The Arrest of Alexander Stephens

While a prisoner at Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor, Mr. Stephens kept a diary, in which he carefully recorded from day to day the events of his prison life. He also interspersed it with observations on the philosophy of government, with comments upon current topics, and with various other things. The references to Linton Stephens are both numerous and tender. On almost every page there is some allusion to his half brother, a reminiscence or a prayer, in which Linton was the central thought. Chapter after chapter from the Bible was also copied into the diary to beguile the tedium of imprisonment; and the manuscript of this journal, in after years, furnished the basis for the statesman's great literary masterpiece, "The War Between the States." On the death of Mr. Stephens the diary became the property of his nephew, the late John A. Stephens, whose children have recently given it to the public. The opening chapter of the diary contains an interesting first-hand account of the author's arrest. It runs as follows:
 
 
Liberty Hall, Thursday, May 11, 1865 -- This was a most beautiful and charming day. After refreshing sleep, I arose early. Robert Hull, a youth, son of Henry Hull, of Athens, Ga., spent the night at my house. I wrote some letters for the mail, my custom being to attend to such business as soon as breakfast was over; and Robert and I were amusing ourselves at Casino, when Tim [a negro servant] came running into the parlor saying: "Master, more Yankess havce come; a whole heap are in town, galloping about with guns!" Suspecting what it meant, I rose, told Robert I supposed they had come for me, and entered my bedroom to make arrangements for leaving, should my apprehension prove true. Soon, I saw an officer with soldiers under arms apporaching the house. The doors were all open. I met him in the library. He asked if my name was Stephens. I replied that it was.

"Alexander H. Stephens!" said he.

I told him yes. He then said that he had orders to arrest me. I inquired his name and asked to see his orders. He replied that he was Captain Saint, of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, or mounty infantry, attached to General Nelson's command; he was then under General Upton; he showed me the order by General Upton, at Atlanta, directing my arrest and the arrest of Robert Toombs; no charge was specified; he was instructed to come to Crawfordville, arrest me, proceed to Washington, arrest Mr. Toombs, and then carry both to General Upton's headquarters.

I told him I had been looking for something of this kind; at least, for some weeks, had thought it not improbably, and hence had not left home; that General Upton need not have sent any force for me; that had he simply notified me that he wished me at headquarters, I should have gone. I asked how I was to travel.

He said: "On the cars."

I then learned that he had come down on the train, arriving just before Tim's announcement. I asked if I would be permitted to carry any clothing. He said "Yes." I asked how long I might have for packing. He said "A few minutes -- as long as necessary." I set to packing. Harry [the chief man servant] came in, evincing great surprise and regret, to pack for me. The captain said:

"You may take a servant with you if you wish."

I asked if he knew my destination. He said:

"First, Atlanta; then, Washington City."

I called in Anthony, a black boy from Richmond, who had been waiting on me for several years, and inquired if he wished to go. I told him I would send him from Washington to his mother in Richmond. He was willing, so I bade him be ready as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Mr. Hiddell [secretary to Mr. Stephens] had come in; he was living with me and had gone out after breakfast. None of my brother's family residing at the old homestead happened to be with me; however, Clarence, who was going to school at the Academy, hearing of what had occurred, I suppose, came over with some friends from town. It was about ten A.M. when Captain Saint arrived. In about fifteen minutes -- not much over -- we started for the depot, Anthony and I, with the captain and squad; friends, servants, and Clarence following, most of them crying. My own heart was full -- too full for tears.


 

Source:
Knight, Lucian Lamar, Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials and Legends. Byrd Printing Company, Atlanta, Georgia, 1913-1914. pp. 982-984
 


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