Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 03.djvu/178

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168
Southern Historical Society Papers.

The Peace Commission of 1865.

By Hon. R. M. T. Hunter.

[We have already published in the Southern Magazine a paper from Judge Campbell on the Hampton Roads Conference. The following, from the pen of the distinguished Vice-President of our Society, has recently appeared in the Philadelphia Weekly Times as one of their series of "chapters of unwritten history," but our readers will thank us for reproducing it.]

At the beginning of the year 1865, the country had become much exhausted by the exertions and ravages of the war. Scarce a household but had lost some member of its family in the bloody conflicts of the war, to whose chances parents had hitherto consigned the lives of their children without doubt or hesitation. In General Lee's skill and patriotism universal confidence was reposed, and, among many disposed by nature to be sanguine, hopes of final success were still entertained. But among the considerate, and those who had staked and lost both family and fortune in the war, feelings of despondency were beginning to prevail. Particularly was this the case among the older class of legislators. The vacant ranks in our armies were no longer promptly filled, as at the commencement of the war, and an exhibit of our resources, made by Judge Campbell, our Assistant Secretary of War, to General Lee, exhibited only a beggarly account of empty regiments. Propositions to call out boys of not more than sixteen years of age, and to place negroes in the army, were already being discussed. The prospects of success from such expedients were regarded as poor, indeed. The chances for the fall of Fort Fisher seemed imminent, as well as that of the complete closure of the ports through which we had been bringing into the Confederacy food, clothing and munitions of war. These dangers, beginning to be visible, were producing a most depressing effect on our Confederate Congress. When these sources of supply should be cut off, where then would be our resources to prolong the contest? The talk, too, for peace began to be more earnest and open than it had been hitherto. Influential politicians on the other side, formerly of great weight in the party contests of the country, and still bound to leading men of the Confederacy by old associations, were openly exerting themselves for peace, and appealing to men who used to act with and confide in them to unite with and work with them to procure a peace. F. P. Blair, an old Democratic leader during the time of