Hampton Roads

This sounds a bit like some tourist trap in the making, right?  Or maybe one of those romantic dramas on the Hallmark Channel, right?

As a history buff I am always trying to learn more about American history….the stuff that was seldom taught in schools for various reasons…..

We all learn in school about the surrender of the Confederate forces at Appomattox in 1865…..but how many know of the peace conference before that?

Civil War historians have dismissed the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of February 3, 1865, in which President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward met with Southern representatives or “commissioners,” as a fruitless and relatively unimportant episode occurring two months prior to the surrender of the Confederate armies. [1] One prominent scholar in his history of the Lincoln presidency has completely ignored the meeting. [2] Other historians cite the results of the conference as additional proof of Lincoln’s “strategy of unconditional surrender” in the war. [3] David Donald in his magisterial biography of Lincoln asserts that the president did not expect to achieve any real results at Hampton Roads. According to Donald, Lincoln’s purpose in meeting with the rebel commissioners was not peacemaking; it was “to undermine the Jefferson Davis administration” by appealing to the discontented Southern masses’ longing for peace. “He wanted to raise their hopes, if necessary through a campaign of misinformation,” including the prospect “that at least the remnants of their ‘peculiar institution’ could still be saved.” [4]

Historians are probably correct in concluding that an end of the conflict based on Abraham Lincoln’s terms—the restoration of the Union and the destruction of slavery—was not possible until the surrender of Confederate armies in April. At Hampton Roads, Southern representatives, on instructions from Jefferson Davis, rejected out of hand any peace that failed to recognize Confederate independence or provide for a cease-fire. Though the Hampton Roads Conference did not produce peace, it was more important than historians have judged, particularly in regard to Lincoln’s purposes and concerns during the last few months of the war and the Northern reaction to his peace effort. Furthermore, a history of the conference can provide insights into Lincoln’s late-war leadership, his emancipation and reconstruction policies, and his standing among contemporaries before his apotheosis as an American icon.

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860.0021.104/–hampton-roads-peace-conference-a-final-test-of-lincolns?rgn=main;view=fulltext

Granted the conference was unsuccessful but that should not preclude the teaching of the attempt to reach a peace before the actual signing of the surrender.

Learn Stuff!

Class Dismissed!

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2 thoughts on “Hampton Roads

  1. That’s very much my area of interest, so I did know. However, even in ‘big books’ about the Civil War, it is often overlooked.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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