refused to credit them.
“It’s a canard!” he said; but when, at last, he could no longer doubt,
he exclaimed: “God help us! If that be true, it is the worst blow that
yet has been struck at the South!”

                              CHAPTER XIX

Upon leaving the home of General Toombs, we proceeded directly to that
of Senator Hill, where shortly were gathered ex-Secretary of our Navy
and Mrs. Mallory, Mr. and Mrs. Semmes, of Louisiana, and Senator
Wigfall. We were an anxious circle, our hearts heavy with the constantly
increasing testimony to our great disaster, and our minds alert to
measure the ways and means of our future course. My husband and Mr.
Wigfall had already determined to seek the other side of the
Mississippi, there to join the gallant Kirby Smith, and make a last
stand for our cause; or, if needs must be, to press on to Texas. Day by
day disturbing news reached us concerning the whereabouts of Mr. Davis
and his party, now making their sorry flight toward the coast of
Florida, fugitives from the Federal authorities.

A Northerner would have found us a wonderful nest of “rebels,” could he
have looked in upon the group that one evening surrounded the table in
the library of the Hill residence, upon which was spread the map of
Georgia. The gentlemen were seated, the ladies standing behind them.
Every eye was bent upon the road which our host was pointing out.

“If Davis would take this route”—and Mr. Hill’s finger traced the way
upon the diagram before us, “if he keeps to it without any detour
whatsoever, he will get away,” he declared. “If he turns aside a step or
lingers an hour he is lost! If he crosses the river there”—and our host,
who knew the topography of his State by heart, paused as he marked the
spot, “no one can take him!”

Not a member of that circle but was tense in his or her desire that our
chief should be spared the ignominy and pain of capture. The magnanimity
of Senator Wigfall, whose antagonism to President Davis had caused a
profound concern in Richmond in this hour of the Confederacy’s downfall,
was especially marked.

To the present, none of those assembled at the hospitable Hill home had
reason to apprehend a personal danger from the conquering party. The
meeting had taken place at Appomattox which, more than victories gained,
has made the name of Grant immortal. The Northern General had received
the proffer of Lee’s sword, and peace had been proclaimed. By the terms
made we had some little reason to be optimistic as to our future,
despite the peopling of our Southern cities with Union soldiers. The
developments of one fateful day, however, unveiled to us the actual
perils we were yet to face.

As I have said, my husband and Mr. Wigfall had practically completed
their arrangements to leave Lagrange and strike for the Mississippi. It
was my expectation, thereupon, to return to our parents’ home in
Huntsville. The day agreed upon for my departure approached. At the
request of my husband, I drove to the cars to ascertain what currency
would be required to take me to Macon, whence I was to proceed at once
to Alabama. In company with Henrietta Hill and her little brother, I
drove to the station in time to see the afternoon train pull in. As it
swept into the city with a shrill scream, it was crowded with men and
women of both races; so overcrowded, rather, that many clung to the
platforms. There were shouts and a general Babel, which I did not
understand, and, as debarkation began, to these was added the bedlam of
drunken laughter. When as near to the cars as the carriage would permit,
I directed Benny Hill to go forward to the conductor and ask “What
currency is needed to get to Macon?”

The man seemed to understand that I had prompted the question, and
called to me, “Gold or greenbacks, Madam?” Then, not waiting for my
reply, he hastened to add the news, “Macon has been surrendered by
General Howell Cobb to the Federals, General Wilson commanding. Atlanta,
as you know, is in the hands of the Yankees, Colonel Eggleston in

This was disappointing news to me, as I had but little gold and a peck
of Confederate paper, which was not likely to carry me far under
reported conditions. I waited until the crowd had thinned out somewhat,
and then questioned the man further.

“Is there any other news than that of the proclamation for Mr. Davis’s
arrest?” I asked. His reply astounded me.

“Yes, Madam!” he said; “$100,000[43] is offered for Clement C. Clay, of
Alabama.” A trembling seized me. I don’t know how I made my way to the
carriage. Before I was fairly seated I saw Colonel Philip Phillips, at
this time a resident of Lagrange, coming toward us. In his hands he held
a journal. Quickly reaching the carriage, he handed me the paper, and,
pointing to the despatch, which contained the proclamation, he said, “Go
home quickly and give this to Mr. Clay!”

Scarcely aware of what I did, I ordered the coachman to drive back at
once, forgetting in the excitement of the moment to invite the Colonel
to accompany me. Arriving at the Hill residence, I met my hostess almost
at the door.

“Please ask the gentlemen to come to us!” I said faintly, “I have
important news!” and I hastened upstairs.

I found Mr. Clay sitting quietly, deep in the conning of a thick volume.
It was Burton’s “Anatomy of Melancholy,” ever a favourite with him. It
lay open on his knee, steadied with one hand; the other, as was a habit
with my husband, was stroking his beard, absentmindedly. Before I could
summon my voice to utter the terrible news, the others of the party had
hastened upstairs. Handing the fatal paper to Senator Hill, I cried,
half-hysterically, “For God’s sake, read that!”

As Mr. Hill read the proclamation aloud, everyone was silent. Senator
Semmes was the first to break the silence that followed the reading.

“Fly for your life, Clay!” he said, “The town is full of men from two
disbanded armies, any of whom would be tempted by such a sum. Take no
chances!” Then all at once everyone but my husband began to talk
excitedly. As the meaning of the despatch broke upon him, Mr. Clay
blanched a moment, but at Mr. Semmes’s urgings he spoke.

“Fly?” he said, slowly, like one recovering from a blow, “from what?”
Mr. Semmes’s answer came drily.

“From death, I fear!” he said. My husband turned inquiringly to the
others. Secretary Mallory, seeing the unspoken question in his face,
answered it.

“I don’t know what to say, Clay! One hundred thousand dollars is a
glittering bribe to half-starved soldiers!” He had scarcely spoken when
a knock was heard. Alarmed by the thought that some renegade was already
come to arrest my husband, I flew to the door and locked it. As I did
so, Senator Hill was beside me, and I remember the forceful feeling with
which he spoke, even as the click of the key sounded.

“By the eternal God, Clay!” he said. “The man who dares cross my
threshold to arrest you, falls on it.”

Fortunately our fears were groundless, for in a moment we heard the
word, “Phillips!” and, upon opening the door, the Colonel quickly
entered. His calm bearing was a relief to us. Some one at once put the
question to him, “What do you think Clay ought to do?”

“What does Mr. Clay think he should do?” was Colonel Phillips’s reply.
My husband was prompt to answer:

“As I am conscious of my innocence, my judgment is that I should at once
surrender to the nearest Federal authorities!” he said.

At this announcement I could not restrain my sobs. I doubt not I
troubled him much by my tears and pleadings. I begged him hysterically
to fly; I would join him anywhere if he would but escape. But my ever
patient husband only answered, as he tried to calm me, “Virginia! my
wife! Would you have me fly like an assassin?”

I could say no more, but only listen, between the crowding fears and
terrors that seized me, while those about discussed the wording of a
telegram which, a short time afterward, Colonel Phillips carried to the
telegraph office. It ran thus:

  “_Bt. Major-General Wilson, United States Army_: Seeing the
  proclamation of the President of the United States, I go to-day with
  the Honourable P. Phillips, to deliver myself to your custody.

                                                      C. C. CLAY, Jr.”

I think this resolute act, and the preparation of a letter which was
immediately written to the same general, relieved my husband, for he was
instantly calmer. For myself, I felt that he had signed his own death
warrant. During the succeeding hours, the entire household was in
consultation. Having decided to proceed to Macon by the early train the
next morning, Mr. Clay retired and slept, to my surprise, as peacefully
as a child, though I, less fortunate, watched and wondered at his

Early the following morning we left Lagrange, accompanied by Colonel
Phillips. The world appeared very strange and worthless to me as the
train hastened on to Atlanta, where a change of cars was necessary. We
found that city a pandemonium; soldiers patrolling the streets, drums
beating, and vans, loaded with furniture, moving up and down the
avenues. In our desire to proceed as rapidly as possible we accosted a

“Where is Colonel Eggleston?” Colonel Phillips asked.

“There he is, within ten feet of you!” was the reply. The Colonel
thereupon approached the officer in command and said to him, “I have a
distinguished friend here, Mr. Clement C. Clay, of Alabama, who is on
his way voluntarily to surrender himself.”

On hearing my husband’s name, Colonel Eggleston approached us and held
out his hand, saying: “Is it possible, Mr. Clay, you are the man who is
making such a stir in the land? I am not surprised at your surrender. I
knew your record through my Senators, Pugh and Pendleton, of Ohio.
You’ve done the right thing, sir, and I hope you’ll soon be a free man.”

Mr. Clay, surprised at the Federal Colonel’s magnanimity, turned and
presented him to me. He extended his hand. I took it. It was the first
Yankee hand I had touched since we had left Minnesota, four years
before. The Colonel assured us it was impossible for us to proceed that
night to Macon. “It will be best for you,” he said, “to spend the night
at the Kimball House. But the city is in a tumult, and, as Mrs. Clay is
with you, I will have a guard that you may not be disturbed.” When we
were ready to retire, two soldiers appeared, with muskets in hand, and
took their stand, one at each side of our chamber door, where they
remained until the next morning.

Shortly after breakfast, Colonel Eggleston presented himself. His manner
was courteous. “As times are so turbulent,” he said, “I think it best
that I should detail a guard to accompany you to Macon; that is,” he
added, “unless you object.” Upon Mr. Clay’s assurance that the guard
would not be unpleasant to us, the General presented Lieutenant Keck, a
young officer, who, during the conversation, had been standing near.
Thereupon the Lieutenant attached himself to our party and we boarded
the car for Macon. Throughout the trip our guard behaved with
undeviating consideration, and this, under trying circumstances; for,
the wires flashing the news about the country, many of the stations
along the road were crowded with friends, who, when they saw us, uttered
expressions of intensest regret, even urging my husband to fly. On more
than one occasion, so considerate was Lieutenant Keck’s conduct, that he
allowed Mr. Clay to leave the car, unguarded.

During that journey the young officer addressed me but twice; the first
time to offer me a glass of water, and the second to tell me a piece of
news that shocked me in double force. As we approached Macon, my husband
had endeavoured to prepare me for whatever the future might hold for us.
He was a prisoner, he said, and though self-surrendered, I must not be
alarmed if we should find a phalanx of soldiers waiting us at the depot.
The picture thus conjured had already made me sick at heart, when my
husband, excusing himself, went forward into the next car for a few
moments. A short time afterward Lieutenant Keck appeared. Approaching me
he said, with some hesitation, “Mrs. Clay, I have some sad news for

My husband’s previous words suddenly rushed over me. He had been
preparing me for something he knew but dared not tell me! In a moment,
in my mind’s eye, I saw a gibbet. “Great God,” I cried. “What is it?
Will they hang my husband?”

“Don’t be frightened, Mrs. Clay,” our guard answered. “Don’t cry! Your
chief was arrested yesterday!”

“My chief,” I echoed. “You mean General Lee?”

“No!” was his response, “Mr. Davis! He is now at the Lanier House, in
Macon!” The loosening of the tension to which I first had been keyed was
so great that I was scarcely able to utter a comment, nor had I
recovered from the shock when the train pulled into Macon.
Notwithstanding my husband’s brave counsels, the news of Mr. Davis’s
arrest added a hundredfold to our depression. When I told Colonel
Phillips and Mr. Clay, who shortly returned, my husband’s face grew
graver. “If that is true,” he said, “my surrender was a mistake. We
shall both perish!”

In an indistinct way I felt my husband to be right; and surely after
events demonstrated how nearly truly he had prophesied. The almost
instantaneous appearance of Mr. Clay and Mr. Davis as prisoners produced
a confusion in the press statements and telegrams that flew over the
country, and coloured the feeling of the public to such an extent that
those in high places who were seeking sacrificial victims were enabled,
without exciting a protest, to overlook the fact that Mr. Clay, scorning
arrest, had confidently and voluntarily committed himself into the
Government’s hands, to court its fullest investigation. “The arrest of
Clement C. Clay,” was the heading under which my husband’s courageous
act was buried in so far as it might be; and so generally was the fact
of his voluntary surrender overlooked, that a Southern historian, whose
books have been circulated among schools, took up the phrase and
incorporated it among the “historic” facts which children con.

Arrived at Macon, we found a single transfer wagon at the station. To
this we were conducted, and our party of four, with our grips and
valises, completely filled the vehicle. As we drove away from the
station I felt much as must have felt the poor wretches in the French
Revolution as they sat in the tumbrels that bore them to the guillotine.

We drove at once to the residence of our friends, Colonel and Mrs.
Whittle, whence Colonel Phillips proceeded to General Wilson’s
headquarters to deliver my husband’s letter announcing his surrender. It
was a beautiful afternoon. The trees were in full foliage and the air
delicious with sweet odours of Southern blossoms. Dusk was approaching
as, without previous announcement, we drove up to the Whittle home. The
family were seated on the veranda. With them was our brother, J. Withers
Clay. As they recognised us they rushed down the steps to meet us, full
of eager questioning.

“What does it mean?” they cried. “Why have you come here?” and every eye
was full when my husband answered, “I have surrendered to the United
States Government. Allow me to present my guard, Lieutenant Keck!” Never
shall I forget how dear Mrs. Whittle (who was slightly deaf), with eyes
full of tears, reached out her hand to that representative of our
triumphant antagonists, as if, by a forbearing kindness, she would
bespeak his favour for my husband.

As we entered the house, we were all in tears, and Colonel Phillips,
glad of an excuse to leave the painful scene, hastened to deliver his
message to the General in command. Returning in the course of an hour,
he reported General Wilson as approving Mr. Clay’s course. He sent word
that he was awaiting instructions in regard to Mr. Davis’s party, “Whom,
I presume, you will accompany. Meanwhile, I request that you will not
talk of the surrender!” He further directed that Lieutenant Keck be sent
immediately to him. I think this young soldier had a tender heart, for,
seemingly touched at our sorrowful situation, he lingered about a moment
as if unwilling to leave us without a farewell. Seeing his hesitation, I
offered him my hand and thanked him for his humane treatment of my
husband, which, I assured him, I should ever remember. If his eyes, or
those of others to whom he was dear should see this acknowledgment they
will know I did not speak lightly.

General Wilson’s request was scrupulously observed by us, and though
friends came in numbers to sympathise with us and encourage us, we were
silent on the forbidden topic of my husband’s surrender. A day or two
later, word came that we must hold ourselves in readiness to leave
Macon. Meantime, I had addressed a note to General Wilson, begging that
I might be allowed to accompany my husband on his journey to his
destination, wherever it might be. The Commanding General promptly
acceded to my request, though, he assured me, the trip before us would
be a rough and disagreeable one, and advised me to consider well before
I took it.

Of course, I was not to be deterred. I made instant preparation for the
journey. My available wardrobe was small, being limited to a few
Perodi’s (which in those days served the same purpose as the shirt-waist
of 1900) and a rusty black skirt, a veritable war-relic; but my friends
in Macon, knowing the impossibility of getting my own possessions
together, quickly came to the rescue. The results of their generosity
were not in all cases strictly what donor or recipient might have
wished, from the point of view of fashion or art. For example, Mrs.
Lucius Mirabeau Lamar sent me a treasured foulard silk gown, of a pretty
brown and white pattern; but she, being both shorter and stouter than I,
the fit was not one that even the deliberately courteous would have
ventured to call a good one; nevertheless, I received it gratefully and
courageously adapted it to serve as travelling attire. Mrs. William D.
Johnston, too, sister of our loved General Tracy, likewise urged a gift
upon me of several changes of Parisian _lingerie_, which she had but
just acquired. With this borrowed finery (which afterward carried its
own penalty) stowed in my valise, when the announcement of the time
appointed for our departure came to us, it found me ready.

It was set for the late afternoon. We arrived at the railway station a
half-hour before train time. At the last, we hastened away from the
friends whose sorrow and sympathy threatened to disturb the composure it
was so necessary to preserve against our coming ordeals. We were
surprised to find the city in a kind of uproar. Cavalry clattered
through the streets and gazing sight-seers thronged the sidewalks. Our
passage to the station proceeded without mishap or adventure of any
kind; nevertheless, we had scarcely alighted from our carriage when,
looking back, up the street we saw a company of cavalrymen approaching.
There was an increasing activity in the gathered crowds, which were
composed of silent citizens of Macon, elbowed by Freedmen and Union
soldiers, who lounged among them.

As the cavalry approached the station, the significance of the scene
became plain to us. They were a guard, flanking on each side an old
“jimber-jawed, wobble-sided” barouche, drawn by two raw-boned horses. In
the strange vehicle were seated Mr. and Mrs. Davis. Mr. Davis was
dressed in a full suit of Confederate grey, including the hat, but his
face was yet more ashen than was his garb. Behind them, completing the
pitiful cortège, came a carryall, in which were Miss Howell, the Davis
little ones and nurses; and, as the procession drove by, the alien and
motley crowd along the walks yelled and hooted in derision. But not
all—one heartless Union soldier tried the patience of a sorrowful
“rebel” onlooker.

“Hey, Johnny Reb,” shouted the first, “we’ve got your President!”

“And the devil’s got yours!” was the swift reply.

As the procession arrived at the station, two soldiers approached Mr.
and Mrs. Davis, and escorted them at once to the cars. The interest of
everyone for the moment being centred on the party of the late
President, my excitement grew. Wild thoughts filled my mind. I could not
restrain them. “Oh! if they would only forget you!” I said impetuously,
to my husband. Alas! scarcely had I uttered the words when two guards
approached. “This is Mr. Clay, I presume?” and with a hasty farewell to
our kind friends, the Whittles, we were soon aboard the cars.

As we entered, Mr. Davis rose and embraced me.

“This is a sad meeting, Jennie!” he said, as he offered me a seat beside
him, for Mrs. Davis and my husband, already deep in conversation, had
established themselves nearby. As I seated myself I became aware that
the car had filled up with soldiers. I heard the doors slam, and the
command, “Order arms!” and in the dull thud of their muskets as the
butts struck the floor, I realised for the first time that we were
indeed prisoners, and of the nation!

                               CHAPTER XX

Dawn found us haggard and ill. Our night ride to Augusta was a fatiguing
one. Of our party, only the children slept. The air in the car was of
the foulest, and the discomforts of the trip were consequently most
trying to our invalids, of whom there now were three—Mr. Davis, Mr.
Clay, and our venerable Vice-President, Mr. Stephens, we having taken
the latter aboard during the night; also, our late Postmaster-General
Reagan, ex-Governor Lubbock, and General Wheeler and staff. Nor were we
again permitted to leave the car until our arrival in Augusta.
Telegraphic orders having been sent ahead for our meals, these were
brought to the train and eaten _en route_.

Upon our arrival in Augusta, I asked Colonel Pritchard for the privilege
of driving in the carriage assigned to us to the home of a beloved
friend, Mrs. George Winter. Upon my promise that at the hour appointed I
would be responsible for Mr. Clay’s appearance on the boat which was to
take us to Savannah, Colonel Pritchard gave a somewhat reluctant consent
and we drove rapidly away. As had been the case in Macon and Atlanta,
the town was in commotion. This visit to our friends was almost an
error; for, greatly excited at our appearance among them, they embraced
us in hysterical alarm, and begged my husband even yet to fly. To add to
the distress, neighbouring friends, hearing of our presence, hastened in
and joined their pleadings to those of our hostess. The scene was
unendurable to Mr. Clay, and, literally tearing ourselves from their
embraces, we re-entered the carriage. The horses heads were turned at
once toward the river where our custodians awaited us. Arrived there,
though I cannot admit that it was our intention or impulse to board the
boat with a fond alacrity, our embarkation was not without a misleading
appearance of-eagerness. The bank of the river was both steep and
slippery, and, notwithstanding I was assisted in my descent by two
officers, my approach was neither stately nor awe-inspiring. In fact, it
was precipitate, and I found myself, most unexpectedly, in the arms of a
soldierly little figure in undress uniform who stood close to the crude
gang-plank. As I opened my lips to apologise for my unexpected
onslaught, he turned and raised his hat. It was “little Joe!”

An episode of that trip in connection with General Wheeler fixed itself
indelibly in my mind. I was in conversation with this hero on one
occasion, during which he leaned against the side of the boat in a
half-recumbent position. Presently a young officer, rude in the display
of “his brief authority,” approached us, and rapping General Wheeler
sharply with his sword, said, “It is against the rule to lean on the

To my amazement, our hero, who had fought so nobly against his peers and
whose name alone had been a menace to his foes, merely touched his hat
and said quietly, “I did not know the rule, sir, or I would not have
infringed it.” I was thrilled with admiration.

“General!” I exclaimed, “you have taught me a lesson in self-control and
courtesy I can never forget! Had I been a man, that Yankee would have
been exploring the bottom of the Savannah River, or I, one!”

The discomforts to which we had been subjected during our journey to and
from the headquarters of General Wilson culminated in the wretched
little craft on which we now were. Not a chair was in the cabin for our
invalids, nor an available couch. For Mr. Davis, who suffered intensely
during the trip from pain in his eye (for years a chronic disability),
two valises were stacked one on top of the other, being the nearest
approach to a seat it was possible to improvise. On these he rested
during much of the journey, Mrs. Davis, Miss Howell or myself in turn
acting as support in lieu of a chair-back. From time to time we bathed
his temples with cologne in vain attempts to lessen his tortures.

Our journey from Savannah may best be pictured by reference to my
pocket-diary, carried throughout those momentous weeks. We boarded the
_William P. Clyde_ on the fifteenth of May, our destination still
unknown to us, as we steamed out into the Atlantic. These are some of
the brief records I made of ship and passengers:

  “May 16, 1865. _William P. Clyde_ is a brig-rigged steamer, quite
  comfortable. The Fourth Michigan is with us, and an armed convoy,
  the _Tuscarora_, escorts us. Her guns bear directly upon us, day and
  night. Fears are entertained of the _Stonewall_ or _Shenandoah_. My
  husband keeps well and heroic. God in mercy give us grace for the
  fiery ordeal.”

  “May 17th. Fairly at sea, and considerable fear of the _Stonewall_
  evinced by the ship’s crew. All the axes of the vessel are removed
  from their usual positions to the Colonel’s room. Mrs. Davis sent
  ashore for oranges for Miss Howell, who is ill. Poor girl!”

  [“It was Mr. Davis who called my attention to the removal of the
  battle-axes. ‘Cowards!’ he said, ‘They’re afraid of this handful of
  Confederate men!’”]

  “May 19. Nearing Fortress Monroe. We are boarded by Captain Fraley,
  Commander of the _Tuscarora_, the man-of-war which has been our
  escort, her guns bearing directly on us from Hilton Head. The
  Captain called on Mr. and Mrs. Davis, and husband and myself, and
  renewed an acquaintance of former years. He proffered any attentions
  in his power. Just to our left is seen Fort Calhoun, built by Mr.
  Davis, while Secretary of War....”

  “May 20. Anchored off Fort Monroe awaiting orders. General Halleck
  to arrive on board at 11 A. M. I sadly fear they will land my
  darling at this fort. God forbid! In sight are many vessels, some
  bearing the English and some the French flags. The fort presents the
  same appearance as years ago, when I went to visit the spot. One
  week this day since we bade adieu to friends. Two days have we been
  anchored. General Halleck said to be on _Tuscarora_.”

  “May 21. Last night at dark a tug was hailed. She replied, “General
  Halleck!” She was alongside in a few moments with orders which were
  quickly known. Governor Lubbock, Colonel Johnston and General
  Wheeler and staff left at six this A. M. for Delaware. At ten, Mr.
  Stephens and Judge Reagan were put aboard the _Tuscarora_ for Fort
  Warren. Mr. Stephen’s servant detained. We are still in doubt, but
  Monroe is probably our destination.”

  “May 22. Mr. Davis, Mr. Clay and Burton Harrison are all left!
  Preparations are going on at Fortress Monroe for them,’tis said.
  Colonel Pritchard says I will not be allowed to land or go to
  Washington or Baltimore or abroad!!! Terrible firing from a

  “May 23. Wrote letter to Judge Holt, and note to General Miles. At
  ten we were boarded by Major Church, and two Yankee women and four
  guards, and all hands, luggage, berths and persons thoroughly
  searched. A comico-serio-tragico’ scene! Sailors our friends. Both
  nurses leave. Mrs. Davis’s [man] Robert only left.”

Our journey on the _Clyde_, though sorrowful, apprehensive as we were
concerning the fate to which the prisoners were being led, was otherwise
uneventful. Mr. Davis was exceedingly depressed, and moved restlessly
about, seeming scarcely ever to desire to sit down. Always an
intellectual cosmopolite, however, he made observations on the natural
phenomena about us, commenting from time to time on the beauty of sea or
sky. Our meals, which were served at a table reserved for the prisoners,
by no means represented the fare of the coastwise steamers of to-day,
but few of us were in a mood to take note of culinary deficiencies.

On the morning of May 22d a sultry, drizzling rain fell. It was a day
exactly calculated to induce melancholy even in the stoutest-hearted. To
us, eagerly alert to learn what we might of our fate, it was unspeakably
distressful. Shortly after breakfast my husband came quietly into our
stateroom. “There is no longer any doubt,” he said, “that this fort is
the one destined for Davis and me! I have just been notified that we are
expected to take a ride on a tug. I am convinced we shall be taken to
Fortress Monroe. I can’t imagine why they do not come out boldly and
tell us so, but be sure this is our farewell, my wife!” We took leave of
each other in our stateroom, nor did I leave it to follow Mr. Clay to
the deck. I stood, instead, at the fourteen-inch window of my cabin,
alone with my thoughts.

As Mr. Davis passed the aperture, he stopped for a second to say
good-bye to me, then he, too, disappeared. A few moments passed, and
then the weeping of children and wailing of women announced the return
of the stricken family. I heard a soldier say to Mr. Davis’s little son,
“Don’t cry, Jeff. They ain’t going to hang your pa!” and the little
fellow’s reply, made through his sobs.

“When I get to be a man,” he cried, “I’m going to kill every Yankee I

When the child approached my door and I caught him in my arms and tried
to cheer him, his resentment quickly changed to a manly tenderness; and,
putting his baby lips up for a kiss, he said, “My papa told me to keep
care of you and my Mamma!”

I referred in my diary to the serio-comic incidents of the search of our
party. The event occurred early in the morning of the day following that
of my husband’s removal. While gazing sadly across the waters toward the
grim fort, I espied what seemed to be a pretty shallop, dancing lightly
over the waters, in which were seated two women, brightly dressed. The
little vessel seemed to be making for the _Clyde_. When I observed this,
I called Mrs. Davis’s attention to the approaching party, saying, “Thank
God! Here, I do believe, are two Virginia ladies come to give us some

In a few moments one of our unknown visitors was at my cabin door. In my
eagerness to meet a friendly face, I had almost extended my hand, when
something in the appearance of the person before me struck me as
peculiar. My surprise and curiosity was soon relieved, for my visitor
said glibly, “We’ve been sent by the Government to see if you have any
treasonable papers on board!” I looked at her in amazement.

“Is it possible,” I asked, “that the United States Government thinks we
are such simpletons as to have carried treasonable papers aboard this
ship?” My indignation grew.

“I frankly confess that if I could sink the whole Yankee nation in
Hampton Roads I would do so; but carry valuable papers _here_? Pshaw!”
and I turned away from her, full of contempt.

It was a hot, sultry day; one of those May days when the sun strikes the
water vertically, and even breathing becomes a fatiguing effort. Despite
the weather, the women who had thus unexpectedly presented themselves
were greatly overdressed. Each wore an immense chignon on the back of
her head, and was rouged and powdered and be-frizzed to an extent that
was altogether unusual in ordinary circles. Bustles of the largest size,
high-heeled shoes, conspicuous stockings, and as freely revealed gay
petticoats completed the gaudy costumes of these remarkable agents of
the Government. The person who had addressed me entered my cabin and
proceeded to strip the pillow-case from the by no means immaculate
pillow. She shook and felt carefully each article of bedding; then
opened my valise and as minutely examined every article of borrowed
finery therein. She commented on their quality as she did so, but I
speedily put an end to this. “Proceed with your work, Madam!” I said,
and I turned from the unpleasant sight before me.

As she emptied my gripsack, I heard her utter a half-shriek of alarm.

“Oh!” she cried, “you have a pistol!”

“Of course I have,” I said, complacently reaching for it and taking it
in my hand; and, a spirit of mischief seizing me (it has often been my
salvation), I twirled the alarming firearm in the air, taking care that
the barrel should fall pointing toward her, saying, as I did so, “You
may take everything in the stateroom but this. If necessary, I shall use
it!” As I marked the effect of my words, her shrinking and ejaculations
of fear amused me more and more, nor did she resume her work until,
tired of the farce, the pistol was once more safely bestowed in my bag.
When she renewed her search, her manner was somewhat more timid.

Upon completing the overhauling of my belongings she turned to me. “Will
you please take off your dress, Madam?” she said. My answer was forceful
and prompt.

“I will not! If you wish it taken off, you may disrobe me!” And I added,
in my indignation, “I’ve heard that white maids are as good as black

And now the comedy moved rapidly. The lady began by taking off my
breastpin and my collar. She unfastened my bodice and removed it,
examining every seam with a microscopic care. She then proceeded to
remove my clothing piece by piece, submitting each to the same
scrupulous examination. Coming at last to my stays, she attempted to
unclasp them.

The situation was so amusing I could not resist the growing desire to
accentuate it. I have alluded to the prevailing sultry weather. In the
close little cabin, the heat was scarce bearable. Already perspiration
was trickling in streams down the cheeks of my unwelcome visitor.
Smiling within myself as the lady came forward to remove the last-named
garment, I took a full, deep breath and held it, expanding my form to
the very utmost, tightening my clothing for the time being to such an
extent that I think she could scarcely have pried open the garments with
hammer and chisel. The efforts of my tormentor (?) were entertaining.
Every now and then between a straining on my part and a futile tugging
on hers, she would run out of the cabin, fanning herself and gasping to
the guards, “Oh! I am nearly dead!”

At first, I utilised these intervals “to gird on my armour” still
tighter; but, at last, when I was myself almost exhausted from holding
my breath, I relaxed and allowed her to proceed. By the time her
examination of my apparel and belongings was completed, the lady’s face
was striped, and the path of the perspiration, wending its way through
layers of cosmetics, had quite destroyed her erstwhile dazzling
appearance; but though I, too, was almost fainting from the heat, and
would gladly have been left alone, my determination to tease her was by
no means appeased. I, therefore, demanded that, having undressed me, the
lady complete her work and put my clothing on again. This, with various
delays, amusing and otherwise, she at last accomplished, much to her
satisfaction if not wholly to mine. Once rehabilitated, I stepped to
Mrs. Davis’s stateroom, mine being between those of Mrs. Davis and Miss
Howell. I found the former in tears and reduced to the lightest of
deshabille. I tried to comfort her, but she still wept, saying:

“Oh,’Ginie! What humiliation!”

“But I would die before they should see me shed tears!” I declared.

“Ah, you haven’t four little children about you,” said Mrs. Davis. Nor
did this search end the trials that befell us while we lay in Hampton
Roads. Upon leaving my stateroom the following morning I met Mrs. Davis,
baby Winnie in arms. She was greatly agitated.

“What has happened?” I asked.

“That man!” she replied, pointing to an officer near by, “has come to
take away my shawl. It’s the last wrapping I have! He declares it is
part of Mr. Davis’s disguise!”

“You’re not going to let him have it?” I asked, my indignation rising at

“What can I do?” asked Mrs. Davis, wringing her hands.

“Tear it into shreds as fine as vermicelli!” I cried, “and throw it into
Hampton Roads!”

As I spoke the officer stepped toward us. Raising his hand and shaking
his finger in my face, he asked, threateningly, “You dare counsel
resistance, Madam?”

“Yes!” I retorted, returning the finger-shaking, “To the shedding of
blood, and I’ll begin with you!”

The scene must have been a ludicrous one to all save the two
participants. Mrs. Davis’s spirits certainly rose in contemplating it,
for, as the officer strutted off, his sword dragging at his side, she
smiled as she said, “Puss-in-boots!” In a second, however, her anxiety

“What shall we do?” she asked. “He will surely come back for the shawl.”
Bent upon foiling him, I quickly suggested an expedient.

“My shawl,” I said, “is almost a counterpart of yours. Let’s fold them
both up and make him guess which is which. Perhaps he’ll take mine!” and
we laughed heartily at the device.

It was not long ere Lieutenant Hudson returned, this time with another
shawl, a coarse thing such as the small stores nearby afforded. Upon his
repeated demand we complacently handed him Mrs. Davis’s shawl and mine.
To our amazement he took them both. Then, as the old saying puts it, we
“laughed on the other side of our faces.” For, by the aid of one of Mrs.
Davis’s former maids, Lieutenant Hudson was enabled to identify Mrs.
Davis’s shawl, which he retained, returning mine. The first, for many
years, was preserved among the curios of the Smithsonian Institution.

During the morning of the day made memorable by the visit of the
Government’s searching party, General Miles and his staff boarded the
_Clyde_. It was my first meeting with the handsome young officer who was
destined to incur so much odium in the near future for his treatment of
the unfortunate ex-President of the Confederate States. I can recall no
particulars of that first meeting with my husband’s jailor, save that he
and his staff made an impressive group as they stood bowing
respectfully, while a few civil words were spoken by their leader.

Upon the question of the latter, as to whether he might serve me in any
way, I answered, “Yes! let me know, from time to time, whether my
husband lives or is dead. If you will do this it will relieve me from an
insupportable suspense!” To this he kindly agreed.

In the interim, I had sent to my husband his valise, containing some
gold and my Bible, which, being set in a specially large type, I knew he
would be glad to have. These were brought back to me shortly after
General Miles’s visit, by an officer who found us still at the mess
table. My Bible was returned to me because of the following
“communication from Mrs. Clay, written on the fly-leaf.”

  “2 P. M. Ship-board. May, ’5. With tearful eyes and aching heart, I
  commend you, my precious husband, to the care and keeping of
  Almighty God. May He bless you, and keep you, and permit us once
  again to meet, shall be my unceasing prayer. Farewell,


As the officer dropped the gold upon the table beside me, he said,
“Please count it, Madam!” I instantly declined to do this, however,
saying, “If General Miles sent it, I presume it is correct,” and swept
it into my lap without further examination.

                              CHAPTER XXI
                      RETURN FROM FORTRESS MONROE

By the second day after the incarceration of Mr. Davis and Mr. Clay we
were a heartsick company, and I was glad when, in the late afternoon of
the twenty-fourth of May, our sailing orders came. During the last day
we were anchored off Fortress Monroe, two hundred paroled prisoners had
been taken aboard the _Clyde_, a small and stuffy boat at best, and the
five days spent upon the return trip added to our anguish of mind by
much physical discomfort. The sea was exceedingly rough. Often during
the voyage a hundred or more passengers at a time were confined below.
Those who were well found their cabins unendurably warm. In mine, the
gossip of the negroes and sailors on the lower deck was clearly audible;
and, as their themes ran principally upon the probable fate of the
prisoners, questionable as I knew the source to be from which flowed the
conversations, the gossip did not serve to lessen my melancholy, though
it keyed my alertness to a higher pitch.

Some hours previous to our departure from Hampton Roads, in sheer
exhaustion from the experiences that had crowded upon us, I lay down in
my cabin, a prey to mingled heart-aching and bitterness; when, looking
toward the door, I perceived a sentinel on guard. What I took to be an
added indignity made me resentful. I spoke to him.

“You are a brave man, standing there with bayonet in hand to terrorise a
wretched woman!” I said. He turned slightly, “Mrs. Clay,” he answered,
“You ought to be glad to have me here guarding you, for this boat is
full of rough soldiers!” In a moment my wrath was turned to gratitude. I
thanked him, and I felt that in him, thereafter, I had a friend; indeed,
we had reason to feel that all aboard who dared to show it felt pity for
and kindness toward our desolate party.

During the trip, as Mrs. Davis, Miss Howell and I sat at night on deck,
looking out over the seas, I thought the swish of the waters against the
_Clyde’s_ side was as melancholy a note as I had ever heard. One evening
we had sat thus, discussing our situation and the dangers that
surrounded us, when, rising to return to my stateroom, I felt my dress
slightly pulled. Thinking my skirts had become entangled in the rope
coils or rigging near us, I reached out to detach them, when, to my
alarm, I found my hand in contact with another, and into mine was thrust
a bundle of newspapers. I could not have thanked the sailor who handed
them to me had I had the presence of mind to do so, for, passing swiftly
on his way, he was lost in the darkness ere I could identify him. The
roll was in my hand, however, and I made my way quickly to the cabin
with it. They were the first newspapers we had had since arriving at the
Fortress. By the light of the dim cabin lamp I read them. The
aggregation of “opinions of the press” was so awful in its animosity
that they stunned my very power of thought. One extract burnt itself
into my brain. It ran, “We hope soon to see the bodies of these two arch
traitors, Davis and Clay, dangling and blackening in the wind and rain!”

The horror of these printed words for the moment overbalanced my reason.
I hastened with it to Mrs. Davis; a great mistake, for her agony of mind
upon reading it was such that restoratives were necessary to prevent her
from fainting. I never knew who the sailor was who gave the papers to
me, though I was more fortunate in regard to the author of another
kindness which, happily, was less reactionary upon me.

Immediately upon my husband’s incarceration I had busied myself in
writing letters to a list of distinguished public men which had been
prepared for my use by Mr. Clay. It included the name of Joseph Holt,
who, once our friend, had deplored the possible loss to the nation of my
husband’s counsels. My list comprised thirteen names, the number that
has been accounted unlucky since thirteen sat at the table of our Lord
and one betrayed him. In view of the months of persecution, which
followed my husband’s surrender, directly traceable to malice or
fanatical zeal in the Judge Advocate’s office, an analogy is
unavoidable. My list included the names of T. W. Pierce, of Boston, Ben.
Wood, owner and editor of the New York _Daily News_, R. J. Halderman,
Charles O’Conor, the great jurist, Judge Jeremiah Black and others. To
Mr. Holt I wrote as follows:

                              “OFF FORTRESS MONROE ON STEAMER _Clyde_,
                                                  “May 23, 1865.


  “_My Dear Sir_: The circumstances of my husband’s voluntary
  surrender to the Federal authorities, to meet the charges against
  him, doubtless have reached you, as General Wilson, commanding at
  Macon, promised to telegraph as well as write you immediately of it.
  We left Macon on the 13th, in company with other prisoners, General
  Wilson permitting me to accompany Mr. Clay without orders or
  restrictions. For five days we have lain at this spot awaiting
  events. Yesterday morning, with five minutes’ warning only, my
  husband was taken to Fortress Monroe. As no communication is
  permitted, I am denied appeals to Generals Miles or Halleck, but
  entertain strong hope that one or the other may arrive to-day to
  relieve my suspense.

  “But the object of this letter is to appeal to you, in this moment
  of dire necessity, on behalf my dear husband. You, Judge Holt, now
  the embodiment of the ‘majesty of the law,’ were once pleased to
  subscribe yourself my ‘sincere friend.’ I will not believe that time
  or circumstances have changed your feelings toward one who
  reciprocated that friendship and was beloved by your angelic wife.
  So, into your hands, my dear sir, I commit my precious husband’s
  case, begging that you will see to it that he receives proper
  counsel and a fair and impartial trial, from which he will surely
  come forth vindicated. Of course, you have some appearance of
  testimony in your courts or the proclamation would not have been
  issued, but I also believe that you esteem Mr. Clay as innocent of
  that horrid crime, as I know him to be. Hold the scales of mercy and
  justice as our great and final Judge will hold them in your and my
  cases when we stand at the Bar, and I shall fear no evil. Write me a
  line at Macon, if you please, and, if possible, permit me to visit
  my husband. With kindest regards to ... believe me,


With the exception of the Archbishop of Bermuda, who was away from his
post, as I learned some time later, only Mr. Holt, of the thirteen
written to, ignored my appeal.

Having taken the precaution to give to each correspondent an address at
which, under cover, replies might reach me, I sealed and addressed each
letter preparatory for posting; but now I found myself in a quandary as
to how I should accomplish this important feat. I held them for several
days uncertain as to whose care I might intrust them. As we were
approaching Hilton Head, however, a soldier, whom I had observed passing
and repassing the open door of my cabin, tossed in a slip of paper on
which was written, “I will mail your letters. Trust me.” As there was
nothing treasonable in them, and the need was urgent for getting them
swiftly to their several destinations, I concluded to accept the offer
so miraculously made.

I therefore rolled them up, and, putting a gold dollar in a bit of
paper, awaited the reappearance of my unknown messenger. In a few
moments he came, and I slipped the little parcel into his hands. That
afternoon I heard a careless whistler pass my door and the bit of gold
was tossed into my stateroom, and with excellent aim, too, for it fell
directly upon my berth. The friendly stranger had refused to retain
sufficient coin to pay for the postage. Before leaving the _Clyde_ I
ascertained his name. He was Charles McKim, of Philadelphia.

Such kindly aid unexpectedly extended to us by a stranger now and then
had its own part in stimulating and encouraging us during a voyage in
which a thousand hopes and fears and memories tortured us. The very
coast-line, there in the distance, seemed to write on the horizon the
story of our disasters. We passed on our way within one hundred yards of
desolate, historic Sumter, over which the Union flag floated, and the
solitary sentinel pacing his rounds was visible to us. Beyond lay
Charleston, her outlines placid, though we knew she was scarred within.

Our journey, as I have stated, was full of discomfort. Our cabins were
far from clean, and chamber service we had none save that performed by
Mrs. Davis’s coloured servant, Robert, who attended to our needs; and so
soiled were the pillows that we were obliged to pin over them our white
petticoats before retiring, these being our only protection against the
nocturnal invaders that thronged in the bedding. It will be concluded,
therefore, that, upon our arrival in Savannah, we were a rather
bedraggled and travel-stained party. Our original supply of clothing for
the trip had been small, and the service demanded of it thus far had
been in exactly an inverse ratio. It required some courage, therefore,
as well as ingenuity, to arrange our toilettes in such manner as would
help us to a condition of outward composure. I, having no little ones to
care for, was most abundantly provided, and was, therefore, enabled to
contribute to my less fortunate companion, Mrs. Davis, my black silk
Talma, a loose garment of those days much used in travelling.

We heard at once, upon stepping ashore at Savannah, that the Federal
authorities had prohibited our party the use of carriages, and the
absence of friendly faces at the wharf told us that the date of our
arrival had also been kept a secret. We were, therefore, obliged to
begin our walk up the acclivity that led to the Pulaski House without
the moral support of a friendly presence. Those of the young children
who could toddle did so; but the infant, Winnie, was carried by Miss
Howell, Robert following behind with such luggage as he could “tote.” We
were a sad procession!

We had nearly reached the hotel, when a party of gentlemen, seeing us,
stopped in the midst of a conversation and eyed us a second. Among them
were our friends, Mr. Frederick Myers and Mr. Green. Upon recognising
our party, first one and then another of the group caught up the
children and bore them on their shoulders into the Pulaski House.

The news of our arrival spread over the city at once, and an impromptu
levee was begun which lasted until late in the night. It was followed,
the next day, by gifts of flowers and fruit, and, what was immediately
needful, of clothing of every description. The people of Savannah acted
as by one great impulse of generosity, all eager to demonstrate their
devotion to the prisoners now in the hands of the United States
Government, and to us, their representatives. We found in the city many
of our former Washington and Richmond friends, among whom were
ex-Senator Yulee, of Florida, and General Mercer. Savannah was in a
state of continual disquiet. The air rang with sounds of fifes and drums
of Federal soldiers, and bands of triumphant music were encountered in
every direction. Drills were constant and innumerable, and fully as
unpleasant to our eyes as our conquerors could wish; but, to my Southern
mind, no sight was so sad, and none presented so awful a travesty on the
supposed dignity of arms, as the manœuvres of a regiment of negroes in
full dress!

However, I was in no mood to think resentfully upon these minor evils of
our times; for, notwithstanding the kindnesses shown our party on every
side, my apprehensions for my husband’s safety increased as the journals
of each day gave out their horrors. The news that Mr. Davis, saddened,
ill, strengthless, as we knew him to be, had been put in chains,
startled us. Not a soul in the South but was horrified at the wanton
act, and none, I think, will ever forgive the deed though its authorship
has remained unacknowledged to this day. The press, both North and
South, was filled with alarming prognostications and with news of the
gathering testimony which would fix the crime with which the
ex-President and my husband were charged, upon them. Items which I might
not otherwise have seen were clipped from Northern papers and sent to me
by friends eager to acquaint me with news of every development which
might warn or strengthen. From mysterious purlieus, witnesses were being
brought forward on whose awful testimony were to be formulated, it was
said, charges of heinous crime against the prisoners of state. What this
testimony was to be, who was to give it, were mysteries to me. I tried
in vain to communicate with Mr. Clay, and on the 8th of June, unable
longer to endure the suspense, I wrote to General Miles, imploring him
to send me at least one line to assure me of Mr. Clay’s welfare; at the
same time inclosing a second letter to Judge Advocate General Holt.

To add to my distress of mind, the interest of the newspapers, being now
concerned with the Surratt and other trials, became silent for the time
being on the cases of Messrs. Davis and Clay, and, until the receipt of
a letter from General Miles, I was uncertain of my husband’s
whereabouts, rumours having reached me of his having been transferred to
Fort Warren. A letter received at this time from General James H. Wilson
records that he, too, was under this impression. Waiting from day to day
in the hope of ascertaining some definite information concerning Mr.
Clay, and having established communication with friends in various
quarters, I now began to shape my plans for a return to Huntsville,
meanwhile offering such consolations to my companions as was in my
power. Only the uncomprehending children of our party seemed happily
free from the weight of trouble everywhere besetting us. I remember an
amusing incident in connection with the little Jeff., our manly
protector, just previous to my leaving the hotel to accept the
hospitality of friends. He had scarcely arrived, when he formed an
attachment for a fine Newfoundland dog, a regular attaché of the popular
hostelry. While Mrs. Davis and I were entertaining some of Savannah’s
kind people, we heard Jeff.’s voice shouting every now and then in
uproarious good humour, “Bully for Jeff.! Bully for Jeff.!” At last I
went out to reason with him. I found him successfully mounted on his
canine acquaintance, a strong bridle in one hand, a switch in the other.

“You shouldn’t say ‘Bully for Jeff.,’” I remonstrated. “It isn’t nice.
You must remember whose boy you are!” The little fellow looked

“Well!” he said, ruefully, “Mis’ Clay, if a fellow don’t bully for
hisself, who’s going to bully for him?” I gazed at him, puzzled. This
was a Waterloo for me. I answered, “Well, bully for yourself! but don’t
bully so loud,” and retreated to the parlour, leaving the little lad to
cogitate on whether he or I was master of the situation.

I lingered in Savannah, eagerly awaiting letters which I hoped would
meet me there, until the middle of June, when I proceeded to Macon, _en
route_ for Huntsville, and I am amused now at the contrariety of the
human memory, when, into the woof of the thoughts of those strenuous
days, there is thrust a thread of comedy. Just before leaving the
hospitable coast city, I was the guest of Mrs. Levy, mother of the
brilliant Mrs. Philip Phillips, of Washington, of Mrs. Pember, and of
Miss Martha Levy, one of the readiest wits I have ever known.

During the evening first referred to, many guests were introduced, among
them some of Savannah’s prominent Hebrews. For an hour Miss Martha had
been busy presenting her friends, both Christian and Jew, when, one
after another, came Mr. Cohen, Mr. Salomon, Dr. Lazarus and Dr.
Mordecai. At this remarkable procession my risibles proved triumphant. I
glanced slyly at Miss Martha. Her eyes shone with mischief as she
presented Dr. Mordecai.

“And is Haman here, too?” I asked.

                              CHAPTER XXII
                       RECONSTRUCTION DAYS BEGIN

Upon leaving Savannah I proceeded by boat to Augusta, reaching that city
on the fifteenth of June, going thence to Macon, escorted to Atlanta by
Colonel Woods. During the last half of my journey I was under the care
of General B. M. Thomas, who saw me safely into the hands of our kind
friends, the Whittles, whose hospitable home became my asylum until I
proceeded on my way to Huntsville. The necessity for procuring passports
through the several military districts made my journey a slow one. To
add to my discomforts, my trunks, recovered at Macon, were several times
rigorously searched ere I reached my destination. At every transfer
station my baggage was carefully scrutinised, and the small value in
which passports were held may be conjectured from the following

At a certain point in my homeward journey a change of cars became
necessary at a little wayside town. Night was already upon us when we
reached the station of Crutchfield, where the transfer was to be made.
The little structure was surrounded by hangers-on, threading their lazy
way through a small company of black and white soldiers. I was alone,
save for the little five-year-old son of my maid, Emily, who, being ill,
I had left at the home of Mrs. Whittle. No sooner had my trunk been
deposited on the platform than it became the object of rough handling
and contumely. The train on which I was to continue my journey was
already in position, but the close-pressing crowd about were heedless
alike of my protest and appeals to allow my baggage to be put aboard. I
begged them not to detain me, saying I had General Croxton’s passport
with me; but their only answer was a gruff rebuke. “You have passed his
jurisdiction, Madam,” said one of the military near by.

It was a black night, and but few of those about me carried lanterns.
The scene was fear-inspiring to a lonely woman. My alarm at the thought
of a detention had reached its height, when, by the fitful lights about,
I saw a tall young man break through the crowd.

“By what right do you detain this lady?” he cried, angrily. Then,
turning to the black figures around us, he commanded, “Put that trunk on
board the car!” and almost before I realised it my difficulties were
over, and I had myself stepped aboard the waiting train, rescued from my
unfortunate dilemma by John A. Wyeth, since become a surgeon of national
distinction. Mr. Wyeth had come to the station for the purpose of
boarding this train, which proved a happy circumstance, for it gave me
his protection to Stevenson, a few hours distant from Huntsville. His
father had been the long-time friend of my husband; moreover, Dr. Allen,
grandfather of the young knight-errant, had been one of Senator Clay’s
earliest instructors. Thus, the circumstance of our meeting was a source
of double gratification to me.

While a guest at the home of Colonel Lewis M. Whittle, being unceasing
in my efforts to secure all possible aid for and to arouse our friends
in behalf of my husband, I made several trips of a day or so to other
homes in the vicinity. During such an absence, the Whittle home was
invaded by a party of soldiers, headed by one General Baker, who made
what was meant to be a very thorough search of all my belongings,
despite the protests of my gentle hostess. But for her quick presence of
mind in sending for a locksmith, the locks of my trunks would have been
broken open by the ungallant invaders. I returned to find my friends in
deep trouble and anguish of mind on my behalf. They repeated the story
of the search with much distress of manner. From the disorder in which I
found my room when, shortly afterward, I entered it, these agents of the
Government must have hoped to find there the whole assassination plot.
Clothing of every description was strewn over the floor and bed and
chairs; while on mantelpiece and tables were half-smoked cigar stumps
and ashes left by the gentlemen who took part in that memorable paper
hunt. After a thorough examination of my wardrobe, piece by piece, they
had taken possession of numerous letters and photographs, almost purely
of a private character, among them the picture of my dead infant,
treasured beyond any other. My hostess informed me that, during the
process of searching, General Baker, regardless of her presence,
personally had commented on the quality of my lingerie and the probable
avoirdupois of its owner, saying, among other things, “I see none of the
destitution I’ve heard tell of in the South!” In his eagerness to
discourse on the beauty of a lady’s apparel, he overlooked a recess in
one of my trunks which contained the only written matter that, by any
turning of words, might have been designated treasonable.

Great, indeed, was my surprise, when, seated on the floor surveying the
disorder about, overwhelmed with a conviction of desolation to come, I
opened one secret little slide and looked within the pocket. Now my
chagrin and disappointment were changed to joy; for there, within, lay
the sermon-like, black-covered book that contained my husband’s careful
copies of his State correspondence while in Canada, together with other
important original papers! The sight was almost too good to be true!
Immediately I began to see all things more hopefully. I remember even a
feeling of merriment as I gazed upon one of my husband’s boots standing
just where it had been thrown, in the middle of the floor, while hung
around it was a wreath of once gorgeous pomegranate flowers, which I
recognised as those I had worn at one of the last functions I had
attended in the Federal City.

Many months passed, in which repeated demands were made for the letters
carried away by these emissaries of the Government, ere they were
returned to me. Though taken thus forcibly from me for Governmental
examination, I have no reason to conclude that those in authority at the
War Department detained them for so serious a reason or purpose. On the
contrary, I have ground for believing that my letters and other
possessions lay open for seven or eight months to the gaze of the more
curious friends of the department authorities; for, my friend, Mrs.
Bouligny,[44] early in ’6, wrote warning me in regard to them, “I heard
a lady say the other day that she knew of a person who had read your
journal at the War Department!” By this time I was again in the North,
pleading with President Johnson for the release of my husband and the
return of my papers. When, at last, I received them, they were delivered
to me at the home of Mrs. A. S. Parker, at 4½ and C Streets, Washington,
by a Federal officer, who came in a United States Mail wagon with his

My home-coming after the eventful trip to Fortress Monroe was a sore
trial. Ex-Governor Clay, now an old man of seventy-five years, and Mrs.
Clay, almost as aged (and nearer, by six months, to the grave, as events
soon proved), were both very much broken. For more than three years they
had waited and wept and prayed for the loved cause which, in its fall,
had borne down their first-born. The Clay home, every stone of which was
hallowed to them, was now occupied by Captain Peabody and his staff.
Servants and all other of their former possessions were scattered; and
Mother Clay, whose beautiful patrician hands had never known the soil of
labour, who, throughout her long life of piety and gentle surroundings,
had been shielded as tenderly as some rare blossom, now, an aged woman,
within but a few months of the tomb, bereft of even her children, was
compelled to perform all necessary household labour. The last and
bitterest pain, that of my husband’s incarceration, fell crushingly upon
her. Her son, who had added lustre to his distinguished father’s name,
who in private virtues had met every wish of her heart, now lay a
prisoner in the nation’s hands, and the nation itself had gone mad with
the desire to wreak a vengeance on some one for the deplorable act of a
madman. The knowledge came to her as a very death-dealing blow, the
climax of years of unintermitting anxiety, deprivations, and the small
tyrannies practised by our many invaders during the investment of
Huntsville. Friends and kindred had been cut down on every side. For
three years our little city had been in Union hands. None of her
formerly affluent citizens but had been impoverished or ruined. By the
summer of ’5, the country about was completely devastated.

The crops were inconsiderable; scarcely any cotton had been planted, and
the appalling cotton tax had already been invented to drain us still
further. All over the South “Reconstruction days” had begun. Confusion
of a kind reigned in every town or city. It was no longer a question of
equality between the Freedmen and their late masters, but of negro
supremacy. On every side the poor, unknowing creatures sought every
opportunity to impress the fact of their independence upon all against
whom they bore resentment. The women were wont to gather on the
sidewalks of the main thoroughfares, forming a line across as they
sauntered along, compelling their former masters and mistresses who
happened to be approaching to take the street; or, if not sufficiently
numerous or courageous to do this, would push their way by them, bumping
into them with a distinct challenge to the outraged one to resent it. As
if to encourage this spirit of “independence,” the agents of the
conquering Government were there to protect their protégés from the
indignant resentment such conduct might well awaken, though they seemed
not to be equipped to instruct them in better things.

Upon my return to Huntsville, after Mr. Clay’s incarceration, having
been absent from it now nearly four years, I found the metamorphosis in
the beautiful old town to be complete. Indignation at the desecration
about us was the one antidote to despair left to the majority of our
neighbours, who, their property seized, their fields unplanted, their
purses empty, had small present peace or ground for hope in the future.
Indignities, petty and great, multiplied each day at the hands of often
wholly inexperienced Federal representatives, who, finding themselves in
authority over the persons and property of men distinguished throughout
the land, knew not how to exercise it. Looking back upon those frightful
years, I am convinced that these agents, far more than our enemies who
strove with our heroes upon the field, are responsible for a transmitted
resentment that was founded upon the unspeakable horrors of
“Reconstruction days.” Happy, indeed, was it for us that the future was
hidden from us; for, bad as the conditions were that met my husband’s
family then, there were to be yet other and worse developments. Our
home, opposite to that of Governor Clay, was now occupied by one
Goodlow, head of the Freedmen’s Bureau. From the one wing of the
parental house to which ex-Governor and Mrs. Clay were now limited, only
the sorry sight met our eyes of the desecration of our once lovely
residence,—the galleries and portico of which were now the gathering
place for protégés of the Government. Daily I saw Alfred, the former
dining-room servant of Governor Clay, revelling in his newly acquired
liberty, dash by our dwelling, seated in a handsome buggy behind a fine
trotter. He was a handsome copper-coloured negro, with the blood of red
men in his veins. His yellow gauntlets were conspicuous two streets
away, and as he passed he left on the evening air the odour of the
Jessamine pomade with which he had saturated his straight Indian locks
in his effort to outdo his late master.

Poor Alfred! He was a child with a toy balloon. A few years passed. In
tattered attire, and with the humblest demeanor, he eked out a scanty
living at a meagre little luncheon-stand on the corner of a
thoroughfare. His former respect and regard for his old master now
returned, and with it, I doubt not, a longing for the days when, in his
fresh linen suits, laundered by the laundress of the Governor’s
household, a valued servant, he had feasted on the good things he
himself had assisted in concocting!

Ground to the earth as we were by the cruelties of the times, that
Freedman’s Bureau was frequently, nevertheless, a source of amusement.
Its name bore but one meaning to the simple-minded follower of the
mule-tail who appealed to it. He knew but one “bureau” in the world, and
that was “ole Missus’s” or “Mis’ Mary’s,” an unapproachable piece of
furniture with a given number of drawers. Bitter was the disappointment
of the innocent blacks when they failed to see the source whence came
their support.

“Whar’s dat bureau?” was sure to be the first question. “Whar all dem
drawers what got de money an’ de sugar an’ de coffee? God knows I neber
see no bureau ’t all, an’ dat man at de book-cupboard[45] talked mighty
short ter me, at dat!”

While letting my thoughts linger for a moment on those dreary days, I
cannot refrain from recalling one of the occasional instances of humane
conduct shown us by those placed in authority over the citizens of
Huntsville, associated, as it is, with a bit of genuine negro
blundering. The generosity of Dr. French, Medical Director, there
stationed, toward the family of our brother, J. Withers Clay, in giving
his medical services freely to them, greatly touched us all.
Appreciating his obvious desire to administer to our wounded spirits a
true “oil and wine,” my sister one morning gathered a bunch of fragrant
camomile blossoms, and, calling her ebony _femme de menage_ to her, she
said, “Take these flowers over to Dr. French and say Mrs. Clay sends
them with her compliments. Tell him that these camomile blossoms are
like the Southern ladies—the more they are bruised and oppressed the
sweeter and stronger they grow! Now,” she added, “tell me, Sally, what
are you going to say?” Sally answered promptly:

“I’se gwine tell de doctor dat Mis’ Mary Clay sont her compliments an’
dese cammile flowers, an’ says dey’s like de Southern ladies, de harder
you squeezes an’ presses ’em de sweeter dey gits!”

It is perhaps unnecessary to relate that the message which reached the
kind doctor was put in written form.

                             CHAPTER XXIII
                       NEWS FROM FORTRESS MONROE

To minister to my husband’s aged parents dulled in some degree my own
alarms, yet the wildest rumours continued to multiply as to the probably
early trial and certainly awful fate of Mr. Davis and Mr. Clay.
Controversies were waging in the press, both condemning and approving
the actions of the Military Commission in Washington; yet, even in those
still early days of his imprisonment, voices were raised in many
localities to declare Mr. Clay’s incapability of the crimes imputed to

Meantime, reputable men in Canada, who adduced indubitable proof of the
truth of the accusations they made, had already assailed the characters
of the witnesses upon whom the Bureau of Military Justice so openly
relied to convict its distinguished prisoners—witnesses by whose
testimony some had already perished on the gallows. How true these
accusations were was proved a year later, when, his misdoings exposed on
the floor of the House of Representatives, a self-confessed perjurer,
Conover, the chief reliance of the Bureau of Military Justice, the chief
accuser of my husband, fled the country. At this _dénouement_,
Representative Rogers openly averred his belief that the flight of
Conover, one of the most audacious of modern criminals, had been
assisted by some one high in authority, in order to make impossible an
investigation into the disgraceful culpability of the high unknown!

So early as June 10, 1865, a pamphlet had been printed and circulated
throughout the country by the Rev. Stuart Robinson, exposing _seriatim_
the “Infamous Perjuries of the Bureau of the Military Justice.” It took
the form of a letter to the Hon. H. H. Emmons, United States
District-Attorney at Detroit, and was quoted, when not printed in full,
by many leading newspapers. Throughout the closely printed pages the
paper presented an exposé of the unworthy character of the most
prominent witnesses on whose testimony the hapless Mrs. Surratt and her
companions had been condemned to the gallows; witnesses, moreover, who
were known to be the accusers of Mr. Davis and Mr. Clay, who, it was
announced, were soon to be tried for complicity in the murder of the
late Federal President. In his pamphlet, Mr. Robinson did not content
himself with refuting the statements made by the miscreant witnesses. He
went further and accused Mr. Holt (by name), head of the Bureau of
Military Justice, of being _particeps criminis_ with the evil men whose
testimony he so credulously or maliciously employed.

