War of the Rebellion: Serial 115 Page 1518 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

[Inclosure No. 2.]

WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., Richmond, July 26, 1861.


GENTLEMEN: This Department has received your communication of the 25th instant in which you ask the release of Arnold Harris, now a prisoner in confinement in this city, and offer to take the said Harris under your personal custody, assuring the Department that in your opinion "he is no enemy to this Government, and therefore that his continued confinement is to be deplored. "

The secretary of War would be personally disposed to grant any request sanctioned by names of distinguished for patriotism and for eminent public services as are yours, and he has therefore given to your petition the most careful and at the same time the most favorable consideration, but he regrets to say that he cannot come to the conclusion that it would be consistent with the public interest or with his own official duty to grant the request which you prefer. Arnold Harris was taken prisoner in our camp at the close of battle, which it was hoped of your foes would fatal tour cause. He was found with the enemy, in company with those who sought our destruction; in search moreover of the dead body of the brother* of the very man who had presided officially over all the operations of war which had been employed against us. If it be pleaded that he was there at the sacred behest of private friendship, and if (difficult though it be to reconcile such conduct with the sentiment of patriotism toward our Government) that plea must be admitted, it is at least strange that knowing as he did so well from previous experience in the U. S. service the usages of civilized warfare he did not avail himself of a flag of truce which would have secured him safety and respect, but came a voluntary trespasser upon a field where all are not friends. And if in this renouncement of a flag of truce the was meant to be expressed no sympathy those who claim to deny us a rebels the rights and colized warfare, it was at least a proceeding which this Department cannot recognize as entitled to immunity, when such recognition would set a precedent which might be claimed in future by very spy found within our camps.

These considerations alone would be quite sufficient to make the Secretary of War doubt the propriety of granting your request however favorably in this case he night be disposed to regard your intercession. But there are other considerations which are decisive. Information is in the possession of this Department that this Arnold Harris has been and is a contractor with the United States Government, and as such has had large contracts with the War Department of that Government for the supply it may be of those very means of war which has been so lavishly employed against us, and it is known that since the commencement of hostilities between the two Governments he has resided by choice in Washington in intimate association with the Secretary of War himself and with that brother who is said to have fallen while fighting against us. If these things be true, as they are believed to be true by this Department, he can certainly be nothing less than an enemy. If he should still claim allegiance to this Government he would be indeed a traitor.

The Secretary of War therefore deeply regrets that he cannot grant your magnanimous request, which he regards as only another instance


*Colonel James Cameron, killed at Bull Run.