$54 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.
without unnecessary delay." The messenger to be sent was Major Thomas T. Eckert, who was given very pre cise instructions to first secure from the commissioners an agreement in writing that if they are allowed to pass through the United States military lines it will be under stood that they do so for the purpose of an informal con ference on the basis of the letter dated January i8th, of Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Blair. General Grant, however, had returned to the army and had received direct another ap plication on January 3oth, by the commissioners to pass his lines under safe conduct, and without waiting for direc tions from Washington directed them to be received at his headquarters and await instructions. This unexpected action caused President Lincoln to telegraph to Grant to detain the gentlemen in comfortable quarters, and mean while Major Eckert reached him with a special dispatch to have an interview secured between himself and the Confederate commissioners. Mr. Seward followed on the 3ist, bearing explicit instructions from the President to make known to them that three things are indispensable , to- wit: (i) the restoration of the national authority throughout all the States ; (2) no receding by the executive of the United States on the slavery question from the position assumed thereon in the late annual message to Congress ; (3) no cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war, and the disbanding of all forces hostile to the government. They were to be informed that all proposi tions of theirs not inconsistent with the above would be considered and passed in a spirit of sincere liberality, but Mr. Seward was commanded not to definitely consummate anything. This letter of instructions was given on the afternoon of January 3ist, at the time when the Thir teenth amendment was on its passage in Congress, and it was followed early next morning, February ist, by a tele gram to Grant from Lincoln " Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder or delay your military move ments or plans. Another dispatch of the same date re-