War of the Rebellion: Serial 116 Page 0830 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

act relative to prisoners of war it is provided that the rations furnished prisoners of war shall be the same in quantity and quality as those furnished enlisted men in the Army of the Confederacy," and you ask: "By what law or for what reason in settling the bill for boarding of prisoners by George D. Pleasants is the commutation value of said rations placed at 50 cents, being much higher than the same allowed to enlisted men of the Confederacy?" In reply I have the honor to state that according to my understanding of the law you refer to, it has no reference to commutation whatever, and that by directing that rations furnished prisoners of war shall be the same in quantity and quality as furnished to enlisted men it means issues in kind according to regulations and therefore cannot apply to commutation on the cost of rations. By the twenty-fourth section of the act (Numbers 52) "for the establishment and organization of the Army of the Confederate States of America," approved March 6, 1861, it is provided that "each enlisted man of the Army of the Confederate States shall receive one ration per day," and the twenty-fifth section of the same act declares that "rations shall generally be issued, but under circumstances rendering commutation necessary, the commutation value of the ration shall be fixed by the Secretary of War to be approved by the President. " Again, by a law of the United States approved March 13, 1836, the commutation value of rations for troops is fixed at 12 1/2 cents, and by the act of June 18, 1846, the commutation value of a day's subsistence was placed at 50 cents for volunteers when traveling to rendezvous and places of discharge to their homes. So much for the law which directs issues in kind, but at the same time authorizes commutation in certain cases such as the present by regulations of the War Department. In the regulations of the War Department relative to subsistence of the army will be found the following authority for commutation: Paragraph 1091: "When a soldier is detached on duty and it is impracticable to carry his subsistence with him it will be commuted at 75 cents per day. " Paragraph 1092: "The exprenses of a soldier placed temporarily in a private hospital will be paid not to exceed 75 cents per day. " Paragraph 1093: "The ration of a soldier stationed in a city with no opportunity of messing will be commuted at 40 cents. " The last it should be borne in mind is exclusive of quarters and fuel which the soldier is equally entitled to, the cost of which if added to the commutation will beyond 50 cents per day. Other authority for commutation at 75 cents a day might be cited, but I deem it unnecessary as I think I have established beyond a doubt that commutation of rations has the clearest warrant both of law and regulations. The reason for reporting for payment the account of George D. Pleasants at 50 cents per day I hope to show as equally satisfactory that I had the warrant of law for so doing. If the Government owned in the city a building suitable for the safe-keeping of these prisoners of war, and also had a commissary charged with the duty of subsisting them then this issue to them in kind would have been in quantity and quality as the law directs and no such account for board as that of Mr. Pleasants would have been contracted or presented. Such, however, not being the case the Confederate authorities have thought proper to seek to Mr. Pleasants, who is the sheriff of Henrico County, the accommodations of his prison, officers and guards for their safe-keeping and maintenance. For this he has charged the Government 50 cents a day each, which includes quarters, fuel, sleeping convenience and guard, which in my judgment was abundantly reasonable at any time and particularly cheap at this, when the coast of bacon, coffee, sugar and other component parts of the