(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson (v.1)"



LINCOLN ROOM 

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 
LIBRARY 




MEMORIAL 

the Class of 1901 

founded by 

HARLAN HOYT HORNER 

and 
HENRIETTA CALHOUN HORNER 




IN THREE VOLUMES 
VOLUME I 




SECRETARY OF THE NAVY UNDER 
LINCOLN AND JOHNSON 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JOHN T. MORSE, JR. 

AND 

.1 VH ,i 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 

VOLUME I 
1861 MARCH 30, 1864 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

re# Cambridge 
1911 



;ii ;. YH / .a > /, . 

COPYRIGHT, 1909, AND 1910, BY EDGAR T. WELLES 
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY EDGAR T, WELLES AND HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

Published October tqn 






PREFACE 

IT was the custom of my father all his life to keep a diary. 
He was a prolific writer on political subjects and his even- 
ings were generally spent with his pen in his hand. When 
in Washington, it was his habit in the evening, after the 
family had retired, to devote his time to writing in the 
diary. His public duties at that period gave him no time 
to devote to the miscellaneous writings to which he had 
been accustomed. But in the diary are expressed his views 
on public men and measures, not only of the day but also 
those gathered throughout his public life. It was a relaxa- 
tion to him to write ; in fact, being thoroughly accustomed 
to it, it was a pleasure. 

The question of the publication of this diary has caused 
me much serious reflection. It is an unreserved expres- 
sion of what was from day to day in the mind of the writer. 
He probably thought that it would be useful as a record 
of the events of the time. Certainly he did not think it 
would be wholly unheeded. 

But his expressions were not shaped by the considera- 
tion that it would be given to the world or would not be; 
the decision of that question he left to me. Accordingly, I 
have taken the advice of those in whom I know my father 
would have the most implicit confidence, submitting the 
material for consideration and review. Without exception, 
I believe, the decision has been that duty requires of me 
the publication, and the truth of history demands that 
under no circumstances must I fail to make this record 
public. It had seemed to me that the free criticism and 
personal allusions should have been hi some degree elim- 



vi PREFACE 

inated, but the advice of the most eminent authorities has 
been adverse to any omission. I should have much pre- 
ferred it otherwise, but have yielded to those to whose 
judgment I should defer. A few strong expressions, purely 
personal and private, have been omitted, but the omis- 
sion has always been indicated and the reader may have 
full confidence that the text of the diary has been hi no 
way mutilated or revised. 

I desire to express my obligations to the publishers for 
their careful and painstaking work. Too much credit can- 
not be given them for their labors and the result. 

EDGAR T. WELLES. 



CONTENTS 

INTRODUCTION JOHN T. MORSE xvli 

I 

THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR 

The Expedition for the Relief of Sumter Mr. Seward's Interference 
Porter and Barren The Relief of Fort Pickens Conversation 
with Senator Douglas Mr. Seward's Intrigues The Loss of the 
Norfolk Navy Yard The Appointment of Stanton as Secretary of 
War The Relations of Seward and Stanton Fear of the Merri- 
mac in Washington " Stanton's Navy " 3 

II 

JULY AND AUGUST, 1862 

The President broaches the Subject of Emancipation Navy Depart- 
ment Worries Commodore Wilkes Disappointed Officers 
Seward's Assumption of Authority How Lincoln chose his Cabi- 
net The Army's Failure to cooperate The Military Theory of 
Frontiers Promotion of W. D. Porter Proposed Line of Gun- 
boats on the Ohio The Cabal against McClellan Stanton on 
McClellan The Need of Better Generals 70 

III 

SEPTEMBER, 1862 

After the Second Battle of Bull Run Another Anti-McClellan Paper 

The Opinion about General Pope Wilkes and McClellan 
McClellan's Remarks about South Carolina and Massachusetts 

The Bickerings of the Generals The President's Opinion of 
McClellan and Pope Rumors of a Proposed Revolution An 
Estimate of Halleck Panic-Stricken New York A Scheme to de- 
port Slaves to Chiriqui The " West Point " Policy An Estimate 
of Stanton Lincoln's Deference to Seward The Administration of 
the Departments The Want of a Military Policy Lincoln and 
Seward How Cabinet-Meetings were conducted The Rivalry 
of Seward and Chase News of Antietam Dismissal of Com- 
mander Preble The Emancipation Proclamation read to the 
Cabinet Senator John P. Hale Chase's Financial Policy 



viii CONTENTS 

Chase's Opinion of Stanton The Chiriqui Scheme New York 
Politics European Efforts to break the Blockade 100 

IV 

OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER, 1862 

D. D. Porter appointed to the Western Flotilla Porter, Davis, and 
Dahlgren The Cabinet on Emancipation Admiral Du Pont 
Stanton's Threat to resign Dahlgren's Ambitions The Norfolk 
Blockade The Currency Question Stuart's Raid Spanish 
Claims as to Maritime Jurisdiction The Case of the Steamer 
Bermuda General Scott's Influence at the Beginning of the War 
The Question of raising the Norfolk Blockade A Hoax on 
Seward Transfer of the Mississippi Fleet to the Navy Seward 
and the Mails captured on Blockade-Runners 157 



DECEMBER, 1862 

A Private Grief Burnside succeeds McClellan in Command of the 
Army of the Potomac The Modification of the Norfolk Blockade 

The Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy The Question 
of New Navy Yards Count Gurowski and his Book Com- 
mander Preble's Case The Division of Virginia A Roundabout 
Proceeding of Seward's Seward's Resignation and the Discussion 
in Regard to it Chase tenders his Resignation and the President 
sees a Way out Cabinet Rivalries Seward and Chase requested 
to withdraw their Resignations Depredations of the Alabama 
Cabinet Discussion of the West Virginia Question Butler super- 
seded by Banks at New Orleans The Party Spirit 182 

VI 

JANUARY AND FEBRUARY, 1863 

The Emancipation Proclamation The Battle of Murfreesborough 
Loss of the Monitor Criticisms of the Navy Department Hal- 
leek's Deficiencies The Employment of the Contrabands John 
Covode's Gubernatorial Aspirations The Pernicious Party Spirit 

McClernand and Vicksburg The Court Martial on Fitz John 
Porter The New London Navy Yard Question Confederate 
Letters Fitz John Porter's Conviction A Call from F. A. 
Conkling The Gauge of the Pacific Railroad Hooker placed in 
Command of the Army of the Potomac An Estimate of Farragut 
"Weed is Seward, and Seward is Weed " Governor Morgan elected 
Senator from New York Reported Pressure for Mediation on the 



CONTENTS ix 

Part of the French Government Proposed Attack on Charleston 

Chase's Bank Bill The Senate rejects the Reappointment of 
Collector Howard Irregular Acts of the President Scene be- 
tween Scott, McClellan, and Seward 212 

VII 

MARCH AND APRIL, 1863 

Closing Hours of Congress A Call from Senator Dixon Proposed 
Issue of Letters of Marque Delay in the Attack on Charleston 
Impending War with England Conversations with Sumner about 
the Letters of Marque Conversation with the President on the 
Subject of Letters of Marque and the Attitude of England Talk 
with Seward on the Relation of the Navy Department to the Letters 
of Marque The First Application for Letters of Marque The 
Expected Attack on Charleston News of Repulse at Charleston 

The Peterhoff 's Mails Commander Rhind and the Ironclads 
at Charleston The Elletts and the Ram Fleet Du Font's Fail- 
ure at Charleston The President takes a Hand in the Peterhoff 
Contention Blockade-Runners on the Rio Grande Du Pont's 
Vanity and Weakness Sumner's Conversation with Lord Lyons 

on the Peterhoff Matter 244 

VIII 

MAY, 1863 

Conversation with Attorney-General Bates on the Captured Mails 
John Laird's Statement in Parliament Waiting for News from 
Hooker Rumors of the Battle of Chancellorsville Disappoint- 
ment at the News Stonewall Jackson's Death Recall of Wilkes 
from the West India Squadron Earl Russell's Speech on Ameri- 
can Affairs Sumner's Talk with Seward about Mr. Adams and 
the Secretary of Legation at London Conversation with the Pre- 
sident on the Subject of Captured Mails Du Pont's Charges 
against Chief Engineer Stimers Du Pont before Charleston 
His Shortcomings and the Question of superseding him Deplor- 
able Conditions in the South Foote succeeds Du Pont in Com- 
mand of the South Atlantic Squadron Dahlgren declines to be 
Second in Command 290 

IX 

JUNE, 1863 

The Arrest of Vallandigham and the Case of the Chicago Times The 
Removal of Wilkes Count Gurowski on Welles's Appointment 



CONTENTS 

to the Cabinet General Milroy at Winchester The President 
and the Cabinet kept in Ignorance of Army Movements Lack of 
Confidence in Hooker Alarm at Rumors of Confederate Advance 
into Pennsylvania The President calls for 100,000 Volunteers 
The President's Opinion of " Orpheus C. Kerr" Illness of Admiral 
Foote The Secretary of State and the Matamoras Situation 
Sumner's Opinion of Hooker Appointment of Dahlgren to the 
South Atlantic Squadron in Foote's Place The French Tobacco 
in Richmond Estimate of Dahlgren The Monitors and the 
Fifteen-Inch Guns Founding of the Army and Navy Gazette 
Congratulations to Commodore Rodgers on the Capture of the 
Fingal The President betrays Doubts of Hooker Blair on 
the Presidential Aspirations of Chase and McClellan Death of 
Admiral Foote His Lifelong Friendship with Welles Needless 
Alarm for the Safety of New York Meade succeeds Hooker 
Rumors of Confederate Raids near Washington Lee's Advance 
into Pennsylvania . . . 319 



JULY, 1863 

First Reports of the Battle of Gettysburg Stanton accused by McClel- 
lan of sacrificing the Army F. P. Blair on Stanton's Early Seces- 
sionist Sympathies Stanton's Treachery toward the Buchanan 
Administration Seward's Intrigues His Misconception of the 
War Later News from Gettysburg Vice-President Stephens's 
Proposed Mission to Washington Intercepted Confederate Dis- 
patches Cabinet-Meeting on Stephens's Mission Meade linger- 
ing at Gettysburg The Fall of Vicksburg Lincoln's Receipt of 
the News Rejoicings over Gettysburg and Vicksburg Vice- 
President Hamlin's Request for a Prize Court at Portland Some 
of the Generals Content to have the War continue Draft Riots 
The President's Dejection at the Failure of Meade to capture Lee's 
Army The Draft Riots in New York Lee recrosses the Poto- 
mac Prospects of an Early Ending to the War An Estimate 
of Jefferson Davis Calhoun and Nullification Senator Hale's 
Hostility Downfall of the Mexican Republic Impressions of 
Colonel Rawlins of Grant's Staff Grant's Dissatisfaction with 
McClernand . 354 



XI 

AUGUST, 1863 

Refutation of Laird's Statement as to an Application from the Navy 
Department The President refuses to postpone the Draft 
Connection of Howard of Brooklyn with the Laird Matter The 



CONTENTS xi 

Provisions of the Draft Act discussed in Cabinet General Halleck 
and the Almaden Mines The President adopts Seward's Views 
as to Instructions to Naval Officers The President's Letter- Writ- 
ing The Ironclads not to leave England A Confidential Com- 
munication from Seward Assistant-Secretary Fox and the 
Howard Affair Conversation with Chase on the Subject of 
Slavery General Meade meets the Cabinet Suggestions from 
Boston General F. P. Blair's Account of the Vicksburg Campaign 
Injustice of the Draft Act A Letter from North Carolina 
Solicitor Whiting's Schemes for dealing with Slavery Death of 
Governor Gurley of Arizona Conversation with Chase on the 
Reconstruction of the Union Secession of the States not to be 
recognized Death of Commander George W. Rodgers The Case 
of the Mont Blanc Toombs on Southern Conditions The Sec- 
i retary of the Navy placed by Seward in a False Position as to Move- 
ments against the English Cruisers The Subject of Reunion . . 393 

XII 

SEPTEMBER, 1863 

Return from a Tour among the Navy Yards Abuse of the Writ of 
Habeas Corpus in Connection with the Draft The President sus- 
pends the Writ on Military Questions Newspaper Alarm over 
the Ironclads building in England Seward communicates the 
Assurances of the British Ministry in regard to the Rams The 
News of Chickamauga The President laments the Inefficiency of 
the Generals The President's Opinion of Farragut The Fail- 
ure at Sabine Pass The English Government prevents the Laird 
Ram from coming out The Russian Fleet arrives at New York 
Reinforcing Rosecrans An Irregular Proceeding of Seward's 
The Conduct of the Generals at Chickamauga A Report about 
the Laird Ram . . 431 



xin 

OCTOBER, 1863 

Slow Progress at Charleston Letter to the President in Reference to 
Instructions to Naval Officers Seward refers the Spanish Claim 
of Maritime Jurisdiction to the King of Belgium Conversation 
with Admiral Milne of the British Navy A Political Letter of 
McClellan's The Ohio and Pennsylvania Elections Lincoln's 
Magnanimity to Meade General Sickles's Account of Gettysburg 
Meade's "Strategy" The Unaccredited Minister from Vene- 
zuela desires to purchase a Naval Vessel General Terry and 
Colonel Hawley on Dahlgren An Unjust Complaint from Admiral 
Du Pont . . 449 



xii CONTENTS 

XIV 

DECEMBER, 1863 

The Writing of the Secretary's Annual Report The Russian Fleets 
sent into American Waters for the Winter Entertaining the Rus- 
sian Officers Colfax elected Speaker of the House over Wash- 
burne Senatorial Opposition to John P. Hale as Chairman of the 
Naval Committee Brandegee's Appointment to the House Naval 
Committee Plain Speech with Senator Hale Insubordination 
of Commodore Wilkes Rebel Letters captured on Board the 
Ceres The Plot of Trowbridge, Briggs, Lamar, and Cavnach 
Louis Napoleon's Attitude The Turret Vessels gaining Friends 
The Department's Policy in Regard to Ships Conversation with 
Senator Doolittle on Trade-Permits and Presidential Candidates 
Sailors enticed into the Army The Year closes more satisfactorily 
than it began 479 

XV 

JANUARY, 1864 

An Estimate of Sumner The Charges against Engineer-in-Chief 
Isherwood Lincoln and Seward on Clay and Webster Conver- 
sation with the Elder Blair and Governor Dennison Discussion 
in the Cabinet as to opening Additional Ports in the South Criti- 
cism of the Navy Department Moses H. Grinnell and his Rela- 
tions with the Department The Finding of the Court of In- 
quiry on Wilkes's Letter John P. Hale tells of Charges of Mis- 
management in Connection with the Cherokee and R. B. Forbes . 501 

XVI 

FEBRUARY, 1864 

Donald McKay compliments the Navy Department The War De- 
partment suspected of instigating Attacks on the Navy Department 
The President on the Dominican Question A Talk with Chase 
on Financial Matters and the Charleston Situation The Pre- 
sident as a Politician A Pleasant Half -Hour with Preston King 
An Estimate of the Man Chase's Use of the Treasury Machinery 
to further his Presidential Aspirations The Departmental Char- 
acter of the Administration Carpenter's Picture of President 
Lincoln and his Cabinet The President greets an Admirer 
Chase's Electioneering A Secret Expedition to Florida Move- 
ment on Behalf of Retired Naval Officers 518 



CONTENTS xiii 

XVII 

MARCH, 1864 

General Blair attacks Chase in the House Solicitation for Political 
Subscriptions Urging the Promotion of Colonel Hawley Good 
News of Colonel Dahlgren Chase's Attitude as to Permits and 
Trade Regulations News of Ulric Dahlgren's Death Grant at 
the President's Reception Grant receives his Commission as 
Lieutenant-General An Impression of Grant The Exposure of 
Contract Frauds The New Draft for 200,000 Men discussed in 
the Cabinet A Call from Solicitor Whiting The Scarcity of 
Seamen for the Navy Conversation with Admiral Dahlgren on 
General Gillmore Conversation between Seward and the Artist 
Carpenter on the Great Events of the Administration .... 533 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



GIDEON WELLES Photogravure frontispiece 

WILLIAM H. SEWARD 8 

GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN 94 

HENRY W. HALLECK 120 

PRESIDENT LINCOLN AND CABINET AT THE SIGNING OF THE EMAN- 
CIPATION PROCLAMATION 142 

From the Painting by Francis Bicknell Carpenter. 

JOHN A. DAHLGREN 164 

EDWIN D. MORGAN 232 

CHARLES SUMNER 286 

ANDREW HULL FOOTE 346 

HANNIBAL HAMLIN 366 

GEORGE G. MEADE 404 

CHARLES WILKES . 490 



INTRODUCTION 

MR. WELLES was in his fifty-eighth year at the time of 
his entry into the Cabinet of President Lincoln, at which 
point these volumes take up the story of his life. A brief 
account of what he had done during these preceding years 
will have at least the interest of displaying what prepara- 
tion and equipment he brought to the important office 
which he was called upon to fill. 

His earliest American ancestor escaped the distinction 
of being one of the Mayflower band by only a very few 
years; he arrived, however, in time to take part in the 
settling of Hartford, becoming " identified with its fortunes 
as early as 1636"; and serving as Treasurer, and later as 
Governor, of the Colony. Upon an estate in Glastonbury, 
bought by this ancestor from the Indians, Gideon Welles 
was born July 1, 1802. He was educated at the Protestant 
Episcopal Academy at Cheshire, and at Norwich Univers- 
ity. Afterward he studied law, and the mental influence 
of this training was plainly perceptible throughout his 
active life, though he left the profession so early as Janu- 
ary, 1826. He then took charge of the Hartford Times, a 
Democratic sheet, which soon afterward gave its influence 
in behalf of Andrew Jackson for the Presidency. This act 
of political friendship, and the prominence of Mr. Welles 
in party politics in Connecticut naturally led to his becom- 
ing Jackson's chief adviser in the local affairs of that State. 
He continued his editorial labors so long as his leader 
remained in the White House; also occupying collater- 
ally the position of Representative from Glastonbury in 
the State legislature from 1827 to 1835. We are told that 
in matters political his "sagacity seemed to be almost 
unfailing." Certainly his views were liberal and progress- 
ive, in evidence whereof is the fact that, when the Supreme 



xviii INTRODUCTION 

Court of the State held that a disbeliever in a future state 
of rewards and punishments was incompetent as a witness, 
Mr. Welles led a persistent and at last successful struggle 
for legislation which reduced this requirement of faith in 
heaven and hell as a basis of credibility to the more mod- 
erate dimension of belief in a God. He further aided in 
effecting the abolition of imprisonment for mere debt. 
Under Van Buren, from 1836 to 1841, he was Postmaster 
at Hartford, which was then the central office for the dis- 
tribution of the mail throughout New England. In 1842, 
he was elected by popular vote to the office of State Comp- 
troller, and in 1843 was reflected. In 1846 he was ap- 
pointed by Polk to be Chief of the Bureau of Provisions 
and Clothing for the Navy, and held the place till the sum- 
mer of 1849. 

With the administration of Polk and the annexation 
of territory as a result of the Mexican War, the slavery 
question became predominant in national politics. Thus 
far Mr. Welles had been a Democrat and a democrat, alike 
with the capital D and with the small letter. There is 
a very material difference between these two words, Demo- 
crat and democrat, though proof-readers have not always 
been awake to the important distinction. The party of 
that name has adopted President Jefferson as at least the 
most distinguished expounder, if not the founder of the 
American variety of their political creed. Yet Jefferson 
was democratic only with very large reservations; he 
excited Hamilton to frenzy by his extravagant preach- 
ments about the rule of the masses, but in fact he never 
had a suspicion that the ruling masses could be so wrong- 
headed as not to take their doctrines from gentlemen of 
intelligence like himself, and he assumed as basic matter 
of course that the common people would have the common 
sense to select presidents, governors, and rulers generally 
from that class of the community whose superior fitness 
for these functions Mr. Jefferson regarded as a postulate. 
Genuine democracy found its way into the Presidency with 



INTRODUCTION xix 

Andrew Jackson. But when, later on, the Democracy, as 
a political party, became the party of the Southern slavo- 
cracy, it certainly had no longer any right to use the adjec- 
tive with the little d; on the contrary it had the honesty, 
or the pride, to boast itself to be the party of aristocracy. 
At the same time, however, it retained, because it found 
very useful, the old Democratic doctrines of State rights 
and of strict construction of the Constitution. A practical 
concrete problem, however, was now coming into entire 
possession of men's minds to the exclusion of all else. 
There were no survivals of old questions, and political 
theories and principles had either to prove themselves 
malleable or to be rejected by their old-time followers, 
when the perpetuation and therefore the extension of 
Slavery came to the front. There was a new alignment 
throughout the Northern half of the country, and at once 
multitudes of independent men, refusing to be controlled 
by a political misnomer, crossed over from the slavocratic 
and aristocratic Democracy to the new, humanitarian, and 
democratic Republicanism. There was no use in raising 
the cry of apostasy; for the apostates were too numerous 
and too respectable to be described by so discreditable a 
name; and, moreover, it was quite obvious that no political 
consistency compelled a Democrat under Jackson and Van 
Buren to remain a Democrat under Pierce or Buchanan. 
There was certainly no continuity or succession between 
the destruction of the Bank of the United States, for ex- 
ample, and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. 

The infusion of a great moral issue into politics, which 
ordinarily have little enough to do with the moralities, 
inevitably changed the point of view for any man who felt 
the old Puritan conscience strong within him. In the cus- 
tomary run of public business, the average man embarks 
on board his party as on board a ship for a long voyage, 
and does not get off at the first port because he has not 
always been entirely delighted with all the arrangements; 
if, however, he wants to go north and he finds that the 



xx INTRODUCTION 

captain is sailing south, he is likely to take the first oppor- 
tunity of parting company. Thus it very naturally came 
about that the democratic Gideon Welles, being a clear- 
headed, independent, and conscientious person, ceased to 
be a Democrat, and became a Republican. Moreover, in a 
certain way it might be argued that consistency itself led 
him to this action, for the theory of State rights, always 
advocated by him, involved the repudiation of the Demo- 
cratic move for the establishment of slavery in the Terri- 
tories under cover of the national authority, this being the 
sure basis and pre judgment for its establishment in the 
later development of the State. 

The change of political allegiance induced no change of 
occupation, and Mr. Welles now became a contributor to 
the Hartford Evening Press, which was designed to be the 
organ of Republicanism in the State. In 1856 he had the 
courage, as Republican candidate for Governor, to face 
sure defeat in a cause in which he believed. About the 
same time, by choice of the Republican Convention which 
assembled in Philadelphia, he entered upon what proved 
to be an eight years' term of service as a member of the 
Republican National Committee; also he was chairman 
of the delegation from his State to the Convention at 
Chicago which nominated Abraham Lincoln. 

President Lincoln's courteous patience in listening to 
advice, and his desire always by consultation to get the 
benefit of suggestions, obscured for a while in the public 
eye his underlying self-reliance and the independence of his 
ultimate judgment. The suspicion that his course was 
often steered by another hand than his own has only died 
slowly, as careful study of his career and the accumulation 
of much evidence have enforced quite the contrary convic- 
tion. Yet a shrewd observer might have forecast the truth 
at the outset, from the formation of his Cabinet ; for in no 
other matter are political bargaining, wire-pulling, and 
pressure more vigorously exercised than in Cabinet-mak- 
ing ; yet of the seven men who constituted his ministry, his 



INTRODUCTION xxi 

hand was forced only in the selection of Cameron, and even 
there the forcing was perhaps not oppressive. Certainly 
the other six represented his personal choice, and no other 
among them represented it more than did Mr. Welles, 
whose career up to this point had given him no controlling 
prestige such as that which would have made the omission 
of Seward or Chase a matter of criticism. So far as is 
known, no pressure, either political or personal, was 
brought to bear; and it was Mr. Welles's record, as it has 
been narrated above, which led Mr. Lincoln to invite him 
into the Cabinet. The Diary has the story of the selection 
in conclusive shape. Wanting a man from New England, 
Lincoln took an ex-Democrat, trained in public business, 
who had manifested his courage and the earnestness of his 
conviction by casting loose from his old associates on the 
question of slavery; and who also, it maybe noted, had 
shown a natural aptitude for politics, a quality which 
Mr. Lincoln, possessing it himself in a high degree, did 
not undervalue hi others. 

Precisely why the Navy Department was allotted to 
Mr. Welles is not clear. Perhaps the citizen of an inland 
State, who probably enough had never seen an ocean-going 
ship, was influenced by the flavor of maritime commerce 
and prowess which still in 1860 hung faintly about the 
wharves of New England, and Mr. Lincoln may have 
thought that any New Englander must be amphibious ; 
or he may have been affected by memory of the office 
held by Mr. Welles under Mr. Polk, slight as had been the 
nautical flavor of those commercial functions. When, how- 
ever, Mr. Welles suggests that Secretary Chase, though 
having a "good deal of ability," yet "has never made fin- 
ance his study," and again when he shoots at his favorite 
target, Senator Hale, Chairman of the Naval Committee, 
the slurring words "embarrassed by no military or naval 
teaching," the reader may smile at the obvious "tu quo- 
que" retort, which certainly lay ready at the hand of 
each of these gentlemen. Neither of them used it, for 



xxii INTRODUCTION 

neither of them had the privilege of looking over Mr. 
Welles's shoulder as he poured his feelings over the confi- 
dential pages of his Diary. But when, later on in his ad- 
ministration, other persons, sundry "disappointed men," 
suggested that some one with more real salt-sea experience 
than Mr. Welles had would fill the place better, Mr. Welles 
writes that there "is a set of factious fools who think it 
wise to be censorious, and it is almost as amusing as it is 
vexatious to hear and read the remarks of these Solomons," 
these "officious blockheads," who have the simplicity to 
allege that the Secretary of the Navy should have had per- 
sonal experience on shipboard. One of these critics, he 
records, has been a shipowner, another has been a ship- 
master; "successful business men, but egotistical and 
vainly weak. Neither is competent to administer the Navy 
Department." Comforting reflections, and very possibly 
altogether true, yet it may be permitted to remark, obiter, 
that the layman does not, by familiarity with the spectacle, 
cease to feel bewilderment at the utter indifference nearly 
always shown as to preparatory training or specialist 
knowledge in the allotment of cabinet places. It is sur- 
prising to see that a system which might a priori be re- 
garded as of dubious promise has so often worked fairly 
well. At the same time, one cannot but wish that on some 
occasion, when there is one of those temporary lulls which 
occur from tune to time in party struggles, when partisan 
considerations might without grave peril give good sense a 
passing chance, an incoming President would have the orig- 
inality and courage to compose a Cabinet of men able and 
thoroughly versed in the Departments which they are 
called to administer. It is possible that the results might 
be very satisfactory; at least, the experiment would be 
interesting and instructive. Of course it was not tried by 
Mr. Lincoln anymore than it has been by other Presidents, 
his predecessors and successors. He made a journalist 
Secretary of the Navy, and let us admit that the journalist 
proved to be a very good Secretary and rejoice that he 



INTRODUCTION xxiii 

approved himself also a first-rate Diarist. In fact, if he had 
been a much worse Secretary, we should readily have par- 
doned his shortcomings on the ground of his eminent suc- 
cess in a matter which now and for us is of much more 
interest. 

Certain it is that in this Diary we have the best "Cabi- 
net Interior" which hangs upon the walls of the American 
room in the world's Gallery of History. It at once recalls 
and provokes comparison with that other famous and 
more bulky diary in which John Quincy Adams confided 
to posterity his appreciation of his own good qualities and 
the failings of his contemporaries. Between the two there 
are interesting points, both of resemblance and of contrast. 
Both diarists were fine examples of the moral and intel- 
lectual civilization of the New England of their times. 
Though not quite contemporaries, they were types of a ra- 
cial development which became complete during the period 
of their joint lifetimes. They were intelligent descendants 
of the old Pilgrim stock, untiring seekers of knowledge, clear 
thinkers amid their surroundings, with little wit or humor 
and no imagination. They had the solid moralities, but 
were somewhat deficient in the gentler ones. They estab- 
lished high standards as much for themselves as for others; 
and to ordinary mortals, who seemed to fall below these 
standards they doled out Christian charity with much 
economy; yet the reflection that the delinquents, thus 
scored by our diarists, were largely professional politicians 
may lead us to a like economy of sympathy for them. Both 
men manifest a consciousness of perfect rectitude of inten- 
tion, which undoubtedly they both had; for more upright 
men never lived; neither could have been induced by any 
possible temptation to do a selfish or mean or in any way 
unworthy act. It should be said, however, that Mr. Welles 
is not beset by that self-admiration which from matins to 
vespers ceaselessly worried Mr. Adams, so that he seems 
forever sitting to himself for his own portrait, whereas Mr. 
Welles's portrayal of himself , such as it is, was made with- 



xxiv INTRODUCTION 

out intention; for which reason his pages are not rendered 
wearisome by vanity, or by disingenuous depreciation of 
his own merit. Both men are censorious, but Mr. Welles 
is almost never acrid; his judgments are severe, but not 
unfair, not malicious, not often ill-tempered and perhaps 
never really vindictive. They would seem less scathing at 
times, if they were tempered with humor; but, in the ab- 
sence of this, we have the next most enlivening quality on 
the occasions when he indulges in honest and hearty sar- 
casm. This he could do very well, as, for example, when he 
speaks of one Alden as " patriotic when there was no dan- 
ger," actually, though erroneously, believing himself to be 
courageous, and " really anxious to do something without 
encountering enemies." When he cuts, he does it trench- 
antly, and when he abuses, he strikes hard and straight. 
He is a fair fighter, and does not grumble too much at the 
like treatment when dealt to himself, although it must 
seem to him undeserved and at tunes proceeding from un- 
worthy motives. If he is not witty, he has more really valu- 
able merits: he is very fair and just; he is frank and manly; 
he is intelligent, alert, and well-informed, with the result 
that no more trustworthy material than his pages can come 
to the table of the historian or the hands of the reader. 

It is of some interest to establish what is the correct 
value of diaries in historical literature. When a politician 
sees to his dismay that a fickle and ill-advised public is 
giving itself over to be led astray by his perfidious oppon- 
ent, he is prone to seek somewhat juiceless consolation in 
references to the " verdict of history" or the "verdict of 
posterity." Both verdicts are much the same, for both dig- 
nified phrases signify only that vague general impression 
which has been sent filtering through the public mind by 
those historians who can write sufficiently pleasingly to 
secure readers. These writers are really counsel, or advo- 
cates, unpaid for the most part, and therefore reasonably 
honest; and who generally mean to examine the evidence 
with an open mind, and to take their volunteer brief for the 



INTRODUCTION xxv 

man or cause whom or which, upon that evidence, they 
believe to be right. Not long ago, the task of editing the 
private writings of any deceased public man was taken to 
imply the duty of excision and amendment so as to bring 
the printed pages into accord with supposed proprieties. 
It was not unlike grooming a horse for exhibition. Now, 
however, it is understood that such editorial action is in 
point of morality much the same thing as tampering with a 
witness or perverting his testimony. Suppress diaries or 
letters if you cannot print them as they were written; but 
know that you are dishonest if, without avowal, you pub- 
lish under a man's name mutilated excerpts of what he 
really wrote. No other evidence can be more sacred than a 
diary, which the world accepts as confidential truth. Be- 
fore a judge or jurors the viva voce testimony of a witness in 
presence outweighs in real influence a dozen depositions 
of absent deponents, and for the historian a diary or a 
letter takes the place of this best and most trustworthy 
of all possible evidence, and is to be respected accord- 
ingly. In this point of view, this Diary of Mr. Welles is 
among the most valuable documents within reach of our 
historical writers. As between the two, a diary should be 
accorded greater value than letters, for it is apt to be 
more ingenuous, more honest. Thus it is not possible to 
imagine that any historian can possibly have access to 
better evidence than this Diary of Mr. Welles. Of course, 
either letters or diaries, if written with an eye to post- 
humous publication, may be intentionally miscolored; but 
it is much harder to be consistently disingenuous in a diary 
than in correspondence; the diary written hi the evening is 
united to the day as a limb to the body; the same life-blood 
gives the vital heat and spirit to both; the palpitation of the 
day's actings and talkings still throbs in the evening's ac- 
count of them. It is almost a part of the res gestos. The diary 
is written to one's self ; the letter is written to a person whose 
own individuality of character, opinions, and temper often 
unconsciously react upon the writer; the letter may have 



xxvi INTRODUCTION 

an exterior object, which the diary never can have, since it 
can have no other value for its writer than that of a correct 
record. The " personal equation, "as it is called, signifying 
the moral, mental, and temperamental qualities and idiosyn- 
cracies of the diarist, must of course be studied and allowed 
for, just as the navigator must study the dip and variation 
of the compass; otherwise historian and navigator may 
both go wrong. But the observant reader cannot long rest 
in the intimacy of the diarist without getting at least what 
may be called a good average knowledge of his character. If 
these views as to diaries are correct, it is certainly difficult 
to exaggerate the value and interest which attach to this 
Diary of Mr. Welles; that he wrote it is most fortunate; its 
suppression would properly have been regarded as a national 
disaster, as its faithful presentation is of inestimable ad- 
vantage. 

The true function of the diary is to talk to us about 
individuals, not to instruct us as to events, and how 
much more interesting this is! In fact, the historian may 
well be better informed as to events and facts than the 
diarist can be, for the historian has access to immense ac- 
cumulations of evidence which the diarist never knew, but 
which through the long years have come slowly leaking into 
light from desks and attics and hiding-places innumerable. 
On the other hand, history is comparatively weak in the 
matter of individual character, which posterity can rarely 
know as contemporaries do. They see and hear the living 
man; they know not only his conspicuous acts but also all 
the little ones; they hear of him from the men who deal 
with him, and they know more or less of those men also; 
they get and sift the gossip, good and bad. If a man's con- 
temporaries fail to find out what he is, posterity rarely will 
do better; though this latter case may befall through 
strange belated discoveries, and, in fact, has befallen pre- 
cisely within the region of this Welles Diary; for President 
Lincoln is unquestionably better estimated to-day than he 
was during his lifetime, and is in some respects more ac- 



INTRODUCTION xxvii 

curately known to us than he was to his own Ministers. 
The patience with which he could wait while causes slowly 
produced results, his remarkable combination of respect 
for the opinion of others with absolute reliance upon his 
own opinion, his forbearance, tact, shrewdness, foresight, 
and fairness, are all qualities which could not be fairly seen 
at short range and as they were at work, but which, by 
reason of careful study and the ever-growing accumulation 
of facts, we have come to know as our fathers could not 
know them. Generally, however, more is lost than gained 
by distance in the estimation of character, and the most 
vivid and attractive biographies are probably far from 
photographic. We may read lives of Washington till our 
eyes ache, but are they all worth a few hours of chat about 
him with Lafayette, or Hamilton, or even with Jefferson? 
These are the witnesses we want to hear, and the nearest 
approach to such witnesses, where all are silent in death, 
we find in the diarist. 

As, therefore, was naturally to be expected, this Diary 
contributes little new knowledge concerning events, and 
settles few of those many discussions to which the Civil 
War gave rise. On the other hand, it presents an invaluable 
row of portraits ; so that there are indeed no other records 
which can at all be brought into even remote comparison 
with it for that interesting period. Mr. Welles had ex- 
traordinary insight into men, and a very happy skill in 
depicting them; at least we are bound to think so, for there 
is a remarkable agreement between what he wrote in those 
days when our past was his present, and what our histo- 
rians and biographers are now setting forth as the dispas- 
sionate valuations of posterity. Such harmony is agreeably 
reassuring as to the accuracy of the judgments which we are 
to-day accepting. So far as Mr. Welles is concerned, his even- 
mindedness is a very unique quality; as a rule, the climate 
of the contemporary writings during our Civil War had no 
temperate zone; whether beneath the sunshine of hero- 
worship or amid cyclones of denunciation, there was always 



xxviii INTRODUCTION 

equatorial fervor. It is only Mr. Welles who, so far as we 
know, was at once shrewd and judicial. Perhaps he was 
a little Rhadamanthine. If, however, there seems a ten- 
dency to severity, it is not due to unkindness of dispo- 
sition, but rather to the intensity of the times and the tre- 
mendous stress of feeling. Those were not ordinary days 
when selfish ambition and incompetence could be passed 
over as ordinary sins; the men who were guilty of them 
were to be branded, and Mr. Welles branded them; it was 
a tune for Hebraic wrath rather than for Christian charity; 
moreover, Mr. Welles was as exacting towards himself as 
towards others, and gave a devotion as unselfish as that 
which he demanded. Be this as it may, whether he was 
severe or not, how strong and vivid is his portraiture even 
in his minor characters! Thus a page or two depicts Banks 
with perfect accuracy; a few scattered paragraphs present 
Du Pont to the life; and so on through many instances. 
Herein is proof of the real artist; this making every minor 
character as lifelike an individuality as are the leaders is 
the Shakespearian quality. Naturally, however, it is the 
sketches of the leaders which have the most interest, and 
which best illustrate the shrewd and just perception of 
Mr. Welles. Take, for example, McClellan. In the proces- 
sion of admirers which heralded the advent of this military 
savior none blew a more confident trumpet than did Secre- 
tary Chase. Later when the savior had lamentably failed 
to save, Mr. Chase not less vehemently denounced him, 
calling him "an imbecile, a coward, and a traitor," and 
summoning Mr. Welles to cry Amen. But that gentleman 
recalled that he had set an interrogation mark against the 
name of the hero at the time of his first introduction, and 
said that, having afterward avoided the error of exaltation, 
he would not now fall into the injustice of damnation. 
During the time when Chase was lauding McClellan, nine- 
teen out of every twenty loyal Northerners were of the like 
mind; later at least seventeen out of every twenty sympa- 
thized in some measure with the condemnation. All the 



INTRODUCTION xxix 

while Mr. Welles is from time to time setting down in his 
Diary such an average and temperate valuation as may be 
found in almost any modern history. 

But the name of McClellan has become wearisome, and 
most readers will get more entertainment in Mr. Welles's 
picture of another of the failures, a picture which is aston- 
ishingly lifelike, considering how little life there was in the 
subject. One may read much about the Civil War without 
often happening upon the name of Halleck, yet for a very 
long while that harmless professor of the arts of slaughter 
and destruction was showing how peacefully he could con- 
duct these processes, as he sat, obscurely sluggish and 
silent, at his desk in Washington, officially superintending 
the entire strategy of all the Northern forces, chewing his 
cigar, and rubbing his elbows. How that habitual gesture 
of his exasperated Mr. Welles ! When the rubbing began, 
the friction seemed to spread from the Halleck coat-sleeve 
to the whole Welles system. All that Mr. Welles says 
about Halleck is at once amusing, severe, and just; and to 
the irritating influence which the General exercised upon 
the Secretary we owe some lively pictures, among pages 
whereon picturesque liveliness yields somewhat too much 
room to careful accuracy. "Called this morning," says the 
Diary in one instance, "on General Halleck, who had for- 
gotten, or was not aware, there was a naval force in the 
James River, cooperating with the army!" Mr. Welles 
assured the great chieftain that such was indeed the fact; 
then the General, perplexed as to whether the vessels 
should be retained or withdrawn, went to work upon his 
elbows, and rubbed out the conclusion that they might as 
well be withdrawn. Then Mr. Welles suggested that they 
might as well stay, and the General immediately thought 
so too. It was a fair specimen of Halleck's inefficiency, 
and in those critical days inefficiency might be as harmful 
as treason. Mr. Welles chafed impatiently, while others 
tardily learned what he so well knew; and meantime he 
confided to his Diary that Halleck "is heavy-headed," 



xxx INTRODUCTION 

"may have some talent as a writer or critic," but "in all 
military matters seems destitute of resources, skill, or 
capacity," is "more tardy and irresolute than McClellan," 
with much more to the like disrespectful purport. It is 
all just what any writer would say to-day; Mr. Welles was 
only writing the "verdict of history" in advance. 

Another victim furnished for the especial gratification of 
those imperfect Christians who derive a pleasurable sensa- 
tion at the spectacle of a sound drubbing administered with 
whole-hearted thoroughness, is the Honorable John P. 
Hale, of the Senate, Chairman of the Naval Committee. 
For a while, Mr. Hale was mistaken for a man of some con- 
sequence on the alleged ground of character and ability, 
and before this view had been fully corrected he was able 
to make trouble for the Secretary, with the amusing result 
of calling forth many vivacious comments. Thus, Mr. 
Welles tells us that Hale, having at the outset defied, 
scorned, and derided secession, "was one of the first to flee 
from Washington when the storm was about to burst"; 
but later, the Capital being "garrisoned and shielded by a 
large army, this burning and eloquent patriot returned, 
overflowing with courage," and "in the exuberance of his 
zeal" set on foot an inquiry as to the loss of the Norfolk 
Navy Yard. In a "patronizing way" he offered to hear 
any explanation which the Secretary of the Navy might 
offer concerning this painful incident. If he could have 
read what the world can now read, he would have neglected 
the defense of Norfolk for the defense of Hale! Later we 
learn and sympathetically believe that he was "lazy, 
noisy," a "harlequin" and "demagogue," a "Senatorial 
buffoon," without "application or fidelity," who is "nei- 
ther honest nor sincere"; and in later pages the charges 
become even more serious. In the improbable event that 
there are any persons who will care to object to the erasure 
of Mr. Hale's name from the roll of the country's great 
men, certainly ample provocation is now given to them for 
making themselves heard. 



INTRODUCTION xxxi 

Of course, not many pages can be turned without en- 
countering the names of Seward, Chase, and Stanton. Of 
these, Stanton, the friendless one, evidently affected Mr. 
Welles as he affected pretty much everyone else who came 
much into contact with him. No one liked him living; 
scarcely anyone has wished to say much for him dead. An 
advocate biographer has indeed presented a sort of brief 
for him, and Mr. Rhodes, kindliest of historians, has men- 
tioned his virtues; for, in fact, he had virtues, devotion 
to the cause, a very greed for hard work, financial integ- 
rity, and merciless energy against the rascal contractors. 
But it cannot be forgotten that he had the odious faults of 
a bully; he was violent and insolent, but only when violence 
and insolence were safe; he was supposed to be personally 
timid; he could be mean and unjust; above all he repeat- 
edly outraged the magnanimous forbearance of Mr. Lin- 
coln in a way which no American can forgive. Substan- 
tially every writer's pen is against him; or, at least, no 
writer's pen is for him. Mr. Welles rends him and tears 
him without mercy and returns to mangle and to toss 
again, nor even so provokes the reader to interfere to 
save the prey; we can all read the sentences with equa- 
nimity; many of us will read them with cheerful sym- 
pathy. The two men, after a few tentative feints and 
clashes, had inevitably to try out their comparative 
strength in a conclusive bout. It took place, and there- 
after Mr. Stanton rarely ventured into Mr. Welles's path. 
He had learned that the Navy Department was not a 
province or subdivision of the War Department and that 
cooperation of vessels with land forces did not imply subor- 
dination of the Navy to the Army. Delightfully spirited 
and vivid perhaps beyond all others in the Diary are the 
pages which narrate the conferences of President and Min- 
isters when first the startling foray of the Merrimac car- 
ried consternation, and then very soon the achievement of 
the beslurred Monitor, the "cheese-box" of the sarcastic 
critics, restored triumphant cheerfulness at the North. 



xxxii INTRODUCTION 

There are few such sketches in history as that which Mr. 
Welles furnishes upon this occasion, availing splendidly 
of a splendid opportunity. Alas, poor Yorick! If Mr. 
Stanton could only have known that Mr. Welles was 
keeping a diary, and therein depicting this scene in vivid, 
undying colors, would not he at once have set about keep- 
ing one also? And how posterity might then have been 
entertained! At present it is too much like sitting at the 
prize-ring and seeing only one pugilist. 

It is an odd fact that Mr. C. F. Adams was beset by an 
incapacity for appreciating Mr. Lincoln, which at once 
calls to mind the like incapacity of his grandfather for 
appreciating Washington. John Adams lived and died 
under the firm conviction that Washington was a vexa- 
tiously over-rated man; Mr. C. F. Adams carried to his 
grave a like certainty concerning Lincoln. He even had the 
imprudence to make public declaration of his unfortun- 
ate views, by delivering in 1873 a memorial address on 
Mr. Seward, wherein he said that from the birth of our 
government no other " experiment so rash had ever been 
made as that of elevating to the head of affairs a man 
with so little previous preparation for his task" as Mr. 
Lincoln had. Now it may be admitted that this allegation, 
construed with such literal narrowness as Jeffersonians 
would have used for construing the Constitution, was not 
grossly extravagant. The fact that the " experiment" 
turned out so wonderfully well that many devout persons 
have even seen hi it the direct hand of God, of course does 
not prove that in the outset it was not "rash." It was only 
needlessly unkind on Mr. Adams's part to say that it was 
more "rash" than had been the selection of certain other 
persons who had been elevated to the same office, not only 
in spite of the fact that they had had little "previous prepa- 
ration," but in spite of the even more disqualifying fact 
that they had given no reason for a belief in their fitness, 
and some reason to fear their unfitness. Apart from his 
then unproved qualities of combined character and intel- 



INTRODUCTION xxxiii 

lect, Mr. Lincoln's " preparation" had certainly been con- 
fined to a thorough study of the problem presented by 
slavery. It so happened, however, that slavery was at this 
critical moment so all-important as to be practically the 
only problem, and it also so happened that Mr. Lincoln 
understood it far better than any other man then living, 
not excepting Jefferson Davis, or Charles Sumner, or Mr. 
Adams himself. But though the above cited assertion, 
literally taken, was not so very depreciatory to Mr. Lin- 
coln, the same could not be said of the general tone of the 
address, which stripped President Lincoln of credit and 
praise and conferred generously upon Mr. Seward all that 
was thus filched from his chief. If Mr. Adams's view of the 
situation was correct, the nation had been burning incense 
before the wrong altar. 

Mr. Welles was stirred with indignation, so stirred that 
he came to the rescue of his great leader's reputation by 
writing and publishing a loyal little volume, which he 
called " Lincoln and Seward." What he said in this book 
has, in substance, been absorbed into our history, which has 
accepted Mr. Welles's views and has rejected, forgotten, 
and forever buried the contrary opinions of Mr. Adams. 
For this reason, because it has done its work, the book is 
not now very familiar to ordinary readers ; but one finds a 
certain entertainment in comparing it with the Diary, and 
the comparison plainly indicates the superior value of an 
intimate daily outpouring of feelings, fresh and hot, as 
against the later expression of those feelings cooled and 
prepared for publication. In the book Mr. Welles civilly 
writes that he "enjoyed uninterruptedly pleasant social 
and official intercourse" with Mr. Seward. If the signifi- 
cation of these words be not trimmed to close literalness, 
they are likely to convey an impression of friendly har- 
mony between the two men which is quite astonishing to 
the reader of the Diary. Further, the book alleges a rela- 
tionship of "confidence and mutual frankness on public 
affairs . . . among all the members " of the Cabinet, sub- 



xxxiv INTRODUCTION 

ject only to such occasional interruptions of perfect cordial- 
ity as might be provoked by Mr. Seward's pretensions to 
superiority. Amid the many interpretations which may 
possibly be put upon the word " confidence" in this pass- 
age there can perhaps be suggested some one which may 
justify its use. Neither are there wanting sporadic in- 
stances of the presence of " frankness," that most ticklish 
of good qualities, the porcupine in the menagerie of virtues. 
For example, when Seward humbly admitted to Mr. 
Welles that he had learned that for the future he had 
"better attend to his own business," Mr. Welles hastened 
to meet him with a " cordial assent." No one will deny 
that on this occasion Mr. Welles evinced frankness. There 
are other cases also of plain speaking; yet the fact remains 
that he who reads the Diary will not be able to accept some 
of the statements which in later years found utterance 
in the book save as conventionalities or as spoken "in a 
Pickwickian sense," or perhaps in that spirit of serene 
magnanimity which is supposed to prevail hi making 
preparation for a Christian death-bed. As matter of 
plain fact, the Diary is thickly sprinkled with criticisms 
of Mr. Seward because of his pretentious bearing, his 
assumption of the r61e of a premier in the Cabinet, his airs 
of mystery and his affectation of special information and of 
private knowledge in affairs, above all else by reason of his 
passion for meddling and his irritating forays into the inde- 
pendent Departments of ,his associates. The most note- 
worthy instance of this was the disastrous occult interfer- 
ence of Mr. Seward in the matter of relieving Fort Sumter. 
The error had to be admitted by him and ostensibly forgiven 
by Mr. Welles, but it was never forgotten and never ceased 
to rankle. Soon afterward came the long and serious dispute 
as to the disposition to be made of foreign mails captured on 
blockade-runners. Here again Seward undertook to settle 
the whole business autocratically in his own office. Mr. 
Welles resented and resisted, and was clearly in the right; 
but Mr. Seward had committed himself to the English gov- 



INTRODUCTION xxxv 

ernment and the embarrassment was grave. All the strict- 
ures made by Mr. Welles concerning Seward have been 
made by others, and none of them lacks foundation; yet it 
must be said that of all the pictures in these volumes that of 
Seward is the most open to the criticism of doing scant jus- 
tice, if not actual injustice, to the subject. Probably Mr. 
Seward was rated more highly by his own generation than 
he will be by posterity; but probably also he will beheld in 
better esteem than would be possible if there were no other 
evidence concerning him than what could be drawn from 
this Diary. He was at once an able man and a frequent 
blunderer. On the whole, one feels that when speaking of 
him Mr. Welles is certainly less well balanced than usual. 
Possibly this is due to the fact that they clashed frequently, 
since maritime matters and foreign relations inevitably 
crossed in many complications. In such Mr. Welles was 
more apt to have sound as well as courageous views than 
was his associate minister. 

While thus, day by day, Mr. Welles is consciously draw- 
ing for us the portraits of his colleagues, he is also day by 
day, but quite unconsciously, giving us the lines, the lights, 
and the shadows for his own portrait. While we are learn- 
ing what he thinks of others and why, we are likewise 
deciding what we think of him upon evidence of a kind that 
is next best to personal acquaintance. In the main, the 
conclusions are much to his credit. When we see that all 
his brains, his heart, his strength were strenuously engaged 
in the cause, we know that the same can be said of many 
others; when we see that he was more than respectfully 
obedient, that he was always nobly loyal and wisely sus- 
taining towards his chief, we admit that some others were 
the same; but when we see that he was absolutely devoid 
of any ulterior ambition or personal motives or any form 
of self-seeking, that he was almost indifferent concerning 
his own reputation so long as he was conscious of having 
done his duty with all his might and all his intelligence, 
then at length we say that in some respects he was very 



xxxvi INTRODUCTION 

near to being singular. He had strong opinions as to men 
as well as measures, and expressed them; but he was a clear 
thinker, and, being by nature fair-minded, he further took 
pains not to permit either passion or prejudice to divert 
the movement of his reasoning. When his mind was made 
up, however, he did not easily change his opinion; and one 
would not be surprised if it should appear that Seward 
and Stanton thought him obstinate, or opinionated, or 
even contentious. Yet he made fewer errors than they did. 
He made some, of course, and if this Diary had been ex- 
purgated with a view to exhibiting him as infallible, a few 
passages which appear therein would have been suppressed. 
For example, he was one of those who deprecated the 
difficult task of blockading the Southern ports, on the 
ground that it was a needless recognition of belligerency 
involving injurious consequences; nor does it seem that 
he ever came to see how academic and impracticable would 
have been a closure by proclamation. Again he had a dis-, 
trust of "the West Point idea," as it was called, which 
would have been unfortunate if his Department had been 
concerned with operations on the land instead of on the 
water. He shared the too prevalent faith in the possibility 
of making generals out of any sort of civilian material, just 
as it was assumed that military coats might be made at 
any mill. It took a sad amount of experience and many 
poor soldiers had to shiver before it was well recognized 
that a shoddy mill turned out poor stuff for hard service, 
and that extemporized commanders, made out of politi- 
cians or lawyers, were generally out of place at the top, 
however well they might do halfway up. He protested 
much against the establishment of a "military frontier," 
with the general grouping of all residents south of it as 
Rebels. He said that this was the fallacious notion of 
technical military theorists; whereas the truth was that 
the shifting line of the frontier was simply the expression 
in military phraseology of an actual condition; not a 
manoeuvre was ever affected by the language; and the 



INTRODUCTION xxxvii 

attribution of rebellion to the Southern population en 
bloc was simply a necessity and was not far wrong either. 
Disaffection was a germ disease which rapidly spread 
among residents in the unwholesome district. Another 
matter concerning which Mr. Welles expressed disappro- 
bation was the issue of legal-tender notes. This affected 
him personally, or rather the administration of his Depart- 
ment, in a very embarrassing manner; for the sums at his 
disposal, voted in dollars but obtained sometimes by bills 
of exchange, were subject to large discount. Thus the 
shoe pinched. But while this was vexatious, it was not the 
fundamental cause of his criticism of the policy recom- 
mended by the Treasury Department and adopted by 
Congress, and which he conceived to be unnecessary and 
mischievous. Whether or not he was right no one can say; 
for while we know that the country struggled along under 
the incubus of those financial measures, we can only specu- 
late as to whether or not it could have fared better or even 
at all without them. Suffice it to say that some students 
of the subject have very stoutly maintained the same 
opinion which Mr. Welles expressed. 

These views relating to matters outside Mr. Welles's 
own Department, and so finding no expression in action, 
did not diminish his reputation. Nearly or quite every 
great reputation gained at that period survived as many 
or more, as bad or worse, misconceptions; and inevitably 
so, for amid such novel problems and unprecedented 
events the lamp of experience burned very dim and no 
man could walk always wisely amid strange surroundings. 
The only criticism of Mr. Welles which has retained some 
vitality is to the general effect that he showed some lack 
of what we have lately been taught to call the strenuous 
quality. Certainly he came less before the public than did 
the Secretary of State who aspired to be the power behind 
the President, or than the Secretary of the Treasury who 
desired to succeed the President, or than the Secretary of 
War whose functions as well as his methods of performing 



xxxviii INTRODUCTION 

them were almost preposterously spectacular and despotic. 
Mr. Welles had no political aspirations, was not courting 
popularity with any eye to the future, and made no effort 
to render his Department conspicuous or to have his admin- 
istration of it lauded. Yet a comparison of the achieve- 
ments of the Navy Department with the achievements of 
other departments is greatly in its favor. Neither Mr. 
Stanton in arming, clothing, and feeding the men gathered 
by the President's calls, nor Mr. Chase in printing green- 
backs and selling bonds at the buyer's price, encountered 
a more novel task or found less material ready at hand for 
it than Mr. Welles met when he had rapidly to create 
a great blockading fleet, an efficient fighting fleet, and a 
fleet adapted for the peculiar service on the great rivers. 
It is a matter of regret that the Diary does not contain 
more on the subject of the Navy; and if this is due to lack 
of egotism, we would rather that he had not been so free 
from that rather petty blemish. Judgment of his admin- 
istrative efficiency must still be made up about as it would 
have been before the publication of these volumes. For 
some reason, or without reason, people generally have paid 
insufficient attention to the naval side of the civil conflict, 
and are still slow to appreciate the fact which our historical 
writers begin of late to insist upon, that it was because the 
blockade strangled the Confederacy that the armies were 
able to slay it; nor is there even now, and perhaps there 
never will be, any adequate appreciation of the magnitude 
of that great enterprise or of the infinite difficulty in the 
details of its prolonged and perilous maintenance. A 
steady pressure to weaken its effectiveness came not only 
from selfish or knavish traders anxious to make money and 
backed by politicians, but also too often from the Foreign 
Department. Mr. Welles had to take a resolute stand not 
only against the ignoble money power with its political 
"pull," but occasionally even against Seward himself. It 
was Seward's inclination and to some extent his duty to 
regard conciliation somewhat more highly than firmness, 



INTRODUCTION xxxix 

whereas Mr. Welles had to set achievement far above con- 
cession. Mr. Welles, early in his experience, noted irrit- 
ably that Mr. Seward would probably get the better in a 
dispute of this kind because he would alarm the President 
by the " bugaboo" of a foreign war. It soon appeared, 
however, that Mr. Lincoln was little disturbed by buga- 
boos, and as force is the naturally powerful element in 
times of war, Mr. Welles was generally able to prevail over 
the more pacific and temporizing Secretary. 

If the blockade lacked somewhat in the spectacular 
quality and in the condensation of the single great event, 
one need only turn to New Orleans and Vicksburg and 
above all to Mobile Bay, to have these defects abundantly 
supplied. Military strategy encountered no such novelty 
as the Merrimac, nor devised any such greater novelty as 
the Monitor, revolutionizing the practice of the world. 
Mr. Welles, of course, did not invent the Monitor, but he 
gave it a trial in spite of strenuous opposition on the part 
of " practical seamen." He did not command at Mobile 
Bay or elsewhere, any more than Mr. Stanton commanded 
at Gettysburg. It was not the business of these gentle- 
men to command; but it was their business to choose 
commanders, and in this Mr. Welles showed an ability 
in which the rival Department was sadly lacking; for, 
in the language of the turf, he was apt to "pick the win- 
ner," the most useful faculty which a Secretary of War or 
a Secretary of the Navy can have in tune of war. He had 
singular sagacity in judging men; for he was observant, 
and could see the moral, mental, and temperamental ma- 
terial which lay stored away in one man or another. He 
had a like shrewdness in estimating situations, and in 
sifting the news and rumors of events; so that his forecasts 
were singularly accurate. For these reasons it was natural 
that, while the War Department was painfully learning 
on many a lost and bloody battlefield who could not com- 
mand victory, the Navy Department sent well chosen 
captains from one success to another. For this it would be 



xl INTRODUCTION 

unfair not to give the credit to Mr. Welles; and his Diary, 
without self-praise, indicates that he deserved it. 

Like silver streaks through the somewhat rumpled and 
disordered surface of this Cabinet story run the reminis- 
cences of Lincoln. Written of events presently occurring, 
or repeating words just spoken, the Diary tells such truth 
as the instantaneous photograph would tell before any re- 
touching had been done by the artful photographer. There- 
fore no allowance has to be made for the influence of a pres- 
tige which was then only in the making and indeed was as 
yet somewhat dubious. Mr. Lincoln's ministers had no idea 
that he towered above them, and no one of them was at all 
overawed by him in those days. Presiding over them at the 
Cabinet, casually meeting them, chatting with them or 
lounging as was his habit in Stanton's room, Mr. Lincoln 
seemed only officially superior to them. One of them had 
expected to be President, and another meant to be, a third 
dared to be insolent and unruly; it seemed to be only by a 
chance of politics that these men stood to him as j unior part- 
ners to a senior, or like a board of directors to the president 
of a corporation. Apotheosis had not taken place; Lincoln 
was not yet the victim of the commonplace orator, the favor- 
ite model for the Sunday-school teacher. Deification is a 
post-mortuary process, and efforts to bring it about prema- 
turely are ill advised; a dead idol may be made secure upon 
a pedestal, but a living one is sure to slip off, lucky if it escapes 
with mutilation only, and not irreparable breakage. At the 
time of the writing of this Diary, Lincoln was not yet dims; 
when Mr. Chase said that to argue with him was as useless 
as to pour water on a duck's back, it was not blasphemy, 
as it would be to-day. When Mr. Seward posed as his 
tutor, it seemed to many persons not so much presumptu- 
ous as possibly fortunate; when Mr. Stanton was defiant, 
not a few were ready to say that it was lucky for the coun- 
try that a too easy-going President had a masterful Secre- 
tary. The council of state was at least a heterogeneous, 
if not quite an ill-assorted, assemblage. Mr. Seward pro- 



INTRODUCTION xli 

nounced it a "compound Cabinet," and did not mean to 
imply commendation. This Diary presents almost glar- 
ingly the wide difference between the conduct of public 
business and that of private business. A partnership 
wherein the partners should sustain to each other such re- 
lations as did these members of the national administra- 
tion, a corporation with a board of directors so discordant 
and so jealous, would be in the bankruptcy court within a 
year or two. But in these vast competitions of the coun- 
tries, results come slowly; nations have no relief in bank- 
ruptcy; their managers may snatch and squabble and 
blunder, according to their measure of brains and charac- 
ter, but all the while the people must keep on doing each 
day its daily business for its daily bread as best it can, 
paying the bills and facing the consequences, sure that it 
must always be governed somehow, and not over confident 
that a change would install a better set of governors. No 
one who has studied the history of our Civil War, and who 
is willing to speak plain truth will pretend that high and 
generous cooperation, honest dealing, and economic effi- 
ciency reached an epidemic prevalence. The splendid skill 
with which Lincoln held together and made useful the 
members of this " compound Cabinet" ought to be better 
appreciated hereafter, by reason of the divulgements by 
Mr. Welles. Washington tried the like experiment, but was 
not able to make it work permanently. He could not han- 
dle Hamilton and Jefferson in double harness. Lincoln, 
having a much harder task, succeeded with it. In a meas- 
ure his success was due to the different character of the 
subordinate material; for of course there was not in Lin- 
coln's Cabinet anyone approaching the ability of Hamilton 
as a statesman or that of Jefferson as a politician. It was, 
however, much more due to a difference between the chiefs 
themselves, between Washington and Lincoln. Washing- 
ton's power lay in a certain high and dignified attitude of 
supremacy; Lincoln's influence lay in patience, sagacity, 
tact, knowledge of human nature, and skill with the indi- 



xlii INTRODUCTION 

vidual. For example, history has no instance of a situation 
more difficult or of an extrication more brilliant than was 
presented when, in December, 1862, the committee of 
Republican Senators waited upon Mr. Lincoln with a 
demand for Mr. Seward's removal. Seward, forewarned, 
had already hastened to resign; a day or two later Lincoln, 
with a deftness like the feat of a juggler, secured Chase's 
resignation also. "Now I can ride," said the President; 
and he did ride. It was characteristic that in this critical 
hour Stanton, unhampered by loyalty, was on the point of 
making the confusion worse by adding his resignation; but 
Mr. Welles rebuked him and stood gallantly by the Pre- 
sident. Nor was it the only instance when, in tune of stress, 
the Secretary of the Navy was found a clear-headed, firm, 
and trustworthy supporter of his harassed principal. He 
played a like part in the matter of the occult move for dis- 
placing McClellan, when what was perhaps the right thing 
was undertaken in what was certainly the wrong way. At 
that tune it was largely by reason of the refusal of Mr. 
Welles to participate that the President was saved from 
being placed in a very annoying position. This loyalty and 
trustworthiness of the Secretary Mr. Lincoln well appre- 
ciated, and in his turn upheld Mr. Welles in times of need 
or controversy; notably when Mr. Stanton arrogantly 
claimed the right to dominate the Navy Department and 
insisted that commanders of vessels on the rivers should 
take orders from commanders of the army on land. Mr. 
Lincoln made short work of this theory. It is reassuring to 
find these two shrewd judges of character entertaining such 
reciprocal esteem; and the opinion of each was a compli* 
ment to the other. 

If this Diary had not covered the period of the Civil 
War, it would probably never have been published. Yet so 
far as furnishing valuable matter for the historian goes, it 
is even more useful for the four succeeding years; and the 
reason is not far to seek. From the exciting times of war 



INTRODUCTION xliii 

under Mr. Lincoln, to the wearisome days of Reconstruc- 
tion under Mr. Johnson, was a transition at once swift and 
striking. If no other administration since the birth of the 
United States has made history which has been read with 
such absorbing interest as that of the earlier of these two 
administrations, so probably no other period has been so 
shunned as has the second by all readers who are not quite 
students; and there is abundant explanation why this 
should be so. Wranglings carried on by politicians in Con- 
gress, sometimes with legal arguments and always with 
extravagant abuse, were not very exhilarating after the 
intense days of mortal conflict by land and sea. The new 
scene seemed rather ignoble by contrast with that which 
had passed. During the War there had been certainly a 
painful display of corruption, self-seeking, inefficiency, and 
disloyalty on the part of a much too numerous minority; 
but these were faults in the superstructure; the basic mul- 
titude of the people, and a large proportion of their civilian 
leaders, had made a very fine and inspiring exhibition of 
enduring resolution and honest patriotism. To what 
events and to how many persons can one turn, during 
Johnson's regime, with any other feelings than dismay, 
humiliation, and disgust? To no events, and to only a few 
persons, in good truth ! 

For a little while after Mr. Johnson became President 
there was promise of reasonably harmonious, intelligent, and 
even creditable action in the matter of Reconstruction. 
But differences of opinion and purpose, which were pro- 
found, soon developed, and thereupon the outcry of dis- 
pute, which was not prevented from being tedious because 
it was acrimonious, became such that for the American of 
to-day the narration of those angry discussions seems the 
arid Sahara in our national history. A condition never 
contemplated by the framers of the Constitution had to be 
disposed of in pretended accordance with an instrument 
which had not a word to say concerning such problems. It 
followed that every one was at liberty to assert the law in 



xliv INTRODUCTION 

the premises according to his own view of what was de- 
sirable ; and advantage of this privilege was liberally taken. 
On the one hand there was the theory that the Southern 
area was no longer an aggregation of sovereign States, but 
had become conquered territory to be reorganized, geo- 
graphically and politically, as the victors might choose. On 
the other hand, it seemed severely logical to say that the 
North had fought to prove, and by success had proved, 
that States could never withdraw from the Union ; where- 
fore they continued to be States after Lee's surrender just 
as much as they had been before invalid votes had under- 
taken to effect an unlawful secession. Upon these trunk 
views there sprouted many variations, big and little, like 
branches and twigs upon two great trees. The unfortunate 
part of it was the influence upon popular feeling, in some 
degree at the North, and in a greater degree at the South. 
For the contestants worked themselves into a mad fury 
about the business; and many who had remained at a safe 
distance from battlefields now indulged a rage which made 
up in savageness of feeling for the absence of danger. Ev- 
idently men could become much more excited when they 
were shouting adjectives than when they were shooting 
bullets, and Congress, impelled by the demagogues, took 
action which brought law-making into temporary dis- 
repute. 

Apart from the technical disputations of would-be jur- 
ists, really important considerations were advanced upon 
both sides. Arguments for rubbing out the old State lines, 
with their dangerous allegiances, faced arguments for re- 
taining traditional sentiment and familiar obligations; 
demands, too natural to be called vindictive, for requiring 
formal avowals of error and penitence were met by sugges- 
tions of the wisdom as well as the generosity of concilia- 
tion. Who could say which would prove the better way in 
the greater number of cases, when treatment which would 
be effective with one individual would be ineffective with 
his neighbor? One thing only can now be surely alleged, 



INTRODUCTION xlv 

and that is that a prompt and decisive adoption of any 
plan would have been better than the prolonged wrang- 
lings which wearied, discouraged, and above all embittered 
nearly every man in the land. 

President Johnson and Mr. Welles were naturally led 
by both intellectual and temperamental influences to re- 
solve in much the same way those political questions 
which had now to be answered. So far as there is mate- 
rial for inferring what would have been Mr. Lincoln's posi- 
tion, there seems a strong probability that he would have 
ranged himself with them, or at least not far apart from 
them. Of late, also, as passion has very slowly cooled 
and personal prejudices have at last almost ceased to con- 
trol judgment, students of a later generation are finding 
much to commend in the policy of Andrew Johnson. Com- 
mendation of his policy, however, is not apt to be accom- 
panied with any moderation of the condemnatory attitude 
towards himself. On the contrary, his personal unpopu- 
larity and his abundant indiscretions are charged with the 
responsibility of aggravating the seriousness of the situa- 
tion far beyond what was necessary. Yet, in fact, the clash 
was inevitable, the opposite opinions had their foundation 
in the two great divisions which send one half of mankind 
into the radical camp and the other half into the conserv- 
ative; and in the situation and the problem then at hand 
there were present in an exceptional degree precisely those 
elements which rouse into activity alike the radical and 
the conservative spirit. In fact the conflict of parties at 
the North after the War could have been just as surely 
predicted as the preliminary conflict between the North 
and the South. 

In Mr. Welles there was nothing of the radical; his sound 
good sense held him at a safe distance from extremism; 
therefore, so soon as we find him applying the word "rad- 
ical" to a section of the Republican Party, we know that a 
schism betwixt them and him is at hand. Such was the 
case, and when Mr. Welles, like all the rest of the coun- 



xlvi INTRODUCTION 

try, was swept into the fray, he no longer found at his 
side many with whom during recent years he had main- 
tained a hearty political alliance. What had happened 
before the War was about to happen after it; that is to say, 
new questions were bringing about a new alignment. The 
Republican Party could not keep the allegiance of all those 
who had adhered to it faithfully during and even before 
the War. But the prestige of the party name was so great 
that whichever section could hold possession of that name 
and preserve an appearance of political continuity was sure 
to prevail. As was altogether natural in days of such ex- 
citement, this advantage fell into the scale of the extrem- 
ists, who conducted their campaign with a violence that 
has never been surpassed, rarely has been equalled, in 
political struggles. Erelong the situation was that Thad- 
deus Stevens and Benjamin F. Butler gave orders to the 
Radicals, that the Radicals controlled the Republican 
Party, and the Republican Party governed the country. 
Against these forces a President and Cabinet, Republican 
also, but outnumbered and outshouted in their own camp, 
were reduced to obstructing, thwarting, and delaying 
measures which were sure ultimately to be carried. By 
all precedents such a conflict in the political family was 
sure to be most bitter, and such it soon became, and the 
spirit which thus painfully characterized it soon makes 
itself felt hi the changed note of the Diary. Thus far 
there has been strong, pungent, decisive writing, but never 
immoderate; now we drift into that somewhat rotund and 
dignified style of denunciation, which already in those days 
was getting the flavor known as "of the old school." 
With alarming adjectives and damnatory phraseology the 
most villainous motives are suggested, wicked schemes 
are shadowed forth, and awful consequences are foretold. 
Reading these things, we should despair of the Republic, 
did we not happily know that it is still doing quite well, 
though how it escaped from such a pirates' cave we can- 
not quite see. Since, however, we have the comforting 



INTRODUCTION xlvii 

knowledge that the escape has been successfully effected, 
we feel free to give a large measure of approval and sym- 
pathy, at least to the substance of what we read. When 
Mr. Welles assumed the role of a constitutional jurist he 
was far sounder than were his antagonists; it is true that 
the practical efficiency of the policies which he would have 
approved was not brought to the test of trial, but on the 
other hand it is certain that the policies which he disap- 
proved made no gratifying record; moreover, the lash of 
his castigation fell generally upon backs which we are 
willing to see wince. 

It has been remarked that it is especially the light thrown 
by this Diary upon individuals which we find interesting, 
and in this respect this second part, so to designate it, is 
even better than the first. The picture of Andrew John- 
son is altogether the most favorable which has ever been 
given, at least with any authority, of that unfortunate 
man. It deserves to be studied with great interest, for, as 
has been said, Mr. Welles was a very shrewd and very fair 
judge of men. He had a high esteem for Johnson, which 
was not only the loyalty of an office-holder towards his 
chief, but was also a sincere esteem and genuine personal 
liking. It is safe to assume that the excited partisanship 
of the times somewhat stimulated these sentiments; yet 
he was not thus prevented from often criticizing his leader, 
and he seems in the main even-minded and judicious. It 
may be that the publication of these volumes will lead to 
at least a partial revision of popular opinion concerning 
our only impeached President. 

Very much is said of General Grant and this also will be 
read eagerly, and is of the greatest value. Not often is any 
one man great in war and great in peace, and the reader 
of these pages will see plainly enough that there was no 
real reason for expecting General Grant to achieve better 
than the imperfect success which he did in the Presidency. 
Nowhere else has it been more clearly shown how little 
there was of the politician in his nature, and how easily he 



xlviii INTRODUCTION 

could be ensnarled by unworthy schemers. The incidents 
narrated in the Diary, while showing many of his fine 
qualities, also betray his limitations and his failings; and 
there is one scene, between Grant and Johnson, which cer- 
tainly ought not to have been suppressed, yet which can- 
not be read without great regret and pain. On the whole, 
it is probable that most readers will find Grant not much 
fallen in their esteem, though he was far from conducting 
himself to Mr. Welles's satisfaction. It is only statues 
which are made wholly of marble; the original hero is usu- 
ally more or less patched with clay. 

Charles Sumner and Mr. Welles, honest and earnest 
men of New England, coevals, and accustomed alike to 
the conflicts and to the self-control of public life, were able 
to meet, seem indeed to have liked to meet, in these anxious 
days, and discuss their widely divergent views. The Diary 
contains some very interesting reports of their talkings 
hi the earlier stages when the different positions were being 
established. Agreeing hi little, they came most directly 
into opposition upon the matter of giving to ex-slaves the 
right of suffrage. History would have no higher function 
than the mere gratification of curiosity if it did not show 
to us the more remote as well as the proximate results of 
human action, and so enable us to draw those far-reaching 
conclusions which are as oil for the lamp of experience. 
Now by what history shows as resulting from the gift of 
the suffrage made to the negro after the War, it would 
appear that no more evil donation was ever made by men. 
A useless teaching this, it may be said, since it cannot be 
imagined that any question at all resembling that one will 
ever again demand settlement. Perhaps this is true; but 
a far broader lesson, which is very old yet not antiquated, 
very familiar yet not needless, receives hereby a striking 
illustration, to wit: that when short-sighted mortals un- 
dertake to bring about a good thing by doing a wrong 
one, they easily make sure of the wrong, and very often 
lose the good. If a negro leader could then have arisen 



INTRODUCTION xlix 

to speak for his race and say: "No, we decline this tempt- 
ing, dangerous gift until we shall be able to use it wisely 
and hold it firmly, " he would have been the most far- 
seeing mortal of whom we have any knowledge. The kind- 
ness was as if one should put money in the hands of a 
little child and bid him fare forth to care for himself hi 
the crowds of city streets. Will he not promptly be de- 
coyed, beaten, robbed, and subjected to pains such as he 
never would have known had he not been so foolishly 
endowed? There were many motives for the act. Some 
persons were vindictive; what a bitter dose they would 
make the Southerner take ! Some were really negrophiles, 
and honestly, though shortsightedly, fancied that the negro 
would have, in his vote, a weapon of self-defense and a 
means of making himself respected. But of course the 
politicians, who really carried the measure through, did so 
because it would insure a South as solidly Republican for 
some years to come for as many years as they person- 
ally cared about as it had been solidly Democratic in 
years past. Just here Mr. Welles saw, and Mr. Sumner 
could not see, the moral wrong. Was it not just as immoral 
and dishonest to obtain a majority by calling these poor 
ignorant field hands " voters" and then counting their 
so-called " votes " as by counting knavish fellows whose 
ballots were marketable like apples? Was the "worker" 
who led these benighted creatures from the rice swamp 
or the cotton field to the polls and bid them put a certain 
slip of paper into the box really entitled to a clearer con- 
science than the "heeler" who slipped a dollar bill into an 
itching palm in a factory or a bar-room ? To what greater 
strain was it possible to subject American "free institu- 
tions" than to pour into them this awful flood of unfitness? 
And how great was the responsibility to the country, even 
to mankind, in risking the bringing of such discredit upon 
the new American experiment ! Mr. Welles had the intel- 
ligence and foresight to condemn the mischievous scheme; 
he declared it to be at once unconstitutional and ill-ad- 



1 INTRODUCTION 

vised; but Mr. Sumner, with the courage of fanaticism, 
was ready for the responsibility, while Stevens and Butler 
hardly knew what the word responsibility meant. 

As the immediate outcome of Republican success in this 
business, there ensued the two or three years of negro su- 
premacy in the Southern States and the riot of ignorant 
and vicious legislation. The spectacle was so shocking that 
historians rarely draw it with vivid or minute accuracy; it 
has been hidden away out of sight, and constitutes the only 
really suppressed chapter in American history. The only 
relief was that excesses which would soon have put an end 
to government itself were transitory; to-day, however, we 
are still living among the deferred but more serious and 
permanent conditions which enable us to judge whether 
the Secretary or the Senator was arguing on the right side 
of the controversy. Of course it can never be known what 
results would have been worked out by such measures as 
President Johnson and Mr. Welles would have devised. 
That is necessarily mere matter of speculation, and when 
we write the word IF, we open the door through which 
imagination can pass into anarchic freedom. We have, 
however, Mr. Welles's word for it that he would by no 
means have withheld the vote from negroes as such ; that 
he thought them as fit for the franchise as were the immi- 
grant hordes; but that taken in bulk he did not think 
either the one or the other mass was fit for it. Now, tak- 
ing the privilege of the word, if the franchise had been 
offered to each individual negro so soon as, but only so 
soon as, he should give fair evidence of his competency to 
exercise it intelligently, would there not probably have 
been a steady advancement, yet so gradual that the 
"negro question" would not be the difficult and cruel 
problem which it is to-day? The truth was that the Rad- 
icals of the Johnson days were really thinking of votes, 
and were only talking of negroes. Mr. Welles set aside 
temporary political expediency, and stood for good sense 
and sound morality. 



INTRODUCTION Ji 

Of course in the Andrew Johnson drama the spectacular 
act is the impeachment. Americans who so lately had been 
holding their breath as they watched the great struggle 
waged by Grant and Sherman against Robert E. Lee, now 
had to watch with more painful feelings the assault of 
Benjamin F. Butler and Thaddeus Stevens against the 
President of the United States. It is indeed to " look 
here upon this picture, and on this!" Fain would all cit- 
izens of this land bury out of sight and memory the shame 
of that endeavor, so discreditable in conception and pur- 
pose, so disgraceful in conduct and conclusion. But the 
chapter got itself written and every one must read it. 
This Diary furnishes us our best, practically our only, 
opportunity to see the interior of the defendant's council- 
chamber; and it is interesting to do so. By this time Mr. 
Welles had become pessimistic ; to him evil and destruction 
seemed to pervade the air; darkness was around him, and 
apprehension, while the fate of his country was trembling 
in the balance not less dubiously and much more ignobly 
than when triumphant Southern troops were marching 
into Pennsylvania. He considers what is to be done in 
the anticipated event of an attempt to arrest the Presid- 
ent before trial, or even of an effort to depose him. Is Gen- 
eral Grant to be trusted? Would it be possible to turn to 
Sherman to oppose Grant, in case of the ultimate emerg- 
ency? Wild fancies and improbable terrors perturbed 
the staunch little band of the President's friends. To us 
now these seem the phantoms of panic ; but we know not 
the unrealized possibilities of those days. Even for us, 
merely reading a bit of history, there is not much gratifi- 
cation in thinking that in the end the nation was saved 
from the infinite disgrace of a verdict of conviction only 
because in the great body of her legislators a corporal's 
guard of Republicans could be found with the courage 
and the honesty to assert their political independence. 
That we are obliged to rejoice over so narrow a salvation 
of the national honor is in itself hardly honorable. 



lii INTRODUCTION 

After this great struggle passed, lassitude ensued; there 
was not much for either side to do now save to wait, to drag 
through the tedious months which yet remained of John- 
son's term. The end came of course at noon on March 4, 
1869, when General Grant advanced to take his turn at the 
difficult task, then so exceptionally difficult, of ruling the 
country, healing the still stinging wounds, and pleasing the 
people. With all his popularity and prestige he did not find 
that his plough was set for an easy furrow. On March 17, 
1869, Mr. Welles "parted with ex-President Johnson and 
family," and he writes in his Diary that "no better per- 
sons have occupied the Executive Mansion, and I part 
from them, socially and personally, with sincere regret." 
A month later he took his own departure with "reluct- 
ance." At his age the change signified, of course, that activ- 
ities were over, and that during his remaining years he 
must watch rather than share in the interesting toil and 
struggle of life. Apart from this reflection the removal 
from the capital brought also the curtailment of pleasures 
which had meant much to him. He had an inborn taste for 
what we call "Society," and he was well fitted to play a 
prominent and effective part in it. In point of personal ap- 
pearance Nature had dealt kindly by him. Mr. Seward's 
intellectual greatness was certainly inadequately expressed 
by his wizened face and ordinary form. Mr. Chase's stately 
deportment, on the other hand, was such an exaggeration 
of Jovian grandeur as seemed to outrun severe good taste. 
Mr. Stanton was the incarnation of the bourgeoisie in its 
American type. From much better endowed rivals Mr. 
Welles would easily have carried off the honors of the dig- 
nified and handsome gentleman of the official circle. He 
was complacently aware of these advantages of features, 
form, and manner, and did not neglect their due cultiva- 
tion. At that time, it is true, Washington was by no means 
the beautiful city which the lavish profusion of "boss" 
Shepherd soon afterward made it, and it was only begin- 
ning to attract the rich and varied throng which now fills it 



INTRODUCTION liii 

every winter. It was then only the place where the nation's 
business was done; yet even thus it had a numerous and 
ever changing society of able, interesting, noteworthy men 
with whom it was most agreeable to mingle. All this life 
Mr. Welles had thoroughly appreciated, and it could 
hardly be altogether gratifying to pack his household goods 
and gods for flight to a Connecticut town. It was natural 
that on the eve of this flitting he should write gravely, al- 
most sadly. Yet one would think that there must have 
been some sense of relief at closing such a service as that 
which he had been rendering to Mr. Johnson. It would 
have been bad enough to be engaged in conducting even a 
successful grapple with men who fought after the fashion 
adopted by Stevens and Butler and their followers; but 
to have been constantly forced backward, kept upon the 
defensive, harried and assailed by such men had been a 
severe test of temper and constancy. It must have been 
courage and honor and duty that had made Mr. Welles 
endure to the end, as he did with unflinching spirit, and 
he was well entitled to write that his duties had been 
"honestly and fearlessly discharged"; posterity will add 
also " honorably and efficiently." However his feelings 
may have been mingled between a consciousness of loss 
and of relief, his sound good sense told him that it was 
"best that the brief span of life that remains to me should 
be passed in the land of my nativity." Thither accordingly 
he went, man fashion, without repining, and found such 
occupation as he could in literary work, chiefly for maga- 
zines. He died at Hartford, February 11, 1878. We bid 
him farewell with respect for him as a distinguished public 
servant and with good will towards him as an upright 
man; neither can we neglect to say that all the good serv- 
ice which he rendered to his contemporaries was not of 
greater value than the legacy which he left to posterity in 
this invaluable Diary. 

JOHN T. MORSE, JR. 



DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

VOLUME I 
1861 MARCH 30, 1864 



DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

1861 MARCH 30, 1864 

: r : Z !.*;* i r : ;.;/t:'' 

THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR* 

The Expedition for the Relief of Sumter Mr. Seward's Interference 
Porter and Barron The Relief of Fort Pickens Conversation with 
Senator Douglas Mr. Seward's Intrigues The Loss of the Norfolk 
Navy Yard The Appointment of Stanton as Secretary of War 
The Relations of Seward and Stanton Fear of the Merrimac in Wash- 
ington " Stanton's Navy." 

ON the 6th of March, 1861, two days after the inaugura- 
tion of President Lincoln, Secretary Holt, who continued 
to discharge the duties of Secretary of War, Mr. Cameron 
not being prepared to enter at once upon the duties, called 
at the Navy Department with the compliments of General 
Scott and requested my attendance at the War Depart- 
ment on matters of special importance. I went immedi- 
ately with him to the office of the Secretary of War, where 
were Generals Scott and Totten, and I think Secretary 
Cameron, and perhaps one or two others. 

General Scott commenced with a statement of the peril- 
ous condition of the country and of the difficulties and 
embarrassments he had experienced for months past; re- 
lated the measures and precautions he had taken for the 
public safety, the advice and admonitions he had given 

1 This first chapter is not a part of Mr. Welles's diary, having been writ- 
ten several years after the events narrated, but since it gives a vivid first- 
hand account of these events, which occurred before the actual diary was 
begun, it may properly be considered a part of the record. 



4 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

President Buchanan, which, however, had been disregarded, 
and, finally, his apprehensions, perhaps convictions, that 
hostilities were imminent and, he feared, inevitable. He 
had, with the knowledge of Secretary Holt, taken the re- 
sponsibility of ordering a small military force to Washing- 
ton for the protection of the government and the public 
property and archives, and other troops were on then* way 
from the West. His statement was full, clear in its details, 
and of absorbing interest to those of us who were to meet 
and provide for the conflict now at hand. Among other 
matters, and that for which he had especially requested 
our attendance that morning, was certain intelligence of 
a distressing character from Major Anderson at Fort Sum- 
ter, stating that his supplies were almost exhausted, that 
he could get no provisions in Charleston, and that he with 
his small command would be wholly destitute in about 
six weeks. Under these circumstances it became a question 
what action should be taken, and for that purpose, as well 
as to advise us of the condition of affairs, he had convened 
the gentlemen present. 

The information was to most of us unexpected and 
astounding, and there was, on the part of such of us as 
had no previous intimation of the condition of things at 
Surnter, an earnest determination to take immediate and 
efficient measures to relieve and reinforce the garrison. 
But General Scott, without opposing this spontaneous 
resolution, related the difficulties which had already taken 
place, and stated the formidable obstacles which were to be 
encountered from the numerous and well-manned batteries 
that were erected in Charleston Harbor. Any successful 
attempt to reinforce or relieve the garrison by sea he sup- 
posed impracticable. An attempt had already been made 
and failed. The question was, however, one for naval 
authorities to decide, for the army could do nothing. Com- 
mander Ward, a gallant officer, had tendered his services 
on a former occasion when the subject was considered, and 
was ready at any time to take command of an expedition, 



PLANS FOR THE RELIEF OF SUMTER 5 

if one were ordered. General Scott said he did not expect 
any conclusion would be arrived at, at this meeting. He 
had called the gentlemen together by direction of the Pre- 
sident to communicate what information he had, and was 
glad to have his mind relieved of overburthened care and 
responsibility with which it had been loaded for months. 
He especially requested me to consult with naval men, and 
had thought it advisable that Commander Ward, then 
on the receiving-ship at Brooklyn, should come to Wash- 
ington, as he had already been made somewhat familiar 
with the subject. 

The meeting adjourned with an understanding that we 
would come together on the following day at the Execu- 
tive Mansion. In the mean time the gentlemen were to give 
the subject earnest consideration. 

When we met on the succeeding day, the same gentle- 
men, with the exception of Judge Holt, were present, and 
there were two or three others, beside the President. 

Many of the naval officers then in Washington and 
about the Navy Department were of questionable fidelity. 
A number had already resigned and most of those who 
were tainted with secession soon left the service; but some 
of them, on a further consideration of the subject, aided 
perhaps by adventitious circumstances, determined to 
abide by the flag and the Union. Whilst there were doubts 
and uncertainty on every hand as to who could be trusted, 
I knew Commodore Stringham to be faithful, and there- 
fore had, with the concurrence of the President, selected 
him to assist me in matters of detail. With him I commun- 
icated freely and fully in regard to the condition of Sum- 
ter and the ability of the Navy to throw in supplies for its 
relief. Both he and Commander Ward were confident that 
the Navy could reinforce the garrison and furnish it with 
men and provisions. The President had been apprised of 
the condition of things at Sumter, on the 4th of March, 
and had referred the subject to General Scott for advice, 
with directions to consult the Secretaries of War and Navy. 



6 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

Some, but not a very lengthened, discussion took place at 
this first interview at the Executive Mansion. There was 
a very general and very determined opinion expressed that 
Fort Sumter ought to be and should be reinforced. Major 
Anderson and all the officers of the garrison expressed in 
a measure the professional opinion that reinforcements 
could not be thrown into the fort in time for their relief 
with a force of less than twenty thousand good and well- 
disciplined men. Generals Scott and Totten declared it 
was impracticable, and Mr. Seward, who made many sug- 
gestions and inquiries, had doubts, and was evidently 
wholly opposed to any attempt at relief. 

No conclusion was required or expected at this niter- 
view. The President then, and until decisive steps were 
finally taken, was averse to offensive measures, and anxious 
to avoid them. In council, and in personal interviews with 
myself and others, he enjoined upon each and all to for- 
bear giving any cause of offense; and as regarded party 
changes consequent upon a change of administration, 
while they would necessarily be made elsewhere, he wished 
no removal for political causes to be made hi the Southern 
States, and especially not in Virginia. Although disturbed 
by the fact that the supplies of the garrison at Sumter 
were so limited, he was disinclined to hasty action, and 
wished time for the Administration to get in working order 
and its policy to be understood. He desired, I think on the 
suggestion of Mr. Seward, that General Scott should pre- 
pare a statement of the position of Sumter, and of the other 
batteries, and of preparations in Charleston and Charles- 
ton Harbor, the strength of each, how far and long could 
the garrison maintain itself and repel an attack if made, 
what force would be necessary to overcome any rebel force 
or organized military of the State of South Carolina, should 
she bid defiance to and resist the Federal authorities. 

No regular Cabinet-meetings were held in these days, 
nor for several weeks subsequently, but the heads of De- 
partments were frequently convened, always by special 



CABINET-MEETINGS 7 

summons through the Secretary of State. Sometimes 
there was not a full attendance, but on such occasions 
when there was an omission to invite any members, the 
absentees were considered not particularly interested in 
the questions submitted, or the questions did not affect the 
unrepresented Departments. 

The Secretary of State was, of course, apprised of every 
meeting and never failed in his attendance, whatever was 
the subject-matter, and though entirely out of his official 
province. He was vigilantly attentive to every measure 
and movement in other Departments, however trivial, 
as much so as to his own, watched and scrutinized every 
appointment that was made or proposed to be made, but 
was not communicative in regard to the transactions of 
the State Department. Other members began to inter- 
change views on these proceedings by which one of the 
heads of Departments was exclusively apprised on all 
measures, and at length Mr. Chase, as the second in rank 
and by request of his associates, inquired at one of the 
special meetings, whether it had not been usual in past 
administrations to have regular Cabinet-meetings on stated 
days of each week, and if it would not be conducive to 
unity and efficiency were the Administration to conform 
to past usage in that respect, 

Mr. Seward very promptly replied that it was not ad- 
visable to consume the time of all the gentlemen on stated 
days and when perhaps it would be unnecessary. The 
President had only to send word to the State Department, 
at any tune, day or night, when he wanted to call his Cabi- 
net together, or any portion of them, and he, Seward, 
would take upon himself to have every member notified 
whose attendance was required. The times were such, he 
remarked, that the President might find it necessary to 
call them, or portions of them, frequently, perhaps daily, 
and even oftener, together, for consultation. 

It was said on the other hand, by all the members except 
Mr. Seward, that the stated meetings need not prevent 



8 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

special calls whenever the President deemed proper, and 
that it was advisable, for the sake of unity and efficacy, 
that all the members should attend these meetings and 
share hi the responsibility, instead of having partial 
gatherings. 

The President concurred in these views of the majority, 
and it was decided that thereafter the Cabinet should 
assemble at meridian on Tuesdays and Fridays. 

Commander Ward, who was summoned to Washington, 
expressed his readiness to receive orders and to carry 
supplies to Sumter. He had volunteered to perform this 
service to the late administration, but his offer was then 
declined. There was a belief at that time that the garrison 
could not be reinforced by the Navy, and to attempt it 
would, President Buchanan feared, bring on hostilities. 
This in substance was the report of Commander Ward to 
me. I called with him on General Scott, who I then per- 
ceived was now decidedly opposed to any attempt to re- 
lieve Major Anderson. The Navy he was confident could 
not do it, and an army of at least twenty thousand men 
would be necessary, he said, to effect it. We had no such 
army, and the Government could not collect and arm one, 
to say nothing of the discipline and training, before the 
garrison would starve. Commander Ward and also Com- 
modore Stringham at first thought that a supply of pro- 
visions and a small number of men might be thrown into 
the fort by means of two small fast tugs, which could run 
in hi the night. Even if one of the tugs was lost, which they 
did not believe would be the case, the other could relieve 
the garrison. Of course, the tugs would be abandoned after 
landing the men, each one of whom was to have his sack 
of provisions if they could land no more. The crews of the 
tugs as well as the small additional military force would 
join the garrison and share its fate. 

In subsequent interviews with Generals Scott and 
Totten, Commander Ward became less confident and was 
finally convinced that relief was impracticable. He advised 




WILLIAM H. SEWARD 



SEWARD OPPOSES RELIEF PLANS 9 

me that the scheme should be abandoned. Commodore 
Stringham came ultimately but reluctantly to the same 
conclusion, after the elaborate report of the two generals, 
who maintained that if supplies could be furnished the 
garrison, the fort itself could not hold out against the at- 
tack of the surrounding batteries which the Secessionists 
had been allowed to erect and fortify for the reduction 
of Sumter. 

Mr. Seward, who from the first had viewed with no 
favor any attempt to relieve Sumter, soon became a very 
decisive and emphatic opponent of any proposition that 
was made; said he had entertained doubts, and the opin- 
ions and arguments of Major Anderson and his officers, 
confirmed by the distinguished military officers who were 
consulted, had fully convinced him that it would be abort- 
ive and useless. It was a duty to defer to these military 
gentlemen, whose profession and study made them experts, 
who had by long and faithful service justly acquired the 
positions they held, and who possessed the confidence of 
the country. It was, he was satisfied, impossible to relieve 
and reinforce the garrison; the attempt would provoke im- 
mediate hostilities, and if hostilities could not be avoided, 
he deemed it important that the Administration should 
not strike the first blow. 

The President, though much distressed with the conclu- 
sions of the military officers, and the decisive concurrence 
of the Secretary of State in those conclusions, appeared 
to acquiesce in what seemed to be a military necessity, 
but was not disposed to yield until the last moment, and 
when there was no hope of accomplishing the work if at- 
tempted. In the mean time, he sent Mr. Lamon, his late 
law-partner, to Charleston and others also to make in- 
quiries, among them Mr. Fox, who, like Commander Ward, 
had been a volunteer under the late administration to 
relieve Sumter and who never abandoned the idea of its 
practicability. 

Commander Ward was so fully convinced by the argu- 



10 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

ments of General Scott and General Totten and the opin- 
ions of the officers of the garrison, so dissuaded by the 
opposition of Mr. Seward and the general current of views 
which prevailed, that he wholly abandoned the project, 
stating, however, that he held himself in readiness to obey 
orders and take charge of an expedition, if the Government 
should at any time deem it expedient that an effort should 
be made. On the llth of March he left Washington, and 
returned to New York. 

A strange state of things existed at that time in Wash- 
ington. The atmosphere was thick with treason. Party 
spirit and old party differences prevailed, however, amidst 
these accumulating dangers. Secession was considered by 
most persons as a political party question, not as rebellion. 
Democrats to a large extent sympathized with the Rebels 
more than with the Administration, which they opposed, 
not that they wished secession to be successful and. the 
Union divided, but they hoped that President Lincoln and 
the Republicans would, overwhelmed by obstacles and 
embarrassments, prove failures. The Republicans, on the 
other hand, were scarcely less partisan and unreasonable. 
Crowds of them at this period, when the storm of civil war 
was about bursting on the country, thronged the ante- 
rooms of the President and Secretaries, clamorous for the 
removal of all Democrats, indiscriminately, from office. 
Patriotism was with them no test, no shield from party 
malevolence. They demanded the proscription and ex- 
clusion of such Democrats as opposed the Rebel move- 
ments and clung to the Union, with the same vehemence 
that they demanded the removal of the worst Rebels who 
advocated a dissolution of the Union. 

Neither party appeared to be apprehensive of or to real- 
ize the gathering storm. There was a general belief, in- 
dulged in by most persons, that an adjustment would in 
some way be brought about, without any extensive resort 
to extreme measures. It seemed probable there might be 
some outbreak in South Carolina, and perhaps in one or 



SEWARD'S UNFORTUNATE PROPHECIES 11 

two other places, but such would, it was believed, be soon 
and easily suppressed. The threatened violence which the 
milliners had thundered for thirty years in the ears of 
the people had caused then' threats to be considered as the 
harmless ebullitions of excited demagogues throughout 
the North, while at the South those utterances had so 
trained the Southern mind, and fired the Southern heart, 
as to cause them to be received as truthful. The South 
were, therefore, more united and earnest at this crisis, 
more determined on seceding, than either the Democrats 
or Republicans supposed. But, while the great body of 
the people and most of their leaders in the Northern States, 
listening to the ninety-day prophecies of Mr. Seward, were 
incredulous as to any extensive, serious disturbance, there 
were not a few whose forebodings were grave and sad. All 
the calamities which soon befell the country these men 
anticipated. Yet such as were in positions of responsibility 
would not permit themselves to despond, or despair of the 
Republic. Mr. Seward possessed a hopeful and buoyant 
spirit which did not fail him in that dark period, and at no 
time were his party f eelings more decided than during the 
spring of 1861. Old Whig associates he clung to and strove 
to retain. All Democrats he distrusted, unless they became 
identified with the Republican Party. He had probably 
overestimated his own power and ability to allay the rising 
storm, and had not the personal influence he supposed. 
He had prophesied during the winter peace and harmony, 
within a very brief period after the change of administra- 
tion was to be effected. These unfortunate prophecies, 
which became a matter of mirth with many of his friends 
and of ridicule among his opponents, were not entirely vain 
imaginings or without some foundation. In the confident 
belief that he could, if once in place and power, effect con- 
ciliation and peace, it had been an object with him to tide 
the difficulties past the 4th of March. He therefore had 
operated to that end, and so had Mr. Buchanan, though 
for different reasons. 



12 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

Through Mr. Stanton, after that gentleman entered Mr. 
Buchanan's Cabinet, Mr. Seward and others were secretly 
advised in regard to the important measures of the 
Buchanan Administration, and in the course of the winter 
Mr. Seward came to an understanding, as was alleged and 
as events and circumstances indicated, with certain of the 
leading Secessionists. Among other things it was asserted 
that an agreement had been entered into that no assault 
should be made on Fort Sumter, provided the garrison 
should not be reinforced. Mr. Buchanan was to observe 
the status thus understood during the short remaining pe- 
riod of his administration, and Mr. Seward, as the coming 
premier, was, on the change of administration, to carry 
forward the policy of non-reinforcement of Sumter. If not 
supplied or reinforced, famine would certainly effect the 
downfall of the fortress without bloodshed on either side. 
Until blood was spilled, there was hope of conciliation. In 
fulfillment of this arrangement, Mr. Seward opposed any 
and every scheme to reinforce Sumter, and General Scott, 
who was old and much under his influence, if not a party 
to the understanding, seconded or took a leading part in 
that opposition. 

On the 5th of March commissioners from the Rebel 
Government arrived in Washington and soon put them- 
selves in communication with the Secretary of State, but 
the specific object which they had in view, and the nego- 
tiations or understanding between him and the parties 
were not immediately detailed to the Cabinet. They un- 
doubtedly influenced the mind and course of Mr. Seward, 
who did not relinquish the hope of a peaceful adjustment 
of difficulties, and he in conversation continued to allure 
his friends with the belief that he should be able to effect 
a reconciliation. 

In the many, almost daily, discussions which for a time 
were held in regard to Sumter, the opposition to forward- 
ing supplies gathered strength. Commodore Stringham, 
as well as Commander Ward, on a final application which 



THE PRESIDENT AROUSED 13 

I made to him, by request of the President, and finally 
by the President himself, said he was compelled to advise 
against it. The tune had gone by. It was too late. The mil- 
itary gentlemen had satisfied him it was impossible, that 
nothing could be gained by it, were the attempt made, 
that it would be attended with a useless sacrifice of blood 
and treasure, and he felt constrained to state his belief of 
the inability of the Navy to give relief. 

Postmaster-General Blair, who had been a close and near 
observer of what had taken place through the whiter 
and spring, took an opposite view from Mr. Seward and 
General Scott. To some extent he was aware of the un- 
derstanding which Mr. Seward had with the members of 
Buchanan's Administration, or was suspicious of it, and his 
indignation that any idea of abandoning Sumter should 
be entertained or thought of was unbounded. With the 
exception of Mr. Seward, all his colleagues concurred with 
Mr. Blair at the commencement, but as the subject was 
discussed, and the impossibility and inutility of the scheme 
was urged, with assurance from the first military men in 
the country, whose advice was sought and given, that it 
was a military necessity to leave Sumter to its fate, the 
opinions of men changed, or they began at least to waver. 
Mr. Blair saw these misgivings, in which he did not at all 
participate, and finally, observing that the President, with 
the acquiescence of the Cabinet, was about adopting the 
Seward and Scott policy, he wrote his resignation, de- 
termined not to continue hi the Cabinet if no attempt 
were made to relieve Fort Sumter. Before handing in his 
resignation, a delay was made at the request of his father. 
The elder Blair sought an interview with the President, to 
whom he entered his protest against non-action, which he 
denounced as the offspring of intrigue. His earnestness 
and indignation aroused and electrified the President; and 
when, in his zeal, Blair warned the President that the aban- 
donment of Sumter would be justly considered by the 
people, by the world, by history, as treason to the country, 



14 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

he touched a chord that responded to his invocation. 
The President decided from that moment that an attempt 
should be made to convey supplies to Major Anderson, 
and that he would reinforce Sumter. This determination 
he communicated to the members of the Cabinet as he saw 
them, without a general announcement in Cabinet-meet- 
ing. The resolve inspired all the members with hope and 
courage, except Mr. Seward, who was evidently disap- 
pointed. He said it was of vastly more importance to turn 
our attention to Fort Pickens. I told him this had been 
done and how; that we had a considerable naval force there, 
almost the whole of the Home Squadron, and we had sent, 
a fortnight before, orders to land the troops under Captain 
Vogdes from the Brooklyn. He said that still more should, 
hi his opinion, be done; that it was practicable to save 
Fort Pickens, but it was confessedly impossible to retain 
Sumter. One would be a waste of effort and energy and 
life, would extinguish all hope of peace, and compel the 
Government to take the initiative in hostile demonstra- 
tions, while the other would be an effective and peace- 
able movement. Although, as already mentioned, stated 
Cabinet-meetings were not then established, the members 
were in those early days of the Administration frequently 
together, and the President had every day more or less 
interviews with them, individually or collectively. The 
Secretary of State spent much of each day at the Execu- 
tive Mansion and was vigilant to possess himself of every 
act, move, and intention of the President and of each of 
his associates. Perhaps there was an equal desire on their 
part to be informed of the proceedings of the Administra- 
tion in full, but less was known of the transactions of the 
State Department than of any other. 

