Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln And The Hampton Roads Peace Conference Of 1865

Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln And The Hampton Roads Peace Conference Of 1865

by James Conroy
Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln And The Hampton Roads Peace Conference Of 1865

Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln And The Hampton Roads Peace Conference Of 1865

by James Conroy


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Our One Common Country explores the most critical meeting of the Civil War. Given short shrift or overlooked by many historians, the Hampton Roads Conference of 1865 was a crucial turning point in the War between the States. In this well written and highly documented book, James B. Conroy describes in fascinating detail what happened when leaders from both sides came together to try to end the hostilities. The meeting was meant to end the fighting on peaceful terms. It failed, however, and the war dragged on for two more bloody, destructive months. Through meticulous research of both primary and secondary sources, Conroy tells the story of the doomed peace negotiations through the characters who lived it. With a fresh and immediate perspective, Our One Common Country offers a thrilling and eye-opening look into the inability of our nation's leaders to find a peaceful solution. The failure of the Hamptons Roads Conference shaped the course of American history and the future of America's wars to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780762778072
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 01/07/2014
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

James B. Conroy practices law in Boston. He previously served as a Senate and House press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, D.C., as well as an administrative assistant (chief of staff) for a New York City congressman. His legal writing has been published in the Massachusetts Law Review and the Massachusetts Lawyers' Weekly.

Read an Excerpt

Shortly after breakfast on a springlike day in the winter of 1865, Abraham Lincoln slipped out of the White House unnoticed with an Irish valet and a carpetbag and into a waiting carriage.  A locomotive hitched to a railway car had been summoned to take him to Annapolis, where the fastest steamboat on Chesapeake Bay was ready to run him south.  In a moment unique in history, the Commander in Chief had agreed to sit down and reason with the enemy in the midst of a shooting war.

            Having gone on ahead of him to Fort Monroe, the massive Union stronghold at Hampton Roads, Virginia, his Secretary of State, William Seward, a keen politician and a world-class charmer, was preparing to receive him and his guests on the paddle-wheeler River Queen, the Air Force One of its day.  Their old friend Alec Stephens, the eccentric Vice President of the Confederate States of America, was on his way to meet them with two other Rebel peace envoys in Ulysses S. Grant’s dispatch boat.  On the edge of his authority, Grant had passed them through his siege line to the cheers of the combatants on both sides, wined and dined them at his headquarters with Julia Dent Grant, evaded Lincoln’s orders to turn them away unheard, and convinced the embattled President to give peace a chance.    

With much of the South in Northern hands, its crippled armies cornered, and the means to resist nearly gone, the Rebellion was all but broken.  The issue was how it would end.  Over 600,000 young Americans were dead.  A Federal push to victory would cost thousands of more lives, humiliate the South, and complicate the healing of a reconstructed Union.  Reasonable men on both sides were coming to Hampton Roads in search of a way out. 

            On the other side of Grant’s siege line, Robert E. Lee was praying for their success and Jefferson Davis was plotting their failure.  Under pressure from his left to accept Lincoln’s invitation to send “any agent” to negotiate a reunion of “our one common country,” the defiant Confederate President had chosen as his spokesmen three leaders of Richmond’s growing antiwar movement and given them a mandate to bring peace to “two countries.”  Expecting them to fail, he was poised to proclaim their rejection as a Yankee insult, discredit his internal political opposition, and incite the Southern people to a war of desperation in a single stroke.  To avert a pointless death struggle, the President of the United States and the men in Grant’s dispatch boat would have to square that circle.

Table of Contents

Cast of Principal Characters x

Prologue xvii

Part I Friends in Power

1 A Self-Immolating Devotion to Duty 2

2 Lacking in the Quality of Leadership 8

3 A Problematical Character, Full of Contradictions 14

4 Good and True Friends 20

5 The Only Way to Make Spaniels Civil Is to Whip Them 28

6 Who Will He Treat With, or How Commence the Work? 33

7 The Wise Men Are Those Who Would End It 41

8 I Do Not Think I Would Get Back 52

9 As Once a Friend and Still, I Hope, Not an Enemy 61

Part II We Are But One People

10 A Treachery Unworthy of Men of Honor 72

11 A New Channel for the Bitter Waters 80

12 We Are on the Eve of an Internal Revolution 92

13 A Determined Stand Ought to Be Made for Peace 104

14 Is There Nothing That Will Degrade a Man? 118

15 You Will Not Assume to Definitely Consummate Anytiing 128

16 I Was Never So Much Disappointed in My Life 140

17 With Evident Indications of High Gratification 155

18 There Has Been Nothing We Could Do for Our Country 172

Part III A Suffering and Distracted Country

19 It Is More Dangerous to Make Peace Than to Make War 202

20 You Are All Against Me 212

21 Thank God We Know It Now 221

22 To Serve a People in Spite of Themselves 231

23 It Is the Province of Statesmanship to Consider of These Things 240

24 With Cheerful Confidence in the Result 251

25 Allow Judge Campbell to See This, But Do Not Make It Public 265

26 The Rebels Are Our Countrymen Again 274

27 I Am as One Walking in a Dream 282

Epilogue 293

Acknowledgments 307

Notes 309

Selected Bibliography 368

Index 380

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