Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/April/Commissioner Ould's Report

Southern Historical Society Papers, April 1876

The Report of Judge Ould, our Commissioner of Exchange, of December, 1863, and the accompanying documents, fully sustain this allegation, and we regret that our space will not allow us to give these documents in full.

We give the preliminary report, which indicates the points made:


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Confederate States of America,
War Department,

Richmond, Virginia, December 5th, 1863.

Hon. James A. Seddon, Secretary of War:

Sir—I have the honor to submit the accompanying correspondence between the Federal Agent of Exchange and myself:

I have selected from the mass of correspondence, such letters as relate to matters of general interest, and especially to the subjects of controversy between us.

1. Papers from one to twelve, inclusive, relate the arrest and detention of non-combatants. The Federal authorities have persistently refused to observe any reciprocal rule as to such parties. Their military commanders seem to have been permitted to make arrests of non-combatants without regard to their age, sex or situation. After arrest, they have been thrown into prison and there indefinitely retained, in most cases, without charges. I have persistently contended that the whole subject of their capture of non-combatants, should be determined by rule, and not by arbitrary practice. This reasonable proposal, not receiving the assent of the enemy, the Confederate authorities have been forced, in some instances, to retain Federal non-combatants as a measure of retaliation.
2. Papers from thirteen to sixteen, inclusive, relate to the retention of exchanged and unexchanged officers and men. There are officers and men now in Federal prisons, who have been there ever since the adoption of the cartel. I have brought to the attention of the United States authorities again and again the names of some of the parties who were confined in violation of the exchange agreements. In some cases, after long delay, the parties were released. Others, however, are still languishing in confinement.
3. Papers from seventeen to forty, inclusive, relate to the general orders of the enemy and their connection with declarations of exchange. So anxious has the Confederate Government been to remove all obstacles to a general exchange of prisoners, that when the computation and adjustment of paroles was made a subject of difficulty by the enemy, we promptly agreed to determine the whole matter in accordance with the general orders, issued at Washington. This very liberal proposition has not been accepted by the Federal authorities, I have, however, by virtue of the provisions of the cartel, proceeded to make declarations of exchange, upon the basis of those general orders. In those declarations of exchange, I have not exceeded the valid paroles, which are on file in my office. The reply of the Federal agent to my letter of October 31st, 1863, was so personally offensive, that I was compelled to return it to him without any answer.
4. Papers from forty-one to forty-seven, inclusive, relate to the confinement of General John H. Morgan and his officers in the penitentiary, at Columbus, Ohio. Though the Federal agent on the 30th of July, 1863, notified me that General John H. Morgan and his officers would be placed in close confinement, he informed me two months afterwards, that "the United States authorities had nothing to do with the treatment that General Morgan and his command received when imprisoned at Columbus."
5. Papers from forty-eight to fifty-seven, inclusive, relate to the detention of surgeons. Before the date of the cartel, surgeons were unconditionally released after capture. That rule was first adopted by the Confederate commanders, and was subsequently followed by the Federals. Some time ago, one Rucker was indicted by a grand jury in Virginia, for several felonies. Although Rucker was never a surgeon in the Federal service, the enemy held Surgeon Green of the Confederate navy, in retaliation. This caused retaliation on our part, in return, and surgeons were afterwards held in captivity on both sides. In this instance, the Federal authorities proved that they were ready to sacrifice their own medical officers in an endeavour to secure the release of a felon in no way connected with their medical service. Rucker having recently escaped from jail, the surgeons on both sides have been released.
6. Papers from fifty-eight to sixty-three, inclusive, relate to persons captured upon our rivers and the high seas. By agreement made with the Federal Agent of Exchange, all such who were captured before December 10th, 1862, were declared exchanged. In spite of that agreement, some of our pilots and sea captains were kept in confinement. The correspondence will fully show the refusal of the Federal authorities to adopt any fair and reciprocal rule, as to the further exchange of such persons.
7. Papers numbered sixty-four and sixty-five, show the pretensions of the enemy as to such persons as have been tried under the laws of a sovereign State for offences against the same.
8. Papers from sixty-six to seventy-two, inclusive, embrace all the correspondence in which General E. A. Hitchcock has borne a part. It seems there are two commissioners of exchange on the part of the Federal Government. How far the authority of each extends, or how far one is subordinate to the other, has not as yet clearly appeared. The future may, perhaps, explain that they may be put to separate uses. The last letter of General Hitchcock, bearing date November 23d, 1863, I returned, with the following endorsement, to wit: "Protesting that the statement of facts contained in this paper is incorrect, I return it to its author as unfit to be either written or received."