The President, after his interview with the elder Blah*, 
asked me if a naval expedition could be promptly fitted 
out to relieve Sumter. Mr. Fox, 1 who had in February 
proposed to the Buchanan Administration a plan for the 

1 Gustavus V. Fox, subsequently Assistant Secretary of the Navy. 



FOX UNDERTAKES THE EXPEDITION 15 

relief of Sumter, again volunteered for the service, and 
was accepted by Mr. Lincoln. On the 19th of March he 
received the following communication from General Scott : 

HEADQUARTERS OP THE ARMY, 

Washington, March 19, 1861. 

DEAR SIR: In accordance with the request contained in a note 
from the Secretary of War to me, of which I annex a copy, I re- 
quest that you will have the goodness to proceed to Charleston, 
S. C., and obtain permission, if necessary, to visit Fort Sumter, 
in order to enable you to comply with the wish expressed in the 
Secretary's note. 

Please, on your return, to report accordingly. 

I remain, with high consideration, your most obedient serv- 
ant, 

WINFIELD SCOTT. 

G. V. Fox, ESQ. 

Mr. Fox visited the fort and saw Major Anderson, and 
was confident he could reinforce the garrison with men 
and supply it with provisions. Commodore Stringham 
was tendered the command of the naval part of the expe- 
dition, but doubted the practicability of succeeding. The 
President, notwithstanding Stringham's reluctance, de- 
termined to accept the volunteer services of Mr. Fox, who, 
though then in no way connected with the Government, 
had formerly been an officer of the Navy. The object 
being the relief of a military garrison and the supplies and 
troops for reinforcement being from the army, the expe- 
dition was made a military and not a naval one, but with 
naval aid and cooperation. The transports which the War 
Department was to charter were to rendezvous off Charles- 
ton with the naval vessels, which would act as convoy, and 
render such assistance as would be required of them. The 
steam frigate Powhatan, which had returned from service 
in the West Indies and needed considerable repairs, had 
just arrived and been ordered out of commission, and the 
crew discharged the day before the final decision of the 
President was communicated. Dispatches were forthwith 



16 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

sent revoking the orders which had been issued, directing 
that the Powhatan be again put in commission, and to fit 
her without delay for brief service. The Pawnee and one 
or two other vessels, including the Harriet Lane, a revenue 
cutter transferred to the Navy for the occasion, there*not 
being sufficient naval vessels available for the expedition, 
were ordered to be in readiness for sea service on or before 
the 6th of April with one month's stores on board. These 
preparatory orders were given on the 30th of March. 

On the 1st of April, while at my dinner at Willard's, 
where I then boarded, Mr. Nicolay, the private secretary 
of the President, brought to me and laid upon the table a 
large package from the President. It was between five and 
six o'clock in the afternoon when I received this package, 
which I immediately examined and found it contained 
several papers of a singular character, in the nature of in- 
structions, or orders from the Executive in relation to naval 
matters, and one in reference to the government of the 
Navy Department more singular and remarkable than 
either of the others. This extraordinary document was as 
follows : 

(Confidential) 

EXECUTIVE MANSION, April 1, 1861. 
To the Secretary of the Navy. 

DEAR SIR: You will issue instructions to Captain Pendergrast, 
commanding the home squadron, to remain in observation at 
Vera Cruz important complications in our foreign relations 
rendering the presence of an officer of rank there of great import- 
ance. 

Captain Stringham will be directed to proceed to Pensacola 
with all possible despatch, and assume command of that portion 
of the home squadron stationed off Pensacola. He will have con- 
fidential instructions to cooperate in every way with the com- 
manders of the land forces of the United States in that neighbor- 
hood. 

The instructions to the army officers, which are strictly con- 
fidential, will be communicated to Captain Stringham after he 
arrives at Pensacola. 



SEWARD'S INTERFERENCE 17 

Captain Samuel Barren will relieve Captain Stringham in 
charge of the Bureau of Detail. 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 

P. S. As it is very necessary at this time to have a perfect know- 
ledge of the personal of the navy, and to be able to detail such 
officers for special purposes as the exigencies of the service may 
require, I request that you will instruct Captain Barren to pro- 
ceed and organize the Bureau of Detail in the manner best 
adapted to meet the wants of the navy, taking cognizance of the 
discipline of the navy generally, detailing all officers for duty, 
taking charge of the recruiting of seamen, supervising charges 
made against officers, and all matters relating to duties which 
must be best understood by a sea officer. You will please afford 
Captain Barren any facility for accomplishing this duty, trans- 
ferring to his department the clerical force heretofore used for 
the purposes specified. It is to be understood that this officer 
will act by authority of the Secretary of the Navy, who will 
exercise such supervision as he may deem necessary. 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 

Without a moment's delay I went to the President with 
the package in my hand. He was alone in his office and, 
raising his head from the table at which he was writing, 
inquired, "What have I done wrong?" I informed him I 
had received with surprise the package containing his in- 
structions respecting the Navy and the Navy Department, 
and I desired some explanation. I then called his atten- 
tion particularly to the foregoing document, which I read 
to him. This letter was in the handwriting of Captain 
Meigs of the army, then Quartermaster-General; the post- 
script in that of David D. Porter, since made Vice-Ad- 
miral. The President expressed as much surprise as I felt, 
that he had sent me such a document. He said Mr. Seward, 
with two or three young men, had been there through the 
day on a subject which he (Seward) had in hand, and 
which he had been some time maturing; that it was Sew- 
ard's specialty, to which he, the President, had yielded, but 
as it involved considerable details, he had left Mr. Seward 



18 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

to prepare the necessary papers. These papers he had 
signed, many of them without reading, for he had not 
time, and if he could not trust the Secretary of State, he 
knew not whom he could trust. I asked who were asso- 
ciated with Mr. Seward. "No one," said the President, 
"but these young men were here as clerks to write down 
his plans and orders." Most of the work was done, he said, 
in the other room. I then asked if he knew the young men. 
He said one was Captain Meigs, another was a naval officer 
named Porter. 

I informed the President that I was not prepared to 
trust Captain Barren, who was by this singular pro- 
ceeding, issued in his name, to be forced into personal and 
official intimacy with me. He said he knew nothing of 
Barren except he had a general recollection that there 
was such an officer in the Navy. The detailing officer of 
the Department, I said to him, ought to have the implicit 
confidence of the Secretary, and should be selected by him. 
This the President assented to most fully. I then told 
him that Barron, though a pliant gentleman, had not my 
confidence, and I thought him not entitled to that of the 
President in these times; that his associations, feelings, 
and views, so far as I had ascertained them, were with the 
Secessionists; that he belonged to a clique of exclusives, 
most of whom were tainted with secession notions; that, 
though I was not prepared to say he would desert us when 
the crisis came on, I was apprehensive of it, and while I 
would treat him kindly, considerately, and hoped he would 
not prove false like most others of his set, I could not 
give him the trust which the instructions imposed. 

The President reiterated they were not his instructions, 
though signed by him, that the paper was an improper one, 
that he wished me to give it no more consideration than I 
thought proper, to treat it as canceled, or as if it had never 
been written. He said he remembered that both Seward 
and Porter had something to say about Barron, as if he 
was a superior officer, and hi some respects, perhaps, with- 



DEFECTION AMONG NAVAL OFFICERS 19 

out any equal in the Navy, but he certainly never would 
have assigned him or any other man knowingly the posi- 
tion without consulting me. 

Barren was a courtier, of mild and affable manners, a 
prominent and influential officer, especially influential 
with the clique which recognized him as a leader. He and 
D. D. Porter were intimate friends, and both were favor- 
ites of Jefferson Davis, Slidell, and other Secessionists, 
who, I had learned, paid them assiduous attention. 

When I took charge of the Navy Department, I found 
great demoralization and defection among the naval of- 
ficers. It was difficult to ascertain who among those that 
lingered about Washington could and who were not to be 
trusted. Some belonging to the Barren clique had already 
sent in their resignations. Others, it was well understood, 
were prepared to do so as soon as a blow was struck. Some 
were hesitating, undecided what step to take. Barron, 
Buchanan, Maury, Porter, and Magruder were in Wash- 
ington, and each and all were, during that unhappy winter, 
courted and caressed by the Secessionists, who desired to 
win them to their cause. I was by reliable friends put on 
my guard as respected each of them. Buchanan, Maury, 
and Magruder were each holding prominent place and on 
duty. Barron was familiar with civil and naval matters, 
was prepared for any service, ready to be called to dis- 
charge such duties as are constantly arising in the Depart- 
ment, requiring the talents of an intelligent officer. 

Porter had some of the qualities of Barron, with more 
dash and energy, was less plausible, more audacious, and 
careless in his statements, but like him was given to in- 
trigues. His associations, as well as Barron's, during the 
winter of 1861, had been intimate with the Secessionists. 
He sought and obtained orders for Coast Survey service 
in the Pacific, which indicated an intention to avoid active 
participation in the approaching controversy. That class 
of officers who at such a time sought duties in the Pacific 
and on foreign stations were considered, prima facie, as in 



20 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

sympathy with the Secessionists, but yet not prepared to 
give up their commissions and abandon the Government. 
No men were more fully aware that a conflict was impend- 
ing, and that, if hostilities commenced and they were 
within the call of the Department, they would be required 
to participate. Hence a disposition to evade an unpleasant 
dilemma by going away was not misunderstood. 

Barron and Porter occupied in the month of March an 
equivocal position. They were intimate, they were popu- 
lar, and the eye of the Department was necessarily upon 
them, as it was, indeed, upon all in the service. In two or 
three interviews with me, Barron deprecated the unfor- 
tunate condition of the country, expressed his hopes that 
extreme measures would not be resorted to, avowed his 
love for the profession with which from early childhood 
he had been identified and in which so many of his family 
had distinguished connection. There were suavity in his 
manner and kindly sentiments in his remarks, but not that 
earnest, devoted patriotism which the times demanded, 
and which broke forth from others of his profession, in 
denunciation of treason and infidelity to the flag. Porter 
had presented himself but once to the Department, and 
that was to make some inquiries in relation to his orders 
to the Pacific, but there was no allusion to the impending 
difficulties nor any proffer of service if difficulties ensued. 
As with many others, some of whom abandoned the Gov- 
ernment, while some remained and rendered valuable 
service, the Department was in doubt what course these 
two officers would pursue. 

This was the state of the case when the instructions of 
the 1st of April were sent me. On learning from the Pre- 
sident who were Mr. Seward's associates, I was satisfied 
that Porter had through him proposed and urged the 
substitution of Barron for Stringham as the detailing and 
confidential officer of the Secretary of the Navy. I was 
unwilling to believe that my colleague Mr. Seward could 
connive at, or be party to, so improper and gross an affair 



THE BARRON INTRIGUE 21 

as to interfere with the organization of my Department, and 
jeopardize its operations at such a juncture. What, then, 
were the contrivances which he was maturing with two 
young officers, one of the army and the other of the Navy, 
without consulting the Secretary of War or the Secretary 
of the Navy ? What had he, the Secretary of State, to do 
with these officers in any respect? I could get no satis- 
factory explanation from the President of the origin of this 
strange interference, which mystified him, and which he 
censured and condemned more severely than myself. He 
assured me it would never occur again. Although very 
much disturbed by the disclosure, he was anxious to avoid 
difficulty, and, to shield Mr. Seward, took to himself the 
whole blame and repeatedly said that I must pay no more 
attention to the papers sent me than I thought advisable. 
He gave me, however, at that time no information of the 
scheme which Mr. Seward had promoted, farther than 
that it was a specialty, which Mr. Seward wished should 
be kept secret. I therefore pressed for no further disclos- 
ures. 

The instructions in relation to Barron I treated as null- 
ities. My first conclusions were that Mr. Seward had been 
made a victim to an intrigue, artfully contrived by those 
who favored and were promoting the Rebellion, and that 
the paper had been in some way surreptitiously introduced 
with others in the hurry and confusion of that busy day 
without his knowledge. That he would commit the discour- 
tesy of imposing on me such instructions I was unwilling'to 
believe, and that he should be instrumental in placing, or 
attempting to place, a person more than suspected, and 
who was occupying so equivocal a position as Barron, in 
so responsible a position in the Navy Department, and 
commit to him all the information of that branch of the 
Government, seemed to me impossible. 

The preparations for the Sumter expedition were carried 
forward with all the energy which the Department could 
command, for we were notified the provisions of the garri- 



22 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

son would be exhausted on the 15th of April. It was ar- 
ranged by the War and Navy Departments that their 
forces the naval vessels and transports should meet 
and rendezvous ten miles due east of Charleston lighthouse 
on the morning of the llth of April. Each of the vessels 
was to report to Gapt. Samuel Mercer, commanding the 
Powhatan, and the following final instructions were sent to 
that officer: 

(Confidential) 

NAVY DEPARTMENT, April 5, 1861. 

Captain Samuel Mercer, commanding U. S. Steamer Pow- 
hatan, N. Y. 

The United States Steamers Powhatan, Pawnee, Pocahontas, 
and Harriet Lane will compose a naval force under your com- 
mand, to be sent to the vicinity of Charleston, S. C., for the pur- 
pose of aiding in carrying out the objects of an expedition of 
which the War Department has charge. 

The primary object of the expedition is to provision Fort 
Sumter, for which purpose the War Department will furnish the 
necessary transports. Should the authorities of Charleston per- 
mit the fort to be supplied, no further particular service will be 
required of the force under your command; and after being satis- 
fied that supplies have been received at the fort, the Powhatan, 
Pocahontas, and Harriet Lane will return to New York, and the 
Pawnee to Washington. 

Should the authorities at Charleston, however, refuse to per- 
mit, or attempt to prevent the vessel or vessels having supplies 
on board from entering the harbor, or from peaceably proceeding 
to Fort Sumter, you will protect the transports or boats of the 
expedition in the object of their mission, disposing of your force 
in such manner as to open the way for their ingress, and afford 
as far as practicable security to the men and boats, and repelling 
by force if necessary all obstructions toward provisioning the 
fort and reinforcing it; for hi case of a resistance to the peaceable 
primary object of the expedition, a reinforcement of the garri- 
son will also be attempted. These purposes will be under the 
supervision of the War Department, which has charge of the 
expedition. The expedition has been intrusted to Captain G. V. 
Fox, with whom you will put yourself in communication, and 



CAPTAIN MERGER'S ORDERS 23 

cooperate with him to accomplish and carry into effect its 
object. 

You will leave New York with the Powhatan in time to be 
off Charleston bar, ten miles distant from and due east of the 
light-house, on the morning of the llth instant, there to await 
the arrival of the transport or transports with troops and stores. 
The Pawnee and Pocahontas will be ordered to join you there 
at the time mentioned, and also the Harriet Lane, which latter 
vessel has been placed under the control of this Department 
for this service. 

On the termination of the expedition, whether it be peaceable 
or otherwise, the several vessels under your command will re- 
turn to the respective ports as above directed, unless some un- 
foreseen circumstance should prevent. 
I am, respectfully, 

Your Obd't Serv't, 

GIDEON WELLES, 

Secretary of the Navy. 

Sealed orders were given to Commander Rowan of the 
Pawnee, Commander Gillis of the Pocahontas, and Cap- 
tain Tanner of the Harriet Lane, to report to Captain 
Mercer on the llth of April, and the entire military and 
naval expedition was to be under the command of Mr. 
Fox, who was specially commissioned by the President 
and received his instructions from the Secretary of War. 
My instructions to Captain Mercer were read to the Pre- 
sident on the 5th of April, who approved them. Although 
but brief time had been permitted us to fit out the expedi- 
tion, I congratulated myself, when I went to my room at 
Willard's on the evening of the 6th of April, that it had 
been accomplished within the tune given us, and that the 
force had probably sailed. 

Between eleven and twelve that night, Mr. Seward and 
his son Frederick came to my rooms at Willard's with 
a telegram from Captain Meigs at New York, stating hi 
effect that the movements were retarded and embarrassed 
by conflicting orders from the Secretary of the Navy. I 
asked an explanation, for I could not understand the nature 



24 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

of the telegram or its object. Mr. Seward said he sup- 
posed it related to the Powhatan and Porter's command. 
I assured him he was mistaken, that Porter had no com- 
mand, and that the Powhatan was the flagship, as he was 
aware, of the Sumter expedition. He thought there must 
be some mistake, and after a few moments' conversation, 
with some excitement on my part, it was suggested that 
we had better call on the President. Before doing this, I 
sent for Commodore Stringham, who was boarding at 
Willard's and had retired for the night. When he came, my 
statement was confirmed by him, and he went with us, as 
did Mr. Frederick Seward, to the President. On our way 
thither Mr. Seward remarked that, old as he was, he had 
learned a lesson from this affair, and that was, he had bet- 
ter attend to his own business and confine his labors to his 
own Department. To this I cordially assented. 

The President had not retired when we reached the 
Executive Mansion, although it was nearly midnight. On 
seeing us he was surprised, and his surprise was not dimin- 
ished on learning our errand. He looked first at one and 
then the other, and declared there was some mistake, but 
after again hearing the facts stated, and again looking at 
the telegram, he asked if I was not in error in regard to the 
Powhatan, if some other vessel was not the flagship 
of the Sumter expedition. I assured him there was no mis- 
take on my part; reminded him that I had read to him 
my confidential instructions to Captain Mercer. He said 
he remembered that fact, and that he approved of them, 
but he could not remember that the Powhatan was the 
vessel. Commodore Stringham confirmed my statement, 
but to make the matter perfectly clear to the President, I 
went to the Navy Department and brought and read to 
him the instructions. He then remembered distinctly all 
the facts, and, turning promptly to Mr. Seward, said the 
Powhatan must be restored to Mercer, that on no account 
must the Sumter expedition fail or be interfered with. Mr. 
Seward hesitated, remonstrated, asked if the other expedi- 



SEWARD'S INTERFERENCE 25 

tion was not quite as important, and whether that would 
not be defeated if the Powhatan was detached. The Pre- 
sident said the other had time and could wait, but no time 
was to be lost as regarded Sumter, and he directed Mr. 
Seward to telegraph and return the Powhatan to Mercer 
without delay. Mr. Seward suggested the difficulty of 
getting a dispatch through and to the Navy Yard at so 
late an hour, but the President was imperative that it 
should be done. 

The President then, and subsequently, informed me that 
Mr. Seward had his heart set on reinforcing Fort Pickens, 
and that between them, on Mr. Seward's suggestion, they 
had arranged for supplies and reinforcements to be sent 
out at the same time we were fitting out vessels for Sumter, 
but with no intention whatever of interfering with the 
latter expedition. He took upon himself the whole blame, 
said it was carelessness, heedlessness on his part, he ought 
to have been more careful and attentive. President Lin- 
coln never shunned any responsibility and often declared 
that he, and not his Cabinet, was in fault for errors im- 
puted to them, when I sometimes thought otherwise. 

Mr. Seward never attempted any explanation. He was 
not communicative on that night, nor afterwards, though 
there were occasional allusions, by myself, to that singular 
transaction. Mr. Cameron was greatly incensed; com- 
plained that Mr. Seward was trying to run the War De- 
partment, had caused Captain Meigs to desert; said he 
would have Meigs arrested and tried by court martial, 
that he was absent without leave, was expending the mili- 
tary appropriations without authority from the Secretary 
of War. My grievance was somewhat similar. Although 
Lieutenant Porter had gone with the Powhatan to Pensa- 
cola, there was no order or record in the Navy Department 
of the facts. He was absent without leave; the last sailing- 
orders to the Powhatan were [sent to] Mercer. The whole 
proceeding was irregular and could admit of no justifica- 
tion without impeaching the integrity or ability of the 



26 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

Secretaries of War and Navy. No one was more aware of 
this than the President, and, solicitous that there should be 
no disagreement or cause for disagreement in his Cabinet, 
he was not comforted by any reflection or examination of 
the subject. A large portion of the Home Squadron was off 
Pensacola, and no additional vessels were required nor 
could well be spared for that station whilst we were want- 
ing them and many more this side of Key West. I had, 
moreover, on the earnest application of Lieutenant-General 
Scott, sent the Crusader and Mohawk already into the 
Gulf with orders to Captain Adams, the senior officer off 
Pensacola, to land the troops in order to reinforce Fort 
Pickens. No additional frigate like the Powhatan was 
needed there, while she was indispensable here. That ves- 
sel gave no greater security to Pickens. The troops, with 
the naval force already there, were abundantly able to de- 
fend it, as results proved. Besides, the defense was mili- 
tary, not naval, and could easily have been reinforced. 
Hence the reinforcements were stolen away from Sumter 
and sent to Pickens. 

When at a later date I saw the communication of the 
Rebel commissioners of the 9th of April to Mr. Seward and 
also Judge Campbell's letter of the 13th of that month, 
I had one of the keys to the mystery and movements of 
Mr. Seward. The commissioners state that "on the 15th 
of March Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford were assured 
by a person occupying a high official position in the 
Government, and who, as they believed, was speaking by 
authority, that Fort Sumter would be evacuated within a 
very few days, and that no measure changing the existing 
status prejudicially to the Confederate States as respects 
Fort Pickens was then contemplated; and these assurances 
were subsequently repeated, with the addition that any 
contemplated change as respects Pickens [= Sumter] would 
be notified to us. On the 1st of April we were again 
informed that there might be an attempt to supply Fort 
Sumter with provisions, but that Gov. Pickens should 



SEWARD AND THE COMMISSIONERS 27 

have previous notice of this attempt. There was no sug- 
gestion of any reinforcements." 

Judge Campbell and Judge Nelson of the Supreme 
Court were the high officials alluded to, and the former 
in his letter of the 13th of April to Mr. Seward says, "On 
the 1st of April I received from you the statement in writ- 
ing: I am satisfied the govt. will not undertake to supply 
Fort Sumter without giving notice to Gov. P." The 1st 
of April was the day on which Mr. Seward, assisted by 
Meigs and Porter, prepared the strange series of instruc- 
tions to me which President Lincoln signed without read- 
ing, directing that Captain Barren should be made the 
confidential detailing officer of the Department with ex- 
traordinary powers. It was on the 1st of April that carte 
blanche was given to the two young officers, investing them 
with full governmental powers and authorizing them to 
act independently of then* superiors and of the heads of 
their respective departments, by which a military expedi- 
tion was sent out without the knowledge of the Secretary 
of War and a naval ship under orders was taken from her 
destination, her commander displaced, and her cruise 
broken up without the knowledge of the Secretary of the 
Navy, whereby the whole plan of sending supplies and re- 
inforcements to Fort Sumter was defeated. The Secretary 
of State writes the Rebel commission he is satisfied the 
Government will not undertake to supply Fort Sumter 
without giving notice to Governor P., when at the very 
moment he knew the whole energies of the War and Navy 
Departments were engaged by order of the President in 
preparations to forward supplies and reinforcements to 
Sumter. All was rendered abortive, however, by secretly 
detaching the Powhatan, the flagship to which the squad- 
ron was to report and which had the supplies. 

On the night of the 6th of April, Secretary Seward was 
ordered by the President to send a telegram to Porter 
to restore the Powhatan to Mercer and the expedition to 
Sumter. But the vessel was not so restored, and on the 



28 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

following day Mr. Seward writes Judge Campbell, " Faith 
as to Sumter fully kept; wait and see." I make no com- 
ments on these proceedings, by which I, and the Pre- 
sident, and others, as well as the Rebel commissioners, 
were deceived. These letters of Judge Campbell and the 
commissioners were not disclosed to me by Mr. Seward, 
nor do I think the President saw them when received. 

Porter's instructions, recommended by Seward and 
signed by Abraham Lincoln, placed that officer hi inde- 
pendent command at Pensacola, where his senior, Captain 
Adams, was hi command of the squadron, and the latter 
was to cooperate with and be subject to the request of his 
junior in the great object and purpose of the force on that 
station. The strange and irregular proceeding embar- 
rassed Captain Adams and became uncomfortable to Lieu- 
tenant Porter as well as embarrassing to the Secretary of 
State. Captain Adams could not receive or recognize the 
Powhatan as a part of his squadron; he had received no 
orders from the Secretary of the Navy in relation to the 
vessel or to Lieutenant Porter; and while he could not dis- 
regard the strange instructions to which the Secretary of 
State had persuaded the President to affix his signature, 
there was nothing requiring his action as commander of the 
naval forces. Porter could not report or write to the Navy 
Department, for he was off Pensacola, when by naval re- 
cord he should have been in the Pacific, and [as he was] in 
command of the Powhatan by no order from the Secretary 
of the Navy, was without orders or instructions from 
the proper Department, the officer in command would 
not receive and forward his letters. Officers are required 
to send then* letters to the Navy Department through their 
senior officers. The Secretary of State had therefore to 
correspond with that branch of the Navy, and awkwardly 
passed over the letters of the officer who was in command 
of a vessel surreptitiously detached and withdrawn from 
her legitimate duties. 

I may here state that, as early as the llth of March, 



RELIEF OF FORT PICKENS 29 

I had, on the application of General Scott, who feared to 
trust the mails, and was unwilling to send a messenger 
through the infected region lest he should be arrested, de- 
tailed the Crusader to carry an officer with instructions to 
Captain Vogdes to land his forces and strengthen the gar- 
rison at Fort Pickens. When the vessel was ready to sail, 
General Scott concluded not to send his messenger, but 
dispatched written orders to Captain Vogdes, which he 
entrusted to the naval officer to deliver. But Captain 
Adams, the senior naval officer, would not recognize the 
orders of General Scott, nor permit Captain Vogdes and 
his command to land. His justification was an armistice, 
which had been entered into by Secretaries Holt and Toucey 
with prominent Rebels, not to reinforce the garrison at 
Fort Pickens, provided the Rebels would not attack it. 

Captain Adams was not entirely satisfied with his own 
decision. Though technically he might be justified in 
adhering to the armistice or order of the Secretary of 
the Navy, rather than obey the order of General Scott, the 
emergency was one when a faithful and patriotic officer 
would have been justified hi taking a reasonable respon- 
sibility. To relieve himself from embarrassment, he im- 
mediately dispatched Lieutenant Gwathmey with a secret 
confidential communication to me, dated the 1st of April, 
stating the facts and asking instructions. Lieutenant G., 
although a Secessionist, was faithful to his trust. He trav- 
elled night and day, not even stopping in Richmond, where 
he belonged, and reached Washington on the 6th of April. 
He came to me on his arrival before he went to his hotel, 
and took from a belt that was strapped around his body 
under his shirt, the letter of Captain Adams, which he de- 
livered into my hands. A day or two after this affair, he 
tendered his resignation, which, however, was not accepted, 
but he was dismissed from the service. 

I went immediately to the President with Captain 
Adams's communication, and we both deemed it abso- 
lutely essential that a special messenger should be forth- 



30 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

with sent overland with orders to immediately land the 
troops. Prompt action was all-important, for the Rebellion 
was rapidly culminating, and the hesitancy of Captain 
Adams had caused a delay which endangered the possession 
of Santa Rosa Island and the safety of Fort Pickens. But, 
in the general demoralization and suspicion which per- 
vaded Washington, who was to be trusted with this im- 
portant mission? It was then three o'clock hi the after- 
noon, and the messenger must depart by the mail train 
which left that evening. Paymaster Etting was in Wash- 
ington, and I sent for him to convey the message. Al- 
though not well, he prepared to obey orders, but had my 
consent to make inquiry for another officer, whose fidelity 
and energy were unquestioned, to perform the service. 
About five o'clock he reported to me that Lieut. John 
Worden had just arrived in Washington, that he would 
vouch for him as untainted by treason, and as possessed 
of the necessary qualifications for the mission. I directed 
that Lieutenant W. should immediately report to me, and 
in a brief interview I informed him of my purpose to dis- 
patch him on a secret, responsible, and somewhat danger- 
ous duty through the South, and that he must leave hi 
about two hours. He expressed his readiness to obey orders, 
and, though the time was short and he indifferently pre- 
pared, he would be ready at the time designated. I di- 
rected him to make no mention of his orders or his journey 
to any one, not even to his wife, but to call on me as soon 
as ready and I would in the mean tune prepare the docu- 
ment that was to be confided to him. The fact that he was 
an officer of the Navy passing South to Pensacola, and 
yet not a Secessionist or in sympathy with them, would 
be likely to cause him to be challenged and perhaps searched. 
I therefore wrote a brief dispatch to Captain Adams, which 
I read to him when he called, and gave it into his hands 
open, advising that he should commit it to memory, and 
then, if he thought best, he could destroy the paper. When 
he saw Captain Adams he could from recollection make 



RELIEF OF FORT PICKENS 31 

a certified copy to that officer, stating the reasons why he 
did not produce the original. Everything was successful, 
for, though he was questioned at one or two points and 
asked if he was carrying a message, he managed to escape 
detection, and I believe was not searched. 

He reached Pensacola and was put on board the Brook- 
lyn on the 12th of April. That night the troops under 
command of Captain Vogdes with [a battalion of] marines 
were landed and Fort Pickens was reinforced. Instead of 
remaining with the squadron and improving the first 
opportunity to reach the North by steamer, Lieutenant 
Worden preferred to land as soon as his message was 
delivered, and commenced his return, going to Washington 
by the same route he had taken hi going to Pensacola. It 
was not surprising that the Rebels, when they learned next 
day that the troops had been landed and were in Fort 
Pickens, connected the mission of that officer with the 
movement. Although he had been gone some hours on his 
homeward journey, the facts were telegraphed to the 
Rebel leaders at Montgomery, who had him arrested and 
confined in the prison at that place, where he remained 
several months until late in the fall, when an exchange was 
effected, and he reached the North in season to take com- 
mand of the ironclad and turreted Monitor, the first ves- 
sel of that class, and fight the Merrimac in Hampton Roads. 
He was among the first, if not the very first, prisoners-of- 
war captured by the Rebels. 

The order to Captain Adams to land the troops was re- 
ceived by him, as stated, on the 12th, and the fort was 
reinforced that night. Lieutenant Porter and the Powhatan 
did not reach Pensacola until the 17th, five days after Cap- 
tain Vogdes and his command with the marines were in 
the fort, a force sufficient for its defense. In detaching 
the Powhatan from the Sumter expedition, no important 
or necessary aid was furnished by her or by Lieutenant 
Porter to Pickens. Had the frigate remained under Cap- 
tain Mercer, the attempt to relieve Major Anderson 



32 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

probably would not have succeeded, for the Rebels of 
Charleston were strangely prepared and warned of the 
intended expedition, and there were other movements 
which precipitated Rebel action. 

Soon after President Lincoln had formed the resolu- 
tion to attempt the relief of Sumter, and whilst it was yet 
a secret, a young man connected with the telegraph office 
in Washington, with whom I was acquainted, a native of 
the same town with myself, brought to me successively 
two telegrams, conveying to the Rebel authorities informa- 
tion of the purpose and decision of the Administration. 
One of these telegrams was from Mr. Harvey, a newspaper 
correspondent, who was soon after, and with a full know- 
ledge of his having communicated to the Rebels the move- 
ments of the Government, appointed minister to Lisbon. 
I had, on receiving these copies, handed them to the Pre- 
sident. Mr. Blair, who had also obtained a copy of one, 
perhaps both, of these telegrams from another source, like- 
wise informed him of the treachery. The subject was once 
or twice alluded to in Cabinet without eliciting any action, 
and when the nomination of Mr. Harvey to the Portuguese 
mission was announced, a nomination made without 
the knowledge of any member of the Cabinet but the 
Secretary of State, and made at his special request, 
there was general disapprobation, except by the President 
(who avoided the expression of any opinion) and by Mr. 
Seward. The latter defended and justified the selection, 
which he admitted was recommended by himself, but the 
President was silent hi regard to it. 

Two days preceding the attack on Sumter, I met Sena- 
tor Douglas in front of the Treasury Building. He was in 
a carriage with Mrs. Douglas, driving rapidly up the street. 
When he saw me he checked his driver, jumped from the 
carriage, and came to me on the sidewalk, and in a very 
earnest and emphatic manner said the Rebels were deter- 
mined on war and were about to make an assault on Sum- 



DOUGLAS'S OPINION OF SEWARD 33 

ter. He thought immediate and decisive measures should 
be taken; considered it a mistake that there had not al- 
ready been more energetic action; said the dilatory pro- 
ceedings of the Government would bring on a terrible civil 
war, that the whole South was united and in earnest. 
Although he had differed with the Administration on 
important questions, and would never be in accord with 
some of its members on measures and principles that 
were fundamental, yet he had no fellowship with traitors 
or disunionists. He was for the Union and would stand 
by the Administration and all others in its defense, 
regardless of party. 

I proposed that we should step into the State Depart- 
ment, near which we were, and consult with Mr. Seward. 
The look of mingled astonishment and incredulity which 
came over him I can never forget. "Then you," said he, 
"have faith in Seward. Have you made yourself acquainted 
with what has been going on here all winter? Seward has 
had an understanding with these men. If he has influence 
with them, why don't he use it?" 

I said Seward was a member of the Administration, and 
nothing could be done without the knowledge of himself 
and associates, that to meet him frankly and give him con- 
fidence was probably the best course under the circum- 
stances. 

He said perhaps it was. He could now see no alterna- 
tive. "Lincoln is honest and means well. He will do well if 
counseled right. You and I are old Democrats," he con- 
tinued, "and I have confidence in you, though we have 
differed of late. I was glad when I learned you were to be 
one of the Cabinet, and have told Lincoln he could safely 
trust you. Seward has too much influence with him." 

This is the substance of the conversation, the result of 
which was that he consented to go with me to the State 
Department and see Mr. Seward if still there. It was late 
in the afternoon. He, Douglas, said we must take his 
word for the information he gave, for he could make no 



34 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

disclosure of names. He knew what he stated to be true, 
that the fire-eaters were going to fire on Sumter. 

He requested Mrs. Douglas to remain in the carriage. 
As we ascended the steps of the old State Department, 
he said he was going to see Seward because I advised it, 
and because there was no other course, for he was a part 
of the Administration, but it was unfortunate for the coun- 
try that he was so, because Seward did not realize the ca- 
lamities that were before us, and deceived himself with the 
belief he had influence at the South when he had none. 

Mr. Seward received us cordially, heard the statement 
of Mr. Douglas calmly, took a pinch of snuff, said he would 
see the President on the subject. He knew there were wild 
and reckless men at Charleston and we should have dif- 
ficulty with them, but he knew of no way to prevent an 
assault if they were resolved to make one. 

Douglas told me subsequently he was not disappointed 
at the interview. Seward, he said, was not earnest, had no 
heart in this matter, could not believe the storm was be- 
yond his ability and power to control, but he would soon 
enough learn that no mere party management or cunning 
would answer in such an emergency as this. Alluding to 
his hesitancy in going to Seward, he said he knew it was 
useless to make any appeal to him. Seward had no idea of 
the necessities of the case, and was, at that moment, as he, 
Douglas, knew, carrying on an intrigue with the Rebel 
leaders, who were deceiving him, whilst he flattered him- 
self that he was using and could control them. 

Douglas said he had witnessed what had been going on 
for months without being able to do anything effectively, 
for he found himself in the confidence of neither party. 
He had tried to rally the Democracy, but the party was 
broken up. Slidell, Cobb, Breckenridge, and others were 
determined to break up the Union also. He could do 
nothing with them; others, like myself, had taken the 
opposite course, and got mixed up with old Whigs, and he 
had as little influence with us. Buchanan was feeble and 



DOUGLAS'S OPINION OF SEWARD 35 

incompetent. The great point with him and his Cabinet 
since the election had been to drift over the fourth of 
March. Seward had thought that he could then take the 
reins and manage things as he pleased, had all along treated 
this mighty gathering tempest as a mere party contest, 
which he and Thurlow Weed could dispose of as easily as 
some of their political strifes in New York. 

When he spoke to me it was, he said, with a vague hope 
or idea that Mr. Lincoln might be induced to act independ- 
ent of Seward. He had thought of seeing me and having 
a confidential conversation for some time, and ought to 
have done so, but it had been postponed till the Sumter 
news gave him a start, and it was then too late. When I 
invited him to go to Seward, the man he wished to avoid, 
for he considered Seward's mistaken notions, unintentional 
errors, refined party management, as calamitous as the 
open treason of Rhett, or Toombs, or Jefferson Davis, 
my invitation and remarks awakened him to the actual 
facts, that Seward was a part of the Government, and 
that nothing could be done without him. He had little 
expectation that anything could be accomplished with 
him. He had not, Douglas thought, risen to the occasion, 
nor was he adapted to the times before us. 

In detaching the Powhatan from the Sumter expedition 
and giving the command to Porter, Mr. Seward extricated 
that officer from Secession influences, and committed him 
at once, and decisively, to the Union cause. My own im- 
pression is that he would have come into that channel as 
the difficulties progressed, for his energetic, restless, and 
aspiring nature would not have permitted him to occupy 
a neutral or passive position, and I never have believed that 
when the trial test reached him, he would have proved re- 
creant to the flag, whatever were his personal attachments 
to, and friendships for, the Rebel leaders. As a lieutenant 
he was entitled to no such command as the Powhatan, 
a fact of which Mr. Seward, who had little knowledge of 



36 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

details, was ignorant, but the trust flattered and gratified 
the ambition of Porter. Finding himself taken into the 
confidence of the President and Secretary of State, and 
perceiving that in the matter before them the Secretary 
giving orders was acting as principal, he presumed to go 
farther, and was prompted by his audacity to present 
his friend Barren, between whom and himself there was 
a common sympathy, for a commanding position in the 
Navy Department. 

Mr. Seward, who, with all his shrewdness and talent, was 
sometimes the victim of his own vanity and conceit, was 
flattered by Porter's suggestion that he could give Barren 
a position; it showed that he was considered by Porter, and 
he hoped by others, the premier, the controlling mind of 
the Administration, and it was a wish to confirm this 
impression, rather than sympathy with any Secession views 
of Barren, which led him into the otherwise unwarrantable 
and inexcusable step that was taken. 

President Lincoln believed the attempt to thrust Barren 
on the Navy Department was the fault of Porter rather 
than Seward, and he never thereafter reposed full confidence 
in Porter, though not insensible to his professional ability. 
Often during the four eventful years which followed, when 
from time to time I availed myself of Porter's qualities 
and gave him commands and promotion, the President 
expressed his gratification that I retained no resentment, 
but sacrificed personal wrongs and injustice for the good 
of the country. 

In about two weeks from the time when I was instructed 
to take Barren into my confidence, he deserted the Govern- 
ment, went to Richmond, received a commission in the 
Rebel service, and was taken prisoner in the August fol- 
lowing, when Fort Hatteras was captured by Rear-Ad- 
miral Stringham, whom he was to have displaced. He was 
the first of the faithless naval officers who abandoned the 
Government and took up arms against it that was made 
prisoner, and, singularly enough, surrendered his sword to 



PORTER AND BARRON 37 

the man whom he was, by Porter's arrangement or Seward's 
order, to have superseded. Whether Porter was prompted 
by any of his Rebel associates to intrigue for Barron, or 
whether they concerted with him to that end, I never as- 
certained. The facts will probably never be known. There 
is no doubt that Mr. Seward was in communication with 
the Rebel leaders, or some of them; not that he was im- 
plicated in, or a party to, their rebellious schemes, but he 
tampered with them, felt confident, as Douglas stated, that 
when he obtained power he could shape events and control 
them. He overrated his own powers always, and under- 
estimated others. When he was sworn in to the office of 
Secretary, he expected and intended to occupy the place 
of premier, and undoubtedly supposed he could direct the 
Administration in every Department. Mr. Lincoln had, he 
knew, little administrative experience. Mr. Seward, there- 
fore, kindly and as a matter of course, assumed that he was 
to be the master mind of the Government. But whilst he 
always had the regards and friendly wishes of Mr. Lincoln, 
to whom he made himself useful, and who was impressed 
with the belief that his Secretary of State had shrewdness, 
knowledge, political experience, and capability far greater 
than he actually possessed, the President in a gentle man- 
ner gradually let it be understood that Abraham Lincoln 
was chief. The incidents which I have detailed the de- 
tachment of the Powhatan, the irregular command given to 
Porter were improper proceedings which the President 
soon comprehended, and the order in relation to Barron 
convinced him that he must not give implicit trust to 
any one, but depend on his own judgment in matters of 
importance. 

The supervising control which Mr. Seward at the com- 
mencement undertook to assume over all the Depart- 
ments except that of the Treasury, and the Treasury to 
an extent, was checked, so far as the Navy Department 
was concerned; yet, without informing himself of usage, 
or international, or statute laws, he frequently involved 



38 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

the Government in difficulty by inconsistently surrender- 
ing national rights. Mr. Cameron sometimes complained 
of interference with the War Department and army mat- 
ters by the Secretary of State, and on one occasion, when 
the latter was commending Meigs, as he often did, for great 
ability, Cameron proposed to transfer that officer to the 
State Department, where his talents were most used and 
highest appreciated. 

The extraordinary powers and authority with which 
Captain Meigs and Lieutenant Porter were invested in the 
spring of 1861 would have alarmed the country and weak- 
ened the public confidence in the administrative capacity 
of the Executive had the facts been known. Mr. Aspin- 
wall and other gentlemen informed me that when Cap- 
tain Meigs applied to them for assistance and submitted 
the letters of the President and Secretary of State, cloth- 
ing him and Porter with unlimited authority over the mili- 
tary and naval service, confessedly without the know- 
ledge of the Secretary of War or the Secretary of the Navy, 
they were alarmed for the safety and welfare of the 
Government. It betrayed weakness in the executive head. 
Much had been said and was then uttered by partisans 
of the incompetency of Mr. Lincoln and his unfitness. He 
had not been tried, and the period was portentous. But, 
whatever doubts existed in regard to Mr. Lincoln, they 
had been in a great measure dispelled when his Cabinet 
was appointed. Apprehension, however, revived on the 
arrival of Meigs and Porter in New York, and when their 
powers were made known. Such as saw those documents 
and amongst them was Mr. Aspinwall were astonished 
and almost in despair. At the best it was misgovernment 
and indicated want of confidence, of unity, of energy, and 
of proper administrative ability at Washington. They 
were disposed to impute the strange orders and carte blanche 
to the sub-officers as a blunder or mistake of the President, 
who was taking to himself departmental duties, and issu- 
ing direct to officers and subordinates commands and 



MEIGS AND PORTER'S CARTE BLANCHE 39 

instructions instead of passing them through the legitimate 
channels; but the name of Mr. Seward appeared on most 
of the papers, showing that he was cognizant of and recom- 
mended what was doing. One gentleman, more sagacious 
than the rest, in conversation with me some months later, 
imputed the whole to a contrivance of Mr. Seward, and 
the only unaccountable thing to him was the non-appear- 
ance of Thurlow Weed in the affair. 

There is no doubt that the President was induced to 
take whatever steps he did, knowingly, in the matters 
referred to, through the instrumentality and by the advice 
of Mr. Seward, but he was not knowing to some of the 
important matters herein stated, and as soon as he was 
made acquainted with them, he at once disavowed and 
annulled them. It was a misfortune of Mr. Seward, and 
one of his characteristics, that he delighted in oblique and 
indirect movements; he also prided himself in his skill and 
management, had a craving desire that the world should 
consider him the great and controlling mind of his party, 
of the Administration, and of the country. He was in- 
tensely anxious to control and direct the War and Navy 
movements, although he had neither the knowledge nor 
aptitude that was essential for either. 

For more than a month after his inauguration President 
Lincoln indulged the hope, I may say felt a strong con- 
fidence, that Virginia would not, when the decisive stand 
had finally to be taken, secede, but adhere to the Union. 
There were among her politicians some able and influential 
men who favored the Nullification or Secession party, 
disciples of Calhoun, but it was notorious that a great 
majority of the people were opposed to all disunion senti- 
ments. These last, though vastly more numerous than 
the fire-eaters, were passive and calm in their movements, 
while the Secession element was positive, violent, and 
active. As is usually the case, the energetic and factious 
element seized the reins of power, while the more deliberate 



40 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

were submissive, hesitating and hoping that extreme 
measures might be avoided. 

That there should be no cause of offense, no step that 
would precipitate or justify secession, the President, al- 
most daily, enjoined forbearance from all unnecessary 
exercise of political party authority. It was, he believed, 
important that the Administration should exert its power 
to conciliate the people and strengthen their attachment 
to the Government. Whether, in the excited and disturbed 
condition of the country, when frantic sectional appeals 
were made in the cause of treason and disunion, the policy 
pursued was the best, may be a question. Probably a more 
energetic and decisive course would have been adopted, 
had events culminated at a later period; but the Admin- 
istration was just entering upon its duties, and was met at 
the threshold by an organized and powerful party oppo- 
sition, at the very time it was encountering and struggling 
with the Secessionists and before it was possessed of and 
could fully exercise its rightful authority. 

The traffic in slaves was great in Virginia, and embodied 
more capital than any other product of the State. The 
traders who were engaged in this nefarious business were 
reckless and unprincipled men. Nevertheless, wealth even 
in their hands had its influence, and, coupled with daring 
and violence, became irresistible. Slaves were the great 
staple of the State; their sale brought annually a greater 
return of money to the State than tobacco or any other 
product, perhaps than all others; their bondsmen found 
a market in the States of the South, and nowhere else in 
Christendom. It was natural, and to be expected, that all 
the ferocious and brutal instincts of the slave-trader should 
be in opposition to the Administration, and to those States 
which would not tolerate slavery within their borders. A 
heavy hand, could it have been placed on these wretches 
who advocated treason and urged disunion, thronged Rich- 
mond, and spent of their ill-gotten wealth profusely to 
promote secession, would have been better than attempts at 



NORFOLK NAVY YARD IN DANGER 41 

conciliation. The times were revolutionary, and the gentle 
and persuasive arguments and measures of the Admin- 
istration were treated as cowardly, while the violent and 
denunciatory anathemas and avowed hate of the Yankees 
by the slave-traders, captivated the idle, the vicious, and 
adventurers, and bore away those with whom they came 
in contact. 

Norfolk was the principal commercial port of the State, 
and sentiment there gave tone and opinion to lower Vir- 
ginia. The navy yard at Norfolk afforded employment 
to many, and the government patronage in party times 
had been supposed important. Aware of this, the Pre- 
sident early made special request that no important or 
extensive changes should be made in the navy yard at 
present, or without consulting him. I soon became satisfied 
that the large amount of public property there was in a 
precarious condition. As a preventive, or matter of cau- 
tion, it seemed to me advisable that a military force should 
be placed there to protect the yard, and to serve as a rally- 
ing point for Union men in case of emergency. But Gen- 
eral Scott, to whom I applied for troops, said he had none 
to spare, that he had not sufficient force to guard the 
Capitol or to garrison Fortress Monroe and Harper's 
Ferry, which were endangered, and that Norfolk was 
wholly indefensible. When, after two or three interviews 
with him, I appealed to the President, he not only con-; 
curred with General Scott, but thought it would be inex-[ 
pedient and would tend to irritate and promote a conflict, 
were a military force to be sent to Norfolk. Any extraor- 
dinary efforts to repair the ships with a view of removing 
them and the public property would, in his opinion, ex- 
hibit a want of confidence and betray apprehensions that 
should be avoided. 

I had as early as the 14th of March ordered the Pocahon- 
tas, one of the Home Squadron, which arrived in Hampton 
Roads, to proceed to Norfolk. This was no unusual order, 
and could create no apprehension or distrust. 



42 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

The frigate Cumberland, the flagship of Commodore 
Pendergrast, commanding the West Indian and Gulf 
Squadron, arrived in Hampton Roads on the 23d of March, 
where she was purposely detained, and on the 29th of 
March I gave orders for her to proceed up Elizabeth River 
to the navy yard and take the place of the Pocahontas, 
ordered to join the Sumter expedition. 

There were several old-class ships, some of them valu- 
able but dismantled, laid up, which would require a good 
deal of time and labor to be put in a condition to be removed. 
The Merrimac, the most valuable vessel at the yard, was 
wholly dismantled, but the Germantown, the Plymouth, 
and the Dolphin, all sailing-vessels, could soon and with 
very little difficulty be got ready for removal or for service. 
We had, however, few or no seamen to man them, nor 
could we procure them at Norfolk, but were compelled to 
enlist and order them from New York or one of the North- 
ern yards. Notwithstanding the sensitive feeling that 
existed on the part of the people of Virginia, as well as of 
the Government, I felt that we might with propriety order 
a sufficient force there to man at least two of the smaller 
vessels without creating alarm, as it would be legitimate 
in the ordinary course of things. The Plymouth was de- 
signated as the practice ship for the midshipmen, and the 
Germantown was nearly ready for her armament and crew. 
No exception could be taken to orders to man them. If the 
seamen reached Norfolk, and an exigency should arise 
rendering it expedient to move the Merrimac, they could 
be made available for that purpose. The Powhatan had 
just reached New York and was ordered out of commis- 
sion, but those of her crew whose time had not expired 
could be made available for valuable service at Norfolk, 
and such was the first intention of the Department, but 
important events for the relief of Fort Sumter rendered it 
necessary to detain the seamen on the Powhatan for the 
Sumter expedition, and to add to them the recruits from 
the receiving-ship. These orders took almost all the re- 



NORFOLK NAVY YARD DISASTER 43 

cruits who were intended for Norfolk, as soon as two hun- 
dred and fifty were enlisted. Orders were given to Paymas- 
ter Etting to proceed to New York and charter a vessel to 
take the men to Norfolk, and also to Commander Rowan, 
but the orders could not be fulfilled. The order for two 
hundred men was sent to Brooklyn on the llth of April. 

The fidelity and patriotism of Commodore McCauley, 
who was in command of the yard, were questioned by no 
one, and his reputation as a good and faithful officer all 
admitted (though not particularly efficient). I had not 
seen him for several years, but the inquiries which I made 
in regard to him were satisfactorily answered. Subsequent 
events proved him faithful but feeble and incompetent for 
the crisis. His energy and decision had left him, and, what- 
ever skill or ability he may have had in earlier years in 
regular routine duty, he proved unequal in almost every 
respect to the present occasion. He made no report or 
suggestion to me of disaffection or doubt on the part of any 
officer, and in answer to inquiries which I made of him as 
to the time which would be necessary to put the engines or 
machinery of the Merrimac in order, so that she could be 
moved, he sent me word that it would require at least a 
month. On receiving this answer, I became apprehensive 
that I could not depend upon him if the emergency should 
demand prompt action, and I at once directed the en- 
gineer-in-chief, Mr. Isherwood, to proceed, with whatever 
assistance he needed, to Norfolk, and, without creating a 
sensation, but in a quiet manner, to put the machinery in 
working condition with the least possible delay. To do 
this, he was directed to call to his assistance whatever force 
was necessary, and to work without cessation day and night 
until it was accomplished. Instead of a month, the work 
was completed within less than four days. 

On the llth of April, I issued orders to Commander Al- 
den, then in Washington, to proceed to Norfolk and report 
to Commodore McCauley to take charge of the Merrimac 
and deliver her over to the commanding officer of the 



44 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

Philadelphia station. Many of the instructions in those 
days were given orally, for what became a matter of record 
was too often, in some mysterious way, made known to the 
insurgents. No more than was absolutely necessary was 
put upon paper for any of the officers who were sent to 
Norfolk. 

Engineer Isherwood had the machinery in working order 
by the 16th, and Commodore McCauley wrote me on 
that day that the Merrimac would be ready for service by 
the following evening, the 17th. Chief Engineer Isher- 
wood returned and reported to me on the 18th that Com- 
modore McCauley had defeated the plans and purposes of 
the Department; that he would not permit the Merrimac 
to leave; was, he thought, under the influence of liquor and 
bad men. In company with the President, I saw General 
Scott again the following day, when he repeated the same 
opinions, but on the 19th [sic] he promised that General 
Delafield or a good engineer should be detailed who would 
cause some defenses to be thrown up. 

My impressions are that Commander Alden called and 
made report on the same day with Mr. Isherwood, but he 
states it was on the 19th and that he returned to Norfolk 
on the same evening on the Pawnee under Commodore 
Paulding. Alden was timid, but patriotic when there was 
no danger, for he was not endowed with great moral or 
physical courage, yet believed himself possessed of both, 
and was no doubt really anxious to do something without 
encountering enemies or taking upon himself much re- 
sponsibility. At Norfolk all his heroic drawing-room reso- 
lution and good intentions failed him. He had not the 
audacity nor the moral courage to meet his professional 
brethren who had those qualities and were determined to 
sustain the Secession cause. A man of energy and greater 
will and force, with the orders of the Secretary, would 
have inspired and influenced McCauley, whose heart was 
right, and carried out these orders. 

While in Cabinet-meeting, I was called out by Com- 



NORFOLK NAVY YARD DISASTER 45 

mander Alden, who informed me, with emotion which he 
could not entirely suppress, that Commodore McCauley 
had refused to let him have the Merrimac, that after the 
fires had been kindled they had been drawn by the Com- 
modore's command, that the vessel was at the wharf, and 
that the deportment and remarks of some of the younger 
officers left no doubt in his mind that they had control of 
the Commodore and of the yard. The old man, he said, 
seemed stupefied, bewildered, and wholly unable to act. 
Instead of inspiring the well-intentioned but infirm old 
man, Alden had struck away from the yard and had im- 
mediately returned to report to the Department. I took 
him forthwith to the President, and the Cabinet, which 
was then in session, when he related what had occurred. 

At the consultation which took place as soon as he with- 
drew, I advised that immediate steps should be taken for 
the defense of the navy yard, stated the large amount of 
public property there, in ships, material, ordnance, ma- 
chinery, tools, and stores of every description, the neces- 
sity, in a naval and military point of view, of retaining 
possession of the yard, and the disastrous consequences 
to the Government of permitting such a station to be 
wrested from its possession, or of abandoning it to the 
insurgents. The President and Cabinet concurred in these 
views, and when I informed them of the opposition of 
General Scott to sending a military force to protect the 
yard, it was thought advisable that the President and 
myself should see him on the subject. 

I went from the Executive Mansion to military head- 
quarters and saw General Scott, to whom I communicated 
the condition of affairs and the necessity of a military 
force without delay at Norfolk. But the General was still 
decisive and emphatic against sending troops to defend 
the place, said it was an impossibility to furnish the troops, 
or to defend the navy yard if we had them; that any 
force he could send there would certainly be captured; 
the Navy and marines might, if on shipboard, escape, but 



46 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

the troops could not; repeating continually it was enemy's 
country. All this and more he repeated to the President 
and myself at the interview, but he finally consented that a 
battalion of Massachusetts volunteers, which he supposed 
might be at Fortress Monroe, from information just re- 
ceived, should accompany an expedition under Commo- 
dore Paulding, to withdraw the vessels and as much of 
the public property as could be secured, and that he would 
send Colonel Delafield subsequently Captain Wright, 
an intelligent officer, instead of Delafield with them. 

I had previously, on the 16th, after hearing from Com- 
modore McCauley that a month was required to put 
the Merrimac in condition to be removed, dispatched 
Commodore Paulding, who was then attached to the De- 
partment as detailing officer, to Norfolk, to inquire into 
and inform himself of the actual state of things at the yard, 
the reliability of officers and men, and to satisfy himself 
fully in regard to Commodore McCauley. If he had any 
doubts of the safety of the yard after examination, he was 
to advise me, and was to act for me in all particulars, pro- 
vided danger was imminent, having plenary powers for the 
purpose. On the morning of the 18th, Commodore Pauld- 
ing unexpectedly returned and made a satisfactory verbal 
report or statement concerning Commodores McCauley 
and Pendergrast and the condition of the yard. Some of 
the younger officers, who belonged in Virginia or the South, 
had expressed a wish to be relieved from duty at the yard 
in anticipation of difficulty with the insurgents, among 
whom were their kinsmen and neighbors, with whom they 
preferred not to come in collision; but all were, he said, 
patriotic, deprecated hostility, and were governed by 
honorable motives. Commodore McCauley he indorsed as 
faithful, competent, and to be trusted. He was seconded 
by Commodore Pendergrast, commanding the Home 
Squadron, who had arrived in Hampton Roads a few 
days previous with his flagship, the Cumberland, and had 
orders to proceed with the frigate up the Elizabeth River 



NORFOLK NAVY YARD DISASTER 47 

to the vicinity of the navy yard. Commodore Pendergrast 
said he had consulted freely and fully with both those of- 
ficers, had made some suggestions and assented to others 
made by them, and was so well satisfied that the workmen 
were reliable and that the public property was in good 
and trustworthy hands, that he thought it unnecessary he 
should remain, but that it was best he should return to 
Washington and make report in person. Although this 
report was more favorable than I had expected, I greatly 
regretted he did not remain and act for the Department, 
and so informed him. I also blamed myself for not having 
given him explicit written orders to that effect. 1 

My preliminary orders and inquiries were oral and not 
matters of record; my first written orders were on the 29th 
of March; Virginia did not pass the ordinance of secession 
until the 17th April. Until then it was hoped and believed 
by many, including the President and Secretary of State, 
that Virginia would not secede. 

It will be borne in mind that Congress, which had just 
adjourned, put forth no preparation for the coming crisis, 
had made no extra appropriations, had not authorized the 
enlistment of any additional seamen; almost all our naval 
force was abroad; most of the small Home Squadron was 
in the Gulf or West Indies, nearly as remote and inaccess- 
ible as the European Squadron; and the whole available 
force north of the Chesapeake had been dispatched to the 

1 [Mr. Welles in his manuscript here cited such orders and portions of 
the correspondence as became a matter of record: 

"See Order of March 29th to Pendergrast to proceed with Cumberland 
to Norfolk. 

"Order to Breese 31st of March for seamen also order of llth April 
for seamen. 

'Order of llth April to Alden. 

'Orders of llth April to McCauley to prepare the Merrimac and Ply- 
mouth. 

'Orders of llth April to Isherwood to proceed to Norfolk. 

'Letter 16th April to McCauley. 

' McCauley's letter of 16th April to me. 

'Order to Paulding of 18th April. 

'Isherwood's report 18th April."] 



48 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

relief of Fort Sumter and secretly and surreptitiously, 
without the knowledge of the Navy Department, sent to 
Fort Pickens. Without men, without funds, without legis- 
lative authority, without advice, suggestion, or intimation 
of any kind from Congress, from the Senators on the 
Naval Committee, who remained in Washington through 
the month of March, while rebellion was gathering 
strength, the Secretary was compelled to take the whole 
responsibility and to act in that great emergency. Fore- 
most among the men who had defied the South and treated 
with scorn and derision the secession theory and move- 
ment, was Senator John P. Hale, Chairman of the Naval 
Committee of the Senate: one of the first to flee from Wash- 
ington, when the storm which had gathered was about to 
burst, was the same distinguished Senator. When, how- 
ever, Congress convened in special session in July, and 
Washington was garrisoned and shielded by a large army, 
this burning and eloquent patriot returned, and, over- 
flowing with courage, was moved in the exuberance of his 
zeal to introduce a resolution to inquire into the circum- 
stances attending the destruction of the property of the 
United States at the navy yard at Norfolk, and espe- 
cially if there was any default on the part of any officer. 
Pensacola and Harper's Ferry were included in the inquiry, 
but the virtuous indignation of the Chairman of the Naval 
Committee was chiefly exercised and wholly exhausted in 
regard to Norfolk. His wrath was less against the Rebels 
than somebody else, he did not care to mention whom. 
When notified by Mr. Hale that his committee was in ses- 
sion, that certain information was wanted by them, and I 
was told in a patronizing way that any explanation by way 
of justification of the Department would be received, I 
directed that the whole transactions in relation to Norfolk 
should be thrown open for his examination, that, so far as 
the Department could furnish them, answers should be 
given to all specific inquiries, and that every facility should 
be extended to the Committee; but for myself I declined 



NORFOLK NAVY YARD DISASTER 49 

any appearance or explanation. My time, I assured the 
honorable chairman, was too much occupied in attending 
to necessary public duties to detail narratives or enter 
into explanations that were personal. It was my intention 
they should have all the facts, and I wished them fully 
and fairly reported, but I certainly should volunteer no 
attendance. 

In his report as Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Hale 
manifests his patriotic fervor, military skill, and intelli- 
gence, and all the candor and fairness within him. There 
was a wide difference between him and General Scott in 
regard to the defense of Norfolk, for while the old hero said 
no troops could be had, and insisted that the yard could 
not be defended, that the place was without fortifications 
or defenses of any kind, that troops placed there would 
inevitably be captured, the chairman of the committee of 
investigation, Mr. John P. Hale, represented otherwise, 
and asserted in his report that " Cap tain McCauley was 
abundantly able to defend the yard," which was " encom- 
passed on two sides by a wall ten or twelve feet high, and 
eighteen inches thick," that there was an available force 
of at least one hundred and fifty marines and sailors with 
two howitzers "and the crew of the Cumberland of three 
hundred and fifty men." 

The report enumerates other means also, none of which 
appear to have convinced General Scott, or either of 
the three commodores who were there with full powers, 
and who commanded the forces and were entrusted with 
the defense. There is this difference between the military 
and naval officers on one side, and the Senatorial Commit- 
tee on the other: the naval and military gentlemen were 
compelled to take the responsibility and act promptly 
according to their best judgment in the line of their profes- 
sion, and the performance of duty to which they had been 
trained. They may have erred in some respects; it would 
be strange if they did not under the extraordinary circum- 
stances of the case. Mr. Hale had no responsibility, was 



50 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

embarrassed by no military or naval teaching, was beyond 
danger, and made his report, criticizing and condemn- 
ing their conduct, twelve months after the event took 
place. 

Mr. Horace Greeley, in his " American Conflict," eluci- 
dates and illuminates the report of Mr. Hale, which he 
assumes to be non-partisan and correct, by saying "Capt. 
Paulding might have held his position a week, and that 
week would have brought at least 30,000 men to his aid." 
Not thirty thousand men reached imperiled Washington 
hi one week, in response to the call of the President by 
proclamation, aided by all the State authorities, and of- 
ficial and individual effort, zeal, and influence; and such 
as came in obedience to that national call were indifferently 
provided with arms, munitions, and supplies, backed 
though they were by the Federal and State governments. 
If the historian is to be believed, a larger army would 
have gathered on an appeal from the Commodore to save 
the navy yard, than came to defend the National Capital 
on the official call of the President. What thirty thousand 
men could have done, had they gathered at Norfolk in a 
week, towards defending a place in the enemy's country, 
without batteries or shore defenses of any kind, without 
engineers to construct them, without resources, with no 
commissariat or quartermaster's supplies, are matters not 
clearly explained in the " American Conflict." It is doubted 
if Mr. Greeley could have got that number of men at Nor- 
folk, to say nothing of their equipment and supplies, when 
the President, with all the power and energies of the 
country, gathered no such number in that brief tune at 
Washington to defend the capital of the nation. 

In closing his chapter on "the national disgrace at Nor- 
folk," in his "American Conflict," Mr. Greeley, who read- 
ily, oracularly, and dogmatically, without investigation, 
adopted the statements of the factious, partisan, untruth- 
ful, unjust, and iniquitous report of Mr. Hale, says: 
"Thus ended the most shameful, cowardly, disastrous 



NORFOLK NAVY YARD DISASTER 51 

performance that stains the annals of the American Navy." 
Such is contemporary history. 

In the light of subsequent events the performance may 
be condemned. It was certainly unfortunate and disas- 
trous. There were feebleness and incapacity in McCauley, 
and treachery and infidelity on the part of some, in fact 
most, of his subordinates, matters shameful indeed, 
but I am aware of no evidence of cowardice, even in the 
pusillanimous commander. He and his associates were 
astounded by the defection of Virginia, and overwhelmed 
with the magnitude of the rebellion, for which Mr. Sena- 
tor Hale had, neither in Congress nor out of it, suggested 
preparations, and Congress had made but feeble or no pro- 
vision. Mr. Greeley had in his organ, the Tribune, said if 
the States wished to secede, let them go. Until the storm 
burst, Congress had not believed that the overthrow of the 
government or a division of the Union was intended, nor 
could the members realize that such a tornado was then 
upon them. At the commencement they would not be 
aggressive; they hesitated to be the first to imbrue their 
hands in the blood of their countrymen. Mr. John P. Hale 
and Mr. Horace Greeley might have done differently from 
those officers and saved the navy yard and public property 
at Norfolk by tactics of their own, when military and naval 
men could not. 

The misfortune was bad enough when truly and fairly 
stated, but aggravated by the misrepresentations and ex- 
aggerations of reckless and unscrupulous men in Congress, 
like Hale, and by the partisan fictions and imaginary de- 
lusions of journalists such as Greeley, great injustice was 
done to officers of courage and undoubted patriotism, as well 
as to the Department and Administration. It is easy to 
be seen that had a younger and more vigorous officer than 
McCauley been hi command of the yard, or a more daring 
and energetic officer than Alden sent there, a different 
course might and probably would have been adopted, and 
some of the vessels and public property been saved. But 



52 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

at the time no officer in the service had a more unexcep- 
tionable record than McCauley. Not a word, not a sus- 
picion, was breathed of any want of ability, courage, or 
fidelity in that officer. Nor was there any want of con- 
fidence in Paulding, or Pendergrast, who were younger and 
more vigorous men, nor were the heroic and gallant juniors 
who participated with them in that disastrous performance 
destitute of true heroism or devoted patriotism. In scut- 
tling the ships, McCauley and Pendergrast committed a 
lamentable mistake. They were deceived without doubt, 
and in that terrible crisis were not equal to the emergency. 
They were not partisan politicians, and could not believe 
that so wanton, causeless, and extensive a conspiracy ex- 
isted; and when the crisis came, they were confounded and 
not prepared to act. When they did act, it was in bewil- 
derment and error. Whether different officers would have 
had better success cannot be known. They might have 
rescued the Merrimac and some other vessels, though that 
is uncertain, for the Rebels had been long preparing for the 
event, and were the positive element; the Union men were 
passive. The Rebels were resolute and acted on the offens- 
ive; our officers were incredulous and on the defensive. 
They were anxious to strike and fight, while the others 
merely deprecated and repelled. 

When Greeley says that one week would have brought 
thirty thousand men to Norfolk to aid Commodore Pauld- 
ing, he betrays weakness and his unfitness as a historian. 
General Scott knew better. He would have sent no thirty 
thousand troops there, had the men been in Washington. 
What could thirty thousand undisciplined, unofficered men 
have accomplished, but their own destruction? Like the 
heedless and senseless cry from the same vicious source, 
"On to Richmond," the assertion that Norfolk could have 
rallied to its defense thirty thousand men is the essence of 
partisan folly. 

Senator Hale, who hurried to introduce a resolution to 
investigate and report in July, 1861, but delayed and lin- 



NORFOLK NAVY YARD DISASTER 53 

gered in communicating his invidious and unjust document 
until April, 1862, had an object in his movement. He 
desired to embarrass and assail the Navy Department, of 
which he was the Senatorial organ, and to which he should 
have given his earnest, honest, and zealous support. No- 
thing would have afforded him higher gratification than 
to have found the Secretary, who had mildly dispensed 
with his proffered agency, remiss and delinquent, and it 
would have delighted him had I subjected myself to his 
criticism and rebuke, or attempted to defend or explain 
to him and his committee the proceedings and errors of 
naval officers. I neither sought nor shunned him. The 
records of the Department were thrown open to him, and 
they were a defense and justification. He slurs over the 
orders, oral and written, in March and early April, preced- 
ing the occurrence, and says the first steps taken for the 
defense of Norfolk were on the 10th of April, thirty-seven 
days after the inauguration. Were that the fact, it would 
not have been, under the circumstances, when Congress 
had been delinquent, tardy action. But I had on the 29th 
of March changed the destination of the frigate Cumber- 
land, which, by special direction of the President, on re- 
quest of the Secretary of State, was about proceeding to 
the Gulf, and ordered her from Hampton Roads to Norfolk 
to check disorderly proceedings, should any appear. In 
repeated verbal applications to General Scott for a mili- 
tary force in the months of March and April, as a precau- 
tionary measure, I met a refusal, on the ground of military 
necessity and inability to comply. He had not, he said, 
troops to defend Harper's Ferry, a military station, which 
was actually captured by the Rebels simultaneously with 
the destruction of Norfolk. As there was not a soldier to 
defend the place and we had no sailors to man the vessels, 
I sent, on the 31st of March, to New York, general and 
special orders for two hundred and fifty men to be dis- 
patched to Norfolk, and, if there were not that number on 
hand, to enlist and forward them as soon as possible. All 



54 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

the steamers, and almost the whole limited naval force in 
all the Atlantic ports, had been sent to the relief of Forts 
Sumter and Pickens. 

These facts were well known to Senator Hale, Chairman 
of the Naval Committee of the Senate and of the special 
committee to investigate the destruction of property at 
Norfolk, many of them, and others, were not matters 
of record, but he was careful to suppress and make no 
allusion to them; some that were mentioned were greatly 
perverted and distorted. The report was his own. Sena- 
tor Grimes, who was associated with him on the commit- 
tee, took especial pains on more than one occasion to as- 
sure me that he had no hand in drawing it up, that he never 
gave it his approval, and I think he said he never read it 
until after it was presented to the Senate and published. 
I should have been better pleased had he made this state- 
ment and disclaimer publicly and in open Senate. But I 
would not ask it. 

I knew I had done my duty faithfully, honestly, and as 
well as I knew how. I knew that the President, to whom 
I was immediately accountable, approved of my course, 
and was fully satisfied with it. Congress, under all the mis- 
representations and intrigues of the malcontents, while re- 
gretting in common with the Administration and the whole 
country the loss of the navy yard and property, were 
convinced that the Department acquitted itself faithfully 
and well. 

I was introduced to Mr. Stanton by President Lincoln 
at the Executive Mansion in January, 1862. It was at the 
first Cabinet-meeting which he attended after receiving 
the appointment of Secretary of War. I had not previously 
met him, although I had then been ten months in Mr. Lin- 
coln's Cabinet. The period was trying; true and patriotic 
friends had come forward to encourage us, but Mr. Stan- 
ton, who was a resident of Washington, avoided the Presi- 
dent and most of his Cabinet. The times were such as to 



STANTON BEFORE HIS APPOINTMENT 55 

interrupt social intercourse in the District between Union- 
ists and Secessionists, and the lines between them were 
marked. Old associations were broken up, and it was dif- 
ficult to form new ones, even when persons had leisure, 
which members of the Administration had not. A major- 
ity of the resident population, and particularly of those 
who formed the resident elite of society, were Secessionists, 
or in sympathy with Secessionists. A feeling of bitterness 
pervaded the whole community, and the members of the 
Court Circle, which had been in the fashionable ascendant 
during the administrations of Pierce and Buchanan, did 
not conceal their dislike, detestation, and hate of the Black 
Republicans, intensified among the masses in the District. 
Mr. Stanton had not been counted as a Republican, al- 
though there was an impression he had, as a member of 
Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet, approved the policy of that ad- 
ministration hi the winter of 1861, and acted with Dix and 
Holt. This impression did not obtain with Mr. Black 1 
and the intimate friends and supporters of Buchanan. 

Although not fond of the gayeties and parties of Wash- 
ington, he could at times make himself companionable 
and entertaining; but from the day he left Mr. Buchanan's 
Cabinet until he entered that of Mr. Lincoln, he mingled 
little in society, and none with the men in authority. It 
was represented that he eschewed the new administra- 
tion, ridiculed the President, and freely expressed his 
opposition to the measures adopted and course pursued 
by the Government. The Secessionists distrusted him, and 
neither of the parties confided in him in the early days of 
the War. The Administration did not consider him one 
of its supporters, though he was on friendly terms with 
Seward. He had the reputation of being an Anti-Secession 
Democrat, who nevertheless wished to preserve his rela- 
tionship with the Democratic Party, and as having no 
fellowship with Republicans. 

1 Jeremiah S. Black, first Attorney-General, then Secretary of State, In 
Buchanan's Cabinet. 



56 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

When the appointment of District Attorney for Wash- 
ington was under consideration in the spring of 1861, Mr. 
Stanton and Mr. Carrington were the rival candidates. 
Some diversity of opinion was entertained by the members 
of the Cabinet in regard to them. Mr. Seward earnestly 
pressed Mr. Stanton, vouched for his loyal sentiments, and 
claimed that he had in a confidential way rendered great 
service to the Union cause while in Mr. Buchanan's Cabi- 
net. Mr. Bates, the Attorney-General, desired the appoint- 
ment of Mr. Carrington, who was, I believe, not only an 
intimate friend, but kinsman. Himself a man of courteous 
manners, Mr. Bates could not, he thought, have the unre- 
served freedom with or repose the same confidence in Mr. 
Stanton that he could in Mr. Carrington, and the times 
were such that there should be implicit confidence between 
the Attorney-General and the District Attorney in the 
discharge of their frequently delicate and always highly 
responsible duties. 

The subject was several times before the Cabinet, but 
as I knew neither of the gentlemen personally, I expressed 
no opinion, for I had none in regard to either. Mr. Chase 
seconded the views of Mr. Seward for Stanton, but no 
other one interested himself in the case, or seemed disposed 
to interfere in the question. At length the President de- 
clared the subject must be disposed of, and wished each 
one present to communicate whatever knowledge he pos- 
sessed of either. He appealed particularly to Mr. Blair, 
who resided in Washington, was a member of the bar, and 
knew both the gentlemen well. 

Mr. Blair said that he had not for that reason wished to 
say much, but thus called upon he should speak the truth. 
In point of ability, he said, Mr. Stanton was undoubtedly 
the superior of Mr. Carrington. He doubted, however, 
Stanton's integrity, and stated a damaging fact which was 
within his own personal knowledge, but which it is not 
necessary here to repeat. The statement astonished the 
President and disconcerted both Seward and Chase, each 



STANTON MADE SECRETARY OF WAR 57 

of whom questioned whether there might not be some mis- 
take in this matter, but Blair said there could be none, and 
farther that he (Stanton) was a prote'ge' of Black, Buch- 
anan's Secretary of State, and in feeling with him. The 
President remarked he thought it judicious to conciliate 
and draw in as much of the Democratic element as pos- 
sible, and he was willing to try Stanton, though personally 
he had no special reason to regard him favorably; but the 
office came within the province of the Attorney-General, 
and he would turn the question over to him. The Attor- 
ney-General thanked the President, and said he would on 
returning to his office send over the appointment of Mr. 
Carrington. 

From current rumors I was not very favorably impressed 
in regard to Mr. Stanton. His remarks on the personal 
appearance of the President were coarse, and his freely 
expressed judgment on public measures unjust. He may 
have felt chagrined at the preference of Carrington. 

In the fall and winter of 1861, when murmurs began to 
be heard against General McClellan, it was said, and I 
suppose correctly, that Stanton was his friend and adviser. 
Until appointed Secretary of War, there was no intimacy 
between him and the members of the Administration, 
with the exception of Mr. Seward. I have reason to know 
that he was engaged with discontented and mischievous 
persons in petty intrigues to impair confidence in the 
Administration. 

When it was determined that Mr. Cameron should re- 
tire from the office of Secretary of War, not wholly for 
the reason that was given out, but for certain loose matters 
of contracts, and because he had not the grasp, power, 
energy, comprehension, and important qualities essential 
to the administration of the War Department of that 
period, to say nothing of his affiliation with Chase, it was 
a surprise, not only to the country but to every member 
of the Administration but the Secretary of State, that 
Stanton was selected. He was doubtless the choice of 



58 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

Mr. Seward, who influenced the President and secured the 
appointment. 

Seward and Stanton had been brought into fellowship 
in the winter of 1861, when the latter was a member of 
Buchanan's Cabinet, and confided to the former the opera- 
tions and purposes of the Administration. It was this com- 
munion between the two, who had been of opposing politics 
and parties, one at the time a member of the outgoing, 
the other of the incoming Executive Council, which led 
to that political and personal intimacy which eventuated 
in the induction of Stanton to the War Department. Mr. 
Seward always looked upon Stanton as his protege", and 
Stanton, who, with all his frankness, real and assumed, had, 
towards his superiors in position or intellect, some of the 
weaker qualities of a courtier, was studious to continue the 
inpression that he was dependent upon and a follower of 
the Secretary of State. It gratified Mr. Seward, who felt 
his own consequence when a member of Buchanan's Cabi- 
net sought the opportunity and gave him his confidence, 
and gave Stanton an influence and hold upon his acknow- 
ledged leader that remained during the whole of the lat- 
ter's official career. . . . 

Others claimed and have been given some portion of the 
credit of Stanton's appointment, but it belonged exclus- 
ively to Mr. Seward, and this Mr. Stanton well knew. It 
has been stated that Mr. Cameron selected his successor, 
and, to soften his exit from a position that he was reluctant 
to leave, the change was permitted to assume that shape; 
but Mr. Seward was the engineer and manager, and he it 
was who selected Edwin M. Stanton to be Secretary of War. 
There was reluctance on the part of the President to re- 
move Mr. Cameron, and only a conviction of its absolute 
necessity and the unauthorized assumption of executive 
power in his Annual Report would have led the President 
to take the step. 

From the 4th of March, 1861, to the day he was selected, 
a period of darkness and struggle for national existence, 



STANTON SELECTED BY SEWARD 59 

when the Rebels had the Government by the throat, and 
true friends were wanted, no word of encouragement, no 
outspoken support of the Administration, was heard, from 
Mr. Stanton. He may in private interviews with Mr. Sew- 
ard, or in incidental conversations with Mr. Chase, have 
modified his expressions, but the Administration did not 
know him as an open, fearless, outspoken friend. It has 
been said that all the members of the Cabinet but Mr. 
Blair heartily concurred in the appointment. No member 
of the Cabinet was aware of his selection until after it was 
determined upon, except Mr. Seward, and the machinery 
of having Mr. Cameron name his successor was an after 
arrangement. Then Mr. Chase was called in and consulted 
on a predetermined question, but without a full knowledge 
of all the facts, and no other member was advised in regard 
to it. 

Mr. Chase was peculiarly sensitive in matters where Mr. 
Seward was operating, and, to preserve harmony, he was 
led to believe that he was early consulted and one of the 
original prune movers in effecting the change. He had, 
however, known little of the retirement of Cameron, who 
had at the beginning been attached to the State rather 
than the Treasury Department, but latterly Cameron 
leaned to Chase, who sought the association. Mr. Blair's 
opinion of Stanton was well understood, and to have con- 
sulted him when it was known he could not, with the facts 
in his possession, give the selection his approval, would 
have been trifling; and the other members of the Cabinet, 
having little knowledge of and no intimacy with Stanton, 
could furnish nothing to influence or guide the President. 
He, therefore, deemed it best, after yielding to Seward's 
urgent representations, to act without consulting a major- 
ity of the Cabinet, who, he knew, could give him no light 
on the subject. The course adopted soothed Mr. Blair, 
gratified Mr. Chase, and, the scheme being one of Mr. 
Seward's contrivance, he could not be otherwise than 
satisfied. 



60 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

Mr. Black says that Stanton went into Buchanan's Cab- 
inet under his auspices, and no one has ever questioned it. 
He further asserts that Mr. Stanton "said, many times, 
that he was there only that I [Black] might have two voices 
instead of one," that "he would resign if I did." The 
same professions and the same expressions were made by 
the same individual to Mr. Seward when he entered the 
Lincoln Cabinet, and subsequently, as I heard Mr. Seward 
say; and I doubt not with equal sincerity to each, though 
Black and Seward were entirely antagonistic in their 
political views and principles. 

When introduced to Mr. Stanton, I met him frankly, 
friendly, and sincerely, as an associate and colleague with 
whom I was to hold intimate personal and official relations 
in a responsible position and in a trying period. There 
was, however, no immediate cordiality between us, but 
there was formal courtesy. I was at that time furiously 
attacked by many newspapers and active partisans, as 
well as by disappointed speculators and contractors, and 
Mr. Stanton may have received unfavorable impressions 
from them. I knew that he had been hi consultation with, 
and given improper and hostile advice to, some of the dis- 
affected. He was not, however, aware that I was possessed 
of that information, and I am certain it did not influence 
my action or deportment towards him. 

The New Orleans expedition, which was far under way 
when Stanton was appointed, but all knowledge of which 
had been studiously withheld from the War Department 
and all others, first brought us together. A force had been 
gathered in the Gulf, ostensibly to attack Mobile or Gal- 
veston, but really destined for the Mississippi. The latter 
fact had not been communicated to the War Department, 
because secrets could not then be kept but inevitably 
leaked out, contractors became importunate, and the 
Rebels often were forewarned. Shortly after Mr. Stanton's 
appointment, Mr. Fox, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 
inadvertently and incautiously made known to General 



THE WAR AND NAVY DEPARTMENTS 61 

Butler and to Mr. Stanton the great object which had 
occupied the attention of the Navy Department for several 
months. Mr. Stanton seized hold of the information with 
avidity, and gave a hearty support to the movement the 
more acceptable because General McClellan, who had 
known our object and was by express direction of President 
Lincoln to cooperate with the Navy, appeared indifferent 
and had little confidence in our success. Mr. Stanton also 
united with us in the necessity of driving the Rebels from 
the right banks of the Potomac, taking possession of their 
batteries, and opening the river to uninterrupted naviga- 
tion, a work in which General McClellan had frequently 
disappointed us. The expectations and hopes that some- 
thing effective might be done in opening the navigation of 
that important avenue to Washington had been so delusive 
that we united in requesting President Lincoln to issue his 
celebrated order of the 27th of January for a forward move- 
ment, which was ordered to take place on the 22d of Feb- 
ruary. Such an order had been suggested, before Mr. 
Stanton's appointment, by the Navy Department, which 
had become wearied with the delays and tardy action of 
the General-in-Chief. 

These and other matters had brought the War and Navy 
Departments into harmonious action, but with no cordial 
intimacy between the Secretaries. Indeed, no member of 
the Cabinet but Mr. Seward enjoyed intimate relations 
with the new Secretary of War, although Mr. Chase paid 
him assiduous attention, and was in return treated with 
due respect and courtesy. To Mr. Chase he may have been 
more communicative than to others, because the former 
was almost daily at the War Department, while the rest 
of us seldom went there save on business, and were less 
attentive. 

When intelligence reached Washington on Sunday morn- 
ing, the 9th of March, that the Merrimac had come down 
from Norfolk and attacked and destroyed the Cumberland 
and Congress, I called at once on the President, who had sent 



62 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

for me. Several members of the Cabinet soon gathered. 
Stanton was already there, and there was general excite- 
ment and alarm. Although my Department and the branch 
of the Government entrusted to me were most interested 
and most responsible, the President ever after gave me the 
credit of being, on that occasion, the most calm and self- 
possessed of any member of the Government. The Pre- 
sident himself was so excited that he could not deliberate 
or be satisfied with the opinions of non-professional men, 
but ordered his carriage and drove to the navy yard to 
see and consult with Admiral Dahlgren and other naval 
officers, who might be there. Dahlgren, always attentive 
and much of a courtier, had, to a great extent, the Pre- 
sident's regard and confidence; but in this instance Dahl- 
gren, who knew not of the preparation or what had been 
the purposes of the Department, could give the President 
no advice or opinion, but referred him to me. The inabil- 
ity of Dahlgren to advise seemed to increase the panic. 
General Meigs, who was of much the same temperament 
with Dahlgren, was also sent for by the President, Stan- 
ton, or Seward. The latter had great confidence in Meigs 
on all occasions, and deferred to him more than to his 
superior, in all matters of a military character. 

Dahlgren and Meigs were both intelligent officers and in 
their specialties among the first of their respective profes- 
sions, but neither of them was endowed with the fighting 
qualities of Farragut or Sheridan, and in that time of gen- 
eral alarm, without information or facts, they were not the 
men to allay panic or tranquillize the government officials. 
They were prudent, cautious men, careful to avoid danger, 
and provide the means to escape from it. 

But the most frightened man on that gloomy day, the 
most so I think of any during the Rebellion, was the Sec- 
retary of War. He was at times almost frantic, and as 
he walked the room with his eyes fixed on me, I saw well 
the estimation in which he held me with my unmoved and 
unexcited manner and conversation. 



STANTON'S FEAR OF THE MERRIMAC 63 

The Merrimac, he said, would destroy every vessel in the 
service, could lay every city on the coast under contribu- 
tion, could take Fortress Monroe; McClellan's mistaken 
purpose to advance by the Peninsula must be abandoned, 
and Burnside would inevitably be captured. Likely the 
first movement of the Merrimac would be to come up 
the Potomac and disperse Congress, destroy the Capitol 
arid public buildings; or she might go to New York and 
Boston and destroy those cities, or levy from them con- 
tributions sufficient to carry on the War. He asked what 
vessel or means we had to resist or prevent her from doing 
whatever she pleased. 

I stated our vessels were not as powerful or in numbers 
as extensive as I wished. It was certain, however, the Mer- 
rimac could not come to Washington and go to New York 
at the same time. I had no apprehension of her visiting 
either, and wished she were then in the Potomac, for if so 
we could take efficient measures to dispose of her. That 
Burnside and the force in the Sounds were safe from 
her, because her draft of water was such she could not 
approach them. That the Monitor was in Hampton 
Roads, and I had confidence in her power to resist, and, 
I hoped, to overcome, the Merrimac. She should have been 
there sooner to have destroyed the Merrimac, but the 
contractors had disappointed us. 

Mr. Seward, who had been desponding, contrary to his 
usual temperament and custom, rendered more timid by 
the opinion and alarm of Stanton, said my remark in rela- 
tion to the draft of water of the Merrimac gave him the 
first moment's relief he had experienced. 

Stanton made some sneering inquiry about this new 
vessel the Monitor, of which he admitted he knew^fittle 
or nothing. I described her, and [said] that it had been our 
intention, had she been completed within contract time, 
to have sent her up to Norfolk to destroy the Merrimac 
before she came out of the dry dock. Stanton asked about 
her armament, and when I mentioned she had two guns, 



64 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

his mingled look of incredulity and contempt cannot be 
described; and the tone of his voice, as he asked if my 
reliance was on that craft with her two guns, is equally 
indescribable. Others mingled in the conversation with 
anxiety and concern, but on the part of Stanton there was 
censure, bitterness, and a breaking-out of pent-up male- 
volence that I could not misunderstand. Others, alarmed 
by the destruction which had taken place and dreading 
further disaster, had their fears increased by his harsh 
manner; but, though unsupported and unassisted, I was 
not appalled or affected by his terror and bluster. I more 
correctly read and understood his character in that crisis 
than he mine. It was the first, and, save a repetition on 
the following day, the only, occasion when he attempted to 
exercise towards me that rude and offensive insolence for 
which he became notorious in the discharge of his official 
duties. 

That day and its incidents were among the most un- 
pleasant and uncomfortable of my life. The events were 
momentous and portentous to the nation, the responsibil- 
ity and the consequence of the disaster were heavier on me 
than on any other individual; there was no one to encour- 
age and sustain me. Admiral Smith, always self-possessed 
and intelligent, who would have stood by me, was over- 
whelmed with the tidings, for his son was on the Congress, 
and, as his father predicted when tidings reached him of 
the fate of that vessel, had fallen a victim. My Assistant, 
Fox, was absent at Hampton Roads in anticipation of the 
arrival of the Monitor, whither he had gone before these 
occurrences to meet her. Dahlgren and Meigs, by nature 
and training cautious, not to say timid, who had been 
called in, were powerless, and in full sympathy with 
Stanton in all his fears and predictions. 

In all that painful time my composure was not disturbed, 
so that I did not perhaps as fully realize and comprehend 
the whole impending calamity as others, and yet to me 
there was throughout the whole day something inexpress- 



STANTON'S FEAR OF THE MERRIMAC 65 

ibly ludicrous in the wild, frantic talk, action, and rage of 
Stanton as he ran from room to room, sat down and jumped 
up after writing a few words, swung his arms, scolded, and 
raved. He could not fail to see and feel my opinion of him 
and his bluster, that I was calm and unmoved by his rant, 
spoke deliberately, and was not excited by his violence. 

The President, though as uncomfortable as any of us, 
and having his alarm increased by the fears and scary 
apprehensions of Stanton, manifested much sympathy and 
consideration for me. My composure and the suggestions 
and views I presented were evidently a relief to him, but 
Stanton's wailings and woeful predictions disturbed him. 
Both he and Stanton went repeatedly to the window and 
looked down the Potomac the view being uninterrupted 
for miles to see if the Merrimac was not coming to Wash- 
ington. It was asked what we could do if she were now in 
sight. I told the President she could not, if in the river, 
with her heavy armor, cross the Kettle Bottom Shoals. 
This was a relief. Dahlgren was consulted. He thought 
it doubtful if she could reach Washington, if she entered 
the river. 

Stanton asked what we could do for the defense and pro- 
tection of New York and other cities. I knew of nothing. 
Our information of the Merrimac for we had had every 
few days report of her condition was that she could 
not, with her heavy and ill-adjusted armor, penetrate the 
river nor venture outside, and was to be used in Hampton 
Roads and the Chesapeake. I stated these facts, and they 
with other matters had a good effect upon the President. 
But Stanton in his terror telegraphed to the governors 
of the Northern States and the mayors of some of the 
cities, warning them of the danger, and advising, as I was 
told, that rafts of timber and other obstructions should be 
placed at the mouths of the harbors. 

These occurrences took place at different interviews 
which we had through the day and evening, for it was one 
of the many exciting Sundays which we had during the 



66 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

Civil War. I received that evening a telegram from Dahl- 
gren at the navy yard, stating he had secured a large 
number of boats and had a full force loading them with 
stone and gravel, and asking if he was acting in conform- 
ity with my wishes. I answered no, and that I had given 
no orders to sanction his proceedings. On the following 
morning we met at the President's, and Stanton, with 
affected calmness but his voice trembling with emotion, 
inquired if I had given orders to prevent the boats which 
he had provided from being prepared and loaded. I replied 
that I had given no orders to prepare and load any boats, 
nor did I intend to; that I had received a singular note 
from Dahlgren to which I had given this reply: that he 
had no authority from me for such work. Stanton said he 
had given the order to Meigs and Dahlgren, and had done 
it to protect Washington and with the approval of the 
President, to whom he turned. The President confirmed 
his statement, or remarked that Mr. Stanton had thought 
it imperative that something should immediately be done 
for our security; that those officers, Meigs and Dahlgren, 
one or both, were present, and he thought no harm would 
come of it, if it did no good. The purpose was to load fifty 
or sixty canal-boats and other craft with stone and sink 
them at Kettle Bottom Shoals, or some other place in the 
channel. 

I stated that I was very sorry to hear it, that for five 
or six months we had labored with General McClellan 
and the War Department to keep this important avenue 
open to unrestricted navigation, and that, the Rebels 
having left, we ourselves were now to shut ourselves off 
by these obstructions. As the President had authorized 
the proceeding, I had nothing to say except to express my 
dissent the moment Admiral Dahlgren was told he might 
go forward with the work he had commenced under the 
War Department, and at its expense. Mr. Stanton said 
the War Department would bear both the expense and the 
responsibility. 



STANTON'S NAVY 67 

The passages were sharp and pungent, and they were 
the last of that description which he ever used towards me. 
The occasion, the termination, and subsequent events ap- 
peared to have satisfied him that he had in some respects 
mistaken my true character. No member of the Cabinet 
did he thenceforward treat with more courtesy and con- 
sideration, and the roughness and something worse which 
he manifested towards some of our colleagues he never 
extended to me. 

The result was he procured a fleet of some sixty canal- 
boats, which were laden, but Mr. Lincoln had forbidden, 
after our interview, that they should be sunk in the chan- 
nel until it was known the Merrimac was approaching. 
Some weeks later, when the President, with Stanton and 
some others, was going down the river in a steamer, the 
long line of boats on the Maryland side near the Kettle 
Bottom Shoals attracted attention, and some one inquired 
concerning them. "Oh," said the President, "that is Stan- 
ton's navy. That is the fleet concerning which he and Mr. 
Welles became so excited in my room. Welles was incensed 
and opposed the scheme, and it has proved that Neptune 
was right. Stanton's navy is as useless as the paps of a 
man to a sucking child. There may be some show to amuse 
the child, but they are good for nothing for service." 

I have narrated, at some length, what took place on 
an occasion of great interest to the country, and which 
brought out in strong light the traits of Mr. Stanton in 
a crisis, when he thought he had me at disadvantage and 
could exercise towards me his imperious nature. He saw 
that even under the excitement and alarm I treated his 
bluster with indifference, that the impression which each 
made upon the President was by no means to his advan- 
tage; and I have supposed was admonished to that effect 
by the President himself. 

Mr. Stanton was fond of power and of its exercise. It 
was more precious to him than pecuniary gain to dominate 
over his fellow man. He took pleasure in being ungracious 



68 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES 

and rough towards those who were under his control, and 
when he thought his bearish manner would terrify or 
humiliate those who were subject to him. To his superiors 
or those who were his equals in position, and who neither 
heeded nor cared for his violence, he was complacent, 
sometimes obsequious. From long association and close 
observation I am convinced he had but little moral courage 
nor much self-reliance when in trouble. It never struck me 
that he was mercenary or that he made use of his position 
to add to his private fortune, but he was reckless and re- 
gardless of public expenditure, and the war expenses were 
greater by hundreds of millions than was necessary, or than 
they would have been had the Department been in other 
hands. 

Of his zeal, devotion, and great labor in his office there 
can be no question by those who were at all familiar with 
him as Secretary, although there are differences as to the 
wisdom of many of his measures and the value of his serv- 
ices. He was vigilant, often efficient, and his friend and 
patron Mr. Seward styled him the "Carnot of the War," 
"Stanton the Divine." But this was mere fulsome adula- 
tion from an old politician. With the resources of a nation 
in men and money at his command, and each used without 
stint or scruple, he might well be efficient and powerful, 
and no one better knew this than Stanton himself. He was 
an adept in intrigue and knew how to meet and move the 
leading spirits in Congress, and for that matter always had 
a little Congress of his own. No one courted the members 
with more assiduous attention, or, in an adroit way, flat- 
tered and pandered to them with more success. He did 
not, like Mr. Seward, to whom he was indebted for his 
greatness, entertain and feed them, yet Se ward's parties 
were made subservient to Stanton and his views, and no 
one contributed more to it than Seward himself. The Sec- 
retary of State supposed, as did his predecessor Black, that 
Stanton was an appendage to him in the Administration, 
and they each, though diametrically opposed in their prin- 



STANTON'S CLAIM TO GREATNESS 69 

ciples and views of government, had a common interest in 
all that took place. 

If an expenditure of the public money exceeding that 
of any minister in all history, either of our own or of 
any other country, makes one a great war minister, then 
Stanton may lay claim to greatness. A willing Congress, 
lavish of public money, readily granted all that he asked, 
and he was willing to ask all they would give. For a 
tune the President was alarmed at his headlong career, but, 
finding that Stanton was sustained and glorified in his 
extravagance, he interposed no obstacles to the military 
measures and movements of the War Department. 

When Mr. Stanton came into the War Department, for 
several months he assumed that the Navy was secondary 
and subject to the control and direction of the military 
branch of the Government. These pretensions, which had 
agitated each branch of the service, I never recognized, 
but stated that we were equal and would be ready at all 
times to cooperate with the armies in any demonstration, 
but it must not be under orders. If a movement originated 
in Washington, I claimed, if the Navy was to participate, 
I must be cognizant of it ; if an expedition was undertaken 
by any general who needed the aid of the Navy, the 
admiral or senior naval officer on the station must be 
consulted and cooperation asked. Stanton claimed that, 
instead of consulting and asking, the military could order 
naval assistance, and that it was the duty of the Secretary 
of the Navy and of naval officers to render it. President 
Lincoln would not, however, lend himself to this view of 
the subject. 



II 

The President broaches the Subject of Emancipation Navy Department 
Worries Commodore Wilkes Disappointed Officers Seward's 
Assumption of Authority How Lincoln chose his Cabinet The 
Army's Failure to cooperate The Military Theory of Frontiers 
Promotion of W. D. Porter Proposed Line of Gunboats on the Ohio 
The Cabal against McClellan Stanton on McClellan The Need 
of Better Generals. 

ON Sunday, the 13th of July, 1862, President Lincoln in- 
vited me to accompany him in his carriage to the funeral 
of an infant child of Mr. Stanton. Secretary Seward and 
Mrs. Frederick Seward were also in the carriage. Mr. 
Stanton occupied at that time for a summer residence the 
house of a naval officer, I think Hazard, some two or three 
miles west, or northwest, of Georgetown. It was on this 
occasion and on this ride that he first mentioned to Mr. 
Seward and myself the subject of emancipating the slaves 
by proclamation in case the Rebels did not cease to persist 
in their war on the Government and the Union, of which he 
saw no evidence. He dwelt earnestly on the gravity, im- 
portance, and delicacy of the movement, said he had given 
it much thought and had about come to the conclusion 
that it was a military necessity absolutely essential for the 
salvation of the Union, that we must free the slaves or be 
ourselves subdued, etc., etc. 

This was, he said, the first occasion when he had men- 
tioned the subject to any one, and wished us to frankly 
state how the proposition struck us. Mr. Seward said the 
subject involved consequences so vast and momentous 
that he should wish to bestow on it mature reflection be- 
fore giving a decisive answer, but his present opinion in- 
clined to the measure as justifiable, and perhaps he might 
say expedient and necessary. These were also my views. 
Two or three times on that ride the subject, which was of 



1862] EMANCIPATION BROACHED 71 

course an absorbing one for each and all, was adverted to, 
and before separating the President desired us to give the 
question special and deliberate attention, for he was earnest 
in the conviction that something must be done. It was a 
new departure for the President, for until this time, in all 
our previous interviews, whenever the question of eman- 
cipation or the mitigation of slavery had been in any way 
alluded to, he had been prompt and emphatic in denounc- 
ing any interference by the General Government with the 
subject. This was, I think, the sentiment of every mem- 
ber of the Cabinet, all of whom, including the President, 
considered it a local, domestic question appertaining to 
the States respectively, who had never parted with their 
authority over it. But the reverses before Richmond, and 
the formidable power and dimensions of the insurrection, 
which extended through all the Slave States, and had com- 
bined most of them in a confederacy to destroy the Union, 
impelled the Administration to adopt extraordinary meas- 
ures to preserve the national existence. The slaves, if not 
armed and disciplined, were in the service of those who 
were, not only as field laborers and producers, but thou- 
sands of them were in attendance upon the armies in the 
field, employed as waiters and teamsters, and the fortifica- 
tions and intrenchments were constructed by them. 

August 10, 1862, Sunday. The last two days have been 
excessively warm. Thermometer on the north porch at 
100 on each day. A slight breeze from the west makes this 
day somewhat more comfortable. News unimportant from 
the army, and but little from the Navy. Shall have some- 
thing exciting within a few days. Sensation items are the 
favorite ones of the press. Alarming predictions delight 
their readers. Am sorry that better progress is not made 
in the war upon the Rebels. Our squadrons are paralyzed 
everywhere by the inactive and dilatory movements of 
the army. Vicksburg should have been taken by the first 
of June, but no adequate cooperating military force was 



72 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 10 

furnished, and as a consequence our largest squadron in 
the Gulf and our flotilla in the Mississippi have been de- 
tained and injured. The most disreputable naval affair 
of the War was the descent of the steam ram Arkansas 
through both squadrons till she hauled in under the bat- 
teries of Vicksburg, and there the two flag officers aban- 
doned the place and the ironclad ram, Farragut and his 
force going down to New Orleans, and Davis proceeding 
with his flotilla up the river. I have written them both, 
briefly but expressively, on the subject of the ram Arkan- 
sas. I do not blame them in regard to Vicksburg, though 
had Farragut obeyed his original orders and gone up the 
river at once after the capture of New Orleans, I think 
things might have been different. Butler would not, I pre- 
sume, give sufficient support from the army, for he has 
proved prompt as well as fearless. 

