HEADQUARTERS NINETEENTH ARMY CORPS,
New Iberia, La., December 13, 1863.
Major General W. B. FRANKLIN:
(Though Major Wickham Hoffman, assistant adjutant-general.)
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of negotiations which have been made by me with Major W. M. Levy, commissioner in behalf of Major General R. Taylor, commanding C. S. forces, for exchange of prisoners of war captured for the mutual commands.
In obedience to your instructions, under a flag of truce, I met the Confederate commissioner at Boutte's plantation, some five miles beyond our pickets, on the 12th of December, and he, having informed me in behalf of Major General R. Taylor that they had no offices or enlisted men belonging to negro organizations captured from this command, the inclosed cartel was agreed upon and signed by us in duplicate*.
It will be noticed that all our commissioned officers were exchanged by me. I did so, being anxious, should it unfortunately occur by the fortunes of war that reprisals take place, none of the officers of this command would be suffers.
Having been notified that a Mr. Gatchell, a non-combatant and a correspondent from the press, was detained in their hands, and indeed entered upon their lists of "prisoners of war", I addressed and official communication to Major Levy requesting to be informed whether Mr. Gatchell was detained as such, and if not, whether he would be released (document 1).
The reply to these queries, and which I have the honor to inclose (document 2), shows a determination to retain Mr. Gatchell, not as a prisoners of war, but as a reprisal, they asserting that a number of peaceful or non-combatant citizens have been seized by our forces. The case of Mr. Gatchell is therefore respectfully to you by me as it is likewise to Major-General Taylor by his commissioner.
Upon our rolls of prisoners appeared the names of two commissioned officers and five enlisted men not belonging to Major General R. Taylor's command, and they were, therefore, not exchanged.
There being an excess of prisoners belonging to this command in the hands of Major General R. Taylor, his commissioner proposed to deliver them up to us as paroled prisoners under certain conditions as expressed in his letter (document 3). As this wold be binding us to the delivery of certain persons in exchange who had not been captured by this command as at present constituted, and also upon future captures, I informed Major Levy that I had no authority to enter into such agreement, but would refer it to you.
Their commissioner thereupon very frankly stated the sufferings which must of necessity fall upon the prisoners left in their hands, and offered to deliver them paroled to our lines provided I would agree to return them into their hands should no agreement be entered into between yourself and Major-General Taylor (document 4). +
As I viewed this to be binding upon you in the event of any different action being taken by the U. S. authorities I declined so to receive them, thanking him in my reply (document 5) for the high-minded and humane spirit in which I feel assured the offer was made. I notified Major Levy that should no cartel for the excess of prisoners be made we should avail ourselves of the stipulating agreed upon to send the prisoners clothing and other necessaries for their comfort. He in reply
* See p. 693.
+ Not found; probably returned to Major Levy. See Franklin to Molineux, December 13, p. 700.