After the reading of the Message, by request of Mr. Peskins
, of Louisiana
, the following correspondence was read by the Clerk
The subject being in relation to a matter about which there has been a great deal of anxiety felt, to wit: the mission of Col. Taylor
to President Lincoln
, under a flag of truce from President Davis
, we lay it before our readers this morning, with the assurance that it will be read with that interest which the subject demands:
--Having learned that the schr. Savannah
, a private armed vessel in the service and sailing under a commission issued by authority of the Confederate States of America
, had been captured by one of the vessels forming the blockading squadron off Charleston harbor
, I directed a proposition to be made to the officer commanding that squadron for an exchange of the officers and crew of the Savannah
for prisoners of war held by this Government ‘"according to number and rank."’--To this proposition, made on the 19th ult., Capt. Mercer
, the officer in command of the blockading squadron, made answer on the same day that ‘"the prisoners (referred to) are not on board of any of the vessels under my command."’
It now appears, by statements made without contradiction in newspapers published in New York, that the prisoners above mentioned were conveyed to that city, and have there been treated out as prisoners of war, but as criminals: that they have been put in irons, confined in jail, brought before the Courts
of Justice on charges of piracy and treason, and it is even rumored that they have been actually convicted of the offences charged, for no other reason than that they bore arms in defence of the rights of this
Government and under the authority of its commission.
I could not without grave discourtesy have made the newspaper statements above referred to, the subject of this communication, if the threat of treating as pirates the citizens of this Confederacy, armed for its service on the high seas, had not been contained in your proclamation of the--April last.
That proclamation, however, seems to afford a sufficient justification for considering these published statements as not devoid of probability.
It is the desire of this Government so to conduct the war now existing as to mitigate its horrors as far as may be possible; and, with this intent, its treatment of the prisoners captured by its forces has been marked by the greatest humanity and leniency consistent with public obligation: some have been permitted to return home on parole, others to remain at large under similar condition within this Confederacy, and all have been furnished with rations for their subsistence, such as are allowed to our own troops.
It is only since the news has been received of the treatment of the prisoners taken on the Savannah
, that I have been compelled to withdraw these indulgencies, and to hold the prisoners taken by us in strict confinement.
A just regard to humanity and to the honor of this Government now requires me to state explicitly, that painful as will be the necessity, this Government will deal out to the prisoners held by it, the same treatment and the same fate as shall be experienced by those captured on the Savannah
; and if driven to the terrible necessity of retaliation by your execution of any of the officers or the crew of the Savannah
, that retaliation will be extended so far as shall be requisite to secure the abandonment of a practice unknown to the warfare of civilized man; and so barbarous as to disgrace the nation which shall be guilty of inaugurating it.
With this view, and because it may not have reached you, I now renew the proposition made to the commander of the blockading squadron, to exchange for the prisoners taken on the Savannah
, an equal number of those now held by us, according to rank.
In obedience to your instructions, I left the city of Richmond
on the morning of the 7th July, at 6 o'clock A. M., as bearer of dispatches to His Excellency Abraham Lincoln
of the United States
I received from General Beauregard
a letter to General McDowell
, commanding the U. S. forces at Arlington
I proceeded to Fairfax Court-House, where I was furnished, by General Bonham
, an escort of fourteen cavalry, under the command of Lieut. Breckinridge
, of the Virginia
Proceeding on the direct road to Alexandria
to its junction with the road to Arlington
, I met a detachment of cavalry under the command of Colonel Porter
, U. S. A., about three miles from the junction, from which place I sent back my escort.
, U. S. A., accompanied me to Arlington
, where I arrived about 4 o'clock P. M., Monday, the 8th. Gen. McDowell
not being at Arlington
, my arrival was telegraphed him to Washington City
About 9 o'clock P. M., Col. Van Renslaer
, senior aide-de-camp
to Gen. Scott
, was sent to convey me to Gen. Scott
's headquarters, where I found General McDowell
, to whom I delivered Gen. Beauregard
After reading Gen
. B's letter he passed it to Gen. Scott
, who being informed in this letter, that I desired to deliver your communication in person received it of me.--After reading your communication to Mr. Lincoln
, General Scott
informed me that a reply would be returned by Mr. Lincoln
as soon as possible — and at the same time instructed me to return to Arlington
with Gen. McDowell
, thence to proceed in the morning back to our lines, which I did, under an escort of twenty United States cavalry, commanded by Lieut. Putnam
In my intercourse with Gen. Scott
and the other officers of the United States Army, I have to say that I was received with marked consideration and attention, and with that courtesy and kindness which should ever characterize the diplomatic relations of great nations, in war as well as in peace.
Understanding that the object of my mission was the delivery of your letter to Mr. Lincoln
, I have the honor to state that it was done, and subscribe myself.
Your obedient servant, Thos. H. Taylor
Cavalry C. S. A., And Lt. Col.
2d Ky. Regiment.