War of the Rebellion: Serial 118 Page 0102 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records


Murfreesborough, Tenn., December 20, 1862.

Major General W. S. ROSECRANS,

Commanding U. S . Forces, Nashville.

GENERAL: In your letter of the 11th instant you complain that there was in several respects a want of regularity and humanity in the delivery of the Hartsville prisoners.

You charge, first, that the flag presented itself about dark and during a skirmish; second, that the officer who conducted them to your lines insisted upon your receiving them upon grounds of humanity; third, that the lists accompanying them were not original nor attested copies; and fourth, that a third list was sent of which you knew nothing. These charges are so fully met by the commaincation of my inspector- general whih is herwith inclosed as to convince me that you were misinformed as to the facts and that your complaints are groundless. Your assertins as to the unifrm kindness and humanity with which our prisoners are treated by Federal commanders are strngely at variance with facts well known to me. Men now in my camp were recently transported from Cairo to Vicksburg in such a state of destitution from officiel robbery and so exposed to the cold and inclement weather that forty died on one boat during the passage. You are pleased to compare your "idea" of humaninty with ours; I confess to a striking difference. From Butlerr to Boyle a system is practiced the milder features of which as in this case we practice only in retaliation and with repugnance. The alacrity of your own men to fall into our hands and the humiliating expedients you have seen proper to enforce in order to put a stop to it are convincing evidences of the falsity of the charge of inhumanity as practiced by us.

On the other hand the uniform testimony of our returned prisoners and their unyielding aversion to capture indicate their repugnance to your kind of hospitality.

Disagreeable as is this subject it is proper that we should understand each other. The course which has been pursued by Federal commanders and their subordinates in the treatment of Confederate prisoners both of war and of state must cease, and until it does I shall retaliate in kind for war and of state must cease, and until it does I shall retaliate in kind foe every violation of humanity and justice. Our soldiers are either traitors to be hung or prisoners of war to be treated as such. It is not enough for you to say you condemn such actions as form the subject of my complaint. Your condemnation must show its fruits. Your department is small and the stay of prisoners within your jurisdiction limited. They are then turned over to the mercies of others who entertain different views of humaninty perhaps from yourself. My surgeons are imprisoned and treated with indignity and to my protest I am referred to some distant commander on whom I have no mens of operating directly. My soldiers are returned from Northern captivity stripped of all but enough to hide their nakedness and with constitutions undermined from exposure to the weather. It is in vain to appeal for for proper redress and I shall hereafter enforce a policy strictly corresponding to that practiced by your commanders, never, however, losing sight of the higher duties of humanity which will prohibit my imitation of your "idea" except in its least objectionable features.

I have attentively noted your remarks in regard to the future delivery of prisoners. W hen you received instead of rejecting those last sent I considered you as estopped from further complaint and regard your remarks as wholly irrelevant. Under your decision such of your prisoners as fall into my hands shall hereafter be sent to the regular points