We have sensation articles in yesterday's New York 
papers that the steamer Fingal at Savannah has been clad 
with iron and threatens our army and vessels. Have no 
word from Admiral Du Pont, who is watchful but slow to 
express apprehension. Am inclined to believe there is 
truth in the rumor that the boat has been clad with armor, 
but have my doubts if there is any immediate intention to 
attempt to pass outside. She is probably designed for river 
defense of the city against our gunboats; but may, if there 
is opportunity, assume the offensive. In the mean time the 
sensationalists will get up exciting alarms and terrify 
the public into distrust and denunciation of the Navy 
Department. 

We have similar sensations every few days in regard to 
Merrimac No. 2, an armored boat at Richmond. As yet 
she has made no attempt to pass below the obstructions, 
though two or three times a week we are assured they are 
in sight, " Smoke from half a dozen steam-stacks vis- 
ible." Wilkes writes he is fully prepared for her and her 
associates at any tune, and Rodgers l writes to the same 
1 Captain, afterwards Rear-Admiral, John Rodgers. 



1862] COMMODORE WILKES 73 

effect. But in a day or two some changes will take place 
that may affect operations on James River. 

Have had to write Wilkes pretty decisively. He is very 
exacting towards others, but is not himself as obedient as 
he should be. Interposes his own authority to interrupt 
the execution of the orders of the Department. Wrote him 
that this was not permissible, that I expected his command 
to obey him, and it was no less imperative that he should 
obey the orders of the Department. He wrote for permis- 
sion to dismiss from service a class of officers if they did not 
suit him, and as he thought them inefficient. I told him 
the suggestion could not be entertained, that the Depart- 
ment must retain the administrative control of the Navy. 
I have not heard from him in reply, or explanation. It is 
pretty evident that he will be likely to cause trouble to 
the Department. He has abilities but not good judgment 
in all respects. Will be likely to rashly assume authority, 
and do things that may involve himself and the country 
in difficulty, and hence I was glad that not I but the Pre- 
sident and Secretary of State suggested him for that com- 
mand. It is the first tune that either has proposed a candi- 
date for a command, since taking Stringham from the office 
of detail in 1861 to go to Pensacola. Seward's intrigue. It 
was almost a necessity that something should be done for 
Wilkes. His act, in taking Mason and Slidell from the 
Trent, had given him eclat, it was popular with the coun- 
try, was considered right by the people, even if rash and 
irregular; but when and how to dispose of Wilkes was an 
embarrassment to me, until the command of the James 
River Flotilla was suggested. He was, however, unwilling 
to report to Goldsborough, and to have done so would have 
caused delay. But giving him an independent command 
caused Goldsborough to take offense, and he asked to 
resign the command of the squadron. To this I had no 
objection, for he was proving himself inefficient, had 
done nothing effective since the frigates were sunk by the 
Merrimac, nor of himself much before. 



74 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 10 

The State Department is in constant trepidation, fear- 
ing our naval officers do not know their duties, or that they 
will transcend them. Both points are marked weaknesses 
in the management of our foreign affairs. We are insulted, 
wronged, and badly treated by the British authorities, 
especially at Nassau, and I have called the attention of the 
Secretary of State repeatedly to the facts, but he fears to 
meet them. After degrading ourselves, we shall be com- 
pelled to meet them. I am for no rash means, but I am 
clearly and decidedly for maintaining our rights. Almost all 
the aid which the Rebels have received in arms, munitions, 
and articles contraband have gone to them through the 
professedly neutral British port of Nassau. From them 
the Rebels have derived constant encouragement and sup- 
port, from the commencement of hostilities. Our officers 
and people are treated with superciliousness and contempt 
by the authorities and inhabitants, and scarcely a favor 
or courtesy is extended to them while they are showered 
upon the Rebels. It is there that vessels are prepared to 
run the blockade and violate our laws, by the connivance 
and with the knowledge of the Colonial, and, I apprehend, 
the parent, government. 

In reorganizing the Department there are some difficul- 
ties. I am assailed for continuing Lenthall as Naval Con- 
structor at the head of the bureau. He has not much plia- 
bility or affability, but, though attacked and denounced as 
corrupt and dishonest, I have never detected any obliquity 
or wrong in him. His sternness and uprightness disap- 
pointed the jobbers and the corrupt, and his unaffected 
manner has offended others. There is an intrigue to pre- 
vent his confirmation, in which very great rogues and 
some honest and good men are strangely mixed up, the 
last being the dupes, almost the willing victims, of the 
former. 

Admiral Foote reported for duty on Thursday, but his 
rooms were not prepared, and I advised him, as he was yet 
lame and on crutches, to delay active duty for a month or 



1862] DISAPPOINTED OFFICERS 75 

so. It is some forty years since we were school-boys to- 
gether in the quiet town of Cheshire, and it has been a 
pleasant opportunity to me to bring out the qualities of 
my early friend. He left yesterday for a few weeks. 

Mr. Faxon, Chief Clerk, is absent, and I am somewhat 
embarrassed in relation to the true disposition of the cler- 
ical force. It seems not to have occurred to Admiral Foote 
that he could not appoint whom he pleased in his bureau, 
regardless of the claims and capabilities of older and more 
experienced clerks on less pay. I told him I wished him to 
have the selection of his chief or at least one confidential 
clerk, but that I could not displace old and worthy em- 
ployees. This he said he did not wish, though he was, I 
think, a little disappointed. 

Davis continues in command of the flotilla on the Missis- 
sippi. Had he captured the Arkansas, I would have had 
him come on immediately and take charge of the Bureau 
of Navigation. 

In reorganizing the Navy under the late act, there were 
nine admirals to be appointed on the retired list. The 
names of nine were presented, but the Senate failed to con- 
firm or act upon them. After the adjournment of Congress, 
commissions were sent them under executive appoint- 
ment. Of course the men superseded were dissatisfied. 
Aulick was the first who called, complaining that injust- 
ice was done, and desiring to know wherein his record 
was defective and why he had been set aside. I told him 
that had it been the intention of Congress that the nine 
senior officers should be the admirals, the act would doubt- 
less have so stated; that as regarded himself, while, per- 
sonally, our relations had been pleasant if not intimate, 
he had not made himself known or felt by the Depart- 
ment or the Government in the hour of peril; that he had, 
just as the Rebellion commenced, applied for six months' 
leave to visit Europe, on account of alleged illness of his 
daughter; that he left about the time of the assault on 
Sumter; that he remained abroad until notified that his 



76 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 10 

leave would not be extended, and never had made a sug- 
gestion for the country, or expressed any sympathy for 
the cause. Under these circumstances I had felt justified 
in advising the President to omit his name. He said he 
had supposed it was other influences than mine which had 
done him this injustice, that we had been long and well 
acquainted. I told him I shunned no responsibility in the 
case, and yet it was due to candor to say that I never had 
heard a word in his behalf from any one. 

Commodore Mervine writes me of his disappointment, 
feels hurt and slighted. By the advice of Paulding, chiefly, 
I gave the command of the Gulf Squadron to Mervine in 
the spring of 1861 ; but he proved an utter failure. He is 
not wanting in patriotism, but in executive and admin- 
istrative ability; is quite as great on little things as on 
great ones. He was long in getting out to his station, and 
accomplished nothing after he got there. When I detached 
him and appointed McKean, he was indignant and ap- 
plied for a court of inquiry; but I replied that we had not 
the time nor men to spare, that I had called him to pro- 
mote the public interest, and recalled him for the same 
purpose. He is a man of correct deportment and habits, 
and in ordinary times would float along the stream with 
others, but such periods as these bring out the stronger 
points of an officer, if he has them. I had no personal, or 
political, or general, feeling against him, but as there were 
other officers of mark and merit superior to him, they 
were selected. Yet I felt there could not be otherwise than 
a sense of slight that must be felt by himself and friends, 
which I could not but regret. Yet any person with whom 
I consulted commended the course I pursued in regard to 
him. 

Commodore Samuel Breese was a more marked case 
than Mervine's, but of much the same character. Nothing 
good, nothing bad, in him as an officer. A gentleman of 
some scholarly pretensions, some literary acquirements, 
but not of much vigor of mind. Paulding was his junior, 



1862] DISAPPOINTED OFFICERS 77 

and the slight, as he conceived it, almost broke poor 
Breese's heart. He came immediately to Washington, 
accompanied by his wife, a pleasant woman, and called 
on me, sad and heartsore, his pride wounded, his vanity 
humiliated to the dust. For three nights he assured me he 
had not closed his eyes; morning and evening the flag of 
Paulding was always before him. He said Read would 
not live long and implored that he might have the place. 

Charles Stewart, first on the list and the oldest officer 
in the service, wrote, requesting the permission of the 
President to decline the appointment. It is a singular 
letter, and required a singular answer, which I sent him, 
leaving the subject in his hands. 

The Advisory Board, which had to pass on subordinate 
active appointments, have completed their labors the past 
week. I am not altogether satisfied with their action, and 
perhaps should not be with any board, when so much was 
to be done, and so many men to pass under revision. The 
omission of Self ridge and Porter (W. D.) were perhaps 
the most marked cases, and the promotion of Fleming 
and Poor the most objectionable. 

In the action of this board I have taken no part, but 
scrupulously abstained from any conversation with its 
members, directly or indirectly. I did say to Assistant 
Secretary Fox that I regretted the action in the case of 
the elder Selfridge and Walke, and I think he must have 
intimated these views in regard to W., for the action of 
the board was subsequently reversed. But I know not 
how this may have been. 

Had a letter last evening from Lieutenant Budd, stating 
that he presented me with a chair rumored to have be- 
longed to General Washington, which was captured on the 
Steamer Memphis, and asking me to accept it. Admiral 
Paulding had written me there was such a chair, which he 
had carried to his house, and asking what should be done 
with it. The chair was private property and sent by a 
lady to some one abroad, for friendly feeling to the Rebels. 



78 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 10 

I sent word to Admiral P. that the captors could donate 
it or it might be sold with the other parts of the cargo. It 
is, I apprehend, of little intrinsic value. If it really be- 
longed to Washington, it seemed to me impolitic to sell it 
at auction as a Rebel capture; if not Washington's, there 
should be no humbug. My impressions were that it might 
be given to Admiral P. or to the Commandant's House 
at the navy yard, and I am inclined to think I will let it 
take the latter course, at least for the present. 

Governor Buckingham was here last week, and among 
other matters had in view the selection of Collectors and 
Assessors for our State. There was great competition. 
The State ticket was headed by Howard, and the Congress 
ticket headed by Goodman. While personally friendly to 
all, my convictions were for the State ticket, which was 
moreover much the ablest. The Secretary of the Treasury 
gave it the preference but made three alterations. 

I met Senator Dixon the next day at the Executive Man- 
sion, he having come on to Washington with express refer- 
ence to these appointments. He has written me several 
letters indicating much caution, but I saw at once that he 
was strongly committed and exceedingly disappointed. He 
promised to see me again, but left that P.M. to get counter 
support. 

Intelligence reaches us this evening that the Rebel iron- 
clad ram Arkansas has been destroyed. We have also news 
of a fight yesterday on the Rapidan by forces under Gen- 
eral Pope, the Rebels commanded by Stonewall Jackson. 

Was told confidentially to-day that a treaty had been 
brought about between Thurlow Weed and Bennett of 
the Herald, after a bitterness of twenty years. A letter 
was read to me giving the particulars. Weed had word 
conveyed to Bennett that he would like to make up. Ben- 
nett thereupon invited Weed to Fort Washington. Weed 
was shy; sent word that he was engaged the evening named, 
which was untrue. Bennett then sent a second invitation, 
which was accepted; and Weed dined and stayed for the 



1862] SEWARD'S ASSUMPTION 79 

night at Fort Washington, and the Herald directly changed 
its tune. 

August 11, Monday. A busy day, reading and preparing 
dispatches. State Department is sensitively apprehensive 
that our naval officers will not be sufficiently forbearing 
towards Englishmen. The old error, running back to the 
commencement of difficulties, when the Rebels were re- 
cognized as belligerents, and a blockade was ordered instead 
of closing the ports. We are not, it is true, in a condition 
for war with Great Britain just at this time, but England 
is in scarcely a better condition for a war with us. At all 
events, continued and degrading submission to aggressive 
insolence will not promote harmony nor self-respect. It 
is a gratification to me that our naval officers assert our 
rights. I have no fears they will trespass on the rights of 
others. Full dispatches received from Admiral Farragut, 
who has got his larger vessels down the river to New Or- 
leans. I had been under apprehensions that the Mississippi 
was getting so low he would experience difficulty. 

August 12, Tuesday. I called early this morning on the 
Secretary of State touching a communication of his of 
the 8th inst. which I received yesterday, in which I am 
directed in the name of the President to give instructions 
of an extraordinary character to our naval officers, instruc- 
tions which I do not approve, and which in one or two 
points conflict with law and usage. Though the direction 
was in the President's name, I learned he knew nothing of 
the proceeding. 

Mr. Seward has a passion to be thought a master spirit 
in the Administration, and to parade before others an 
exhibition of authority which if permitted is not always 
exercised wisely or intelligently. Englishmen have com- 
plained that their vessels were detained and searched, and 
that they have experienced great inconvenience by the 
delay in the transmission of letters by blockade-runners. 



80 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 12 

These matters having been brought before the Secretary 
of State, he on the instant, without consultation with any 
one, without investigation, without being aware he was 
disregarding law and long-settled principles, volunteered 
to say he would mitigate or remedy the grievance, would 
put the matter right; and, under the impulse of the mo- 
ment and with an ostentatious show of authority which 
he did not possess, yielded all that was asked and more 
than the Englishmen had anticipated or than the Secretary 
was authorized to give. I saw that he had acted precip- 
itately and inconsiderately, and was soon aware that the 
President, in whose name he assumed to act, was unin- 
formed on the subject. But Seward is committed and can- 
not humiliate himself to retrace his steps. I gave him to 
understand, however, I would send out no such instruc- 
tions as he had sent me in the President's name; that we 
had, under the belligerent right of search, authority to 
stop any suspected vessel, and if she had contraband on 
board to capture her; that no blockade-runner ever cleared 
for a Rebel port, like Charleston, though that might be its 
actual destination, but for Halifax, Nassau, or some neu- 
tral port; that the idea of surrendering mails and letters 
captured on blockade-runners to foreign consuls, officers, 
and legations, instead of delivering them, as the law ex- 
plicitly directs, to the courts, could not be entertained for 
a moment. Seward suggested that I could so modify the 
proposed instructions as to make them conform to the 
law, which he admitted he had not examined. Said it 
would relieve him and do much to conciliate the English- 
men, who were troublesome, and willing to get into dif- 
ficulty with us. It will be useless to see the President, who 
will be alarmed with the bugaboo of a foreign war, a bug- 
bear which Seward well knows how to use. These absurd 
instructions do not originate with the President, yet, 
relating to foreign matters, he will endorse them, I have no 
doubt, under the appeals which Seward will make. 
Nothing of special interest to-day in the Cabinet. Some 



1862] HOW LINCOLN CHOSE HIS CABINET 81 

gentlemen Roseleas, Coltman, and Bullitt of Louisiana 
were with the President when I called. He was reading 
some printed letters as to the policy which the Union men 
of Louisiana, for whom they appeared, should pursue. He 
did not think it wise or expedient for them to shrink from 
an honest and open avowal of then- principles and pur- 
pose, assured them that rallying earnestly for the Govern- 
ment and the service would be the surest way to restore 
tranquillity. 

Had a long private letter from Commodore Wilkes, who 
deplores recent orders in regard to the army under Mc- 
Clellan; thinks it suicidal. I fear there is truth in his 
apprehensions. 

August 15, Friday. Received yesterday a note from 
Chase that the President proposed to change two of the 
nominees under the new tax law in Connecticut. Called 
on the President, and stated to him I did it as a duty, that 
duty alone impelled me. He said he fully believed it, and 
was glad to do me the justice to say that in matters of ap- 
pointments, patronage, I had never given him any trouble. 

Having an appointment this Friday morning at 9 with 
the President, I met there Babcock l and Platt 2 of Connecti- 
cut. They had called and stated their case, which was ex- 
tremely unjust to Mr. Howard, and, turning to me, Mr. B. 
said H. claimed he had procured or secured my appoint- 
ment. The President said he had a slight acquaintance 
with Mr. H. himself. Had met him in Illinois and knew 
him as a friend of mine. Had received letters from him ex- 
pressing regard for me, and one signed jointly by H. and 
Senator Dixon. But these gentlemen did not originate his 
action hi relation to my appointment. "The truth is," 
said he, "and I may as well state the facts to you, for 
others know them, on the day of the Presidential elec- 

1 James F. Babcock, editor of the New Haven Palladium. Lincoln 
appointed him Collector at New Haven. 

1 O. H. Platt, subsequently United States Senator. 



82 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 15 

tion, the operator of the telegraph in Springfield placed his 
instrument at my disposal. I was there without leaving, 
after the returns began to come in, until we had enough 
to satisfy us how the election had gone. This was about 
two in the morning of Wednesday. I went home, but not 
to get much sleep, for I then felt, as I never had before, the 
responsibility that was upon me. I began at once to feel 
that I needed support, others to share with me the bur- 
den. This was on Wednesday morning, and before the 
sun went down I had made up my Cabinet. It was almost 
the same that I finally appointed. One or two changes 
were made, and the particular position of one or two was 
unsettled. My mind was fixed on Mr. Welles as the mem- 
ber from New England on that Wednesday. Some other 
names passed through my thoughts, and some persons were 
afterwards pressed upon me, but the man and the place 
were fixed in my mind then, as it now is. My choice was 
confirmed by Mr. H., by Senator Dixon, Preston King, 
Vice-President Hamlin, Governor Morgan, and others, but 
the selection was my own, and not theirs, and Mr. H. is 
under a mistake in what he says." 

August 16, Saturday. With the President an hour or two 
this A.M., selecting candidates from a large number recom- 
mended for midshipmen at the naval school. 

Finished a set of instructions for our naval officers hi 
matters relating to prize captures and enforcing the block- 
ade. Mr. Seward sent me a few days since in the name of 
the President some restraining points on which he wished 
the officers to be instructed, but I was convinced they 
would work injury. Have toned down and modified his 
paper, relieved it of its illegal features, added one or two 
precautionary points and sent the document to the State 
Department for criticism and suggestions. 

Mem. It may be well, if I can find time, to get up a com- 
plete set of instructions, defining the points of international 
and statute law which are disputed or not well understood. 



1862] COOPERATION OF ARMY AND NAVY 83 

Have a long telegram from Wilkes, who informs me that 
the army has left, and asking for instructions what to do 
now that McClellan has gone. I have not been advised of 
army movements by either the Secretary of War or General 
Halleck. Both are ready at all times to call for naval aid, 
but are almost wholly neglectful of the Navy and of their 
own duties in regard to it, as in this instance. 

August 17, Sunday. Called this morning on General 
Halleck, who had forgotten or was not aware there was a 
naval force in the James River cooperating with the army. 
He said the army was withdrawn and there was no neces- 
sity for the naval vessels to remain. I remarked that I 
took a different view of the question, and, had I been con- 
sulted, I should have advised that the naval and some army 
forces should hold on and menace Richmond, in order to 
compel the Rebels to retain part of their army there while 
our forces in front of Washington were getting in position. 
He began to rub his elbows, and, without thanking me or 
acknowledgment of any kind, said he wished the vessels 
could remain. Telegraphed Wilkes to that effect. Strange 
that this change of military operations should have been 
made without Cabinet consultation, and especially with- 
out communicating the fact to the Secretary of the Navy, 
who had established a naval flotilla on the James River 
by special request to cooperate with and assist the army. 
But Stanton is so absorbed in his scheme to get rid of 
McClellan that other and more important matters are 
neglected. 

A difficulty has existed from the beginning in the mili- 
tary, and I may say general, management of the War. At 
a very early day, before even the firing on Sumter and the 
abandonment of Norfolk, I made repeated applications 
to General Scott for one or two regiments to be stationed 
there. Anticipating the trouble that subsequently took 
place, and confident that, with one regiment well com- 
manded and a good engineer to construct batteries, with 



84 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 17 

the cooperation of the frigate Cumberland and such small 
additional naval force as we could collect, the place might 
be held at least until the public property and ships could 
be removed, I urged the importance of such aid. The 
reply on each occasion was that he not only had no troops 
to spare from Washington or Fortress Monroe, both of 
which places he considered in great danger, but that if 
he had, he would not send a detachment in what he con- 
sidered enemy's country, especially as there were no 
intrenchments. I deferred to his military character and 
position, but remonstrated against this view of the case, for 
I was assured, and, I believe, truly, that a majority of the 
people in the navy yard and in the vicinity of Norfolk 
were loyal, friends of the Union and opposed to Secession. 
He said that might be the political, but was not the mili- 
tary, aspect, and he must be governed by military consid- 
erations in disposing of his troops. 

There was but one way of overcoming these objections 
and that was by peremptory orders, which I could not, 
and the President would not, give, in opposition to the 
opinions of General Scott. The consequence was the loss 
of the navy yard and of Norfolk, and the almost total 
extinguishment of the Union sentiment in that quarter. 
Our friends there became cool and were soon alienated by 
our abandonment. While I received no assistance from 
the military in that emergency, I was thwarted and embar- 
rassed by the secret interference of the Secretary of State 
in my operations. General Scott was for a defensive policy, 
and the same causes which influenced him in that matter, 
and the line of policy which he marked out, have governed 
the educated officers of the army and to a great extent 
shaped the war measures of the Government. "We must 
erect our batteries on the eminences in the vicinity of 
Washington," said General Mansfield to me, "and estab- 
lish our military lines; frontiers between the belligerents, 
as between the countries of Continental Europe, are 
requisite." They were necessary in order to adapt and 



1862] MILITARY THEORY OF FRONTIERS 85 

reconcile the theory and instruction of West Point to the war 
that was being prosecuted. We should, however, by this 
process become rapidly two hostile nations. All beyond 
the frontiers must be considered and treated as enemies, 
although large sections, and in some instances whole States, 
have a Union majority, occasionally in some sections 
approximating unanimity. 

Instead of halting on the borders, building intrench- 
ments, and repelling indiscriminately and treating as 
Rebels enemies all, Union as well as disunion, men 
in the insurrectionary region, we should, I thought, pene- 
trate their territory, nourish and protect the Union senti- 
ment, and create and strengthen a national feeling counter 
to Secession. This we might have done in North Carolina, 
western Virginia, northern Alabama and Georgia, Arkan- 
sas, Texas, and in fact in large sections of nearly every 
seceding State. Instead of holding back, we should be ag- 
gressive and enter their territory. Our generals act on the 
defensive. It is not and has not been the policy of the coun- 
try to be aggressive towards others, therefore defensive 
tactics, rather than offensive have been taught, and the 
effect upon our educated commanders in this civil war is 
perceptible. The best material for commanders in this 
civil strife may have never seen West Point. There is some- 
thing in the remark that a good general is "born to com- 
mand." We have experienced that some of our best-edu- 
cated officers have no faculty to govern, control, and direct 
an army in offensive warfare. We have many talented 
and capable engineers, good officers in some respects, but 
without audacity, desire for fierce encounter, and in that 
respect almost utterly deficient as commanders. Courage 
and learning are essential, but something more is wanted for 
a good general, talent, intuition, magnetic power, which 
West Point cannot give. Men who would have made the 
best generals and who possess innately the best and high- 
est qualities to command may not have been so fortunate 
as to be selected by a Member of Congress to be a cadet. 



86 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 17 

Jackson and Taylor were excellent generals, but they were 
not educated engineers, nor were they what would be con- 
sidered in these days accomplished and educated military 
men. They detailed and availed themselves of engineers, 
and searched out and found the needed qualities in others. 

We were unused to war when these present difficulties 
commenced, and have often permitted men of the army 
to decide questions that were more political than military. 
There is still the same misfortune, for I deem it such. 

From the beginning there was a persistent determination 
to treat the Rebels as alien belligerents, as a hostile 
and distinct people, to blockade, instead of closing, their 
ports. The men "duly accredited by the Confederate 
States of America" held back-door intercourse with the 
Secretary of State, and lived and moved in ostentatious 
style in Washington for some weeks. Thus commencing, 
other governments had reason to claim that we had in- 
itiated them into the belief that the Federal Government 
and its opponents were two nations; and the Union peo- 
ple of the South were, by this policy of our Government 
and that of the army, driven, compelled against their 
wishes, to be our antagonists. 

No man in the South could avow himself a friend of the 
Union without forfeiting his estate, his liberty, and per- 
haps his life under State laws of the Confederates. The 
Federal Government not only afforded him no protection, 
but under the military system of frontiers he was treated 
as a public enemy because he resided in his own home at 
the South. 

August 18, Monday. Had a call to-day from an old 
schoolmate at Cheshire, now a chaplain in the army, 
Joseph H. Nichols. Invited and had him to tea with me 
and talked over school-boy days. It is thirty-five years or 
over since we have met, though not unfrequently in the 
same place. 

Sent Commodore Wilkes a dispatch to hold his ground 



1862] WILKES A TROUBLESOME OFFICER 87 

and await events. Will send him specific orders when de- 
velopments justify. He is a troublesome officer in many 
respects, unpopular in the Navy and never on good terms 
with the Department, yet I have thus far got along with 
huii very well, though in constant apprehension that he 
will commit some rash act. He is ambitious, self-con- 
ceited, and self-willed. The withdrawal of the army from 
before Richmond disconcerts him, and to make his mark 
he may do some indiscreet, rash, and indefensible act. 
But I trust not. He has abilities but not sound judg- 
ment, and is not always subordinate, though he is himself 
severe and exacting towards his subordinates. 

Had a letter from Fox at Portsmouth. Says there are 
traitors even there. It will be necessary that the Govern- 
ment should be felt as a power before this Rebellion can 
be suppressed. The armored boats, to which he was to 
give some attention, are progressing as well as can be 
expected. . . . 

August 20, Wednesday. Memo. Soon after hostilities 
commenced, in the spring or summer of 1861, a letter from 
William D. Porter to his son was published. The son had 
joined the Rebels, and so informed his father, who wrote 
him he thought he had committed a mistake. But, having 
taken this step, he advised him to adhere and do his duty. 
At that tune W. D. P. was on duty in the Pacific. I im- 
mediately detached and ordered him home. He reported 
to me in great distress; disavowed the letter; said it was 
a forgery, that his son and himself were on bad terms and 
the letter had been written and published to injure him. 
There was, he informed me, much disagreement in the 
family; his son had been alienated from him, and, like 
David, sympathized with the Secessionists, while he (W.) 
had taken the opposite course. David, he remarked, 
was the intimate friend of Jefferson Davis and the Rebel 
conspirators, and he had expected that he would act 
with them, and he had no doubt that David's course had 



88 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 20 

injured him; confounding him with D., he was made ac- 
countable for D.'s acts. David said he had no doubt that 
Bill wrote the letter, and I was of that opinion. 1 William 
had, not without reason, the reputation of being very 
untruthful, a failing of the Porters, for David was not 
always reliable on unimportant matters, but amplified 
and colored transactions, where he was personally inter- 
ested especially, but he had not the bad reputation of 
William. I did not always consider David to be depended 
upon if he had an end to attain, and he had no hesitation 
in trampling down a brother officer if it would benefit him- 
self. He had less heart than William. 

Had a conversation with the President hi relation to 
W. D. Porter, who was the efficient officer that attacked 
and destroyed the Rebel armored ram Arkansas. Porter 
is a bold, brave man, but reckless in many respects, and 
unpopular, perhaps not without reason, in the service. He 
has been earnest and vigorous on the Mississippi, and made 
himself. The Advisory Board under the late law omitted 
to recommend him for promotion. It was one of the few 
omissions that I regretted, for whatever the infirmities of 
the man I recognize his merits as an officer. 

His courage in destroying the Arkansas was manifest. 
Both the flag officers were delinquent in the matter of that 
vessel at Vicksburg, and I so wrote each of them. Ad- 
miral Farragut cannot conceal his joy that she is destroyed, 
but is not ready to do full justice to Porter. 

I canvassed the whole question, the law, the proceed- 
ings, the difficulties, the man, the officer, the responsibil- 
ity of promoting him and of my advising it, yet I felt 
it a duty, if service rendered in battle and under fire were 
to govern. The President conversed with me most fully, 
and said, ' ' I am so satisfied that you are right generally, and 

1 I some years later, and after William's death, learned from Admiral 
Farragut and Mrs. Farragut that they knew the letter to be a forgery and 
that it was got up for mischievous purposes. G. W, 



1862] PROMOTION OF W. D. PORTER 89 

in this case particularly, that I say to you, Go ahead, give 
Porter as you propose a Commodore's appointment, and 
I will stand by you, come what may." 

Sent a letter of reproof to Colonel Harris and also one 
to Lieutenant-Colonel Reynolds of the Marine Corps, 
between whom there is a bitter feud. Almost all the elder 
officers are at loggerheads and ought to be retired. Rey- 
nolds had been tried by court martial on charges pre- 
ferred by Harris, and acquitted, though by confessions 
made to me personally guilty. But a majority of the 
anti-Harris faction constituted the court, and partisan- 
ship, not merit, governed the decision. I refused to ap- 
prove the finding. In his turn, Reynolds brought charges 
against Harris, and of such a character as to implicate 
others. To have gone forward would have been to plunge 
into a series of courts martial for a year to come. 

McClellan's forces have left the banks of James River 
several days since. Their exodus I think was not anti- 
cipated at Richmond, nor believed until after all had left 
and crossed the Chickahominy. We are beginning to hear 
of the arrival of the advance guard at Acquia Creek, Alex- 
andria, and Fredericksburg. In the mean time Pope is 
being heavily pressed at Culpeper by Stonewall Jackson 
and the whole accumulated forces from Richmond, which 
has compelled him to fall back on the left bank of the 
Rapidan, his policy being to keep the enemy in check 
until McClellan's forces can unite with him. 

August 22, Friday. The President tells me he has a list 
of the number of new recruits which have reached Wash- 
ington under the late call. Over 18,000 have arrived in 
just one week. There is wonderful and increasing enthu- 
siasm and determination to put down this Rebellion and 
sustain the integrity of the Union. It is confined to 
no class or party or description: rich and poor, the edu- 
cated and ignorant, the gentle and refined as well as the 
stout, coarse, and athletic, the Democrats generally as 



90 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 22 

well as the Republicans, are offering themselves to the 
country. 

Governor Dennison and Judge Swayne * of Ohio, with 
others, are urging in person the establishment of a line of 
armed and armored steamers on the Ohio River. The plan 
has been elaborated with much care, and has been before 
presented and pressed with some zeal. Distrust, no doubt, 
in regard to army management leads these men to seek 
naval protection. The Blah's are quoted to me as favoring 
the movement, and Fox has given them encouragement. 
It has not found favor with me at any time. It is now 
brought to my attention in such a way that I am compelled 
to take it up. I find that great names and entire com- 
munities in Ohio and Indiana, led on by the authorities of 
those States, are engaged in it. I told the principal agent, 
who, with Governor D., had a long interview with me, 
that my judgment and convictions were against it, for: 
First : I had no faith that light-draft gunboats would be 
a safe and reliable means of frontier river-defense. They 
might be auxiliary and essential aids to the army, but they 
cannot carry heavy armament, are frail, and in low stages 
of the water, with high banks which overlook the river, 
would not be effective and could hardly take care of them- 
selves, though in certain cases, and especially in high water, 
they might greatly aid the army. Secondly: As a matter 
of policy it would be injudicious and positively harmful 
to establish a frontier line between Ohio and Kentucky, 
making the river the military boundary, it would be 
conceding too much. If a line of boats could assist in pro- 
tecting the northern banks of the Ohio they could afford 
little security to the southern banks, where, as in Ohio, 
there is, except hi localities, a majority for the Union. I 
added that I should be opposed to any plan which pro- 
posed to establish frontier lines, therein differing from 
some of our best army officers; that I thought neither Ohio 
nor Indiana could, on deliberate consideration, wish the 
1 Noah H. Swayne, of the United States Supreme Court. 



1862] BURNSIDE ASKS FOR GUNBOATS 91 

line of separation from hostile forces should be the north- 
ern boundary of Kentucky. It appeared to me the true 
course was to make their interest in this war identical with 
that of Kentucky, and if there were to be a line of de- 
marcation it should be as far south as the southern bound- 
ary of Tennessee, and not the banks of the Ohio. The 
gentlemen seemed to be impressed with these general views. 
y$< 

August 24, Sunday. Have a dispatch from General Burn- 
side at Falmouth, calling earnestly for five or six gunboats 
in the Potomac at Acquia Creek. Mentions having made 
a personal application at the Navy Department. Nothing 
has been said to me by him or any one, nor has any re- 
quisition been made. I find, however, on inquiry, that in 
a general conversation in the room of the Chief Clerk he 
expressed something of the kind. The General feels that 
a heavy responsibility is upon him, and in case of disaster 
desires like others the protection of the gunboats. It is 
honorable to him that, unlike some other generals, he 
willingly gives credit to the Navy. The protection he now 
seeks is a wise precaution, perhaps, but, I apprehend, 
wholly unnecessary. I have, however, ordered Wilkes to 
send round five gunboats from James River. The War 
Department sends me a letter from Major-General Curtis 
to General Halleck, requesting more gunboats on the 
Western rivers. Wrote Admiral Davis that the navigation 
of the Mississippi should be kept unobstructed, not only 
between Memphis and Arkansas River but elsewhere, and 
to cooperate with and assist the army. 

August 25, Monday. Wrote Wilkes, preparatory to dis- 
continuing the organization of the James River Flotilla 
as a distinct organization. Received from him, after it 
was written, an unofficial letter communicating a plan 
of offensive operations. Directed him in reply to engage 
in no scheme whereby the gunboats would be detained in 
James River longer than the army absolutely needed them 



92 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 25 

to divert the attention of the Rebels and prevent them 
from sending their whole force against General Pope 
before General McClellan could reach him. The change 
of the plan of operations is a military movement, suggested 
and pushed by Chase and Stanton. It will be a great dis- 
appointment to Wilkes as well as others, but there is no 
remedy. As soon as the gunboats can be released we want 
them elsewhere. They have been locked up in James 
River for two months, when they should have been on 
other duty. McClellan's tardy policy has been unfortun- 
ate for himself and the country. It has strengthened 
the combination against him. Faxon l showed me a letter 
from Admiral Foote which I was sorry to read, evincing 
a petulance that is unworthy of him, and proposing to 
relinquish his bureau appointment, if he cannot control 
the selection of certain clerks. 

August 27, Tuesday. Called on the Attorney-General 
in relation to the appointment of a chaplain, a singular 
case. When the Cumberland was sunk in March last, and a 
considerable portion of her crew, it was supposed the chap- 
lain was lost. This fact brought a large flock of clerical 
gentlemen to Washington for the place. The first who 
reached here was Rev. K. of Germantown, and the Pre- 
sident hi the kindness of his heart wrote a note requesting 
that Mr. K. might, if there was nothing to prevent, have 
the place of the supposed drowned. It was not certain, 
however, that there was a vacancy, we were daily hear- 
ing of escaped victims who were preserved, and duty 
forbade an immediate appointment. Congress, before ad- 
journing, enacted a law that no person should be appointed 
chaplain who was over thirty-five. Mr. K. is forty-eight, 
but, unwilling to relinquish the place, he pressed the Presi- 
dent with his friends and procured from him another letter, 
directing the appointment to be made now, if it was one 
that could have been made then. On bringing this to me, 
1 William Faxon, Chief Clerk of the Navy Department. 



1862] CABAL AGAINST McCLELLAN 83 

I told the reverend gentleman it was in disregard of the 
law, and could not be made in my opinion ; that I must 
at all events see the President before any steps were taken 
and advise him of the facts. 

This I did, and by his request called on the Attorney- 
General. That gentleman, as I expected, requests a written 
application for his opinion. 

Have a letter from Admiral Foote, who has thought a 
second time of his conclusions in his letter to Mr. Faxon, 
expresses regret, and very handsomely apologizes. I had 
expected this; should have been disappointed in the man 
if he had not made it. 

August 31, Sunday. For the last two or three days there 
has been fighting at the front and army movements of 
interest. McClellan with most of his army arrived at Alex- 
andria a week or more ago, but inertness, inactivity, and 
sluggishness seem to prevail. The army officers do not 
engage in this move of the War Department with zeal. 
Some of the troops have gone forward to join Pope, who has 
been beyond Manassas, where he has encountered Stone- 
wall Jackson and the Rebel forces for the last three days 
in a severe struggle. The energy and rapid movements of 
the Rebels are in such striking contrast to those of our own 
officers that I shall not be seriously surprised at any sud- 
den dash from them. The War Department Stanton and 
Halleck are alarmed. By request, and in anticipation 
of the worst, though not expecting it, I have ordered 
Wilkes and a force of fourteen gunboats, including the 
five light-draft asked for by Burnside, to come round into 
the Potomac, and have put W. in command of the flotilla 
here, disbanding the flotilla on the James. 

Yesterday, Saturday, P.M., when about leaving the De- 
partment, Chase called on me with a protest addressed to 
the President, signed by himself and Stanton, against con- 
tinuing McClellan in command and demanding his immedi- 
ate dismissal. Certain grave offenses were enumerated. 



94 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 31 

Chase said that Smith had seen and would sign it in turn, 
but as my name preceded his in order, he desired mine 
to appear in its place. I told him I was not prepared to 
sign the document; that I preferred a different method 
of meeting the question; that if asked by the President, 
and even if not asked, I was prepared to express my opin- 
ion, which, as he knew, had long been averse to McClellan's 
dilatory course, and was much aggravated from what I 
had recently learned at the War Department; that I did 
not choose to denounce McC. for incapacity, or to pro- 
nounce him a traitor, as declared in this paper, but I would 
say, and perhaps it was my duty to say, that I believed 
his removal from command was demanded by public 
sentiment and the best interest of the country. 

Chase said that was not sufficient, that the time had ar- 
rived when the Cabinet must act with energy and prompti- 
tude, for either the Government or McClellan must go 
down. He then proceeded to expose certain acts, some of 
which were partially known to me, and others, more start- 
ling, which were new to me. I said to C. that he and Stanton 
were familiar with facts of which I was ignorant, and there 
might therefore be propriety in then* stating what they 
knew, though in a different way, facts which I could 
not indorse because I had no knowledge of them. I pro- 
posed as a preferable course that there should be a gen- 
eral consultation with the President. He objected to this 
until the document was signed, which, he said, should be 
done at once. 

This method of getting signatures without an inter- 
change of views with those who are associated in council 
was repugnant to my ideas of duty and right. When I 
asked if the Attorney-General and Postmaster-General 
had seen the paper or been consulted, he replied not yet, 
then 1 turn had not come. I informed C. that I should de- 
sire to advise with them in so important a matter ; that I 
was disinclined to sign the paper ; did not like the proceed- 
ing; that I could not, though I wished McClellan removed 




GEORGE B. McCLELLAN 



1862] STANTON ON McCLELLAN 95 

after what I had heard, and should have no hesitation in 
saying so at the proper time and place and in what I con- 
sidered the right way. While we were talking, Blair came 
in. Chase was alarmed, for the paper was in my hand and 
he evidently feared I should address B. on the subject. 
This, after witnessing his agitation, I could not do with- 
out his consent. Blair remained but a few moments; did 
not even take a seat. After he left, I asked Chase if we 
should not call him back and consult him. C. said in great 
haste, "No, not now; it is best he should for the present 
know no thing of it." I took a different view; said that there 
was no one of the Cabinet whom I would sooner consult 
on this subject, that I thought Blair's opinion, especially 
on military matters, he having had a military education, 
very correct. Chase said this was not the time to bring 
him in. After Chase left me, he returned to make a special 
request that I would make no allusion concerning the paper 
to Blair or any one else. 

Met, by invitation, a few friends last evening at Baron 
Gerolt's. 1 My call was early, and, feeling anxious concern- 
ing affairs in front, I soon excused myself to go to the War 
Department for tidings. Found Stanton and Caleb Smith 
alone in the Secretary's room. The conduct of McClellan 
was soon taken up; it had, I inferred, been under discus- 
sion before I came in. 

Stanton began with a statement of his entrance into 
the Cabinet in January last, when he found everything in 
confusion, with unpaid bills on his table to the amount of 
over $20,000,000 against the Department; his inability, 
then or since, to procure any satisfactory information 
from McClellan, who had no plan nor any system. Said 
this vague, indefinite uncertainty was oppressive; that 
near the close of January he pressed this subject on the 
President, who issued the order to him and myself for an 
advance on the 22d of February. McClellan began at once 
to interpose objections, yet did nothing, but talked always 

1 The Prussian Minister. 



96 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 31 

vaguely and indefinitely and of various matters except 
those immediately in hand. The President insisted on, 
and ordered, a forward movement. Then McClellan stated 
he intended a demonstration on the upper waters of the 
Potomac, and boats for a bridge were prepared with great 
labor and expense. He went up there and telegraphed 
back that two or three officers his favorites had done 
admirably in preparing the bridge and he wished them to 
be brevetted. The whole thing was absurd, eventuated 
in nothing, and he was ordered back. 

The President then commanded that the army should 
proceed to Richmond. McClellan delayed, hesitated, said 
he must go by way of the Peninsula, would take transports 
at Annapolis. In order that he should have no excuse, but 
without any faith in his plan, Stanton said he ordered 
transports and supplies to Annapolis. The President, in 
the mean time, urged and pressed a forward movement 
towards Manassas. Spoke of its results, the wooden 
guns, the evacuation by the Rebels, who fled before the 
General came, and he did not pursue them but came back 
to Washington. The transports were then ordered round 
to the Potomac, where the troops were shipped to Fortress 
Monroe. The plans, the number of troops to proceed, the 
number that was to remain, Stanton recounted. These 
arrangements were somewhat deranged by the sudden 
raid of Jackson towards Winchester, which withdrew Banks 
from Manassas, leaving no force between Washington and 
the Rebel army at Gordonsville. He then ordered McDow- 
ell and his division, also Franklin's command, to remain, 
to the great grief of McDowell, who believed glory and 
fighting were all to be with the grand army. McClellan 
had made the withholding of this necessary force to pro- 
tect the seat of government his excuse for not being more 
rapid and effective; was constantly complaining. The 
President wrote him how, by his arrangement, only 18,000 
troops, remnants and odd parcels, were left to protect the 
Capital. Still McClellan was complaining and underrating 



1862] STANTON ON McCLELLAN 97 

his forces; said he had but 96,000, when his own returns 
showed he had 123,000. But, to stop his complaints and 
drive him forward, the President finally, on the 10th of 
June, sent him McCall and his division, with which he 
promised to proceed at once to Richmond, but did not, 
lingered along until finally attacked. McClellan's excuse 
for going by way of the Peninsula was that he might have 
good roads and dry ground, but his complaints were un- 
ceasing, after he got there, of bad roads, water, and swamps. 

When finally ordered, after his blunders and reverses, 
to withdraw from James River, he delayed obeying the 
order for thirteen days, and never did comply until Gen- 
eral Burnside was sent to supersede him if he did not move. 

Since his arrival at Alexandria, Stanton says, only delay 
and embarrassment had governed him. General Halleck 
had, among other things, ordered General Franklin's divi- 
sion to go forward promptly to support Pope at Manassas. 
When Franklin got as far as Annandale he was stopped by 
McClellan, against orders from Headquarters. McClel- 
lan's excuse was he thought Franklin might be in danger 
if he proceeded farther. For twenty-four hours that large 
force remained stationary, hearing the whole time the guns 
of the battle that was raging in front. In consequence of 
this delay by command of McClellan, against specific or- 
ders, he apprehended our army would be compelled to fall 
back. 

Smith left whilst we were conversing after this detailed 
narrative, and Stanton, dropping his voice, though no one 
was present, said he understood from Chase that I de- 
clined to sign the protest which he had drawn up against 
McClellan's continuance in command, and asked if I did 
not think we ought to get rid of him. I told him I might 
not differ with him on that point, especially after what I 
had heard in addition to what I had previously known, 
but that I disliked the method and manner of proceeding, 
that it appeared to me an unwise and injudicious pro- 
ceeding, and was discourteous and disrespectful to the 



98 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 31 

President, were there nothing else. Stanton said, with some 
excitement, he knew of no particular obligations he was 
under to the President, who had called him to a difficult 
position and imposed upon him labors and responsibilities 
which no man could carry, and which were greatly in- 
creased by fastening upon him a commander who was con- 
stantly striving to embarrass him in his administration 
of the Department. He could not and would not submit 
to a continuance of this state of things. I admitted they 
were bad, severe on him, and he could and had stated his 
case strongly, but I could not from facts within my own 
knowledge indorse them, nor did I like the manner in 
which it was proposed to bring about a dismissal. He said 
among other things General Pope telegraphed to McClel- 
lan for supplies; the latter informed P. they were at Alex- 
andria, and if P. would send an escort he could have them. 
A general fighting, on the field of battle, to send to a gen- 
eral in the rear and in repose an escort ! 

Watson, Assistant Secretary of War, repeated to me 
this last fact this morning, and reaffirmed others. He in- 
forms me that my course on a certain occasion had offended 
McClellan and was not approved by others; but that both 
the President and Stanton had since, and now, in their 
private conversation, admitted I was right, and that my 
letter in answer to a curt and improper demand of Mc- 
Clellan last spring was proper and correct. Watson says he 
always told the President and Stanton I was right, and he 
complimented me on several subjects, which, though grati- 
fying, others can speak of and judge better than myself. 

We hear, this Sunday morning, that our army has 
fallen back to Centreville. 1 Pope writes in pretty good 
spirits that we have lost no guns, etc. The Rebels were 
largely reinforced, while our troops, detained at Annan- 
dale by McClellan's orders, did not arrive to support our 
wearied and exhausted men. McClellan telegraphs that he 
hears "Pope is badly cut up." Schenck, who had a wound 
1 After the defeat in the Second Battle of Bull Run. 



1862] NEED OF BETTER GENERALS 99 

in his arm, left the battle-field, bringing with him for com- 
pany an Ohio captain. Both arrived safe at Willard's. 
They met McCall on the other side of Centreville and 
Sumner on this side. Late! late! 

Up to this hour, 1 P.M., Sunday, no specific intelligence 
beyond the general facts above stated. There is consid- 
erable uneasiness in this city, which is mere panic. I see 
no cause for alarm. It is impossible to feel otherwise 
than sorrowful and sad over the waste of life and treasure 
and energies of the nation, the misplaced confidence in 
certain men, the errors of some, perhaps the crimes of 
others, who have been trusted. But my faith in present 
security and of ultimate success is unshaken. We need 
better generals but can have no better army. There is 
much latent disloyal feeling in Washington which should 
be expelled. And oh, there is great want of capacity and 
will among our military leaders. 

I hear that all the churches not heretofore seized are 
now taken for hospital purposes; private dwellings are 
taken to be thus used, among others my next neighbor 
Corcoran's l fine house and grounds. There is malice in this. 
I told General Halleck it was vandalism. He admitted 
it would be wrong. Halleck walked over with me from the 
War Department as far as my house, and is, I perceive, 
quite alarmed for the safety of the city; says that we 
overrate our own strength and underestimate the Rebels' 
a fatal error in Halleck. This has been the talk of 
McClellan, which none of us have believed. 

1 William W. Corcoran, the banker, who among other public benefac- 
tions gave the city of Washington the art gallery which bears his name. 



Ill 

After the Second Battle of Bull Run Another Anti-McClellan Paper 
The Opinion about General Pope Wilkes and McClellan McClel- 
lan's Remarks about South Carolina and Massachusetts The Bicker- 
ings of the Generals The President's Opinion of McClellan and Pope 

Rumors of a Proposed Revolution An Estimate of Halleck 
Panic-stricken New York A Scheme to deport Slaves to Chiriqui 

The "West Point" Policy An Estimate of Stanton Lincoln's 
Deference to Seward The Administration of the Departments The 
Want of a Military Policy Lincoln and Seward How Cabinet- 
Meetings were conducted The Rivalry of Seward and Chase News 
of Antietam Dismissal of Commander Preble The Emancipation 
Proclamation read to the Cabinet Senator John P. Hale Chase's 
Financial Policy Chase's Opinion of Stanton The Chiriqui Scheme 

New York Politics European Efforts to break the Blockade. 

September 1, Monday. The wounded have been com- 
ing in to-day in large numbers. From what I can learn, 
General Pope's estimate of the killed and wounded greatly 
exceeds the actual number. He should, however, be best 
informed, but he feels distressed and depressed and is 
greatly given to exaggeration. 

Chase tells me that McClellan sends word that there 
are twenty thousand stragglers on the road between Alex- 
andria and Centreville, which C. says is infamously false 
and sent out for infamous purposes. He called on me to- 
day with a more carefully prepared, and less exceptionable, 
address to the President, stating the signers did not deem 
it safe that McClellan should be intrusted with an army, 
etc., and that, if required, the signers would give their rea- 
sons for the protest against continuing him in command. 
This paper was in the handwriting of Attorney-General 
Bates. The former was in Stanton's. This was signed by 
Stanton, Chase, Smith, and Bates. A space was left be- 
tween the two last for Blair and myself; Seward is not in 
town, and, if I am not mistaken, is purposely absent to be 



1862] ANOTHER ANTI-McCLELLAN PAPER 101 

relieved from participation in this movement, which origin- 
ates with Stanton, who is mad perhaps with reason 
and determined to destroy McClellan. Seward and Stanton 
act in concert, but Seward has opposed or declined being 
a party to the removal of McClellan, until since Halleck 
was brought here, when Stanton became more fierce and 
determined. Seward then gave way and went away. Chase, 
who has become hostile to McClellan, is credulous, and 
sometimes the victim of intrigue; was taken into Stanton's 
confidence, made to believe that the opportunity of Sew- 
ard's absence should be improved to shake off McClel- 
lan, whom they both disliked, by a combined Cabinet 
movement to control the President, who, until recently, 
has clung to that officer. It was not difficult, under the 
prevailing feeling of indignation against McClellan, to en- 
list Smith. I am a little surprised that they got Mr. Bates, 
though he has for some tune openly urged the removal of 
McClellan. Chase took upon himself to get my name, and 
then, if possible, Blair was to be brought in. In all this, 
Chase flatters himself that he is attaching Stanton to his 
interest ; not but that he is himself sincere in his opposition 
to McClellan, who was once his favorite, but whom he 
considers a deserter from his faction and whom he now 
detests. 

I told Chase I thought this paper an improvement on 
the document of Saturday; was less exceptionable; but I 
did not like, and could not unite in, the movement; that 
in a conference with the President I should have no hesi- 
tation in saying or agreeing mainly in what was there ex- 
pressed; for I am satisfied the earnest men of the country 
would not be willing McClellan should hereafter have com- 
mand of our forces in the field, though I could not say what 
is the feeling of the soldiers. Reflection had more fully 
satisfied me that this method of conspiring to influence 
or control the President was repugnant to my feelings and 
was not right; it was unusual, would be disrespectful, and 
would justly be deemed offensive; that the President had 



102 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 1 

called us around him as friends and advisers, with whom 
he might counsel and consult on all matters affecting the 
public welfare, not to enter into combinations to control 
him. Nothing of this kind had hitherto taken place in our 
intercourse. That we had not been sufficiently intimate, 
impressive, or formal perhaps, and perhaps not sufficiently 
explicit and decisive in expressing our views on some 
subjects. 

Chase disclaimed any movement against the President 
and thought the manner was respectful and correct. Said 
it was designed to tell the President that the Administra- 
tion must be broken up, or McC. dismissed. The course 
he said was unusual, but the case was unusual. We had, it 
was true, been too informal in our meeting. I had, he said, 
been too reserved in the expression of my views, which he 
did me the compliment to say were sound, etc. Conversa- 
tions, he said, amounted to but little with the President on 
subjects of this importance. Argument was useless. It 
was like throwing water on a duck's back. A more decisive 
expression must be made and that in writing. 

It was evident there was a fixed determination to re- 
move, and if possible to disgrace, McClellan. Chase frankly 
stated he desired it, that he deliberately believed McClel- 
lan ought to be shot, and should, were he President, be 
brought to summary punishment. I told him he was aware 
my faith in McClellan's energy and reliability was shaken 
nine months ago ; that as early as last December I had, as 
he would recollect, expressed my disappointment in the 
man and stated to him specially, as the friend and in- 
dorser of McClellan, my misgivings, in order that he might 
remove my doubts or confirm them. McClellan's hesitat- 
ing course last fall, his indifference and neglect of my 
many applications to cooperate with the Navy, his failure 
in many instances to fulfill his promises, when the Rebels 
were erecting batteries on the west bank of the Potomac, 
that they might close the navigation of the river, had 
shaken my confidence in his efficiency and reliability, for 



1862] ANOTHER ANTI-McCLELLAN PAPER 103 

he was not deficient in sagacity or intelligence. But at 
that time McClellan was a general favorite, and neither 
he (Chase) nor any one heeded my doubts and appre- 
hensions. 

A few weeks after the navigation of the river was first 
interrupted by the Rebel batteries last November, I made 
known to the President and Cabinet how I had been put 
off by General McClellan with broken promises and frivol- 
ous and unsatisfactory answers, until I ceased convers- 
ing with him on the subject. To me it seemed he had no 
plan or policy of his own, or any realizing sense of the true 
condition of affairs, the Rebels in sight of us, almost 
within cannon-range, Washington beleaguered, only a sin- 
gle railroad track to Baltimore, the Potomac about to be 
closed. He was occupied with reviews and dress-parades, 
perhaps with drills and discipline, but was regardless of 
the necessities of the case, the political aspect of the 
question, the effect of the closing of the only avenue from 
the National Capital to the ocean, and the embarrassment 
which would follow to the Government itself were the 
river blockaded. Though deprecating his course and call- 
ing his attention to it, I did not think, as Chase now says 
he does, and as I hear others say they do, that he was im- 
becile, a coward, a traitor; but it was notorious that he 
hesitated, doubted, had not self-reliance, any definite and 
determined plan, or audacity to act. He was wanting, in 
my opinion, in several of the essential requisites of a gen- 
eral in chief command; in short, he^was not a fighting 
general. These are my present convictions. 13o~ine state^ 
ments of Stanton and some recent acts indicate failings, 
delinquencies of a more serious character. The country 
is greatly incensed against him, but he has the confidence 
of the army, I think. 

Chase was disappointed, and I think a little chagrined, 
because I would not unite in the written demand to the 
President. He said he had not yet asked Blair and did not 
propose to till the others had been consulted. This does 



104 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 1 

not look well. It appears as if there was a combination by 
two to get their associates committed, seriatim, in detail, 
by a skillful ex parte movement without general consulta- 
tion. 

McClellan was first invited to Washington under the 
auspices of Chase, more than of any one else, though 
all approved, for Scott was old, infirm, and changeable. 
Seward soon had greater intimacy with McClellan than 
Chase. Blair, informed in regard to the qualities of army 
officers, acquiesced in McClellan's selection ; thought him 
intelligent and capable, but dilatory. In the winter, when 
Chase began to get alienated from McC. in consequence 
of his hesitancy and reticence, or both, if not because of 
greater intimacy with Seward, Blah- seemed to confide 
more in the General, yet I do not think McC. was a favor- 
ite, or that he grew in favor. 

September 2, Tuesday. At Cabinet-meeting all but 
Seward were present. I think there was design in his 
absence. It was stated that Pope, without consultation 
or advice, was falling back, intending to retreat within the 
Washington intrenchments. No one seems to have had 
any knowledge of his movements, or plans, if he had any. 
Those who have favored Pope are disturbed and disap- 
pointed. Blair, who has known him intimately, says he is 
a braggart and a liar, with some courage, perhaps, but not 
much capacity. The general conviction is that he is a fail- 
ure here, and there is a belief and admission on all hands 
that he has not been seconded and sustained as he should 
have been by McClellan, Franklin, Fitz John Porter, and 
perhaps some others. Personal jealousies and professional 
rivalries, the bane and curse of all armies, have entered 
deeply into ours. 

Stanton said, hi a suppressed voice, trembling with 
excitement, he was informed McClellan had been ordered 
to take command of the forces in Washington. General 
surprise was expressed. When the President came in and 



1862] THE OPINION OF POPE 105 

heard the subject-matter of our conversation, he said 
he had done what seemed to him best and would be re- 
sponsible for what he had done to the country. Halleck 
had agreed to it. McClellan knows this whole ground; his 
specialty is to defend; he is a good engineer, all admit; 
there is no better organizer ; he can be trusted to act on the 
defensive; but he is troubled with the " slows" and good 
for nothing for an onward movement. Much was said. 
There was a more disturbed and desponding feeling than 
I have ever witnessed in council; the President was greatly 
distressed. There was a general conversation as regarded 
the infirmities of McClellan, but it was claimed, by Blair 
and the President, he had beyond any officer the confidence 
of the army. Though deficient in the positive qualities 
which are necessary for an energetic commander, his or- 
ganizing powers could be made temporarily available till 
the troops were rallied. 

These, the President said, were General Halleck's views, 
as well as his own, and some who were dissatisfied with his 
action, and had thought H. was the man for General-in- 
Chief, felt that there was nothing to do but to acquiesce, 
yet Chase earnestly and emphatically stated his convic- 
tion that it would prove a national calamity. 

Pope himself had great influence in bringing Halleck 
here, and the two, with Stanton and Chase, got possession 
of McC.'s army and withdrew it from before Richmond. It 
has been an unfortunate movement. Pope is denounced 
as a braggart, unequal to the position assigned him. 

Stanton and Halleck are apprehensive that Washington 
is in danger. Am sorry to see this fear, for I do not believe 
it among remote possibilities. Undoubtedly, after the 
orders of Pope to fall back, and the discontent and con- 
tentions of the generals, there will be serious trouble, but 
not such as to endanger the Capital. The military believe 
a great and decisive battle is to be fought in front of the 
city, but I do not anticipate it. It may be that, retreating 
within the intrenchments, our own generals and managers 



106 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 2 

have inspired the Rebels to be more daring; perhaps they 
may venture to cross the upper Potomac and strike at 
Baltimore, our railroad communication, or both ; but they 
will not venture to come here, where we are prepared and 
fortified with both army and navy to meet them. 

In a conversation with Commodore Wilkes, who came 
up yesterday from Norfolk to take command of the Poto- 
mac Flotilla, consisting now of twenty-five vessels, he took 
occasion to express his high appreciation of McClellan as 
an officer. This can be accounted for in more ways than 
one. The two have been associated together in a severe 
disappointment, and persuade themselves they should 
have accomplished something important if they had not 
been interrupted. I have no doubt Wilkes, who has au- 
dacity, would have dashed on, and perhaps have compelled 
McClellan to do so, but with what prudence and discretion 
I am not assured. They both believe they would have 
taken Richmond. I apprehend they would have disagreed 
before getting there, even if McClellan could have been 
brought to the attempt. An adverse result has made them 
friends in belief, and they condemn the decision which led 
to their recall. I had no part hi that decision. Probably 
should not have advised the order had I been consulted, 
although it may have been the proper military step. But 
whether recalled or not, McC. would never have struck 
a blow for Richmond, even under the impulsive urging of 
Wilkes, who is often inconsiderate; and so strife would have 
arisen between them. 

Wilkes says they would have captured Richmond on the 
1st inst., had there been no recall. His last letter to me, 
about the 27th, said they would have made an attempt by 
the 12th if let alone. I have no doubt that, could he have 
had the cooperation of the army, Wilkes would have struck 
a blow; perhaps he would alone. 

September 3, Wednesday. Washington is full of exciting, 
vague, and absurd rumors. There is some cause for it. Our 



1862] BITTER REMARK OF McCLELLAN'S 107 

great army comes retreating to the banks of the Potomac, 
driven back to the intrenchments by Rebels. 

The army has no head. Halleck is here in the Depart- 
ment, a military director, not a general, a man of some 
scholastic attainments, but without soldierly capacity. 
McClellan is an intelligent engineer and officer, but not 
a commander to head a great army in the field. To attack 
or advance with energy and power is not in him; to fight is 
not his forte. I sometimes fear his heart is not earnest in 
the cause, yet I do not entertain the thought that he is 
unfaithful. The study of military operations interests and 
amuses him. It flatters him to have on his staff French 
princes and men of wealth and position; he likes show, 
parade, and power. Wishes to outgeneral the Rebels, but 
not to kill and destroy them. In a conversation which I had 
with him in May last at Cumberland on the Pamunkey, 
he said he desired of all things to capture Charleston; he 
would demolish and annihilate the city. He detested, he 
said, both South Carolina and Massachusetts, and should 
rejoice to see both States extinguished. Both were and al- 
ways had been ultra and mischievous, and he could not tell 
which he hated most. These were the remarks of the Gen- 
eral-in-Chief at the head of our armies then in the field, and 
when as large a proportion of his troops were from Massa- 
chusetts as from any State in the Union, while as large a 
proportion of those opposed, who were fighting the Union, 
were from South Carolina as from any State. He was lead- 
ing the men of Massachusetts against the men of South 
Carolina, yet he, the General, detests them alike. 

I cannot relieve my mind from the belief that to him, hi 
a great degree, and to his example, influence, and conduct 
are to be attributed some portion of our late reverses, more 
than to any other person on either side. His reluctance to 
move or have others move, his inactivity, his detention of 
Franklin, his omission to send forward supplies unless Pope 
would send a cavalry escort from the battle-field, and the 
tone of his conversation and dispatches, all show a moody 



108 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 3 

state of feeling. The slight upon him and the generals asso- 
ciated with him, in the selection of Pope, was injudicious, 
impolitic, wrong perhaps, but is no justification for their 
withholding one tithe of strength in a great emergency, 
where the lives of their countrymen and the welfare of the 
country were in danger. The soldiers whom McClellan has 
commanded are doubtless attached to him. They have been 
trained to it, and he has kindly cared for them while under 
him. With partiality for him thay have imbibed his pre- 
judices, and some of the officers have, I fear, a spirit more 
factious and personal than patriotic. I have thought they 
might have reason to complain, at the proper time and 
place, but not on the field of battle, that a young officer 
of no high reputation should be brought from a Western 
Department and placed over them. Stanton, in his hate 
of McC., has aggrieved other officers. 

The introduction of Pope here, followed by Halleck, is an 
intrigue of Stanton's and Chase's to get rid of McClellan. 
A part of this intrigue has been the withdrawal of McClel- 
lan and the Army of the Potomac from before Richmond 
and turning it into the Army of Washington under Pope. 

Chase, who made himself as busy in the management of 
the army as the Treasury, said to the President one day in 
my presence, when we were looking over the maps on the 
table in the War Department, that the whole movement 
upon Richmond by the York River was wrong, that we 
should accomplish nothing until the army was recalled and 
Washington was made the base of operations for an over- 
land march. McClellan had all the troops with him, and 
the Capital was exposed to any sudden blow from the 
Rebels. "What would you do?" said the President. 
" Order McClellan to return and start right," replied Chase, 
putting his finger on the map, and pointing the course to be 
taken across the country. Pope, who was present, said, 
"If Halleck were here, you would have, Mr. President, 
a competent adviser who would put this matter right." 

The President, without consulting any one, went about 



1862] HALLECK'S CALL TO WASHINGTON 109 

this time on a hasty visit to West Point, where he had 
a brief interview with General Scott, and immediately 
returned. A few days thereafter General Halleck was 
detached from the Western Department and ordered to 
Washington, where he was placed in position as General- 
in-Chief, and McClellan and the Army of the Potomac, on 
Halleck's recommendation, first proposed by Chase, were 
recalled from in the vicinity of Richmond. 

The defeat of Pope and placing McC. in command of the 
retreating and disorganized forces after the second disaster 
at Bull Run interrupted the intrigue which had been 
planned for the dismissal of McClellan, and was not only a 
triumph for him but a severe mortification and disappoint- 
ment for both Stanton and Chase. 

September 4, Thursday. City full of rumors and but little 
truth in any of them. 

Wilkes laid before me his plan for organizing the Poto- 
mac Flotilla. It is systematic and exhibits capacity. 

Something energetic must be done in regard to the 
suspected privateers which, with the connivance of British 
authorities, are being sent out to depredate on our com- 
merce. We hear that our new steamer, the Adirondack, is 
wrecked. She had been sent to watch the Bahama Channel. 
Her loss, the discharge of the Oreto by the courts of Nas- 
sau, and the arrival of Steamer 290, * both piratical British 
wolves, demand attention, although we have no vessels to 
spare from the blockade. Must organize a flying squadron, 
as has been suggested, and put Wilkes in command. Both 
the President and Seward request he should go on this 
service. 

k When with the President this A.M., heard Pope read his 
statement of what had taken place in Virginia during the 
last few weeks, commencing at or before the battle of Cedar 
Mountain. It was not exactly a bulletin nor a report, but 
a manifesto, a narrative, tinged with wounded pride and 
1 The cruiser Alabama. 



110 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 4 

a keen sense of injustice and wrong. The draft, he said, was 
rough. It certainly needs modifying before it goes out, or 
there will be war among the generals, who are now more 
ready to fight each other than the enemy. No one was 
present but the President, Pope, and myself. I remained 
by special request of both to hear the report read. Seward 
came in for a moment, but immediately left. He shuns these 
controversies and all subjects where he is liable to become 
personally involved. I have no doubt Stanton and Chase 
have seen the paper, and Seward, through Stanton, knows 
its character. 

Pope and I left together and walked to the Departments. 
He declares all his misfortunes are owing to the persistent 
determination of McClellan, Franklin, and Porter, aided 
by Ricketts, Griffin, and some others who were prede- 
termined he should not be successful. They preferred, 
he said, that the country should be ruined rather than he 
should triumph. 

September 5, Friday. We have a report this morning 
that the Rebels have crossed the Potomac at Edwards 
Ferry, but the War Department says the report wants 
confirmation and that we have no stragglers from there, as 
we should have if the rumors were true. 

Wilkes claims that he ought to have the position of Act- 
ing Admiral. There is reason in his claim, though some are 
opposed to it. He is not in favor with his professional 
brethren, has given great trouble and annoyance to the 
Department heretofore and will be likely to give us more 
trouble, but I believe it best to give him under the circum- 
stances the position with the squadron. 

The question of publishing the report of General Pope 
was before us. Some little discussion took place. I did not 
consider it strictly a report, for it was not accompanied by 
the reports of the other officers, or any statistics of killed, 
wounded, losses, or captures, but a statement from an 



1862] THE ARMY FOR McCLELLAN 111 

officer in command, who felt himself aggrieved and who 
expressed himself in a manner to give offense. Much was 
said, and all concurred or acquiesced in non-publication for 
the present, especially as there is to be an inquiry into the 
subject-matter reported upon. 

There is a good deal of demoralization in the army; 
officers and soldiers are infected. 

September 6, Saturday. We have information that the 
Rebels have crossed the Potomac in considerable force, 
with a view of invading Maryland and pushing on into 
Pennsylvania. The War Department is bewildered, knows 
but little, does nothing, proposes nothing. 

Our army is passing north. This evening some twenty 
or thirty thousand passed my house within three hours. 
There was design in having them come up from Pennsyl- 
vania Avenue to H Street, and pass by McClellan's house, 
which is at the corner of H and 15th. They cheered the 
General lustily, instead of passing by the White House and 
honoring the President. 

Have unpleasant information concerning privateers, 
which are getting abroad by connivance of the British au- 
thorities. Am trying to get Wilkes off as speedily as possi- 
ble. Wrote out his orders and instructions this evening to 
cruise with a squadron in the Bahamas and West Indies for 
certain vessels of no recognized nationality that were pre- 
paring to prey on our commerce. Will get them copied and 
in his hands on Monday. As an additional hint, told him 
to-day I wished he could get off on Monday. 

McClellan and his partisans have ascendency in the 
army, but he has lost ground in the confidence of the coun- 
try, chiefly from delays, or what the President aptly terms 
the "slows." 

September 7. The report prevalent yesterday that the 
Rebels had crossed the upper Potomac at or near the Point 
of Rocks is confirmed, and it is pretty authentic that large 
reinforcements have since been added. 



112 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 7 

Found Chase in Secretary's room at the War Depart- 
ment with D. D. Field. No others present. Some talk 
about naval matters. Field censorious and uncomfortable. 
General Pope soon came in but stayed only a moment. 
Was angry and vehement. He and Chase had a brief con- 
versation apart, when he returned to Stanton's room. 

When I started to come away, Chase followed, and after 
we came down stairs asked me to walk with him to the 
President's. As we crossed the lawn, he said with emotion 
everything was going wrong. He feared the country was 
ruined. McClellan was having everything his own way, as 
he (Chase) anticipated he would if decisive measures were 
not promptly taken for his dismissal. It was a reward for 
perfidy. My refusal to sign the paper he had prepared was 
fraught with great evil to the country. I replied that I 
viewed that matter differently. My estimate of McClellan 
was in some respects different from his. I agreed he wanted 
decision, that he hesitated to strike, had also behaved 
badly in the late trouble, but I did not believe he was un- 
faithful and destitute of patriotism. But aside from Mc- 
Clellan, and the fact that it would, with the feeling which 
pervaded the army, have been an impolitic step to dismiss 
him, the proposed combination in the Cabinet would have 
been inexcusably wrong to the President. We had seen the 
view which the President took of the matter and how he 
felt at the meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday. 

From what I have seen and heard within the last few 
days, the more highly do I appreciate the President's judg- 
ment and sagacity in the stand he made, and the course he 
took. Stanton has carried his dislike or hatred of McC. to 
great lengths, and from free intercourse with Chase has 
enlisted him, and to some extent influenced all of us against 
that officer, who has failings enough of his own to bear with- 
out the addition of Stanton's enmity to his own infirm- 
ities. Seward, in whom McC. has confided more than any 
member of the Administration, from the common belief 
that Seward was supreme, yielded to Stanton's malignant 



1862] THE PRESIDENT'S COURSE 113 

feelings, and yet, not willing to encounter that officer, he 
went off to Auburn, expecting the General would be dis- 
posed of whilst he was away. The President, who, like the 
rest of us, has seen and felt McClellan's deficiencies and 
has heard Stanton's and Halleck's complaints more than 
we have, finally, and I think not unwillingly, consented to 
bring Pope here in front of Washington; was also further 
persuaded by Stanton and Chase to recall the army from 
Richmond and turn the troops over to Pope. Most of this 
originated, and has been matured, in the War Depart- 
ment, Stanton and Chase being the pioneers, Halleck as- 
senting, the President and Seward under stress of McClel- 
lan's disease "the slows," and with the reverses before 
Richmond, falling in with the idea that a change of com- 
manders and a change of base was necessary. The recall of 
the army from the vicinity of Richmond I thought wrong, 
and I know it was in opposition to the opinion of some of 
the best military men in the service. Placing Pope over 
them roused the indignation of many. But in this Stanton 
had a purpose to accomplish, and in bringing first Pope 
here, then by Pope's assistance and General Scott's advice 
bringing Halleck, and concerting measures which followed, 
he succeeded in breaking down and displacing McClellan, 
but not in dismissing and disgracing him. This the Pre- 
sident would not do or permit to be done, though he was 
more offended with McC. than he ever was before. In a 
brief conversation with him as we were walking together on 
Friday, the President said with much emphasis: "I must 
have McClellan to reorganize the army and bring it out of 
chaos, but there has been a design, a purpose in breaking 
down Pope, without regard of consequences to the country. 
It is shocking to see and know this; but there is no remedy 
at present, McClellan has the army with him." 

My convictions are with the President that McClellan 
and his generals are this day stronger than the Administra- 
tion with a considerable portion of this Army of the Poto- 
mac. It is not so elsewhere with the soldiers, or in the 



114 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 7 

country, where McClellan has lost favor. The people are 
disappointed in him, but his leading generals have con- 
trived to strengthen him in the hearts of the soldiers in 
front of Washington. 

Chase and myself found the President alone this Sunday 
morning. We canvassed fully the condition of the army 
and country. Chase took an early opportunity, since the 
report of Pope was suppressed, to urge upon the President 
the propriety of some announcement of the facts connected 
with the recent battles. It was, he said, due to the country 
and also to Pope and McDowell. I at once comprehended 
why Chase had invited me to accompany him in this visit. 
It was that it might appear that we were united on this 
mission. I therefore promptly stated that this was the first 
time I had heard the subject broached. At a proper time, 
it seemed to me, there would be propriety in presenting a 
fair, unprejudiced, and truthful statement of late disasters. 
The country craved to know the facts, but the question 
was, Could we just now with prudence give them? Dis- 
closing might lead to discord and impair the efficiency of 
the officers. The President spoke favorably of Pope, and 
thought he would have something prepared for publication 
by Halleck. 

When taking a walk this Sunday evening with my son 
Edgar, we met on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the junction 
of H Street, what I thought at first sight a squad of cav- 
alry or mounted men, some twenty or thirty in number. 
I remarked as they approached that they seemed better 
mounted than usual, but E. said the cavalcade was General 
McClellan and his staff. I raised my hand to salute him as 
they were dashing past, but the General, recognizing us, 
halted the troop and rode up to me by the sidewalk, to 
shake hands, he said, and bid me farewell. I asked which 
way. He said he was proceeding to take command of the 
onward movement. "Then," I added, "you go up the 
river." He said yes, he had just started to take charge of 
the army and of the operations above. "Well," said I, 



1862] A FORWARD MOVEMENT 115 

" on ward, General, is now the word; the country will ex- 
pect you to go forward." "That," he answered, "is my 
intention." "Success to you, then, General, with all my 
heart." With a mutual farewell we parted. 

This was our first meeting since we parted at Cumber- 
land on the Pamunkey in June, for we each had been so 
occupied during the three or four days he had been in 
Washington that we had made no calls. On several occa- 
sions we missed each other. In fact, I had no particular 
desire to fall in with any of the officers who had contributed 
to the disasters that had befallen us, or who had in any 
respect failed to do their whole duty in this great crisis. 
While McClellan may have had some cause to be offended 
with Pope, he has no right to permit his personal resent- 
ments to inflict injury upon the country. I may do him 
injustice, but I think his management has been generally 
unfortunate, to say the least, and culpably wrong since his 
return from the Peninsula. 

He has now been placed in a position where he may re- 
trieve himself, and return to Washington a victor in tri- 
umph, or he may, as he has from the beginning, wilt away 
in tame delays and criminal inaction. I would not have 
given him the command, nor have advised it, strong as he is 
with the army, had I been consulted; and I feel sad that he 
has been so intrusted. It may, however, be for the best. 
There are difficulties in the matter that can scarcely be ap- 
preciated by those who do not know all the circumstances. 
The army is, I fear, much demoralized, and its demoraliza- 
tion is much of it to be attributed to the officers whose 
highest duty it is to prevent it. To have placed any other 
general than McClellan, or one of his circle, in command 
would be to risk disaster. It is painful to entertain the 
idea that the country is hi the hands of such men. I hope 
I mistake them. 

September 8, Monday. Less sensation and fewer rumors 
than we have had for several days. 



116 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 8 

The President called on me to know what we had authen- 
tic of the destruction of the Rebel steamer in Savannah 
River. He expressed himself very decidedly concerning the 
management or mismanagement of the army. Said, "We 
had the enemy in the hollow of our hands on Friday, if our 
generals, who are vexed with Pope, had done their duty; all 
of our present difficulties and reverses have been brought 
upon us by these quarrels of the generals." These were, I 
think, his very words. While we were conversing, Collector 
Barney of New York came in. The President said, perhaps 
before B. came, that Halleck had turned to McClellan and 
advised that he should command the troops against the 
Maryland invasion. "I could not have done it," said he, 
"for I can never feel confident that he will do anything 
effectual." He went on, freely commenting and repeating 
some things said before B. joined us. Of Pope he spoke in 
complimentary terms as brave, patriotic, and as having 
done his duty in every respect in Virginia, to the entire 
satisfaction of himself and Halleck, who . both knew and 
watched, day and night, every movement. On only one 
point had Halleck doubted any order P. had given; that 
was in directing one division, I think Heintzelman's, to 
march for the Chain Bridge, by which the flanks of that 
division were exposed. When that order reached him by 
telegraph, Halleck was uneasy, for he could not counter- 
mand it in season, because the dispatch would have to go 
part of the way by courier. However, all went off without 
disaster; the division was not attacked. Pope, said the 
President, did well, but there was here an army prejudice 
against him, and it was necessary he should leave. He had 
gone off very angry, and not without cause, but circum- 
stances controlled us. 

Barney said he had mingled with all descriptions of per- 
sons, and particularly with men connected with the army, 
and perhaps could speak from actual knowledge of public 
sentiment better than either of us. He was positive that no 
one but McClellan could do anything just now with this 



1862] DISCUSSION OF THE GENERALS 117 

army. He had managed to get its confidence, and he 
meant to keep it, and use it for his own purposes. Barney 
proceeded to disclose a conversation he had with Barlow 
some months since. Barlow, a prominent Democratic 
lawyer and politician of New York, had been to Washing- 
ton to attend one of McClellan's grand reviews when he lay 
here inactive on the Potomac. McClellan had specially 
invited Barlow to be present, and during this visit opened 
his mind, said he did not wish the Presidency, would 
rather have his place at the head of the army, etc., etc., 
intimating he had no political views or aspirations. All 
with him was military, and he had no particular desire to 
close this war immediately, but would pursue a line of 
policy of his own, regardless of the Administration, its 
wishes and objects. 

The combination against Pope was, Barney says, part of 
the plan carried out, and the worst feature to him was the 
great demoralization of his soldiers. They were becoming 
reckless and untamable. In these remarks the President 
concurred, and said he was shocked to find that of 140,000 
whom we were paying for in Pope's army only 60,000 could 
be found. McClellan brought away 93,000 from the Penin- 
sula, but could not to-day count on over 45,000. As re- 
garded demoralization, the President said, there was no 
doubt that some of our men permitted themselves to be 
captured in order that they might leave on parole, get dis- 
charged, and go home. Where there is such rottenness, is 
there not reason to fear for the country? 

Barney further remarked that some very reliable men 
were becoming discouraged, and instanced Cassius M. Clay, 
who was advocating an armistice and terms of separation 
or of compromise with the Rebels. The President doubted 
if Clay had been rightly understood, for he had had a full 
and free talk with him, when he said had we been success- 
ful we could have had it in our power to offer terms. 

In a conversation this morning with Chase, he said it 
was a doubtful matter whether my declining to sign the 



118 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 8 

paper against McClellan was productive of good or harm. 
If I had done it, he said, McClellan would have been dis- 
posed of and not now hi command, but the condition of the 
army was such under his long manipulation that it might 
have been hazardous at this juncture to have dismissed 
him. I assured him I had seen no moment yet when I re- 
gretted my decision, and my opinion of McClellan had 
undergone no change. He has military acquirements and 
capacity, dash, but has not audacity, lacks decision, de- 
lays, hesitates, vacillates; will, I fear, persist in delays and 
inaction and do nothing affirmative. His conduct during 
late events aggravates his indecision and is wholly unjusti- 
fiable and inexcusable. 

But I will not prophesy what he will do in his present 
command. He has a great opportunity, and I hope and 
pray he may improve it. The President says truly he has 
the " slows," but he can gather the army together better 
than any other man. Let us give him credit when he de- 
serves it. 

September 10, Wednesday. Colonel Marston of New 
Hampshire, who has been with the Army of the Potomac 
for a year, called on me to-day. Says he has no confidence 
in McClellan as a general; thinks him neither brave nor 
capable; expresses distrust of the integrity and patriotism 
of other generals also. Marston is not a brilliant or great 
man, nor perhaps a very competent military critic to judge 
of the higher qualifications of his superiors; but he is polit- 
ically patriotic, and gives the opinion of others with whom 
he associates as well as his own. 

Senator Wilson, who is by nature suspicious and sensa- 
tional, tells me there is a conspiracy on foot among certain 
generals for a revolution and the establishment of a pro- 
visional national government. Has obtained important 
information from one of McC.'s staff. Wilson is doubtless 
sincere in all this, but, being on the military committee, is 
influenced by Stanton, who is mad with the army and 



1862] RUMORS OF REVOLUTION 119 

officers who stand by McClellan. There may have been 
random talk and speculation among military men when 
idle in camp, but there is nothing serious or intentional in 
then- loose remarks. They and the soldiers are citizens. 
The government and country is theirs as well as ours. 

Secretary Smith says he has heard of these movements. 
Imputes misfortune and mismanagement to one (Seward) 
who has the ear of the President and misadvises and mis- 
leads him. 

H. H. Elliott, Chairman of the Prize Commission in New 
York, writes me that the public mind there is highly ex- 
cited and on the eve of revolution. There is, undoubtedly, 
a bad state of things in New York, and he is surrounded by 
that class of Democratic partisans whose sympathies and 
associations were with the Rebels, and who are still party 
opponents of the Administration. 

There are muttering denunciations on every side, and if 
McClellan fails to whip the Rebels hi Maryland, the wrath 
and indignation against him and the Administration will 
be great and unrestrained. If he succeeds, there will be 
instant relief, and a willing disposition to excuse alleged 
errors which ought to be investigated. 

General Halleck is nominally General-in-Chief and dis- 
charging many of the important functions of the War De- 
partment. I have as yet no intimacy with him and have 
seen but little of him. He has a scholarly intellect and, 
I suppose, some military acquirements, but his mind is 
heavy and irresolute. It appears to me he does not possess 
originality and that he has little real military talent. What 
he has is educational. He is here, and came from the West, 
the friend of Pope, and is in some degree indebted to Pope 
for his position. Both were introduced here by an intrigue 
of the War and Treasury with the design of ultimately 
displacing McClellan, to whom the President has adhered 
with tenacity, and from whom Stanton alone and un- 
assisted could not alienate him. The President was 
distressed by McClellan's tardy movements and failure 



120 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 10 

before Richmond, but did not understand the object which 
the Secretary of War, seconded by Chase, had in view, nor 
perhaps did either of the two generals, Pope and Halleck, 
whose capabilities were wonderfully magnified by Stanton, 
when ordered here. Pope is a connection of Mrs. Lincoln 
and was somewhat intimate with the President, with 
whom he came to Washington hi 1861. There were some 
wonderful military operations on the Mississippi and at 
Corinth reported of him just before he was ordered here, 
and which led to it, that have not somehow been fully sub- 
stantiated. Admiral Foote used to laugh at the gasconade 
and bluster of Pope. Halleck, Foote insisted, was a mili- 
tary imbecile, though he might make a good clerk. Pope 
was first brought here, and soon began to second Stanton 
by sounding the praises of Halleck. On one or two occa- 
sions I heard him express his admiration of the extraor- 
dinary capacity of Halleck and his wish that H. could be on 
this field, where his great abilities would comprehend and 
successfully direct military operations. Stanton would on 
these occasions back Pope so far as to hope there could be 
some change. The President listened, was influenced, and 
finally went to West Point and saw General Scott. Chase 
had in the mean time abandoned McClellan, and I well 
remember the vehement earnestness with which, on one 
occasion when we were examining the maps and criticizing 
operations before Richmond, he maintained with emphasis 
we had begun wrong, and could have no success until the 
army was brought back here, and we started from this 
point to reach the James River. 

How far Halleck was assenting to or committed to 
Stanton's implacable hostility to McClellan, or whether he 
was aware of its extent before he came here, I cannot say. 
Shortly after he arrived I saw that he partook of the views 
of Stanton and Chase. By direction of the President he 
visited the army on the James and became a partner to the 
scheme for the recall of the troops. This recall or with- 
drawal he pronounced one of the most difficult things to 




HENRY W. HALLECK 



1862] AN ESTIMATE OF HALLECK 121 

achieve successfully that an accomplished commander 
could execute. The movement was effected successfully, 
but I did not perceive that the country was indebted to 
General Halleck in the least for that success. The whole 
thing at Headquarters was slovenly managed. I know that 
the Navy, which was in the James River cooperating with 
the army, was utterly neglected by Halleck. Stanton, 
when I made inquiry, said the order to bring back the 
army was not his, and he was not responsible for that neg- 
lect. I first learned of the order recalling the army, not 
from the General-in-Chief or the War Department, but 
from Wilkes, who was left upon the upper waters of the 
James without orders and a cooperating army. When I 
called on Halleck, with Wilkes's letter, he seemed stupid, 
said there was no further use for the Navy, supposed I had 
been advised by the Secretary of War. When I suggested 
that it appeared to me important that the naval force 
should remain, with perhaps a small number of troops to 
menace Richmond, he rubbed his elbow first, as if that was 
the seat of thought, and then his eyes, and said he wished 
the Navy would hold on for a few days to embarrass the 
Rebels, but he had ordered all the troops to return. I 
questioned then, and do now, the wisdom of recalling Mc- 
Clellan and the army; have doubted if H., unprompted, 
would himself have done it. It was a specimen of Chase's 
and Stanton's tactics. They had impressed the President 
with their ideas that a change of base was necessary. The 
President had, at the beginning, questioned the move- 
ment on Richmond by way of the Peninsula, but Blair had 
favored it. 

Pope having been put hi command of the army in front 
of Washington, it was not difficult to reinforce him with 
McClellan's men. Stanton, intriguing against that officer, 
wanted to exclude him from command. Chase seconded 
the scheme, but, fearing the influence of McClellan with 
the President and the other generals and the army, the 
plan of his dismissal at the instigation of the Cabinet was 



122 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 10 

projected. McClellan, by an unwise political letter, when 
his duty was military, weakened himself and strengthened 
his enemies. Events must have convinced him that there 
was an intrigue against him, that he was in disfavor. Per- 
haps he was conscious that he had failed to come up to pub- 
lic expectation and do his whole duty. He certainly com- 
mitted the great error, if not crime, after Halleck's appoint- 
ment and his recall, of remaining supine, inactive, at Alex- 
andria while the great battle was going on in front; and he 
imparted his own disaffected feelings to his subordinates. 

Halleck, destitute of originality, bewildered by the con- 
duct of McClellan and his generals, without military re- 
sources, could devise nothing and knew not what to advise 
or do after Pope's discomfiture. He saw that the dissatis- 
fied generals triumphed in Pope's defeat, that Pope and 
the faction that Stanton controlled against McClellan were 
unequal to the task they were expected to perform, and, 
distrustful of himself , Halleck, without consulting Stanton, 
assented to the President's suggestion of reinstating Mc- 
Clellan in the intrenchments to reorganize the shattered 
forces; and subsequently recommended giving him again 
the command of the consolidated armies of Washington 
and the Potomac. 

The President assured me that this appointment of 
McClellan to command the united forces and the onward 
movement was Halleck's doings. He spoke of it in justi- 
fication of the act. I was sorry he should permit General H. 
to select the commander in such a case if against his own 
judgment. But the same causes which influenced H. prob- 
ably had some effect on the President, and Stanton, disap- 
pointed and vexed, beheld his plans miscarry and felt that 
his resentments were impotent, at least for a tune. 

September 1 1 , Thursday. I find it difficult to hurry Wilkes 
off with his command. The public, especially the com- 
mercial community, are impatient; but Wilkes, like many 
officers, having got position, likes to exhibit himself and 



1862] PANIC-STRICKEN NEW YORK 123 

snuff incense. He assumed great credit for promptness, 
and has sometimes shown it, but not on this occasion. 
Has been fussing about his vessel until I had, to-day, to 
give him a pretty peremptory order. 

Men in New York, men who are sensible in most things, 
are the most easily terrified and panic-stricken of any 
community. They are just now alarmed lest an ironclad 
steamer may rush in upon them some fine morning while 
they are asleep and destroy their city. In their imagin- 
ation, under the teachings of mischievous persons and 
papers, they suppose every Rebel cruiser is ironclad, while 
in fact the Rebels have not one ironclad afloat. It only 
requires a sensation paragraph in the Times to create 
alarm. The Times is controlled by Seward through Thur- 
low Weed, and used through him by Stanton. Whenever 
the army is in trouble and public opinion sets against its 
management, the Times immediately sets up a howl 
against the Navy. 

Senator Pomeroy of Kansas called yesterday in relation 
to a scheme, or job, for deporting slaves and colored people 
to Chiriqui. I cautioned him against committing himself 
or the Government to Thompson, or any corporation or 
association. Let him know my opinion of Thompson's 
project and my opposition to it. Advised him, if anything 
was seriously and earnestly designed, to go to the Govern- 
ment of New Granada or any of the Spanish-American 
States and treat with them direct, and not through schem- 
ing jobbers. Should suspect P. to have a personal interest 
in the matter but for the fact that the President, the 
Blairs, and one or two men of integrity and character 
favor it. 

September 12, Friday. A clever rain last night, which 
I hope may swell the tributaries of the upper Potomac. 

A call from Wilkes, who is disturbed because I press him 
so earnestly. Told him I wished him off as soon as possible ; 
had hoped he would have left before this; Rebel cruisers 



124 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 12 

are about and immense injury might result from a single 
day's delay. I find the officers generally dislike to sail with 
him. 

A brief meeting of the Cabinet. Seward was not present. 
Has met with us but once in several weeks. No cause 
assigned for this constant absence, yet a reluctance to 
discuss and bring to a decision any great question without 
him is apparent. 

In a long and free discussion on the condition of the 
army and military affairs by the President, Blair, Smith, 
and myself, the President repeated what he had before 
said to me, that the selection of McClellan to command 
active operations was not made by him but by Halleck, 
and remarked that the latter was driven to it by necessity. 
He had arranged his army corps and designated the gen- 
erals to lead each column, and called on Burnside to take 
chief command. But Burnside declined and declared him- 
self unequal to the position. Halleck had no other officer 
whom he thought capable and said he consequently was 
left with no alternative but McClellan. 

"The officers and soldiers," the President said, "were 
pleased with the reinstatement of that officer, but I wish 
you to understand it was not made by me. I put McClel- 
lan in command here to defend the city, for he has great 
powers of organization and discipline; he comprehends and 
can arrange military combinations better than any of our 
generals, and there his usefulness ends. He can't go ahead 
he can't strike a blow. He got to Rockville, for instance, 
last Sunday night, and in four days he advanced to 
Middlebrook, ten miles, in pursuit of an invading enemy. 
This was rapid movement for him. When he went up the 
Peninsula there was no reason why he should have been 
detained a single day at Yorktown, but he waited, and gave 
the enemy tune to gather his forces and strengthen his 
position." 

I suggested that this dilatory, defensive policy was 
partly at least the result of education; that a defensive 



1862] THE WEST POINT POLICY 125 

policy was the West Point policy. Our Government was 
not intended to be aggressive but to resist aggression or 
invasion, to repel, not to advance. We had good engin- 
eers and accomplished officers, but that no efficient, ener- 
getic, audacious, fighting commanding general had yet 
appeared from that institution. We were all aware that 
General Scott had, at the very commencement, begun with 
this error of defense, the Anaconda theory; was unwilling 
to invade the seceding States, said we must shut off the 
world from the Rebels by blockade and by OUT defenses. 
He had always been reluctant to enter Virginia or strike 
a blow. Blair said this was so, that we had men of narrow, 
aristocratic notions from West Point, but as yet no gener- 
als to command; that there were many clever second-rate 
men, but no superior mind of the higher class. The dif- 
ficulty, however, was in the War Department itself. There 
was bluster but not competency. It should make generals, 
should search and find them, and bring them up, for there 
were such somewhere, far down perhaps. The War De- 
partment should give character and tone to the army and 
all military movements. Such, said he, is the fact with the 
Navy Department, which makes no bluster, has no blow- 
ers, but quietly and intelligently does its work, inspires its 
officers and men, and brings forward leaders like Farragut, 
Foote, and Du Pont. The result tells you the value of 
system, of rightful discrimination, good sense, judgment, 
knowledge, and study of men. They make ten times the 
noise at the War Department, but see what they do or fail 
to do. The Secretary of War should advise with the best 
and most experienced minds, avail himself of their opinions, 
not give way to narrow prejudices and strive to weaken his 
generals, or impair confidence in them on account of per- 
sonal dislikes. We have officers of capacity, depend upon 
it, and they should be hunted out and brought forward. 
The Secretary should dig up these jewels. That is his duty. 
B. named Sherman and one or two others who showed 
capacity. 



126 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 12 

"McClellan," said B., "is not the man, but he is the best 
among the major-generals." Smith said he should prefer 
Banks. Blair said Banks was no general, had no capacity 
for chief command. Was probably an estimable officer in 
his proper place, under orders. So was Burnside, and 
Heintzelman, and Sykes, but the War Department must 
hunt up greater men, better military minds, than these to 
carry on successful war. 

Smith complimented Pope's patriotism and bravery, and 
the President joined in the encomiums. Said that Halleck 
declared that Pope had made but one mistake in all the 
orders he had given, and that was in ordering one column 
to retreat on Tuesday from Centreville to Chain Bridge, 
whereby he exposed his flank, but no harm came of his 
error. Blair was unwilling to concede any credit whatever 
to Pope; said he was a blower and a liar and ought never to 
have been intrusted with such a command as that in front. 
The President admitted Pope's infirmity, but said a liar 
might be brave and have skill as an officer. He said Pope 
had great cunning. He had published his report, for in- 
stance, which was wrong, an offense for which, if it can 
be traced to him, Pope must be made amenable, " But," 
said he, " it can never, by any skill, be traced to him." 
"That is the man," said Blair. "Old John Pope, 1 his father, 
was a flatterer, a deceiver, a liar, and a trickster; all the 
Popes are so." 

When we left the Executive Mansion, Blair, who came 
out with me, remarked that he was glad this conversation 
had taken place. He wanted to let the President know 
we must have a Secretary of War who can do something 
besides intrigue, who can give force and character to the 
army, administer the Department on correct principles. 
Cameron, he said, had got into the War Department by 
the contrivance and cunning of Seward, who used him and 
other corruptionists as he pleased, with the assistance of 

1 General Pope's father was Judge Nathaniel Pope, of the United States 
District Court for Illinois. 



1862] AN ESTIMATE OF STANTON 127 

Thin-low Weed; that Seward had tried to get Cameron into 
the Treasury, -but was unable to quite accomplish that, and 
after a hard underground quarrel against Chase, it ended 
in the loss of Cameron, who went over to Chase and left 
Seward. Bedeviled with the belief he might be a candidate 
for the Presidency, Cameron was beguiled and led to 
mount the nigger hobby, alarmed the President with his 
notions, and at the right moment, B. says, he plainly and 
frankly told the President he ought to get rid of C. at once, 
that he was not fit to remain in the Cabinet, and was in- 
competent to manage the War Department, which he had 
undertaken to run by the aid of Tom A. Scott, a corrupt 
lobby-jobber from Philadelphia. Seward was ready to get 
rid of Cameron after he went over to Chase, but instead of 
bringing in an earnest, vigorous, sincere man like old Ben 
Wade to fill the place, he picked up this black terrier, who 
is no better than Cameron, though he has a better assistant 
than Scott, in Watson. Blair says he now wants assistance 
to "get this black terrier out of his kennel." I probably did 
not respond as he wished, for I am going into no combina- 
tion or movement against colleagues. He said he must go 
and see Seward. In his dislike of Stanton, Blair is sincere 
and earnest, but in his detestation he may fail to allow 
Stanton qualities that he really possesses. Stanton is no 
favorite of mine. He has energy and application, is indus- 
trious and driving, but devises nothing, shuns responsi- 
bility, and I doubt his sincerity always. He wants no 
general to overtop him, is jealous of others in any position 
who have influence and popular regard; but he has cunning 
and skill, dissembles his feelings, in short, is a hypocrite, a 
moral coward, while affecting to be, and to a certain extent 
being, brusque, overvaliant in words. Blair says he is dis- 
honest, that he has taken bribes, and that he is a double- 
dealer; that he is now deceiving both Seward and Chase; 
that Seward brought him into the Cabinet after Chase 
stole Cameron, and that Chase is now stealing Stanton. 
Reminds me that he exposed Stanton's corrupt character, 



128 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 12 

and stated an instance which had come to his knowledge 
and where he has proof of a bribe having been received; 
that he made this exposure when Stanton was a candidate 
for Attorney for the District. Yet Seward, knowing these 
facts, had induced and persuaded the President to bring 
this corrupt man into the War Department. The country 
was now suffering for this mistaken act. Seward wanted a 
creature of his own in the War Department, that he might 
use, but Stanton was actually using Seward. 

Stanton's appointment to the War Department was in 
some respects a strange one. I was never a favorite of 
Seward, who always wanted personal friends. I was not 
of his sort, personally or politically. Stanton, knowing his 
creator, sympathized with him. For several months after 
his appointment, he exhibited some of his peculiar traits 
towards me. He is by nature a sensationalist, has from the 
first been filled with panics and alarms, in which I have not 
participated; and I have sometimes exhibited little respect 
or regard for his mercurial flights and sensational disturb- 
ances. He saw on more than one occasion that I was cool 
when he was excited, and he well knew that I neither ad- 
mired his policy nor indorsed his views. Of course we were 
courteously civil, but reserved and distant. The opposi- 
tion in the early days of the Administration were violent 
against the Navy management, and the class of Repub- 
licans who had secretly been opposed to my appointment 
joined in the clamor. In the progress of events there was 
a change. The Navy and my course, which had been 
assailed, and which assaults he countenanced, grew 
in favor, while my mercurial colleague failed to give satis- 
faction. His deportment changed after the naval success 
at New Orleans, and we have since moved along harmoni- 
ously at least. He is impulsive, not administrative; has 
quickness, often rashness, when he has nothing to appre- 
hend; is more violent than vigorous, more demonstrative 
than discriminating, more vain than wise; is rude, arrogant, 
and domineering towards those in subordinate positions if 



1862] THE COUNTRY DISHEARTENED 129 

they will submit to his rudeness, but is a sycophant and 
dissembler in deportment and language with those whom 
he fears. He has equal cunning but more force and greater 
capacity than Cameron; yet the qualities I have mentioned 
and his uneasy, restless nature make him, though possessed 
of a considerable ability of a certain sort, an unfit man in 
many respects for the War Department in times like these. 
I have sometimes thought McClellan would better dis- 
charge the duties of Secretary of War than those of a gen- 
eral in the field, and that a similar impression may have 
crossed Stanton's mind, and caused or increased his hate of 
that officer. There is no love lost between them, and their 
enmity towards each other does not injure McClellan in 
the estimation of Blair. Should McClellan in this Mary- 
land campaign display vigor and beat the Rebels, he may 
overthrow Stanton as well as Lee. Blair will give him act- 
ive assistance. But he must rid himself of what President 
Lincoln calls the "slows." This, I fear, is impossible; it is 
his nature. 

September 13. The country is very desponding and much 
disheartened. There is a perceptibly growing distrust of 
the Administration and of its ability and power to conduct 
the war. Military doubts were whispered on the Peninsula 
by McClellan 's favorites before his recall, and when he was 
reinstated public confidence in the Administration through- 
out the country was impaired. Citizens and military, 
though from different causes, were distrustful. It is evi- 
dent, however, that the reinstatement of McC. has inspired 
strength, vigor, and hope in the army. Officers and soldiers 
appear to be united in his favor and willing to follow his 
lead. It has now been almost a week since he left Wash- 
ington, yet he has not overtaken the enemy, who are not 
distant. There is doubt whether he is thirty miles from 
Washington. Perhaps he ought not to be, until he has 
gathered up and massed the dispersed elements of his com- 
mand. I shall not criticize in ignorance, but insist it is the 



130 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 13 

duty of all to sustain him. I am not without hopes that his 
late experience and the strong pressure of public opinion 
will overcome his hesitancy and rouse him to thorough 
work. He is never rash. I fear he is not a fighting general. 
Stanton is cross and grouty. A victory for McClellan will 
bring no joy to him, though it would gladden the whole 
country. 

Rev. Dr. Patton of Chicago, chairman of a committee 
appointed hi northern Illinois, desired an introduction 
with his associates to the President, to advise with him on 
the subject of slavery and emancipation. The President 
assented cheerfully. 

September 15. Some rumors yesterday and more direct 
information to-day are cheering to the Union cause. Mc- 
Clellan telegraphs a victory, defeat of the enemy with loss of 
15,000 men, and that " General Lee admits they are badly 
whipped." To whom Lee made this admission so that it 
should be brought straight to McC. and telegraphed here 
does not appear. A tale like this from Pope would have 
been classed as one of his fictions. It may be all true, 
coming from McClellan, but I do not credit Lee's confes- 
sion or admission. That we have had a fight and beaten 
the Rebels, I can believe. It scarcely could have been 
otherwise. I am afraid it is not as decisive as it should be, 
and as is the current belief, but shall rejoice if McC. has 
actually overtaken the Rebels, which is not yet altogether 
clear. 

