Born on November 18, 1819, James Frazier Jaquess (pronounced JAY-kwess) was educated at DePauw University and was an ordained Methodist minister. He met Lincoln when he served as minister for the Petersburg circuit. Jaquess moved to Quincy and became president of the Quincy English and German College. He was an ardent abolitionist who spoke often of the need for this country to end the destructive slave system.
When the Civil War commenced, Jaquess was commissioned chaplain of the 6th Illinois Cavalry. After Shiloh he helped form the 73rd Illinois, known as the “Preachers Regiment,” and became its commanding officer. Colonel Jaquess and the regiment served with distinction in the Chattanooga and Chickamauga campaigns. General Philip Sheridan commended his service as “especially distinguished for skill and great personal courage.”
Jaquess had another role to play that sprang from his personal relationship with Lincoln. He went into the confederacy with the approval of the President in both 1863 and 1864. In the latter instance, he met in July 1864 with Confederacy President Jefferson Davis and Judah Philip Benjamin, who would hold three positions in Davis’s Cabinet, and presented a proposal for peace with reunion, the end of slavery, and amnesty for the rebels.
James F. Jaquess
The offer of amnesty enraged Davis who retorted that amnesty was for criminals and there was no criminality in fighting for independence. The significance of the mission stemmed from its undermining of the Democrat antiwar element that asserted that a negotiated compromise settlement which would affect reunion was possible. The election appeared to Lincoln to be between a Union and a disunion candidate. He recognized the Jaquess mission as a valuable asset to his reelection in 1864.
In 1872 Congress belatedly approved Jaquess’s expenses for his two missions to the Confederacy. Jaquess died in St. Paul, Minnesota, in June 1898.
– Dave Costigan
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