Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 30.djvu/90

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82 Southern Historical Society Papers.

" It is the desire of this Government so to conduct the war now existing as to mitigate its horrors as far as may be possible; and with this intent, its treatment of the prisoners captured by its forces has been marked by the greatest humanity and leniency consistent with public obligation. Some have been permitted to return home on parole, others to remain at large under similar conditions, within this Confederacy, and all have been furnished with rations for their subsistence, such as are allowed to our own troops."

This letter was sent to Washington by special messenger (Colonel Taylor); but he was refused an audience with Mr. Lincoln, and was forced to content himself with a verbal reply from General Scott to the effect that the letter had been delivered to Mr. Lincoln, and that he would reply to it in writing as soon as possible. But no an- swer ever came.

For nearly a year after the war began, although many prisoners were captured and released on parole, on both sides, the Federal authorities refused to enter into any arrangement for the exchange of prisoners, taking the absurd position that they would not treat with " rebels " in any way which would recognize them as " bellige- rents." The English government had already recognized us as "belligerents" as early as May, 1861. As the Earl of Derby tersely said in the House of Lords:

' ' The Northern States could not claim the rights of belligerents for themselves, and, on the other hand, deal with other parties, not as belligerents, but as rebels."

After awhile the pressure on the Federal authorities by friends of the prisoners was so great that they were induced to agree to a cartel for the exchange of prisoners on the very basis offered by the Confederates in the beginning. These negotiations were com- menced on the 1 4th of February, 1862, General John E. Wool repre- senting the Federal and General Howell Cobb the Confederates, the only unsettled point at that time being that General Wool was unwil- ling that each party should agree to pay the expense of transporting their prisoners to the frontier; and this he promised to refer to his Government. At a second interview on March ist, 1862, General Wool informed General Cobb that his Government would not con- sent to pay these expenses, and thereupon General Cobb promptly receded from this demand and agreed to accept the terms offered by General Wool. General Wool had stated in the beginning that he alone was clothed with full power to effect this arrangement, but he