HEADQUARTERS C. S. FORCES IN FLORIDA,
May 1, 1864.
Brigadier General WILLIAM BIRNEY,
Commanding U. S. Forces, Jacksonville, Fla.:
GENERAL: I regret that you should have had occasion to complain of an act committed by an act committed by an officer of my command in violation of the sanctity of a flag of truce. You are entirely correct in saying that while your officer was in conference with mine, under flag of truce, one of your pickets was captured by mine. Of this, however, I assume you I was not aware till after I had dispatched the flag this morning, as per verbal agreement between Major Fox, of your service, and Captain Buckman, of my staff,entered into on yesterday. As soon as I learned that one of your pickets had been captured, pending a flag of truce, I immediately dispatched a second flag to you, borne by Captain Walthour, Fifth Georgia Cavalry, and accompanied by the usual escort and the captured picket. As this flag passes Colonel R. H. Anderson, commanding cavalry brigade, in my front, as the felt somewhat implicated in the violation which had occurred, and being more familiar with the facts in detail than myself, he very properly added a postscript to my communication in further explanation of the untoward but mortifying circumstance, and forwarded the explanation at once under flag to your lines before the return of Captain Buckman, bearing your reply of this date. Captain Walthour and Private Allen Vankirk, Seventy-fifth Ohio Regiment, together with the escort, were fired upon by your pickets, and he was not permitted to deliver the note of explanation and the prisoners, Allen Vankirk. I make no doubt but this firing by your pickets upon my flag of truce, sent in good faith for the purpose of making prompt explanation, was done under entire misapprehension of the true state of the facts in the case, and I hope to receive your assurances that I am correct in this opinion.
I forward you herewith my former communication* returning Private Allen Vankirk, improperly captured while flag of truce was pending, with Colonel Anderson's note of explanation appended, and also Private Allen Vankirk himself, again regretting that any occasion should have been give you of complaint in the premises.
Be assured, sir, that the laws of honorable warfare shall ever be strictly observed by myself, and the same observance will be exacted of those under my command. In this instance, as you have been assured, a rigid investigation will be had, and the guilty shall receive what I may deem just punishment.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HDQRS. NORTHERN DISTRICT, DEPT. OF THE SOUTH,
Folly Island, S. C., May 2, 1864.
Colonel L. VON GILSA,
Commanding, Folly Island:
COLONEL: The general commanding directs that you at once put the oyster-shell fort on Cole's Island in a state of defense, with a
*See p. 81.