the 17th instant, forwarding same. * I am sorry to say the courier, Private J. L. Watkins, Eighteenth Virginia, deserted to the enemy. He did not, however, take any valuable information.
I send by Captain Bright, my aide-de-camp, the money to Lieutenant Kirby, as it will not do for this officer to lose what was intrusted to my charge, I feeling myself in honor bound. The clothing I have I have recovered a portion of and send on.
I also inclose, general, copy of letter to-day received from General Peck. I have not answered it yet. I think the most direct way will be by next flag-of-truce boat. You will perceive that these men were hung by sentence of general court-martial regularly appointed. If these colonels, lieutenant-colonels, and captains of whom he speaks are deserters from the Federal Army, he can execute them; otherwise it will be murder. I hope the whole of the prisoners captured in this department will be held at my disposal.
The officers General Peck speaks of were not taken here. My letter of the 15th, inclosing correspondence between myself and General Peck, has not been answered. I respectfully ask a reply from the Secretary.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. E. PICKETT,
[FEBRUARY 27, 1864. - For Stanton to Vice-President of the United States, transmitting documents relating to the arrest and imprisonment, by the military authorities in Missouri, of soldiers belonging to the Ninth Minnesota Regiment, see Senate Executive Document Numbers 24, Thirty-eighth Congress, first session.]
[FEBRUARY 27, 1864. - For Peck to Pickett, relative to the execution of certain prisoners belonging to the Second North Carolina Regiment (Union), see Series I, Vol. XXXIII, p. 869.]
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTH CAROLINA,
Petersburg, Va., February 27, 1864.
Major General JOHN J. PECK, U. S. Army:
GENERAL: Your communication of the 20th instant is received. + Your letter of the 13th referred to was received and replied to by flag under date of 17th.
You have doubtless perused my reply ere this, and are aware of the fact that the men "duly enlisted into the Second North Carolina Regiment" spoken of by you, had been duly enlisted in the Confederate service previously, and had deserted from same; that they were taken in arms fighting against their colors, were tried by a duly organized court, sentenced, and executed.
If the officers of the C. S. Army, whom you speak of "as hostages for their safety," can be proven to be deserters from the Federal Army, you will certainly be fully justifiable in treating them similarly; otherwise, should you "retaliate" you will simply be guilty of murder.
* See Palmer to Pickett, February 9, and Pickett's reply, February 17, pp. 936, 964, ante; Peck to Pickett, February 13, and Pickett's reply, February 17; and Peck to Pickett, February 20, Series I, Vol. XXXIII, pp. 867, 868.
+ See Series I, Vol. XXXIII, p. 868.