previous next

Doc. 105. the exchange of prisoners.

Correspondence between General McClernand, General Polk, etc.

A correspondent at Cairo furnishes the following interesting correspondence relative to [234] the exchange of prisoners at Columbus, Kentucky:

Gen. M'Clernand to Col. Buford.

Brigade Headquarters, camp Cairo, Oct. 23, 1861.
Col. N. B. Buford, Commanding 27th Illinois Volunteers:
sir: You are hereby intrusted with a delicate, and, in a political aspect, a highly responsible mission.

A. A. Woodward, Lewis Young, and Frederick Penny were captured in the affair at Charleston, Mo., on the 20th of last August, and have since been detained at this post as prisoners of war. You will take them in charge on Government steamer, and, under the protection of a flag of truce, proceed to Columbus, in Kentucky, and there making known your mission to the commanding officer, will deliver them to such persons as he may authorize to receive them.

When you have fulfilled your mission, you will ask of the commander of the camp safe conduct therefrom, and immediately return to this post.

In your conversation with the commandant or with his representatives, you will avoid all discussion upon the rights of belligerents, and place my action herein simply on the ground of humanity, and a desire to relieve the unhappy war now waged between kindred, of peculiar and aggravating difficulties.

Beyond this limit I do not deem it advisable for you to go.

Yours, &c.,

John A. Mcclernand, Brig.-General Commanding.

Gen. M'Clernand to Gen. Polk.

Brigade Headquarters, camp Cairo, Oct. 23, 1861.
To the Commanding Officer at Columbus, Ky.:
sir: The chances of the present unhappy war having left in my hands a number of prisoners who have been detained at this post for some time past, I have, for special reasons, as well as in obedience to the dictates of humanity, determined, unconditionally, to release them.

The prisoners alluded to are A. A. Woodward, Lewis Young, and Edward A. Penny — all taken by a party of United States troops in the affair at Charleston, Mo., on the 20th of August last.

Col. N. B. Buford, of the Twenty-seventh regiment of Illinois Volunteers, is charged by me with the delivery of said prisoners, to such person as you may authorize to receive them, and for that purpose visits your camp under the protection of a white flag. You will please receive him in the specific character with which he is clothed, and, after the completion of his mission, give him safe conduct from your camp.

I have the honor to be yours, &c.,

John A. McClernand, Brig.-General Commanding.

Col. Buford to Gen. M'Clernand.

camp McClernand, Cairo, Oct. 23, 1861.
Brig.-Gen. J. A. McClernand:
sir: I had the honor this day to convey your despatch with a flag of truce on board the steam-tug Sampson, to Maj.-General Polk, commanding at Columbus, Kentucky. I was received by the General with true military courtesy, and delivered to him, with your despatch, three prisoners who had been captured by our forces at Charleston, Mo. He desired to discuss with me the question of an exchange of prisoners, but upon my exhibiting to him my orders from you, and informing him that I should confine myself strictly to them, that sentiments of humanity alone had prompted your action, he ceased to press the discussion, but went on to inform me that he held sixteen of your troops as prisoners of war, and that he would immediately liberate them unconditionally.

The General received my suite, Capt. Dresser, of the Artillery; Lieut. Sheldon, of the Twenty-seventh regiment Illinois Volunteers; Surgeons Simmons and Brenton, of the U. S. Army; and W. Chapman, my Secretary, with cordiality; and we were introduced to General Pillow, Captains Black and Polk of his staff, and many other officers. He remained on the steamer Charm, with our tug alongside, for four hours, while the prisoners were being got ready to be delivered to me, during which time the most friendly conversation was enjoyed.

My party were hospitably entertained. I ventured to propose the sentiment, “Washington and his principles,” which was repeated with hearty approbation,

Generals Polk and Pillow expressed a high appreciation of your character, and commended you for sending the tug on an errand of humanity. They deplore this unnatural war, but maintained that they should be separated irrevocably from the North. They professed to believe many things which I thought erroneous, which I combated with arguments and statements.of facts. The conference ended without an unfriendly word or occurrence.

I left Cairo at twenty minutes past twelve, reached Columbus at two P. M., parted company with General Polk on the steamboat Charm at six P. M., and arrived at Cairo at eight o'clock P. M., happy in having been intrusted with a mission which has led to the liberation of nineteen captives.

Your obedient servant,

N. B. Buford, Col. Twenty-seventh Reg't Illinois Volunteers.
P. S.--I herewith append a list of the prisoners liberated by General Polk.

Gen. Polk to Gen. M'Clernand.

Headquarters First Division Western Department, Columbus, Ky., Oct. 23, 1861.
Brig.-Gen. John A. McClernand, Commanding, Cairo:
Sir: I have received your note of this date, borne by Colonel N. B. Buford, of the Twenty-seventh [235] Illinois regiment, responding to the overture made by me to General Grant some days since, on the subject of an exchange of prisoners; and although your mode of accomplishing it waives the recognition of our claims as belligerents, I am not disposed to insist on an unimportant technicality when the interests of humanity are at stake.

I accept the release of the three prisoners tendered me, being, as your note implies, all of those of the Confederate army in your possession.

In return, I have pleasure in offering you the sixteen of those of the Federal army in my possession.

Hoping that, in the prosecution of the unhappy conflict in which we are engaged, we shall never lose sight of the claims of generosity on those who direct the operations of the armies of our respective Governments,

I have the honor to be, respectfully, yours,

Leonidas Polk, Major-General Commanding.

Adjutant-General Brayman to Adjutant-General M'Keever.

Brigade Headquarters, camp Cairo, Oct. 24, 1861.
Capt. Chauncy McKeever, Assistant Adjutant-General, St. Louis, Mo.:
Sir: I am instructed by Brigadier-General McClernand, commanding at this post, to enclose--

1. Copy of his communication to the officer commanding the hostile forces at Columbus, Ky., accompanied by return of the persons therein named.

2. Copy of reply of Major-General Polk, accompanied by sixteen persons.

3. List of the persons thus received.

4. Copy of instructions given Colonel N. B. Buford, Twenty-seventh regiment Illinois Volunteers.

Adding that the proceedings passed off without accident, and, as appears, with good effect.

Yours, &c.,

M. Brayman, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Creative Commons License
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.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Leonidas Polk (10)
John A. McClernand (6)
N. B. Buford (6)
M'Clernand (4)
A. A. Woodward (2)
Gideon J. Pillow (2)
M. Brayman (2)
Simmons (1)
Sheldon (1)
Edward A. Penny (1)
Chauncy McKeever (1)
M'Keever (1)
U. S. Grant (1)
Dresser (1)
Doc (1)
W. Chapman (1)
Brenton (1)
Black (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
October 23rd, 1861 AD (4)
October 24th, 1861 AD (1)
August 20th (1)
August (1)
20th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: