Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

November 20.—The Solicitor of the War Department, Mr. William Whiting, in a letter to a gentleman in Boston, wrote as follows:

“There are several serious difficulties in the way of continuing an exchange of prisoners. One is the bad faith of the enemy in putting into active service many thousands of paroled prisoners, captured at Vicksburgh and elsewhere, without releasing any of our soldiers held by them. But another difficulty of still graver importance is the peremptory refusal by the enemy to exchange colored soldiers and their white officers upon any terms whatever. It is well known that they have threatened to sell colored captured soldiers into slavery, and to hang their white officers.

“The Government demands that all officers and soldiers should be fairly exchanged, otherwise no more prisoners of war will be given up. The faith of the Government is pledged to these officers and troops that they shall be protected, and it cannot and will not abandon to the savage cruelty of slave-masters a single officer or soldier who has been called on to defend the flag of his country, and thus exposed to the hazards of war.

“It has been suggested that exchanges might go on until all except the colored troops and their white officers have been given up. But if this were allowed, the rebels would not only be relieved of the burden of maintaining our troops, but they would get back their own men, retaining their power over the very persons whom we are solemnly bound to rescue, and upon whom they could then, without fear of retaliation, carry into execution the inhuman cruelties they have so basely threatened.

“The President has ordered that the stern law of retaliation shall, without hesitation, be enforced, to avenge the death of the first Union soldier, of whatever color, whom the enemy shall in cold blood destroy or sell into slavery. All other questions between us may be postponed for future settlement, but the fair exchange of colored soldiers and of their white officers will be insisted on by the Government before another rebel soldier or officer will be exchanged.”

Previous post:

Next post: