Anderson of Sumter

The distance from Louisville, Kentucky to Charleston, South Carolina can be measured in time and distance or in at least one instance, a man’s lifetime.

Robert Anderson was born in the summer of 1805 into a family of soldiers. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1825 he served in the Second Seminole War, and was wounded in 1841 during the Mexican War. He was not a flamboyant soldier like some of his comrades. Anderson was a solid officer who made his historical appearances strongly tethered to irony. He swore Captain Abraham Lincoln into service during the Black Hawk War, fought in the Mexican War with other men who garnered fame in the Civil War, and became an unwilling pawn in the game that opened the conflict: the siege of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

Another irony of course, was that the hot-tempered Confederate officer commanding the 120 cannons surrounding Fort Sumter was P.G.T. Beauregard. Major Robert Anderson, officer commanding the incomplete, undermanned fort in Charleston Harbor, was a former instructor of artillery at West Point. Beauregard had been his student. So had Confederate general Braxton Bragg, and Union general William Tecumseh Sherman. The American army before the conflict was a family, and like the nation it to was rendered asunder. Anderson, Kentuckian, soldier, loyal American, would not surrender Fort Sumter, sending word to his commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln (late Captain, Illinois Volunteers), that if nothing was done the fort would fall from lack of supplies. Anderson’s position was untenable. He was outgunned, surrounded, outmanned and he stood at the cusp of a whirlwind that once unleashed might wipe his nation from the face of the earth. Few people have, by virtue of their position, been capable of starting a war by making the wrong decision.

It made no difference what Major Anderson did, the war came. Sumter fell, but Anderson and his men were released (it was still a war of gentlemen), and the major was promoted to brigadier general. He toured the North, and then was named commander of the Department of Kentucky. It was a short-lived assignment, and he went on to command Fort Adams at Newport, Rhode Island. Anderson returned to Fort Sumter, by now a ruin of war, to celebrate the Union victory and his role in the defense of the fort. On October 26, 1871 Robert Anderson died. Like most soldiers he could have easily lived his life in obscurity, dying without historical notice. Anderson’s notoriety came because he embraced the credo; duty, honor, country. Not a bad epitaph, that.   

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A Good Man’s Ghost Part 1

-By Steven Wilson

Dr. George handed  Martin a box of Kleenex.

“Thanks,” he said.

She sat back in her chair and waited for him to compose himself. “You know its okay to cry,” she said.

He wiped his nose and tossed the Kleenex in the wastepaper can next to him. “Good because I’ve been doing a lot of it lately.”

She was dressed in slacks and a sweater. Her habit was to sit with one leg up in the chair, leaning on the armrest. It kept things casual. “Want to go on?”

He nodded, pulling another Kleenex from the box and wiping his eyes.

“How long have you been at the university?” she asked.

He blew out a breath. “Eight years.”

She made a note. “Like it?”

“You mean is it better than selling insurance?”

She smiled at him. “Have you ever sold insurance?”

“No.” Martin wiped tears from the corner of each eye with his knuckle. “Yes,”

he continued. “I like it. There’s no reason I shouldn’t. The pay’s good, I have tenure,

but the class load is heavy, and I still have time to do research and write. If I actually

did research and write.”

She looked up from her yellow legal pad. “You don’t?”

He shook his head. “I can’t concentrate. It’s a good thing my lecture notes are prepared,” he said. “I’d be standing up in front of a bunch of students with nothing to say.”

He watched her make some notes. He felt awkward, talking about his problem like this, as if what was troubling him was really something that could be fixed and not a portion of his brain that was somehow out of place, causing him to simply not care about anything. It was his third visit, each visit beginning in tears and confusion, ending with some unnamed guilt—an insidious feeling that whispered to him: I am you. It was like a tiny animal gnawing away at his insides until he felt hollow, until there was nothing left of Martin

Shaw, but a sickly emptiness. Unnamed, unseen, constant; so apparent that several weeks ago his secretary said: “I think you need to see someone.”

He did. Not because he cared about how he felt, but because his secretary was a nice lady and he always tried to do as she asked. Martin called to make an appointment with Dr. George. Then he came and sat in the waiting room and filled out the forms, sure that the lady behind the glass partition, with her hair piled on top of her head and a voice that chirped, knew all about his problem and was vaguely contemptuous of him. He felt ashamed that he was there. He finished the forms and sat, scanning magazines, head down, hoping that no

one else came in. A woman did. And another woman and a child. He prayed that they

would not speak to him. Finally, Martin was called in to see Dr. George. She was a

pleasant woman, very competent, sympathetic and relaxed.

On the third visit, today, he asked: “What’s wrong with me?” Half as a joke because he could think of nothing else to say and, because he was afraid, he added: “Am I nuts?”

She glanced at him and smiled, but continued writing. When she finished

she lay down her pen with certainty and looked at him. “No, you’re not nuts. No

more than the average history professor,” she said.

He remained silent.