“If any one supposes,” wrote Mr. Robinson, “I have judged Mr. Holt
uncharitably in making him _particeps criminis_ with this villain”—a
notorious witness—“whom he parades and assists in the work of lying
himself out of his previous perjuries by still more preposterous lies,
let him carefully ponder this letter.... This is the man whom Judge
Advocate Holt, after his perjuries have been exposed, brings back to the
stand and assists in his attempts to force his lies down the throat of
the American people. Who now,” Mr. Robinson continued, “is the base
criminal—Judge Holt, or the men whom he seeks by such base and impudent
perjuries, under the garb of sworn testimony, to defame?”

Such a brave challenge might well have been expected to give the
Government pause. To the increased agony of our minds, its agents took
no cognisance of Mr. Robinson’s fearless exposure, but ignored the
protest with its startling array of charges, which easily might have
been verified, and continued to rely upon its strange allies to assist
in the persecution of its prison victims.

Instinct with the zeal of the fanatic, and intrenched behind the
bewildered Mr. Johnson, the Head of the Bureau of Military Justice was
indifferent alike to contumely and the appeals of even the merely just.
In so far as the country at large might see, its Judge Advocate was
imperial in his powers. The legality of the existence of the Bureau had
been denied by the greatest jurists of the times; yet its dominating
spirit was determined, despite the gravest warnings and condemnation, to
railroad, by secret trial, the more distinguished of the prisoners to
the gallows. “Thoughtful men,” Reverdy Johnson had said in his argument
in the trial of Mrs. Surratt, “feel aggrieved that such a Commission
should be established in this free country when the war is over, and
when the common law courts are open and accessible. Innocent parties,
sometimes by private malice, sometimes for a mere partisan purpose,
sometimes from a supposed public policy, have been made the subjects of
criminal accusation. History is full of such instances. How are such
parties to be protected if a public trial be denied them, and a secret
one in whole or in part be substituted?”

“The Judge Advocate said, in reply to my inquiries,” said Thomas Ewing,
“that he would expect to convict _under the common law of war_. This is
a term unknown to our language, _a quiddity_ incapable of definition.”
And, again, “The Judge Advocate, with whom chiefly rests the fate of
these citizens, from his position cannot be an impartial judge unless he
be more than man. He is the Prosecutor in the most extended sense of the
word. As in duty bound before this court was called, he received the
reports of detectives, pre-examined the witnesses, prepared and
officially signed the charges, and, as principal counsel for the
Government, controlled on the trial the presentation, admission and
rejection of evidence. In our courts of law, a lawyer who heard his
client’s story, if transferred from the bar to the bench, may not sit in
the trial of the cause, lest the ermine be sullied through the
partiality of the counsel.”

To our sad household at distant Huntsville, each day, with its
disquieting rumours and reports of these trials, added to our distress
of mind. There was scarcely a man or woman in the South who did not
prophesy that, the popular cry being “Vengeance,” and full military
power in the hands of such men as Stanton and Holt, our former President
and Mr. Clay would surely meet the fate of Mrs. Surratt.

Under the domination of such knowledge, my condition of mind was a
desperate one. We were nearly a thousand miles removed from the seat of
Government and from my husband’s prison. The Bureau of Military Justice,
it was well known, was industriously seeking to convict its prisoners;
while the latter, ignorant even of the charges against them, and denied
the visits of counsel or friends, were helpless to defend themselves,
however easy to obtain the proof might be. It were impossible for a
wife, knowing her husband to be innocent, and resenting the ignobleness
of a government which would thus refuse to a self-surrendered prisoner
the courtesies the law allows to the lowest of criminals, to rest
passively under conditions so alarming.

From the moment I stepped upon the soil of Georgia I renewed my appeals
to those in the North of whose regard for my husband I felt assured.
Among the first to respond were Charles O’Conor, of New York, T. W.
Pierce, of Boston, R. J. Haldeman, and Benjamin Wood, editor and
proprietor of the New York _Daily News_. Mr. Wood wrote spontaneously:

“I beg you to have full faith in my desire and exertions to relieve your
noble husband from persecution, and to secure for him a prompt and
impartial trial, and consequently an inevitable acquittal of the charge
that has been infamously alleged against him. I will communicate
immediately with Mr. O’Conor, Mr. Carlisle, Mr. Franklin Pierce, and
Judge Black. Let me request you to accord me the pleasure of advancing
to Mr. Clay, until his liberation, whatever sum may be necessary for the
expenses attendant upon legal action for his defense, as, owing to his
imprisonment and the present unsettled condition of your neighbourhood,
there might be a delay that would prove prejudicial to his interests.”

“I have no idea he will be brought to trial,” wrote Mr. Pierce, on June
16th, “as the evidence on which the Government relies is a tissue of
wicked fabrication, from the perjured lips of the lowest upon the earth!
No one who knows him (Mr. Clay) can for a moment believe him guilty or
even capable of crime. I have written to Judge Black and requested him
to make effort to have you come to the North. I hope your application to
Judge Holt[47] will secure for you this liberty.”

Mr. O’Conor’s letter ran as follows:

                                             “NEW YORK, June 29, 1865.

  “_My Dear Madam_: I do not believe that any attempt will be made to
  try Mr. Clay or any other of the leading Southern gentlemen on the
  charge of complicity in the assassination[48] of Lincoln.

  “Such of them as have, through mistaken confidence in the
  magnanimity of their enemies, surrendered themselves into custody,
  may be obliged to suffer imprisonment, until it shall be determined,
  as a matter of policy, whether they ought to be tried for

  “Mr. Jefferson Davis is, of course, the first victim demanded by
  those who demand State prosecutions. His will be the test case.... I
  have volunteered my professional services in his defense, and
  although I have hitherto been refused permission to see him, and his
  letter in reply to my offer has been intercepted and returned to him
  as an improper communication, I am persuaded that, if a trial shall
  take place, I will be one of his defenders. In performing this duty,
  you may fairly consider me as in compliance with your request,
  defending your husband.... I sympathise most sincerely with yourself
  and your husband in this cruel ordeal, and shall be most happy if my
  efforts shall have any influence in mitigating its severity or in
  shortening its duration.

  “I am, my dear Madam, with great respect and esteem,

                                              “Yours truly,
                                                    “CHARLES O’CONOR.”

This epistle, coming from so wise a man, was calculated to calm us; one
from Mr. Haldeman inspired us equally to courage.

                                           “HARRISBURG, July 24, 1865.

  “MRS. C. C. CLAY.

  “_My Dear Madam_: Your exceedingly affecting letter did not reach me
  until long after it was written.... So soon as it was practicable, I
  visited Honourable Thaddeus Stevens at his home in Lancaster City. I
  selected Mr. Stevens more particularly on account of his
  independence of character, his courage, and his position of
  intellectual and official leadership in the lower house of Congress,
  and in his party. It is not necessary for me to tell you, Madam,
  that, knowing your husband, I never had a suspicion of his
  complicity in the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, but you will be
  gratified to learn that Mr. Stevens scorned the idea of either his
  guilt or that of any of the prominent sojourners in Canada.[49]

  “Mr. Stevens holds, that as the belligerent character of the
  Southern States was recognised by the United States, neither Mr.
  Davis nor Mr. Clay can be tried for treason.... That, if tried, Mr.
  Clay should be tried in Alabama. You will perceive, then, my dear
  Madam, that connected with the proposed trial of your husband, there
  are profound questions of statesmanship and party. On this account,
  Mr. S. would not like to have his name prematurely mentioned. He is
  using his great political influence in the direction indicated, and
  it is, of course, much greater when he is not known as the counsel
  of Mr. Clay.... I promised to see Mr. Stevens so soon as the form
  and place of trial are announced.... Mr. Stevens will be a tower of
  strength, and command attention and respect from President,
  Secretary and Congress....

  “Hoping, Madam, that when I address you again, it will be under
  happier auspices, I am,

                                                     “R. J. HALDEMAN.”

Nor were these all. Ex-Attorney-General Black wrote me early in July
these brief but kind words of sympathy:

“I hasten to assure you that I will do all that in me lies to secure
justice in Mr. Clay’s case. I have written to the President, Secretary
of War, and Mr. Davis. You may safely rely upon me to the extent of my
ability to do you good!”

Letters as positive and cordial came also from Messrs. George Shea and
J. M. Carlisle. I had written meanwhile to Mr. Clay in prison, hoping
thereby to give him courage; to the Secretary of War, beseeching for
kindness to his self-surrendered and delicate prisoner; to General
Miles, begging him to keep his promise and tell me of Mr. Clay’s
condition. It was three months ere I heard from my husband. The
Secretary of War ignored my letter, and three weeks passed ere the
general in command at Fortress Monroe made reply. His letter was
judicially kind. It saved me, at least, from apprehension lest Mr. Clay,
too, should be submitted to the horrible indignity which had been put
upon Mr. Davis, the news of which was still agitating the country.
General Miles’s letter was as follows:

                               FORT MONROE, Virginia, June 20, 1865.

  “_Dear Madam_: Your letter of the 8th inst.[50] is at hand. In
  answer, I am happy to say to you, your husband is well in health and
  as comfortable as it is possible to make him under my orders. He has
  not at any time been in irons. His fare is good. (I think Mr.
  Davis’s health better than when he left the _Clyde_.) He has pipe
  and tobacco. The officers in charge are changed every day. Your
  husband was pleased to hear you were well. Wished me to say that he
  was well and comfortable and under the circumstances quite cheerful.
  Has every confidence that he will be able to vindicate himself of
  the charge. He sends much love, and hopes you will not make
  your[self] uneasy or worry on his account, as his only concern is
  about you. Your letter was sent to Judge Holt.

  “Your husband has not been allowed any books except his Bible and
  prayer-book, although I have requested provision to allow him one
  other, but have received no answer as yet. You may be assured that
  while your husband is within the limits of my command he will not
  suffer. Hoping this will find you well, I remain

                                  “Very respectfully,
                                          “NELSON A. MILES,
                      “Brevet Major-General United States Volunteers.”

On the face of it this communication was kind. But, to offset its
statements as to my husband’s comfort, rumours quite the reverse reached
us from many reliable sources. How well these were founded, how
grievously the life in prison told upon my husband’s spirit, may be
adjudged from the following excerpts from a running letter from Mr. Clay
which reached me late in the autumn. It was designed for my eyes alone,
in the event of some sudden termination of his present awful
experiences. In part it was a solemn charge and farewell to me, and this
portion was guarded; for Mr. Clay had supposed he must commit the
letter, at last, to the care of General Miles for transmittance to me.
In part, it is evident hope was reviving him; by this time permission
had been given to him to write to me through the War Department; also,
he perceived the way opening for a private delivery of the letter, and
therefore, at the last, he spoke more unreservedly.

                         “CASEMATE NO. 4, FORTRESS MONROE, VIRGINIA.
                                             “FRIDAY, AUGUST 11, 1865.

  “_My Dearly Beloved Wife_: After repeated requests, I am permitted
  to address you this communication, which is only to be delivered to
  you by General Miles in case of my death before we meet on earth....
  This letter is written in contemplation of death; for, although
  trusting through God’s goodness and mercy to see you again on this
  earth, yet, as my health is much impaired and I am greatly reduced
  in flesh and strength, and never allowed a night’s unbroken rest, I
  feel I am in greater peril of my life than is usual. Under the
  solemn reflection that I may not see you again before I am called
  hence to meet my Judge, I shall try to write nothing that I would
  erase at that day when I must give an account of the deeds done in
  the flesh. God bears me witness that I am unconscious of having
  committed any crime against the United States or any of them, or any
  citizen thereof, and that I feel and believe that I have done my
  duty as a servant of the State of Alabama, to whom alone I owed
  allegiance, both before and since she seceded from the Federal
  Union. I have not changed my opinion as to the sovereignty of the
  States and the right of a State to secede; and I am more confirmed
  by my reflections and our bitter experience that the Northern people
  were so hostile to the rights, interests and institutions of the
  Southern States, that it was just and proper for these to seek peace
  and security in a separate government. I think the utter subversion
  of our political and social systems and sudden enfranchisement of
  four million slaves a great crime, and one of the most terrible
  calamities that ever befell any people; that generations yet unborn
  will feel it in sorrow and suffering; and that nothing but intense
  hatred and vindictive rage could have so blinded the North to its
  own interests and [to] those of humanity, as to induce the
  consummation of this act of wickedness and folly. I look for nothing
  but evil to both blacks and whites in the South from this sudden and
  violent change in their relations; intestine feuds and tumults;
  torpid indolence and stealthy rapacity on the part of the blacks;
  jealousy, distrust and oppression of them on the part of the whites;
  mutual outrage and injury, disquiet, apprehensions, alarms, murders,
  robberies, house-burnings, and other crimes; the blighting of hearts
  and homes and the destruction of industry, arts, literature, wealth,
  comfort and happiness. No people, save the Jews, have ever been more
  oppressed and afflicted than those of the South, [and] especially
  the blacks, will be, in my opinion. _Their professed deliverers will
  prove the real destroyers of the negroes in the end._

  “Had I foreseen this, I should doubtless have been in favour of
  enduring lesser evils and wrongs from the North and postponing this
  calamity, for it would have come sooner or later, but, perhaps, not
  in our day. I never doubted ... that our interest would be best
  served by preserving the old Union, under which I might have enjoyed
  wealth and honour all my life. I felt that I was acting against my
  own interest in favouring Secession, but thought it my duty to my
  State and the South. Hence, I have nothing to reproach myself for as
  to my course in that respect. I only regret that we did not defer
  the evil day or prepare longer, better maintaining our independence.
  I still think we might and would have maintained it, with more
  wisdom in council and in the field, and with more virtue among our
  people. I feel it due to my character, to my family and friends, to
  say this much on public affairs....

  “Now in regard to your own course and that of my kindred, I would
  advise you, if able, to remove from the South; but, impoverished as
  you all are, or soon will be, it is improbable that you can do so.
  Hence, you had best make your home in some city or large town, where
  the white population prevails. I think populous negro districts will
  be unsafe. You will be obliged to cast off our former slaves, if
  they should desire to live with you, for you have no means of
  supporting or of employing them.... Do what you can for the comfort
  of my parents.... Try to exercise charity to all mankind, forgiving
  injuries, cherishing hatred to none, and doing good even to
  enemies.... This is true wisdom, even if there was no life beyond
  the grave, because the best way of securing peace of mind and of
  promoting mere worldly interests. _But when I remember that Christ
  commands it and enforced it by His example, and promised, ‘if you
  keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love,’ the inestimable
  great reward should stimulate us to the performance of the duty...._
  Nothing has convinced me of the divinity of Christ so much as His
  superhuman morality and virtue....

                                           “SATURDAY, August 12, 1865.

  “... I hope and sometimes think that my confinement here is to end
  in good to me. I have tried and am still trying to turn it to my
  incalculable profit. I have searched my own heart, and reviewed my
  life more earnestly, prayerfully, and anxiously than in all my days
  before coming in here. I have read The Book through twice; much of
  it more than twice....

  “You will see from my Bible and prayer-books that I have been
  assiduous and earnest in their study. I confess that this has been
  from necessity rather than choice. I have never been allowed to see
  any word in print or manuscript outside of them, until 3d inst.,
  when a copy of the New York _Herald_ was brought me, and I was
  informed that I was [to be] allowed to see such newspapers as
  General Miles would daily send me.

                                                  “September 10, 1865.

  “I dropped my pen in the delusive hope that I was to be allowed to
  see you soon, or at all events to correspond freely with you, and
  that in the meantime I would be allowed a reasonable hope of living,
  by granting me opportunity to sleep. For I must now tell you what I
  have heretofore thought I would conceal till my liberation or death,
  _that I have endured the most ingenious and refined torture ever
  since I came into this living tomb; for, although above the natural
  face of the earth, it is covered with about ten feet of earth, and
  is always more or less damp like a tomb. With a bright light in my
  room and the adjoining room, united to it by two doorways, closed by
  iron gates, which cover about half the space or width of the
  partition, and with two soldiers in this room, and two and a
  lieutenant in the adjoining, until about 30th June; with the opening
  and shutting of those heavy iron doors or gates, the soldiers being
  relieved every two hours; with the tramp of these heavy, armed men,
  walking their beats, the rattling of their arms, and still more the
  trailing sabre of the lieutenant, the officer of the guard, whose
  duty is to look at me every fifteen minutes, you may be sure that my
  sleep has been often disturbed and broken. In truth, I have
  experienced one of the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition in this
  frequent, periodical and irregular disturbance of my sleep._ During
  the one hundred and twelve days of my imprisonment here I have never
  enjoyed one night’s unbroken sleep; I have been roused every two
  hours, if asleep, by the tread of soldiers, the clank of arms and
  the voices of officers.... I have never known the feeling of
  refreshment from sleep on arising any morning of my imprisonment.
  Besides, I have never been allowed retirement from sight, actual or
  potential, of my guards; having to bathe and do all the acts of
  nature in view of the guard, if they chose to look at me. I have
  never been allowed an interview with any one alone, not even with a
  minister of God, but have always been confronted with two or more
  witnesses, whenever minister or physician come to see me. I have
  never been allowed any clothes save those in present use.... Where
  my other clothes are I do not know, as several of those who were
  represented as masters of my wardrobe denied the trust. I have found
  out that some things I valued have been stolen, together with all
  the little money I kept. I think it probable that you will never see
  half of the contents of my valise and despatch bag. The inclosed
  letters[51] present but a glimpse of my tortures, for I knew that
  the grand inquisitors, the President and Cabinet, knew all that I
  could tell and even more; and, besides, my debility of body and of
  mind was such that I had not power to coin my thoughts into
  words.... And to be frank, I was too proud to confess to them all my
  sufferings, and also apprehended that they would rather rejoice over
  and aggravate than relent and alleviate them. I now feel ashamed
  that I have complained to them instead of enduring unto death. My
  love for you, my parents and brothers, prevailed over my self-love,
  and extracted from me those humiliating letters. I have been
  reluctant to humble myself to men whom I regarded as criminals far
  more than myself, touching all the woes and wrongs, the destruction
  and desolation of the South.

  “If you ever get my [Jay’s] prayer-book, you will see scratched with
  a pencil, borrowed for the occasion, such items in my monotonous
  prison life as I felt worth recording.

                                                        “October 16th.

  “On the 19th of August I wrote my second letter to the Secretary of
  War, and was then in hopes of removal of the guard from the
  adjoining room in a day or two. Besides, I was so enfeebled and my
  nerves so shattered by loss of sleep that I could scarcely write.
  Hence I quit this painful labour of love. The guard was not removed
  till the 12th of September, and then because my condition, from loss
  of sleep, was become really very critical. Since then I have
  improved very much in health and have slept as well as I ever did.
  But I have been deluded with the hope of my enlargement on parole,
  and thought I would not dwell on so painful a theme. I now learn
  that I am to be moved to-day to Carroll Hall, where Mr. D—— is....
  Hence I avail myself of a chance to send you these sheets lest they
  should never reach you if I die in prison. I must impress on you the
  propriety of _concealing this communication while I live and never
  alluding to it_, for, if found out, I should suffer for it.... I
  dare say I should be turned out on parole but for the charge against
  me of concerting Lincoln’s murder. They are loth to confess the
  charge to be false, which they would do by releasing me. I am made
  to suffer to save them from the reproach of injustice. I should be
  willing to brave them out by stubborn endurance and refusal of
  anything but legal justice. I should not fear that. But I am never
  to be tried for murder, nor, I think, for treason. They know there
  is no pretext for charging me with murder, and they doubt their
  ability to convict me of treason before a jury of Southern men, and
  such only could legally try me....

  “Now excuse any incoherence or want of method and the bad writing,
  as it is all done under great disadvantages, which I may explain
  hereafter. You can write to me under cover to Captain R. W. Bickley,
  Third Pennsylvania Artillery, Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He will be
  here till 10th of November, and then go out of service. After that
  I’ll find some one else through whom you can write to me. He is from
  Philadelphia. He, Captain J. B. Tetlow, Philadelphia, Captain
  McEwan, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and Dr. John J. Craven[52] of this
  place, have been very kind to me; also Lieutenant Lemuel Shipman,
  Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The last made me a wooden knife to eat with
  during the time I was denied knife and fork and spoon, which was
  till thirtieth of June.

  “They would, too, shake hands (which was forbidden) and treat me as
  an equal when they could do so unobserved. Take care you don’t
  allude to this letter in yours through War Department.... —— —— _has
  no sensibility or refinement, and hence Mr. Davis and I have
  suffered more than we should have done. Mr. Davis was ironed without
  cause, and only grew violent when they offered to iron him. I_ _know
  this from one who was present. Facts are, General M—— was authorised
  to iron us if necessary for safety, and deemed it necessary with Mr.
  D——, or mistook the authority as an order to do it. But Mr. Davis is
  petulant, irascible, and offensive in manner to officers, as they
  tell me, though they say he is able, learned, high-toned, and
  imposing in manner._”

Before this heartrending letter reached me, however, another, couched
purposely in terms more guarded (as befitted matter which must run the
gauntlet of Secretary Stanton’s, the Attorney-General’s and General
Miles’s scrutiny), had reached me. In my endeavours to comfort our
enfeebled parents, I had already discussed with them the advisability of
making my way to Washington, and in the first letter from me that
reached my husband’s hands I spoke of my hope of doing so. Unknown to
me, Mr. Clay, so early as June 30th, had written an urgent appeal to
Secretary Stanton that I might be allowed to see or communicate with
him. To this he had received no reply. Upon learning, therefore, of my
intention through my letter, his first impulse was to dissuade me.

“If you come North,” he wrote, on August 21st, “you must come with a
brave heart, my dear ’Ginie ... prepared to hear much to wound you, and
to meet with coldness and incivility where you once received kindness
and courtesy. Some will offend you with malice, some unwittingly and
from mere habit, and some even through a sense of duty. Many
religionists have, doubtless, found pleasure and felt they were doing
God service in persecuting heretics. If rudely repulsed, remember, in
charity, that such is human nature. The Jewish priests drove off the
lepers with stones....”

                              CHAPTER XXIV
                          AGAIN IN WASHINGTON

By September I had reopened correspondence with many Washington friends.
As will have been seen by a perusal of certain preceding letters, the
question of giving me permission to return to the capital already had
been broached to the President and Secretary of War, by Judge Black and
others. It was now again brought to the attention of Mr. Johnson, by Mr.
Duff Green, a long-time friend of ex-Governor Clay, of my husband, and
of the President’s. It was the first application of all that had been
sent to the Government to bring a response. The Executive’s reply was
couched as follows:

“I am directed by the President to say that an application for
permission to visit Washington, made by Mrs. C. C. Clay, Jr., over her
own name, will be considered by him.

                                                        R. MORROW,
                                        “Major and A. A. G., Secretary.”

In forwarding this communication to me, Mr. Green wrote:

“We think there is nothing to prevent your coming at once. To wait for
permission may delay you weeks, and perhaps months. Your coming would
not prejudice either yourself or your husband, and you can do more by a
personal application to the President than by an application ‘over your
own name.’”

Two months dragged by, however, ere I could complete arrangements for
the journey and detach myself from our clinging parents, who, deprived
of all of their other children, now placed their dependence upon me.
Notwithstanding their hearts ached for some assurance of Mr. Clay’s
safety, they were ill-disposed to look upon my projected trip with
favour. Huntsville was in complete subjugation to the Federal
representatives. We had numerous reasons to realise the pitiless and
cruel policy that had been inaugurated by our conquerors, and few to
lead us to look for kinder things at the hands of the powers at
Washington. The reports that reached us of the treatment accorded to
those Southerners who had already proceeded to the capital, even
allowing for the prejudice of editors unfriendly to us, were not of a
kind to encourage a hope for clemency or justice there. The efforts of
the wives of other prisoners to communicate with their husbands, their
applications to the Government to grant them the right of trial, not
only had been of no avail, but, in some instances, had made them the
direct objects of attack from those inimical to them. “I have had a
weary time,” one wrote late in October, “but of that, if you knew how
weary, you would cry out ‘No more an’ you love me,’ rather than bear the
infliction of the retrospect, so I will not torment you.” ... President
Johnson’s remarks to the South Carolina Delegation, concerning Mrs.
Davis’s efforts, became the talk of the country. I was astonished when I
learned that she had never written a line without consultation with Mr.
Schley and his, in turn, consulting General Steedman upon the tenor of
her letters, and receiving the approval of both on the manner of
presenting the subject. It was the old fable of the lamb whose
grandfather muddied the stream.

Such news served further to convince my husband’s parents of the
futility of the trip I was contemplating. They urged that I would be
attacked on every side so soon as I entered the Federal capital; they
pleaded, too, alas! the stringency of our present means, a very vital
objection just then to us whose every possession had either been
“confiscated” or otherwise rendered useless to us. Nevertheless, every
moment anxiety was consuming me. I resolved to act while I had the
strength, and made known my resolve to our parents.

The middle of November had arrived ere, by the aid of Mr. Robert
Herstein, a kindly merchant of Huntsville (“may his tribe increase”),
who advanced me $100 in gold (and material for a silk gown, to be made
when I should reach my destination), I was enabled to begin my journey
to the capital. Under the escort of a kind friend and neighbour, Major
W. H. Echols, of Huntsville, who, having in mind the securing of a
certain patent, arranged his plans so as to accompany me to Washington,
I bade father and mother “good-bye” and stepped aboard the train. My
heart sometimes beat high with hope, yet, at others, I trembled at what
I might encounter. Fortunately for the preservation of my courage, I had
no forewarning that I had looked, for the last time, upon the sorrowful
face of our mother. Her closing words, in that heartbreaking farewell,
were of hope that I would soon return bringing with me her dearest son.
With the desire to cheer them both, I wrote back merrily as I proceeded
on my way; but, indeed, I had small need to affect a spirit of buoyancy;
for, from the beginning, I was the recipient of innumerable kindnesses
from fellow-travellers who learned my identity. In many instances my
fare was refused by friendly railroad conductors.

“I have paid literally nothing thus far,” I wrote from Louisville,
Kentucky, which city I reached early in the morning of November 15th.
“At Nashville,” my letter added, “we took sleeping cars, which were as
luxurious as the bed that now invites me. I had, however, an amusing,
and, at first blush, an alarming nocturnal adventure. I was waked by the
rattling of paper at my head, and, half unconsciously putting out my
hand, it lighted on the hairy back of some animal! I sprang out of bed,
raised the curtain, and there sat, in the corner of my berth, the most
monstrous _coon_ you ever saw! The black around his eyes at first made
him appear like an owl, but he proved to be a genuine old ‘zip coon.’ So
I got out one of ‘Mammy ’Ria’s’ nice biscuit, which have been greatly
complimented by my friends, and asked him please to come out of my bed
and eat some supper. But he wouldn’t! And I had to wake Major Echols in
the gentlemen’s apartment, who forcibly ejected him after a good laugh
at me!”

A day later and we reached Cincinnati, where, owing to the late arrival
of the boat, the _St. Nicholas_, on which we had travelled from
Louisville, through banks of fog, we were delayed some twelve hours. Our
trip on this river steamer was, in its way, a kind of triumphal
progress, very reassuring to me at that critical moment. As I wrote back
to father, “We found the captain a good Southerner and a noble old
fellow! Had one son in the Federal Army and lost one at Shiloh! Mr.
Hughes, of the Louisville _Democrat_, was aboard; he said his paper had
been suppressed, but he would now be permitted to go South. He is a
rabid secessionist, and promised to copy the _News_[53] articles
concerning my husband.” On board, too, was Mrs. Gamble, of Louisville, a
wealthy woman whose name was associated with innumerable kindnesses to
our soldiers, and generous gifts to our cause. She was a sad woman, but
sympathised greatly with Mr. Davis and Mr. Clay, and begged that upon my
return from Washington we would make our home with her “until better

Upon learning the length of time we must spend in Cincinnati, I went at
once to the Spencer House, whence I wrote and immediately despatched
notes to my old friends, Mrs. George E. Pugh, wife of the ex-Senator,
and to Senator and Mrs. George H. Pendleton (the first a resident of the
city, the last-named residents of Clifton, a suburb), telling them of my
unexpected presence in the city, and hoping to see them during the day.
On my way to the hotel, I had looked about the city with increasing
interest and pleasure. How different it was from our devastated country!

“You never saw the like of the fruit!” I wrote enthusiastically to
mother. “Grapes, oranges, apples; such varieties of nuts—cream, hazel,
hickory, and English walnuts—as are on the beautiful stall just at the
entrance of the hotel! The Major has just entered, laughing heartily at
Yankee tricks and Yankee _notions_! He says a man said to him, ‘Insure
your life, sir?’

“‘For what?’ says the Major.

“‘For ten cents!’ replies the man. ‘And if you are killed on the cars,
your family gets $3,000 cash!’

“‘Three thousand?’ rejoins Major Echols, contemptuously. ‘What’s that to
a man worth a _million_!’ at which all stare as if shot. I laugh, too,
but tell him I fear we will be made to pay for his fun, if they think us

The day was half gone when dear Mrs. Pugh, only a few years ago the
triumphant beauty of the Pierce and Buchanan administrations, but now a
pale, saddened woman, clad in deep mourning, appeared. God! what private
sorrows as well as national calamities had filled in the years since we
had separated in Washington! The pathos of her appearance opened a very
flood-gate of tears, which I could not check. But Mrs. Pugh shed none.
She only put out a restraining hand to me.

“No tears now, I beg of you. I can’t endure it. Tell me of yourself, of
your plans. Where are you going? What of Mr. Clay? How can I aid you?”
she asked, turning away all discussion save as to the object of my

The afternoon was already nearly spent when Senator and Mrs. Pendleton
arrived, having driven in from their suburban home upon the receipt of
my note, sent at mid-day. Their welcome was cordial and frank as in the
old days. They had come to take me home to dinner, where, they assured
me, we might talk more freely than at the hotel. They would take no
refusal, but agreed with Major Echols, who was unable to accompany us,
to see me safely to the station in ample time to take the midnight train
for Washington. In the hours that followed, I learned somewhat of the
experiences in the North, during the bloody strife of the four years
just closed, of Southern sympathisers, even where their sympathy was
restrained from announcing itself by an open espousal. Senator
Pendleton’s known friendliness for Clement L. Vallandigham, whose
fearlessness and outspoken zeal in our behalf had cost him so dearly,
had brought its own penalties. At times, he told me, when feeling ran
highest, neither his home nor that of Senator Pugh had escaped certain
malodorous missiles of the lawless!

