DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, Octobre 14, 1861.
Commanding Fort Columbus, New York Harbor.
COLONEL: Herewith I transmit to you a communication received at this Department from E. Cornell, esq., of Ethaca, N. Y., in reference to a couple of prisoners confined at Fort Columbus. Will you please inquire into their cases and remit to me with this inclosure your opinion thereon?
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
ITHACA, [N. Y.,] October 11, 1861.
Honorable WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State of the United States.
DEAR SIR: When the list of prisoners taken at Fort Hatteras was published in the New York papers I noticed the names of two of the three sons of a cousin of mine who settled many years ago at Washington, N. C. They are John W. and Ezra E. Cornell. My correspondence with them up to the 22nd of April, 1861, shows them to be good Union men who were forced against their will to take up arms against the Union. (I had received not letter from the since the above date.)
I at once repaired to New York and laid a statement of the case before Colonel Loomis, with extracts from their correspondence, proving their loyality of sentiment to the Union, &c. The colonel took my statement and promised to say lay it before the general. He also permitted me to see the prisoners and supply them with such articles of clothing as their situation demanded. This was on the 6th of September, since which I have heard nothing from Colonel Loomis or the general. It is my desire to secure their liberation from prison if not inconsistent with the public interest, and not knowing who is the proper to apply to for that object I take the liberty to address you on the subject, and trust you will do me the favor to place this in the hands of the proper officer if I have musjudged in troubling you with it. If the Government should require bond or any kind of a guarantee that if released they will not be found in arms against the Union I will furnish sfaction of the Government. The following extracts from the letters referred to will show you their views of the contest the rebels are now waging against the Government. In letter dated Washington, N. C., April 7, 1861 [they say]:
Politics is something I have not make my study. Until very recently I have thought very little of it. I now see the object of the Southern politicians headed by William L. Yancey. We have some few in our State; for instance, our governor. He is a strong disunionist. He with some others are trying to keelhaul this State out of the Union after the people going over 30,000 against secession. This State has bee giving 12,000 majority for the Democratic ticket until the convention question came up, then we ellected two to one Union candidates by a majority of over 30,000, and voted down the convention. The secessionists have called a meeting to try and get the State out the Union, but they will not get her out that way, for we are going to call one to counterbalance theirs to meet at the same time they do, and when they present their resolutions for the governor's signature ours will be offered at the same time so he dare not sign either. If he should sign the secession ordinance I think civil was will be inevitable, for the Union portion of our State will not submit to them. I still all our troubles will be setted. Whether they are or not I am for the Union under any and all circumstances, for I cannot feel willing to give up my share of the Constitution and the Star Spangled Banner.