HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
Hilton Head, S. C., May 25, 1863.
Admiral S. F. DU PONT,
Commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Port Royal Harbor.
ADMIRAL: I hasten to acknowledge that I find from an unofficial interview with Captain C. R. P. Rodgers, your chief of staff, that a portion of my letter to you of this day's date was based on a misapprehension of the third paragraph of your letter to me under date May 19, 1863, a misapprehension which if you will review that letter you will easily understand. I also find that certain expressions in my letter have been construed as indicating a feeling unfriendly to yourself or at least of personal dissatisfaction with your conduct while their true purport was exclusively directed against what I deemed and must continue to deem an impolitic act on the part of one branch of the Government.
I feel that in can hardly be necessary for me to disavow any intention of slight in the letter which I now beg to withdraw or to reassure you of my sincere respect and friendship. Considering the delicate nature of the relations subsisting between the two branches of the service it is rather to be wondered at that so few misunderstandings should have occurred than that this one misunderstanding should have arisen. And now having I trust fully put away anything of personal unpleasantness in this controversy I must reiterate my opinion that in view of the action of the rebel Congress as reported all the men an officers of my command outside the laws and usages of civilized warfare and condemning us to death if captured that no grosser outrage or folly could be committed by the Government than to tolerate in any part of the theater of war any exchange of prisoners until this act of the rebel Congress shall have been repealed or disavowed by the military despotism controlling the Confederacy; and more especially should such exchanges cease in the case of prisoners captured i of the South against which this legislation is more pointedly aimed. That the prisoners captured by the forces under your command and now in your hands are of less intrinsic value than an equal number of prisoners of similar grades belonging to the forces of the Union may be at once admitted, but in view of the essentially aristocratic character of the rebellion and the fact that the prisoners referred to are cadets of the best families in South Carolina I thought and still think that they are eminently prisoners who should be held as hostages for the safety of any officers or men of this command who may fall into the enemy's hands. It is now nearly a year since I and the members of my staff were declared outlaws to be executed wherever found by a general order from the rebel War Department and no protest was made by our Government against this order even when returning me to duty on what appeared to be and may yet prove a hazardous expedition. In my own case I had no protest to offer, but against continuing exchanges while the officers and men of my command are threatened with disgraceful deaths if captured I must and do protest with all the energy of my nature. The employment of negroes as soldiers is now a settled part of the policy of our Government and it is unjust to the negroes and to the white troops who will have eventually to serve with them that exchanges should be continued which tacitly admit the right of the rebel Government to violate the laws and usages of war at pleasure.
I have the honor to be, admiral, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,