The senator held himself tall and straight, but his appreciative palate and sedentary occupation had finally combined to force his waistband to the same breadth as his formidable shoulders. His step measured a brisk pace, but his wraparound whiskers and the thick fringe of hair over his ears gleamed so white he looked older than his fifty-seven years. His two nieces emerged from the Providence train station with him, just finished with a summer at his cottage near Bristol, and as he hailed a hansom in his rolling baritone there were few on the street who failed to recognize him.
This was Monday afternoon, September 12, 1881, which, if Ambrose Burnside stopped to remember, marked the nineteenth anniversary of his triumphant entry into Frederick, Maryland; it was also exactly twenty years since he received permission to raise his coast division, but past events probably did not enter his mind today. Nearly every public man preoccupied himself these days with the fate of President Garfield, shot ten weeks since, and with the political ramifications that might attend his death. 1
At the time of the last presidential assassination, Burnside thought his public service was over, but in the intervening sixteen years he had devoted more time to the business of his state and country than he had spent on military duty. Less than a year after he resigned his commission, the people of Rhode Island elected him their governor with an astounding threefold majority. Twice had they reelected him, with the inevitably diminishing mandate each time, but even at the last with a margin that still approached two to one. As his final term ended, he hoped once again to retire to private life: there seemed no logical place for him in politics, for he did not care to continue as governor and the state had two senators in their prime--his friend Henry Anthony and