DEPOT PRISONERS OF WAR,
Near Sandusky, Ohio, February 16, 1863.
Colonel WILLIAM HOFFMAN,
Commissary-General of Prisoners, Washington, D. C.
COLONEL: Before the dispatch of the 10th was sent a paper had been thoroughly circulated for all to sign who wish to go South for exchange. On sending in the roll of those and also to ascertain about the twenty-nine who had since then arrived many more expressed the wish to go. Your dispatch on the 13th reads 'send all," and I therefore advised you that our roll had increased to 212. I am in receipt of your dispatch of to-day in which you direct to hold till I hear from you again and shall wait. I wrote you this afternoon about ice. It appears to be growing colder; and if so it will be safe crossing in a day or two by the time this reaches you. This is written in the evening.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. S. PIERSON,
CIRCULAR.] HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
New Orleans, February 16, 1863.
The accompanying order and circulars relating to the immediate employment of negroes will explain a system of labor that has been suggested and adopted for the present year. The provost-marshals are authorized and directed to receive and record the assent of planters or other persons thereto, and when such written consent is given officers and soldiers and especially the chaplains of the Army and all other persons acting under the authority of the United States are requested to assist as far as practicable without violence in inducing the return of negroes and their families to the plantations where they have been accustomed to labor.
Without regular employment many thousands of negroes must perish during the year. More than $60,000 were applied to the support of dependent and destitute persons in the month of January. The support of many thousands of unemployed negroes will increase the burden to such extent as to make it impracticable to continue the charity. The immediate cultivation of corn, sugar, cotton and other products is imperatively demanded upon every consideration of public interest and for this no other labor is now available. On the plantations they will have secured to them by the officers of the Government sufficient and wholesome food, clothing, kind treatment and a share of the crop they produce.
The compensation may seem small but in view of the pecuniary advances that must be made and the risks that attend industry in a period of war it is not unreasonable. Those who are not thus engaged will be employed on the public works or in the quartermaster's department without pay except their food and clothing, medical attendance and such instruction and care as may be furnished to them and their women and children.
In view of all the facts and after most anxious consideration the commanding general believes it to be the best system of labor that can now be adopted, and assuming the entire responsibility of the act he calls upon the commanding generals and all officers of the Government to assist in its immediate execution.
N. P. BANKS,