By early 1865, the secessionists were hard-pressed by the Union on several sides. In early February 1865, Union Gen. William T. Sherman's troops were beginning to enter the Carolinas after their destructive march across Georgia in late 1864. In other developments, The Associated Press reported that a group of "rebel peace commissioners" had apparently arrived inside Union lines in early February 1865.
But their movements remained uncertain and there was no immediate report on their intent. The U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 31, 1865, passed the 13th Amendment proposing to formally abolish slavery. President Abraham Lincoln, noting the measure had passed the senate in April 1864, submitted the proposed amendment to state legislatures for their consideration. It would obtain ratification by the required number of states by December 1865.