WASHINGTON CITY, D. C., March 28, 1864.
Honorable EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
SIR: In reference to the cartels forwarded by Major-General Banks, with his communication of the 2nd of February last, and the *correspondence in connection with them, I have to observe that the cartel agreed upon at Haxall's Landing, on James River, Va., on the 22nd of July, 1862, between Major-General Dix, on the part of the Federal Government, and Major-General Hill, "C. S. A.," published in General Orders, Numbers 142, of September 25, 1862, having never been by authority abrogated, though temporarily suspended in its action, because of violations of it by the rebel authorities, should be considered as so far operative as to prevent the adoption of any other than local agreements for exchange between generals mutually opposed to each other in the field.
I respectfully suggest that the cartels submitted by General Banks be regarded as of the nature of agreements made in the field, and that they be executed according to their terms, with the understanding that no further action be had under them, and that hereafter no exchanges be made, except under the cartel of the 25th of September, 1862, and by generals commanding in the field, the latter in all cases to be of the nature of agreements between mutually opposed commanders in the field according to the general laws of war. I beg to remark upon two points in this correspondence of a special character.
The rebel authorities have virtually been countenanced in holding colored troops as excepted from the terms of exchange; for, while they decline to entertain any question by which such troops are to be recognized as entitled to the privileges of soldiers in conformity with express orders from the rebel Government, they enter upon a cartel under a mere declaration they have been permitted to set out the principle that they will not entertain any proposition which would require them to treat colored troops as soldiers.
There is great reason to fear that the rebel officers will carefully retain such a position, by horrible means, as will them constantly in the future to set forward the same declaration-that they hold no colored men belonging to organizations.
The other point is this: The rebel authorities in the Southwest decline to release non-combatants, except upon an agreement on our part not to make arrests of that class-the point which Mr. Ould has been urging-for the purpose of obtaining thus indirectly what would amount to a quasi recognition of the equal privileges of rebels with Union citizens, thus protecting all civil offenders in rebellion from arrest for treason. I would suggest that particular care should be taken not to enter into any agreement of this nature under any pretense whatever.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. A. HITCHCOCK,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commissioner of Exchange.
MARCH 29, 1864.
Referred by Secretary of War to General Halleck, chief of staff, for consideration and publication of such orders as may be necessary to meet the points present.