How Mr. Davis Was Put In Irons
June 18, 1866
Mr. Davis is shocked and embarrassed at the visit of a government official and blacksmith who are ordered to put him in shackles. Davis resists them and confesses that he would rather be killed than put in irons. He understands that the war is over, the South was defeated, and he is too old and weak to be locked in shackles.
"Well?" said Mr. Davis as they entered, slightly raising his head. "I have an unpleasant duty to perform, sir," said Captain Titlow; and as he spoke, the senior blacksmith took the shackles from his assistant. Davis leaped instantly from his recumbent attitude, a flush passing over his face for a moment, and then his countenance growing livid and rigid as death. He gasped for breath, clutching his throat with the thin fingers of his right hand, and then recovering himself slowly, while his wasted figure towered up to its full heightnow appearing to swell with indignation and then to shrink with terror, as he glanced from the captain's face to the shackles -he said slowly and with a laboring chest : " My God ! you cannot have been sent to iron me ?" " Such are my orders, sir," replied the officer, beckoning the blacksmith to appreach, who stepped forward, unlocking the padlock and preparing the fetters to do their office. These fetters were of heavy iron, probably flve-eighths of an inch in thickness, and connected together by a chain of like weight. I believe they are now in the possession of Major-General Miles, and will form an interesting relic. "This is too monstrous," groaned the prisoner, glaring hurriedly round the room, as if for some weapon or means of self destruction. " I demand, Captain, that you let me see the commanding officer. Can he pretend that such shackles are required to secure the safe custody of a weak old man, so guarded, and in such a fort as this?" "It could serve no purpose," replied Captain Titlow; "his orders are from Washington, as mine are from him." "But he can telegraph," interposed Mr. Davis, eagerly; "there must he some mistake. No such outrage as you threaten me with is on record in the history of nations. Beg him to telegraph, and delay until he answers." "My orders are peremptory," said the officer, "and admit of no delay. For your own sake, let me advise you to submit with patience. As a soldier, Mr. Davis, you know I must execute orders." "These are not orders for a soldier," shouted the prisoner, losing all control of himself. "They are orders for a jailorfor a hangman, which no soldier wearing a sword should accept! I tell you the world will ring with this disgrace. The war is over ; the south is conquered ; I have no longer any country but America, and it is for the honor of America, as for my own honor and life, that I plead against this degradation. "Kill me! kill me!" he cried passionately, throwing his arms wide open and exposing his breast, "rather than inflict on me, and on my people through me, this insult worse than death." "Do your duty blacksmith," said the officer, walking toward the embrasure, as if not caring to witness the performance. "It only gives increased pain on all sides to protract this interview." At these words the blacksmith advanced , with the shackles, and seeing that the prisoner had one foot upon the chair near his bedside, his right hand resting on the back of it, the brawny mechanic made an attempt to slip one of the shackles over the ankle so raised; but, as if with the vehemence and strength which frenzy can impart even to the weakest invalid, Mr. Davis suddenly seized his assailant and hurled him half-way across the room. On this Captain Titlow turned, and seeing that Davis had backed against the wall for further resistance, began to remonstrate, pointing out in brief, clear language that this course was madness, and that orders must be enforced at any cost. "Why compel me," he said, "to add the further indignity of personal violence to the necessity of your being ironed ?" "I am a prisoner of war," fiercely retorted Davis; I have been a soldier in the armies of America, and know how to die. Only kill me, and my last breath shall be a blessing on your head. But while I have life and strength to resist, for myself and for my people, this thing shall not be done."
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“How Mr. Davis Was Put In Irons,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 18, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/221.