I have to request at least that the prisoners I have taken be held if not as traitors as prisoners of war. To release them is ruinous; to convict them befroe a court at this time next to an impossiblity; but if they are kept in prison for six months it will have a good effect. The bridge- burners and spies ought to be tried at once and I resepctfully request that instructions be forwarded at as early a day as practicable as it needs prompt action to dispose of these cases.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. WOOD,
Colonel, Commanding Post.
OKOLONA, TENN., November 20, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War, &c., Richmond, Va.
SIR: In my judgment there is not a Union man in Carter County who was not involved to some extent in the rebellion. Many of them were drawn into it by wicked leaders and some have heartily repented but many others will seek the first favorable opportunity to repeat the exepriment. Under these circumstances what can be done to hold them in check in the future! If a northern army invades the State at any future day a majority of our population will undoubtedly tear up the railroad, burn the bridges anddestroy the lives and property of Southern men.
If the military commander at this point should have a discretionary power which would enable him to inquire into the character of the rebels and give certain ones the option to join the Confederate service during the war or be sent on for trial for treason I have no doubt the ends of justice would be attained and much annoyance to the Government avoided. This perhaps would be rather a high- handed movement, but the disease is a desperate one and requires severe and energetic treatment. Every Union man in the county either took up arms or was fully advised of the intention of his party to do so, so they are all rpincipals or accessories befroe the fact. If they are all perosecuted every citizen of East Tennessee must be arraigned befroe the court or brought up as witnesses. Nearly every rebel in my county coudl be convicted if all the Southern- rights citizens were brought up as witnesses; but this perhaps would look too much like political prosecutions.
Martial law ought to be enforced in every county in East Tennessee to hold these bad men in proper restraint but our President is very averse to such a policy. But be assured if the Northern despotism succeeds in throwing a strong military force in here we shall have much worse than martial law. Even now our most quiet and law- abiding citizens have been shot down in cold blood from behind coverts by the tories and the proof can be made that Unionists have been tampering with the slaves.
The mass of the Union party religiously believed that a Northern army of at least 100,000 men was in East Tennessee before they began this rebellious demonstration. The Southern men have all been disarmed and the tories have apparently disbanded inmost of the counties but really gone home to await the approach of an invading army.