to the 20th instant, I think proper to state that I have no knowledge of the particular grounds upon which the declaration was made, and as no list of prisoners is referred to, the individuals thus set free from the obligations of their parole may be exposed to serious inconvenience, if not danger, in case of being recaptured by the enemy.
Indeed, I am quite at a loss to understand upon what authority this declaration has been made, unless General Butler assumes to follow the example of Mr. Ould and make exparte declarations without that conference and mutual understanding between the respective agents of exchange which, as I suppose, should always precede such declarations, and which, prior to the unauthorized declarations of Mr. Ould in September last, did lay at the foundation of such publications of exchanges.
The declaration by General Butler does not purpose to be in conformity with the cartel; and if the cartel is considered as obsolete, then General Butler has no authority to make exchanges except by mutual agreement between himself and some opposing commander in the field.
The intercourse of belligerents, apart from open violence in the field, is always a matter of great delicacy, and cannot prosper except when both parties act upon some common principles of justice recognized by both; and nothing can tend to embarrass intercourse under flags of truce so much as an assumption by one party to decide a disputed point upon a judgment not submitted to the other party for remark.
In my opinion the step taken by General Butler should at least have had the sanction of the War Department prior to its announcement, and I therefore feel bound by a sense of duty to the laws of war to observe that those laws seem to me to require that the order or declaration of exchange in question should be revoked or suspended until some principles for mutual exchange can be agreed upon.
The whole of the present difficulties on the subject of exchange have grown out of arbitraom the cartel on the other side, and we unavoidably countenance their proceedings when we follow their example.
It may be unfortunate that we have a number--possibly 1,200 or 1,500--of our men on parole within our lines not to take arms until exchanged, but if we undertake to put these men in arms in to the field without being duly exchanged according to the laws of war, we inevitably give the enemy the very pretext he wants to force upon our acceptance as prisoners of war in exchange his unauthorized guerrilla captures of non-combatants.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. A. HITCHCOCK,
Major-General of Volunteers, &c.
NOTE. --The Secretary of War revoked General Butler's order before seeing me or hearing a word from me about it.
E. A. HITCHCOCK.
HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA,
Fort Monroe, January 25, 1864.
Honorable EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
SIR: There have been delivered for special exchange or otherwise since last September by the Confederate authorities at City Point a number of officers and men amounting to about 750 men, including the 500 delivered to me on the 26th of December. There has been no declaration of exchange of any prisoners since September, and all these