to be traveling around the country firing upon hospital vessels and river steamers. The hospital vessel of this squadron was attacked in sight of me and a volley of musketry fired into the windows while she had on board and being attended with all care some of the wounded prisoners taken at the Post of Arkansas.
A few days since a band of armed desperadoes jumped on the deck of the tug Hercules and killed in cold blood some of the unoffending crew. Men lurk in the woods without a flag or distinguishing mark and fire at any human being they may see on the deck of a steamer without caring or knowing whether it is friend or foe they are bout to murder, and this we are called upon to recognize as civilized warfare. If, sir, you call this carrying on war in a civilized manner we differ very widely in our opinions.
If those who profess to be your followers make on us after the manner of highwaymen I see no reason why they should be treated with the courtesy and kindness which I believe I have the reputation of extending to all prisoners captured in honorable warfare.
I think on due consideration that you will find I have announced no principle not strictly in accordance with the usages of civilized warfare. In this respect I endeavor to set an example of moderation that if wound be well to follow. I have enjoined upon every person under my command to exact the strictest obedience to my order against pillaging or injuring the property of persons on the rivers, and while doing all I canto avert the calamities of war I intend to exact a strict compliance with the usages of war, of humanity and of civilization. If persons claiming to be soldiers deviate form them they can scarcely expect to be treated to any of the enemies of war and their leaders should not claim for them more then they expect themselves.
In this matter of firing on unarmed vessels no good results have arisen. On the contrary is had led to a system of retaliation where unfortunately did not always suffer. It has led to perfect demoralization and brought to the river-banks a set of desperadoes who plunder alike both friend and foe.
This system can do no good toward ending this war and is only destructive to those who had no hand in making it. If General Pemberton is desirous that the war should be conducted on the principle of humanity and civilization all he has to do is to issue and order to stop guerrilla warfare. He can exercise his judgment with regard to any retaliatory measures he may think proper to institute. I presume our soldiers and sailors could easily prepare themselves for any ordeal they might be subjected to and we might hope to see our country aroused at last to a sense of the injuries in inflicted upon it.
DAVID D. PORTER,
Acting Rear-Admiral, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.
WASHINGTON, March 2, 1863.
Lieutenant Colonel F. A. DICK:
Send here for exchange 150 [citizen] prisoners. See my telegram of 14th ultimo. Send to me rolls with charges and sentences. Reply.
Commissary-General of Prisoners.