One hundred and forty-five years later, the room was almost pleasant. There was an embrasure with an open window at the extreme end of the casemate, looking out over the moat and the pretty buildings of Fort Monroe beyond. The sun played over the water and sent dazzling reflections back into the room, which boasted HGTV-ready hardwood floors and walls of whitewashed stone.
There was also a tiny desk and a cot, as set up for a prisoner. The prisoner had once been Jefferson Davis, president of the failed Confederate States of America. He was imprisoned there after the Civil War in the approximately 18 ft. x 16 ft. casemate from May to September 1865. On a recent trip to Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, I unexpectedly found mercy and humanity, and inevitably compared that to the sadistic way in which the U.S. government has treated “high value” prisoners after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Consider that Davis had led the secession of the southern states from the union and approved the Confederate attack on the U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter, which started the war on the federal government in 1861. At the end of the war four years later, some 365,000 Union and 260,000 Confederate soldiers were dead from battle and disease, and more than 400,000 wounded. Five days after the final surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, President Abraham Lincoln was murdered in cold blood by secessionists who refused to give up the fight.