The River Queen Conference: March 27-28, 1865

On March 27 and 28, 1865, Abraham Lincoln welcomed Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and David Dixon Porter aboard The River Queen to discuss how to close out the Civil War.

The Peacemakers (Wikipedia Commons)

Lincoln had been visiting Grant at his headquarters at City Point, Virginia, for several days when Sherman arrived. Here’s how Sherman described what came next:

WT RQ 1872 1WTS RQ 2WTS RQ 3WTS RQ 4Sherman misremembered the name of the vessel … and his memory of events proved interesting in other ways, too.

For now it is enough to note that artist George P. A. Healy portrayed Grant as listening and Sherman as talking (in animated style, no less). Porter left an account as well, which he sent Sherman in 1866 (Grant left no account).


Whether Porter proved a dispassionate witness or whether he was playing to Sherman’s memory of the conference (for Sherman’s later actions were predicated upon a particular interpretation of his conversations with Lincoln) is worth discussion … but for now read the letters themselves.



13 thoughts on “The River Queen Conference: March 27-28, 1865

  1. Leo March 27, 2015 / 6:10 am

    This is wonderful! Thank you for posting this.

  2. Leo March 27, 2015 / 6:40 am

    This is won“… as long as the rebels laid down their arms, he did not care how it was done.”

    I understand Sherman was criticized by many for offering such lenient terms to Johnston, but I never knew he had Lincoln’s approval. Am I reading Porter’s account correctly?

    Sherman really is one of the more interesting generals of the Civil War. I find him fascinating for his “out of the box” thinking.

    Cleburne and Longstreet are the two Confederate officers I find interesting as well, but that’s for another day.
    derful! Thank you for posting this.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 27, 2015 / 10:58 am

      I think Sherman assumed that he was acting upon Lincoln’s impulses, but of course Lincoln was dead when Sherman met with Johnston. Even Grant knew that Sherman had gone too far, and he was also present at the meeting. Sherman’s understanding of Lincoln’s impulses is different than being authorized to act upon them.

      • John Foskett March 27, 2015 / 2:16 pm

        Imagine if Cump had been around for WWII and was taking FDR’s bloviations as authority to act. The man who could sit down with three people for a meeting and have each leave with a belief which was at odds with the beliefs held by the other two, which were themselves at odds.

  3. Lyle Smith March 27, 2015 / 6:49 am

    Is that rainbow symbolism? Oh yes it is, but I josh.

    I don’t like this painting. The subjects look photoshopped or airbrushed.

    • Andy Hall March 27, 2015 / 12:36 pm

      George P. A. Healy also did the famous portrait of Lincoln that, I believe, hangs in the State Dining Room of the White House.

      George’s brother, Thomas Cantwell Healy, was also an artist, but chose to remain in the South during the war.

      • Ken Noe March 27, 2015 / 3:38 pm

        Every president since JFK has displayed it in the White House. Former LJG Bush described it during a televised tour as ‘Lincoln, Admiral Porter, and two army guys.’

          • John Foskett March 28, 2015 / 7:52 am

            He’s a former USN pilot. I’d wager he knew a good anti-Army line when he saw it.

      • Lyle Smith March 28, 2015 / 8:16 am

        That’s very cool. We must hang up what we have, I guess.

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