War of the Rebellion: Serial 109 Page 0782 MD., E. N. C., PA., VA., EXCEPT S. W., & W. VA. Chapter LXIII.

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in making punishment inevitable. It was, therefore, with great reluctance that the respite in the cases mentioned by you was allowed, and that reluctance was enhanced by my examination of the records, which afforded very slight ground of expectation that Executive clemency would be interposed. The respite was granted solely in consideration of the fact that the President was absent, and that no opportunity had therefore been enjoyed by the parties, or their friends, of making an appeal to his pardoning power. The privilege of at least a hearing from him was urged with so much earnestness and feeling by the distressed members of the families of the guilty parties that I did not feel at liberty to deny it to them. Such right of audience by him seemed to me not susceptible of denial, although I feared and warned them that, besides being mischievous to the service, it would in all probability only protract the auguish of their suspense and add to their final sorrow. Had the President been here the delay would, of course, not have occurred, and with my impressions of his own convictions as to the necessity of a rigid enforcement even of the death penalty in these cases, I have no hesitation in assuring you there is little likelihood of a recurrence to the policy of too great leniency. Your counsels on the subject shall be made known to the President, and doubtless will not be without influence in confirming his previous opinions, as they would have sufficed to remove any tendency to the weakness of mistaken humanity had it existed in my mind.

Very truly, yours,

JAMES A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War.

P. S.- I have recently received numerous applications from deserters in different of the country proposing to return to their commands provided I would guarantee them immunity for past offenses. I have uniformly declined to make any terms with them while deserters, but have required them to return to their commands, intimating that such conduct would probably secure the desired immunity. Would you advise an adherence to this course, or would you deem it politic to enter into a more positive engagement with them?

Truly, yours,

JAMES A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War.

[29.]

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,

November 2, 1863.

Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War:

SIR: I have had the honor to receive your letter of October 31 in regard to leaves of absence granted to members of the Georgia Legislature by an order from the Department. It was not my intention to make objection to the action of the Department, but to point out the evils which I considered incident to such furloughs. I think it would be much better to accept the resignations of officers elected to the Legislature. Their absence from the army might be desired for legislative duty at a time when it might be exceedingly injurious or even fatal to grant furloughs. And even when the army is quiet or in winter quarters the presence of officers is very necessary for the welfare and discipline of the troops. Should their resignations be accepted, their places could be filled immediately. Officers of rank would not desire to be elected then to the Legislature and would not be placed in