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The Exchange of prisoners.

Judge Robert Ould.
I know it is a very difficult matter for one who was. an active participant in any of the affairs of our late war, to divest himself of prejudice or partisanship in giving an account or history of the same. Perhaps I am as liable as most men to these disturbing influences; but I hope not to the extent of causing me to distort and, still less, to falsify the facts of the case. While in this communication I have presented the matter of the exchange of prisoners. and the troubles attendant thereon, from a Confederate standpoint, I have yet sought to be accurate. I trust I have not been unfair. I think I can safely say that I can support everything herein stated as a fact by abundant testimony, Federal as well as Confederate. As to the conclusions, which I have drawn from these facts, I submit them to the impartial judgment of your readers, hoping that the lapse of years has been sufficient to enable them to be in that frame of mind.

Previous to July, 1862, no formal or permanent cartel of exchange had been adopted by the belligerent parties to our great civil war. Before that time it is true that there had been many captures by either side; but the prisoners had either been exchanged man for man or officer for officer of equal grade, or had been released on parole by the respective governments, or by commanders in the field.

On the 22d of July, 1862, a cartel of exchange was drawn up and signed by General John A. Dix and General D. I. Hill, representing the respective belligerents. By its terms, “all prisoners of war were to be discharged on parole in ten days after their [33] capture, and the prisoners then held, and those thereafter taken, were to be transported to the points mutually agreed upon, at the expense of the capturing party. The surplus prisoners on one side or the other, who were not exchanged, were not to be permitted to take up arms until they were exchanged under the provisions of the cartel. Each party, upon the discharge of prisoners of the other party, was authorized to discharge an equal number of their own officers and men from parole, furnishing, at the same time to the other party, a list of their prisoners discharged, and of their own officers and men relieved from parole; thus enabling each party to relieve from parole such of their own officers and men as the party might choose.” The cartel provided that its stipulations and provisions should be “of binding obligation during the continuance of the war, it matters not which party may have the surplus of prisoners.” Its ninth and closing article was in these words: “And in case any misunderstanding shall arise in regard to any clause or stipulation in the foregoing articles, it is mutually agreed that such misunderstanding shall not interrupt the release of prisoners on parole, as herein provided, but shall be made the subject of friendly explanation, in order that the object of this agreement may neither be defeated or postponed.”

The cardinal idea of the cartel was that all prisoners should be delivered within ten days after capture, and if the adversary party had an equal number in its hands, then an exchange as to such should take place, so that each set could at once take up arms. If one side held an excess of prisoners, they were still to be delivered within ten days after capture, but that excess was to be considered as being on parole, and not to be returned to military duty until their equivalents were given, and they thereby declared exchanged. Thus the cartel required all prisoners to be released, though they were not exchanged. Exchanges could never take place except upon equivalents; releases or deliveries on parole could. When one of the belligerents could not furnish equivalents for all the officers and men delivered, the excess remained on parole, and could not take up arms until the debt was paid. As discharged and released men were not necessarily exchanged, the cartel provided that declarations of exchange might be made from time to time, and reserved to each side the right of making such declarations, whenever it released from captivity or parole, an equal number of the adversary's officers and men. It is important, also, to observe that there were two kinds of paroles-those given on the battle-field, when the parties were there released, and those given by the parties who were delivered at the points designated in the cartel. [34]

I have been thus particular in these explanations, that the nomenclature herein used may be fully understood. Aiken's Landing, on James river, a place about thirty miles distant by water from Richmond, and Vicksburg, were the first places selected for the delivery of the prisoners of both belligerents. At the former place I met General Lorenzo Thomas, the first Federal agent of exchange, in August, 1862. Not appreciating the magnitude of the work before us, we began to exchange officers by name, one for another. That method was, however, very soon abandoned for the more expeditious one of exchange by grade, or by equivalent in mass. Our first duty was to compute the paroles held by each side, and to declare exchanges so far as equivalents could be furnished. That computation left quite a balance of paroles in Confederate hands — that is, after all the Confederates, who had been captured and paroled, were declared exchanged, it was found there was an excess of Federal prisoners, for whom the United States could furnish no equivalents. Of course that excess continued to remain on parole until, from time to time, equivalents were furnished. This state of affairs, so far as captures and paroles were concerned, continued until July, 1863, when the disasters at Gettysburg and Vicksburg occurred. Yet, during that time, deliveries of Federal prisoners were made as fast as transportation was furnished. Indeed, more than once the United States authorities were urged to forward greater facilities for their removal.

After Vicksburg and Gettysburg the situation became changed, and the excess was thrown on the Federal side. From that day began the serious troubles of the exchange question, ending finally in the cessation of all deliveries, except in special cases. It is true that differences of interpretation of the cartel had existed before that time, and it is also true that there had been mutual complaints and charges of bad faith-such as refusing to deliver officers and men who had been declared exchanged. I had frequently complained that Confederate officers and men had been detained, sometimes in irons and close confinement under false or frivolous charges; that enlisted men had been treated as guerrillas or bushwhackers, and that recruiting officers, regularly commissioned and in uniform, had been executed as spies; yet exchanges up to that time went on without very serious difficulty. Complications of these kinds could generally be managed by threatened retaliation.

The practice of the agents of exchange up to May, 1863, had been to recognize paroles taken upon the battle-field, even though the parties thereto were not kept for some time in the possession of the capturing party, or delivered at the points designated in the [35] cartel. In that month, however, I was notified that a new rule had been adopted by the Federal authorities, contained in their General Orders Nos. 59 and 100 of the year 1863, which provided that no paroles, unaccompanied by continued possession and actual delivery at the points designated in the cartel, would be recognized. An exception was made where paroles were taken in pursuance of an agreement between the commanders of two opposing armies. But while these general orders invalidated all paroles not coming within the description, they distinctly declared that if a parole should be given under different circumstances, and the United States did not approve of the same, “the paroled officer must return into captivity.”

On the 7th of July, 1863, I was notified of another General Order, No. 207, dated July 3, 1863, declaring that “all captures must be reduced to actual possession, and all prisoners of war must be delivered at the place designated, there to be exchanged or paroled until exchange can be effected.” This general order, however, did not contain the provision of the others, that the paroled officer, if he gave an unauthorized parole, should return into captivity. All three of these general orders, however, purported to be declarations of the laws of war, inconsistent as they were with each other. The civilians of the War Department seem to have been under the belief that they could make and unmake the laws of war to suit emergencies.

