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[395] prolongation of hostilities with any hope of success was an impossibility; and that the only course left Mr. Davis while still, nominally, the Chief Magistrate of the Confederacy, was to open negotiations for peace. This opinion was urged by General Johnston, in his own and in General Beauregard's name, at the renewal of the conference, on the 13th. After asking the opinion of the members of the Cabinet present—General Breckinridge included —and receiving the assurance from all, except Mr. Benjamin, that they agreed with the two generals, Mr. Davis openly stated his objection, basing it mainly upon his belief that the Federal Government would refuse to treat with him, or accept any proposition he might offer. It was then suggested by General Johnston that the preliminary overtures might be made by himself, and not by the President. This, at last, was agreed to, and a letter, dictated by Mr. Davis, written by Mr. Mallory and signed by General Johnston, was handed to the latter, with authority to forward it to General Sherman.

Thus closed the last official interview held between President Davis, General Johnston, and General Beauregard.1

General Johnston lost no time in causing this letter to be forwarded to General Sherman. It was intrusted to the care of Lieutenant-General Hampton, at or near Hillsboroa, and was, in obedience to his orders, delivered on the succeeding day. It read thus:

‘The results of the recent campaign in Virginia have changed the relative military condition of the belligerents. I am, therefore, induced to address you in this form the inquiry whether, in order to stop the further effusion of blood and devastation of property, you are willing to make a temporary suspension of active operations, and to communicate to Lieutenant-General Grant, commanding the armies of the United States, the request that he will take like action in regard to other armies; the object being to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war.’

Except some raids of the Federal cavalry, at Salisbury and other minor points, in relation to which General Beauregard was yet issuing orders to Generals Lomax, Bradley Johnson, and Ferguson,

1 For further and confirmatory details concerning this conference the reader is referred to the Appendix to this chapter, where will be found a letter from General Johnston to General Beauregard (with the latter's endorsement), dated Baltimore, Md., March 30th, 1868.

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