service. At noon, on the third, she started down James River, hoisting and bearing a flag of truce after passing City Point. The next day, (the fourth,) at about one o'clock P. M., when within a few miles of Newport News, we were met by a small boat of the enemy, carrying two guns, which also raised a white flag before approaching us. The officer in command informed Lieutenant Davidson that he had orders from Admiral Lee, on board the United States flag-ship Minnesota, lying below, and then in view, not to allow any boat or vessel to pass the point near which he was stationed, without his permission. By this officer I sent to Admiral Lee a note stating my objects and wishes, a copy of which is hereunto annexed, marked A. I also sent to the Admiral, to be forwarded, another in the same language, addressed to the officer in command of the United States forces at Fortress Monroe. The gunboat proceeded immediately to the Minnesota with these despatches, while the Torpedo remained at anchor. Between three and four o'clock P. M., another boat came up to us, bearing the Admiral's answer, which is hereunto annexed, marked B. We remained at or about this point in the river until the sixth instant, when, having heard nothing further from the Admiral, at twelve o'clock M. on that day I directed Lieutenant Davidson again to speak the gunboat on guard, and to hand to the officer in command another note to the Admiral. This was done; a copy of the note is appended, marked C. At half-past 2 o'clock P. M. two boats approached us from below, one bearing an answer from the Admiral to my note to him of the fourth. This answer is annexed, marked D. The other boat bore the answer of Lieutenant-Colonel W. H. Ludlow to my note of the fourth, addressed to the officer in command at Fort Monroe. A copy of this is annexed, marked E. Lieutenant-Colonel Ludlow also came up in person in the boat that brought his answer to me, and conferred with Colonel Ould, on board the Torpedo, upon some matters he desired to see him about in connection with the exchange of prisoners. From the papers appended, embracing the correspondence referred to, it will be seen that the mission failed from the refusal of the enemy to receive or entertain it, holding the proposition for such a conference “inadmissible.” The influences and views that led to this determination after so long a consideration of the subject, must be left to conjecture. The reason assigned for the refusal by the United States Secretary of War, to wit, that “the customary agents and channels” are considered adequate for all needful military “communications and conferences,” to one acquainted with the facts, seems not only unsatisfactory, but very singular and unaccountable; for it is certainly known to him that these very agents, to whom he evidently alludes, heretofore agreed upon in a former conference in reference to the exchange of prisoners, (one of the subjects embraced in your letter to me,) are now, and have been for some time, distinctly at issue on several important points. The existing cartel, owing to these disagreements, is virtually suspended, so far as the exchange of officers on either side are concerned. Notices of retaliation have been given on both sides. The effort, therefore, for the very many and cogent reasons set forth in your letter of instructions to me, to see if these differences could not be removed, and if a clearer understanding between the parties as to the general conduct of the war could not be arrived at before this extreme measure should be resorted to by either party, was no less in accordance with the dictates of humanity than in strict conformity with the usages of belligerents in modern times. Deeply impressed as I was with these views and feelings, in undertaking the mission, and asking the conference, I can but express my profound regret at the result of the effort made to obtain it, and I can but entertain the belief that if the conference sought had been granted, mutual good could have been effected by it; and if this war, so unnatural, so unjust, so unchristian, and so inconsistent with every fundamental principle of American constitutional liberty, “must needs” continue to be waged against us, that at least some of its severer horrors, which now so eminently threaten, might have been avoided. Very respectfully,
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