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The prisoners of war taken by the enemy on board the armed schooner Savannah, sailing under our commission, were, as I was credibly advised, treated like common felons, put in irons, confined in a jail usually appropriated to criminals of the worst dye, and threatened with punishment as such. I had made application for the exchange of these prisoners to the commanding officer of the enemy's squadron off Charleston, but that officer had already sent the prisoners to New York when application was made. I therefore deemed it my duty to renew the proposal for the exchange to the constitutional Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, the only officer having control of the prisoners. To this end, I dispatched an officer to him under a flag of truce, and, in making the proposal, I informed President Lincoln of my resolute purpose to check all barbarities on prisoners of war by such severity of retaliation on prisoners held by us as should secure the abandonment of the practice. This communication was received and read by an officer in command of the United States forces, and a message was brought from him by the bearer of my communication, that a reply would be returned by President Lincoln as soon as possible. I earnestly hope this promised reply (which has not yet been received) will convey the assurance that prisoners of war will be treated, in this unhappy contest, with that regard for humanity, which has made such conspicuous progress in the conduct of modern warfare. As measures of precaution, however, and until this promised reply is received, I still retain in close custody some officers captured from the enemy, whom it had been my pleasure previously to set at large on parole, and whose fate must necessarily depend on that of prisoners held by the enemy.
The bearer of the communication referred to in this extract had come, under a flag of truce, to the headquarters of Gen. McDowell, at the Arlington House, on the 8th of July, causing much speculation, for a brief time, as to the object of his mission. Its real purport, however, was soon known. Capt. Taylor, who bore the insolent letter of Davis, reported to the latter, on the 10th of July, that the missive had been delivered, and added:
After reading your communication to Mr. Lincoln, Gen. Scott informed me that a reply would be returned by Mr. Lincoln as soon as possible
It would be more than doubtful, on such equivocal evidence alone, whether any reply was ever "promised," or even remotely suggested by the President. Certain it is that he made neither promise nor reply. At a subsequent date it was decided to put captured privateersmen on the same footing as other prisoners of war.
After persuasive allusions to the Border Slave States, with a palliation of the Kentucky neutrality so unsparingly dealt with by President Lincoln in his message, the Rebel "Executive" proceeds to other topics:
The operations in the field will be greatly extended by reason of the policy which heretofore has been secretly entertained, and is now avowed and acted on by us. The forces hitherto raised provide amply for the defense of seven States which originally organized in the Confederacy, as is evidently the fact, since, with the exception of three fortified islands, whose defense is efficiently aided by a preponderating naval force, the enemy has been driven completely out of these stations; and now, at the expiration of five months from the formation of the Government, not a single hostile foot presses their soil. These forces, however, must necessarily prove inadequate to repel invasion by the half million of men now proposed by the enemy, and a corresponding increase of our forces will become
To speak of subjugating such a people, so united and determined, is to speak in a language incomprehensible to them; to resist attack on their rights or their liberties is with them an instinct. Whether this war shall last one, or three, or five years, is a problem they leave to be solved by the enemy alone. It will last till the enemy shall have withdrawn from their borders; till their political rights, their altars, and their homes are freed from invasion, Then, and then only, will they rest from this struggle to enjoy, in peace, the blessings which, with the favor of Providence, they have secured by the aid of their own strong hearts and steady arms.
It may be added that the chief conspirator found his subordinates of the self-styled Confederate Congress ready to second his wishes, and to act in the spirit of his communication to them. They voted, without stint-in their assumption of authoritymen and means for carrying on aggressive as well as defensive war, on the scale planned by their chief.
The issue was now fairly joined. No possible solution remained but one to be achieved by arms, and the most serious stage of the contest seemed to be at hand. On both sides the armies were rapidly filling up, and receiving the necessary organization and discipline under leaders deemed, at the time, best suited for the emergency. From this time onward, the history of Mr. Lincoln's Administration is, to a large extent, merged in that of the war. The most important measures of legislation and all the principal Executive acts and orders, are closely related to the suppression of a revolt which surpasses, in the magnitude of its proportions and of the final issues involved, any other recorded in authentic annals.
Military Reorganization.-Resumè of Events to the December Session of Congress.-Action in Regard to "Contrabands" and Slavery.
THE first depression which followed the disaster at Manassas, speedily gave place to an uprising of the loyal sentiment of the nation, surpassing in earnestness and grandeur even that which immediately succeeded the fall of Fort Sumter. For this effect in deepening and strengthening the popular determination, the Rebel cause had received no substantial compensation through its barren victory. The losses were too nearly equal, the ground won was too insignificant, and the fruits which might have been gathered by a Napoleonic general had too completely eluded the grasp of Beauregard and his superior, Davis, (who had come up from Richmond just in time to witness the closing spectacle), to afford real occasion for the exultation universally manifested throughout the territory occupied by the insurgents. Yet, at home and abroad, the immediate effect was auspicious in appearance for the now very sanguine leaders of secession. They looked forward to nothing less than early occupation of Washington, with the subjection of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri, under an armed invasion, and a recognition, throughout the world, of the Rebel Empire.
A prompt reorganization of our armies in front of Washington and in the Shenandoah was ordered by the President. Whatever the merits of McDowell, it was necessary to call another to his place who could better command the public confidence. The ardent dispatches of the young commander in West Virginia were yet fresh in all minds. He had the favoring support of Gen. Scott, and on every side there was a predisposition to hope the most and the best from his assignment
to a larger command. If the President erred, it was only in common with the people whose will he had undertaken to execute, and not from favoritism or partiality, political or personal, toward an officer whom he had never seen.
The 25th of July, 1861, is memorable as the day on which Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont arrived in St. Louis, and entered on his command of the Department of the West; as the day on which Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks (previously in command at Baltimore) reached Harper's Ferry, superseding Gen. Patterson; and as that on which Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan arrived in Washington to take command of the Army of the Potomac. His former place, as commander of the Army in West Virginia, was, by an order issued on the same day, given to the hero of Rich Mountain, Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans. At Baltimore, Maj. Gen. John A. Dix assumed command in place of Banks.
For the three months succeeding the battle of Bull Run, the Army of the Potomac, from which the people impatiently awaited worthy deeds to redeem and avenge the former failure, has only the history of rapidly increasing numbers, of improving organization and discipline, and of the needed preparation, in respect to arms, equipments, supplies and experience of camp life. During this period, the number of men under McClellan's command had come to be estimated at about 200,000. It is believed that the effective force, on the 21st of October, when the first movement commenced, fell but little, if any, short of that number. Meanwhile the Potomac had become substantially closed by a Rebel blockade, injurious to many interests, and hazardous in a military point of view. But the prudent General, guarding himself against premature movements, in accordance with the monition which he saw in the result of McDowell's advance, deemed it unwise to risk a general action by coöperating with a naval force, as was desired, to reopen navigation on the river.
On the 18th of August, the command at Fortress Monroe was surrendered to Gen. John E. Wool, by Gen. Butler, who proceeded northward to organize a separate expedition, the destination of which was not disclosed.