Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 1.djvu/338

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and Secretary of War by the Governors and members of Congress from the threatened States. The President resisted till Buell was obliged to follow Bragg back to the Ohio River, when he finally yielded to the rising pressure. An order was delivered to General Buell, on the morning after his arrival at Louisville, by a staff officer of General Halleck sent especially for that purpose, requiring him to turn his command over to General Thomas. General Thomas simultaneously received an order to assume command, but immediately telegraphed a request to Washington that the orders be countermanded and that General Buell be retained, to which the President assented. I learned this portentous news about noon on the 29th, but, secrecy being enjoined, I made no use of it. It became known, of course, to the general officers under Buell, and brought out divided opinions as to the justice and propriety, in the then situation, of his removal. It naturally had the effect of weakening his authority, and led, as I personally had occasion to observe, to still louder criticism of him.

Owing not only to this surprise, but to a terrible tragedy enacted almost under my eyes, September 29th will always be literally a red-letter day in my recollection. I was just finishing breakfast in the hotel dining-room on the ground floor when I heard the sound of a shot coming from the large entrance hall directly in front. I hurried out, and learned to my horror that General Jefferson C. Davis had shot General Nelson with a revolver, and that the victim was being led to his room, toward which I hastened. He was just able to reach it with the support of two friends, only to sink on the bed with life fast ebbing away. The bullet had penetrated the left breast near the heart. There he lay, bodily a giant among men, reminding one of a dying lion. A clerical friend of the General, who happened to be in the hotel, appearing, I retired. In ten minutes death ensued. This dreadful end was caused by Nelson's violent temper. After the disaster at Lexington, he had been ordered by Major-General Wright to take charge of the de-