Today I appeared before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. The Committee questioned me for hours. They were especially concerned about my negotiations with General Johnston to end the war. The committee believed that President Lincoln was too soft on the Rebels and wanted me to support their view by saying Lincoln had instructed me as to the negotiations. I spoke at length about my meeting with Lincoln at City Point. We spoke of no specifics, only generalities. I told them my first attempt at peace was intended as a draft to be approved or modified in Washington and I had sent it right away by special courier. I explained that Stanton had encouraged me to try to get the enemy to return to civilian life as soon as possible. When my terms were rejected, Grant clarified what was desired, and that was what I signed. The result is there are still some of the enemy that have not yet surrendered. I explained my fear that Johnston’s soldiers would slip away and continue fighting as partisans that we must then hunt down throughout the South and prolong the war for years.
They also wanted to know why I had not written anything about slavery. I answered that slavery was dead, it had been ended with the President’s proclamation and for me to have renewed the question when that decision was already made would have involved the absurdity of an inferior undertaking to qualify the work of his superior.
After the hearing, I left with my brother, Senator John Sherman. As we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue, my appearance attracted crowds of well wishers, ladies waving their handkerchiefs and gentlemen cheering. After a severe round of continuous hand shaking I had to call a carriage to escape for some rest.