Montgomery, Ala., May 8, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
SIR: I am advised that among the prisoners recently captured near Rome, Ga., by General Forrest are officer found serving within the limits of the State of Alabama with armed slaves inciting slaves to insurrection within this State. If this information proves to be correct the departure from the rules of civilized warfare will and should deprive them of the benefit of any convention giving them the privileges of prisoners of war and render them amenable to the laws of the State of Alabama as criminals. In order that the military authorities might not be trammeled by any action in advance which might prejudice the claim of the State of Alabama upon these prisoners I telegraphed to General Bragg my intention to demand them for trial under the laws of this State, and the propriety of granting it can easily be determined upon the reports which General Forrest will make of the results of his expedition. If his report should state the fact to be as I have been informed the case of these officers will be clearly within the announcement of the intention of the President in relation to the proclamation of President Lincoln that they shall be surrendered on demand to the State authorities for trial.
But another matter has been brought to my notice in reference to this capture to which I wish especially to call your attention, not with a view of embarrassing the action of the Government, but to arrive at just and correct conclusions as to the proper course to pursue not only in relation to the present but to future captures of our own citizens willingly serving in the ranks of the enemy. Among the prisoners captured by General Forrest I understand there are two companies of Alabamians who have enlisted as such in the army of the enemy, and having been engaged with known enemies of the State and the Confederate not justified by any rule of war or by necessity have been captured on the soil of Alabama not only levying was against the State but instigating slaves to rebellion and committing deeds of rapine and destruction upon the property of its citizens without the excuse which can pertain to military necessity or the course of war. If the uniform of our enemy is to continue t protect their officers and men in their depredations upon private property and wanton destruction of commodities which cannot be classed as munitions of war to say nothing of assaults upon peaceful citizens and inhuman treatment of the helpless and unprotected or their instigation of our slaves to leave their service is it also to protect our recreant and traitorous citizens who still claiming themselves as Alabamians afford to our enemies the means of striking at the heart of the State and when captured claim the flag of our enemy as their protection? Ample opportunity was given to these traitors to cast their lot with the enemy and remove this reproach and stigma from the State. With a forbearance before unknown one of the earliest acts of the Confederacy was to invite those who preferred the rule of our enemies to leave our borders in peace and establish themselves in the Government of their choice. But these traitors preferred to remain that their crime might strike deeper and their blow fall heavier, and having chosen their status as citizens of a State of the Confederacy they should not be allowed to escape the penalty of treason they have invited. They stand as citizens levying was as well as giving aid and comfort to our enemies.
They have chosen this portion deliberately well knowing the penalty, rejecting the clemency of the Government, leaving in many instances