It therefore becomes my duty, as commanding general of this department, to call upon the Confederate authorities to know if such acts and that threat are sanctioned and authorized by them. I will patiently wait for a sufficient time to elapse in which I can be made acquainted with the course which the Confederate authorities choose to take upon this subject, and then will proceed to such action as I may be advised is proper to sustain the dignity, power, and justice of the Government which I represent.
To avoid all misconception upon so grave a subject, involving so much responsibility, I desire to say that until full explanation is had with the Confederate authorities I should not deem it my duty to execute prisoners of war in retaliation for the execution of deserters from the Confederate Army should they be found with arms in their hands, because the question should be made the subject of discussion between the two belligerents. But the question which I desire to submit for authoritative decision on the part of those you represent is, whether a soldier of the United States who is duly enlisted and has not deserted from your army, and who has committed no act which could be construed as crime-save acts of hostility in the field against the Confederate armies, whatever may be the color or complexion of that soldier-is to be regarded and treated by your authorities as a prisoner of war, and, as such entitled to the rights and immunities of such condition.
The most obvious considerations of humanity and mercy will impress more strongly than anything I could say might do the immediate necessity of placing this matter before your authorities; and I take this method of communicating through yourself as the most proper channel through which to discuss questions relating to prisoners of war.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
Major-General and Commissioner for Exchange.
WASHINGTON, D. C., March , 1864.
Honorable EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
SIR: On the 12th ultimo I had the honor to address you in reference to a telegram from General Butler from Fort Monroe charging me with having made "gross misrepresentations" to you. I have now General Butler's letter to you of the 19th ultimo, scarcely less offensive in its reference to me and wholly without warrant or excuse. If General Butler had even thought me mistaken, he might have pointed out wherein I was so, and then let the nature of the mistake determine its own character; but that he should descend to the use of his vulgar language in the gross accusation he has dared to lever against me is wholly unbecoming his rank and position, though entirely in keeping with his pretty well-established character for insolence and impudent brutality.
The Honorable Secretary of War cannot need the suggestions of any one to enable him to see the errors and the wrongs against the undersigned in the letter of the 19th of February, now before me. It is a suitable sequel to the telegram of having made "gross misrepresentations"to you, he now accuses me of being "not too ingenuous" in my letter to himself, a plain, simple letter, setting him right on a material point of fact. General Butler had officially reported that his declaration of exchange extended to only "about 750 men," including the 500 received