“It’s a joke,” she said. She reached across her desk and pulled a single sheet of

paper from a stack tray. “You have the classic signs of depression.” She handed it to

him. “On the right hand side are symptoms. If you look down that list, you’ll see that

we can account for what you’re experiencing.”

His eyes had gone from the large print heading that announced “Some Symptoms of

Biochemical Depression” to a neatly spaced list of fourteen symptoms. He read them silently

as she ticked off a few.

“Trouble concentrating, feeling out of sorts, crying, unhappy, sense of loss,”

she went down the list from memory, summarizing the key points: describing him.

He listened.

“You said that you never felt this way before?” she asked.

He remembered the time after The Accident. “No,” he lied. “I never have.”

She made a note on the legal pad on her desk and then looked back to him. She handled everything so easily, as if they really weren’t talking about his sanity, as if his demons were no more than an annoyance. “Thoughts of suicide?” she asked.

“Some,” he said. He thought of the .38 he bought from his brother. It was on

the top shelf of the closet, hammed in a cracked black leather holster, buried under

his sweaters. Once he took it down, slid it out of its holster and studied it. The bluing was

worn from the edge of its short snout where it had been pushed into the holster and pulled out again. He pulled the hammer back and watched the cylinder slowly revolve as the hammer clicked into place. He did so with no commitment. He did that several times, lost in the simple mechanics of the device. He put it away and went to work. Sometimes, in the dark mornings while he lay in bed with his eyes wide open, looking at the grayness above him, death beckoned him. “Fleeting thoughts, mostly,” he said.

“Anyone in your family have similar symptoms, experience depression, or radical mood swings?”

He shook his head, scanning the list; the symptoms were old friends, daily

companions.  “No.”

“I bet there have been. I bet that if you check you’ll find someone who’s experienced

similar situations. It may be hereditary, Martin. Not much you can do about it. I know it’s a terrible thing to go through. It steals a person’s sense of who he is. It takes all of the joy out of living. Some people think that they would be better off dead. That if they were gone, the

world wouldn’t notice. That’s a mistake, of course.”

He nodded, not really listening, and placed the paper on the lamp table next to him.

“You mean instead of the family fortune, I get this?” He smiled wearily. At least I have my sense of humor, he thought. But the words were delivered without spirit.

She smiled, rubbing her leg. “In a manner of speaking. The good news is that we can control it.” She turned back to her desk and began writing on a small white pad. “I’m going to prescribe something that should help.” She nodded to the table. “Keep that handout. It tells you all about neurotransmitters: serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine…”

She finished writing on the pad and opened a folder. She ripped a page from the pad and handed it to Martin. “Prozac,” she announced. “Take one each morning, should take about four to six weeks to have an effect. You probably won’t see much relief until then.”

He glanced at the paper and slid it into his jacket pocket. “Why now? What

caused this?”

“Sometimes stress, something in your environment like work, or the family.

You’re not married?”

“No.”

“How’s work?”

“Fine, considering classes don’t start for a month.”

“Okay,” she said, thumbing through her notes.

He watched her search. He’d told her everything, all that he could remember, except about The Accident. He didn’t tell her about that. He never told” his secret.

“Well,” she finally said. “You can come back in about a week. Pick those up today and start taking them tomorrow. It’ll take at least four to six week.”

“Four to six weeks?” he said. It was a long time to live with demons.

“That’s the best we can do, Martin. Maybe a little less but we can’t count on it.

Better give it six weeks. If things get too bad, call me and we’ll set up another appointment.

We can talk some more.”

He nodded, picking the paper up off the table, folded it, and slipped it into his pocket. He pushed himself up out of the chair. “What’s that saying, ‘Whom the gods destroy they first

make mad’?”

“Well,” Dr. George chuckled. “I don’t think it’s that bad. Just an illness we can control. Like diabetes.”

“Yes,” Martin agreed, wanting to say ‘It is very bad—I’m dying inside,’ but instead he agreed with her: “Just like diabetes.”

She was wrong; he began to feel better after three weeks. Not completely better,

there were periods of despair, but they began to lessen, and there was, gradually, a feeling

of calmness that came unannounced. He almost allowed himself to have hope, almost

to think, “I can get through this.” Almost to consider that he would have his life back,

that he would accomplish things again. Despair visited him again, several times, once

early one morning when he woke up suddenly feeling very good about things and

then in the time that it took for his brain to realize who he was, he was consumed by the

depression. It happened in an instant, so that lying in bed in the darkness his brain turned

on him, attacking him for being weak, ineffectual, stupid. The blows came one after another,

stunning him, drumming the inadequacies into him so that he had no more feelings left—they had been pounded out of him. All that remained was emptiness. That was the worst time. The time when the idea of suicide never left him alone, but stood like a sentinel at his bedside— the inevitable companion. He survived. He took his pill, and fell asleep and

woke at mid-morning, with a warm sun slicing through the blinds. He survived that night. He began to feel better, almost like Martin Shaw, Ph.D., University of Chicago, Assistant

Professor of History, Southern Ohio University. He began to write. One morning he awoke and went to his computer and sat down and began working on Chapter III, the chapter that had watched him run away, calling him a coward for doing so, taunting him. Now it welcomed him back, like an old comrade. They were the best of friends, glad to see one another, happy to share ideas. Chapter III grew quickly, strongly. It was a good chapter.

