Monday, May 9, 2011

Brain, Courage, Dexterity (who does this describe?)

This entry is from My Diary North and South by William Howard Russell.

According to Wiki, Russell was an Irish reporter with The Times and is considered to have been one of the first modern war correspondents.

May 9th,1861

To-day the papers contain a proclamation by the President of the Confederate States of America, declaring a state of war between the Confederacy and the United States, and notifying the issue of letters of marque and reprisal. I went out with Mr. Wigfall in the forenoon to pay my respects to Mr. Jefferson Davis at the State Department.  Mr. Seward told me that but for Jefferson Davis the Secession plot could never have been carried out. No other man of the party had the brain, or the courage and dexterity, to bring it to a successful issue. All the persons in the Southern States spoke of him with admiration, though their forms of speech and thought generally forbid them to be respectful to any one.

There before me was " Jeff Davis's State Department " — a large brick building, at the corner of a street, with a Confederate flag floating above it. The door stood open, and ''gave" on a large hall whitewashed, with doors plainly painted belonging to small rooms, in which was transacted most important business, judging by the names written on sheets of paper and applied outside, denoting bureaux of the highest functions. A few clerks were passing in and out, and one or two gentlemen were on the stairs, but there was no appearance of any bustle in the building. . . .

. . . .I had an opportunity of observing the President very closely: he did not impress me as favorably as I had expected, though he is certainly a very different looking man from Mr. Lincoln. He is like a gentleman — has a slight, light figure, little exceeding middle height, and holds himself erect and straight. He was dressed in a rustic suit of slate-colored stuff, with a black silk handkerchief round his neck ; his manner is plain, and rather reserved and drastic ; his head is well formed, with a fine full forehead, square and high, covered with innumerable fine lines and wrinkles, features regular, though the cheek-bones are too high, and the jaws too hollow to be handsome ; the lips are thin, flexible, and curved, the chin square, well defined ; the nose very regular, with wide nostrils ; and the eyes deep-set, large and full — one seems nearly blind, and is partly covered with a film, owing to excruciating; attacks of neuralgia and tic. Wonderful to relate, he does not chew, and is neat and clean-looking, with hair trimmed, and boots brushed. The expression of his face is anxious, he has a very haggard, care-worn, and pain-drawn look, though no trace of anything but the utmost confidence and the greatest decision could be detected in his conversation. He asked me some general questions respecting the route I had taken in the States.

I mentioned that I had seen great military preparations through the South, and was astonished at the alacrity with which the people sprang to arms. " Yes. sir," he remarked, and his tone of voice and manner of speech are rather remarkable for what are considered Yankee peculiarities. . . .

Jefferson Davis,  Wm. S. Pendleton, photographer
From Library of Congress Collection

No comments:

Post a Comment