We spent much of the evening in scanning the problems that lay before
me. I told my host of the numbers of brilliant men who had volunteered
their aid to Mr. Clay, mentioning among others the name of Judge Hughes,
of Washington, whose friendly proffer of counsel had reached me just
previous to my departure from Huntsville.

“By all means,” said Senator Pendleton, as we drove at last to the
station, “see Judge Hughes first! He is strictly non-partisan, is a
friend of the President’s, and, moreover, is under obligations to Mr.
Clay, which I know he would gladly repay!”

It was already a late hour when we rejoined the waiting Major Echols.
With a warm “God bless you, dear friend!” Senator and Mrs. Pendleton
bade me “good-bye,” and I stepped aboard the train for Washington. What
that name called up, what my thoughts were, or what my sensations, as I
realised our approach to the city once so attractive, but now seeming to
represent to me a place of oppression and the prison in which for six
months Mr. Clay had been incarcerated, may better be imagined than
described. Early the following morning our train began to thread its way
through familiar country. By mid-day we had reached war-scarred Harper’s
Ferry, and passed over into old Virginia! A short journey now, and I
found myself once more driving up Pennsylvania Avenue in the company of
tried friends, _en route_ to Willard’s.

                              CHAPTER XXV

From the hour of my arrival in the capital, Friday, November 17th, my
misgivings gave place to courage. I went directly to Willard’s, which,
being near the Executive Mansion and the War Department, and my purse
very slender, I believed would save me hack hire. I had scarcely
registered when General Clingman called. He was followed shortly by
Senators Garland and Johnson, of Arkansas, the vanguard of numerous
friends, who within a few hours came to extend their sympathies and
wishes for the success of my mission. During that first day I sent a
note to Colonel Johnson, Mr. Johnson’s Secretary, asking for an
interview with the President at the earliest possible date. To my great
relief of mind, within a few hours there came an answer, telling me the
President would see me the following Wednesday!

For the next few days I knew no moment alone. The list of callers noted
in my small diary necessarily was but partial, yet even that is
wonderfully long. Among them, to my surprise and somewhat to my
mystification, were General Ihrie, Major Miller and Colonel Ayr of
Grant’s staff. Their friendliness amazed me. I could imagine no reason
why they should call. General Ihrie, moreover, assured me of his chief’s
kind feeling toward my husband, and advised me to see the
Lieutenant-General at an early date.

The Sunday after my arrival, callers began to arrive before breakfast,
the first being Colonel Ogle Tayloe, bearing an invitation from Mrs.
Tayloe to dinner the following evening. Before church hour had arrived,
dear old Mr. Corcoran came, intending to give me welcome on his way to
St. John’s. He forgot to leave again until services were over, and
others returning from church crowded in. Mr. Corcoran’s manner was full
of the old-time charm, as he bade me good-bye at last; and, as he took
my hand in parting, he said, “You’ve not forgotten the little white
house round the corner?” (referring to the banking-house of Riggs &

“No,” I answered, smiling sadly, “You are my bankers still, but, alas!
where are my deposits?”

Mr. Corcoran’s glance was full of kindness. Laying his hand upon his
heart, he replied, “They are here, my friend!” and he pressed my hand

I remember that Sunday as one in which tears of gratitude rose to my
eyes again and again, until at last I exclaimed, “It is all very strange
to me! There appears to be none of my husband’s enemies here! It seems
to me as if everyone is his friend!”

The following morning, however, I had an experience calculated to arouse
in me a feeling somewhat less secure. I was still in the bath when a tap
came at my door.

“A lady wishes to see you,” was the reply to my question.

“Who is she?” I asked.

“Don’t know, ma’am. She wouldn’t give her name!”

“Very well,” I answered. “Explain to her that I am dressing; that unless
her business is imperative, I would prefer to have her call later.”

In a few moments I heard light tapping again. Upon my inquiry, a name
was whispered through the keyhole, which I recognised as that of the
wife of a well-known public official. I at once admitted her. The
purpose of her visit was a peculiar one. She had come to warn me of the
presence in the city of James Montgomery, _alias_ Thompson, one of the
hireling witnesses whose “testimony” against Mr. Davis and Mr. Clay had
been registered with the Bureau of Military Justice. By some unfortunate
connection of her own family with this miscreant, my visitor had learned
that Montgomery, upon hearing of my object in visiting Washington, had
been heard to make a threat of violence against me. The lady, who shall
continue to be nameless, was so convinced some harm threatened me that
she begged me to promise that while in the capital I would go armed, and
especially be cautious with unknown callers. Montgomery, she added, was
likely to disguise himself; but, further to aid me in guarding against
some injury at his hands, she had brought with her a photograph of the
wretched man. Whether or not some crime was projected against me by this
man I never knew, but the wild nature of the times warranted me in
exercising, thereafter, a prudence which otherwise would not have
occurred to me. I took counsel with friends, and, with one exception,
later to be mentioned, no occurrence during my stay in the capital
served to arouse in me a further apprehension from that quarter.

In the days that intervened until my appointment with the President, my
hours were spent in advantageous interviews with Judge Hughes, of Hughes
& Denver, with Judge Black, Senator Garland, Frederick A. Aiken and
others, during which I gleaned much knowledge of what had transpired
since my husband’s incarceration, and of the public feeling concerning
the distinguished prisoners at Fortress Monroe, whose trials had been so
mysteriously postponed. It was now six months since the imprisonment of
Messrs. Davis and Clay; but in so far as might be learned, definite
charges against them had not yet been filed at the War Department. On
every side I heard it declared that the situation was unprecedented in
English or American jurisprudence. Leading lawyers of the country were
ready and eager to appear in the prisoners’ behalf, but every effort
made by friends to see them thus far had been futile. In those first
weeks, reiterated proffers of legal aid continued to reach me daily from
distinguished quarters.

Upon my arrival in the capital I had put myself at once into
communication with Judge Hughes, as advised by Senator Pendleton. His
kindness was unceasing, not only in the matter of legal advice to guide
me through the intricacies of my undertaking, but in his generous
placing at my disposal his horses and carriages, and the services of his
coachman and footman. Mrs. Hughes was absent in the West, and the
hospitality of their home, therefore, was barred; but all that a
thoughtful nature could suggest was done by the Judge to facilitate
success in my mission.

From the first, too, Judge Jeremiah S. Black, ex-Attorney-General, and
Secretary of State under President Buchanan, with whom I now became, for
the first time, personally acquainted, proved a bulwark of sympathy that
thereafter never failed my husband and self. He was a peculiar man in
appearance, with shaggy brows, deep-set eyes, and a cavernous mouth, out
of which invincible arguments rolled that made men listen. This feature
was large when he spoke, but when he laughed, the top of his head fell
back like a box cover, and looked as if it must drop over the other way.
Happily for the unfortunate, his heart was modelled on a scale as large,
and for months he gave his time and advice unstintedly to me.

On the Wednesday appointed by the President, accompanied by Judge
Hughes, I proceeded to keep my appointment at the White House. One of
the first familiar faces I saw as I entered was that of Mrs. Stephen A.
Douglas, now widowed. A wait of some moments being imminent, with the
affectionate warmth so well-known to me in other and happier days, Mrs.
Douglas at once volunteered to accompany me in my call upon “the good
President,” and in a few moments we were shown into his presence. Mr.
Johnson received us civilly, preserving, at first, what I learned
afterward to know was an habitual composure, though he softened somewhat
under the ardent appeal of Mrs. Douglas when she urged upon him the
granting of my request.

My first impression of the President, who, while a Senator, in the
fifties, had seldom been seen in social gatherings in the capital, was
that of a man upon whom greatness, of a truth, had been thrust; a
political accident, in fact. His hands were small and soft; his manner
was self-contained, it is true, but his face, with “cheeks as red as
June apples,” was not a forceful one.

From the beginning, as Judge Black had declared he would do, Mr. Johnson
clearly wished to shirk the responsibility of my husband’s case, and to
throw it upon the shoulders of his Secretary of War. His non-committal
responses to my reasons why I should have access to my husband, why he
should be tried or liberated, disheartened me greatly. When Mrs. Douglas
perceived this, she added her pleadings to mine, and, as the President’s
shiftiness became more and more apparent, she burst into tears, and,
throwing herself down on her knees before him, called upon me to follow
her example. This, however, I could not comply with. I had no reason to
respect the Tennesseean before me. That he should have my husband’s life
in his power was a monstrous wrong, and a thousand reasons why it was
wrong flashed through my mind like lightning as I measured him, searing
it as they passed. My heart was full of indignant protest that such an
appeal as Mrs. Douglas’s should have been necessary; but that, having
been made, Mr. Johnson could refuse it, angered me still more. I would
not have knelt to him even to save a precious life. This first,
memorable one of many, unhappy scenes at the White House, ended by the
President inviting me to call again after he had consulted his Cabinet.
At the same time he urged me to see Mr. Stanton.

“I think you had best go to him,” he said. “This case comes strictly
within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of War, and I advise you to see

Realising the futility of further argument with Mr. Johnson at the time,
I followed his advice, going almost immediately, and alone, to the War
Department. It was my first and last visit to Secretary Stanton, in that
day of the Government’s chaos, autocrat of all the United States and
their citizens. Varying accounts of that experience have appeared in the
press during the last thirty-seven years. The majority of them have
exaggerated the iron Secretary’s treatment of me. Many have accused him
of a form of brusque brutality,[54] which, while quite in keeping with
his reputation, nevertheless was not exhibited toward me.

The Secretary of War was not guilty of “tearing up in my face and
throwing in the waste-basket,” as one writer has averred, the
President’s note of introduction, which I bore him, even though I was a
declared “Rebel” and the wife of a so-called conspirator and assassin.
He was simply inflexibly austere and pitiless.

Upon arriving at the War Department, I gave my card and the President’s
note to the messenger in waiting, which, from across the room, I saw
handed to the Secretary. He glanced at them, laid them on the desk at
which he sat, and continued in conversation with a lady who stood beside
him. In a second the messenger returned, and desired me to take a seat
on a sofa, which, as it happened, was directly in line with Mr.
Stanton’s desk. In a few moments the lady with whom he had been in
conversation withdrew. As she passed me I recognised her. She was Mrs.
Kennedy, daughter of ex-Secretary Mallory, then a prisoner in Fort
Lafayette. Her face was flushed and very sad, which I interpreted (and
rightly, as it proved) as meaning that her request had been denied. The
sight filled me with indignation. I resolved at once to retain my seat
and let the Secretary seek me, as a gentleman should do. I was
strengthened in this determination by the conviction that he would
ignore my plea also, and I was resolved to yield him no double victory.

After a delay of a few moments, in which the Secretary adjusted first
his glasses and then his papers, he slowly approached me, saying, “This
is Mrs. Clay, I presume?”

“And this Mr. Stanton?” I replied.

I at once briefly, but bravely, proceeded with my story. I told him that
my object in visiting Washington was to obtain the speedy release of my
husband, who was dying hourly under the deprivations and discipline of
prison life; or, failing this, to obtain for him an early trial, which
he desired not to shirk, but to hasten; of the result of which we had no
fear, unless “he be given up to that triumvirate called the ‘Military
Bureau of Justice,’ of which you are one, Mr. Stanton!” This I said with
inward trembling and with eyes brimming, but looking him fully in the
face. His own gaze fell.

“Madam,” he answered. “I am not your husband’s judge——”

“I know it!” I interrupted. “And I am thankful for it; and I would not
have you for his accuser!”

“Neither am I his accuser!” he continued. I could scarcely believe I had
heard him aright. His manner was gravely polite. I remember thinking at
that moment, “Can this be the rude man of whom I have heard? Can I have
been misinformed about him?”

“Thank you, Mr. Stanton, for those words,” I said. “I had not hoped to
hear them from you. I thought you were the bitterest of my husband’s
enemies! I assure you your words give me fresh hope! I will tell the
President at once of this cheering interview!”

At these expressions Mr. Stanton seemed somewhat confused. I wondered
whether he would modify or recall his words. He did not, however, and
thanking him again for even that concession, I withdrew.

The legal friends to whom I gave an account of this conversation were
less confident as to its significance. If Mr. Stanton was neither Mr.
Clay’s judge nor accuser, who was? Some one was surely responsible for
his detention; some one with the power to obstruct justice was delaying
the trial, which the first legal minds in the country for months had
sought to bring about. If not Mr. Stanton, could it be Mr. Holt, whose
name was already become one of abhorrence among the majority of
Southerners? Judge Black felt sure it was. But accusation against the
Judge Advocate General without proof was impolitic, with my husband’s
safety still in the balance. In a situation so serious as the present, I
should, have preferred to conciliate him.

“Have you tried to interest Judge Holt in your husband’s behalf?” wrote
our old friend ex-Speaker Orr. “Would not some little kind memory of the
past steal over him when you revive the morning reminiscences of the
Ebbitt House, when his much-adored wife was a shining luminary in that
bright circle? He would be more or less than man if such a picture did
not move him. Will you try it?”

Great, indeed, was Mr. Orr’s surprise when he learned that I had written
to Mr. Holt three times, only to meet with complete silence at his

Under such circumstances it was wiser to adhere to my first purpose;
namely, to sue for the privilege of seeing Mr. Clay and for his release
on parole, or for a speedy trial. I was urged by Judge Black not to
cease in my appeals to the President; to tell the Executive of my
interview with his Secretary of War, and in the meantime to secure from
General Grant, if possible, a letter to the President, advocating my
plea. I had already been assured by General Ihrie of his chief’s ability
and willingness to serve me. On the evening of the second Sunday after
my arrival in Washington, therefore, I drove from Willard’s at seven
o’clock, accompanied by Major Echols, to Lieutenant-General Grant’s
headquarters in Georgetown. I found these to be established in what was
formerly the home of our friend Mr. Alfred Scott,[55] of Alabama, now
deceased. Soldiers guarded the entrance, as became a military
headquarters, and one came forward to take my card as we drove up. Upon
his return, Major Echols and I were shown at once to the General’s
reception parlour. Dismissing the officers in uniform who stood about,
General Grant received me courteously, tendering his hand frankly. I at
once presented Major Echols, saying that “my friend, like yourself, is a
graduate of West Point; but, feeling bound to offer his allegiance to
his native South, he had served with distinction at Fort Sumter,” which
introduction, I imagined, pleased the General, though it disconcerted my
modest escort.

I now briefly, and in some trepidation at finding myself face to face
with the “Hero of the Hour!” the “Coming Man,” “Our next President” (for
by these and many other titles was the hero of Appomattox already
crowned), explained as succinctly as I could my motive in calling upon
him, closing my remarks with the assurance that the one circumstance
prompting me to ask his aid was not his army victories, but his noble
conduct to our beloved General Lee in his recent surrender. I was
convinced, I added, that the man who had borne himself so magnanimously
toward a brave soldier whom he had vanquished, possessed the soul to
espouse and sustain a cause, if just, though all the world opposed. It
was in this faith I had come to him.

The Federal General listened very gravely. When I had finished he
responded in his characteristic, quiet way: “If it were in my power,
Mrs. Clay, I would to-morrow open every prison in the length and breadth
of the land. I would release every prisoner unless——” (after a pause)
“unless Mr. Davis might be detained awhile to satisfy public clamour.
Your husband’s manly surrender entitles him to all you ask. I admire and
honour him for it, and anything I can say or do to assist you shall be
done. I heartily wish you success.”

I asked him, in the course of our conversation, if he would go with me
to the White House the next day, at any hour, day or evening.

“That is impossible,” he said. “I leave at midnight for Richmond.”

“Would you be willing to write what you have spoken?”

“With pleasure!” he replied. Going to the door he called, “Julia!”

In a moment Mrs. Grant entered the room. She shook my hand with the
cordiality of a friend, saying, as she did so, “We have many mutual
friends in St. Louis.” She then expressed her deep sympathy for me, and
hoped her husband could serve me with the President.

In a few moments General Grant returned with the promised letter. I
thanked him from a grateful heart. Upon rising to go, he accompanied me
half down the steps, where, with a hearty shake of the hand, we parted.

                              CHAPTER XXVI

Armed with General Grant’s letter, my hopes at once rose high. It seemed
to my eager and innocent mind that an ally so really great could not
fail to convince the President and his Cabinet of the wisdom of granting
my plea in whole or in part. I began to feel that the culmination of my
husband’s troubles was now approaching. I hastened to send the letter to
Mr. Johnson. It read as follows:

                                    “WASHINGTON, D. C., Nov. 26, 1865.

  “His Excellency A. JOHNSON,
          “President of the United States.

  “_Sir_: As it has been my habit heretofore to intercede for the
  release of all prisoners who I thought could safely be left at
  large, either on parole or by amnesty, I now respectfully recommend
  the release of Mr. C. C. Clay.

  “The manner of Mr. Clay’s surrender, I think, is a full guarantee
  that if released on parole, to appear when called for, either for
  trial or otherwise, that he will be forthcoming.

  “Argument, I know, is not necessary in this or like cases, so I will
  simply say that I respectfully recommend that C. C. Clay, now a
  State prisoner, be released on parole, not to leave the limits of
  his State without your permission, and to surrender himself to the
  civil authorities for trial whenever called on to do so.

  “I do not know that I would make a special point of fixing the
  limits to a State only, but at any future time the limits could be
  extended to the whole United States, as well as if those limits were
  given at once.

  “I have the honour to be,

                     “Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                 (Signed.)      “U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.”[56]

In my note accompanying the General’s recommendation, I begged to repeat
my request that I be allowed to visit Mr. Clay at Fortress Monroe, and
that I be furnished with copies of the charges against him, in order
that I might consult with him as to the proper means to disprove them,
in the event of his being brought to trial. After a two days’ silence on
the part of the Executive, I wrote a note of inquiry to Mr. Johnson. The
reply that reached me was not calculated to stimulate my erstwhile

“I cannot give you any reply to your note of this inst.,” wrote Colonel
Robert Johnson, on the 30th of November, “except that the President has
the letter of General Grant. No action has yet been had. I will bring
the matter before the President during the day, and will advise you.”

And now, indeed, I began to be aware how all-powerful was the hidden
force that opposed the taking of any action on my husband’s case. Again
and again thereafter I called upon President Johnson, pleading at first
for his intervention on my behalf; but, upon the third visit, when he
again suggested that I “see Mr. Stanton,” I could refrain no longer from
an outburst of completest indignation. I was accompanied on this and on
almost all my innumerable later visits to the White House by Mrs.
Bouligny, who witnessed, I fear, many an astonishing passage at arms
between President Johnson and me. On the occasion just touched upon,
aroused by Mr. Johnson’s attempt to evade the granting of my request, I
answered him promptly:

“I will _not_ go to Mr. Stanton, Mr. President! _You_ issued the
proclamation charging my husband with crime! _You_ are the man to whom I
look for redress!”

“I was obliged to issue it,” Mr. Johnson replied, “to satisfy public
clamour. Your husband’s being in Canada while Surratt and his associates
were there made it necessary to name him and his companions with the

“And do you believe, for one moment, that my husband would conspire
against the life of President Lincoln?” I burst out indignantly. “Do
you, who nursed the breast of a Southern mother, think Mr. Clay could be
guilty of that crime?”

Mr. Johnson disclaimed such a belief at once.

“Then, on what grounds do you detain one whom you believe an innocent
man, and a self-surrendered prisoner?” I asked.

But here the President, as he did in many instances throughout those
long and, to me, most active days in the capital, resorted to his almost
invariable habit of evading direct issues; yet it was not long ere I was
given reason to feel that he, personally, sincerely wished to serve me,
though often appearing to be but an instrument in the hands of more
forceful men, whom he lacked the courage to oppose, and who were
directly responsible for my husband’s detention. Before the end of
December the President gave me a valuable and secret proof that his
sympathies were with rather than against Mr. Clay.

Until the sixth of December, nearly seven months after my husband’s
surrender, no formal charges had been filed against him with a view to
placing him on trial, or on which to base his continued imprisonment.
During that time, the visits of counsel being denied him, there was not
in the capital one who was vitally concerned in his or Mr. Davis’s case,
though certain unique aspects of the cases of the two distinguished
prisoners of the Government had invited a more or less continuous
professional interest in them.

At the time of my reappearance in Washington, though the city was filled
with distinguished pardon-seekers, and with Southerners who had been
summoned on various grounds, to explain their connection with the late
Confederate States’ Government, interest in the prisoners at Fortress
Monroe became quickened. The Legislature of the State of Alabama drew up
and forwarded a memorial to the President, asking for Mr. Clay’s
release. Prominent lawyers besides those whose letters I have quoted
wrote volunteering their aid, Senator Garland, Mr. Carlisle, and
Frederick A. Aiken, counsel for Mrs. Surratt, among them. Through Mr.
Aiken, already familiar with the means employed by the Military
Commission to convict their prisoners, I gained such information as was
then available as to the probable charges which would be made against
Mr. Clay.

“I send you the argument of Assistant Judge Advocate General Bingham, in
the Surratt trial,” he wrote on November 25th.... “This argument has
been distributed broadcast over the country, and the opinion of the
Republican party educated to think it true! It seems to me,” he added,
“that a concisely written argument in favour of Mr. Clay, on the
evidence as it stands, would be useful with the President.”

In the midst of this awakening of our friends on Mr. Clay’s behalf, the
Government’s heretofore (from me) concealed prosecutor, Mr. Holt,
presented to the War Department his long-delayed and elaborately
detailed “Report on the case of C. C. Clay, Jr.” On the face of it, his
action at this time appeared very much like an effort to checkmate any
influence my presence might awaken on the prisoner’s behalf. Upon
learning of this movement I at once applied to the War Department for an
opportunity to examine the Report. It was not accorded me. After some
days, learning of Mr. Stanton’s absence from the city, and acting on the
suggestion of Mr. Johnson, on the 20th of December I addressed Mr. Holt
by letter for the third and last time. I asked for a copy of the charges
against my husband, and also for the return of my private
correspondence, which had been taken from me, in part, at Macon, and
part from my home in Huntsville. Days passed without the least
acknowledgment from the Judge Advocate.

It was at this juncture that Mr. Johnson’s friendliness was exhibited
toward me; for, happening to call upon him while the document was in his
hands, I told him of my ill success and growing despair at the obstacles
that were presented to the granting of my every request at the War
Department.[57] I begged him to interpose and assist me to an interview
with Mr. Clay, but, above all, at this important moment, to aid me in
getting a copy of the charges now formulated against him. Thereupon,
exacting from me a promise of complete secrecy, the President delivered
his official copy of the “Report” into my hands, that I might peruse it
and make such excerpts as would aid me. I did more than this, however;
for, hastening back with it to the home of Mrs. A. S. Parker, which had
been generously thrown open to me, I spent the night in copying the
document in full.

The list of accusations against my husband was long. It represented
“testimony” which the Bureau of Military Justice had spent six months,
and, as later transpired, many thousands of dollars, in collecting, and
was a digest of the matter sworn to in the Judge Advocate’s presence. As
I read and copied on during that night, the reason for Mr. Holt’s
persistent disregard of my letters became obvious. No official, no man
who, for months, against the protests of some of the most substantial
citizens, the most brilliant lawyers of the country, had been so
determinedly engaged in secret effort to prove a former friend and
Congressional associate to be deserving of the gallows, could be
expected to do anything but to avoid a meeting with the wife of his
victim. In December, 1860, when Mr. Clay’s position as a Secessionist
was known to be unequivocal, Mr. Holt, whose personal convictions were
then somewhat less clearly declared, had written, on the occasion of my
husband’s illness, “It is my earnest prayer that a life adorned by so
many graces may be long spared to our country, whose councils so need
its genius and patriotism!” In December, 1865, basing his charges
against his former friend—a former United States Senator, whose
integrity had never suffered question; a man religious to the point of
austerity; a scholar, of delicate health and sensibilities, and
peculiarly fastidious in the selection of those whom he admitted to
intimacy—, Mr. Holt, I repeat, basing his accusations against such a
one-time friend upon the purchased testimony of social and moral
outcasts, designated Mr. Clay in terms which could only be regarded as
the outspurting of venomous malice, or of a mind rendered incapable of
either logic or truth by reason of an excessive fanaticism.

Under this man’s careful marshalling, the classes of “crimes which Clay
is perceived to have inspired and directed” were frightful and numerous.
The “most pointed proof of Clay’s cognisance and approval of” [alleged]
“deeds of infamy and treason” lay in the deposition of G. J. Hyams (so
reads the Report), “testimony which illustrates the treacherous and
clandestine character of the machinations in which Clay was engaged,” to
the complete satisfaction of Mr. Holt.[58] One of the most curious
pieces of evidence of the Judge Advocate’s really malignant design in
that virulent “Report” lies in his wilful perversion of a statement
which Mr. Clay had made by letter to the Secretary of War. My husband
had written that, at the time of seeing Mr. Johnson’s Proclamation for
his arrest (during the second week in May), he had been nearly six
months absent from Canada, a fact so well known that had Mr. Clay ever
been brought to trial a hundred witnesses could have testified to its
accuracy. Mr. Holt, to whom the Secretary of War, while denying the
access of counsel to his prisoner, had confided Mr. Clay’s letter, now
altered the text as follows:

“In connection with the testimony in this case, as thus presented, may
be noticed the assertions of Clay in his recent letters to the Secretary
of War, that at the date of the _assassination_, he, Clay, had been
absent from Canada nearly six months.”

The substitution of the word “assassination” for “proclamation” made a
difference of one month, or nearly so, in the calculations by which Mr.
Holt was attempting to incriminate and to preclude a sympathy for his
defenseless victim, my husband. After thus subtly manipulating Mr.
Clay’s statement in such way as to give it the appearance of a
falsehood, Mr. Holt next proceeded to stamp it as such, and decreed that
this “remain as the judgment of the Department upon the communications
of this false and insolent traitor!”

“It is to be added,” this remarkable Report continues, “upon the single
point of the duration of his stay in Canada, that it is declared by two
unimpeached witnesses[59] that he was seen by them in Canada in February
last.” It may be said that this Bureau has now “no doubt that it will be
enabled, by means of additional witnesses, to fix the term of Clay’s
stay in Canada even more precisely than it has already been made to

Having now carried, through many pages, his charges of numerous and
basest crimes against Mr. Clay, Mr. Holt sums up his Report thus:

“It may, therefore, be safely assumed that the charge against Clement C.
Clay, of having _incited the assassination of the President, is relieved
of all improbability by his previous history and criminal

It must not be supposed that my woman’s mind at once recognised the real
atrocity of these charges in that first reading, or identified the
palpable inaccuracies in them; nor that fortifying deductions
immediately made themselves plain to me. As was said of another Holt
document, sent later to the House by the Judge Advocate General himself,
every sentence of the Report before me was “redolent with the logic of
prosecution, revealing something of the personal motive. There was
certainly nothing in it of the _amicus curiae_ spirit, nothing of the
searcher after truth; nothing but the avidity of the military prosecutor
for blood.”

At that time, denied access to my husband, his papers and journal
scattered, my own retained by the War Department, I possessed nothing
with which to combat Judge Holt’s accusations, save an instinctive
conviction that when once the charges were made known to Mr. Clay, he
would be able to refute them.

That this elaborately detailed, this secretly and laboriously gathered
category of crime was destined months hence to be turned to the open
contempt and shame of the Judge who drew it up, I had no consoling
prescience, and not even the most astute of my counsellors foresaw.
Three months after Mr. Clay’s conditional release, in April, 1866,
however, Representative Rogers, in his report to the Judiciary Committee
appointed by the House, revealed to the body there assembled the
“utterly un-American proceedings of the Military Bureau” and the strange
conduct of its head.

After a detailed report on the testimony which, having been given to the
Bureau of Military Justice, the witnesses now acknowledged before the
House Committee to have been false, Mr. Rogers continued:

“Who originated this plot I cannot ascertain. I am deeply impressed that
there is guilt somewhere, and I earnestly urge upon the House an
investigation of the origin of the plot, concocted to alarm the nation,
to murder and dishonour innocent men, and to place the Executive in the
undignified position of making, under proclamation, charges which
cannot ... stand a preliminary examination before a justice of the
peace.... But that no time was left me to pursue to the head the
villainies I detected in the hand, I might have been able plainly to
tell Congress and the country that if, in this plot, we had a Titus
Oates in Conover,[61] so also we had a Shaftesbury somewhere.”

Many newspapers, the _New York Herald_ and Washington _Intelligencer_ in
the lead, also began to reiterate the demand for a public inquiry into
the strange workings of the Bureau of Military Justice. Rumours ran over
the country that “persons in high places who deemed it for their best
interest to show complicity on the part of Davis and others in the
assassination of Lincoln, by false testimony or otherwise, will find
themselves held up to public gaze in a manner they little dream of.”[62]

Two months later Mr. Holt issued a pamphlet which, under the heading,
“Vindication of Judge Holt from the Foul Slanderers of Traitors,
Confessed Perjurers and Suborners acting in the interest of Jefferson
Davis,” was scattered broadcast over the country. It is improbable that
any parallel to this snarl of defiance was ever sent out by a weak but,
by no means, an apologetic offender in high office. The pamphlet covers
eight full pages of admissions as to the deceptions which he claimed had
been practised upon _him_, but contains no line of regret for the
tyranny he had exercised, and which had condemned distinguished and
innocent men to lie for months in damp dungeons, prey to a thousand
physical ills and mental torments. Mr. Holt’s vindication began as
follows: “To all loyal men! In the name of simple justice ... your
attention is respectfully invited to the subjoined article[63] from the
_Washington Chronicle_,[64] of yesterday, as representing a perfectly
true vindication of myself from the atrocious calumny with which
traitors and suborners are now so basely pursuing me. Joseph Holt.”

“It is clear,” says this “vindicatory” excerpt, “that a conspiracy has
been formed to defame the Judge Advocate General and the Bureau of
Military Justice.... At the bottom of this conspiracy, or actively
engaged in executing its purposes, is Sanford Conover, who, after having
been fully proved guilty of subornation or perjury,[65] has
unquestionably sold himself to the friends of Davis[66] and is seeking
with them to destroy the reputation of a public officer[67] whose
confidence he gained, as we shall hereafter see, by the same solemn
protestations, and which confidence he subsequently most treacherously
abused.... A more cold-blooded plot for the assassination of character
[_sic_] has never been concocted in any age or country!”

