The Willard: Where hope collapsed as slavery raged





The delegates used separate hotel entrances: Pennsylvania Avenue for Northerners, F Street for Southerners.

They shouted, argued and one day almost came to blows before their chairman, a former U.S. president, yelled, "Order!"

Then, the day before Valentine's Day 1861, one of the aged attendees passed away in his hotel room, begging colleagues from his deathbed to save the Union so he could die content.

They failed.

Indeed, there wasn't much peace at all during the "Peace Convention" at Washington's Willard Hotel that winter. And despite the dying wish of sickly old Ohio Judge John C. Wright, his beloved Union was soon torn in half.

This week, as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, historians are gathering at the Willard InterContinental hotel to remember the failed, and largely forgotten, peace conference of 1861....


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