I demanded of Colonel Wade some explanation of this inhuman course; he being so drunk only made me an idiotic reply. I then looked round for some other officer and discovered Captain Burford, General Wheeler's assistant adjutant-general, in whom I recognized an old acquaintance. I appealed to him; he was powerless from the fact that the whole gang was drunk. He, however, reported the facts to General Wheeler, who authorized him to parole the Hastings on condition that she carry no more supplies for the Federal Government. I accepted the parole. I then took on board the wounded off the steamer Trio, also from the steamer Parthenia, and had succeeded in obtaining permission to pass on, when they for the first time discovered that the deck of the Hastings was covered with bales of cotton on which our wounded were lying. Wade instantly ordered me to put ashore all the wounded (over 400) that he might burn the cotton, it being theirs by capture and with them a contraband of war. To move the men again was almost impossible. They had been virtually stripped of everything, medicines, rations, clothing; were thirty-five miles from any military post; night coming on, no place of shelter; no place to put our wounded and dying men save a muddy corn-field; a heavy snow had begun to fall and in view of all this and my sympathy for men who for eighteen months had done their duty as true soldiers and who for days and fought under you and only ceased when borne from the field I demanded other terms. I told them I would not move a soul from the boat, &c. All this was reported to Wheeler (at least they said so) and he ordered that I should be held personally responsible for the burning of their cotton on reaching Louisville under penalty of my return to their lines as a prisoner of war. I deemed the terms mild under the circumstances and I immediately accepted them, in which I claim I did my duty. The passengers and soldiers of the Trio and Parthenia were robbed in like manner. After they had done us all the harm they could, barely escaping with our lives, they allowed us to cross the river during the burning of the steamers. While they were preparing to burn the gun-boat Sidell hove in sight and to all appearance made preparations to drive the enemy away but from some cause or other Van Dorn made no fight and surrendered the boat without firing a single shot. They then took possession of her, threw over her guns and arms, fired the three boats and in a short time nothing remained but the charred hulls. On reaching Clarksville I reported by telegraph to Major Sidell, who ordered me to proceed on as rapidly as possible to Louisville and report to Generals Boyle or Wright. This I did, and the inclosed papers* will explain the final result of the unfortunate affair.
Thus hoping that in all this you will not condemn me,
I remain, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. P. GADDIS,
Chaplain Second Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
WASHINGTON, February 19, 1863.
Lieutenant Colonel F. A. DICK:
In consequence of the prevalence of smallpox at Alton you will send no prisoners to this city till further orders. How many could you send from Saint Louis?
Commissary-General of Prisoners.
*See preceding correspondence.