He began walking, which he had given up because he did not have any energy, and he looked forward to teaching, which before he had dreaded. His life was coming around to him.

Then one day, the students appeared on campus and the university became vital again. He watched them file into the classroom. They all looked the same, acted the same, he chuckled. He was well enough to chuckle. They seated themselves expectantly and he introduced himself. He liked standing at the front of the classroom, he liked all of their eyes on him and he liked the smell of the classroom: the heavily varnished wood, the plaster covered by

so many layers of paint that any imperfections in the walls were hidden—now just graceful

shadows of character. There was comfort in the obvious age of Galley Hall with its high ceilings and creaking floor, and the rumble that the students made in the wide hallways as they hurried to class. These were familiar things that followed a routine. The routine was safe for Martin, he embraced the routine.

Two weeks into the course he noticed a girl. She had short, light brown hair and usually came into the classroom chatting with other girls. The word that came to him immediately upon noticing her was “vibrant”. The word surprised him and he was amused at himself for thinking of the word “vibrant” when he saw her, but that was the word that he thought described her. Vibrant.

He looked up her name in the roll: Elizabeth Lee. Elizabeth Lee. He heard her laugh once or twice and when she wasn’t there one day he further surprised himself by missing her,

and by being mildly concerned that something had happened to her. He was relieved

when she came to the next class, laughing with a friend. It was a light, unaffected laugh, one that could be lost easily were it not for her head tilting slightly as she laughed. Her eyes disappeared as well; her high cheeks came up and her eyes went to delightful slips and he

knew that she abandoned herself to the laughter. He had never been able to do that. He

chastised himself for the infatuation, because he realized that was what it was. But he

did not chastise himself too much—she was vibrant

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Buford, and the 1st Division

 

In the second year of the Civil War the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia stumbled into one another at the crossroads town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The first of the three days of battle was, as most battles generally are, a confused affair of noise, smoke, and fear.  General John Buford, 1st Cavalry Division, native of Woodland County, Kentucky and graduate of West Point, led about 2,000 men into position south of the town. The issue was simple: hold the high ground and deny Confederate Major General Henry Heath and his 8,000 men entrance to Gettysburg. Heath’s men collided with Buford’s cavalry early on the morning of July 1, 1861, and the greatest battle of the Civil War began.  Later, Buford told Major General John Reynolds there was the devil to pay in his attempt to keep the Confederates from breaking through his line. His men, dismounted, fought with Sharps, Maynard, Burnside, and Smith carbines—firearms with limited range but a greater rate of fire than the rifled muskets, and muskets the enemy possessed. Buford was a pragmatist. He had his men discard their romantic but virtually useless sabers in favor of carbines and pistols. Swords added weight, and made a racket on the march, and no man’s reach was greater than a pistol’s range.

A considerable military lineage stood with Buford on that hot summer’s day. His grandfather was a cavalryman in the American Revolution, and his great-uncle fought the infamous Banastre Tarleton, and aside from the fact members of his family fought for the Confederacy, there wasn’t a hint of disloyalty in Buford.  Or reluctance.

It was a contest of brute strength, Heath feeding in more troops, Buford’s line bending, but holding, the general watching the struggle from the cupola of the Lutheran Theological Seminary and at the same time searching for the first elements of Reynolds’ I Corps whose appearance meant relief. They came mid-morning, blue lines of infantry thrown against gray ranks of infantry, and the Kentucky general’s men could relax, at least momentarily.

 

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Employment Opportunity

WAL-MART BENCH PAPAWS INC.
128 Tondolayo Lane
Yakima, WA 38983

Dear Mr. Old Dude:

CONGRATULATIONS! Your name has been submitted in consideration for the prestigious position of WAL-MART BENCH PAPAW (the Southern version of Grandpa)! Your duties include sitting on a bench in your local Wal-Mart lobby, poking the Wal-mart Greeter with your cane, or leering at teenage girls.

Please take the time to consider these qualifications.
1. Are you old—not just a senior citizen but Papaw Old?
2. Do you often forget to fully zip your pants?
3. Do you consider yourself a geezer, curmudgeon, or just plain grizzled?
4. Does your wardrobe consist of plaid, polyester, cuffed pants; comfortable vinyl shoes; support hose; and; golf shirts too small to fit over your Papaw belly?
5. Does your vocabulary still include the words; leisure suit, hubba-hubba, the cat’s meow, Oh You Kid, Whipper-Snapper, and Yowser?
6. When sitting on the park bench, do you consider your mouth half-open or half-closed?
7. Can you drive at night?
8. Can you complain about the following subjects: politics; the weather; major aches and pains; local crime; road construction; minor aches and pains, and; people who have suddenly dropped dead.
9. Do you own a stained mesh cap that says “Gone Fishin’” or “I’m Spendin’ My Grandkids Inheritance?”
10. Do you chain smoke an off brand-cigarette and drink Milwaukee’s Best?
11. Do you often find that your pants have shifted 30 degrees off center to that you pocket is where your fly should be?
12. Is your car one of the following; a 1974 Caprice, a 1982 Oldsmobile, any year Mercury, a 1979 Lincoln Continental, or a 1984 AMC Pacer with the back seat ripped out.

