an adjutant also of one of those regiments, embracing the names of "nearly 300 more soldiers of the same command," making in all over 800 colored soldiers of the U. S. Army at work under rebel officer on the fortifications around Mobile alone.
When the Government determined to employ colored troops in its armies the principle was recognized that they were entitled to protection; and accordingly it was claimed that the class of trorops referred to should receive such treatment from the enemy as was due to other troops employed in the defense of the Government. The assertion of this principle did not depend upon the number of colored troops who might at any one time be in the hands of the enemy. Every consideration of honor and humanity required the assertion of this principle as due to the troops employed in the service of the Government; and accordingly, in various communications, when the subjet required it, the Government agents connected with the duties of exchange of prisoners invariably set forward the principle. But this did not prevent the exchange of prisoners, man for man and officer for officer. The difficulty on this subject was due, first, to the message of Mr. Davis to the rebel Congress, already referred to, declaring his purpose to deliver to Southern State authorities such white Union officer as might be captured for trial under State laws unknown alike to the laws of Congress and to the laws of war; and secondly, to the open contempt of the laws of war, as also stated above, in the fact that the rebel authorities released from the obligations of their parole a number of rebel prisoners and placed them in their ranks without exchange.
During a brief period to the capture of Vicksburg the rebels held more prisoners of war than the Government; but after the date of that event the case war reversed, and from that time forward the Government made every effort to obtain exchanges-man for man and officer for officer-but without avail, the rebel authorities persistently resisting applications for exchange unless the Government would release all rebel prisoners, after they had openly violated the cartel themselves, claiming that the Government should deliver to them all rebel prisoners, while they on their part declared their purpose of withholding from exchange such colored prisoners as they might have in their possession.
It is important to observe here that while this controversy was pending we actually held in prison depots in the North about 70,000 prisoners of war, over and above which we had a just and valid claim for more than 30,000 men who had been captured and paroled in the South, chiefly at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and who had never been properly exchanged; making in all at least 100,000 men whom the rebel authorities wished to draw from us in exchange for about 40,000 of the white troops of the United States, the effect of which would have been to throw into the army of General Lee an effective force of about 60,000 or 70,000 men, in fine health and able in all respects to be put immediately into the field against General Grant's army, or with which General Lee might have obtained a disposable force of some 50,000 or more men for the purpose of entering the States of the North, and thereby possibly compelling General Grant to raise the siege of Richmond or expose the Norhtern States to devastation by the enemy.
It was the desire of the rebel agent of exchange to avoid making special exchanges, in the hope of drawing from us the whole of the rebel prisoners of war we held in return for interior numbers held by the enemy. To accomplish that object the rebel commissioner or agent of exchange not only declined to make exchanges on equal terms in any considerable number, but refused to make special exchanges, except