Massachusetts-born General Nelson A. Miles rose from a lowly lieutenant of volunteers to major-general by the end of the war. He was specifically chosen by Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Gen. Ulysses Grant to command President Jefferson Davis’ guard detachment “because he was not from the line of West Point-trained professionals who might treat the former officer with military courtesy.” (Leonard Wood, Jack McCallum, 2006). It was Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana, manipulator of the soldier vote to help ensure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, who ordered Davis to be placed in irons.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Jefferson Davis Placed in Irons
“On the morning of the 23rd of May , Captain Jerome E. Titlow of the Third Pennsylvania Artillery, entered the prisoner’s cell. “I have an unpleasant duty to perform, Sir”; and as he spoke, the senior blacksmith took the shackles from his assistant.
Davis leaped instantly from his recumbent attitude, a flush passing over his face for a moment, and then his countenance growing livid and rigid as death.
“My God! You cannot have been sent to iron me?” “Such are my orders Sir,” replied the officer, beckoning the blacksmith to approach . . . These fetters were of heavy iron, probably five-eights of an inch in thickness, and connected together by a chain of like weight.
“This is too monstrous,” groaned the prisoner, glaring hurriedly around the room, as if for some weapon, or means of self-destruction. “I demand, Captain, that you let me see the commanding officer. Can he pretend that such shackles are required to secure the safe custody of a weak old man, so guarded and in such a fort as this?”
“I tell you the world will ring with this disgrace. The war is over; the South is conquered; I have no longer any country but America, and it is for the honor of America, as for my own honor and life that I plead against this degradation. Kill me! Kill me!” he cried, passionately, throwing his arms wide open and exposing his breast, “rather than inflict on me, and my People through me, this insult worse than death.”
“I am a prisoner of war” . . . “I have been a soldier in the armies of America, and know how to die. Only kill me, and my last breath shall be a blessing on your head. But while I have life and strength to resist, for myself and my people, this thing shall never be done.”
[The sergeant] advanced to seize the prisoner . . . Immediately Mr. Davis flew on him, seized his musket and attempted to wrench it from his grasp. There was a short passionate scuffle. In a moment Davis was flung upon his bed [by four powerful assailants].”
(The Prison Life of Jefferson Davis, John D. Craven, Geo. D. Carleton Publisher, 1866, excerpts pp. 35-36)