The Peace Meeting That Wasn’t

In late February 1865 Major General Edward O. C. Ord met with Lt. General James Longstreet under a flag of truce. The subject was the exchange of prisoners … at least that’s how it began. After all, Ord and Longstreet knew each other in the prewar army, and getting together gave them a chance to catch up.

Before long the conversation shifted to the current situation. Longstreet was a realist: he knew that the Confederacy was in bad shape. So long as Jefferson Davis was in charge, however, a negotiated settlement seemed unlikely. Ord, who had little interest in emancipation, also longed for the war to end. In the discussion that followed wistful thinking gave way to imaginative solutions, and none more imaginative than what emerged.

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