Should you decide that you would like to be considered for the position of BENCH PAPAW, kindly present yourself at the nearest Wal-Mart Store for a comprehensive battery of tests. Remember that these tests can be strenuous so be sure that your false teeth are securely scotch taped in your mouth.

Sincerely,

Stanley Hamilton,
Director of Papaw Marketing

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A SON OF ANCIENT KINGS

Like the other segments of novels that I post this work hasn’t been revisized or edited to any degree. In other words, it still needs work. I’ve noticed, even long after the event, that I have a real ttachment to the characters and scenes. This is also a favorite title of mine. So, all you other writers of historical fiction (or writing in general), I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

 

 

Chapter 1

A light floated out the darkness, like a spirit seeking shelter from the cold, driving rain. It was a welcome sight for Thomas Teague. He had ridden only five miles from his house near Georgetown but the rain had soaked his clothing, and he felt the chill gradually ease its icy fingers into his soul. He hated being cold. He had endured it in the army, stoically because it was expected that an officer should never complain, but he despised the cold more than any privation he had endured. He thought once, what it be like to lie in a cold grave with nothing but darkness surrounding you?

He wiped the rain from his face and noticed the faint lights of the ExecutiveMansion shimmering through its windows, and felt relief that he would soon be dry and warm.

“Up ahead, sir,” Jacob said.

Teague nodded. Jacob wasn’t his, he belonged to his wife, or rather to her father, the Colonel. The title was honorary, dispensed by a grateful nation to a successful financier and merchant who had made funds available to a struggling government during the war. Colonel Ledger had supported the Continental Congress and its fledging military, not out of any deep patriotic beliefs, but because it was good business. He had reminded Teague of that as they sat sharing brandy before a roaring in the Colonel’s Georgetown house. “One must,” the Colonel announced—every one of his statements seemed to be important announcements—“view each aspect of a situation with candor. I saw that this newly formed nation, or one, that was in fact, forming, might present opportunities to intelligent and ambitious men.” He dipped a bit of snuff, trapping a pinch between his pudgy thumb and forefinger before inserting in a nostril. They were alone in the library, where, Teague knew, the Colonel was gauging the qualities of his new son-in-law. The Colonel had five daughters and Teague had married the third of the five girls—Prudence. Now they lived in one of five houses that the Colonel had built for his daughters. The Five Sisters, al fine, big houses along a quiet Georgetown street. Possessions of the Colonel, as were his daughters, as were his son-in-laws.

“Let me take your horse, sir,” a slave said.

Teague saw the white of the man’s eyes, and the sheen of the lantern light off his wet face.

“Come inside, sir,” the slave with the lantern said. He was far better dressed that the slave who took Teague’s horse. A house servant.

Teague stepped down and handed the reigns to the slave. “Go with them,” he ordered Jacob. “See to the horses.” He followed the servant up the steps and in through the open door, not bothering to acknowledge the bows of the doormen. He began shivering but tried to control his trembling as the servants removed his heavy cloak, soaked with rain, and took his hat. A warm towel appeared and he took it gratefully, trying to wipe the miserable night from his face. A dry blanket was thrown over his shoulders and a smile of gratitude escaped him.

“This way, sir.”

He followed the servant down the dark hallway, the gloom periodically broken with candelabra’s strategically placed on sideboards. The wooden floor creaked heavily as he walked and he noticed that the house, despite being new, had a shabby, worn look about it. Nothing in this new city looked permanent, Teague thought. The few brick buildings were greatly outnumbered by frame structures and the streets, designated avenues by WashingtonCity’s optimistic inhabitants for their width, were nothing more than muddle lanes, crisscrossed by culverts.

The servant stopped, knocked politely on a door, and opened it, standing aside for Teague to pass. Teague handed the blanket to the man and went in.

There were three men in the room but what Teague noticed first was the sound of dripping water. Scattered around the room were wooden buckets and tubs, situated to catch steady streams of water that looked like silver treads in the candlelight.

“Major Teague,” Secretary of War Knox said, advancing.

“Mister,” Teague corrected him. “I have resigned my commission sometime ago, Your Honor.”

“You say that with regret,” Secretary of State James Madison said, from across the room. His diminutive frame was almost lost in the scant shadows of the candles. His voice was sharp and somehow, accusatory. “Is that so, Mr. Teague? If you could, would you withdraw your resignation?”

