I will send you in my next communication the statement of the sergeants, Confederate prisoners, who have charge of the several cook-houses upon the subject.
I do not mean to say that their ration is as large as our regularly issued ration, because of their state of entire inactivity, but it is in every respect of the same quality as those issued to the men generally.
If you have any doubt of it, upon an examination of the condition of the men I send you, and upon hearing their statements, please suggest what, in your judgment, should be done further in their behalf.
I have made this examination and this statement to you in order that you may be able satisfy the friends of the prisoners who may be disturbed by the unfounded reports of ill-treatment and cruelty suffered by the prisoners at Point Lookout, in like manner as our people are excited by what I hope are like groundless stories of ill-usage and starvation suffered by our soldiers in your hands.
I find there some of the wounded from Gettysburg, and some that have been sick that are convalescent, and some so far disabled by sickness that, while they may be sent forward for exchange, they will probably be of no further service in the field.
Men without arms and legs and debilitated by sickness are certainly unfit to bear the necessary hardships incident to a condition of prisoners of war; besides, they encumber our hospitals.
As, upon examination, I did not think it proper to order them into the prisoners' camp with wounds freshly healed and death hardly restored, and as, perhaps, the hope of seeing their friends might have a beneficial influence upon their health, therefore I suggest that in the next transport I send up as many of these as are entirely able to bear the exposures of traveling without probable danger to their health, and that in exchange you will return to me an equal number of our soldiers that may be in like condition. As it may be inconvenient and prejudicial to their health to transship these invalids on either side, I will have them put upon a separate boat, upon which there shall be nothing but provisions for them, and will direct that that boat be put at your disposal at City Point to cary them immediately to Richmond and bring back those that you shall give in exchange.
Of course, you will transfer, if you think best, the master and crew of the boat to the steamer New York, which will accompany them, and will remain at City Point, and put your own master and crew on board until the boat is returned.
I need not suggest the necessity of care that the boat, which is but a hired transport, shall receive no damage while in your charge, for which my Government will be responsible.
And I further suggest whether the same means of avoiding transshipment might not be a convenience and facility in making further exchanges of well men, as well as invalids.
I also send four officers, lately captured at Charles City Court-House, and a surgeon; one in exchange for Captain Irving, who was sent down by last boat; one at his urgent request, being suffering from injuries; and two others, for whom you will forward me any officers of equal rank. I send these, though lately captured, because I have no officers short of Johnson's Island, and I wish to avoid delay.
I also send others, prisoners whom I understand were exchanged long since, but by some oversight were not forwarded until now.
I trust such oversight will never happen again.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
Major-General, Commanding, and Commissioner of Exchange.