Only a few weeks since I proposed a mutual exchange of all chaplains held on either side, we having two for one against those held in the South. Mr. Ould professed to accept the proposition "cheerfully," as he expressed it in his note. We sent all we had in good faith; but now I have indubitable evidence that a chaplain of a Massachusetts colored regiment, captured near Charleston, has been withheld, and is now in heavy irons at Columbia, in South Carolina.
We know also that two colored marines are in irons in a Charleston prison, and have been for months, if they have not been other wise disposed of contrary to the laws of war. I have just received what purports to be the proceedings of a Virginia State court, by which two Union men, whom I have reason to believe are officers of colored troops, have been sentenced to the penitentiary on the allegation of negro stealing; and the Governor of Virginia has indorsed, on my demand for their history, his declaration that they shall remain in the penitentiary while he remains Governor of Virginia. We know also that two free colored lads were taken prisoners, belonging to a colored regiment, near Galveston, and were publicly sold into slavery.
By the force of public edicts in the South, captured colored troops are delivered over to State authorities, to be disposed of under State laws; and when Mr. Ould is called upon to give some account of that class of captured troops, he answers, as he did verbally, recently, to General Meredith, that he had no troops of that class in his possession. It is most likely, because, if suffered to live, they are in Southern penitentiaries.
It is undeniable that, if Mr. Ould's seemingly fair verbal proposition for a general exchange takes place, we shall lose all the advantages we now possess, and shall gain nothing toward the point of compelling the enemy either to surrender the colored troops now in his hands, or pledge himself to their proper treatment hereafter.
I have the honor to be, v, your obedient servant,
E. A. HITCHCOCK,
Major General of Vols., Commissioner for Exchange of Prisoners.
OFFICE COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS,
Washington, D. C., November 24, 1863.
Major General J. B. McPHERSON,
Commanding, &c., Vicksburg, Miss.:
GENERAL: Mr. Ould, Confederate agent for the exchange of prisoners, complains that on the application of his assistant, Lieutenant Colonel N. G. Watts, for the delivery of the prisoners who were captured at Vicksburg, and who are still in that city, he was informed by Lieutenant-Colonel Strong, chief of your staff, that they have been ordered North. I have replied that those who refused to be sent back to the rebel army on parole had been sent North, but that any others remaining in our hands who desired to be released on parole would be immediately delivered to any Confederate officers appointed to receive them. This is in conformity with the stipulations of the of the surrender, I believe, and I have respectfully to request you will give such orders as may be necessary in the case.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel Third Infantry and Commissary-General of Prisoners.