Booth’s Revenge Chapter Sixty-Five

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Johnson grants a reprieve for Mrs. Surratt, but it arrives too late. Lamon and Baker join forces to bring down Stanton. Booth says good-bye to his sister Asia.
The House of Representatives voted in the late afternoon of Feb. 24, 1868, to impeach President Andrew Johnson, and late that night a collection of Republican leaders gathered in Stanton’s War Department office to discuss their strategy for the Senate trial. They needed a two-thirds majority, thirty-six votes, to convict him of violating the Tenure of Office Act. Stanton felt an overwhelming fatigue and couldn’t rise from his chair to greet his visitors. During most of the conversation, he stared into his fireplace.
Massachusetts Sen. Benjamin Wade sat on a long sofa close to Stanton. He’d positioned himself as presiding officer of the current Senate; therefore, if the senators removed Johnson, Wade would become President.
“Representative Stevens sends his regrets that he couldn’t attend this meeting,” Wade said, “but his health is failing and he wants to improve his strength so he could attend the Johnson trial.”
“I’m sure he didn’t use that exact language,” Charles Sumner replied with irony. He was the other senator from Massachusetts.
He doesn’t have Wade’s ambitions.
Stanton studied their faces in the flickering flames.
Sumner has a personal vendetta against any Southerner since he was almost beaten to death by one on the floor of Congress before the war.
Rep. George Boutwell went to Stanton’s side and patted his shoulder. “Are you feeling well, dear friend?”
Stanton appraised the young man and wondered if his concern for the secretary’s health was real or contrived.
What does he want out of all this?
Sighing deeply, Stanton found himself weary of viewing every action and every word of every man in the most cynical and political terms. He shook his head.
“I’ll be fine.” He waved at the sofa where Wade sat. “That piece of furniture may seem comfortable for a short repose, but it’s lacking in ease for a good night’s sleep.”
All the men chuckled at his attempt at humor, but none as forceful as Pennsylvanian Rep. John Bingham, who seemed full of his new political prowess, having just won election to Congress. “Well, it won’t be much longer, sir. I’m sure the trial will end quickly and in our favor.”
“I’m not so sure of that, Bingham,” Sumner interrupted. “This will be as cunning an endeavor as we have launched in the past eight years. We cannot allow ourselves to become overconfident.”
“You must agree, Sen. Sumner,” Rep. Boutwell said, “we only have to convince five or six senators to vote with us. The majority is assured.”
Sumner held up his index finger. “It all comes down to one vote, which is much more precarious than you can ever imagine.”
A light knock on the door drew the politicians’ attention. A young man with red hair dressed in a private’s uniform came in carrying a glisteningly clean chamber pot.
“Sorry to disturb you, gentleman, but I wanted Secretary Stanton to have his pot available the next time he requires it.” He laughed. “It seems embarrassing, I know, but I don’t want Mr. Stanton to be discommoded.”
The others in the room joined in the laughter, which caused Stanton to look up out of curiosity. This didn’t sound like the same young man who took his pot out earlier in the day, nor like the one who brought him his meals. Stanton tensed and his right hand went to his face to cover his gaping mouth. The soldier looked strikingly similar to Private Adam Christy, but he knew it could not be him because Christy shot himself in the head the night Abraham Lincoln died.
After depositing the porcelain vessel in the corner of the office, he bowed awkwardly as he backed away. “Sorry to have interrupted you gentlemen in your discussions, whatever they may be.”
Stanton refrained from blurting out a question to the private. Yet he wanted to know who he was and what happened to the soldier who attended him earlier in the day. He leaned back and closed his eyes. He was tired. His mind was playing tricks on him.
God, I wish this entire ordeal were done. The last couple of years have worn me down to a nub.
“Don’t worry about it, young man,” Boutwell said, smiling broadly. “We all have unpleasant assignments from time to time. Isn’t that right, gentlemen?”
The others chortled in agreement. An uncomfortable pause followed which prompted Stanton to look up and glance around at his compatriots. “Yes, yes, of course.”
“So any time you have to go about your duties, don’t let us get in your way, Private—what was your name?” Boutwell asked.
“Christy, sir. Adam Christy.”

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