Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/405

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375
First Congress.

EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS.

I regret to inform you that the enemy has returned to the barbarous policy with which they inaugurated the war, and that the exchange of prisoners has been for some time suspended.[1] The correspondence of the commissioners of exchange is submitted to you by the Secretary of War, and it has already been published for the information of all now suffering useless imprisonment. The conduct of the authorities of the United States has been consistently perfidious on this subject. An agreement for exchange in the incipiency of the war had just been concluded when the fall of Fort Donelson reversed the previous state of things and gave them an excess of prisoners. This agreement was immediately repudiated by them, and so remained until the fortune of war again placed us in possession of the larger number. A new cartel was then made; and under it, for many months, we restored to them many thousands of prisoners in excess of those whom they held for exchange, and encampments of the surplus paroled prisoners delivered up by us were established in the United States, where the men were able to receive the comforts and solace of constant communication with their homes and families. In July last the fortune of war again favored the enemy, and they were enabled to exchange for duty the men previously delivered to them against those captured and paroled at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. The prisoners taken at Gettysburg, however, remained in their hands, and should have been at once returned to our lines on parole, to await exchange. Instead of executing a duty imposed by the plainest dictates of justice and good faith, pretexts were instantly sought for holding them in permanent captivity. General orders rapidly succeeded each other from the bureaus at Washington, placing new constructions on an agreement which had given rise to no dispute while we retained the advantage in the number of prisoners. With a disregard of honorable obligations almost unexampled, the enemy did not hesitate, in addition to retaining the prisoners captured by them, to de-


  1. See page 339 for correspondence which resulted in the appointment of Vice President Stephens as military commissioner to United States for purpose of settling differences arising in the execution of the cartel for exchange of prisoners of war.