I will accept the exchange for Private Carter. The two citizens Whiting and Sively were taken with arms in their hands, one of which was discharged from the house of Whiting upon the column of our troops when all resistance was useless and when his attack was simply assassination, and when no offense had been committed against him.
The house from which the shot was fired and a building which formed a part of your outposts are the only conflagrations caused by the troops under my command, and the light of these had ceased hours before your men ventured out from under their earthworks and ditches to do us the courtesy of burying our dead, for which act you have my sincere thanks.
After our troops returned from the field-hours after-a building was burned which furnished our wounded some shelter, and from which we had removed them, but was not burned by our men.
For your kind treatment of any wounded you may have, please to accept my assurances of deep obligations, and with the certainty that at any and every opportunity such courtesy and kindness will be reciprocated.
I am sorry that an officer so distinguished in the service of the United States as yourself could for a moment suppose that the wanton destruction of private property could in any way be authorized or tolerated by the Federal Government and its officers, many of whom are your late associates. Even now, while your letter is being answered, and this is on its way to you, a most ignominious and severe punishment, in the presence of all the troops near this post, is being inflicted upon men who have enlisted in the service of the United States-not soldiers-for plundering private property, which could not, by the strictest construction, be considered contraband of war or means of feeding or aiding the enemy. That which has been brought within my lines, or in any way has come into the hands of my troops and been discovered, with the strictest examination, has been taken account of, collected together, to be given up to those peaceable citizens who have come forward to make claim for it. A board of survey has been organized and has already reported indemnity for the property of peaceable citizens necessarily destroyed. In order to convince you that no wrong has been done to private property by any one in authority in the service of the United States, I do myself the honor to inclose a copy of general orders from this department,* which will sufficiently explain itself, and the most active measures have been taken to rigidly enforce it, and to punish violations thereof. That there have been too many sporadic acts of wrong to private property committed by bad men under my command I admit and most sincerely regret, and believe they will in the future be substantially prevented, and I mean they shall be repaired in favor of all loyal citizens, so far as lies in my power.
You have done me the honor to inform me that the vedette Carter is not a prisoner taken in battle. That is quite true. He was asleep on his post, and informs me that his three companions left in such haste that they neglected to wake him up, and, they being mounted and my men on foot, the race was a difficult one. If it is not the intention of your authorities to treat the citizens of Virginia, taken in actual conflict with the United States, as soldiers, in what light shall they be considered? Please inform me in what light you regard them. If not soldiers, must they not be assassins?
A sergeant of Captain Davies' command will be charged to meet your sergeant at 4 o'clock at the village of Hampton, for the purpose of the exchange of Private Carter.
*See p. 664.