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William Francis Corbin and Jefferson McGraw

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by captainrlm, Jul 12, 2009.

  1. captainrlm

    captainrlm Cadet

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    I offer this link to Eric Wittenberg's blog as his entry from today (July 12) hit close to home. Corbin and McGraw are only mentioned briefly, towards the middle, but the rest of the story results from what happened with them.

    http://civilwarcavalry.com/

    Both Corbin and McGraw lived in the same county I live in, and they are buried within just a couple of minutes from where I grew up (close to an hour from where I live now.)

    One of my first introductions to the Civil War occurred in 1983 when I was 10 years old and read a local newspaper article about these two. A picture in the article showed Corbin's headstone in an unkept family cemetery, but it caught my attention because also in the picture was a cow belonging to a cousin of mine who was renting the land. The fact that this was on my cousin's land probably caught my attention more than the Civil War aspect at that time, but the story still stuck with me.

    I have read about it since then, as a book published in the 1890s describes it, but I had never realized the controversy over their arrest and executions went so far as to involve Robert E. Lee's son. I never dreamed that reading a story about a man from Pennsylvania would lead me back to this "local yocal" story.

    I find it fascinating. We have no battlefields in this area, and though I now know how close the Confederates came to Cincinnati in the fall of 1862, I'm still excited to see a bit more significance attached to this story too. Like I said, it's a bit of a "local yocal" type of story that probably won't mean as much to others as it does to me, but it does show you never know what you'll find out about this war. I never would have guessed I'd see thier names mentioned on a blog like that one.
     

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  3. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    Here is something that may interest you:
    Southern Historical Society Papers.
    Vol. XXX. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1902.
    Treatment And Exchange Of Prisoners.
    Official Report of the History Committee of the Grand
    Camp, C. V., Department of Virginia.
    By Hon. GEO. L. CHRISTIAN, Chairman.
    Read at Wytheville, Va., October 23rd, 1902.
    The previous reports of the History Committee have been published in the Papers. They should be separately presented together in a special publication, as a logical defence of the South, in motive and that which ensued. The actuating principle is made clear and fully justified in morality by luminous presentation, which is impregnably honorable to the action of the Southern States and their people and soldiers throughout a momentous and necessitous struggle. A parallel in history, if ever approached in exemplification, cannot in all time, be more convincingly supported by facts in which the Southern people of both sexes offered and sacrificed in the cause of right and humanity.
    [excerpt]
    EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS.
    From the very beginning, the Confederate authorities were anxious to make an arrangement for the exchange of prisoners, and indeed that the war should be conducted in all of its features on the highest and most humane plane known to civilized nations. To that end
    Mr. Davis wrote Mr. Lincoln on July 6th, 1861, as follows:
    "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 answer 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 "belligerents." 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 commenced on the 14th of February, 1862, General John E. Wool representing the Federal and General Howell Cobb the Confederates, the only unsettled point at that time being that General Wool was unwilling 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 1st, 1862, General Wool informed General Cobb that his Government would not consent 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 now stated that his Government "had changed his instructions." And so these negotiations were broken off, and matters left as before they were begun.
    The real reason for this change was that in the meantime the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson had given the Federals a preponderance in the number of prisoners. Soon, however, Jackson's valley campaign, the battles around Richmond, and other Confederate successes, gave the Confederates the preponderance, and this change of conditions induced the Federals to consent to terms, to which the Confederates had always been ready to accede.
    And so on July 22nd, 1862, General John A. Dix, representing the Federals, and General D. H. Hill, the Confederates, at Haxall's Landing, on James river, in Charles City county, entered into the cartel which thereafter formed the basis for the exchange of prisoners during the rest of the war whenever it was allowed by the Federals to be in operation. Article four of this cartel provided as follows:
    "All prisoners of war, to be discharged on parole, in ten days after the capture, and the prisoners now held and those hereafter taken, to be transferred to the points mutually agreed upon, at the expense of the capturing party."
    Article six provided that--
    "The stipulations and provisions above mentioned are to be of binding obligation during the continuance of the war, it matters not which party may have the surplus of prisoners." * * * "That all prisoners, of whatever arm of the service, are to be exchanged or paroled in ten days from the time of their capture, if it be practicable to transfer them to their own lines in that time; if not, as soon thereafter as practicable."
    Article nine provided that--
    "In case any misunderstanding shall arise in regard to any clause or stipulation in the foregoing articles, it is mutually agreed, that such misunderstanding shall not interrupt the release of prisoners on parole, as herein provided; but shall be made the subject of friendly explanation, in order that the object of this agreement may neither be defeated nor postponed."
    It is readily seen that both General Dix and General Hill acted with the utmost good faith in the formation of this cartel, with a common purpose in view, to the carrying out of which each pledged the good faith of his Government; and in Article 9 they made ample provision to prevent any cessation in the work of exchanging promptly all prisoners captured during the war. And we now propose to show that this would have been the case but for the bad faith and bad conduct of the representatives of the Federal Government.
    As was contemplated by the cartel, each of the two Governments appointed its Commissioners of Exchange to carry it into execution. On the part of the Federals, Major General E. A. Hitchcock was appointed, with two assistants, Colonel Wm. H. Ludlow, and Captain (afterward Brigadier-General) John E. Mulford, as assistants. On the part of the Confederates, the late Judge Robert auld, of the Richmond (Va.) Bar, was the sole representative. The writer had the privilege of knowing both General Mulford and Judge auld well, and, in his opinion, no better selections could have been made by their respective Governments. Judge auld was a man of splendid judicial bearing, singular honesty of purpose and kindness of heart, with capacity both in speaking and in writing, to represent his Government with unsurpassed ability. General Mulford was a man of fair abilities, and of great kindness of heart. Of General Hitchcock and Colonel Ludlow, he can only speak from what they disclose of their characteristics in their letters. General Hitchcock exhibits a profound distrust of what he terms the "rebel" authorities in all of his letters, and frequently displays a temper and impatience, seemingly, not warranted by the surrounding circumstances. Colonel Ludlow, at times, exhibits great fairness; at other times, manifest unfairness, but always displays shrewdness and ability.