It will be seen, Mr. Holt now overlooked the months in which he,
supported in his secret work by the Secretary of War, and with almost
unlimited powers vested in him, had been engaged in plotting with _the
same tools, though warned of their evil careers_, against the lives of
gentlemen of irreproachable character and antecedents; against my
husband, who had with confidence in its integrity placed himself in the
hands of the Government in the expectation of a fair and impartial

Mr. Holt’s “Vindication” continues: “Conover, though now wholly
degraded, was then, so far as was known to the Government, without a
stain upon his character.” (The thoughtful reader must naturally turn to
the accusations of the Reverend Stuart Robinson, made publicly to the
Government representative, Hon. H. H. Emmons, and, by the press,
scattered through the country fifteen months previous to this
declaration in Mr. Holt’s “Vindication.”) “Hence, when he wrote me,”
continues the aggrieved Judge Advocate General, “alleging the existence
of testimony implicating Davis and others, and his ability to find the
witnesses, and proffering his services to do so, I did not hesitate to
accept his statements and proposals as made in good faith and entitled
to credit and to consideration.”

In the “Report” on the case of Mr. Clay, dated December 6, 1865, which,
by the courtesy of the President, I was enabled to see, Mr. Holt’s
willing adoption of the fabrications of his unscrupulous “witnesses” was
apparent in every phrase. In fact, its spirit of malice terrified me. I
kept faith with Mr. Johnson and told no one of the knowledge I now
possessed; but I communicated some of the main points of the “Report” to
Judge Black and other advisers, and, resolving that I would never cease
until I attained my point, I redoubled my pleadings with the President
for the permission to visit my husband, which request I now knew it
would be useless to make at the War Department. When I returned the
“Report” to the President, I was keyed to a high pitch of alarm by the
spirit shown by the Advocate General, and my requests now took another

“It is said, Mr. Johnson, that you have refused to allow the Military
Court, composed of Messrs. Holt, Speed and Stanton, to try Mr. Davis and
Mr. Clay.” The President bowed affirmatively.

“Then I pray you to give me your solemn oath in the presence of the
living God, that you will _never_, while in this Presidential chair,
yield those two innocent men into the hands of that blood-seeking
Military Commission!”

I was greatly agitated, and weeping. Mr. Johnson, however, was calm and
seemingly deeply in earnest as he answered me,

“I promise you, Mrs. Clay; trust me!”

“I will; I do!” I cried, “but I would like you to emphasise this sacred
oath, remembering the precious lives that hang upon it.”

Upon this Mr. Johnson raised his hand and repeated his promise, adding
again, “trust me!”

After this interview I felt a sense of security which gave me
comparative repose of mind, but, nevertheless, I called almost daily, to
fortify Mr. Johnson against the continued machinations of those
officials whose influence was so inimical to my husband and Mr. Davis. I
now began to perceive that Judge Black, Senator Garland and others had
said truly when they remarked to me that Mr. Johnson might be moved, if
at all, by his heart rather than by his head. He had already given me a
strong proof of this; soon he gave me others.

The Christmas season was approaching, and while all about me were
arranging their little gaieties and surprises, the realisation of Mr.
Clay’s isolation and discomforts and peril became more and more
poignant. To add to the sadness of our situation, letters from
Huntsville containing pathetic allusions to the failing health of my
husband’s mother now began to follow each other rapidly. I was urged to
act quickly if she and her son were to meet on earth again. In my
letters to Mr. Clay I dared not tell him of this approaching disaster,
for between himself and his mother an unusually tender relationship
existed. I dreaded the alarm such news might give him, alone and ill in
his dismal prison, exhausted as he was with waiting for direct
communication with me. I had already been a month in Washington without
having effected a meeting with him. Under the circumstances, the headway
gained seemed inappreciable. With a copy of Holt’s “Report” in my
possession, I resolved to go on to New York for consultation with Mr.
O’Conor, Mr. Shea, and Mr. Greeley, so soon as I should receive some
definite concession from the President.

I now told Mr. Johnson of Mrs. Clay’s condition, and begged him to
release my husband, if only to permit him one interview with his
probably dying mother, to return again to custody if the President so
wished; or, failing the granting of this, to allow me to visit him in
prison. At last, after much reiteration on my part, Mr. Johnson yielded;
he promised that he would issue the permit for my visit to Fort Monroe
on his own responsibility in a few days; that I might rely upon
receiving it upon my return from the metropolis.

Hastening to New York, I was soon made aware by Messrs. O’Conor, Shea
and Greeley, who called upon me severally, that my one course now was to
persist in my effort to precipitate a trial for my husband, or to
procure his release on parole, in which these gentlemen stood ready to
supplement me, and, upon the announcement of a trial, to defend Mr.

My interview with Mr. Greeley took place in one of the public corridors
of the New York hotel, now thronging with Southern guests, and, as I sat
beside him on a settle, in earnest conversation with the fatherly old
man, his bald “temple of thought” gleaming under the gaslights, which
threw their fullest brilliancy upon us, I remember seeing several
prominent Southern generals then registered at the hotel glance
repeatedly at us, and always with a look of surprise that said very
plainly, “_Well!_ If there isn’t Mrs. Clem. Clay hobnobbing with that
old Abolitionist!”

                             CHAPTER XXVII

Mr. Johnson kept his word. Late in December I found myself on my way to
Baltimore with the President’s autographed permit in hand, that would
admit me to my husband’s prison. I left Washington on the afternoon of
the 27th of December, going by train to Baltimore. Here, crossing the
city in an omnibus with other passengers, to the wharf of the “New Line
Steamers,” I was soon on board the boat, the _George Leary_, bound for
Norfolk and Fortress Monroe. I was so keenly alive to my own lonely
condition that I could not bring myself even to register my name among
the list of happier passengers. Everywhere about me gaily dressed people
thronged. I saw among them General Granger and wife, his staff, and
ladies of the party. As the _George Leary_ pulled out from her moorings,
the brass band of a company of soldiers bound for Norfolk began to play
sweet, old-time airs. I had no desire to linger among the care-free
throng, and, calling the stewardess, handed her a gold-piece, saying,
“Can you sign for me or get me a stateroom? I only go to Fortress

In a few moments she returned, regarding me inquiringly.

“Lady!” she asked, “ain’t you the wife of one of those gentlemen down at
the Fort?”

“Yes!” I answered. “I am the wife of Mr. Clay, the prisoner!”

Thereupon she opened her hand, displaying my gold-piece, saying, “The
captain says he can’t take any fare from you. He’ll be here in a little
while!” And she moved away.

In a few moments the tall, gaunt Captain Blakeman stood before me.

“Are you Mrs. Clay?” he asked. “Wife of the prisoner at Fortress

Upon receiving my affirmative answer, the Captain spoke earnestly.

“Mrs. Clay, you have my deep sympathy. I’m a regular Down-Easter
myself—a Maine man; but for forty years I’ve plied a boat between
Northern and Southern cities; and I know the Southern people well. I
think it is a damned shame the way the Government is behaving toward you
and Mrs. Davis!”

For a moment the tears blinded me, seeing which the Captain at once
withdrew, comprehending the thanks he saw I could not utter. However,
when the gong sounded for supper, he returned, and with kindly tact led
me to a place beside him at the table, though I assured him I wanted
nothing. At my obvious lack of appetite he showed a very woman’s
thoughtfulness, himself preparing the viands before me while he urged me
“to drink my coffee. You _must_ take something,” he said from time to
time, whenever he perceived a lagging interest in the dishes before me.
Nor did this complete his kindnesses, for on the following morning, as I
left the boat, Captain Blakeman handed me a slip of paper on which was

                     “NEW LINE STEAMERS, BALTIMORE, December 27, 1865.

  “Will please pass free Mrs. C. C. Clay, rooms and meals included, to
  all points as she wishes, and oblige,

                                                  “S. BLAKEMAN,
                                  “Commanding Steamer _George Leary_.”

“I hope you will use this pass as often as you need it,” he said.

We arrived at Fortress Monroe at four o’clock the next morning. As I
stepped from the gang-plank, the scene about me was black and bleak, the
air wintry. Save for a few dozing stevedores here and there, whom I soon
perceived, the wharf was quite deserted. It had been my intention, upon
my arrival, to go directly to the little Hygeia Hotel just outside the
Fort, but upon the advice of Captain Blakeman I accepted the shelter
offered me by the clerk in charge of the wharf, and rested until
daylight in his snug little room just off from the office.

Just before leaving Washington I had written to Dr. Craven, telling him
of my intended visit to the prison, and asking him to meet me at the
little hotel. I now, at the first streak of dawn, still acting upon the
suggestions of the kind captain, found a messenger and sent him with a
note to General Miles, telling him of my arrival with the President’s
permit to see my husband, and asking that an ambulance be sent to convey
me to the Fort; and I despatched a second to Dr. Craven to tell him my
whereabouts. Unknown to me, that friendly physician, whose humane
treatment of Mr. Davis and my husband had brought upon him the
disapproval of the War Department, had already been removed from his
station at the Fort. My messenger found him, nevertheless, and upon
receipt of my message he came and made himself known to me. His words
were few, and not of a character to cheer one in my forlorn condition.

“Look for no kindness, Mrs. Clay,” he said, “at the hands of my
successor, Dr. Cooper. He is the blackest of Black Republicans, and may
be relied upon to show the prisoners little mercy.”

Our interview was brief, and, as the Fort ambulance was seen
approaching, the Doctor left me hurriedly. “For,” said he, “it will do
neither you nor the prisoners any good if you are seen talking with me.”
He had scarcely disappeared in the grey morning when the escort from the
Fort arrived. The vehicle was manned by two handsome Union soldiers,
one, Major Hitchcock of General Miles’s staff, and the other Lieutenant
Muhlenberg, a grandson, as I afterward learned, of the author of “I
would not live alway.” Months afterward, when Mr. Clay left the
Fortress, he carried with him the little volume containing Bishop
Muhlenberg’s verses, a gift from the young lieutenant.

Arrived at the Fort, I was taken at once to the headquarters of General
Miles, and conducted to a room commodiously and even luxuriously
furnished. In a short time the General made his appearance. He was
polite and even courteous in the examination of my passport, which he
scanned carefully; but his manner was non-committal as he politely asked
me to “be seated.” I seated myself and waited. The General withdrew.
After the lapse of a few moments, an orderly appeared, bearing upon a
salver a tempting breakfast; but I, who had spent months in seeking the
privilege I had now come to claim, could touch nothing. I declined the
food, saying I would wait and breakfast with my husband. The orderly
looked perplexed, but removed the tray; and now a dreary and
inexplicable wait began, interbroken with first a nervous, then an
indignant, and at last a tearful inquiry. During the morning I affected
a nonchalance wholly at variance with my real feelings. Picking up a
book that lay at my elbow on the table, I was surprised to see a
familiar name upon the fly-leaf. I commented upon the luxury of the
apartment when next General Miles entered, and added, “These books seem
to have been Governor Wise’s property.” The General was quick to defend
himself from any suggestion that might lie in my words. He replied at
once. “These headquarters were furnished by General Butler before I was
sent here!”



  Fortress Monroe, 1866

Midday came and still the President’s autographed permit, which to me
had seemed so powerful a document, was not honoured. A savoury luncheon
was now brought in, but a nausea of nervousness had seized me and I
could not eat a morsel. My excitement increased momentarily, until the
distress of mind and apprehension were wholly beyond my control. I now
implored General Miles to let me see my husband, if only for a moment;
to explain this delay in the face of the President’s order. I begged him
to allow me to telegraph to Washington; but to all my pleadings his only
reply was to urge me to “be calm.” He assured me he regretted the delay,
but that “his orders” were such that he could neither admit me to my
husband’s room, nor allow me to use the Government wires at present.

By the middle of the afternoon, faint with pleadings and worn with
indignation and fears at the unknown powers which dared thus to obstruct
the carrying out of the President’s orders, not knowing what might yet
be before me, my self-possession entirely deserted me. I remember,
during my hysterical weeping, crying out to General Miles, “If you are
ever married, I pray God your wife may never know an hour like this!”

In the midst of an uncontrollable paroxysm which seized me at last, Dr.
Vogell, who has been variously designated as the private secretary and
instructor of General Miles, entered. During the day General Miles had
presented the Doctor to me, and, in his subsequent passing and repassing
through the room, we had from time to time exchanged a remark. He was a
tall, picturesque man, of possibly sixty years. At the sight of my
culminating misery, Dr. Vogell could bear the distressful scene no
longer. He cried out impulsively, “Miles, for God’s sake, let the woman
go to her husband!”

Unhappily, this manly outburst, though it had its own message of
sympathy for me, failed as utterly to move the commanding General Miles
as had my previous urgings. In the months that followed, Dr. Vogell
often called upon me clandestinely in Washington (announced as “Mr.
Brown”), to say that “a friend of yours was quite well this morning, and
desired his love given you!” The recollection of his kindnesses lives
imperishable in my memory, but especially vivid is that first upwelling
sympathy during the painful waiting at the Fort.

General Miles seemed not untouched by my pleadings, but, it was evident,
he felt himself subject to a superior power which forced him to refuse
them. His manner throughout, in fact, was courteous and apologetic.
Despite my agony of mind, it was late in the afternoon ere the
President’s order was honoured. Then General Miles entered, and, with an
appearance of completest relief, consigned me, tear-stained and ill, to
the care of Lieutenant Stone, who conducted me to Mr. Clay’s prison.

All day my husband, to whom there had penetrated a rumour of my coming,
had been waiting for me, himself tortured by fears for my safety and by
the mystery of my delay. The gloomy corridors, in which soldiers
patrolled night and day, guarding the two delicate prisoners of State,
were already darkening with the early evening shadows when, at last, I
saw my husband, martyr to his faith in the honour of the Government,
standing within the grating, awaiting me. The sight of his tall, slender
form, his pale face and whitened hair, awaiting me behind those dungeon
bars, affected me terribly. My pen is too feeble to convey the weakness
that overcame me as Lieutenant Stone inserted and turned the key in the
massive creaking lock and admitted me; nor shall I attempt to revive
here the brief hours that followed, with their tumultuous telling over
of the happenings of the past months and our hurried planning for the

I returned to the capital full of sorrow and indignation. My adventure
at Fortress Monroe had revealed to me, far more fully than I previously
had suspected was possible, the struggle for power that was now going on
between the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, on the one side, and on the
other, President Johnson, by whose courtesy or timidity this official
still retained his portfolio. I resolved to relate my entire experience
at Fortress Monroe to the President at the first opportunity.

In the meantime, my husband, with whom I had left a digest of Holt’s
report, upon a careful perusal of it, had been greatly aroused. By the
courtesy of a secret friend, he hastened to send me a list of persons
who could, if called upon, readily testify to his whereabouts during
certain periods described in the charges against him. He urged me to see
the President, and not to cease in my efforts to obtain his release on
parole. His condition of mind as expressed in this communication was, it
was evident, one of intense excitement.

“You must not get discouraged!” he wrote. “_My life depends upon it, I
fear!_ Since the days of Cain and Judas, men may take life for money or
some other selfish end. As innocent men as I am have been judicially
murdered, and I do not feel secure from it, although God knows I feel
innocent of crime against the United States or any citizen thereof. As
to my declaring my purpose to surrender to meet the charge of
assassination, my unwillingness to fly from such charge, my preferring
death to living with that brand on me, my desire to exculpate Mr. Davis,
myself and the South from it, you know as well as I do.

“Judge Holt is determined to sacrifice me _for reasons given you_.[68]
He may do it if I am not allowed liberty to seek witnesses and prepare
my defense; or, if I am subjected to the mockery of trial by Military
Court, when all the charges he can make may be brought against me in a
great drag-net.”

As a step toward securing an early interview, and also because the
President’s daughters, Mrs. Stover and Mrs. Patterson, now presiding at
the White House, had been courteous to me, I resolved, as a stroke of
policy, to attend the Presidential reception to take place on the ninth
of January. Naturally, since my arrival in Washington, I had not
participated in the social life about me. In acknowledgment of Mr.
Johnson’s concessions, and, with my husband’s life at stake, with a
desire further to win the President’s good offices, I now prepared to
attend his levee. My toilette was complete save for the drawing on of my
gloves, when, while awaiting the call of my hostess Mrs. Parker and her
daughter Mrs. Bouligny, whose preparations were somewhat more elaborate
than my own, I broke the seal of some letters from home. The news they
contained was of a nature well calculated to divert me from the thought
of appearing at a public gathering, even at the Executive Mansion.

The first told me, in hurried lines, of the illness of my husband’s
mother; the second, posted a few hours later, announced her death. “I
write beside mother’s dead body,” began my sister, Mrs. J. Withers Clay.
“Her constant theme was brother Clement, and the last thing I remember
hearing her say was ‘What of my son?’ in so distressed a tone that her
heart appeared broken.... I trust you have seen your dear husband ere
this. I hope he will be released before poor father leaves us. He is
very distressed, very gentle and subdued in his trouble.... I can never
forget mother’s heart-thrilling question ‘What of my son?’ She was very
unhappy about your last letter—it was rather low-spirited—and said, ‘I
have no hope; I shall never see my son!’”

Within the next day I called upon Mr. Johnson. He received me with his
usual urbane manner, quite in contrast with my own indignant mood.

“Mr. Johnson,” I began, “Who _is_ the President of the United States?”

He smiled rather satirically and shrugged his shoulders.

“I am supposed to be!” he said.

“But you are _not_!” I answered. “Your autographed letter was of little
more use to me when I reached Fortress Monroe than blank paper would
have been! For hours it was not honoured, during which time your
Secretary of War held the wires and refused to allow me either to see my
husband or to communicate with you!” Then, in as few words as possible,
I related the circumstances of my visit to the Fort. Mr. Johnson, though
constrained to preserve his official reserve, was unable to repress or
disguise his anger at my recital.

“When you go there again you’ll have no difficulty, I assure you!” he

“When may I?” I asked eagerly.

“When you wish,” he answered.

I now pictured to him my husband’s position; I related the sad news I
had just received, and which, under present conditions, I knew I dared
not tell Mr. Clay. I implored the President, by every argument at my
command, to exercise his Executive power and release Mr. Clay on his
parole. Every moment of his incarceration under the discipline invented
by the unscrupulous military authorities, I felt his life to be
imperilled. As our interview proceeded, however, I perceived the old
indecision of manner returning. The President’s replies were all to one
effect; viz.: that the Secretary of War must decide upon the case. He
freely made out another permit to the prison, this time to cover a
longer stay, but about a parole for Mr. Clay, or the naming of a day for
an early trial, he could promise nothing. He would consult his Cabinet;
he would see Mr. Stanton. At last, my importunities for an authoritative
action growing greater, the President burst out with every evidence of
deep feeling:

“Go home, woman, and write what you have to say, and I’ll read it to my
Cabinet at the next meeting!”

“You will not!” I answered hotly.

“Why?” he asked, cynically.

“Because,” I replied, “you are afraid of Mr. Stanton! He would not allow
it! But, let _me_ come to the Cabinet meeting, and _I_ will read it,” I
said. “For, with my husband’s life and liberty at stake, I do not fear
Mr. Stanton or any one else.”

The President assured me I need have no misgivings; if I would write my
plea and send it directly to him, he would, he promised me, have it read
at the next Cabinet meeting (on the morrow). Actuated by the hope,
however meagre, of gaining a possible sympathy from the President’s
Governmental associates, even though the dictator Stanton was so
coercing a personality in that body, I prepared my letter. I afterward
secured an official copy of it. It ran as follows:

                                   “WASHINGTON CITY, January 11, 1866.

  “_To His Excellency, President of the United States_:

  “... How true it is that all conditions of life, however seemingly
  extreme, are capable of augmentation! I have thought and so told
  you, that for eight months past I have been, and God knows with what
  cause, at the Nadir of despair; that my cup, bitterer than the
  waters of Marah, was brimming, my heart breaking. A letter received
  two evenings ago announces the death of my husband’s beloved mother,
  wife of ex-Governor Clay. Deeply distressing to me; oh! Mr. Johnson,
  what a blow to my husband, your unhappy prisoner! He was her
  idolised son, her first-born; bears the name of her lover-husband,
  and upon whose lineaments she had not rested her longing eyes for
  three long, weary, desolate years.

  “On the morning of the first she swooned, and expired on the second,
  inquiring, ‘What of my son?’ Oh, Mr. President, what an agonising
  reflection to my husband! How can I summon nerve to tell him the
  news? I cannot write so great a grief, nor can I tell it and leave
  him in his gloomy prison to struggle with it alone! Will you not
  pour in the oil of healing? I beg of you, permit me to bear with me,
  along with my ‘weight of woe,’ the antidote. Issue the order for my
  husband’s release on his _parole d’honneur_, with bail if desired,
  and let him once more see our father, who lies (now) on a bed of
  illness. My sister writes, ‘Father cannot long survive.[69] God
  grant that he may see dear brother Clement ere he goes. Cannot he
  come?’—I repeat, cannot he come?

  “Mr. President, you hold many noble prisoners in your forts, but Mr.
  Clay’s case is _sui generis_. General Grant, the whole-souled
  soldier, in his letter to you in his behalf, says, ‘His manly
  surrender is to me a full and sufficient guarantee that he will be
  forthcoming at any time the civil authorities of the land may call
  for him.’ Even Mr. Stanton, who is not considered partial to
  so-called ‘Rebels,’ told me, in my only interview, that ‘he was not
  my husband’s judge,’ as if he, Pilate-like, were willing to wash his
  hands of innocent blood. I replied tremblingly, ‘I would fain not
  have you for his accuser, Sir.’ To which he rejoined, not unkindly,
  ‘I am not his accuser, Madam.’ I thanked God for even that cold
  comfort as harbinger of better days.

  “And now, Sir, may I ask you who are those opposed to my husband’s
  release on parole? I have yet to find the first man, Federal or
  other, who does not express admiration at the high sense of honour
  and chivalric faith, in the prompt and manly surrender; and
  astonishment at the detention. To-day we might have been far away in
  some peaceful spot, united at least, and happy, but for that sense
  of unsullied honour, which ‘feeling a stain like a wound,’ remained
  to wipe it out. Can you longer refuse him the privilege?

  “The law supposes all men innocent till proven guilty, and if it
  will allow me, I, alone, can disprove, _in toto_, the testimony of
  the conspiracy case, implicating him. Mr. Clay, always delicate, is
  dying daily. He told me he was resigned to God’s will and perfectly
  willing to perish in those four walls if his country would be
  benefited thereby. Mr. President, my husband is my world, my all,
  and ‘dear to me as are the ruddy drops that visit this sad heart.’
  Give him to me for a little while, at least long enough to glad the
  dim eyes of the eager and aged watcher at home and close them; and
  he shall return to you, on his honour and my life, at any moment
  called for by the Government. Let me bring him to you to prove to
  you the truth of my statement in point of health, and to afford him
  the right of personal appeal.... That God may incline you to grant
  my prayer and soften ‘the hearts of our enemies,’ restore Peace
  indeed to the land, and bless and guide and guard you in public and
  private life to your journey’s end, is the prayer of her who
  hopefully, trustfully, and truthfully subscribes herself,

                                                  “Your friend,
                                          (Signed.)      “V. C. CLAY.”

I sent this epistle to Mr. Johnson, but, despite the haste in which I
had written and despatched it, I was too late for the promised reading,
which fact I learned from the following message, that reached me the
next day. It was written on the back of the President’s card in his (by
this time) familiar, scrawling hand.

“Your letter,” it read, “was too late yesterday. It does your heart and
head credit. It is a most powerful appeal. You have excelled yourself in
its production!”

At the next Cabinet meeting Mr. Johnson made his promise good. The
letter was then read, by Mr. Evarts, too late, however, even had it
produced immediate results, to enable me to carry the parole I had hoped
for to my husband. I was again with Mr. Clay at the Fortress when this
meeting took place, but, having no balm to soothe the wound, I could not
tell him of the blow that had befallen him, nor did he hear of it until,
nearly four months later, he left the prison. In the interim, in order
that my husband should not remark upon the sombreness of my attire, I
wore a red rose in my bonnet and red ribbon at my throat whenever I
visited the Fort.

I learned the particulars of that (to me) eventful Cabinet reading from
Mr. Johnson later. Upon the conclusion of the letter Mr. Stanton asked
for it. He scanned it closely and put it into his pocket without
comment. Nor was the missive again returned to Mr. Johnson until weeks
had elapsed and several requests had been made for it.

                             CHAPTER XXVIII
                         THE NATION’S PRISONERS

On the twenty-first of January, 1866, a few days after my last
conversation with President Johnson, I found myself a second time within
the ramparts of America’s most formidable military prison. This time,
unhindered, I was led directly to my husband’s gloomy room. In this and
the several succeeding visits I paid Mr. Clay in prison, I learned to
comprehend, where before I had but imagined, the terrible sufferings my
husband had undergone for now eight months. When I parted from General
Miles on May 24th, of the preceding year, he gave me his promise that
Mr. Clay should have every comfort he could allow him.

I found, upon my admission to Fortress Monroe, in January, 1866, that
his prisoner, for three or more months, had been confined within a
narrow cell, grated and barred like a cage in a menagerie, into which
the meagre daylight crept through the long, thin opening in the thick
walls. An unwholesome sweat had oozed through the bare walls which
surrounded him, at times, it was said, increasing until it flowed in
streams. For weeks after entering the prison (I now learned) Mr. Clay
had been denied not only the use of his clothing, but his toilet brushes
and comb, and every item calculated to preserve his health and
self-esteem had been taken from him. His only food for weeks had been a
soldier’s rations, until Dr. Craven, at last, felt obliged to order a
hospital diet. These rations had been passed through the prison bars in
tin cup or plate, unaccompanied by knife, fork or spoon.

For forty days at a stretch he had not been permitted to look upon the
sun; for months, though debarred from communication with or visits from
his own family, he was exhibited to strangers, civilian or military, who
from time to time were brought into his cell, conversing among
themselves, or to the gratings to stare at him with curious gaze. “I
have been treated as if already convicted of an infamous crime,” wrote
my husband in a paper sent out by one who proved trustworthy. “Indeed,
one of my warders told me that the orders from Washington required I
should be subjected to the same prison discipline that the assassins of
Abraham Lincoln underwent. While the Third Pennsylvania Artillery
(volunteers) were on duty (till October 31st), I scarcely ever walked
out without being greeted with ‘Shoot him! Hang him! Bring a rope! The
damned rascal!’ But since the regulars came in nothing like this has
occurred.... Mr. Davis and I are not allowed to communicate with each
other. We have met but a few times, in walking contrary to the intention
of officers and orders, but only saluted each other and asked of

Once, my husband told me, upon thus meeting, Mr. Davis and he greeted
each other in French, whereupon the soldiers, scenting some further
“treason,” rushed at them, pointing their bayonets.

“I have been subjected,” continued my husband’s statement, “to the most
refined but severe torture of body and soul; my health considered in
order to preserve the sensibility of the body to pain.... I have been
allowed irregularly some newspapers, but never one alluding to any
evidence against me, or mentioning me, unless in terms of reproach. I am
cut off from the world, except its reproaches!”

During none of my visits to the Fort was I permitted to speak with Mr.
Davis, between whom and my husband, as I have said, even an occasional
word, for a long time, was interdicted; but, when sending to him a tray
of good things from among gifts to my husband or brought with me from
Washington, I managed often to send, with an extra segar or two, a
twisted paper lighter on which I had scribbled “Mrs. Davis and children
are well,” or some (as I hoped) equally cheering greeting.

In later days, when a fuller liberty of walking about the Fort was
granted the prisoners, they were occasionally able to pass to each other
some brief message, written, it might be, on the inch-wide margin of a
bit of newspaper or wrapping. Two or three times a scrap of
writing-paper, written all over in the finest possible hand, was passed
from one to the other. Two such messages, uttered under the impression
that Mr. Clay was soon to be liberated, are expressive of the
unflinching spirit which Mr. Davis at all times showed, even under
torments as humiliating, and, in one instance, even more cruel, than
those endured by my husband. The first would seem to have reached Mr.
Clay shortly after my first visit to the Fort. A lengthy note, in finest
script and compressed within the dimensions of a single six-by-eight
sheet of paper, it read as if it had been written sentence by sentence,
as mood dictated or opportunity offered.

A second note, in even more diminutive script,[70] was passed to my
husband in the early winter of ’6, when at last it seemed assured that
Mr. Clay would be liberated. It was written in this belief, and gave my
husband directions as to friends whose influence might be awakened on
our late President’s behalf. Mr. Davis reiterated his loyalty to the
cause for which he was now suffering, but declared his anxiety for his
wife’s and children’s fates. He felt that there was a bloodthirsty hate
against him, the strong motive being to degrade the lost cause in his

In all of his communications, however short, Mr. Davis wrote with
dignity and conviction, as became a man who had been the Chief
Magistrate of a people. Once only, and that during my first stay in the
Fort, I saw the tall figure of our late Chief. “I saw Mr. Davis walking
on the ramparts,” I wrote to ex-Governor Clay. “His beard and hair are
white, and he is thin to emaciation, but walked like a President still.”

Upon my arrival at the Fortress early in ’6, I found Mr. Clay
established in Carroll Hall, in what, in view of his earlier
surroundings, was a comfortable room. It was perhaps sixteen feet
square, and was lighted by two fairly large windows which opened toward
the front of the building, but were heavily barred with iron, as was
also the entrance. The cot upon which my husband slept was much too
short for his comfort, and a stool was the only seat at his disposal.

After a survey of Mr. Clay’s quarters, I at once called the attention of
General Miles to the shortcomings of the cot and the absence of a chair,
and in a few hours a mattress sufficiently long and two chairs were
brought in. I also requested that a drugget be placed upon the floor of
Mr. Davis’s room, in order that the noise caused by the change of guard
might be diminished; for, in his nervous state, it was said, he suffered
greatly by reason of it. This, I believe, was also conceded. My husband
had converted the window-sills of his room into a buffet and book-shelf,
respectively, on one of which were kept his medicines and such tidbits
and delicacies as were now from time to time sent to him by Dr. Withers,
our cousin, or which I carried in with me from Washington friends. On
the other, his meagre supply of books, the Bible and Jay’s Prayers being
the principal volumes.

But for his own scrupulous cleanliness, Mr. Clay’s life must long ago
have succumbed to his unparalleled deprivations in that cruel
imprisonment. So neatly had he kept his cell and room, however, that
they were the wonder of all his attendants. It was his custom, when he
took his morning bath (he told me), to stand the basin first in one and
then another position in the room, splashing the water about as far as
he could, after which he would take the broom with which he was provided
and brush the wet portions clean! To such depths of cruelty did the
agents of Mr. Stanton and Mr. Holt condemn a delicate scholar—a former
friend, recently a United States Senator, whose name throughout the land
was the synonym for unfailing integrity, against whom the United States
as yet seemingly had not found a single charge on which he might be
brought to trial!

I learned of many instances of insult offered to Mr. Clay by his rude
first custodians. Upon one occasion, reminded of it by the sound of the
dull-splashing waters without the walls of his cell, my husband
conceived the idea that a salt bath would assist in strengthening him.
He therefore asked the attendant for the day if, instead of the fresh
water usually supplied to him, he would bring him some salt water. The
man’s reply was emphatic.

