HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF, New Orleans, December 21, 1863.
Major General W. B. FRANKLIN, Commanding U. S. Forces, &c.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatches of December 15, 1863, transmitting the cartel for the exchange of prisoners and the accompanying correspondence and documents.
In answer to the inquiry presented by Major William M. Levy, major and commissioner of exchange for Major-General Taylor, C. S. Army, dated at New Iberia, December 13, you are hereby authorized to say that I will agree if the prisoners in excess of our prisoners are paroled and delivered to you they will be held as paroled prisoners of war and only released therefrom if when duly exchanged by agreement entered into between Major-General Taylor and Major-General Franklin (or the commanding officer of the forces of the United States), and if it shall be proposed to include these paroled prisoners in any exchange to be effected under a cartel between the two Governments for the general exchange of prisoners of war formal notice shall be given of such desire to Major-General Taylor by Major-General Franklin (or the officer in command of the forces of the United States), and in the event of the paroles not being recognized by the Government of the United States or its authorities I will agree to return these prisoners to Major-General Taylor.
In reference to the capture of William H. Gatchell, a correspondent of the New York Herald, you will say that we regard him and other gentlemen of his profession as standing upon the same basis as other non-combatants. His professed intention is to make a true report of the events of the war as a basis for history, and he would, no doubt, gladly do within the camp of the Confederate Army, with the consent of its offices, that which he does in our camp. Adhering to such purpose, he cannot be considered a public enemy to either Government. If he falsifies his profession by his acts, his detention should be placed upon that ground. While we could not ask that the should be allowed the privilege accorded him within our lines, we certainly have the right to ask his surrender upon the ground that adhering in good faith to his profession as a reporter, and willing to do for one side what he does for the other, he cannot be considered a public enemy.
The case of Mr. John G. Pratt, a citizen of Saint Landry Parish, stands upon entirely different grounds. Mr. Pratt is recognized by the Government of the United States as "General Pratt," engaged in the organization of military service for the Confederate Army, whose position and character was so prominent as to give his name to the general camp of military instruction for the State of Louisiana. It is immaterial whether he was [in] command for this service by the State or by the Confederate States, if he is still in possession of this authority and in the performance of this duty he is rightly held a prisoner of war. If he was surrendered his commission and discontinued permanently the exercise of the power conferred upon him the charge in his position should be made public, in order that it shall be understood by the people that he retains his liberty within the country occupied by our troops because of the permanent change in his position and purpose. There can be no doubt that he has exercised such powers, and I have received no evidence of any change in his position in that respect. Until such evidence is offered there can be no just claim for his release. I concur with Major-General Taylor that the expression of his opinion, which does him so much honor, that those who are not parties directly
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