“There was no Triumph in his Gesture or Attitude”

Posted on Updated on

The President entered by the front door that opened into a small square hall with steps leading to the second story. He was then led into the room on the right, which had been Mr. Davis’s reception room and office. It was plainly but comfortably furnished — a large desk on one side, a table or two against the walls, a few chairs, and one large leather-covered arm or easy chair. The walls were decorated with prints and photographs, one or two of Confederate ironclads — one of the Sumter , that excited my covetousness.

Mr. Lincoln walked across the room to the easy chair and sank down in it. He was pale and haggard, and seemed utterly worn out with fatigue and the excitement of the past hour. A few of us were gathered about the door; little was said by anyone. It was a supreme moment — the home of the fleeing President of the Confederacy invaded by his opponents after years of bloody contests for its possession, and now occupied by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, seated in the chair almost warm from the pressure of the body of Jefferson Davis!

What thoughts were coursing through the mind of this great man no one can tell. He did not live to relate his own impressions; what he said remains fixed in my memory — the first expression of a natural want — “I wonder if I could get a drink of water.” He did not appeal to any particular person for it. I can see the tired look out of those kind blue eyes over which the lids half drooped; his voice was gentle and soft. There was no triumph in his gesture or attitude. He lay back in the chair like a tired man whose nerves had carried him beyond his strength. All he wanted was rest and a drink of water.

Very soon a large squadron of cavalry came clattering to the door. General Weitzel and General Shepley came in, and general conversation ensued. Congratulations were exchanged. In a few minutes luncheon was served, procured by the General — a soldier’s luncheon, simple and frugal.

Quoted in John S. Barnes, “With Lincoln from Washington to Richmond in 1865,” Part 1, Appleton’s 9 (June 1907), p. 489.

Commander of the Bat, a fast-moving gunboat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *