Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart

By Felicity Allen | Go to book overview
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An Unseen Hand

On November 3, 1865, Jefferson Davis wrote to Varina: “Jno. Mitchel has been released. He was permitted to take leave of me, through the grates, and offered to write to you.” John Mitchel was the only other prisoner at Fortress Monroe besides Davis and Clay. He had come to say goodbye. This journalist, styled by Varina “the Irish patriot, who had escaped British imprisonment, had brought three sons to the Confederate army, two of whom were killed. He had worked for Richmond newspapers before going to the Daily News in New York, where he was arrested for no stated reason on June 6. He was just as arbitrarily freed on October 30. 1

Mitchel did write to Varina, putting the best face on things. “When I bade [Davis] good bye he was in morning deshabille, and looked haggard, but I assure you when he dresses to go out he looks as well, steps as firmly and holds his head as high as ever he did on Capitol Square.” After Davis was given “a good dry room, Mitchel could see the improvement in health “as we met in our walks.” (He and Clay had also been moved to Carroll Hall.) He felt sure that Varina would soon welcome her husband home, “not much worn in body, and not one whit bowed down in spirit.” “But for the present a magnanimous public requires to be feasted with daily bulletins describing his suffering and humiliation.” 2

Dr. Craven told Mitchel that Davis's “health is at present pretty good.” But Jeff was writing to Varina, “I have not been out to walklately, on account of a series of boils or a carbuncle with a succession of points which rose in my right arm pit and which has prevented me from putting on my coat since the day I last wrote to you [October 20] until a few days back.” 3

Of course he could not go out without his coat—meaning suit coat, for he had no topcoat—not because it was cold, but because he could


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