rebel authorities whenever the Government demanded the release or exchange of said citizen prisoners.
It will require but the slightest glance at this subject to convince any one of the utter impossibility of acquiscieng in the demand of the rebel authorities as a prerequisite to the release of the citizens thus held in bondage. Such an agreement on the part of the United States would have been a virtual acknowledgment of the independence of the rebel Government, and would have foreclosed all proceedings of the United States against all persons whomsover engaged in the crime of treason and rebellion. It was absolutely impossible to acquisce in the demand of the South on that point, and this is the reason why this class of prisoners was beyond the reach of the Government, except through the power of its armies, which finally settled the entire question by putting an end to the rebellion itself.
At the commencement of the cessation of exchanges the rebels held a few prisoners of war over and above the number of rebels held by the Government, but the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson threw the balance largely the other way; and, as the prisoners captured by General Grant and General Banks were left in the South on parole, the rebel authorities determined to make use of them, not merely in violation of the cartel, but in open contempt of the laws of war. They first ordered that body of men to be assembled at a place called Enterprise, in Mississippi, on pretense of facilitating measures for their supplies, but in reality with the distinct purpose, as we are now compelled to believe, of throwing them into the rebel ranks to meet the anticipated conflict which, it was seen, was near at hand in East Tennessee, and which accordingly took place at the memorable battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga; in which battles many of the captured prisoners paroled in the South by Generals Grant and Banks took part without having been duly exchanged, although the rebel authorities made an ex parte declaration of exchange, in their favor without proper authority, which was protested against by the United States.
It must be understood that the rebels might at any time have resumed the system of exchange agreed upon in the cartel by receding from the assumed right of disposing of captured Union officers as required in the act passed by the rebel Congress, before alluded to, and agreeing to the exchange of colored troops; but they would never agree to acknowledge the right of colored troops to treatment due to prisoners of war; and as the Government of the United States had exercised the right of employing colored troops as a part of the force against the rebels, their claim to such protection as the Government could give was one which did not admit of discussion.
When the rebels discovered that the suspension of exchanges was operating against them they resorted to the horrible expedient of subjecting the prisoners they held to starvation and exposure to the elements, without the protection of quarters or tents, after first robbing them of their money and most of their clothing, and without regard to seasons or their inclemencies, in the hope of forcing the Government into a system of exchanges which should have the effect not only of leaving in their hands all the colored prisoners they had taken, but of throwing into their ranks the entire body of prisoners held by the Federal power, then greatly in excess over the prisoners held by the rebels. This fact is proved by the declarations of the Richmond papers at the time when a few exchanges were made, that the rebel agent, Colonel Ould, had not sent over the lines the number of prisoners equivalent to those received, but only a proportionate number, the ratio being determined
51 R R-SERIES II, VOL VIII