CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA WAR DEPARTMENT,
Richmond, Va., September 30, 1863.
A. M. KEILEY, Esq., House of Delegates:
SIR: I have read with some surprise your letter of the 29th instant relative to the action of the officers in charge of the prisoners of war at Belle Isle. The course pursued in the case mentioned is so different from the general practice as known to me that I think there must be some mistake, and will be pleased if you will furnish the name of your informant that I may direct investigation.
Your obedient servant,
JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War.
RICHMOND, September 30, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War:
SIR: In the matter of the accompanying letter of Honorable A. G. Brown,* I have the honor to make the following report:
Governor Brown seems to have misapprehended the fact connected with the recent declaration of exchange. You are aware that I have been endeavoring for more than two months to come to some agreement with the Federal agent of exchange as to what paroles should be received and what rejected. You also know that is spite of my efforts no agreement has been made, and that I was compelled on my own responsibility as agent of exchange to make the declaration to which Governor Brown refers. That exchange released no one from captivity on either side. It was simply a set-off of paroles on both sides. I would very gladly have secured the release of our Gettysburg prisoners, now in captivity at the North, by exchanging them for officers and men paroled by General Lee if it could have been done. In order no accomplish that the Federal assent was necessary, and that I could not procure. The enemy would not agree to even more favorable terms to him.
Governor Brown seems to be under the impression that the Federals paroled at Gettysburg have been released from their paroles. Such is not necessarily the case. I have paroles in my possession other than those given at Gettysburg, greater in number than the Vicksburg captures, which I have declared exchanged.
It has been the constant practice of the agents of exchange on both sides, whenever one of them declared an exchange of paroled men, to allow the other to select the equivalents who were to be discharged from parole on his side. In no instance has ever a paroled man been exchanged for one in captivity. Paroled men are exchanged for paroled men, and those in captivity for such as are in similar condition. You know what persistent efforts I have made to secure the release of all officers and men on both sides and how the enemy has constantly refused our fair offers. I sympathize with Governor Brown and his most excellent wife in their affliction, and I am sure when he is acquainted with all the facts he will not only acquit this office of all blame, but will be satisfied that everything which honor and a proper regard for the interests of the Confederacy would permit has been done to secure the release of his son.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Agent of Exchange.