HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA,
Fort Monroe, Va., February 3, 1864.
Colonel HOFFMAN, Commissary-General of Prisoners:
COLONEL: I have the honor to inform you that 124 prisoners are now in confinement at this post. They are very much crowded, and I cannot conveniently accommodate any more.
I have the honor to be, colonel, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant-Colonel, U. S. Army, Commanding.
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 3, 1864.
Colonel A. A. STEVENS,
Commanding Camp Morton, Indianapolis, Ind.:
COLONEL: Your letter of the 27th of January, reporting the shooting of a prisoner of war by a sentinel, is received.
The action of the sentinel in this case seems to be justified by the orders under which he acted; and it is very proper that very rigid order should be given to the guard to provide against disorder among the prisoners or attempts to escape, but it is equally important that the prisoners should be made fully acquainted with the nature of these orders, that they may not ignorantly disobey them and thereby jeopardize their lives. The life of a prisoner must not be want only taken, and when there is a necessity for it, it must be clearly shown.
In this case your report would be more satisfactory if it showed that the prisoner persisted in disobeying the sentinel's orders by failing to return to his quarters after being repeatedly warned to do so. it is stated that on being ordered to halt and to return to his quarters he stopped and made some answer. On the order being repeated "the prisoners till refusing obedience" the sentinel shot him. does this mean that the prisoner refused in words to obey the order or that he did not move when ordered, and if the latter, what was the interval between the giving of the order and the firing?
If the sentinel had been annoyed during his tour by prisoners approaching the fence against orders, this fact should have been established by the testimony of the sentinel near him. These and similar particulars are necessary to show how far the act was prompted by sincere desire to perform his duty faithfully.
Your report appears to be based on that of the lieutenant of the guard, and there is nothing to indicate an investigation further than a questioning of the sentinel whose conduct was to be considered. The case was too important a one to be left in such inexperienced hands, and that the affair may be put in its proper light, I request you will make a full report from a persona giving all essential particulars.