War of the Rebellion: Serial 118 Page 0510 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

Washington, April 23, 1863.

General CURTIS:

The Secretary of War authorized the exchange of Major for Major McConnel as recommended in your telegram to General Halleck of yesterday. You will please make the exchange and report your action to Colonel Hoffman.


Major - General.


Honorable E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

SIR: It appears from the letter of Major - General Negley, under date of the 7th instant, that while his force were engage in an expedition into East Tennessee in the summer of the past year two negro slaves escaped from their masters and joined his command where they were employed as servants; that one of them belonged to a Methodist clergyman, and active guerrilla, and the persecutor of citizens in Sweden's cove, and who was with Adams' cavalry at the time they were driven out from that place. The other belonged to a noted rebel residing near Fayettevile. It further appears that the latter negro had previously rendered valuable services to General Mitchel's command as he afterwards did to Major - General Negley by furnishing them secret information, of which fact he held a certificate from General Mitchel.

It is further shown that during the last fall when General Buell's army entered Kentucky these negroes, whose names are Sandy and George, accompanied it, having under the direction of the wagon - master of General negley's division charge of some of the animals be was taking to Louisville, Ky. While en route they were seized as fugitive slaves by the civil authorities at Hardinsburg, Breckinridge County, in that State, where they have remained in jail until the present time, and as stated by the jailer of the county are advertised to be sold as slaves under the local laws of Kentucky on the third Monday in May.

These negroes were under the sixtieth Article of War virtually in the military, service of the United States as retainers to the camp, though at the moment of their arrest they may have been separated from the main body of the army. Being on such service they were not liable to be seized by the civil authorities. But they have a more decided character assigned to them by the ninth section of the act of 17th July, 1862, c. 195. Having been the property on men known to be in open rebellion against the Government of the United States, and taking refuge within the lines of our army which was their status at the time of their arrest, they are declared by the section of the act referred to be "captives of war and forever free of their servitude. " This act is a part of the supreme law of the land to which the local legislation of the States must give way. The civil authorities have no more right to seize detain in prison negroes falling within the purview of the section quoted than they have to seize and imprison other captives of war taken by the armies of the United States.

It is understood that the disgraceful practice of kidnapping negroes declared to be "captives of war and free" under the act of Congress with a view of their sale into slavery under local laws extensively prevails and if should be suppressed with a vigorous and decided hand. The supreme law and the right it gives to the military custody and control of the victims of these shameless oppression should be enforced with