War of the Rebellion: Serial 119 Page 0452 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

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Richmond, Va., October 31, 1863.

Brigadier General S. A. MEREDITH, Agent of Exchange:

SIR: In relation to your communication of the 23rd instant, inclosing a letter from W. P. Wood to General Hitchcock, I submit the following:

More than a year ago recognizing the injustice of the arrest of non-combatants, I submitted the following proposition to the Federal authorities, to wit:

That peaceable non-combatant citizens of both the United and Confederate States who are not connected with any military organization shall not be arrested by either the United States or Confederate armies within the territory of the adverse party. If this proposition is too broad let the only exception by the case of a temporary arrest of parties within army lines, where the arresting party has good reason to believe that their presence is dangerous to the safety of the army from the opportunity afforded of giving intelligence to the enemy. It is to be understood, however, in the latter case, the arrest is to cease as soon as the reason for making it ceases, in the withdrawal of the army or for any other cause. This proposal is understood to include such arrests and imprisonments as are already in force.

Although this proposition, so reasonable and humane in its terms, has been before your Government for more than a year, it has never been accepted. I now again call your attention to it. If it does not suit you I will thank you to suggest any modification. I am willing to adopt any fair and reciprocal rule that will settle this matter on principle. It must, however, be settled by rule. It cannot with any safety be determined by 'special cases. "

You ask me if I will release your citizens against whom there are no charges. Would it not be more liberal to make that offer on your part as far as our citizens are concerned before you ask our consent? You have kept Confederate citizens in prison for many months without charges. Most of them have never had any charges preferred against them, although in the opinion of your authorities there were 'special reasons" for their arrest. How easy is it to give or invent a special reason? In all probability there never has been an arrest and imprisonment on either side since this war began for which there was not "a special cause. " An arrest for retaliatory reasons, even, is special.

As far as the arrest of citizens of the Confederate States by our authorities is concerned to no interference in any way by the Federal Government. It is a matter with which you have nothing to do. The Confederate authorities do not interfere with your arrests of your own people, no matter what injustice has been done to them. Any attempt on the part of the Federal Government to interpose in cases which only concern our authorities and the people of these Confederate States may be justly styled impertinent and meddlesome. As far, however, as the arrests of citizens of the adverse party is concerned we are at all times ready to adopt any fair and reciprocal rule.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,


Agent of Exchange.


Richmond, Va., October 31, 1863.

Brigadier General S. A. MEREDITH, Agent of Exchange:

SIR: Your communication of the 29th instant has been received and its extraordinary and groundless statements read with surprise.

You first represent me as having informed you that I would proceed to declare exchanges whenever I conscientiously felt that I had the