Babcock, with an escort and conducted to General Grant's headquarters, at City Point. They were received by General Grant with marked civility and courtesy and remained with him two days before they could arrive at an understanding with the authorities at Washington as to the conditions upon which they would be allowed to proceed. On February 1st, Major Thomas T. Eckert, who had been sent with instructions from Mr. Lincoln as to the request of the commissioners, addressed to them a letter, in which he informed them that if they passed through the United States military lines, it would be understood that they did so for the purpose of an informal conference on the basis of a paper prepared by Mr. Lincoln, a copy of which was placed in their hands. Without going into all the details of the correspondence between the commissioners and Major Eckert, it is sufficient to state that on February 1st, he telegraphed to Washington that the reply of the commissioners was not satisfactory and that he had notified them that they could not proceed further unless they complied with the conditions expressed in Mr. Lincoln's letter. On February 2d, the following telegram was sent by General Grant to Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War:
To Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War.Now that the interview between Major Eckert under his written instructions, and Mr. Stephens and party has ended, I will state confidentially, but not officially to become a matter of record, that I am convinced, upon conversation with Messrs. Stephen and Hunter that their intentions are good and their desire sincere to restore peace and union. I have not felt myself at liberty to express even views of my own or to account for my reticence. This has placed me in an awkward position which I could have avoided by not seeing them in the first instance. I fear now their going back without any expression to any one in authority will have a bad influence. At the same time I recognize the difficulties in the way of receiving these informal commissioners at this time and I do not know what to recommend. I am sorry, however, that Mr. Lincoln cannot have an interview with the two named in this dispatch, if not all three now within our lines. Their letter to me was all that the President's instructions contemplated, to secure their safe conduct, if they had used the same language to Captain Eckert.
U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.