Civil War Diplomacy: Peace Efforts (1860-65)


Figure 1.--

Peace efforts occurred before the out break of the war and countinued through to the Hampton Roads meeting (February 1865. There was, however little for prospect for peace. The Cinfederates were inten on undependence, in large part because they were so outraged by the growing strength of the abolitionist movement in the North which challened their morality. The voting power of the southern states made boiion impossible, but the plantation class was so outraged that they decided on independence. Thus for them reunion was unacceptable. For Lincoln, union was a first the primary war goal, on which he would not compromise. And then after the Federal vicory at Antitem (September 1862), he decided on emancipation, adding another war goal. Neither were acceptable to the South. And Davis became convinced that only a military victory would settle the issue. Thus he was not impressed with the possibility that McClellwn might win the 1864 election. Kincoln was, however, underconsiderable pressure as war losses mounted to treat with the South. At first this was aolitical calculation to improve chances for reelection. Later it became toed up with House passage of the 13th Amendment. Lincoln eventually after the House approved the 13th Amendment met with a Confederate delegation at Hampton Roads (February 1865).

Peace Efforts (1860-61)

There were serious efforts to defuse the political crisis and prevent war. Until the South fired on Fourt Sumter, there was the possibility of avoiding war, although some states had begin suceed. There was hope that Senator Douglas of Illinois and Senator Crittenden of Kentucky could fashion a compromise based on Popular Soverignity. Perhaps the nobelest effort was made by Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln's long-time rival in Illinois. Douglas after losing the presidential election, risked his life in an effort to prevent Southern secession. The effort failed because the Ultras in the South had captured the popular mind. And President-elect Lincoln was unprepared to make the kind of concessions to the south that would have secured peace. Douuglas' brave effort cost him his health. [Waugh] Senator Crittenden, a unionist from the border state of Kenttucky recognized that the sectional strife could not be resolved by legislation, but only by amendments to the Constitution which would be virtually impossible to change. He authored the Crittenden Compromiseó-a comprehensivepackage of six constitutional amendments and four congressional resolutions (December 1860). The compromise package condemned Northern personal liberty laws and confirmed the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law, a part of the Compromise of 1850. The amendment restored the Missouri Compromise line and extended it to California which would have frozen the demarcation between slave and free territories. There was considerable support in Congress for the compromise package, including among some Republicans, but President-elect Lincoln instructed Republican Congessmen to oppose any proposals that would have permitted the extension of slavery into the Territories. This was Lincoln's bottom line. He was not going to attack slavery in the southern states, although he hsd some unrealistic idea on buying slaves from their owners, but he ws determined to block the admission of anyb more slave states. This ou course meant war although Lincoln may not have fully understood it, because the South was determined to create new slave states in the territories. Blocked in Congress, Senator Crittenden proposed a national referendum which was also blocked by the Republicns. One historian writes, "While Crittenden made clear his prsonal stance, he had no illusions,. Realizing that Congress would not pass his propositions, he still cling to 'every word I have said'. But he warned Republican senators not to feel triumphant , for 'I tell you now that, whatever security the apparent peace thar surrounds us may induce you to auppose exists in the country, it is a delusion.'" [Cooper] While it is the Republicans in Congress killed the Crittenden Compromises, there is no reason to believe that they would have been acceptable to the South. Even without them, Southern senators could have blocked any Congressiinal action against slavery. Because of the Abolitionist Movement, many southerners had come to see the north as foreign even alien country and were bent on secession

Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863)

President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 declared that all "... slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, ... then ... in rebellion ... forever free." Totally lacking in the Emancipation Proclamation was any attempt at retoric or moral justification. Rather the justification was military necessity. Buried in the text was authorization for balcks to enlist in the military. The Emancipation Proclamation is surely next to the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, the key doument in American democracy. It did not have any of the high sounding tones of the Declaratiin of Independence, but it was the necessary pice of the complex to make America a true democracy. And it would need constituinal amendmentsto become permanent, but it converted the Civil War from a natinal struggle to a moral crusade. And it created another impediment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Now the Clonfedracy would not only have to agre toend the rebellion and reenter the Unkion, but would have go accept the abolition of slaevry.

Horace Greely Efforts (July 1864)

Horace Greeley was at the time of the Civil War the most prominant American publisher. He had help found the Republican Party faction and was an outspoken opponent of slavery. He was the editor of the New York Tribune which was at mid-century the most importsnt newspaper in the United states (1840s-70s). Greeley used his paper to promote first the Whig and than the Republican parties and with it the campaign agajnst slavery as well as host of reforms. Horrified by the huge casualties and the continuing war, he wrote to President Lincoln about the 'rivers of human blood' (July 1864). He told Lincoln that he had ben in disussions with Confederate agents in Canada. Lincoln sent representatives to Niagra only to find that the men Greely had been speaking with were Condderate symostizers, but no real authority granted by the Confederate Government.

