Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart

By Felicity Allen | Go to book overview
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XXIII
Afterward

It was the quietest possible death. He had been preparing for it a long time. “The departure of the spirit was gentle and utterly painless.” It was the “happy death” expected by those who wore the cross of St. Benedict, and Jefferson Davis wore his “always.” 1

He would not let Varina telegraph the children: “Let our darlings be happy I may get well.” But Maggie had seen in the papers how ill he was. She got as far as Fort Worth but missed connections and arrived too late to see him alive. She fainted twice in the carriage on the way to the grave. 2

Winnie, bundling up illustrated French journals for his Christmas present, wrote to him from Paris December 5, “broken-hearted” that he was sick, though a telegram assured her he was “convalescent”: “My dearest I cannot get reconciled to the idea of my having, no matter how unwittingly, left you while you were ill.” “Dearest darling Father, when as now, I want to tell you how much I love you I grow bewildered [unable] to express to you the devoted love and tenderness of which my heart is and always will be full for you, my darling Father.” Still not well herself, and unhappy over her blighted romance, Winnie broke down completely at the news of his death. Kate Pulitzer took her to the Grand Hotel in Naples; Fred came over to see her; but nothing seemed to interest her anymore. 3

Varina, of course, was overwhelmed and had to be given sedatives. But she was a strong woman in every way, and by late morning, she was able to watch by the corpse, lying coffinless. The gentlemen friends helping to lay it out had noticed a scar on his hand, and Jacob Payne told how, in the early days at Brierfield, Davis had gone after whatever was robbing his cornfield and met a bear, and while it fastened on his left hand, he had killed it with his bowie knife. 4

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