HDQRS. HOFFMAN'S BATT., DEPOT PRISONERS OF WAR,
New Orleans, Ohio, October 16, 1863.
Colonel WILLIAM HOFFMAN,
Commissary-General of Prisoners, Washington, D. C.:
COLONEL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 12th instant, in which you state that you do not feel at liberty to either ask for the Michigan or for more companies here, and expressed the opinion that there is no danger. I feel it my duty to say frankly that I think differently. I have had no consultation with my officers on the subject except Major Scovill, but I know that all the officers here are of the same opinion that I am. The number of prisoners is 2,452. They are almost desperate set of men, with great smartness and a conviction that their escape would be better than a victory in any battle, and that their risk would not be as great. You cannot judge of their opinion by that of other men. These men for a chance will risk as much as others for a certainly. If they should succeed in taking our arms they could, with the lumber from fences and buildings here, cross over back of the island where the distance is less than a mile of shallow water, land could march to Canada in two days. The whole Canada shore, from the mouth the river up, is filled with rebel sympathizers, and they would furnish boats at once for crossing, to say nothing of their chances for stealing boats on this side and lumber for crossing.
This battalion is ten men short, besides disabled, sick, and absent, and no service has so few absent as ours has always. If the prisoners should agree on are volt we should of course have to rely on sentinels for alarm, and the danger is then the small force would not be aroused so as too have full advantage of their arms before so large a force could be thrown against them. The prisoners have every facility of scaling fences by their bunks in the quarters and the stairs. If one plank of the fence could be got of for broken they could strip off the planks as much as they wanted. They are getting up rolls and organizations in side, much of which we learn, and of course more we do not. They know their strength exact ours. I do nothing our force should be so small as to tempt so important a class of prisoners to make revolts, and that I should fail to do my duty if I did not so report to you, and I am unwilling to take the responsibility of not so reporting. What the objections are to the Michigan coming here I do not know. She is in the harbor at Erie much of the time. Companies ordered here could occupy tents until it was found whether it was necessary to recruit companies permanently, which would depend on whether the prisoners remain in such numbers.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. S. PIERSON,
Lieutenant-Colonel Hoffman's Battalion, Commanding.
OFFICE COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS,
October 19, 1863.
Respectfully referred to the Secretary of War.
The small steamer which runs as ferry-boat to Sandusky is provided with a mountain howitzer, and by its means the escape of prisoners from the island can readily be prevented. The guard is armed with muskets and revolvers, and with ordinary vigilance should always be prepared to defeat any ademption the part of the prisoners to make
25 R R -SERIES II, VOL VI