September 16. Chase called on me this morning. Wishes 
a secret concerted attack on Richmond. Says Stanton will 
furnish 10,000 men. Told him we would do all that could 
be expected of the Navy in a sudden movement, but 
doubted if a military expedition could be improvised as 
speedily and decisively as he supposed. He thought it 
could certainly be effected in six days. I told him to try. 
We would have a naval force ready in that tune, though 



1862] LINCOLN'S DEFERENCE TO SEWARD 131 

not so large and powerful as I would wish; but we would 
do our part. 

Chase tells me that Harrington, Assistant Secretary of 
the Treasury, was at Fortress Monroe last Thursday and 
heard Bankhead, who commands the Minnesota, say that 
the Government was a poor affair, that the Administration 
was inefficient, that it is time the politicians were cleared 
out of Washington and the army in power. Harrington 
called subsequently and confirmed the statement, less 
strong perhaps in words but about as offensive. I re- 
quested him to reduce his statement to writing. 

At the Executive Mansion, the Secretary of State in- 
formed us there was to be no Cabinet-meeting. He was 
authorized by the President to communicate the fact. 
Smith said it would be as well, perhaps, to postpone the 
Cabinet-meetings altogether and indefinitely, there 
seemed no use latterly for our coming together. Others 
expressed corresponding opinions. Seward turned off, a 
little annoyed. 

An unfavorable impression is getting abroad hi regard 
to the President and the Administration, not without rea- 
son, perhaps, which prompted Smith and others to express 
their minds freely. There is really very little of a govern- 
ment here at this time, so far as most of the Cabinet are 
concerned; certainly but little consultation in this import- 
ant period. Seward, when in Washington, spends more or 
less of each day with the President, absorbs his attention, 
and I fear to an extent influences his action not always 
wisely. The President has good sense, intelligence, and an 
excellent heart, but is sadly perplexed and distressed by 
events. He, to an extent, distrusts his own administrative 
ability and experience. Seward, instead of strengthening 
and fortifying him, encourages this self-distrust, but is not 
backward in giving his own judgment and experience, 
which are often defective expedients, to guide the Execu- 
tive. A conviction of this state of things stirred up Smith 
to make his remarks. The President has, I believe, sincere 



132 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 16 

respect and regard for each and every member of the Cabi- 
net, but Seward seeks, and has at times, influence, which 
is sometimes harmful. The President would often do 
better without him, were he to follow his own instincts, or 
were he to consult all his advisers in council. He would 
find his own opinions confirmed and be convinced that 
Seward's suggestions are frequently unwise and weak and 
temporizing. No one attempts to obtrude himself, or warn 
the President, or even to suggest to him that others than S. 
should be consulted on some of the important measures of 
the Government. In fact, they are not informed of some of 
the measures which are of general interest until they see 
them in operation, or hear of them from others. Chase is 
much chafed by these things, and endeavors, and to some 
extent succeeds, in also getting beside the President, and 
obtaining information of what is going forward. But this 
only excites and stimulates Seward, who has the inside 
track and means to keep it. The President is unsuspicious, 
or apparently so; readily gives his ear to suggestions from 
any one. Only one of his Cabinet, however, has manifested 
a disposition to monopolize his attention; but the discus- 
sion of important measures is sometimes checked almost 
as soon as introduced, and, without any consultation, or 
without being again brought forward, they are disposed of, 
the Secretary of State alone having had sometimes cer- 
tainly a view, or ear, or eye hi the matter. He alone has 
abbreviated general consultation in many cases. With 
greater leisure than most of the Cabinet officers, unless it 
be Smith of the Interior, he runs to the President two or 
three tunes a day, gets his ear, gives him his tongue, makes 
himself interesting by anecdotes, and artfully contrives 
with Stanton's aid to dispose of measures without action or 
give them direction independent of his associates. Under 
the circumstances, I perhaps am, latterly, as little inter- 
fered with as any one, though the duties of the State and 
Navy Departments run together; yet I am sometimes 
excessively annoyed and embarrassed by meddlesome 



1862] DEPARTMENT ADMINISTRATION 133 

intrusions and inconsiderate and unauthorized action by 
the Secretary of State. The Navy Department has, neces- 
sarily, greater intimacy, or connection, with the State 
Department than any other, for, besides international 
questions growing out of the blockade, our squadrons and 
commanders abroad come in contact with our ministers, 
consuls, and commercial agents, and each has intercourse 
with the Governments and representatives of other nations. 
Mutual understanding and cooperation are therefore essen- 
tial and indispensable. But while I never attempt to direct 
the agents of the State Department, or think of it, or to 
meddle with affairs in the appropriate sphere of the Secre- 
tary of State, an entirely different course is pursued by him 
as regards the Navy and naval operations. He is anxious 
to direct, to be the Premier, the real Executive, and give 
away national rights as a favor. Since our first conflict, 
however, when he secretly interfered with the Sumter ex- 
pedition and got up an enterprise to Pensacola, we have 
had no similar encounter; yet there has been an itching 
propensity on his part to have a controlling voice in naval 
matters with which he has no business, which he really 
does not understand, and he sometimes improperly in- 
terferes as in the disposition of mails on captured vessels. 
The Attorney-General has experienced similar improper 
interference, more than any other perhaps; none are ex- 
empt. But the Secretary of State, while meddlesome with 
others, is not at all communicative of the affairs of his own 
Department. Scarcely any important measures or even 
appointments of that Department are brought before us, 
except by the President himself or by bis express direction. 
The consequence is that there is reticence by others and 
the Government is administered hi a great measure by 
Departments. Seward is inquisitive and learns early what 
is doing by each of his associates, frequently before we 
meet in council, while the other Cabinet officers limit 
themselves to their provided duties and are sometimes 
wholly unadvised of his. 



134 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 16 

I have administered the Navy Department almost 
entirely independent of Cabinet consultation, and I may 
say almost without direction of the President, who not only 
gives me his confidence but intrusts all naval matters to 
me. This has not been my wish. Though glad to have his 
confidence, I should prefer that every important naval 
movement should pass a Cabinet review. To-day, for in- 
stance, Wilkes was given the appointment of Acting Rear- 
Admiral, and I have sent him off with a squadron to cruise 
in the West Indies. All this has been done without Cabinet 
consultation, or advice with any one, except Seward and 
the President. The detail and the reserve are at the insti- 
gation of Seward, who wished Wilkes, between whom and 
himself, since the Trent affair, there seems to be an under- 
standing, to have a command, without specifying where. 
In due time our associates in the Cabinet will learn the 
main facts and infer that I withheld from them my orders. 
My instructions to our naval officers, commanders of 
squadrons or single ships, cruising on our blockade 
duty, have never been submitted to the Cabinet, though I 
have communicated them freely to each. I have never read 
but one of my letters of instructions to the President, and 
that was to Captain Mercer of the Powhatan in command 
of the naval expedition to Sumter a few weeks after I en- 
tered upon my duties, and those instructions were, covertly, 
set aside and defeated by Seward. 

So in regard to each and all the Departments; if I have 
known of their regulations and instructions, much of it has 
not been in Cabinet consultations. Seward beyond any 
and all others is responsible for this state of things. It has 
given him individual power, but often at the expense of 
good administration. 

In everything relating to military operations by land, 
General Scott first, then McClellan, then Halleck, have 
directed and controlled. The Government was virtually 
in the hands of the General-in-Chief, so far as armies and 
military operations were concerned. The Administration 



1862] LINCOLN AND SEWARD 135 

had no distinct military policy, was permitted to have 
none. The President was generally advised and consulted, 
but Seward was the special confidant of General Scott, 
was more than any one of McClellan, and, in conjunction 
with Stanton, of Halleck. With wonderful kindness of 
heart and deference to others, the President, with little 
self-esteem and unaffected modesty, has permitted this 
and in a great measure has surrendered to military officers 
prerogatives intrusted to himself. The mental qualities of 
Seward are almost the precise opposite of the President. 
He is obtrusive and never reserved or diffident of his own 
powers, is assuming and presuming, meddlesome, and un- 
certain, ready to exercise authority always, never doubt- 
ing his right until challenged; then he becomes timid, un- 
certain, distrustful, and inventive of schemes to extricate 
himself, or to change his position. He is not particularly 
scrupulous in accomplishing an end, nor so mindful of 
what is due to others as would be expected of one who 
aims to be always courteous towards equals. The Pre- 
sident he treats with a familiarity that sometimes borders 
on disrespect. The President, though he observes this 
ostentatious presumption, never receives it otherwise than 
pleasantly, but treats it as a weakness hi one to whom 
he attributes qualities essential to statesmanship, whose 
pliability is pleasant, and whose ready shrewdness he finds 
convenient and acceptable. 

With temperaments so constituted and so unlike it is 
not surprising that the obsequious affability and ready as- 
sumption of the subordinate presumed on and to an extent 
influenced the really superior intellect of the principal, 
and made himself in a degree the centralizing personage. 
While the President conceded to the Secretary of State 
almost all that he assumed, not one of his colleagues made 
that concession. They treated his opinions respectfully, 
but as no better than the opinions of others, except as they 
had merit; a r .id his errors. they exposed and opposed as 
they deserved. One or two have always been ready to 



136 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 16 

avail themselves of the opportunity. In the early days of 
the Administration the Cabinet officers were absorbed by 
labors and efforts to make themselves familiar with their 
duties, so as rightly to discharge them. Those duties were 
more onerous and trying, in consequence of the overthrow 
of old parties and the advent of new men and new organ- 
izations, with the great rupture that was going on in the 
Government, avowedly to destroy it, than had ever been 
experienced by any of their predecessors. 

Whilst the other members of the Cabinet were absorbed 
in familiarizing themselves with their duties and hi prepar- 
ing for impending disaster, the Secretary of State, less 
apprehensive of disaster, spent a considerable portion of 
every day with the President, patronizing and instructing 
him, hearing and telling anecdotes, relating interesting 
details of occurrences in the Senate, and inculcating his 
political party notions. I think he has no very profound or 
sincere convictions. Cabinet-meetings, which should, at 
that exciting and interesting period, have been daily, were 
infrequent, irregular, and without system. The Secretary 
of State notified his associates when the President desired 
a meeting of the heads of Departments. It seemed unad- 
visable to the Premier as he liked to be called and con- 
sidered that the members should meet often, and they 
did not. Consequently there was very little concerted 
action. 

At the earlier meetings there was little or no formality; 
the Cabinet-meetings were a sort of privy council or 
gathering of equals, much like a Senatorial caucus, where 
there was no recognized leader and the Secretary of State 
put himself in advance of the President. No seats were 
assigned or regularly taken. The Secretary of State was 
invariably present some little time before the Cabinet as- 
sembled and from his former position as the chief executive 
of the largest State in the Union, as well as from his recent 
place as a Senator, and from his admitted experience and 
familiarity with affairs, assumed, and was allowed, as was 



1862] CONDUCT OF CABINET-MEETINGS 137 

proper, to take the lead in consultations and also to give 
tone and direction to the manner and mode of proceedings. 
The President, if he did not actually wish, readily ac- 
quiesced in, this. Mr. Lincoln, having never had experi- 
ence in administering the Government, State or National, 
deferred to the suggestions and course of those who had. 
Mr. Seward was not slow in taking upon himself to pre- 
scribe action and doing most of the talking, without much 
regard to the modest chief, but often to the disgust of his 
associates, particularly Mr. Bates, who was himself always 
courteous and respectful, and to the annoyance of Mr. 
Chase, who had, like Mr. Seward, experience as a chief 
magistrate. Discussions were desultory and without order 
or system, but in the summing-up and conclusions the 
President, who was a patient listener and learner, concen- 
trated results, and often determined questions adverse to 
the Secretary of State, regarding him and his opinions, as 
he did those of his other advisers, for what they were worth 
and generally no more. But the want of system and free 
communication among all as equals prevented that con- 
cert and comity which is really strength to an adminis- 
tration. 

Each head of a Department took up and managed the 
affairs which devolved upon him as he best could, fre- 
quently without consulting his associates, and as a con- 
sequence without much knowledge of the transactions of 
other Departments, but as each consulted with the Pre- 
sident, the Premier, from daily, almost hourly, intercourse 
with him, continued, if not present at these interviews, 
to ascertain the doings of each and all, though himself 
imparting but little of his own course to any. Great events 
of a general character began to impel the members to 
assemble daily, and sometimes General Scott was present, 
and occasionally Commodore Stringham; at times others 
were called in. The conduct of affairs during this period 
was awkward and embarrassing. After a few weeks the 
members, without preconcert, expressed a wish to be 



138 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 16 

better advised on subjects for which they were all meas- 
urably responsible to the country. The Attorney-General 
expressed his dissatisfaction with these informal proceed- 
ings and advised meetings on stated days for general and 
current affairs, and hoped, when there was occasion, 
special calls would be made. The Secretary of State alone 
dissented, hesitated, doubted, objected, thought it inex- 
pedient, said all had so much to do that we could not spare 
the tune; but the President was pleased with the sugges- 
tion, if he did not prompt it, and concurred with the rest 
of the Cabinet. 

The form of proceeding was discussed; Mr. Seward 
thought that would take care of itself. Some suggestions 
were made in regard to important appointments which had 
been made by each head of Department, the Secretary of 
State taking the lead in selecting high officials without 
general consultation. There seemed an understanding 
between the Secretaries of State and Treasury, who had 
charge of the most important appointments, of which 
understanding the President was perhaps cognizant. 
Chase had extensive patronage, Seward appointments 
of high character. The two arranged that each should 
make his own selection of subordinates. These two men 
had political aspirations which did not extend to their 
associates (with perhaps a single exception that troubled 
neither). Chase thought he was fortifying himself by this 
arrangement, but he often was overreached, and the ar- 
rangement was one of the mistakes of his life. 

Without going farther into details, the effect, and prob- 
ably the intention, of these proceedings in those early days 
was to dwarf the President and elevate the Secretary of 
State. The latter also circumscribed the sphere of [the 
former] so far as he could. Many of the important meas- 
ures, particularly of his own Department, he managed to 
dispose of, or contrived to have determined, independent 
of the Cabinet. 

My early collision with him in some complications con- 



1862] RIVALRY OF SEWARD AND CHASE 139 

nected with the Sumter and Pensacola expeditions, when 
he was so flagrantly wrong as to be overruled by the Presi- 
dent, caused us to get along thenceforward without serious 
difficulties, though, our duties being intimate, we were 
often brought together and had occasional disagreements. 
Between Seward and Chase there was perpetual rivalry 
and mutual but courtly distrust. Each was ambitious. 
Both had capacity. Seward was supple and dexterous; 
Chase was clumsy and strong. Seward made constant 
mistakes, but recovered with a facility that was wonderful 
and almost always without injury to himself ; Chase com- 
mitted fewer blunders, but persevered in them when made, 
often to his own serious detriment. In the fevered condi- 
tion of public opinion, the aims and policies of the [two] 
were strongly developed. Seward, who had sustained 
McClellan and came to possess, more than any one else in 
the Cabinet, his confidence, finally yielded to Stanton's 
vehement demands and acquiesced in his sacrifice. Chase, 
from an original friend and self-constituted patron of 
McC., became disgusted, alienated, an implacable enemy, 
denouncing McClellan as a coward and military imbecile. 
In all this he was stimulated by Stanton, and the victim of 
Seward, who first supplanted him with McC. and then gave 
up McC. to appease Stanton and public opinion. 

September 18, Thursday. The last two or three days 
have been pregnant with rumors and speculations of an 
exciting character. Some officials on the watch-tower^ 
sentinels and generals, have been alarmed; but on the 
whole the people have manifested a fair degree of con- 
fidence and composure. 

We have authentic news that a long and sanguinary 
battle has been fought. 1 McClellan telegraphs that the 
fight between the two armies was for fourteen hours. The 
Rebels must have been in strong position to have main- 
tained such a fight against our large army. He also tele- 
1 The Battle of Antietam was fought on the 16th and 17th. 



140 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. is 

graphs that our loss is heavy, particularly in generals, but 
gives neither names nor results. His dispatches are seldom 
full, clear, or satisfactory. "Behaved splendidly," "per- 
formed handsomely," but wherein or what was accom- 
plished is never told. Our anxiety is intense. 

We have but few and foggy dispatches of any kind these 
troublesome days. Yesterday and day before there were 
conflicting accounts about Harper's Ferry, which, it is 
now admitted, was thrown to the Rebels with scarcely 
a struggle. Miles, 1 who was hi command, is reported mor- 
tally wounded. . . . 

General Mansfield is reported slain. He was from my 
State and almost a neighbor. He called on me last week, 
on his way from Norfolk to join the army above. When 
parting he once shook hands, there then was a farther 
brief conversation and he came back from the door after 
he left and again shook hands. "Farewell," said I, "suc- 
cess attend you." He remarked, with emphasis, and some 
feeling, "We may never meet again." 

September 19, Friday. Am vexed and disturbed by tid- 
ings from the squadron off Mobile. Preble, by sheer pusil- 
lanimous neglect, feebleness, and indecision, let the pirate 
steamer Oreto run the blockade. She came right up and 
passed him, flying English colors. Instead of checking her 
advance or sinking her, he fired all round, made a noise, 
and is said to have hurt none of her English crew. This 
case must be investigated and an example made. Had 
been dismissed, this would not have occurred. 

Nothing from the army, except that, instead of follow- 
ing up the victory, attacking and capturing the Rebels, 
they, after a day's armistice, are rapidly escaping over the 
river. McGlellan says they are crossing and that Pleas- 
anton is after them. Oh dear! 

I am not writing a history of the War or its events herein. 
That will be found in the books. But I record my own 

1 Colonel Dlxon S. Miles. He died of his wounds, Sept. 16, 1862. 



1862] DISMISSAL OF PREBLE 141 

impressions and the random speculations, views, and 
opinions of others also. 

September 20, Saturday. Am troubled by Treble's con- 
duct. There must be a stop put to the timid, hesitating, 
and I fear sometimes traitorous course of some of our 
officers. Tenderness, remonstrance, reproof do no good. 
Preble is not a traitor, but loyal. An educated, gentle- 
manly officer of a distinguished family and more than 
ordinary acquirements, but wants promptitude, energy, de- 
cision, audacity, perhaps courage. I am inclined to believe, 
however, an excess of reading, and a fear that he might 
violate etiquette, some point of international law, or that 
he should give offense to Great Britain, whose insolence 
the State Department fears and deprecates and submits to 
with all humility, had its influence. He paused at a crit- 
ical moment to reflect on what he had read and the state 
of affairs. A man less versed in books would have sunk 
the pirate if she did not stop when challenged, regardless 
of her colors. No Englishman had a right to approach and 
pass the sentinel on duty. Preble was placed there to pre- 
vent intercourse, was a sentinel to watch the Rebels 
and all others, and no Englishman had a right to tres- 
pass. A board of officers would be likely to excuse him, as 

in the case of and , J on account of his amiable 

qualities, general intelligence, and good intentions. The 
tune has arrived when these derelictions must not go 
unpunished. I should have preferred that some other man 
should have been punished. I have had the subject under 
consideration with some of the best minds I could consult, 
and found no difference of opinion. I then took the dis- 
patches to the President and submitted them to him. He 
said promptly: " Dismiss him. If that is your opinion, it 
is mine. I will do it." Secretary Seward and Attorney- 
General Bates, each of whom I casually met, advised dis- 
missal. It is painful, but an unavoidable duty. I am sorry 

1 No names in original. 



142 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 20 

for Preble, but shall be sorry for my country if it is not 
done. Its effect upon the Navy will be more salutary than 
were he and fifty like him to fall in battle. 

Commander Joe Smith, 1 who died at his post when the 
ill-fated Congress went down from the assault of the Mer- 
rimac, perished in the line of duty. I have never been 
satisfied with the conduct of the flag-officer 2 in those days, 
who was absent in the waters of North Carolina, pur- 
posely and unnecessarily absent, in my apprehension, 
through fear of the Merrimac, which he knew was com- 
pleted, and ready to come out. It was like dread of the 
new Merrimac at Richmond, which was nearly ready, that 
led him finally to resign his squadron command. He has 
wordy pretensions, some capacity, but no hard courage. 
There is a clan of such men in the Navy, varying in shade 
and degree, who in long years of peace have been students 
and acquired position, but whose real traits are not gener- 
ally understood. The Department is compelled to give 
them commands, and at the same time is held responsible 
for their weakness, errors, and want of fighting qualities. 

Nothing conclusive from the army. The Rebels have 
crossed the river without being hurt or seriously molested, 
much in character with the general army management 
of the war. Little is said on the subject. Stanton makes 
an occasional sneering remark, Chase now and then a 
better one, but there is no general review, inquiry, or dis- 
cussion. There is no abatement of hostility to McClellan. 

September 22. A special Cabinet-meeting. The subject 
was the Proclamation for emancipating the slaves after 
a certain date, in States that shall then be in rebellion. 
For several weeks the subject has been suspended, but the 
President says never lost sight of. When it was submitted, 
and now in taking up the Proclamation, the President 
stated that the question was finally decided, the act and 

1 Lieutenant Joseph B. Smith. 

1 Captain, afterwards Rear-Admiral, Louis M. Goldsborough. 




PL, 



the consequences were his, but that he felt it due to us to 
make us acquainted with the fact and to invite criticism 
on the paper which he had prepared. There were, he had 
found, not unexpectedly, some differences in the Cabinet, 
but he had, after ascertaining in his own way the views of 
each and all, individually and collectively, formed his own 
conclusions and made his own decisions. In the course of 
the discussion on this paper, which was long, earnest, and, 
on the general principle involved, harmonious, he re- 
marked that he had made a vow, a covenant, that if God 
gave us the victory in the approaching battle, he would 
consider it an indication of Divine will, and that it was 
his duty to move forward in the cause of emancipation. It 
might be thought strange, he said, that he had in this way 
submitted the disposal of matters when the way was not 
clear to his mind what he should do. God had decided this 
question in favor of the slaves. He was satisfied it was 
right, was confirmed and strengthened in his action by 
the vow and the results. His mind was fixed, his decision 
made, but he wished his paper announcing his course as 
correct in terms as it could be made without any change 
in his determination. He read the document. One or two 
unimportant amendments suggested by Seward were ap- 
proved. It was then handed to the Secretary of State 
to publish to-morrow. After this, Blair remarked that he 
considered it proper to say he did not concur in the ex- 
pediency of the measure at this time, though he approved 
of the principle, and should therefore wish to file his objec- 
tions. He stated at some length his views, which were 
substantially that we ought not to put in greater jeopardy 
the patriotic element in the Border States, that the results 
of this Proclamation would be to carry over those States 
en masse to the Secessionists as soon as it was read, and 
that there was also a class of partisans in the Free States 
endeavoring to revive old parties, who would have a club 
put into their hands of which they would avail themselves 
to beat the Administration. 



144 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 22 

The President said he had considered the danger to be 
apprehended from the first objection, which was undoubt- 
edly serious, but the objection was certainly as great not 
to act; as regarded the last, it had not much weight with 
him. 

The question of power, authority, in the Government to 
set free the slaves was not much discussed at this meeting, 
but had been canvassed by the President in private con- 
versation with the members individually. Some thought 
legislation advisable before the step was taken, but Con- 
gress was clothed with no authority on this subject, nor is 
the Executive, except under the war power, military 
necessity, martial law, when there can be no legislation. 
This was the view which I took when the President first 
presented the subject to Seward and myself last summer 
as we were returning from the funeral of Stanton's child, 
a ride of two or three miles from beyond Georgetown. 
Seward was at that time not at all communicative, and, I 
think, not willing to advise, though he did not dissent from, 
the movement. It is momentous both in its immediate 
and remote results, and an exercise of extraordinary power 
which cannot be justified on mere humanitarian principles, 
and would never have been attempted but to preserve the 
national existence. The slaves must be with us or against 
us in the War. Let us have them. These were my convic- 
tions and this the drift of the discussion. 

The effect which the Proclamation will have on the 
public mind is a matter of some uncertainty. In some 
respects it would, I think, have been better to have issued 
it when formerly first considered. 

There is an impression that Seward has opposed, and is 
opposed to, the measure. I have not been without that 
impression myself, chiefly from his hesitation to commit 
himself, and perhaps because action was suspended on his 
suggestion. But in the final discussion he has as cordially 
supported the measure as Chase. 

For myself the subject has, from its magnitude and its 



1862] THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION 145 

consequences, oppressed me, aside from the ethical features 
of the question. It is a step in the progress of this war 
which will extend into the distant future. A favorable 
termination of this terrible conflict seems more remote 
with every movement, and unless the Rebels hasten to 
avail themselves of the alternative presented, of which I 
see little probability, the war can scarcely be other than 
one of emancipation to the slave, or subjugation, or sub- 
mission to their Rebel owners. There is in the Free States 
a very general impression that this measure will insure a 
speedy peace. I cannot say that I so view it. No one in 
those States dare advocate peace as a means of prolonging 
slavery, even if it is his honest opinion, and the pecuniary, 
industrial, and social sacrifice impending will intensify the 
struggle before us. While, however, these dark clouds are 
above and around us, I cannot see how the subject can be 
avoided. Perhaps it is not desirable it should be. It is, 
however, an arbitrary and despotic measure in the cause 
of freedom. 

September 23, Tuesday. Received a letter from Commo- 
dore W. D. Porter stating his arrival in New York after 
many signal exploits, capturing the ironclad steamer 
Arkansas, running Bayou Sara, etc. Charges from Admirals 
Farragut and Davis, accusing him of misrepresentation 
and worse, have preceded his arrival. The War Depart- 
ment has sent me an inexcusable letter, abusive of the 
military, which Porter has written, and which Stanton 
cannot notice. I have been compelled to reprove him 
and to send him before the Retiring Board. Like all the 
Porters, he is a courageous, daring, troublesome, reckless 
officer. 

No news from the army. The Rebels appear to be mov- 
ing back into Virginia in their own time and way, to select 
their own resting-place, and to do, in short, pretty much 
as they please. Am sad, sick, sorrowful over this state of 
things, but see no remedy without change of officers. 



146 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 24 

September 24, Wednesday. Secretary Smith called this 
morning. Said he had just had an interview with Judge- 
Advocate Turner, who related a conversation which had 
taken place between himself (T.) and Colonel Key, one of 
Halleck's staff. T. had expressed to K. his surprise that 
McClellan had not followed up the victory last week by 
pursuing the Rebels and capturing them or cutting them 
in pieces. That, said K., is not the policy. Turner asked 
what, then, was the policy. Key said it was one of ex- 
haustion; that it would have been impolitic and injudicious 
to have destroyed the Rebel army, for that would have 
ended the contest without any compromise, and it was the 
army policy at the right time to compel the opposing 
forces to adopt a compromise. 1 

Smith assures me that Turner made to him this com- 
munication. It is most extraordinary, yet entirely con- 
sistent with current events and what Wilson and others 
have stated. While I can hardly give credit to the state- 
ment, the facts can be reconciled with every action or 
inaction, with wasted energies, fruitless campaigns, and 
barren fights. Smith fully believes it. 

Had an impertinent letter from Senator John P. Hale, 
who asks for copies of different opinions given me by the 
Attorney-General on the subject of appointing midship- 
men, and cautioning me not to disregard the plain language 
of the law, whatever might be the opinion of the Attorney- 
General. Informed Senator Hale that I had the unofficial 
advice instead of the official opinion of the law officer of 
the Government, given as a patriot and statesman, recom- 
mending that the appointments should be made, what- 
ever might be the preliminary forms rendered impossible 
by the anomalous condition of the country; that every 
person whom I had consulted and I had consulted many 
concurred in giving similar advice; that it accorded 

1 Major John J. Key was summarily called upon by the President to 
account for his language, stingingly rebuked, and forthwith discharged 
from the service. 



1862] SENATOR JOHN P. HALE 147 

with my own views, etc., etc.; that I had made the ap- 
pointments before receiving his letter indicating, on his 
part, an opposite policy. 

That he will assail these appointments I have little 
doubt, his object being hi this instance to attack the 
Attorney-General, whom he cannot use, rather than 
myself, though willing to assail both provided he can do 
so successfully. With some humor but little industry, 
some qualities as a jester and but few as a statesman, 
I have not much respect for this Senatorial buffoon, who 
has neither application nor fidelity, who is neither honest 
nor sincere. Such men are not useful legislators. 

As I write, 9 P.M., a band of music strikes up on the 
opposite side of the square, a complimentary serenade to 
the President for the Emancipation Proclamation. The 
document has been in the main well received, but there is 
some violent opposition, and the friends of the measure 
have made this demonstration to show their approval. 

September 25, Thursday. Had some talk to-day with 
Chase on financial matters. Our drafts on Barings now cost 
us 29 per cent. I object to this as presenting an untrue state- 
ment of naval expenditures, unjust to the Navy De- 
partment as well as incorrect hi fact. If I draw for $100,000 
it ought not to take from the naval appropriation $129,000. 
No estimates, no appropriations by Congress, embrace the 
$29,000 brought on by the mistaken Treasury policy of de- 
preciating the currency. I therefore desire the Secretary of 
the Treasury to place $100,000 in the hands of the Barings 
to the credit of the Navy Department, less the exchange. 
This he declines to do, but insists on deducting the differ- 
ence between money and inconvertible paper, which I 
claim to be wrong, because in our foreign expenditures the 
paper which his financial policy forces upon us at home is 
worthless abroad. The depreciation is the result of a mis- 
taken financial policy, and illustrates its error and tendency 
to error. 



148 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 25 

The departure from a specie standard and the adoption 
of an irredeemable paper currency deranges the finances 
and is fraught with disastrous consequences. This vitiation 
of the currency is the beginning of evil, a fatal mistake, 
which will be likely to overwhelm Chase and the Adminis- 
tration, ii he and they remain here long enough. 

Had some conversation with Chase relating to the War. 
He is much discouraged, thinks the President is, believes 
the President is disposed to let matters take their course, 
deplores this state of things but can see no relief. I asked 
if the principal source of the difficulty was not in the fact 
that we actually had not a War Department. Stanton is 
dissatisfied, and he and those under his influence do not 
sustain and encourage McClellan, yet he needs to be con- 
stantly stimulated, inspired, and pushed forward. It was, 
I said, apparent to me, and I thought to him, that the 
Secretary of War, though arrogant and often offensive in 
language, did not direct army movements; he appears to 
have something else than army operations in view. The 
army officers here, or others than he, appear to control 
military movements. Chase was disturbed by my re- 
marks. Said Stanton had not been sustained, and his 
Department had become demoralized, but he (C.) should 
never consent to remain if Stanton left. I told him he mis- 
apprehended me. I was not the man to propose the exclu- 
sion of Stanton, or any one of our Cabinet associates, but 
we must look at things as they are and not fear to discuss 
them. It was our duty to meet difficulties and try to correct 
them. It was wrong for him, or any one, to say he would 
not remain and do his duty if the welfare of the country 
required a change of policy or a personal change in any one 
Department. If Stanton was militarily unfit, indifferent, 
dissatisfied, or engaged in petty personal intrigues against 
a man whom he disliked, to the neglect of the duties with 
which he was intrusted, or had not the necessary adminis- 
trative ability, was from rudeness or any other cause of- 
fensive, we ought not to shut our eyes to the fact. If a man 



1862] CHASE'S OPINION OF STANTON 149 

were to be brought into the War Department, or proposed 
to be brought in, with heart and mind in the cause, sin- 
cere, earnest, and capable, who would master the generals 
and control them, break up cliquism, and bring forward 
those officers who had the highest military qualities, we 
ought not to object to it. I knew not that such a change 
was thought of. Without controverting or assenting, he 
said Stanton had given way just as Cameron did, and in 
that way lost command and influence. It is evident that 
Chase takes pretty much the same views that I do, but has 
not made up his mind to act upon his convictions. He 
feels that he has been influenced by Stanton, whose polit- 
ical and official support he wants in his aspirations, but 
begins to have a suspicion that S. is unreliable. They have 
consulted and acted in concert and C. had flattered him- 
self that he had secured S. in his interest, but must have be- 
come aware that there is a stronger tie between Seward and 
Stanton than any cord of his. C. is not always an acute 
and accurate reader of men, but he cannot have failed to 
detect some of the infirm traits of Stanton. When I de- 
clined to make myself a party to the combination against 
McClellan and refused to sign the paper which Chase 
brought me, Stanton, with whom I was not very intimate, 
spoke to me in regard to it. I told Stanton I thought the 
course proposed was disrespectful to the President. Stan- 
ton said he felt under no obligation to Mr. Lincoln, that 
the obligations were the other way, both to him and to me. 
His remarks made an impression on me most unfavorable, 
and confirmed my previous opinion that he is not faithful 
and true but insincere. 

The real character of J. P. Hale is exhibited in a single 
transaction. He wrote me an impertinent and dictatorial 
letter which I received on Wednesday morning, admonish- 
ing me not to violate law in the appointment of midship- 
men. Learning from my answer that I was making these 
appointments notwithstanding his warning and protest, he 
had the superlative meanness to call on Assistant Secretary 



150 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 25 

Fox, and request him, if I was actually making the ap- 
pointments which he declares to be illegal, to procure 
on his (Hale's) application the appointment of a lad for 
whom he felt an interest. This is after his supercilious 
letter to me, and one equally supercilious to Fox, which 
the latter showed me, in which he buttoned up his virtue 
to the throat and said he would never acquiesce in such 
a violation of the law. Oh, John P. Hale, how transparent 
is thy virtue ! Long speeches, loud professions, Scriptural 
quotations, funny anecdotes, vehement denunciations avail 
not to cover thy nakedness, which is very bald. 

The President has issued a proclamation on martial 
law, suspension of habeas corpus he terms it, meaning, 
of course, a suspension of the privilege of the writ of 
habeas corpus. Of this proclamation, I knew nothing until 
I saw it in the papers, and am not sorry that I did not. 
I question the wisdom or utility of a multiplicity of pro- 
clamations striking deep on great questions. 

September 26, Friday. At several meetings of late the 
subject of deporting the colored race has been discussed. 
Indeed for months, almost from the commencement of this 
administration, it has been at tunes considered. More 
than a year ago it was thrust on me by Thompson and 
others in connection with the Chiriqui Grant, a claim to 
title from the Government of Central America of a large 
part of Costa Rica. Speculators used it as a means of dis- 
posing of that grant to our Government. It was a rotten 
remnant of an intrigue of the last administration. The 
President, encouraged by Blair and Smith, was disposed to 
favor it. Blair is honest and disinterested ; perhaps Smith 
is so, yet I have not been favorably impressed with his 
zeal in behalf of the Chiriqui Association. As early as 
May, 1861, a great pressure was made upon me to enter 
into a coal contract with this company. The President was 
earnest in the matter; wished to send the negroes out of the 
country. Smith, with the Thompsons, urged and stimu- 



1862] THE CHIRIQUI SCHEME 151 

lated him, and they were as importunate with me as the 
President. I spent two or three hours on different days 
looking over the papers, titles, maps, reports, and evi- 
dence, and came to the conclusion that there was fraud 
and cheat in the affair. It appeared to be a swindling 
speculation. Told the President I had no confidence in it, 
and asked to be released from its further consideration. 
The papers were then referred to Smith to investigate and 
report. After a month or two he reported strongly in favor 
of the scheme, and advised that the Navy Department 
should make an immediate contract for coal before foreign 
governments got hold of it. Mr. Toucey had investigated 
it. Commodore Engle had been sent out to examine the 
country and especially in relation to coal. The President 
was quite earnest in its favor, but, satisfied myself it was 
a job, I objected and desired to be excused from any parti- 
cipation in it. Two or three times it has been revived, but 
I have crowded off action. Chase gave me assistance on one 
occasion, and the scheme was dropped until this question 
of deporting colored persons came up, when Smith again 
brought forward Thompson's Chiriqui Grant. He made 
a skillful and taking report, embracing both coal and ne- 
groes. Each was to assist the other. The negroes were to 
be transported to Chiriqui to mine coal for the Navy, and 
the Secretary of the Navy was to make an immediate 
advance of $50,000 for coal not yet mined, nor laborers 
obtained to mine it, nor any satisfactory information or 
proof that there was decent coal to be mined. I respectfully 
declined adopting his views. Chase and Stanton sustained 
me, and Mr. Bates to an extent. Blair, who first favored 
it, cooled off, as the question was discussed, but the 
President and Smith were persistent. 

It came out that the governments and rival parties in 
Central America denied the legality of the Chiriqui Grant 
and Thompson's claim, declared it was a bogus transac- 
tion. The President concluded he ought to be better satis- 
fied on this point, and determined he would send out an 



152 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 26 

agent. At this stage of the case Senator Pomeroy appeared 
and took upon himself a negro emigrating colonization 
scheme. Would himself go out and take with him a cargo 
of negroes, and hunt up a place for them, all, profess- 
edly, in the cause of humanity. 

On Tuesday last the President brought forward the sub- 
ject and desired the members of the Cabinet to each take 
it into serious consideration. He thought a treaty could 
be made to advantage, and territory secured to which the 
negroes could be sent. Thought it essential to provide an 
asylum for a race which we had emancipated, but which 
could never be recognized or admitted to be our equals. 
Several governments had signified their willingness to 
receive them. Mr. Seward said some were willing to take 
them without expense to us. 

Mr. Blair made a long argumentative statement in favor 
of deportation. It would be necessary to rid the country 
of its black population, and some place must be found 
for them. He is strongly for deportation, has given the 
subject much thought, but yet seems to have no matured 
system which he can recommend. Mr. Bates was for 
compulsory deportation. The negro would not, he said, go 
voluntarily, had great local attachments but no enterprise 
or persistency. The President objected unequivocally to 
compulsion. Then: emigration must be voluntary and 
without expense to themselves. Great Britain, Denmark, 
and perhaps other powers would take them. I remarked 
there was no necessity for a treaty, which had been sug- 
gested. Any person who desired to leave the country could 
do so now, whether white or black, and it was best to leave 
it so, a voluntary system; the emigrant who chose to 
leave our shores could and would go where there were the 
best inducements. 

These remarks seemed to strike Seward, who, I per- 
ceive, has been in consultation with the President and 
some of the foreign ministers, and on his motion the sub- 
ject was then postponed, with an understanding it would 



1862] MEETING OF THE GOVERNORS 153 

be taken up to-day. Mr. Bates had a very well prepared 
paper which he read, expressing his views. Little was 
said by any one else except Seward, who followed up my 
suggestions. But the President is not satisfied; says he 
wants a treaty. Smith says the Senate would never ratify 
a treaty conferring any power, and advised that Seward 
should make a contract. 

The Governors of the loyal States called to-day on the 
President. They have had a meeting at Altoona, for what 
purpose I scarcely know. It was an unauthorized gather- 
ing of State Executives, doubtless with good intent; but I 
dislike these irregular and extraordinary movements. They 
must tend to good or evil, and I see no good. These offi- 
cials had better limit their efforts within their legitimate 
sphere. 

Admiral Gregory came to see me in relation to the iron- 
clads which are being constructed under his superintend- 
ence. Enjoined upon him to have them completed by 
November at farthest. A demonstration is to be made on 
Charleston, and it will not do to depend upon the army 
even for cooperation there. 

It is now almost a fortnight since the battle near Sharps- 
burg [Antietam]. The Rebels have recrossed the Po- 
tomac, but our army is doing nothing. The President 
says Halleck told him he should want two days more to 
make up his mind what to do. Great Heavens! what 
a General-in-Chief! 

September 27, Saturday. Governor Tod 1 called on me 
to-day. Is hopeful and earnest. Thinks delay is necessary. 
His confidence in McClellan is unimpaired, and in the 
President it is greatly increased. Has full, unwavering 
confidence the country will be extricated and the Union 
maintained. 

The Republican State Convention of New York, which 

1 David Tod, Governor of Ohio. 



154 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 27 

met at Syracuse, has nominated General James S. Wads- 
worth for Governor. There has been a good deal of pecul- 
iar New York management in this proceeding, and some 
disappointments. Morgan, who is, on the whole, a good 
Governor, though of loose notions hi politics, would, I 
think, have been willing to have received a third nomina- 
tion, but each of the rival factions of the Union party had 
other favorites. The Weed and Seward class wanted Gen- 
eral Dix to be the conservative candidate, not that they 
have any attachment for him or his views, but they have 
old party hate of Wadsworth. The positive Republican 
element selected Wadsworth. It is an earnest and fit selec- 
tion of an earnest and sincere man. In bygone years both 
Wadsworth and Dix belonged to the school of Silas Wright 
Democrats. It would have been better had they (Seward 
and Weed) taken no active part. I am inclined to believe 
Weed so thought and would so have acted. He proposed 
going to Europe, chiefly, I understand, to avoid the strug- 
gle, but it is whispered that Seward had a purpose to ac- 
complish, that, finding certain currents and influences 
are opposed to him and his management of the State De- 
partment, he would be glad to retreat to the Senate. 

Seymour, the Democratic candidate, has smartness, but 
not firm, rigid principles. He is an inveterate partisan, 
place-hunter, fond of office and not always choice of means 
hi obtaining it. More of a party man than patriot. Is of 
the Marcy school rather than of the Silas Wright school, 
a distinction well understood in New York. 

September 29, Monday. Seward brought me to-day a 
long dispatch from Dudley, consul at Liverpool. Although 
his fears were somewhat simulated, I saw he was really 
excited and alarmed. He is easily frightened. I therefore 
talked on general subjects, but he turned away, said there 
were terrible combinations in Europe to break the block- 
ade, that there was evidence of it in the documents he 
brought and wished me to read. They were getting eight 



1862] THE BLOCKADE-BREAKERS 155 

or ten steamers ready to break the blockade. I told him 
I had no apprehensions from any general concerted attack, 
such as he dreaded, but that I was annoyed by the sneak- 
ing method which the Englishmen practiced of stealing 
into Charleston in the darkness of the night. On reading 
the principal dispatch, I assured him there was no evidence 
in that document of any purpose to break the blockade, 
that there was no mention of an armed vessel by Consul 
Dudley, that there was activity among the merchant 
adventurers of Great Britain, stimulated by the Bull Run 
tidings, which they had just previously received. I did not 
doubt that British merchants were actively preparing to 
try to run the blockade, but we would be active in trying 
to catch them. 

He seemed relieved yet not perfectly satisfied. We had 
some conversation in relation to letters of marque, which 
he favors. Wishes me to purchase the Baltic and give 
Comstock the command. Told him I trusted our naval 
cruisers, though some were not as fast as I wished, would 
perform the service, and that were we to buy and arm the 
Baltic, a naval officer must command her. 

This scheme for Comstock and the Baltic is a key to the 
affected alarm. It has been concocted by Thurlow Weed, 
who has a job in view for himself or friends, perhaps both. 
Though Seward was somewhat frightened, his fears may 
have been greater in appearance than reality. He did not 
alarm me. It is shameful that an old profligate party- 
debaucher like Weed should have such influence, and 
Seward is mistaken in supposing I could be deceived by 
this connivance. His own fears of breaking the blockade 
were in a degree simulated. Weed is the prompter in this 
Comstock and Baltic intrigue. It is a job. Wrote Seward 
a letter of some length on the subject of cruising to sup- 
press the slave trade under the treaty which he, without 
consulting the Cabinet, had recently negotiated with Great 
Britain. The letter is in answer to one addressed to him 
by Mr. Stuart, the British Charge d'Affaires. The treaty 



156 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 29 

looks to me like a trap, and as if the Secretary of State had 
unwittingly ' ' put his foot in it. " He thinks it would be popu- 
lar to make a demonstration against slavery and the slave 
trade, would conciliate the Abolitionists, who distrust 
him, and be a feather in his administration of the State 
Department. But he has been inconsiderate or duped, 
perhaps both. I declined to furnish cruisers as requested, 
for it would weaken our position, and I cannot consent to 
cripple our naval strength at this tune, but prefer to retain, 
and to act under, the belligerent right of search, to that of 
restricted right conferred by the treaty. 

September 30, Tuesday. Little of importance at the 
Cabinet-meeting. The President laid before us the address 
of the loyal Governors who lately met at Altoona. Its pub- 
lication has been delayed in expectation that Governor 
Bradford of Maryland would sign it, but nothing has been 
heard from him. His wife was here yesterday to get a pass 
to visit her son, who is a Rebel officer and cannot come to 
her. She therefore desires to go to him. Seward kindly 
procured the document for her. I am for exercising the 
gentle virtues when it can consistently and properly be 
done, but favor no social visitations like this. Let the 
Rebel perish away from the parents whom he has aban- 
doned by deserting his country and fighting against his 
government. 

The President informed us of his interview with Key, 
one of Halleck's staff, who said it was not the game of the 
army to capture the Rebels at Antietam, for that would 
give the North advantage and end slavery; it was the 
policy of the army officers to exhaust both sides and then 
enforce a compromise which would save slavery. 



IV 

D. D. Porter appointed to the Western Flotilla Porter, Davis, and Dahl- 
gren The Cabinet on Emancipation Admiral Du Pont Stan ton's 
Threat to resign Dahlgren's Ambitions The Norfolk Blockade 
The Currency Question Stuart's Raid Spanish Claims as to Mari- 
time Jurisdiction The Case of the Steamer Bermuda General 
Scott's Influence at the Beginning of the War The Question of raising 
the Norfolk Blockade A Hoax on Seward Transfer of the Missis- 
sippi Fleet to the Navy Seward and the Mails captured on Blockade- 
Runners. 

October 1, Wednesday. Called this morning at the White 
House, but learned the President had left the city. The 
porter said he made no mention whither he was going, nor 
when he would return. I have no doubt he is on a visit to 
McClellan and the army. None of his Cabinet can have 
been aware of this journey. 

Relieved Davis and appointed D. D. Porter to the 
Western Flotilla, which is hereafter to be recognized as a 
squadron. Porter is but a Commander. He has, however, 
stirring and positive qualities, is fertile in resources, has 
great energy, excessive and sometimes not over-scrupulous 
ambition, is impressed with and boastful of his own powers, 
given to exaggeration in relation to himself, a Porter 
infirmity, is not generous to older and superior living 
officers, whom he is too ready to traduce, but is kind and 
patronizing to favorites who are juniors, and generally to 
official inferiors. Is given to cliquism but is brave and 
daring like all his family. He has not the conscientious 
and high moral qualities of Foote to organize the flotilla, 
and is not considered by some of our best naval men a for- 
tunate officer; has not in his profession, though he may 
have personally, what the sailors admire, "luck." It is 
a question, with his mixture of good and bad traits, how he 
will succeed. His selection will be unsatisfactory to many, 



158 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. i 

but his field of operation is peculiar, and a young and active 
officer is required for the duty to which he is assigned; it 
will be an incentive to juniors. If he does well I shall get 
no credit; if he fails I shall be blamed. No thanks in any 
event will be mine. Davis, whom he succeeds, is more of 
a scholar than sailor, has gentlemanly instincts and schol- 
arly acquirements, is an intelligent but not an energetic, 
driving, fighting officer, such as is wanted for rough work 
on the Mississippi; is kind and affable, but has not the 
vim, dash, recklessness perhaps is the better word, 
of Porter. 

Dahlgren, whose ambition is great, will, I suppose, be 
hurt that Porter, who is his junior, should be designated 
for the Mississippi command; and the President will sym- 
pathize with D., whom he regards with favor, while he has 
not great admiration or respect for Porter. Dahlgren 
has asked to be assigned to the special duty of capturing 
Charleston, but Du Pont has had that object in view for 
more than a year and made it his study. I cannot, though 
I appreciate Dahlgren, supersede the Admiral in this work. 

The Emancipation Proclamation has, in its immediate 
effects, been less exciting than I had apprehended. It has 
caused but little jubilation on one hand, nor much angry 
outbreak on the other. The speculations as to the senti- 
ments and opinions of the Cabinet in regard to this measure 
are ridiculously wild and strange. When it was first 
brought forward some six or eight weeks ago, all present 
assented to it. It was pretty fully discussed at two suc- 
cessive Cabinet-meetings, and the President consulted 
freely, I presume, with the members individually. He did 
with me. Mr. Bates desired that deportation, by force if 
necessary, should go with emancipation. Born and edu- 
cated among the negroes, having always lived with slaves, 
he dreaded any step which should be taken to bring about 
social equality between the two races. The effect, he said, 
would be to degrade the whites without elevating the 
blacks. Demoralization, vice, and misery would follow. 



1862] THE CABINET ON EMANCIPATION 159 

Mr. Blair, at the second discussion, said that, while he was 
an emancipationist from principle, he had doubts of the 
expediency of such a movement as was contemplated. 
Stanton, after expressing himself earnestly in favor of the 
step proposed, said it was so important a measure that he 
hoped every member would give his opinion, whatever it 
might be, on the subject; two had not spoken, alluding 
to Chase and myself. 

I then spoke briefly of the strong exercise of power 
involved in the question, and the denial of Executive 
authority to do this act, but the Rebels themselves had in- 
voked war on the subject of slavery, had appealed to arms, 
and they must abide the consequences. It was an extreme 
exercise of war powers, and under the circumstances and 
in view of the condition of the country and the magnitude 
of the contest I was willing to resort to extreme measures 
and avail ourselves of military necessity, always harsh and 
questionable. The blow would fall heavy and severe on 
those loyal men in the Slave States who clung to the Union 
and had most of their property in slaves, but they must 
abide the results of a conflict which we all deplored, and 
unless they could persuade their fellow citizens to embrace 
the alternative presented, it was their hard fortune to suf- 
fer with those who brought on the War. The slaves were 
now an element of strength to the Rebels, were laborers, 
producers, and army attendants; were considered as 
property by the Rebels, and, if property, were subject to 
confiscation; if not property, but persons residing in the 
insurrectionary region, we should invite them as well as 
the whites to unite with us in putting down the Rebellion. 
I had made known my views to the President and could say 
here I gave my approval of the Proclamation. Mr. Chase 
said it was going a step farther than he had proposed, but 
he was glad of it and went into a very full argument on the 
subject. I do not attempt to report it or any portion of it, 
nor that of others, farther than to define the position of 
each when this important question was before us. Some- 



160 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. i 

thing more than a Proclamation will be necessary, for this 
step will band the South together, make opponents of 
some who now are friends and unite the Border States 
firmly with the Cotton States in resistance to the Govern- 
ment. 

October 2, Thursday. Admiral Du Pont arrived to-day; 
looks hale and hearty. He is a skillful and accomplished 
officer. Has a fine address, is a courtier with perhaps too 
much finesse and management, resorts too much to ex- 
traneous and subordinate influences to accomplish what he 
might easily attain directly, and, like many naval officers, 
is given to cliques, personal, naval clanship. This evil 
I have striven to break up, and, with the assistance of Se- 
cession, which took off some of the worst cases, have thus 
far been pretty successful, but there are symptoms of it hi 
the South Atlantic Squadron, though I hope it is not seri- 
ous. It is well that the officers should not only respect but 
have an attachment to their commanders, but not with in- 
justice to others, nor at the expense of true patriotism and 
the service. But all that I have yet seen is, if not exactly 
what is wished, excusable. Certainly, while he continues 
to do his duty so well, I shall pass minor errors and sustain 
Du Pont. He gives me interesting details of incidents con- 
nected with the blockade, of the entrance to Stono, and 
affairs at James Island, where Benham committed a char- 
acteristic offense in one direction and Hunter a mistake hi 
another. 

October 3, Friday. Chase tells me that Stanton has called 
on him to say he deemed it his duty to resign, being satis- 
fied he could no longer be useful in the War Department. 
There are, Chase says, unpaid requisitions on his table 
at this tune to the amount of $45,000,000 from the War 
Department, and things are hi every respect growing worse 
daily. Perhaps Chase really believes Stanton, who no 
more intends resigning than the President or Seward does. 



1862] STANTON'S THREAT TO RESIGN 161 

I remarked that the disagreement between the Secretary 
of War and the generals in command must inevitably work 
disastrously, that I had for some time foreseen this, and 
the declaration of Stanton did not surprise me. He could 
scarcely do otherwise; he could not get along if these differ- 
ences continued, but sooner or later he or the generals, or 
the whole, must go. My remarks were, I saw, not expected 
or acceptable. Chase said if Stanton went, he would go. 
It was due to Stanton and to ourselves that we should 
stand by him, and if one goes out, all had better go, cer- 
tainly he would. 

This, I told him, was not my view. If it were best for the 
country that all should go, then certainly all ought to 
leave without hesitation or delay; but it did not follow be- 
cause one must leave, for any cause, that all should. I did 
not admire combinations among officials, preferred indi- 
viduality, and did not think it advisable that we should all 
make OUT action dependent on the movements or difficul- 
ties of the Secretary of War, who, like all of us, had embar- 
rassments and might not himself be exempt from error. 
There were many things in the Administration which he 
and I wished were different. He desired me to think the 
matter over. Said, with much feeling, things were serious, 
that he could not stand it, that the army was crushing him, 
and would crush the country. Says the President takes 
counsel of none but army officers in army matters, though 
the Treasury and Navy ought to be informed of the par- 
ticulars of every movement. This is Stanton's complaint 
infused into Chase, and has some foundation, though it 
is but part of the evil. This demonstration of Stanton's is 
for effect and will fail. 

October 7. Busy and a little indisposed for a day or two. 
The President returned from his visit to the army Satur- 
day night. I met him yesterday when I was riding out. 
He was feeling well and much gratified with news just re- 
ceived from Corinth, which he stopped me to communicate. 



162 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 7 

There was an indisposition to press the subject of negro 
emigration to Chiriqui at the meeting of the Cabinet, 
against the wishes and remonstrances of the States of 
Central America. The President gave an interesting ac- 
count of his visit to Antietam, South Mountain, etc., the 
late battle-fields. 

Had a brief canvass for candidates for Navy chaplain. 
The President wishes Coleman appointed. I suggested 
that these offices should be distributed among the States, 
and he concurred. 

A number of highly respectable persons in Maine me- 
morialized the President in behalf of George Henry 
Preble, recently dismissed, desiring his restoration. Sub- 
mitted the memorial, which had been inclosed to me by 
Senator Fessenden with a request I would do so in a 
pretty earnest letter. The President read it through, and 
said no one could be dismissed or punished without bring- 
ing up a host of sympathizing friends to resist the un- 
pleasant but necessary action of the Government, and 
make the victim a martyr. Said he would do nothing in 
this case unless I advised it. 

Governor Andrew of Massachusetts called upon me this 
morning, and we had a frank, free, and full interchange of 
views. He is impatient under the dilatory military opera- 
tions and the growing ascendency of the army in civil 
affairs. Our views did not materially differ on the points 
discussed, though he has been impressed by Stanton, who 
dislikes many army officers. 

October 8, Wednesday. Had a long interview with Gov- 
ernor Morgan on affairs in New York and the country. 
He says Wadsworth will be elected by an overwhelming 
majority; says the best arrangement would have been the 
nomination of Dix by the Democrats and then by the Re- 
publicans, so as to have had no contest. This was the 
scheme of Weed and Seward. Says a large majority of the 
convention was for renominating him (Morgan). I have 



1862] DAHLGREN'S AMBITIONS 163 

little doubt that Weed and Seward could have made Mor- 
gan's nomination unanimous, but Weed intrigued deeper 
and lost. He greatly preferred Morgan to Wadsworth, but, 
trying to secure Dix, lost both. Morgan says Aspinwall, 
whom he met here yesterday, had seen and got from Mc- 
Clellan the general army order just published sustaining 
the Emancipation Proclamation. Has some speculation in 
regard to McClellan's prospects, designs, and expectations 
as to the Presidency; doubts if he wants it, but thinks he 
cannot avoid it, all which is of the New York political 
bill of fare. 

October 9, Thursday. Letter to Senator Fessenden in 
regard to dismissal of Preble, stating the case, the 
fault, the dismissal, and the impossibility of revoking it 
without injury to the service. The subject is a difficult one 
to handle. His friends believe he has great merit as an 
officer, when he has but little, whatever may be his learn- 
ing, respectability, and worth as a gentleman. It will not 
do to tell his friends the truth, for they would denounce 
it as unjust; besides it is ungenerous to state unpleasant 
facts of a stricken man. A more difficult letter to answer 
was one from Captain Adams, who commanded the naval 
force off Pensacola in the spring of 1861. 

Got off two long communications to Seward on the sub- 
ject of reciprocal search and the belligerent right of search, 
the British treaty and the Danish agreement, law and 
instructions, a queer medley of feeble diplomacy, poor 
administration, illegality, departure from usage, etc., etc. 

Dahlgren is grieved with my action in his case. He de- 
sires, beyond almost any one, the high honors of his pro- 
fession, and has his appetite stimulated by the partiality 
of the President, who does not hesitate to say to him and 
to me, that he will give him the highest grade if I will send 
him a letter to that effect, or a letter of appointment. Title 
irregularly obtained cannot add to Dahlgren's reputation, 
yet he cannot be reasoned with. He has yet rendered no 



164 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 9 

service afloat during the war, has not been under fire, 
and is not on the direct road for professional advancement. 
But he is a favorite with the President and knows it. The 
army practice of favoritism and political partyism cannot 
be permitted in the Navy. Its effect will be more demoral- 
izing than that of the military, where it is bad enough. I 
am compelled, therefore, to stand between the President 
and Dahlgren's promotion, in order to maintain the serv- 
ice in proper condition. Dahlgren has the sagacity and 
professional intelligence to know I am right, and to appre- 
ciate my action though adverse to himself. He therefore 
now seeks service afloat. Wants an opportunity to ac- 
quire rank and distinction, but that opportunity must be 
a matter of favor. His last request was to be permitted to 
capture Charleston. This would give him eclat. I told him 
I could not rob Du Pont of that honor, but that if he wished 
I would give him an opportunity to participate, and un- 
derstood from him it would be acceptable. I therefore 
tendered him an ironclad and the place of ordnance officer, 
he retaining his position at the head of the Bureau, with 
leave of absence as a volunteer to fight. 

My proposition has not been received in the manner 
I expected. He thinks the tender of a single ship to an 
officer who has had a navy yard and is now in the Bureau, 
derogatory, yet, wishing active service as the means of 
promotion, intimates he will accept and resign the Bureau. 
This I can't countenance or permit. It would not meet 
the views of the President, would be wrong to the service, 
and a great wrong to the country, for him to leave the 
Ordnance Bureau, where he is proficient and can be most 
useful. His specialty is in that branch of the service; he 
knows his own value there at this time, and for him to 
leave it now would be detrimental to the object he desires 
to attain. He is not conscious of it, but he has Dahlgren 
more than the service in view. Were he to be present at the 
capture of Charleston as a volunteer who had temporarily 
left the Bureau for that special service, it would redound 




JOHN A. DAHLGREN 



1862] THE NORFOLK BLOCKADE 165 

to his credit, and make him at least second to Du Pont in 
the glory of the achievement. 

October 10, Friday. Some vague and indefinite tidings 
of a victory by Buell in Kentucky in a two days' fight at 
Perryville. We hear also of the capture of batteries by the 
Navy on the St. John's in Florida, but have no particulars. 

A telegram from Delano 1 at New Bedford tells me that 
the pirate or Rebel steamer 290, built in Great Britain and 
manned by British seamen, fresh from England, has cap- 
tured and burnt five whaling vessels off the Western 
Islands. The State Department will, I suppose, submit to 
this evidence that England is an underhand auxiliary to the 
Rebels, be passive on the subject, and the Navy Depart- 
ment will receive as usual torrents of abuse. 

At Cabinet to-day, among other subjects, that of trade 
at Norfolk was under consideration. We were told the 
people are in great distress and trouble, cannot get subsist- 
ence nor make sale of anything by reason of the blockade. 
Chase thought it very hard, was disposed to open the port 
or relax the blockade. Stanton opposed both; said Norfolk 
was hot with rebellion, and aid to Norfolk would relieve 
Richmond. The President, in the kindness of his heart, 
was at first inclined to grant relief. Chase said I had 
instructed the squadron to rigidly enforce the blockade. 
I admitted this to be true as regarded Norfolk and all the 
blockaded ports, and assured him I should not relax unless 
by an Executive order, or do otherwise until we had an- 
other policy. That to strictly maintain the blockade 
caused suffering I had no doubt; that was the chief object 
of the blockade. I was doing all in my power to make re- 
bellion unpopular, and as a means, I would cause the whole 
insurrectionary region to suffer until they laid down their 
arms and became loyal. The case was not one of sympathy 
but of duty. Chase urged that they might be permitted to 
bring out and exchange some of their products, such as 
1 B. F. Delano, Naval Constructor. 



166 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 10 

shingles, staves, tar, etc., which they could trade for neces- 
saries that were indispensable. "Then," said I, "raise the 
blockade. Act in good faith with all; let us have no favor- 
itism. That is my policy. You must not use the blockade 
for domestic traffic or to enrich a few." 

The President said these were matters which he had not 
sufficiently considered. My remarks had opened a view 
that he had not taken. He proposed that Seward and 
Chase should see what could be done. 

There is, I can see, a scheme for permits, special favors, 
Treasury agents, and improper management hi all this; not 
that Chase is to receive any pecuniary benefit himself, but 
in his political aspirations he is courting, and will give au- 
thority to, General Dix, who has, he thinks, political influ- 
ence. It is much less, I apprehend, than Chase supposes. 
Dix is, I presume, as clear of pecuniary gain as Chase, but 
he has on his staff and around him a set of bloodsuckers 
who propose to make use of the blockade as a machine to 
enrich themselves. A few favorites design to monopolize 
the trade of Norfolk, and the Government is to be at the 
expense of giving them this monopoly by absolute non- 
intercourse, enforced by naval vessels to all but them- 
selves. As we have absolute possession of Norfolk and its 
vicinity, there is no substantial reason for continuing the 
blockade, and it can benefit none but Army and Treasury 
favorites. General Dix has, I regret to see, lax notions. 
Admiral Lee holds him in check; he appeals' to Chase, who 
is very severe towards the Rebels, except in certain mat- 
ters of trade and Treasury patronage carrying with them 
political influence. 

Seward wishes me to modify my second letter on the 
subject of instructions under the British slavery treaty, so 
as to relieve him in a measure. I have no objection; he 
does not appear to advantage in the proceedings. In a 
scheme to obtain popularity for himself, he has been se- 
cretive, hasty, inconsiderate, overcunning, and weak. The 
Englishmen have detected his weak side and taken advan- 



1862] THE CURRENCY QUESTION 167 

tage of it. His vanity and egotism have been flattered, and 
he has undertaken an ostentatious exhibition of his power 
to the legations, and at the same time would secure favor 
with the Abolitionists and Anti-Slavery men by a most 
singular contrivance, which, if carried into effect, would 
destroy our naval efficiency. His treaty binds us to sur- 
render for a specific purpose the general belligerent right of 
search in the most important latitudes. The effect would 
be in the highest degree advantageous to the Rebels, and 
wholly in their interest. It seems to me a contrivance to 
entrap our Government, into which the Secretary of State, 
without consulting his associates, has been unwittingly 
seduced. 

D. D. Porter left Wednesday to take command of the 
Mississippi Squadron, with the appointment of Acting 
Admiral. This is an experiment, and the results not en- 
tirely certain. Many officers of the Navy who are his 
seniors will be dissatisfied, but his juniors may, by it, be 
stimulated. The river naval service is unique. Foote per- 
formed wonders and dissipated many prejudices. The 
army has fallen in love with the gunboats and wants them 
in every creek. Porter is wanting in some of the best qual- 
ities of Foote, but excels him perhaps in others. The 
service requires great energy, great activity, abundant re- 
sources. Porter is full of each, but is reckless, improvident, 
often too presuming and assuming. In an interview on 
Wednesday, I endeavored to caution him on certain points 
and to encourage him in others. In conformity with his 
special request, General McClernand is to command the 
army with which the Navy cooperates. This gratifies him, 
for he dreads and protests against association with any 
West Point general; says they are too self-sufficient, 
pedantic, and unpractical. 

The currency and financial questions will soon be as 
troublesome as the management of the armies. In making 
Treasury notes or irredeemable paper of any kind a legal 
tender, and in flooding the country with inconvertible 



168 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 10 

paper money down to a dollar and fractional parts of a 
dollar, the Secretary'of the Treasury may obtain moment- 
ary ease and comfort, but woe and misery will follow to 
the country. Mr. Chase has a good deal of ability, but has 
never made finance his study. His general ideas appear to 
be crudely sound, but he does not act upon them, and his 
principal and most active and persistent advisers are of 
a bad school. The best and soundest financiers content 
themselves with calmly stating sound financial truths. He 
has not made his plans a subject of Cabinet consultation. 
Perhaps it is best he should not. I think he has advised 
with them but little, individually. Incidentally he and I 
have once or twice had conversations on these matters, and 
our views appeared to correspond, but when he has come to 
act, a different policy has been pursued. It will add to the 
heavy burdens that overload the people. 

Singular notions prevail with some of our Cabinet as- 
sociates, such as have made me doubt whether the men 
were serious in stating them. On one occasion, something 
like a year ago, Smith expressed a hope that the Treasury 
would hasten, and as speedily as possible get out the frac- 
tional parts of a dollar, in order to put a stop to hoarding. 
Chase assured Smith he was hurrying on the work as fast 
as possible. I expressed astonishment and regret) and in- 
sisted that the more paper he issued, the more hoarding of 
coin there would be and the less money we should have; 
that all attempts in all countries and times to cheat gold 
and silver had proved failures and always would; that 
money was one thing and currency another; convertible 
paper was current for money, inconvertible paper was not; 
that two currencies could not circulate at the same time 
in any community; that the vicious and poor currency 
always superseded the better, and must in the nature of 
things. 

Chase, without controverting these remarks, said I be- 
longed to the race of hard-money men, whose ideas were 
not exactly adapted to these times. Smith was perfectly 



1862] STUART'S RAID 169 

confident that hoarding up money would cease when there 
was no object in it, and if the Treasury would furnish us 
with paper there would be no object to hoard. He was 
confident it would do the work. I asked Chase if he in- 
dorsed such views, but could get no satisfactory answer. 
The Treasury is pursuing a course which will unsettle all 
values. 

October 11, Saturday. We have word which seems reli- 
able that Stuart's Rebel cavalry have been to Chambers- 
burg in the rear of McClellan, while he was absent in 
Philadelphia stopping at the Continental Hotel. I hope 
neither statement is correct. But am apprehensive that 
both may be true. 

October 13, Monday. We have the mortifying intel- 
ligence that the Rebel cavalry rode entirely around our 
great and victorious Army of the Potomac, crossing the 
river above it, pushing on in the rear beyond the Pennsyl- 
vania line into the Cumberland Valley, then east and south, 
recrossing the Potomac below McClellan and our troops, 
near the mouth of the Monocacy. It is the second time 
this feat has been performed by J. E. B. Stuart around 
McClellan's army. The first was on the York Peninsula. 
It is humiliating, disgraceful. 

In this raid the Rebels have possessed themselves of a 
good deal of plunder, reclothed their men from our stores, 
run off a thousand horses, fat cattle, etc., etc. It is not a 
pleasant fact to know that we are clothing, mounting, and 
subsisting not only our troops but the Rebels also. McClel- 
lan had returned from Philadelphia with his wife, a most 
estimable and charming lady who cannot have been grati- 
fied with this exhibit of her husband's public duties. He 
was at Harper's Ferry when this raid of Stuart took place. 
His opponents will triumph in this additional evidence of 
alleged inertness and military imbecility. It is customary 
for some of our generals and other officers to have their 



170 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. is 

wives with them in the camp and field. The arrangement 
does not make them better soldiers. I wish it were pro- 
hibited. Some naval officers cite army precedents when 
asking the company of their wives on shipboard. 

Wrote Reward hi reply to a novel and extraordinary 
assumption of Tassara, the Spanish Minister, who claims 
a maritime jurisdiction of six miles around the island of 
Cuba, instead of three, the recognized coast jurisdiction 
by international law. Seward is disposed to concede it to 
Spain, because she is better disposed than the other powers, 
and he flatters himself he can detach her from them, if we 
will be liberal, that is, give up our rights. It is among 
the most singular things of these singular times, that our 
Secretary of State supposes that he and a foreign minister 
can set aside established usage, make and unmake inter- 
national law, can enlarge or circumscribe at pleasure na- 
tional jurisdiction and authority. I have remonstrated 
with him most emphatically against any such surrender of 
our national rights, warned him that the country never 
would assent, at all events during hostilities; but there is 
a difficulty and delicacy in so managing these questions, 
when the Secretary of State, with loose notions of law, 
usage, and his own legitimate duty, has undertaken to set 
aside law, that is embarrassing. He has a desire to make 
instead of to execute national law, paying little attention 
to the practice of nations; does not inquire into them until 
after he has been committed. The foreigners detect and 
profit by this weakness. 

October 14, Tuesday. The Secretary of State sends me 
an important dispatch from Stuart, British Charge* 
d'Affaires during the absence of Lord Lyons, in which he 
undertakes to object, unofficially, to the purchase by the 
Government of the steamer Bermuda, a prize captured 
last April, until the judgment of the court shall have been 
pronounced. Seward gives in, cringes under these super- 
cilious and arrogant claims and assumptions. It sometimes 



1862] THE STEAMER BERMUDA 171 

appears to me there is a scheme among some of the lega- 
tions to see how far they can impose upon our Secretary of 
State by flattery and pretension. I have written a reply 
which will be likely, I think, to settle Mr. Stuart, and 
possibly annoy Mr. Seward, who, since the affair of the 
Trent, when at first he took high and untenable ground, 
has lost heart and courage, and is provokingly submissive 
to British exactions. I hope he will let Stuart have my 
letter. It touches on some points which I wish to force on 
the attention of the English Government. 

Stanton read a dispatch from General Pope, stating that 
the Indians in the Northwest had surrendered and he was 
anxious to execute a number of them. The Winnebagoes, 
who have not been in the fight, are with him, and he pro- 
poses to ration them at public expense through the winter. 
He has, Stanton says, destroyed the crops of the Indians, 
etc. I was disgusted with the whole thing; the tone and 
opinions of the dispatch are discreditable. It was not the 
production of a good man or a great one. The Indian out- 
rages have, I doubt not, been horrible; what may have been 
the provocation we are not told. The Sioux and Ojibbe- 
ways are bad, but the Winnebagoes have good land which 
white men want and mean to have. 

The evening papers contain a partisan speech from John 
Van Buren, 1 in which he introduces a letter of General 
Scott, dated the 3d of March, 1861, addressed to Seward. 
It was familiar. I have heard it read twice by General S. 
himself, the first time, directly after the inauguration of Mr. 
Lincoln, in the War Department, but I had the impression 
it was addressed to the President instead of Seward. For 
what reason it was placed in the hands of John Van Buren 
I do not understand. The General thought much of this 
letter, and wrote it, as I supposed, to influence the then 
incoming administration, but it was wholly inconclusive 

1 A son of Martin Van Buren and a lawyer of ability. The speech was 
made in the Cooper Institute, New York, at a meeting to ratify the nom- 
ination of Horatio Seymour as Governor of New York by the Democrats. 



172 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 14 

when decision was wanted. He was in those days listened 
to by both the President and Secretary of State, and his 
indecisive policy had probably an effect on them as well as 
others. I have since come to the conclusion that the Gen- 
eral's own course was shaped by Seward, and that, after 
Seward put him aside, took Meigs into his confidence, and 
got up the military expedition to Pickens without his 
knowledge, General Scott, in justification of himself and 
to show his own views independent of the Secretary of 
State, was decidedly for the Union. 

His influence in the early months of the Administration 
was, in some respects, unfortunate. It was a maze of un- 
certainty and indecision. He was sincerely devoted to the 
Union and anxious that the Rebellion should be extin- 
guished, yet shrank from fighting. Seward had brought 
him into his policy of meeting aggression with concession. 
Blockade some of the worst cities, or shut up their ports, 
guard them closely, collect duties on shipboard, or "let the 
wayward sisters go in peace." 1 His object seemed to be to 
avoid hostilities, but to throw the labor of the conflict on 
the Navy if there was to be war. He still strove, however, 
as did Seward, to compromise difficulties by a national con- 
vention to remodel the Constitution, though aware the 
Democrats would assent to nothing. General Scott inau- 
gurated the system of frontiers, and did not favor the ad- 
vance of our armies into the rebellious States. The time 
for decisive action, he thought, had passed, and those who 
were for prompt, energetic measures, which, just entering 
on administrative duties, they desired, were checked by the 
General-in-Chief. 

October 15, Wednesday. General Dix came to see me in 
relation to the blockade of Norfolk. Says Admiral Lee is 
extremely rigid, allows no traffic ; that the people of Nor- 
folk are suffering, though in his opinion one half the people 

1 General Scott's expression as given in the letter referred to was, 
" Wayward sisters, depart in peace." 



1862] THE NORFOLK BLOCKADE 173 

are loyal. The place, he says, is in the military occupation 
of the Government and therefore is not liable to, and can- 
not, be blockaded. Tells me he has been reading on the 
question, and consulting General Halleck, who agrees 
with him. I told him if Norfolk was not, and could not be, 
a blockaded port, I should be glad to be informed of the 
fact ; that the President had declared the whole coast and 
all ports blockaded from the eastern line of Virginia to the 
Rio Grande, with the exception of Key West. Congress, 
though preferring the closing of the ports, had recognized 
and approved the fact, and authorized the President from 
time to time, as we recovered possession, to open ports at 
his discretion by proclamation. That he had so opened the 
ports of Beaufort, Port Royal, and New Orleans, but not 
Norfolk. If he was disposed to raise the blockade of that 
port, I should not oppose it but be glad of it. That I had so 
informed the President and others, but there was unquali- 
fied and emphatic opposition in the War Department to 
such a step. If he would persuade the Secretary of War 
to favor the measure, there would be little resistance in 
any other quarter. Perhaps he and General Halleck could 
overrule the objections of the Secretary of War. That I 
intended to occupy no equivocal attitude. This was not to 
be a sham blockade, so far as I was concerned. I thought, 
with him, that as Norfolk was in the military occupancy of 
our armies and to continue so, there was no substantial 
reason for continuing the blockade; that not only humanity 
towards the people but good policy on the part of the 
Administration required we should extend and promote 
commercial intercourse. Commerce promotes friendship. 
It would induce the people in other localities to seek the 
same privileges by sustaining the Union cause. That, as 
things were, Admiral Lee was doing his duty and obeying 
instructions in rigidly enforcing the blockade. That I was 
opposed to favoritism. There should be either inter- 
course or non-intercourse; if the port was open to trade, all 
our citizens, and foreigners also, should be treated alike. 



174 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. is 

"But," said General Dix, "I don't want the blockade of 
Norfolk raised; that won't answer." 

"Yet you tell me there is no blockade; that it has 
ended, and cannot exist because we are in military pos- 
session." 

"Well," said he, "that is so; we are in military oc- 
cupancy and must have our supplies." 

"That," I replied, "is provided for. Admiral Lee allows 
all vessels with army supplies, duly permitted, to pass." 

"But," continued he, "we must have more than that. 
The people will suffer." 

"Then," said I, "they must return to duty and not 
persist in rebellion. The object of the blockade is to make 
them suffer. I want no double-dealing or false pretenses. 
There is, or there is not, a blockade. If there is, I shall, 
until the President otherwise directs, enforce it. If there 
is not, the world should know it. Should the blockade be 
modified, we shall conform to the modifications." 

The General thought it unnecessary to tell the world the 
blockade was modified or removed. I thought we should 
make the changes public as the declaration of blockade 
itself, if we would maintain good faith. He seemed to 
have no clear conception of things; thought there ought 
to have never been a blockade. In that I concurred. 
Told him I had taken that view at the commencement, 
but had been overruled; we had placed ourselves in a 
wrong position at the beginning, made the Rebels bellig- 
erents, given them nationality, an error and an anomaly. 
It was one of Mr. Seward's mistakes. 

A letter has been shown about, and is to-day published, 
purporting to be from General Kearny, who fell at Chan- 
tilly. The letter is addressed to O. S. Halstead of New 
Jersey. It expresses his views and shows his feelings 
towards McClellan, who, he says, "positively has no 
talents." How many officers have written similar private 
letters is unknown. "We have no generals," says this 
letter of Kearny. 



1862] A HOAX ON SEWARD 175 

October 17, Friday. The question of traffic at Norfolk 
was discussed in Cabinet. General Dix has, I see, made 
some headway. Stanton wanted to transfer the whole sub- 
ject of permits for army supplies and intercourse to Gen- 
eral Dix. Chase thought there should be leave granted for 
return cargoes also. I requested, if there was to be a modi- 
fication of the blockade, that it should be distinctly under- 
stood and announced to what extent. If traffic was to be 
authorized, it should be publicly known. Let us not have 
the shame, demoralization, and wrong of making a meas- 
ure of this kind a cover for favoritism. No distinct con- 
clusion was arrived at. 

October 18, Saturday. The ravages by the roving 
steamer 290, alias Alabama, are enormous. England 
should be held accountable for these outrages. The vessel 
was built in England and has never been in the ports of 
any other nation. British authorities were warned of her 
true character repeatedly before she left. 

Seward called on me in some excitement this P.M., and 
wished me to meet the President, himself, Stanton, and 
Halleck at the War Department relative to important 
dispatches just received. As we walked over together, he 
said we had been very successful in getting a dispatch, 
which opened up the whole Rebel proceedings, dis- 
closed their plans and enabled us to prepare for them; that 
it was evident there was a design to make an immediate 
attack on Washington by water, and it would be well to 
buy vessels forthwith if we had not a sufficient number 
ready for the purpose. When we entered Stanton's room, 
General Halleck was reading the document alluded to and 
examining the maps. No one else was present. Stanton 
had left the Department. The President was in the room 
of the telegraph operator. 

The document purported to be a dispatch from General 
Cooper, Assistant Secretary of War of the Confederates, to 
one of the Rebel agents in England. A question arose as 



176 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. is 

to the authenticity of the dispatch. Halleck, who is famil- 
iar with Cooper's signature, doubted after examining the 
paper if this was genuine. Adjutant-General Thomas was 
sent for and requested to bring Cooper's signature for com- 
parison. Seward then took the papers and commenced 
reading aloud. The writer spoke of "the mountains of 
Arlington," "the fleet of the Potomac," "the fleet of the 
North," etc. I interrupted Seward, and said it was a 
clumsy manufacture; that the dispatch could have been 
written by no American, certainly not by General Cooper, 
or any person conversant with our affairs or the topo- 
graphy of the country; that there were no mountains of 
Arlington, no fleet of the Potomac, or fleet of the North. 
General Halleck mentioned one or two other points which 
impressed him that the dispatch was bogus. The President 
came in while we were criticizing the document, the reading 
of which was concluded by Seward, when the President 
took the papers and map to examine them. General 
Thomas soon brought a number of Cooper's signatures, 
and all were satisfied at a glance that the purported signa- 
ture was fictitious. 

Seward came readily to the opinion that the papers were 
bogus and that the consul, or minister, he did not say 
which, had been sadly imposed upon, sold. The dis- 
patch had, he said, cost a good deal of money. It was 
a palpable cheat. It may be a question whether the British 
authorities have not connived at it, to punish our inquis- 
itive countrymen for trying to pry into their secrets. 

It is just five weeks since the Battle of Antietam, and 
the army is quiet, reposing in camp. The country groans, 
but nothing is done. Certainly the confidence of the people 
must give way under this fatuous inaction. We have sinis- 
ter rumors of peace intrigues and strange management. 
I cannot give them credit, yet I know little of what is 
being done. The Secretary of War is reticent, vexed, dis- 
appointed, and communicates nothing. Neither he nor 
McClellan will inspire or aid the other. 



1862] THE NORFOLK BLOCKADE 177 

Chase is pursuing a financial policy which I fear will 
prove disastrous, perhaps ruinous. His theories in regard 
to gold and currency appear to me puerile. 

General Dix is pressing schemes in regard to the block- 
ade and trade at Norfolk which are corrupt and demoral- 
izing. Dix himself is not selling licenses, but the scoun- 
drels who surround him are, and he can hardly be ignor- 
ant of the fact. The gang of rotten officers on his staff 
have sent him here. One of the worst has his special con- 
fidence, and Dix is under the influence of this cunning, 
bad man. He has plundering thieves about him, some, 
I fear, as destitute of position as honesty. 

McClellan is not accused of corruption, but of criminal 
inaction. His inertness makes the assertions of his op- 
ponents prophetic. He is sadly afflicted with what the 
President calls the " slows." Many believe him to be acting 
on the army programme avowed by Key. 

October 24, Friday. Wrote Chase this A.M. respecting 
traffic at Norfolk. The army officers are crowding Ad- 
miral Lee with permits to favorites obtained in abundance 
through General Dix. All is in violation of good faith as 
regards the blockade. I wrote Chase that all trade should 
be interdicted or it should be opened to all; that there 
ought to be no sham blockade to pamper army corrup- 
tionists; that if there is a blockade it should be rigidly 
enforced, excluding all; or let us open the port to all. The 
subject was discussed in Cabinet. Previous to introducing 
it, I had some talk with Chase. He fully agreed with me, 
but preferred opening the port, while, under the repre- 
sentations of Stanton, I doubted the expediency. But we 
agreed that one policy or the other ought to be adopted, but 
it should not be equivocal. When the subject was intro- 
duced, Chase flinched, as he often does, and he did not 
sustain me, though he did not oppose me, said nothing. 
Seward entreated that the question might be got along 
with for ten days, until after the New York election. He 



178 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. is 

did not wish to have Dix and the interested fellows around 
him take cause of offense at this moment. Stanton said he 
thought I had consented to traffic under permits by Dix. 
I replied that I had not, and that he could have had no 
such thought from anything I had said or done; that I was 
opposed to traffic through any blockaded ports and to 
return cargoes even in army transports, or vessels carrying 
army supplies. 

October 25, Saturday. General Wadsworth, 1 Mr. Fenton, 
and others urgently insist on some changes in the Brooklyn 
Navy Yard, of masters who, they claim, are active parti- 
sans. But they made no clear case. Told them, I was 
opposed to the policy of removals of competent officers 
unless for active, offensive partisanship; that any man was 
entitled to enjoy and exercise his opinion without molesta- 
tion. General W. concurred with me but understood there 
were such masters within the prescribed rules. Told them 
that from any facts I had received I would only remove 
Fairion, master machinist, who, it is shown, is so im- 
mersed in politics as to neglect his business, and is a candi- 
date for comptroller. As he manifests a willingness and 
intention to leave the service for another place, I think he 
can depart a few days hi advance without detriment. This 
taking advantage of an excited election to thrust miser- 
able partisans into places which they are often indiffer- 
ently qualified to fill, I dislike, and so expressed myself to 
General W., who assented fully to my views. 

Some discussion was had yesterday in Cabinet in regard 
to the course which should be pursued towards General 
J. C. Davis, who killed Major-General Nelson. The grand 
jury, it is reported, have ignored the bill in the civil case. 
The question was whether the military ought to take notice 
of the homicide after the civil authorities declined. Chase 

1 Major-General James S. Wadsworth, United States Volunteers, in 
charge of the defense of Washington, and later an unsuccessful Republican 
candidate for Governor of New York. 



1862] HALLEGK AND McCLELLAN 179 

and Blair thought the military should. Stanton opposed 
it. Seward thought the affair might be looked into. I re- 
marked that if the transaction had occurred in the Navy, 
we should at least have had a court of inquiry. 

November 1, Saturday. The work on the ironclad turret 
steamer Passaic is nearly finished. Ericsson makes a pro- 
position to fire the fifteen-inch gun through the orifice 
instead of protruding the piece. I have no faith in it. Fox 
was at first disposed to consider it favorably but doubt- 
ingly. Have sent Fox, Admiral Smith, and Dahlgren to 
New York to witness test experiment. 

November 4, Tuesday. Further news of the depredations 
by the Alabama. Ordered Dacotah, Ino, Augusta, etc., 
on her track. The President read in Cabinet to-day his 
sensible letter of the 13th of October to General McClellan, 
ordering him to move and to pass down on the east side 
of the Blue Ridge. McClellan did not wish to move at 
all. Was ordered by Halleck, and when he found he 
must move, said he would go down the west side of the 
mountains, but when he finally started went on the east 
side without advising H. or the President. 

Stanton, whose dislike of McC. increases, says that 
Halleck does not consider himself responsible for army 
movements or deficiencies this side of the mountains, of 
which he has had no notice from General McClellan, who 
neither reports to him nor to the Secretary of War. All his 
official correspondence is with the President direct and no 
one else. 

The President did not assent to the last remarks of 
Stanton, which were more sneering in manner than words, 
but said Halleck should be, and would be, considered re- 
sponsible, for he (the President) had told him (Halleck) 
that he would at any time remoVe McC. when H. required 
it, and that he (the President) would take the entire 
responsibility of the removal. 



180 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [NOV. 4 

Mr. Bates quietly suggested that Halleck should take 
command of the army in person. But the President said, 
and all the Cabinet concurred in the opinion, that H. 
would be an indifferent general in the field, that he shirked 
responsibility in his present position, that he, in short, is 
a moral coward, worth but little except as a critic and 
director of operations, though intelligent and educated. 

Congress wisely ordered a transfer of all war vessels on 
the Mississippi to the Navy. It was not by my suggestion 
or procurement that this law was passed, but it was proper. 
It has, however, greatly disturbed Stanton, who, supported 
by Halleck and Ellet, opposes a transfer of the ram fleet as 
not strictly within the letter, though it is undoubtedly the 
intent of the law. That Ellet should wish a distinct com- 
mand is not surprising. It is characteristic. He is full of 
zeal to overflowing; is not, however, a naval man, but is, 
very naturally, delighted with an independent naval com- 
mand in this adventurous ram service. It is, however, a 
pitiful business on the part of Stanton and Halleck, who 
should take an administrative view and who should be 
aware there cannot be two distinct commands on the river 
under different orders from different Departments without 
endangering collision. 

Seward sent me a day or two since a singular note, 
supercilious in tone, in relation to mails captured on 
blockade-runners, telling me it is deemed expedient that 
instructions be given to our naval officers that such mails 
should not be opened, but that as speedily as possible they 
be forwarded. Who deems it expedient to give these in- 
structions, which would be illegal, abject, and an unauthor- 
ized and unwarranted surrender of our maritime rights? 
No man the least conversant with admiralty or statute 
law, usage, or the law of prize, or who knowingly main- 
tains national rights can deem it expedient to give such 
instructions, and I have declined doing so. The President 
must give the order, which he will never do if he looks into 
the subject. This is another exhibition of the weakness and 



1862] THE CAPTURED MAILS 181 

the loose and inconsiderate administrative management 
of the Secretary of State, who really seems to suppose him- 
self the Government and his whims supreme law. We had 
this subject up last August, and I then pointed out the im- 
propriety of any attempt to depart from law and usage, but 
so shaped a set of instructions as to relieve him; but this 
proceeding is worse than the former. I shall make no 
farther effort to relieve him, and have told him I cannot go 
beyond my instructions of the 18th of August last. He 
professes to believe something more is necessary to keep 
the English authorities quiet. The truth is he then and 
now undertook, in a spirit of self-conceit, to do more than 
he is authorized. Stuart, the English Charge", knows it; 
has, I have no doubt, pressed Seward to have instructions 
issued to our officers which shall come up to the promises 
he ostentatiously made. He is conscious, I think, that he 
has been bamboozled, but he will not be able to extricate 
himself by bamboozling me. His course is sometimes very 
annoying, and exhibits an indifference which is astonish- 
ing in one of his long experience and intellectual capacity. 



A Private Grief Burnside succeeds McClellan in Command of the Army 
of the Potomac The Modification of the Norfolk Blockade The 
Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy The Question of New 
Navy Yards Count Gurowski and his Book Commander Preble's 
Case The Division of Virginia A Roundabout Proceeding of Sew- 
ard's Seward's Resignation and the Discussion in Regard to it 
Chase tenders his Resignation and the President sees a Way out 
Cabinet Rivalries Seward and Chase requested to withdraw their 
Resignations Depredations of the Alabama Cabinet Discussion 
of the West Virginia Question Butler superseded by Banks at New 
Orleans The Party Spirit. 

December 3. It is a month since I have opened this book 
and been able to make any record of current events. A 
pressure of public business, the preparation of my Annual 
Report, and domestic sorrows have consumed all my wak- 
ing moments. A light, bright, cherub face, which threw its 
sunshine on our household when this book was last opened, 
has disappeared forever. My dear Hubert, who was a treas- 
ure garnered in my heart, is laid beside his five brothers 
and sisters in Spring Grove. Well has it been for me 
that overwhelming public duties have borne down upon 
me in these sad days. Alas, frail life! amid the nation's 
grief I have my own. 

A change of the commander of the Army of the Potomac 
has taken place. Stanton is gratified. McClellan is or- 
dered to Trenton, and Burnside succeeds him. Burnside 
will doubtless do his best, is patriotic and amiable, and, 
had he greater powers and grasp, would make an accept- 
able and popular, if not a great, general. I hope the War 
Department will sustain him more earnestly than it did 
McClellan. Of the change I knew nothing and wished to 
know nothing when it was made. I had expected it might 
take place earlier, when McClellan seemed testing the for- 
bearance of the Government, and not one good word was 



1862] MODIFICATION OF THE BLOCKADE 183 

said for him. It seemed there could not be, but after he 
commenced to move, I was less prepared to see him dis- 
placed and the announcement came with a shock. We 
shall see what Burnside can do and how he will be seconded 
by other generals and the War Department. 

The November elections have not been favorable to 
the Administration. To a great extent its friends are 
responsible. Some active and leading Republican minds 
have ability and talent to abuse, berate, traduce, often 
in secret, and assail, and these gifts are directed against 
the Administration. The worst of them are opposed to the 
Government and violently opposed to its being adminis- 
tered by Democrats. 

The efforts of the officers under General Dix and [of] the 
General himself, aided by the War and Treasury Depart- 
ments, have finally so far prevailed that the blockading 
squadron is to allow vessels to pass on a permit from Gen- 
eral Dix's military staff. I declined to recognize any such 
practice unless by special order of the President, who can 
if he pleases modify the blockade. To allow exports and 
imports is inconsistent with a rigid and honest blockade. 
There has been a good deal of manoeuvring, much backing 
and filling. The prize is great. Civilians, quasi-military 
men, etc., are interested, men of political influence. Dix 
has made three distinct visits to Washington on the sub- 
ject. Some of his staff and Treasury agents were urgent. 
I do not think military operations at Fortress Monroe 
and its vicinity were suspended or that they suffered 
by the absence of Dix. Repeated discussions took place 
in the Cabinet. My determination being fixed, it became 
necessary the President should issue an order. Chase and 
Stanton each prepared a form for the President to sign. 
Stanton's was adopted. When the President signed it, I 
proposed that Nicolay should make duplicates, one for me. 
Stanton thought it unnecessary, said he would make and 
send me a perfect copy as soon as he reached the War 
Department. This was on Tuesday, the llth of November. 



184 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 3 

On Wednesday, having business with the President, I asked 
if he retained a copy. He said he did not, but, remem- 
bering Stanton's promise and my objections to the pro- 
ceedings, he manifested his surprise that Stanton had 
failed to supply me; wished me to call on Stanton and 
get it. I did stop at the War Department on my return. 
S. professed astonishment, said he had entirely forgotten 
it, that it was in his pocket, had never been taken out. 
On Friday morning, the 14th, I received from Captain 
Turner, senior officer at Hampton Roads, a letter inclos- 
ing a copy of the President's order, with a letter from 
Stanton to General Dix inclosing it, dated the very day on 
which the order was issued, although he assured me the 
dispatch was in his pocket wholly forgotten. The copy 
which he sent me and the copy from the naval officer at 
Hampton Roads reached me at the same time. Turner 
had properly refused to recognize the order sent by 
Stanton as authentic, would not obey it unless received 
through the Navy Department. It is unnecessary to com- 
ment further than to say there was something more than 
right in the transaction. 

My Annual Report, which is necessarily long, appears to 
have been well received. The New York papers give it ap- 
proval, some of them reluctant approval. The Herald says 
it is a document highly creditable to the country but not to 
the Secretary. I am informed this article is by Bartlett, 
who continues to be malignantly angry because I would 
not purchase vessels through his agency. He confessed to 
a friend that he had been disappointed in not making a 
hundred thousand dollars through the Navy Department, 
and sent me word that I should feel his vengeance, for he 
controlled the New York press. It seems the papers of that 
city are, on naval matters, shaped and directed much as he 
wishes and said they should be. The Times, where Thur- 
low Weed influences the pliant Raymond, says the Report 
is too much in detail, is not what it should be, but is able, 
etc. The Evening Post says nothing, publishes a brief sum- 



1862] QUESTION OF NEW NAVY YARDS 185 

mary only. The World publishes it in full without a word 
of comment. The National Intelligencer compliments it 
highly, and so do several of the Philadelphia papers which 
have been sent me. The World of to-day has a compli- 
mentary article on the Secretary of the Navy. 

Some grumbling I anticipated from New London and 
its vicinity for doing my duty. I last March, and again 
in June, addressed Congress through the Navy Committee 
on the need of a suitable navy yard and establishment for 
the construction of iron vessels and iron armor. The sug- 
gestions drew from the city of Philadelphia an offer of 
League Island. I thought, if the latter place was suitable, 
a change might be made without increasing the number of 
yards. Congress authorized me to accept it, but Senator 
Foster of Connecticut procured a condition to be affixed 
that the Board which was to examine League Island with 
a view of substituting it for the most limited yard should 
also examine and report on the harbor of New London, 
and the Rhode Island Senators had a further proviso that 
the waters of Narragansett Bay should be also examined 
by the same board. 

For an iron navy yard and establishment neither myself 
nor any one else entertained a thought of New London or 
Narragansett Bay, nor would either be exactly suitable 
for iron vessels and machinery; fresh water is essential. 
Neither would Congress consent, nor does the country 
require four navy yards east of the Hudson. But the Board 
I appointed had some disagreement. Admiral Stringham, 
Chairman of the Board, and a resident of Brooklyn, had 
a rival feeling as regards Philadelphia, and a partiality 
for New London, where he had studied in his youth. Pro- 
fessor Bache, Superintendent of the Coast Survey, who 
was one of the Board, was even adroit. The Board was 
divided, and, forgetful of the great object in view, that 
of an establishment for iron vessels in fresh water and the 
suitability of League Island, a majority reported that 
New London was the best place for such a navy yard. Not 



186 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC 3 

unlikely the fact that I am from Connecticut had its influ- 
ence with some of them, though it has not with me. I am 
authorized by Congress to accept League Island if the 
Board report it suitable, but I am not authorized to accept 
of New London or Narragansett Bay. But I conclude to 
take no final step without giving Congress an opportunity 
to decide, though stating I propose to accept of League 
Island, which would change but not increase the number of 
yards, if Congress did not disapprove. I am acting for the 
country, not for any section, or city, or set of speculators, 
and though I have a partiality for my State, and for New 
London, where I have many excellent friends, yet I should 
be unworthy of my place were I to permit local or selfish 
interests of any kind to control me against what is really 
best for the country. But, while convinced I am right, and 
deserving of approval, I shall encounter censure and abuse 
in quarters where I desire the good opinions of my fellow 
citizens. 

December 4, Thursday. The Members of Congress from 
Minnesota are urging the President vehemently to give 
his assent to the execution of three hundred Indian cap- 
tives, but they will not succeed. Undoubtedly the savage 
wretches have been guilty of great atrocities, and I have as 
little doubt the stories of their barbarities, bad enough in 
themselves, are greatly exaggerated. What may have been 
the aggressions and provocations which led the Indians on 
is not told us. When the intelligent Representatives of a 
State can deliberately besiege the Government to take the 
lives of these ignorant barbarians by wholesale, after they 
have surrendered themselves prisoners, it would seem 
the sentiments of the Representatives were but slightly 
removed from the barbarians whom they would execute. 
The Minnesotians are greatly exasperated and threaten 
the Administration if it shows clemency. 

Some of the Members of Congress begin early to mani- 
fest a perverse and bad spirit. Foremost as regards the 



1862] COUNT GUROWSKI AND HIS BOOK 187 

Navy, of which he should be the friend and organ, is John 
P. Hale, Chairman of the Senate Naval Committee. He is 
censorious to all the Administration, but especially to the 
Navy Department, which, instead of supporting, he omits 
no opportunity to assail and embarrass. Calvert, of the 
House, is equally virulent. He thinks he has cause to be 
angry with me, but has not the courage and manliness to 
declare the reason or motive which governs him. Some 
months since he made application to me to order the re- 
turn of one or two slaves who were on the Potomac Flo- 
tilla, or in the navy yard, to his sister, who, he says, is a 
deserving loyal lady residing in Virginia near the Potomac. 
I of course declined. I also declined appointing some one 
to be midshipman under the general clause, whom he 
wished selected, as I declined in many similar cases. He is 
also dissatisfied because the Naval School is not immedi- 
ately returned to Annapolis, which is within his district. 

The lowest bidder for one of the large steamers lives at 
Chester. Other competitors are greatly excited and charge 
him with being disloyal. This charge is, I think, untrue, 
though one of the firm is a Democrat and opposed the 
election of President Lincoln. But the idea of exclusion 
or favoritism in a matter of this kind, and in disregard of 
law, is absurd. 

Count Adam Gurowski, a Polish exile, who has been 
employed as a clerk in the State Department, has pub- 
lished a book which I am told is unsparing in its assaults 
upon almost all in authority, but that he deals gently with 
me. He is by nature a grumbler, ardent, earnest, rash, vio- 
lent, unreasonable, impracticable, with no powers of right- 
fully discriminating character; nor is he a correct judge of 
measures and results. I have neither sought nor shunned 
him. Under no circumstances could he be to me a pleasant 
companion. He wants, I think, to be frank and honest in 
his way, to be truthful, though given to scandal ; brave he 
is without doubt, a rude, rough Polish bear who is courted 
and flattered by a set of extreme partisans that delight in 



188 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 4 

listening to his denunciations of public men, and in hearing 
his enthusiastic praises in broken English of liberty. He is 
an exile for good and bad qualities, a martyr to his opin- 
ions and his manners. Seward gave him a clerkship, 
why and for what reason I never understood, for his com- 
panions and intimates are Seward's opponents, and the 
Count himself is and always has been an open, persistent, 
undisguised opponent of Seward and his course. The 
Count, it seems, kept a journal or took memoranda while 
in the Department and wrote scandal and hate in bad 
English, which he has printed. 

The proposition to divide the State of Virginia is before 
Congress, and I am told it will probably be successful. I 
am not clear as to its expediency, and I doubt if it can con- 
stitutionally be done. Certainly the time is not auspicious 
for such a step. To me the division of Virginia at this time 
looks like a step towards a division of the Union, a gen- 
eral break-up. This is intuitive, an impression without 
investigation. Let us have no separations or divisions at 
present. 

I have answered two resolutions, petty calls of Congress, 
in relation to the appointment of midshipmen. There are 
one hundred and forty vacancies, chiefly hi consequence of 
the secession of the Southern States, and I have appointed 
sixty-two. 

Senator Fessenden has been to see me in the case of 
George H. Preble, who is one of his constituents and a 
neighbor, who is dismissed for failure to do his duty on the 
4th of last September, when he permitted the steamer 
Oreto (Florida) to run the blockade at Mobile. Senator F. 
thinks injustice has been done Preble, and asks that he be 
restored and then tried by court martial. Told him this 
could not be done by the Department or the President; 
that, being out of the service, there was but one way of 
restoring him, and that was by a new appointment. To be 
reinstated, the President must nominate and the Senate 
confirm. The act of confirmation would itself absolve him. 



1862] COMMANDER TREBLE'S CASE 189 

The Senate would not, however, confirm a man with guilt 
or wrong upon him. Fessenden said he had taken a differ- 
ent view; thought the President might restore without 
Congressional action, yet seemed confused and in doubt. 
Wished me to talk with Admirals Smith and Dahlgren; 
says the officers generally justify Preble, who, he added, is 
in Washington and would like to see me. I requested him 
to call; told F. my view of the case was unchanged, but 
would hear and give consideration to anything he might 
advance. 

