men as reported to me have not until now been in a condition to be removed without danger to the lives of at least a portion of them. I expected to have had them transferred to you at an early date, and I made repeated inquires and even visit them myself to that end, but at my last visit some two weeks since I learned the morre than a week must then elapse before they could all be removed in safety. I then took the earliest opportunity afterwards to make to you the proposition I did, and I did not specify that the whole number (which is twenty) could go because I still feared that one case (of amputation) of not one or two others might not be transferable.
This I trust may satisfy you as to the cause of the delay, and a part of your men being now well and able-bodied while a portion of our men as we understand were wounded the return proposed seemed but fair and just, while by it these thirty or forty prisoners might be returned to their friends at least if of no other utility to their respective services.
Though I of course can well conceive reasons why you should now not desire that our men be returned they were not in my throughts, nor did they occur tome at all before the reading of your letter, nor would they be of any importance or advantage to ourselves in fact.
As to the surrender I would state that we considered that as unconditional. There was evidently no alternative for the garrison but that or to be speedily blown up by their own magazine or to be at the mercy of at the mercy of a storming column which I was arranging, and if it was arranged as a matter of humanity that your sick and wounded might be returned it was not for a moment supposed by us that these men were to be at liberty to take up arms against us without exchange, and General Hunter stated that he never did or would approve any terms of surrender with such a condition.
The proposition of requiring an oath as according to the laws of war for non-commissioned men appeared sufficiently to indicate the rank of those in our hands, for notwithstanding the reports in the public prints of the efforts of your chief to absolve your officers from their paroles to us by some assumed law (if any such law could influence a gentleman officer) we should still ask only the parole from your officers, especially those of the character of your late commander of Fort Pulaski, who with all the courage and all the apparently sincere devotion to your cause that you could desire still exhibit such other canbid and noble traits as to call for our high consideration and respect, as much as could be given to any one situated as he was, and such as toinduce me in my official report of the surrender (though at the risk of much abuse that I have received from the unreflecting or ignorant) to recommend the return to him of his own sword (which has since been done), a courtesy which I may say inpassing is neither the first nor second nor third that it has been my lot to extend to your higher officers in this unfortunate war, and which has been cordially acknowledged by themselves or theier friends in every case except this last in which I was actuated by the dictates of humanity alone.
As the lad (Henry H. Kinder) who was taken wounded at the capture of this place in November last was promised his liberty on taking the usual oath some three weeks since he is still permitted to depart and will be the bearer of this letter to you.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. BENHAM,