MOBILE, January 4, 1864.
Please direct the Federal prisoners captured by General Forrest to be retained at Meridian till his arrival.
S. D. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WESTERN LOUISIANA,
Alexandria, La., January 5, 1864.
Major General W. B. FRANKLIN,
Commanding U. S. Forces in West Louisiana:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 2nd instant, with the copy of the dispatch of Major-General Banks to you of the 19th ultimo.
The sentiments expressed by major-General Banks with regard to the exemption of civilians within the circle of military operations from disturbance or arrest I need hardly say meet my cordial approval. They have satisfied me of the sincere desire entertained by major General Banks to put an end to arrests of non- combatants in the district of country over which he exercises military control, and acting under that conviction I have released Mr. W. M. Gatchell, the Herald corespondent, ad send him down to you with this communication. I shall take the necessary measures to prevent for the future the arrest or detention by the troops under my command of persons not connected with the Army or Navy of the United States, nor engaged in giving them assistance in military movements, and shall confidently anticipate the adoption of similar measures by Major-General Banks. I shall also cause it to be known to the inhabitants of those portions of the State which may be subject to invasion that in case of invasion they can safely remain at their homes without the fear of disturbance in the peaceful pursuit of their avocations.
Among the prisoners taken in the movement on Brahserar City were several who claimed to be civilians. They have been sent to Texas. I shall direct an inquiry to be made into their condition and have them released if their representations prove correct.
I have no doubt my commissioner, Major W. M. Levy, now in conference at Red River Landing with the commissioner appointed by Major - General Banks, will be able to form with that officer a convention for the general exchange and delivery of prisoners of war which will be satisfactory to both parties.
The case of Mr. John G. Pratt, of the parish of Saint Landry, has been misapprehended by Major- General Banks. Mr. Pratt at the time of the fall of the city of New Orleans was a brigadier- general of militia in the service of the State and so continued until the repeal by the legislature at its last session of the militia law under which he held his commission. Mr. Pratt has never held any other commission than that of brigadier of militia, which was vacated at the time I have mentioned, and has ever been engaged in the organization of military forces for the C. S. Army.
About eighteen months since a camp in the vicinity of New Iberia which had been used as a camp for a small body of militia, and which bore his name, was taken by me as a camp of instruction for conscripts, but Mr. Pratt has never exercised any authority, military or otherwise, over or in connection with that camp since the day it was so appropriated. I trust that this explanation will be sufficient to convince Major