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[503] to subdue the population of the districts where they are operating, by the starvation that must result from the destruction of standing crops and agricultural tools.

Still, again, others of your officers in different districts have recently taken the lives of prisoners who fell into their power, and justify their act by asserting a right to treat as spies the military officers and enlisted men under my command, who may penetrate for hostile purposes into States claimed by me to be engaged in the warfare now waged against the United States, and claimed by the latter as having refused to engage in such warfare.

I have heretofore, on different occasions, been forced to make complaint of these outrages, and to ask from you that you should either avow or disclaim having authorized them, and have failed to obtain such answer as the usages of civilized warfare require to be given in such cases.

These usages justify, and indeed require, redress by retaliation, as the proper means of repressing such cruelties as are not permitted in warfare between Christian peoples. I have, notwithstanding, refrained from the exercise of such retaliation, because of its obvious tendency to lead to a war of indiscriminate massacre on both sides, which would be a spectacle so shocking to humanity and so disgraceful to the age in which we live and the religion we profess, that I can not contemplate it without a feeling of horror that I am disinclined to doubt you would share.

With the view, then, of making one last solemn attempt to avert such calamities, and to attest my earnest desire to prevent them, if it be possible, I have selected the bearer of this letter, the Hon. Alexander H. Stephens, as a military commissioner to proceed to your headquarters under flag of truce, there to confer and agree on the subjects above mentioned; and I do hereby authorize the said Alexander H. Stephens to arrange and settle all differences and disputes which may have arisen or may arise in the execution of the cartel for exchange of prisoners of war, heretofore agreed on between our respective land and naval forces; also to agree to any just modification that may be found necessary to prevent further misunderstandings as to the terms of said cartel; and finally to enter into such arrangement or understanding about the mode of carrying on hostilities between the belligerents as shall confine the severities of the war within such limits as are rightfully imposed, not only by modern civilization, but by our common Christianity. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Jefferson Davis, Commander-in-Chief of the land and naval forces of the Confederate States.

To Abraham Lincoln, Commander-in-Chief of the land and naval forces of the United States.
On July 3, 1863, Stephens proceeded down the James River under a flag of truce, and when near Newport News his further progress was arrested by the orders of the admiral of the enemy's fleet. The object of his mission, with a request for permission to go to Washington, was made known to that officer, who, by telegraph, communicated with the government at Washington. The reply of that government was:


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