In 1866 Margaret Junkin Preston of Lexington, Virginia, a sister-in-law of Stonewall Jackson, wrote a poem she called “Regulus.” Regulus was a Roman hero who was tortured by the Carthaginians but never yielded his honour or his patriotism.
Her verse, which did not mention Jefferson Davis by name, was a reflection on the imprisonment of President Davis—a tribute to Davis’s nobility and patriotism under suffering and an indictment of the viciousness of his captors. Indeed, our President’s lowest point in fortune was also his finest hour. In the horrors of defeat and conquest after a sacrifice that has few equals in history, the internal conflicts of the Confederacy slipped into the background for most Southerners. Jeff Davis, brave and unyielding under torment, become a revered symbol for his people, and would remain so ever after.
Of course, it will surprise all the brilliant scholars conducting that other tax-supported meeting here in town, that Southerners like Mrs. Preston were well-versed in the classics. Among the tortures inflicted on Regulus by Rome’s worst enemies, the Carthaginians, was removal of the eyelids. She compares this to the Yankees shining a light in Jeff Davis’s eyes 24 hours a day.
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