Howell Cobb, now acting as a brigadier-general in the rebel army at Richmond. I was ordered to proceed with a flag of truce to the bridge crossing the Chickahominy upon the Mechanicsville road, where I would be met l)y General Cobb at 11 oclock a. in., for the purpose of a conference in regard to an exchange of prisoners; my instructions being to learn the views of the rebel Government and report them to General McClellan, making arrangements for a second meeting. I also received permission to converse with General Cobb upon the general snbject of the existing contest, informing him however that all such conversation was purely personal and not in any respect of an official or representative char- acter. I went to the place appointed, and there was met upon the bridge by Geneial Cobb. We availed ourselves, as suggested by General McClellan, of the shelter of a little hut made by our pickets a few feet from the bridge, and talked together for several hours ; the conversation being carried on chiefly by him. In regard to the exchange of prisoners, he exhibited written authority from General li. E. Lee, the commander of the whole army of the Con- federate States, giving humn full power to make any convention on the subject as to any or all prisoners of war wherever captured. He ox- I)ressed a readiness to make an agreement embracing all prisoners now held by either side or one including only those taken by the respective armies now confronting each other before Richmond, and to make each agreement applicable either to existing prisoners or else to those here- after captured. He stated that he would sign any cartel which was l)ased upon principles of entire equality, and he proposed that exchanges should take place according to the date of capture, first, however, ex- Imausting the list of officers; the scale of equivalents to be any which we might present and which would operate equally; for instance, the one exhibited to him by General Wool at a conference between them, and which was taken from a cartel between the United States and Great Britain in 1812. The exchanged persons to be conveyed by the captors (at the captors expense) to some point of delivery convenient to the other party; the rule of exchange to operate uniformly, without any right of reservation or exception in any particular case. He professed ignorance of any complaint against his Government in any matter of exchanging prisoners, and pledged himself for the removal of any cause of complaint upon representation being made. He suggested the pro- J)riety of releasing upon parol any surplus of prisoners remaining after exchanges had exhausted either party.* I saw no evidence of any disposition to overreach me in this confer. ence. Our personal conversation began by my saying to him that I was Pleased to meet him upon a peaceful errand, and that nothing was so desired by me as that we might soon meet in permanent peace. He replied that permanent peace could at any time be established within half an hour. I told him I would like to hear his views on that subject and in return would give him mine. He at once expressed his desire for a general conversation. We both positively disclaimed any official or representative character, and expressly promised that nothing said by either should be under- stood as anything but the expression of individual sentiment, each * This letter, omitting all that follows this paragraph, was subniitted to the House of Representatives January 9, 1865.