For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863…
He awoke with a start. It was getting more and more difficult to get out of bed in the morning. The man groaned as he pushed back the covers, swung his legs over the edge and sat up in bed. The faint tightening pain in his chest reminded him of his mortality. He was feeble and weak. Often he thought of days gone by and the fame that had propelled him to this office. When he took the reigns from President Jefferson Davis two years ago his health had been much better. Second president of the Confederate States of America, he thought to himself and sighed. Six years. That’s the term; thank God it’s not longer. Should have gone to Longstreet, he thought as he slipped into his house shoes and slowly made his way to the latrine—he knew it was more than a latrine and he could still remember the beaming faces of the workman who had installed the indoor plumbing, including bathrooms. It was a far cry from his days in the field. Yes, should have been Old Pete, but the people had spoken. It was the first real presidential election for the new nation and a bit of a test—could this confederacy work? Could this democracy work, part–slave and part–free? He recalled the words of Abraham Lincoln that a house divided against itself could not stand.
Such were the thoughts of Robert E. Lee that morning in April 1868. The election of 1867, which had propelled him into office—more of a coronation, he thought, given that there was no real opposition. Sure, Beauregard had show interest and even declared, but quietly withdrew when it became apparent that I was the overwhelming choice. Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard had to settle for Secretary of War in President Robert E. Lee’s cabinet. Using the United States President’s cabinet as a model, Lee had selected Longstreet as his Secretary of State, and George Pickett, still harboring hard feelings from Gettysburg, as Post-Master General. He kept one of Jefferson Davis’ cabinet, Stephen Mallory, though he moved him from Navy to Treasury. The young republic need a man of his talents to keep it solvent in its infancy. Mallory had proven himself adept at magical procurement—building a navy out of practically nothing. The Navy appointment went to Raphael Semmes, whom Lee hoped would be as good an administrator as he was a pirate.
He had wanted Longstreet to be his Vice-President, but “Old Pete” would have nothing to do with a position that he described “could be done by anyone who could pour pee out of a boot with instructions written on the heel.” So that position went to John Breckinridge, the man who served as James Buchanan’s vice-president and who came in second to Lincoln in the 1860 election. Breckinridge accepted, albeit reluctantly; Lee suspected that Breckinridge, sensing Lee’s failing health, saw this as his path to the presidency.
Thomas Jackson did not have the patience to be in politics and let Lee know that he would not serve as a politician. So, Lee made him general of the all the armies of the Confederacy.
He had the dream again last night. It was re-occurring dream that he could never remember other than there was a long dark tunnel. He had heard tale that Lincoln had a re-occurring dream, often before momentous events.
He awoke with a start, gathered his robe and went into the next room, trying to remember his dream. Gently nudging his wife, he asked, “Mother, what day is it?”
“Why don’t be silly, Father, it’s April 14th, Good Friday, and all our troubles are behind us. That awful war is over. Now, go back to bed or you’ll fall asleep this evening at the theater.”