War Goals

President Lincoln at first emphasized preservation of the Union as the primary war goal. With the Federal victory at Antitem (September 1862) he added emancipation. From that point on his goals never changed. Partly because of the Greely-Niagra affair, Lincoln publically reiterated hus war goals (July 18, 1864). They were 1) an end to the rebellion, 2) the restoration of the union, and 3) the abandonment of slavery. These three conditions never changed and essentialy made peace talks virtually impossible. President Davis and most Confederate leaders were intent in both independence and preserving slavery. The Democratic Copperheads tnded to believe that if emancipation was removed from the Federal war aims that the Confderate states could be brought back into the Union. And there was some Southeners who felt this way, but not President Davis. Even lre in the war when Confederat arms wre failing, he and many others were intent onindependence. Davis continued to focus on military victory. He insisted that if the men who had deserted or not voluntered would return to the colors that the Confederacy could still prevail. He exhibited no innteret in rejoining the JUnited States even if emancipation was reversed. As a result, the prospect for a peaceful resolution of the War once it began was not high. The massive and continuing casualties, however, generated some peace efforts.

Henry Raymond Suggests Peace Delegation (August 1864)

Henry Raymond was lne of the most important figures in the Republican Party and editor of the New York Times. Raymond wrote to Lincoln with a depressing political asessmentof the upcoming election (August 22). He felt that Lincoln and the Party were set to lose the 1864 ekection in a lanslide. He told Lincoln that he would even lose Illinois. His suggestion was thst Lincoln should send a delegation to Richmnd seeking an end to the War on unification alone. This meant abandoing emancipation as a war goal. Lincoln considered it, at the time believing he was likely to lose the election. He actually wrote out a memo and s he ws oroe to do, put it in a pigeno hole of his desk to think about it over night. By the morning he had changed his mind. He decided that God 'would judge him' if he vetrayed his comminment to the slaves. He then proceeded to sketch out his plans if he lost the election for the 4 monts before the inaguratin of the new president. He sealed it in an envelope and had his cabinet sectrtaries sign the envelope, not knowing what was inside.

Democratic Presidential Convention (August 1864)

The Civil War was the first military conflict in which America was involved that a pesidential elction was conducted. The election of 1864 was especially important. The Democrats met in Chicago to nomimate their candidate (August 29-31). The Democrats were optimidtic that could defeat Lincoln. There was growing anti-War feeling in the North, especilly as the War seemed like it would go on forever with terrible casualties. Two Federal Armies seemed stopped around Atlanta and Richmomd, junable to take eithr city. The Copperheads were clearly in control of the Party when it covened in Chicago. They were in fact at the pinacle of their influence. They nominated General Geog McClellan who Lincoln had fired. He was thought to enjoy great popularity with the troops and would appeal to them and their families. They then chose Geotge Pendelton as his running mate who was well known copperhead. Clement Laird Vallandiham, one of the most notable copperheads in the country, was chosen to head the platform comittee. Laird was an Ohio Congressman served two terms in Congress before he was gerrymandered out of office by the Repjublican-controlled legislature which oinly intensified his anti-War politics. Out of office he mafe more abd more anti-War speeches with scathing critism of Lincoln. The military govenor of Ohio, Gen. Ammbrose Burnside, issued orders prohniting anti-War rhetoric. Vallandiham decided to become a martyr and coninued with his speeches. Burnside ordered him arrested and a military court found him guilty of teason. Lincoln knew nothing about it until news of the trial was reported in the newspapers. The affair put Lincoln in a difficult podition. What Burnside did was clearly illegal and opened up Lincoln to charges of silencing free speech. But he also did want to undercut his generals. So his respnse was pure Lincoln--he ordeed him released, but exiled to the Confederacy. Union trrops pointed him oward Connfederate lines. He was picked up by a Confederate picket nd wond up in Richmond wih Jefferson Davis. Vallandiham wasn't impressed with Dabis nd other Confederates, finding that while they wanted an end to the War, were intent on independence. Davis wasn't impressed with Vallandiham who kept going on about union. So the Confederates put him on a blockade runner and he eventually made his way to Windor Ontrio across Lake Erie from Ohio. There he routinely meets with other copperheads and Confederate agents. He decides to run for govenor, but lost in a landslide to the Republicans (November 1863). Ohio soldiers vote against him in a landslide. He eventually sneaks back into the country (June 1864). Lincoln has him left azlone. Thus Vallandiham comes to the Chicago Convention and with his credentials is placed on the platform comittee. The platform that came out of Vallandiham's committee would have a major impact on the election, but not in the way Vallandiham intended. The pltform called the War a failure and called for the cesation of hotilities and negotiations with the Confederacy to unite the country. The Demicrats leaving Chicago were sure that they had crafted a winning team and platform. They were under the impression that the troops were still attached to the General. The Federal soldiers had by this time become firmly attached to Presidnt Lincoln. And they made this clear in their leters home. They also noted that there was no word in the Democratic platform honoring their servce and sacrifice. McClellan saw the political impact abd attemoted to disawow the platform, to little avail. And then finally after a long campaign Atlanta fell to Sherman's troops (September 1864). In large measure this was because Davis saw no real difference between McClellan and Lincoln. He was intent on indedependence which could only be achieved by military victory not negotiation. He appojnted firey Texan John Bell Hood to command the trops defending Atlanta. Hood launched a series of virtually suisidal attacks and so weakened the Confederate forces that Atlanta fell. There were no public opinion polls at the time, but the fall of Atlanta seems to have begun a massive shift in the political mood in the North.

