Peace Commission


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 18, 1865



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FEBRUARY 18, 1865.]




THE adjoining cut, from an excellent photograph by GEORGE N. BARNARD, shows the scene and surroundings of General M'PHERSON'S death. A simple inscription upon a tree tells the story so far as he was concerned, while the details of the picture the shot and shell, the broken artillery wagon, with the skeletons of the horses lying where they fell, the soldier's dilapidated bat and shoe indicate the scene of carnage just as it was left after the battle had swayed from this to some other portion of the field.

On the morning of July 22 General M'PHERSON, commanding the Army of the Tennessee, then at Decatur, anticipating an attack upon his left, ordered the Sixteenth Corps to form on the left of the Seventeenth. While this movement was going on the rebel assault was made, advantage being taken of the gap which still remained between the two corps. The flank of the Seventeenth was turned and a battery lost, when M'PHERSON, approaching the scene of the fight, was shot by the force of the enemy which had advanced between the right and left wing. A charge was then made to recapture the artillery and recover the General's body. The guns were taken, the enemy repulsed, and STRONG and BUELL, of M'PHERSON'S staff, returned with an ambulance bearing the body.

These officers had been guided to the spot by Private GEORGE J. REYNOLDS. The latter, a member of the fifteenth Iowa, had been on skirmish duty, and was wounded. In attempting to evade capture he came upon the spot where M'PHERSON was lying, mortally wounded. Forgetting his own wound REYNOLDS clung to his old commander, and, exposed to the shots of the enemy, administered to his wants, bringing water to quench his thirst, affording him every possible comfort in his last moments; and finally, his own wound still uncared for, sought cut the General's staff and guided them to the fatal spot. M`PHERSON'S name had been the battle cry of the corps in the struggle which ended in forcing the rebels from the field :

"Ah! giants we became, When through the battle-flame We saw our hero fall ; We forced the foe to yield His body on the field, That our breasts might be its pall."

There was no more gallant soldier in the army than General JAMES B. M'PHERSON, and none more beloved by his command.


THREE Commissioners, appointed by the rebel authorities to treat informally upon terms of peace,

have been within our lines, and have had an interview with the President and Secretary of State near Fortress Monroe. The facts, so far as known in connection with this mission, are these : Having been detained for some time at City Point, the rebel Commission, consisting of ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS, R. M. T. HUNTER, and JOHN A. CAMPBELL, was admitted by General GRANT, and conveyed to Fortress Monroe on that General's flagship, where

it arrived at 5 P.M. February 2. Here Secretary SEWARD was found in waiting on board the River Queen. The Secretary invited the Commissioners to dinner upon his flag-boat, which invitation was accepted. About ten o'clock in the evening the President arrived, and a conference began which lasted sixteen hours. On the 4th the President and Secretary returned to Washington, and it was given out that the result of the negotiation was a failure.

So far as its immediate result is concerned the Commission has probably failed. But it will at least produce a better understanding between our Government and the rebels. The President's course was clearly defined by the necessities of the case. His official oath forbade him to permit secession. In order to any negotiation at all, it must proceed upon the basis of a restored Union. In all other respects President LINCOLN was limited to the exercise of the functions proper to him as Commander-in-Chief. He could repeal his confiscation measures, and could grant a general pardon. If other conditions were necessary to satisfy the rebel Commissioners, Mr. LINCOLN could only have replied that it was not in his power to grant them. If they wanted guarantees for slavery, Mr. LINCOLN had no more power to grant them than he would have to abolish slavery. If they wanted an alliance offensive and defensive, still maintaining a separate Confederation, he had no power to grant it.

The Commissioners have returned to Richmond, carrying with them the views of our Government. They are all men to whom the people of the South render respect. There will never occur a better opportunity than now occurs for them to exert their influence in favor of peace on the basis of Union. The country still remembers the force and foresight displayed by STEPHENS in his argument against the secession of Georgia. Mr. HUNTER, too, although a States-Rights man, had endeavored in Virginia to prevent a collision between the Government and the State. He was subsequently appointed Secretary of State under the Confederate Government, and upon his resignation of that office was elected Senator, and made President pro tem. of the Senate. Judge CAMPBELL, of Alabama, also, was very reluctant to leave the Union. He was at Washington when the Commissioners sent by DAVIS in March, 1861, were there seeking an official interview with time President in regard to the evacuation of Fort Sumter; and when these Commissioners demanded recognition, he wrote to DAVIS "to restrain his Commissioners."

It may be, however, that no peace will come until we shell have absolutely conquered it. While the Comissioners were steaming down the James, SHERMAN'S columns were marching northward from the Savannah. If he is successful in the

campaign now opening, peace can not long be delayed.

It can certainly no longer be charged against the Administration that it has neglected an opportunity to obtain peace on the basis of Union. The members of the Opposition have no longer an argument against vigorous war measures. These rebels say that they mean exactly what they meant four years ago : we must answer that we also are unchanged.




Mcpherson Fell
Alexander Stephens
R.M.T. Hunter




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