NAVY DEPARTMENT, Washington, January 11, 1862.
Honorable WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 10th instant in reference to the prisoners that have been turned over to the U. S. marshal at Key West by naval officers. In giving instructions for the conveyance of the prisoners to New york the Department also proposes to send to the flag-officers a circular letter, a copy of which I inclose, in order that such of them as come within its provisions may be released if you acquiesce in the proposition.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
NAVY DEPARTMENT, Washington, January -, 1862.
Commanding --- Blockading Squadron, ---.
SIR: You may release such persons from the rebel States as shall be captured withing the limits of your command provided they are civilians not in the rebel service and not known to have been engaged in any act against the authority of the United States. Before their release they will be required to sign a written parole not to engage in any hostile act against the United States during the present rebellion.
I am, respectfully, &c.,
SAINT LOUIS, January 12, 1862.
Brigadier General L. THOMAS,
Adjutant-General of the Army, Washington.
GENERAL: * * * Permit me to repeat what I wrote to General McClellan* some weeks ago. the exchange of prisoners of war is a mere military convention which by the laws of war any general commanding an army is authorized to make. An exchanged prisoner is not thereby exempted from punishment for treason or any other offense he may have committed. It is permitted by all civilized countries of the present day, and I should not have hesitated to exercise this authority if I had not been informed that our Government had refused it to other officers similarly situated. +
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. HALLECK,
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, January 13, 1862.
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, Washington.
GENERAL: Some time since I addressed a note to you asking that General Wool might be directed to inquire through General Huger whether Colonel Corcoran would be exchanged for William Smith, convicted of piracy at Philadelphia. The great anxiety of the friends of Colonel Corcoran upon the subject induces me to inquire if you have
* Halleck to McClellan, December 3, p. 150.
+ For omitted portion of this letter see Vol. I, this Series, p. 71, and for Thomas' answer, January 20, 1862, see same volume, p. 74.