fails me, General Butler also, in an address to his constitutents, substantially declared that he was directed, in his management of the question of exchange with the Confederate authorities, to put the matter offensively, for the purpose of preventing an exchange.
The signification of the word ‘offensively,’ in the preceding line, relates to the exchange of negro soldiers.
The government of the United States
contented that the slaves in their ranks were such no longer; that it was bound to accord to them, when made prisoners, the same protection that it gave all other soldiers.
We asserted the slaves to be property, under the Constitution of the United States
and that of the Confederate States
, and that property recaptured from the enemy in war reverts to its owner, if he can be found, or it may be disposed of by its captor.
On October 1st, when the number of prisoners was large on either side, General Lee
addressed a note to General Grant
With a view of alleviating the sufferings of our soldiers, I have the honor to propose an exchange of the prisoners of war belonging to the armies operating in Virginia, man for man, or upon the basis established by the cartel.
On the next day General Grant
I could not of a right accept your proposition further than to exchange those prisoners captured within the last three days, and who have not yet been delivered to the commanding General of Prisoners.
Among those lost by the armies operating against Richmond were a number of colored troops.
Before further negotiations are had upon the subject, I would ask if you propose delivering these men the same as white soldiers.
On the next day General Lee
said, in rejoinder:
In my proposition of the 1st inst., to exchange the prisoners of war belonging to the armies operating in Virginia, I intended to include all captured soldiers of the United States, of whatever nation and color, under my control.
Deserters from our service and negroes belonging to our citizens are not considered subjects of exchange, and were not included in my proposition.
If there are any such among those stated by you to have been captured around Richmond, they can not be returned.
On October 20th General Grant
finally answered, saying:
I shall always regret the necessity of retaliating for wrong done our soldiers, but regard it my duty to protect all persons received into the army of the United States, regardless of color or nationality; when acknowledged soldiers of the Government are captured, they must be treated as prisoners of war, or such treatment as they receive inflicted upon an equal number of prisoners held by us.
This was ‘putting the matter offensively, for the purpose of preventing an exchange,’ as recommended by General Grant
for the adoption of General Butler