“No, sir,” Teague said. He recognized Madison as a small man who could be a bully if given the opportunity. He was like a small dog with a mighty bark.

“Have you met his excellency?” Knox said, steering Teague to a large desk near a set of windows. “President Jefferson.”

Jefferson, standing behind the deck, was obviously fascinated with something on the floor. He glanced up, his red hair long, sweeping away from his head. He was tall and strangely pale. Teague was shocked to see that he wore a dressing gown and carpet slippers.

“Three quarts in less than thirty minutes,” Jefferson said picking up a call bell and ringing it sharply. He studied a dark spot on the ceiling. Fat drops of water released themselves from the crumbling plaster and plopped in the bucket at his feet. “Poor construction. Criminal. Someone, some builder has taken advantage of the government. What a miserable house. Look at this.” His long arm swept the room. “Thirteen leaks.”

A servant knock softly at the door, entered, replaced the full bucket with an empty one, and left.

Jefferson walked to the fireplace and settled in to the warmth of the fire. Teague envied him—he was still cold. He wished that some one would have the grace to offer him tea. He imagined the warmth of the hot liquid flowing through his body. But the three men in the room seemed intent on something else.

“Mr. Teague,” Knox said. “May I ask why you resigned your commission? I mean to say; a bright young officer, well-known I might add, from an illustrious military family.”

For love, should I say, Teague thought? Because my beloved father would not have a soldier whose prospects of a decent salary were non-existent, in his family. “See here, Teague,” the Colonel had said grandly but just enough sincerity to leaven the question. “You don’t think that I expect my daughter to want for anything, do you?” He was right; a major’s pay could barely support a major, let alone the major’s family. “Come to work for me,” had followed, and what followed that was an expectant smile.

“I felt the opportunities afforded me in the army,” Teague said, “were limited.”

“With such an explanation,” Madison said, easing out of the shadows, “you might well consider politics as a possible career.”

Teague said nothing. He glanced at Jefferson. The president appeared to be studying the carpet at his feet.

“Mr. Teague,” Knox said. “I knew your father quite well, and I am aware of your service to the country. Had you remained in the army I sure that you would have risen to a superior rank. It is for those reasons, and others that I shall make know, that I have asked you here tonight. We would like you to serve as an agent for the president.”

“An agent?”

“A confidential agent,” Jefferson said.

“What you must understand,” Madison said, more, Teague suspected, because he did not want to be left out of the discussion, than for any other reason. “Is that anything discussed in this room is not to pass beyond those doors.”

“I understand what the word ‘confidential’ means, sir,” Teague said tersely.

“Let us not lose sight of the issue at hand,” Jefferson said, rubbing his hands together to warm them. “The nation is in a critical state, Mr. Teague. She is, in her present condition,” he glanced at the ceiling, “rather like this house. We have received word of a force being gathered in the west of Tennessee. A band, or company if you wish, of individuals.”

“Rebels,” Madison spat.

Jefferson smiled grimly. “There was a time, not so very long ago, when one would wear that title with pride. The truth is, Mr. Teague, is that we do not know the intention of this group. Oh, there are rumors. Talk about invading the Spanish west, or striking toward Canada. Rumors only and absolutely nothing of substance. One finds it hard to act on unfounded rumors, unless that action is to gather intelligence about the veracity of those rumors.”

“To put it plainly,” Knox said, obviously feeling the need to rescue the moment from the edge of obscurity. “We would like you to go to Tennessee and ascertain the intensions of this company. Devine their nature and goals.”

“Join them if you like,” Madison said. “In fact you may find that the appropriate way to gather intelligence.”

Teague looked from Madison to Jefferson. The president’s interest was back to the array of buckets. “Is there no one closer to Tennessee? Some, officer or other gentleman?”

“It is expedient,” Madison said. “To dispatch someone from here. Verbal instructions you understand.”

“You can travel to Baltimore via coach,” Knox said. “Board a packet to New Orleans, travel up the Mississippi, and thence overland to Nashville.”

“Arrangements have been made for such a journey,” Madison added, “in anticipation of your acceptance of our proposal.”

“The reward,” Knox said quickly, “is a colonelcy in the regular army.”

“And the profound thanks of your nation,” Madison tacked on hurriedly.

“We must be assured of your confidence,” Jefferson said. “And a constant stream of communication. It is imperative that we understand the nature and purpose of this company.”

Teague studied the three men in the room, one after another, looking for some hint of the true nature of the proposition. They were being much too smooth, as if the trap had been carefully considered and laid with expertise. The whole thing felt hollow to Thomas Teague, distasteful.

“Your father-in-law is a patriot and merchant,” Madison said. “Tell him that your government has sent you on a diplomatic mission to discuss matters of commerce with the Spanish in New   Orleans.  That should more than satisfy the Colonel’s interest in your whereabouts.”

“I take it,” Knox said hopefully, “that you accept our proposition?”

