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Treatment of Prisoners During the War.
of indifference, it has ceased to excite my surprise, even in this instance, when it reaches the extremity of accusing me of cruelty to prisoners. What matters it to one whose object is personal and party advantage that the records, both Federal and Confederate, disprove the charge; that the country is full of witnesses who bear oral testimony against it, and that the effort to revive the bitter animosities of the war obstructs the progress toward the reconciliation of the sections? It is enough for him if his self seeking purpose be promoted.
It would, however, seem probable that such expectations must be disappointed, for only those who are wilfully blind can fail to see in the circumstances of the case the fallacy of Mr. Blaine's statements. The published fact of an attempt to suborn Wirz, when under sentence of death, by promising him a pardon if he would criminate me in regard to the Andersonville prisoners, is conclusive as to the wish of the Government to make such charge against me, and the failure to do so shows that nothing could be found to sustain it. May we not say the evidence of my innocence was such that Holt and Conover, with their trained band of suborned witnesses, dared not make against me this charge—the same which Wirz, for his life, would not make, but which Blaine, for the Presidential nomination, has made?
Now let us review the leading facts of this case. The report of the Confederate commissioner for exchange of prisoners shows how persistent and liberal were our efforts to secure the relief of captives. Failing in those attempts, I instructed General R. E. Lee to go under flag of truce and seek an interview with General Grant, to represent to him the suffering and death of Federal prisoners held by us, to explain the causes which were beyond our control, and to urge in the name of humanity the observance of the cartel for the exchange of prisoners. To this, as to all previous appeals, a deaf ear was turned. The interview was not granted. I will not attempt, from memory, to write the details of the correspondence. Lee no longer lives to defend the cause and country he loved so well and served so efficiently; but General Grant cannot fail to remember so extraordinary a proposition, and his objections to executing the cartel are well known to the public. But whoever else may choose to forget my efforts in this regard, the prisoners at Andersonville and the delegates I permitted them to send to President Lincoln to plead for the resumption of exchange of prisoners cannot fail to remember how willing I was to restore them to their homes and to the comforts of which they were in need, provided the imprisoned soldiers of the Confederacy should be in like manner released and returned to us.This foul accusation, though directed specially against me, was no doubt intended as, and naturally must be, the arraignment of the South, by whose authority and in whose behalf my deeds were done. It may be presumed that the feelings and the habits of the Southern soldiers were understood by me, and in that connection