It was just after sundown; the city had been filling up with soldiers for the grand review in a few days, their tents set up everywhere they could find space. William Seward had seen the activity all day.
Though able to move around the house a bit now, the Secretary of State was still recovering from the terrible events of April. His jaw was still in a brace, and he had not yet been able to attend Cabinet meetings, though his colleagues kept him well-informed of the goings-on.
Now he was getting ready for bed, turning down the gas lamp in the sitting room and making his way upstairs. In the hall, he passed his daughter, laying a hand on her shoulder for a brief moment. Fanny has had to be so strong these past weeks, but Seward can see the toll it's taking on her, and his fatherly concern is clear as they exchange brief words before saying goodnight.
As he's turning down the bedclothes with his good arm, Seward pauses and listens. The weather is mild, and the windows have been open slightly all day to air out the house. It's his bedroom window he now approaches, listening as a rising chorus of voices moves through the night air.
The soldiers are singing.
"Many are the hearts that are weary tonight, wishing for the war to cease….. Many are the hearts looking for the right to see the dawn of peace…."
The war has ended, Seward knows. But the cost…. the cost…
Tears slip down his cheeks as he whispers the words with the soldiers in the distance.
"Tenting tonight… tenting tonight…. tenting on the old campground…."
A/N: This was the offshoot of a story my friend and I are working on. The scene we wrote that inspired this was the soldiers singing in camp at the White House before the review, and then I thought how Seward might be able to hear it- his house was literally just across the street from the Executive Mansion.
The lyrics are from the song "Tenting Tonight," a popular song during the Civil War.