Wool and make inquiry into the truth of a report so derogatory to the reputation of Major Vinton.
2. Mr. Edward Taylor, of Cincinnati, will be sent you inexchange for Mr. E. S. Ruggles.
3. I declin e the exchange of Lieutenant D. S. Gordon, U. S . Cavalry, for Lieutenant John L. Hurt, a volunteer officer. Lieutenant Hurt will return to his captors unless a volunteer officer of equal rank is received in exchange.
4. I inclose an open letter to be forwarded to an old friend of mine inNew York, counsel for our privateers, in answer to one received from him by flag of truce in relation to thetreatment of prisoners. It may be well tp peruse it for information before forwarding it.
I am, your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAIMIN,
Secretary of War.
WAR DEPARTMENT, Richmond, Va., January 26, 1862.
SAMUEL L. M. BARLOW, Esq.,
Merchangs' Exchange, New york.
DEAR SIR; Your letter* of the 16th ultimo in relaiton to the treament of prisoners reached me on the 18th instant. I had noticed and appreciated the generouls spirit with which your firm as well as other members of theNew York bar had volunteered their services in defense of the prisoenrs taken by your Gvernemnt from the privateer Savannah, but my intimate acquaintance with yourself and partners had led me to expect such action on your part and it excited nosurpirse. It only served to add to the esteem in which I had always held you. I accept at one as unquestionabley true all that you say on the subject of the treatment of our officers and semaen captured on the Savannah, yet you do not because you cannot deny that they arein jail as felons, that men captured at sea in time of open war with national ommssions in their possession are on trial forlife as pirates.
I mayadd that I am assured on what seems that best authority that a midshipman of our Navy, either Hudgins or Hicks, perhaps both, is in a felon's cell and has been put in irons. The officer so treated was captured as prize- master on board of avessel taken at sea by our national war stemer Sumter, which is habitually designated as a pirate by allyour newspapers and is now awaiting his trial too as a felon. In this state of facts you make to me an appeal in behalf of COlonels Lee and Cogswell and other prisoenrs in our hands and friends of yours.
You know me too well not to be entierely persuaded how abhorrent to my feelings is a contest of cruelty and how joyfully I would extend to these unfortunate gentlemen every kindness and courtesy which could be deemed compatible with our mutual positionsl. In proof of this I need only point to the fact that the U. S . officers captured in Texas were released on parole and sent home before your Governmetn had shocked and outraged our sense of justice and humanity by its treatment of the prisoners of war taken on the Savannah.
The question, permit me to say, is not whether felons are well or illtreted in New york or Richmond, in Boston or Charleston . It is whether prisoenrs of war are to be treated as felons at all. It is whether this war is to be conducted as between civiliezed naitns or savages. God knows how infinitely I would prefer the former and how
*See p. 162.