Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Two

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Whitman tells Gabby all the news from Washington.
Gabby Zook became accustomed to the Whitman family chaos. They lived in the basement of their Brooklyn brownstone. Tranquility came down upon the residence during the Christmas season of 1865, and remained during the first cold months of the New Year.
Mr. Walt, as Gabby called the poet, found him a job sweeping floors at a mercantile establishment a couple of blocks from home. Mrs. Walt—that was the name Gabby gave Whitman’s mother Louisa–walked him to the store of a morning and back home that night. Gabby particularly liked Louisa who seemed to have a large, loving heart, even though she complained of being sick all the time. He looked forward to the weekends because Whitman came home from Washington where he worked in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Gabby liked Mr. Walt’s stories of peculiar things happening in the government.
After Whitman told him President Johnson fired head of the Secret Service Lafayette Baker, Gabby leaned forward and wrinkled his brow.
“What does this Mr. Baker look like?”
“Well, let me see.” Whitman scratched his chin whiskers. “I’ve seen him many times myself around Washington City, and I must say I didn’t like the look of him. Which is very unusual for me. I can talk for hours with any common laborer on the street, but I never had a desire to even meet Mr. Baker. He’s not a big man, perhaps your height, Mr. Gabby. Not quite as old, and with a thick shock of red hair. He walks into a room, and you’d think he hated everyone in it and was determined to shoot and kill them all.”
Gabby’s eyes widened. “A short red-headed mean man.”
Whitman cocked his head. “Yes, I suppose you could call him mean. Yes, that would be a good word to describe him.”
“That’s him.” Gabby’s hands began to tremble. “That’s the man I’ve told you about. The man who killed Adam Christy.”
“Of course he is.” Whitman smiled and patted Gabby’s quivering hands. “Well. Let’s talk of more pleasant things. What else is happening in the capital that might amuse you?” Over the next few months, he only had more troubling news to tell Gabby.
In March, President Johnson vetoed the formation of the Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction, claiming it would impede elected Southern representatives from taking their seats in Congress. Soon afterwards, Johnson vetoed a Civil Rights Bill and asserted it contained portions of the previously vetoed Freedman Bureau bill and predicted the legislation would create a “terrible engine of wrongdoing, corruption and fraud.
“What do you think about that, Mr. Gabby?”
“Mr. Walt, all that talk about rights and corruption confuses me,” he admitted, shaking his head.
“Me too.”
“I feel I want to be on President Johnson’s side, but I don’t like the idea of keeping black people from having their rights. I didn’t have any rights when I was in the basement of the White House, and it made me feel bad.” After a pause, he added, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think the President likes black people very much. And that makes him bad. But Mr. Stanton doesn’t like him, and I know for sure that he’s a bad man. Isn’t there anyone good in the Capital anymore?”
In early April the Senate overturned the President’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill. After that, Johnson vetoed a bill to admit Colorado to the Union because many of the Southern states had yet to have their sovereign rights restored.
“Why can’t they all just find a way to get along with each other and stop butting heads?” Gabby asked.
“I agree.” Whitman smiled and looked out the window as he sipped his coffee.

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