The application of these general orders to the facts connected with exchanges produced the first serious difficulty. It may be that the position taken by the United States authorities in these general orders was strongly supported by the language of the cartel, which required “all prisoners of war to be discharged on parole in ten days after their capture, and the prisoners now held, and those hereafter taken, to be transported to the points mutually agreed upon, at the expense of the capturing party.” But the practice of both sides, from the beginning of the war up to May, 1863, had been otherwise. Each had claimed paroles which had been given where the persons captured had been set at liberty at once. Each had recognized the validity of such paroles held by the adverse party. Moreover, it was contended by me that the cartel did not touch in any way the question of the validity of paroles; that it was designed to: apply, so far as delivery was concerned, only to such prisoners as were in captivity, or “held” by either party, to such as were in military depots and prisons, to such as had been removed from the battle-field or place of capture, and reduced into actual possessionthat [36] it left the force and effect of military paroles, and the respect which should be paid to them, to be determined by the usages of war, and that it did not prevent a wounded officer or man from entering into a stipulation not to take up arms until unchanged, as a condition of his release, when it might be his life would be at serious risk if he did not make the contract. I contended that the cartel nowhere denied the right of any soldier, whether wounded or not, to bind his government by his military obligation, when he was in the hands of the enemy. I will give one of a large number, as a specimen of the military paroles to which I refer. It is that of Colonel Roy Stone, of the One Hundred and Forty-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, captured at Gettysburg:

I, the subscriber, a prisoner of war, captured near Gettysburg, Pa., do give my parole of honor not to take up arms against the Confederate States, or to do any military duty whatever, or to give any information that may be prejudicial to the interests of the same, until regularly exchanged. This parole is unconditional, and extended to a wounded officer for the sake of humanity, to save a painful and tedious journey to the rear.

Roy Stone, Colonel 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Other paroles declared that if they were not recognized by the Federal authorities, the parties would report at Richmond as prisoners of war within a certain number of days, or that they would not take up arms until exchanged, even if they were required to do so by their government.

While the views of the Confederate Government were such as I have represented, it was not disposed to risk the continuance of the cartel by insisting upon them. It agreed to ignore the previous practice as a rule for the future, insisting, however, that the paroles which had been given on both sides previous to the date of the communication of the general orders to me, to wit, 23d of May, 1863, should be held to be valid. Accordingly, on the 24th of August, 1863, I made the following proposal to the Federal agent: “I propose that all paroles on both sides heretofore given, shall be determined by the general orders issued by the War Department of the United States, to wit: No. 49, No. 100, and No. 207, of this year, according to their respective dates, and in conformity to Paragraph 131 of General Order 100, so long as said paragraph was in force. If this proposition is not acceptable, I propose that the practice heretofore adopted respecting paroles and exchanges be continued. In other words, I propose that the whole question of paroles be determined by the general orders of the United States, according to dates, or that it be decided by former practice.” [37]

It will be observed that the matter of the dates of the respective general orders was very material, because General Orders No. 49 and No. 100 declared that if a parole was not approved, the party giving it was bound to return and surrender himself as a prisoner of war. General Order No. 49 contained also this language, to wit: “His own government cannot at the same time disown his own engagement, and refuse his return as a prisoner.” I then thought and still think these were honest words. The date of General Order No. 49 was February 28th, 1863, that of General Order No. 100 was April 24th, 1863, and that of General Order No. 207 was July 3d, 1863.

It thus appears that the Confederate Government was willing to recede from former practice, and only insisted that the matter of paroles on both sides should be determined by the United States general order in force when the paroles were given. Was not this fair? Ought it not to have been acceptable to the United States? Yet they did not consent. It may be asked why? It was because, according to the express provision of General Orders Nos. 49 and 100, it became the duty of the parties who had been paroled while these orders were in force, to return into captivity if their government disapproved of their paroles. To avoid that result, the Federal agent insisted that General Order 207, dated July 3d, 1863, should be deemed to be retroactive, and control paroles which were given before it was in existence. The Confederates had captured and paroled a large number of prisoners in the months of March, April, May and June, and, by virtue of general orders in force at those dates, if the paroles were not recognized, it became the duty of the paroled parties to return into captivity. I knew very well that there would be no such return, and that the Federal Government would recognize the validity of their paroles, rather than send its officers and men back into captivity. To escape the dilemma of recognizing the paroles, or sending the officers and men back into captivity, neither of which the Federal authorities intended to do, they were forced into the absurd position that General Order No. 207, which recognized neither paroles or a return into captivity, should be deemed to be in force before it had any existence.

As an illustration in this connection of what strange things are done in time of war, I refer to a Court of Inquiry, the official proceedings of which are found in the Army and Navy official Gazette, under date of July 14th, 1863. The court was convened on June 30th, 1863, to determine whether Major Duane and Captain Michler, who had been captured and paroled on the 28th of June, 1863, by General Stuart, should be placed on duty without exchange, or be [38] returned to the enemy as prisoners of war. The general order then in force, in its 131st paragraph, declared that “if the government does not approve of the parole, the paroled officer must return into captivity.” Yet the court found that the government was free to place those officers on duty without having been exchanged, and gave as its reason that I had been notified that such paroles would not be recognized. But the court forgot to state that along with that notification came another, that “the paroled officer must return into captivity,” and that the United States Government could not “at the same time disown his (the officer's) engagement, and refuse his return as a prisoner.”

While I am dealing with incidents, I will give another. On March 9th, 1863, that terrible soldier, General Robert Schenck, issued a General Order No. 15, requiring all officers and men who who had been captured and released on parole in his department, and particularly in the Shenandoah Valley, but who had not been declared exchanged, to return to duty on penalty of being considered deserters. The general order of the United States then in force was No. 49, to the provisions of which I have already referred. At the time of Schenck's order and afterward, the Federal agent was charging against me and receiving credit for captures and paroles similar to those thus repudiated. It is due to Colonel Ludlow, Agent of Exchange at the time, to say that when this matter was brought to his attention, he declared that Schenck's action was without proper authority, and that I should have credit for such as reported for duty under the order. But it is just as true that I was never informed of any who did return, nor was I given any credit on that account.

It is hardly necessary for me to state that I utterly refused to agree to any arrangement by which a general order of the United States War Department should be construed as being in force before it was issued, or that paroles given in May or June should be determined by an order made in the following July. I thought I had conceded enough when I agreed to reverse a practice followed by both sides since the beginning of the war without objection, and abide by the orders made by the adversary, according to their date.

As soon as I discovered the purpose of the Federal agent in respect to the paroles held by me, I notified him that so long as he refused to recognize the validity of the paroles held by the Confederate authorities, and especially the paroles given in Tennessee and Kentucky shortly after the adoption of the cartel and before the date of the general orders, that he need not send any officers with the expectation of receiving as equivalents only those who were in [39] captivity. I closed my letter to him in these words: “If captivity, privation and misery are to be the fate of officers on both sides hereafter, let God judge between us. I have struggled in this matter as if it had been a matter of life and death to me. I am heartsick at the termination; but I have no self-reproaches.”

