I wish most of all that I could have been a listener aboard the steamer transport River Queen , just off Hampton Roads, on February 3, 1865.
This, of course, was the conference between Abraham Lincoln, who was accompanied by Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Vice-Président Alexander H. Stephens, who represented the Confederate States of America, and was accompanied by Sen. R. M. T. Hunter and former Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell. They were trying to work out some way to quickly end the Civil War and to restore the Union.
I wish I could have been there, first, simply to see these leaders of the Union and the Confederacy. Think what a contrast they made! There was the gigantically tall Abraham Lincoln and the minute, wizened Alexander Stephens. Apart from that, I would have been a witness to the one and only time when true leaders of the North and the South sat down seriously to talk about terms of reconciliation and peace. Finally, from witnessing this encounter, I would know what Abraham Lincoln’s real policy of Reconstruction was, and could better judge what he might have accomplished had he not been assassinated. I know of no other single episode in the history of the Civil War that is so significant, and I wish I could have been there.