Booth’s Revenge Chapter Sixty-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. Lamon and Baker join forces to bring down Stanton. Boston Corbett preaches a strange sermon about the assassination.
Dr. Leale shook the chill from his bones after removing his outer vestments and settled into his favorite comfortable chair, which faced the parlor fireplace. His wife presented him with a hot cup of coffee. December of 1867 was particularly cold, and his omnibus ride from the military hospital to his apartment building did nothing to protect him from the sharp winds whipping in from the frozen Potomac River. Before mounting the steps of the omnibus he bought a newspaper to read on the way home, but chose to hunch over and close his eyes, which he felt were about to freeze in their sockets. Now comfortable in his favorite chair and sipping a hot cup of coffee, Leale, was ready to read the news.
The House of Representatives, by a vote of 108 to 57, refused to impeach President Johnson because of his action of firing Secretary of War Stanton and replacing him with Gen. Grant. Leale did not know what to think of the legislative maneuverings but he did feel certain that once the newly elected representatives were sworn into office after the first of the New Year, a new attempt to impeach the president would surely pass.
His role in the larger drama of President Lincoln’s assassination, the trial and execution of the conspirators and now the impeachment battle often seemed inconsequential to him. Because he had been the initial physician to attend the slain president Leale had been part of many ceremonies surrounding the funeral. He attended the assassination conspiracy trial in 1865. At that trial he met Lincoln’s mysterious stepbrother. Then Representative Benjamin Butler asked Leale in 1867 to write a detailed report on the damage done to the head of President Lincoln for the congressional report.
However, in the back of his mind he could not shake the memory of watching Lincoln delivering a message from a window of the Executive Mansion shortly before the assassination. The president’s face looked odd to the doctor. Exactly why it was odd Leale could not figure out, just as he could not figure out Secretary of War Stanton’s behavior that night at the boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theatre.
Leale’s wife Rebecca came to the parlor door to announce dinner was now on the table.
“In a moment, dear. As soon as I finish this story about the impeachment vote.” He searched for some clue about what tied the three events together. The newspaper article quoted Gen. Grant about the impeachment vote. On the one hand, he indicated he was pleased to oblige President Johnson and take on the interim position but on the other, he made overtures of reconciliation with Stanton. All of these twists and turns puzzled Leale, making him more drawn to the political machinations. A few minutes later, Rebecca returned to the parlor, leaned over his chair to kiss him on the cheek, a gentle reminder his meal was beginning to chill.
“Eating a cold dinner will not bring justice to this town,” she whispered.
He looked up from his newspaper, smiled then a cloud crossed his face. “If only you had seen Mr. Stanton that night. Something was wrong, terribly wrong.”
“Like the way President Lincoln acted that time,” Rebecca said. “You wanted to go to the theater to see if he looked the same and what made him look that way.”
“Yes, dear. You do understand, don’t you?”
“Yes, I understand,” she replied.
“If the state of affairs deteriorate to such an extent that the Senate places President Johnson on trial, well, I want to be ready to help.”

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