BUREAU OF MILITARY JUSTICE, December 21, 1865.
Honorable E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
In the case of Burton N. Harrison, rebel, referred to me for report by your order of the 20th instant, I have the honor to submit as follows:
This person is well known to the history of the rebellion as having occupied the position of private secretary to Jefferosn Davis, with the military rank of colonel. In this close and confidential capacity he continued, even after the collapse of the military power of the insurgents and up to the very last moment of the life of the so-called Southern Confederacy, having been captured with his fugitive chief at Irwinville, Ga., on the 10th of May last. It is thus perceived that his fortunes were inseparably associated with those of his principal in treason, and that his case should indeed be justly considered apart from that of the other. But it is not alone from the fact of this intimate and continued association with Davis that his relations to the latter as a criminal and traitor and his joint responsibility with him in his crimes are to be ascertained. Of these, permanent written evidence is not wanting, and this evidence is presented in the record of the late conspiracy trial by the letter of Lieutenant W. Alson, a rebel officer, to Davis, and by the indorsement of Harrison thereon. This letter ws one of a large quantity of official papers and archives of the rebel Confederacy, surrenderd by Joseph E. Johnston to Major-General Schofield, at Charlotte, N. C., and thence directly transported to the War Dapartment. The letter is without date but was contained in a package marked: "Adjutant and Inspector General's Office. Letters received July to December, 1864." It is addressed to "His Excellency the President of the Confederate States of America," from Montgomery White Sulphur Springs, Va., and proceeds as follows:
I have been thinking some time that I would make this communication to you, but have been deterred from doing so on account of ill-health. I now offer you my services, and if you will favor me in my designs I will proceed as soon as my health will permit to rid my country of some of her deadliest enemies by striking at the very heart's blood of those who seek to enchain her in slavery.
Here the writer, as if anticipating the possibility of some unfavorable comment upon this atrocious proposal, adds:
I consider nothing dishonorable having such a tendency.
He then goes on thus:
All I ask of you is to favor me by granting me the necessary papers, &c., to travel on while within the jurisdiction of the Confederate Government. I am perfectly familiar with the North and feel confident that I can execute anything I undertake.
His next assertion shows that he has but recently effected a secret transit through our territory in violation of the laws of war, for he says:
I am just returned now from within their lines.
He then discloses his military antecedents in the following terms:
I am a lieutenant in General Duke's command and I was on the raid last June in Kentucky under General John H. Morgan.
In the course of the letter he exhibits the fact that he is no obscure person, but the son of a well-known prominent rebel, and as such likely to find favor in his application. He says:
Both the Secretary of War and his assistant, Judge Campbell, are personally acquainted with my farther, William J. Alston, of the Fifth Congressional District of Alabama, having served in the time of the old Congress, in the years 1849, 1850, and 1851.