Accept it? Teague thought. It was a lifeline. He was drowning in bills-of-lading, account books, and invoices.  He faced rank and file of numbers everyday, and regiments of clerks who scurried about like mice across a kitchen floor. Every supper was a command performance before the Colonel and after the women were dispatched from the library, Teague and the two other sons-in-law listened dutifully to the Colonel’s pronouncements on business, politics, diplomacy, and human nature in general. And when he attempted to find solace in Prudence’s arms, he received instead denial tinged with the mildest form of reproach. Accept it? To refuse the offer was to wither away within the shadow of the twin peaks of revenue and loss, with a ledger for a tombstone. But, there was Faith to consider, that and his promise to Abigail.

“No, sir,” Teague said. “I am forced to decline.”

“Decline?” Henry Knox said, startled. “But I thought that I, that the nation could count on you? I was led to believe…”

Madison cut him off, moving in quickly. “I’m not sure that you fully understand the critical nature of our request. You must see that more is at stake than your comfort, or you personal desires.”

“What is at stake,” Teague said, “is my concern.” The image of his daughter appeared. He would not abandon her as he had been abandoned.

“Splendid,” Knox said. Madison offered nothing more than a slim, cold smile. He glanced at the president for direction. Jefferson nodded. “We have wagered on a horse that would not run. I was certain that you would rise to the call of liberty, like your father before you. Like the Colonel. I see that we were mistaken. Thank you, sir.”

“One moment, Major Teague,” Knox said hopefully. “Is there no enticement by which we can secure your support? No way to reverse you decision?”

“No, gentlemen,” Teague said. “Nothing that you say will induce me to change my mind. If I have your leave?”

“By all means,” Jefferson said, sliding his hands into his housecoat. “Give my regards to the Colonel.”

Teague bowed and left the room.

“Overton,” Madison said in disgust. “The man’s a criminal. A reprobate.”

“We don’t know it’s him,” Jefferson said. “We know nothing of certain about this Tennessee adventure.”

“If it is Overton,” Knox said. “He might have part of the army with him and there’s no way of knowing what his intensions are.”

“His intensions are diabolical,” Madison said. “He is ambitious and without scruples and it is well-known that he feels betrayed by this government.”

“It is well-known,” Jefferson said. “That he lost an election.”

“A hero of the Revolution, a man of intelligence and wealth,” Knox said, moving to the fire. “He could pose considerable threat.”

Madison fixed Knox with a withering look. “I was certain that Teague is the man for the occasion. These soldiers are birds of a feather. The Colonel gave me his assurances. I thought that I could trust him.”

“I trust him,” Knox spoke to the fire. Rainwater trickled down the mantle and hissed as the flames gobbled it up. “The Colonel is a persuasive man. As for Teague…” he pondered the flames, “I knew his father and what I know of the son convinces me that he will do the right thing.” He turned. “He knows Overton. The elder Teague and General Overton were close friends. If it is, as we expect, that Overton is raising a company of some sorts, I think it expedient to have someone that he knows, someone who can gain his confidence.”

“Yes, if we could have convinced that young man to do our bidding” Madison said, advancing with purpose. “And if he had agreed? Suppose that Overton turns that confidence and our young Major becomes captivated by the glare of that bright personage. It was the force of his personality, don’t forget, that moved the army when no other could move it.  If it had been he in the Garden, rather than the serpent, Adam would have been coaxed into eating the whole damned tree.”

The sound of a tiny bell stopped their conversation. Jefferson, bell in hand, studied the bucket at his feet. “Twenty-one minutes. The rain is increasing.”

 

 

The ride home to Georgetown was miserable. Rain pounded Teague and Jacob, driving through their wool cloaks and soaking both of them. Jacob rode a horse’s length behind Teague and to his left, as he had been taught to do. Teague rode with his thoughts. It all made sense; they had been given assurances. The Colonel came up several times in the conversation, his presence in the room formidable even if he was in Georgetown. The merchant king, some called Colonel Harry Ledger. Even his name spoke of account books and figures that reflected profit and loss. They had spoken to him before Teague called upon them. A burst of lightening caused Teague’s horse to shy heavily to one side. He was able to calm the animal by stroking its neck and leaning forward to he reassure it in a soothing voice that all was well.

In two hours they arrived at his residence. He slid from his horse, weary with fatigue and handed the reigns to Jacob without a word. Pulling his cloak tight around him, Teague walked up the brick walkway, climbed the three marble steps, and entered his home. Cassie, the house servant, took his wet cloak and hat, helped him removed his sodden boots, and offered him a pair of felt house shoes.

“There is a fire in the parlor, sir,” she said, and disappeared.

Teague nodded, deciding that he would send for a glass of port and sink into the wing-backed chair closest to the fire. After the chill was driven from his body, he would steal into Faith’s room, kiss her goodnight and go to his room, careful not to wake Abigail. The three men, the three wise men he named them as he rode home, and the Colonel would be far, far away.

