wealthiest and most influential rebels of the Sea Islands; and though we have not positive information as to the status of the remaining four it may be inferred from their association that they are the cadets of families from whom it would be of importance to hold hostages.
The retaliation resolutions announced by the Charleston Mercury and other semi-official papers of the rebellion as having been passed by the late rebel Congress condemn to death if captured all white officers commanding or acting in concert with colored troops, thus condemning to death every officer of my command and they further declare that colored soldiers shall not be held entitled to exchange or to the rights and usages of war. This declaration would seem to be only a formal announcement of what has for some time been the practice in the Western departments where many colored teamsters, laborers and servants employed by the army when captured by the enemy have been sold into slavery.
I submit that the flag should protect and cover all its defenders irrespective of their color and am well convinced that in this statement I only express your policy. I submit that until the retaliation resolutions of the rebel Congress shall have been formally disavowed by the Government at Richmond all exchanges of prisoners should cease, more especially in those departments where this class of soldiers is employed.
All prisoners captured and more particularly those of the aristocratic caste should be held as hostages to be hung man for man with any who may be executed by the rebels under the resolutions in question.
Five of the prisoners now on board the Vermont are of the best class to be held as hostages, their families being rich, powerful and malignant; and I could not but regard it as an act of great injustice to the officers and men of my command to have these "young darlings" of the South exchange for an equal number of non-commissioned officers and privates captured elsewhere.
Begging most respectfully your favorable attention to the request of this letter, I have the honor to be, sir,
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH, Hilton Head, Post Royal, S. C., May 27, 1863.
Hon. GIDEON WELLES,
Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.
SIR: I have the honor to call your attention to certain prisoners now on board the U. S. S. Vermont, captured on Edisto Island in April last by an armed expedition from the U. S. bark Kingfisher and have most respectfully to ask under the peculiar circumstances of the case that these prisoners, nine in number, may be turned over to my custody.
From copies of the Charleston Mercury, regarded as a semi-official paper, and from extracts from the Richmond papers reproduced in the Northern press, it appears that the late rebel Congress passed an act condemning to death all white officers commanding or acting in concert with colored troops, thus in fact condemning to death all the white officers of this department, and further declaring that colored prisoners of war.
Until this alleged act of the rebel Congress shall have been disproved or disavowed by the rebel Government I most respectfully but earnestly