again came back to Washington. On the 29th instant we were advised from the camp of Lieutenant-General Grant that Alexander H. Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, and John A. Campbell were applying for leave to pass through the lines to Washington, as peace commissioners, to confer with the President. They were permitted by the lieutenant-general to come to his headquarters, to await there the decision of the President. Major Eckert was sent down to meet the party from Richmond at General Grant's headquarters. The major was directed to deliver to them a copy of the President's letter to Mr. Blair, with aa note to be addressed to them, and signed by the major, in which they were directly informed that if they should be allowed to pass our lines they would be understood a coming for an informal conference, upon the basis of the forenamed letter of the 18th of January to Mr. Blair. If they should express their assent to this condition in writing, then Major Eckert, was directed to give them safe conduct to Fortress Monroe, where a person coming from the President would meet them. It being thought probable, from a report of their conversation with Lieutenant-General Grant, that the Richmond party would, in the manner prescribed, accept the condition mentioned, the Secretary of State was charged by the President with the duty of representing this Government in the expected informal conference. The Secretary arrived at Fortress Monroe in the night of the 1st day of February.
Major Eckert met him in the morning of the 2nd of February with the information that the persons who had come from Richmond had not accepted, in writing, the condition upon which he was allowed to give them conduct to Fortress Monroe. The major had given the same information by telegraph to the President, at Washington. On receiving this information the President prepared a telegram directing the Secretary to return to Washington. The Secretary was preparing, at the same moment, to so return without waiting for instructions from the President; but at this juncture Lieutenant-General Grant telegraphed to the Secretary of War, as well as to the Secretary of State, that the party from Richmond had reconsidered and accepted the conditions tendered them through Major Eckert, and General Grant urgently advised the President to confer in person with the Richmond party. Under these circumstances the Secretary, by the President's direction, remained at Fortress Monroe, and the President joined him there on the night of the 2nd of February. The Richmond party was brought down the James River in a U. S. steam transport during the day, and the transport was anchored in Hampton Roads.
On the morning of the 3rd the President, attended by the Secretary, received Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell on board the U. S. steam transport River Queen, in Hampton Roads. The conference was altogether informal. There was no attendance of secretaries, clerks, of other witnesses.