Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 1.djvu/201

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Speaking of these men, another apparition of those days rises before me. Thomas Francis Meagher, the Irish exile, well known for his political martyrdom and his great natural eloquence and literary talent, came to the capital as the captain of a Zouave company attached to the Sixty-ninth Irish New York Regiment. He had devised a most extraordinary uniform for himself, of the Zouave pattern, literally covered with gold lace. It was a sight to see him strut along Pennsylvania Avenue in it, with the airs of a conquering hero.

Among the regular visitors to the camps was Mrs. Lincoln. It would have been, of course, an entirely proper thing for her, as the wife of the Chief Magistrate of the nation, to show her sympathies for the defenders of the Union by going among them. But the truth was, that she had no liking for them at all, being really, as a native of Kentucky, at heart a secessionist. She went to the camps simply to enjoy the adulation and hospitality offered her there. None were more lavish with these than the officers of the Irish New York regiments, and these she favored especially with her calls.

One of the points of attraction was the headquarters of Governor Sprague of Rhode Island, who had recruited three regiments in his State and led them to Washington. He had very limited mental capacity, but had reached political distinction at an early age — he was then but thirty-one — through the influence of real or reputed great wealth. It was at his headquarters that he became acquainted with Kate, the beautiful and gifted daughter of Secretary Chase. The acquaintance quickly ripened into an engagement that was the social sensation of the day. She was far superior to him in every way, and married him for the enjoyment and power of his money. It turned out one of the unhappiest marriages ever known in American society, ending in moral and material wretchedness for both parties.