HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA,
September 21, 1863.
Major General N. P. BANKS,
Commanding U. S. Forces in Louisiana:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your reply to my communication respecting the release of the prisoners captured by me in June last from the parole given by them.
My motive in discharging these men on their parole was the humane one of relieving them from the position, extremely unpleasant under the most favorable conditions, of prisoners of war under close guard. This release was not effected until after the lapse of many days subsequent to their capture. It was made at a distance from their own lines, and with no force threatening me so as to render it an object to be rid of the burden of guarding and maintaining them. It was done with the assent and approval of their immediate commanding officers, and in this respect the requirements of the cartel of exchange were complied with to the letter. Moreover, their release under parole was in accordance with a practice which had all the force of an express agreement between the commanders of the opposing armies, and which controlled the case of the men captured on the Diana, the regularity of whose parole you recognize.
The absence of all similarity between this case and the case of captured officers and men paroled on the field to avoid the necessity of guarding and removing them, is too obvious to be dwelt upon. The agreement between the agents of exchange, a copy of which was made to prevent a repetition of the latter abuse, and although it had no application to the case of the prisoners released at Brashear, I had no notice of it, and could have received none at the time I returned your captured men. I had the honor of calling your attention in my first communication to the eighth rule in regard to paroles, published by the Government of the United states on the 28th of February last, for an official copy of which I am indebted to you. It I there prescribed as the proper rule of conduct for a prisoner of war whose engagement is disowned by his Government to return and surrender himself to the capturing power. This is the case of the Brashear prisoners, and I claim, as I have claimed, compliance with the established usages of war, by their return to their original condition as prisoners of war.
It is highly desirable that for the future all occasion for the renewal of difficulties respecting the exchange or release of prisoners of war in this military district should be removed.
I assume, general, that you concur with me in the propriety of alleviating as far as possible the condition of those whom the fate of war may place in the power of either belligerent.
If you think that a convention can be entered into by which the release of the prisoners under parole can be effected without the necessity of transporting them to distant points for exchange or release, I am ready, upon my part, to concur in any arrangement which will attain this object.
I have the honor to be, yours, &c.,