In the beginning of the war, surgeons were regarded as non-combatants, and not subject to detention on either side.
A difficulty, however, arose between the two governments about one Dr. Rucker
, who was held in confinement on the charge of murder, and other high crimes.
The United States
demanded his release, and failing to secure it, put Dr. Green
, a Confederate surgeon, in confinement in retaliation.
This led to the detention of all surgeons on both sides.
I made vigorous efforts to restore the old practice, and at length succeeded.
Accordingly, a day was fixed for the delivery of all surgeons on both sides at City Point
, and all the Federal
surgeons were directed to be sent from the Libby and put on board the flag-of-truce steamer.
I accompanied the party.
When we were nearing the steamer “New York,” I perceived that a signal was flying for me to come to the shore with my boat.
I did so, and found there a communication stating that Colonel Harry White
, commanding one of the Pennsylvania
regiments, had disguised himself as a surgeon and was then on board my boat.
I immediately directed the prisoners to be drawn up in line on the shore and made them an address, in which I recounted the efforts I had made to secure the immunity of their class, and stated that an officer of the line, not entitled to exchange or release, was among them, disguised as a surgeon.
I then raised my voice and shouted: “Colonel Harry White
, come forth.”
He stepped in front at once, and in a few words claimed that he had the right to resort to any stratagem to effect his release.
I replied that I was not there to dispute or affirm what he said, but that he must return to Richmond
It was a heavy blow to him, struck at the moment when he was sanguine of his liberty.
Two minutes more would have placed him on the “New York,” where he would have been safe, even if his disguise lad been there detected.
He had been a long time in captivity, and extraordinary efforts had been made to secure for him a special exchange.
He had been elected as a Republican to the Pennsylvania Senate
, which, without him, was equally divided between the war and anti-war parties.
His presence was needed to effect an organization and working majority in that body.
I had learned these facts from more than one quarter, and was not disposed to assist in giving aid and-comfort to the war party.
I was under no duty to release Colonel White
, as the exchange of officers had ceased.
So obstinate was I, that when the Federal Agent
offered me a major general and several officers of lower grade for him, I declined to accept.
I might have speculated to great advantage on him if I had been so disposed, and the situation in