Island, on the Mississippi, there are good, comfortable barracks for all of the prisoners; and the rebel officers who, for greater safely, it has been judged expedient to send to Johnston's Island, near Sandusky, Ohio, are amply provided with comfortable winter quarters, with an abundance of fuel; and at all of our prison depots the prisoners are not only comfortably clad, but they receive each a full army ration from the commissary department, including both coffee and sugar.
Whilst engaged in preparing this report I have felt called upon to address a letter to the editor of the New York Times for the purpose of placing before the public a true statement of the causes which have suspended exchange of prisoners of war, a copy of which, marked C, I annex to this report in further explanation of that subject. *
I also annex hereto a communication from Colonel Hoffman, Commissary-General of Prisoners, of the 30th instant, inclosing a report of prisoners of war exchanged and in custody during the pat year.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. A. HITCHCOCK,
Major General of Vols. and Commissioner for Exchange of Prisoners.
WASHINGTON CITY, D. C., November 4, 1863.
Honorable EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
SIR: I have the honor to state that several applications have ben addressed to me having in view the exchange of citizens as prisoners. I have exhausted my efforts by correspondence to include the enemy to discharge our citizens, held as such, by assurances that we do not hold in confinement any citizen on the ground that he is simply a citizen of the South, but in all cases when arrests have been ordered it has been for some special cause. Mr. Ould, the agent, refuses to discharge our citizens, holding them without any pretense of accusation against them, his object being, professedly, to create such a "pressure" upon our "people" as shall compel the Government to enter into a sort of cartel on this subject, by which this Government would obligate itself to make no arrests of citizens at all, or to hold parties in arrest only under circumstances that would virtually be dictated by the rebels. The visible object of this proposal by Mr. Ould (or his Government) is to place the rebels of the South in all prospects on a footing with citizens of the North, by which the Government would relinquish all right to arrest any traitor engaged in the rebellion unless taken in arms.
I have not supposed that the Government can listen to such a proposal.
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 exchange for Union men. This seems to be a first thought with many a serious objection to it is that of being carried on against organized opposition to the Government, would immediately degenerate into against citizens, resulting in an amount of suffering frightful to contemplate, by which the character of the country for civilization and humanity would be hopelessly compromised.
* See p. 594.