With this brief notice of the correspondence, I respectfully submit it as my report.

Your obedient servant,
Ro. Ould, Agent of Exchange.

}} We can only cull a letter or two from this correspondence, which we hope some day to publish in full as a triumphant vindication of the course of our authorities:


Headquarters Department of Virginia,
Seventh Army Corps,
Fort Monroe, Virginia,
April 8, 1863.

Hon. Robert Ould, Agent for Exchange of Prisoners:

Sir—The best mode of arranging all questions relating to exchange of officers, is to revoke, formally or informally, the offensive proclamation relating to our officers.

I simply ask that you say, by authority, that such proclamation is revoked. The spirit of that proclamation was the infliction of personal indignities upon our officers, and as long as it remains unrepealed, it can be at any moment put in force by your authorities. What assurance have we that it will not be?

I earnestly desire a return to the cartel in all matters pertaining to officers, and until such be the case, and uniformity of rule be thereby established, our exchanges of officers must be special. Some of our officers, paroled at Vicksburg, were subsequently placed in close confinement, and are now so held. If, hereafter, we parole any of your officers, such paroles will be offset against any which you may possess. At present the exchanges will be confined to such equivalents as are held in confinement on either side.

I hope you will soon be able to remove all difficulties about officers by the revocation I have mentioned.

By reference to the map, you will see that Fort Delaware is en route to Fort Monroe. It is used as a depot for the collecting of prisoners, sent from other places for shipment here, and is, from its peculiar position, "well adapted for convenience for exchange."

If any mistake be found in the account of men paroled by Lieutenant-Colonel Richards, at Oxford, Mississippi, on the 22d of December, 1862, it can be rectified when we meet.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Wm. H. Ludlow,
Lieutenant-Colonel and Agent for Exchange of Prisoners.


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Richmond, April 11th, 1863.

Lieutenant-Colonel William H. Ludlow, Agent of Exchange:

Sir—Your letters of the 8th instant have been received.
I am very much surprised at your refusal to deliver officers for those of your own who have been captured, paroled, and released by us since the date of the proclamation and message of President Davis. That refusal is not only a flagrant breach of the cartel, but can be supported by no rule of reciprocity or equity. It is utterly useless to argue any such matter. I assure you that not one officer of any grade will be delivered to you until you change your purpose in that respect.

You have charged us with breaking the cartel. With what sort of justice can that allegation be supported, when you delivered only a few days ago over ninety officers, most of whom had been forced to languish and suffer in prisons for months before we were compelled by that and other reasons to issue the retaliatory order of which you complain? Those ninety-odd are not one-half of those whom you unjustly hold in prison. On the other hand, I defy you to name the case of one who is confined by us, whom our agreement has declared exchanged. Is it your idea that we are to be bound by every strictness of the cartel, while you are at liberty to violate it for months, and that, too, not only in a few instances, but in hundreds? You know that our refusal to parole officers, was a matter exclusively of retaliation. It was based only upon your refusal to observe the requirements of the cartel. All that you had to do to remove the obnoxious measure of retaliation, was to observe the provisions of the cartel and redress the wrongs which had been perpetrated.

