by Colonel Ould, in view of the number of prisoners held in the South against those held in the North, the claim to hold in reserve the colored prisoners in the South having never been abandoned. This fact was further established by the official records of the Commissary-General of Prisoners, by which it appeared that, after sending several boat-loads of exchanged prisoners each way, the rebels were constantlyy falling in debt. Upon observing this fact, and noticing the publications in Richmond, I called upon the Commissary-General of Prisoners for a tabular statement of the result, and the statement showed an indebtedness in our favor of ever 500 men, which statement to the Secretary of War, who thereupon directed an order to General Grant to assume the entire control of the matter of exchanges, with authority to give such orders as he might think proper on the subject. General Grant at once reverted to first principles, and directed that Colonel Ould or the rebel authorities should be notified that colored troops should be treated as prisoners of war when captured; and, as the rebels were not willing to accede to this requirement, no further exchanges were made.
Upon the receipt at the War Department of the first intelligence of the inhuman treatmen to which our prisoners were subjected at Richmond, the Secretary of War, without a moment's hesitation, gave instructions to our agent of exchange at Fort Monroe to send forward supplies from the public stores for their relief, and large quantities of provisions and clothing were accordingly sent for distribution among the prisoners, and every possible effort was made to afford that sort of relief, even at the hazard of large portions of the supplies being wasted, or, what was worse, misappropriated to the benefit of our enemies, who, it soon appeared, made use of these supplies for their own advantage, leaving our prisoners still to suffer. But even this did not destroy the hope of the Secretary that some portion of the supplies would, at least, be permitted to reach its destination, and the orders to send that relief were left in force until the rebels themselves, shamed, perhaps, by the scandalous state of things, then likely to become historical, refused to receive any further supplies through the agents of the Government.
In the meantime the sympathies of friends in the North were naturally awakened, and large quantities of supplies of all kinds were sent to Fort Monroe, whence they were forwarded for the relief of the prisoners at Richmond; but the moment they passed beyond the control of our agents they fell into the hands of the most unprincipled and shameless scoundrels that ever disgraced humanity. It is in proof that large quantities of supplies furnished by the benevolence of the North for the relief of suffering humanity in Southern prison were piled up in sight of the objects for whose relief those supplies were sent, but beyond the line of the prison guards; and while the prisoners were thus in sight of their own boxes they were not only forbidden to touch them but compelled to witness depredations upon them by the guards themselves, who feasted upon their contents, leaving the victims of war a prey to that merciless barbarism which will make one of the darkest pages in the history of a rebellion which will itself remain an astonishment to all posterity for its almost causeless existence.
Many have supposed that it was in the power of the Government to afford relief to the prisoners in the South by a resort to retaliatory treatment of rebel prisoners in the North. It is difficult to meet a suggestion of this kind by an appeal to the instincts of civilized humanity, because the mere suggestion supposes the absence of those instincts, and implies a willingness to see the public sentiment degraded into barbarism, which would have put the nation itself on the footing of