Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart

By Felicity Allen | Go to book overview

XXII
The Hero

After so many prayers, the death of Jeff Jr. pushed Davis close to despair. He felt “shadows as darkas ever fell on man” and rather welcomed what Northrop called the “atrocious pain” of neuralgia, as distraction from “less endurable” ills. He wrote to Winnie: “I have bowed to the blows, but in vain have sought for consolation. So many considerations, not selfish, plead for his longer stay on earth that I only shut my eyes, to what it is not permitted me to see, and stifling the outward flow, let my wounds bleed inwardly.” Fortitude alone made him able to pray at the end of this letter, “May God have you in his holy keeping.” 1

He had noted long before that ill might follow, “did the Lord always grant our purest prayers when and as they are offered.” This humility brought him to the end of life still able to say, this time to Maggie, “God bless and shield you, my beloved child, is [my] fervent prayer.” Simple trust in the depth of desolation is what Goulburn and à Kempis call perfection. The offer of his life made so long before seems accomplished in this death to himself. It is not surprising to find that he “especially loved” the biblical bookof Job. 2

Another death seemed as unreasonable as Jeff Jr.'s—that of the Confederacy. FrankStringfellow, cavalryman and spy in the bid for independence and now Episcopal priest, wrote to Davis, puzzling over how to “harmonize” these facts: “we were right” and “God permitted our overthrow.” Davis wrote, “I have often times combatted the idea … that the failure of our righteous cause rendered doubtful the government of the world by an overruling providence.” They might not have wisely used a victory; “the distant future” might bring good “consequences” from “our present losses.” And had not their overthrow shown “how faithless, dishonest, and barbarous our enemies were, ” and proven “that we were more right than even our own people generally knew?” “The inimitable

-534-

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Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Editorial Note xix
  • Jefferson Davis - Unconquerable Heart *
  • I - Capture 1
  • II - Home 31
  • III - School 45
  • IV - Army 57
  • V - Marriage 83
  • VI - Plantation and Politics 111
  • VII - Fame 137
  • VIII - United States Senator 159
  • IX - Victory in Defeat 184
  • X - War Department Days 202
  • XI - Struggles for Health and the South 225
  • XII - President 266
  • XIII - The Chief Executive 292
  • XIV - Commander in Chief 317
  • XV - The Year of Our Lord 1863 344
  • XVI - Double-Quick Downhill 372
  • XVII - Prisoners 412
  • XVIII - An Unseen Hand 434
  • XIX - Varina 461
  • XX - Sad Wandering 488
  • XXI - The Cause 511
  • XXII - The Hero 534
  • XXIII - Afterward 560
  • Appendix A - J. E. Johnston to J. Davis, on Rank 577
  • Appendix B - Proclamations by Davis for Days of Prayer 582
  • Appendix C - Devotional Material Used by Davis in Prison 584
  • Preface to the Notes 587
  • Notes 593
  • Select Bibliography 733
  • Index 761
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