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Doc. 29. the Exchange of prisoners.


Commissioner Ould's statement.

To the Relatives and Friends of Confederate Soldiers Confined in Northern Prisons:
On the twenty-second of July, 1863, the Cartel of Exchange was agreed upon. The chief, if not the only purpose of that instrument was to secure the release of all prisoners of war. To that end the fourth article provides that all prisoners of war should be discharged on parole in ten days after their capture, and that the prisoners then held, and those thereafter taken, should be transported to the points mutually agreed upon at the expense of the capturing party. The sixth article also stipulates that “all prisoners, of whatever arm of service, are to be exchanged or paroled within ten days from the time of their capture, if it be practicable to transfer them to their own lines in that time; if not, as soon thereafter as practicable.”

From the date of the cartel until July, 1863, the Confederate authorities held the excess of prisoners. During the interval deliveries were made as fast as the Federal Government furnished transportation. Indeed, upon more than one occasion, I urged the Federal authorities to send increased means of transportation. As ready as the enemy always has been to bring false accusations against us, it has never been alleged that we failed or neglected to make prompt deliveries of prisoners who were not under charges, when we held the excess. On the other hand, during the same time, the cartel was openly and notoriously violated by the Federal authorities. Officers and men were kept in cruel confinement, sometimes in irons or doomed cells, without charges or trial.

In July, 1863, the enemy, for the first time since the adoption of the cartel, held the excess of prisoners. As soon as the fact was ascertained, whenever a delivery was made by the Federal authorities, they demanded an equal number in return. I endeavored frequently to obtain from the Federal agent of exchange a distinct avowal of the intentions of his Government as to the delivery of prisoners, but in vain. At length, on the twentieth of October, 1863, I addressed to Brigadier-General Meredith the following letter, to wit:

Richmond, Va., October 20, 1863.
Brigadier-General S. A. Meredith, Agent of Exchange:
sir: More than a month ago I asked your acquiescence in a proposition that all officers and soldiers on both sides should be released in conformity with the provisions of the cartel. In order to obviate the difficulties between us, I suggested that all officers and men on both sides should be released unless they were subject to charges; in which event the opposite Government should have the right of holding one or more hostages, if the retention was not justified. You stated to me in conversation that this proposition was very fair, and that you would ask the consent of your Government to it.

As usual, you have as yet made no response. I tell you frankly I do not expect any. Perhaps you may disappoint me, and tell me that you reject or accept the proposition. I write this letter for the purpose of bringing to your recollection my proposition, and of dissipating the idea that seems to have been purposely encouraged by your public papers, that the Confederate Government has refused or objected to a system of exchange.

In order to avoid any mistake in that direction, I now propose that all officers and men on both sides be released in conformity with the provisions of the cartel, the excess on one side or the other to be on parole. Will you accept this? I have no expectation of an answer; but perhaps you may give me one. If it, does come, I hope it will soon.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Ro Ould, Agent of Exchange.

On the twenty-ninth of October, 1863, I received from General Meredith a communication informing me that my proposal of the twentieth was “not accepted.” I was insultingly told that if the excess of prisoners was delivered they would be wrongfully declared exchanged by me and put in the field. To show how groundless this imputation was, it is only necessary for me to state that since then I have repeatedly offered to give ten Federal captives for every Confederate soldier whom the enemy will show to have been wrongfully declared exchanged.

From the last-named date until the present time there have been but few deliveries of prisoners, the enemy in each case demanding a like number in return. It will be observed that the Confederate authorities only claimed that the provisions of the cartel should be fulfilled. They only asked the enemy to do what, without any hesitation, they had done during the first year of the operation of the cartel.

Present position of the question.

Seeing a persistent purpose on the part of the Federal Government to violate its own agreement, the Confederate authorities, moved by the sufferings of the brave men who are so unjustly held in Northern prisons, determined to abate their fair demands, and accordingly, on the tenth of August, 1864, I addressed the following communication to Major John E. Mulford, Assistant Agent of Exchange, in charge of the flag-of-truce boat, which on the same day I delivered to him at Varina, on James River:

war Department Richmond, Va, August 10, 1864
Major John E. Mulford, Assistant Agent of Exchange:
sir: You have several times proposed to me to exchange the prisoners respectively held by



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