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NP: March 3, 1865 The Bedford Inquirer: Major May of the 138th PA Describes His Kind of Peace, February, 1865





A cartoon on the back page of the February 18, 1865 Harper’s Weekly shows the three Confederate peace commissioners looking uncertain as an impossibly tall Abraham Lincoln tries to welcome them back into the Union.

I thought a few lines from an old friend would not come amiss. There has been a good bit said about peace, now I will give my opinion on the subject. I can congratulate the country that we are soon to have, not a mean, cowardly, dishonorable peace, obtained by compromise with miserable traitors whose hands are red with the nation’s best blood, but an honorable peace obtained in the field, and on the sea, by our gallant armies and navy. Such a peace is within our reach. We only have to put forth our hands and secure it. I am glad to know that regardless of the attempt of Jeff Davis to gain time by sending three [of] the shrewdest traitors in the South to Fortress Monroe to talk and argue with Representatives of this government, General Grant is now moving his peacemakers against Wilmington and Charleston, whilst Lee is helpless in the pent up Utica of Richmond, upon the battlements of which will soon float the emblems of peace, placed there by the General-in-Chief of the Rebel armies as a signal of capitulation.1

In the West and Southwest our armies are not in winter quarters, but on the march. Victory is before them everywhere. I am glad to learn that the tone of all the respectable papers in the country, whose opinion is worth a pinch of snuff, are decidedly against any peace that would not be alike honorable to the army and navy, and the loyal people of the United States. The latter in reelecting Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, solemnly declared at the ballot box in favor of conquering a peace, in favor of forcing armed traitors against their legitimate government to lay down their arms and submit to the laws, in favor of the complete abolition of slavery in every State from the British Provinces to Mexico, and in favor of punishing the leading rebels for the high crime of Treason.

This is the only program of settlement that will satisfy the loyal people of the nation. If any person supposes that the President of the United States will accept any other terms than these, then they are mistaken; he will neither do this himself, or permit any other person to do it in his name. Any peace upon any terms that does not include the ignominious punishment of the political leaders of this wicked rebellion is no peace worth having. Their first business if at large again would be to plot another rebellion. This must not be, and I have faith enough in the wisdom and sound statesmanship of those to whom this matter is entrusted to assert that I know it will not be. To General Grant we turn for the peace after which all are yearning, that will be lasting, and which all true patriots will hail with joy, a peace that we can hand down to our children with safety and with pride, a peace that will not reflect dishonor upon the memory of our gallant dead, nor bring a blush to the cheeks of a single soldier or sailor who bravely offered their lives upon sea and land for their country’s salvation. Such a peace is at hand, and such a peace only will be dignified and honorable to us as a nation in the eyes of the world.

Your friend, &c.,

Major 138th Penn[sylvania]. Vol[unteer]s.3

SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Roy Gustrowsky.

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Major May is referring to the February 1865 Hampton Roads Peace Conference in the above paragraph. President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward met with May’s “three…traitors,” Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, Senator Robert M. T. Hunter, and Assistant Secretary of War John A. Campbell, aboard the civilian steamship River Queen in the vicinity of Fort Monroe. For more, see James Conroy’s 2014 book Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: A quick glance at the roster of the 138th Pennsylvania from Bates’ classic reference work provided Major May’s Christian name.
  3. “Army Correspondence.” The Bedford Inquirer (Bedford, PA), March 3, 1865, p.2, c.3 to 4.
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