    continued
     
  4. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    [excerpt]
    Southern Historical Society Papers.
    Vol. XXX. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1902.
    Treatment And Exchange Of Prisoners.
    He then tells Colonel Ludlow that he is satisfied that he (Ludlow) has tried to have these prisoners released, but without avail, and then tells him again that the Confederates were compelled to notify him that they must resort to retaliation; but telling him further that he will be notified of each case in which this course is pursued.
    On the same day he wrote another letter calling Ludlow's attention to the report that Captains McGraw and Corbin had been tried and sentenced to be shot for recruiting for the Confederates in Kentucky, and saying that if these men were executed the Confederate authorities had selected two captains for execution in retaliation; and he concludes this letter with this significant language:
    "In view of the awful vortex into which things are plunging, I give you notice, that in the event of the execution of these persons, retaliation to an equal extent at least will be visited upon your own officers, and if that is found ineffectual the number will be increased. The Great Ruler of Nations must judge who is responsible for the initiation of this chapter of horrors." Id., page 690-'1.
    In a letter of January 5th, 1863, Judge Ould wrote:
    "Nothing is nearer my heart than to prevent on either side a resort to retaliation. Even if made necessary by course of events, it is much to be deplored. These are not only my own personal views, but those of my Government.
    It is almost unnecessary to say that, of course, these complaints and threats and appeals, would not have been made, at the time, and in the manner they were made, had not just cause existed therefor, and that the Federal authorities were solely responsible for the condition of affairs then existing. (See another letter of the same date on the same page as to political prisoners.)
    This being the condition of things, on May 25th, 1863, the following order was issued by the Federals:
    "WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, D. C., May 25, 1863.
    "General Schofield:
    "No Confederate officer will be paroled or exchanged till further orders. They will be kept in close confinement, and be strongly guarded. Those already paroled will be confined.
    "H. W. HALLECK,
    "General-in-Chief."
    And similar orders were sent to all commanders of Federal forces throughout the country, lb., p. 696. See also pp. 706-'7, 722.
    It is surely unnecessary, then, after reading these letters, and this order, to say which side was responsible for violations of the cartel while it remained in operation, and for the suspension of its operations, as well as for the first maltreatment of prisoners.
    With the exception of exchanges in individual cases, this suspension of the cartel continued. So that, on July 2nd, 1863, Mr. Davis addressed a letter to Mr. Lincoln (which we have never seen before), in which he said, among other things, after referring to the differences that had arisen between the Commissioners in carrying out the cartel, and the hardships incurred by reason of its suspension-- as follows:
    "I believe I have just ground of complaint against the officers and forces under your command for breach of trust of the cartel, and being myself ready to execute it at all times and in good faith, I am not justified in doubting the existence of the same disposition on your part. In addition to this matter I have to complain of the conduct of your officers and troops in many parts of the country, who violate all the rules of war by carrying on hostilities, not only against armed foes, but against non-combatants, aged men, women and children, while others not only seize such property as is required for the use of your troops, but destroy all private property within their reach, even agricultural implements, and openly avow the purpose of seeking to subdue the population of the districts where they are operating by starvation that must result from the destruction of standing crops and agricultural tools. Still again others of your officers in different districts have recently taken the lives of prisoners who fell into their power, and justify their act by asserting a right to treat as spies the military officers and enlisted men under my command who may penetrate into States recognized by us as our allies in the warfare now waged against the United States, but claimed by the latter as having refused to engage in such warfare. I have therefore on different occasions been forced to make complaints of these outrages, and to ask from you that you either avow or disclaim having authorized them, and have failed to obtain such answer as the usages of civilized warfare require to be given in such cases. These usages justify and indeed require redress by retaliation as the proper means of repressing such cruelties as are not permitted in warfare between Christian peoples. I have notwithstanding refrained from the exercise of such retaliation because of its obvious tendency to lead to war of indiscriminate massacre on both sides, which would be a spectacle so shocking to humanity, and so disgraceful to the age in which we live, and the religion we profess, that I cannot contemplate it without a feeling of horror that I am disinclined to doubt you would share. With the view then of making our last solemn attempt to avert such calamities, and to attest my earnest desire to prevent them, if possible, I have selected the bearer of this letter, the Hon. Alexander H. Stephens, as a Military Commissioner, to proceed to your headquarters, under flag of truce, there to confer and agree on the subjects above mentioned; and I do hereby authorize the said Alexander H. Stephens to arrange and settle all differences and disputes, which have arisen, or may arise in the execution of the cartel for exchange of prisoners of war, heretofore agreed on between our respective land and naval forces; also to prevent further misunderstandings, as to terms of said cartel, and finally to enter into such arrangement and understanding about the mode of carrying on hostilities between the belligerents as shall confine the severities of the war within such limits as are rightfully imposed, not only by modern civilization, but by our common Christianity." Reb. Rec., Series II, Vol. VI, p. 75-6.
