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:
I accompanied the delivery of the letter, with a statement of the mortality which was hurrying so many Federal prisoners at Andersonville to the grave. On the twentieth of the same month Major Mulford returned with the flag-of-truce steamer, but brought no answer to my letter of the tenth of August. In coversation with him I asked him if he had any reply to make to my communication, and his answer was, that he was not authorized to make any. So deep was the solicitude which I felt for the fate of the captives in Northern prisons, that I determined to make another effort. In order to obviate any objection which technically might rise as to the person to whom my communication was addressed, I wrote to Major-General E. A. Hitchcock, who is the Federal Commissioner of Exchange, residing in Washington city, the following letter, and delivered the same to Major Mulford on the day of its date. Accompanying that letter was a copy of the communication which I had addressed to Major Mulford on the tenth of August:159] the two belligerents, officer for officer, and man for man. The same offer has also been made by the other officials having charge of matters connected with the exchange of prisoners. This proposal has heretofore been declined by the Confederate authorities, they insisting upon the terms of the cartel, which required the delivery of the excess of either side upon parole. In view, however, of the very large number of prisoners now held by each party, and the suffering consequent upon their continued confinement, I now consent to the above proposal, and agree to deliver to you the prisoners held in captivity by the Confederate authorities, provided you agree to deliver an equal number of Confederate officers and men. As equal numbers are delivered, from time to time, they will be declared exchanged. This proposal is made with the understanding that the officers and men who have been longest in captivity will be first delivered, where it is practicable. I shall be happy to hear from you, as speedy as possible, whether this arrangement can be carried out. Respectfully, your obedient servant,Ro. Ould, Agent of Exchange.
On the afternoon of the thirtieth August, I was notified that the flag-of-truce steamer had again appeared at Varina. On the following day I sent to Major Mulford the following note, to wit:Richmond, Va., August 22, 1864.sir: Enclosed is copy of a communication which, on the tenth instant, I addressed and delivered to Major John E. Mulford, Assistant Agent of Exchange. Under the circumstances of the case, I deem it proper to forward this paper to you, in order that you may fully understand the position which is taken by the Confederate authorities. I shall be glad if the proposition therein made is accepted by your Government. Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General E. A. Hitchcock, United States Commissioner of Exchange:Ro. Ould, Agent of Exchange.
In a short time I received the following response, to wit:Major-General E. A. Hitchcock, United States Commissioner of Exchange, enclosing a copy of my letter to you of the tenth instant. I now respectfully ask you to state in writing whether you have any reply to either of said communications; and, if not, whether you have any reason to give why no reply has been made? Respectfully, your obedient servant,Ro Ould, Agent of Exchange.
I have thus fully set before you the action of the Confederate authorities in relation to a matter which lays so near your hearts, and how it has been received by the enemy. The fortunes of your fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, and friends are as dear to those authorities as their persons are precious to you, and I have made this publication, not only as an illustration of Federal bad faith, but also that you might see that your Government has spared no effort to secure the release of the gallant men who have so often fronted death in the defence of our sacred cause.John E. Mulford, Major, and Assistant Agent for Exchange.
Ro Ould, Agent of Exchange. August 31, 1864.