Preble called the next day, and we went over the case. 
He claims he did his whole duty; says he believed the 
Oreto was an English vessel, and he wished to keep the 
peace, was perhaps too prudent. I told him that in his zeal 
to preserve the peace he forgot his duty as an officer; 
that he had been placed as a sentinel before the harbor of 
Mobile, with express orders to prevent ingress or egress, 
and had, in not obeying these orders, failed to do his whole 
duty. His excuse was that if he obeyed his orders he would 
hurt somebody, but in not obeying he had done his country 
and the service great injury; that the excuse did not become 
an officer and would not justify a sentinel. We had much 
discussion on this point. He said he could have boarded 
and sunk the Oreto, but suppose he had done so and she 
had been an English vessel with an English flag above, 
what would have been the consequences to himself? I as- 
sured him the Government would never let an officer suffer 
for fidelity in obeying orders and being vigilant in per- 
forming his duty; that it would have been better for him 
had he not paused to consider consequences to himself, 
better for the country had he strictly obeyed his orders, 
and even if the Oreto had been an English vessel and been 
sunk by him, he would have been justified, and the English- 
man condemned for his temerity in violating usage and 
disregarding the warning of the sentinel. 

The subject has given me trouble, and I sent my con- 
clusions by Assistant Secretary Fox to Fessenden. Fox, 



190 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 4 

when he saw Fessenden, did not find it convenient to state 
his errand, but requested the Senator to call and see me, 
which he did on Tuesday morning. 

I informed him there was no way of instituting a court 
martial nor even a court of inquiry. The officers who would 
be required as witnesses were in the Gulf and could not be 
detached from indispensable duty and brought home on 
such an errand. That under the circumstances the 
feelings of himself and others and in justice to both 
Preble and the Government, I would appoint a board of 
officers, who should take the three reports of Commodore 
Preble on the 4th and 6th of September and 10th of 
October, being his own statements of his case at differ- 
ent dates, and say whether he had done his whole duty 
as he claimed and in conformity with the articles of war. 
That their report I would submit to the President to 
dispose of, and thus end the matter, so far as the Navy 
Department was concerned. He asked if I did not prefer 
the certificates of other officers. I replied no, neither state- 
ments, witnesses, nor arguments would be introduced, no- 
thing but Preble's own reports, which I thought all he or 
his friends could require. F. was a little nonplussed. Said 
it was certainly fair, he was satisfied with such submission 
and presumed P. would be. 

Within an hour Preble called; said that Senator F. had 
informed him of my proposition for an informal court, 
which he thought fair, but wished Admiral Farragut's let- 
ter to go to the board, as F. by his hasty letter had made 
an improper prejudice on me. I assured him he was mis- 
taken, that my action was based on his own statement. 
What I proposed was a board that should take his own 
reports and decide upon the same evidence as the Admiral 
and I had done, and I should abide their conclusion. The 
tribunal would necessarily be informal and composed of 
men whose opinions, if they had formed any, were un- 
known to me and I hoped to him also. 

He said this was all he could ask or expect, but intimated 



1862] THE DIVISION OF VIRGINIA 191 

it might relieve me of responsibility if Admiral Farragut's 
letter was included in the submission. I said no, I evaded 
no honest responsibility. My convictions were that I had 
done right, though it had borne hard upon him; that he had 
been in fault from error in judgment, rather than criminal 
intent, but the injury was none the less, and the example 
was quite necessary. Without assenting to my views he 
said he should be satisfied with the judgment of the board 
and left me. 

I appointed Admiral Foote, Commodore Davis, and 
Lieutenant-Commander Phelps and shall leave the matter 
in their hands. 

The House has voted to create and admit Western Vir- 
ginia as a State. This is not the time to divide the old 
Commonwealth. The requirements of the Constitution 
are not complied with, as they in good faith should be, by 
Virginia, by the proposed new State, nor by the United 
States. I find that Blair, with whom I exchanged a word, 
is opposed to it. 

We have news of a movement of our troops at Falmouth 
with the intention of crossing the Rappahannock and 
attacking the Rebels. 

The Rebel' steamer Alabama was at Martinique and 
escaped the San Jacinto, Commander Ronckendorff , a good 
officer. 

December 12, Friday. The board in Treble's case this 
day reported that he failed to do his whole duty. I went 
immediately and read it to the President, who gave it his 
approval. 

Some conversation in Cabinet respecting the proposed 
new State of Western Virginia. The bill has not yet 
reached the President, who thinks the creation of this new 
State at this tune of doubtful expediency. 

December 14, Sunday. There has been fighting for two 
or three days at Fredericksburg, and our troops were said 



192 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. u 

to have crossed the river. The rumor at the War De- 
partment and I get only rumor is that our troops 
have done well, that Burnside and our generals are in good 
spirits; but there is something unsatisfactory, or not en- 
tirely satisfactory, in this intelligence, or in the method 
of communicating it. When I get nothing clear and explicit 
at the War Department I have my apprehensions. They 
fear to admit disastrous truths. Adverse tidings are sup- 
pressed, with a deal of fuss and mystery, a shuffling over 
of papers and maps, and a far-reaching vacant gaze at 
something undefined and indescribable. 

Burnside is on trial. I have my fears that he has not suf- 
ficient grasp and power for the position given him, or the 
ability to handle so large a force; but he is patriotic, and 
his aims are right. It appears to me a mistake to fight the 
enemy hi so strong a position. They have selected then* own 
ground, and we meet them there. Halleck is General-in- 
Chief, but no one appears to have any confidence hi his 
military management, or thinks him able to advise Burnside. 

Just at this juncture a great force has been fitted out and 
sent off under Banks. It has struck me as strange that 
Banks was not sent up James River with a gunboat force. 
Such a movement would have caused a diversion on the 
part of the Rebels and have thrown them into some con- 
fusion, by compelling them to draw off from their strong 
position at Fredericksburg. But to send an army up James 
River, from which he has just withdrawn McClellan, 
against the remonstrance of that general and in opposition 
to the opinion of many good officers, would, in the act 
itself, be a confession unpleasant to Halleck. This is 
the aspect of things to me. A day or two will solve the 
problem of this generalship and military management. 

Assistant Secretary Fox had yesterday an invitation to 
dine with Lord Lyons, and informed me before he went 
that he had an idea or intimation there was a wish to learn 
what were my views of the recent slave treaty. I told him 
there was no secret or ulterior purpose on my part, and 



1862] ONE OF SEWARD'S SCHEMES 193 

that my opinions were frankly stated in the correspondence 
with Seward. Returning in the evening, Fox called at my 
house and said that the object was as I [sic] had supposed. 
After hearing from Fox what my views were, Lord Lyons 
said he well understood and rightly appreciated my posi- 
tion, and was inclined to believe I was correct. Assured of 
that and that I would come into the measure, he would 
assent to a declaratory or supplementary clause ratifying 
the matter, and make the belligerent right of search and 
the treaty right of search compatible. I requested Fox, as 
they had sought to get my opinion through him, to let Lord 
Lyons and Secretary Seward both understand that I had 
no hidden purpose but only the rights of the country in view. 

This whole roundabout proceeding is one of Seward's 
schemes and he thinks it a very cunning one to get 
his mistake rectified without acknowledging his error. 
Lord Lyons is no more blind to this trick than I am. 

Wrote Naval Committee on Friday respecting the con- 
struction of some large steamers for cruising, and, if neces- 
sary, offensive purposes. 

December 15, Monday. No news from Fredericksburg; 
and no news at this time, I fear, is not good news. 

Secretary Smith called on me to unburden his mind. He 
dislikes Seward's management, and the general course 
pursued in Cabinet and between the members generally. 
Thinks Seward the chief cause of the unfortunate state of 
things. 

Smith tells me he (Smith) has made up his mind to leave 
the Cabinet and accept the office of District Judge, which 
he can have. 

December 16, Tuesday. The army has recrossed the 
Rappahannock; driven back, has suffered heavy loss. The 
shock is great, and it is difficult to get any particulars. I 
fear the plan was not a wise one. 



194 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 19 

December 19, Friday. Soon after reaching the Depart- 
ment this A.M., I received a note from Nicolay, the Pre- 
sident's secretary, requesting me to attend a special 
Cabinet-meeting at half-past ten. All the members were 
punctually there except Seward. 

The President desired that what he had to communicate 
should not be the subject of conversation elsewhere, and 
proceeded to inform us that on Wednesday evening, about 
six o'clock, Senator Preston King and F. W. Seward came 
into his room, each bearing a communication. That which 
Mr. King presented was the resignation of the Secretary of 
State, and Mr. F. W. Seward handed in his own. Mr. King 
then informed the President that at a Republican caucus 
held that day a pointed and positive opposition had 
shown itself against the Secretary of State, which termin- 
ated in a unanimous expression, with one exception, against 
him and a wish for his removal. The feeling finally shaped 
itself into resolutions of a general character, and the ap- 
pointment of a committee of nine to bear them to the 
President, and to communicate to him the sentiments of 
the Republican Senators. Mr. King, the former colleague 
and the personal friend of Mr. Seward, being also from the 
same State, felt it to be a duty to inform the Secretary at 
once of what had occurred. On receiving this information, 
which was wholly a surprise, Mr. Seward immediately 
wrote, and by Mr. King tendered his resignation. Mr. 
King suggested it would be well for the committee to wait 
upon the President at an early moment, and, the Secretary 
agreeing with him, Mr. King on Wednesday morning noti- 
fied Judge Collamer, the chairman, who sent word to the 
President that they would call at the Executive Mansion 
at any hour after six that evening, and the President sent 
word he would receive them at seven. 

The committee came at the tune specified, and the 
President says the evening was spent in a pretty free and 
animated conversation. No opposition was manifested 
towards any other member of the Cabinet than Mr. 



1862] SEWARD RESIGNS 195 

Seward. Some not very friendly feelings were shown 
towards one or two others, but no wish that any one 
should leave but the Secretary of State. Him they charged, 
if not with infidelity, with indifference, with want of 
earnestness in the War, with want of sympathy with 
the country in this great struggle, and with many things 
objectionable, and especially with a too great ascendency 
and control of the President and measures of adminis- 
tration. This, he said, was the point and pith of their 
complaint. 

The President says that in reply to the committee he 
stated how this movement had shocked and grieved him; 
that the Cabinet he had selected in view of impending dif- 
ficulties and of all the responsibilities upon himself; that he 
and the members had gone on harmoniously, whatever had 
been their previous party feelings and associations; that 
there had never been serious disagreements, though there 
had been differences; that in the overwhelming troubles of 
the country, which had borne heavily upon him, he had 
been sustained and consoled by the good feeling and the 
mutual and unselfish confidence and zeal that pervaded 
the Cabinet. 

He expressed a hope that there would be no combined 
movement on the part of other members of the Cabinet to 
resist this assault, whatever might be the termination. 
Said this movement was uncalled for, that there was no 
such charge, admitting all that was said, as should break 
up or overthrow a Cabinet, nor was it possible for him to 
go on with a total abandonment of old friends. 

Mr. Bates stated the difference between our system and 
that of England, where a change of ministry involved a 
new election, dissolution of Parliament, etc. Three or four 
of the members of the Cabinet said they had heard of the 
resignation: Blair the day preceding; Stanton through 
the President, on whom he had made a business call; 
Mr. Bates when coming to the meeting. 

The President requested that we should, with him, meet 



196 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 19 

the committee. This did not receive the approval of Mr. 
Chase, who said he had no knowledge whatever of the 
movement, or the resignation, until since he had entered 
the room. Mr. Bates knew of no good that would come of 
an interview. I stated that I could see no harm in it, and 
if the President wished it, I thought it a duty for us 
to attend. The proceeding was of an extraordinary char- 
acter. Mr. Blair thought it would be well for us to be 
present, and finally all acquiesced. The President named 
half-past seven this evening. 

December 20, Saturday. At the meeting last evening there 
were present of the committee Senators Collamer, Fes- 
senden, Harris, Trumbull, Grimes, Howard, Sumner, and 
Pomeroy. Wade was absent. The President and all the 
Cabinet but Seward were present. The subject was opened 
by the President, who read the resolutions and stated the 
substance of his interviews with the committee, their ob- 
ject and purpose. He spoke of the unity of his Cabinet, and 
how, though they could not be expected to think and speak 
alike on all subjects, all had acquiesced in measures when 
once decided. The necessities of the times, he said, had 
prevented frequent and long sessions of the Cabinet, and 
the submission of every question at the meetings. 

Secretary Chase indorsed the President's statement 
fully and entirely, but regretted that there was not a more 
full and thorough consideration and canvass of every 
important measure in open Cabinet. 

Senator Collamer, the chairman of the committee, suc- 
ceeded the President and calmly and fairly presented the 
views of the committee and of those whom they repre- 
sented. They wanted united counsels, combined wisdom, 
and energetic action. If there is truth in the maxim that 
in a multitude of counselors there is safety, it might be 
well that those advisers who were near the President and 
selected by him, and all of whom were more or less re- 
sponsible, should be consulted on the great questions which 



1862] SEWARD'S RESIGNATION 197 

affected the national welfare, and that the ear of the 
Executive should be open to all and that he should have 
the minds of all. 

Senator Fessenden was skillful but a little tart; felt, 
it could be seen, more than he cared to say; wanted the 
whole Cabinet to consider and decide great questions, and 
that no one in particular should absorb and direct the 
whole Executive action. Spoke of a remark which he had 
heard from J. Q. Adams on the floor of Congress hi regard 
to a measure of his administration. Mr. Adams said the 
measure was adopted against his wishes and opinion, but 
he was outvoted by Mr. Clay and others. He wished an 
administration so conducted. 

Grimes, Sumner, and Trumbull were pointed, emphatic, 
and unequivocal in their opposition to Mr. Seward, whose 
zeal and sincerity in this conflict they doubted; each was 
unrelenting and unforgiving. 

Blair spoke earnestly and well. Sustained the President, 
and dissented most decidedly from the idea of a plural 
Executive; claimed that the President was accountable 
for his administration, might ask opinions or not of either 
and as many as he pleased, of all or none, of his Cabinet. 
Mr. Bates took much the same view. 

The President managed his own case, speaking freely, 
and showed great tact, shrewdness, and ability, provided 
such a subject were a proper one for such a meeting and 
discussion. I have no doubt he considered it most judi- 
cious to conciliate the Senators with respectful deference, 
whatever may have been his opinion of their interference. 
When he closed his remarks, he said it would be a gratifica- 
tion to him if each member of the committee would state 
whether he now thought it advisable to dismiss Mr. 
Seward, and whether his exclusion would strengthen or 
weaken the Administration and the Union cause in their 
respective States. Grimes, Trumbull, and Sumner, who 
had expressed themselves decidedly against the continu- 
ance of Mr. Seward in the Cabinet, indicated no change of 



198 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 20 

opinion. Collamer and Fessenden declined committing 
themselves on the subject; had in their action the welfare 
of the whole country in view; were not prepared to answer 
the questions. Senator Harris felt it a duty to say that 
while many of the friends of the Administration would be 
gratified, others would feel deeply wounded, and the 
effect of Mr. Seward's retirement would, on the whole, be 
calamitous in the State of New York. Pomeroy of Kansas 
said, personally, he believed the withdrawal of Mr. Seward 
would be a good movement and he sincerely wished it 
might take place. Howard of Michigan declined answering 
the question. 

During the discussion, the volume of diplomatic corre- 
spondence, recently published, was alluded to; some letters 
denounced as unwise and impolitic were specified, one of 
which, a confidential dispatch to Mr. Adams, was read. If it 
was unwise to write, it was certainly injudicious and indis- 
creet to publish such a document. Mr. Seward has genius 
and talent, no one better knows it than himself, but 
for one in his place he is often wanting in careful discrim- 
ination, true wisdom, sound judgment, and discreet states- 
manship. The committee believe he thinks more of the 
glorification of Seward than the welfare of the country. 
He wishes the glorification of both, and believes he is the 
man to accomplish it, but has unwittingly and unwarily 
begotten and brought upon himself a vast amount of dis- 
trust and hostility on the part of Senators, by his endeavors 
to impress them and others with the belief that he is the 
Administration. It is a mistake; the Senators dislike it, 
have measured and know him. 

It was nearly midnight when we left the President ; and 
it could not be otherwise than that all my wakeful mo- 
ments should be absorbed with a subject which, time and 
circumstances considered, was of grave importance to the 
Administration and the country. A Senatorial combina- 
tion to dictate to the President in regard to his political 
family in the height of a civil war which threatens the 



1862] SEWARD'S RESIGNATION 199 

existence of the Republic cannot be permitted to succeed, 
even if the person to whom they object were as obnoxious 
as they represent; but Seward's foibles are not serious 
failings. After fully canvassing the subject in all its phases, 
my mind was clear as to the course which it was my duty 
to pursue, and what I believed was the President's duty 
also. 

My first movement this morning' was to call on the 
President as soon as I supposed he could have breakfasted. 
Governor Robertson of Kentucky was with him when I 
went in, but soon left. I informed the President I had pon- 
dered the events of yesterday and last evening, and felt it 
incumbent on me to advise him not to accept the resigna- 
tion of Mr. Seward; that if there were objections, real or 
imaginary, against Mr. Seward, the time, manner, and cir- 
cumstances the occasion, and the method of presenting 
what the Senators considered objections were all inap- 
propriate and wrong; that no party or faction should be 
permitted to dictate to the President in regard to his Cabi- 
net; that it would be of evil example and fraught with 
incalculable injury to the Government and country; that 
neither the legislative department, nor the Senate branch 
of it, should be allowed to encroach on the Executive pre- 
rogatives and rights; that it devolved on him and was 
his duty to assert and maintain the rights and inde- 
pendence of the Executive; that he ought not, against his 
own convictions, to yield one iota of the authority in- 
trusted to him on the demand of either branch of Congress 
or of both combined, or to any party, whatever might be 
its views and intentions; that Mr. Seward had his infirm- 
ities and errors, but they were venial; that he and I differed 
on many things, as did other members of the Cabinet; 
that he was sometimes disposed to step beyond his own 
legitimate bounds and not duly respect the rights of his 
associates, but these were matters that did not call for 
Senatorial interference. In short, I considered it for the 
true interest of the country, now as in the future, that 



200 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 20 

this scheme should be defeated; that, so believing, I had 
at the earliest moment given him my conclusions. 

The President was much gratified ; said the whole thing 
had struck him as it had me, and if carried out as the Sena- 
tors prescribed, the whole Government must cave in. It 
could not stand, could not hold water; the bottom would 
be out. 

I added that, having expressed my wish that he would 
not accept Mr. Seward's resignation, I thought it import- 
ant that Seward should not press its acceptance, nor did 
I suppose he would. In this he also concurred, and asked 
if I had seen Seward. I replied I had not, my first duty was 
with him, and, having ascertained that we agreed, I would 
now go over and see him. He earnestly desired me to do so. 

I went immediately to Seward's house. Stanton was 
with him. Seward was excited, talking vehemently to Stan- 
ton of the course pursued and the results that must follow 
if the scheme succeeded; told Stanton he (Stanton) would 
be the next victim, that there was a call for a meeting at 
the Cooper Institute this evening. Stanton said he had 
seen it; I had not. Seward got the Herald, got me to read; 
but Stanton seized the paper, as Seward and myself entered 
into conversation, and he related what the President had 
already communicated, how Preston King had come to 
him, he wrote his resignation at once, and so did Fred, etc., 
etc. In the mean time Stanton rose, and remarked he had 
much to do, and, as Governor S. had been over this matter 
with him, he would leave. 

I then stated my interview with the President, my ad- 
vice that the President must not accept, nor he press, his 
resignation. Seward was greatly pleased with my views; 
said he had but one course before him when the doings of 
the Senators were communicated, but that if the President 
and country required of him any duty in this emergency 
he did not feel at liberty to refuse it. He spoke of his 
long political experience ; dwelt on his own sagacity and 
his great services; feels deeply this movement, which was 



1862] CHASE RESIGNS 201 

wholly unexpected; tries to suppress any exhibition of 
personal grievance or disappointment, but is painfully 
wounded, mortified, and chagrined. I told him I should re- 
turn and report to the President our interview and that he 
acquiesced in my suggestions. He said he had no objec- 
tions, but he thought the subject should be disposed of one 
way or the other at once. He is disappointed, I see, that the 
President did not promptly refuse to consider his resigna- 
tion, and dismiss, or refuse to parley with, the committee. 

When I returned to the White House, Chase and Stan- 
ton were in the President's office, but he was absent. A 
few words were interchanged on the great topic in hand. 
I was very emphatic in my opposition to the acceptance 
of Seward's resignation. Neither gave me a direct answer 
nor did either express an opinion on the subject, though 
I think both wished to be understood as acquiescing. 

When the President came in, which was in a few mo- 
ments, his first address was to me, asking if I "had seen 
the man." I replied that I had, and that he assented to 
my views. He then turned to Chase and said, "I sent for 
you, for this matter is giving me great trouble." At our 
first interview this morning the President rang and directed 
that a message be sent to Mr. Chase. Chase said he had 
been painfully affected by the meeting last evening, which 
was a total surprise to him, and, after some not very 
explicit remarks as to how he was affected, informed the 
President he had prepared his resignation of the office of 
Secretary of the Treasury. " Where is it?" said the Presi- 
dent quickly, his eye lighting up in a moment. "I brought 
it with me," said Chase, taking the paper from his pocket; 
"I wrote it this morning." "Let me have it," said the 
President, reaching his long arm and fingers towards C., 
who held on, seemingly reluctant to part with the letter, 
which was sealed, and which he apparently hesitated to 
surrender. Something further he wished to say, but the 
President was eager and did not perceive it, but took and 
hastily opened the letter. 



202 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 20 

"This," said he, looking towards me with a triumphal 
laugh, "cuts the Gordian knot." An air of satisfaction 
spread over his countenance such as I have not seen for 
some time. "I can dispose of this subject now without 
difficulty," he added, as he turned on his chair; "I see my 
way clear." 

Chase sat by Stanton, fronting the fire; the President 
beside the fire, his face towards them, Stanton nearest 
him. I was on the sofa near the east window. While the 
President was reading the note, which was brief, Chase 
turned round and looked towards me, a little perplexed. 
He would, I think, have been better satisfied could this 
interview with the President have been without the pre- 
sence of others, or at least if I was away. The President 
was so delighted that he saw not how others were affected. 

"Mr. President," said Stanton, with solemnity, "I in- 
formed you day before yesterday that I was ready to 
tender you my resignation. I wish you, sir, to consider my 
resignation at this time in your possession." 

"You may go to your Department," said the President; 
"I don't want yours. This," holding out Chase's letter, 
"is all I want; this relieves me; my way is clear; the trouble 
is ended. I will detain neither of you longer." We all rose 
to leave, but Stanton lingered and held back as we reached 
the door. Chase and myself came downstairs together. He 
was moody and taciturn. Some one stopped him on the 
lower stairs and I passed on, but C. was not a minute 
behind me, and before I reached the Department, StantoD 
came staving along. 

Preston King called at my house this evening and gave 
me particulars of what had been said and done at the cau- 
cuses of the Republican Senators, of the surprise he felt 
when he found the hostility so universal against Seward, 
and that some of the calmest and most considerate Sena- 
tors were the most decided; stated the course pursued by 
himself, which was frank, friendly, and manly. He was 
greatly pleased with my course, of which he had been 



1862] CABINET RIVALRIES 203 

informed by Seward and the President in part; and I gave 
him some facts which they did not. Blair tells me that his 
father's views correspond with mine, and the approval of 
F. P. Blair and Preston King gives me assurance that I am 
right. 

Montgomery Blair is confident that Stanton has been 
instrumental in getting up this movement against Seward 
to screen himself, and turn attention from the manage- 
ment of the War Department. There may be something in 
this surmise of Blair; but I am inclined to think that Chase, 
Stanton, and Caleb Smith have each, but without concert, 
participated, if not directly, by expressions of discontent 
to their Senatorial intimates. Chase and Smith, I know, 
are a good deal dissatisfied with Seward and have not hesi- 
tated to make known their feelings in some quarters, 
though, I apprehend, not to the President. With Stanton 
I have little intimacy. He came into the Cabinet under 
Seward's wing, and he knows it, but Stanton is, by nature, 
an intriguer, courts favor, is not faithful hi his friendships, 
is given to secret, underhand combinations. His obliga- 
tions to Seward are great, but would not deter him from 
raising a breeze against Seward to favor himself. Chase 
and Seward entered the Cabinet as rivals, and in cold 
courtesy have so continued. There was an effort by 
Seward's friends to exclude Chase from the Treasury; 
the President did not yield to it, but it is obvious that 
Seward's more pleasant nature and consummate skill have 
enabled him to get to windward of Chase in administrative 
management, and the latter, who has but little tact, feels 
it. Transactions take place of a general character, not 
unfrequently, of which Chase and others are not advised 
until they are made public. Often the fact reaches them 
through the papers. Seward has not exhibited shrewdness 
in this, [though] it may have afforded him a temporary 
triumph as regarded Chase, and he doubtless flatters him- 
self that it strengthens a belief which he desires should pre- 
vail that he is the "power behind the throne greater than 



204 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 20 

the throne itself," that he is the real Executive. The re- 
sult of all this has been the alienation of a portion of his old 
friends without getting new ones, and finally this appoint- 
ment of a committee which asked his removal. The objec- 
tions urged are, I notice, the points on which Chase is 
most sensitive. 

For two or three months Stanton has evinced a grow- 
ing indifference to Seward, with whom he was, at first, 
intimate and to whom he was much devoted. I have 
observed that, as he became alienated towards Seward, 
his friendship for Chase increased. 

My differences with Seward I have endeavored to settle 
with him in the day and time of their occurrences. They 
have not been many, but they have been troublesome and 
annoying because they were meddlesome and disturbing. 
He gets behind me, tampers with my subordinates, and 
interferes injuriously and ignorantly in naval matters, not 
so much from wrong purposes, but as a busybody by 
nature. I have not made these matters subjects of com- 
plaint outside and think it partly the result of usage and 
practice at Albany. 

I am also aware that he and his friend Thurlow Weed 
were almost as much opposed to my entering the Cabinet 
as they were to Chase. They wanted a fraternity of 
Seward men. The President discerned this and put it 
aside. But he has not so readily detected, nor been aware 
of the influence which Seward exercises over him, often 
unfortunately. In his intercourse with his colleagues, save 
the rivalry between himself and Chase and the supercilious 
self-assumption which he sometimes displays, he has 
been courteous, affable, and, I think, anxious to preserve 
harmony in the Cabinet. I have seen no effort to get up 
combinations for himself personally, or against others. He 
supposed himself immensely popular at the moment when 
friends were estranged, and was as surprised as myself 
when he learned the Senatorial movement for his over- 
throw. 



1862] THE PRESIDENT'S WAY OUT 205 

December 23, Tuesday. It was announced yesterday 
morning that the President had requested Mr. Seward and 
Mr. Chase to withdraw their resignations and resume their 
duties. This took the public by surprise. Chase's resignation 
was scarcely known, and his friends, particularly those in 
the late movement, were a little disgusted when they 
found that he and Seward were in the same category. 

Seward's influence has often been anything but salutary. 
Not that he was evil inclined, but he is meddlesome, fussy, 
has no fixed principles or policy. Chase has chafed under 
Seward's management, yet has tried to conceal any ex- 
hibition of irritated feelings. Seward, assuming to be 
helmsman, has, while affecting and believing in his own 
superiority, tried to be patronizing to all, especially sooth- 
ing and conciliating to Chase, who sees and is annoyed by 
it. The President feels that he is under obligations to each, 
and that both are serviceable. He is friendly to both. 
He is fond of Seward, who is affable; he respects Chase, 
who is clumsy. Seward comforts him; Chase he deems 
a necessity. ^ 

On important questions, Blair is as potent with the 
President as either, and sometimes I think equal to both. 
With some egotism, Blair has great good sense, a better 
knowledge and estimate of military men than either or 
both the others, and, I think, is possessed of more solid, 
reliable administrative ability. 

All the members were at the Cabinet-meeting to-day. 
Seward was feeling very happy. Chase was pale; said he 
was ill, had been for weeks. The subject principally dis- 
cussed was the proposed division of Virginia and the crea- 
tion of a new State to be called Western Virginia. Chase is 
strongly for it; Blair and Bates against it, the latter, how- 
ever, declining to discuss it or give his reasons except in 
writing. Stanton is with Chase. Seward does not show his 
hand. My impressions are, under the existing state of 
things, decidedly adverse. It is a disturbance that might 
be avoided at this time and has constitutional difficulties. 



206 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 23 

We have news that General Foster has possession of 
Goldsborough, North Carolina. 

December 24, Wednesday. Congress has adjourned over 
until the 5th of January. It is as well, perhaps, though 
I should not have advised it. But the few real business 
men, of honest intentions, will dispatch matters about as 
well and fast without as with them. The demagogues in 
Congress disgrace the body and the country. Noisy and 
loud professions, with no useful policy or end, exhibit 
themselves daily. 

Most of the Members will go home. Dixon says the 
feeling North is strong and emphatic against Stanton, and 
that the intrigue against Seward was to cover and shield 
Stanton. Others say the same. Doolittle, though less full 
and explicit, has this opinion. Fox tells me that Grimes 
declares his object was an onslaught on Stanton. If so, it 
was a strange method. Grimes went over the whole debate 
in caucus with F. ; said he believed opposition manifested 
itself in some degree towards every member of the Cabinet 
but myself; that towards one or two only slight exhibi- 
tions of dislike appeared, and most were well sustained. 
All who spoke were complimentary of me and the naval 
management, but Hale, while he uttered no complaint, 
was greatly annoyed with the compliments of myself and 
the quiet but efficient conduct of the Navy. 

December 26, Friday. Some talk in Cabinet of Thayer's 
scheme of emigration to Florida. 1 

Blah* read his opinion of the proposition for making a 
new State of Western Virginia. His views correspond with 
mine, but are abler and more elaborately stated. Mr. 
Bates read a portion of his opinion on the constitutional 

1 This was a proposal to colonize Florida with loyal citizens from the 
North. Its author was Eli Thayer, whose Emigrant Aid Company had 
been largely instrumental in making Kansas a Free State. He afterwards 
advocated it in a public speech at the Cooper Institute, New York, Feb- 
ruary 7, 1863. 



1862] DEPREDATIONS OF THE ALABAMA 207 

point, which appeared to me decisive and conclusive. The 
President has called for opinions from each of his Cabinet. 
I had the first rough draft of mine in my pocket, though 
not entirely copied. Chase said his was completed, but he 
had not brought it with him. Seward said he was wholly 
unprepared. Stanton assured the President he would be 
ready with his in season. The President said it would answer 
his purpose if the opinions of each were handed in on or 
before Tuesday. 

December 29, Monday. We had yesterday a telegram 
that the British pirate craft Alabama captured the Ariel, 
one of the Aspinwall steamers, on her passage from New 
York to Aspinwall, off the coast of Cuba. Abuse of the 
Navy Department will follow. It will give the mercenaries 
who are prostituted correspondents, and who have not 
been permitted to plunder the Government by fraudulent 
contracts, an opportunity to wreak vengeance for their 
disappointments. 

I am exceedingly glad it was an outward and not a home- 
ward bound vessel. It is annoying when we want all our 
force on blockade duty to be compelled to detach so many 
of our best craft on the fruitless errand of searching the 
wide ocean for this wolf from Liverpool. We shall, how- 
ever, have a day of reckoning with Great Britain for these 
wrongs, and I sometimes think I care not how soon nor in 
what manner that reckoning comes. 

A committee has been appointed by the Legislature of 
Connecticut, of eight persons, to visit Washington and urge 
the selection of New London for a navy yard. Twelve 
hundred dollars are appropriated to defray their expenses. 
There has been no examination by the Legislature of the 
question, or investigation of the comparative merits of 
this and other places, or whether an additional yard is 
needed, or what the real interest of the country requires; 
but there is, with excusable local pride, a speculating job 
by a few individuals and a general idea that a government 



208 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 29 

establishment for the expenditure of money will benefit the 
locality, which controls the movement. As I am a citizen of 
Connecticut, there is a hope that I may be persuaded by 
personal considerations to debase myself, forget my duty 
and make this selection for that locality regardless of the 
wants or true interests of the country. I have proposed to 
transfer the limited and circumscribed yard at Philadel- 
phia to League Island, where there is an abundance of 
room, fresh water, and other extraordinary advantages. 
We do not want more yards, certainly not east of the Hud- 
son. We do need a government establishment of a different 
character from any we now have, for the construction, 
repair, and preservation of iron vessels. League Island on 
the Delaware combines all these required advantages, is 
far in the interior, remote from assault in war, and is in the 
vicinity of iron and coal, is away from the sea, etc., etc. 
New London has none of these advantages, but is located 
in my native State. My friends and my father's friends 
are there, and I am urged to forget my country and favor 
that place. A navy yard is for no one State, but this the 
Legislature and its committee and thousands of their 
constituents do not take into consideration; but I must. 

The six members of the Cabinet (Smith absent) to-day 
handed in their respective opinions on the question of 
dividing the old Commonwealth of Virginia and carving 
out and admitting a new State. As Stanton and myself 
returned from the Cabinet-meeting to the Departments, 
he expressed surprise that I should oppose division, for he 
thought it politic and wise to plant a Free State south of 
the Ohio. I thought our duties were constitutional, not 
experimental, that we should observe and preserve the 
landmarks, and that mere expediency should not override 
constitutional obligations. This action was not predicated 
on the consent of the people of Virginia, legitimately ex- 
pressed; was arbitrary and without proper authority; was 
such a departure from, and an undermining of, our system 
that I could not approve it and feared it was the beginning 



1862] THE WEST VIRGINIA QUESTION 209 

of the end. As regarded a Free State south of the Ohio, I 
told him the probabilities were that pretty much all of 
them would be free by Tuesday when the Proclamation 
emancipating slaves would be published. The Rebels had 
appealed to arms hi vindication of slavery, were using 
slaves to carry on the War, and they must be content with 
the results of that issue; the arbitrament of arms to which 
they had appealed would be against them. This measure, 
I thought, we were justified in adopting on the issue pre- 
sented and as a military necessity, but the breaking up of 
a State by the General Government without the prescribed 
forms, innate rights, and the consent of the people fairly 
and honestly expressed, was arbitrary and wrong. Stanton 
attempted no defense. 

At the meeting to-day, the President read the draft of 
his Emancipation Proclamation, invited criticism, and 
finally directed that copies should be furnished to each. 
It is a good and well-prepared paper, but I suggested that 
a part of the sentence marked in pencil be omitted. 1 Chase 
advised that fractional parts of States ought not to be 
exempted. In this I think he is right, and so stated. Prac- 
tically there would be difficulty in freeing parts of States, 
and not freeing others, a clashing between central and 
local authorities. 

There is discontent in the public mind. The manage- 
ment of our public affairs is not satisfactory. Our army 
operations have been a succession of disappointments. 
General Halleck has accomplished nothing, and has not 
the public confidence. General McClellan has intelligence 
but not decision; operated understandingly but was never 
prepared. With General Halleck there seems neither mil- 
itary capacity nor decision. I have not heard nor seen 
a clear and satisfactory proposition or movement on his 
part yet. 

Information reaches us that General Butler has been 
superseded at New Orleans by General Banks. The wis- 
1 Just what this suggestion referred to does not appear. 



210 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [DEC. 29 

dom of this change I question, and so told the President, 
who called on me one day last week and discussed matters 
generally. I have not a very exalted opinion of the military 
qualities of either. Butler has shown ability as a police 
magistrate both at Baltimore and New Orleans, and in 
each, but particularly at the latter place, has had a pecul- 
iar community to govern. The Navy captured the place 
and turned it over to his keeping. The President agreed 
with me that Butler had shown skill in discharging his civil 
duties, and said he had in view for Butler the command of 
the valley movement in the Mississippi. Likely he has this 
in view, but whether Halleck will acquiesce is more ques- 
tionable. I have reason to believe that Seward has effected 
this change, and that he has been prompted by the for- 
eigners to do it. Outside the State and War Departments, 
I apprehend no one was consulted. I certainly was not, and 
therefore could not apprize any of our naval officers, who 
are cooperating with the army and by courtesy and right 
should have been informed. Banks has some ready qual- 
ities for civil administration and, if not employed hi the 
field or active military operations, will be likely to acquit 
himself respectably as a provisional or military governor. 
He has not the energy, power, ability of Butler, nor, 
though of loose and fluctuating principles, will he be so 
reckless and unscrupulous. The officer in command in that 
quarter must necessarily hold a taut rein. 

December 31, Wednesday. We had an early and special 
Cabinet-meeting, convened at 10 A.M. The subject was 
the Proclamation of to-morrow to emancipate the slaves 
in the Rebel States. Seward proposed two amendments, 
one including mine, and one enjoining upon, instead of 
appealing to, those emancipated, to forbear from tumult. 
Blair had, like Seward and myself, proposed the omission 
of a part of a sentence and made other suggestions which I 
thought improvements. Chase made some good criticisms 
and proposed a felicitous closing sentence. The President 



1862] THE SPIRIT OF PARTY 211 

took the suggestions, written in order, and said he would 
complete the document. 

I met General Burnside on the portico of the White 
House this A.M. He was about entering his carriage, but 
waited my coming. Says he is here a witness in Fitz John 
Porter's case. 

The year closes less favorably than I had hoped and 
expected, yet some progress has been made. It is not to be 
denied, however, that the national ailment seems more 
chronic. The disease is deep-seated. Energetic measures 
are necessary, and I hope we may have them. None of us 
appear to do enough, and yet I am surprised that we have 
done so much. We have had some misfortunes, and a lurk- 
ing malevolence exists towards us among nations, that 
could not have been anticipated. Worse than this, the 
envenomed, relentless, and unpatriotic spirit of party 
paralyzes and weakens the hand of the Government and 
country. 



VI 

The Emancipation Proclamation The Battle of Murfreesborough Loss 
of the Monitor Criticisms of the Navy Department Halleck's 
Deficiencies The Employment of the Contrabands John Covode's 
Gubernatorial Aspirations The Pernicious Party Spirit McCler- 
nand and Vicksburg The Court Martial on Fitz John Porter The 
New London Navy Yard Question Confederate Letters Fitz John 
Porter's Conviction A Call from F. A. Conkling The Gauge of 
the Pacific Railroad Hooker placed in command of the Army of the 
Potomac An Estimate of Farragut "Weed is Seward, and Seward 
is Weed" Governor Morgan elected Senator from New York Re- 
ported Pressure for Mediation on the Part of the French Government 
Proposed Attack on Charleston Chase's Bank Bill The Senate 
rejects the Reappointment of Collector Howard Irregular Acts of the 
President Scene between Scott, McClellan, and Seward. 

January 1, 1863, Thursday. The New Year opens with 
a bright and brilliant day. Exchanged congratulations at 
the Executive Mansion with the President and colleagues, 
at eleven this morning. The usual formalities. Officers of 
the Army and Navy came in at half-past eleven. I left 
before twelve. 

The Emancipation Proclamation is published in this 
evening's Star. This is a broad step, and will be a land- 
mark in history. The immediate effect will not be all 
its friends anticipate or its opponents apprehend. Pass- 
ing events are steadily accomplishing what is here pro- 
claimed. 

The character of the country is in many respects under- 
going a transformation. This must be obvious to all, and 
I am content to await the results of passing events, deep 
as they may plough their furrows in our once happy land. 
This great upheaval which is shaking our civil fabric was 
perhaps necessary to overthrow and subdue the mass of 
wrong and error which no trivial measure could eradicate. 
The seed which is being sown will germinate and bear 



1863] BATTLE OF MURFREESBOROUGH 213 

fruit, and tares and weeds will also spring up under the 
new dispensation. 

Blair mentioned at my house a few evenings since that 
General McClellan assumed command of the Army of the 
Potomac last September without orders; that, finding 
military affairs in a disordered and confused condition, he 
sought an interview with the President, Stanton, and Hal- 
leek respectively, and also called to see him (Blair), but he 
was absent; that he then called his staff and left, but met 
me, to whom alone he communicated whither he was going 
and his purpose. This, Blair tells me, is the statement made 
by McClellan to Governor Dennison, who has been stopping 
with Blair. I well remember meeting him at that time, but 
my understanding has been that McC. received command 
of the Army by order of the President on recommendation 
of Halleck. 

January 3, Saturday. We have, yesterday and to-day, 
broken accounts of a great fight for three days and not 
yet terminated at Murfreesborough, Tennessee. All 
statements say we have the best, that we shall beat the 
Rebels, that we have pierced their centre, that we are driv- 
ing them through M., etc. I hope to hear we have done in- 
stead of we " shall ' ' do. None of our army fights have been 
finished, but are drawn battles, worrying, exhausting, 
but never completed. Of Rosecrans I have thought better 
and hope a good account of his work, but the best some- 
times fail, and he may not be best. 

A word by telegraph that the Monitor has foundered 
and over twenty of her crew, including some officers, are 
lost. The fate of this vessel affects me in other respects. 
She is a primary representative of a class identified with my 
administration of the Navy. Her novel construction and 
qualities I adopted and she was built amidst obloquy 
and ridicule. Such a change hi the character of a fighting 
vessel few naval men, or any Secretary under then- influ- 
ence, would have taken the responsibility of adopting. But 



214 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JAN. 3 

Admiral Smith and finally all the Board which I appointed 
seconded my views, and were willing, Davis somewhat 
reluctantly, to recommend the experiment if I would 
assume the risk and responsibility. Her success with the 
Merrimac directly after she went into commission re- 
lieved me of odium and anxiety, and men who were pre- 
paring to ridicule were left to admire. 

When Bushnell of New Haven brought me the first 
model and plan, I was favorably impressed. I was then in 
Hartford, proposing to remove my family, but sent him at 
once to Washington, folio whig myself within a day or two. 
Understanding that Ericsson, the inventor, was sensitive 
in consequence of supposed slight and neglect by the Navy 
Department or this Government some years ago, I made it 
a point to speak to Admiral Smith, Chairman of the Board, 
and specially request that he should be treated tenderly, 
and opportunity given him for full and deliberate hearing. 
I found Admiral Smith well disposed. The plan was 
adopted, and the test of her fighting and resisting power 
was by an arrangement between Admiral Smith and my- 
self, without communication with any other, that she 
should, when completed, go at once up Elizabeth River to 
Norfolk Navy Yard, and destroy the Merrimac while in 
the dry dock, and the dock itself. Had she been completed 
within the contract time, one hundred days, this purpose 
would have been accomplished, but there was delay and 
disappointment, and her prowess was exhibited in a con- 
flict with her huge antagonist under much more formidable 
circumstances. Her career since the tune she first entered 
Hampton Roads is public history, but her origin, and 
everything in relation to her, from the inception, have 
been since her success designedly misrepresented. 

Admiral Smith beyond any other person is deserving of 
credit, if credit be due any one connected with the Navy 
Department for this vessel. Had she been a failure, he, 
more than any one but the Secretary, would have been 
blamed, and [he] was fully aware that he would have to 



1863] THE LOSS OF THE MONITOR 215 

share with me the odium and the responsibility. Let him, 
therefore, have the credit which is justly his. 

January 5, Monday. Commander Bankhead arrived 
this morning and brings particulars of the loss of the 
Monitor. Its weakness was hi herself, where we had 
apprehended, and not in an antagonist. This has been 
in some degree remedied hi the new boats we are now 
constructing. 

For months I have been berated and abused because I 
had not more vessels of the Monitor class under contract. 
Her success with the Merrimac when she was under the 
trial as an experiment made men wild, and they censured 
me for not having built a fleet when she was constructed. 
Now that she is lost, the same persons will be likely to assail 
me for expending money on such a craft. 

There is a set of factious fools who think it is wise to be 
censorious, and it is almost as amusing as it is vexatious to 
hear and read the remarks of these Solomons. One or two 
of these officious blockheads make themselves conspicuous 
in the New York Chamber of Commerce, and none more 
so than Mr. Charles H. Marshall, who attempts to show 
off his nautical knowledge by constantly attacking and 
slandering the Secretary of the Navy. Marshall was 
formerly a shipmaster and it was his often expressed 
opinion that no man should be Secretary of the Navy who 
has not had command of, and the sailing of, a ship. Like 
many others as simple if not as egotistical, he would have 
the Secretary who administers the department a sailor and 
for the same reasons he should be an engineer, naval con- 
structor, etc. On every occasion of disaster, no matter 
from what cause, this man Marshall imputes it to the fact 
that the Secretary of the Navy has never commanded a 
ship, and he never admits that any credit is due the Navy 
Department for intelligent and correct administration, or 
the Secretary of the Navy for any success of any kind, 
whether of a squadron or single ship, because he is not and 



216 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JAN. 5 

never was a sea-captain. Marshall has had his prejudices 
sharpened by others and particularly by Moses H. Grin- 
nell, who thinks a shipping merchant would make a good 
Secretary of the Navy. Both are disappointed men, and 
each wants to be at the head of the Navy Department. 

Thus far the British pirate named Alabama sailing 
under Rebel colors has escaped capture. As a consequence 
there are marvelous accounts of her wonderful speed, and 
equally marvelous ones of the want of speed of our 
cruisers. Of course there is no controverting these fables; 
she will be a myth, a "skimmer of the seas," till taken, and 
our own vessels, of better speed and power, will be slan- 
dered by the Marshalls and Grinnells as destitute of all 
speed. There are men of better sense in the Chamber of 
Commerce, but one of these has been an extensive ship- 
owner, the other a shipmaster; both are good and well- 
meaning men, have been successful business men, but 
are egotistical and vainly weak. Neither is competent to 
administer the Navy Department. 

The loss of the Monitor and the report of Admiral Lee 
and others of the draft of water at the inlet is unfavor- 
able for a naval attack on the battery at Cape Fear, and 
the army object to move on Wilmington except in con- 
junction with the Navy. It is best, therefore, to push on 
to Charleston and strengthen Du Pont. The War De- 
partment promised to send forward to South Carolina an 
additional military force of ten thousand under General 
Hunter. Halleck is heavy-headed; wants sagacity, readi- 
ness, courage, and heart. I am not an admirer of the man. 
He may have some talent as a writer and critic; in all 
military matters he seems destitute of resources, skill, or 
capacity. He is more tardy and irresolute than McClellan 
and is deficient in the higher qualities which the latter 
possessed. 

We have further cheering news from Tennessee of the 
success of Rosecrans at Murfreesborough; also hopeful 
news from Vicksburg. I do not see that the least credit is 



1863] HALLECK AND McCLERNAND 217 

due to Halleck in either of these cases, unless for not em- 
barrassing the officers in command. 

It was arranged and directed by the President that 
General McClernand should command the forces which 
were to cooperate with the Navy at the opening of the 
navigation of the Mississippi and the capture of Vicksburg. 
But McClernand has scarcely been heard of. He is not 
of the Regular Army, and is no favorite, I perceive, with 
Halleck, though the President entertains a good opinion of 
him. Blair alluded two or three weeks since to the fact that 
McClernand was crowded aside; said there was a combina- 
tion to prevent his having that command. The President 
started from his chair when the remark was made and said 
it should not be so. Stanton declared it was not so, that he 
and Halleck had arranged the matter that day. The 
President looked surprised and said he supposed it had 
been done long ago. 

January 6, Tuesday. Got off dispatches this morning 
ordering the ironclads south to strengthen Du Pont in 
his attack on Charleston, which he intends to take, then 
Savannah, if not too long delayed, when the ironclads must 
go around to Pensacola. 

Wilkes is not doing as much as we expected. I fear he 
has more zeal for and finds it more profitable to capture 
blockade-runners than to hunt for the Alabama. Lord 
Lyons is preferring complaints against him for want of 
courtesy, when he is really flinging on him British insults. 
There is not much love lost between him and John Bull. 
If Seward would square up firmly we could make Bull 
behave better. 

January 8, Thursday. Had a singular letter to-day from 
Chase, requesting that vessels with custom-house clearance 
might be allowed to pass the blockade. The arrangement 
is in accordance with an understanding which he has with 
the Secretary of War. Replied that I was prepared to give 



218 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JAN. 8 

no such instructions until the blockade was raised or 
modified. 

January 9, Friday. On my way to Cabinet-meeting this 
A.M. met Covode and Judge Lewis of Pennsylvania. The 
two had just left the President and presented me with a 
card from him to the effect that Covode had investigated 
the case of Chambers, Navy Agent at Philadelphia, and 
that if I saw no objection he should be removed. Told 
them I was going to the President and the subject should 
have attention. When I mentioned the subject, the Pre- 
sident wished me to look into the case and see that all 
was right. He had not, he said, examined it, but passed it 
over to me, who he knew would. 

The final accounts of the result at Murfreesborough are 
favorable. Rosecrans has done himself honor and the 
country service. From Vicksburg the intelligence is less 
satisfactory. There appears to have been good fighting but 
without results. A desperate stand will be made by the 
Rebels to hold this place. It is important to them to pre- 
vent the free navigation of the Mississippi; it is as import- 
ant to us that it should be unobstructed. They wish to 
have communication with Texas; we want to cut it off. 
Had the army seconded Farragut and the Navy months 
ago, Vicksburg would have been in our possession. Halleck 
was good for nothing then, nor is he now. 

January 10, Saturday. The President sent for Stanton 
and myself; wished us to consult and do what we could for 
the employment of the contrabands, and as the Rebels 
threatened to kill all caught with arms in their hands, to 
employ them where they would not be liable to be cap- 
tured. On the ships he thought they were well cared for, 
and suggested to Stanton that they could perform garrison 
duty at Memphis, Columbus, and other places and let the 
soldiers go on more active service. 

Covode called at my house this evening and wanted the 



1863] PERNICIOUS PARTY SPIRIT 219 

President's card. Said he was likely to get into difficulty 
and wished his name not to be used in the matter of remov- 
ing the Navy Agent which he had urged. Would himself 
see Chambers and advise him what to do. He expects, 
he says, to be candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania. 
Covode is shrewd but illiterate, a match and more than 
a match for men of higher culture, reputation, and acquire- 
ments; but I hardly think his gubernatorial expectations 
will be realized, though they sometimes take strange 
material for Governor in Pennsylvania. 

The great problem which is being solved in these days 
seems to be scarcely realized by our public, and really great, 
men. It is sad to witness in this period of calamity, when 
the nation is struggling for existence, and the cause of good 
government and civil liberty is at stake, the spirit of party 
overpowering patriotism. The Governors in several of the 
States have presented then* messages during the week. 
Tod of Ohio exhibits a manly, wholesome, and vigorous 
tone, others also do well, but the Jesuitical and heartless 
insincerity of Seymour of New York is devoid of true 
patriotism, weak in statesmanship, and a discredit to the 
position he occupies. Unhallowed partisan and personal 
aspirations are moving springs with him. That such a 
man, at such a time, should have been elected to such 
a place does no credit to popular intelligence or to public 
virtue. When Seward, himself, I think, rightly disposed, 
acquiesced in the debased partisanship of his friend Weed, 
who in spite wanted Wadsworth, the gallant and patriotic 
citizen, defeated, he committed a fatal error. 

In the insurgent States patriotism seems extinguished, 
the flag and country are hated. There is great suffering on 
the part of the people from all the direful calamities which 
war can bring, yet there is no evidence of returning sense 
or affection for that union which conferred upon them 
happiness and prosperity. Greater calamities, greater 
suffering, must be endured. 



220 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JAN. 10 

Some things have taken place which will undoubtedly 
for a time exasperate the Southern mind, for they will 
affect Southern society, habits, labor, and pursuits. For 
a period emancipation will aggravate existing differences, 
and a full generation will be necessary to effect and com- 
plete the change which has been commenced. 

January 12, Monday. Accounts from Vicksburg are 
unfavorable and vague. I fear there has been mismanage- 
ment, but we must wait official reports. It is said that 
Sherman has been superseded by McClernand. I know 
not how this is. At the commencement of this campaign, 
as early as last September, it was understood that McCler- 
nand was to have command of the army which was to go 
down the river and cooperate with our naval commander, 
Porter. The President had confidence in him, and desig- 
nated the appointment, which was acceptable to Porter, 
who had a particular dislike of West-Pointers. For this I 
cared but little, because it was confessedly without know- 
ledge of the officers individually and their merits, a close 
and a sweeping condemnation of all, partly, I think, 
because he did not know them, and feared he should be 
compelled to play a subordinate part with them, while 
with a civilian general he would have superiority. 

For three months, while Porter has been organizing the 
Squadron, nothing has been heard of McClernand until 
since the attack on Vicksburg, and now it is merely to 
tell us he has abandoned the place and withdrawn his 
forces. 

The rumor of the capture of the Harriet Lane with the 
little garrison at Galveston is confirmed. I am grieved and 
depressed, not so much for the loss of the Harriet Lane as 
from a conviction that there has been want of good man- 
agement. It is about three months since we took Galves- 
ton, and yet a garrison of only three hundred men was 
there when the Rebel army approached the place. Some 
one is blamable for this neglect. 



1863] FITZ JOHN PORTER'S CASE 221 

The court martial on Fitz John Porter closed last Satur- 
day, and the rumor is that he was at once unanimously 
acquitted. Of the facts I know nothing. I have read none 
of the evidence. Shall be glad if he is blameless and it shall 
so appear. My impressions were that while he and some 
others were not disloyal, as charged, they did not support 
and sustain the general in command, Pope, in a great crisis 
as they should have done; that they performed their duty 
to the letter of the law, perhaps, but not with alacrity and 
zeal; that while they did not wish the country to suffer 
a reverse, it would not grieve them if Pope did. In all this 
I may be doing certain officers injustice. They were, how- 
ever, the impressions made upon me at the time when 
disaster was impending and our soldiers were giving their 
blood and their lives to the country. I am no admirer of 
Pope, who has the reputation among those who know him 
of being untruthful and wholly unreliable, a braggart and 
blusterer. Wrong may be to some extent done him, but 
there is some cause for what is said of him. He was instru- 
mental in bringing Halleck here, and Halleck gave him the 
army in return. Both came from the West, and, aided by 
Stanton and Chase, Pope was placed in command over 
generals who were his superiors in age, experience, and 
qualifications. This was as much, to say the least, to hu- 
miliate McClellan as to serve the country. Pope preceded 
Halleck here, but it was the same influence that initiated 
the two. It is not difficult to see who is the cause of their 
being here to supplant McClellan, whose tardy inaction 
here and on the Peninsula disheartened the nation. Fitz 
John Porter was one of the generals who had great faith in 
McClellan, who sympathized with him hi good and evil 
fortune, but who was destitute of faith in Pope, as were 
nearly all his associates, who each, like their commander, 
felt wronged, almost insulted, by the exaltation of an 
officer from the Western Department, for whom they had 
not high regard, placed over them. The change of com- 
manders could not inspire him with confidence and zeal, 



222 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JAN. 12 

but if he permitted it to impair his efficiency he is inex- 
cusable. 

January 13, Tuesday. Received this A.M. from Admiral 
Du Pont an intercepted mail captured off Charleston. 
Reed Saunders, who had the mail in charge, threw it 
overboard, as he supposed, but the master of the vessel, 
once a volunteer acting master in our service whom I had 
dismissed for drunkenness, practiced a deception, and 
Saunders threw over something else than the mail, which 
the master secreted, retained, and delivered, and thereby 
saved his bacon. The mail was not forwarded to its 
destination, as Seward directed it should be, but opened. 
Numerous and important dispatches from Mallory, Mem- 
minger, Benjamin, 1 etc., etc., disclose important facts. 
Took some of the more interesting to Cabinet council. 

Was waited upon by a large committee composed mostly 
of old friends and associates sent here by Connecticut to 
procure the location of a navy yard at New London. Mr. 
Speaker Carter was chairman and chief spokesman; 
wanted a navy yard at New London for defensive pur- 
poses, for the benefit to be derived from a large establish- 
ment located in the State; but little had been expended in 
Connecticut by the Federal Government; thought it a duty 
to look out for our own State; if the Union should be bro- 
ken up, it would be well to have such an establishment as I 
had proposed in our own limits, etc. Assured the commit- 
tee if Congress decided to establish a navy yard at New 
London I should not oppose but would heartily cooperate 
to make it what was wanted and what it should be. That 
the small yard at Philadelphia was totally insufficient, and 
if, in removing it, Congress should decide to go to New 
London instead of remaining on the Delaware, I should 
submit to the decision, but I could not, in honesty, sincer- 
ity, and as an American citizen acting for all, recommend 

1 Heads respectively of the Navy, Treasury, and State Departments in 
the Confederate Government. 



1863] CONFEDERATE LETTERS 223 

it. That I had never supposed that the true interest of the 
country would be promoted by such a transfer; that, much 
as I loved my native State, I could not forget I was acting 
for the whole country and for no one locality. That League 
Island on the Delaware possessed some peculiar advan- 
tages that belonged to no other navy yard nor to New 
London; that it had been tendered, a free gift, by the city 
of Philadelphia as a substitute for the present contracted 
wharfage in the city; that I had conscientiously advised 
its acceptance, and I could not do otherwise than to still 
act in accordance with my convictions of what I deemed 
best for the whole country by continuing to recommend 
its acceptance, whatever might be determined in regard 
to a navy yard at New London, which was an altogether 
different matter. 

January 15, Thursday. Have been interested for the last 
two or three days in reading, when I had time, letters that 
were taken from the intercepted mail. Most of them are 
from intelligent writers in the best circles at Richmond. In 
these communications, freely written in friendly confidence, 
there [crops] out a latent feeling of hope for peace and 
restoration of once happier days. There is distress and 
deprivation; the spirit of hate engendered by strife is there, 
but no happiness nor inward satisfaction over the desola- 
tion which active hostilities have caused. Strange that so 
many intelligent beings should be so madly influenced. 

A number of Senatorial elections have recently taken 
place. Cameron has not succeeded even by corruption, and 
it is well he did not. I felt relieved when I heard he was 
defeated, though I did not rejoice in the success of his 
opponent, whose sympathies are reputed to be with the 
Secessionists. 

January 16, Friday. Little of interest in the Cabinet. 
Chase, who has been absent a week, was present; Stanton 
did not attend. No navy or army matters discussed. Chase 



224 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JAN. ie 

says the New-Yorkers are generally coming into his finan- 
cial views, that all in Philadelphia approve them; thinks 
they should be made a party test. No one responded to 
this, an indication that they were not prepared to have 
him set up a standard of financial, political, or party ortho- 
doxy for them. 

A flurry in the Senate to-day over a letter from General 
Meigs, who had been coarsely assailed a day or two since 
by Wilkinson of Minnesota. The Senatorial dignity was 
ruffled by the manly rebuke of the soldier. There is an 
impotent and ridiculous attempt at ^elf-sufficient and pre- 
suming airs, an exhibition of lame and insolent arrogance, 
on the part of many Senators towards men who are, to say 
the least, their equals in every good quality. Not long 
since J. P. Hale undertook to vent his personal spite in the 
Senate on Admiral Smith, who regards the public interest 
more than the wordy, personal, and selfish schemes of the 
New Hampshire Senator. The dignity of the Senator was 
bruised by the old sailor's blunt honesty, who demanded 
a committee with power and an investigation to whitewash 
the Senator or blackwash the Admiral. 

January 19, Monday. Sent a letter to the two naval 
committees on the subject of filling vacancies in the Naval 
School. Members of Congress are disposed to evade all 
responsibility, and yet to carp at and criticize those of us 
who under imperious public necessity are compelled to act. 
The school should be full now if ever. I propose to fill it. 
The Members individually with few exceptions urge it. I 
ask them to give me at least the expression of their official, 
Senatorial opinion, but they shrink. 

Received a telegraphic dispatch from Admiral Porter 
via Cairo of the capture of Dunnington and force at 
Arkansas Post. It is dated the llth of January, a long 
and protracted transit. 

Baldwin of the Vanderbilt came up to-day from Hamp- 
ton Roads, where he arrived yesterday from an unsuccess- 



1863] FITZ JOHN PORTER'S CONVICTION 225 

ful cruise for the Alabama, his vessel having been detained 
by Wilkes, which defeated the Department's plan. 

There are rumors of the movement of the army at Fal- 
mouth. Incipient steps have doubtless been taken, but the 
storm has retarded operations. 

January 21, Wednesday. The furious storm of last night 
and to-day fills us with apprehensions for the two iron- 
clads, Nahant and Weehawken. It is hoped they put in to 
the Breakwater. 

Wrote Seward, who makes inquiry respecting the con- 
struction of vessels for the Japanese, advising that the 
Government should have nothing to do with them, that 
Pruyn, the commissioner, ought not to commit or ha any 
way implicate the Government. 

January 22, Thursday. There is a rumor that Fitz John 
Porter, whose trial of over forty days has interested the 
public, is found guilty and has been cashiered. A different 
result was reported at the close of the trial a fortnight since. 
It was then said he was unanimously acquitted. I did not 
give implicit credit to that rumor, though I read none of 
the testimony; but my impressions and observation and all 
that I heard at the War Department in relation to Porter 
and other generals in the day and time of their occurrence 
for which he was arraigned were such I could not believe 
him wholly guiltless. The finding and punishment are 
severe, but I apprehend not entirely undeserved. I do not, 
however, impute to him disloyalty or treachery, but he was 
one of a mortified clique or combination who were vexed 
and dissatisfied, not without cause perhaps, that an inferior 
officer for whom they had not high regard should have been 
brought from a distant department and placed over them, 
their plans and operations broken up, and the commander 
whom they respected and to whom they were attached 
superseded and virtually disgraced. But if the country 
was made to suffer by this mortified partisan combination, 



226 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JAN. 22 

it was a crime which should not go unrebuked or unpun- 
ished. Porter may not have been the chief or only sinner, 
though the victim in this combination. 

It was not a wise or judicious movement to place Pope 
at the head of the army last summer. If I am not mistaken 
those who participated in it now think so. An intrigue 
against McClellan brought him and Halleck here. Perhaps 
under no circumstances was Pope equal to the command 
given him, but I thought then and still believe he was not 
faithfully and fairly sustained by Porter and his associ- 
ates. McClellan and most of his generals were vexed and 
irritated. They had some cause for dissatisfaction, but 
not to the injury of the country. Fitz John Porter, the 
intimate of McClellan, entered with all the ardor of a parti- 
san and a clansman into the feelings and wrongs of his 
commander. He and the set to which he belonged did not, 
I thought at the time, wish Pope to acquire great glory; 
their zeal for victory was weak when he commanded, and 
the battle was lost. To some extent the results at the sec- 
ond Bull Run fight are attributable to the bad conduct of 
the generals. It has been evident the soldiers of the Army 
of the Potomac were not enthusiastic for Pope, that 
they did not like him. This is true, but who chilled them? 
Who encouraged their dislike? 

The Weehawken has arrived at Hampton Roads, having 
rode out the gale without making a port. No man but John 
Rodgers would have pushed on his vessel in that terrific 
storm. The Nahant, a better vessel, sought the Break- 
water, as did some of our best wooden steamers. 

General Burnside was to have made a forward move- 
ment, but the storm prevented. There are rumors that the 
army is much demoralized, that the soldiers do not give 
their confidence to Burnside, doubt his military capacity, 
and that some of the generals are cool. There is, I think, 
some truth and some exaggeration in all these reports. 

January 23, Friday. As I anticipated, continued and 



1863] A CALL FROM F. A. CONKLING 227 

increasing abuses and much illicit traffic are going on under 
the army permits issued by General Dix to pass the block- 
ade. It will be difficult to stop the abuse, now that it has 
commenced. 

I have sent to Congress a communication with a view to 
getting an expression of opinion on the subject of League 
Island for naval purposes. 

By request of Senator Foot of the Naval Committee, 
prepared a bill in relation to midshipmen and sent it with 
a letter. 

January 24, Saturday. Had a telegram at midnight from 
Admiral Porter of captures on White River. 

Senator Foot yesterday resigned his seat on the Naval 
Committee. Some disagreement with Hale, the chairman, 
who plays the part of a harlequin as well as a demagogue, 
is, I am told, a constant marplot and very contentious in 
the Committee, does nothing to assist but much to embar- 
rass and counteract the Department. Grimes also asked to 
be excused for the same reason as Foot; does not conceal 
his dislike and detestation of Hale. The Senate did right 
in refusing to excuse him. 

F. A. Conkling, 1 who, the President says, is "a mighty 
onhandy man," called to give me a lecture and instructions 
relative to the appointment of midshipmen. Said Congress 
had the right to nominate and it was the duty of the Secre- 
tary to appoint. He could not tell me where Congress got 
that right, or the right to locate them in districts. Was 
compelled to admit that Congress could not dictate or nom- 
inate who should be judges of the Supreme Court, or say 
from what circuit or State the President should select them, 
but after a little controversy he acknowledged the cases 
were analogous. Forgetting his first starting-point, he 
wanted to know by what authority the Secretary of the 
Navy appointed midshipmen. I referred him to the Con- 
stitution and the laws, which I pointed out. Told him the 
1 A Representative from New York, brother of Roscoe Conkling. 



DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JAN. 24 

President by and with the consent and approval of the 
Senate could make appointments, but Congress could by 
law confer or vest inferior appointments in the courts 
of law, heads of Departments, or the President alone; that 
Congress had, by law, vested the inferior appointment of 
midshipmen in the Secretary of the Navy, and I had, under 
that law, made appointments and should continue to do 
so. After tumbling over the statutes for sometime, he found 
himself unable to controvert my position or to answer me, 
and left, apparently with a "flea in his ear." No man ever 
came upon me more dogmatically, or left more humble. 

In answer to Senator Fessenden, who is pushed forward 
by Preble to urge his restoration, I replied that in my opin- 
ion the tune had not yet arrived, but, having made known 
my views, I should leave the subject with the Senate, 
claiming no infallibility for myself. F. expresses a willing- 
ness to take upon himself any responsibility, but did not 
wish to act in opposition to me, who, he said, had some, but 
not many, unscrupulous assailants who were anxious to 
get him in collision with me. He complimented my ad- 
ministration of the Department, which he had honestly 
sustained because he honestly approved it, and had been 
annoyed with the mischievous manoeuvres of the Chairman 
of the Naval Committee, which, however, were well under- 
stood hi the Senate and did me no harm. Preble's note 
seeking restoration was surly and crusty. I suggested that 
on his own account he had better form a different one. 
Fessenden said he would consult any one I might name. 
Told him Davis or Smith were pretty good in such matters. 
F. laughed and said Smith wrote the note. 

A California committee was on Tuesday before the Cab- 
inet relative to the gauge of the Pacific Railroad. They 
gave each their views, every one, I believe, in favor of 
the five-feet gauge. When they left, the President proposed 
a vote without discussion, not that it should be conclu- 
sive but as an expression of the unbiased opinion of each. I 
was, for the present at least, for four eight and one half, 



1863] HOOKER SUCCEEDS BURNSIDE 229 

chiefly for the reason that a change could be made from the 
wide to the narrow at less expense than the reverse; the 
aggregate cost will be millions less; that usage, custom, 
practical experience, knowledge proved the superiority of 
that gauge if they had proved anything, etc., etc. I believe 
the majority were for that gauge. 

The Chronicle contains the argument of Judge- Advocate 
Holt in Fitz John Porter's case. It seems to have been 
made after the finding of the Court instead of before, and 
is sent out with it as if in defense of the decision. The pro- 
ceeding is singular and will be likely to cause censure. There 
is much of partisanship on both sides of Porter's case. I 
have abstained from being mixed up in it, and have not had 
the time, nor am I called upon, to read the voluminous 
proceedings and comments. If the conviction is correct, 
the punishment is hardly adequate to, or commensurate 
with, the offense. I have thought Porter not alone in fault. 
More than one appeared to me culpable for the disasters 
of that period. 

There is a change of commander of the Army of the 
Potomac. Burnside relinquishes to Hooker. I hope the 
change may be beneficial, but have apprehensions. The 
President asked me about the time of the Second Battle of 
Bull Run, when Pope was to leave and McClellan was out 
of favor: "Who can take command of this army? Who is 
there among all these generals? " The address to me was un- 
expected, and without much consideration I named Hooker. 
The President looked approvingly, but said, "I think as 
much as you or any other man of Hooker, but I fear he 
gets excited," looking around as he spoke. Blair, who was 
present, said he is too great a friend of John Barleycorn. I 
have mingled but little in the social or convivial gatherings 
of the military men, have attended fewer of the parades 
than any member of the Cabinet, and have known less of 
their habits. What I had seen and observed of Hooker had 
impressed me favorably, but our interviews had been 
chiefly business-wise and in the matter of duty, but there 



230 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JAN. 24 

was a promptness, frankness, and intelligence about him 
that compared favorably with some others. I remarked, 
"If his habits are bad, if he ever permits himself to get 
intoxicated, he ought not to be trusted with such a com- 
mand," and withdrew my nomination. From what I have 
since heard, I fear his habits are not such as to commend 
him, that at least he indulges in the free use of whiskey, 
gets excited, and is fond of play. This is the result of my 
inquiries, and, with this reputation, I am surprised at his 
selection, though, aside from the infirmities alluded to, he 
doubtless has good points as an officer. 

January 28, Wednesday. Word comes that the Oreto 
has escaped from Mobile and destroyed some vessels. Our 
information is vague and indefinite, but I doubt not it is 
hi the main true. 

Get as yet no official report of the disaster at Galveston. 
Farragut has prompt, energetic, excellent qualities, but no 
fondness for written details or self -laudation ; does but one 
thing at a time, but does that strong and well; is better 
fitted to lead an expedition through danger and difficulty 
than to command an extensive blockade; is a good officer 
in a great emergency, will more willingly take great risks 
in order to obtain great results than any officer in high 
position in either Navy or Army, and, unlike most of them, 
prefers that others should tell the story of his well-doing 
rather than relate it himself. 

Thurlow Weed retires from the Evening Journal. Is this 
an actual or pretended retirement? I always distrust him. 
He is strong and cunning; has a vigorous but not an ingen- 
uous mind. Being a lifelong partisan, he cannot abandon 
party even for the country's welfare, though he may strive 
to have them assimilate. It grieved him that so many of 
his old party opponents should have been invited to the 
Cabinet and identified with the Administration. The Pre- 
sident quietly laughs at Weed's intrigues to exclude Chase 
and myself. This was in the interest of Seward, his alter ego. 



1863] IDENTITY OF WEED AND SEWARD 231 

I remember that Seward on one occasion remarked in Cab- 
inet, "Weed is Seward, and Seward is Weed; each approves 
what the other says and does." It was not a pleasant 
remark to some of us, and Chase said he did not recognize 
the identity; while he would yield a point as a matter of 
favor to Mr. Seward, he would not to Weed. His ostensible 
reason for abandoning the field of active politics at this 
time and leaving the Journal is because he cannot act 
with his friends and support the Administration. There 
is intrigue, insincerity, and scheming in all this. I have 
no confidence in him, and he doubtless knows it. The 
organization of the New York Legislature has been finally 
accomplished. If Weed does not go for Seward for the 
Senate, which is at the bottom of this movement, he 
will prop Morgan. King, their best man, is to be sacrificed. 
I do not think Weed is moving for the Senatorship for 
himself, yet it is so charged. He has professedly left his 
old friends, but it is to carry as many as possible with him 
into a new combination, where he and Seward will have 
Dix, whom they have captured and whom they are using 
while D. supposes they are earnest for him. 

January 30, Friday. But little at the Cabinet. Chase 
is quite dejected, and manifested some rather suppressed 
irritation towards Blair and Seward as he sat beside me. 
Neither of them saw it; I was glad they did not. 

Blair says Fitz John Porter is disliked by the army with 
the exception of McClellan, but is his special confidant. 
The President seemed to know this, but the disaffection 
as stated by Blair was more general than he supposed. 

February 3, Tuesday. The I. P. Smith, 1 a purchased 
steamer of eleven guns, is reported captured in Stono 
River. We have information also that the blockaders have 
captured the Princess Royal with a valuable cargo, that 
was attempting to get into Charleston. 

1 This was the gunboat Isaac Smith, captured January 30. Her name 
was incorrectly reported. 



232 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [FEB. 3 

The naval contractors are becoming clamorous for ad- 
vanced prices in consequence of the depreciation of money. 
I have been expecting this. Cheapening money will be dear 
to the Government. Have warned Chase of it. It is only 
the beginning of evil. 

The question of making an example by shooting a de- 
serter was before the Cabinet. A case, considered a strong 
one, of a young man named Bud of Albany was presented. 
It did not strike me as so aggravated a case as some others, 
but the necessity of an example to check a rapidly increas- 
ing evil was unanimously assented to. The propriety of 
inflicting high penalty on some more conspicuous offender 
than a poor private soldier was suggested. 

February 4, Wednesday. Governor E. D. Morgan was 
yesterday elected Senator in place of Preston King. If 
the latter was not to be returned, Morgan was probably the 
best of the competitors. He will make a useful Senator if 
he can persistently carry out his honest convictions, but 
I know of no one who can, just at this tune, make good 
the place of King. He has been cheated and deceived. The 
country sustains a loss in his retirement. He is honest, 
faithful, unselfish, and earnestly patriotic. 

We have the whole world agog with an account of an 
onset on our fleet before Charleston. The Mercedita is 
reported to have been surprised and sunk, and other vessels 
damaged. But the great hullabaloo is over a report that the 
whole blockading fleet ran away, the foreign consuls at 
Charleston went out and could see none of the vessels, and 
the blockade is by the Rebels declared raised. Seward called 
on me in great trepidation with these tidings. Told him 
most of the stuff was unworthy of a moment's considera- 
tion. Not unlikely the Mercedita may have been surprised 
and sunk, as she is of light draft and was probably close in. 
If there had been other vessels captured or sunk, we should 
have had their names. It looked to me as if the budget was 
made up for the European market by the foreign consuls, 




EDWIN D. MORGAN 



1863] SEWARD AND THE BLOCKADE 233 

who are in fact Rebel agents, and I asked why their ex- 
equaturs were not annulled. 

The New York papers have sensation headings over the 
Charleston news, and the Tribune has a ridiculous article 
about blockade, more wild, if possible, than Seward. 

February 5, Thursday. Seward sent me this morning a 
scary dispatch which he proposed to give each of the foreign 
ministers, in relation to the blockade at Galveston, which 
he, unwisely, improperly, and without knowledge of the 
facts, admits has been raised, but which he informs them 
will be again immediately enforced. I was exceedingly 
annoyed that he should propose to issue such a document 
under any circumstances, and especially without consulta- 
tion. It is one of those unfortunate assumptions, pregnant 
with error, in which he sometimes indulges. I toned and 
softened his paper down in several places, but told the 
clerk to give Mr. Seward my compliments and say to him 
I totally objected to his sending out such a paper. 

February 6, Friday. Nothing of special importance at the 
Cabinet. Seward was absent, and I therefore called on 
him respecting his circular dispatch concerning the block- 
ade at Galveston. His chief clerk, Mr. Hunter, was coy and 
shy. Neither he nor Mr. Seward were certain it had been 
sent. Some dispatches had not been sent. Seward said he 
had made all the alterations, but the clerk had not done his 
errand properly, did not tell him I objected, etc., etc. The 
Department seemed in confusion. Hunter watched Seward 
closely and could recollect only what Seward recollected. 
When I touched on the principles involved, I found Seward 
inexcusably ignorant of the subject of blockade. He ad- 
mitted he had not looked into the books, had not studied 
the subject, had relied on Hunter. Hunter said he had very 
little knowledge and no practical experience on these mat- 
ters except what took place during the Mexican blockade. 
Made Seward send for Wheaton; read to him a few pass- 



234 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [FEB. 6 

ages. He seemed perplexed, but thought his circular dis- 
patch as modified could do little harm. I am apprehensive 
that he has, in his ostentatious, self-assuming way, com- 
mitted himself in conversation, and knows not how to get 
out of the difficulty. He says Fox told him the blockade 
was raised at Galveston. It is one of those cases where the 
Secretary of State has written a hasty letter without proper 
inquiry or knowledge of facts, and my fears are that he has 
made unwarranted admissions. After firing off his gun, he 
learns his mistake, has "gone off half-cocked." 

February 7, Saturday. Two or three Members of the 
House have had an opportunity to spend their wrath on 
me in relation to appointment of midshipmen. Calvert is 
quite angry on two or three matters and takes this oppor- 
tunity to vent his spite. Washburne of Illinois, who has the 
reputation of being the "meanest man in the House," is 
sore under my reply to his inquiry concerning the "vessel 
Varuna"; others but little better than Washburne were 
abusive. 

February 9, Monday. A special messenger from Admiral 
Du Pont with dispatches came to my house early this morn- 
ing before I was awake, and would deliver them into no 
hand but my own. I received them at the door of my cham- 
ber. They relate to the late flurry at Charleston. The 
Mercedita was neither captured nor sunk, nor was any ves- 
sel of the Squadron. The Mercedita and Keystone State 
were injured in their steam-chests, and went to Port Royal 
for repairs. All the noise about raising the blockade was 
mere trash of the Rebels South and their sympathizers 
North. Dr. Bacon, the bearer of the dispatches, came to 
Philadelphia in the prize Princess Royal, captured running 
the blockade. Abuse will cease for a day, perhaps, under 
this intelligence. Am surprised at the ignorance which 
prevails in regard to the principles of blockade, which the 
late trouble has exposed. 



1863] FRANCE PRESSING FOR MEDIATION 235 

February 10, Tuesday. Presented Colonel Hawley's 
name to the President for Brigadier-General with expres- 
sions of my regard. Was kindly received but no assurance 
given. Informed the President I should put Preble's case 
in his hands to be disposed of. 

The nomination of Mark Howard for Collector of the 
Hartford District has been suspended in the Senate. How- 
ard is a very faithful, competent, and excellent man for the 
office, but he and Senator Dixon, neighbors and formerly 
intimate friends, have latterly had some differences. Dixon 
takes advantage of his position as Senator to stab Howard 
in secret session, where H. can have no opportunity for self- 
defense. Senator Sumner, whom I met this evening, says 
Dixon came to him and asked, if a personal enemy, who 
abused, slandered, and defied him were before the Senate, 
would he vote for him. Sumner replied, No. Senator Doo- 
little admits he was in like manner approached; says it was 
embarrassing, for there is an implied understanding a 
courtesy among Senators that they will yield to the 
personal appeals of a Senator in appointments to office in 
his own town. I asked if it was possible that the Senate 
prostituted itself to gratify private animosities, made 
itself a party to the personal quarrels of one of its members 
and gave him the means to wreak his vengeance on a 
worthy person without cause or justification? Doolittle 
attempted no defense; evidently did not like the attitude 
in which he was placed. 

Thurlow Weed is in town. He has been sent for, but my 
informant knows not for what purpose. It is, I learn, to 
consult in regard to a scheme of Seward to influence the 
New Hampshire and Connecticut elections. 

Some days since, Seward handed me a dispatch as I en- 
tered the President's office on Cabinet day, from Mr. Day- 
ton at Paris, stating the French Government was pressing 
friendly mediation. I handed it back after reading, with 
the remark that it was wholly inadmissible. Seward made 
no reply, but handed the dispatch to others to read as they 



236 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [FEB. 10 

came in. There was, I think, a response similar to mine 
from each. When I heard that Seward's factotum, Weed, 
had been called here I thought at once of Dayton's dispatch 
and schemes of adjustment. Nous verrons. 

[In the lower House of Congress] after a violent attack 
byCalvert, Washburne, and a few others [on the subject of 
appointment of midshipmen], I was sustained by a vote 
of two to one, to the great chagrin of the clique, who, 
I am told, did not conceal their vexation. 

February 14, Saturday. The New York Tribune of yester- 
day has an allusion to correspondence between Seward and 
myself relative to the British- African Slave Treaty, which 
indicates a purpose to get us by the ears. 

February 16, Monday. General Foster was here yester- 
day, Sunday. Has let out the proposed attack on Charles- 
ton. This indicates what I have lately feared, that 
Du Pont shrinks, dreads, the conflict he has sought, yet is 
unwilling that any other should undertake it, is afraid 
the reputation of Du Pont will suffer. This jeopardizes the 
whole, makes a botched thing of it. I am disappointed, 
but not wholly surprised. A mandate he will obey, but I 
cannot well give it, for there are preliminaries and contin- 
gencies which would influence his movements and of which 
he must judge. The President desires Fox to go down to 
Charleston with General Foster, and came with Fox to see 
me. Told him it was a time when the active force of the 
Department was most wanted, it being near the close of 
the session of Congress, when every variety of call was 
made and delays to answer are inadmissible, and some 
important bills were to be acted upon and engineered 
through; nevertheless, if it was indispensable, he must go, 
but the very fact that Fox was sent on such an errand as 
proposed would touch Du Pont's pride, which is great, and 
do perhaps more harm than good. The President compre- 
hended my views, and it was thought best that Fox should 



1863] PROPOSED ATTACK ON CHARLESTON 237 

not go, but Foster was informed of our ideas, that the 
Navy could move independent of the army, and pass Sum- 
ter, not stop to batter it. Once in the rear of the fort and 
having the town under the guns of the ironclads, the mili- 
tary in the forts and on James Island would be compelled 
to come to terms. All is clear and well enough but Du Pont 
should have such a force as to inspire confidence in himself 
and men in order to insure a favorable result. Will and de- 
termination are necessary to success. While it is right that 
he should be circumspect and vigilant, I deplore the signs 
of misgiving and doubt which have recently come over him, 
his shirking policy, getting in with the army, making 
approaches, etc. It is not what we have talked of, not what 
we expected of him; is not like the firm and impetuous but 
sagacious and resolute Farragut. 

February 17, Tuesday. The President read to the Cabi- 
net a correspondence between himself and Fernando Wood. 
The latter wrote the President on the 8th of December last 
that he had good reason to believe the South desired a 
restoration of the Union, etc. The President replied on the 
12th of December that he had no confidence in the impres- 
sion, but that he would receive kindly any proposition. 
Wood's letter was confidential; the President made his so. 
All was well enough, perhaps, in form and manner if such a 
correspondence was to take place. Wood is a Representa- 
tive and his letter was brought to the President by Mayor 
Opdyke. 1 Mayor Opdyke and ex-Mayor Wood are on 
opposite extremes of parties, so opposite that each is, if 
not antagonistic, not very friendly inclined to the President. 
Wood now telegraphs the President that the time has 
arrived when the correspondence should be published. It 
is a piece of political machinery intended for certain party 
purposes. 

Chase says that Howard and Trumbull of the Senate 
were dissatisfied with their vote in favor of his bank bill, 

1 George Opdyke, Mayor of New York. 



238 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [FEB. 17 

which they had given under the impression it was an Ad- 
ministration measure, but they had since understood that 
Usher and myself were opposed to it. I told him that my 
general views were better known to him than them, that 
I had no concealment on the subject; I had, however, no 
recollection of ever exchanging a word with either of those 
Senators concerning his measures; that I had given his 
financial questions little or no attention, had never read 
his bill, had but a general conception of his scheme; that, so 
far as I was informed, it was not in conformity with my old 
notions, as he well knew, for I had freely communicated 
with him early, though I had not been consulted recently 
and matters had taken such a shape I was glad I had not 
been, and that the whole subject had been committed 
to him and Congress. I had neither time nor inclination to 
study new theories, was wedded to old doctrines and settled 
principles. Usher said he had electioneered for the measure 
with sundry Congressmen, whom he named. I told him 
I had not with any one and did not intend to. 

February 18, Wednesday. Have a long dispatch from 
Admiral Porter relative to operations on the Mississippi, 
a cut at the Delta between Helena and the Yazoo on the 
east, and at Lake Providence into Tensas on the west. 

February 19, Thursday. A special Cabinet-meeting. The 
President desired a consultation as to the expediency of an 
extra session of the Senate. Chase favored. Seward op- 
posed. No very decided opinion expressed by the others. 
I was disinclined to it. 

The President has been invited to preside at a meeting 
for religious Christian purposes on Sunday evening. Chase 
favored it. All the others opposed it but Usher, who had 
a lingering, hesitating, half-favorable inclination to favor 
it. Has been probably talked with and committed to some 
extent; so with Chase. 

The President on Tuesday expressed a wish that Captain 



1863] DAHLGREN AND THE PRESIDENT 239 

Dahlgren should be made an admiral, and I presented 
to-day both his and Davis's names. 1 

I wrote Senator Dixon a note, remonstrating against his 
misuse of power by opposing in secret session the appoint- 
ment and confirmation of Howard as Collector; that it 
was not only wrong, officially, for he was not clothed with 
authority to revenge private grievances, but it would close 
the door to any reconciliation, and make lifelong enmities 
between those who were neighbors and should be friends; 
that he admitted, and every one knew, Howard was a good 
and correct officer. All, it seems, was unavailing, for I hear 
the Senate has failed to confirm the nomination. An in- 
excusable and unjustifiable act on the part of the Senate, 
a wrong to the country, a gross wrong and outrage on an 
American citizen of character and worth who is discharging 
his duty with fidelity, the peer of the Senators who are 
guilty of this prostitution of honor and trust. This act and 
this practice of the Senate are as repugnant to good govern- 
ment and as degrading as anything in the corrupt days of 
Roman history, or the rotten aristocracy of modern Europe. 

February 22, Sunday. A severe snowstorm. Did not 
venture abroad. Had a call from Dahlgren, who is very 
grateful that he is named for admiral. Told him to thank 
the President, who had made it a specialty; that I did 
not advise it. He called with reference to a written promise 
the President had given one Dillon for $150,000 provided 
a newly invented gunpowder should prove effective. I 
warned Dahlgren that these irregular proceedings would 
involve himself and others in difficulty; that the President 
had no authority for it ; that there was no appropriation in 
our Department from which this sum could be paid; that 
he ought certainly to know, and the President should 
understand, that we could not divert funds from their legit- 
imate appropriation. I cautioned him, as I have had occa- 

1 Charles Henry Davis, who had defeated the Confederate fleet off Fort 
Pillow, and captured Memphis. 



240 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [FEB. 22 

sion to do repeatedly, against encouraging the President 
in these well-intentioned but irregular proceedings. He as- 
sures me he does restrain the President as far as respect will 
permit, but his " restraints" are impotent, valueless. He is 
no check on the President, who has a propensity to engage 
in matters of this kind, and is liable to be constantly im- 
posed upon by sharpers and adventurers. Finding the 
heads of Departments opposed to these schemes, the Pre- 
sident goes often behind them, as in this instance; and 
subordinates, flattered by his notice, encourage him. In 
this instance, Dahlgren says it is the President's act, that 
he is responsible, that there is his written promise, that it 
is not my act nor his (D.'s). 

Something was said to me some days since in regard to 
the great secret of this man Dillon, but I gave it no atten- 
tion, did not like the manner, etc. So it was, I apprehend, 
with the War Department; and then Dillon went to the 
President with his secret, which I apprehend is no secret. 

February 23, Monday. General Halleck informs me there 
is a rumor via Richmond that the steamer Queen of the 
West has been captured. He doubts its truth. I fear it 
may be so. 

February 24, Tuesday. At the Cabinet-meeting the Pre- 
sident expressed uneasiness at the rumor which he had just 
heard that the Queen of the West was captured. Told him 
what I heard yesterday from General Halleck. Stanton 
said he wholly discredited the story, but went and got the 
dispatches. On reading them, my apprehensions were in- 
creased. The President called on me later in the day, and we 
both came to the conclusion that the boat was lost to us. 

February 25, Wednesday. Had a brief call from General 
McClellan this P.M. He looks in good health, but is evi- 
dently uncomfortable in mind. Our conversation was gen- 
eral, of the little progress made, the censoriousness of 



1863 SEWARD AND GENERAL SGOTT 241 

the public, of the dissatisfaction towards both of us, etc., 
etc. The letter of General Scott, of the 4th of October, 
1861, complaining of his disrespect and wanting obedience, 
is just brought out. 

I well remember an interview between these two officers 
about the period that letter was written, the President, 
myself, and two or three others being present. It was in 
General Scott's rooms opposite the War Office. In the 
course of conversation, which related to military opera- 
tions, a question arose as to the number of troops there 
were in and about Washington. Cameron could not 
answer the question; McClellan did not; General Scott 
said no reports were made to him; the President was 
disturbed. At this moment Seward stated the several 
commands, how many regiments had reported in a few 
days, and the aggregate at the tune of the whole force. 
The statement was made from a small paper, and, appeal- 
ing to McClellan, that officer replied that the statement 
approximated the truth. General Scott's countenance 
showed great displeasure. "This," said the veteran war- 
rior, "is a remarkable state of things. I am in command 
of the armies of the United States, but have been wholly 
unable to get any reports, any statement of the actual 
forces, but here is the Secretary of State, a civilian, for 
whom I have great respect but who is not a military man 
nor conversant with military affairs, though his abilities 
are great, but this civilian is possessed of facts which are 
withheld from me. Military reports are made, not to these 
Headquarters but to the State Department. Am I, Mr. 
President, to apply to the Secretary of State for the 
necessary military information to discharge my duties?" 

Mr. Seward explained that he had got his information 
by vigilance and attention, keeping account of the daily 
arrival of regiments, etc., etc. There was a grim smile on 
the old soldier. " And you, without report, probably ascer- 
tained where each regiment was ordered. Your labors and 
industry, Mr. Secretary of State, I know are very arduous, 



242 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [FEB. 25 

but I did not before know the whole of them. If you in that 
way can get accurate information, the Rebels can also, 
though I cannot." 

Cameron here broke in, half hi earnest and half -ironical, 
and said we all knew that Seward was meddlesome, inter- 
fering in all the Departments with what was none of his 
business. He thought we had better go to our duties. It 
was a pleasant way of breaking up an unpleasant interview, 
and we rose to leave. McClellan was near the open door, 
and General Scott addressed him by name. "You," said 
the aged hero, "were called here by my advice. The times 
require vigilance and activity. I am not active and never 
shall be again. When I proposed that you should come 
here to aid, not supersede, me, you had my friendship and 
confidence. You still have my confidence." 

I had, hi the early stages of the War, disapproved of 
the policy of General Scott, which was purely defensive, 
non-intercourse with the insurgents, shut them out from 
the world by blockade and military frontier lines, but not 
to invade then- territory. The anaconda policy was, I then 
thought and still think, unwise for the country. The policy 
of General McClellan has not been essentially different, but 
he was called here with the assent it not by the recom- 
mendation of General Scott. It was evident from'what tran- 
spired at the interview here mentioned that Mr. Seward, 
who had been in close intimacy with the veteran com- 
mander at first, had transferred his intimacy to the junior 
general, and the former felt it, saw that he was becoming 
neglected, and his pride was wounded. 

That Seward kept himself well informed in the way he 
stated, I think was true, and he likely had his information 
confirmed by McClellan, with whom he almost daily 
compared notes and of whom he made inquiries. But 
McClellan is by nature reticent, in many respects a good 
quality. Seward has great industry and an inquiring mind, 
and loves to possess himself of everything that transpires. 
Has an unfortunate inclination to run to subordinates for 



1863] SEWARD'S INQUIRING MIND 243 

information. Has in Meigs a willing assistant, and others 
who think it a compliment to be consulted by the Secretary 
of State, and are ready to impart to him all they know of 
the doings and intentions of their superiors. He has by his 
practice encouraged the President to do likewise and get at 
facts indiscreetly; but the President does this because he 
feels a delicacy in intruding, especially in business hours, 
on the heads of Departments. S. has no such delicacy, but 
a craving desire to be familiar with the transactions of each 
Department. 



VII 

Closing Hours of Congress A Call from Senator Dixon Proposed Issue 
of Letters of Marque Delay in the Attack on Charleston Impending 
War with England Conversations with Sumner about the Letters of 
Marque Conversation with the President on the Subject of Letters 
of Marque and the Attitude of England Talk with Seward on the Re- 
lation of the Navy Department to the Letters of Marque The First 
Application for Letters of Marque The Expected Attack on Charleston 
News of Repulse at Charleston The Peterhoff's Mails Com- 
mander Rhind and the Ironclads at Charleston The Elletts and the 
Ram Fleet Du Font's Failure at^Charleston The {President takes 
a Hand in the Peterhoff Contention Blockade-Runners on the Rio 
Grande Du Font's Vanity and Weakness Sumner's Conversation 
with Lord Lyons on the Peterhoff Matter. 

March 5, Thursday. Went on the evening of the 3d inst. 
to the Capitol. Spent most of the tune until eleven o'clock 
in the President's room. It is my first visit to the Capitol 
since the session commenced. Was for half an hour on the 
floor of the House. Thirty-four years ago spent the night 
of the 3d of March on the floor of the Representatives' 
Chamber. It was in the old Representatives' Hall. Andrew 
Stevenson was Speaker. I first saw Henry Clay that night. 
He came from the President's room to the House about 
ten. It was to him the scene of old triumphs, and friends 
crowded around him. 

I subsequently went into the Senate Chamber, a much 
larger but less pleasant room than the old one, which I first 
visited in the last days of the second Adams. If the present 
room is larger, the Senators seemed smaller. My first im- 
pressions were doubtless more reverential than those of 
later times. 

The deportment of the Members in both houses was calm 
and in favorable contrast with what I have ever seen of the 
closing hours of any session, and I have witnessed many. 
There was nothing boisterous, and but little that was fac- 
tious. It was nearly midnight when we left. On the morn- 



1863] CLOSING HOURS OF CONGRESS 245 

ing of the 4th I was at the Capitol, from ten till twelve. All 
passed off harmoniously. 

The recent dispatches of Consul Morse at London, and 
information from other sources, render it necessary meas- 
ures should be taken to prevent the Rebels from getting 
a considerable naval force afloat. 

March 6, Friday. Appointments considered yesterday 
and to-day. Generally conceded that Field of California 
was the man for the Supreme Court. The Court of Claims 
seems a peace court. The Court for the District is more 
important, and unfortunately the hearts and sympathies 
of the present judges are with the Rebels. 

March 7, Saturday night. The week has been one of 
steady, incessant employment. I feel I have been over- 
tasked and am much exhausted. Must have rest. 

Two rather important bills were got, I may say smug- 
gled, through Congress, affecting the Navy Department, 
which I never saw. One of them, relating to an Advisory 
Board, was brought to the President for approval on the 
4th of March, which he handed to me. On a hasty perusal 
I requested him not to sign it until it could have a more 
thorough examination. We sent for Grimes to make in- 
quiry concerning it. He said the bill had never been dis- 
cussed; he did not approve of it; that he had expected it 
would be killed in the House. The President passed it 
to me for criticism and farther examination, and return to 
him with my views. The other bill relates to matters of 
prize, and must have been got through surreptitiously. It 
is crude and objectionable in several respects. 

Sedgwick, Chairman of the Naval Committee in the 
House, has been active in getting through a bill for 
the codification of the naval laws, and expects to per- 
form the service of codification. All in the Department 
and the officers generally desire him to perform the service, 
but there are objections in my mind to his selection, which 



246 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MARCH 7 

I should urge, were it not that the President has another 
candidate, a gentleman who has no knowledge of naval 
affairs or naval or admiralty law, but who, qualified or not, 
wants a place. 

March 9, Monday. Had a call from Senator Dixon. Is 
depressed and unhappy. Regrets that he opposed the con- 
firmation of Howard. Says if the subject was to be gone 
over again his course would be different. I did not attempt 
to soften or excuse his conduct, but told him I was sorry 
he did not listen to my suggestions. He proposed several 
names for the place. I had no other candidate than my old 
friend James G. Bolles, and he, though naming two or three 
others, fell in with it. 

March 10, Tuesday. I saw last evening a communication 
from the State Department inclosing several pages of reg- 
ulations for letters of marque. The subject was to-day be- 
fore the Cabinet, and there is a stronger disposition for the 
policy than I expected. I told the President I had given 
the proposed regulations but a cursory examination. The 
subject was therefore postponed to our Friday meeting, 
with an understanding that I should in the mean tune 
examine them and report if they were objectionable. On 
looking over the sections, I find they are a transcript of the 
laws of 1812 and 1813, which the Secretary of State has 
embodied in a series of regulations which he proposes to 
issue. The old laws of half a century ago have expired. It 
is not pretended they have vitality. But the Secretary 
of State legislates by regulations. I am not favorably 
impressed with the law or the regulations, nor with the idea 
of sending out privateers against a couple of piratical cruis- 
ers, even if there are private parties fools enough to go on 
that hunt, which he says there are, but I doubt. The law 
undertakes to delegate legislative power to the President, 
which is in itself wrong. But the subject is, I fear, a fore- 
gone conclusion. Both Seward and Chase favor it, and the 



1863] LETTERS OF MARQUE PROPOSED 247 

commercial community is greatly exasperated against the 
robbers. If the subject goes forward, S. will turn the whole 
labor and responsibility over to the Navy Department. 

March 12, Thursday. Had a letter from Chief Engineer 
Stimers last night. Says the attack on Charleston will be 
delayed ; suggests it will be made the first week in April. It 
made me nervous and restless through the night; got but 
little sleep. The delay, hesitation, uncertainty in the Army 
of the Potomac over again. Du Pont is getting as prudent 
as McClellan; is very careful; all dash, energy, and force 
are softened under the great responsibility. He has a re- 
putation to preserve instead of one to make. 

Stimers arrived this morning and read to me the minutes 
of a council held on board the Wabash. The army officers 
were present, and it is plain they were a drawback on naval 
operations. Talk of beginning the attack on Charleston 
by an assault on the sand-batteries at the mouth of the 
harbor instead of running past them. Of obstructions and 
torpedos little is known, but great apprehensions are enter- 
tained. Stimers is sent up to get more ironclads and an- 
other raft. The President came in, and the whole subject 
was recounted. His views and mine are alike. To delay for 
the objects stated till April will be to postpone to May. 
Expressed ourselves very decidedly, and told Stimers to 
hurry back. 

Talked over the subject of Rebel privateers building in 
England. Said to the President and Mr. Seward I thought 
England should be frankly informed that our countrymen 
would not be restrained from active operations if Great 
Britain persisted in making war on our commerce under 
Confederate colors. 

March 17. Returned last evening from strictly confi- 
dential visit to New York. 

Some discussion in Cabinet-meeting to-day on letters 
of marque. Seward and Chase are both strong advocates of 



248 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MARCH 17 

the measure. Am surprised that Chase should favor it, for 
he must be sensible of the consequences. He has, I think, 
committed himself somewhat hastily to some of the in- 
dignant but inconsiderate men in the shipping interest who 
are sufferers. Seward has no knowledge on the subject, nor 
any conception of the effect of letting loose these depre- 
dators under government sanction. There is such a general 
feeling against the English, who are conniving with and 
aiding the Rebels, that privateering is becoming popular 
with the Administration and country. Statesmen who 
should check and restrain the excited, erring popular cur- 
rent are carried along with it. I suggested some doubts of 
the expediency of the proposed proceedings, and the prin- 
ciples involved. In the first place I queried whether Con- 
gress could depute legislative power to the Executive, as 
was assumed. I asked Seward if he had any money to pay 
the promised bounties, and if he was of opinion there could 
be fines and criminal punishment inflicted by Executive 
regulations merely. Seward said he had no money; knew 
not whether there was any appropriation from which funds 
could be taken; if not, he must pledge the Government. 
This I opposed, and no one sustained Seward or expressed 
an opinion on the subject. As regarded penal inflictions, 
fines, criminal punishment by regulation he had no doubt 
whatever, should not hesitate in the least. I could admit 
no such power on the part of the Executive. My doubts 
and suggestions, I perceived, set others thinking. Chase 
became silent. 

These notions hi regard to privateers and letters of 
marque, though crude, erroneous, and fraught with evil, 
have been maturing for some time, and I do not mistake 
in placing much of the mischief to the State Department, 
which would be irresponsible for Navy transgressions. The 
Times of New York and the Chronicle of this city and pa- 
pers of that particular phase of partyism, which never [act] 
without prompting from a certain quarter, have been writ- 
ing up the matter and getting the public mind excited. The 



1863] DELAY IN ATTACK ON CHARLESTON 249 

Chronicle pronounces the privateers to be a volunteer navy 
like volunteer forces on land. The Times mixes up letters 
of marque with the Navy Department, which it blames for 
delaying to issue the necessary authority, innocently un- 
aware that it is a subject pertaining to that Department of 
the Government whose head it would never intentionally 
injure. 

Conflicting accounts concerning Farragut's command on 
the lower Mississippi. The Rebel accounts state he passed 
Port Hudson with his vessel, the others being driven back, 
with the exception of the steamer Mississippi, which all say 
was grounded and blown up. Our account represents that 
all the fleet passed up except the Mississippi. 

The accounts from Porter, above Vicksburg, are not 
satisfactory. He is fertile in expedients, some of which are 
costly without adequate results. His dispatches are full of 
verbosity of promises, and the mail which brings them also 
brings ludicrous letters and caricatures to Heap, a clerk 
who is his brother-in-law, filled with laughable and bur- 
lesque accounts of amusing and ridiculous proceedings. 
These may be excusable as a means of amusement to keep 
up his spirits and those of his men, but I should be glad 
to witness, or hear of something more substantial and of 
energies employed in what is really useful. Porter has 
capabilities and I am expecting much of him, but he is by 
no means an Admiral Foote. 

The progress of the squadron and troops at Charleston 
is slow and unsatisfactory. I apprehend the defenses are 
being strengthened much faster than the assailants. Du 
Pont has attacked Fort McAllister and satisfied himself 
that the turret vessels are strong and capable of great 
endurance, but at the same tune he doubtless made the 
Rebels aware of these facts. 

