At length out claim upon the rebel authorities was met under a perverted constructions of the fifth article of the cartel by a sudden and unauthorized declaration of exchange by the rebel agent of exchange without any conference or agreement whatever with our agent of exchange stationed at Fort Monroe. By that ex parte declaration our enemy released from parole a large body of General Grant's prisoners without giving us any proper equivalents, and it is proper to observe that the enemy selected his own time for making this declaration, and by means of it threw into rebel army, without any proper authority according to the laws of war, a large body of men just prior to the great battles which gave us the possession of East Tennessee in spite of the fraudulent attempt to overwhelm our troops by means of the declaration of exchange referred to. The declaration itself was deliberately prepared for by the enemy by an order directing the rebel paroled prisoners in the South to report themselves at Enterprise, in Mississippi, ostensibly for instruction, so that when the declaration was made our commanders found themselves confronted not only by a large army of actual rebels, but by a large body associated with them in violation of every known law of war.
It was impossible to permit this outrage to be committed without a protest on our part, which was made, as a matter of course, by jour agent of exchange. The correspondence at that time between the two agents was conducted with some asperity, the rebel agent attempting to justify himself by furnishing a schedule of captures, embracing some that were legitimate, but with others made up of the class of persons captured in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, who could in no sense be considered prisoners of war, and it was found impossible to carry on the business of exchange under such conditions as the rebel agent of exchange attempted to enforce upon us, the enemy meanwhile refusing to recognize claim that all of the troops employed by the United States were equally entitled, when captured, to be treated as prisoners of war, the disposition of the enemy being about that time sufficient manifested in the barbarous butchery of portions of the Union Army which unhappily fell into their hands, making the duty on our side the more imperative to hold such prisoners as the Union Army might capture for such disposition as the laws of was might justify or require to restrain the enemy from their barbarous practices.
About the time when all exchange had fully ceased, and the controversy about exchanges and measurably closed, we had a valid claim upon the rebels for more than thirty-four thousand prisoners, the rebel agent having followed up his own example of making unauthorized ex parte declarations of exchange without any agreement whatever with our agent, until he had put into the rebel ranks the whole of the prisoners captured by General Grant and General Banks.
As the commissioner of exchange, myself, throughout the whole of the matters above detailed, I was not in direct communication with the rebel agent, but the correspondence was conducted on our part, first by Lieutenant - Colonel Ludlow, and afterward by General Meredith.
At length General Butler was appointed to command, with his headquarters at Fort Monroe. He appears very soon to have conceived the idea that he could effect exchanges if empowered to do so; and a rumor to that point having reached me, I addressed a note to the Secretary of War, who may remember that I proposed to withdraw from the duty in favor of any officer who could make exchanges which should be satisfactory to the Department, but was informed that it was unnecessary, as the Department had other duties for me.