“You damned Rebel!” he said. “You may thank God you get any water. You
don’t deserve to have any!”

My husband, whose nature was of the tenderest and most patient,
especially with the ignorant, answered very quietly, “I _am_ thankful
for any water!” His reply illustrated anew the magic of the soft answer,
for the soldier, looking very much ashamed, spoke in a moment in a very
different manner.

“Forgive me, Mr. Clay,” he said, “I don’t know why I did it. I’ve got
nothing against you. Guess it’s a kind of habit of damning Johnny Rebs!
I’ll get you the water. I believe you’re a Christian gentleman!”

On the evening of the first day of my second visit to the Fortress, I
encountered Dr. Cooper, against whom, it will be recalled, Dr. Craven
had warned me. To the prisoner he had always revealed himself as a man
of strictly unsocial manner, not to say an austere and pitiless one.
During the first day of my visit to the Fort, I saw nothing of him. It
was dark when I left my husband’s cell and set out, escorted by
Lieutenant Stone, for the little hotel outside the ramparts. Once
outside of the prison, the air was chill, and so silent, save for a
strong wind, that I was conscious of no sound save it and the swashing
of the waters against the stone walls of the Fort. Its cadence was weird
and full of melancholy. As the doors of the prison closed behind us, I
saw in the shadows a curious figure coming directly toward us. It was
clad in a long, loose, flapping dressing-gown, and in its mouth was a
pipe in which glowed a live spark of tobacco. I observed my guard
looking straight ahead and apparently unobservant; but he said, under
his breath and in a tone only audible to me, “Here comes Dr. Cooper!”

Another moment and the figure was beside us.

“Stone,” said a gruff voice, “present me to Mrs. Clay!”

My escort complied promptly, and then, to my alarm, hastened away at
once, leaving me dismayed and apprehensive, in the care of the “blackest
of Black Republicans” and one who would “show me no mercy!”

“Madam!” said the Doctor, whose features I could scarcely discern in the
dusk, “my wife wishes you to accept the hospitality of our house

Had the man turned suddenly and clasped manacles about my wrists, I
could scarcely have been more startled.

“I beg your pardon!” I stammered. “I am on my way to General Miles’s
headquarters for my passport with which to leave the Fort. I have not
the privilege of remaining within the ramparts over night.”



  Fortress Monroe, 1866

“Nonsense, Madam!” replied the Doctor, almost rudely. “My wife expects
you! We soldiers have no luxuries and but few comforts, but we can give
you shelter and save General Miles some trouble in sending you to and
fro!” And he started rapidly across the stone walk. I followed him in
silence for some distance, hardly knowing why I did so, my mind busy
conjuring up the possible significance of his conduct, and alert to meet
the unknown perils into which it was possible I was being led. Presently
the Doctor, between puffs of tobacco, asked, “Ever been here before?”

“Yes!” I answered, sorrowfully enough, but with some pride, too, unless
at that moment I proved untrue to myself, which I know I did not. “Yes!
I was here during President Pierce’s administration, when my husband was
an honoured Senator, and I, beside Secretary Dobbin, looked on the
brilliant rockets that wrote the names of Pierce and Davis across the
night sky!” I was sad at the thought of that joyful occasion and the
contrast the present afforded me. Suddenly the Doctor, who had been
chewing most ostentatiously at his pipe, edged up to me and said, in a
low voice:

“Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheer up! Madam!” He spoke so rapidly that I hardly
realised the significance of his words. They sounded exactly like
“chirrup, chirrup, chirrup, Madam.” “My wife,” he added, still in that
low-guarded voice, “is the damnedest Rebel out, except yourself, Madam!”

I was dumbfounded! He, Dr. Cooper, the blackest of Black Republicans,
etc., against whom I had been warned so emphatically? A flood of
gratitude rushed over me. Half crying, I turned to grasp his hand and
thank him, but seeing my intention, he drew away, saying sharply, “None
of that, Madam! None o’ that!” and, increasing his gait suddenly, almost
flew before me, his long gown rising in his wake most ludicrously, as he
made for a dark cottage that now began to shape itself out of the gloom.
It was so small that until we were almost upon it I had not perceived
it. Every window it boasted was mysteriously dark.

My guide pushed open the door, however, and entered, I following him
mechanically. The door closed behind me, and it seemed automatically, as
the Doctor disappeared from view; but, in a moment, I found myself in
the friendly embrace of the Doctor’s wife, one of the loveliest of
women, Elva Cooper.

“Be of good cheer, my sweet sister!” she said, as her tears flowed in
sympathy with mine. “You are in the right place. There is nothing under
heaven you would do for Mr. Davis or Mr. Clay that I will not do. I am
an Old Point Comfort woman, born here. My mother is a Virginian,” she
continued, “and is with me; and you must know my little Georgette. We
are all Rebels of the first water!” and this I found to be true.

This strangely God-given friend, Elva Jones Cooper, with whom I remained
four days and nights, never flagged in her devotion to me and the
prisoners. I saw her many times in my several visits to the Fort, and on
numberless occasions had reason to note the womanly expression of her
sympathy. Quite frequently she would prepare with her own hands a dainty
breakfast, write on a card, “By order of Dr. C——,” and send to one or
the other of the prisoners.

I once saw her gather from a box of growing violets a small bunch of
flowers, tie them with a strand of her shining hair, and drop them into
her husband’s hat, saying, “Put that hat where Mr. Clay can see it. He
shall smell violets, even though he is a prisoner!”

Mrs. Cooper was young, not thirty; beautiful in form and face; snowy
skin and raven hair and eyes; tall, commanding, and graceful. My
husband, on seeing her, exclaimed, “Maid of Saragossa!” And very
appropriately did he transfer to her this poetic title.

Outwardly, Dr. Cooper’s deportment to me was barely civil, and so
continued. I dared not ask one favour, so stern and seemingly implacably
did he deport himself toward my husband and me, toward our section and
the cause for which we were suffering; yet, in the months to come, as on
that memorable night of January 21, 1866, many an occasion arose to
convince me that Dr. Craven’s successor, after all, was actuated by a
genuine feeling of humanity toward the State prisoners, and I soon grew
to recognise in him a lamb in wolf’s clothing.

                              CHAPTER XXIX

Upon my return from the Fort on the 30th of January I redoubled my
pleadings for Mr. Clay’s release, both by correspondence and by visits
to the White House. The President’s bearing toward me was courteous and
friendly, though it was apparent the confusion of the times and the
pressure which was being brought upon him on every side was troubling
him; but, notwithstanding that he listened and with every evidence of
sympathy, Mr. Johnson continued irresolute, deferring from time to time
on what, in fact, seemed the most trivial excuses, the issuing of the
release papers. If I called once at the White House during the weeks
that followed, I called fifty times, incessantly suing for my husband’s
freedom, and adding sometimes a plea for the pardons of friends and
neighbours in Huntsville who were eager to resume their normal positions
in the community. In the middle of February I was enabled to write home
as follows:

  “_My Dear Father_: I send your long-sued-for pardon. Act upon its
  requirements at once! I am pressing my husband’s case and _never_
  mean to stop until success crowns my efforts. I am emboldened to
  hope the day not far distant when he will be a free man! Great
  political excitement now reigns.... The President is very kind to me

Notwithstanding there were times when my own heart sank to an almost
hopeless state, I wrote thus hopefully to the patriarch at home, for
each post told me of his increasing feebleness, and I longed to sustain
him, at least until my husband’s release was accomplished.

“God bless you!” wrote my sister, Mrs. J. Withers Clay, early in March,
“and give you success! I asked father to send you some special message.
He replied, ‘Give her my best love, and tell her for God’s sake to tell
me when my poor boy will be pardoned!’”

These appeals, as will be understood, were the private agonies which
acted like a lash to spur me to the end of the task of securing my
husband’s freedom, and to stimulate me, even in the face of the
continued delays which now were become so inexplicable.

Early in February a change in public feeling began to be made manifest
in the press. The mystery of the detention of the prisoners at Fortress
Monroe without trial was arousing curiosity. The New York _Herald_,
thanks to the intervention of our friend, Colonel Robert Barnwell Rhett
(of the doughty and fearless Charleston _Mercury_), who had presented
Mr. Clay’s case to Mr. Bennett, now began to make inquiry in the cases
of the unjustly treated prisoners.

“Dear Mrs. Clay,” wrote Colonel Rhett, late in December, “having the
opportunity of a good talk with Mr. Bennett, of the New York _Herald_,
day before yesterday, I urged him to come out for the release of your
husband. He said he did not know much about the business! I told him Mr.
Clay was universally recognised to be one of the purest and most
high-minded public men in the country—one wholly incapable of anything
criminal or questionable; and that he had gone to Canada at the
solicitation of Mr. Davis to communicate with the Peace Party of the
North. I reminded him that, after the collapse of the Confederate
Government, when a reward was offered for his arrest, Mr. Clay had
voluntarily and promptly surrendered himself, asking an investigation;
and that no intelligent man in the country who knew anything of our
public men believed the charges to be other than frivolous and absurd. I
added that Mr. Clay’s prolonged captivity was regarded simply as an
outrage on propriety, and that if he, Mr. Bennett, would take the
subject in hand, he would greatly gratify the Southern people.

“He showed an interest in the matter, and said he would take it up in
the _Herald_. That paper, you are aware, _aims to reflect the current
public opinion_, irrespective of parties, and now warmly supports
President Johnson against the Radicals. It is a great power, and by
preparing the public mind and strengthening the President, may aid you

The results of this interview by no means met the hopes of Colonel
Rhett, however; for the utterances of Mr. Bennett’s paper were few and
guarded. But they were as a straw showing the veering of the wind.

“I was disappointed in Mr. Bennett’s fulfilment of his promise to speak
in Mr. Clay’s behalf in the _Herald_,” ran a second letter from our
friend. “A few incidental expressions of opinion and a communication
published did not come up to my expectations. If you feel disposed to
write, Mrs. Bennett is the channel by which to reach him. She told me
she sympathised with the South in her feelings, and admired
Southerners.... In failing to deal with the case as you present it, the
President must be very feeble in the article of nerve, touching his War
Secretary and other Radical adversaries. Yet the widow prevailed with
the unjust Judge, and I trust your importunity may weary the cautious
Tennesseean into decided steps for Mr. Clay’s release!

                                                “Yours, etc.,
                                                    “R. BARNWELL RHETT.”

Early in the month of February two important letters reached me through
Mr. R. J. Haldeman. They were addressed to the President, and bore the
signature of Thaddeus Stevens and R. J. Walker, respectively. Since my
letter addressed to him in May, 1865, Mr. Haldeman’s efforts had been
unremitting to interest in my husband’s behalf those whose
recommendations were likely to have most weight with the President and
his advisers. He now wrote me as follows:

  “MRS. C. C. CLAY, JR.

  “_My Dear Madam_: I inclose you a very handsome letter from the
  Honourable R. J. Walker to the President. I also sent you the letter
  of Mr. Stevens, which has become of some importance in view of Mr.
  Stevens’s recent utterances. Mr. Walker considers it of the
  _highest_ importance, and wonders how I obtained it.

  “After seeing you, I called on Mr. S—— in reference to the proposed
  visit (to you), but found him brooding over the violent speech which
  he has since made. I did not therefore deem it prudent to insist
  upon the performance of his promise, and am confirmed in my judgment
  by events.

  “During the day I heard something which convinced me the President
  would not then act. This I could not bring myself to tell you, and
  therefore obeyed a hasty summons to New York by an unceremonious
  departure from Washington. As the future unfolds, I hope to be again
  at Washington, and at the propitious moment. I hope you will keep up
  your good spirits, for, upon the faith of a somewhat phlegmatic and
  never over-sanguine Dutchman, I think the period of Mr. Clay’s
  release approaches rapidly.... Mr. Walker, however, desires me to
  say to you that ‘as we must all go to Clay at last, why not go at
  once?’ I think this pointed witticism would bear repetition to the
  President. I am, very respectfully, Madam,


  “February 3, 1866.

                                                     “R. J. HALDEMAN.”

As I had done in the case of General Grant’s letter, I now hastened to
send to the President the letters from Thaddeus Stevens and Judge
Walker, both of whom recommended the prompt release of Mr. Clay. The
letter from R. J. Walker was what might have been expected from an old
friend of Mr. Clay’s; that from Mr. Stevens, the most radical of
Radicals, was a source of some astonishment. It was not the only
surprise of those weeks, however.

“I have had strange visitors lately,” I wrote to father. “Some
extremists of the Radical party have called upon me to assure me of
their belief in my husband’s innocence!” And in my diary of the 14th of
that fateful February, I find entered: “When will wonders cease? Who but
the Honourable Mr. Wilson, of Massachusetts, has called, and
voluntarily, to say he will do anything in his power for me or Mr. Clay;
knows he is innocent; believes Mr. Davis to be also innocent! It is the
goodness of God!”

The circumstances of Mr. Wilson’s unexpected visit were altogether
dramatic. I was seated at the dinner-table with the family of Mrs.
Parker, when, it being still early in the evening, a visitor was
announced who declined to give his name or the purpose for which he had

“Tell Mrs. Clay that a friend wishes to see her,” was his message. A
sudden remembrance flashed over me, and, indeed, over the friends around
me, of the secret warning I had received just after my arrival in
Washington, viz.: that I must be on my guard against strange visitors.
After a few moments’ consultation with the family, I decided to see the
stranger. Doctor Maury, Mrs. Parker’s son-in-law (who had been Chief of
Staff on General Longstreet’s medical staff, and was a brave and
charming man), accompanied me to the drawing-room door, encouraging me
by telling me to have no fear, as he would remain near by. As I entered
the room the Doctor drew back into the hall. He was prepared, he assured
me, for any emergency.

Great, indeed, was my astonishment upon entering, to see, rising to meet
me, Senator Wilson, Vice-President of the United States! To that moment
I had had no acquaintance with the Massachusetts Senator, though I had
seen him often on the floor of the Senate. Though seized with an inward
panic of apprehension that he was the bearer of some dreadful tidings, I
took the proffered hand of my strange visitor, obeying mechanically an
instinct of responsive courtesy. For a moment, however, fear made me
speechless. At last, Mr. Wilson broke the painful silence.

“You are doubtless surprised to see me,” he said.

“Unutterably so!” I rejoined. “Please tell me quickly why you have come,
and end this agony of suspense!” And I burst into tears.

“Do not weep, dear Madam!” said Mr. Wilson. “Mr. Clay is well, and I
have come to tell you that I deeply sympathise with you and desire to
help you to obtain his release!”

“Mr. Clay’s surrender,” Mr. Wilson continued, “reflects great honour
upon him. He is a brave and good man. Though he and I were opposed in
politics, I have always respected Mr. Clay. Even his enemies on my side
of the Chamber always knew where to find the Senator from Alabama!”

My heart was so full as I listened to these words, I could not make
answer to this tribute to the worth of my suffering husband but by a
fresh flow of tears. Somehow, as he stood before me, the erstwhile
shoemaker of Nantucket seemed stamped with the seal of nobility from
God! I did not then know his kindly nature, and those to whom I related
the incident of this visit said nothing to impress me with the sincerity
of Senator Wilson’s act. On the contrary, many assured me that some
selfish and sinister motive impelled the interview, and that Mr. Wilson
would not commit himself by writing what he had spoken. A friend to whom
I wrote an account of the visit, replied, counselling me as follows:

“I do not personally know Mr. Wilson, but believe him, from report, to
be tricky, unscrupulous, and only hypocritically fanatical. Mr. Stevens
may have spoken to him, or Mr. Sumner (whom, you remember, I saw); or he
may have wished to approach the President through an opening which he
supposed congenial to the President’s wishes. However, your course is
clear. Commit Mr. Wilson by a letter to the President, so that when the
fight waxes furious he may not be able to take advantage of what the
President may do. I consider it a good sign that the President desires
to keep the letters of Messrs. Stevens and Walker.”

In the meantime I had spoken of the incident with warm enthusiasm to Mr.
Johnson. He replied very much as others had done; to wit., that Mr.
Wilson would not commit to writing the sentiments he had expressed
verbally to me.

“He fears the Radical press too much,” said the President.

Nettled somewhat at this distrust, I assured Mr. Johnson of my faith in
his Vice-President; that I would get the letter from him, and
voluntarily. “If not,” I added, somewhat stung by his cynicism, “I will
extort it!”

Shrugging his shoulders, and casting up one eye, a characteristic habit
of the President, he asked, “How?”

“Simply,” I replied, “by an avowal that I will give to the _Herald_ and
other papers the whole affair, telling how the Honourable Senator had
come, secretly, by night, like Nicodemus, to deceive by false promises a
sorrowful woman, for some base reason best known to himself!”

Leaving the President still with an incredulous smile upon his face, I
returned to my asylum at Mrs. Parker’s, and shortly addressed Mr. Wilson
a note, expressive of my wish. A reply, under his own frank, reached me
early in March, and I bore it in some triumph to the President. The
Vice-President’s letter, a copy of which I afterward secured, was dated
from the “United States Senate Chamber, Washington, March 3, 1866.” It
was addressed to


  “_Sir_” [the letter began]: “Mrs. Clay, the wife of Clement C. Clay,
  is now in the city, and has requested me to obtain permission for
  her husband to go to his home on parole. His father is said to be at
  the point of death, his mother recently deceased, and, if there be
  no objections or reasons unknown to me why the request of Mrs. Clay
  should be denied, I have no hesitation in recommending its
  favourable consideration, if only from motives of humanity, as I
  have no doubt Mr. Clay will be forthcoming when his presence is
  again required by the Government.

  “I have the honour to be,

                           “Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                       (Signed.)                          “H. WILSON.”

Some six weeks later, when Mr. Clay’s release was at last accomplished,
and the press was busy with comments upon it, the names of the gentlemen
who had written to the President on my husband’s behalf being
enumerated, some of the Radical papers attempted to deny the probability
of Mr. Wilson’s intercession; which was, as it appeared to me, a
singularly useless thing to do, since his letter was already filed among
the Government’s archives. But the air everywhere was full of political
revolution, and parties and partisans did not hesitate to resort to such
means in their endeavour to effect the desired feeling in the public

Every step taken by the President in those days was opposed or attacked.
In my efforts to accomplish my husband’s release, I came in contact with
many good and earnest men, anxious to serve Mr. Clay and me, though
often wholly disapproving of Mr. Johnson’s weak course. The retention of
Mr. Stanton in the Cabinet was peculiarly offensive to a great many.
Wherever a political meeting was held, Mr. Johnson was liable to
vituperative assault. Private conversation teemed with rumours of a
growing and increasingly violent opposition.

In view of Mr. Johnson’s demonstrated kindliness to me, it was not only
loyal to the President, but, I hoped, would prove protective to Mr.
Clay’s interest, that I should give the Executive the benefits of some
of the warnings I had heard by no means privately uttered. I, therefore,
spoke to him fearlessly, and wrote to him no less unrestrainedly.

A few days after Mr. Wilson’s visit, I wrote to Mr. Johnson in this
wise, my letter being dated February 16th:


  “_Dear Friend_: Fearing I may not see you this morning, I fortify
  myself with this note. I go up [to the War Department] hoping for my
  father’s correspondence. If I get neither, may I beg to remind you
  of your promises? I have some strange things to tell you.... Rumour
  says that ‘the people say,’ ‘If Mr. J—— does not support them versus
  the Radicals, they will call on General Grant!’ I know you will not
  falter, and are not to be intimidated by threats from brave men, far
  less cowards.... Will you not send me one line? Do! and say the
  wheel has advanced one notch toward the day of deliverance!”

A letter received after sending the above missive, in addition to the
conferences I held daily with Judges Black and Hughes, and with others
calculated by their established judicial and political worth to aid me,
had its share in stimulating me to press my arguments home more and more
confidently in my future interviews with Mr. Johnson.

“I was spectator yesterday in a Democratic Convention in an adjoining
County (Harrisburg),” ran the letter, “when the news of the veto was
brought. A resolution of approval was immediately adopted, and I, being
seen in the crowd, was called out. I raised such a storm in fifteen
minutes as would have done the President’s heart good to have witnessed.
The people are palpitating with eagerness to have the battle-ground
defined, foggy constructions and platforms removed, so that they may
charge upon the foes to a restored and tranquil Union.

“_Alea jacta est_: Mr. Johnson has put his hand to the plow, and cannot
look back.... He has shown the very highest order of statesmanship in
that command of himself and ability to bide his time, amid unexampled
embarrassments, which have won for him the confidence of reflecting men.
But could you not gently insinuate some day that, hereafter, the great
debate, on appeal, is to be carried before the Tribunal of the American
people in the case of the President versus Congress?... Many of Mr.
Lincoln’s acts, wrong in themselves, were nevertheless pardoned or
applauded, because they evinced energy, courage or willingness to
shoulder responsibility....

“As one of the people, ... and accustomed to ‘pulse’ the public, I think
I may unhesitatingly assert that Mr. Johnson would gain immensely by no
longer waiting to be attacked and undermined, but boldly striking his
country’s and his own enemies. If he would break out before witnesses
into indignant denunciation of Mr. Stanton for having attempted to sap
the foundation of liberty, and that, therefore, he is unfit to be in the
Government of a free people, a thrill of joy would course like
electricity through the land. Let the contest be only strictly defined;
let the President, with a cabinet of friends, stand forward as the
defender of peace and Union against a Congress which seeks to perpetuate
strife, discord, and disunion, and we will, by meetings held in every
county of the North, so arouse the people in support of our
constitutional and law-abiding President against a lawless and usurping
Congress, that it would be comparing small things to great to compare it
with the pressure which General Monk and the people of England brought
to bear upon the fanatical Parliament in behalf of Charles II.”

A few days after the receipt of this letter, while on my way to call
upon the President, and in the company of my faithful friend, Mrs.
Bouligny, I met Mr. Stanton descending the stairs of the White House. I
saw by the Secretary’s manner that he recognised me. Indeed, there was a
half-inclination of the head, as if he had expected me to bow to him. I
did not do so. The innate contempt I felt for this despotic Secretary of
War, whom I knew to be the power upholding Mr. Holt, who was so cruelly
detaining my husband, froze my manner into a hauteur I could not easily
have assumed. I went angrily to my appointment.

As I entered the parlour in which the President stood ready to receive
me, I immediately broke into the subject to which I so continually had
returned at each of my many visits during the past three months. But the
President interposed a question.

“Did you meet Stanton as you came in?” he asked.

“I did!” I replied. “And he had the audacity to bow to me!”

“The scoundrel!” ejaculated the President. “He has been here an hour
clamouring for the blood of Davis and Clay!”

“But you will release them?” I asked.

“You must be patient,” answered Mr. Johnson. “I must detain them a
little longer to satisfy public clamour!”

At this my indignation rose. In augmenting emotion I recapitulated the
letters and indorsements I had brought to him urging my husband’s
release. I reiterated my reasons why the recommendations of these
gentlemen should have weight with him. I referred to my husband’s
inability to combat the charges that had been made against him, while
denied trial, the access of counsel, or his release from custody. I
described his ill-health and the aged father at home, now so near to
death; I rehearsed my husband’s past services to his country and the
dishonourable way in which the Government had acted toward this
self-surrendered prisoner. I spoke the thoughts that rose in my heart,
irrespective of the consequences, and, having massed my arguments in
this way, I summed them all up in one uncontrollable protest:

“And now, Mr. President,” I asked, “in the name of God, what doth
hinder? In view of all these things, does it not seem that you are the
lion in the path? Please tell me who was benefited by Mr. Lincoln’s
death? Was it Clement C. Clay? What good accrued to him from the murder?
He was the loved representative of a proud constituency. He is now
pining in solitary confinement. You, Mr. Johnson, are the one man
benefited! You have succeeded to the highest office in the gift of the
people! You, through this elevation, have become the centre of a
nation’s hopes, the arbiter of life and death!” I paused in my plea, at
a movement of deprecation made by the President, but I would not be

“You have promised me,” I continued, “and Heaven knows how I thank you
for it, that never while you sit in the Presidential chair will you
surrender to the Military Commission the two prisoners in Fortress
Monroe. In that, you have saved their lives! I have not the shadow of a
doubt but that execution, and that in chains, as in Mrs. Surratt’s case,
might have taken place. But, when, notwithstanding the recommendations
of such men as General Grant, Thaddeus Stevens, Judge Walker, and Henry
Wilson, I see you waiting for ‘public clamour’ to subside, and, at the
same time, in counsel with your Secretary of War, I am afraid. Again I
implore you to stand firmly, my friend; thus far, at least, by not
yielding to the desires of that wicked Commission and staining your soul
with innocent blood!”

Turning, my eyes rested upon the marble bust of the late President, and
I said, “Whose bust is that?”

“Mr. Lincoln’s,” was the surprised reply.

“I know it!” I answered. “But is he not a dead President? And why, may I
ask, do you, a living one, stand surrounded by his Cabinet? Why do you
not reach out to the great conservative heart of this Nation and select
your own Cabinet? Why not become the popular head, as you can become? So
long as you stand, Mr. President, as the barrier between your Military
Commission and my husband and Mr. Davis, so long will I dare to be your
friend to the extent of telling you what the people say of you!”

“Well, what do they say?” asked the President, with an air of
indifference which, it was obvious, was assumed.

“They say,” I replied, “that you should get rid of Mr. Lincoln’s
Cabinet; that you should surround yourself with a Cabinet of your own!
Why do you hobble yourself with a dead man’s advisers? They say, too,
you are swinging in too circumscribed a circle! I have even heard,” I
added, “hints of ‘impeachment’ uttered in connection with the
dissatisfaction resulting from your administration!”

During my bold speech the President gave evidence of being deeply moved,
if not irritated, by my revelations; and, feeling that I had said
enough, if, indeed, not too much, in the intensity of my feelings, Mrs.
Bouligny and I withdrew. Ere we left him, however, the President assured
me, as he so often had done (though he said the words over each time
with an earnest gravity that was void of consciousness of his
repetition), that he would “confer as to the release in our next Cabinet

                              CHAPTER XXX

By the early spring of ’6 the faces of old friends began to reappear in
the Northern cities. New York, which I necessarily visited at times
during those eventful months, when not at the Fort with Mr. Clay or
beseeching the President on his behalf, was crowded with Southern
people, many of whom were returning from abroad, or were industriously
seeking to reëstablish business connections. In the capital one met on
every hand friends of the ante-bellum days, saddened and changed, it
might be, in fortune, but brave-spirited and walking with heads upright
and hearts strong to meet the future. “I am persuaded that our States
and people are to be prosperous, despite the portentous clouds which are
now around us,” wrote Mr. Mallory, from Bridgeport, Connecticut, where,
now an invalid, he was constrained to remain; “and that the day is not
far distant when you and your incomparable lord, with other congenial
spirits, will smile at fate and look back to the paths we are now
treading with more of pride than of sorrow! My love to Clay. God love
him! What would I not give to be able to serve him!”

A spirit as loyal and comforting to us pervaded the circle of old-time
associates in Washington, and permeated the newer ones who had gathered
about me in my adversity. Mrs. Parker, the brilliant hostess of the
Buchanan days, who now so hospitably had thrown open her home to me,
proved an unsparing and faithful friend. Her hospitality to me and to
the legion of other friends who flocked to offer their sympathy and
services to me was unstinted, and the several members of her family vied
with each other in extending their kindnesses and protection to me.

Among the friends who reappeared in Washington about this time, my diary
notes the calls upon me early in ’6 of fair Constance Cary and her
fiancé, Burton Harrison,[71] long since released from the imprisonment
which, for a time, he shared with Mr. Davis; of my kinswoman, Mrs. Polk,
of North Carolina, and of Madame Le Vert, the brilliant Octavia Walton,
who, almost three decades before, had led all other fascinating beauties
in the capital. Accompanied by her daughters, Mme. Le Vert had returned
to the North to intercede for the pardons of General Beauregard and
others of her kin and friends. Her comings and goings were heralded
everywhere. She was the distinguished member of the Southern coterie in
New York, whence frequent trips were made to the capital, and it was
commonly remarked that the charm of her personality had suffered no
diminution with the increase of years.

Our beloved General Lee, who had been summoned to Washington to appear
before the Reconstruction Committee, was the lion of the day. I saw him
several times, surrounded by hosts of admirers, the ladies begging for
mementoes, buttons—anything, in fact, he might be persuaded to give up,
while he, modest and benevolent, yielded helplessly to their demands. It
was during these months that I became acquainted with the lovely Mme. de
Podestad, General Lee’s kinswoman, who was both witty and beautiful. For
a number of years, as the wife of one of the Spanish Minister’s suite,
she was a conspicuous member of Washington society. Going thence to
Spain, she became lady-in-waiting to the Queen. Madame de Podestad was a
devoted admirer of her heroic kinsman, and I saw much of her in those
memorable days of ’6.



  of Washington, D. C.

It was a time of intense political excitement. The strife over the Civil
Rights bill was the absorbing topic everywhere. The “returning good
sense of the people,” upon which the President so long had appeared to
depend, was less apparent than he had hoped, and to many astute minds
the air seemed to vibrate with premonitions of the Government’s
overthrow. Cabinet changes were so earnestly desired that a discussion
of that body became part of every conversation. Mr. Johnson’s absorption
in the progress of the Civil Rights bill was so great, that, upon my
return from a visit to my husband, early in April, realising the
inadvisability and the inconsiderateness of pressing my demands at that
moment, I yielded to the urgings of my friends and entered upon a short
season of diversion. I remember to have visited, in company with Senator
Bright and Mr. Voorhees, the studio of Vinnie Reames, whose vogue in
Washington was then at its height; and I indulged in a pleasure trip to
Baltimore, where a great fair was in progress which had been arranged by
the patriotic ladies of that city. Contributions had poured in, and half
the capital was in attendance.

“Mrs. Johnson sent a superb basket of flowers,” reads the account I sent
home, “which was raffled for sixty dollars! A portrait of the President
was bought and sent to her. Also General Johnston’s and General Lee’s
were bought and sent to their wives. Mr. Corcoran won the portrait of
‘Stonewall’ Jackson. Admiral Semmes was present one day, and he and I
promenaded the rooms together. Though not the ‘Pirate’s Bride,’ I was
proud of his company. A _robe de chambre_ for Mr. Davis and a superb
pillow for Mr. Clay are in my possession. Will take them soon! Ross
Wynans,” I added, in describing the more generous donations sent to the
energetic ladies, “has sent one hundred thousand dollars, and an English
gentleman twenty-five thousand!”

