Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saturday, 8 April 1865: Notes are Exchanged

No word from Lee. Tension rises at Union headquarters. Grant has a persistent headache. Mead is suffering nausea. Around noon a reply comes from General Lee. He asks Grant for a discussion concerning “the restoration of peace”. The wording is vague, but it is clearly a request to negotiate a political solution. Grant immediately replies that he has no authority to negotiate a political settlement and his request for Lee’s surrender stands. President Lincoln anticipated this moment. On 3 March 1865 (the evening before he gave his second inaugural address) he sent a letter to General Grant in which he specified that if Lee were to surrender, Grant had no authority other than a military surrender of Lee’s army. Lincoln would retain the power for political negotiations if any were required. This is an important document because it affirms Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution that places the President, a civilian, in command of the armed forces, and thus responsible for political decisions. After the courier left with Grant’s reply, Grant remarked to his staff, “It looks as if Lee means to fight.” Meanwhile, General George Armstrong Custer’s cavalry attacked and destroyed Lee’s last supply convoy.

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