War of the Rebellion: Serial 119 Page 0630 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

Richmond would not raise the question of any distinction between officers commanding white and colored troops; this belief was founded on like repeated assurances from the source.

I have, however, become thoroughly convinced that I placed too much confidence in assurances which probably at most were but mere expressions of individual opinion. The position our Government has taken with reference to exchange, it seems to me, has become a necessity in view of the repeated breaches of faith by the rebel Government and the position it has taken respecting the treatment of prisoners of war. I am well satisfied, too, that any arrangement for an exchange would fail to secure the release from Southern prisons of all officers and men obnoxious to the joint resolution of the Confederate Congress and the proclamation of President Davis, or to the bitter animosities of their rebel Border States. Pretenses of negro stealing, treason toward a sovereign State, of arson, robbery, &c., furnish the pretext for the exercise of a panic faith and barbarous treatment unprecedented in the annals of honorable warfare. As is witnessed by the retention of a chaplain, after an agreement to release all chaplains; by the retention of surgeons after a like agreement; the treatment of General Milroy's command, captured at Winchester, in denying to his officers the very limited favors allowed to other officers in the Libby Prison; the close confinement in a cell of Colonel Powell and other officers on bread and water; retaining officers on charges after a second capture, where they had been duly exchanged after the charges were made; compelling Union officers from Border States to wear heavy irons for months without giving them a trial, and, indeed, where only the vague and indefinite charge of treason against a State was pretended as a justification. The cruel butchery of officers commanding negro troops, if not done by the direct order of the rebel Government, certainly is with its acquiescence and approval.

In view of all the circumstances I am constrained to believe that the Government is right in the course it is pursuing in the matter of exchange. Individual suffering is a strong claim, but an unyielding adherence to a line of conduct that will compel an observance of the rules of honorable warfare is an absolute necessity.

The hope of the Richmond Government has been that the misery inflicted on our prisoners in the South would compel out Government to yield vital points of controversy, and thereby it would be enabled still in the future to improvise its unreasonable and barbarous conditions.

The sooner this hope is dispelled the nearer our prisoners will be to measures of relief. Meanwhile our Government will, no doubt, continue the humane and necessary course in providing foot and clothing for our prisoners in Richmond and elsewhere, and the logic of events will in the end solve

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WM. IRVINE,

Lieutenant-Colonel Tenth New York Cavalry.

WASHINGTON CITY, D. C., December 2, 1863.

General Q. A. GILLMORE, Commanding, &c.:

SIR: I will thank you to require a report from the officers in command of colored regiments serving under your command showing the number of officers and men who have been killed or wounded since they reported for duty, and particular a report of the missing, and that