Admiral Semmes was the most recent of the State prisoners to be
released, and his appearance at the fair was the signal for a lively
enthusiasm. By this time Mr. Stephens, our late Vice-President, was a
free man, and thrice had called upon me in Washington to offer
sympathetic suggestions concerning the case of my husband, so
inexplicably detained. Our dear friend, ex-Secretary of the Navy
Mallory, had been given his liberty early in March.

“Deeply anxious about your good husband,” Mr. Mallory wrote, early in
April, “I have deferred writing to you from day to day since my release,
confident that I would soon be able to congratulate you upon his
release. Persuaded that he will never be called upon seriously to
respond to the charge upon which he was incarcerated, and unable to
perceive any reason or motive for discriminating between him and others,
myself included, who laboured in the Confederate cause, I am at a loss
to conceive why this confinement _continues_. Of course, I fully
appreciate the character of the struggle between the two great
departments of the Government, and the embarrassments which it throws in
the President’s path; and hence I attribute to this cause all which
affects Mr. Clay, and which I cannot otherwise account for. But the
restoration of civil law throughout the country opens a way which his
friends may very properly take ... and I have been prepared to learn it
has been entered upon!”

A resort to the _habeas corpus_ proceedings thus suggested by Mr.
Mallory had already been discussed by Judge Black as a step to be taken
when all other efforts had proved unsuccessful. By the fourteenth of
March, Mr. Johnson’s courage to act in behalf of Mr. Clay had risen to
the point of procuring for him the liberty of the Fort without guard,
from sunrise to sunset, which order I had carried at once to General

“I have not yet called upon the President,” I wrote father upon my
return from Fortress Monroe, on the 29th of March, “but will report
myself to-morrow and ask of him that no revocation of the late order
shall be made. I shall urge Mr. Clay’s release, if only temporary, that
he may come and see you and help you arrange your business.... The
Radical pressure on the President is fearful. They have expelled Foote,
and have persuaded Stewart, of Nevada, his son-in-law, to desert his
colours and cause, and they may pass the veto over the President’s manly
veto of the Civil Rights bill. But President Johnson will fall, if fall
he must, battling!”

The records of my calls upon the Executive during the weeks that
followed almost might be traced by the many pencilled cards sent me by
Mr. Johnson from time to time.

“It will be impossible for me to see you until it is too late. I am
pressed to death!” reads one. “There is a committee here in
consultation; I cannot tell what time they will leave. I fear too late,
but see if in twenty minutes,” runs another. And a third, “Some matters
of importance are now transpiring. I will see you at any time, but would
prefer passing the answer until Saturday.” Weeks passed thus in futile
calls and beseechings, until, having tested every expedient to hasten
the President to the fulfilling of his promise, my patience was

“Again I am under the necessity of writing,” I began in a letter to my
sister, dated the fourteenth of April, “without announcing my husband’s
release! Nor can I give you any definite information save what I mean to
do and wish others to do. I am at this moment from the President’s; did
not see him, but left a note inquiring when I could, and [asked] to be
informed by note, which he often does in my case. He _shall_ tell me in
this interview whether he means speedily to release Mr. Clay. If not,
then I will have issued the writ of _habeas corpus_, unless Judge Black
oppose it!”

At eleven o’clock at night, however, I added, “The President sent for me
to-night, and I have strong hopes that Mr. Clay will be released in a
few days! I will telegraph you immediately when it occurs. I pray Heaven
it may be ere this reaches you!”

Three days later, accompanied by my faithful friend, Mrs. Bouligny, I
again called upon the President. It was eight o’clock in the evening.
Having detected, as I believed, a disposition on Mr. Johnson’s part yet
further to procrastinate, notwithstanding his recent promises that he
would order Mr. Clay’s release, I was resolved not to leave the White
House again without the requisite papers. I announced this intention to
the President as he greeted us, asking him at the same time whether he
would not spare me another moment’s anxiety and write me the
long-petitioned-for order for Mr. Clay’s release.

Mr. Johnson’s mood was light. He repeated some of the _on dits_ of the
day, trying in various ways to divert me from my object, to which,
however, I as often persistently returned. From time to time other
visitors entered to claim the President’s attention; or, he excused
himself while he went into a Committee meeting which was being held in
an adjoining room. During such an interval I sat at the President’s desk
and scribbled a short letter in pencil to Mr. Clay. It was dated:

                                “EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, D. C.,
                                                      April 17, 1866.

  “My precious husband!” I wrote. “Behold me seated in the library of
  this house, in the President’s chair, writing you the ‘glad tidings
  of great joy!’ The President has just gone in for a few moments to
  see some gentlemen, and will bring me your _release papers_ when he
  returns! He told me on the fourteenth that he would try to have
  them, but not to be too hopeful. So I came with some misgiving, to
  be relieved and rejoiced. Ere this will reach you, you will be
  informed by telegram of the release. I will telegraph you
  to-night.... Judge Black anxiously desires to see you, also Judge
  Hughes, both kind friends to me!”

It was still early in the evening when I wrote this buoyant epistle,
which immediate after-events scarcely bore out. The President returned
again and again to my companion and me, but ten o’clock arrived and
still the papers had not been given me. I was growing more and more
impatient, but upon reiterating my intention not to leave without the
papers, the President became somewhat jocular. He invited Mrs. Bouligny
and me to make ourselves comfortable, his words being accompanied by an
evasive smile. My soul rose up in resentment at this!

“You seem to be inclined to treat this matter lightly, Mr. President,” I
said hotly. “I am indignant! I want the paper!” Alas! my protest did not
win me a direct compliance. The hands of a nearby clock already pointed
to eleven when, the President having seated himself at a desk or
writing-table that stood at hand, I rose and stepped to his side.

“Mr. President,” I said, “are you going to give me that paper? I will
not go until you do!” My words were hurled at him angrily. He looked up
at me curiously, and the half-cynical smile on his face changed. It was
as if, notwithstanding the ardour with which I had urged my demand
throughout the evening, he now for the first time realised I was not to
be put off.

“Give me the paper, Mr. Johnson!” I urged. “I am resolved to have it!”

My imperative demand at last proved effectual. The President turned
without further demur and wrote a brief note, which, upon calling an
attendant, he sent out immediately. In a few moments the messenger
returned, bearing a paper which read as follows:

                                   “WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, D. C.,
                                                     “April 17, 1866.


  “That _Clement C. Clay, Jr._, is hereby released from confinement
  and permitted to return to and remain in the _State of Alabama_, and
  to visit such other places in the United States as his personal
  business may render absolutely necessary, upon the following
  conditions, viz.: That he takes the oath of allegiance to the United
  States, and gives his parole of honour, to conduct himself as a
  loyal citizen of the same, and to report himself in person at any
  time and place to answer any charges that may hereafter be preferred
  against him by the United States.

                                “By order of the President,
                                                “E. D. TOWNSEND,
                                                “Ass’t Adgt. General.”

The paper, prepared by the hand of an amanuensis, had been written at
and dated from the Executive Mansion, and a space beneath had been
reserved for the name of the Secretary of War. When it reached my hand,
however, the words at the top, viz.: “Executive Mansion,” had been
crossed out and “War Department” substituted; the space for signature
had been filled in with the name of Mr. Stanton’s assistant, General
Townsend, and the words “Secretary of War” (below) had been crossed out.
The changes were made in a different ink from that used in the body of
the paper. The document was a curious additional proof of Mr. Stanton’s
personal indisposition to release his illegally detained prisoner, and
of Mr. Johnson’s equal evasion of the responsibility of freeing him. As
neither name appeared upon the document, it would seem as if a “muddle”
had been intended in the event of some later complications arising.



  (after release from Fortress Monroe)

It was already toward the midnight hour when this document was handed to
me. I seized it eagerly, and, thanking the President for at last
performing the act for which I had so long pleaded, I hurried to the
carriage which had been in waiting and ordered the coachman to drive
with all haste to the telegraph office. As I parted from the President
he expressed the warmest good wishes for Mr. Clay’s health and our
future, and pressed upon me an autographed _carte de visite_, which I
took with no less surprise than pleasure, being glad to see in the
politician before me this evidence of the inner, sympathetic man. Though
our horses dashed down the avenue at breakneck speed, it was within a
few moments of twelve o’clock when I hurried into the telegraph office.

“Can you send a telegram to-night?” I asked.

“Yes, Madam,” was the reply.

Inexpressibly relieved, I dictated these words:

  “HONOURABLE C. C. CLAY, Fort Monroe.

  “You are released! Have written you to-night.

                                                            “V. C. C.”

The President’s telegram to the Fortress having been sent simultaneously
with mine, my husband was given his freedom the next day. There
remained, however, yet a few duties to perform ere I might join him at
Petersburg, whence we together were to return to our beloved home; to
Alabama, with its purple and russet mountains and spreading valleys, its
warm hearts and loyal friends, and where waited the feeble and eager
father, ex-Governor Clay, whose remaining tenure of life was to be so
short. There were kindnesses to be acknowledged ere I left the capital,
and on every side I met detaining hands overwhelming me with
congratulations on my success at last. The evening before my departure,
the venerable former Vice-President of the Confederate States called
upon me to extend his good wishes for the future. Being deterred from
coming in person, Judge Black wrote several notes full of his
characteristic impulsiveness.

“Dear Madam,” his messages ran, “tell your great and good husband I
could do nothing for him, because his magnificent wife left nobody else
a chance to serve him! I would have been proud to have some share in his
defense, but circumstances have denied me the honour. I rejoice none the
less in his happy deliverance, and I have no right to envy you the
privilege which you have used so grandly, of vindicating his stainless
name. His liberation under the circumstances is a full acknowledgment
that the charges against him in the proclamation are infamously
false.... Your note of yesterday evening literally took my breath away.
After you had done so much for yourself and I had done so little, nay,
less than nothing, you address me as if I had been your benefactor
merely because I rejoiced in your success.... If I say but little, you
must not, therefore, suppose that I shall ever forget your amazing
eloquence, your steadfast courage under circumstances which might have
appalled the stoutest heart; your unshaken faith where piety itself
might almost have doubted the justice of God; the prudence with which
you instinctively saw what was best to be done, and the delicacy which
never allowed the charms of the lady to be lost in the great qualities
of the heroine. These things are written down at full length in the book
of my memory, where every day I turn the leaf to read them.... I cannot
forget your sad look when I saw you at Mrs. Parker’s the last time. Do
not allow yourself to doubt the ultimate triumph of justice. _God has
recorded among His unalterable decrees that no lie shall live forever!_

“Remember, if I can serve you it will always seem like a privilege to do
it. In feudal times, when the liege man did homage to his suzeraine, he
put his head between her hands (if it was a queen or a lady) and
declared himself hers to do her commands; to be the friend of her
friends, and the enemy of her enemies, for life and limb and earthly
honours. Imagine the homage vowed in proper form, and claim your
authority as suzeraine whenever you please. I ought to add that Mrs.
Black was so wrought upon by your conversation that she has longed to
see you again, and her whole heart, an honest and good one as ever beat,
is yours.”

“You went to work like a true wife,” was the message sent by my dear old
mess-mate, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, “and God blessed you for it. Did you see
Mr. Holt? I have heard he was our bitterest enemy. Can it be so?”

“Ten thousand thanks to God, my dear friend, for your release!” wrote
Mr. Mallory to my husband. “May He punish with rigorous justice ... your
unjustifiable and most cruel incarceration! My wife and I, if
indescribables would permit us, would dance for joy to-day at the news
of your release. Love to your wife! God bless her bright spirit and
noble heart; and may we meet in Florida, one acre of whose barrens I
would not give for all New England!”

From Mr. Lamar, “dear old Lushe,” the following tender word came: “Ah,
my friend, you know not how often, how constantly my heart has been with
you! Often in the watches of the night, when all around was hushed in
sleep, have I wept over your fate!... I have not time to write now,
except to beg you to come right here and make your abode with me. We
have a large house. Oh, do, Mr. Clay, do come and see me! I would share
the last dollar I have with you. Come, my friend, _and live with me_,
and let us henceforth be inseparable. Please come. I believe the sight
of you will restore my health; at least, if anything can.

                             “Your devoted brother, L. Q. C. LAMAR.”[72]

The sight of these letters of long ago sets the tears gushing, and
awakens a thousand tender memories of kind hearts that long since ceased
to beat to the emotions of pain or pleasure. Oh! the vast army of men
and women who, by their sympathy in those last crucial days of my
experiences in the capital, were a buoy to my courage, and that of my
husband, broken in health, and heart, and spirit, as we turned back to
our home in Alabama!

The news of his mother’s death, which came to Mr. Clay a few days after
his release from Fortress Monroe, fell upon him like a pall. I could not
induce him to visit Washington, to which city powerful friends had
invited him. He had but one wish; to return to his stricken father, far
from the turbulent political centre, where a man’s life and honour were
but as a pawn in the hands of the unscrupulous politicians of that day.

A few months and his father had passed away, gladdened, despite the
vicissitudes of his later days, that his cherished son at last was
restored to him. We laid the tired body beside that of the little
mother. Together they sleep in the valley that smiles up so perennially
to the crest of Monte Sano. A few years of effort for my sake, to retain
an interest in the world which to his broken heart appeared so cruel and
hollow, and my husband withdrew to our mountain home, sweet with the
incense of the cedars; to his books and the contemplation of nature; to
the companionship of the simple and the young. Yet a few more years, and
he, too, fell wearily to sleep, and was put to rest beside those he had
so well loved. I can think of no more fitting close to this portion of
my memories than these brief quotations, from some of the hundreds of
tributes which came from all quarters of the land, like the upwelling of
healing springs in the desert, when at last I was left alone.

One who sat in the Senate Chamber in Washington, scanning a later
generation of his fellows, all eager in the strife for the fame that is
the guerdon of the true statesman, wrote thus of Mr. Clay, his

“You knew him best, having proved him, by a long association in the
sacred character of wife, in many years of trial filled with memorable
vicissitudes, as a true and knightly gentleman, a devout Christian, a
loyal husband and friend, a patriot of the sternest type, a statesman of
great ability, and the devoted son of Alabama. _In my course of thought
and conduct, as his successor in the Senate, I have thought it well to
accept his standard as that which would best help me worthily to
represent our beloved State. Mr. Clay left a character here which stands
greatly to the credit of the State, and will be quoted long after we
have passed away, in proof of the character of the people he so worthily
represented. His name and public history in the Senate are a cause of
pride to our people._

                                           “Your sincere friend,
                                                       “JOHN T. MORGAN.”

And one who had been our intimate friend for more than thirty years,
Bishop Henry C. Lay, wrote of my dear one thus:

“How gentle and kind he was! How fond of young things, and how tender to
the weak and helpless! Especially was he a singularly devoted husband,
giving you his admiration and his confidence.... Life seemed very full
of promise to him in those days. It was a sad change when the storm
arose, with its exile, imprisonment, disappointed hopes, retirement into
seclusion and inaction! Truly your life, with its opposite poles in
Washington and Alabama, has been a varied one!”

                                THE END


 Acklin, Miss Corinne, 97, 117.

 Adams, J. Q., 62.

 Aiken, Frederick A., 309, 320.

 Alabama, University of, 17.

 Aldrich, Reverend Mr., 241.

 Apothleohola, 108–10.

 Arrington, Anne, 3.

 Arrington, General William, 3.

 Ashley, Lord, 117.

 Astor, John Jacob, 42.

 Ayr, Colonel, 307.

 Baggioli, Signor, 97.

 Baker, General, 279–80.

 Bannister, Reverend J. M., 183.

 Barrow, Commodore, 174.

 Barry, Mrs. Captain du, 222.

 Bass, Mrs. (of Mississippi), 72.

 Battle, Alfred, 6–7.

 Battle, Mrs. Alfred, 6–11.

 Battle, William, 7.

 Bayard, Thomas F., 92, 117–18.

 Bayard, The Misses, 78.

 Baylor, Eugene, 132.

 Beauregard, General G. T., 188–9, 368.

 Benjamin, Judah P., 238–42.

 Bennett, James Gordon, 118.

 Benning, General, 205.

 Benton, Thomas Hart, 42, 77, 80, 150.

 Bertinatti, The Chevalier, 38, 40, 71–2.

 Bickley, Captain R. W., 298.

 Bierne, Miss Bettie, 36.

 Big Spring, 162.

 Birmingham, Alabama, 17.

 Bishop, Mme. Anna, 104.

 Black, Judge Jeremiah S., 300, 309–10, 314, 329, 362, 370, 376.

 Blair, Montgomery, 152.

 Blakeman, Captain, 332–33.

 Blind Tom, 104–5.

 Blount, Mrs., 95.

 Bochsa, The harpist, 104.

 Bodisco, Baron Alexandre de, 25, 31, 39.

 Bodisco, Baroness, 31–4.

 Bodisco, Waldemar, 34.

 Boileau, Mme. Gauldrée, 78–9.

 Bouligny, J. E., 119.

 Bouligny, Mrs. M. E. P., 81, 281, 318, 364–6, 373.

 Bozio, Mme., 101.

 Bragg, General Braxton, 191.

 Breckinridge, General J. C., 173.

 Bright, Senator John, 369.

 Brooks, Maria Brewster, 9.

 Brooks, Preston, 51, 95.

 Brooks-Sumner encounter, 104.

 Brougham, John, 103.

 Brown, Aaron V., 69, 70.

 Brown, Mrs. Aaron V., 69.

 Brown, Senator A. G., 140.

 Brown, John Potts, 237.

 Brown, Robert W., 187.

 Brown, Miss Rose, 43.

 Buchanan, James, 20, 63, 77, 87, 90, 106, 108, 150.

 Buckner, Simon B., 173.

 Buell, General D. C., 172.

 Buena Vista, 68.

 Burlingame, Anson, 142.

 Butler, Senator A. P., 218.

 Calhoun, John C., 77.

 Camerana, Marchisa Incisa de, 72.

 Campbell, Miss Henrietta, 76.

 Campbell, John A., 64, 74–5, 178, 243.

 Campbell, Mrs. John A., 76.

 Capers, Bishop, 17.

 Carlisle, J. M., 292, 320.

 Cary, Clarence, 174.

 Cary, Miss Constance, 174–5.

 Cass, Miss Belle, 30.

 Cass, Lewis, 77.

 Castle Garden, 101.

 Catron, Judge John, 74.

 Catron, Mrs. Judge John, 74.

 Cavendish, Lord, 117.

 Chaillu, Paul du, 111.

 Chambers, Judge William L., 55.

 Chapman, Governor Reuben, 182.

 Chase, Chevy, 28.

 Chase, Salmon P., 58.

 Chestnut, Mrs. General, 43, 50, 206, 227.

 Clarke, Daniel, 82.

 Clay “Castle,” 18.

 Clay, C. C., Sr., 19, 74, 83, 88, 109–10, 236, 281, 375.

 Clay, Mrs. C. C., Sr., 19, 35.

 Clay, Clement Claiborne, 11, 15, 17, 88, 97, 132, 139, 143–7, 157, 161,
    193, 195, 204, 242, 245, 248.

 Clay, Henry, 77, 88.

 Clay, Hugh Lawson, 28, 154, 164, 206, 235–6, 242–4.

 Clay, Mrs. Hugh Lawson, 166, 175, 191, 195, 243.

 Clay, James B., 88.

 Clay, J. Withers, 228, 236–7, 254.

 Clay, Mrs. J. Withers, 284–5, 340.

 Clemens, Jere, 13–14, 19–21, 161.

 Cleveland, Grover, 75, 92, 118.

 Clingman, Gen’l Thomas L., 95, 307.

 Clopton, David, 43.

 Clopton, Mrs. David, 55.

 _Clyde_, The _William. P._, 260.

 Cobb, Howell, 30, 121, 210, 240–2, 248.

 Cobb, Mrs. Howell, 30.

 Cobb, W. R. W., 21, 23.

 Cohen, Miss, 104.

 Coke, Mrs., 71.

 Collier, Miss Evelyn, 50.

 Collier, Governor H. W., 4, 15, 17, 44.

 Collier, Mrs. H. W., 6–9.

 Columbus, Mississippi, 15.

 Colquitt, Alfred, 195.

 Comer, Major Anderson, 191.

 Comer, Miss L., 84, 128, 135, 215.

 Cooper, Elva E., 352.

 Cooper, Dr. George E., 333, 350–2–3.

 Corcoran, Louise, 121.

 Corcoran, W. W., 120, 123, 308.

 Corcoran & Riggs, 81.

 Crampton, British Minister, 25, 36.

 Craven, Dr. John J., 298, 333, 345.

 Crisp, The Comedian, 10.

 Crittenden, John J., 77, 83.

 Crittenden, “Lady,” 84–5, 140–1.

 Croxton, General, 279.

 Culver, George, 155.

 Curry, J. L. M., 43, 55.

 Curry, Mrs. J. L. M., 55.

 Cushing, Caleb, 64.

 Cushman, Charlotte, 103, 139.

 Cutting, Mrs. Brockholst, 95.

 Cutts, Miss Addie, 35, 106.

 Dahlgreen’s Raid, 203.

 Davis, Jefferson, 68–9, 75, 147, 157, 173, 235, 244–6, 256–262, 298,

 Davis, Mrs. Jefferson, 54, 134, 167, 206, 256–7, 265, 301, 347.

 Dean, Julia, 102.

 “Dearborns,” 5.

 Dickens, Asbury, 77.

 Doane, Bishop, 138.

 Dobbin, Secretary of Navy, 64–8.

 Dolan, Pat, 57.

 Douglas, Mrs. Stephen A., 35, 133, 310

 Dowdell, Congressman, 20, 23, 25, 48, 49.

 Drake, Major, 4.

 Drew, Mrs., 176.

 Duke, Colonel Basil, 191.

 Du Val, Mrs. Gabriel, 170.

 Eames, ex-Minister to Venezuela, 140.

 Earle, Mrs. Mattie Orr, 52.

 Ebbitt House, 25, 42, 51, 59, 314.

 Echols, Major W. H., 302–5, 315.

 Eggleston, Colonel, 248–51.

 Emily, 61, 101, 130, 169, 242, 278.

 Endicott, Mrs., 79.

 _Enquirer_, The Richmond, 26, 237.

 Erlanger, Baron d’, 30.

 Evans, Augusta, 207.

 Evarts, William M., 344.

 Ewing, Thomas, 288.

 Fern, Fanny, 58.

 Fillmore, President, 83.

 Fitzpatrick, Benj., 20, 55, 147.

 Fitzpatrick, Mrs., 25, 55, 57, 91, 377.

 Fitzpatrick, Master Benny, 55–7.

 Fitzsimmons, Miss Catherine, 213.

 Flash, Captain Harry, 197.

 Forrest, Edwin, 102.

 Fort, Mr., 4.

 Fort, Martha, 4, 15.

 Fort, Mary, 4.

 Fortress Monroe, 94, 240, 261–2, 269, 281, 298, 334–7, 345–52, 378–9.

 Fraley, Captain, 260.

 Frémont, Mrs. Jessie Benton, 78–80.

 French, Dr., 284–5.

 French, General S. D., 199.

 Gaines, General, 82–3.

 Gaines, Mrs. Myra Clarke, 82–3.

 Gamble, Mrs. (of Louisville, Ky.), 303.

 Gamester, The, 10.

 Gardner, Charles, 25.

 Garfield, James A., 62.

 Garland, James, 307.

 Garner, Colonel, 192.

 Garnett, Muscoe, 50.

 Garrett, Mr., 107–8.

 Gautier’s, 31, 70.

 Georgetown, 28, 31.

 Gilbert, Mrs., 103.

 Glentworth, Hamilton, 138.

 Gordon, General John B., 206.

 Gottschalk, Louis, 49.

 Granger, General, 331.

 Grant, U. S., 20, 315–17, 357.

 Grant, Mrs. U. S., 316, 317.

 Greeley, Horace, 330.

 Green Academy, 160–3.

 Green, Duff, 300.

 Greenhow, Mrs. 35.

 Grey Eagle, The, 155–6.

 Grisi, Mme., 101.

 Guthrie, Secretary James V., 30, 70

 Gwin, Senator W. M., 86, 126, 132.

 Gwin, Mrs. W. M., 126–37, 152.

 Haldeman, R. J., 289, 292, 357.

 Halleck, General H. W., 260.

 Hamersley, Mrs. 120.

 Hammond, E. S., 212.

 Hammond, Senator J. H., 96, 213, 231–2.

 Hammond, Mrs. J. H., 219, 232.

 Hammond, Paul, 232.

 Hammond, Mrs. Paul, 36, 215.

 Hampton, Colonel Wade, 213.

 Harper & Mitchell, 110.

 Harper’s Ferry, 165, 306.

 Harrison, Burton, 174, 368.

 Harrison, President, 83.

 Havilland, Major de, 129.

 Henry, Professor, 76, 111.

 Henry, Senator, 203.

 Herbert, Mrs. Hilary A., 9.

 Herstein, Robert, 302.

 Hill, Benjamin H., 247.

 Hill, Miss Henrietta, 247.

 Hilliard, Miss, 46, 127, 138.

 Hitchcock, Major, 333.

 Holcombe, Professor James P., 209, 229.

 Holt, Joseph, 54, 148, 271–5, 287–314, 320–28, 364.

 Holt, Mrs. Joseph, 127.

 Homestead Bill, 21.

 Hood, General J. B., 239.

 Hotel, Brown’s, 42, 51.

 Hotel, National, 23.

 Hotel, Spottswood, 167.

 Hotel, St. Charles, 82.

 Hotel, Willard’s, 112, 306–7, 315.

 Howard, Mrs., 95.

 Howell, Miss Maggie, 256, 260, 265.

 Hudson, Lieutenant, 266.

 Hughes, Judge, 309–10, 362.

 Hulseman, Baron, 44, 89.

 Hunt, John, 160.

 Hunter, R. M. T., 75.

 Huntsville, Alabama, 17–8, 157, 164, 172.

 Hurlburt, General Stephen A., 222.

 Ihrie, General, 307–315.

 Institute, Hydropathic, 22.

 _Intelligencer_, The Washington, 325.

 Irving, Washington, 13.

 Ives, Mrs. Cora Semmes, 173, 174.

 Jackson, Thomas Jonathan (“Stonewall”), 188.

 Japanese Embassy, 110–113.

 Johnson, Andrew, 35, 288, 311–12, 318–29, 340–4, 354, 361, 364, 371–3.

 Johnson, Colonel George, 192.

 Johnson, Reverdy, 75.

 Johnson, Colonel Robert, 318.

 Johnston, Albert Sidney, 172.

 Johnston, Dr., 93.

 Johnston, Joseph E., 152, 188, 236.

 Johnston, Mrs. Joseph E., 167.

 Johnston, Mrs. W. D., 255.

 Jones, General George Wallace, 77, 80–1, 129.

 Jones, Mrs. Thomas Benton, 78.

 Kean, Charles, 10.

 Keck, Lieutenant, 252, 254.

 Keitt, Lawrence M., 95–6.

 Keitt, Mrs. Lawrence M., 96.

 Kennedy, Mrs., 313.

 Key, Francis Barton, 95–6, 130, 133.

 Kierulf, Miss Rose, 90.

 King, Butler, 174.

 Lamar, Colonel, 205.

 Lamar, Mrs. Lucius Mirabeau, 255.

 Lamar, L. Q. C., 43, 48, 75, 181, 204, 377.

 Lamar, Mrs. L. Q. C., 48, 130.

 Lane, Miss Harriet, 89, 90, 104, 114–130.

 Lanier, Clifford A., 55, 197–9.

 Lanier, Sidney, 197–9, 201.

 Lay, Bishop Henry C., 379.

 Lee, Robert E., 189, 227, 242, 368.

 Lee, Mrs. Robert E., 201.

 Leese, Mrs. William, 90.

 Le Vert, Mme., 12–17, 35, 213, 368.

 Lincoln, Abraham, 75, 119, 245.

 Lind, Jenny, 101, 105.

 Ligon, Governor, 55.

 Logan, General John A., 184.

 Longstreet, General James, 187–8, 358.

 Lubbuck, ex-Governor Francis R., 258.

 Lumley, Mr., 37.

 Lyons, Lord, 141.

 “Macaire, Robert” (play of), 10.

 Magruder, Colonel John B., 152.

 Mallory, Miss Ruby, 176.

 Mallory, Stephen R., 30, 147, 170, 177, 195, 209, 235, 246, 249, 313,
    367, 370, 377.

 Mallory, Mrs. S. R., 158, 167.

 Marcy, Miss Nellie, 63.

 Marcy, William L., 62.

 Marcy, Mrs. W. L., 63.

 Mario, Signor, 101.

 Marlboro, Duchess of, 120.

 Marshall, Chief Justice, 74.

 Marshall, Henry, 174.

 Mason, Miss Emily, 201.

 Massonis, The, 39.

 Maury, The Misses, 78, 92.

 Maury, Dr. Thos., 358.

 Maury, Professor, 76.

 May, Dr., 51, 358,

 Maynard Rifle, 105.

 McClellan, General G. F., 63.

 McClelland, Secretary, 64.

 McClung, Alex. Keith, 15–16.

 McDaniels, The, 201.

 McEwan, Captain, 298.

 McLean, John, 77.

 McKim, Charles, 273.

 McQueen, General and Mrs., 51, 56.

 Memphis, Tennessee, 72, 157, 222.

 Mercer, General, 274.

 Merrick, Mrs. Judge, 54.

 Miles, General Nelson A., 267–8, 275, 292–3, 296, 334, 345.

 Miles, Porcher, 36.

 Miller, Major, 307.

 Mississippi, Territory of, 4, 160.

 Mitchell, General O. M., 181, 183.

 Mitchell, Miss, 183–4.

 Mobile Meadows, 10.

 Montague, Mr., 11.

 Monterey, 15.

 Moore, Sydenham, 188, 190.

 Morgan, General J. H., 169.

 Morgan, Senator J. T., 153, 378.

 Morris Island, 143.

 Morrow, Dr., 110, 112.

 Muhlenberg, Lieutenant, 334.

 Myers, Lieutenant Henry, 126.

 Myers, Mr. Frederick, 274.

 Napier, Lord, 30, 89, 114, 117, 133.

 Napier, Lady Nina, 114.

 Nashville Female Academy, 15.

 Nashville, Tennessee, 15, 172, 236.

 New York _Herald_, 355–6.

 New York _News_, 237.

 Nicolay & Hay, 73, 86.

 Norwalk, Connecticut, 27.

 O’Conor, Charles, 290–1.

 Orr, James L., 20, 51, 314.

 Orr, Mrs. James L., 52–3.

 Ouseley, Sir William Gore, 134.

 Palmer (Heller), 38–40.

 Parepa, Rosa, 101.

 Parker, Mrs. A. S., 119, 281, 321, 340, 367.

 Parker, Reverend Henry E., 148.

 Parrish, Mr., 123.

 Partington, Mrs., 128–137.

