Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, a man small enough in stature to belie the authority invested in him and capable of seeing more with his one good eye than most men see with both. Very image-conscious, he is ashamed of his desire to flee once it becomes apparent that the Confederacy is doomed, and his fugitive status is difficult for his vanity to endure. He eventually is found secreted in a farmhouse near Irwinsville, Georgia, and at the end of the novel awaits trial for treason against the United States of America.
Abraham Lincoln, the president of the United States of America. A tall, thin man with much presence, Lincoln is too proud to allow himself to show any humility in public. His determination and belief in predestination have brought him to the presidency, and they carry him through the difficult stance he has taken in his actions against the Confederate States of America. Lincoln is assassinated at Ford’s Theatre by John Wilkes Booth, who is captured while attempting to escape.
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general. General Lee is a calmly tenacious man with a kindly eye and manner. Beloved by officers and enlisted men alike, he struggles with depressions and a love of privacy difficult for a leader to display with dignity. He is deeply religious and earns much of his reputation for kindliness and dignity through his efforts to convince enlisted men of the importance of faith. Lee corresponds with General Ulysses S. Grant during the fighting outside Richmond, and through this correspondence he obtains General Grant’s respect. Lee is tricked into surrendering his Confederate Armies of Virginia to Grant after General Philip Henry Sheridan strategically contrives to make the numbers of the Union troops seem far larger than they are.
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant, a Union general, commander of the Army of the Potomac, a stocky, full-bearded man with pale eyes. Although he has oratorical abilities, he is laconic in personal conversation. His popularity is a continual surprise to him, for he believes himself to be arrogant and shy. He uses his oratorical abilities to recruit soldiers to the Union cause and later leads these same soldiers against Lee to the eventual surrender of Lee. Grant conducts himself superciliously during the surrender negotiations and formalities, and the whole affair of Lee’s surrender leaves him determined never to spend as much energy on the man or the cause again.
Edwin George, a tobacco merchant and a Union spy from Tennessee. A handsome but coarse man with curly, graying hair, he believes himself to be wicked and accordingly distrusts and suspects fellow humans. He is undertaking an attempt to glean some information from a former lover and sister-in-law, Eugenia Gilbert. He is unaware that she has accepted a commission to become an abolitionist informer and hopes to extract similar information from him. Their meeting is warm with old attraction and rife with the inner conflict of their interests.
Eugenia Gilbert, an abolitionist spy, an older woman who appears more tired and haggard than her age should merit. She has become hypocritical and cares only for the money to be earned by spying. Her exploitation of her former lover Edwin George probably will be successful, for she unbalances him at their first meeting and secures a promise for a private meeting the following day.
Dickie Ross, a Confederate volunteer. Dickie is young, aflame with enthusiasm, and tired of his clerking position. He is in a rowboat in Charleston Harbor when the first shot is fired on Fort Sumter and responds with youthful, ignorant enthusiasm.
Percy, an attorney’s scribe. Percy is unambitious, tedious, methodical, and fastidious about his health and manners. He is killed in a mob that is protesting the marching of Lincoln’s troops through Baltimore.
Henry Clay, a little boy affected by the political pull between his Aunt Amanda’s Confederate sympathies and his mother’s Union sympathies. Henry is anemic, churlish, and frightened by the conflict between the women. He is unable to reconcile his love for both of them as they struggle to win his affections.
Franklin Rutherford and
Charlie, two Union soldiers. Franklin and Charlie are uneducated poor whites,...