Booth’s Revenge Chapter Seventy-Two

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. The Senate fails to remove Johnson from office.
Stanton sat in his rocking chair next to the fireplace. With a blanket around his shoulders, he tried to warm himself but to no avail. Despite all his effort to drink draughts of hot black coffee and sip on bowls of steaming chicken bouillon, the Secretary of War continued to shiver and ache all over. This latest bout of his life-long enemy, asthma, seemed to be draining the life out of him; however, he consistently told himself all he truly needed was the good news from the U.S. Senate that it had voted to remove Andrew Johnson from the office of president. Once Johnson was on his way back to the mountains of Eastern Tennessee and Benjamin Wade was ensconced as President, Stanton knew this blasted cough would go away. Secure in knowing Americans would never learn about his secret treason, he could return to a normal life and resume his influence on another weak chief executive. A light rap at the door roused Stanton from his deep thoughts.
“Come in,” he mumbled as he expectorated heavy green phlegm into his handkerchief. At first he managed a smile when Benjamin Wade and Charles Sumner came through the door, but the downcast looks on their gray faces forced Stanton’s fears and uncertainties to return. “Gentlemen, I don’t like your dour countenances. Well, out with it. What was the vote?”
Wade nodded toward the sofa. “May we have a seat?”
“You can do anything you damned well please. Just tell me the final vote.”
After the men sat, Sumner shook his head. “We were certain we had the votes.”
“Don’t tell me the damned Democrats beat you?” Stanton hoped the more dumbfounded and imperious he sounded, he could somehow change the news he was about to hear.
“No, oh no,” Wade corrected him. “It wasn’t the Democrats.”
“It was Edmund Ross,” Sumner interjected, his lips curling in disdain. “Betrayed by one of our own.”
“I knew he could have been bought.” Wade leaned forward. “One of those Democrat devils bought his soul.” He spat into the fireplace. “May both their souls burn in hell.”
“Yes,” Stanton whispered. “Won’t we all burn for eternity?”
Sumner straightened his back. “We certainly will not!” He raised his nose. “I suffered enough for the cause not to spend time in hell with Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, John Wilkes Booth and Edmund Ross! You seem to have forgotten I was nearly beaten to death on the Senate floor for articulating our rage against the evil estate of slavery!”
“Oh for God’s sake, Sumner, we all remember your bruises.” Stanton put his hand to his sweating brow. “You won’t let us forget.”
“I don’t understand it,” Wade continued, evidently unaware of how the conversation had drifted into a cauldron of pain and religious indignation. “Every chance I got I stood by Ross with my hand on his shoulder as I spoke on our constitutional duty. At the beginning of the vote I was sure we were in control of everything.”
Stanton sighed. “Fools, don’t you know we control nothing? No matter what we do. We can intimidate, we can bellow, we can threaten to kill, but destiny goes its own way. All we can do is accept our fates in quiet frustration.”
Wade and Sumner exchanged worried glances before standing.
“Are you feeling all right, Mr. Stanton?” Wade asked, uncertainty tinging his voice. “Shall we call your doctor?”
“Where’s that private that’s been tending to your needs when we came to visit in the last few weeks?” Sumner said, forcing a smile on his drawn face. “He seems like such a jovial, light-hearted fellow. Surely a few good words from him would make you feel better.” He looked at Wade. “What was his name?”
“Hmm, Christy, Adam Christy,” Wade replied, as though pulling the name from the deepest recesses of his mind.
“That’s right,” Sumner agreed. “Adam Christy. I’m sure he can soothe your troubled soul with a name like that, straight from the Bible—Adam and Christ.”
“Gentlemen, I am going home now.” Stanton stared into the popping, crackling fire. “I want to be with my wife. I suggest you go home too.”
***
Andrew Johnson opened the armoire in his bedroom on the second floor of the Executive Mansion, pulling clothes out and folding them with care to fit into his trunk. He decided if he were already in the process of packing, the news that the Senate was sending him home would not hurt as much. His petty demons residing in the darkest crevices of his heart wanted him to take a parting shot at his rival Edwin Stanton, revealing his evil acts against President Lincoln and the nation, but he knew it would be for naught. No one would believe even the ruthless Stanton would debase himself to that extent. No, he looked forward to returning to his town of Greeneville, Tennessee, filled with family and friends who would assure him he was better off without the trappings of power that Washington City offered. Johnson always liked the foliage of May in the mountains as they greened for summer.
Mumblings from the hall outside his bedroom drew his attention. Johnson was sure he heard laughing and stomps of impromptu dancing. Putting his clothing aside, he went to the door, and when he opened it, he saw members of his staff smiling and hugging each other. And in the middle of it all was Ward Hill Lamon and Lafayette Baker, both beaming at him.
“We did it, sir,” Lamon announced with pride. “You are assured of the rest of the term, and Edwin Stanton must leave forthwith in disgrace.”
“You make it sound like a passage right out of Shakespeare.” Baker slapped Lamon on the back. He smiled at Johnson. “You have the right to appoint anyone you damn well please as Secretary of War, Mr. President. What is your pleasure, sir?”
Johnson had so convinced himself he was leaving for home on the next train that he had not given any thought of who would be War secretary after this judicial conflict had ceased. This was his chance at some form of legacy building and since he had won, he thought of what Abraham Lincoln would have said. Then he remembered the phrase, “Let them up easy.”
“Gentlemen, let’s go to my office.” He turned to walk down the hall, and they followed him. Once inside and the door closed, Johnson sat and motioned to Lamon and Baker to do the same. “Mr. Lamon, Mr. Baker, I think I wish to appoint Lorenzo Thomas as Stanton’s replacement.”
Baker’s mouth went agape. “But he was among those who plotted against you, sir.”
“As were you, Mr. Baker.” Johnson smiled in irony. “As I recall, I caught you going through my papers and had to fire you. But when you returned with Mr. Lamon here, I did not insist that you leave. If I learned anything from observing Abraham Lincoln during his presidency was his ability to hold no grudges.” He motioned carelessly out the window at the political landscape. “They can call me a son-of-a-bitch if they want, but they’ll have to admit I’m a son-of-a-bitch that doesn’t hold grudges.”

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