in their view of it], than an order from the Federal Secretary of War--the law of self-preservation. If I had found myself at any time during the war a prisoner in the hands of the enemy, about to be dragged to a Northern prison, where I am sure confinement for a very short time would have killed me or run me mad, and my captors had been humane enough to release me on my parole of honor not to serve again until exchanged, I am sure I would have thought my Government more barbarous than the enemy if it had required of me a violation of my parole and a return to duty without exchange; but I feel confident no such dishonor would ever have been required of me by that Government for I do know that the paroles of some of my own men, captured at Williamsburg on the 5th of May, 1862, more than two months before the cartel was adopted, and for special reasons paroled within a week of their capture, were respected, and they were regularly exchanged. Mr. Stanton, in issuing the order of the 3d of July, 1863, violated the laws of civilized warfare, and the statement contained therein that the Confederate Government ( “the enemy” ) had pursued the same course was a mere pretext to give color to his own unwarrantable act. But for that order all the prisoners captured by us at Gettysburg, amounting to fully six thousand, would have been paroled; and, in fact, the proper staff officers were proceeding to parole them, and had actually paroled and released a large number of them, when the news came of the order referred to. Why did Mr. Stanton object to the parolling of those prisoners? and why did he prefer that they should be confined in prisons in the South--“prison pens,” as Northern Republicans are pleased to call them — rather than that they should be sent to their own homes on parole, there to remain in comfort until duly exchanged, if it was not to embarrass the Confederate Government with the custody and support of them, regardless of any consideration for their health or their lives? If he did not think proper to exchange Confederate prisoners in his hands for them he could have refused to do so; and certainly their presence at their own homes could have done no harm to his cause; most assuredly not more than their confinement in a prison, in a climate to which they were unaccustomed. If the rule asserted in his order is among the laws and usages of war, then it must follow that if General Lee had not been able to guard or feed the prisoners in his hands he would have had the right to resort to that dread alternative to which the first Napoleon resorted in Egypt when he found the paroles granted by him not respected, and destroy the prisoners in his hands. If any of the prisoners brought from Gettysburg, or subsequently captured, lost their lives at Andersonville, or any other Southern prison, is it not palpable that the responsibility for their deaths rested on Edwin M. Staunton? In consequence of the order one division commander, who fell into our hands, wounded, whom we could have brought off, though
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.