March 31. For a fortnight I have been ill and really 
unfit for duty, yet have been absent from the Department 
but a single day, the only day I have lost in Washington 



250 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MARCH 31 

since March 4, 1861. But for the illness of Mr. Faxon, Chief 
Clerk, I should have abstained a day or two from labor. 
Fatigued and exhausted, I have not felt able to jot down 
current events from day to day. 

With some effort, though with indifferent health, I have 
drawn up a communication to Mr. Seward on the subject 
of letters of marque. But after the council to-day he read a 
dispatch from Mr. Adams, communicating two letters from 
Earl Russell, which are insolent, contemptuous, and mean 
aggression if not war. It is pretty evident that a devastat- 
ing and villainous war is to be waged on our commerce by 
English capital and English men under the Rebel flag with 
the connivance of the English Government, which will, and 
is intended to, sweep our commerce from the ocean. Only 
by a decided, firm, and resolute tone can the country be 
rescued, and I am by no means certain that will be sufficient. 
We are in no condition for a foreign war. Torn by dissen- 
sions, an exhausting civil war on our hands, we have a 
gloomy prospect, but a righteous cause that will ultimately 
succeed. God alone knows through what trials, darkness, 
and suffering we are to pass. There is a disinclination to 
look these troubles which threaten us boldly in the face. I 
felt oppressed, as did the others. A long vista of direful ca- 
lamities opens before us. Mr. Seward is earnest to get out 
privateers to catch the Alabama and the blockade-runners. 
The President thinks they should try that policy. Chase 
has lately favored it. I have no faith hi it as against the 
Rebels, who have no commerce to be injured, but if we 
are to have a conflict with England, letters of marque 
and every means in our power must be put in requisition 
against that faithless nation. I have, therefore, doubts 
about sending the letter which I have prepared. 

Earl Russell gives us to understand the English Govern- 
ment do not intend to interpose to prevent the Rebels from 
building, buying, and sending out from England cruisers, 
semi-pirates, to prey upon our commerce. In plain lan- 
guage, English capital is to be employed hi destroying our 



1863] IMPENDING WAR WITH ENGLAND 251 

shipping interests. If we are silent and submissive, they 
will succeed, and we shall waken to our condition when our 
vessels and merchant seamen are gone. 

The condition of affairs opens avast field. Should a com- 
mercial war commence, it will affect the whole world. The 
police of the seas will be broken up, and the peaceful inter- 
course of nations destroyed. Those governments and peo- 
ples that have encouraged and are fostering our dissensions 
will themselves reap the bitter fruits of their malicious 
intrigues. In this great conflict, thus wickedly begun, there 
will be likely to ensue an uprising of the nations that will 
shatter existing governments and overthrow the aristo- 
cracies and dynasties not only of England but of Europe. 

I close my book and this month of March with sad and 
painful forebodings. The conduct and attitude of Great 
Britain, if persisted in, foreshadow years of desolation, of 
dissolution, of suffering and blood. 

Should April open, as we hope, with success at Charles- 
ton and Vicksburg, there will be a change in the deport- 
ment and conduct of England. Her arrogance and subtle 
aggression will be checked by our successes, and by that 
alone. She has no magnanimity, no sense of honor or of 
right. She is cowardly, treacherous, and mean, and hates 
and fears our strength. In that alone is our security. 

April 2. Had a call last evening and again to-day from 
Senator Sumner. Our conversation was chiefly on our for- 
eign relations, the unfortunate condition of public affairs, 
the inexcusable attitude of England, and the question of 
letters of marque. On the latter subject he is much dissatis- 
fied with Mr. Seward. He informs me that he was opposed 
to the passage of the law at the late session, and is, I am 
glad to see, quite sensitive on the sub j ect. I thought the law 
well enough as a precautionary measure, a warning to the 
mischievous spirits abroad, an authorization to the Pre- 
sident in case of necessity, and especially as a weapon to 
coerce England into propriety. The power granted was ex- 



252 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 2 

traordinary and to be used with discretion, but Mr. Seward, 
having obtained the authority, is disposed to exercise it. 
The merchants having been loud and profuse in their com- 
plaints and promises, he has taken it for granted that they 
would at once avail themselves of the law, and make a rush 
in a random search for a couple of lean and hungry wolves 
that are abroad, which would be difficult to catch and value- 
less when caught. I have questioned whether he could be- 
guile merchants into such an investment, and he begins to 
feel uneasy that none have come forward as he expected. 

In a letter which I commenced some days since and fin- 
ished Saturday night, I put upon paper some of the sugges- 
tions, views, and doubts I have from time to time expressed 
in our discussions. This letter I gave out to be copied, and 
it was'on my table for signature when I returned yesterday 
from Cabinet council. The English news was such that I 
laid it aside unsigned, and it was lying on the table when 
Sunnier came in. He stated, among other things, he had 
been to the State Department and that Seward had given 
him the substance of the last dispatches. He asked if I had 
seen them. I answered that I had, and was so disgusted 
with them that I had laid by a letter which I had prepared 
in opposition to the current feeling which prevailed on the 
subject of letters of marque. He wished to read it, and 
after doing so complimented the letter with emphasis, 
and begged I would sign and send it. 

[The letter referred to above was signed and sent with 
date of March 31. It read as follows:] 

NAVY DEPARTMENT, 
31 Mar., 1863. 

SIR, 

When discussing the regulations concerning "Letters of 
Marque," &c a few days since, I made certain suggestions, and 
you invited me to communicate any views I might entertain, 
in writing. 

I have felt some delicacy, I may say disinclination, to take any 
active part in this matter, because I have from the beginning of 
our difficulties discouraged the policy of privateering in such a 



1863] THE LETTERS OF MARQUE 253 

war as this we are now waging. The rebels have no commercial 
marine to entice and stimulate private enterprise and capital in 
such undertakings, provided the policy were desirable. We, 
however, have a commerce that invites the cupidity, zeal and 
spirit of adventure, which, once commenced, will be difficult to 
regulate or suppress. A few privateers let loose among our 
shipping, like wolves among sheep, would make sad havoc, as the 
Alabama and the Florida bear witness. 

It is proposed to encourage private enterprize to embark in 
undertaking to capture the two wolves or privateers that are 
abroad devastating the seas, and it is said, in addition to the 
wolves they may be authorized to catch blockade runners. The 
inducement, I apprehend, will not meet a favorable response. 
There may be vessels fitted out to capture unarmed prizes, but not 
of sufficient force to meet and overcome the Alabama; if not, the 
great end and purpose of the scheme will fail of accomplishment. 

To clothe private armed vessels with governmental power and 
authority, including the belligerent right of search, will be likely 
to beget trouble, and the tendency must unavoidably be to abuse. 
Clothed with these powers reckless men will be likely to involve 
the Government in difficulty, and it was in apprehension of that 
fact, and to avoid it, I encountered much obloquy and reproach 
at the beginning of the rebellion, and labored to institute a less 
objectionable policy. 

Propositions for privateers, for yacht squadrons, for naval 
brigades, volunteer navy, &c., &c. were, with the best intentions 
in most instances, pressed upon the Dep't, regardless of the con- 
sequences that might follow from these rude schemes of private 
warfare. It was to relieve us of the necessity of going into these 
schemes of private adventure, that the " Act to provide for the 
temporary increase of the Navy," approved July 24, 1861, was 
so framed as to give authority to take vessels into the Naval 
service and appoint officers for them, temporarily, to any extent 
which the President may deem expedient. Under other laws, 
seamen may be enlisted and their wages fixed by executive au- 
thority; and the officers and men so taken temporarily into the 
Naval service are subject to the laws for the government of 
the Navy. An "Act for the better government of the Navy," 
approved July 17, 1862, grants prize money to " any armed vessel 
in the service of the United States," in the same manner as to 
vessels of the Navy. 



254 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 2 

These laws, therefore, seem, and were intended to provide all 
the advantages of letters of marque, and yet prevent in a great 
measure the abuses liable to spring from them. Private armed 
vessels, adopted temporarily into the Naval service, would be 
more certainly and immediately under the control of the govern- 
ment, than if acting only under a general responsibility to law. 

It will be necessary to establish strict rules for the government 
of private armed vessels, as to some extent they will be likely to 
be officered and manned by persons of rude notions and free hab- 
its. Congress after authorizing Letters of Marque in the War of 
1812, adopted the necessary legislation for the vessels bearing 
them, by the Act of June 26th of that year. This act has not been 
revived. The recent "Act concerning letters of marque" &c. 
&c. authorizes the President to "make all needful rules and reg- 
ulations for the government and conduct of private armed ves- 
sels, furnished with letters of marque." In pursuance of this au- 
thorization, the " regulations " have been prepared, embracing the 
provisions of the statute enacted during the War of 1812. These 
regulations establish, as the statute did, a penal code. They im- 
pose fines and assume to authorize punishments, including even 
capital punishment. 

As suggested in our interview, I question the validity of such 
proceedings. Can Congress delegate this power of penal legis- 
lation to the President? and if to the President, why may it not 
to any branch of the Executive? 

If it can be granted for this special purpose the government 
of private armed vessels why not for any other purpose? And 
if it can delegate the power of penal legislation, why could it not 
delegate any other power, or powers, to the President, to Com- 
missioners, or even to a Committee of its own body, to sit during 
the recess? Why could it not delegate to the Secretary of the 
Treasury to legislate respecting imports and foreign trade, or to 
the Post-Master General full power of legislation respecting 
post offices and post routes? 

The power of imposing penalties and inflicting punishments 
is the essence of legislative power, for it is the penalty of trans- 
gression that gives force to law. These regulations also establish 
rewards as well as penalties. They provide that a large bounty 
shall be paid to private armed vessels in certain cases. But no 
fund is appropriated for the purpose by the Act, nor has any pro- 
vision elsewhere been made for it. Can Congress delegate to the 



1863] THE LETTERS OF MARQUE 255 

President the power to appropriate the public moneys, or to take 
them without specific appropriation, or pledge the public faith at 
his discretion for an indefinite amount? 

As I have already said, I have doubts in these particulars. 
They are expressed with some reluctance, because in the uneasy 
condition of the public mind, growing out of the lawless de- 
predations of the semi-piratical cruisers that are abroad, I am 
unwilling to interpose anything which may be construed into an 
obstacle, to repress public indignation, which is so justly excited. 
I did not regret that Congress enacted a law authorizing letters 
of marque; because I verily believe that, with it, England can be 
made to prevent her mercenary citizens from making war on our 
commerce under a flag that has no recognized nationality. If the 
police of the sea is to be surrendered, and rovers built by English 
capital and manned by Englishmen are to be let loose to plunder 
our commerce, let England understand that her ships will suffer, 
and her commerce also be annoyed and injured by private armed 
ships. With her distant and dependent colonies, no nation has 
greater cause to oppose maritime robbery and plunder, such as 
is being inflicted on us by Englishmen and English capital, than 
Great Britain. 

The West Indies are, notoriously, harbors of refuge for the 
corsairs that are plundering our merchants, as well as for the in- 
famous and demoralizing business of running our blockade, to 
encourage the insurgents who are waging war on our government. 
Of these ports, those of England are the worst, and a vast amount 
of English capital is engaged in illicit traffic, and her people and 
authorities exhibit sympathy for, and afford aid to, the insurgents 
and their abettors, and corresponding opposition to this Govern- 
ment. 

The English ship-yards are filled with vessels built and build- 
ing for the rebel service, and if measures are not taken to pre- 
vent, these will soon swarm the seas to capture, condemn and 
destroy American property, without a port into which they can 
send their captures for adjudication. Enjoying greater advan- 
tages than the corsairs and sea-rovers that once infested the 
ocean, because protected, harbored, & sheltered by governments 
in alliance with, and professedly friendly to us, while ordinary 
pirates are outlaws, this species of lawless outrage cannot be 
permitted to go on. 

England should be warned that we cannot permit this indirect 



256 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 2 

war to continue with impunity that it will provoke and justify 
retaliation, and that if her people and government make war 
upon our commerce, by sending abroad rovers with no nationality, 
to prey upon the property of our citizens, it will be impossible to 
restrain our people from retaliatory measures. 

I am, respectfully, 
Your Obdt. Servt. 

GIDEON WELLES, 

TT TIT TT a Secty. of Navy. 

HON. WM. H. SEWABD, 

Secty. of State. 

Informed Admiral Foote that the Secretary of State de- 
sired he should go to New York in the service of the State 
Department, on the subject of letters of marque. He ex- 
pressed his readiness to obey orders, but asked the object 
of detailing him. I gave him an outline of proceedings and 
what appeared to be the purpose of Mr. Seward, which was 
not very clear, or could not be plainly stated. No doubt he 
believes it will give importance to the Secretary of State 
to have a naval officer of the standing of Foote attached to 
the State Department and acting under its orders. 

The President called at my house this evening, chiefly to 
see the letter which I had prepared concerning letters of 
marque. Senator Sumner had gone directly from the Navy 
Department to him, and so made known his gratification 
at my views and the manner in which I had stated them 
that the curiosity of the President was excited and he de- 
sired to read the letter. I informed him that the last thing 
I did before leaving the Department was to sign and send it 
to the Secretary of State; that I perhaps should not have 
done it, though, as he (the President) was aware, I had dif- 
fered with him and others on this subject and looked upon 
it as a dangerous step, but since reading the last English 
dispatches, I was less opposed to the measure than I had 
been. 

The opportunity being favorable and he disposed to con- 
verse and apparently interested in my remarks, I took oc- 
casion to enlarge upon the topic more fully than I had done 



1863] A TALK WITH THE PRESIDENT 257 

in our Cabinet discussions. I started out with the proposi- 
tion that to issue letters of marque would in all probability 
involve us in a war with England. [I said] that I had so 
viewed this question from the beginning, though he and 
Mr. Seward had not; that I was not prepared to deny that 
it might not be best for us to move promptly with that ob- 
ject in view, though it had not yet been urged or stated; 
but that if we were to resort to letters of marque we should 
do it understandingly and with all the consequences before 
us. The idea that private parties would send out armed 
ships to capture the Alabama and one, possibly two, other 
rovers of the Rebels was too absurd to be thought of for 
a moment. If privateers were fitted out for any purpose 
it would be to capture neutral vessels intended to run the 
blockade or supposed to be in that service. It was not dif- 
ficult for us to foresee that such a power in private hands 
would degenerate into an abuse for which this Government 
would be held responsible. The Rebels have no commerce 
to invite private enterprise. So far as the Rebels were con- 
cerned, therefore, I had been opposed to committing the 
Government to the measure. But the disclosures recently 
made had given a different aspect to the question. There 
was little doubt the British Government and British capital 
were encouraging the rebellion; that that Government 
intended to interpose no obstacle to prevent the sending 
out of privateers from British ports to depredate upon our 
commerce; that these privateers, though sailing under the 
Confederate flag, would be the property of British mer- 
chants; that the rich plunder would repay the lawless Eng- 
lish adventurer, knowing he had the sanction of his Govern- 
ment; that this combination of British capital with Rebel 
malignity and desperation would despoil our commerce and 
drive it from the seas. Our countrymen would not quietly 
submit to these wrongs and outrages, and allow English- 
men to make war upon us hi disguise under the Rebel flag. 
We ought, therefore, to have an immediate and distinct 
understanding with the English Government. It should be 



258 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 2 

informed in terms that could not be mistaken or misunder- 
stood that if this policy was persisted in we should in self- 
defense be under the necessity of resorting to reprisals. In 
this view the law which authorized letters of marque had 
appeared to me proper, and might be made useful as a men- 
ace and admonition to England; and I repeated what I had 
said to the Secretary of State in reply to a remark of his 
that we must make more extensive naval operations against 
the Rebels by issuing letters of marque to annoy them, 
that letters of marque, instead of annoying them, destitute 
as they were of commerce, would aid them, for that step 
would involve war with England. If the Secretary of State 
would be less yielding and more decisive in asserting our 
rights with that power, it would, I thought, be better for the 
country. 

I then opened on the subject generally. England is tak- 
ing advantage of our misfortunes and would press upon us 
just as far as we would bear to be pressed. She rejoiced in 
our dissensions and desired the dismemberment of the 
Union. With this rebellion on our hands we were in no 
condition for a war with her, and it was because we were 
in this condition that she was arrogant and presuming. A 
higher and more decisive tone towards her will secure a dif- 
ferent policy on her part. A war with England would be a 
serious calamity to us, but scarcely less serious to her. She 
cannot afford a maritime conflict with us, even in our trou- 
bles, nor will she. We can live within ourselves if worse 
comes to worse. Our territory is compact, facing both 
oceans, and in latitudes which furnish us in abundance with- 
out foreign aid all the necessaries and most of the luxuries 
of life; but England has a colonial system which was once 
her strength, but is her weakness in these days and with 
such a people as our countrymen to contend with. Her 
colonies are scattered over the globe. We could, with our 
public and private armed ships, interrupt and destroy her 
communication with her dependencies, her colonies, on 
which she is as dependent for prosperity as they on her. 



1863) THE ATTITUDE OF ENGLAND 259 

I was therefore in favor of meeting her face to face, asking 
only what is right but submitting to nothing that is wrong. 

If the late dispatches are to be taken as the policy she 
intends to pursue, it means war, and if war is to come it 
looks to me as of a magnitude greater than the world has 
ever experienced, as if it would eventuate in the upheaval 
of nations, the overthrow of governments and dynasties. 
The sympathies of the mass of mankind would be with us 
rather than with the decaying dynasties and the old effete 
governments. Not unlikely the conflict thus commenced 
would kindle the torch of civil war throughout Christen- 
dom, and even nations beyond. I desired no such conflict 
in my day, and therefore hoped and believed the policy and 
tone of England might be modified, but it would require 
energy, resolution, and a firm determination on our part to 
effect it. 

The President listened, for I did most of the talking, as 
he evidently wished, and showed much interest and accord 
in what I said. He assented consequently to most that I 
uttered and controverted nothing. It was evident I sug- 
gested some ideas that had not before occurred to him, and 
I am not without hope that the tone of our foreign affairs, 
particularly with England, may be different. 

The President spoke, as he always has done with me, 
doubtingly of Porter's schemes on the Mississippi, or 
rather the side movements to the Yazoo on the east and 
Red River on the west. Said the long delay of Du Pont, 
his constant call foj more ships, more ironclads, was like 
McClellan calling for more regiments. Thought the two 
men were alike, and said he was prepared for a repulse at 
Charleston. 

April 3, Friday. Had some side talk with Seward at the 
Cabinet-meeting, on letters of marque. He persists in the 
policy, but I think begins to have some misgivings. Insists 
on having a naval officer assigned him, on whom he can 
devolve the labor. I requested him to employ some of his 



260 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APKIL 3 

own Department force or a civilian in whom he had con- 
fidence; told him the subject belonged exclusively to the 
State Department; the Secretary of State had it in charge 
in the War of 1812 by law, and I desired the Navy should 
not now be blended with the proceeding. He admitted 
his object in asking for a naval officer was to be relieved of 
responsibility and details. The truth is, he has pressed for- 
ward this measure without knowledge, or examination, or 
practical experience, but has vague indefinite notions that 
privateers may be efficient against the Rebels, that they 
will constitute a force appendant to his Department, that 
there will be many of them, and that he will derive credit 
from then* exploits. If his scheme fails, and a naval officer 
has charge of that part of his duties, the Navy and Navy 
Department will bear the censure. Foote, whom he most 
desires should be detailed, adroitly declines the honor of 
being attached to the State Department in this work, and 
has recommended Admiral Davis, who is acceptable and 
willing to take the position which Foote declines. 

Seward tells me he already has an application from re- 
sponsible parties who want a letter of marque, and assures 
me there will be a flood of applications, but I am still 
incredulous. Our merchants will not spend their money hi 
the idle scheme of attempting to spear sharks for wool. 
In the case of this first application Seward wishes me, as 
he is not yet prepared and the parties are ready, to take 
the case as I have suggested might be done under the Act 
of July, 1861 ; says it will only be temporary. 

Late in the day Davis came to me from the State Depart- 
ment with the papers hi this case. I find they are not 
unknown to me. One Sybert, a Prussian, I believe, by birth 
but a citizen of South Carolina, wants to go privateering. 
He called on me some days ago for papers, and I sent 
him to the State Department. I warned Davis to beware 
of adventurers, and expressed my want of confidence in 
the man and the movement, though Seward declared the 
parties were responsible. 



1863] AN APPLICATION FOR LETTERS 261 

April 4, Saturday. Had a message from the President, 
who wished to see me and also Assistant Secretary Fox. 
Found the matter in hand to be the Prussian adventurer 
Sybert, who was anxious his vessel should be taken into the 
naval service. The President said Seward was extremely 
anxious this should be done and had sent Sybert to him. I 
inquired if he had seen Sybert. He replied that he had and 
that the man was now in the audience room. He learned 
from Seward and Sybert that he (Sybert) had a vessel of 
one hundred tons into which he would put a screw, if 
authorized, would go on blockade, and would do more than 
the whole squadron of naval vessels. I asked the President 
if he gave credit to the promises of this man, whom Mr. 
Seward had sent to me as coming from responsible parties, 
though I knew none of them, had seen or heard of none but 
this adventurer himself. [I told him] that he had first 
applied to me and I would not trust or be troubled with 
him after a slight examination, but that I had sent him to 
Seward, who was then pushing forward his regulations for 
letters of marque, to which he knew I was opposed ; and the 
result was Mr. Seward wanted me to take his first case, and 
had asked that the Assistant Secretary, Fox, should be 
present with Sybert. After a little further conversation, the 
President, instead of sending Sybert back to Seward, said 
he would turn him over to the Navy Department to be dis- 
posed of. This ends Mr. Seward's first application, and 
probably it will be the last. Knowing my views, he had 
gone to the President with his prote'ge', and knowing my 
views but in the hope he might have some encouragement 
from Fox, had requested the President to consult with Fox 
as well as myself. I know not that he requested me to be 
excluded on account of my opposition, but he requested 
that the Assistant Secretary should be consulted. And Fox 
assures me he has never swerved from my views on this 
subject. It is a specimen of Seward's management. 

April 6, Monday. Great interest is felt in the result of 



262 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 6 

the Connecticut election, one of the most animated and 
exciting elections ever known. Issues broad and distinct. 
Thousands will vote for Seymour under the discipline and 
delusion of party who have not the remotest thought of 
being disloyal. 

Senator Sumner called upon me this P.M. and gave a 
curious narrative concerning my letter to Seward on the 
subject of letters of marque, and of the difficulty the Presi- 
dent had in getting it. When finally obtained, he informed 
and called in Sumner, and the two sat down and the Pre- 
sident deliberately read it aloud. They then criticized it 
carefully, and when they were through, Sumner says the 
President spoke complimentarily of the letter and very 
complimentarily of me. 

Rumors are current and thick respecting Charleston, but 
they are all conjectural. A movement against the place is 
expected about these days, but there has not been time to 
hear of it. I have great anxiety and great apprehension. 
Operations have gone on slowly and reluctantly. 

The report of the "Committee on the Conduct of the 
War " is to-day published. This method of supervising mil- 
itary operations by legislative committee is of more than 
questionable utility. Little good can be expected of these 
partisan supervisors of the Government at any time. They 
are partisan and made up of persons not very competent 
to form correct and intelligent opinions of Army or Navy 
operations, or administrative purposes. In this instance, 
I think, from a slight look into a few pages, there is more 
truth from them than usual in these cases. 

April 7, Tuesday. The result of the election in Con- 
necticut yesterday is gratifying. Buckingham is reflected 
Governor by three thousand majority. 

The President has not returned from the Rappahan- 
nock. There was consequently no Cabinet-meeting. 

Consul Dudley at Liverpool writes that he is instituting 
legal proceedings in the English courts against some of the 



1863] EXPECTED ATTACK ON CHARLESTON 263 

vessels which the Rebels, aided by English capital, are fitting 
out, but meets with discouragement or has no encourage- 
ment in unexpected quarters. Wrote Mr. Seward that the 
zeal of Dudley should be commended, and unless very de- 
cided measures are taken, and strong representations made, 
we shall be involved in difficulty. John Bull must under- 
stand that whilst we deprecate war, we don't fear him and 
shall not passively submit to outrage and aggression. A 
loan of fifteen million dollars has recently been made to the 
Rebels by English capitalists, which would never have been 
consummated had the English officials disapproved. With 
these means, which the Englishmen will ultimately lose, 
the Rebels can purchase vessels, ordnance, munitions, and 
prolong the war. Mercenary England will be benefited if 
our commerce is destroyed, and our country be weakened 
and exhausted. Sumner thinks the alliance with slavery 
will be so unpopular with the English people as to restrain 
the Government, but confesses he begins to have fearful 
misgivings. 

April 8, Wednesday. An oppressive and anxious feeling 
in relation to movements at Charleston. It has been 
expected an attack would be made the first week in April. 
We hear nothing. The Rebel authorities permit their 
papers to publish nothing, nor will they allow the flag of 
truce to bring us their papers. This intensifies the desire 
to learn something of proceedings. 

I have a telegram from the President this evening at 
"Headquarters near Falmouth," stating that he had a 
Richmond paper exchanged by the picket or scouts, and 
he sends me all it contains relative to operations at Charles- 
ton. Our ironclads have appeared off the bar, and the day 
of trial approaches. 

Great results are depending on the conflicts which are 
taking place in these early April days. I bear up with, I 
believe, a fair share of composure. As regards the Navy, 
we have furnished Du Pont the best material of men and 



264 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRILS 

ships that were ever placed under the command of any offi- 
cer on this continent and, as regards officers, unequalled any- 
where or at any time. Of course I have confidence he will 
be successful, yet so much depends on the result I am not 
without apprehensions. Eventuate as it may, the struggle 
will probably be severe and bloody. That we shall lose 
some vessels and some gallant fellows in getting possession 
of the Rebel city I have no doubt. As John Rodgers says, 
"somebody must be hurt." 

April 9, Thursday. A yearning, craving desire for tidings 
from Charleston, but the day has passed without a word. 
They send us from the front that there is great repose 
and quiet in the Rebel camp, which is a favorable indica- 
tion, for when they have successes there is immense cheer- 
ing. Again I have a dispatch from the President at Head- 
quarters this evening. He has a Richmond paper of to-day 
and sends me the contents. The ironclads have crossed the 
bar. The paper speaks with assurance, yet there are fore- 
bodings of what is to be apprehended. Says Charleston 
will be a Saragossa. 

A desperate stand will be made at Charleston, and their 
defenses are formidable. Delay has given them time and 
warning, and they have unproved them. They know also 
that there is no city so culpable, or against which there is 
such intense animosity. We shall not get the place, if we 
get it at all on this first trial, without great sacrifice. There 
are fifty-two steamers for the work and the most formida- 
ble ironclad force that ever went into battle. These great 
and long-delayed preparations weigh heavily upon me. As 
a general thing, such immense expeditions are failures. 
Providence delights to humble man and prostrate his 
strength. For months my confidence has not increased, 
and now that the conflict is upon us, my disquietude is 
greater still. I have hope and trust in Du Pont, in the glo- 
rious band of officers that are with him, and in the iron 
bulwarks we have furnished as well as in a righteous cause. 



1863] RUMORS FROM CHARLESTON 265 

The President, who has often a sort of intuitive sagacity, 
has spoken discouragingly of operations at Charleston dur- 
ing the whole season. Du Font's dispatches and movements 
have not inspired him with faith; they remind him, he says, 
of McClellan. Fox, who has more naval knowledge and ex- 
perience and who is better informed of Charleston and its 
approaches, which he has visited, and the capabilities and 
efficiency of our officers and ships, entertains not a doubt 
of success. His reliant confidence and undoubted assur- 
ance, have encouraged and sustained me when doubtful. I 
do not believe the monitors impregnable, as he does, under 
the concentrated fire and immense weight of metal that can 
be thrown upon them, but it can hardly be otherwise than 
that some, probably that most of them, will pass Sumter. 
What man can do, our brave fellows will accomplish, but 
impossibilities cannot be overcome. We must wait pa- 
tiently but not without hope. 

April 10, Friday. The President has not yet returned. 
The Cabinet did not convene to-day. Affairs look uncom- 
fortable in North Carolina. The army there needs rein- 
forcing, and had we Charleston we would send more 
vessels into those waters. 

Neither the War Department nor army men entertain 
an idea that the Rebels have withdrawn any of their forces 
from the Rappahannock to go into North Carolina, but I 
have apprehensions that such may be the case. From what 
quarter but that can they have collected the large force 
that is now pressing Foster? 

We have more definite yet not wholly reliable rumors 
from Charleston. A contest took place on the afternoon of 
the 7th, Tuesday, of three hours, from two till five. Two of 
our vessels are reported injured, the Keokuk, said to be 
sunk on Morris Island, and the Ironsides, disabled. Neither 
is a turret vessel. On the whole, this account, if not what 
we wish, is not very discouraging. The movement I judged 
to have been merely a reconnoissance, to feel and pioneer 



266 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 10 

the way for the grand attack. Fox persists that the iron- 
clads are invulnerable. I shall not be surprised if some are 
damaged, perhaps disabled. In fact, I have supposed that 
some of them would probably be sunk, and shall be satis- 
fied if we lose several and get Charleston. I hope we shall 
not lose them and fail to get the city. 



April 11, Saturday. The President returned from Head- 
quarters of the Army and sent for me this A.M. Seward, 
Chase, Stanton, and Halleck were present, and Fox came 
in also. He gave particulars so far as he had collected them, 
not differing essentially from ours. 

An army dispatch received this P.M. from Fortress Mon- 
roe says the Flambeau has arrived in Hampton Roads 
from Charleston; that our vessels experienced a repulse; 
some of the monitors were injured. The information is as 
confused and indefinite as the Rebel statements. Tele- 
graphed to Admiral Lee to send the Flambeau to Washing- 
ton. Let us have the dispatches. 

Seward is in great trouble about the mail of the Peter- 
hoff, a captured blockade-runner. Wants the mail given 
up. Says the instructions which he prepared insured the 
inviolability and security of the mails. I told him he had 
no authority to prepare such instructions, that the law 
was paramount, and that anything which he proposed in 
opposition to and disregarding the law was not observed. 

He called at my house this evening with a letter from 
Lord Lyons inclosing dispatches from Archibald, English 
Consul at New York. Wanted me to send, and order the 
mail to be immediately given up and sent forward. I de- 
clined. Told him the mail was properly and legally in the 
custody of the court and beyond Executive control; as- 
sured him there would be no serious damage from delay if 
the mail was finally surrendered, but I was inclined to be- 
lieve the sensitiveness of both Lord Lyons and Archibald 
had its origin in the fact that the mail contained matter 



1863] REPULSE AT CHARLESTON 267 

which would condemn the vessel. "But," said Seward, 
"mails are sacred; they are an institution." I replied that 
would do for peace but not for war; that he was clothed with 
no authority to concede the surrender of the mail; that by 
both statute and international law they must go to the 
court; that if his arrangement, of which I knew nothing, 
meant anything, the most that could be conceded or negoti- 
ated would be to mails on regular recognized neutral pack- 
ets and not to blockade-runners and irregular vessels with 
contraband like the Peterhoff . He dwelt on an arrangement 
entered into between himself and the British Legation, and 
the difficulty which would follow a breach on our part. I 
inquired if he had any authority to make an arrangement 
that was in conflict with the express provisions of the stat- 
utes, whether it was a treaty arrangement confirmed by 
the Senate. Told him the law and the courts must govern 
in this matter. The Secretary of State and the Executive 
were powerless. We could not interfere. 

April 12, Sunday. An intense and anxious feeling on all 
hands respecting Charleston. Went early to the Depart- 
ment. About 11 A.M. a dispatch from the Navy Yard that 
the Flambeau had not arrived. The President and Stanton 
came in a little after noon and waited half an hour, but 
it was then reported the Flambeau was not yet in sight. 
I came home much dejected. Between 2 and 3 P.M. 
Commander Rhind of the Keokuk, Upshur, and Lieuten- 
ant Forrest called at my house with dispatches from Du 
Pont. They were not very full or satisfactory, contained 
no details. He has no idea of taking Charleston by the 
Navy. In this I am not disappointed. He has been coming 
to that conclusion for months, though he has not said so. 
The result of this demonstration, though not a success, is 
not conclusive. The monitor vessels have proved their 
resisting power, and, but for the submarine obstructions, 
would have passed the forts and gone to the wharves of 
Charleston. This in itself is a great achievement. 



268 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 12 

Went to the Executive Mansion. Read the dispatches 
to and had full conversation with the President. Sumner 
came in and participated. 

Rhind, an impulsive but brave and rash man, has lost all 
confidence in armored vessels. When he took command of 
the Keokuk his confidence was unbounded. His repulse 
and the loss of his vessel have entirely changed his views. 
It was, I apprehend, because of this change and his new 
appointment to armored vessels that he was sent forward 
with dispatches. He has, I see, been tutored. Thinks 
wooden vessels with great speed would do as well as iron- 
clads. I agreed that speed was valuable, but the monitors 
were formidable. In this great fight the accounts speak of 
but a single man killed and some ten or twelve wounded. 
What wooden or unarmored vessels could have come out 
of such a fight with so few disasters. No serious injury 
happened to the flagship, the Ironsides, which, from some 
accident, did not get into the fight. We had expected Du 
Pont and the ironclads would pass Sumter and the forts 
and receive their fire, but not stop to encounter them. 

Du Pont has been allowed to decide for himself in regard 
to proceedings, has selected, and had, the best officers and 
vessels in the service, and his force is in every respect 
picked and chosen. Perhaps I have erred in not giving him 
orders. Possibly the fact that he was assured all was con- 
fided to him depressed and oppressed him with the respons- 
ibility, and has prevented him from telling me freely and 
without reserve his doubts, apprehensions. I have for some 
tune felt that he wanted the confidence that is essential to 
success. His constant call for more ironclads for aid 
has been a trial. He has been long, very long, getting ready, 
and finally seems to have come to a standstill, so far as I 
can learn from Rhind, who is, if not stampeded, disgusted, 
demoralized, and wholly upset. It is not fear, for he has 
courage, to daring, to rashness, and his zeal, tempera- 
ment, and ardor are by nature enthusiastic. But these qual- 
ities are gone. Why Du Pont should have sent him home to 



1863] THE PETERHOFFS MAILS 269 

howl, or with a howl, I do not exactly understand. If it 
was to strengthen faith in himself and impair faith in the 
monitors the selection was well made. Rhind had too much 
confidence in his vessel before entering the harbor, and 
has too little in any vessel now. 

April 13, Monday. Wrote Seward a letter on the subject 
of captured mails, growing out of the prize Peterhoff. On 
the 18th of August last I prepared a set of instructions 
embracing the mails, on which Seward had unwittingly got 
committed. The President requested that this should be 
done in conformity with certain arrangements which Sew- 
ard had made with the foreign ministers. I objected that 
the instructions which Mr. Seward had prepared in consul- 
tation with the foreigners were unjust to ourselves and con- 
trary to usage and to law, but to get clear of the difficulty 
they were so far modified as to not directly violate the stat- 
utes, though there remained something invidious towards 
naval officers which I did not like. The budget of conces- 
sions was, indeed, wholly against ourselves, and the coven- 
ants were made without any accurate knowledge on the 
part of the Secretary of State when they were given of what 
he was yielding. But the whole, in the shape in which the 
instructions were finally put, passed off very well. Ultim- 
ately, however, the circular containing among other mat- 
ters these instructions by some instrumentality got into the 
papers, and the concessions were, even after they were cut 
down, so great that the Englishmen complimented the Sec- 
retary of State for his liberal views. The incense was so 
pleasant that Mr. Seward on the 30th of October wrote me 
a supercilious letter stating it was expedient our naval of- 
ficers should forward the mails captured on blockade-run- 
ners, etc., to their destination as speedily as possible, with- 
out their being searched or opened. The tone and manner 
of the letter were supercilious and offensive, the concession 
disreputable and unwarrantable, the surrender of our indis- 
putable rights disgraceful, and the whole thing unstates- 



270 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 13 

manlike and illegal, unjust to the Navy and the country, 
and discourteous to the Secretary of the Navy and the 
President, who had not been consulted. I said to Mr. 
Seward at the time, last November, that the circular of the 
18th of August had gone far enough, and was yielding more 
than was authorized, except by legislation or treaty. He 
said his object was to keep the peace, to soothe and calm 
the English and French for a few weeks. 

Lord Lyons now writes very adroitly that the seizure of 
the Peterhoff mails was in violation of the order of our Gov- 
ernment as " communicated to the Secretary of the Navy 
on the 31st of October." He makes no claim for surrender 
by right, or usage, or the law of nations, but it was by the 
order of our Government to the Secretary of the Navy. No 
such order was ever given by the Government. None could 
be given but by law of Congress. The Secretary of the Navy 
does not receive orders from the Secretary of State, and 
though I doubt not Mr. Seward in an excitable and inflated 
moment promised and penned his absurd note, which he 
called an order when conversing with them, gave it to 
them as such, yet I never deemed it of sufficient conse- 
quence to even answer or notice further than in a conversa- 
tion to tell him it was illegal. 

NAVY DEPARTMENT, 
13 April, 1863. 

SIR, 

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your com- 
munication of the llth inst., enclosing a note of Lord Lyons and 
correspondence relative to the mail of the Peterhoff. 

His Lordship complains that the Peterhoff's mails were dealt 
with, "both at Key West and at New York in a manner which is 
not in accordance with the views of the Government of the United 
States, as stated in your letter to the Secretary of the Navy, of the 
31st Oct. last." 

Acting Rear Admiral Bailey, an extract from whose letter is 
enclosed, in the correspondence transmitted on the 14th ulto. , gave 
Her Majesty's Consul at Key West an authenticated copy of the 
law of the United States, and of the instructions based thereon, 



1864] THE PETERHOFFS MAILS 271 

on the subject of papers which strictly belong to the captured 
vessels and the mails. 

By special direction of the President, unusual courtesy and 
concession were made to neutrals in the instructions of the 18th 
August last to Naval Officers, who themselves were restricted 
and prohibited from examining or breaking the seals of the mail 
bags, parcels, &c. which they might find on board of captured 
vessels, under any pretext, but were authorized at their discre- 
tion to deliver them to the Consul, commanding naval officer, or 
the legation of the foreign government to be opened, upon the 
understanding that whatever is contraband, or important as 
evidence concerning the character of a captured vessel, will be 
remitted to the prize court, &c. 

On the 31st of October last, I had the honor to receive from you 
a note suggesting the expediency of instructing naval officers 
that, in case of capture of merchant vessels suspected or found 
to be vessels of insurgents, or contraband, the public mails of 
every friendly or neutral power, duly certified or authenticated 
as such, shall not be searched or opened, but be put as speedily 
as may be convenient on the way to their designated destination. 
As I did not concur in the propriety or "expediency" of issuing 
instructions so manifestly in conflict with all usage and practice, 
and the law itself, and so detrimental to the legal rights of cap- 
tors, who would thereby be frequently deprived of the best, if not 
the only, evidence that would insure condemnation of the cap- 
tured vessel, no action was taken on the suggestions of the letter 
of the 31st October, as Lord Lyons seems erroneously to have 
supposed. 

In the only brief conversation that I ever remember to have 
had with you, I expressed my opinion that we had in the instruc- 
tions of the 18th of August gone to the utmost justifiable limit on 
this subject. The idea that our Naval officers should be com- 
pelled to forward the mails found on board the vessels of the insur- 
gents that foreign officials would have the sanction of this gov- 
ernment in confiding their mails to blockade runners and vessels 
contraband, and that without judicial or other investigation, the 
officers of our service should hasten such mails, without examina- 
tion, to their destination, was so repugnant to my own convic- 
tions that I came to the conclusion it was only a passing sugges- 
tion, and the subject was therefore dropped. Until the receipt of 



272 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 13 

your note of Saturday, I was not aware that Lord Lyons was 
cognizant such a note had been written. 

Acting Rear Admiral Bailey has acted strictly in accordance 
with the law and his instructions in the matter of the Peterhoff s 
mail. 

The dispatch of Lord Lyons is herewith returned. 

I am, respectfully, 

Your Obd't Serv't, 

GIDEON WELLES, 

Secty. of Navy. 
HON. WM. H. SE-WAKD, 
Secty. of State. 

April 14, Tuesday. 

^ 

Little of interest to-day at council. 

The War Department, which early in the War claimed 
that the armed force on the Western rivers should be 
subject to military control, became involved in difficulty. 
Naval officers, naval guns, naval men, and naval discipline 
were wanted and so far as could be done were given, but 
Congress merely ordered that the armed vessels should be 
transferred to the Navy. This law had given offense to 
the War Department, and when the transfer was made, the 
"ram fleet," as it was called, was withheld. This was, as I 
said to Stanton, in disregard of the law and would be likely 
to lead to difficulty, for, while there might be cooperation, 
there could not be separate commands without conflict. 

The ram fleet was commanded by the family of Ellett, 
brave, venturous, intelligent engineers, not always discreet 
or wise, but with many daring and excellent qualities. 
They had under them a set of courageous and picked men, 
furnished by the military, styled the Marine Brigade, and 
did some dashing service, but refused to come under naval 
orders, or to recognize the Admiral in command of the Mis- 
sissippi Squadron. The result was, as I anticipated might 
be the case, an arrest and suspension of Brigadier-General 
H. W. Ellett from the command of the ram fleet. 



1863] THE ELLETTS AND THE RAM FLEET 273 

Stanton is very laudatory of the Elletts, and violent in 
his denunciations of Porter, whom he ridicules as a "gas 
bag and fussy fellow, blowing his own trumpet and steal- 
ing credit which belongs to others." There is some truth in 
what he says of the Elletts and also of Porter, but the latter 
with all his verbosity has courage and energy as well as the 
Elletts. 

April 15, Wednesday. No full reports yet from Du Pont. 
Am pained, grieved, distressed by what I hear; and that 
I hear from him so little. We learn that after all our outlay 
and great preparations, giving him about all our force and 
a large portion of the best officers, he intends making no 
farther effort, but will abandon the plan and all attempts 
to take it. A fight of thirty minutes and the loss of one 
man, which he witnessed, satisfies the Admiral. 

The Ironsides, the flagship, was suspiciously remote from 
the fight, yet sufficiently near to convince the Admiral 
he had better leave the harbor. Down to the day of 
the conflict I had faith in him and his ability, though 
grieved at his delays. When here last fall, expressly to con- 
sult and concert measures for the capture of Charleston, he 
was as earnest and determined as any of us, did not waver 
a moment, and would not listen to a suggestion of Dahlgren 
as an assistant. 

April 16, Thursday. Received a singular letter from 
Seward respecting the mail of the Peterhoff, undertaking 
to set aside law, usage, principle, established and always 
recognized rights, under the pretense that it will not do to 
introduce new questions on the belligerent right of search. 
He has, inconsiderately and in an ostentatious attempt to 
put off upon the English Legation a show of power and au- 
thority which he does not possess and cannot exercise, in- 
volved himself in difficulty, conceded away the rights of his 
country without authority, without law, without a treaty, 
without equivalent; and to sustain this novel and extraor- 



274 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 16 

dinary proceeding he artfully talks about new questions in 
the belligerent right of search. The President has been be- 
guiled by ex-parte representations and misrepresentations 
to indorse "approved " on Se ward's little contrivance. But 
this question cannot be so disposed of. The President may 
be induced to order the mail to be given up, but the law 
is higher than an Executive order, and the judiciary has 
a duty to perform. The mail is in the custody of the court. 

April 17, Friday. No reports from Charleston. Am in 
hopes that side issues and by-play on the Mississippi are 
about over and that there will be some concentrated action. 
Porter should go below Vicksburg and not remain above, 
thereby detaining Farragut, who is below, from great and 
responsible duties at New Orleans and on the Gulf. The 
weak and sensitive feeling of being outranked and made 
subordinate in command should never influence an officer 
in such an emergency. Porter has great vanity and great 
jealousy but knows his duty, and I am surprised he does 
not perform it. Wrote him a fortnight since a letter which 
he cannot misunderstand, and which will not, I hope, 
wound his pride. 

But little was before the Cabinet, which of late can 
hardly be called a council. Each Department conducts and 
manages its own affairs, informing the President to the ex- 
tent it pleases. Seward encourages this state of things. He 
has less active duties than others, and watches and waits 
on the President daily, and gathers from him the doings 
of his associates and often influences indirectly and not 
always advantageously their measures and movements, 
while he communicates very little, especially of that which 
he does not wish them to know. 

Blah- walked over with me from the White House to the 
Navy Department, and I showed him the correspondence 
which had taken place respecting captured mails. Under- 
standing Seward thoroughly, as he does, he detected the sly 
management by which Seward first got himself in difficulty 



1863] THE PETERHOFF'S MAILS 275 

and is now striving to get out of it. My course he pro- 
nounced correct, and he declared that the President must 
not be entrapped into any false step to extricate Seward, 
who, he says, is the least of a statesman and knows less of 
public law and of administrative duties than any man who 
ever held a seat in the Cabinet. This is a strong statement, 
but not so overstated as would be generally supposed. I 
have been surprised to find him so unpractical, so erratic, 
so little acquainted with the books, he has told me more 
than once that he never opened them, that he was too old 
to study. He has, with all his bustle and activity, but little 
application; relies on Hunter and his clerk, Smith, perhaps 
Gushing also, to sustain him and hunt up his authorities; 
commits himself, as in the case of the mails, without know- 
ing what he is about. 

April 18, Saturday. Went to the President and read to 
him my letter of this date to Mr. Seward, on the subject of 
the Peterhoff mail. I have done this that the President may 
have both sides of the question, and understand what is 
being done with his " approval," without consultation with 
me and the members of the Cabinet in council. The Secre- 
tary of State, for reasons best known to himself, if he has 
any reason for his action, has advised with no one in a novel 
and extraordinary proceeding on his part, where he has 
made concessions by which our rights and interests have 
been given up and the law disregarded. When confronted, 
he, instead of entering upon investigation himself or con- 
sulting with others, has gone privately to the President, 
stated his own case, and got the President committed to 
his unauthorized acts. I therefore prepared my letter of 
this date, and before sending it to Mr. Seward, I deemed it 
best that the President should know its contents. He was 
surprised and very much interested; took the letter and re- 
read it; said the subject involved questions which he did 
not understand, that his object was to "keep the peace," 
for we could not afford to take upon ourselves a war with 



276 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL is 

England and France, which was threatened if we stopped 
their mails; and concluded by requesting me to send my 
letter to Seward, who would bring the subject to his 
attention for further action. My object was gained. The 
President has ''approved," without knowledge, on the 
representation of Seward. 

April 19, Sunday. Several letters from Du Pont on 
unimportant matters, but no detailed reports of the fight 
from himself or officers. Advised with Fox and thought 
best for him to go to New York and see Admiral Gregory 
and Captain Rowan with a view to more effective action 
if necessary. Nothing certain when we shall hear from 
Du Pont. In the mean tune it is important to prepare for 
an emergency. 

April 20, Monday. Received Admiral Du Pont's detailed 
report with those of his officers. The document is not such 
as I should have expected from him a short tune ago, but 
matters of late prevent me from feeling any real disappoint- 
ment. Fox went last night to New York in anticipation of 
such a report. The tone and views of the sub-reports have 
the ring, or want of ring, of the Admiral in command. Dis- 
couragement when there should be encouragement. A pall 
is thrown over all. Nothing has been done, and it is the 
recommendation of all, from the Admiral down, that no 
effort be made to do anything. [Du Pont] has got his sub- 
ordinates to sustain him in a proceeding that his sense of 
right tells him is wrong. 

I am by no means confident that we are acting wisely 
in expending so much strength and effort on Charleston, 
a place of no strategic importance, but it is lamentable to 
witness the tone, language, absence of vitality and vigor, 
and want of zeal among so many of the best officers of the 
service. I cannot be mistaken as to the source and cause. 
A magnetic power in the head, which should have inspired 
and stimulated them, is wanting; they have been discour- 



1863] DU FONT'S FAILURE 277 

aged instead of being encouraged, depressed not strength- 
ened. 

April 21, Tuesday. Have another dispatch from Du 
Pont in answer to one I sent him on the llth enjoining 
upon him to continue to menace Charleston, that the Rebel 
troops on that station might be detained for the present to 
defend the place. In some respects this dispatch is not 
worthy of Du Pont. He says he never advised the attack 
and complains of a telegram from the President more than 
of the dispatch from the Department. If he never advised 
the attack, he certainly never discouraged it, and, until 
since that attack, I had supposed no man in the country 
was more earnest on the subject than he. How have I been 
thus mistaken? It has been his great study for many 
months, the subject of his visit, of his conversation, his 
correspondence. When Du Pont was here last fall, Dahl- 
gren sought, as a special favor, the privilege of taking com- 
mand, under Du Pont, of the attack on Charleston, to 
lead in the assault. But it was denied, for the reason that 
Du Pont claimed the right to perform this great work in 
which the whole country took so deep an interest. His cor- 
respondence since has been of this tenor, wanting more 
ironclads and reinforcements. Once there were indications 
of faltering last winter, and I promptly told him it was not 
required of him to go forward against his judgment. No 
doubtful expression has since been heard. His third dis- 
patch since the battle brings me the first intelligence he has 
thought proper to communicate of an adverse character. 

Only some light matters came before the Cabinet. Chase 
and Blair were absent. The President requested Seward 
and myself to remain. As soon as the others left, he said 
his object was to get the right of the question in relation to 
the seizure of foreign mails. There had evidently been an 
interview between him and Seward since I read my letter 
to him on Saturday, and he had also seen Seward 's reply. 
But he was not satisfied. The subject was novel to him. 



278 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 21 

Mr. Seward began by stating some of the embarrass- 
ments of the present peculiar contest in which we were 
engaged, the unfriendly feeling of foreign governments, 
the difficulty of preventing England and France from tak- 
ing part with the Rebels. He dwelt at length on the subject 
of mail communications and mails generally, the changes 
which had taken place during the last fifty years; spoke 
of the affair of the Trent, a mail packet, of the necessity of 
keeping on the best terms we could with England. Said 
his arrangement with Mr. Stuart, who was in charge of 
the British Legation, had ^een made with the approval 
of the President, though he had not communicated that 
fact to me, etc., etc. 

I stated that this whole subject belonged to the courts, 
which had, by law, the possession of the mail; that I knew 
of no right which he or even the Executive had to interfere; 
that I had not regarded the note of the 31st of October 
as more than a mere suggestion, without examination or 
consideration, for there had been no Cabinet consultation; 
that it was an abandonment of our rights and an entire 
subversion of the policy of our own and of all other gov- 
ernments, which I had not supposed any one who had 
looked into the matter would seriously attempt to set aside 
without consultation with the proper Department and 
advisement, indeed, with the whole Cabinet ; that had there 
been such consultation the subject would, I was convinced, 
have gone no farther, for it was in conflict with our stated 
law and the law of nations; that this arrangement, as the 
Secretary of State called it, was a sort of post-treaty, by 
which our rights were surrendered without an equivalent, 
a treaty which he was not in my opinion authorized to 
make. 

Mr. Seward said he considered the arrangement recipro- 
cal, and if it was not expressed in words or by interchange, 
it was to be inferred to be the policy of England, for she 
would not require of us what she would not give. 

I declined to discuss the question of what might be 



1863] THE PETERHOFF'S MAILS 279 

inferred would be the future policy of England on a subject 
where she had been strenuous beyond any other govern- 
ment. I would not trust her generosity in any respect. I 
had no faith that she would give beyond what was stipu- 
lated in legible characters, nor did I believe she would, by 
any arrangement her Charge might make, consent to aban- 
don the principle recognized among nations and which she 
had always maintained. If this arrangement or treaty was 
reciprocal, it should be so stated, recorded, and universally 
understood. So important a change ought not and could 
not be made except by legislation or treaty; and if by 
treaty, the Senate must confirm it; if by legislation, the 
parliamentary bodies of both countries. There had been 
no such legislation, no such treaty, and I could not admit 
that any one Department, or the President even, could 
assume to make such a change. 

The President thought that perhaps the Executive had 
some rights on this subject, but was not certain what they 
were, what the practice had been, what was the law, na- 
tional or international. The Trent case he did not consider 
analogous in several respects. I had said in reply to Seward 
that the Trent was not a blockade-runner, but a regular 
mail packet, had a semi-official character, with a govern- 
ment officer on board in charge of the mails. The President 
said he wished to know the usage, whether the public 
official seals or mail-bags of a neutral power were ever 
violated. Seward said certainly not. I maintained that the 
question had never been raised in regard to a captured legal 
prize not a doubt expressed and the very fact that 
Stuart had applied to him for mail exemption was evidence 
that he so understood the subject. Where was the necessity 
of this arrangement, or treaty, if that were not the usage? 
The case was plain. Our only present difficulty grew out of 
the unfortunate letter of the 31st of October, the more un- 
fortunate from the fact that it had been communicated to 
the British Government as the policy of our Government, 
while never, by any word or letter have they ever admitted 



280 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 21 

it was their policy. It is not the policy of our Government, 
nor is it the law of our country. Our naval commanders 
know of no such policy, no such usage, no such law; they 
have never been so instructed, nor have our district attor- 
neys. The President, although he had affixed his name to 
the word " approved" in Seward's late letter, and although 
he neither admitted nor controverted the statement that 
the letter of the 31st of October was with his knowledge 
and approval, was a good deal " obf usticated " in regard to 
the merits of the question, and the proceedings of Seward, 
who appeared to be greatly alarmed lest we should offend 
England, but was nevertheless unwilling to commit himself 
without farther examination. He said, after frankly de- 
claring his ignorance and that he had no recollection of the 
question until recently called to his notice, that he would 
address us interrogatories. Mr. Seward declared, under 
some excitement and alarm, there was not time; that Lord 
Lyons was importunate in his demands, claiming that the 
arrangement should be fulfilled in good faith. I replied 
that Lord Lyons, nor the British Government, had no claim 
whatever except the concession made by him (Seward) in 
his letter of the 31st of October, while there was no conces- 
sion or equivalent from England. 

The two letters of Seward and myself which brought 
about this interview, of the 18th and 20th instant respect- 
ively, are as follows: 

NAVY DEPARTMENT, 

18 April, 1863. 

SIR, 

I have had the honor to receive your note of the 15th inst. 
in reference to the mails of the "Peterhoff" which are in posses- 
sion of the prize court in New York. I am not aware that this 
Department has raised any "new questions or pretensions under 
the belligerent right of search," in the case of the mails of the 
" Peterhoff. " Had there been ground for such an imputation, it 
could hardly, on an occasion to which so much importance has 
been given, have escaped the observation of Lord Lyons. He, 
however, advances no such charge, directly or by implication, 



1863] THE PETERHOFFS MAILS 281 

and founds the demand made by him exclusively on the conces- 
sion which he, apparently through some knowledge of the details 
of your letter to me of the 31st October, had been erroneously led 
to believe was made by this Government, in instructions given to 
the commanders of its vessels of war. 

The true question in the present case is, whether the adminis- 
tration of the law shall be suffered to take its ordinary course, or 
whether the Court established to administer the law, and which 
has certainly been in existence long enough to know its powers 
and duties, shall be arrested in the discharge of its functions by 
an order of the Executive, issued on the demand of a foreign gov- 
ernment, which exhibits no evidence, and in fact makes no charge 
that law or usage has been violated on our part. 

If the "Peterhoff" was captured and sent to the Prize Court 
without any reasonable grounds for such a proceeding, then un- 
doubtedly the opening of the mails, if it takes place, may have 
been an illegal act, but in my judgment, not otherwise. If it 
is to be assumed that the capture was wrongful, not only the 
mails but the vessel and cargo should at once be surrendered. 

It may be an "unfavorable time to raise new questions or pre- 
tensions," but it is certainly no time to renounce any right or to 
unsettle any long and well established principles and usage. Such 
a surrender would be a confession of weakness which even if it 
existed, it would be "inexpedient and injurious" to make known 
to our enemies. If the case be one of doubt, it will be time enough 
to yield when the doubt is dispelled, and we are found to have 
been in the wrong. We may then yield and make amends. 

I do not consider it necessary to discuss the question of genu- 
ine or spurious and simulated mails; but will merely suggest that 
if what pretends to be a mail is to be considered, in all cases, 
prima fade sacred, and exempt from examination, it will here- 
after be found exceedingly difficult, in practice, to distinguish 
the spurious from the genuine, nor indeed would there be any 
necessity for the fabrication of a spurious mail. 

In the meantime I cannot but hold that the Prize Court is law- 
fully in possession of the mail bag in question and that the Court 
itself is the proper authority to adjudge and determine what dis- 
position shall be made of it. I propose to avoid all new questions 
by leaving the whole matter to this ancient method of adjust- 
ment, established by the consent of nations, and it was in order to 
avoid innovations, as well as to maintain our national rights and 



282 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 21 

the legal rights of the captors, that the suggestions contained in 
your note of the 31st October were not adopted by this Depart- 
ment. 

I am, respectfully, 
Your Obdt. Serv't, 

GIDEON WELLES, 

HON. WM. H. SEWARD, Secty. of Navy. 

Secty. of State. 

DEP'T. OP STATE, 20th April, 1863. 
HON. G. WELLES, &c. 

SIR: In reply to your note of the 18th inst. on the subject of 
the mails of the "Peterhoff," it seems proper for me to say that 
when the question of detaining the public mails found on board 
of vessels visited and searched by the blockading forces of the U. 
States, was presented to this Department last year, I took the 
instructions of the President thereupon. Not only the note which 
I addressed to you on the 8th day of August last, but also the note 
which I addressed to you on the 31st of October last, concerning 
this question, was written with the approval and under the direc- 
tion of the President. The views therein expressed were then 
communicated to the British Government by authority of the 
President, as denning the course of proceedings which would be 
pursued when such cases should occur thereafter. On receiving 
your note of the 13th inst., intimating a view of the policy to be 
pursued differing from what had thus been determined by the 
President on the 31st of October last, I submitted to him that 
note together with all the previous correspondence bearing upon 
the subject, together with the act of Congress to which you have 
called my attention. I then asked his instructions in the case of 
the mails of the Peterhoff. The note which I addressed to you on 
the 15th was the result of these instructions, and having been 
read and approved by him, it was transmitted to you by his di- 
rection. I was also directed to communicate the contents thereof 
to the Dist. Attorney of the U. S. for the Southern District of 
New York, and also to announce to Lord Lyons, for the informa- 
tion of the British Government, that the mails of the " Peterhoff " 
would be forwarded to their destination. I was also directed by 
the President to make some special representations to the British 
Government on the general subject of the mails of neutrals,which 
are now in preparation. 

I need hardly say that no part of my note of the 15th instant 



1863] TRADE ON THE RIO GRANDE 283 

was intended or was understood by me as imputing to you the 
having raised or being disposed to raise new questions. What was 
said on that subject, was said by way of showing that a course of 
proceedings different from what I was recommending, would in- 
volve, on the part of this Government, the raising of a question 
which had been waived by it in my correspondence with the 
British Government in October last. 

I have the honor to be &c. 

WILLIAM H. SEWABD. 

April 22, Wednesday. Admiral Bailey writes and I 
have similar information from other sources that an 
immense trade has sprung up on the Rio Grande; that 
there are at this time from one hundred and eighty to two 
hundred vessels off the mouth of that river, when before 
the War there were but six to eight at any one time. Os- 
tensibly the trade is with the little city of Matamoras, but 
it is notoriously a Rebel traffic. Goods are received and 
cotton exported by this route under our own as well as for- 
eign flags. I have suggested in one or two conversations 
with Mr. Seward that it was a favorable opportunity to es- 
tablish some principle of international law relative to the 
rights and obligations of adjoining countries having a mu- 
tual highway, as the United States and Mexico have in the 
Rio Grande; that we should require Mexico to prevent this 
illicit traffic, or that they should permit us to prevent it; 
but Seward is not disposed to grapple the question, is afraid 
it will compromise us with the French, says Mexico is fee- 
ble, dislikes to make exactions of her, etc., etc. I yesterday 
wrote the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of 
War in regard to this illicit trade. Our own countrymen 
should not have ready clearances and facilities for this traf- 
fic, and it may be necessary to establish frontier military 
posts to prevent it. Perhaps my letters may cause the sub- 
ject to be taken up in the Cabinet, and lead the Govern- 
ment to adopt some preventive measure; if not, the 
blockade will be evaded and rendered ineffectual. The 
Peterhoff with its mail and contraband cargo was one of 



284 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 22 

a regular line of English steamers, established to evade the 
blockade by way of Matamoras. 

Received the President's letter and interrogatories con- 
cerning the mail. The evening papers state that the mail of 
the Peterhoff has been given up by District Attorney Dela- 
field Smith, who applied to the court under direction of the 
Secretary of State, "approved" by the President. It is a 
great error, which has its origin in the meddlesome dis- 
position and loose and inconsiderate action of Mr. Seward, 
who has meddlesomely committed himself. Having in a 
weak moment conceded away an incontestable national 
right, he has sought to extricate himself, not by retracing 
his steps, but by involving the President, who confides in 
him and over whom he has, at times, an unfortunate influ- 
ence. The interference with the judiciary, which has ad- 
miralty jurisdiction, is improper, and the President is one 
of the very last men who would himself intrude on the rights 
or prerogatives of any other Department of the Govern- 
ment, one of the last also to yield a national right. In this 
instance, and often, he has deferred his better sense and 
judgment to what he thinks the superior knowledge of the 
Secretary of State, who has had greater experience, has been 
Senator and Governor of the great State of New York, 
and is a lawyer and politician of repute and standing. But 
while Mr. Seward has talents and genius, he has not the 
profound knowledge nor the solid sense, correct views, and 
unswerving right intentions of the President, who would 
never have committed the egregious indiscretion, mistake, 
of writing such a letter, and making such a concession as 
the letter of the 31st of October; or, if he could have com- 
mitted such an error, or serious error of any kind, he would 
not have hesitated a moment to retrace his steps and cor- 
rect it ; but that is the difference between Abrabam Lincoln 
and William H. Seward. 

I have set Watkins 1 and Eames 2 to ransack the books. 

1 A clerk in the Navy Department. 

* Charles Eames, a well-known admiralty lawyer of Washington. 



1863] THE PETERHOFF'S MAILS 285 

Upton 1 must help them. I want the authorities that I may 
respond to the President. Though his sympathies are en- 
listed for Seward, who is in difficulty, and I have no doubt 
he will strive to relieve him and shield the State Depart- 
ment, we must, however, have law, usage, right respected 
and maintained. The mail of the Peterhoff is given up, 
but that is not law, and the law must be sustained if the 
Secretary of State is humiliated. 

The Philadelphians are fearful the acceptance of League 
Island will not be consummated, and have written me. I 
have replied that there is a courtesy and respect due to 
Congress which I cannot disregard. 

April 23, Thursday. Favorable, though not very import- 
ant, news from lower Virginia and North Carolina. 

My letter of the 2d and telegram of the 15th to Porter 
have been effective. The steamers have run past Vicks- 
burg, and I hope we may soon have something favorable 
from that quarter. 

Senator Sumner called this P.M. to talk over the matter 
of the Peterhoff mail. Says he has been examining the case, 
that he fully indorses my views. Seward, he avers, knows 
nothing of international law and is wanting in common 
sense, treats grave questions lightly and without compre- 
hending their importance and bearings. He calls my at- 
tention to the opinion of Attorney-General Wirt as to the 
rights of the judiciary. 

April 24, Friday. Little of importance at the Cabinet- 
meeting. Seward left early. He seemed uneasy, and I 
thought was apprehensive I might bring up the subject of 
the Peterhoff mails. It suits him better to have interviews 
with the President alone than with a full Cabinet, espe- 
cially on points where he knows himself wrong. I did not 
feel particularly anxious that the subject should be intro- 

1 Francis H. Upton, counsel for the captors of the Peterhoff and in 
other prize cases during the War. 



286 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 24 

duced to-day, for I am not fully prepared with my reply, 
though busily occupied on the subject-matter, giving it 
every moment I can spare from pressing current business. 

April 27, Monday. Finished and gave to the President 
my letter on the subject of mails on captured vessels. It has 
occupied almost every moment of my time for a week, 
aided by Eames, Watkins, and Upton, and by suggestions 
from Sumner, who has entered earnestly into the subject. 

The President was alone when I called on him with the 
document, which looked formidable, filling thirty-one 
pages of foolscap. He was pleased and interested, not at 
all discouraged by my paper; said he should read every 
word of it, that he wanted to understand the question, etc. 
He told me Seward had sent in his answer this morning, 
but it was in some respects not satisfactory, particularly 
as regarded the Adela. He had sent for Hunter, who, 
however, did not understand readily the case, or what was 
wanted. 

April 28, Tuesday. Nothing at Cabinet, Seward and 
Chase absent. The President engaged in selecting provost- 
marshals. 

Sumner called this evening at the Department. Was 
much discomfited with an interview which he had last 
evening with the President. The latter was just filing a 
paper as Sumner went in. After a few moments Sumner 
took two slips from his pocket, one cut from the Boston 
Transcript, the other from the Chicago Tribune, each taking 
strong ground against surrendering the Peterhoff mail. 
The President, after reading them, opened the paper he had 
just filed and read to Sumner his letter addressed to the 
Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Navy. He told 
Sumner he had received the replies and just concluded 
reading mine. After some comments on them he said to 
Sumner, "I will not show these papers to you now; perhaps 
I never shall." A conversation then took place which 




CHARLES SUMNER 



1863] THE PETERHOFF'S MAILS 287 

greatly mortified and chagrined Sumner, who declares the 
President is very ignorant or very deceptive. The President, 
he says, is horrified, or appeared to be, with the idea of 
a war with England, which he assumed depended on this 
question. He was confident we should have war with Eng- 
land if we presumed to open their mail bags, or break their 
seals or locks. They would not submit to it, and we were 
in no condition to plunge into a foreign war on a subject 
of so little importance in comparison with the terrible con- 
sequences which must follow our act. Of this idea of a' war 
with England, Sumner could not dispossess him by argu- 
ment, or by showing its absurdity. Whether it was real or 
affected ignorance, Sumner was not satisfied. 

I have no doubts of the President's sincerity, and so told 
Sumner. But he has been imposed upon, humbugged, by a 
man in whom he confides. His confidence has been abused ; 
he does not frankly confesses he does not compre- 
hend the principles involved nor the question itself. Sew- 
ard does not intend he shall comprehend it. While at- 
tempting to look into it, the Secretary of State is daily, and 
almost hourly, wailing in his ears the calamities of a war 
with England which he is striving to prevent. The Presi- 
dent is thus led away from the real question, and will prob- 
ably decide it, not on its merits, but on this false issue, 
raised by the man who is the author of the difficulty. 

April 29, Wednesday. The atmosphere is thick with 
rumors of army movements. Hooker is reported to have 
crossed the river. Not unlikely a portion of his force has 
done so, and all may. That there may be a battle immin- 
ent is not improbable. I shall not be surprised, however, 
if only smart skirmishes take place. 

Admiral Lee writes me that in his opinion there is no 
such force in Suffolk as Dix and others represent. General 
Dix, like most of our generals, cries aloud for gunboats and 
naval protection, but is not inclined to be grateful, or even 
just to his defenders. 



288 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [APRIL 30 

April 30, Thursday. To-day has been designated for a 
National Fast. I listened to a patriotic Christian discourse 
from my pastor, Mr. Pine. 

Had a long, studied, complaining letter from Admiral 
Du Pont, of some twenty pages, in explanation and refuta- 
tion of a letter hi the Baltimore American, which criticizes 
and censures his conduct at Charleston. The dispatch is 
no credit to Du Pont, who could be better employed. He is 
evidently thinking much more of Du Pont than of the ser- 
vice or the country. I fear he can be no longer useful in his 
present command, and am mortified and vexed that I did 
not earlier detect his vanity and weakness. They have lost 
us the opportunity to take Charleston, which a man of 
more daring energy and who had not a distinguished name 
to nurse and take care of would have unproved. All Du 
Pont's letters since the 8th show that he had no heart, no 
confidence, no zeal hi his work; that he went into the fight 
with a predetermined conviction it would not be a success. 
He is prejudiced against the monitor class of vessels, and 
would attribute his failure to them, but it is evident he has 
no taste for rough, close fighting. 

Senator Stunner called on me this P.M. in relation to the 
coast defense of Massachusetts. I received a letter from 
Governor Andrew this A.M. on the same subject. The 
President had also been to see me hi regard to it. 

After disposing of that question, Sumner related an inter- 
esting conversation which he had last evening with Lord 
Lyons at Tassara's, the Spanish Minister. I was an hour 
or two at Tassara's party, hi the early part of the evening, 
and observed S. and Lord L. hi earnest conversation. Sum- 
ner says their whole talk was on the subject of the mails 
on captured vessels. He opened the subject by regretting 
that hi the peculiar condition of our affairs, Lord Lyons 
should have made a demand that could not be yielded 
without national dishonor; said that the question was one 
of judicature rather than diplomacy. Lord Lyons dis- 
avowed ever having made a demand; said he was cautious 



1863] SUMMER'S TALK WITH LORD LYONS 289 

and careful in all his transactions with Mr. Seward, that he 
made it a point to reduce all matters with Seward of a pub- 
lic nature to writing, that he had done so hi regard to the 
mail of the Peterhoff, and studiously avoided any demand. 
He authorized Sumner, who is Chairman of Foreign Rela- 
tions, to see all his letters hi relation to the mails, etc., etc. 
To-day Sumner saw the President and repeated to him 
this conversation, Lord Lyons having authorized him to do 
so. The President, he says, seemed astounded, and after 
some general conversation on the subject, said in his 
emphatic way, "I shall have to cut this knot." 



VIII 

Conversation with Attorney-General Bates on the Captured Mails John 
Laird's Statement in Parliament Waiting for News from Hooker 
Rumors of the Battle of Chancellorsville Disappointment at the News 
Stonewall Jackson's Death Recall of Wilkes from the West India 
Squadron Earl Russell's Speech on American Affairs Sumner's 
Talk with Seward about Mr. Adams and the Secretary of Legation at 
London Conversation with the President on the Subject of Cap- 
tured Mails Du Font's Charges against Chief Engineer Stimers 
Du Pont before Charleston His Shortcomings and the Question of 
superseding him Deplorable Conditions in the South Foote suc- 
ceeds Du Pont in Command of the South Atlantic Squadron Dahlgren 
declines to be Second in Command. 

May 1, Friday. After Cabinet-meeting walked over with 
Attorney-General Bates to his office. Had a very full talk 
with him concerning the question of captured mails, the 
jurisdiction of the courts, the law, and usage, and rights 
of the Government. He is unqualifiedly with me in my 
views and principles, the law and our rights. He dwelt 
with some feeling on the courtesy which ought to exist be- 
tween the several Departments and was by them gener- 
ally observed. Although cautious and guarded in his re- 
marks, he did not conceal his dissatisfaction with the con- 
duct of the Secretary of State hi writing to attorneys and 
marshals, and assuming to instruct and direct them hi their 
official duties which were assigned to and required by law 
to be done by the Attorney-General. 

We are getting vague rumors of army operations, but 
nothing intelligible or reliable. 

May 2, Saturday. Thick rumors concerning the Army of 
the Potomac, little, however, from official sources. I 
abstain from going to the War Department more than is 
necessary or consulting operators at the telegraph, for 



1863] LAIRD AND THE NAVY DEPARTMENT 291 

there is a hazy uncertainty there. This indefiniteness, and 
the manner attending it, is a pretty certain indication that 
the information received is not particularly gratifying. 
Whether Hooker refuses to communicate, and prevents 
others from communicating, I know not. Other members 
of the Cabinet, like myself, are, I find, disinclined to visit 
the War Department under the circumstances. 

A very singular declaration by John Laird, Member of 
Parliament and one of the builders of the pirate Alabama, 
has been shown. Laird said in Parliament, in reply to 
Thomas Baring, that the Navy Department had applied 
to him to build vessels. It is wholly untrue, a sheer fabrica- 
tion. But John Laird writes to Howard of New York, that 
he (Howard) had said something to him (Laird) about 
building vessels for the Government. Howard, I judge, was 
Laird's agent or broker to procure, if possible, contracts 
for him or his firm, but did [not] succeed. The truth is, our 
own shipbuilders, in consequence of the suspension of 
work in private yards early in the war, were clamorous for 
contracts, and the competition was such that we would 
have had terrible indignation upon us had we gone abroad 
for vessels, which I never thought of doing. 

May 4, Monday. Great uneasiness and uncertainty 
prevail in regard to army movements. I think the War 
Department is really poorly advised of operations. I could 
learn nothing from them yesterday or to-day. Such infor- 
mation as I have is picked up from correspondents and news- 
gatherers, and from naval officers who arrive from below. 

I this P.M. met the President at the War Department. 
He said he had a feverish anxiety to get facts; was con- 
stantly up and down, for nothing reliable came from the 
front. There is an impression, which is very general, that 
our army has been successful, but that there has been great 
slaughter and that still fiercer and more terrible fights are 
impending. 

I am not satisfied. If we have success, the tidings would 



292 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 4 

come to us in volumes. We may not be beaten. Stoneman 1 
with 13,000 cavalry and six days' supply has cut his way 
into the enemy's country, but we know not his fate, farther 
than we hear nothing from him or of him. If overwhelmed, 
we should know it from the Rebels. There are rumors 
that the Rebels again reoccupy the intrenchments on the 
heights in the rear of Fredericksburg, but the rumor is 
traceable to no reliable source. 

May 5, Tuesday. But little of importance at the Cabinet. 
The President read a brief telegram which he got last even- 
ing from General Hooker, to whom, getting nothing from 
the War Department, he had applied direct to ascertain 
whether the Rebels were in possession of the works on the 
heights of Fredericksburg. Hooker replied he believed it 
was true, but if so it was of no importance. This reply com- 
municates nothing of operations, but the tone and whole 
thing even its brevity inspire right feelings. It is 
strange, however, that no reliable intelligence reaches us 
from the army of what it is doing, or not doing. This fact 
itself forebodes no good. 

Sumner came in this afternoon and read to me from two 
or three documents one the late speech of the Solicitor 
of the Treasury in the British Parliament on the matter of 
prize and prize courts which are particularly favorable 
to our views in the Peterhoff case. From this we got on to 
the absorbing topic of the army under Hooker. Sumner 
is hopeful, and if he did not inspire me with his confidence, 
I was made glad by his faith. The President came in while 
we were discussing the subject, and, as is his way, at once 
earnestly participated. His suggestions and inferences 
struck me as probable, hopeful, nothing more. Like the 
rest of us, he wants facts; without them we have only sur- 

1 General George Stoneman was conducting an extensive cavalry 
operation intended to cut off Lee's army after its expected defeat. The 
unlooked-for discomfiture of the Federal forces placed Stoneman in 
considerable danger, but he succeeded in rejoining Hooker's main army on 
May 1st. 



1863] RUMORS OF DEFEAT 293 

mises and surmises indicate doubt, uncertainty. He is not 
informed of occurrences as he should be, but is in the dark, 
with no official data, which confirms me in the belief that 
the War Department is in ignorance, for they would not 
withhold favorable intelligence from him, yet it is strange, 
very strange. In the absence of news the President strives 
to feel encouraged and to inspire others, but I can perceive 
he has doubts and misgivings, though he does not express 
them. Like my own, perhaps, his fears are the result 
of absence of facts, rather than from any information 
received. 

May 6, Wednesday. We have news, via Richmond, that 
Stoneman has destroyed bridges and torn up rails on the 
Richmond road, thus cutting off communication between 
that city and the Rebel army. Simultaneously with this 
intelligence, there is a rumor that Hooker has recrossed the 
river and is at Falmouth. I went to the War Department 
about noon to ascertain the facts, but Stanton said he had 
no such intelligence nor did he believe it. I told him I had 
nothing definite or very authentic, that he certainly 
ought to be better posted than I could be, but I had seen 
a brief telegram from young Dahlgren, who is on Hooker's 
staff, dated this A.M., " Headquarters near Falmouth 
All right." This to me was pretty significant of the fact 
that Hooker and his army had recrossed. Stanton was a 
little disconcerted. He said Hooker had as yet no definite 
plan; his headquarters are not far from Falmouth. Of 
course nothing farther was to be said, yet I was by no means 
satisfied with his remarks or manner. 

An hour later Sumner came into my room, and raising 
both hands exclaimed, "Lost, lost, all is lost!" I asked 
what he meant. He said Hooker and his army had been de- 
feated and driven back to this side of the Rappahannock. 
Sumner came direct from the President, who, he said, was 
extremely dejected. I told him I had been apprehensive 
that disaster had occurred, but when I asked under what 



294 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 6 

circumstances'this reverse had taken place, he could give 
me no particulars. 

I went soon after to the War Department. Seward was 
sitting with Stanton, as when I left him two or three hours 
before.* I asked Stanton if he knew where Hooker was. He 
answered, curtly, "No." I looked at him sharply, and I 
have no doubt with incredulity, for he, after a moment's 
pause, said, " He is on this side of the river, but I know not 
where." "Well," said I, "he is near his old quarters, and 
I wish to know if Stoneman is with him, or if he or you 
know anything of that force." Stanton said he had no in- 
formation in regard to that force, and it was one of the 
most unpleasant things of the whole affair that Hooker 
should have abandoned Stoneman. 

Last night and to-day we have had a violent rainstorm 
from the northeast. Fox and Edgar, my son, left this A.M. 
for Falmouth. The President, uneasy, uncomfortable, and 
dissatisfied with the meagre information and its gloomy 
aspect, went himself this evening to the army with Gen- 
eral Halleck. 

May 7, Thursday. Our people, though shocked and very 
much disappointed, are in better tone and temper than I 
feared they would be. The press had wrought the public 
mind to high expectation by predicting certain success, 
which all wished to believe. I have not been confident, 
though I had hopes. Hooker has not been tried in so high 
and responsible a position. He is gallant and efficient as 
commander of a division, but I am apprehensive not equal 
to that of General-in-Chief. I have not, however, sufficient 
data for a correct and intelligent opinion. A portion of his 
plan seems to have been well devised, and his crossing the 
river well executed. It is not clear that his position at 
Chancellorsville was well selected, and he seems not to have 
been prepared for Stonewall Jackson's favorite plan of at- 
tack. Our men fought well, though it seems not one half of 
them were engaged. I do not learn why Stoneman was left, 



1863] BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE 295 

or why Hooker recrossed the river without hearing from 
him, or why he recrossed at all. 

It is not explained why Sedgwick and his command were 
left single-handed to fight against greatly superior numbers 
the whole army of Lee in fact on Monday, when 
Hooker with all his forces was unemployed only three miles 
distant. There are, indeed, many matters which require 
explanation. 

May 8, Friday. A telegraph dispatch this morning from 
Admiral Porter states he has possession of Grand Gulf. 
The news was highly gratifying to the President, who had 
not heard of it until I met him at the Cabinet-meeting. 

Several of our navy and army officers arrived this day 
from Richmond, having left that place on Tuesday to be 
exchanged. They all say that Richmond might have been 
captured by Stoneman's cavalry, or by a single regiment, 
the city had been so thoroughly drained of all its male pop- 
ulation to reinforce Lee, and so wholly unprepared were 
they for a raid that but little resistance could have been 
made. Stoneman and his force have done gallant service, 
but we regret they did not dash into Richmond and cap- 
ture Davis and the Rebel Administration. 

Commander Drayton came to see me to-day. He is one 
of Du Font's intimates, a man of excellent sense and heart, 
but is impressed with Du Font's opinions and feelings. 
All of Du Font's set those whom he has called around 
him are schooled and trained, and have become his 
partisans, defer to his views, and adopt his sentiments. 
It is his policy, and of course theirs, to decry the monitors 
as if that would justify or exonerate Du Pont from any 
remissness or error. I told Drayton it was not necessary to 
condemn the monitors for the failure to capture Charles- 
ton, nor did it appear to me wise to do so, or to make any 
deficiencies in those vessels prominent in the official re- 
ports which were to be published. It seems an effort to 
impute blame somewhere, or [as] if blame existed and an 



296 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAYS 

excuse or justification was necessary, of which the public 
and the whole world should be at once informed. If the 
monitors are weak in any part, there was no necessity for 
us to proclaim that weakness to our enemies ; if they needed 
improvements, the Government could make them. Allud- 
ing to Du Font's long dispatch refuting, explaining, and 
deprecating the criticism in a Baltimore paper, I told him 
I was sorry to see such an expenditure of time, talent, and 
paper by the commander of the Squadron and his subordi- 
nates. Drayton expressed his regret at the over-sensitive- 
ness of Du Pont, but said it was his nature, and this mor- 
bid infirmity was aggravated by his long continuance on 
shipboard. It is the opinion of Drayton that Charleston 
cannot be taken by the Navy and that the Navy can do 
but little towards it. He says the monitors, though slow, 
would have passed the batteries and reached the wharves 
of Charleston but for submerged obstructions. 

May 11, Monday. The President sent a note to my 
house early this morning, requesting me to call at the 
Executive Mansion on my way to the Department. When 
there he took from a drawer two dispatches written by 
the Secretary of State to Lord Lyons, in relation to prize 
captures. As they had reference to naval matters, he 
wished my views in regard to them and the subject-matter 
generally. I told him these dispatches were not particu- 
larly objectionable, but that Mr. Seward in these matters 
seemed not to have a correct apprehension of the duties 
and rights of the Executive and other Departments of the 
Government. There were, however, in this correspond- 
ence allusions to violations of international law and of 
instructions which were within his province, and which 
it might be well to correct; but as a general thing it 
would be better that the Secretary of State and the Ex- 
ecutive should not, unless necessary, interfere in these 
matters, but leave them where they properly and legally 
belonged, with the judiciary. [I said] that Lord Lyons 



1863] STONEWALL JACKSON'S DEATH 297 

would present these demands or claims as long as the 
Executive would give them consideration, acquiesced, 
responded, and assumed to grant relief, but that it was 
wholly improper, and would, besides being irregular, cause 
him and also the State and Navy Departments great 
labor which does not belong to either. The President said 
he could see I was right, but that in this instance, perhaps, 
it would be best, if I did not seriously object, that these 
dispatches should go on; but he wished me to see them. 
When I got to the Department, I found a letter from 
Mr. Seward, inclosing one from Lord Lyons stating that 
complaint had been made to his Government that passen- 
gers on the Peterhoff had been imprisoned and detained, 
and were entitled to damages. As the opportunity was 
a good one, I improved it to communicate to him in writing, 
what I have repeatedly done in conversation, that in the 
present state of the proceedings there should be no inter- 
ference on his part, that these are matters for adjudica- 
tion by the courts rather than for diplomacy or Executive 
action, and until the judicial power is exhausted, it is not 
advisable for the Departments to interfere, etc. The letter 
was not finished in season to be copied to-day, but I will 
get it to him to-morrow, I hope in season for him to read 
before getting off his dispatches. 

May 12, Tuesday. We have information that Stonewall 
Jackson, one of the best generals in the Rebel, and, in some 
respects, perhaps in either, service, is dead. One cannot 
but lament the death of such a man, in such a cause too. 
He was fanatically earnest, and a Christian but bigoted 
soldier. 

A Mr. Prentiss has presented a long document to the 
President for the relief of certain parties who owned the 
John Gilpin, a vessel loaded with cotton, and captured and 
condemned as good prize. There has been a good deal of 
outside engineering in this case. Chase thought if the 
parties were loyal it was a hard case. I said all such losses 



298 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 12 

were hard, and asked whether it was hardest for the 
wealthy, loyal owners, who undertook to run the blockade 
with their cotton, or the brave and loyal sailors who made 
the capture and were by law entitled to the avails, to be 
deprived. I requested him to say which of these parties 
should be the losers. He did not answer. I added this was 
another of those cases that belonged to the courts exclus- 
ively, with which the Executive ought not to interfere. 
All finally acquiesced in this view. 

This case has once before been pressed upon the Presi- 
dent. Senator Foot of Vermont appeared with Mr. Prentiss, 
and the President then sent for me to ascertain its merits. 
I believe I fully satisfied him at that time, but his sym- 
pathies have again been appealed to by one side. 

Mr. Seward came to my house last evening and read 
a confidential dispatch from Earl Russell to Lord Lyons, 
relative to threatened difficulties with England and the 
unpleasant condition of affairs between the two countries. 
He asked if anything could be done with Wilkes, whom he 
has hitherto favored, but against whom the Englishmen, 
without any sufficient cause, are highly incensed. I told 
him he might be transferred to the Pacific, which is as 
honorable but a less active command; that he had favored 
Wilkes, who was not one of the most comfortable officers 
for the Navy Department. I was free to say, however, 
I had seen nothing in his conduct thus far, in his present 
command, towards the English deserving of censure, and 
that the irritation and prejudice against him were un- 
worthy, yet under the peculiar condition of things, it would 
perhaps be well to make this concession. I read to him an 
extract from a confidential letter of J. M. Forbes, now in 
England, a most earnest and sincere Union man, urging 
that W. should be withdrawn, and quoting the private 
remarks of Mr. Cobden to that effect. I had read the same 
extract to the President last Friday evening, Mr. Sumner 
being present. He (Sumner) remarked it was singular, 
but that he had called on the President to read to him 



1863] RECALL OF WILKES 299 

a letter which he had just received from the Duke of 
Argyle, in which he advised that very change. This letter 
Sumner has since read to me. It is replete with good 
sense and good feeling. 

I have to-day taken preliminary steps to transfer Wilkes 
and to give Bell command in the West Indies. It will not 
surprise me if this, besides angering Wilkes, gives public 
discontent. His strange course in taking Slidell and Mason 
from the Trent was popular, and is remembered with 
gratitude by the people, who are not aware his work was 
but half done, and that, by not bringing in the Trent as 
prize, he put himself and the country in the wrong. Sew- 
ard at first approved the course of Wilkes in capturing 
Slidell and Mason, and added to my embarrassment in so 
disposing of the question as not to create discontent by 
rebuking Wilkes for what the country approved. But 
when, under British menace, Seward changed his position, 
he took my position, and the country gave him great credit 
for what was really my act and the undoubted law of the 
case. My letter congratulating Wilkes on the capture of 
the Rebel enemies was particularly guarded and warned 
him and naval officers against a similar offense. The letter 
was acceptable to all parties, the Administration, the 
country, and even Wilkes was contented. 

It is best under the circumstances that Wilkes should 
be withdrawn from the West Indies, where he was sent 
by Seward's special request, unless, as he says, we are ready 
for a war with England. I sometimes think that is not the 
worst alternative, she behaves so badly. 

May 13, Wednesday. The last arrival from England brings 
Earl Russell's speech on American affairs. Its tone and 
views are less offensive than some things we have had, and 
manifest a dawning realization of what must follow if 
England persists in her unfriendly policy. In his speech, 
Earl R., in some remarks relative to the opinions of the 
law officers of the Crown on the subject of mails captured 



300 DIARY. OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 13 

on blockade-runners, adroitly quotes the letter of Seward 
to me on the 31st of October, and announces that to be 
the policy of the United States Government, and the regu- 
lation which governs our naval officers. It is not the Eng- 
lish policy, nor a regulation which they adopt, reciprocate, 
or respect, but the tame, flat concession of the Secretary of 
State, made without authority or law. The statement 
of Earl R. is not correct. No such orders as he represents 
have issued from the Navy Department. Not a naval 
officer or district attorney has ever been instructed to 
surrender the mails as stated, nor is there a court in the 
United States which would regard such instructions, if 
given, as good law. It is nothing more nor less than an 
attempted abandonment, an ignominious surrender, of our 
undoubted legal rights by a Secretary of State who knew 
not what he was about. The President may, under the 
influence of Mr. Seward, commit himself to this inconsider- 
ate and illegal proceeding and direct such instructions to 
be issued, but if so, the act shall be his, not mine, and he 
will find it an unhappy error. 

But Seward has been complimented in Parliament for 
giving away to our worst enemy his country's rights, 
for an impertinent and improper intermeddling, or at- 
tempt to intermeddle, with and direct the action of Jan- 
other Department, and the incense which he has received 
will tickle his vanity. 

Sumner tells me of a queer interview he had with Sew- 
ard. The first part of the conversation was harmonious 
and related chiefly to the shrewd and cautious policy and 
management of the British Ministry, who carefully re- 
ferred all complex questions to the law officers of Her 
Majesty's Government. It might have been a hintfto 
Seward to be more prudent and considerate, and to take 
legal advice instead of pushing on, wordy and slovenly, 
as is sometimes done. Allusion was made to Mr. Adams 
and his unfortunate letter to Zerman. 1 Our Minister, 

1 Zerman was a Mexican in partnership with Howell, an American. 



1863] MR. ADAMS AS MINISTER 301 

Mr. Adams, was spoken of as too reserved and retiring 
for his own and the general good. Sumner said, in justi- 
fication and by way of excuse for him, that it would be 
pleasanter and happier for him if he had a Secretary of 
Legation whose deportment, manner, and social position 
were different, if he were more affable and courteous, 
in short more of a gentleman, for he could in that case 
make up for some of Mr. A.'s deficiencies. At this point 
Seward flew into a passion, and, in a high key, told Sum- 
ner he knew nothing of political (meaning party) claims 
and services, and accused him of a design to cut the throat 
of Charley Wilson, the Secretary of Legation at London. 
Sumner wholly disclaimed any such design or any per- 
sonal knowledge of the man, but said he had been in- 
formed, and had no doubt of the fact, that it was the daily 
practice of Wilson to go to Morley's, seat himself in a 
conspicuous place, throw his legs upon the table, and, in 
coarse language, abuse England and the English. What- 
ever might be our grievances and wrong, this, Sumner 
thought, was not a happy method of correcting them, nor 
would such conduct on the part of the second officer of the 
Legation bring about kinder feelings or a better state of 
things, whereas a true gentleman could by suavity and 
dignity in such a position win respect, strengthen his prin- 
cipal, and benefit the country. These remarks only made 
Seward more violent, and louder in his declarations that 
Charley Wilson was a clever fellow and should be sus- 
tained. 

I read to Attorney-General Bates the letters and papers 
in relation to mails on captured vessels, of which he had 
some previous knowledge. He complimented my letters 
and argument, and said my position was impregnable and 
the Secretary of State wholly and utterly wrong. 

The firm fitted out a vessel to trade with Matamoras. Mr. Adams,"being 
satisfied of their good faith, gave them assurances of immunity from 
interference on the part of the United States Navy, and this discrimination 
against Englishmen engaged ostensibly in the same trade, was sharply 
criticized in the British Parliament. 



302 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY is 

Mr. Seward sent me to-day a letter from Lord Lyons 
concerning the Mont Blanc and the Dolphin, and wished 
me to name some person at Key West to arbitrate on the 
former case, the vessel having been restored and the par- 
ties wanting damages. I named Admiral Bailey for this 
naval duty, but took occasion to reiterate views I have 
heretofore expressed, and especially in my letter yester- 
day that these matters belonged to the courts and not to 
the Departments. 

Hear of no new move by Hooker. I am apprehensive 
our loss in killed and prisoners was much greater in the late 
battle than has been supposed. 

May 14, Thursday. I wrote, two or three weeks since, 
a letter to Admiral Du Pont of affairs at Charleston and 
his reports, but have delayed sending it, partly in hopes 
I should have something suggestive and encouraging, 
partly because Fox requested me to wait, in the belief 
we should have additional information. Du Pont is mor- 
bidly sensitive, and to vindicate himself wants to publish 
every defect and weakness of the ironclads and to dis- 
parage them, regardless of its effect in inspiring the Rebels 
to resist them, and impairing the confidence of our own 
men in their invulnerability. I have tried to be kind and 
frank in my letter, but shall very likely give offense. 

Had a little conversation to-day with Chase and Bates 
on two or three matters, but the principal subject was 
Earl Russell's speech. 

May 15, Friday. The President called on me this morn- 
ing with the basis of a dispatch which Lord Lyons pro- 
posed to send home. He had submitted it to Mr. Seward, 
who handed it to the President, and he brought it to me. 
The President read it to me, and when he concluded, I 
remarked the whole question of the mails belonged pro- 
perly to the courts and I thought unless we proposed some 
new treaty arrangement it would be best the subject 



1863] THE CAPTURED MAILS 303 

should continue with the courts as law and usage directed. 
"But," he inquired, "have the courts ever opened the 
mails of a neutral government?" I replied, "Always, 
when the captured vessels on which mails were found were 
considered good prize." "Why, then," said he, "do you 
not furnish me with the fact? It is what I want, but you 
furnish me with no report that any neutral has ever been 
searched." I said I was not aware that the right had ever 
been questioned. The courts made no reports to me 
whether they opened or did not open mail. The courts 
are independent of the Departments, to which they are 
not amenable. In the mails was often the best and only 
evidence that could insure condemnation. [I said] that 
I should as soon have expected an inquiry whether evi- 
dence was taken, witnesses sworn, and the cargoes exam- 
ined as whether mails were examined. "But if mails ever 
are examined," said he, "the fact must be known and re- 
corded. What vessels," he asked, "have we captured, 
where we have examined the mails?" "All, doubtless, 
that have had mails on board," I replied. Probably most 
of them were not intrusted with mails. "What," asked he, 
"was the first vessel taken? " " I do not recollect the name, 
a small blockade-runner, I think; I presume she had no 
mail. If she had, I have no doubt the court searched it 
and examined all letters and papers." He was extremely 
anxious to ascertain if I recollected, or knew that any cap- 
tured mail had been searched. I told him I remembered 
no specific mention, doubted if the courts ever reported 
to the Navy Department. Foreign governments, knowing 
of the blockade, would not be likely to make up mails for 
the ports blockaded. The Peterhoff had a mail ostensibly 
for Matamoras, which was her destination, but with a 
cargo and mails which we knew were intended for the 
Rebels, though the proof might be difficult since the mail 
had been given up. I sent for Watkins, who has charge of 
prize matters, to know if there was any record or mention 
of mails in any of the papers sent the Navy Department, 



304 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 15 

but he could not call to mind anything conclusive. Some 
mention was made of mails or dispatches in the mail on 
board the Bermuda, which we captured, but it was inci- 
dental. Perhaps the facts might be got from the district 
attorneys, though he thought, as I did, that but few regu- 
lar mails were given to blockade-runners. The President 
said he would frame a letter to the district attorneys, and 
in the afternoon he brought in a form to be sent to the 
attorneys in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. 

Read Chase the principal points in the Peterhoff case. 
He approved of my views, concurred in them fully, and 
said there was no getting around them. 

May 16, Saturday. Saw Seward this morning respecting 
Wilkes. After talking over the subject, he said he cared 
nothing about Wilkes, that if he was removed he would be 
made a martyr, and both he (S.) and myself would be 
blamed and abused by the people, who knew not the cause 
that influenced and governed us. He then for the first 
time alluded to the removal of Butler, which he said was 
a necessity to appease France. Nevertheless France was 
not satisfied, yet Butler's removal had occasioned great 
discontent and called down much censure. If I could stand 
the recall of Wilkes, he thought he could. I answered him 
that any abuse of me in the discharge of my duty and when 
I knew I was right would never influence my course. In 
this case I could better stand his recall than the responsi- 
bility of sending him into the Pacific, where he would have 
great power and be the representative of the Government; 
for he is erratic, impulsive, opinionated, somewhat arbi- 
trary towards his subordinates, and is always disinclined 
to obey orders which he receives if they do not comport 
with his own notions. His special mission, in his present 
command, had been to capture the Alabama. In this he 
had totally failed, while zealous to catch blockade-runners 
and get prize money. Had he not been in the West Indies, 
we might have captured her, but he had seized the Vander- 



1863] COBDEN AND BRIGHT 305 

bilt, which had specific orders and destination and gone 
off with her prize-hunting, thereby defeating our plans. 
Seward wished me to detach him because he had not taken 
the Alabama and give that as the reason. I care to assign 
no reasons, none but the true ones, and it is not 
politic to state them. 

When I was about leaving, Seward asked as a favor that 
I would address him a proposition that the matter of the 
Mont Blanc should be left to Admiral Bailey alone. The 
whole pecuniary interest involved did not, he said, exceed 
six or eight hundred dollars, and it would greatly relieve 
him at a pinch, if I would do him this favor, and harm no 
one, for the vessel had been seized sleeping at anchor 
within a mile of the Cays, and was retained by the court. 
I asked what he had to do with it anyway. He gave me 
no satisfactory answer, but went into the trouble he had 
in keeping the Englishmen quiet and his present difficul- 
ties. All of which, I take it, means he has loosely commit- 
ted himself, meddled with what was none of his business, 
made inconsiderate promises to Lord Lyons, and wishes 
me, who have had nothing to do with it, but have objected 
to the whole proceeding, to now propose that Admiral 
Bailey shall be sole referee. This will enable him to cover 
up his own error and leave it to be inferred that I have 
prompted it, as B. is a naval officer. 

May 18, Monday. Sumner called this evening and read 
to me a letter he had received from Mr. Cobden and also 
one from Mr. Bright, both in good tone and of right 
feeling. These two men are statesmen and patriots in 
the true sense of the word, such as do honor to England 
and give vigor to the Government. They and Sumner 
have done much to preserve the peace of the two coun- 
tries. 

Senator Doolittle came to see me to-day. Has faith, he 
says, but fears that General Hooker has no religious faith, 
laments the infirmities of that officer, and attributes our 



306 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY is 

late misfortune to the want of godliness in the commanding 
general. 

May 19, Tuesday. The case of Vallandigham, recently 
arrested by General Burnside, tried by court martial, con- 
victed of something, and sentenced to Fort Warren, was 
before the Cabinet. It was an error on the part of Burn- 
side. All regretted the arrest, but, having been made, 
every one wished he had been sent over the lines to the 
Rebels with whom he sympathizes. Until the subject is 
legitimately before us, and there is a necessity to act, 
there is no disposition to meddle with the case. 

The New York Tribune of to-day has a communication 
on the Peterhoff mail question. It is neither so good nor 
so bad as it might have been. Am sorry to see it just at 
this tune, and uncertain as to the author. Faxon names 
one of the correspondents of the Tribune, but while he may 
have forwarded the article he could not have written it. 

Governor Sprague and Miss Kate Chase called this 
evening. I have been skeptical as to a match, but this 
means something. She is beautiful, or, more properly per- 
haps, interesting and impressive. He is rich and holds the 
position of Senator. Few young men have such advan- 
tages as he, and Miss Kate has talents and ambition suf- 
ficient for both. 

I wrote and sent to Senator Sumner a denial of John 
Laird's statement in the British House of Commons. 
When he asserted that the Secretary of the American 
Navy, or the agent of the Secretary, applied to him to 
build vessels, or a vessel, he asserted what is not true, 
what he knows to be untrue. He is, in my opinion, a 
mercenary hypocrite without principle or honesty, as his 
words and works both show. 

May 20, Wednesday. Admiral Lee has been here for two 
or three days consulting in regard to Wilmington. The 
blockade of Cape Fear is difficult and gives infinite trou- 



1863] DU PONT AND STIMERS 307 

ble, but the War Department has manifested no desire 
to relieve us and prevent that means of Rebel communica- 
tion. To-day we had a long conference. Lee has seen Gen- 
eral Totten, and the conclusion is that the army must 
capture the place, assisted by the Navy, which will cover 
the landing. The practice of relying upon the Navy to do 
the principal fighting when forts or batteries are to be 
taken has had a bad effect in some respects and is vitiat- 
ing the army. 

Admiral Du Pont sends forward charges against Chief 
Engineer Stimers, who, on his passage from Charleston to 
New York after the late demonstration, expressed an 
opinion that Sumter might have been passed or taken. 
Du Pont requested Stimers to be sent to Port Royal for 
trial. Every officer under Du Pont has expressed a dif- 
ferent opinion from Stimers and they would constitute the 
court. It is a strange request, and it would be quite as 
strange were I to comply with it. I would not trust 
Stimers, or any one whom Du Pont wished to make a vic- 
tim, in his power. If not a little deranged, D. is a shrewd 
and selfish man. I think he is morbidly diseased. Dray- 
ton expresses this opinion. His conduct and influence 
have been unfortunate in many respects on his subordi- 
nates. Instead of sending Stimers to Port Royal to be sac- 
rificed, I will order a court_of inquiry at New York, where 
the facts may be elicited without prejudice or partiality. 
The alleged offense hardly justifies an inquiry in form, but 
nothing less will satisfy Du Pont, who wants a victim. 
More than this, he wants to lay his failure at Charleston 
on the ironclads, and with such a court as he would organ- 
ize, and such witnesses as he has already trained, he would 
procure both Stimers and vessels to be condemned. It 
would be best for the ends of truth and justice to have an 
inquiry away from all partisanship, and from all unfair 
influences and management. 

