WASHINGTON, D. C., April 29, 1863.
Major - General BURNSIDE, Cincinnati, Ohio.
GENERAL: The Secretary of War has shown me a letter of General Negley in regard to two negroes formerly belonging to belligerent citizens who are now advertised under local laws of Kentucky to be sold for expenses of arrest, keeping, &c. The same game was attempted last year in Missouri under the local laws of that State to sell back into slavery those who by the law of Congress were made free by the acts of their former masters. I directed the sheriff to release them all and forbade the sales. He at first objected but on a full and frank discussion of the matter he obeyed the order. I retained the men a short time in the employ of the Quartermaster's Department, mainly as a precaution for their own security, and then let them go where they pleased.
There can be no doubt, general, that the law of Congress on this subject overrides any State law. Negroes freed by the operations of the war and taken into our service are under the protection of the military, and I have always considered it may duty to thwart and defeat the operations of negro stealers to have them resold into slavery. I will send you a copy of my letter to the sheriff tomorrow. The reasons there given are fortified by the law of last July on the same subject, and this last law is of much more general application than the formed one.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. HALLECK,
General - in - Chief.
JUDGE - ADVOCATE - GENERAL'S OFFICE, April 29, 1863.
Major - General HALLECK:
The written or the within letter,* E. M. Strange, was found within our picket - lines under circumstances which let to his arrest on suspicion of his being a spy. He admits that his arrest was proper. He surrendered up certain papers with a view of proving that although capable of inventing and selling to the rebel authorities machines for destroying the iron - clad ships of his own Government he is not capable of being a spy, a conclusion which is regarded as decidedly a non sequitur from the premises. He alleges that these papers show him to be the inventor of these machines and that he sold the privilege of using them (of course in destroying the war vessels of the United States) to the Confederate authorities for which he has a large claim against them. He asks that the papers be returned to him in order doubtless that he may be enabled to collect the claim of which they are written evidence. He seems to expect not only that this assistance shall be given to him in reference to a claim originating in action on his part intended to aid in overthrowing the Government, but also in the event he is not permitted to return with his papers South that facilities shall be extended to him for patenting his inventions at Washington with a view to their being used against Great Britain should a war which he thinks has been fully provoked occur with that power. He does not appear willing that any use should be made of these inventions against the rebels, but declares that no possible consideration of gain or power could induce him to take up arms against his people in Virginia. Because, however, of his natural animosity against Great Britain he would gladly assist in a war against her.
* Not found.