copied - The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 2 - Volume 5
WAR DEPARTMENT, Richmond Va., May 23,1863.
His Excellency JOHN GILL SHORTER,
Governor of Alabama, Montgomery, Ala.
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 8th instant advising that among the prisoners captured near Rome, Ga., were officers found serving within the limits of the State of Alabama with armed slaves, inciting slaves to insurrection within the State, and that also among the prisoners captured at the same time were two companies of Alabamians who had enlisted as such in the army of the enemy and having been engaged with known enemies of the State and Confederate States in acts not justified by any rule of war or necessity had been captured upon the soil of Alabama not only levying war against the State but inciting slaves to rebellion and committing rapine and destruction on the property of its citizens. You informed the Department that you had telegraphed General Bragg to retain both the officers and the two companies of Alabamians with the intention of demanding that they should be delivered to you for trial by the courts of your State for their offenses against its laws and sovereignty. At the same time you state a willingness to waive such demand on the part of the State if it be preferred by the Confederate Government to retain and try these offenders for their crimes.
This communication has been submitted to the President and has been the subject of advisement and grave consideration, and I have been instructed to inform you that while on the statement of facts pre- sented the offenses of these parties against the laws and dignity of the State are recognized yet considerations of public policy in his judgment make it more advisable that the cases should be brought under the cognizance of the tribunals of the Confederacy and remain subject to the final determination of its Executive. This it is not doubted will prove equally satisfactory not only to yourself but to the people of the State whose confidence in the Confederacy and its authorities has been so nobly evinced under all the trying ordeals of the war. It is proper to say, however, that some delay may arise in disposing of these cases from the necessity of awaiting the receipt of the official report of General Forrest.
I regret to inform you that before the receipt of your letter through the speedy action of the officials entrusted with the duty of exchanging prisoners the larger number of these alleged criminals have for the present escaped a just retribution. Without knowledge of their offenses or of your telegram to General Bragg the Adjutant-General had ordered the prisoners taken to be forwarded for exchange to this city, and under that order they were accordingly sent. This I learned from General Bragg iii reply to a telegram directing their retention. On inquiry here I find there was no Alabama regiment (so-called) among the prisoners, but of a so-called Tennessee regiment there were two companies which are believed to have been composed of Alabamians. The privates had before the receipt of your letter been sent off under the cartel. Some of the officers of these companies as well as of the other regiments captured by General Forrest remain, and they will suffice perhaps to exhibit the determination of the Government and serve as exemplars of the punishment which will be visited on such crimes. The measure of forbearance so long exhibited by the authorities and people of the South under the outrages and atrocious violations of all the usages of civilized warfare by the enemy has been at last exhausted, and it only remains to vindicate by unavoidable retaliation the wrongs of our army and people and if possible deter by fear our unscrupulous foes insensible to all higher influences from a repetition of their atrocities.
Yours, with esteem,
JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War.