Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
Scholar and Poet

A FEW MILES NORTH of Thomson, in the quiet, white-columned town of Washington there gathered on May 5, 1865, a tragic group of men--PresidentDavis and a few of the cabinet officers of the doomed Confederacy. Washington, the home of Robert Toombs, was as fit a place as any in the South for the end of the Confederacy, since it was as near to the heart of the South as a place could well be. These few men, who had directed the destinies of a once powerful government through four years of war, were now helpless fugitives. The last cabinet meeting was held, the last order was written, farewells were said, and the Confederate Government was a thing of the past.

Private John Smith Watson, wounded and penniless, reached home to find his father near the point of death and incapable of recognizing his own son. One June 4 he died, never knowing that the old regime was gone. With one brother also dead and the other an invalid, John, now the head of the house of Watson, traded his farm for his sister's share in the family estate and moved back to his father's house. Calling the slaves together one day and telling them they were free, John found that "not a negro remained on the place the next" and "every house in the 'quarter' was empty."1 Crops that had been planted in the spring were now in weeds, and the plantation as a whole was in sad

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1
T. E. W., Prose Miscellanies, pp. 69-70.

-12-

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