War of the Rebellion: Serial 118 Page 0956 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

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that order they were accordingly sent. This I learned from General Bragg in reply to a telegram directing their retention. On inquiry here I find there was no Alabama regiment (so-called) among the prisoners, but of a so-called Tennessee regiment there were two companies which are believed to have been composed of Alabamians. The privates had before the receipt of your letter been sent off under the cartel. Some of the officers of these companies as well as of the other regiments captured by General Forrest remain, and they will suffice perhaps to exhibit the determination of the Government and serve as exemplars of the punishment which will be visited on such crimes. The measure of forbearance so long exhibited by the authorities and people of the South under the outrages and atrocious violations of all the usages of civilized warfare by the enemy has been at last exhausted, and it only remains to vindicate by unavoidable retaliation the wrongs of our army and people and if possible deter by fear our unscrupulous foes insensible to all higher influences from a repetition of their atrocities.

Yours, with esteem,

JAMES A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War.

WAR DEPARTMENT, Richmond, Va., May 23, 1863.

His Excellency Z. B. VANCE, Governor of North Carolina.

SIR: Your letter of the 18th instant has been received. The resignation of Lieutenant-Colonel Keith was accepted at the office of the Adjutant and Inspector General the 15th instant. No proceedings of a court-martial in his case have been received. His resignation was accepted on the recommendation of Colonel Palmer, commanding the brigade, and Major-General Maury, the examining board having reported against his competency. The Adjutant and Inspector General was not aware of the facts of the alleged murder as applying to this officer at the time of his action on the resignation, there being no reference to the facts in the papers before him. In a communication to the Department by Lieutenant-Colonel Keith the claims that Brigadier-General Heth gave him a verbal order to this effect: "I want no reports from you about your course at Laurel. I do not want to be troubled with any prisoners and the last one of them should be killed; " that he went on further to state that he had been troubled with several prisoners from Laurel, N. C., and he did not want any more brought to Knoxville. This statement is supported by the deposition of a Doctor Thompson, and Keith states in his letter that he can prove it by another witness. The communication of Keith and the deposition of Thompson were submitted to General Heth for remarks. He says that he gave written instructions to Keith which will be found on the books of the Department of East Tennessee. He admits that he told Keith that those found in arms ought not to be treated as enemies, and in the event of an engagement with them to take no prisoners as he considered that they had forfeited all such claims, but he denies in strong terms the making use of any remarks which would authorize maltreatment of prisoners who had been accepted as such or to women and children.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War.