Exchange of prisoners.
--In a recent number of your valuable paper, you express the opinion that the Northern Government
would probably, in a short time, adopt the practice usual among belligerents, of exchanging the prisoners whom the fortune of war has thrown into their hands.
This is a result most devoutly to be wished, and is one for which our own Government should be constantly laboring.
The acknowledgment of us as belligerents
would mitigate the sufferings of our men who unfortunately fall into our opponent's hands; and, at the same time, would relieve our Government from heavy burdens in supporting those we may capture.
No doubt our Government has had this desirable object steadily in view, and yet it is, by its own acts, defeating its own efforts to establish this policy.--It has been paroling the wrong men. Let us look at the facts!
The majority of the prisoners in our hands consist of those taken at the famous battle of Bull Run
Nearly the whole of those prisoners were enlisted for three months service, and their term of enlistment had expired, or was near its close, when the battle was fought.
Very soon afterwards their regiments were mustered out of the service of the Northern Government
These prisoners, then, were not any longer in the service of their Government.
If they were released they had no regiments to which they could return without re-enlistment.
Many of them would never re-enter the service, and in the prostrated condition of business they would become a charge upon the community in which they lived, or the Government
, falling to supply their wants, would increase the number of growlers.
They will receive no wages after their regiments were mustered out of service.
Thus it will be readily perceived that their Government is gainer by their detention.
The policy of exchanging will never be adopted whilst our Government holds such men in durance and paroles those who are enlisted for the war, or for three years, as was done by Gen. Price
, Mo.--These men, and such as they, should be held with a tenacious grasp, and not one should be released until a system of exchanging should be adopted.
Instead of releasing men, who can at once re-enter the service, let our Government send home those who cannot be compelled to serve immediately.
Now, if an exchange takes place, we must receive men who will go at once to their places in our ranks, whilst they must be paid for with men, who will have to be sent home, and who, perhaps will never find their way into the army again.
The hopelessness of such exchange is apparent.
Good policy and economy would dictate a release on parole of all three months men. When they return home, finding that their Government does not recognize them as soldiers; that they will receive no pay during their confinement in our prisons — that the parole executed at their release is not considered binding by their Government; they will then begin to contrast the conduct of their Government with the liberality and kindness of our's, and thus fuel will be added to the slumbering volcano on which the Lincoln Government
now rests, and the eruption that will destroy, not only the leaders of the Government
, but the Government
itself will be hastened.
Since Gen. McClellan
is now Commander-in-Chief
it seems peculiarly proper that a strong effort should be made to effect an exchange, for he is already more than half committed to the policy.
If his view were not favorable to such a system, the obligations given by our men who were paroled by him at Rich Mountain
and Laurel Hill
would have been very different from the one which was exacted.
Being unfortunately one of those prisoners, this writer subscribed the following obligation; ‘"I promise on honor not to take up arms nor serve in any military capacity against the United States Government until released according to the usages of war."’ This obligation, taken from those who were surrendered as belligerents is without doubt a complete recognition of us as such; yet it is more than a recognition, for it contains an obligation that there shall be a release ‘"according to the usages of war."’ and without one is granted the law and morals would hold the obligator guiltless who should violate it in his turn.
It is referred to, though merely for the purpose of showing Gen. McClellan
's position in this matter.
The present time is most favorable for pressing this policy upon the Lincoln Administration
, and Gen. McClellan
's desire to ingratiate himself with the masses, by gaining the reputation of having obtained the release of their friends now in our hands backs up the application very powerfully.
By accomplishing it, our gallant friends now in their hands, and those of us who are paroled and at home, will have the chains removed from our gallant limbs, and once again as freemen enter the arena to fight.
Freedom's battles.--God speed the day. Paroled Prisoner.