Colonels Dougherty and McClurken, captured at Belmont, and the assurance of the commanding general at Cairo that he would reciprocate the conrtesy if events should make it desirable.
I note that you say my letter was received under a flag of truce "nearly within of your [my] guns and in the presence of our [your] armed forces. "
As to the flag appearing in the presence of your armed forces and nearly within range of my guns it was purely accidetal. The ladies whose safe conduct the falg was inendend to secure arrived at the post from Nashville on the evening of the 21st isntant. Preparation were made to send them up under a flag on the 22nd and my letter was written and instrusted to Captain Blake. The departure of the flag was prevented by the heavy fall of rain. The left this morning, the boat taking its departure from a point considerably below my batteries, from whence your position in the river (five miles above) was not visible. It appears that several guns were fired from the fort prior to the departure of the boat, but as my artillery officers are constantly practicing the firig attracted no particular and the presence of your armed forces in the river it seems was not know to the officer in charge of the flag until after his boat had passed arond the point.
This statement of facts I am informed has already been made to you by Captain Blake and is repeated here only because of the remark above quoted with you have taken pains to underline. Allow me to assure myself that officers of your rank and reputation could nproper motive in sending a flage of truce. I would be unwilling to believe such a suspicion could be entertained by and mind except one conscious of its capacity to venture upon such an abuse.
I have the honor to be, gentlemen, your obedient servant,
Major-General, Commanding Confederate Forces.
[Inclosure Numbers 4.]
CAIRO, ILL., February 24, 1862.
Major General L. POLK, Commanding at Columbus, Ky.
GENERAL: In answer to your request "to reciprocate the courtesy shown to the families of officers of the U. S. Army after the bttle of Belmont, in allowing them to visit those officer who were prisoner," by asking permission to have passed through our lines "the families of General Buckner, Colonels Hanson and Madeira,"
captured at Fort Donelson, accompanied by certain gentleman as escorts, we have to inform you that we will cheerfully comply with your requst, subject to the approval of the President, but limited to the wives and children of those officers and excluding their escort; but to provide them with a protector, Colonel Thom, an aide-de-camp of Major-General Halleck, and one of the bearers of our flag of truce, has offered to take them in charge as far as Saint Louis where they will learn the destinations of the captured officers which are unknown to us. The flag of truce will wait if necessary long enough to obtain your action on this proposition.
Before concluding this note we feel constrained to make some remarks upon your abuse yesterday of the sacred character of a flag of truce. Upon approchanging the batteries of Columbus with armed forces and when within the supposed range of your artillery you fired three heavy guns, and it add to this hostile demonstration one of your gunboats rounded Belmont Point apparently to give battle, but immediately upon discovering our strength and position retired. Soon after there appeared an unarmed steamer with Captain Blake bearing your flag of