Some of those to be delivered on the Mississippi River it appears were sent to Vicksburg, where the commanding officer was under orders to forward them to Camp Chase or to Camp Benton.
In the execution of this order the commanding officer would necessarily resort to the Quartermaster's Department for transportation.
There has not been time for a special report to the Commissary-General of Prisoners by which to know the number sent forward from Vicksburg.
All that is yet know of the terrible disaster to the transport from Vicksburg has been reached through the newspapers, and it is imposible at the present time to indicate who, if any one, is at fault. The steamer with the returned prisoners must naturally have contained the reports and papers, showing the number of board, with the names of the officers and other details.
General Hoffman will obtain the first information, and will do whatever is possible to extend relief to the suffereres. Under the ordinary course of things he could have done nothing to prevent the calamitous accident that has happened.
Inclosed are copies of letters of instructions communicating your orders for the comfort of the prisoners, and it is presumed that General Hoffman, now in the West, will consider it his special duty to inquire into and report upon the proceedings under them.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. A. HITCHCOCK,
Major General of Vols., Commissioner for Exchange of Prisoners.
OFFICE COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS,
Washington, D. C., May 1, 1865.
Major General E. A. HITCHCOCK,
Commissioner for Exchange of Prisoners:
GENERAL: In accordance with your directions I have the honor to make the following statement in regard to the recent deliveries of paroled prisoners at Vicksburg, Miss.: On the 5th ultimo notice was received through the newspapers that some 11,000 paroled Union prisoners were to be delivered at Vicksburg, and a telegram was at once sent to Generals Canby and Dana by the Commissary-General of Prisoners asking the probable number and condition of the prisoners, and requesting that they might be ordered to Benton Barracks or Camp Chase, by General Orders, No. 72, 1862. On the 15th ultimo a telegram from Captain G. A. Williams, provost-marshal, Memphis, Tenn., was received at this office, through the Adjutant-General, announcing, pursuant to instructions from Major-Generals Canby and Dana, that the rebels had about 4,700 Union prisoners in camp near Vicksburg awaiting exchange, viz: Seventy-two employes, thirty-nine citizens, and the remainder soldiers. The rebel commissioner agreed to return the thirty-nine citizens, but refused to deliver the remainder to be paroled, not knowing the terms of Lieutenant-General Grant's cartel and his communication with the rebel Government being cut off. In reply, the letter and telegram, copies of which were delivered to you this morning, were sent to Captain Williams and Major-General Dana.
On the 18th ultimo the inclosed telegram* was received from General Dana, but no further reports of their reception at any of the parole camps has yet been received. The Commissary-General of Prisoner
*See April 14, p.492.