He slid back the pocket doors and entered the parlor. The Colonel stood with his back to the fire.

“Thomas, here. Come here, close to the fire,” he moved graciously to one side, sweeping Teague toward the fire. “Miserable night. Damned miserable.” He was a very big man, well over six-feet, and he used his bulk to cajole or intimidate men. Tonight he was in a hearty, generous mood.

“Thank you,” Teague said. “I had no idea that you had come for a visit.”

“Merely, dropped in,” the Colonel said, dismissing any formality of his presence. “Stopped by to see my daughter, and grandchild of course. A man must tend to his grandchildren.” He was in a lecturing mood. Soon he would grow philosophical, Teague knew, and everyone present was expected to listen. “We need young, vital men and women for this new nation. Strong citizens to make a strong United States. I’m sure Faith, in her own time, will be fortunate to find the right man and produce sons for the nation. That’s what’s needed, don’t you think? Sons for the nation?”

Teague rang the servant’s bell and when Cassie appeared, ordered a glass of port. The Colonel waved off any refreshment when Teague questioned him with a glance.

“Where have you been this horrible night?” the Colonel asked.

“To the president’s house,” Teague said, too tired to worry about playing games. “I saw President Jefferson, Mr. Knox, and Mr. Madison.”

“Indeed?” the Colonel was a tad too impressed. “Secretaries of War and State. The president you say? Well, I must say that my son-in-law is keeping some very impressive company. Would I be too bold to ask under what circumstances that you went to the president’s home?”

“I was summoned,” Teague said, taking the crystal goblet from Cassie. He took a sip of port, savored the taste, and finally felt the chill leaving him. “I was invited to undertake a mission.”

“Indeed!” This time the Colonel pretended to be overwhelmed. It was still a bit too much. “A mission? Where, may I ask? Of course if your are required… ”

“I declined,” Teague said, closing his eyes as the amber liquid warmed his throat and chest.

“Declined?” This time the Colonel’s surprise was genuine.

“It would have required my absence from Washington for an extended period.”

“Hang the absence,” Teague boomed. “This is the president, young man. The Secretary of State. My old friend Henry Knox.” The Colonel walked away in exasperation and  then came directly at Teague, using his size to gain the advantage. “You cannot tell the president that you will not do as he asked. It’s a question of loyalty, service to the nation. It’s a question of your position…”

“Perhaps yours as well, sir,” Teague said before he realized it.

“Yes,” the Colonel said loudly. “One does not advance by retreating, sir. One does not throw opportunities away that are guaranteed to pay dividends.”

The parlor doors opened and Abigail entered, looking distraught. She quickly closed the door behind her. “What is the matter? Everyone one in the house can hear you? What has happened?”

“Your husband,” the Colonel said, leaving no doubt about his disappointment, “has made a very foolish decision.”

“I was asked to undertake a mission for the government,” Teague said. “I declined.”

Abigail, her brown bright with concern looked from her husband to her father. “Declined? Why on earth did you decline?”

Teague was growing tired of the conversation. All he wanted was to climb into bed and sleep away this night. Abigail’s exchanged his fatigue for suspicion. Had she and the Colonel spoken before he arrived? “I did not feel my presence was critical. I did not like the thought of leaving you and faith for a long time. I have responsibilities here.” He saw the merchant’s block surrounded by dirty warehouses. He saw the smile on Faith’s lips.

“Put those responsibilities out of your mind, young man,” the Colonel said. His tone was conciliatory. He was ready to help no matter what. “That is what families are for. That’s what I’m for. Let me take the burden of responsibilities for you.”

“I….”Teague began.

Abigail moved toward him, her tone beseeching. “I don’t understand. The president called for you. You cannot simply turn away from that. Father is here. Father will take care of us. The president, Thomas. Think of how you can be advanced.” She moved closed to him, her eyes searching his face, her small hands on his chest. “You cannot throw away an opportunity such as this. You must, for your sake, for my sake,” she glanced at the Colonel, “for my father’s sake. You must do as the president asks.”

He felt defeated, attacked on two fronts. “I do not want to leave Abigail,” he said, hoping that she would understand, but knowing that her ally was her father.

Abigail assumed the role of a petulant child. “How can you say that, Thomas? She is a mere babe; she hardly knows that you are here. You must this instant return to the president’s home and tell him that you have reconsidered. Faith, indeed! Sometimes I think that you care more for that child than you do me.”

Teague gave her a reassuring smile that said such an idea was nonsense, but the smile was a lie. He felt the Colonel’s big hand on his shoulder.

“She’s right, my boy. Duty calls. No need to worry about Abigail or Faith. They’re in good hands. They won’t want for a thing. But there’s no need for you to go out again tonight. Send a servant around to the president’s house with a note stating that after careful consideration, you’ve agreed to his request.” The Colonel moved quickly to a deck, pulled a piece of foolscap from a pigeonhole, selected a quill pen, and opened the lid of an inkwell. “Just a short note,” he said, urging Teague on. “Won’t take a minute.”

