Fortress Monroe) the inclosed copy of a letter* addressed byt the Honorable Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War of the UnitedStates, to the Rev. Bishop Ames and the Honorable Hamilton Fish.
From this letter you willpercieve that the Government of the Untied States has appointed the two last- named gentlemen commissioners charged with the duty of visiting and providing for the comfort of the prisoners of war taken by us from the enemy, as well as obtaining "all prticulars useful" to be known by this Government 9the Governmetn of the United States) "for the purpose of effecting their exchange or release"
I cordially welcome this proposition wich as you are aware is in entire accordance with the views always entertained by this Government, and desire to meet the propsal of the Secretary of War of the United States more than half- way. I propse to render unnecessary that part of the mission interested by him to the commissioners he has selected which relates to supplying the wants and provising for the comfort of the prisoners of was by exchanging them all, man for man and grade for grade, on equal terms, and thsu restoring them to their country and their homes.
With this view you have been selected as commissioners to meet the two commissiners sent by the enemy. Having been assured in advance of your wilingness to \accept this honorable and humane mission I now communicate for your guidance the following instructions:
1. You will proceed to Norfolk and communicate with General Benjamin Huger, commanding there, who is instructed to take such measures as may be right and proper to procure you a safeguard and passage to Fortress Monroe, where Messrs. Ames and Fish are now awaiting an answer to their communicaiton, with the view of acceding at once to the proposition of exchange and of release of prisoners of war on equal terms, thus sparing those gentlemen the necessity of further travel in the accomplishment of their humane purpose.
2. If it shall be for any reason unacceptable to the enemy that you should hold your interview with Messrs. Ames and Fish at Fortress Monroe your communicationwith them may take place on board of a cartel vessel between the strongholds of the two nations, as is usual in such cases between belligerent powers.
3. You are empowered to agree with Messrs. Ames and Fish for a general exchange of prisoners of war on equal terms, man for man and officer for officer of equal grade, assimilating the grades of officers of the army and navy in accordance with established usage where necessary, and agreeing upon equitable terms for the number of men or officers of inferior grade to be exchanged for any officer of higher grade when the occasion shall arise for such an exchange.
4. If upon the conclusion of such exchange eight partys shall remain possessed of prisoners of war for whom the other can offer no exchanging in possession of prisoners shall grant to the other the permission to keep and maintian a commissary general of prisoners within the country where the prisoners are kept, in accordance with the laws of war and international usage in modern times.
5. Or you may go even further and agree- inasmuch as it is believed that we posses more prisoenrs of war then the enemy- that we will relase all the surplus prisoners o parole, with the agreement that any prisoners of war taken from us by the enemy shall be restored to us in exchagne as fast as captured, and that this system shall be
*Omitted here; see p. 222.