FORT MONROE, VA., October 29, 1862.
General PECK, Suffolk:
General Keyes reported a force of about 800 cavalry as approaching Williamsburg. They intended attacking this morning, but one of their pickets was captured by ours last night, and since then nothing has been done by them except picking up straggling negroes. No infantry are mentioned as being with them.
D. T. VAN BUREN,
HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA, SEVENTH ARMY CORPS,
Fort Monroe, Va., October 30, 1862.
Honorable SALMON P. CHASE,
Secretary of the Treasury:
SIR: I have received this evening your letter and the papers prepared by you concerning trade with Norfolk, and I feel a good deal of embarrassment in regard to the certificate. There are in Norfolk, Princess Anne, and Nansemond Counties, which we have taken possession of and cut off from Southern sources of supply, 40,000 inhabitants. We must feed them, and they can only be fed from the North. Can I certify that the supplies they need - food, fuel, clothing (for they must be warmed and clothed as well as fed) - are "required for military purposes?" Will not this extended traffic be complained of as a violation of the law of blockade if we admit that Norfolk is blockaded?
I regret that the Government has taken this view on the subject, for I feel with you the exceeding embarrassment to which it subjects us.
I have insisted that it was a case of military occupation and not of blockade; that you cannot blockade your own ports or a port you have taken from an enemy; that the act of capture ipso facto terminates the blockade and puts you in military possession with a totally different code of law for yourself as well as neutrals. You may make it as to them a closed, but it is no longer a blockaded, port. In most modern treaties, I believe, certainly in some, there is a chapter on military occupation, stating the consequences that flow from it. I conversed with Major-General Halleck on the subject, in Washington, ten days ago, and he concurred with me fully. I also conferred with the President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of War, and understood the latter to assent to my positions, and the two former to be at least impressed by my suggestions. I was very anxious to see you and called both at your office and your house, but was disappointed.
My reasoning is briefly this:
1st. Norfolk is not a blockaded port, as it lacks the fundamental condition of a blockade - hostile possession.
2nd. If it is a blockaded port, the traffic allowed under the regulations concerning "coastwise intercourse" is in violation of the laws of blockade recognized by all civilized States. A government cannot shut out neutrals from trade with a blockaded port and allow intercourse with such port to its own people.
3rd. Norfolk not being an enemy's port, but held by military occupation, we are free to allow such traffic as is necessary to maintain the possession and to prevent those whom we have subjected to our power from suffering by hunger and cold, a duty enjoined by every consideration of humanity. It is on these conditions only that the traffic proposed to be allowed can be justified.