I soon found that we could not agree upon the topic; and, therefore, I sought to flank the difficulty.
I suggested that it was very unwise for us to reject the paper about which we had agreed in every other respect, because we disagreed about one item — that the new cartel might be silent as to recaptured slaves, leaving to the United States
the right to resort to such measures of retaliation, if they were not released, as was practiced in the case of white soldiers, when they were improperly detained.
I urged that a difficulty about the release of slaves, who did not form one-fiftieth part of the prisoners, should not prevent the exchange of others — that when Streight
's men were detained on our side, or Morgan
's men on his, exchanges were not stopped thereby, and that it was hardly fair to have one rule for the white man and a better one for the black.
At length, General Butler
assented to this view, and so we constructed a new cartel, which settled the old points of dispute, but was silent as to such soldiers as were slaves at the outbreak of the war. The position which I had all along maintained in relation to paroles was unhesitatingly accepted by General Butler
When the paper was prepared, I suggested that it be signed by us, signifying that I was authorized to do so on the part of the Confederate Government.
But General Butler
said he was not authorized to do so, and would be compelled to send it to the War Department, at Washington
, for approval, which he hoped and believed it would receive.
When I expressed my readiness to sign the paper, he pleasantly observed that the Confederate
authorities had always shown their good sense in leaving measures to the judgment of those who knew most about them; but that though he was the commander of a department, he had not the power to bind the United States
to the instrument, strange as that might appear.
I have reason to believe that General Butler
urged the adoption of the new cartel with good faith and zeal.
It was transmitted by the War Department to General Grant
, then in front of Petersburg
, for his approval or rejection.
It is well known to the country what his action was. General Butler
, in his report to the Committee
on the Conduct of the War
, states that General Grant
communicated his rejection to him, giving in substance as his reason that Sherman
would be overwhelmed and his own position on the James
Over one hundred thousand officers and men were, at or about that time, in confinement on both sides, the United States
holding quite a large majority.
When this effort to renew exchanges failed, so anxious were the Confederate
authorities to have some plan of relief adopted, that