Upon this letter of instructions I base my vindication of the course pursued by me in receiving the articles which have been forwarded.
The instructions contained in this letter are as follows, viz:
The commanding general disapproves the reception of flags of truce from the enemy off this harbor, especially when they bear mere verbal messages; and he directs that it shall not be done hereafter. For the present, however, flags of truce will be met. If they cover only verbal messages through some officer of the United States service, the substance of these instructions will be made known to him, and any further communication be declined; but should there be a written communication from the commanding general, it will be opened.
I construed these instructions to mean:
First. That flags of truce, although disapproved of, would for the present, however, be met.
Second. That if the flag of terrace covered a mere verbal message, the officer bringing the flag would be informed that verbal messages would not be received.
Third. That a written communication for the commanding general would be received and disposed of according to the instructions.
The instructions are only explicit to this construction of my instructions, but for the fact that a bundle of letters, &c., for our prisoners were received from department headquarters, with instructions indorsed on the package that they should be towhead out by the first flag of truce.
This introduced a question not covered by my instructions, but one upon which I did not hesitate to act, and accordingly instructed Major Rion to receive anything the enemy wished to send to their prisoners; for I conceived that if we asked them to take things to our prisoners, courtesy would dictate that we should received things for their prisoners.
I am sorry there should exist a necessity for the statement that "thus far all instructions from these headquarters relative to flags of truce appear to have been disregarded or ignored at Battery Marshall." I have been commanding officer at this post for nearly four months, and learn now, for the first time, that instructions with reference to flags of truce have not been carried out at this post. If I have failed to obey my instructions in this instance, it is because I have failed to construe them properly.
P. H. NELSON,
Lieutenant Colonel Seventh South Carolina Battalion, Commanding Post.
HDQRS. DEPT. SOUTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA, AND FLORIDA, Ordnance Office, Charleston, November 3, 1863.
Lieutenant Colonel J. R. WADDY,
Chief of Ordnance, Dept. S. C., Ga., and Fla.:
COLONEL: In obedience to orders from you, I proceeded to James Island and inspected the guns and projectiles, and have the honor to report the following as the number of guns and amount of ammunition now on hand.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. JAQUELIN SMITH,
Captain of Artillery, Assistant Chief of Ordnance.