 Patterson, Mrs., 339.

 Patti, Adelina, 37.

 Pember, Mrs. Phoebe, 201, 277.

 Pendleton, George H., 146, 304–5.

 Pendleton, Mrs. George H., 89, 130, 303.

 Pennsylvania Avenue, 28, 42, 102, 306.

 Perry, Commodore M. C., 110.

 Pettigrew, General James G., 188.

 Phillips, Philip, 229, 248, 254.

 Phillips, Mrs. Philip, 151, 201.

 Phillips, The Misses, 104.

 Pierce Administration, 27.

 Pierce, Franklin, 28, 59–63, 68, 87, 106.

 Pierce, Mrs. Franklin, 28.

 Pierce, T. W., 271.

 Pillow, General Gideon J., 69, 172.

 “Pocahontas” (Play), 103.

 Polk, Mrs., 71, 368.

 Poore, Ben Perley, 128.

 Pope, Colonel, 160.

 Podestad, Mme. de, 368.

 Potomac, The, 28.

 Prescott, Harriet, 64.

 Price, Lilly, 120.

 Pryor, Mrs. Roger A., 44, 47, 179.

 Pritchard, Colonel, 258, 261.

 Pugh, George E., 146.

 Pugh, Mrs. George E., 44–47, 89, 97, 133, 146, 303–4.

 Raasloff, Minister from Denmark, 150.

 Ramsey, Admiral, 95.

 Ramsey, Marian, 95.

 Randolph, Mrs., 173.

 _Rattlesnake, The_, 227, 241.

 Reagan, John H., 258.

 Reames, Vinnie, 369.

 Redd, Mrs., 225, 233.

 Reedy, Miss, 169.

 Rhett, Colonel Robert Barnwell, 355–6.

 Rich, Mrs., 90–94.

 Richmond, Va., 168, 206, 236, 239.

 Richmond _Enquirer_, 26, 237.

 Riggs, Mrs. George, 37.

 Riggs & Corcoran, 308.

 Robinson, Reverend Stuart, 287

 Roddy, General, 183.

 Rogers, Representative, 325.

 Rountree, Mlle., 94.

 Ruffin, Edmund, 145–6.

 Sanders, Miss Narcissa, 69.

 Sandidge, “Little Jimmy,” 131.

 Sartiges, Countess de, 30.

 Scarlett, Lieutenant, 136.

 Schaumberg, Miss Emily, 116.

 Scott, Alfred, 315.

 Scott, Captain, 33.

 Semmes, Mrs. Myra Knox, 174.

 Semmes, Raphael, 144, 370.

 Semmes, Thomas H., 246, 249.

 Seward, Frederick, 81.

 Seward, Senator W. H., 58, 81, 131, 136, 238.

 Sewing Machines, The New, 103.

 Seven Pines, Battle of, 187.

 Shea, George, 292.

 Sherman, General W. T., 230, 232–3, 239.

 Shipman, Lieutenant Lemuel, 298.

 Shorter, Eli S., 164.

 Sickles, Daniel E., 52, 97, 118.

 Sickles, Mrs. Daniel E., 52.

 Slidell, Mrs. John, 29.

 Smith, General Gustavus W., 188.

 Smith, General Kirby E., 154, 246.

 Smith, Judge William, 160.

 Smithsonian Institution, 124.

 Soulé, Congressman, 174.

 Sparrow, General, 229.

 Spence, Alice, 184.

 Spicer, Emily, 65, 66, 90.

 Spicer, Commander W. F., 65, 66.

 Spofford, Mr., 64.

 Staeckl, Baron de, 38–9.

 Stafford, General, 205.

 Stafford, Samuel M., 9.

 Stannard, Mrs., 174.

 Stanton, Edwin M., 289, 312–14, 344, 361, 364.

 _Star of the West_, 143.

 Stars, Falling of the, 7.

 Stephens, Alex. H., 242, 258, 370.

 Stevens, Miss, 50, 95.

 Stevens, Thaddeus, 356.

 Stone Mountain, 17.

 Stover, Mrs., 338.

 Stuart, General J. E. B., 170.

 St. Thomas, Island of, 150.

 Taney, Roger B., 73–4.

 Tayloe, Ogle, 307.

 Tayloe, Mrs. Ogle, 30, 119, 307.

 Tennessee, Palisades of, 19.

 Tetlow, Captain J. B., 298.

 Thackeray, W. M., 104.

 Thomas, A. J., 104.

 Thomas, General B. M., 278.

 Thompson, Mrs. Jacob, 29, 86.

 Thomson, Mrs. J. R., 118.

 Thomson, William, 91.

 Toombs, Senator Robert, 30, 243.

 Toombs, Mrs. Robert, 86.

 Townsend, General E. D., 374.

 Tracy, General E. D., 155, 165–6, 190, 193.

 Tree, Ellen, 10.

 Tucker, Lee, 174.

 Tunstall, Brian, 10.

 Tunstall, Sir Cuthbert, 10.

 Tunstall, George, 232.

 Tunstall, Peyton Randolph, 3.

 Tunstall, Thomas B., 9, 13, 14, 26.

 Tunstall, Tom Tait, 90.

 Tuscaloosa, Ala., 4, 6, 9, 15, 17, 109.

 Tyler, ex-President John, 144.

 Vallandigham, Clement L., 146.

 Vallette, Captain Octave, 207–8.

 Vogell, Dr. Henry C., 335.

 Voorhees, Daniel, 369.

 Walker, Aunt Dolly, 205.

 Walker, Leroy Pope, 182.

 Walker, R. J., 75, 357.

 Walton, Octavia, 35, 368.

 War, Black Hawk, 80.

 War, Revolutionary, 3.

 Ward, Miss Josephine, 118.

 Warrior, The Black, 109.

 Watterson, Henry, 47.

 Wayne, James M., 77.

 Weed, Thurlow, 58.

 Wesselhœft, Dr., 22.

 Wheeler’s Brigade, 232.

 Wheeler, General Joseph, 234, 259.

 White House, The, 26, 85, 106, 130, 339, 354.

 Whittle, Major and Mrs., 229, 242, 254, 278, 279.

 Wickliffe, Sisters, 54, 202.

 Wigfall, Louis T., 246–7.

 Williams, General A. S., 35.

 Williams, Buxton, 185–6.

 Williams, Harriet, 31.

 Wilson, Henry A., 358–9, 360–1.

 Wilson, General James H., 250, 254, 276.

 Winder, General John H., 187.

 Winter, Mrs. Annie, 207, 258.

 Wirt, General and Mrs. Wm., 69.

 Withers, Miss Hattie, 127.

 Withers, General Jones M., 164, 192.

 Withers, Mrs. Jones M., 223.

 Withers, Robert, 244.

 Withers, Dr. Thomas, 153, 348.

 Wood, Benjamin, 289.

 Woods, Colonel, 278.

 Wynans, Ross, 369.

 Wyeth, John A., 279.

 Yancey, William L., 16, 180–1.

 Yulee, David L., 147, 274.

 Yulee, Mrs. David L., 54, 202–3.

 Zollicoffer, General Felix K., 172, 197.


Footnote 1:

  Apropos of this reference to Mrs. Douglas, Col. Henry Watterson said
  to me: “Her passport into Washington society was her relationship to
  Mistress Dolly Madison, who was her grandaunt. It is true, Mr. James
  Madison Cutts, Mrs. Douglas’s father, was a department clerk, but he
  was the nephew of the former mistress of the White House. Mrs. Douglas
  was very beautiful,” Colonel Watterson continued. “I remember stepping
  into the Douglas library one morning, and coming upon her unexpectedly
  as she was dusting some bit of precious bric-à-brac, over which she
  extended a personal care. She was _en negligée_, and, as the colour
  mounted her cheek, upon my unexpected appearance, I thought I had
  never seen so beautiful, so rosy a girl. I told Douglas so!” A. S.

Footnote 2:

  Writing to Mrs. Clay from the Department of the Interior, late in
  1885, E. V. D. Miller said of Mr. Lamar, then Secretary of the
  Interior: “Those nearest in his labours only understand and have
  compassion for him, to try to save him all we can. He would take us
  _all_ in his arms, and confer the greatest benefits on us if he could;
  and a more tender, appreciative, industrious, kind-hearted man I have
  never been associated with, to say nothing of his giant intellect and
  cultivated brain and taste. I never knew him until I came to this
  office with him and saw him in all these entangling relations. I used
  to get angry and avoid him because I thought he neglected my requests
  and was so indifferent that there seemed to be a lack of respect; but
  a closer knowledge of the demands upon him have disarmed me entirely,
  and I fight him no longer.” A. S.

Footnote 3:

  As Governor of Ohio.

Footnote 4:

  “President Pierce was one of the handsomest men I have ever seen!” was
  the remark of Colonel Watterson to me, while dwelling on those
  ante-bellum personages. A. S.

Footnote 5:

  “I remember,” said General Joseph Wheeler, “hearing of those
  innovations, and that the guests entered the dining-room two by two,
  and left it in the same order, to the music of the orchestra. They
  introduced the custom of announcing the arrival of each guest at
  receptions, by having a functionary call the name, aloud, a novelty
  against which a good many rebelled.” A. S.

Footnote 6:

  Wrote the Assistant Attorney-General, William A. Maury, in 1885, to
  Judge Campbell: “I called on the President in company with Judge
  Gilbert and Mr. Corcoran, and, a most fitting opportunity having
  occurred in the course of our talk, I pleased the President greatly by
  telling him you said he was the biggest man who had been in the White
  House since you were a child! Which Mr. Corcoran supplemented by
  saying, ‘And Judge Campbell is a man who means what he says!’”

Footnote 7:

  Held between Messrs. Cleveland, President-elect, and Bayard in the
  official residence, which is segregated from the Capitol.

Footnote 8:

  Asbury Dickens, Clerk of the Senate.

Footnote 9:

  In a letter dated New York, April 6, 1861, a correspondent, the
  intimate associate of James Gordon Bennett, wrote as follows: “I have
  been in Washington twice since I had the pleasure of seeing you, and I
  can say truthfully, that ... the _ensemble_ of the personnel of the
  White House has sadly changed, more befitting a restaurant than the
  House of the President. They tell me many droll stories of them, and
  all are deservedly rich. ‘Old Abe’ tells stories and Mrs. Lincoln
  simpers. They keep a household of those horrid ... people with them
  all the time, _mais assez_!”

Footnote 10:

  Some time after Clement C. Clay’s return to the Confederate States,
  this cane was purloined by some unknown person. Years passed; one day
  Mr. Clay received an inquiry as to whether he had ever owned a cane on
  which his name appeared below that of the Kentucky Senator’s; the
  writer explained that he wished to know its history and to return the
  cane to its rightful owner. Eager for the recovery of his valued
  souvenir, Mr. Clay responded; but his unknown correspondent, having
  gained the information he sought, lapsed into silence. Said Mrs. Clay,
  in relating this incident, “And we never heard more of the cane!” A.

Footnote 11:

  This story, though quite commonly repeated, has been rather
  effectually disproved by scientists. It obtained currency for many
  years, however. A. S.

Footnote 12:

  A notable vehicle of this sort was purchased in Philadelphia by Mrs.
  Clay, at a cost of $1,600, and was carried to Alabama, where, among
  the foliaged avenues of beautiful Huntsville, it attracted universal
  attention. It was a capacious and splendid equipage, lined with amber
  satin, and was drawn by the high-bred horses, “Polk” and “Dallas.”
  From Mrs. Clay’s possession this gorgeous landau passed into that of
  Governor Reuben Chapman, and, in the course of years, by various
  transfers, into the hands of a station hackman, of colour! A. S.

Footnote 13:

  A reference to Mrs. Emory, a notably attractive member of Washington

Footnote 14:

  Nevertheless, the chronicler named in rapid succession as among Mrs.
  Clay’s attendants, Lord Napier, Sir William Gore Ouseley, K.C.B., and
  many prominent figures in the capital. “Mrs. Senator Clay,” he added
  in prose, “with knitting in hand, snuff-box in pocket, and ‘Ike the
  Inevitable’ by her side, acted out her difficult character so as to
  win the unanimous verdict that her personation of the loquacious
  _malapropos_ dame was the leading feature of the evening’s
  entertainment. Go where she would through the spacious halls, a crowd
  of eager listeners followed her footsteps, drinking in her instant
  repartees, which were really superior in wit and appositeness, and,
  indeed, in the vein of the famous dame’s cacoëthes, even to the
  original contribution of Shillaber to the nonsensical literature of
  the day.” A. S.

Footnote 15:

  While this playful exchange of ideas was going on, Senator Clay stood
  near his Northern confrère, with whom his relations were always
  courteous and kindly. At Mrs. Clay’s parting sally, Senator Seward
  turned to the lady’s husband and remarked, “Clay, she’s superb!”
  “Yes,” replied Senator Clay; “when she married me America lost its
  Siddons!” A. S.

Footnote 16:

  Major Anderson, in command at Fort Sumter.

Footnote 17:

  January 9, 1861.

Footnote 18:

  General L. Pope Walker.

Footnote 19:

  “Talk of disunion, threats of disunion, accusations of intentions of
  disunion lie scattered plentifully through the political literature of
  the country from the very formation of the Government,” say Messrs.
  Nicolay and Hay. See vol. II, page 296, of “Abraham Lincoln.” Also,
  “Benton’s Thirty Years’ View.” Vol. II, page 786.

Footnote 20:

  This fact is emphasised by Messrs. Nicolay and Hay. See vol. I, page
  142, “Abraham Lincoln.”

Footnote 21:

  Now United States Senator from Alabama.

Footnote 22:

  Judge Smith was the grandfather of Mrs. Meredith Calhoun, who, with
  her husband, played a brilliant part in Paris society when Eugénie’s
  triumphs were at their height. A. S.

Footnote 23:

  John E. Moore became celebrated on the bench: He declined the office
  of territorial judge, offered him by President Pierce, but was serving
  as judge in a military court when he died, in 1864. He was a brother
  of Colonel Sydenham Moore, who fell at the battle of Seven Pines. A.

Footnote 24:

  Of Mrs. Clay herself, renowned for her histrionic talent, Mrs. Ives
  wrote: “It was the hope of having you take the part of Mrs. Malaprop
  that encouraged me to undertake the amateur production of Sheridan’s
  play. I felt sure that if all others failed, your acting would redeem
  all deficiencies. You carried the audience by storm.... I can see you
  yet, in imagination, in your rich brocaded gown, antique laces and
  jewels, high puffed and curled hair, with nodding plumes which seemed
  to add expression to your amusing utterances!” A. S.

Footnote 25:

  I asked Mrs. Milton Humes, daughter of ex-Governor Chapman, concerning
  these war-time search-parties. “I remember distinctly,” she answered,
  “seeing them look into preserve jars and _cut-glass decanters_, until
  my mother’s risibles no longer could be repressed. ‘You don’t expect
  to find General Walker in that brandy bottle, do you?’ she asked.” A.

Footnote 26:

  Dr. J. M. Bannister, at the ripe age of eighty-six, still continues in
  active pastoral charge of the Church of the Nativity in Huntsville. A.

Footnote 27:

  Harry, son of Buxton Williams.

Footnote 28:

  James Camp Turner, of Alabama, died at Manassas.

Footnote 29:

  It ended in April, 1865.

Footnote 30:

  Then in the Mounted Signal Service, Milligan’s Battalion, from
  Georgia, and on the staff of General S. D. French, now of Florida.

Footnote 31:

  Son of Senator Hammond, of South Carolina.

Footnote 32:

  Many of these possessions are still retained by Messrs. Spann and
  Harry Hammond.

Footnote 33:

  To overcome these conditions, the Right-Reverend William Capers,
  distinguished in the Methodist Church, organised a wide system of
  missionary work among the plantation negroes, whereby preaching and
  catechising by white ministers took place once a month. Many of the
  great planters assisted in this good work, Senator R. Barnwell Rhett,
  Sr., being prominently associated with Bishop Capers. Senator Rhett
  built a large church, which was attended by the negroes from five
  plantations, and regularly by his own family. A. S.

Footnote 34:

  Mother of the unfortunate Mrs. Maybrick.

Footnote 35:

  A recent writer attributes to those experiences, the coffee
  substitutes which now, forty years later, have “ruined the American
  coffee trade.” A. S.

Footnote 36:

  Shortly after his arrival in Canada, Mr. Clay heard of General Lee’s
  lost favourite. The animal, a fine Newfoundland, had been taken from
  the Lee home at Arlington by a Federal soldier, who sold it to a
  Captain Anderson (commanding an English vessel) for one hundred
  dollars. After some months of inquiry and negotiation, Mr. Clay
  secured the dog, and personally brought him back to the Confederate
  States. A. S.

Footnote 37:

  Horace Greeley.

Footnote 38:

  Printed in Richmond _Enquirer_, and quoted liberally throughout the

Footnote 39:

  The family coachman.

Footnote 40:

  A gentleman in the War Department—to whom I spoke of a violent protest
  uttered against General Wheeler’s confiscations, by one Betts (who
  sent his complaint, long as a Presidential message, to Senator Clay,
  in Richmond)—smiled a little. “Well,” he said, “Wheeler always would
  feed his men, you know!” A. S.

Footnote 41:

  Speaking of that episode, Mrs. Hammond said to me: “It was months
  before we succeeded in finding the silver again. Though we dug the
  ground over and over in every direction where we thought it was, we
  couldn’t even find the blazes for a long time.” A. S.

Footnote 42:

  A cartoon which appeared about this time in a Richmond paper was a
  graphic demonstration of the shrunk value of Confederate money. It
  represented a man going to and returning from market. In the first
  scene he carried a bushel basket piled high with current bills; in the
  second, the basket was empty, and in his hand was an infinitesimal
  package, which was supposed to contain a beef steak! A. S.

Footnote 43:

  The actual amount offered for Mr. Clay’s apprehension was $25,000;
  but, in the dissemination of the proclamation through the press, the
  larger sum was repeatedly given as the amount offered—being so quoted
  by General Wilson and others. See Records of the Rebellion, series I,
  vol. XLIX, page 733.

Footnote 44:

  Then widow of Congressman Bouligny, of Louisiana, and now Mrs. George
  Collins Levey, of London, England.

Footnote 45:


Footnote 46:

  “It were as easy,” wrote one editor, “to suspect General Lee of
  duplicity, or General Butler of magnanimity, as to think Mr. Clay
  guilty of the crimes imputed to him!”

Footnote 47:

  Neither this application, nor any communication sent by Mrs. Clay to
  Judge Holt, met with the recognition of acknowledgment. A. S.

Footnote 48:

  A reference to Holt’s Report, dated December 8, 1865, will show how
  little either Mr. Pierce or this great legal light apprehended the
  audacity of the inquisitorial Military Commission, of which the
  Secretary of War and Joseph Holt made two. A. S.

Footnote 49:

  Several years later Mr. Stevens reiterated these statements to one of
  the editors of the New York _Tribune_, who again quoted Mr. Stevens’s
  remarks in an able editorial. A. S.

Footnote 50:

  The letter reads “ult.,” but, being obviously an error, is here
  changed. A. S.

Footnote 51:

  Copies of those addressed by Mr. Clay to the Secretary of War and to
  President Johnson. A. S.

Footnote 52:

  Dr. Craven was already in communication with Dr. Withers, of
  Petersburg, Va., Mr. Clay’s cousin, who, through the courtesy of his
  fellow-practitioner, was enabled to contribute occasionally to Mr.
  Clay’s comfort and welfare. A. S.

Footnote 53:

  New York _Daily News_.

Footnote 54:

  To pass by less irreproachable witnesses, the following incident
  illustrative of Mr. Stanton’s _brusquerie_ to women was told by the
  Reverend Elisha Dyer. “While sitting in Mr. Stanton’s private office,
  a well-dressed lady entered. She was rather young, and very
  captivating. Approaching the Secretary, she said, ‘Excuse me, but I
  _must_ see you!’ My old friend at once assumed the air of a bear. In a
  stern voice he said, ‘Madam, you have no right to come into this
  office, and you must leave it! No, Madam,’ he continued, when she
  tried to speak, ‘not one word!’ And, calling an orderly, he said,
  ‘Take this woman out!’” A. S.

Footnote 55:

  Mr. Scott’s daughter is the wife of the widely known Dr. Garnett, of
  Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Footnote 56:

  The letter here given is from a copy furnished Mrs. Clay by Robert
  Morrow, Secretary in 1866.

Footnote 57:

  For months Mr. Holt’s Report was steadily refused to the public.
  Referring to this secretive conduct, in July, 1866, A. J. Rogers said,
  in the House of Representatives, “Secrecy has surrounded and shrouded,
  not to say protected, every step of these examinations. In the words
  of the late Attorney-General, ‘Most of the evidence upon which they
  [the charges] are based was obtained _ex parte_, without notice to the
  accused, and whilst they were in custody in military prisons. _Their
  publication might wrong the Government._’ ...” The Secretary of War,
  February 7, 1866, writes to the President that the publication of the
  Report of the Judge Advocate General is incompatible with the public
  interests. “This report,” continues Mr. Rogers, “in the testimony it
  quotes, will show that the interests of the country would never have
  suffered by the dispensing with illegal secrecy, but that the
  interests and fame of the Judge Advocate General himself would suffer
  in the eyes of all the truth-loving and justice-seeking people on
  earth.” A. S.

Footnote 58:

  Hyams, alias Harris, was one of the witnesses who, six months before
  the date of Mr. Holt’s Report, had been exposed by the Rev. Stuart
  Robinson, and who, six months later, or less, himself confessed his
  perjuries to the Judiciary Committee. A. S.

Footnote 59:

  But not _unimpeachable_, as later events proved. They were afterward
  denounced by Mr. Holt as unprincipled perjurers and _the cause of all
  his trouble_. A. S.

Footnote 60:

  In fact, as will have been seen elsewhere, Mr. Clay arrived in South
  Carolina on the fourth of February, 1865, after a full month’s
  journeying by stormy sea from Nova Scotia to Bermuda; thence on the
  ill-fated _Rattlesnake_, which, failing to make its way into port at
  Wilmington, now in the hands of the Federals, with delay and
  circumlocution, ran the blockade at Charleston, only to perish under
  the very ramparts of Fort Moultrie. His return, therefore, was
  sufficiently dramatic, and known to hundreds of _truly unimpeachable_
  witnesses, had the Judge Advocate allowed Mr. Clay to know the charges
  against him or given him an opportunity for denial. A. S.

Footnote 61:

  Conover was the chief witness in the cases of Mrs. Surratt and her
  companions, and Mr. Holt’s charges against Mr. Clay were based on his
  testimony and that of others who had been drilled in their parts by
  Conover. A. S.

Footnote 62:

  The public, however, was not destined to be treated to a spectacle so
  likely to react to the Government’s dishonour. Mr. Holt, who for a
  year caused to be denied to the prisoners (one of whom had been a
  Cabinet Minister, the other a United States Senator) even the visits
  of counsel, now, for some forever unexplained reason, instead of
  arresting the perjurer Conover, after his admissions in the Committee
  room of the House, talked to him kindly, and extended him the courtesy
  of a trip to New York, in order that he _might procure further
  testimony_. Once arrived, the polite swindler excused himself to his
  companion, and, bowing himself out, “was not seen by him thereafter,”
  said Mr. Holt; and he adds naïvely, “and up to this time he has not
  communicated with me, nor has he made any effort, as I believe, to
  produce the witnesses!” A. S.

Footnote 63:

  In part an interview with Mr. Holt, and the whole most obviously
  inspired by him.

Footnote 64:

  Practically the only voice now raised in an attempt to explain or
  justify the Advocate General’s unique methods. While denying his
  knavishness, it had the singular appearance of developing his
  foolishness. A. S.

Footnote 65:

  Conover had obviated the necessity for proving, by confessing, his own
  infamy. A. S.

Footnote 66:

  Now for sixteen months a prisoner in Fortress Monroe, and denied trial
  or counsel! A. S.

Footnote 67:

  It is hard to believe that, if Mr. Holt’s reputation had survived the
  doubt thrown upon it by the House Committee, in the preceding July, it
  could be seriously injured by anything that might be averred by so
  vile a man as his former ally, Conover. A. S.

Footnote 68:

  In the preparation for the publication of these Memoirs, I found
  myself continually lighting upon evidences of irregularity in the
  Government’s proceedings against Mr. Clay. I was met constantly by
  what appeared to be a persistent and inexplicable persecution of
  Messrs. Davis and Clay (if not a plot against them, as hinted by
  Representative Rogers) at the hands of the War Department, acting
  through Mr. Joseph Holt. I encountered charges, not ambiguously made
  against Mr. Holt, of malice, and of rancour which would be satisfied
  only with the “judicial murder” of the prisoners in his hands. Charges
  of malice and meanness have been made against him by living men as
  frequently as by those who have passed away; men, moreover, whose
  integrity of purpose has never been challenged. A rather general
  condemnation of Mr. Holt appears in certain correspondence of the
  sixties. It was uttered publicly in the press in the early and middle
  portion of that decade. In the pamphlet alluded to and quoted from in
  Chapter XXII. of these “Memoirs,” the Rev. Stuart Robinson had quoted
  Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, and another, to show the peculiar
  estimate in which Mr. Holt was then held. “I know little,” wrote Mr.
  Robinson, in June of ’5, “either of the personal or public character
  of Mr. Holt.... The only well-defined impression I have of his
  personal character is gained from two remarks concerning him in
  1861–’2. The first, that of a venerable Christian lady, of the
  old-fashioned country type, made to me: ‘Joe Holt, Sir, is the only
  young man I ever knew that left this country without leaving one
  friend behind him in it!’ The other, the fierce retort of the
  venerable Crittenden, to a Cabinet officer, reported to me by Governor
  Morehead: ‘Joseph Holt, of _Kentucky_, did you say, Sir? I tell you,
  Sir, by Heaven! there is no such man as Joseph Holt, of _Kentucky_!’”

  In addition to such contemporaneous public utterances concerning Mr.
  Holt, I have learned much that is corroborative by word of mouth from
  men whose opinions have been softened by time, and whose conspicuous
  positions in national affairs establish their utterances as both
  weighty and trustworthy. Said one of these, a United States Senator,
  within the year (1903), “Joseph Holt was the meanest man of his time.
  He was both unscrupulous and ambitious; and the _smartest_ man I ever

  Another as prominent in the nation’s affairs, said, using the same
  adjective as did the Senator just quoted, “He was a peculiarly mean
  man. I don’t know the true circumstances of Mr. Davis’s and Mr. Clay’s
  imprisonment, but the suspicions that attached to Holt were never
  proven, nor, so far as I know, investigated. After he went out of
  office he seemed to have no friends. He remained in Washington. I
  often saw him. Every morning he would get into a shabby old buggy and
  drive to market, where he would buy his meat and vegetables, potatoes,
  etc., for the day. These he would carry back to the house in his
  buggy, and his cook would prepare his solitary meals for him. I never
  felt anything but dislike for him,” said this gentleman, “and I don’t
  know any one else who did!”

  “True!” responded another gentleman, whose word has balanced national
  opinion to a large extent for many years, “Mr. Holt was repugnant to
  me. I think he was generally regarded as a man who had forsaken his
  own section for gain. I thought him a heartless man. When he left
  office he went into utter obscurity!”

  These remarks, coming from sources so authoritative, lent strength to
  the supposition that Mr. Holt’s behaviour toward his self-surrendered
  prisoner and former friend, Clement C. Clay, if it might be traced to
  its source, would, indeed, reveal a persecution at once vengeful and
  malicious, springing from some personal animus. For a year I made
  continuous effort to find this motive, but without success. Pitiless
  enmity, supported by almost unlimited powers (vested in Mr. Holt as
  Judge Advocate General, when the Government was in an unprecedented
  condition of chaos), this officer surely exercised toward Messrs.
  Davis and Clay; but, where was the _raison d’être_?

  By an accident, “at the eleventh hour,” the paper in Mr. Clay’s
  handwriting containing the sentence quoted in the preceding text came
  to light. I wrote promptly to Mrs. Clay-Clopton concerning it, urging
  her to try to recall, if possible, the “reasons” which Mr. Clay, in
  his prison in Fortress Monroe, on the night of December 29, 1865, had
  given her in explanation of Mr. Holt’s animosity toward him. Her reply
  ran as follows:

  “I _can_ give you, in regard of Mr. Holt’s persecution of my husband,
  one very important reason! On the breaking out of the war, I think on
  the secession of Mississippi, Holt, who had won both his fame and his
  fortune in that State of his adoption, espoused the Southern cause.
  Whether this was known to others than Mr. Davis and Mr. Clay, I do not
  know. From the impression that remains on my memory, Holt communicated
  in confidence to those two gentlemen alone his intention of standing
  by the South. Possibly, it was said to Mr. Davis alone, as the latter
  was Mississippi’s leading Senator, and by Mr. Davis repeated to Mr.
  Clay. It was a common thing in those days to keep secret one’s
  intentions.” [See visit of Admiral Semmes, Chapter IX.] “Whether
  Holt’s decision was known to others than Mr. Davis and Mr. Clay, his
  friend,” continues the letter, “I do not know. I remember Mr. Clay
  telling me that Mr. Holt was a renegade and a traitor, _who had
  pledged himself to the South_; but when, in his selfish ambition, he
  received a higher bid from the Federal Government, he deserted our
  cause and went over to the opposition. I do not recall the position
  offered Mr. Holt by the Federal Government, but it was a plum he

  “You ask whether Mr. Clay and Mr. Holt ever had any dealings with each
  other, political or business:

  “None of any kind! Mr. Clay only knew of Holt’s base defection from
  our cause and condemned him for it. My husband told me (in the
  Fortress), ‘Mr. Holt knows the estimate Mr. Davis and I have of his
  defection and would fain get us out of the way!’” A. S.

Footnote 69:

  Governor Clay died the following autumn.

Footnote 70:

  On the back of this scrap, Mr. Davis wrote in pencil, “If you get
  this, say I’ve got the tobacco and will give you a puff.” Long
  afterward, lest the identity of the little slip should be lost, Mr.
  Clay added this comment beneath the original inscription: “Preserve!
  Mr. Davis to me in prison! C. C. C.” A. S.

Footnote 71:

  Mr. Harrison died in Washington, March 29, 1904. A. S.

Footnote 72:

  Mr. Clay’s response to this letter is printed in Mayes’ “Life of
  Lamar.” (Page 122.)


                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 2. Anachronistic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings retained as
 3. Footnotes have been re-indexed using numbers and collected together
      at the end of the last chapter.
 4. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Belle of the Fifties - Memoirs of Mrs. Clay of Alabama, covering social and - political life in Washington and the South, 1853-1866. Put - into narrative form by Ada Sterling" ***

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