RICHMOND, January 12, 1865.
TAZEWELL TAYLOR, Esq.:
DEAR SIR: Your letters relating to the special exchange of several Confederate and Federal officers have been received.
First. Let me thank you for your generous offer in behalf of our people. Your kindness and earnestness are fully appreciated.
Secondly. Let me assure you of the anxious desire of the Confederate authorities to secure the release of every Confederate prisoner in Federal hands. We have made proposition after proposition, both under the cartel and outside of it, but with little effect. We are ready at any time to give an equivalent for any Confederate officer or soldier who may be delivered to us and at the time of his delivery. We have done so up this time, and no more.
Thirdly. It is the fixed and just purpose of the Confederate authorities to make no discrimination amongst its officers and men in prison. "Every line of policy which would put any one of our prisoners in a more favorable position than that occupied by the others is carefully avoided." For this reason we have carefully abstained from making special exchanges. If the enemy selects Confederate officers to be sent home, we must insist upon our right to designate who shall be the equivalents. We have constantly refused to indicate who shall be the objects of Confederate favor. To do so would be to dissatisfy every one who was not selected, and their friends also. To allow the Federals to enter our prisons and select those who should be delivered would soon result in sending off every officer of influence or position and leave on our hands those for whom they cared little or nothing. I send you a copy of a report made by me to the Secretary of War, which fully explains the position we take in relation to special exchanges.* If those principles have been violated it has been done by commanders in the field without the approbation of the Confederate authorities.
You will perceive under this view that any selection by us of officers for a special favor or exchange on the one hand, or any designation by the enemy of Federal officers to be sent in return, is not to be tolerated. This rule, of course, is subordinate to our declared purpose of returning an equivalent in any case where a Confederate officer or soldier, whoever he may be, is sent to us. I am sure your sense of justice will approve our rule.
The officers to whom you refer are sent to us without any special parole. They came as all others did. Equivalents were sent for them. An excess of equivalents even was sent to assure the Federal authorities of our disposition to relieve all prisoners on both sides from captivity. I was not aware of any special arrangements in relation to the named parties until I received your letter. To be frank with you, I must say if it had been otherwise our course would not have been altered. We have no favorites amongst our prisoners. All are the subjects of equal solicitude and effort. We will not and cannot add to the gloom of those that are left to Federal mercy by an exhibition of special grace or favor to a few of their companions in misery. Thanks to our noble officers, they do not ask it when they truly understand the matter. They almost unanimously so inform me, and applaud the course we have determined to pursue.
Again thanking you for your kind efforts in behalf of our captives, I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Agent of Exchange.
*See Vol. VII, this series, p. 1078.