which you state that conclusive information has reached you that prisoners of war captured by the C. S. forces from those of the United States are employed at labor upon the fortifications of Mobile, and informing me that an equal number of prisoners in your hands will be similarly employed by you so long as the policy referred to is adhered to by the authorities in this district. Your communication has been referred to the lieutenant-general commanding this department, and pending its consideration by him I deem it proper to state in reply that 200 negro slaves, who were captured by Major-General Forrest and sent to this district, are engaged in labor upon the fortifications just as other slaves are and have been almost since the commencement of the war employed by both the Governments of the United States and Confederate States. From the statment of these negroes themselves it appears that they were taken away from their homes and their lawful owners by invading parties of U. S. forces, and during the temporary occupancy of portions of C. S. territory placed in the army or employed for other military purposes, and this against their will. These negroes are well fed and provided and generally content in their present situation. They express the utmost reluctance and indisposition to be returned to the dominion of the United States, and restored to involuntary service with their armies, and are earnest in their desire to return to their lawful owners, from whom they were unwillingly taken away. Just compensation will be paid these owners for the serives rendered by these slaves; and under all the circumstances it seems to me that no doubt exists that in an equitable and legal point of view the recaputre by the C. S. forces of slaves (property recognized as such by our own laws, and at the date of its capture similarly recognized by the Constitution and laws of the United States) operates to resotre it to its original position and it reverts to its lawful owners. The employement, then, of white men, prisoners of war, whose social and political character is that of freemen, is not justified by the circumstances, and is neither fair nor in accordance with the established usages of warfare. I trust that a careful consideration of the subject will induce the major-general commanding the Military Division of West Mississippi to revoke the instructions which he has given. While I regret the hardships of the measures which your authorities have adopted in this connection, the jsutice and propriety of the course of our own authorities are so well established in my mind that I cannot, without instructions from higher authority, interfere with the existing policy and arrangements.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
DABNEY H. MAURY,
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF THE GULF,
Mobile, Ala., March 4, 1865.
Commanding U. S. Forces, Fort Gaines, Ala.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to inclose you a copy of a telegram received from Lieutenant General R. Taylor, commanding Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana:
MERIDIAN, March 3, 1865.
Major General D. H. MAURY:
Lieutenant-General Grant, U. S. Army, has proposed to the lieutenant-general commanding a general exchange according to terms of cartel for all prisoners of war in