RICHMOND, VA., December 2, 1862.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War.
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the inclosed papers* indorsed with a request for my opinion and report.
The prisoners who are held by the Federal authorities are citizens of one of the Confederate States. So also are those who are held by us. The proposition made is to release one set on condition of the discharge of the other. In other words it is a proposal to exchange our own citizens who have been arrested for disloyalty to our Government for other citizens of the Confederate States who in defiance of the usages of civilized warfare have been arrested by the enemy.
I am well satisfied from the course of the Federal authorities that it is their anxious desire to consummate just such a system as is contained in this proposal. It is a deeply laid design to interfere with the administration of justice in the Confederate States and to give practical immunity to such of their friends and partisans in the Confederate States as may preach and practice disloyalty.
There is no sort of reciprocity in the proposed arrangement. We are asked toe exchange our own people for our own people. One or more of these parties is subject to the conscript act. In a military point of view what real equivalent do we get for him? Moreover would not the acceptance of a proposal like this be a practical invitation to every man who was inclined to be disloyal to proclaim his hostility to our Government in order that by arrest and subsequent exchange he might relieve himself from conscription? If this request is granted other parties in similar circumstances will claim the benefit of the precedent and demand the exchange of such loyal citizens as the enemy may have wrongfully captured for our own disposal people.
Our Government has already formally protested against the arrest of such of our people as are not connected with military organizations. We have officially declared to the enemy that persons so taken will not be recognized as lawful captures and therefor not subject to exchange. We have that if persisted in such a course will be met by retaliation.
An acquiescence in the present proposal is substantially an invitation to a future arrest of our non-combatant citizens. Even if the exchange were made there is no guaranty that the same persons would not be arrested again within a week. My own course heretofore has been to refuse any such negotiation as the one proposed.
I shall not consummate any such arrangement unless I am specifically instructed to do so.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
Agent of Exchange.
CASTLE THUNDER, December 2, 1862.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON, Richmond, Va.
DEAR SIR: I am a prisoner of war belonging to the First Battalion of Connecticut Cavalry and have been confined here since the 12th of October, and I beg that you will please investigate the matter as there have been several exchanges since I have been here.
I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
CHAS. H. MARSH,
First Battalion Connecticut Cavalry.