    On the 4th of July, 1863, Mr. Stephens, accompanied by Judge Ould, took the foregoing and proceeded down the James river under flag of truce, for the purpose of delivering the letter and of conferring with Mr. Lincoln. They were stopped by the blockading squadron, under the command of Acting Rear Admiral S. P. Lee, near Newport News, and Mr. Stephens then communicated to Admiral Lee the nature of his mission. This communication to Admiral Lee was reported to the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Gideon Wells, and by the latter to the Secretary of War, Mr. Edwin M. Stanton. After Mr. Stephens had been kept for two days awaiting a reply, he was informed that the Secretary of War refused to permit him to proceed further on the ground, that "the customary agents and channels are considered adequate for all needful communications and conferences." See Mr. Stephens' report, Id., p. 94.
    Between the date of Mr. Davis' letter and the 6th of July, when the refusal came to allow Mr. Stephens to proceed further on his attempted mission of mercy and justice, Gettysburg had been fought, and Vicksburg had fallen, and these disasters to the Confederates had not only made the Federals arrogant, but had also given them for the first time since the cartel a preponderance of prisoners, and hence from that time forward, their interest and their policy was to throw every obstacle possible in the way of the further exchanges of prisoners.
    The foregoing letter of Mr. Davis exhibits the loftiest statesmanship and Christian character, and should inspire us with a new desire to do honor to his memory, as well as fill us with pride that we had as our civil leader, one so noble, so humane, so just, and so true.
    It is interesting to us to know that Mr. Davis and General Lee were in full accord in their views on the question of retaliating on prisoners for offences committed by others. On the 13th of July, 1864, Mr. Seddon, the Confederate Secretary of War, wrote to General Lee calling his attention to the murder of two citizens, in the Valley of Virginia, by General Hunter's orders, or by his command, suggesting that some course of retaliation should be put in operation to prevent further atrocities of the kind, and asking General Lee "what measure of punishment or retaliation should be adopted?" (Id., p. 464.) To this inquiry General Lee replied as follows:
    "I have on several occasions expressed to the Department my views as to the system of retaliation, and revolting as are the circumstances attending the murder of the citizens above mentioned, I can see nothing to distinguish them from other outrages of a like character that have from time to time been brought to the attention of the Government. As I have said before, if the guilty parties could be taken, either the officer who commands, or the soldier who executes such atrocities, I should not hesitate to advise the infliction of the extreme punishment they deserve, but I cannot think it right or politic, to make the innocent, after they have surrendered as prisoners of war, suffer for the guilty." * * *
    On this letter, Mr. Davis makes this endorsement:
    "The views of General Lee I regard as just and appropriate."
    Contrast this letter and this endorsement with the treatment accorded by General Sherman to prisoners, as detailed by him on page
    194, Vol. 2 of his Memoirs, and you will see the difference between the conduct of a Christian and a savage.
    But we must proceed with the subject of the exchange of prisoners: Some time in the summer of 1863, General S. A. Meredith was appointed a Federal Commissioner of Exchange, and in September Judge Ould attempted to open negotiations with him for a resumption of the cartel. To this attempt by letter no reply was received. He renewed these efforts on October 20th, 1863, saying:
    "I now propose that all officers and men on both sides be released in conformity with the provisions of the cartel, the excess on one side or the other, to be on parole. Will you accept this? I have no expectation of an answer, but perhaps you may give one. If it does come, I hope it will be soon." Id., p. 401.
    [end of excerpt]

    M. E. Wolf
     
  5. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    I note no mention of the refusal to consider USCT as exchangeable soldiers.
     
  6. captainrlm

    captainrlm Cadet

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    Thanks M E Wolfe. I'll have to read those in-depth later today.

    Ole - this incident was in mid 1862. I don't recall when the exchange cartel ended or when the refusal to exchange colored troops began, but I suspect that was later in the war, after the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 allowed recruiting of black troops into the Union army. All of that controversy should be later in the war than when this inicident happened.
     
  7. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    The 1903 report includes the period in which the cartel was starting to break up -- late 1863.

    Ole
     

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