The inevitable effect of the new rule insisted upon by the Federal agent, besides ignoring the tens of thousands of valid paroles held by the Confederates, would have been to confine exchanges to the officers and men who were in captivity, leaving the excess in prison. Even if the Confederates had not have had any paroles to offer as equivalents for deliveries, it was the duty of the adverse party, under the cartel, to make the deliveries and wait for equivalents. But, in addition to this violation, the course of the Federal agent in refusing to accept valid paroles as equivalents made a case of aggravation which could not to be tolerated. So resolute were the Confederate authorities in this respect that when some of their officers were sent to City Point to be exchanged only for officers who were in confinement, they refused to receive them on such condition, and they were carried back to Fortress Monroe.

I have said that I believe that the course pursued by the Federal authorities in relation to the paroles held by the Confederates was the chief and special cause of the suspension of the cartel. It was not a case for retaliation. The difficulty could not be obviated or cured even by that violent remedy. I know there were other hindrances in the way of a full observance of the cartel; but these, singly or altogether, were trivial in comparison. General Hitchcock, Commissioner of Exchange, in his report to Mr. Stanton, in November, 1865, lays stress on the action of Mr. Davis and the Confederate Congress in relation to officers in command of negro troops, and cites that as the chief cause of the disruption of the cartel. But no officer of the Federal army, during the progress of the war, was ever punished in any way for commanding or leading negro troops, though the Confederates had in captivity many such. They were always treated as other Federal officers, and, like them, delivered for exchange or released on parole. The Confederate law which authorized the delivery of negro soldiers to the authorities of the State in which they were captured was never enforced, and was, even in those days, considered as legislation in terrorem. It did not present any practical difficulty, though, doubtless, it would if it had been executed. General Hitchcock and others made very good use of this Confederate legislation in continually thrusting it forward as an excuse for Federal breaches of the cartel. It was the theme for not a little “high [40] rhetoric.” Another reason given by General Hitchcock for the failure on the part of the Federal authorities to deliver prisoners according to the terms of the cartel, was that I had unduly and improperly declared to be exchanged Confederate soldiers who had been released on parole, but not exchanged. Nothing could be more untrue. In the first place, the difficulty in the way of delivery and exchange of prisoners had occurred long before any alleged obnoxious notice of exchange on my part had ever appeared. The ground taken by the Federal authorities in relation to paroles, and under which deliveries would only be made where equivalents of officers and men in actual confinement would be furnished, was long anterior to any declaration of exchange on my part to which exception was ever taken. General Hitchcock and others had certain purposes in view, and he and they used my notes of exchange just as they employed the Federal general orders. They also were made to be retroactive, and were held up as the proximate cause of occurrences which happened long before their birth.

It would be a curious matter to trace the history of the notices of exchange which each side issued during the progress of the war. I wish I had the space to do so. I can only notice one calumny of many in this connection. General Hitchcock, in his before-mentioned report, charges that I made a declaration of exchange with a view to the coming battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, and that many of the prisoners paroled by General Grant and General Banks, at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, participated in said battles without having been duly exchanged. It would be difficult to crowd more untruths in one sentence. The declaration of exchange to which General Hitchcock refers, was fairly, honestly and properly made. The cartel, by its express terms, gave me authority to make it. I had, in my possession at the time, more valid paroles of Federal officers and men than were an equivalent for the exchange which I then declared. Moreover, between that declaration of exchange and the preceding one, I had delivered at City Point, then the agreed point of delivery, some ten or twelve thousand Federal prisoners. The declaration was not only expressly authorized by the cartel, but was in the strictest accordance with the common practice of the Federal Agent of Exchange. Besides, not one of the officers or men declared to be exchanged at that time was in the battles to which General Hitchcock refers; though if they had been, they would have been there rightfully.

It has been frequently stated as an excuse for the refusal of the [41] Federal authorities to deliver all prisoners of war held by them, and that if it had been done, when they had the surplus, the excess would have been put in the field by the Confederates. This is another of General Hitchcock's imputations. Nothing could be more untrue, either as to intention or fact. There was no more reason for such a stigma than there was for a similar charge against the United States when the excess of prisoners was held by the Confederates. Yet the fear that such a course might be pursued did not restrain the Confederate authorities from delivering all prisoners in their hands when they held an excess; and that, too, after they were informed of General Schenck's aforesaid general order.

It was the practice of my office to make a careful computation of paroles and deliveries, and on that basis to declare exchanges. In no one instance, from the beginning of the war to its close, was any declaration of exchange made which was not just in every particular, and fully warranted by the facts. In no one case did I ever discharge Confederates from their parole until I had offered valid equivalents to the United States.

After deliveries were broken off, I did not abandon the hope that there would be a return to the main features of the cartel. From that time I kept the offer open that officers and men should be released, the excess on one side or the other to be on parole, and that the validity of all paroles should be determined by the general orders of the United States War Department, according to dates. The Confederate Government stood ready and indeed anxious at all times to accept these terms. Whenever I pressed them upon the Federal agents, and that was very frequently, I was met with homilies on Mr. Davis' message and my unjustifiable (so-called) declarations of exchange.

At length I was forced into the conviction that the persons who had the control of the matter did not desire exchanges or mutual deliveries of prisoners on any terms — that they believed that such deliveries were unwise in a military point of view — that they had come to the conclusion that a soldier was more valuable to the Confederacy than he was to the United States. I do not mean by that to say that they or anybody else thought that a Confederate soldier was better or braver than a Union soldier, but simply that in the then condition of affairs the United States could better afford the absence of a soldier from the field than the Confederacy. Perhaps, also, some of these persons thought it would not be an unwise military expedient to quarter fifty thousand men upon [42] States drifting into actual want. Perhaps, too, some of them thought that the story, real or exaggerated, of the sufferings of the prisoners would “fire the Northern heart.” Be all this as it may, I suppose no one is prepared to challenge the suspension of the cartel as an unwise military expedient in a Federal point of view. In other aspects of the case it was not quite so clever.

In the early spring of 1864, still desirous of restoring the cartel, even with modifications if they were pressed, I determined to invoke the aid of General B. F. Butler, having learned that it would not be disagreeable to him to have an interview. General Butler some months before that time had been appointed Federal Agent of Exchange. The Confederate Government very unwisely, as I then thought, and now think, had refused to recognize him as an agent of exchange, or to hold any intercourse with him as such. About the time of his appointment he sent a detachment of prisoners, requiring, however, a return delivery of a like number of such as were in confinement. Lest the United States Government might suppose from the refusal of the Confederate authorities to recognize General Butler as an agent of exchange, that they did not desire the full restoration of the cartel, I expressed in writing to General Mulford their readiness to resume and to deliver all prisoners, the excess to be on parole; but refusing any other arrangement, and notifying him that unless this was the distinct understanding, no deliveries would be made. I delivered at the same time to General Mulford more prisoners than he brought, notifying him that I accepted his delivery as in earnest that such was the understanding of the Federal Government. I concluded my letter to him by saying, that “in no event can we consent that the general release of prisoners, so distinctly required by the cartel, shall be evaded by partial deliveries. Accepting the present delivery as a step toward a general exchange on the principles of the cartel, I trust I may be permitted to express the hope that deliveries on the basis above indicated, will be continued until all the troops in confinement on both sides are released.”

