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GENERAL R. E. LEE
Commanding Confederate States Armies:
Your two letters of the 2d instant were received yesterday. In regard to any apprehended misunderstanding in reference to the exchange of political prisoners, I think there need be none. General Ord and General Longstreet have probably misunderstood what I said to the former on the subject, or I may have failed to make myself understood possibly. A few days before the interview between Generals Longstreet and Ord I had received a despatch from General Hoffman, Commissary-General of Prisoners, stating in substance that all prisoners of war who were or had been in close confinement or irons, whether under charges or sentence, had been ordered to City Point for exchange. I forwarded the substance of that despatch to Lieutenant-Colonel Mulford, Assistant Agent of Exchange, and presumed it probable that he had communicated it to Colonel Robert Ould. A day or two after, an officer who was neither a prisoner of war nor a political prisoner, was executed, after a fair and impartial trial, and in accordance with the laws of war and the usage of civilized nations. It was in explanation of this class of cases I told General Ord to speak to General Longstreet. Reference to my letter of February 16 will show my understanding on the subject of releasing political or citizen prisoners.
In regard to meeting you on the 6th instant, I would state that I have no authority to accede to your proposition for a conference on the subject proposed. Such authority is vested in the President of the United States alone. General Ord could only have meant that I would not refuse an interview on any subject on which I have a right to act, which, of course, would be such as are purely of a military character, and on the subject of exchanges which has been intrusted to me.
(Signed) U. S. GRANT,
- Ulysses S. Grant
- From Manassas to Appomattox Memoirs of the Civil War in America, James Longstreet, 1896