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[120] and more difficult to secure provisions for prisoners and army, allowed five non-commissioned officers to go through the lines bearing a petition from the prisoners at Andersonville, setting forth the conditions there and asking for exchange; but to no purpose. Nor was the protest of the commissioned officers more successful, for the broad reasons given by General Grant as shown in the quotation above.

The relatives and friends of prisoners besieged the War Department, the governors of their States, members of Congress, and all who were supposed to have any influence with the officers of the Government, pleading, imploring, demanding that some method of releasing prisoners be adopted. The same determination which led Grant to hammer steadily in the Wilderness campaign, enabled him to hold the War Department in harmony with his policy. Since the Confederate armies could be beaten only by exhausting them, therefore every means by which those armies were prevented from being increased was justified from his standpoint.

He felt that to give Lee forty thousand additional men might prolong the war indefinitely, for nearly every Confederate prisoner released went back to the ranks, while a large proportion of the prisoners at Andersonville belonged to regiments whose time was expired and in many cases had been mustered out of service. Therefore, had their physical condition permitted it, few would have returned to the ranks, or could have been utilized for further service. It was, of course, greatly to the advantage of the Confederacy to exchange, as their resources were dwindling alarmingly.

General Lee, on October 1, 1864, again proposed an exchange to General Grant. It was met by the question whether negro soldiers who had been slaves would be exchanged. General Lee, acting under instructions, wrote that negroes belonging to citizens were not considered subjects of exchange, and General Grant declined any further discussion. When it seemed that relief by exchange was not probable,

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October 1st, 1864 AD (1)
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