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[577] still remained to be placed at our disposal when needed by the army in North Carolina.

The failure of several attempts to open negotiations with the Federal government, and notably the last by commissioners who met President Lincoln at Hampton Roads, convinced me of the hopelessness under existing circumstances to obtain better terms than were then offered, i.e., a surrender at discretion. My motive, therefore, in holding an interview with the senior generals of the army in North Carolina was not to learn their opinion as to what might be done by negotiation with the United States government, but to derive from them information in regard to the army under their command, and what it was feasible and advisable to do as a military problem.

The members of my Cabinet were already advised as to the object of the meeting, and, when the subject was introduced to the generals in that form, General Johnston was very reserved, and seemed far less than sanguine. His first significant expression was that of a desire to open correspondence with General Sherman, to see if he would agree to a suspension of hostilities, the object being to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war. Confident that the United States government would not accept a proposition for such negotiations, I distinctly expressed my conviction on that point, and presented as an objection to such an effort that, so far as it should excite delusive hopes and expectations, its failure would have a demoralizing effect both on the troops and on the people. Neither of them had shown any disposition to surrender, or had any reason to suppose that their government contemplated abandoning its trust—the maintenance of the Constitution, freedom, and independence of the Confederate States. From the inception of the war, the people had generally and at all times expressed their determination to accept no terms of peace that did not recognize their independence; the indignation manifested when it became known that Lincoln had offered to our commissioners at Hampton Roads a surrender at discretion as the only alternative to a continuance of the war assured me that no true Confederate was prepared to accept peace on such terms. During the last years of the war the main part of the infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia was composed of men from the farther South. Many of these, before the evacuation of Petersburg and especially about the time of Lee's surrender, had absented themselves to go homeward, and, it was reported, made avowal of their purpose to continue the struggle. I had reason to believe that the spirit

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