The date of this letter was December 27th, 1863. Some two or three months afterward, I had a reason to believe that General Butler held views favorable to the restoration of the cartel, though in the interval of these dates very few deliveries were made, and I had no official information that a general release would take place. But I was confident that General Butler and I could discuss controverted questions in better temper than General Meredith, the Federal Agent of Exchange, and myself had manifested. Moreover, the information which I had from time to time received as to his interference in behalf [43] of prisoners confined at Point Lookout, still more emboldened me. I then believed, and now believe, that Point Lookout was more humanely governed than any other prison depot from Fort Warren to Western Missouri. It may perhaps astonish some people when I say that of all the persons having control of matters pertaining to exchanges whom I encountered, he was the fairest and the most truthful. The distance between him and Hitchcock in these respects was almost infinite.

I went to Fortress Monroe on a flag-of-truce steamer, and was received by General Butler with great courtesy. I remained there three days, during which we had protracted discussions. He expressed himself in the general in favor of the cartel, though in a mere military point of view he thought it was a disadvantage to the United States. To some of the provisions of the cartel he expressed very decided objections. We mutually yielded our opposing views, and at length there remained but one matter upon which we could not agree, and that was negro slaves. There was no difference between us as to Northern negro soldiers or even the free negro soldier of the South. I agreed that both of these classes should be deemed proper subjects of exchange. But I contended if Southern soldiers recaptured their former slaves that, under the jus postliminii, they had the right to hold them in their former state; that under our Constitutions, Confederate and State, slaves were recognized as property, and on recapture followed the rule of all property, and reverted to their former condition. I held that an edict of emancipation promulgated by a hostile power did not defeat the rights of the owner, when the slave came back into his possession by recapture. General Butler, on the other hand, while admitting that under the Constitution and laws of the Southern States, slaves were property while under the dominion of their masters, contended that if they fled from them and sought the protection of the United States, and were then clothed with freedom, that then if recaptured by their masters, they were taken as freemen, and not as slaves. Availing myself of his admission that slaves were property under our Constitutions and laws, I asked him whether, if he emancipated Confederate horses and declared that their backs should never again be desecrated by saddle or harness, such an edict would extinguish the former owner's rights on recapture. He did not answer the question. Perhaps he did not find it easy.

I wish I had space to give the discussion more at length. In the course of it, General Butler let fly a good many expressions which certainly did not lack vigor, if they were objectionable on [44] other grounds. I soon found that we could not agree upon the topic; and, therefore, I sought to flank the difficulty. I suggested that it was very unwise for us to reject the paper about which we had agreed in every other respect, because we disagreed about one item — that the new cartel might be silent as to recaptured slaves, leaving to the United States the right to resort to such measures of retaliation, if they were not released, as was practiced in the case of white soldiers, when they were improperly detained. I urged that a difficulty about the release of slaves, who did not form one-fiftieth part of the prisoners, should not prevent the exchange of others — that when Streight's men were detained on our side, or Morgan's men on his, exchanges were not stopped thereby, and that it was hardly fair to have one rule for the white man and a better one for the black. At length, General Butler assented to this view, and so we constructed a new cartel, which settled the old points of dispute, but was silent as to such soldiers as were slaves at the outbreak of the war. The position which I had all along maintained in relation to paroles was unhesitatingly accepted by General Butler.

When the paper was prepared, I suggested that it be signed by us, signifying that I was authorized to do so on the part of the Confederate Government. But General Butler said he was not authorized to do so, and would be compelled to send it to the War Department, at Washington, for approval, which he hoped and believed it would receive. When I expressed my readiness to sign the paper, he pleasantly observed that the Confederate authorities had always shown their good sense in leaving measures to the judgment of those who knew most about them; but that though he was the commander of a department, he had not the power to bind the United States to the instrument, strange as that might appear. I have reason to believe that General Butler urged the adoption of the new cartel with good faith and zeal. It was transmitted by the War Department to General Grant, then in front of Petersburg, for his approval or rejection. It is well known to the country what his action was. General Butler, in his report to the Committee on the Conduct of the War, states that General Grant communicated his rejection to him, giving in substance as his reason that Sherman would be overwhelmed and his own position on the James endangered. Over one hundred thousand officers and men were, at or about that time, in confinement on both sides, the United States holding quite a large majority.

When this effort to renew exchanges failed, so anxious were the Confederate authorities to have some plan of relief adopted, that [45] they instructed me to abate our just demands and accede to the offer more than once made by the Federal Agent of Exchange, to exchange officer for officer, and man for man. As the United States held the majority, this plan of operation would have released all the Federal prisoners, while a large number of Confederates would still have remained in captivity.

Accordingly, on the 10th of August, 1864, I addressed the following letter to General Mulford, Assistant Agent of Exchange:

You have several times proposed to me to exchange the prisoners respectively held by the two belligerents, officer for officer, and man for man. The same offer has also been made by 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 on either side on 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 on both sides who have been longest in captivity will be first delivered, where it is practicable.

I shall be happy to hear from you as speedily as possible, whether this arrangement can be carried out.

The delivery of this letter was accompanied with a statement of the mortality which was hurrying so many Federal prisoners at Andersonville to the grave.

On the 22d of August following, not having heard anything in response, I addressed a communication to General Hitchcock, United States Commissioner of Exchange, covering a copy of the foregoing letter to General Mulford, and requesting an acceptance of my proposal. No answer was received to either of these letters, nor were they ever noticed, except that General Mulford, on the 31st of August of the same year, informed me in writing that he had no communication on the subject from the United States authorities, and that he was not authorized to make any answer.

General Butler, in his speech at Hamilton, Ohio, after the close of the war, as it is reported in the newspapers, in referring to this offer of mine to exchange officer for officer, and man for man, thus leaving a large excess in Federal hands, said: “I wrote an argument, offensively put, to the Confederate Commissioner, so that he could stop all further offers of the exchange. I say nothing about the policy of this course; I offer no criticism of it whatever; I only say that whether it be a good or a bad policy, it was not mine, and that [46] my part of it was wholly in obedience to orders from my commanding officer, the lieutenant general.” So that it seems that even offers of exchange from the Confederates had become disagreeable and annoying, and were met offensively to put a stop to them.

