Meanwhile many of our citizens are suffering in Southern prisons; and the question remains: How are they to be relieved?
One method seems obvious to many who refer to it, verbally and by letters, to wit, that of arresting citizens in the South in sympathy with the rebels, to be exchanged for Union men. This seems to be a first thought with many, but a serious objection to it is that the war, instead of being carried on against organized opposition to the Government, would immediately degenerate into a war against citizens, resulting in an amount of suffering frightful to contemplate, by which the character of the country for civilization and humanity be hopelessly compromised.
I am not prepared to recommend this course, but I feel called upon to bring this subject to your particular notice for such disposition as you may direct.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. A. HITCHCOCK,
Major General of Vols. and Commissioner for Exchange of Prisoners.
OFFICE COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS,
Washington, November 4, 1863.
Brigadier General S. A. MEREDITH,
Commissioner for Exchange of Prisoners, Fort Monroe, Va.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 29th ultimo, inclosing copies of four letters addressed to you by Mr. Ould, and a copy of your letter addressed to him on the 17th ultimo.
I am able to give you some facts which will enable you to set Mr. Ould right in some of the positions taken by him in his letter of the 27th ultimo.
He asserts that he received General Orders, Numbers 49, long before Order Numbers 100 was delivered to him, which assertion he bases on their respective dates. On the 14th March I inclosed copies of Order 49 to Colonel Ludlow, and with the approbation of the General-in-Chief suggested that he should communicate it to Mr. Ould, but as some of the provisions are a little obscure, and the colonel was not quite sure how it was to be understood, he deferred presenting it to Mr. Ould until after he had visited this city, by which time Order 100 was published and I have no doubt they were presented at the same time to Mr. Ould. I inclosed them together to Colonel Ludlow in my letter of the 20th of May, and the colonel's letters I presume will show that they are were presented together. It is possible, however, that as Colonel L. had a personal interview at that time with Mr. Ould, he presented the two orders in person. Mr. Ould not does not prove that no letter accompanied them.
The two orders announced general rules based on the usages of war, which, in the absence of any specific agreement between belligerents, should govern in paroling prisoners of war, but in this case a cartel had already been agreed upon, and no order of either party could set aside any of its provisions. For instance, a commander on being captured might, under some circumstances, give a parole for himself and his command without violating General Orders, Numbers 100 - which includes General Order 49 - but unless the paroling was done at City Point or other named place it would be in violation of the cartel, and the paroles must, therefore, be set aside as invalid. No exceptions could be taken