War of the Rebellion: Serial 121 Page 0843 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-UNION AND CONFEDERATE.

Search Civil War Official Records

WASHINGTON, January 5, 1866.


I have received the following preamble and resolution adopted by the Senate on the 21st ultimo:

Whereas the Constitution declare that "in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right of a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State or district wherein the crime shall have been committed:" and where, several months have elapsed since Jefferson Davis, late President of the so-called Confederate States, was captured and confined for acts notoriously done by him as such, which acts if duly proved, render him guilty of treason against the United States and liable to the penalties thereof; and whereas, hostilities between the Government of the United States and the insurgents have ceased, and not one of the latter, have acted in the rebellion, except said Jefferson Davis: Therefore,

Resolved, That the President be respectfully requested, if compatible with the public safety, to inform the Senate upon what charges or for what reasons said Jefferson Davis is still held in confinement, and why he has not been put upon his trial.

In reply to the resolution I transmit the accompanying reports from the Secretary of War and the Attorney-General, and at the same time invite the attention of the Senate to that portion of my message dated the 4th day of Deember last, which refers to Congress the questions connected with the holding of circuit courts of the United States within the districts where their authority has been interrupted.


[Inclosure Numbers 1.]

WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington City, January 4, 1866.


SIR: To the annexed Senate resolution, passed December 21, 1865, referred to me by you for report, I have the honor to state:

1. That Jefferson Davis was captured by U. S. troops in the State of Georgia on or about the 10th day of May, 1865, and by order of this Department has been, and now is, confined in Fort Monroe, to abide such action as may be taken by the proper authorities of the United States Government.

2. That he has not been arraigned upon any indictment or formal charge of crime, but has been indicted for the crime of high treason by the grand jury of the District of Columbia, which indictment is now pending in the supreme court of said District. He is also charged with the crime of inciting the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and with the murder of Union prisoners of war by starvation and other barbarous and cruel treatment toward them.

3. The President deeming it expedient that Jefferson Davis should first be put upon his trial before a competent court and jury for the crime of treason, he was advised by the law officer of the Government that the most proper place for such trial was in the State of Virginia. That State is within the judicial circuit assigned to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who has held no court there since the apprehension of Davis, and who declines for an indefinite period to hold any court there.

The matters above stated are, so far as I am informed the reasons for holding Jefferson Davis in confinement and why he had not been put upon his trial.

4. Besides Jefferson Davis following persons who acted as officers of the rebel Government are imprisoned, to wit, Clement C. Clay, at Fort Monroe, charge, among other things, with treason, with complicity in the murder of Mr. Lincoln, and with organizing bands of