May 21, Thursday. Had an early call from the Pre- 



308 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 21 

sident, who brought a communication from Tassara to 
Seward, complaining of violation of neutral rights by a 
small pilot-boat, having a gun mounted amidships and 
believed to be an American vessel, which was annoying 
Spanish and other neutral vessels off the coast of Cuba. 
The President expressed doubts whether it was one of our 
vessels, but I told him I was inclined to believe it was, 
and that I had last week written Mr. Seward concerning 
the same craft in answer to Lord Lyons, who complained 
of outrage on the British schooner Dream, but I had also 
written Admiral Bailey on the subject. I read my letter 
to the President. He spoke of an unpleasant rumor con- 
cerning Grant, but on canvassing the subject we con- 
cluded it must be groundless, originating probably in the 
fact that he does not retain but has evacuated Jackson, 
after destroying the enemy's stores. 

It is pretty evident that Senator John P. Hale, Chair- 
man of the Naval Committee of the Senate, is occupying 
his time in the vacation in preparing for an attack on the 
Navy Department. He has a scheme for a tract of land 
with many angles, belonging to a friend, which land he 
has procured from Congress authority for the Secretary 
to purchase, but the Secretary does not want the land 
in that shape. It is a "job," and the object of this special 
legislative permission to buy, palpable. Hale called on 
me, and has written me, and I am given to understand, 
if I do not enter into his scheme, make this purchase, 
I am to encounter continued and persistent opposition 
from him. 

Hale has also sent me a letter of eight closely written 
pages, full of disinterested, patriotic, and devoted loyalty, 
protesting against my detailing Commodore Van Brunt 
to be one of a board on a requisition from the War Depart- 
ment for a naval officer. Van Brunt has committed no 
wrong, is accused of none, but Hale does n't like him. 
I replied in half a page. I will not waste time on a man 
like Hale. 



1863] DU PONT BEFORE CHARLESTON 309 

May 22, Friday. Information is received that Grant has 
beaten Pemberton after a hard fight of nine hours. It is 
said to have taken place on the 15th inst. 

Had an interview with Admiral Lardner, who goes out 
to take charge of the West India Squadron. He is prudent, 
but, I fear, not so efficient as the duty assigned him re- 
quires. Wilkes has accomplished but little, has interfered 
with and defeated some Navy plans, but has not committed 
the indiscretions towards neutrals which I feared he would, 
and of which he is charged. 

May 23, Saturday. Met the President, Stanton, and 
Halleck at the War Department. Fox was with me. 
Neither Du Pont nor General Hunter has answered the 
President's dispatch to them a month since. Halleck does 
not favor an attack on Charleston unless by the Navy. The 
army will second, so far as it can. Fox, who commanded 
the first military expedition to Sumter, is for a renewed 
attack, and wants the Navy to take the brunt. Stanton 
wants the matter prosecuted. I have very little confidence 
in success under the present admiral. It is evident that Du 
Pont is against doing anything, that he is demoralizing 
others, and doing no good in that direction. If anything is 
to be done, we must have a new commander. Du Pont 
has talents and capability, but we are to have the benefit 
of neither at Charleston. The old army infirmity of this 
war, dilatory action, affects Du Pont. Commendation and 
encouragement, instead of stimulating him, have raised 
the mountain of difficulty higher daily. He is nursing 
Du Pont, whose fame he fears may suffer, and has sought 
sympathy by imparting his fears and doubts to his sub- 
ordinates, until all are impressed with his apprehensions. 
The capture of Charleston by such a chief is an impos- 
sibility, whatever may be accomplished by another. This 
being the case, I have doubts of renewing the attack 
immediately, notwithstanding the zeal of Stanton and 
Fox. I certainly would not without some change of officers. 



310 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 23 

Having no faith, the commander can accomplish no work. 
In the struggle of war, there must sometimes be risks to 
accomplish results, but it is clear we can expect no great 
risks from Du Pont at Charleston. The difficulties increase 
daily [as] his imagination dwells on the subject. Under any 
circumstances we shall be likely to have trouble with him. 
He has remarkable address, is courtly, the head of a formid- 
able clique, the most formidable in the Navy, loves intrigue, 
is Jesuitical, and I have reason to believe is not always 
frank and sincere. It was finally concluded to delay pro- 
ceedings until the arrival of General Gillmore, who should 
be put in possession of our views. 

Sumner brought me this P.M. a report in manuscript of 
the case of the Peterhoff mail. I have read it and notice 
that the attorney, Delafield Smith, takes the opportunity 
to say, I doubt not at whose suggestion, that there is no 
report that the public mails have ever been opened and 
examined. He does not say there is any report they were 
not, or that there is any report whatever on the subject. 
All letters and papers deemed necessary are always ex- 
amined. Upton well said in reply to Smith that the ques- 
tion had never been raised. Much time was spent in arguing 
this point respecting the mails. It was reported to Seward, 
and that point was seized upon, and the question raised, 
which led the President to call on me for a record of a case 
where public mails had been searched. Seward's man, 
Delafield Smith, having learned through Archibald, the 
British Consul, that the Secretary of State had given up 
our undoubted right to search the mails, set up the petti- 
fogging pretense that there was no report that captured 
mails ever had been examined, which Judge Betts did not 
regard, and Upton correctly said the point had never been 
raised. The court never asked permission of the Executive 
to try a prize case; there is no report that they ever asked 
or did not ask; the right was no more questioned than the 
right to search the mails. 



1863] DU FONT'S SHORTCOMINGS 311 

May 24, Sunday. We have had gratifying intelligence 
from the Southwest for several days past, particularly in 
the vicinity of Vicksburg. It is pretty certain that Grant 
will capture the place, and it is hoped Pemberton's army 
also. There is a rumor that the stars and stripes wave 
over Vicksburg, but the telegraph-wires are broken and 
communication interrupted. 

May 25, Monday. Received a long dispatch from Ad- 
miral Porter at Haines Bluff, Yazoo River, giving details 
of successful fights and operations for several preceding 
days in that vicinity. 

Am anxious in relation to the South Atlantic Squadron 
and feel daily the necessity of selecting a new commander. 
Du Pont is determined Charleston shall not be captured 
by the Navy, and that the Navy shall not attempt it; 
thinks it dangerous for the vessels to remain in Charleston 
Harbor, and prefers to occupy his palace ship, the Wabash, 
at Port Royal to roughing it in a smaller vessel off the port. 
His prize money would doubtless be greater without any 
risk. All officers under him are becoming affected by his 
feelings, adopt his tone, think inactivity best, that the 
ironclads are mere batteries, not naval vessels, and that 
outside blockade is the true and only policy. Du Pont 
feels that he is strong in the Navy, strong in Congress, and 
strong in the country, and not without reason. There is 
not a more accomplished or shrewder gentleman in the 
service. Since Barren and others left, no officer has gath- 
ered a formidable clique in the Navy. He has studied with 
some effect to create one for himself, and has in his per- 
sonal interest a number of excellent officers who I had 
hoped would not be inveigled. Good officers have warned 
me against him as a shrewd intriguer, but I have hoped to 
get along with him, for I valued his general intelligence, 
critical abilities, and advice. But I perceive that in all 
things he never forgets Du Pont. His success at Port 
Royal has made him feel that he is indispensable to the 



312 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 25 

service. The modern changes in naval warfare and in naval 
vessels are repugnant to him; and to the turret vessels he 
has a declared aversion. He has been active in schemes to 
retire officers; he is now at work to retire ironclads and 
impair confidence in them. As yet he professes respect and 
high regard for me personally, but he is not an admirer of 
the President, and has got greatly out with Fox, who has 
been his too partial friend. An attack is, however, to be 
made on the Department by opposing its policy and con- 
demning its vessels. This will raise a party to attack and 
a party to defend. The monitors are to be pronounced fail- 
ures, and the Department, which introduced, adopted, and 
patronized them, is to be held responsible, and not Du 
Pont, for the abortive attempt to reach Charleston. Dray- 
ton, who is his best friend, says to me in confidence that 
Du Pont has been too long confined on shipboard, that his 
system, mentally and physically, is affected, and I have no 
doubt thinks, but does not say, he ought to be relieved for 
his own good as well as that of the service. Du Pont is 
proud and will not willingly relinquish his command, al- 
though he has in a half-defiant way said if his course was 
not approved I must find another. 

I look upon it, however, as a fixed fact that he will leave 
that squadron, but he is a favorite and I am at a loss as to 
his successor. Farragut, if not employed elsewhere, would 
be the man, and the country would accept the change with 
favor. The age and standing of D. D. Porter would be 
deemed objectionable by many, yet he has some good points 
for that duty. Foote would be a good man for the place in 
many respects, but he is somewhat overshadowed by Du 
Pont, with whom he has been associated and to whom he 
greatly defers. Dahlgren earnestly wants the position, and 
is the choice of the President, but there would be general 
discontent were he selected. Older officers who have had 
vastly greater sea service would feel aggrieved at the selec- 
tion of Dahlgren and find ready sympathizers among the 
juniors. I have thought of Admiral Gregory, whom I was 



1863] A FUGITIVE SLAVE CASE 313 

originally inclined to designate as commander of the Gulf 
Blockading Squadron at the beginning of the war, but was 
overpersuaded by Paulding to take Mervine. A mistake 
but a lesson. It taught me not to yield my deliberate con- 
victions hi appointments and matters of this kind to the 
mere advice and opinion of another without a reason. Both 
Fox and Foote indorse Gregory. His age is against him for 
such active service, and would give the partisans of Du 
Pont opportunity to cavil. 

May 26, Tuesday. Much of the tune at the Cabinet- 
meeting was consumed in endeavoring to make it appear 
that one Cuniston, tried and condemned as a spy, was not 
exactly a spy, and that he might be let off. I did not parti- 
cipate in the discussion. It appeared to me, from the state- 
ment on all hands and from the finding of the court, that 
he was clearly and beyond question a spy, and I should 
have said so, had my opinion been asked, but I did not care 
to volunteer, unsolicited and without a thorough knowledge 
of all the facts, to argue away the life of a fellow being. 

There was a sharp controversy between Chase and Blair 
on the subject of the Fugitive Slave Law, as attempted to 
be executed on one Hall here in the district. Both were 
earnest, Blair for executing the law, Chase for permitting 
the man to enter the service of the United States instead of 
being remanded into slavery. The President said this was 
one of those questions that always embarrassed him. It 
reminded him of a man in Illinois who was in debt and 
terribly annoyed by a pressing creditor, until finally the 
debtor assumed to be crazy whenever the creditor broached 
the subject. "I," said the President, "have on more than 
one occasion, hi this room, when beset by extremists on 
this question, been compelled to appear to be very mad. I 
think," he continued, "none of you will ever dispose of this 
subject without getting mad." 

I am by no means certain that it is wise or best to 
commence immediate operations upon Charleston. It is 



314 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 26 

a much more difficult task now than it was before the late 
undertaking. Our own men have less confidence, while our 
opponents have much more. The place has no strategic im- 
portance, yet there is not another place our anxious coun- 
trymen would so rejoice to see taken as this original seat of 
the great wickedness that has befallen our country. The 
moral effect of its capture would be great. 

May 27, Wednesday. No decisive news from Vicksburg. 
The public mind is uneasy at the delay, yet I am glad to 
see blame attaches to no one because the place was not 
taken at once. There have been strange evidences of an 
unreasonable people on many occasions during the War. 
Had Halleck shown half the earnestness and ability of Far- 
ragut, we should have had Vicksburg in our possession a 
year ago. 

Admiral Foote handed me a letter from Thomas Turner, 
in command of the Ironsides off Charleston. Turner anti- 
cipates the withdrawal of Du Pont from the command, and 
thinks Foote or Dahlgren will succeed him. Is willing to 
continue under Foote, but not under D., who is his junior 
and has been promoted for his scientific attainments, and 
not for nautical experience or ability. These views are nat- 
ural and proper enough to an old naval and social compan- 
ion. But he proceeds to comment on the ironclads; speaks 
of the " miserable monitors," though he admits they are ad- 
mirably adapted for harbor defense; is astonished the De- 
partment should build so many; says it is to fill the pockets 
of the speculators. These are Du Font's tactics. If true, 
the Secretary is a knave, or a blockhead the tool of knaves, 
and so of others connected with the Department. But the 
fact is, Tom Turner is a simple dupe, and merely echoes 
the insinuations of another, who moulds him at pleasure 
and is demoralizing that entire command. 

Had some talk with Admiral Foote respecting Charles- 
ton. He believes the place may be taken, but does not 
express himself with confidence. Has great respect for Du 



1863] HARCOURT'S WARNING TO ENGLAND 315 

Pont, who, I fear, will exercise a bad influence upon him, 
should he be given the command. Admiral Gregory is too 
old and has some ailments. I have great faith in the old 
man, but the country would not forgive me the experiment, 
were he selected and to fail. There would be bitter oppo- 
sition to Dahlgren from some good officers as well as the 
Tom Turners, were he given the squadron. Could he and 
Foote act together, it would be the best arrangement I 
could make. 

May 28, Thursday. I this morning got hold of the pam- 
phlet of Sir Vernon Harcourt, " Historicus, " and am de- 
lighted to find a coincidence of views between him and my- 
self on the subject of mails captured on vessels running the 
blockade, or carrying contraband. He warns his country- 
men that "the danger is not that Americans will concede too 
little but that Great Britain may accept too much." This is 
a mortifying, humiliating fact, the more so from its truth. 
Mr. Seward is not aware of what he is doing, and the in- 
justice and dishonor he is inflicting on his country by his 
concession. It is lamentable that the President is misled 
in these matters, for Mr. Seward is tampering and trifling 
with national rights. I have no doubt he acted inconsider- 
ately and ignorantly of any wrong in the first instance 
when he took upon himself to make these extraordinary 
and disgraceful concessions, but, having become involved 
in error, he has studied, not to enlighten himself and serve 
the country, but to impose upon and mislead the President 
in order to extricate himself. 

Dahlgren to-day broached the subject of operations 
against Charleston. He speaks of it earnestly and energet- 
ically. Were it not so that his assignment to that com- 
mand would cause dissatisfaction, I would, as the Presi- 
dent strongly favors him, let him show his ability as an offi- 
cer in his legitimate professional duty. He would enter 
upon the work intelligently and with a determination to be 
successful. Whether he has the skill, power, and ability of 



316 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 28 

a first-rate naval commander is yet to be tested. He has 
the zeal, pride, and ambition, but there are other qualities 
in which he may be deficient. 

Brown of the wrecked Indianola and Fontaine of the 
burnt Mississippi, each called on me to-day. They were 
both captured last February, have been exchanged, and 
arrived to-day from Richmond. Their accounts corre- 
spond with each other and with what we have previously 
heard in regard to the deplorable state of things in the 
Rebel region. Poor beef three times a week and corn bread 
daily were dealt to them. The white male population was 
all away. The railroads are in a wretched condition, the 
running-stock worse than the roads. 

May 29, Friday. We have accounts of farther and exten- 
sive depredations by the Alabama. These depredations 
were near the Line, where the Department, in anticipa- 
tion of her appearance, had ordered the Vanderbilt. She 
was specially ordered to Fernando de Noronha, whither 
the Alabama was expected to go, where she did go, and 
where she would have been captured, had instructions been 
obeyed, and not interfered with. But Admiral Wilkes, 
having fallen in with that vessel and finding her a commo- 
dious ship with extensive and comfortable accommoda- 
tions, deliberately annexed her to his squadron and de- 
tained her in the West Indies as his flagship, hunting 
prizes, too long for the service on which she was specially 
sent. I, of course, shall be abused for the escape of the Ala- 
bama and her destruction of property by those who know 
nothing of the misconduct of Wilkes. The propriety of re- 
calling that officer is more apparent than ever. He has 
accomplished nothing, but has sadly interrupted and de- 
feated the plans of the Department. The country, ignor- 
ant of these facts and faults, will disapprove his removal, 
and assail the Department for the mischief of the Alabama, 
whereas, had he been earlier removed, the latter would not 
have happened. 



1863] FOOTE SUCCEEDS DU PONT 317 

I this morning sent for Admiral Foote and had a free and 
full talk with him in regard to the command of the South 
Atlantic Squadron. I am satisfied he would be pleased 
with the position, and really desired it when he knew Du 
Pont was to be relieved. I then introduced him to General 
Gillmore, and with the charts and maps before us took a 
rapid survey of the harbor and plan of operations. Before 
doing this, I said to Foote that I thought it would be well 
for the country, the service, and himself, were Admiral 
Dahlgren associated with him. He expressed the pleasure 
it would give him, but doubted if D. would consent to 
serve as second. 

I requested Mr. Fox to call on D. and inform him that 
I had given Foote the squadron, that I should be glad to 
have him embark with Foote, and take an active part 
against Charleston. If he responded favorably, I wished 
him to come with Fox to the conference. Fox returned 
with an answer that not only was D. unwilling to go as 
second, but that he wished to decline entirely, unless he 
could have command of both naval and land forces. This 
precludes farther thought of him. I regret it for his own 
sake. It is one of the errors of a lifetime. He has not seen 
the sea service he ought for his rank, and there is a feeling 
towards him, on account of his advancement, among naval 
men which he had now an opportunity to remove. No one 
questions his abilities as a skillful and scientific ordnance 
officer, but some of his best friends in his profession doubt 
his capability as a naval officer on such duty as is here pro- 
posed. It is doubtful if he ever will have another so good 
an opportunity. 

Foote says he will himself see D., and has a conviction 
that he can induce him to go with him. I doubt it. Dahl- 
gren is very proud and aspiring, and will injure himself and 
his professional standing in consequence. With undoubted 
talents of a certain kind he has intense selfishness, and I am 
sorry to see him on this occasion, as I have seen him on 
others, regardless of the feelings and rights of officers of 



318 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [MAY 29 

greater experience, who have seen vastly more sea service 
and who possess high naval qualities and undoubted merit. 
In a matter of duty, such as this, he shows what is charged 
upon him, that he is less devoted to the country than to 
himself, that he never acts on any principle of self-sacrifice. 
While friendly to him, as I have shown on repeated occa- 
sions, I am friendly to others also, and must respect their 
feelings and protect their rights. 

May 30, Saturday. I am surprised at the loose and im- 
proper management of General Dix in regard to the block- 
ade and traffic in the Rebel region. Admiral Lee has sent 
me, yesterday and to-day, some strange permits for trade 
signed by Dix, wholly unauthorized and which cannot in 
sincerity and good faith be allowed. 

May 31, Sunday. Captain Simpson, who has been se- 
lected by Admiral Foote as his Fleet Captain and special 
confidant, arrived to-day from Newport. Both he and F. 
were waiting for me, and met me at the church door as 
I came from morning service, and accompanied me to my 
house. We had some general talk in regard to propositions 
and duties. Foote desires to leave this evening for the 
North and Simpson goes with him. 

Admiral Lardner called this afternoon. Came on from 
Philadelphia for instructions and final orders. He will sail 
on Tuesday hi the Ticonderoga to take command of the 
West India Squadron. I am to encounter the resentment 
of Wilkes and Du Pont at the same time. They are not 
friends, but may suppress mutual dislike in a mutual as- 
sault on me. Wilkes does not disappoint me, but Du Pont 
does. The former is the least dangerous, though the most 
rash and violent. 



IX 

The Arrest of Vallandigham and the Case of the Chicago Times The 
Removal of Wilkes Count Gurowski on Welles's Appointment to the 
Cabinet General Milroy at Winchester The President and the 
Cabinet kept in Ignorance of Army Movements Lack of Confidence 
in Hooker Alarm at Rumors of Confederate Advance into Pennsyl- 
vania The President calls for 100,000 Volunteers The President's 
Opinion of "Orpheus C. Kerr" Illness of Admiral Foote The Sec- 
retary of State and the Matamoras Situation Sumner's Opinion of 
Hooker Appointment of Dahlgren to the South Atlantic Squadron 
in Foote's Place The French Tobacco in Richmond Estimate of 
Dahlgren The Monitors and the Fifteen-Inch Guns Founding of 
the .Army and Navy Gazette Congratulations to Commodore Rodgers 
on the Capture of the Fingal The President betrays Doubts of Hooker 

Blair on the Presidential Aspirations of Chase and McClellan 
Death of Admiral Foote His Lifelong Friendship with Welles 
Needless Alarm for the Safety of New York Meade succeeds Hooker 

Rumors of Confederate Raids near Washington Lee's Advance 
into Pennsylvania. 

June 1, Monday. Gave the President this A.M. a list of 
applicants for appointment to the Naval Academy. A great 
crowd was in attendance; I therefore left the list for him 
to examine and deferred action until another interview. 

Gave Admiral Lardner written instructions at some 
length, and had a pretty full conversation in regard to his 
duties. He is discreet, prudent, perhaps over-cautious, and 
I fear may want energy and force, but until he is tested I 
will not pass judgment. 

June 2, Tuesday. Chase, Blair, Bates, and myself were 
at the Cabinet-meeting. Seward was absent, but his son 
was present. So also was Judge Otto, Assistant Secretary 
of the Interior. Stanton, though absent, sent no represent- 
ative. He condemns the practice of allowing assistants to 
be present in Cabinet council, a practice which was intro- 
duced by Seward, and says he will never submit or discuss 



320 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 2 

any important question, when an assistant is present. I 
think this is the general feeling and the practice of all. 

There was some discussion of affairs at Vicksburg. The 
importance of capturing that stronghold and opening the 
navigation of the river is appreciated by all, and confidence 
is expressed in Grant, but it seems that not enough was do- 
ing. The President said Halleck declares he can furnish no 
additional troops. As yet I have seen nothing to admire in 
the military management of General Halleck, whose mind 
is heavy and, if employed at all, is apparently engaged on 
something else than the public matter in hand. At this 
time when the resources of the nation should be called out 
and activity pervade all military operations, he sits back 
in his chair, doing comparatively nothing. It worries the 
President, yet he relies upon Halleck and apparently no 
one else in the War Department. No one more fully real- 
izes the magnitude of the occasion, and the vast conse- 
quences involved, than the President; he wishes all to be 
done that can be done, but yet in army operations will not 
move or do except by the consent of the dull, stolid, inef- 
ficient, and incompetent General-in-Chief. 

Stanton does not attend one half of the Cabinet-meet- 
ings. When he comes, he communicates little of import- 
ance. Not unfrequently he has a private conference with 
the President in the corner of the room, or with Seward in 
the library. Chase, Blair, and Bates have each expressed 
their mortification and chagrin that things were so con- 
ducted. To-day, as we came away, Blair joined me, and 
said he knew not what we were coming to; that he had 
tried to have things different. 

June 3, Wednesday. Wrote Du Pont that Foote would 
relieve him. I think he anticipates it and perhaps wants it 
to take place. He makes no suggestions, gives no advice, 
presents no opinion, says he will obey orders. He is evi- 
dently uneasy, it appears to me as much dissatisfied 
with himself as any one. Everything shows he is a disap- 



1863] THE ARREST OF VALLANDIGHAM 321 

pointed man, afflicted with his own infirmities. I perceive 
he is preparing for a controversy with the Department, 
laying out the ground, getting his officers committed, 
and he has besides strong friends in Congress and else- 
where. He has been well and kindly treated by the De- 
partment. I have the name and blame of favoring him by 
some of the best officers, and have borne with his aberra- 
tions passively. 

The arrest of Vallandigham and the order to suppress 
the circulation of the Chicago Times in his military dis- 
trict issued by General Burnside have created much feel- 
ing. It should not be otherwise. The proceedings were 
arbitrary and injudicious. It gives bad men the right of 
questions, an advantage of which they avail themselves. 
Good men, who wish to support the Administration, find it 
difficult to defend these acts. They are Burnside's, un- 
prompted, I think, by any member of the Administration, 
and yet the responsibility is here unless they are dis- 
avowed and B. called to an account, which cannot be done. 
The President and I think every member of the Cabi- 
net regrets what has been done, but as to the measures 
which should now be taken there are probably differences. 

The constitutional rights of the parties injured are un- 
doubtedly infringed upon. It is claimed, however, that 
the Constitution, laws, and authorities are assailed with a 
view to their destruction by the Rebels, with whom V. and 
the Chicago Times are in sympathy and concert. The 
efforts of the Rebels are directed to the overthrow of the 
government, and V. and his associates unite with them in 
waging war against the constituted authorities. Should 
the government, and those who are called to legally ad- 
minister it, be sustained, or should those who are striving 
to destroy both? There are many important and difficult 
problems to solve, growing out of the present condition of 
affairs. Where is the constitutional right to interdict trade 
between citizens, to blockade the ports, to seize private 
property, to dispossess and occupy the houses of the in- 



322 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNES 

habitants, etc., etc.? In peaceful times there would be no 
right to do these things; it may be said there would be 
no necessity. Unfortunately the peaceful operations of the 
Constitution have been interrupted, obstructed, and are 
still obstructed. A state of war exists ; violent and forcible 
measures are resorted to in order to resist and destroy the 
government, which have begotten violent and forcible 
measures to vindicate and restore its peaceful operation. 
Vallandigham and the Chicago Times claim all the bene- 
fits, guarantees, and protection of the government which 
they are assisting the Rebels to destroy. Without the 
courage and manliness to go over to the public enemy, 
to whom they give, so far as they dare, aid and comfort, 
they remain here to promote discontent and disaffection. 
While I have no sympathy for those who are, in their 
hearts, as unprincipled traitors as Jefferson Davis, I lament 
that our military officers should, without absolute neces- 
sity, disregard those great principles on which our govern- 
ment and institutions rest. 

June 4, Thursday. Only a sense of duty would have led 
me to relieve Du Pont and Wilkes. With D. my relations 
have been kind and pleasant, on my part confiding. Lat- 
terly he has disappointed me, and given indication that my 
confidence was not returned. Wilkes is a different man and 
of an entirely different temperament. Du Pont is pleasant 
in manner and one of the most popular officers in the Navy; 
Wilkes is arbitrary and one of the most unpopular. There 
are exceptions in both cases. Du Pont is scrupulous to 
obey orders; Wilkes often disregards and recklessly breaks 
them. The Governments of Great Britain, Denmark, 
Mexico, and Spain have each complained of Wilkes, but, 
except in the case of Denmark, it appears to me without 
much cause, and even in the case of Denmark the cause 
was aggravated. There was some mismanagement in the 
Mexican case that might not stand close scrutiny. As 
regards the rights of neutrals, he has so far as I yet know, 



1863] THE REMOVAL OF WILKES 323 

deported himself correctly, and better than I feared so far 
as England is concerned, after the affair of the Trent and 
with his intense animosity towards that government. His 
position has doubtless been cause of jealousy and irritation 
on the part of Great Britain, and in that respect his selec- 
tion from the beginning had its troubles. He has accom- 
plished less than I expected; has been constantly grumbling 
and complaining, which was expected; has captured a few 
blockade-runners, but not an armed cruiser, which was his 
special duty, and has probably defeated the well-devised 
plan of the Navy Department to take the Alabama. At the 
last advices most of his squadron was concentrated at St. 
Thomas, including the Vanderbilt, which should then have 
been on the equator, by specific orders. To-day Mrs. 
Wilkes, with whom we have been sociable, and I might 
almost say intimate, writes Mrs. Welles a note asking if 
any change has been made in the command of the West 
India Squadron. This note was on my table as I came out 
from breakfast. The answer of Mrs. Welles was, I suppose, 
not sufficiently definite, for I received a note with similar 
inquiries in the midst of pressing duties, and the messenger 
was directed to await an answer. I frankly informed her 
of the change. Alienation and probably anger will follow, 
but I could not do differently, though this necessary 
official act will, not unlikely, be resented as a personal 
wrong. 

June 5, Friday. The President read to-day a paper 
which he had prepared in reply to Erastus Corning and 
others. It has vigor and ability and with some corrections 
will be a strong paper. 

June 6, Saturday. Am unhappy over our affairs. The 
Army of the Potomac is doing but little; I do not learn that 
much is expected or intended. The failure at Chancellors- 
ville has never been satisfactorily explained. Perhaps it 
cannot be. Some of the officers say if there had been no 



324 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 6 

whiskey in the army after crossing the Rappahannock we 
should have had complete success. But the President and 
Halleck are silent on this subject. 

How far Halleck is sustaining Grant at Vicksburg I do 
not learn. He seems heavy and uncertain in regard to 
matters there. A further failure at V. will find no justifica- 
tion. To-day he talks of withdrawing a portion of the small 
force at Port Royal. I am not, however, as anxious as some 
for an immediate demonstration on Charleston. There are, 
I think, strong reasons for deferring action for a time, un- 
less the army is confident of success by approaches on 
Morris Island. Halleck is confident the place can be so 
taken. But while he expresses this belief, he is not earnest 
in carrying it into effect. He has suddenly broken out with 
zeal for Vicksburg, and is ready to withdraw most of the 
small force at Port Royal and send it to the Mississippi. 
Before they could reach Grant, the fate of Vicksburg will 
be decided. If such a movement is necessary now, it was 
weeks ago, while we were in consultation for army work 
in South Carolina and Georgia. 

Halleck inspires no zeal in the army or among OUT sol- 
diers. Stanton is actually hated by many officers, and is 
more intimate with certain extreme partisans in Congress 
the Committee on the Conduct of War and others 
than with the Executive Administration and military men. 
The Irish element is dissatisfied with the service, and there 
is an unconquerable prejudice on the part of many whites 
against black soldiers. But all our increased military 
strength now comes from the negroes. Partyism is stronger 
with many in the Free States than patriotism. Every 
coward and niggardly miser opposes the War. The former 
from fear, lest he should be drafted; the latter to avoid 
taxes. 

The examination at the Naval School has closed, and the 
practice ship, the Macedonian, sails to-day. The report 
of the board is highly commendatory of the school. I have, 
amidst multiplied duties, tried to make the school useful, 



1863] THE WEEKLY BAND CONCERTS 325 

and have met with opposition and obstruction when I 
should have had support. 

June 8, Monday. Wrote Secretary of State on the sub- 
ject of the complaints of the Danish Government against 
Wilkes, who is charged with abusing hospitality at St. 
Thomas. Made the best statement I could without cen- 
suring Wilkes, who is coming home, partly from these 
causes. 

Have a letter from Foote, who is not ready to relieve Du 
Pont. Speaks of bad health and disability. It must be 
real, for whatever his regard for, or tenderness to D., Foote 
promptly obeys orders. 

Spoke to the President regarding weekly performances of 
the Marine Band. It has been customary for them to play 
in the public grounds south of the Mansion once a week in 
summer, for many years. Last year it was intermitted, 
because Mrs. Lincoln objected in consequence of the death 
of her son. There was grumbling and discontent, and there 
will be more this year if the public are denied the privilege 
for private reasons. The public will not sympathize in sor- 
rows which are obtrusive and assigned as a reason for de- 
priving them of enjoyments to which they have been 
accustomed, and it is a mistake to persist in it. When I in- 
troduced the subject to-day, the President said Mrs. L. 
would not consent, certainly not until after the 4th of 
July. I stated the case pretty frankly, although the sub- 
ject is delicate, and suggested that the band could play 
in Lafayette Square. Seward and Usher, who were present, 
advised that course. The President told me to do what I 
thought best. 

Count Adam Gurowski, who is splenetic and querulous, 
a strange mixture of good and evil, always growling and 
discontented, who loves to say harsh things and speak 
good of but few, seldom makes right estimates and correct 
discrimination of character, but means to be truthful if not 
just, tells me my selection for the Cabinet was acquiesced 



326 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNES 

in by the radical circle to which he belongs because they 
felt confident my influence with the President would be 
good, and that I would be a safeguard against the schem- 
ing and plotting of Weed and Seward, whose intrigues they 
understood and watched. When I came here, just preced- 
ing the inauguration in 1861, I first met this Polish exile, 
and was amused and interested in him, though I could not 
be intimate with one of his rough, coarse, ardent, and vio- 
lent partisan temperament. His associates were then 
Greeley, D. D. Field, Opdyke, and men of that phase of 
party. I have no doubt that what he says is true of his 
associates, colored to some extent by his intense preju- 
dices. He was for a year or two in the State Department 
as a clerk under Seward, and does not conceal that he was 
really a spy upon him, or, as he says, watched him. He 
says that when Seward became aware that the radicals 
relied upon me as a friend to check the loose notions and 
ultraism of the State Department, he (S.) went to work 
with the President to destroy my influence; that by per- 
sisting he so far succeeded as to induce the President to go 
against me on some important measures, where his opinion 
leaned to mine; that in this way, Seward had intrenched 
himself. There is doubtless some truth probably some 
error in the Count's story. I give the outlines. Eames, 
with whom he is intimate, has told me these things before. 
The Count makes him his confidant. 

June 9, Tuesday. Admiral Foote arrived this A.M. Is 
ardent and earnest for his new duties. Is fully possessed of 
my views. Left this evening for New York. Will sail next 
Monday. In the mean time, Du Pont must hold on. Had 
a carefully prepared and characteristic letter from Du 
Pont, inclosing one from the commanders of the ironclads, 
which he has prompted and secured. This is for the future, 
and to make a record for himself. 

June 10, Wednesday. Rumors of a cavalry fight in Cul- 



1863] INTERFERING CONGRESSMEN 327 

peper. The President and Stanton have gone to Falmouth. 
Nothing definite from Vicksburg. Am not favorably im- 
pressed with what I hear of the fight on the Rappahan- 
nock. 

The accounts of piratical depredations disturb me. My 
views, instructions, and arrangements to capture the Ala- 
bama, which would have prevented these depredations, 
have failed through the misconduct of Wilkes. The Rebel 
cruisers are now beginning to arm their prizes and find 
adventurers to man them. Our neutral friends will be 
likely to find the police of the seas in a bad way. 

June 11, Thursday. The President informs me that he 
did not go to Falmouth, but merely to Fort Lyon near 
Alexandria. 

June 12, Friday. The interference of Members of Con- 
gress in the petty appointments and employment of labor- 
ers in the navy yards is annoying and pernicious. The 
public interest is not regarded by the Members, but they 
crowd partisan favorites for mechanical positions in place 
of good mechanics and workmen, and when I refuse to 
entertain their propositions, they take offense. I can't 
help it if they do. I will not prostitute my trust to their 
schemes and selfish personal partisanship. 

June 13, Saturday. We had music from the Marine Band 
to-day in Lafayette Square. The people are greatly 
pleased. Had word just after five this P.M. that three vessels 
were yesterday captured by a pirate craft off Cape Henry 
and burnt. Sent Fox at once with orders to telegraph to 
New York and Philadelphia, etc., for every vessel in condi- 
tion to proceed to sea without delay in search of this wolf 
that is prowling so near us. If necessary the Tuscarora 
must sail forthwith and not wait for Admiral Foote. 

June 14, Sunday. Farther reports of depredations. Got 



328 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 14 

off vessels last night from New York and Hampton Roads. 
Sent to Boston for Montgomery to cruise off Nantucket. 

Scary rumors abroad of army operations and a threat- 
ened movement of Lee upon Pennsylvania. No doubt 
there has been a change. I fear our friends are in diffi- 
culties. Went to the War Department this evening. Found 
the President and General Halleck with Secretary of War 
in the room of the telegraphic operator. Stanton was un- 
easy, said it would be better to go into another room. The 
President and myself went into the Secretary's office; the 
other two remained. The President said quietly to me he 
was feeling very bad; that he found Milroy and his com- 
mand were captured, or would be. He (Milroy) has writ- 
ten that he can hold out five days, but at the end of five 
days he will be in no better condition, for he can't be re- 
lieved. "It is," said the President, " Harper's Ferry over 
again." 

I inquired why Milroy did not fall back, if he had not 
been apprised by Hooker, or from here, what Lee was 
doing, etc. I added, if Lee's army was moving, Hooker 
would take advantage and sever his forces, perhaps take 
his rear guard. The President said it would seem so, but 
that our folks appeared to know but little how things are, 
and showed no evidence that they ever availed themselves 
of any advantage. 

How fully the President is informed, and whether he is 
made acquainted with the actual state of things is uncer- 
tain. He depends on the War Department, which, I think, 
is not informed and is in confusion. From neither of the 
others did I get a word. Stanton came once or twice into 
the room, where we were, in a fussy way. Halleck did not 
move from his chair where he sat with his cigar, the door 
being open between the two rooms. From some expres- 
sions which were dropped from H., I suspect poor Milroy 
is to be made the scapegoat, and blamed for the stupid 
blunders, neglects, and mistakes of those who should have 
warned and advised him. 



1863] LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN HOOKER 329 

I do not learn that any members of the Cabinet are 
informed of army movements. The President is kept in 
ignorance and defers to the General-in-Chief, though not 
pleased that he is not fully advised of matters as they 
occur. There is a modest distrust of himself, of which ad- 
vantage is taken. For a week, movements have been going 
on of which he has known none, or very few, of the details. 

I came away from the War Department painfully im- 
pressed. After recent events, Hooker cannot have the con- 
fidence which is essential to success, and all-important to 
the commander in the field. Halleck does not grow upon 
me as a military man of power and strength; has little apti- 
tude, skill, or active energy. In this state of things, the able 
Rebel general is moving a powerful army, and has no one to 
confront him on whose ability and power the country relies. 
There was confidence in McClellan's ability to organize, to 
defend, and to repel, though he was worthless in attack, but 
there is no such feeling towards Hooker. He has not grown 
in public estimation since placed in command. If he is in- 
temperate, as is reported, God help us! The President, who 
was the first person to intimate this failing to me, has a per- 
sonal liking for Hooker, and clings to him when others give 
way. 

The letter to Erastus Corning and others is published 
and well received. 

June 15, Monday. Met Blair at the depot. Told him of 
the conversation I had last evening with the President and 
the appearance of things at the War Department. It af- 
fected him greatly. He has never had confidence in either 
Stanton, Halleck, or Hooker. He fairly groaned that the 
President should continue to trust them and defer to them, 
when the magnitude of the questions is considered. 
" Strange, strange," he exclaimed, "that the President, 
who has sterling ability, should give himself over so com- 
pletely to Stanton and Seward." 

Something of a panic pervades the city. Singular 



330 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 15 

rumors reach us of Rebel advances into Maryland. It is 
said they have reached Hagerstown, and some of them 
have penetrated as far as Chambersburg in Pennsylvania. 
These reports are doubtless exaggerations, but I can get 
nothing satisfactory from the War Department of the 
Rebel movements, or of our own. There is trouble, con- 
fusion, uncertainty, where there should be calm intel- 
ligence. 

I have a panic telegraph from Governor Curtin, who is 
excitable and easily alarmed, entreating that guns and gun- 
ners may be sent from the navy yard at Philadelphia to 
Harrisburg without delay. We have not a gunner that we 
can spare. Commodore Stribling can spare men, tempo- 
rarily, from the navy yard. 

I went again, at a late hour, to the War Department, but 
could get no facts or intelligence from the Secretary, who 
either does not know or dislikes to disclose the position and 
condition of the army. He did not know that the Rebels 
had reached Hagerstown; did not know but some of them 
had; quite as likely to be in Philadelphia as Harrisburg. 
Ridiculed Curtin's fears. Thought it would be well, how- 
ever, to send such guns and men as could be spared to 
allay his apprehension. I could not get a word concerning 
General Milroy and his command, whether safe or cap- 
tured, retreating or maintaining his position. All was vague, 
opaque, thick darkness. I really think Stanton is no better 
posted than myself, and from what Stanton says am afraid 
Hooker does not comprehend Lee's intentions nor know 
how to counteract them. Halleck has no activity; never 
exhibits sagacity or foresight, though he can record and 
criticize the past. It looks to me as if Lee was putting 
forth his whole energy and force in one great and desperate 
struggle which shall be decisive; that he means to strike 
a blow that will be severely felt, and of serious conse- 
quences, and thus bring the War to a close. But all is con- 
jecture. 



1863] 100,000 VOLUNTEERS CALLED FOR 331 

June 16, Tuesday. We hear this morning that Milroy has 
cut his way through the Rebels and arrived at Harper's 
Ferry, where he joins Tyler. I cannot learn from the War 
Department how early Milroy was warned from here that 
the Rebels were approaching him and that it would be 
necessary for him to fall back. Halleck scolds and swears 
about him as a stupid, worthless fellow. This seems his 
way to escape censure himself and cover his stupidity in 
higher position. 

The President yesterday issued a proclamation calling 
for 100,000 volunteers to be raised in Maryland, Pennsyl- 
vania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. This call is 
made from outside pressure, and intelligence received 
chiefly from Pennsylvania and not from the War Depart- 
ment or Headquarters. Tom A. Scott, late Assistant Sec- 
retary of War, came on expressly from Pennsylvania, sent 
by Curtin, and initiated the proceeding. 

Halleck sits, and smokes, and swears, and scratches 
his arm and [indecipherable], but exhibits little military 
capacity or intelligence; is obfusticated, muddy, uncertain, 
stupid as to what is doing or to be done. 

Neither Seward nor Stanton nor Blair nor Usher was 
at the Cabinet-meeting. The two last are not in Washing- 
ton. At such a time all should be here and the meeting 
full and frequent for general consultation and general pur- 
poses. 

Scarcely a word on army movements. Chase attempted 
to make inquiries; asked whether a demonstration could 
not be made on Richmond, but the President gave it no 
countenance. No suggestions ever come from Halleck. 

Young Ulric Dahlgren, who is on Hooker's staff, came in 
to-day. He is intelligent and gallant. I asked where the 
army was. He says between Fairfax and Centerville, or 
most of it was there; that Lee and the Rebel army are on 
the opposite side of the mountain, fronting Hooker. He 
knows little or nothing of the reported Rebel advances into 
Pennsylvania, and thinks Hooker does not know it. This 



332 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE ie 

is extraordinary, but it accounts for the confusion and be- 
wilderment at the War Office. 

June 17, Wednesday. Had a telegram at ten last night 
from Mr. Felton, President of the Philadelphia & Balti- 
more Railroad, requesting that a gunboat might be sent 
to Havre de Grace to protect the Company's ferryboat 
and property. Says he has information that the Rebels 
intend going down the river to seize it. 

I went forthwith to the War Department to ascertain 
whether there was really any such alarming necessity, for 
it seemed to me, from all I had been able to learn, that it 
was a panic invocation. Found the President and Stanton 
at the War Department, jubilant over intelligence just 
received that no Rebels had reached Carlisle, as had been 
reported, and it was believed they had not even entered 
Pennsylvania. Stanton threw off his reserve, and sneered 
and laughed at Felton's call for a gunboat. Soon a mes- 
senger came in from General Schenck, who declares no 
Rebels have crossed the Potomac, that the stragglers and 
baggage-trains of Milroy had run away in affright, and 
squads of them, on different parallel roads, had alarmed 
each other, and each fled in terror with all speed to Harris- 
burg. This alone was asserted to be the basis of the great 
panic which had alarmed Pennsylvania and the country. 

The President was relieved and in excellent spirits. 
Stanton was apparently feeling well, but I could not assure 
myself he was wholly relieved of the load which had been 
hanging upon him. The special messenger brought a letter 
to Stanton, which he read, but was evidently unwilling to 
communicate its contents, even to the President, who asked 
about it. Stanton wrote a few lines, which he gave to the 
officer, who left. General Meigs came in about this time, 
and I was sorry to hear Stanton communicate an exag- 
gerated account of Milroy's disaster, who, he said, had not 
seen a fight or even an enemy. Meigs indignantly denied 
the statement, and said Milroy himself had communicated 



1863] ORPHEUS C. KERR 333 

the fact that he had fought a battle and escaped. While he 
(Meigs) did not consider Milroy a great general, or a man 
of very great ability, he believed him to be truthful and 
brave, and if General Schenck's messenger said there had 
been no fight he disbelieved him. Stanton insisted that 
was what the officer (whom I think he called Payson) said. 
I told him I did not so understand the officer. The subject 
was then dropped; but the conversation gave me uneasi- 
ness. Why should the Secretary of War wish to misrepre- 
sent and belittle Milroy? Why exaggerate the false rumor 
and try to give currency to, if he did not originate, the 
false statement that there was no fight and a panic flight? 
The President was in excellent humor. He said this 
flight would be a capital joke for Orpheus C. Kerr to get 
hold of. He could give scope to his imagination over the 
terror of broken squads of panic-stricken teamsters, fright- 
ened at each other and alarming all Pennsylvania. Meigs, 
with great simplicity, inquired who this person (Orpheus 
C. Kerr) was. "Why," said the President, "have you not 
read those papers? They are in two volumes; any one who 
has not read them must be a heathen." He said he had 
enjoyed them greatly, except when they attempted to play 
their wit on him, which did not strike him as very success- 
ful, but rather disgusted him. "Now the hits that are 
given to you, Mr. Welles, or to Chase, I can enjoy, but I 
dare say they may have disgusted you while I was laugh- 
ing at them. So vice versa as regards myself." He then 
spoke of a poem by this Orpheus C. Kerr which mytholog- 
ically described McClellan as a monkey fighting a serpent 
representing the Rebellion, but the joke was the monkey 
continually called for "more tail," "more tail," which 
Jupiter gave him, etc., etc. 

June 18, Thursday. I find that Fox, whom I authorized to 
telegraph to the Commandant of the Yards the other night 
to get off immediately vessels after the pirate Tacony, 
amplified the order, and that a very large number of ves- 



334 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE is 

sels are being chartered or pressed into the service. While 
it was necessary to have some, there is such a thing as 
overdoing, but the order having gone out in my name, I 
could not contest it. 

Have information that Admiral Foote is quite ill at the 
Astor House, New York. He came on from New Haven to 
New York, expecting to take the Tuscarora on Monday 
for Port Royal, but that vessel had been dispatched after 
the pirate Tacony. This disappointment, the excitement, 
over-exertion, and domestic anxiety and affliction have 
probably had an effect on his sensitive and nervous mind. 
He told me with some emotion, when last here, that his 
wife's health was such it would detain him a few days to 
make certain indispensable arrangements, for their parting 
would be final, she could not be expected to live till he 
returned. 

Wrote Seward that the condition of affairs on the Rio 
Grande and at Matamoras was unsatisfactory. We have 
had several conversations on the subject, in which I have 
tried to convince him of the injury done by the unrestricted 
trade and communication on that river, and to persuade 
him that he could make his mark and do a great public 
service by procuring to be established a principle in regard 
to the right of adjoining nations, like the United States 
and Mexico, and the occupancy of a mutual highway like 
the Rio Grande, with the necessary authority to enforce 
a blockade, questions that have never yet been decided 
and settled among nations. Our blockade is rendered in 
a great degree ineffective because we cannot shut off traffic 
and mail facilities, or exclude commercial and postal inter- 
course with the Rebels via the Rio Grande. An immense 
commerce has suddenly sprung up, nominally with Mata- 
moras, but actually with Texas and the whole Southwest, 
nay, with the entire Rebel region, for letters are inter- 
changed between Richmond and England by that route. 

There are one or two hundred vessels off the mouth of 
the Rio Grande, where there were never more than six or 



1863] ILLNESS OF ADMIRAL FOOTE 335 

eight before the War, nor will there be more than a dozen 
when the War is over. English merchant adventurers are 
establishing regular lines with Matamoras, of which the 
Peterhoff was one, carrying supplies and mails to the 
Rebels and receiving cotton in return. Unfortunately, Mr. 
Seward has given encouragement to them, by conceding 
the sanctity of captured mails, which, with the evidence 
which would insure condemnation, are to be forwarded 
unopened to their destination. In no respect, way, or man- 
ner does the Secretary of State furnish a correction by 
assisting or proposing a principle to be recognized by na- 
tions, or by any arrangement with Mexico, or France, or 
both. 

June 19, Friday. The illness of Admiral Foote is serious, 
I fear fatal. Our first intelligence this morning made his 
case almost hopeless; later in the day we have a telegraph 
that he is more comfortable. 

Chase informs me that he has just returned from a visit 
to Hooker's headquarters, at or near Fairfax Court-House. 
The troops, he says, are in good spirits and excellent con- 
dition, as is Hooker himself. He commends Hooker as in 
every respect all that we could wish. His (Chase's) tone 
towards Halleck is much altered since our last conversa- 
tion. All of which is encouraging. But Chase's estimate 
and judgment of men fluctuates as he has intercourse with 
them and they are friendly and communicative or other- 
wise. 

June 20, Saturday. Tidings from New York to-day are 
sad respecting Admiral Foote. I fear he cannot recover 
and that his hours upon earth are few. His death will be a 
great loss to the country, a greater one in this emergency 
to me than to any other out of his own family. Individual 
sorrows and bereavements and personal friendship are not 
to weigh in matters of national concernment, but I cannot 
forget that "we were boys together, 7 ' and that in later and 



336 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 20 

recent years we have mutually sustained each other. I 
need him and the prestige of his name in the place to which 
he has been ordered. 

I have sent Dr. Whelan, an old and intimate friend and 
shipmate of Foote, who thoroughly understands his phys- 
ical system and peculiarities, has been his daily com- 
panion for years in different climes, to New York. His 
presence, even, will be cheering and pleasant to Foote. 

Sumner's opinion and estimate of men does not agree 
with Chase's. Sumner expresses an absolute want of con- 
fidence in Hooker; says he knows him to be a blasphemous 
wretch; that after crossing the Rappahannock and reach- 
ing Centerville, Hooker exultingly exclaimed, "The enemy 
is in my power, and God Almighty cannot deprive me of 
them." I have heard before of this, but not so direct and 
positive. The sudden paralysis that followed, when the 
army in the midst of a successful career was suddenly 
checked and commenced its retreat, has never been ex- 
plained. Whiskey is said by Sumner to have done the work. 
The President said if Hooker had been killed by the shot 
which knocked over the pillar that stunned him, we should 
have been successful. 

June 21, Sunday. I have three telegrams from Dr. 
Whelan to-day, all of the same tenor. The last, at 4 P.M., 
says Admiral Foote continues much the same, insen- 
sible and slowly sinking. Dahlgren, who left New York 
yesterday, says the case is hopeless, that Foote told him 
it was the last of this world and he was prepared for the 
event. 

We have pretty authentic reports of a protracted fight 
at Aldie. The War Department is not communicative, 
and I apprehend for the reason that it is not better ad- 
vised than the rest of us, as yet. A train of ambulances 
passed this evening, going, I doubt not, for the wounded. 

The Richmond papers speak of the capture of the 
steamer Fingal by our ironclads. This is important, and 



1863] DAHLGREN SUCCEEDS FOOTE 337 

I am inclined to credit it. John Rodgers has written his 
family that he was in Nassau Sound, having been ordered 
there to watch the Fingal. The Richmond report corre- 
sponds with this, and states she was captured after a fight 
of thirty minutes with the monitors. 

I had to-day a full and unreserved talk with Dahlgren. 
Told him it was now evident Foote could not go on the 
service to which he was ordered, at all events, if he sur- 
vived, not for the present; I should therefore designate him 
to relieve Du Pont. This would, to some extent, involve the 
selection of a new staff, for it was not likely that Foote's 
confidants were his confidants. [I remarked] that not un- 
likely some of the elder officers who had seen great sea 
service would feel disinclined to remain on the station 
under him; that in giving him this command I was con- 
sulting the wishes of the President; that to supersede Du 
Pont, under any circumstances, involved some risk and 
responsibility to both the Department and the recipient; 
that he could not be unaware his promotion had caused 
some discontent, and that it would not be lessened by this 
command. If any of his seniors in past tunes desired to be 
transferred, they must be permitted to do so, without 
prejudice. 

I stated that this appointment was a specialty, im- 
posed upon the Department by Admiral Foote's affliction 
when on his way to assume these duties; that this inter- 
ruption made prompt action necessary; that he had sought 
the privilege of leading in the assault on Sumter under 
Du Pont; that I had proposed him as an assistant and sec- 
ond to Foote; that he was to go for a particular purpose, 
and his absence from the Bureau would therefore be tem- 
porary. In the mean time, Commander Wise, the assist- 
ant who had been associated with him, could take charge 
of and go forward with the ordnance duties as well as, and 
perhaps better than, any one else. To all this he assented, 
but expressed a strong wish that a new appointment might 
be made, and he entirely relieved from the Bureau. I 



338 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 21 

replied that I could not for a moment think of relieving 
him of charge of the ordnance, nor ought he to ask, or be 
willing, to relinquish it; that was his place, to which he had 
been educated and for which he had aptitude, and it was 
my wish he should retain his position as Chief of the 
Ordnance Bureau during my connection with the Depart- 
ment. 

As related to any demonstration on Charleston, should 
any be made, he was to consider himself clothed with full 
powers, and to prescribe details, communicating at all 
times and without reserve to the Department; to let me 
have not only all the good news but any bad news, and to 
tell me frankly at any time of embarrassments, change of 
views, or difficulties of any kind. 

June 22, Monday. The rumors yesterday of a fight near 
Aldie are fully confirmed, but as yet no definite informa- 
tion. It is not always pleasant to go to the War Depart- 
ment to have news verified, even if they have the facts. 
Often there is unaccountable, and I think inexcusable, 
want of correct information at Army Headquarters ; if there 
is a reverse, or if there is want of information in relation to 
rumors that reach us, there is always prevarication and 
sometimes a sullen reserve. Generally I have found Stan- 
ton affable and communicative when alone, but not always, 
especially if there has been disaster or unpleasant news. 
Halleck is worse. There has never been intimacy between 
him and me; probably there never will be. I have not 
called over to-day, for those who have, and are entitled to 
know what was doing, have been unsuccessful or met with 
an unpleasant rebuff. 

June 23, Tuesday. Seward called this morning and had 
quite a story to tell of foreign affairs and the successes that 
have attended his management. For a time, he says, mat- 
ters looked a little threatening with France, but Count 
Mercier tells him all is now right, we can do, on certain 



1863] FRENCH TOBACCO IN RICHMOND 339 

points which have been controverted, pretty much as we 
please. 

All this was a prelude to a proposition, the object of 
which was to make excellent friends of the French, who 
have ten thousand hogsheads of tobacco in Richmond 
which they declare was purchased before the Rebellion, 
and which they cannot get out by reason of the blockade. 
This tobacco was being heavily taxed by the Rebels, and 
what the French Government now wants, and what he 
very much wanted, was an arrangement by which this 
French tobacco might be got from Richmond. It would be 
such a capital thing, and the favor would be so highly 
appreciated by the French, that they would become our 
very good friends. 

I informed Mr. Seward it was a plain case and easily dis- 
posed of. We had only to lift the blockade and the French 
tobacco and everybody else's tobacco would leave Rich- 
mond. I did not see how this favor could be granted to the 
French Government and denied to other governments, and 
if extended to foreigners, our own citizens, many of whom 
had large amounts of property in the Rebel region, could 
not be interdicted from its exportation. In plain words 
the blockade must be maintained in good faith or be aban- 
doned. I was not aware that we were under any special ob- 
ligation to the French Government; I would not purchase 
or bribe, and I was opposed to favoritism as a principle in 
government. He said his idea was that a distinction might 
be made in this, that the tobacco belonged to the Gov- 
ernment, and therefore was an isolated case which could 
not be claimed as a precedent, and furthermore it was 
bought and paid for before the blockade was established. 
I told him the principle was the same with governments as 
with individuals; that the Belgian and others had made 
haste to remove their tobacco within the time limited when 
the blockade was declared; that their sympathies were with 
us, they had no faith in the Rebel movement, but it was 
different with the French Government. It did not pain or 



340 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 23 

grieve me that they were taxed and heavy losers by the 
Rebels, and the rules of blockade ought not in my opinion 
to be relaxed for their benefit. 

Mr. Seward was, I saw, discomfited, and he no doubt 
thinks me impolitic, unpractical, and too unyielding and 
severe to successfully administer the Government. I on the 
other hand deem it a misfortune that at a period like this 
there should be any disposition to temporize and indulge 
in expedients of a questionable character or loose and 
inconsiderate practices. "What we have most to fear/' said 
Sir Vernon Harcourt, "is not that America will yield too 
little, but that we shall accept too much." It was not, nor 
will it be, my conduct that prompts this humiliating char- 
acterizing of the American Government. No improper con- 
cessions will be made by me to France or her Minister. 

Neither Seward nor Stanton was at the Cabinet-meet- 
ing. Mr. Bates has left for Missouri. The President was 
with General Hooker at the War Department when we 
met, but soon came in. His countenance was sad and care- 
worn, and impressed me painfully. Nothing of special 
interest was submitted. The accustomed rumor in regard 
to impending military operations continues. 

Chase, who evidently was not aware that General 
Hooker was in Washington until I mentioned it, seemed 
surprised and left abruptly. I tried to inspire a little cheer- 
fulness and pleasant feeling by alluding to the capture of 
the Fingal. For a few moments there was animation and 
interest, but when the facts were out and the story told 
there was no new topic and the bright feelings subsided. 
Believing the President desired to be with General Hooker, 
who has come in suddenly and unexpectedly and for some 
as yet undisclosed reason, I withdrew. Blair left with me. 
He is much dispirited and dejected. We had ten or fifteen 
minutes' talk as we came away. He laments that the 
President does not advise more with all his Cabinet, depre- 
cates the bad influence of Seward, and Chase, and Stanton, 
Halleck, and Hooker. 



1863] ESTIMATE OF DAHLGREN 341 

Had two interviews with Dahlgren to-day in regard to 
his duties as successor of Du Pont in command of the 
South Atlantic Squadron. Enjoined upon him to let me at 
no time remain ignorant of his views if they underwent any 
change, or should be different in any respect from mine or 
the policy proposed. Told him there must be frankness 
and absolute sincerity between us in the discharge of his 
official duties, no reserve though we might differ. I 
must know, truthfully, what he was doing, what he pro- 
posed doing, and have his frank and honest opinions at all 
tunes. He concurs, and I trust there will be no misunder- 
standing. 

My intercourse and relations with Dahlgren have been 
individually satisfactory. The partiality of the President 
has sometimes embarrassed me and given D. promotion 
and prominence which may prove a misfortune in the end. 
It has gamed him no friends in the profession, for the of- 
ficers feel and know he has attained naval honors without 
naval claims or experience. He has intelligence and abil- 
ity without question; his nautical qualities are disputed; 
his skill, capacity, courage, daring, sagacity, and compre- 
hensiveness in a high command are to be tested. He is in- 
tensely ambitious, and, I fear, too selfish. He has the 
heroism which proceeds from pride and would lead him to 
danger and to death, but whether he has the innate, unself- 
ish courage of the genuine sailor and soldier remains to be 
seen. I think him exact and a good disciplinarian, and the 
President regards him with special favor. In periods of 
trying difficulties here, from the beginning of the Rebellion, 
he has never failed me. He would, I know, gallantly sus- 
tain his chief anywhere and make a good second in com- 
mand, such as I wished to make him when I proposed that 
he should be associated with Foote. As a bureau officer he 
is capable and intelligent, but he shuns and evades re- 
sponsibility. This may be his infirmity in his new position. 

The official reports of the capture of the Fingal, alias 
Atlanta, are very gratifying and confirm our estimate of 



342 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 23 

the value of the monitor class of vessels and the fifteen- 
inch guns. The Department, and I, as its head, have been 
much abused for both. Ericsson, the inventor of the 
monitor or turret vessels, wanted a twenty-inch gun. His 
theory is impregnability in a vessel and immense calibre 
for his guns, which shall be irresistible. Dahlgren would 
not himself consent to take the responsibility of more 
than a thirteen-inch gun. Fox and Admiral Smith favored 
a fifteen-inch, which the Department adopted, though with 
some hesitation, without the approval of D., the Ord- 
nance Officer, who, however, did not remonstrate against 
it, but went forward under orders, the responsibility 
being with me and not on him. 

June 24, Wednesday. Admiral Foote still lingers, but 
there is no hope of his recovery. Dahlgren took leave this 
morning for the South Atlantic Squadron. I admonished 
him that his detachment from the Bureau was only tem- 
porary and for a special purpose, and wished him a pros- 
perous and successful time. 

No definite or satisfactory information in regard to 
military movements. If it were clear that the Secretary of 
War and General-in-Chief knew and were directing mili- 
tary movements intelligently, it would be a relief; but they 
communicate nothing and really appear to have little or 
nothing to communicate. What at any time surprises us, 
surprises them. There is no cordiality between them and 
Hooker, not an identity of views and action, such as should 
exist between the general in command in the field and the 
Headquarters and Department, separated only a few miles. 
The consequence is an unhappy and painful anxiety and 
uncertainty, the more distressing to those of us who should 
know and are measurably responsible, because we ought to 
be acquainted with the facts. Were we not in that posi- 
tion, we should be more at ease. 

None of our vessels have succeeded in capturing the 
Rebel pirate Tacony, which has committed great ravages 



1863] THE ARMY AND NAVY GAZETTE 343 

along the coast, although I have sent out over twenty ves- 
sels in search. Had she been promptly taken, I should have 
been blamed for such a needless and expensive waste of 
strength; now I shall be censured for not doing more. 

June 25, Thursday. A special messenger from Mr. Fel- 
ton, President of the Philadelphia & Baltimore Railroad, 
called on me this morning before breakfast, with a request 
I would send a gunboat to Havre de Grace to protect the 
ferryboat, railroad property, and public travel. He says 
Rebels are in the vicinity in disguise, concerting measures 
for mischief. The War Department and military author- 
ities, who should know, are not informed on these matters, 
and I must exercise my own judgment. There is sensitive- 
ness in the public mind, and security is sought sometimes 
unnecessarily, but my conviction is there may be cause for 
apprehension in this instance. I have therefore ordered a 
gunboat from the Potomac Flotilla to the point indicated 
and notified Mr. Felton. 

Word is sent me by a credible person who left Hagers- 
town last evening that Ewell and Longstreet with their 
divisions passed through that place yesterday to invade 
Pennsylvania with sixty thousand men. The number is 
probably exaggerated, but I am inclined to believe there 
may be half that number, perhaps more. Where in the 
mean time is General Hooker and our army? I get nothing 
satisfactory from Headquarters or Stanton. 

The President to-day approved my placing the Bureau 
of Equipment and Recruiting in temporary charge of 
Commander Smith, and the Ordnance Bureau in charge of 
Commander Wise. 

Mr. Stanton called on me this morning and stated he had 
made an arrangement with John C. Rives to publish a 
military journal which he proposed to call the Army and 
Navy Gazette. He wished it to embrace both branches of the 
service unless I objected. The entire expense, over and 
above the receipts, whatever they may be, should be borne 



344 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 25 

by the War Department. I told him I of course could make 
no objection to the name, and if the orders, reports, official 
papers, and current news were regularly and correctly 
published there would be some conveniences attending it. 
The proposition was, however, novel to me, and I knew of 
no law to warrant it or of any appropriation to defray the 
expense. I should therefore decline any pecuniary, official, 
or personal responsibility, or any connection with it. He 
assured me he did not expect or wish me to incur any part 
of the expense or responsibility. 

June 26, Friday. The conduct and course of Admiral 
Du Pont leaves no doubt on my mind that he intends to 
occupy a position antagonistic to the Department. Fox, 
who has been his special friend, is of the same opinion. He 
suggested to me yesterday that the capture of the Fingal 
presented to me a good opportunity to give Rodgers credit, 
and in turning the subject over, we both concluded that the 
letter might be so framed as to detach him, and perhaps 
others whom the Admiral has sought to attach to and make 
part of his clique. Fox caught the points earnestly and 
brought me his ideas in the rough form of a letter. His 
views were very good and I embodied them in a congrat- 
ulatory commendation to Rodgers on his services. 

Rumors are rife concerning the army. If Hooker has 
generalship in him, this is his opportunity. He can scarcely 
fail of a triumph. The President in a single remark to-day 
betrayed doubts of Hooker, to whom he is quite partial. 
" We cannot help beating them, if we have the man. How 
much depends in military matters on one master mind! 
Hooker may commit the same fault as McClellan and lose 
his chance. We shall soon see, but it appears to me he can't 
help but win." 

A pretty full discussion of Vallandigham's case and of 
the committee from Ohio which is here, ostensibly hi his 
behalf, but really to make factious party strength. Blair 
is for letting them return, turning him loose, says he 



1863] BLAIR AND McCLELLAN 345 

will damage his own friends. The President would have no 
objections but for the effect it might have in relaxing army 
discipline, and disgusting the patriotic sentiment and feel- 
ing of the country, which holds V. in abhorrence. 

Blair assures me that Seward and H. Seymour have 
an understanding, are acting in concert. Says Stanton is 
beholden to Seward, who sustains him. Both he denounces. 
They are opposed to putting McClellan in position, fear- 
ing he will be a formidable Presidential candidate. Their 
conduct is forcing him to be a candidate, when he has no 
inclination that way. The tendency of things, B. thinks, is 
to make McClellan and Chase candidates, and if so, he 
says, McC. will beat C. five to one. He tells me he visited 
McC. last winter with a view of bringing him here to take 
Halleck's place. The President was aware of his purpose. 
McC. assured him he had no Presidential aspirations; his 
desire was to be restored to his old military position. When 
B. returned from his successful mission to New York he 
found his plans frustrated, and the President unwilling to 
give them further consideration. Satisfied that Seward, 
whom he had made a confidant to some extent, had de- 
feated his purpose, he embraced the first favorable oppor- 
tunity, when returning in Seward's carriage on the night of 
the 3d of March from the Capitol, to charge Seward with 
not having acted in good faith in the transaction. B. says 
Seward sunk down in the corner of the carriage and made 
no reply. 

June 27, Saturday. A telegram last night informed me of 
the death of Admiral Foote. The information of the last 
few days made it a not unexpected event, yet there was 
a shock when it came. Foote and myself were schoolboys 
together at Cheshire Academy under good old Dr. Bron- 
son, and, though three or four years younger than myself, 
we were pursuing some of the same studies, and there then 
sprang up an attachment between us that never was 
broken. His profession interrupted our intimacy, but at 



346 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 27 

long intervals we occasionally met, and the recollection of 
youthful friendship made these meetings pleasant. 

When I was called to take the administration of the 
Navy Department, he was Executive Officer at the Brook- 
lyn Navy Yard, and wrote me of the pleasure my appoint- 
ment gave him. He soon visited Washington, when I con- 
sulted with him and procured in friendly confidence his 
estimate of various officers. This was before the affair of 
Sumter, and, like many others, he shortly after expressed 
a sad disappointment in regard to some he had commended. 
In fitting out in those early days the expeditions to Fort 
Sumter and Fort Pickens he exhibited that energy and 
activity which more fully displayed itself the following 
autumn and winter in creating and fighting the Mississippi 
Flotilla. His health became there impaired and his con- 
stitution was probably undermined before he took charge 
of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting. Our inter- 
course here was pleasant. His judgment in the main good, 
his intentions pure, and his conduct correct, manly, and 
firm. Towards me he exhibited a deference that was to me, 
who wished a revival and continuance of the friendly and 
social intimacy of earlier years, often painful. But the 
discipline of the sailor would not permit him to do differ- 
ently, and when I once or twice spoke of it, he insisted it 
was proper, and said it was a sentiment which he felt even 
in our schoolday intercourse and friendship. 

Shortly after the demonstration of Du Pont at Charles- 
ton, when I think Foote's disappointment was greater 
than my own, he tendered his services for any duty afloat. 
Some premonition of the disease which ended his life was 
then upon him, and made him believe more active employ- 
ment than the Bureau afforded would conduce to his phys- 
ical benefit. His wife, after he had once or twice alluded to 
the subject, which she did not favor, gave her consent that 
he should go wherever ordered, except to the Mississippi. 
Foote expressed regret that she should have made any 
exception. 




ANDREW HULL FOOTE 



1863] NEEDLESS ALARM AT NEW YORK 347 

He did not wish to supplant Du Pont, whom he admired, 
or take any part against that officer. He was not unaware, 
however, that the Department and the public would turn 
to him as the successor of the hero of Port Royal, should 
there be a change of commanders. I was desirous that both 
he and Dahlgren should go to that squadron, and it was 
finally so arranged, but Providence has ordered differently. 
I have been disappointed. Foote had a name and pres- 
tige which would have carried him into the place assigned 
him on the tide of popular favor, whatever might have 
been the intrigues and assaults on one or both of us from 
any quarter. 

General Wool, Governor Morgan, and Mayor Opdyke 
make a combined effort to retain the Roanoke at New 
York, and write me most earnestly on the subject. The 
idea that New York is in danger is an absurdity, and, with 
a naval force always at the navy yard and in the harbor, 
and with forts and military force, is such a remote con- 
tingency that the most timid lady need not be, and is 
not, alarmed. Morgan and Opdyke, Governor and Mayor, 
have responsibilities that are perhaps excusable, but not 
General Wool, who feeds on panic and fosters excitement. 
It is made the duty of the military at all times to defend 
New York. The Army is sensitive of Navy interference hi 
this specialty, but the Navy will render incidental aid, do 
all that is necessary; but the Army assumes the guardian- 
snip of the ports as the exclusive province of the military, 
independent of the Navy. 

June 28, Sunday. The President convened the Cabinet 
at 10 A.M. and submitted his reply to the Vallandigham 
committee. Save giving too much notoriety and con- 
sequence to a graceless traitor who loves notoriety and 
office, and making the factious party men who are using 
him for the meanest purposes that could influence men in 
such a crisis conspicuous, the letter is well enough, and 
well conceived. 



348 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 28 

After disposing of this subject, the President drew from 
his pocket a telegram from General Hooker asking to be 
Felieved. The President said he had, for several days as 
the conflict became imminent, observed in Hooker the 
same failings that were witnessed in McClellan after the 
Battle of Antietam, a want of alacrity to obey, and a 
greedy call for more troops which could not, and ought not 
to be taken from other points. He would, said the Pre- 
sident, strip Washington bare, had demanded the force at 
Harper's Ferry, which Halleck said could not be complied 
with; he (Halleck) was opposed to abandoning our posi- 
tion at Harper's Ferry. Hooker had taken umbrage at the 
refusal, or at all events had thought it best to give up 
the command. 

Some discussion followed in regard to a successor. The 
names of Meade, Sedgwick, and Couch were introduced. 
I soon saw this review of names was merely a feeler to get 
an expression of opinion a committal or to make it 
appear that all were consulted. It shortly became obvious, 
however, that the matter had already been settled, and the 
President finally remarked he supposed General Halleck 
had issued the orders. He asked Stanton if it was not 
so. Stanton replied affirmatively, that Hooker had been 
ordered to Baltimore and Meade to succeed him. We were 
consulted after the fact. 

Chase was disturbed more than he cared should appear. 
Seward and Stanton were obviously cognizant of what had 
been ordered before the meeting of the Cabinet took place, 
had been consulted. Perhaps they had advised proceed- 
ings, but, doubtful of results, wished the rest to confirm 
their act. Blair and Bates were not present with us. 

Instead of being disturbed, like Chase, I experienced a 
feeling of relief, and only regretted that Hooker, who I 
think has good parts, but is said to be intemperate at times, 
had not been relieved immediately after the Battle of Chan- 
cellorsville. No explanation has ever been made of the 
sudden paralysis which befell the army at that tune. It 



1863] MEADE SUCCEEDS HOOKER 349 

was then reported, by those who should have known, that 
it was liquor. I apprehend from what has been told me it 
was the principal cause. It was so intimated, but not dis- 
tinctly asserted, in Cabinet. 

Nothing has been communicated by the War Depart- 
ment, directly, but there has been an obvious dislike of 
Hooker, and no denial or refutation of the prevalent 
rumors. I have once or twice made inquiries of Stanton, 
but could get no satisfactory reply of any kind. . . . The 
War Department has been aware of these accusations, but 
has taken no pains to disprove or deny them, perhaps 
because they could not be, perhaps because the War De- 
partment did not want to. The President has been partial 
to Hooker hi all this time and has manifested no dispo- 
sition to give him up, except a casual remark at the last 
Cabinet-meeting. 

Whether the refusal to give him the troops at Harper's 
Ferry was intended to drive him to abandon the command 
of the army, or is in pursuance of any intention on the part 
of Halleck to control army movements, and to overrule the 
general in the field, is not apparent. The President has 
been drawn into the measure, as he was into withholding 
McDowell from McClellan, by being made to believe it was 
necessary for the security of Washington. In that in- 
stance, Stanton was the moving spirit, Seward assenting. 
It is much the same now, only Halleck is the forward spirit, 
prompted perhaps by Stanton. 

Of Meade I know very little. He is not great. His bro- 
ther officers speak well of him, but he is considered rather a 
" smooth bore " than a rifle. It is unfortunate that a change 
could not have been made earlier. 

Chase immediately interested himself for the future of 
Hooker. Made a special request that he should be sent to 
Fortress Monroe to take charge of a demonstration upon 
Richmond via James River. The President did not give 
much attention to the suggestion. I inquired what was 
done, or doing, with Dix's command, whether that con- 



350 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 28 

siderable force was coming here, going to Richmond, or to 
remain inactive. The President thought a blow might at 
this tune be struck at Richmond; had not, however, faith 
much could be accomplished by Dix, but though not much 
of a general, there were reasons why he did not like to 
supersede him. Foster he looked to as a rising general who 
had maintained himself creditably at Washington, North 
Carolina. Chase admitted F. was deserving of credit, but 
claimed credit was due Sisson, 1 who relieved him, also. 

Had two or three telegrams last night from Portland in 
relation to pirate privateers, which are cleared up to-day 
by information that Reed had seized the revenue cutter 
Calhoun, and was himself soon after captured. 

The city is full of strange, wild rumors of Rebel raids in 
the vicinity and of trains seized in sight of the Capitol. 
They are doubtless exaggerations, yet I think not without 
some foundation. I am assured from men of truth that a 
Rebel scouting party was seen this morning in the rear of 
Georgetown. Just at sunset, the Blairs rode past my house 
to their city residence, not caring to remain at Silver 
Spring until the crisis is past. 

A large portion of the Rebel army is unquestionably on 
this side the Potomac. The main body is, I think, in the 
Cumberland Valley, pressing on toward Harrisburg, but 
a small force has advanced toward Washington. The War 
Department is wholly unprepared for an irruption here, 
and J. E. B. Stuart might have dashed into the city to-day 
with impunity. In the mean time, Philadelphians and the 
Pennsylvanians are inert and inactive, indisposed to vol- 
unteer to defend even their own capital. Part of this I 
attribute to the incompetency of General Halleck to con- 
centrate effort, acquire intelligence, or inspire confidence; 
part is due to the excitable Governor, who is easily alarmed 
and calls aloud for help on the remotest prospect of dan- 
ger. He is very vigilant, almost too vigilant for calm 

1 Colonel Henry T. Sisson, with his Fifth Rhode Island Volunteers, 
reinforced General Foster in the siege of Washington, North Carolina. 



1863] GREAT APPREHENSION 351 

consideration and wise conclusion, or to have a command- 
ing influence. Is not only anxious but susceptible, im- 
pressible, scary. 

June 29, Monday. Great apprehension prevails. The 
change of commanders is thus far well received. No regret 
is expressed that Hooker has been relieved. This is because 
of the rumor of his habits, the reputation that he is intem- 
perate, for his military reputation is higher than that of his 
successor. Meade has not so much character as such a 
command requires. He is, however, kindly favored; will 
be well supported, have the best wishes of all, but does 
not inspire immediate confidence. A little time may im- 
prove this, and give him name and fame. 

Naval Order No. 16 on the death of Foote and the con- 
gratulatory letter to Rodgers have each been well received. 
The allusion to the character of the monitors was a ques- 
tionable matter, but I thought it an opportunity to coun- 
teract Du Font's mischief which should not pass unim- 
proved. Some of the Rebel sympathizers assail that part 
of it, as I supposed they probably would. Of Foote I could 
have said more, but brevity is best on such occasions. 

June 30, Tuesday. The President did not join us to-day 
in Cabinet. He was with the Secretary of War and Gen- 
eral Halleck, and sent word there would be no meeting. 
This is wrong, but I know no remedy. At such a tune as 
this, it would seem there should be free and constant inter- 
course and interchange of views, and a combined effort. 
The Government should not be carried on in the War or 
State Departments exclusively, nor ought there to be an 
attempt of that kind. 

I understand from Chase that the President and Stan- 
ton are anxious that Dix should make a demonstration on 
Richmond, but Halleck does not respond favorably, 
whether because he has not confidence in Dix, or himself, 
or from any cause, I do not know. This move on Rich- 



352 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JUNE 30 

mond is cherished by Chase, and with a bold, dashing, 
energetic, and able general might be effective, but I agree 
with the President that Dix is not the man for such a 
movement. Probably the best thing that can now be done, 
is to bring all who can be spared from garrison duty to the 
assistance of General Meade. 

Lee and his army are well advanced into Pennsylvania, 
and they should not be permitted to fall back and recross 
the Potomac. Halleck is bent on driving them back, not 
on intercepting their retreat; is full of zeal to drive them 
out of Pennsylvania. I don't want them to leave the State, 
except as prisoners. Meade will, I trust, keep closer to 
them than some others have done. I understand his first 
order was for the troops at Harper's Ferry to join him, 
which was granted. Hooker asked this, but it was denied 
him by the War Department and General Halleck. 

Blah- is much dissatisfied. He came from the Executive 
Mansion with me to the Navy Department and wrote a 
letter to the President, urging that Dix's command should 
be immediately brought up. Says Halleck is good for 
nothing and knows nothing. I proposed that we should 
both walk over to the War Department, but he declined; 
said he would not go where Stanton could insult him, that 
he disliked at all tunes to go to the War Department, had 
not been there for a long period, although the Government 
of which he is a member is in these days carried on, almost, 
in the War Department. 

We have no positive information that the Rebels have 
crossed the Susquehanna, though we have rumors to that 
effect. There is no doubt the bridge at Columbia, one and 
a hah" miles long, has been burnt, and, it seems, by our own 
people. The officer who ordered it must have been imbued 
with Halleck's tactics. I wish the Rebel army had got 
across before the bridge was burnt. But Halleck's prayers 
and efforts, especially his prayers, are to keep the Rebels 
back, drive them back across the " frontiers" instead 
of intercepting, capturing, and annihilating them. This 



1863] LEE IN PENNSYLVANIA 353 

movement of Lee and the Rebel forces into Pennsylvania 
is to me incomprehensible, nor do I get any light from 
military men or others in regard to it. Should they cross 
the Susquehanna, as our General-in-Chief and Governor 
Curtin fear, they will never recross it without being first 
captured. This they know, unless deceived by their sym- 
pathizing friends in the North, as in 1861; therefore I do 
not believe they will attempt it. 

I have talked over this campaign with Stanton this even- 
ing, but I get nothing from him definite or satisfactory of 
fact or speculation, and I come to the conclusion that he is 
bewildered, that he gets no light from his military subordi- 
nates and advisers, and that he really has no information 
or opinion as to the Rebel destination or purpose. 



X 

First Reports of the Battle of Gettysburg Stanton accused by McClellan 
of sacrificing the Army F. P. Blair on Stanton's Early Secessionist 
Sympathies Stanton's Treachery toward the Buchanan Administra- 
tion Seward's Intrigues His Misconception of the War Later 
News from Gettysburg Vice-President Stephens's Proposed Mission 
to Washington Intercepted Confederate Dispatches Cabinet- 
Meeting on Stephens's Mission Meade lingering at Gettysburg 
The Fall of Vicksburg Lincoln's Receipt of the News Rejoicings 
over Gettysburg and Vicksburg Vice-President Hamlin's Request for 
a Prize Court at Portland Some of the Generals Content to have the 
War continue Draft Riots The President's Dejection at the Fail- 
ure of Meade to capture Lee's Army The Draft Riots in New York 
Lee recrosses the Potomac Prospects of an Early Ending to the War 
An Estimate of Jefferson Davis Calhoun and Nullification Sen- 
ator Bale's Hostility Downfall of the Mexican Republic Impres- 
sions of Colonel Rawlins of Grant's Staff Grant's Dissatisfaction with 
McClernand. 

July 1, Wednesday. We have reports that the Rebels 
have fallen back from York, and I shall not be surprised if 
they escape capture, or even a second fight, though we have 
rumors of hard fighting to-day. 

July 2, Thursday. A telegram this morning advises me 
of the death of General R. C. Hale, the brother of Mrs. 
Welles, at Reedsville in the County of Mifflin, Pennsyl- 
vania. He was the efficient Quartermaster-General of 
Pennsylvania, a good officer and capable and upright man. 
The public never had a more faithful and honest officer. 

Met Sumner and went with him to the War Depart- 
ment. The President was there, and we read dispatches 
received from General Meade. There was a smart fight, 
but without results, near Gettysburg yesterday. A rumor 
is here that we have captured six thousand prisoners, and 
on calling again this evening at the War Department I saw 
a telegram which confirms it. General Reynolds is re- 
ported killed. The tone of Meade's dispatch is good. 



1863] THE BLAIRS ON STANTON 355 

Met the elder Blair this evening at his son's, the Postmas- 
ter-General. The old gentleman has been compelled to leave 
his pleasant home at Silver Spring, his house being in range 
of fire and Rebel raiders at his door. He tells me McClel- 
lan wrote Stanton after the seven days' fight near Rich- 
mond that he (Stanton) had sacrificed that army. Stanton 
replied cringingly, and in a most supplicating manner, 
assuring McClellan he, Stanton, was his true friend. Mr. 
F. P. Blair assures me he has seen the letters. He also 
says he has positive, unequivocal testimony that Stanton 
acted with the Secessionists early in the War and favored 
a division of the Union. He mentions a conversation at 
John Lee's house, where Stanton set forth the advantages 
that would follow from a division. 

Mr. Montgomery Blair said Stanton was talking Seces- 
sion to one class, and holding different language to another; 
that while in Buchanan's Cabinet he communicated Tou- 
cey's treason to Jake Howard and secretly urged the arrest 
of Toucey. During the winter of 1860 and 1861, Stanton 
was betraying the Buchanan Administration to Seward, 
disclosing its condition and secrets, and that for his treach- 
ery to his then associates and his becoming the tool of 
Seward, he was finally brought into the present Cabinet. 

These things I have heard from others also, and there 
have been some facts and circumstances to corroborate 
them within my own knowledge. Mr. Seward, who has 
no very strong convictions and will never sacrifice his life 
for an opinion, had no belief that the insurrection would 
be serious or of long continuance. Familiar with the fierce 
denunciations and contentions of parties in New York, 
where he had, from his prominent position and strong ad- 
herents, been accustomed to excite and direct, and then 
modify, the excesses roused by anti-Masonry and anti-rent 
outbreaks by pliable and liberal action, he entertained no 
doubt that he should have equal success in bringing about 
a satisfactory result in national affairs by meeting exac- 
tion with concessions. He was strengthened in this by 



356 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 2 

the fact that there was no adequate cause for a civil war, 
or for the inflammatory, excited, and acrimonious lan- 
guage which flowed from his heated associates in Congress. 
Through the infidelity of Stanton he learned the feelings 
and designs of the Buchanan Administration, which were 
not of the ultra character of the more impassioned Seces- 
sion leaders. One of the Cabinet already paid court to him; 
Dix 1 and some others he knew were not disunionists; and, 
never wanting faith hi his own skill and management, he 
intended, if his opponents would not go with him, as the 
last alternative to go with them and call a convention to 
remodel the Constitution. Until some weeks after Mr. 
Lincoln's inauguration Seward never doubted that he 
could by some expedient a convention or otherwise 
allay the storm. Some who ultimately went into the Re- 
bellion also hoped it. Both he and they overestimated his 
power and influence. Stanton in the winter of 1861 whis- 
pered in his ear state secrets, it was understood, because 
Seward was to be first in the Cabinet of Lincoln, who was 
already elected. The Blairs charge Stanton with infidelity 
to party and to country from mere selfish considerations, 
and with being by nature treacherous and wholly unreli- 
able. Were any overwhelming adversity to befall the 
country, they look upon him as ready to betray it. 

July 3, Friday. I met the President and Seward at the 
War Department this morning. A dispatch from General 
Meade, dated 3 P.M. yesterday, is in very good tone. The 
Sixth Army Corps, he says, was just arriving entire but 
exhausted, having been on the march from 9 P.M. of the 
preceding evening. In order that they may rest and recruit, 
he will not attack, but is momentarily expecting an onset 
from the Rebels. 

They were concentrating for a fight, and, unless Meade is 
greatly deceived, there will be a battle in the neighborhood 
of Gettysburg. I hope our friends are not deceived so that 

1 John A. Dix, Secretary of the Treasury in 1861. 



1863] NEWS OF GETTYSBURG 357 

the Rebel trains with their plunder can escape through 
the valley. 

July 4, Saturday. I was called up at midnight precisely 
by a messenger with telegram from Byington, dated at 
Hanover Station, stating that the most terrific battle of the 
War was being fought at or near Gettysburg, that he left 
the field at half-past 6 P.M. with tidings, and that every- 
thing looked hopeful. The President was at the War De- 
partment, where this dispatch, which is addressed to me, 
was received. It was the first word of the great conflict. 
Nothing had come to the War Department. There seems 
to have been no system, no arrangement, for prompt, con- 
stant, and speedy intelligence. I had remained at the War 
Department for news until about eleven. Some half an 
hour later the dispatch from Byington to me came over 
the wires, but nothing from any one to Stanton or Hal- 
leek. The operator in the War Department gave the 
dispatch to the President, who remained. He asked, " Who 
is Byington? " None in the Department knew anything of 
him, and the President telegraphed to Hanover Station, 
asking, "Who is Byington?" The operator replied, "Ask 
the Secretary of the Navy." I informed the President that 
the telegram was reliable. Byington is the editor and pro- 
prietor of a weekly paper in Norwalk, Connecticut, active 
and stirring; is sometimes employed by the New York 
Tribune, and is doubtless so employed now. 

The information this morning and dispatches from 
General Meade confirm Byington's telegram. There is 
much confusion in the intelligence received. The informa- 
tion is not explicit. A great and bloody battle was fought, 
and our army has the best of it, but the end is not yet. 
Everything, however, looks encouraging. i 

Later in the day dispatches from Haupt and others state 
that Lee with his army commenced a retreat this A.M. at 
three o'clock. Our army is waiting for supplies to come up 
before following, a little of the old lagging infirmity. 



358 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 4 

Couch is said to be dilatory; has not left Harrisburg; his 
force has not pushed forward with alacrity. Meade sent 
him word, "The sound of my guns should have prompted 
your movement." Lee and the Rebels may escape in con- 
sequence. If they are driven back, Halleck will be satisfied. 
That has been his great anxiety, and too many of our offi- 
cers think it sufficient if the Rebels quit and go off, that 
it is unnecessary to capture, disperse, and annihilate them. 

Extreme partisans fear that the success of our arms will 
be success to the Administration. Governor Curtin is in 
trepidation, lest, if our troops leave Harrisburg to join 
Meade, the Rebels will rush in behind them and seize the 
Pennsylvania capital. On the other hand, Stanton and 
Halleck ridicule the sensitiveness of the Governor, and are 
indifferent to his wishes and responsibilities. Of course, 
matters do not work well. 

Received this evening a dispatch from Admiral Lee, 
stating he had a communication from A. H. Stephens, 1 
who wishes to go to Washington with a companion as 
military commissioner from Jefferson Davis, Commanding 
General of Confederate forces, to Abraham Lincoln, Presi- 
dent and Commanding General of the Army and Navy of 
the United States, and desires permission to pass the block- 
ade in the steamer Torpedo on this mission, with Mr. Olds, 
his private secretary. Showed the dispatch to Blair, whom 
I met. He made no comment. Saw Stanton directly after, 
who swore and growled indignantly. The President was at 
the Soldiers' Home and not expected for an hour or two. 
Consulted Seward, who was emphatic against having any- 
thing to do with Stephens or Davis. Did not see the Pre- 
sident till late. In the mean time Stanton and others had 
seen him, and made known their feelings and views. The 
President treats the subject as not very serious nor very 
important, and proposes to take it up to-morrow. My own 
impression is that not much good is intended in this pro- 
position, yet it is to be met and considered. It is not 
1 Vice-President of the Confederacy. 



1863] ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS'S MISSION 359 

necessary that the vessel should pass the blockade, or 
that Stephens should come here, but I would not repel 
advances, or refuse to receive Davis's communication. 

I learn from Admiral Lee that General Keyes with 
12,000 men has moved forward from the " White House" 
towards Richmond, and other demonstrations are being 
made. 

Two intercepted dispatches were received, captured by 
Captain Dahlgren. One was from Jeff Davis, the other 
from Adjutant-General Cooper, both addressed to General 
Lee. They disclose trouble and differences among the 
Rebel leaders. Lee, it seems, had an understanding with 
Cooper that Beauregard should concentrate a force of 
40,000 at Culpeper for a demonstration, or something 
more, on Washington, when the place became uncovered 
by the withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac in pursuit 
of Lee. Davis appears not to have been informed of this 
military arrangement, nor satisfied with the programme 
when informed of it. Lee is told of the difficulty of defend- 
ing Richmond and other places, and that he must defend 
his own lines, instead of relying upon its being done from 
Richmond. 

July 5, Sunday. A Cabinet-meeting to-day at 11 A.M. 
The principal topic was the mission of Alexander H. Ste- 
phens. The President read a letter from Colonel Ludlow, 
United States Agent for exchange of prisoners, to Secre- 
tary Stanton, stating that Stephens had made a communi- 
cation to Admiral Lee, which the Admiral had sent to the 
Secretary of the Navy. After reading them, the President 
said he was at first disposed to put this matter aside with- 
out many words, or much thought, but a night's reflection 
and some remarks yesterday had modified his views. 
While he was opposed to having Stephens and his vessel 
come here, he thought it would be well to send some one 
perhaps go himself to Fortress Monroe. Both Seward 
and Stanton were startled when this remark was made. 



360 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULYS 

Seward did not think it advisable the President should go, 
nor any one else; he considered Stephens a dangerous man, 
who would make mischief anywhere. The most he (Sew- 
ard) would do would be to allow Stephens to forward any 
communication through General Dix. Seward passes by 
Admiral Lee and the Navy Department, through whom 
the communication originally came. Stanton was earnest 
and emphatic against having anything to do with Ste- 
phens, or Jeff Davis, or their communication. Chase was 
decided against having any intercourse with them. Blair 
took a different view. He would not permit Stephens to 
come here with his staff, but would receive any communica- 
tion he bore, and in such a case as this, he would not cavil 
about words. Something more important was involved. 

While this discussion was going on, I wrote a brief an- 
swer to Lee, and said to the President I knew not why 
Colonel Ludlow was intruded as the medium of communi- 
cation, or General Dix, that neither of them was in any 
way connected with this transaction. Admiral Lee, in com- 
mand of the blockading force, received a communication 
from Mr. Stephens, and had made known to the Navy De- 
partment, under whose orders he is acting, the application 
of the gentleman who had a mission to perform, and was 
now with Admiral Lee waiting an answer. In this stage of 
the proceeding, the Secretary of State proposes that Ad- 
miral Lee should be ignored, and the subject transferred 
from the Navy to some military officer, or one of his staff. 
Was it because Admiral Lee was incompetent, or not to be 
trusted? Admiral Lee has informed Stephens he cannot 
be permitted to pass until he has instructions from the 
Navy Department. Nothing definite has yet been sug- 
gested hi reply. He and the parties are waiting to hear 
from me, and I propose to take some notice of his appli- 
cation, and, unless the President objects, send an answer 
as follows to Admiral Lee: 

"The object of the communication borne by Mr. 
Stephens is not stated or intimated. It is not expedient 



1863] ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS'S MISSION 361 

from this indefinite information that you should permit 
that gentleman to pass the blockade with the Torpedo." 

None of the gentlemen adopted or assented to this, nor 
did they approximate to unity or anything definite on any 
point. After half an hour's discussion and disagreement, 
I read what I had pencilled to the President, who sat by 
me on the sofa. Under the impression that I took the same 
view as Chase and Stanton, he did not adopt it. Seward, 
in the mean time, had reconsidered his proposition that 
the communication should be received, and thought with 
Stanton it would be best to have nothing to do with the 
mission in any way. The President was apprehensive my 
letter had that tendency. Mr. Blair thought my sugges- 
tion the most practical of anything submitted. Chase said 
he should be satisfied with it. Stanton the same. Seward 
thought that both Stanton and myself had better write, 
each separate answers, Stanton to Ludlow and I to Lee, 
but to pretty much the same effect. 

The President said my letter did not dispose of the com- 
munication which Stephens bore. I told him the dispatch 
did not exclude it. Though objection was made to any 
communication, an .answer must be sent Admiral Lee. 
Everything was purposely left open, so that Stephens 
could, if he chose, state or intimate his object. I left the 
dispatch indefinite in consequence of the diversity of opin- 
ion among ourselves, but that I had not the least objection, 
and should for myself prefer to add, "I am directed by 
the President to say that any communication which Mr. 
Stephens may have can be forwarded." 

This addendum did not, as I knew it would not, meet 
the views entertained by some of the gentlemen. The 
President prefers that a special messenger should be sent 
to meet Stephens, to which I see no serious objection, but 
which no one favors. I do not anticipate anything frank, 
manly, or practical in this mission, though I do not think 
Stephens so dangerous a man as Mr. Seward represents 
him. It is a scheme without doubt, possibly for good, 



362 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULYS 

perhaps for evil, but I would meet it in a manner not 
offensive, nor by a rude refusal would I give the Rebels 
and their sympathizers an opportunity to make friends at 
our expense or to our injury. This, I think, is the Pre- 
sident's purpose. Mr. Blair would perhaps go farther than 
myself, the others not so far. We must not put ourselves 
in the wrong by refusing to communicate with these peo- 
ple. On the other hand, there is difficulty in meeting and 
treating with men who have violated their duty, disre- 
garded their obligations, and who lack sincerity. 

I ought to answer Lee, and, because I have not, Ludlow 
and Dix have been applied to. Seward will make the Sec- 
retary of War or himself the medium and not the Secretary 
of the Navy, Ludlow or Dix, not Admiral Lee. I pro- 
posed to inform Admiral Lee that his communication 
should be answered to-morrow, it having been decided we 
would not reply to-day. Seward said the subject would not 
spoil by keeping. The President thought it best to send no 
word until we gave a conclusive answer to-morrow. 

At 5 P.M. I received a telegram that the Torpedo with 
Mr. Stephens had gone up the river. Another telegram at 
eight said she had returned. 

July 6, Monday. There was a special Cabinet-meeting at 
9 A.M. on the subject of A. H. Stephens's mission. Seward 
came prepared with a brief telegram, which the President 
had advised, to the effect that Stephens's request to come 
to W. was inadmissible, but any military communication 
should be made through the prescribed military channel. 
A copy of this answer was to be sent to the military officer 
in command at Fortress Monroe by the Secretary of War, 
and the Secretary of the Navy was to send a copy to Ad- 
miral Lee. The President directed Mr. Seward to go to the 
telegraph office and see that they were correctly transmit- 
ted. All this was plainly prearranged by Seward, who has 
twice changed his ground, differing with the President 
when Chase and Stanton differed, but he is finally com- 



1863] MEADE LINGERING AT GETTYSBURG 363 

missioned to carry out the little details which could be 
done by an errand boy or clerk. 

The army news continues to be favorable. Lee is on the 
retreat, and Meade in hot pursuit, each striving to get 
possession of the passes of the Potomac. 

A note from Wilkes stating he had reached home, and 
would have reported in person but had received an injury. 
A letter is published in one of the papers, purporting to be 
from him at Havana, written by himself or at his instiga- 
tion, expressing a hope that Lardner, his successor, will be 
furnished with men and more efficient vessels. I hope so 
too. Wilkes has not had so large a force as I wished; he could 
not under any circumstances have had so large a squadron 
as he desired. To say nothing of the extensive blockade, 
Farragut's detention through the winter and spring be- 
fore Vicksburg was unexpected, and the operations before 
Charleston have been long and protracted. 

The papers this evening bring us the speeches of the two 
Seymours, Horatio and Thomas Henry, on the Fourth at 
New York. A couple of partisan patriots, neither of whom 
is elated by Meade's success, and whose regrets are over 
Rebel reverses. 

July 7, Tuesday. The President said this morning, with 
a countenance indicating sadness and despondency, that 
Meade still lingered at Gettysburg, when he should have 
been at Hagerstown or near the Potomac, to cut off the 
retreating army of Lee. While unwilling to complain and 
willing and anxious to give all praise to the general and 
army for the great battle and victory, he feared the old 
idea of driving the Rebels out of Pennsylvania and Mary- 
land, instead of capturing them, was still prevalent among 
the officers. He hoped this was not so, said he had spoken 
to Halleck and urged that the right tone and spirit should 
be infused into officers and men, and that General Meade 
especially should be reminded of his (the President's) 
wishes and expectations. But General Halleck gave him 



364 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 7 

a short and curt reply, showing that he did not participate 
and sympathize in this feeling, and, said the President, 
"I drop the subject." 

This is the President's error. His own convictions and 
conclusions are infinitely superior to Halleck's, even in 
military operations more sensible and more correct always, 
but yet he says, " It being strictly a military question, it 
is proper I should defer to Halleck, whom I have called 
here to counsel, advise, and direct in these matters, where 
he is an expert. ' ' I question whether he should be considered 
an expert. I look upon Halleck as a pretty good scholarly 
critic of other men's deeds and acts, but as incapable of 
originating or directing military operations. 

When I returned from the Cabinet council I found a 
delegation from Maine at the Department, consisting of 
Vice-President Hamlin, the two Senators from that State, 
and Senator Wilson of Massachusetts. These gentlemen 
had first waited on the President in regard to the coast 
defenses and protection of the fishermen, and were re- 
ferred by him to me instead of the army, which claims to 
defend the harbors. At the moment of receiving this dele- 
gation I was handed a dispatch from Admiral Porter, com- 
municating the fall of Vicksburg on the fourth of July. 
Excusing myself to the delegation, I immediately returned 
to the Executive Mansion. The President was detailing 
certain points relative to Grant's movements on the map 
to Chase and two or three others, when I gave him the 
tidings. Putting down the map, he rose at once, said we 
would drop these topics, and "I myself will telegraph this 
news to General Meade." He seized his hat, but suddenly 
stopped, his countenance beaming with joy; he caught my 
hand, and, throwing his arm around me, exclaimed: " What 
can we do for the Secretary of the Navy for this glorious 
intelligence? He is always giving us good news. I cannot, 
in words, tell you my joy over this result. It is great, Mr. 
Welles, it is great!" 

We walked across the lawn together. "This," said he, 



1863] THE FALL OF VICKSBURG 365 

"will relieve Banks. It will inspire me." The opportunity 
I thought a good one to request him to insist upon his own 
views, to enforce them, not only on Meade but on Halleck. 

July 8, Wednesday. There was a serenade last night in 
honor of the success of our arms at Gettysburg and Vicks- 
burg. The last has excited a degree of enthusiasm not 
excelled during the war. The serenade was got up for a 
purpose. As a matter of course the first music was at 
the President's. Mr. Seward's friend, General Martindale, 
arranged matters, and a speech of Mr. Seward duly pre- 
pared was loudly delivered, but the music did not do him 
the honors. To Mr. Secretary Stanton and Major-General 
Halleck they discoursed sweet sounds, and each responded 
in characteristic remarks. No allusion was made by either 
of them to the Navy, or its services. General Halleck never 
by a scratch of his pen, or by a word from his mouth, ever 
awarded any credit to the Navy for anything. I am not 
aware that his sluggish mind has ever done good of any 
kind to the country. 

The rejoicing in regard to Vicksburg is immense. Ad- 
miral Porter's brief dispatch to me was promptly trans- 
mitted over the whole country, and led, everywhere, to 
spontaneous gatherings, firing of guns, ringing of bells, and 
general gratification and gladness. The price of gold, to 
use the perverted method of speech, fell ten or fifteen cents 
and the whole country is joyous. I am told, however, that 
Stanton is excessively angry because Admiral Porter her- 
alded the news to me in advance of General Grant to the 
War Department. The telegraph office is in the War De- 
partment Building, which has a censorship over all that 
passes or is received. Everything goes under the Secre- 
tary's eye, and he craves to announce all important infor- 
mation. In these matters of announcing news he takes as 
deep an interest as in army movements which decide the 
welfare of the country. 

The Potomac is swollen by the late heavy rains, and the 



366 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULYS 

passage of the Rebel army is rendered impossible for 
several days. They are short of ammunition. In the mean 
time our generals should not lose their opportunity. I 
trust they will not. Providence favors them. Want of 
celerity, however, has been one of the infirmities of some 
of our generals in all this war. Stanton and Halleck should 
stimulate the officers to press forward at such a time as this, 
but I fear that they are engaged in smaller matters and they 
will be more unmindful of these which are more important. 
Halleck's policy consists in stopping the enemy's advance, 
or in driving the enemy back, never to capture. Enough 
has been said to S. and H. to make them aware of the 
urgency of the President and Cabinet, and I trust it may 
have a good effect, but I do not learn that anything extra 
is being done. The President says he is rebuffed when he 
undertakes to push matters. 

