“Not mine, O Lord, but thine; not mine, O Lord, but thine, ” over and over as he walked his room, backand forth, backand forth, “the livelong night.” Mary Chesnut heard the steps in the drawing room below where the April breeze lifted the lace curtain and the gaslight flared. There was “no sound but the heavy tramp of his foot overhead, ” the whole White House “as silent as death.”
The words had first fallen from Jefferson Davis's lips that afternoon. Stress having robbed him of sleep and appetite, Varina had brought dinner to the office. She was just uncovering her basket when a servant burst in from home, saying they must come at once. At the White House, Varina went into “wild lamentation.” It was Joe. His skull was cracked and both legs broken. An army officer who had been passing the house when the accident occurred had run in. He was rubbing Joe with camphor and brandy, noting even as he did so his beauty. He saw the face of the president, kneeling down by his “little man, ” holding the insensible hands: “such a lookof petrified … anguish I never saw.” As Davis watched the boy die, “his pale, thin, intellectual face, already oppressed by a thousand national troubles [was] transfixed into a stony rigidity … speechless, tearless.” Someone came with a message. Jeff stood holding it, staring at Varina, and said, “Did you tell me what was in it?” He tried to write a reply but suddenly cried out, “I must have this day with my little child.” “Somebody tookthe despatch to General Cooper, ” says Varina, “and left us alone with our dead.” 1
She had left all the children “quite well, playing in my room.” In no time, Joe was down on the high backgallery, had “climbed over the connecting angle of a bannister and fallen to the brickpavement below.” No one saw him fall; it was some time before he was found. Barefoot little Jeff, kneeling beside him, cried out to a neighbor, who rushed
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Publication information: Book title: Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart. Contributors: Felicity Allen - Author. Publisher: University of Missouri Press. Place of publication: Columbia, MO. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 372.
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