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The cartel of exchange bears date July 22d, 1862. Its chief purpose was to secure the delivery of all prisoners of war.

To that end, the fourth article provided that all prisoners of war should be discharged on parole in ten days after their capture. From the date of the cartel until the summer of 1863 the Confederate authorities had the excess of prisoners. During the interval deliveries were made as fast as the Federal Government furnished transportation. Indeed, upon more than one occasion I urged the Federal authorities to send increased means of transportation. It has never been alleged that the Confederate authorities failed or neglected to make prompt deliveries of prisoners who were not held under charges, when they had the excess. On the other hand, during the same time the cartel was openly and notoriously violated by the Federal authorities. Officers and men were kept in confinement, sometimes in irons or doomed to cells, without charge or trial. Many officers were kept in confinement even after the notices published by the Federal authorities had declared them exchanged.

In the summer of 1863 the Federal authorities insisted upon limiting exchanges to such as were held in confinement on either side. This I resisted as being in violation of the cartel. Such a construction not only kept in confinement the excess on either side but ignored all paroles which were held by the Confederate Government. These were very many, being the paroles of officers and men who had been released on capture. The Federal Government [126] at that time held few or no paroles. They had all, or nearly all, been surrendered, the Confederate authorities giving prisoners as equivalent for them. Thus it will be seen that as long as the Confederate Government had the excess of prisoners matters went on smoothly enough, but as soon as the posture of affairs in that respect was changed the cartel could no longer be observed. So, as long as the Federal Government held the paroles of Confederate officers and men, they were respected, and made the basis of exchange; but when equivalents were obtained for them, and no more were in hand, the paroles which were held by the Confederate authorities could not be recognized. In consequence of the position thus assumed by the Federal Government, the requirement of the cartel that all prisoners should be delivered within ten days was practically nullified. The deliveries which were afterwards made were the results of special agreements.

The Confederate authorities adhered to their position until the 10th of August, 1864, when, moved by the sufferings of the men in the prisons of each belligerent, they determined to abate their just demand. Accordingly, on the last named day, I addressed the following communication to Brigadier-General John E. Mulford (then Major), Assistant Agent of Exchange:

Richmond, August 10, 1864.
Major John E. Mulford, Assistant Agent of Exchange:
Sir — You have several times proposed to me to exchange the prisoners respectively held by the two belligerents — officer for officer and man for man. The same offer has also been made by other officials having charge of matters connected with the exchange of prisoners.

This proposal has heretofore been declined by the Confederate authorities, they insisting upon the terms of the cartel, which required the delivery of the excess on either side on parole. In view, however, of the very large number of prisoners now held by each party, and the suffering consequent upon their continued confinement, I now consent to the above proposal, and agree to deliver to you the prisoners held in captivity by the Confederate authorities, provided you agree to deliver an equal number of Confederate officers and men. As equal numbers are delivered from time to time, they will be declared exchanged. This proposal is made with the understanding that the officers and men on both sides who have been longest in captivity will be first delivered, where it is practicable.

I shall be happy to hear from you as speedily as possible whether this arrangement can be carried out.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Robert Ould, Agent of Exchange.


The delivery of this letter was accompanied with a statement of the mortality which was hurrying so many Federal prisoners at Andersonville to the grave.

On the 22d day of August, 1864, not having heard anything in response, I addressed a communication to Major-General E. A. Hitchcock, United States Commissioner of Exchange, covering a copy of the foregoing letter to General Mulford, and requesting an acceptance of my propositions.

No answer was received to either of these letters. General Mulford, on the 31st day of August, 1864, informed me in writing that he had no communication on the subject from the United States authorities, and that he was not at that time authorized to make any answer.

This offer, which would have instantly restored to freedom thousands of suffering captives — which would have released every Federal soldier in confinement in Confederate prisons — was not even noticed. Was that because the Federal officials did not deem it worthy of a reply, or because they feared to make one? As the Federal authorities at that time had a large excess of prisoners, the effect of the proposal which I had made, if carried out, would have been to release all Union prisoners, while a large number of the Confederates would have remained in prison, awaiting the chances of the capture of their equivalents.

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