Northern and Southern newspapers, I have the honor to present the following views in reply to the indorsement of reference of the Assistant Secretary of War of the 16th instant.
The newspapers submitted to me, as illustrating the extent to which this system is pursued, are a copy of the Richmond Inquirer, of January 10, and a copy of the New York Daily News, of January 13 last. Of the former more than five columns and a half, comprising nearly one entire side, and of the latter about three columns, or a half of one page, are taken up with the advertisements in question. These are headed "Personals," and a considerable portion of them consist of inquiries addressed from persons in the South to persons in the North, or vice versa, and of the answers thereto or to previous communications. In inserting the inquiry or notice there is generally added a request that some particular paper or papers, or that the papers generally of the opposite section, will copy it. As soon as the file is received it is copied accordingly, and if it reaches the person indicated is in due time answered by a similar insertion. A printed communication from the office of the New York Daily News, signed "by order of Benj. Wood, editor and proprietor," and transmitting one of these personals attached thereto to the party to whom it is addressed, has been referred to this Bureau, with the newspapers mentioned. From this it would seem that that journal not only prints the notice but transmits it to the address (where given) of the person for whom it is intended. It would appear from the number of the advertisements and the prices charged for their insertion that they must necessarily prove a source of considerable profit to thding of these personals the following observations are suggested in regard to their character, purpose, and effect:
First. That this mode of correspondence has been resorted to in deliberate evasion and open defiance of the regulations established in regard to communication by letter between the lines. Thus, to illustrate this fact by the language employed, one of the writers remarks, "Have written several times, but as flag-of-truce mail is so irregular, prefer this mode of communication." Another says, "Have written by flag of truce; have received no answer; have concluded to try this channel." Another, while himself transgressing the law, unscrupulously purposes the same course to his correspondent. "As it seems," he writes, "we cannot hear from you by letter, suppose you try this medium." And in a large proportion of the notices it is expressly indicated to the party for whose eye they are intended that he should avail himself of the same form of reply.
While each of these advertisements is thus of itself a violation of the laws of war, and an evasion of the regulations referred to, it may at the same time be inferred from their terms that this evasion was in many instances of a most deliberate and criminal nature, for it is fairly to be presumed that a principal reason why former communications from the same writers hadnot reached their destination was because they were of an illicit or improper character, and therefore not allowed by the agent of exchange to pass the lines.
Second. That each and all of these communications is in direct violation of the regulations, in that none of them have, as is thereby required, been submitted to the inspection of the agent of exchange or his subordinate before being transmitted to their destination; that the same is to be said of a very considerable number, in that they are addressed to and signed by parties whose initials alone are given, or who are indicated by fictitious names or designations; or