This statement of General Butler is substantially repeated by him in his report to the Committee on the Conduct of the War, which he concludes by saying, that he was compelled to make the exposition “so that it might be seen that these lives were spent as a part of the system of attack upon the rebellion, devised by the wisdom of the general-in-chief of the armies to destroy it by depletion, depending upon our superior numbers to win the victory at last.” Nor were these the only statements made by General Butler in relation to these matters. In his speech at Lowell on the 28th of January, 1865, after referring to the conference held at Fortress Monroe between himself and me, he said: “I reported the points of agreement between myself and the rebel agent to the Secretary of War, and asked for power to adjust the other questions of difference, so as to have the question of enslaving negro soldiers stand alone, to be dealt with by itself; and that the whole power of the United States should be exerted to do justice to those who had fought the battles of the country, and been captured in its service. The whole subject was referred by the Secretary of War to the lieutenant general commanding, who telegraphed me on the 14th of April, 1864, in substance: ‘ Break off all negotiations on the subject of exchange till further orders.’ And, therefore, all negotiations were broken off, save that a special exchange of sick and wounded on either side went on. On the 20th of April I received another telegram of General Grant, ordering ‘ not another man to be given to the rebels.’ To that I answered on the same day: ‘Lieutenant General Grant's instructions shall be implicitly obeyed. I assume that you do not mean to stop the special exchange of the sick and wounded now going on.’ To this I received a reply in substance: ‘Do not give the rebels a single able-bodied man.’ From that hour, so long as I remained in the department, exchanges of prisoners stopped under that order, because I could not give the rebels any of their able-bodied soldiers in exchange. By sending the sick and wounded forward, however, some twelve thousand of our suffering soldiers were relieved, being upwards of eight thousand more than we gave the rebels. In August last, Mr. Ould, finding negotiations were broken off, and that no exchanges were made, wrote to General Hitchcock, the Commissioner, at Washington, that the rebels were ready to exchange, man for man, all the prisoners [47] held by them, as I had proposed in December. Under the instructions by the lieutenant general I wrote to Mr. Ould, a letter, which has been published, saying: ‘Do you mean to give up all your action, and revoke all your laws about black men employed as soldiers ’ These questions were therein argued justly, as I think, not diplomatically, but obtrusively and demonstratively, not for the purpose of furthering exchange of prisoners, but for the purpose of preventing and stopping the exchange, and furnishing a ground on which we could fairly stand. I am now at liberty to state these facts, because they appear in the correspondence on the subject of exchange, now on the public files of Congress, furnished by the War Department upon resolution. I am not at liberty to state my opinions as to the correctness and propriety of this course of action of the lieutenant general in relation to exchanges, because, as it is not proper to utter a word of condemnation of any act of my superiors, I may not even applaud where I think them right, lest, not applauding in other instances, such acts as I may mention would imply censure. I only desire that the responsibility of stopping exchanges of prisoners, be it wise or unwise, should rest upon the lieutenant general commanding, and not on me. I have carried the weight of so grave a matter for nine months, and now propose, as the facts are laid before Congress and the country, not to carry any longer any more of it than belongs to me.”

It would be a curious study to compare these statements of a Federal general with General Hitchcock's report of the same matters. I have not the space to do so here, and must content myself in using General Butler as my proof that the reason why my aforesaid letter to General Hitchcock was not answered was not that it was not received or not considered, but that policy prevented it. But, as the same policy would not allow a direct refusal to accede to such terms, my letter, instead of receiving a reply, was met by an “argument offensively put,” from another person, who, doubtless, was much more capable of making it than General Hitchcock. Silence covered Hitchcock, while General Butler, in obedience to the orders of the lieutenant general, fulminated “obtrusively and demonstratively — not for the purpose of furthering exchange of prisoners, but for the purpose of preventing and stopping the exchange.” Heaven knows that Hitchcock had virus enough to perform that service “offensively” to the last degree; but the managers seem to have thought, and, doubtless, correctly, he had a lack of other essential qualifications. There is another noteworthy fact disclosed in this confession of General Butler. It appears that these maligned Confederates delivered eight [48] thousand more sick and wounded prisoners to him than they received. Is it necessary to go behind this pregnant fact to show any other proof that the Confederates were ready to agree to any fair system of exchange? Even upon a plan injurious to them and violative of the terms of the cartel, they delivered an excess of eight thousand prisoners in a comparatively short space of time. Indeed, the whole operation had become so monstrously wrong that General Butler, under the instincts of self-preservation, proposed to “stand from under,” and declined to carry the burden any longer. Before, however, he came to that conclusion, it began to be seriously feared that the Confederates, in their anxiety to secure exchanges on any terms, would agree to the Federal demand about the delivery and exchange of their own slaves, and, in apprehension of that result, we have it on the authority of General Butler himself that he and General Grant conferred together as to how exchanges were to be prevented in that event. What result their ingenuity reached we are not informed. The Confederates never gave an opportunity for disclosure, as they maintained their position on the slave question to the end.

Not having been able to obtain any answer to my letter to General Hitchcock, I made another move in August, 1864, the actual result of which staggers belief. Under the instructions of the Confederate authorities, I offered to the United States their sick and wounded without requiring any equivalents. I tendered ten or fifteen thousand of this class, to be delivered at the mouth of the Savannah river, assuring the Federal agent that if the number for which he might send transportation could not be readily made up from the sick and wounded at Andersonville and elsewhere, I would supply the deficiency with well men. Although this offer was made in the summer of 1864, transportation was not sent to the Savannah river until about the middle or last of November, and then I delivered as many prisoners as could be transported with the means at hand, some thirteen thousand in number, among whom were more than five thousand well men. It has been asserted that no such offer was made in August, 1864, and that the first proposal, looking to anything like a general delivery of the sick and wounded, was first made by the United States, in October, 1864, and that the delivery at Savannah was in consequence of this last-mentioned movement. General Butler so asserted on the floor of the House of Representatives, on the 17th of July, 1867, when the question of an inquiry into the treatment of Confederate soldiers in Northern prisons was under discussion. He is mistaken. The offer in August was made [49] to General Mulford, and by him communicated to the Federal authorities. If anybody disputes it, I appeal to him for proof.

More than once I urged the mortality at Andersonville as a reason for haste, yet there was delay from August until November in sending transportation for the sick and wounded, for whom no equivalents were asked. It was during that interval that the largest proportionate mortality occurred at Andersonville. Although the terms of my offer did not require the Federal authorities to deliver any equivalents for the ten or fifteen thousand I promised, yet some thirty-five hundred sick and wounded Confederate prisoners were delivered at that time. I can call upon every Federal and Confederate officer and man who saw that cargo of living death, and who is familiar with the character of the deliveries made by the Confederate authorities, to bear witness that none such was ever made by the latter, even when the very sick and desperately wounded alone were requested. For on two occasions at least in 1864, such men were specially asked for, hospital boats were sent, and particular request was made for those who were so desperately sick that it would be doubtful whether they would survive a removal a few miles down James river. Accordingly, Confederate hospitals in Richmond were searched for the worst cases, and after they were delivered they were taken to Annapolis, Congress was invited to inspect them, and for the benefit of those who did not see them they were photographed as specimens of Confederate barbarity, and illustrations of the manner in which Union soldiers were treated in the ordinary Southern prisons. The photographs of the sick and diseased men at Annapolis were terrible indeed, but the misery they portrayed was surpassed at Savannah.

In the winter of 1864-65, General Grant took control of matters relating to exchanges, and my correspondence on that subject took place with him. The result was the delivery of a large number of prisoners on both sides, chiefly during the months of February and March, 1865, too late for the returned Confederate soldiers to be of any service to a cause which, even before those dates, had become desperate. These deliveries were officer for officer according to grade, and man for man, the excess remaining in captivity. The deliveries made by the Confederates were made at several points, east and west, as fast as possible, and their equivalents were received in James river. In carrying out his agreements and arrangements with me, I found General Grant to be scrupulously correct. He never deviated in the slightest from his contracts.

On the occupation of Richmond I followed General Lee's army [50] to Appomattox Court House, and was there at the surrender. I offered my parole to General Grant who generously declined to subject me even to parole, saying that he did not consider an officer of the Exchange Bureau subject to capture. He gave me a passport and escort to Richmond, when he learned it was my purpose to return to that place. Upon my return to Richmond I set about closing up the affairs of the Exchange Bureau, knowing that the end had come. At the expiration of about ten days, while thus engaged, I was arrested by order of Mr. Secretary Stanton and thrown into prison. His order was special that I should be put in close confinement. Seven years before that I had a professional collision with Mr. Stanton in the trial of Daniel E. Sickles for the murder of Philip Barton Key. I was then United States District Attorney for the District of Columbia, and he was one of the defendant's counsel. I had occasion during the course of the trial, after gross and repeated provocation, to denounce his conduct, and to charge that he had been imported into the case to play the part of a bully and a bruiser. He had not forgotten this occurrence, even after the lapse of so many years, and took his revenge in the manner indicated. Of the hundreds of thousands engaged in the war on the Confederate side, I was the only one who held an office by the express consent of the United States. The cartel provided that each side should appoint an Agent of Exchange. I was not only thrown into prison, but was indicted for treason in Underwood's court-treason in filling an office to which, and to the incumbency of which by myself, the United States had assented. All my official papers, including those delivered to me by the Federal Agents of Exchange, were seized and taken away. I did save my letter-book alone, which I prize very highly, if for no other purpose than to show the malignant falsehoods of certain publications, some of them official, which purport to give the correspondence of my office. I include in this list House Document No. 32, Second Session, Thirty-eighth Congress, which pretends to show the correspondence of the Agents of Exchange on both sides, but which does not rise even to the dignity of a travesty. My house was also searched, and my private papers taken. A military commission sat on me to find out whether any charges could be brought against me, or sustained, if brought. After two weeks incubation, during which they examined witnesses against me, while I was not allowed to be present, the commission reported that they could find nothing against me, but much to my credit; and thereupon, after two months confinement, I was released.

I have thus given the more prominent incidents connected with [51] the exchange question, and especially the matters that led to a suspension of the cartel. In narrating them, I have, as far as I well could, presented them in chronological order, that they might be better grasped. There are some other matters connected with exchanges which, though minor in importance, may be of interest.

One of the earliest difficulties connected with the cartel was the matter of the arrest and detention of non-combatants. General Pope, who proclaimed that his headquarters were in the saddle, a thing which most people would have believed without that information from him, on the 23d of July, 1862, one day after the adoption of the cartel, issued a general order directing the arrest of all disloyal male citizens within the Federal lines, or within their reach in the rear. Those who would take the oath of allegiance to the United States, and furnish sufficient security for its observance, could remain unmolested; but those who refused were to be removed from their homes, and if found again within the lines, or at any point in the rear, they were to be “considered spies and subjected to the extreme rigor of military law.” In pursuance of this and other orders, peaceable, non-combatant citizens of the Confederate States, especially men of mature age, engaged in the pursuit of their ordinary avocations, were arrested and thrown into prison or sent from their homes. This was frequently done during the march of the Federal forces through the Confederate States, and, it may be, in some cases under circumstances which justified the arrest. But our complaint, prolonged through the war, was loud that when the invading army retired from the neighborhood where the arrest was made, the noncombatants were not released from imprisonment. This practice forced upon, the Confederates a partial system of retaliation, and accordingly, upon the invasion of Pennsylvania by General Lee, some fifty non-combatants of that State and Maryland were captured and brought to Richmond. Moreover, some persons of well-known Union sentiments within the Confederate States were arrested and confined in Castle Thunder. These circumstances provoked a long correspondence between the respective Agents of Exchange. I sought as earnestly as I could to establish a rule which would prevent the arrest or incarceration of civilians on either side. I maintained that the capture of non-combatants in the general was illegal and contrary to the usages of civilized warfare, and only excused the arrest of the Pennsylvanians on the ground of retaliation, after the failure of all other means of prevention. To show clearly and officially what were the actual views of the Confederate Government in this matter, I quote the material part of a letter which, on the 31st of October, 1863, I addressed to General S. A. Meredith: [52]

More than a year ago, recognizing the injustice of the arrest of noncombatants, I submitted the following proposition to the Federal authorities, to wit: That peaceable, non-combatant citizens, of both the United States and the Confederate States, who are not connected with any military organization, shall not be arrested by either the United States or Confederate armies within the territory of the adverse party. If this proposition is too broad, let the only exception be the case of a temporary arrest of parties within army lines, where the arresting party has good reason to believe that their presence is dangerous to the safety of the army, from the opportunity afforded of giving intelligence to the enemy. It is to be understood, however, in the latter case, the arrest is to cease as soon as the reason for making it ceases, in the withdrawal of the army, or for any other cause. This proposal is understood to include such arrests and imprisonments as are already in force. Although this proposition, so reasonable and humane in its terms, has been before your Government for more than a year, it has never been accepted. I now again invite your attention to it. If it does not suit you, I will thank you to suggest any modification. I am willing to adopt any fair and reciprocal rule that will settle this matter on principle. It must, however, be settled by rule. It cannot, with any safety, be determined by “special cases.”

The Federal authorities never did accede to these terms, or agree to the adoption of any common rule on the subject. And yet General Hitchcock, in his report, says that “the rebels inaugurated a system of seizing unoffending citizens of the United States and subjecting them to maltreatment in various ways, in order to effect a particular object, which became apparent when a demand was made for their release;” and asserts that the aforesaid agreement on the subject, which the Confederates sought to obtain, “would have been a virtual acknowledgment of the independence of the rebel government, and would have foreclosed all proceedings of the United States against all persons whomsoever engaged in the crime of treason and rebellion.” General Hitchcock, it seems, did not stop to inquire whether the same argument, if there was any force in it, could not just as easily have been urged against the adoption of any cartel. But the pretension that the rebels “inaugurated” the system of seizing unoffending citizens is too bald for anybody's credence. This extract from Hitchcock's report, however, discloses one thing, which was really the prime cause of all the difficulties connected with the detention and exchange of prisoners, civil and military, to wit: an unwillingness to recognize the equality of the belligerents. Pray, how, upon any other theory than that of equality, can a cartel be framed or executed?

On the 26th of July, 1863, General John H. Morgan and his command were captured. They were carried to Cincinnati, and from thence, by General Burnside's order, he and twenty-eight of his officers were sent to the penitentiary at Columbus, where they were shaved and their hair cut very close by a negro convict. They [53] were then marched to the bath-room and scrubbed, and thence to their cells. Seven days afterward forty-two more of General Morgan's officers were sent from Johnson's Island to the penitentiary, and subjected to the same indignities. On the 30th of July, 1863, I was informed by the Federal agent of exchange, General Meredith, “that General John H. Morgan and his officers will be placed in close confinement, and held as hostages for the members of Colonel Streight's command.” I replied, on the 1st of August, that Colonel Streight's command was treated exactly as were other officers. On the 28th of August I wrote another letter, asking the Federal Agent whether he wished Colonel Streight to be shaved and put in a felon's cell, and suggesting, if he did, that the Federal authorities were pursuing exactly the course to secure that result. To that letter I received the following reply, which I will give entire, as something of a portrait of the man I was dealing with:

Fortress Monroe, September 30th, 1863.
Hon. Robert Ould, Agent of Exchange, Richmond, Va.:
Sir:--Had I succeeded, after waiting thirty hours, in obtaining an interview with you, when I was last at City Point, I had intended to explain to you that the United States authorities had nothing to do with the treatment that General Morgan and his command received when imprisoned at Columbus. Such treatment was wholly unauthorized.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. A. Meredith, Brigadier General and Commissioner for Exchange.

A few days after the receipt of this letter, General Meredith informed me that General Morgan and his officers were held for others than “the members of Colonel Streight's command.” He showed me a letter from General Hitchcock, in which the same statement was made. Thus it appears that I was first notified that General Morgan and his officers would be placed in close confinement for the members of Streight's command-then two months afterward I was informed that the United States had nothing to do with the treatment that General Morgan and his command received --and then I was told that General Morgan and his officers were not held for the members of Colonel Streight's command. Yet, during all this time, and for a long time afterward, General Morgan and his officers were continued in the penitentiary, and compelled to suffer all the indignities of felon life. It taxes credulity too much to believe that the United States were not responsible for the treatment they received, sent there as they were by General Burnside, and kept there by the United States War Department. [54]

While on the subject of Morgan's command, it may not be inappropriate to relate an incident which furnishes a dark chapter in the history of paroles, and serves to show the times upon which the country had then fallen My authority is a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Alston, of Morgan's command, to the Confederate Secretary of War. On the 5th of July, 1863, General Morgan captured the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Hanson, at Lebanon, Kentucky. The latter requested that he and his command be paroled, pledging his personal honor that he not only would observe it, but would see that every other one to whom the privilege was extended should observe it; and further, that if he should be ordered back into service, he would report to General Morgan at some point within the Confederate lines. Colonel Hanson and his command were paroled, and as a return for this favor, three days after, a portion of his command thus paroled actually captured a part of General Morgan's force. Lietenant Colonel Hanson himself, a few days after his capture under the circumstances detailed, was ordered to Louisville to do provost duty. It would be difficult to find in the annals of war a parallel to this.

Colonel Streight and his officers were detained in Richmond, on allegations from the highest authority in Alabama, charging him and his officers with grave offenses as well against the laws of that State as the usages of civilized warfare. I informed the Federal Agent, in response to an inquiry from him, that they were detained “until proper inquiries can be made and the facts ascertained, when a determination will be made by the Confederate Government whether they come within the obligations of the cartel as prisoners of war, or are to be dealt with as criminals against the laws of war and the State.” The right of the Confederate Government to detain and try Colonel Streight and his officers was distinctly recognized by the United States in their General Order, No. 100. The 59th paragraph of that order declared that “a prisoner of war remains answerable for his crimes committed against the captor's army or people, committed before he was captured, and for which he has not been punished by his own authorities.” Moreover, the United States had claimed and exercised the right of holding many Confederate officers on the merest suspicion, without trial or proceedings of any sort against them. Yet, when the Confederates retained Colonel Streight and his officers, on charges preferred by the highest authority in Alabama, and in accordance with Federal practice and general order, a great outcry was made.

Frequent applications were made for special exchange — that is, [55] for the exchange of a particular officer for another particularly named. I set my face against this system from the beginning, whether the application came from one side or the other. Fathers and mothers and sisters frequently besought me with tears to give their kindred the benefit of a special exchange; but I was obdurate to the last. Sometimes they would appreciate my reason, and go away satisfied, but in the large majority of cases, knowing only the bitterness of their own hearts, they thought hardly of me. There were many objections to special exchanges. The system at best, was favoritism. It was not right or fair to pursue a policy, which would put one prisoner in a more favorable position than another of equal merit. Moreover, it gave the opportunity to the belligerent proposing such an exchange, to select a valuable officer in the enemy's hands, and give for him one very worthless, or what was worse, one who had been tampered with. But my chief objection was, that if all those whom the United States particularly desired were specially exchanged, the Confederate Government would have none in captivity who could bring any pressure to bear in favor of a general exchange. So resolute was I in this matter that, with the approval of the Confederate Government, in one case I sent back a Confederate officer who came to secure a special exchange, and in other cases I refused to send the designated Federal officers, and gave other equivalents.

The prisoners on both sides, when delivered, were always welcomed to their respective flags with almost wild delight; but otherwise it was not often that anything happened to break the common routine. The Federal prisoners were generally put on board a steamer at Richmond, and then carried some thirty miles down the. James river and transferred to the flag-of-truce boat “New York.” Once or twice they were marched a shorter distance. They would generally meet a returning body of Confederate prisoners; and from the manner in which the two parties met and fraternized, no one would have supposed that they were enemies, or believed in the doctrine of prize cases. Sometimes they sang, in turn, their respective camp songs, and both sides would greet any good hit with uproarious merriment. I recollect one occasion when this amusement was kept up for hours, to the delight of all, each set of prisoners having several capital voices, with an apparently exhaustless variety of songs, in which the names of all the notables of both armies, and especially Stonewall Jackson's, figured.

There was one incident in the course of deliveries which was quite dramatic, though very painful to one of the parties-a [56] Pennsylvania colonel. In the beginning of the war, surgeons were regarded as non-combatants, and not subject to detention on either side. A difficulty, however, arose between the two governments about one Dr. Rucker, who was held in confinement on the charge of murder, and other high crimes. The United States demanded his release, and failing to secure it, put Dr. Green, a Confederate surgeon, in confinement in retaliation. This led to the detention of all surgeons on both sides. I made vigorous efforts to restore the old practice, and at length succeeded. Accordingly, a day was fixed for the delivery of all surgeons on both sides at City Point, and all the Federal surgeons were directed to be sent from the Libby and put on board the flag-of-truce steamer. I accompanied the party. When we were nearing the steamer “New York,” I perceived that a signal was flying for me to come to the shore with my boat. I did so, and found there a communication stating that Colonel Harry White, commanding one of the Pennsylvania regiments, had disguised himself as a surgeon and was then on board my boat. I immediately directed the prisoners to be drawn up in line on the shore and made them an address, in which I recounted the efforts I had made to secure the immunity of their class, and stated that an officer of the line, not entitled to exchange or release, was among them, disguised as a surgeon. I then raised my voice and shouted: “Colonel Harry White, come forth.” He stepped in front at once, and in a few words claimed that he had the right to resort to any stratagem to effect his release. I replied that I was not there to dispute or affirm what he said, but that he must return to Richmond under arrest. It was a heavy blow to him, struck at the moment when he was sanguine of his liberty. Two minutes more would have placed him on the “New York,” where he would have been safe, even if his disguise lad been there detected. He had been a long time in captivity, and extraordinary efforts had been made to secure for him a special exchange. He had been elected as a Republican to the Pennsylvania Senate, which, without him, was equally divided between the war and anti-war parties. His presence was needed to effect an organization and working majority in that body. I had learned these facts from more than one quarter, and was not disposed to assist in giving aid and-comfort to the war party. I was under no duty to release Colonel White, as the exchange of officers had ceased. So obstinate was I, that when the Federal Agent offered me a major general and several officers of lower grade for him, I declined to accept. I might have speculated to great advantage on him if I had been so disposed, and the situation in [57] Pennsylvania would have warranted it. If every officer and man had been a Harry White, there never would have been any difficulty about exchanges. Indeed, if the anxiety manifested about him had been distributed, instead of making him the reservoir of all, it would have been better for a good many people. “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.”

Colonel White's was by no means the only case of false personation during the war. The late Secretary of War was exchanged as a private or non-commissioned officer, there being a difficulty about the exchange of officers at the time of his capture. Once when a body of Confederate chaplains was to be delivered, an army officer assumed the name of one who was on the list, but who was too sick to be sent, and came with the parsons as one of them to Fortress Monroe. They were put on board the “New York,” early in the morning, to be brought up the James river. General Mulford, the courteous flag-of-truce officer, knowing the cloth of his prisoners and supposing that they would desire to have prayers before breakfast, offered for that purpose a Bible to one of the party, and, as accident would have it, gave the book to our army friend, who was the only bogus chaplain in the lot. To have declined would have exposed him to suspicion, if not detection. Although not a professor of religion he boldly took the book and read a chapter. Then kneeling with his comrades he began the Lord's Prayer, and, as the story goes, broke down in the middle!

I have named the person with whom I was brought in contact as Confederate Agent of Exchange. I found Colonel Ludlow to be courteous and just when he was allowed to follow his own instincts or judgment. I believe he was removed because he desired to be just, and I paid him officially that compliment when he was relieved to give place to a supple tool. General Mulford was a flower of chivalry and standing toast with Confederate prisoners, officers and men. From the date of the cartel to the close of the war he discharged the responsible duties of flag-of-truce officer and Assistant Agent of Exchange with consummate address and always with a courteous spirit. He was a genuine lover of fair play. He never told me a lie, or told one on me. I wish in my heart I could say the same as to all the others. He was as kind to our prisoners as if he had been a natural brother to each one of them. If he could have had the power to adjust and settle, there never would have been any trouble. He was tied by others who did not feel as he did. I hope I will do him no harm by this inadequate testimonial to his virtues. [58]

General Sullivan A. Meredith, of Philadelphia, followed Colonel Ludlow as Federal agent of exchange. At my first interview with him I strongly suspected that he had been sent to break off exchanges, instead of furthering them. I was convinced of it afterward. He abounded in all the qualities which would make him useful on just such a service. He was coarse, rude, arrogant, and so unacquainted with the matters committed to his charge, that it was difficult to transact any business with him.

General Hitchcock, whom I never saw during the war, had his headquarters at Washington. He styled himself “Commissioner for the Exchange of prisoners.” What his precise function was I never was able to learn; for while he was Commissioner at Washington, there was always a Federal Agent of Exchange somewhere else. How far the authority of each extended, or how far one was subordinate to the other, or how far one could refuse what the other allowed, or deny what the other said, never clearly appeared. I suppose that both could be put to valuable uses, “each after his kind.” As far as I could gather, Hitchcock seems to have been a sort of Tycoon of exchanges, solemnly sitting in Washington to superintend matters about which he knew little or nothing, if his report is to be believed. He never condescended to write to me, though I did more than once to him, not having any special fear of his august sacredness. One of these letters, which he ought to have answered, and for his failure so to do, he deserves to be impaled upon the wrath of mankind, I will give. Oh! what weltering woe and wretchedness it would have saved.

Richmond, Va., January 24th, 1864.
Major General E. A. Hitchcock, Agent of Exchange:
Sir:--In view of the present difficulties attending the exchange and release of prisoners, I propose that all such, on each side, shall be attended by a proper number of their own surgeons, who, under rules to be established, shall be permitted to take charge of their health and comfort.

I also propose that these surgeons shall act as commissaries, with power to receive and distribute such contributions of money, food, clothing and medicines as may be forwarded for the relief of prisoners. I further propose that these surgeons be selected by their own governments, and that they shall have full liberty at any and all times, through the Agents of Exchange, to make reports not only of their own acts, but of any matters relating to the welfare of the prisoners.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Robert Ould, Agent of Exchange.

It gives me no pleasure to write these things; nor do I seek to bring myself unduly forward in this matter. I wish the cup could pass from me. But the official position I occupied during the war [59] seems to require that I should step to the front to vindicate the truth of history, when false statements, official and unofficial, are so rife. It is not done in the interest of hate, nor to revive sectional controversy, nor to inflame the now subsiding passions of war. Least of all do I desire to put any stigma upon the people of the North. The sins which were committed were those of individuals, and they were few in number. I believe a true understanding of the facts in connection with the exchange of prisoners and their treatment, instead of increasing any feeling of hate between the North and South would tend to allay it. It would then be seen that the sections were not to be blamed — that the people on both sides were not justly amenable to reproach — that honor, integrity, and Christian civilization reigned North and South, and that our civil war, though necessarily harsh and cruel in its general aspect, was illustrated by high and shining examples of moderation, kindness, good faith, generosity, and knightly courtesy.

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Savannah (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Savannah (Georgia, United States) (2)
Point Lookout, Md. (Maryland, United States) (2)
Columbus (Georgia, United States) (2)
Annapolis (Maryland, United States) (2)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (2)
Trenton (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Port Hudson (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Petersburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)
Lowell (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Louisville (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Kentucky (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Johnson's Island (Ohio, United States) (1)
Fort Warren (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Fort Hamilton (Ohio, United States) (1)
Cincinnati (Ohio, United States) (1)
Chickamauga (Georgia, United States) (1)
Chattanooga (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Aiken's Landing (Virginia, United States) (1)

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