HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA, SEVENTH ARMY CORPS,
Fort Monroe, Va., November 17, 1862.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:
GENERAL: I return herewith the letter of the Secretary of the Treasury of the 16th ultimo, with a copy of a letter from Major R. W. Shenk, One hundred and thirty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, of the 15th, which I received yesterday.* Major Shenk charges that the "flag of truce boats are now and have heretofore been to great extent used, in addition to their lawful mission, to pass contraband goods and other articles through the lines at Aiken's Landing on James River." He states two grounds for his charge: First, that a trunk containing cloths, &c., was placed by accident on board of the boat under his command; and, second, that he was approached by a certain Colonel Blanton Duncan, of Kentucky, to enter into an arrangement to pass goods, &c. On these grounds he brings a general accusation against the officers in charge of flag-of-truce boats, accusing not only them but the authorities here with want of "ordinary watchfulness." Why did he not report these facts to me on his return from Aiken's Landing that I might institute proper inquiries to detect and punish the frauds and the neglect which he charges upon officers here? Why send his charges to the Secretary of the Treasury, who could at best only refer them to me for examination and report. Major Shenk was not placed in charge of a flag-of-truce boat by my order. He came here from Washington. It is probable that the trunk to which he refers was put on board his boat there, and that no one was in fault but himself; but he was placed under my control, and it was his duty to have reported to me on his return from Aiken's Landing, the more so as he was detained here by me and sent several times up the James River. He not only engaged his duty but brought a totally unfounded accusation, as I believe, against others.
I venture to say that flags of truce have never been use with a more careful regard to their sacred character than at this post. I have always selected the most discreet and vigilant officers and placed them under the most rigid instructions. So careful have I been not to violate them that I refused permission to one of the principal officers, at this post to send some mourning garments to a little girl, his niece, in Richmond, that she might notice in the customary mode the death of a near relative. Passengers have only been allowed to take their wearing apparel, except in a single instance, in which a French lady of advanced age had permission to take some claret for her own use. Confederate prisoners have not been permitted to take anything with them but their ordinary baggage, and articles in their possession not coming within this restriction have been uniformly taken from them. The only instance in which I have allowed anything to be sent to Aiken's Landing was for Mr. Aiken himself. He had been very kind to our sick officers and men, and I allowed him to purchase in Baltimore four boxes of tin to repair his roof, 1,000 cigars, and a dozen pocket handkerchiefs, all for own use. I have been thus particular because Major Shenk, who appears to have had more zeal than discretion or just conception of his own duty, has been guilty of a breach of trust in failing to report to me the facts stated in his letter, and has done a great injustice to the officers in charge of flag-of-truce boats by bringing accusations against them implying either fraud or gross negligence.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN A. DIX,
* See p. 429.