By my intercession many who before my taking charge of the department had been sent South and confined have been released. I have ever given to the citizens of East Tennessee protection to persons and property regardless of their political tenets.
Six hundred and sixty-four citizens escaping to Kentucky, most of them with arms in their hands and belonging to military organizations in open hostility to the Confederate States, have been taken prisoners. All of these have been released excepting 76, who previously had voluntarily taken the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States Govern ment, and are now held as prisoners of war.
This policy has been pursued with an earnest desire to allay the horrors of war and to conduct the campaign with as little severity as is consistent with the interests of my Government. It is therefore, general, with deep regret that I hear of your arresting peaceable citizens without your lines, thereby inaugurating a policy which must bring great additional suffering on the two contending peoples. I cannot but hope that this course has resulted from a misapprehension of my policy and a want of knowledge of my treatment of the Union element in East Tennessee. I have constantly had it in my power to arrest numbers of citizens disloyal to the Confederate States, but have heretofore refrained from so doing for the reasons above stated, and hoping all the while that the clemency thus extended would appreciated and responded to by the authorities of the United Startes.
It is perhaps needless for me to state that if you arrest and continue citizens from without your lines whom the usages of war among civilized nations exempt from molestation I shall be compelled in retaliation to pursue a similar course toward the disloyal citizens of my department, and shall arrest and confine the prominent Union men in each community.
I hope, however, that this explanation may correct any misapprehension on your part regarding my policy, and thereby obviate the necessity of my pursuing a course which is, to say the least, a disagreeable duty.
This communication will be delivered to you by Mr. Kincaid, who hopes to be able to effect the release of his father, now held as a prisoner.
Inclosed is a list* of political prisoners arrested by me since assuming command in this department.
I am, general, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH,
* Not found.