I yesterday informed Vice-President Hamlin and the 
Maine Senators we should try to keep a couple of steamers 
and two sailing-vessels cruising off New England during 
the fishing season; that we could not furnish a gunboat to 
every place; that the shore defenses belonged properly 
to the War Department, etc. They on the whole seemed 
satisfied. 

The President sends me a strange letter from Hamlin, 
asking as a personal favor that prizes may be sent to 
Portland for adjudication, says he has not had many 
favors, asks this on personal grounds. Mr. Hamlin spoke 
on this subject to me, said the President referred it to 
me; and both he and Mr. Fessenden made a strong local 
appeal hi behalf of Portland. I informed them that such 
a matter was not to be disposed of on personal grounds 
or local favoritism; that Portsmouth, Providence, New 
Haven, and other places had equal claims, if there were 
any claims, but that public consideration must govern, and 
not personal favoritism; that additional courts would in- 
volve great additional expense; that we had no navy yard 
or station at Portland, with officers to whom the captors 




HANNIBAL HAMLIN 



1863] HANNIBAL HAMLIN'S RAPACITY 367 

could report, no prison to confine prisoners, no naval 
constructors or engineers to examine captured vessels, 
etc., etc. These facts, while they somewhat staggered the 
gentlemen, quieted Fessenden, but did not cause Hamlin, 
who is rapacious as a wolf, to abate his demand for govern- 
ment favors. He wanted these paraphernalia, these extra 
persons, extra boards, and extra expenditures at Portland, 
and solicited them of the President, as special to himself 
personally. 

July 9, Thursday. The Secretary of War and General 
Halleck are much dissatisfied that Admiral Porter should 
have sent me information of the capture of Vicksburg in 
advance of any word from General Grant, and also with 
me for spreading it at once over the country without veri- 
fication from the War Office. 

July 10, Friday. I am assured that our army is steadily, 
but I fear too slowly, moving upon Lee and the Rebels. 
There are, I hope, substantial reasons for this tardiness. 
Why cannot our army move as rapidly as the Rebels? The 
high water hi the river has stopped them, yet our troops 
do not catch up. It has been the misfortune of our gen- 
erals to linger, never to avail themselves of success, 
to waste, or omit to gather, the fruits of victory. Only 
success at Gettysburg and Vicksburg will quiet the coun- 
try for the present hesitancy. No light or explanation is 
furnished by the General-in-Chief or the War Department. 

July 11, Saturday. Am sorry to see in the New York 
Tribune an attempt to compliment me by doing injustice 
to Mr. Seward. On the question of the French tobacco we 
differed. I think it should remain in Richmond until 
the blockade is raised. In regard to the claims of Spain to 
a maritime jurisdiction of six miles, Mr. S., though at first 
confused and perplexed, seemed relieved by my suggestion. 
I apprehend that Mr. Fox, who is intimate with one of the 



368 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY n 

correspondents of the Tribune, may, with the best inten- 
tions to myself, have said something which led to the 
article. It may have been Mr. Sumner, who is acquainted 
with the facts, and often tells the newspaper people things 
they ought not to know and publish. 

I fear the Rebel army will escape, and am compelled to 
believe that some of our generals are willing it should. 
They are contented to have the War continue. Never before 
have they been so served nor their importance so felt and 
magnified, and when the War is over but few of them will 
retain their present importance. 

I directed Colonel Harris a few days since to instruct the 
Marine Band when performing on public days to give us 
more martial and national music. This afternoon they 
begun strong. Nicolay soon came to me aggrieved; wanted 
more finished music to cultivate and refine the popular 
taste, German and Italian airs, etc. Told him I was no 
proficient, but his refined music entertained the few effem- 
inate and the refined; it was insipid to most of our fighting 
men, inspired no hearty zeal or rugged purpose. In days 
of peace we could lull into sentimentality, but should shake 
it off in these days. Martial music and not operatic airs 
are best adapted to all. 

July 13, Monday. The army is still at rest. Halleck 
stays here in Washington, within four hours of the army, 
smoking his cigar, doing as little as the army. If he gives 
orders for an onward movement and is not obeyed, why 
does he not remove to headquarters in the field? If this 
army is permitted to escape across the Potomac, woe be to 
those who permit it! 

The forces which were on the Pamunkey have been 
ordered up and are passing through Baltimore to the great 
army, which is already too large, four tunes as large as 
the Rebels, who have been driven on to the banks of the 
Potomac, and are waiting for the river to fall, so that they 
can get back into Virginia without being captured or 



1863] DRAFT RIOTS 369 

molested, and Meade is waiting to have them. Drive 
them back, is Halleck's policy. 

Wrote a congratulatory letter to Porter on the fall of 
Vicksburg. Called on the President and advised that 
Porter should be made a rear-admiral. He assented very 
cheerfully, though his estimate of Porter is not so high as 
mine. Stanton denies him any merit; speaks of him as a 
gas-bag, who makes a great fuss and claims credit that 
belongs to others. Chase, Seward, and Blair agree with me 
that Porter has done good service. I am aware of his in- 
firmities. He is selfish, presuming, and wasteful, but is 
brave and energetic. 

July 14, Tuesday. We have accounts of mobs, riots, and 
disturbances in New York and other places in consequence 
of the Conscription Act. Our information is very meagre; 
two or three mails are due; the telegraph is interrupted. 
There have been powerful rains which have caused great 
damage to the railroads and interrupted all land communi- 
cation between this and Baltimore. 

There are, I think, indubitable evidences of concert in 
these riotous movements, beyond the accidental and im- 
pulsive outbreak of a mob, or mobs. Lee's march into 
Pennsylvania, the appearance of several Rebel steamers 
off the coast, the mission of A. H. Stephens to Washington, 
seem to be parts of one movement, have one origin, are all 
concerted schemes between the Rebel leaders and Northern 
sympathizing friends, the whole put in operation when 
the Government is enforcing the conscription. This con- 
junction is not all accidental, but parts of a great plan. In 
the midst of all this and as a climax comes word that Lee's 
army has succeeded in recrossing the Potomac. If there 
had been an understanding between the mob conspirators, 
the Rebels, and our own officers, the combination of in- 
cidents could not have been more advantageous to the 
Rebels. 

The Cabinet-meeting was not full to-day. Two or three 



370 

of us were there, when Stanton came in with some haste 
and asked to see the President alone. The two were absent 
about three minutes in the library. When they returned, 
the President's countenance indicated trouble and distress; 
Stanton was disturbed, disconcerted. Usher asked Stanton 
if he had bad news. He said, "No." Something was said 
of the report that Lee had crossed the river. Stanton said 
abruptly and curtly he knew nothing of Lee's crossing. 
"I do," said the President emphatically, with a look of 
painful rebuke to Stanton. "If he has not got all of his 
men across, he soon will." 

The President said he did not believe we could take up 
anything in Cabinet to-day. Probably none of us were 
in a right frame of mind for deliberation; he was not. 
He wanted to see General Halleck at once. Stanton left 
abruptly. I retired slowly. The President hurried and 
overtook me. We walked together across the lawn to the 
Departments and stopped and conversed a few moments 
at the gate. He said, with a voice and countenance which 
I shall never forget, that he had dreaded yet expected 
this; that there has seemed to him for a full week a deter- 
mination that Lee, though we had him in our hands, 
should escape with his force and plunder. "And that, my 
God, is the last of this Army of the Potomac! There is bad 
faith somewhere. Meade has been pressed and urged, but 
only one of his generals was for an immediate attack, was 
ready to pounce on Lee; the rest held back. What does it 
mean, Mr. Welles? Great God! what does it mean?" I 
asked what orders had gone from him, while our troops 
had been quiet with a defeated and broken army in front, 
almost destitute of ammunition, and an impassable river 
to prevent their escape. He could not say that anything 
positive had been done, but both Stanton and Halleck 
professed to agree with him and he thought Stanton did. 
Halleck was all the tune wanting to hear from Meade. 
"Why," said I, "he is within four hours of Meade. Is it 
not strange that he has not been up there to advise and 



1863] THE PRESIDENT'S DEJECTION 371 

encourage him?" I stated I had observed the inertness, if 
not incapacity, of the General-in-Chief, and had hoped that 
he, who had better and more correct views, would issue 
peremptory orders. The President immediately softened 
his tone and said: "Halleck knows better than I what to 
do. He is a military man, has had a military education. 
I brought him here to give me military advice. His views 
and mine are widely different. It is better that I, who am 
not a military man, should defer to him, rather than he to 
me." I told the President I did not profess to be a military 
man, but there were some things on which I could form 
perhaps as correct an opinion as General Halleck, and I 
believed that he, the President, could more correctly, cer- 
tainly more energetically, direct military movements than 
Halleck, who, it appeared to me, could originate nothing, 
and was, as now, all the time waiting to hear from Meade, 
or whoever was in command. 

I can see that the shadows which have crossed my mind 
have clouded the President's also. On only one or two 
occasions have I ever seen the President so troubled, so 
dejected and discouraged. 

Two hours later I went to the War Department. The 
President lay upon a sofa in Stanton's room, completely 
absorbed, overwhelmed with the news. He was, however, 
though subdued and sad, calm and resolute. Stanton had 
asked me to come over and read Dana's 1 report of the 
materials found at Vicksburg. The amount is very great, 
and the force was large. Thirty-one thousand two hundred 
prisoners have been paroled. Had Meade attacked and 
captured the army above us, as I verily believe he might 
have done, the Rebellion would have been ended. He was 
disposed to attack, I am told, but yielded to his generals, 
who were opposed. If the war were over, those generals 
would drop into subordinate positions. 

July 15, Wednesday. We have the back mails this 
1 Charles A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War. 



372 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 15 

morning. The papers are filled with accounts of mobs, riots, 
burnings, and murders in New York. There have been 
outbreaks to resist the draft in several other places. This 
is anarchy, the fruit of the seed sown by the Seymours 
and others. In New York, Gov. Horatio Seymour is striv- 
ing probably earnestly now to extinguish the flames 
he has contributed to kindle. Unless speedy and decisive 
measures are taken, the government and country will be 
imperiled. These concerted outbreaks and schemes to 
resist the laws must not be submitted to or treated lightly. 
An example should be made of some of the ringleaders and 
the mob dispersed. It is reported that the draft is ordered 
to be stopped. I hope this is untrue. If the mob has the 
ascendency and controls the action of the government, 
lawful authority has come to an end. In all this tune no 
Cabinet-meeting takes place. ?jj 

Seward called on me to-day with the draft of a Procla- 
mation for Thanksgiving on the 29th hist. With Meade's 
failure to capture or molest Lee in his retreat and with 
mobs to reject the laws, it was almost a mockery, yet we 
have much to be thankful for. A wise Providence guards 
us ancf will, it is hoped, overrule the weakness and wicked- 
ness of men and turn their misdeeds to good. 

I have dispatches this evening from Admiral Dahlgren 
with full report of operations on Morris Island. Although 
not entirely successful, his dispatch reads much more 
satisfactorily than the last ones of Du Pont. 

We hear through Rebel channels of the surrender of 
Port Hudson. It was an inevitable necessity, and the 
rumors correspond with our anticipations. 

July 16, Thursday. It is represented that the mob in 
New York is about subdued. Why it was permitted to con- 
tinue so long and commit such excess has not been ex- 
plained. Governor Seymour, whose partisans constituted 
the rioters, and whose partisanship encouraged them, 
has been in New York talking namby-pamby. This Sir 



1863] LEE RECROSSES THE POTOMAC 373 

Forcible Feeble is himself chiefly responsible for the out- 
rage. 

General Wool, unfitted by age for such duties, though 
patriotic and well-disposed, has been continued in command 
there at a time when a younger and more vigorous mind 
was required. In many respects General Butler would at 
this time have best filled that position. As a municipal and 
police officer he has audacity and certain other qualities 
in which most military men are deficient, while as a gen- 
eral in the field he is likely to accomplish but little. He, 
or any one else, would need martial law at such a time, and 
with such element, in a crowded and disorderly city like 
New York. Chase tells me there will probably be a change 
and that General Dix will succeed General Wool. The 
selection is not a good one, but the influences that bring it 
about are evident. Seward and Stanton have arranged it. 
Chase thinks McDowell should have the position. He is as 
good, perhaps, as any of the army officers for this mixed 
municipal military duty. ? 1"' ' 

Lee's army has recrossed the Potomac, unmolested, 
carrying off all its artillery and the property stolen in Penn- 
sylvania. When I ask why such an escape was permitted, 
I am told that the generals opposed an attack. What gen- 
erals? None are named. Meade is in command there; 
Halleck is General-in-Chief here. They should be held 
responsible. There are generals who, no doubt, will acqui- 
esce without any regrets in having this war prolonged. 

In this whole summer's campaign I have been unable to 
see, hear, or obtain evidence of power, or will, or talent, or 
originality on the part of General Halleck. He has sug- 
gested nothing, decided nothing, done nothing but scold 
and smoke and scratch his elbows. Is it possible the ener- 
gies of the nation should be wasted by the incapacity of 
such a man? 

John Rodgers of the Weehawken was here to-day. He 
is, I think, getting from under the shadow of Du Pont's 
influence. 



374 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 16 

Mr. Hooper and Mr. Gooch have possessed themselves 
of the belief not a new one in that locality that the 
Representatives of the Boston and Charlestown districts 
are entitled to the custody, management, and keeping of 
the Boston Navy Yard, and that all rules, regulations, and 
management of that yard must be made to conform to 
certain party views of theirs and their party friends. 

July 17, Friday. At the Cabinet council Seward ex- 
pressed great apprehension of a break-up of the British 
Ministry. I see in the papers an intimation that should 
Roebuck's motion for a recognition of the Confederacy 
prevail, Earl Russell would resign. I have no fears that the 
motion will prevail. The English, though mischievously 
inclined, are not demented. I wish the policy of our Sec- 
retary of State, who assumes to be wise, was as discreet as 
theirs. He handed me consular dispatches from Mr. 
Dudley at Liverpool and is exceedingly alarmed; fears Eng- 
land will let all the ironclads and rovers go out, and that 
the sea robbers will plunder and destroy our commerce. 
Mr. Dudley is an excellent consul, vigilant, but somewhat, 
and excusably, nervous, and he naturally presents the facts 
which he gets in a form that will not do injustice to the 
activity and zeal of the consul. Seward gives, and always 
has given, the fullest credit to the wildest rumors. 

Some remarks on the great error of General Meade in 
permitting Lee and the Rebel army with all their plunder 
to escape led the President to say he would not yet give up 
that officer. "He has committed," said the President, "a 
terrible mistake, but we will try him farther." No one ex- 
pressed his approval, but Seward said, "Excepting the es- 
cape of Lee, Meade has shown ability." It was evident 
that the retention of Meade had been decided. 

In a conversation with General Wadsworth, who called 
on me, I learned that at the council of the general officers, 
Meade was disposed to make an attack, and was supported 
by Wadsworth, Howard, and Pleasonton, but Sedgwick, 



1863] LETTER FROM GOVERNOR ANDREW 375 

Sykes, and the older regular officers dissented. Meade, 
rightly disposed but timid and irresolute, hesitated and 
delayed until too late. Want of decision and self-reliance 
in an emergency has cost him and the country dear, for 
had he fallen upon Lee it could hardly have been otherwise 
than the capture of most of the Rebel army. 

The surrender of Port Hudson is undoubtedly a fact. 
It could not hold out after the fall of Vicksburg. We have 
information also that Sherman has caught up with and 
beaten Johnston. 

July 18, Saturday. Have a letter from Governor An- 
drew, who in a matter misrepresented me; claims to have 
been led into error by the " Gloucester men," and is will- 
ing to drop the subject. 1 I shall not object, for the Governor 
is patriotic and zealous as well as somewhat fussy and 
fanatical. 

General Marston and others, a delegation from New 
Hampshire with a letter from the Governor, wanted ad- 
ditional defenses for Portsmouth. Letters from numerous 
places on the New England coast are received to the same 
effect. Each of them wants a monitor, or cruiser, or both. 
Few of them seem to be aware that the shore defenses are 
claimed by and belong to the War, rather than the Navy, 
Department, nor do they seem to be aware of any necessity 
for municipal and popular effort for their own protection. 

Two delegations are here from Connecticut in relation 
to military organizations for home work and to preserve 
the peace. I went to the War Department in their behalf, 
and one was successful, perhaps both. 

1 This refers to the statement, in a letter of July 1, from Governor 
Andrew to Secretary Welles, that the Navy Department had sent no 
vessels to the defense of the Massachusetts coast till after the Confederate 
cruiser Tacony " had rioted along the Vineyard Sound for four days." The 
Secretary, under date of July 11, showed the incorrectness of this allega- 
tion, and Governor Andrew, in his letter of the 16th, withdrew it and 
explained that it was made " upon the authority of municipal officers and 
citizens of Gloucester." 



376 

There is some talk, and with a few, a conviction, that 
we are to have a speedy termination of the war. Blair is 
confident the Rebellion is about closed. I am not so san- 
guine. As long as there is ability to resist, we may expect 
it from Davis and the more desperate leaders, and when 
they quit, as they will if not captured, the seeds of discon- 
tent and controversy which they have sown will remain, 
and the social and political system of the insurrectionary 
States is so deranged that small bodies may be expected to 
carry on for a time, perhaps for years, a bushwhacking 
warfare. It will likely be a long period before peace and 
contentment will be fully restored. Davis, who strove to 
be, and is, the successor of Calhoun, without his ability, 
but with worse intentions, is ambitious and has deliber- 
ately plunged into this war as the leader, and, to win power 
and fame, has jeopardized all else. The noisy, gasconading 
politicians of the South who figured in Congress for years 
and had influence have, in their new Confederacy, sunk 
into insignificance. The Senators and Representatives who 
formerly loomed up in Congressional debate in Washing- 
ton, and saw their harangues spread before the country 
by a thousand presses, have all been dwarfed, wilted, and 
shriveled. The " Confederate Government," having the 
element of despotism, compels its Congress to sit with 
closed doors. Davis is the great "I am." 

In the late military operations of the Rebels he has dif- 
fered with Lee, and failed to heartily sustain that officer. 
It was Lee's plan to uncover Washington by inducing 
Hooker to follow him into Pennsylvania. Hooker fell into 
the trap and withdrew everything from here, which is sur- 
prising, for Halleck's only study has been to take care of 
himself and not fall into Rebel hands. But he felt himself 
safe if Hooker and the army were between him and Lee. 

From the interrupted dispatches and other sources, it is 
ascertained that Lee's plan was the concentration of a force 
of 40,000 men at Culpeper to rush upon Washington when 
our army and the whole Potomac force was far away in the 



1863] ESTIMATE OF JEFFERSON DAVIS 377 

Valley of the Cumberland. But Davis, whose home is in 
Mississippi and whose interest is there, did not choose to 
bring Beauregard East. The consequence has been the 
frustration of Lee's plans, which have perished without 
fruition. He might have been disappointed, had he been 
fairly, seconded. Davis has undoubtedly committed a 
mistake. It hastens the end. Strange that such a man as 
Davis, though possessing ability, should mislead and de- 
lude millions, some of whom have greater intellectual 
capacity than himself. They were, however, and had been, 
in a course of sectional and pernicious training under Cal- 
houn and his associates, who for thirty years devoted their 
time and talents to the inculcation first of hate, and then 
of sectional division, or a reconstruction of the federal 
government on a different basis. Nullification was an out- 
growth. When Calhoun closed his earthly career several 
men of far less ability sought to wear his mantle. I have 
always entertained doubts whether Calhoun intended a 
dismemberment of the Union. He aimed to procure special 
privileges for the South, something that should secure 
perpetuity to the social and industrial system of that sec- 
tion, which he believed, not without reason, was endan- 
gered by the increasing intelligence and advancing spirit 
of the age. Many of the lesser lights shallow political 
writers and small speech-makers talked flippantly of 
disunion, which they supposed would enrich the South and 
impoverish the North. " Cotton is king," they said and 
believed, and with it they would dictate terms not only to 
the country but the world. The arrogance begotten of this 
folly led to the great Rebellion. 

Davis is really a despot, exercising arbitrary power, and 
the people of the South are abject subjects, demoralized, 
subdued, but frenzied and enraged, with little individual 
independence left, an impoverished community, hurry- 
ing to swift destruction. "King Cotton" furnishes them 
no relief. Men are not permitted in that region of chivalry 
to express their views if they tend to national unity. 



378 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY is 

Hatred of the Union, of the government, and of the country 
is the basis of the Confederate despotism. Hate, sectional 
hate, is really the fundamental teaching of Calhoun and 
his disciples. How is it to be overcome and when can it 
be eradicated? It has been the growth of a generation, and 
abuse of the doctrine of States' rights, a doctrine sound 
and wholesome in our federal system when rightly exer- 
cised. But when South Carolina in 1832 assumed the 
sovereign right of nullifying the laws of the government 
of which she was a member, defeating by State action 
the federal authority and setting it at defiance, claim- 
ing to be a part of the Union but independent of it while 
yet a part, her position becomes absolutely contradictory 
and untenable. Compelled to abandon the power and 
absolute right of a State to overthrow the government 
which she helped to create, or destroy federal jurisdiction, 
the nullifiers, still discontented, uneasy, and ambitious, 
resorted to another expedient, that of withdrawing from 
the Union, and, by combining with other States, establish- 
ing power to resist the government and country. Sectional- 
ism or a combination of States was substituted for the old 
nullification doctrine of States' rights. If they could not 
remain in the Union and nullify its laws, they could secede 
and disregard laws and government. Can it be extin- 
guished in a day? I fear not. It will require time. 

It is sad and humiliating to see men of talents, capacity, 
and of reputed energy and independence, cower and 
shrink and humble themselves before the imperious mas- 
ter who dominates over the Confederacy. Political associ- 
ation and the tyranny of opinion and of party first led them 
astray, and despotism holds them in the wrong as with 
a vise. The whole political, social, and industrial fabric of 
the South is crumbling to ruins. They see and feel the 
evil, but dare not attempt to resist it. There is little love 
or respect for Davis among such intelligent Southern men 
as I have seen. 

Had Meade done his duty, we should have witnessed 



1863] GENERALS PROLONGING THE WAR 379 

a speedy change throughout the South. It is a misfortune 
that the command of the army had not been in stronger 
hands and with a man of broader views, and that he had 
not a more competent superior than Halleck. The late 
infirm action will cause a postponement of the end. Lee 
has been allowed to retreat to retire unmolested, 
with his army and guns, and the immense plunder which 
the Rebels have pillaged. The generals have succeeded 
in prolonging the war. Othello's occupation is not yet 
gone. 

July 20, Monday. Morgan's invasion of Ohio and In- 
diana is likely to terminate more creditably to the Union 
cause than Lee's excursion into Pennsylvania. It looks as 
if the fellow and his force would be captured. 

July 21, Tuesday. A dispatch from General Grant makes 
mention of large captures of cattle coming east from Texas, 
and of munitions going south to Kirby Smith. General 
Sherman is following up Joe Johnston. 

A dispatch from Admiral Porter says that he, in concert 
with General Grant, sent an expedition up the Yazoo and 
that it was a complete success. Grant in his dispatch 
makes no mention of, or allusion to, the Navy in this 
expedition, nor of any consultation with Admiral Porter, 
although without the naval force and naval cooperation 
nothing could have been accomplished. 

LeRoy telegraphs that he, with his gunboats, followed 
Morgan, or kept on his flank five hundred miles up the 
Ohio River, encountered him when attempting to cross 
the river near Bluffington, and drove him back. 

The aspect of things is more favorable and it is amusing 
to read the English papers and speeches anticipating, 
hoping, predicting disaster to the Union cause. It will 
be more amusing to read the comments on the reception 
of intelligence by the steamer which left soon after 
the 4th inst. 



380 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 22 

July 22, Wednesday. A delegation from Connecticut, 
appointed by the Legislature, called on me and consumed 
some time in relation to the coast defenses of the State and 
the waters of Long Island Sound. There is quite a panic 
along the whole New England coast. It is impossible to 
furnish all the vessels desired, and there is consequently 
the disagreeable result of refusal. I have very little appre- 
hension of danger from any rover or predatory excursion 
in that quarter, yet it is possible, as it is possible some 
Rebel may set my house on fire. Should a rover make a 
dash in the Sound, do damage, and escape, great and heavy 
would be the maledictions on me after these formal appli- 
cations. I am many times a day reminded and told of my 
responsibility. 

Called last evening to see young Dahlgren. Was shocked 
to hear the gallant young fellow had lost his leg. Shall be 
glad if he does not lose his life, which I much fear. 

Mr. Gooch and Mr. Hooper * continue to be very trouble- 
some in regard to the Charlestown Navy Yard, which they 
are disposed to take into their hands, so far at least as to 
make it subservient to their election and party aspirations. 

July 23, Thursday. I had a call on Monday morning 
from Senator Morgan and Sam J. Tilden of New York in 
relation to the draft. General Cochrane was present dur- 
ing the interview and took part in it. The gentlemen 
seemed to believe a draft cannot be enforced in New 
York. 

Am feeling anxious respecting movements in Charleston 
Harbor. It is assumed on all hands by the people and the 
press that we shall be successful. I am less sanguine, 
though not without hopes. Fort Wagner should have been 
captured hi the first assault. The Rebels were weaker then 
than they will be again, and we should have been as strong 
at the first attack as we can expect to be. Gillmore may 

1 Daniel W. Gooch and Samuel Hooper, Republican Congressmen from 
Massachusetts. 



1863] SOLICITOR WHITING 381 

have been a little premature, and had not the necessary 
force for the work. 

Whiting, Solicitor of the War Department, has gone to 
Europe. Is sent out by Seward, I suppose, for there is much 
sounding of gongs over the mission instituted by the State 
Department to help Mr. Adams and our consuls in the 
matter of fitting, or of preventing the fitting out of naval 
vessels from England. This Solicitor Whiting has for sev- 
eral months been an important personage here. I have 
been assured from high authority he is a remarkable man. 
The Secretary of War uses him, and I am inclined to be- 
lieve he uses the Secretary of War. This fraternity has 
made the little man much conceited. Mr. Seward, Mr. 
Chase, and even the President have each of them spoken 
to me of him, as capable, patriotic, and a volunteer in the 
civil service to help the Government and particularly 
the War Department. 

I have found him affable, anxious to be useful, with some 
smartness; vain, egotistical, and friendly; voluble, ready, 
sharp, not always profound, nor wise, nor correct; cunning, 
assuming, presuming, and not very fastidious; such a man 
as Stanton would select and Seward use. Chase, finding 
him high in the good graces of the President and the Sec- 
retary of War, has taken frequent occasion to speak highly 
of Solicitor Whiting. My admiration is not as exalted as it 
should be, if he is all that those who ought to know repre- 
sent him. 

July 24, Friday. This being Cabinet day, Mr. Seward 
spent an hour with the President, and when the rest came 
in, he immediately withdrew. Some inquiry was made in 
regard to army movements and Meade in particular, but 
no definite information was communicated. Meade is 
watching the enemy as fast as he can since he let them slip 
and get away from him. 

Some cheering news from Foster, who has cut the great 
Southern Railroad and burnt the bridge over Tar River. 



382 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 24 

A force fromKelleyhas also seized and destroyed the South- 
western Railroad at Wytheville. While something efficient 
is being done by Union generals with small commands, the 
old complaint of inactivity and imbecility is again heard 
against the great Army of the Potomac. Meade is I say 
it in all kindness unequal to his position, cannot grasp 
and direct so large a command, would do better with a 
smaller force and more limited field, or as second under a 
stronger and more able general. If he hesitates like McClel- 
lan, it is for a different reason. Since the Battle of Gettys- 
burg he has done nothing but follow Lee at a respectful 
distance. 

July 25, Saturday. Colonels Ross and Morris, command- 
ing two of our Connecticut regiments, came to see me. 
Each is of opinion that few men will be obtained in that 
State under the draft. I fear the subject has not been 
managed with much skill, and that it has been done with- 
out much consultation or advice. Possibly one or two 
members of the Cabinet have run to the War Department 
and volunteered their views. I have not. 

July 26, Sunday. Dispatches from Admiral Dahlgren 
under date of the 21st were received in the second mail. 
He says Gillmore had but 8000 men when he commenced 
operations, that of these he has lost by casualties killed, 
wounded, and prisoners about 1200, and a like number 
are useless by illness, the result of overexertion, etc., so 
that he has actually less than 6000 effective men. The 
War Department does not propose to strengthen him. 
Dahlgren three or four tim^s has said the force was inade- 
quate, and expressed a hope for reinforcements. I sent 
Assistant Fox with these dispatches to Halleck, who re- 
buffed him, said General Gillmore had called for no more 
troops, and if we would take care of the Navy, he would 
take care of the Army. 

I went this noon (Sunday) to the President with Dahl- 



1863] REINFORCEMENTS FOR GILLMORE 383 

gren's dispatches; told him the force under Gillmore was 
insufficient for the work assigned him; that it ought not 
now to fail; that it ought not to have been begun unless it 
was understood his force was to have been increased; that 
such was his expectation, and I wished to know if it could 
not be done. It would be unwise to wait until Gillmore was 
crushed and repelled, and to then try and regain lost 
ground, which seemed to be the policy of General Halleck; 
instead of remaining inactive till Gillmore, exhausted, 
cried for help, his wants should be anticipated. 

The President agreed with me fully, but said he knew 
not where the troops could come from, unless from the 
Army of the Potomac, but if they were going to fight they 
would want all then" men. I asked if he really believed 
Meade was going to have a battle. He looked at me earn- 
estly for a moment and said: "Well, to be candid, I have 
no faith that Meade will attack Lee; nothing looks like it 
to me. I believe he can never have another as good oppor- 
tunity as that which he trifled away. Everything since 
has dragged with him. No, I don't believe he is going to 
fight." 

"Why, then," I asked, "not send a few regiments to 
Charleston? Gillmore ought to be reinforced with ten 
thousand men. We intend to send additional seamen and 
marines." "Well," said the President, "I will see Halleck. 
I think we should strain a point. May I say to him that 
you are going to strengthen Dahlgren? " "Yes," I replied. 
"But it would be better that you should say you ordered it, 
and that you also ordered the necessary army increase. 
Let us all do our best." 

Our interview was in the library, and was earnest and 
cordial. If, following the dictates of his own good judg- 
ment, instead of deferring to Halleck, who lacks power, 
sagacity, ability, comprehension, and foresight to devise, 
propose, plan, and direct great operations, and who is 
reported to be engaged on some literary work at this 
important period, the President were to order and direct 



384 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 26 

measures, the army would be inspired and the country 
benefited. A delicacy on the part of Gillmore to ask for aid 
is made the excuse of the inert General-in-Chief for not 
sending the troops which are wanted, and when he learns 
from a reliable source of the weak condition of the com- 
mand, he will not strengthen it, or move, till calamity over- 
takes it, or he is himself ordered to do his duty. Halleck 
originates nothing, anticipates nothing, to assist others; 
takes no responsibility, plans nothing, suggests nothing, 
is good for nothing. His being at Headquarters is a na- 
tional misfortune. 

July 27, Monday. Had a strange letter from Senator 
John P. Hale, protesting against the appointment of 
Commodore Van Brunt to the command of the Ports- 
mouth Navy Yard, because he and V. B. are not on friendly 
terms. He wishes me to become a party to a personal con- 
troversy and to do injustice to an officer for the reason that 
he and that officer are not in cordial relations. The pre- 
tensions and arrogance of Senators become amazing, and 
this man, or Senator, would carry his private personal 
disagreement into public official actions. Such are his 
ideas of propriety and Senatorial privilege and power that 
he would not only prostitute public duty to gratify his 
private resentment, but he would have the Department 
debased into an instrument to minister to his enmities. 

I have never thought of appointing Van Brunt to that 
yard, but had I intended it, this protest could in no wise 
prevent or influence me. With more propriety, I could 
request the Senate not to make Hale Chairman of the 
Naval Committee, for in the entire period of my admin- 
istration of the Navy Department, I have never received 
aid, encouragement, or assistance of any kind whatever 
from the Chairman of the Naval Committee of the Senate, 
but constant, pointed opposition, embarrassment, and 
petty annoyance, of which this hostility to Van Brunt is 
a specimen. But I have not, and shall not, ask the Senate 



1863] FALL OF THE MEXICAN REPUBLIC 385 

to remove this nuisance out of their way and out of my 
way. They have witnessed his conduct and know his 
worthlessness in a business point of view; they know what 
is due to the country and to themselves, as well as to the 
Navy Department. 

The Mexican Republic has been extinguished and an 
empire has risen on its ruins. But for this wicked rebellion 
in our country this calamity would not have occurred. 
Torn by factions, down-trodden by a scheming and de- 
signing priesthood, ignorant and vicious, the Mexicans are 
incapable of good government, and unable to enjoy ra- 
tional freedom. But I don't expect an improvement of their 
condition under the sway of a ruler imposed upon them by 
Louis Napoleon. 

The last arrivals bring us some inklings of the reception 
of the news that has begun to get across the Atlantic of 
our military operations. John Bull is unwilling to relin- 
quish the hope of our national dismemberment. There is, 
on the part of the aristocracy of Great Britain, malignant 
and disgraceful hatred of our government and people. In 
every way that they could, and dare, they have sneakingly 
aided the Rebels. The tone of then- journals shows a re- 
luctance to believe that we have overcome the Rebels, or 
that we are secure in preserving the Union. The Battle of 
Gettysburg they will not admit to have been disastrous to 
Lee, and they represent it as of little importance com- 
pared with Vicksburg and Port Hudson, which they do 
not believe can be taken. Palmerston and Louis Napoleon 
are as much our enemies as Jeff Davis. 

July 28, Tuesday. The Secretary of War promises that 
he will reinforce General Gillmore with 5000 men. I 
thought it should be 10,000 if we intended thorough work, 
but am glad of even this assurance. General Halleck ex- 
cuses his non-action by saying Gillmore had not applied for 
more men. Vigilance is not one of Halleck's qualifica- 
tions. 



386 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 29 

July 29, Wednesday. A very busy day, though still far 
from well. Had a call from Colonel Forney. Some re- 
marks which I made in relation to Rebel movements ap- 
peared to strike him with interest, and, as he left me, he 
said he should go at once and enter them for an editorial. 
This evening he sends me a note requesting me to read my 
article in his paper, the Chronicle, to-morrow morning. 

July 30, Thursday. John P. Hale is here in behalf of 
certain contractors who have been guilty of bad faith. 
The Chairman of the Naval Committee is not on this 
service without pay. Commander Wise, who is Acting 
Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, wants Aulick appointed 
Assistant. This will aid him to the position of actual Chief, 
should Dahlgren not return, and increase Aulick's pay. 
There will be no change of duties. 

July 31, Friday. I met at the President's, and was intro- 
duced by him to, Colonel Rawlins of General Grant's staff. 
He arrived yesterday with the official report of the taking 
of Vicksburg and capture of Pemberton's army. Was much 
pleased with him, his frank, intelligent, and interesting 
description of men and account of army operations. His 
interview with the President and Cabinet was of nearly 
two hours' duration, and all, I think, were entertained by 
him. His honest, unpretending, and unassuming manners 
pleased me; the absence of pretension, and I may say the 
unpolished and unrefined deportment, of this earnest and 
sincere man, patriot, and soldier pleased me more than that 
of almost any officer whom I have met. He was never at 
West Point and has had few educational advantages, yet 
he is a soldier, and has a mind which has served his general 
and his country well. He is a sincere and earnest friend of 
Grant, who has evidently sent him here for a purpose. 

It was the intention of the President last fall that Gen- 
eral McClernand, an old neighbor and friend of his, should 
have been associated with Admiral Porter in active opera- 



1863] GRANT AND McCLERNAND 387 

tions before Vicksburg. It was the expressed and earnest 
wish of Porter to have a citizen general, and he made it a 
special point to be relieved from associations with a West- 
Pointer; all West-Pointers, he said, were egotistical and 
assuming and never willing to consider and treat naval 
officers as equals. The President thought the opportunity 
a good one to bring forward his friend McClernand, in 
whom he has confidence and who is a volunteer officer of 
ability, and possesses, moreover, a good deal of political 
influence in Illinois. Stanton and Halleck entered into his 
views, for Grant was not a special favorite with either. He 
had also, like Hooker, the reputation of indulging too 
freely in whiskey to be always safe and reliable. 

Rawlins now comes from Vicksburg with statements in 
regard to McClernand which show him an impracticable 
and unfit man, that he has not been subordinate and 
intelligent, but has been an embarrassment, and, instead 
of directing or assisting in, has been really an obstruction 
to, army movements and operations. In Rawlins's state- 
ments there is undoubtedly prejudice, but with such ap- 
pearance of candor, and earnest and intelligent convic- 
tion, that there can be hardly a doubt McClernand is in 
fault, and Rawlins has been sent here by Grant in order 
to enlist the President rather than bring dispatches. In 
this, I think, he has succeeded, though the President feels 
kindly towards McClernand. Grant evidently hates him, 
and Rawlins is imbued with the feelings of his chief. 

Seward wished me to meet him and the President at the 
War Department to consider the subject of the immediate 
occupation of some portion of Texas. My letters of the 
9th and 23d ult. and conversation since have awakened 
attention to the necessity of some decisive action. [These 

letters follow.] 

NAVT DEPARTMENT, 

9 June, 1863. 

SIR, 

In acknowledging the receipt of the copy of despatch No. 51, 
from the Vice Consul at Havana, transmitted to me with your 



388 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 31 

letter of the 6th inst., I have the honor to state that the sug- 
gestions therein contained are worthy of consideration. It is, in 
every point of view, important that early and effective measures 
should be taken, not only to interdict the traffic carried on with 
the rebels on the Rio Grande, but to afford protection to loyal 
citizens in Western Texas. 

I shall send a copy of the Vice Consul's despatch to Rear Ad- 
miral Farragut and direct his attention to the subject; but with- 
out a military occupation of Brownsville, I apprehend the naval 
force alone will be insufficient to either blockade, or protect our 
interests in that quarter. The navigation of the Rio Grande 
must be left unobstructed and until the left bank of the river 
shall be occupied by our troops, a large portion of the cargoes 
that are formally cleared for Matamoras have a contingent 
destination for Texas. Most of the shipments to Matamoras 
will, until such occupancy, pass into the rebel region. 

The subject is one demanding the attention of the Govern- 
ment at the earliest available moment. 

I am, respectfully, 

Your Obd't Serv't 
GIDEON WELLES, 

Secty. of Navy. 
HON. WM. H. SEWARD, 
Secty. of State. 

NAVY DEPARTMENT, 
23 June, 1863. 

Sm, 

I have the honor to return herewith the consular despatches 
which accompanied your letter of the 16th ultimo. 

The suggestion of our commercial agent at Belize, in regard to 
the traffic carried on by the insurgents via Matamoras, deserves 
especial consideration. It appears to me some measures should 
be taken to interdict this trade; for as now permitted, the great 
purposes and ends of the Blockade are measurably defeated. 
That the clearances which these vessels have ostensibly for Mata- 
moras, as Mr. Leas remarks, were subterfuges decoys to cover 
up the true designs and purposes of the parties, which are to 
introduce, through French and other agencies, contraband of war 
into the hands of our enemies is notorious. 

It is desirable that the fraudulent practices mentioned by Mr. 



1863] TRAFFIC ON THE RIO GRANDE 389 

Leas should be discontinued, and I trust the attention of the 
British and Mexican Governments is called to them. 

It seems to me some measures should be taken in concert with 
Mexico, by which illicit traffic with the rebels, by the way of the 
Rio Grande, may be prevented; or if that Government will not 
come into an arrangement, then by some legitimate means assert 
our right to carry into effect an efficient and thorough blockade 
of that river. The trade of Matamoras has nominally increased 
an hundred fold since the blockade of the insurgent States was 
instituted. Admiral Bailey informs the Department that over 
two hundred vessels are off the mouth of the Rio Grande, when 
ordinarily there are but six or eight. Our rights as a nation ought 
not to be sacrificed because a new question has arisen that has 
not heretofore been adjudicated or settled by diplomatic arrange- 
ment. Because the Rio Grande is a neutral highway, it is not 
to be used to our injury, yet we know such to be the fact, and 
it seems to me some effectual steps should be taken to correct the 
evil. It can be done, I apprehend, in a manner satisfactory 
to both countries, and a principle be established that will be con- 
formable to international law. I must ask you to excuse me for 
pressing this subject upon your consideration. 

I would also invite your special attention to that portion of the 
despatch which refers to a mail arrangement, by which Captain 
Lombard, of the schooner "Robert Anderson," with British 
papers, was to run a regular mail from Belize to Matamoras for 
the "Confederate Government." Would it not be well to inform 
the Secretary'of War of the facts in relation to " Vallez," at New 
Orleans, that General Banks may be apprized of the schemes 
and purposes of that gentleman? 

I am, respectfully, 
Your Obd't Serv't 

GIDEON WELLES, 

Secty. of Navy. 
HON. WM. H. SEWABD, 
Secty. of State. 

The European combination, or concerted understand- 
ing, against us begins to be developed and appreciated. 
The use of the Rio Grande to evade the blockade, and the 
establishment of regular lines of steamers to Matamoras 



390 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY si 

did not disturb some of our people, but certain move- 
ments and recent givings-out of the French have alarmed 
Seward, who says Louis Napoleon is making an effort to 
get Texas; he therefore urges the immediate occupation 
of Galveston and also some other point. At the Cabinet- 
meeting to-day, he tookStanton aside and had ten minutes' 
private conversation with him in a low tone. I was then 
invited to the conversation and received the above in- 
formation. I agreed to call as requested at the appointed 
time, but why this partial, ex-parte, half-and-half way of 
doing these things? Why are not these matters unfolded 
to the whole Cabinet? Why a special meeting of only three 
with General Halleck? It is as important that the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, who is granting clearances from New 
York to Matamoras and thereby sanctions the illicit trade 
of the English and French, should be advised if any of us. 
The question which Mr. Seward raises is political, national, 
and so important to the whole country that the Administra- 
tion should be fully advised, but for some reason is re- 
stricted. The Secretary of State likes to be exclusive; does 
not want all the Cabinet in consultation, but is particular 
himself to attend all meetings. It exhibits early bad train- 
ing and party management, not good administration. 

Soon after two I went to the War Department. Seward, 
Stanton, and Halleck were there, and the Texas subject 
was being discussed. Halleck, as usual, was heavy, slug- 
gish, not prepared to express an opinion. Did not know 
whether General Banks would think it best to move on 
Mobile or Galveston, and if on Galveston whether he 
would prefer transportation by water or would take an 
interior route. Had just written Banks. Wanted his reply. 
I turned to Seward, and, alluding to his morning conversa- 
tion, I inquired what a demonstration on Mobile had to do 
with foreign designs in another section. How far Halleck 
had been let into a knowledge of measures which were 
withheld from a majority of the Cabinet I was uninformed, 
though I doubt not Halleck was more fully posted than 



1863] HALLECK'S SLUGGISHNESS 391 

myself. Halleck, apprehending the purport of my inquiry, 
said he mentioned Mobile because there had been some 
information from Banks concerning operations in that 
direction before the new question came up. I then asked, 
if a demonstration was to be made on Texas to protect 
and guard our western frontier, whether Indianola was 
not a better point than Galveston. Halleck said he did 
not know, had not thought of that. "Where," said he, 
"is Indianola? What are its advantages?" I replied, 
in western Texas, where the people had been more loyal 
than in eastern Texas. It was much nearer the Rio Grande 
and the Mexican border, consequently was better situated 
to check advances from the other side of the Rio Grande; 
the harbor had deeper water than Galveston; the place 
was but slightly fortified, was nearer Austin, etc., etc. 
Halleck was totally ignorant on these matters; knew no- 
thing of Indianola, 1 was hardly aware there was such a 
place; settled down very stolidly; would decide nothing for 
the present, but must wait to hear from General Banks. 
The Secretary of State was profoundly deferential to the 
General-in-Chief, hoped he would hear something from 
General Banks soon, requested to be immediately informed 
when word was received; and we withdrew as General 
Halleck lighted another cigar. 

This is a specimen of the management of affairs. A 
majority of the members of the Cabinet are not per- 
mitted to know what is doing. Mr. Seward has something 
in regard to the schemes and designs of Louis Napoleon; 
he cannot avoid communicating with the Secretaries of 
War and the Navy, hence the door is partially open to 
them. Others are excluded. Great man Halleck is con- 
sulted, but is not ready, has received nothing from 
others, who he intends shall have the responsibility. 

1 Indianola, Texas, is no longer to be found on the map. It was situ- 
ated on the western shore of Matagorda Bay on the site now occupied 
by Port Lavaca, about 125 miles west-southwest of Galveston, but waa 
destroyed by cyclones in 1885 and 1886. 



392 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [JULY 31 

Therefore we must wait a few weeks and not improbably 
lose a favorable opportunity. 

The truth is that Halleck, who has been smuggled into 
position here by Stanton, aided by Pope and General 
Scott, is unfit for the place. He has some scholastic 
attainments but is no general. I can pass that judgment 
upon him, though I do not profess to be a military man. 
He has failed to acquit himself to advantage as yet, and 
the country needs other talents to be successful. 



XI 

Refutation of Laird's Statement as to an Application from the Navy De- 
partment The President refuses to postpone the Draft Connection 
of Howard of Brooklyn with the Laird Matter The Provisions of the 
Draft Act discussed in Cabinet General Halleck and the Almaden 
Mines The President adopts Seward's Views as to Instructions to 
Naval Officers The President's Letter- Writing The Ironclads not 
to leave England A Confidential Communication from Seward 
Assistant-Secretary Fox and the Howard Affair Conversation with 
Chase on the Subject of Slavery General Meade meets the Cabinet 
Suggestions from Boston General F. P. Blair's Account of the Vicks- 
burg Campaign Injustice of the Draft Act A Letter from North 
Carolina Solicitor Whiting's Schemes for dealing with Slavery 
Death of Governor Gurley of Arizona Conversation with Chase on 
the Reconstruction of the Union Secession of the States not to be 
recognized Death of Commander George W. Rodgers The Case of 
the Mont Blanc Toombs on Southern Conditions The Secretary 
of the Navy placed by Seward in a False Position as to Movements 
against the English Cruisers The Subject of Reunion. 

August 1, Saturday. Made a selection of midshipmen 
for Naval School. An immense number of applicants 
and, of course, many disappointments. Some of the young 
men, and among them probably those who are deserving, 
feel this first disappointment grievously. It is a pleasure 
to bestow the favor in many instances, but not sufficient 
to counterbalance the pain one feels for those who are 
rejected. Last year there were captious and censorious 
Members of Congress who abused me for filling the school; 
the same will probably be the case this year. Were I, how- 
ever, to omit filling the school, the same persons would 
blame me for neglect of duty, not without cause, and 
I should not be satisfied with myself for this omission. 

August 3, Monday. Went on a sail yesterday down the 
river. The day was exceedingly warm, but with a pleasant 
company we had an agreeable and comfortable time on the 



394 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 3 

boat. The jaunt was of benefit to me. I am told by Drs. 
W. and H., whom I see officially almost daily, and am my- 
self sensible of the fact, that I am too closely confined and 
too unremittingly employed, but I know not when or how 
to leave, hardly for a day. The Sabbath day is not one 
of rest to me. 

August 4, Tuesday. Very warm. Little done at Cabinet. 
Seward undertook to talk wise in relation to Commander 
Collins and the Mont Blanc, but really betrayed inexcus- 
able ignorance of the subject of prize and prize courts, and 
admiralty law, the responsibilities of an officer, etc. 

August 7, Friday. Went on board of steamer Baltimore 
Wednesday evening in company with a few friends, for 
a short excursion. My object was to improve the tune set 
apart for Thanksgiving hi a trip to the capes of Chesa- 
peake, and there imbibe for a few hours the salt sea air in 
the hope I should thereby gather strength. Postmaster- 
General Blair, Governor Dennison of Ohio, Mr. Fox, Mr. 
Faxon, Dr. Horwitz, and three or four others made up 
the party. We returned this A.M. at 8, all unproved and 
invigorated. 

The papers contain a letter of mine to Senator Sumner, 
written last April, denying the reckless falsehood of John 
Laird, made on the floor of Parliament, to the effect that 
I had sent an agent to him or his firm to build a ship or 
ships. There is not one word of truth in his statement. 
Had I done so, is there any one so simple as to believe the 
Lairds would refuse to build? those virtuous abolition- 
ists who, as a matter of principle, would not use the pro- 
duct of slave labor, but who for mercenary considerations 
snatched at the opportunity to build ships for the slave 
oligarchy? But I employed no agent to build, or to procure 
to be built, naval vessels abroad of any description. My 
policy from the beginning was not to build or have built 
naval vessels in foreign countries. Our shipbuilders com- 



1863] LAIRD AND NAVY DEPARTMENT 395 

peted strongly for all our work. The statement of Laird is 
mendacious, a deliberate falsehood, knowingly such, and 
uttered to prejudice not only the cause of our country but 
of liberty and human rights. 

A friend of Laird's, an abolitionist of Brooklyn, New 
York, tried to secure a contract for Laird, but did not 
succeed. When Laird found he could secure no work from 
us, he went over to the Rebels and worked for them. After 
making his false statement in Parliament, fearing he 
should be exposed, he wrote to Howard, his abolition friend 
in Brooklyn, begging to be sustained. Howard being ab- 
sent in California, his son sent the letter to Fox, through 
whom they tried to intrigue in the interest of Laird. 

The President read to us a letter received from Horatio 
Seymour, Governor of New York, on the subject of the 
draft, which he asks may be postponed. The letter is a 
party, political document, filled with perverted state- 
ments, and apologizing for, and diverting attention from, 
his mob. 

The President also read his reply, which is manly, vigor- 
ous, and decisive. He did not permit himself to be drawn 
away on frivolous and remote issues, which was obviously 
the intent of Seymour. 

August 10, Monday. Have not been well for the last two 
days, and am still indisposed, but cannot omit duties. The 
weather is oppressively warm. Friends think I ought to 
take a few days repose. Dr. Horwitz advises it most 
earnestly. Rest and a change of atmosphere might be 
of service, but I think quiet here better than excitement 
and uncertainty elsewhere. I had arranged in my own 
mind to spend a couple of weeks in entire seclusion at 
Woodcliff, but M., after the exhibition of mob hostility in 
New York, is apprehensive that my presence there will 
jeopardize him and his property. I must therefore seek 
another place if I go from Washington, which I now think 
is hardly probable. 



396 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 10 

The papers are discussing very liberally the Parliament- 
ary statement of Laird and my denial. To sustain him- 
self, Laird publishes an anonymous correspondence with 
some one who professes to be intimate with the "Minister 
of the Navy." His correspondence, if genuine, I have 
reason to believe was with Howard of Brooklyn, whom I do 
not know and who is untruthful. 

Charles B. Sedgwick, Chairman of the Naval Commit- 
tee of the House, writes Chief Clerk Faxon, that Howard 
called on him in the summer of 1861 in behalf of the 
Lairds, with plans and specifications and estimates for 
vessels; that he, Sedgwick, referred H. to me; that I re- 
fused to negotiate. In other words, I doubtless refused to 
entertain any proposition. Of Howard I know very little, 
having never, that I am aware, seen him. I may have done 
so as the agent or friend of Laird in 1861, and if so declined 
any offer. From his letters to Laird I judge he tried to palm 
himself on Laird for all he was worth, and as possessing 
an intimacy which I neither recognize nor admit. He seems 
to have gone to the Naval Committee instead of the Navy 
Department or "Minister of the Navy" with his plans. 
Was confessedly an agent of Laird, who is an unmitigated 
liar and hypocrite. Professing to be an antislavery man 
from principle and an earnest friend of the Union, he and 
his firm have for money been engaged in the service of the 
slaveholders to break up our Union. 

August 11, Tuesday. Admiral Farragut has arrived in 
New York and telegraphs me he will report in person when 
I direct. I congratulated him on his safe return but advised 
repose with his family and friends during this heated term 
and to report when it should suit his convenience. 

At the Cabinet council the President read another letter 
from Governor Seymour. I have little respect for him. It 
may be politic for the President to treat him with respect 
in consequence of his position. 

The draft makes an inroad on the clerical force of the 



1863] DISCUSSION OF THE DRAFT ACT 397 

Departments and on the experts in the public service. The 
law authorizing the draft is crude, and loose, and wrong in 
many respects; was never matter of Cabinet consultation, 
but was got up in the War Department in consultation with 
the Military Committees, or Wilson, and submitted to no 
one of the Secretaries, who all, except Stanton, were ignor- 
ant of its extraordinary provisions. Some sixty men, many 
of them experts whose places can hardly be supplied, are 
drafted as common soldiers from the ordnance works. I 
have striven to get some action in regard to these men, 
whose services are indispensable for military purposes, 
whose labors are of ten times the importance to the gov- 
ernment and country in their present employment that 
they would be were they bearing arms in camp, but as yet 
without success. I proposed to Chase, who is much annoyed 
and vexed with the operation of the law in his Department, 
that we should have the subject considered in the Cabinet 
to-day; but he declined, said he had no favors to ask of the 
War Department and nothing to do with it. If the law and 
that Department in its construction of the law would take 
the clerks from the Treasury desks, so as to interrupt its 
business and destroy their capacity, he should be relieved 
and glad of it. He was bitter toward the War Department, 
which he has heretofore assiduously courted. 

I brought up the subject, but Chase had left. Stanton 
said he had not yet decided what rule would govern him, 
but promised he would do as well by the employees of the 
Navy as of the War Department. He thought, however, he 
should exact the $200, a substitute, or the military service 
in all cases, when the conscript was not relieved by physical 
disabilities. All present acquiesced in this view, Chase 
being absent, but Attorney-General Bates, who agreed 
with me. 

A singular telegram from General Halleck to his partner 
in California in relation to the Almaden mines (quicksil- 
ver) was brought forward by Mr. Bates and Mr. Usher. In 
the opinion of these gentlemen it did not exhibit a pure 



398 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. n 

mind, right intentions, or high integrity on the part of the 
General-in-Chief. The President, who had been apprised of 
the facts, thought Halleck had been hasty and indiscreet 
but he hoped nothing worse. Stanton said, with some asper- 
ity and emphasis, that the press and distinguished men had 
abused him on these matters, had lied about him and 
knew they were lies. He turned away from Blair as he 
poured out these denunciations, yet there was no mistak- 
ing for whom these invectives were intended. 

August 12, Wednesday. The President addressed me a let- 
ter, directing additional instructions and of a more explicit 
character to our naval officers in relation to their conduct 
at neutral ports. In doing this, the President takes occasion 
to compliment the administration of the Navy in terms 
most commendatory and gratifying. 

The proposed instructions are in language almost iden- 
tical with certain letters which have passed between Mr. 
Seward and Lord Lyons, which the former submitted to me 
and requested me to adopt. My answer was not what the 
Secretary and Minister had agreed between themselves 
should be my policy and action. The President has there- 
fore been privately interviewed and persuaded to write me, 
an unusual course with him and which he was evidently 
reluctant to do. He earnestly desires to keep on terms of 
peace with England and, as he says to me in his letter, to 
sustain the present Ministry, which the Secretary of State 
assures him is a difficult matter, requiring all his dexterity 
and ability, hence constant derogatory concessions. 

In all of this Mr. Seward's subservient policy, or want of 
a policy, is perceptible. He has no convictions, no fixed 
principles, no rule of action, but is governed and moved by 
impulse, fancied expediency, and temporary circumstances. 
We injure neither ourselves nor Great Britain by an honest 
and firm maintenance of our rights, but Mr. Seward is in 
constant trepidation lest the Navy Department or some 
naval officer shall embroil us in a war, or make trouble 



1863] ENGLAND AND THE IRONCLADS 399 

with England. Lord Lyons is cool and sagacious, and is well 
aware of our premier's infirmities, who in his fears yields 
everything almost before it is asked. Hence the remark of 
Historicus (Sir Vernon Harcourt) that "the fear of Eng- 
land is not that the Americans will yield too little but that 
we shall take too much." That able writer has the sagacity 
to see, and the frankness to say, that the time will come 
when England will have a war on her hands and Ameri- 
cans will be neutrals. 

The President has a brief reply to Governor Seymour's 
rejoinder, which is very well. Stanton said to me he wished 
the President would stop letter-writing, for which he has 
a liking and particularly when he feels he has facts and 
right [on his side]. I might not disagree with Stanton as 
regards some correspondence, but I think the President 
has been more successful with Seymour than some others. 
His own letters and writings are generally unpretending 
and abound in good sense. 

Seward informs me in confidence that he has, through 
Mr. Adams, made an energetic protest to Great Britain 
against permitting the ironclads to leave England, dis- 
tinctly informing the Ministry that it would be considered 
by us as a declaration of war. The result is, he says, the 
ironclads will not leave England. I have uniformly insisted 
that such would be the case if we took decided ground and 
the Ministry were satisfied we were in earnest. 

Spain, Seward says, had been seduced with schemes to 
help the Rebels, and was to have taken an active part in 
intervention, or acknowledging the independence of the 
Confederates, but on learning the course of Roebuck, and 
after the discussion in the British Parliament, Spain had 
hastened to say she should not interfere in behalf of the 
Rebels. But Tassara, the Spanish Minister, under positive 
instructions, had on the 9th inst. given our government 
formal notice that after sixty days Spain would insist that 
her jurisdiction over Cuba extended six miles instead of the 
marine league from low-water mark. To this Seward said 



400 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 12 

he replied we should not assent ; that we could not submit 
to a menace, especially at such a time as this; that the sub- 
ject of marine jurisdiction is a question of international 
law in which all maritime nations have an interest, and 
it was not for Spain or any one or two countries to set it 
aside. 

He says Lord Lyons has been to him with a complaint 
that a British vessel having Rebel property on board had 
been seized in violation of the admitted principle that free 
ships made free goods. But he advised Lord L. to get all 
the facts and submit them, etc. 

From some cause Seward sought this interview and was 
unusually communicative. Whether the President's let- 
ter, which originated with him, as he must be aware I fully 
understand, had an influence in opening his mouth and 
heart I know not. His confidential communication to me 
should have been said in full Cabinet. In the course of our 
conversation, Seward said "some of the facts had leaked 
out through the President, who was apt to be communica- 
tive." 

The condition of the country and the future of the Rebel 
States and of slavery are rising questions on which there 
are floating opinions. No clear, distinct, and well-defined 
line of policy has as yet been indicated by the Administra- 
tion. I have no doubt there is, and will be, diversity of 
views in the Cabinet whenever the subject is brought up. 
A letter from Whiting, Solicitor of the War Department, 
has been recently published, quite characteristic of the man. 
Not unlikely Stanton may have suggested, or assented to, 
this document, by which some are already swearing their 
political faith. Mr. Whiting is in high favor at the War and 
State Departments, and on one occasion the President en- 
dorsed him to me. I think little of him. He is ready with 
expedients but not profound in his opinions; is a plausible 
advocate rather than a correct thinker, more of a patent 
lawyer than a statesman. His elaborate letter does not in 
my estimation add one inch to his stature. 



1863] FOX AND THE HOWARD AFFAIR 401 

August 13, Thursday. Laird's friend Howard telegraphs 
Fox that he has a letter of F.'s which conflicts with my letter 
to Sumner, and, while he does not want to go counter to 
the country, does not wish to be sacrificed. Faxon, who has 
charge of Fox's letters and correspondence, is disturbed by 
this; says that Fox has been forward, and too ready with 
his letters substituted for those of the Secretary or chiefs of 
bureaus; has an idea that Fox took upon himself to corre- 
spond with Howard and perhaps L. when I turned them off. 

There may be something in these surmises, not that Fox 
intended to go contrary to my decision, but he was per- 
haps anxious to do something to give himself notoriety. At 
times he is officious. Most men like to be, or to appear to 
be, men of authority, he as well as others. I have ob- 
served that when he knows my views and desires he likes to 
communicate them to the parties interested as his own. 
Orders which I frequently send to chiefs of bureaus and 
others through him, he often reduces to writing, signing his 
own name to the order. These are little weaknesses which 
others as well as Faxon detect, and I permit to give me no 
annoyance; but Faxon, who is very correct, is disturbed by 
them and thinks there is an ulterior purpose in this. Ad- 
miral Smith, Lenthall, and Dahlgren have been vexed by 
them, and not infrequently, perhaps always, come to me 
with these officious, formal orders signed by the Assistant 
Secretary, as if issued by himself. Faxon thinks Fox may 
have taken upon himself to correspond with Howard, and 
committed himself and the Department. There can, I 
think, have been no committal, for Fox is shrewd, and has 
known my policy and course from the beginning. He 
doubtless wrote Howard, from what the latter says, but 
without any authority, and he saw my letter to Sumner 
without a suggestion that he had given other encourage- 
ment. 

Chase spent an hour with me on various subjects. Says 
the Administration is merely departmental, which is true ; 
that he considers himself responsible for no other branch 



402 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 13 

of the Government than the Treasury, nor for any other 
than financial measures. His dissent to the War manage- 
ment has become very decisive, though he says he is on 
particularly friendly terms with Stanton. In many re- 
spects, he says, Stanton has done well, though he has un- 
fortunate failings, making intercourse with him at times 
exceedingly unpleasant; thinks he is earnest and energetic, 
though wanting in persistency, steadiness. General 
Halleck Chase considers perfectly useless, a heavy incum- 
brance, with no heart in the cause, no sympathy for those 
who have. These are Chase's present views. They are not 
those he at one time entertained of Halleck, but we all 
know H. better than we did. 

We had some talk on the policy that must be pursued 
respecting slavery and the relation of the State and Federal 
Governments thereto. It was, I think, his principal object 
in the interview, and I was glad it was introduced, for there 
has been on all sides a general avoidance of the question, 
though it is one of magnitude and has to be disposed of. 
His own course, Chase said, was clear and decided. No one 
of the Rebel States must be permitted to tolerate slavery 
for an instant. I asked what was to be done with Missouri, 
where the recent convention had decided in favor of eman- 
cipation, but that it should be prospective, slavery- 
should not be extinguished until 1870. He replied that 
the people might overrule that, but whether they did or 
not, Missouri is one of the excepted States, where the 
Proclamation did not go into effect. 

"What, then," said I, "of North Carolina, where there 
is beginning to be manifested a strong sentiment of re- 
turning affection for the Union? Suppose the people of 
that State should, within the next two or three months, 
deliberately resolve to disconnect themselves from the 
Confederacy, and by a popular vote determine that the 
State should resume her connection with the Union, and 
in doing so, they should, in view of the large slave popula- 
tion on hand, decide in favor of general but prospective 



1883] TALK WITH CHASE ON SLAVERY 403 

emancipation, as Missouri has done, and enact there 
should be an entire abolition of slavery in 1875." He said 
he would never consent to it, that it conflicted with the 
Proclamation, that neither in North Carolina, nor in any 
other State must there be any more slavery. He would 
not meddle with Maryland and the excepted States, but 
in the other States the evil was forever extinguished. 

I said that no slave who had left his Rebel master could 
be restored, but that an immediate, universal, uncondi- 
tional sweep, were the Rebellion crushed, might be injurious 
to both the slave and his owner, involving industrial and 
social relations, and promoting difficulties and disturb- 
ances; that these embarrassments required deliberate, wise 
thought and consideration. The Proclamation of Emanci- 
pation was justifiable as a military necessity against Rebel 
enemies, who were making use of these slaves to destroy 
our national existence; it was in self-defense and for our 
own preservation, the first law of nature. But were the 
Rebellion now suppressed, the disposition of the slavery 
question was, hi my view, one of the most delicate and 
important problems to solve that had ever devolved on 
those who administrated the government. Were all the 
Slave States involved hi the Rebellion, the case would be 
different, for then all would fare alike. The only solution 
which I could perceive was for the Border States to pass 
emancipation laws. The Federal Government could not 
interfere with them; it had with the rebellious States, and 
should morally and rightfully maintain its position. They 
had made war for slavery, had appealed to arms, and must 
abide the result. But we must be careful, in our zeal 
on this subject, not to destroy the great framework of our 
political governmental system. The States had rights 
which must be respected, the General Government limita- 
tions beyond which it must not pass. 

August 14, Friday. Had a call from Governor Tod of 
Ohio, who says he is of Connecticut blood. Governor 



404 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 14 

Tod is a man of marked character and of more than ordin- 
ary ability; has a frank and honest nature that wins con- 
fidence and attaches friends. 

General Meade called at the Executive Mansion whilst 
the Cabinet was in session. Most of the members, like 
myself, had never met him. Blair and he were classmates 
at West Point, but they have never met since they gradu- 
ated until to-day. He has a sharp visage and a narrow 
head. Would do better as second in command than as 
General-in-Chief. Is doubtless a good officer, but not a 
great and capable commander. He gave some details of 
the battle of Gettysburg clearly and fluently. Shows intel- 
ligence and activity, and on the whole I was as well or 
better pleased with him than I expected I should be, for 
I have had unfavorable impressions, prejudiced, perhaps, 
since the escape of Lee. This interview confirms previous 
impressions of the calibre and capacity of the man. 

Seward leaves to-day for a rambling excursion w r ith the 
foreign ministers. Stanton did not come to the meeting 
whilst I remained. Chase left early, followed by Mr. Bates 
and myself. 

August 15, Saturday. Certain persons hi Boston have an 
innate conviction that they can improve the administra- 
tion of the Navy Department. They are never united 
among themselves as to how this is to be effected, but all 
are fond of criticism. They always claim that they ex- 
pected this thing would fail or that would succeed after 
the event occurred. I must do them the justice to say, 
however, that with all their grumbling and faultfinding 
they have generally given me a fair support. In special 
cases, where I have been lectured, I have invariably found 
there was an axe to grind, a purpose to be accomplished. 
Some one, or more, important personage has had sugges- 
tions to make, and for a consideration never omitting 
that would consent to help along the work of putting 
down the Rebellion. These have been the captious ones. 




GEORGE G. MEADE 



1863] GENERAL F. P. BLAIR 405 

A man by the name of Weld has written a long letter to 
Governor Andrew. He wants the Governor to aid the 
Navy Department by writing to the President to form 
a Naval Board hi Massachusetts, with authority to build 
vessels, fast steamers, such as Massachusetts can build, 
steamers which will capture or destroy the Alabama, and 
allow the Massachusetts Board to commission the officers. 
If there is no appropriation, says good Mr. Weld, take the 
necessary funds from the Secret Service money. Mr. Weld 
informs Governor Andrew he is ready to be employed. 
Governor Andrew indorses over the letter. He also in- 
dorses Mr. Weld, who is, he says, one of the most eminent 
shipbuilders in Massachusetts, and he (Governor A.) is 
ready to cooperate with Mr. Weld in his patriotic sugges- 
tions, etc., etc., etc. This is Boston all over. I have had 
it from the beginning and periodically. The Welds, etc., 
from the commencement of hostilities, have prompted and 
promised almost anything, only requiring the Government 
to give them power and foot the bills. 

I had to-day a very full and interesting account of the 
campaign and fall of Vicksburg from General F. P. Blair, 
who has done good service in the field and in politics also. 
He was a fearless pioneer in the great cause of the Union 
and breasted the storm in stormy Missouri with a bold 
front. Of the factions and feuds in St. Louis I pretend to 
no accurate knowledge, and am no partisan of or for either. 
Frank is as bold in words as in deeds, fearless in his utter- 
ances as in his fights; is uncalculating, impolitic, it 
would be said, rash, without doubt, but sincere and 
patriotic to the core. I detect in his conversation to-day 
a determination to free himself from personal and local 
complications, and if possible to reconcile differences. It is 
honorable on his part, but I apprehend he has materials 
to deal with that he cannot master. 

G. W. Blunt came to see me. Ridicules Barney and all 
the government officials in New York but Wakeman. 
Says old General Wool made himself ridiculous in the mob 



406 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 15 

difficulties. Calls him a weak old man. If weak, it is from 
age, for there is no one more patriotic. At eighty he was 
not the proper man to quell an outbreak. Blunt and oth- 
ers are sore over the removal of General Harvey Brown. 
He is earnest to have the draft go forward, but says it 
will be followed by incendiarism. It may be so. Blunt 
is ardent, impulsive, earnest, and one-sided. 

August 17, Monday. Wrote Dahlgren, who has serious 
apprehensions about Laird's ironclad steamers, which 
troubled Du Pont, that I thought he might feel assured 
they would not disturb him. Seward says Mr. Adams has 
made a vigorous protest, and informed the British Govern- 
ment if the Rebel ironclads are permitted to come out 
it will be casus belli. If he has taken that position, which 
I have always urged, and we persist in it, all will be well. 

August 18, Tuesday. Blair denounces the practice of 
dismissing officers without trial as oppressive and wrong. 
Mentions the case of Lieutenant Kelly, a Pennsylvanian, 
who, he says, has been unjustly treated. I know not the 
facts in this particular case, and am aware that a bad Pre- 
sident or Secretary might abuse this authority, but a per- 
emptory dismissal without trial is sometimes not only 
justifiable but necessary. If the authority is abused, let 
the one who abuses it, whatever his station, be held 
accountable and, if necessary, impeached. 

Stanton wishes me to go with him to Fortress Monroe. 
Says he has a boat; wants, himself, to go down, etc. 

Governor Buckingham was at my house this evening. 
Has come to Washington to consult in relation to the 
draft. 

In a conversation with General Spinner, the Treasurer, 
a radical, yet a Democrat of the old school, he condemns 
the error into which we have fallen of electing too many 
officers by the people, especially judicial and accounting 
officers, who should be selected and appointed by an 



1863] INJUSTICE OF THE DRAFT ACT 407 

accountable and responsible executive. Admits his mind 
has undergone a revolution on this subject. 

August 19, Wednesday. I called on Stanton to-day on 
the subject of relieving petty officers of the Navy from the 
draft, and permitting them to continue in the service 
where they are engaged, unmolested. These men are now 
on duty, some on blockade service, some abroad, and the 
law which subjects these men to draft is monstrous, and 
the Military Committee who, he says, drew up the law 
are deserving of censure for their carelessness, I do 
not impute to them a design in this. Stanton, who must 
have seen and been consulted, should have corrected the 
proceeding. But he seems gratified that such power 
should have been placed in his hands by Congress, and 
objects to general relief of naval men, thinks each one, 
in the employ of other Departments as well as the War, 
should make application to him for relief. The unthink- 
ing and inconsiderate legislators did not intend to subject 
the sailors who are performing arduous duties afloat to 
a draft and fine, but they are to be subjected to penalty, 
although engaged in battle when the draft takes place. 
Relief can be had if the Secretary of the Navy will make 
application be a suppliant for his men to the Secre- 
tary of War for a discharge in each of the thousand cases. 

I have a printed letter from R. S. Donnell, an intelligent 
North Carolinian, formerly Member of Congress, and 
approved by Governor Vance. It is a review of the con- 
duct and course of the Secessionists, and the object is 
a restoration of the Union. This subject begins to agitate 
the public, and has the thoughts of thinking men. 

What is to be done with the slaves and slavery? Were 
slavery out of the way, there would seem to be no serious 
obstacle to the reestablishment of the Union. But the cause 
which was made the pretext of the Civil War will not be 
readily given up by the masses, who have been duped and 
misled by their leaders, and who have so large an interest 



408 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 19 

at stake, without a further struggle. The calculators, the 
demagogues, are shaping their course to what is inevitable, 
but they hardly know the shape things may take. Mr. 
Solicitor Whiting, who is shoved forward, or permitted 
to go forward, as an oracle, is for abolishing State lines, 
or rather he asserts they are abolished by the Rebellion. 
But herein he commits the too common error of making 
this a war upon the States instead of rebellious individuals. 
This pitiful nonsense of a scheming lawyer, Solicitor of the 
War Department, indorsed and got here by Sumner, has 
not a single element of Republican statesmanship in it. 
If President Buchanan could not coerce States, Solicitor 
Whiting of the War Department thinks he can. He and 
the War Department, though the last do not openly avow 
it, would annihilate the States, deprive them of exist- 
ence, which would be coercion with a vengeance. 

When the government puts down the Rebels, there 
will be no difficulty as regards the States under our federal 
system and the fundamental law limiting the power of 
the general government. 

August 20, Thursday. Information is received of the 
death of Governor Gurley. He was a native of Manchester, 
Connecticut, born within a few miles of my home. He 
claimed to have imbibed his political principles from me 
and my writings; was, while in Connecticut and for some 
time after, an earnest reader of the Hartford Times, where 
many of my writings appeared. Subsequently, when new 
issues arose, he has often told me of the satisfaction he 
experienced when he found the Times and myself at vari- 
ance, and that his convictions on the Kansas difficulties 
and questions in dispute in 1856 and 1860 corresponded 
with mine. He was here in Congress at the commencement 
of this administration. Mr. Lincoln thought much of him, 
and appointed him Governor of Arizona. He was making 
his preparations to proceed and organize that Territory 
when death overtook him. 



1863] SEWARD AND LORD LYONS 409 

August 21, Friday. Made an early call on the President 
with Joseph P. Allyn, one of the Judges for the Territory 
of Arizona, on the subject of Governor for that Territory. 
At the Cabinet-meeting, subsequently, the President con- 
cluded to appoint Goodwin Governor and Turner Chief 
Justice. 

Had a free conversation with the President on his pro- 
posed instructions to our naval officers. Told him they 
would in my opinion be injudicious. That we were conced- 
ing too much, and I thought unwisely, to the demands of 
the British Minister. He said he thought it for our inter- 
est to strengthen the present ministry, and would there- 
fore strain a point in that direction. I expressed a hope 
he would not impair his Administration and the national 
vigor and character by yielding what England had no right 
to claim, or ask, and what we could not, without humilia- 
tion, yield. I finally suggested that Lord Lyons should 
state what were the instructions of his government, 
that he should distinctly present what England claimed 
and what was the rule in the two cases. We are entitled 
to know on what principle she acts, whether her claim 
is reciprocal, and if she concedes to others what she re- 
quires of us. The President chimed in with this sugges- 
tion, requested me to suspend further action, and reserve 
and bring up the matter when Seward and Lord Lyons 
returned. 

This conclusion will disturb Seward, who makes no stand, 
yields everything, and may perhaps clear up the 
difficulty, or its worst points. I do not shut my eyes to the 
fact that the letter of the President and the proposed in- 
structions have their origin in the State Department. 
Lord Lyons has pressed a point, and the easiest way for 
Mr. Seward to dispose of it is to yield what is asked, with- 
out examination or making himself acquainted with the 
principles involved and the consequences which are to 
result from his concession. To a mortifying extent Lord 
Lyons shapes and directs, through the Secretary of State, 



410 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 21 

an erroneous policy to this government. This is humiliat- 
ing but true. 

August 22, Saturday. Mr. Chase called and took me 
this evening for a two hours' ride. We went past Kalorama 
north, crossed Rock Creek near the Stone Mill, thence 
over the hills to Tenallytown, and returned through 
Georgetown. The principal topic of conversation, and the 
obvious purpose of this drive was a consultation on the 
slavery question, and what in common parlance is called 
the reconstruction of the Union with the incidents. After 
sounding me without getting definite and satisfactory an- 
swers, he frankly avowed his own policy and determina- 
tion. It is unconditional and immediate emancipation in 
all the Rebel States, no retrograde from the Proclamation 
of Emancipation, no recognition of a Rebel State as a part 
of the Union, or any terms with it except on the extinction, 
wholly, at once, and forever, of slavery. 

I neither adopted nor rejected his emphatic tests, for 
such he evidently meant them. The questions are of vast 
magnitude, and have great attending difficulties. The re- 
establishment of the Union is a practical and important 
question, and it may come up in a way and form which we 
cannot now anticipate, and not improbably set aside any 
hypothetical case which may at this time be presented. 
I consider slavery, as it heretofore existed, has terminated 
in all the States, and am not for intruding speculative 
political theories in advance to embarrass official action. 

North Carolinians are just now beginning to discuss the 
subject of disconnecting their State from the Confederacy. 
I asked Chase if he believed Congress would refuse to 
recognize her and the government attempt to exclude her 
from the Union if she came forward and proposed to re- 
sume her place, with slavery, like Maryland and the other 
Border States. He said much would depend on the Pre- 
sident, all in fact, for were the President to acquiesce 
in her return it could not be prevented, but on the other 



1863] THE RECONSTRUCTION QUESTION 411 

hand, if he planted himself firmly, and with Jacksonian 
will on the Proclamation, he had no doubt North Caro- 
lina would be excluded or refused her original place in the 
Union, unless she modified her constitution and abolished 
slavery. He was confident if the Government persisted in 
emancipation the State would ultimately yield. 

"That," said I, "brings up other questions touching 
the powers and limitations of the Federal Government. 
Where is the authority for Congress, or a fraction of Con- 
gress, to exclude a State, or to prescribe new conditions to 
one of the original States, on which one of the original com- 
monwealths which founded and established the govern- 
ment shall hereafter compose a part of the Federal Union? 
Where is the authority for the President or Congress to 
deprive her of rights reserved and guaranteed to all, 
to dictate her local policy, these restrictive conditions 
being new, not a part of the Federal compact or known to 
the Constitution. The States must have equal political 
rights or the government cannot stand on the basis of 1789." 

He replied that those States had severed their connec- 
tion with the Union without cause, had broken faith and 
made war on the government. They had forfeited their 
rights. They no longer retained the position they once had. 
They were to be subjugated, conquered. In order to be 
restored to the Union they must be required to put away 
the cause of disturbance, the source of rebellion, disunion, 
and strife. The welfare of the nation, the security and 
perpetuity of the Union demanded this. To admit them 
now to a full and equal participation with ourselves, with- 
out extinguishing slavery, would be with the aid of their 
sympathizing friends to place the government in the hands 
of the slaveholders. 

That there may be something to be apprehended, were 
all the Rebels and their old party associates in the Free 
States to reunite and act in concert, I admit may be true, 
but this is not a supposable case. The Rebels will not all 
come back at once, were pardon and general amnesty 



412 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 22 

extended to them. There is also, bear in mind, deep and 
wide hostility to the Confederate proceedings through 
almost the whole South, and the old party associates of 
Davis and others in the North are broken up and pretty 
thoroughly alienated. The reestablishment of the Union 
and harmony will be a slow process, requiring forbearance 
and nursing rather than force and coercion. The bitter 
enmities which have been sown, the hate which has been 
generated, the blood which has been spilled, the treasure, 
public and private, which has been wasted, and, last and 
saddest of all, the lives which have been sacrificed, cannot 
be forgotten and smoothed over in a day; we can hardly 
expect it hi a generation. By forbearance and forgiveness, 
by wise and judicious management, the States may be 
restored to their place and the people to their duty, but 
let us not begin by harsh assumptions, for even with 
gentle treatment the work of reconciliation and fratern- 
ity will be slow. Let us be magnanimous. Ought we not 
to act on individuals and through them on the States? 

This inquiry seemed to strike him favorably, and I 
elaborated it somewhat, bringing up old political doctrines 
and principles which we had cherished in other days. I 
reminded him that to have a cordial union of the States 
they must be equal hi political rights, and that arbitrary 
measures did not conduce to good feeling and were not 
promotive of freedom and good will. As regards individ- 
uals who have made war on the government and resisted 
its laws, they had forfeited their rights and could be 
punished and even deprived of life, but I knew not how we 
could punish States as commonwealths except through 
their people. A State could not be struck out of existence 
like an individual or corporation. 

Besides, it must be remembered, we should be classing 
the innocent with the guilty, punishing our true friends who 
had already suffered greatly in the Union cause as severely 
as the worst Rebels. We could have no ex post facto en- 
actments, could not go beyond existing laws to punish 



1863] THE RECONSTRUCTION QUESTION 413 

Rebels; we should not do this with our friends, and punish 
them for wrongs committed by others. We could now exact 
of Rebels the oath of allegiance before pardon, and could 
perhaps grant conditional or limited pardons, denying 
those who had been active in taking up arms the right to 
vote or hold office for a period. Such as came in on the 
terms granted would build up loyal communities. 

In these general outlines we pretty much agreed, but 
there is, I apprehend, a radical difference between us as 
regards the status of the States, and their position in and 
relation to the general government. I know not that I 
clearly comprehend the views of Chase, and am not sure 
that he has fully considered and matured the subject 
himself. He says he makes it a point to see the President 
daily and converse on this subject; that he thinks the Pre- 
sident is becoming firm and more decided in his opinions, 
and he wants me to second him. Stanton he says is all 
right, but is not a man of firm and reliable opinions. Sew- 
ard and Blab* he considers opponents. Bates he says is 
of no account and has no influence. Usher he classes 
with himself, though he considers him of no more scope 
than Bates. Seward he says is unreliable and untruthful. 
The President he compliments for honesty of intentions, 
good common sense, more sagacity than he has credit for, 
but [he thinks he] is greatly wanting in will and decision, 
in comprehensiveness, in self-reliance, and clear, well- 
defined purpose. 

The reestablishment of the Union is beset with diffi- 
culties. One great embarrassment, the principal one, is 
the intrusion of partyism. Chase, I see, is warped by this. 
It is not strange that he should be, for he has aspirations 
which are likely to be affected by these issues. Others are 
in like manner influenced. I believe I have no personal 
ambition to gratify, no expectations. There is no office 
that I want or would accept in prospect, but my heart is 
in again beholding us once more United States and a 
united people. 



414 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 22 

It appears to me Mr. Chase starts out on an error. The 
Federal Government has no warrant to impose conditions 
on any of the States to which all are not subjected, or to 
prescribe new terms which conflict with those on which our 
fundamental law is based. In these tempestuous days, 
when to maintain its existence the Federal Government 
is compelled to exercise extraordinary powers, statesmen 
and patriots should take care that it does not transcend its 
authority and subvert the system. We are testing the 
strength and inviolability of a written constitution. To 
impose conditions on the States which are in rebellion is 
allowable on no other premise than that they actually 
seceded and left the Union. Now, while it is admitted and 
we all know that a majority of the people in certain States 
have rebelled and made war on the central government, 
none of us recognize or admit the right or principle of se- 
cession. People individuals have rebelled but the 
States are sovereignties, not corporations, and they still 
belong to and are a part of the Union. We can imprison, 
punish, hang the Rebels by law and constitutional war- 
rant, but where is the authority or power to chastise a 
State, or to change its political status, deprive it of politi- 
cal rights and sovereignty which other States possess? 

To acknowledge that the States have seceded that 
the Union is dissolved would be to concede more than 
I am prepared for. It is the error into which Mr. Seward 
plunged at the beginning, when he insisted that a block- 
ade authorized by international law should be established 
instead of a closure of the ports by national law, and that 
the Rebels should be recognized as belligerents. The 
States have not seceded; they cannot secede, nor can they 
be expelled. Secession is synonymous with disunion. 
Whenever it takes place, we shall belong to different 
countries. 

Slavery has received its death-blow. The seeds which 
have been sown by this war will germinate. Were peace 
restored to-morrow and the States reunited with the 



1863] DEATH OF GEORGE W. RODGERS 415 

rotten institution in each of them, chattel slavery would 
expire. What is to be the ultimate effect of the Proclama- 
tion, and what will be the exact status of the slaves and 
the slave-owners, were the States now to resume their 
position, I am not prepared to say. The courts would ad- 
judicate the questions; there would be legislative action 
in Congress and in the States also; there would be sense 
and practical wisdom on the part of intelligent and candid 
men who are not carried away by prejudice, fanaticism, and 
wild theories. No slave who has left a Rebel master and 
come within our lines, or has served under the flag, can 
ever be forced into involuntary servitude. 

The constitutional relations of the States have not been 
changed by the Rebellion, but the personal condition of 
every Rebel is affected. The two are not identical. The 
rights of the States are unimpaired; the rights of those 
who have participated in the Rebellion may have been 
forfeited. 

This subject should not become mixed with partyism, 
but yet it can scarcely be avoided. Chase gathers it into 
the coming Presidential election; feels that the measure of 
emancipation which was decided without first consulting 
him has placed the President in advance of him on a path 
which was his specialty. 

August 24, Monday. Our advices from Charleston show 
progress, though slow. The monitors perform well then* 
part. Few casualties have occurred. We hear of a sad 
one to-day however, hi the death of George Rodgers, 1 one 
of the noblest spirits in the service. It is sad that among 
so many he, who has perhaps no superior in the best quali- 
ties of the man, the sailor, and the officer, should have been 
the victim. The President called on me in some anxiety 
this morning, and was relieved when he learned it was 
not John Rodgers of Atlantic fame. But without dispar- 

1 Commander George Washington Rodgers, who was killed In the at- 
tack on Fort Wagner, August 17, 1863. 



416 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 24 

agement to bold John, no braver, purer spirit than gallant, 
generous, Christian George could have been sacrificed, and 
I so said to the President. 

Am annoyed and vexed by a letter from Seward in re- 
lation to the Mont Blanc. As usual, he has been meddle- 
some and has inconsiderately, I ought to say heedlessly 
and unwittingly, done a silly thing. Finding himself in 
difficulty, he tries to shift his errors on to the Navy De- 
partment. He assumes to talk wise without knowledge and 
to exercise authority without power. 

The history of this case exemplifies the management of 
Mr. Seward. Collins in the Octorara captured the Mont 
Blanc on her way to Port Royal. The capture took place 
near Sand Key, a shoal or spit of land over which the 
English claim jurisdiction. I question their right to as- 
sume that these shoals, or Cays, belong to England, and 
that her jurisdiction extends a marine league from each, 
most of them being uninhabited, barren spots lying off 
our coast and used to annoy and injure us. I suggested 
the propriety of denying, or refusing to recognize, the 
British claim or title to the uninhabited spots; that the 
opportunity should not pass unimproved to bring the 
subject to an issue. But Mr. Seward flinched before Lord 
Lyons, and alarmed the President by representing that 
I raised new issues, and without investigating the merits 
of the case of the Mont Blanc, which was in the courts, 
he hastened to concede to the English not only jurisdic- 
tion, but an apology and damages. It was one of those 
cases alluded to by Sir Vernon Harcourt, when he ad- 
monished his government that "the fear was not that 
Americans would yield too little, but that England would 
take too much." Seward yielded everything, so much 
as to embarrass Lord Lyons, who anticipated no such 
humiliation and concession on our part, and therefore 
asked time. The subject hung along without being dis- 
posed of. Seward, being occasionally pushed by Lord 
Lyons, would come to me. I therefore wrote him on the 



1863] THE CASE OF THE MONT BLANC 417 

31st of July a letter which drew from him a singular com- 
munication of the 4th inst., to which I have prepared a 
reply that will be likely to remain unanswered. [The 
correspondence follows.] 

NAVY DEPARTMENT, 

31 July, 1863. 
SIR, 

On the 13th of May last I had the honor to receive a note 
from you enclosing the copy of a communication addressed to 
Lord Lyons, under date of the 7th of May, relative to the seiz- 
ure of the British schooner Mont Blanc, at Sand Key, Bahama 
Banks. 

In that communication, and in personal interviews, I was 
informed that it had been admitted by our government that 
Commander Collins had been guilty of "inconsiderate conduct," 
and that "compensation ought to be made for the wrong done." 
I was requested also to designate some person at or near Key 
West to ascertain the damage to be paid, and in view of these 
facts, the President directed that the attention of the officers of 
the Navy shall be distinctly called to certain instructions in a 
note of yours of the 8th of August last, alluding I presume to 
certain suggestions communicated through you to this Depart- 
ment on that day, which eventuated in the instructions to Naval 
Officers on the 18th of August, 1862. I was moreover directed 
to make known to Commander Collins that by "seizing the Mont 
Blanc in British waters and at anchor, he had incurred the disap- 
probation of the President, and that any repetition will be vis- 
ited with more severe and effective censure." 

In carrying into effect these views, I took occasion to express 
to you, as I had on other occasions, the opinion that the subjects 
involved belonged to the courts rather than the Departments, 
and that with all the facts and circumstances before them, the ju- 
dicial tribunals would arrive at more correct conclusions than we 
could with only limited and ex-parte information. As requested, 
however, I designated Acting Rear Admiral Bailey to adjudicate 
or pass upon the question of damages and informed Commander 
Collins that he had incurred the displeasure of the President. 
That officer, feeling that he was reproved for an honest and vigil- 
ant discharge of a difficult and responsible duty, and sensitive 
on a point touching his professional reputation, has procured 



418 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 24 

and forwarded to the Department the final order of the Court 
at Key West, in the case of the Mont Blanc, a copy of which 
I have the honor to transmit herewith. From this final order 
of Judge Marvin it will be seen that, although by consent of 
all the parties in interest, the vessel and cargo were restored to 
the claimants, yet it was decided by the Court "that there was 
probable cause for the capture and detention of the vessel and 
that each party pay its own costs." 

The judgment of the Court, having the parties before it and 
all the facts in the premises, is an exculpation of Commander 
Collins, who nevertheless stands reproved and censured for doing 
that which the Court declares he had probable cause for doing, 
and would therefore allow no costs, much less damages. 

I have felt it my duty to call your attention to this fact, not 
only to vindicate the opinion which I have so frequently ex- 
pressed, that all matters of prize should be left to the Courts 
for adjudication, without prejudice or pre-judgment from the 
Departments, but in justice to a meritorious officer who has been 
censured for what he believed a faithful discharge of his duty, 
and who is acquitted by the legal tribunal for his act in seizing 
the Mont Blanc. 

I apprehend Her Majesty's representative will scarcely in- 
sist on damages because, in his correspondence with the govern- 
ment, an incautious admission may have been made, while the 
court, the proper tribunal, has investigated the case and come 
to a different conclusion. 

I think, moreover, it is an act of simple justice to Comman- 
der Collins that the censure upon him should be removed and that 
his record should remain unstained by the capture of the Mont 
Blanc. 

Very respectfully, 
GIDEON WELLES, 

Secty. of Navy. 
HON. WM. H. SEWABD, 

Secty. of State. 

Dep't. of State, 4 Aug. 1863. 
Hon. G. Welles, Secty. of the Navy. 

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your 
communication of the 31st ulto. relating to the case of the Mont 
Blanc. 



The following seems to be the history of the correspondence 
on that subject: 

On the 9th of Jan. 1863, Aubrey G. Butterfield, Esqr., British 
Consul at Key West, addressed to the British Consul at New 
York a note in which he stated that the Mont Blanc of Nassau, 
New Providence, A. Curry, Master, reached Key West on the 
29th of December 1862, under charge of the Octorara; that 
she had sailed from Green Turtle Key for Port Royal, South 
Carolina, on the 6th of December and was captured on the 21st 
when at anchor at Sand Key, Bahama Bank, a mile off the 
shore. This letter having been transmitted to me by Lord Lyons 
with a request for investigation, I had the honor to communi- 
cate it to you on the 13th of January. On the 17th of January 
you communicated to me a letter from Commander Collins of 
the Octorara in which he narrated the capture, and you remarked 
in the letter which you addressed to me, on that occasion, that 
it appeared that he captured the Mont Blanc within a marine 
league of one of the Cays over which the English Government 
claims jurisdiction, and that the question of jurisdiction at the 
Keys and Reefs of the Bahamas is one that should not be dis- 
posed of without deliberation; for although the amount at issue 
(in that capture) might be small, yet the principle is important. 

Acting Rear Admiral T. Bailey endorsed on the report of the 
capture made by Commander Collins, the words following: 
"Forwarded and attention requested to the fact that one of 
the captures (meaning that of the Mont Blanc) was made within 
a marine league of one of the Keys of the Bahamas over which 
the English claim jurisdiction." 

The report of Commander Collins and the indorsement of 
Acting Rear Admiral Bailey thereon, were communicated to me 
by you and were afterwards made known to Lord Lyons in 
reply to his previous call upon this Dep't for explanation. 

On the 2d of Feb. T. J. Boynton, Esqr., U. S. District Attorney 
at Key West, wrote to me to the effect that he had consented 
to the dismission of the libel against the Mont Blanc and her 
restitution to the master and claimant, for the reason that the 
evidence and statements of all parties left no room to doubt that 
the place where she was seized was within British waters. 

On the 9th of Feb. you wrote to me a letter, saying that, in 
your previous letter, you had called my attention to the ques- 



420 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 24 

tion of jurisdiction, not for the purpose of indicating that you 
had adopted any precise and fixed opinion on the particular ques- 
tion, but to call my attention to a matter which seemed likely 
to be followed by unlooked for and important consequences. 

On the llth of Feb. I had the honor to transmit to you a copy 
of Mr. Boynton's letter and on the same day communicated a 
copy of it also to Lord Lyons. On the 1st of May Lord Lyons 
replied under the instructions of the British Govt. to the effect 
that the seizure is admitted to have been made in British waters 
and while the Mont Blanc was at anchor; and Her Majesty's 
Gov't had accordingly desired him not only to express their 
expectation of compensation to the owners for the plain wrong 
done to them, but also to address to the U. S. Gov't a re- 
monstrance against the violation of British territory committed 
in this case, and to request that orders may be given to the 
U. S. Navy to abstain from committing the like grave offense 
against international law and the dignity of the British crown. 

To this note, by the President's directions, I replied on the 
7th of May, last, that when this case was first brought to the 
notice of the State Department I had called upon the Secretary 
of the Navy for information which resulted in a confirmation 
of His Lordship's representations that the Mont Blanc was 
seized at anchor within a mile of the shore in waters of which 
Great Britain claimed jurisdiction; that the vessel having been 
carried into Key West for adjudication, the attention of the 
District Attorney there was directed to the case; that on the 
2nd of Feb. the Dist. Attorney reported dismission of the case 
and restitution of the Mont Blanc to Master and Claimant 
because evidently it had been seized in British waters. That it 
seemed probable at that time that the master and claimant 
might have waived any further claim by assenting to the dispo- 
sition of the case which was thus made without insisting upon 
a continuance of it for the purpose of obtaining damages. That 
I had now submitted the claim to the President, and was author- 
ized to say that he admits that in view of all the circumstances 
of the case such compensation ought to be made and I there- 
fore proposed the mode of settlement which was finally accepted, 
and which is mentioned in your letter of this date. 

You now lay before me a copy of the order which was made 
in the Prize Court at Key West on the 19th of Jany., before Judge 



1863] THE CASE OF THE MONT BLANC 421 

Marvin. In this order it is declared that the cause of the United 
States against the schooner Mont Blanc and cargo, having come 
on to be heard, it is ordered by consent of all the parties in- 
terested that the vessel and cargo be restored to the claimant for 
the benefit of whom it may concern; that there was probable 
cause for the capture and detention of the vessel and that each 
party pay his own costs. Having communicated this order to 
me, you inform me that Commander Collins feels that he was 
reproved for an honest and vigilant discharge of a difficult and 
responsible duty, and is sensitive on a point touching his pro- 
fessional reputation. You remark that the judgment of the 
Court having the parties before it, and all the facts in the pre- 
mises is an exculpation of Commander Collins, who neverthe- 
less stands reproved and censured for doing that which the 
Court declares that he had probable cause for doing, and would 
therefore allow no costs, much less damages. 

You remark farther that you have felt it your duty to call 
my attention to this fact, not only to vindicate the opinion 
which you have so frequently expressed that all matters of 
prize should be left to the Court for adjudication without pre- 
judice or prejudgment from the Department, but in justice to 
a meritorious officer, who has been censured for a faithful dis- 
charge of his duty and who is acquitted by the legal tribunal 
for this act in seizing the Mont Blanc. 

You submit an opinion that Her Majesty's Representative 
will scarcely insist on damages because in his correspondence 
with the Gov't an incautious admission may have been made, 
while the Court, the proper tribunal, has investigated the case, 
and comes to a different conclusion. 

Finally, you remark that it is but an act of simple justice to 
Commander Collins that the censure upon him should be re- 
moved, and that his record should remain unstained by the 
capture of the Mont Blanc. 

I have submitted your note to the President together with 
the voluminous correspondence which it necessarily draws in 
review. It may be supposed, although it is not stated, that 
Commander Collins, in making the capture of the Mont Blanc, 
intended to furnish this Gov't with an occasion to raise a ques- 
tion whether the Key on which that vessel was captured was really 
within the maritime jurisdiction, although she was known to 



422 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 24 

assert that claim; and it may be inferred that you intended in 
your letter of the 17th of Jany. last to intimate to the State 
Department that the capture presented an opportunity for 
raising that question. 

However this may have been, Rear Adm'l Bailey's indorse- 
ment upon Commander Collins' report, and your own remarks 
upon it, were so expressed as to be understood to concede that 
the place of capture was within the proper maritime jurisdic- 
tion of Great Britain. But whatever reservation might have 
been practised on that question under other circumstances, it 
was quite too late for the Executive Government to raise it 
against the British Government after the Prize Court, with the 
consent of the Dist. Attorney and the captors, had dismissed 
the libel and ordered the restitution of the Mont Blanc, upon 
an agreement of all the parties that the place of capture was 
unquestionably within British jurisdiction. 

So far as relates to damages, the ground was expressly taken 
in the correspondence with Lord Lyons that the master and 
owner had waived damages by accepting the decree and the 
restitution of his vessel. But there still remained a party and 
rights which the Prize Court did not foreclose. That party was 
the Gov't of Great Britain, and its claim was one for redress for 
injuries to its sovereignty and dignity by a violation of her ter- 
ritory. No prize court of our country can try and decide a na- 
tional claim of this sort. It is a political claim only to be tried 
and adjudicated by the two Governments concerned. The rec- 
ords of the Gov't admitted the violation. It was confessed in 
the Court, and made the basis of the restitution of the vessel 
and her cargo to the owners. It is not perceived that the judg- 
ment of the Court now produced affects the disposition of the 
subject which has been made by the President. The judgment 
itself is a record that the national sovereignty of Great Britain 
was violated. And no shadow of a cause justifying the viola- 
tion has been raised in the whole correspondence. There is 
nothing but self-defense that could excuse the exercise of ag- 
gressive national authority, confessedly on the shores or within 
the waters of a friendly or neutral nation. It is true the Judge 
says in that record that there was probable cause for capture, 
but in the first place, Her Majesty's Gov't was not a party to 
that cause, and could not be, the alleged violation of its dignity 



1863] THE CASE OF THE MONT BLANC 423 

was not a question upon which the Court had cognizance; and 
no foreign nation is concluded upon such a claim by the judg- 
ment of a prize court in another nation. 

The President alone is the judge of what indemnity or satis- 
faction was due to the British Gov't upon the claim which they 
presented to him; and having awarded that satisfaction, he is 
now of opinion that he could not, without giving national of- 
fense, withdraw or retract the satisfaction which he has awarded, 
and which Her Majesty's Gov't have accepted. 

He is gratified with the evidence furnished that Commander 
Collins was actuated by loyal and patriotic motives in making 
a capture which has been proved to be erroneous. This explana- 
tion goes with the record, and it is not deemed unfortunate 
that the U. S. have shown their respect for the Law of Nations 
while they can excuse to themselves, but not to foreign nations, 
an unintentional departure from that law by its most trusted 
agents. 

I have the honor to be, 
Sir, 

Your Obedient Servant, 
WILLIAM H. SEWABD. 

NAVY DEPARTMENT, 

26 Aug. 1863. 
SIR, 

I have had the honor to receive your communication of the 
4th Ins't. & 14th Ins't., in relation to the case of the British 
schooner "Mont Blanc," captured by the U. S. Steamer "Octo- 
rara," Commander Collins, and released by the Prize Court 
at Key West. 

In your letter of the 4th Ins't., which gives a summary of the 
correspondence in relation to this case, you refer to the order 
of the prize court, in which "it is declared that the cause of 
the U. S. against the schooner 'Mont Blanc' and cargo, having 
come on to be heard, it is ordered by consent of all the parties 
interested that the vessel and cargo be released to the claimant 
for the benefit of whom it may concern; that there was probable 
cause for the capture and detention of the vessel and that each 
party pay his own costs." 

And in the same letter you state that "so far as relates to 



424 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 24 

damages, the ground was expressly taken in the correspondence 
with Lord Lyons that the master and owner had waived damages 
by accepting the decree and restitution of his vessel. But there 
still remained a party and rights which the prize court did not 
foreclose. That party was the Government of Great Britain, 
and its claim was one for redress for injuries to its sovereignty 
and dignity by a violation of her territory. No prize court of 
our country can try and decide a National claim of this sort." 

Your letter of the 14th Ins't. encloses a copy of a note from 
Lord Lyons, in which he says that on being informed by you 
that directions to proceed to the assessment of damages in this 
case would be given to Rear Admiral Bailey, he would on his 
part take care that proper directions should be sent to Mr. Vice 
Consul Butterfield and that he, