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Negroes taken in arms.

On this very important subject, in reply to some strictures of the Charleston Mercury, (made under misapprehension,) the Chief of Staff of General Beauregard addressed to that journal the following letter:

headquarters, department of S. C., Ga., and Fla., Charleston, S. C., August 12, 1863.
Colonel R. B. Rhett, Jr., Editor of Mercury:
In the Mercury of this date you appear to have written under a misapprehension of the facts connected with the present status of the negroes captured in arms on Morris and James Islands, which permit me to state as follows:

The Proclamation of the President, dated December twenty-fourth, 1862, directed that all negro slaves captured in arms should be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to the laws of said States.

An informal application was made by the State authorities for the negroes captured in this vicinity; but as none of them, it appeared, had been slaves of citizens of South-Carolina, they were not turned over to the civil authority, for at the moment there was no official information at these headquarters of the Act of Congress by which “all negroes and mulattoes, who shall be engaged in war, or be taken in arms against the confederate States, or shall give aid or comfort to the enemies of the confederate States,” were directed to be turned over to the authorities of “State or States in which they shall be captured, to be dealt with according to the present or future laws of such State or States.”

On the twenty-first of July, however, the Commanding General telegraphed to the Secretary of War for instructions as to the disposition to be made of the negroes captured on Morris and James Islands, and on the twenty-second received a reply that they must be turned over to the State authorities, by virtue of the joint resolutions of Congress in question.

Accordingly, on the twenty-ninth July, as soon as a copy of the resolution or act was received, his Excellency Governor Bonham was informed that the negroes captured were held subject to his orders, to be dealt with according to the laws of South-Carolina.

On the same day (twenty-ninth July) Governor Bonham requested that they should be retained in military custody until he could make arrangements to dispose of them; and in that custody they still remain, awaiting the orders of the State authorities. Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Thomas Jordan, Chief of Staff.

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