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February 3

In 1865, on this day at Hampton Roads, Virginia official delegations from the Union and the Confederacy met to discuss a possible peace agreement.

Hampton Roads ConferenceThe Chief Union Negotiator was POTUS Abraham Lincoln, who having narrowly lost the recent Presidential election to General George McClellan, was serving out his last month in office (victory having slipped from his grasp because of the delayed fall of Atlanta). Desperate to end the misery of his one-term Presidency on a high note of victory short of compromising the Union, he drafted an amnesty agreement based upon terms discussed at the Conference. Unfortunately the proposals met with stiff opposition from his Cabinet.

The Confederate commissioners immediately returned to Richmond and POTCS Jefferson Davis was set to announce that the North would not compromise. But then fate intervened with the sudden death of McClellan whose place as President-elect was taken by his running mate George H Pendleton, a peace candidate from Ohio. Of course, if McClellan had lived we probably wouldn't rank CS Secretary for War John Breckinridge so highly in America's pantheon of historical heroes. After all, he had sustained the Confederate War effort just long enough to snatch a late stalemate victory before the new nation collapsed into military defeat.