Peace Commission (Februry 1865)

Francis Preston Blair, Sr., a Maryland aristocrat and staunch Jacksonian Demlocrat. He had ties to President Lincoln beause of his unionist politics. His son, Montgomery Blair, was in Lincoln's cabinet. Blair sought permission from President Lincoln to go to Richmond, obsrnbibly to retrieve peronal papers (Dcember 28, 1864). He met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis twice (January 12 and 21, 1865). The second time Lincoln was more directly involved. Meanwhile the situation for the Condeeracy was by the beginning of 1865 dire. Gen. Grant had bled Gen. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia dry and pinned it to Petersburg and Richmond. Lee saw it as only a matter of time before the Federal forces broke through. Gen. Sherman'a Army to the south was moving north through the Carolinas meeting only inefecutal resistance from Gen. Johnston's depleted Army of the Tennessee. Sherman's goal was to link up with Grant around Richmond. A pivotal battle was fouught at Fort Fisher, the Gibraltar of the South, by a naval assault force. A massive naval fleet bombarded the fort which was then assaulted by U.S. Army and Marine Corps units. The battle was fought outside Wilmington, North Carolina, this was the last remaining port in Confederate hands that could be used by blockade runnersto supply Lee's Army around Richmond. Fort Fisher fell in a bloody battle (Januarry 13-15). Lincoln consented to Greely iniiative and Blair met with Davis twice (January 1865). Blair suggested to Davis that an armistice be forged putting an end to the War. The reunited United States coukd then expel the French-supported regime of Emperor Maximilian in Mexico. The plan was to cool tensions between North and South by providing a common enemy. President Davis conferred with Vice-president, Alexander Stephens who recommended that a peace commission be appointed to explore a possible armistice. Davis authorized Stephens and two others Confederate officials to meet secretly with Lincoln at Hampton Roads, Virginia. (Mst of what is known about the meeting comes from Stephens and thus be assessed cautiously.) President Lincoln had refused to meet with Confederate emisaries following his election (early-1861). This time he agreed to a meeting, but only after the House passed the 13th Amendment. Rumors of the Blair initiative were circulsting in the press. At the time the U.S. House of Representatives was considering a bill to authorize the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. After a momentous effort by President Lincoln, the House passed the bill (January 31, 1865). Immediately after this momentous achievement, Linclon left Washington to meet with the Confederare peace commissioin at Hampton Roads, Virginia (February 3, 1865). As the meeting opened, Stephens asked if the war could be stopped. Lincoln replied that the only way to stop the War was 'for those who were resisting the laws of the Union to cease that resistance.' The Condederate delegation appears to have underestimated Lincoln's commitment to end slavery. And for the Confederacy, the abloishment of slavery even at this point in the War was a non-starter. Lincoln also demanded immediate reunification and the laying down of Confederate arms before terms could be discussed. The Fderal forces were posed for a complete victgory and Lincoln was not prepared to make any concessions. Robert M.T. Hunter, a member of Confederate commisdsion, commented that Lincoln was offering little except the unconditional surrender of the South. He was correct. Not discussed at the meeting was the terms under which the Conderate states would be readmitted to the Union. The meeting lasted only a few hours. The President adamently refused to offer any concessions other than surrender to Federal authorities. After less than five hours, the conference ended and the delegation left having received no concessions. The war would continued for a little more than 2 months before Grant broke through at Richmind and Lee was forced to surrender at Appomatox (April 9).








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Created: 5:28 AM 11/29/2014
Last updated: 5:28 AM 11/29/2014