“You must,” Abigail said, resting her head on his chest. “For all of us.”

“Of course,” Teague said, placing the glass of port on the desk, “for all of us.” He took the quill pen, dipped it in the ink, and began to write. He decided when he was finished he would bid them both good night, and spend a few moments at his daughter’s bedside. She was a lovely child, bright, cheerful, and inquisitive and she demanded nothing of her father except his presence. Nothing gave him greater joy than to have her slip her tiny hand into his and for him to look down into that innocent, wondrous face that shown with love.

 

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Mary Todd Lincoln

By
Steven Wilson, Assistant Director
Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum

Mary Todd was born in Lexington, Kentucky to a prominent banker and his wife. If Mary had not been buffeted about by the swells of life’s misfortunes her futures might have been assured. But Mary’s mother died when she was six, and her father’s marriage to Elizabeth Humphries, compounded the pain of that lose. There was always a void in Mary’s soul, a sense of longing weighed by shame, anger, and a lack of self-confidence. These are natural conditions brought about by abandonment. An intelligent child, well educated (she attended a finishing school for twelve years) Mary Todd was bright, ambitious, and accomplished in her role as a lady of the 19th Century. Twenty-year-old Mary Todd joined her sister Elizabeth and her husband Ninian Edwards in Springfield, the raw frontier capital of Illinois. In a whirlwind of social events, the sophisticated, vivacious Mary met Abraham Lincoln. The man I marry will be president of the United States, Mary is reported to have said. Her blazing ambition to achieve and acquire makes such a statement possible. They were married, the lady of society, and the self-made country lawyer, in 1842.
Mary Todd Lincoln is unfairly condemned by history. She was difficult, and had an explosive temper, and once she felt you had wronged her, there would be no reconciliation. But she managed a home for her husband and children on Lincoln’s modest income. Mary Todd Lincoln was the driving, if tyrannical force in the Lincoln family’s livelihood. Her husband was something of a child himself, often slipping into melancholy, or setting out for months on a time to ride the circuit. She referred to him as Mr. Lincoln, and he called her Molly. Theirs was a quaint, sometimes playful relationship punctuated at times by Mary’s volatile temper.
She might have envisioned a reprieve from the mundane drudgery of everyday life when she and her family arrived at the Executive Mansion in 1861. But Washington was a dreary town, the Executive Mansion had all the charm of a second-rate boarding house, and the city’s inhabitants looked upon her and her husband as nothing more than crude frontier folk. Mary Todd Lincoln was abandoned once more—her husband was consumed by the war, many of her family had chosen to fight for the Confederacy, and she was adrift in a dark sea of faithless sycophants.
William Wallace Lincoln, age eleven, died early in 1862. She was the most powerful lady in the land, and yet she was not immune to loss. Willie was the second child to be taken from her—little Eddie died in 1850. She immersed herself in mourning, teetering on the edge of madness, a pathetic spirit dressed in black, wandering the halls of the Executive Mansion. For a while she withdrew to her room, cutting herself off from all human contact. Eventually, Mary Todd Lincoln emerged from the darkness, deeply scared by pain, melancholy, and fear.
She sought the companionship of others who had suffered as she had, and found them in the military hospitals surrounding Washington. She visited these cities of comfort filled with horribly wounded and sick soldiers, sat at their bedsides, and spoke to them. She would read letters from loved ones, or write for those unable too. She forbade any acknowledgement of her service, insisting that she remain anonymous.
It is unfair for tragedy to make repeated visits during one person’s life. But equitable or not, just or not, it is the nature of life. Mary Todd was a victum of heartbreak, and misunderstanding, and deserves, under the sometimes harsh glare of history, compassion.

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ACME SCHOOL OF FUNDRAISING

Steven Wilson, Chief Fundraiser
“Money Isn’t Everything! You Gotta Have Cheez-Whiz, Too!”

Fall Courses
Panhandling 102: “Pardon me, Mister but do you have $82,000 in spare change.”
Robbery 107: Remember, always wear a ski mask. And the eyeholes go in front.
Lunch Money 201: Grasp the 3rd grader firmly by the ankles, hold upside down, and shake.
Candy from a Baby 204: Threaten the kid with a diaper wedgy until he comes across.
Counterfeiting 301: Never use crayon or water color. And Lincoln doesn’t have a Mohawk.
Operation 412: “My kid sister/kid brother/dog needs a new adenoid/deltoid/trapezoid.”
Family Emergency 413: “My Mom is in jail/the Merchant Marines/a Turkish prison.”
Apples/Pencils 419: Bring a tin cup of pencils and a bushel of apples. Flash a little leg when selling either.*
Selling Blood 421: “We’ve already taken 8 gallons this week, Mr. Wilson. Any more and your nostrils will start to collapse.”

* See “Sexual Harassment Manual,” page 27, sub-section C, paragraph I: “How My Career as a Fund Raiser Ended Abruptly.”

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