Your last resolution, if persisted in, settles the matter. You need not send any officers to City Point with the expectation of getting an equivalent in officers, so long as you refuse to deliver any for those whom we have released on parole in Tennessee and Kentucky. 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.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Robert Ould,
Agent of Exchange.


Judge Ould thus closes his correspondence with Colonel Ludlow :


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Confederate States of America,
War Department,

Richmond, Virginia, July 26, 1863.

Colonel William H. Ludlow, Agent of Exchange:

Sir—Your communication of the 22d contests my declaration of exchanges of officers made on the 17th instant. You say "the cartel provides for the exchange of equal ranks, until such are exhausted, and then for equivalents." If you had been at Fortress Monroe, where you could have seen the cartel, instead of New York, from which your letter is dated, you would have written no such paragraph. There is nothing in the cartel which contains any such doctrine, or which favors it. Every provision is against it. Your own and my practice have been opposed to it. I again say to you what I have already stated in my communication of the 17th instant, that your assent is not needed to the declared exchange, and I shall not notify the officers, whom I have declared exchanged, as you request. I have allowed you to declare exchanges when the number of prisoners in our hands has been the greater. This has been the case from the day when we first met in the fall of last year, to the capture at Vicksburg. Now, when you have scarcely received official advices of your superiority in prisoners, you boast of the fact, and declare that I cannot give an equivalent for the general officers I have declared exchanged. The point you make is worth nothing, even as you have stated it. You know we have no lieutenant-generals or major-generals of yours in our hands. For that reason I have declared them exchanged in privates or inferior officers at your election. I had the right, under the cartel, to make the choice myself, but I preferred that you should do it, and therefore, I gave you the notification which I did. If, at any time, you present officers for exchange who have been paroled, and we have no officers of similar rank on parole, you can declare their exchange in privates. If, at this time, you have any officers of the rank I have declared exchanged, or of any other rank, or if you have any particular organization of privates or non-commissioned officers whom you wish exchanged, you have only to state such fact and your selection will be approved. If you hold the paroles of our officers of any rank as you state, you have only to present them, and whatever is in our hands, whether on parole or in captivity, will be freely given in exchange for them. You say you have again and again invited me to a return to the cartel. Now that our official connection is being terminated, I say to you in the fear of God—and I appeal to Him for the truth of the declaration—that there has been no single moment, from the time when we were first brought together in connection with the matter of exchange to the present hour, during which there has not been an open and notorious violation of the cartel by your authorities. Officers and men, numbering over hundreds, have been, during your whole connection with the cartel, kept in cruel confinement, sometimes in irons, or doomed to cells, without charges or trial. They are in prison now, unless God, in His mercy, has released them. In our parting moments, let me do you the justice to say that I do not believe it is so much your fault as that of your authorities. Nay more, I believe your removal from your position has been owing to the personal efforts you have made for a faithful observance, not only of the cartel, but of humanity in the conduct of the war.

Again and again have I importuned you to tell me of one officer or man now held in confinement by us, who was declared exchanged. You have, to those appeals, furnished one—Spencer Kellog. For him I have searched in vain. On the other hand, I appeal to your own records for the cases where your reports have shown that our officers and men have been held for long months and even years in violation of the cartel and our agreements. The last phase of the enormity, however, exceeds all others. Although you have many thousands of our soldiers now in confinement in your prisons, and especially in that horrible hold of death, Fort Delaware, you have not, for several weeks, sent us any prisoners. During those weeks you have dispatched Captain Mulford with the steamer New York to City Point, three or four times, without any prisoners. For the first two or three times some sort of an excuse was attempted. None is given at this present arrival. I do not mean to be offensive when I say that effrontery could not give one. I ask you with no purpose of disrespect, what can you think of this covert attempt to secure the delivery of all your prisoners in our hands, without the release of those of ours who are languishing in hopeless misery in your prisons and dungeons?

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Robert Ould,
Agent of Exchange.