Terms, Conditions, and Outcomes

       On February 3, 1865, the Union and Confederate leaders met at Hampton Roads.  While both sides wanted a peaceful ending to the war, the conference was perhaps destined to fail before it even began, considering the battered state of the Confederacy, the vastly contrasting aspirations of either side, and their reluctance to budge to any degree on their desired conditions.  

    Lincoln and the Union seemed to be more insistent in their requests (as perhaps was their "right," with the Union having somewhat of an upper-hand in the war at this point).  Basically, Lincoln had three non-negotiable terms:  1) an end to the rebellion, 2) the emancipation of the slaves, and 3) a reunion -- for the Confederacy to rejoin the United States (Schott 502).  Lincoln, however, was prepared to show some leniency in such areas as the "implementation" of the emancipation and compensation for the would-be-former Southern slaveholders (McPherson 470).  Lincoln even considered (despite the strong dissatisfaction of Mr. Seward) offering up to $400 million in compensation funds to be granted to the former slaveholders (Jones 174).  Again, though, he was insistent on this abolition taking place.  There would be, as he said, "no receding...on the Slavery question" (McPherson 470).  He continued to stand firmly behind The Emancipation Proclamation and the recently-ratified Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, both of which called for the abolition of slavery (Schott 502), and urged the Confederate leaders to consider these, his non-negotiable terms of peace.

  

President Jefferson Davis*

    Unfortunately, these men were not authorized to agree to such conditions.  Mr. Stephens, under directions of President Davis, passionately attempted to convince Lincoln and Seward that the only possible way to reach true peace was  secession - to end the war and recognize the Confederate States of America as a legitimate nation (Jones 173).  This, however, was unacceptable to Lincoln. In one final effort, Lincoln strongly advised the Confederacy to peacefully end their rebellion, cease the fighting, and agree to his terms (Schott 502). This concept of "unconditional surrender" was virtually unheard of at this point in military history (Tallant 2000), however, and the Southerners viewed Lincoln's strict demands as humiliating and unreasonable, which led to an abrupt end to the conference after four long and unsuccessful hours (Schott 502).  The conference, then, was a failure.

    It would not be until General Lee's surrender in April of 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, that legitimate signs of peace and cessation of the fighting would begin to form (Tallant 2000).

 

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