J. F. Anderson, aide-de-camp, to Port Royal Ferry, for the purpose of being introduced to Major Lay, of the Confederate forces, as the officer who would in future conduct all exchange of prisoners at this point, I proceeded on the 16th instant with Major Anderson to the designated point, and met Major Lay. In conformity with an arrangement previously made between Majors Anderson and Lay, I took with me 8 Confederate privates and duly exchanged them for the same number of U. S. soldiers. I also delivered to Major Lay Dr. William Wilson, an assistant surgeon of Villepigue's battery (Confederate), who was captured recently in Florida, and had been held as a hostage for surgeons of our army, prisoners in the hands of the Confederate authorities. Major Lay delivered to me Dr. William T. Robinson, surgeon One hundred and fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Dr. H. S. Turrill, assistant surgeon Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteers, who had been held by them as prisoners. It was then agreed between Major Lay and myself that all surgeons and chaplains who might be captured by either army in this department should be released as soon as their profession should be ascertained.
In obedience to your verbal instructions, given me on the 14th instant, I asked Major Lay what authority he had in regard to the future exchange of prisoners, and he replied that he was empowered to exchange, man for man and rank for rank, as many prisoners of war as we would deliver to him in this department. He further stated that he was able to exchange a large number of private soldiers, and was directed to facilitate such exchange by all proper means.
I replied that you were personally desirous of exchanging all the prisoners of war whom you properly could, and that you had written to the War Department at Washington, asking instructions upon the entire subject of a further exchange in this department. I also promised that should you receive any instructions authorizing either a partial or general exchange, you would immediately notify Major-General Jones by flag of truce.
Major Lay informed me that he had with him about 12 officers and 20 privates whom he was ready to deliver to me upon the condition that I would sign a stipulation, in your behalf, to return an equal number of officers and men. Under your instructions to close up the exchanges already agreed upon, and not make any arrangements for future ones until you should receive definite authority from Washington, I was compelled, although with regret, to decline Major Lay's offer.
In conclusion, I would respectfully state that I am fully satisfied that an exchange of our officers now confined at Charleston, Savannah, and Macon can be effected, as also of many of our soldiers who are confined and suffering at Andersonville, Ga. The privates received by me yesterday unite in describing the condition of their late comrades at Andersonville as being pitiful in the extreme. They state that they are but half fed, that they are naked, suffering, sick, and dying. They beg the Government to at least exchange as many of their number as possible, and thus save them from further agony. In their prayer I respectfully concur.
I am, general, with great respect, your obedient servant,
STEWART L. WOODFORD,
Lieutenant Colonel 127th N. Y. Vols., Acting Judge-Advocate.