previous next

[187] in the organization of armies in the field. The generals commanding these armies complain in strong terms of the deficiency of engineer troops for the repairing of said roads, the construction of pontoon-bridges, and carrying on the operations of a siege, and urge that the evil be promptly remedied.

The waste and destruction of cavalry horses in our service has proved an evil of such magnitude as to require some immediate and efficient remedy. In the army of the Potomac there are thirty-six regiments of cavalry, averaging for the last six months from ten thousand to fourteen thousand men present for duty. The issues of cavalry horses to this army for the same period have been as follows: In May, five thousand six hundred and seventy-three; June, six thousand three hundred and twenty-seven; July, four thousand seven hundred and sixteen; August, five thousand four hundred and ninety-nine; September, five thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven ; October,seven thousand and thirty-six--total, thirty-five thousand and seventy-eight.

To this number should be added the horses captured from the enemy and taken from citizens, making altogether an average remount every two months. We have now in our service some two hundred and twenty-three regiments of cavalry, which will require, at the same rate as the army of the Potomac, the issue, within the coming year, of four hundred and thirty-five thousand horses. The organization of a cavalry bureau in the War Department, with a frequent and thorough inspection, it was hoped would, in some degree, remedy these evils. To reach the source, however, further legislation may be necessary.

Probably the principal fault is in the treatment of these horses by the cavalry soldiers. Authority should therefore be given to dismount and transfer to the infantry service every man whose horse is, through his own fault or neglect, rendered unfit for service. The same rule might be applied to cavalry officers who fail to maintain the efficiency of their regiments and companies. The vacancies thus created could be filled by corresponding transfers from the regular and volunteer infantry.

By the existing law, the chief adjutant-general, inspector-general, quartermaster, and commissary of any corps are allowed additional rank and pay, while no such allowance is made to the chief engineers, artillery, and ordnance in the same corps. These latter officers hold the same relative positions, and perform duties at least as important and arduous as the others, and the existing distinction is deemed unjust to them.

Prisoners of war.

On the twenty-second of July, 1862, Major-General Dix and Major-General Hill entered into a cartel for the exchange of prisoners during the existing war, specially stipulating when and where exchanges should be made and how declared, defining the meaning of a parole and the rights and obligations of prisoners under parole, and when and how they were to be released from their obligations.

Special agreements of this kind, modifying and explaining the general laws of war, furnish the rules of conduct for the contracting parties in all cases for which they provide or to which they are applicable. Finding that the rebel authorities were feeding prisoners contrary to these stipulations, they were notified, on the twenty-second of May last, that all paroles not given in the manner prescribed by the cartel, would be regarded as null and void. Nevertheless they continued to extort, by threats and ill-treatment, from our men paroles unauthorized by the cartel, and also refused to deliver our officers and men for exchange in the manner agreed upon, but retained all the colored prisoners and their officers. It is stated that they sold the former into slavery, and sentenced the latter to imprisonment and death for alleged violation of the local State laws. This compelled a resort to retaliatory measures, and an equal number of their prisoners in our hands were selected as hostages for the surrender of those retained by them. All exchanges under the cartel therefore ceased. In violation of general good faith, and of engagements solemnly entered into, the rebel commissioner then proceeded to declare exchanged all his own paroled prisoners, and ordered their return to the ranks of their regiments then in the field, and we are now asked to confirm these acts by opening new accounts and making new lists for exchange, and they seek to enforce these demands by the most barbarous treatment of our officers and men now in their hands.

The rebel prisoners held by the United States have been uniformly treated with consideration and kindness. They have been furnished with all necessary clothing, and supplied with the same quality and amount of food as our own soldiers; while our soldiers, who, by the casualties of war, have been captured by them, have been stripped of their blankets, clothing, and shoes, even in the winter seasons, and then confined in damp and loathsome prisons, and only half fed on damaged provisions, or actually starved to death, while hundreds have terminated their existence, loaded with irons, in filthy prisons. Not a few, after a semblance of trial by some military tribunal, have been actually murdered by their inhuman keepers.

In fine, the treatment of our prisoners of war by the rebel authorities has been even more barbarous than that which Christian captives formerly suffered from the pirates of Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers, and the horrors of Belle Isle and Libby Prison exceed even those of British hulks or the Black Hole of Calcutta; and this atrocious conduct is applauded by the people and commended by the public press of Richmond, as a means of reducing the Yankee ranks. It has been proposed to retaliate upon the enemy by treating his prisoners precisely as he treats ours.

Such retaliation is fully justified by the laws and usages of war, and the present case seems to call for the exercise of this extreme right.

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 Places (automatically extracted)
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.
Charles Hill (1)
Dix (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.
July 22nd, 1862 AD (1)
October (1)
September (1)
July (1)
May 22nd (1)
May (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: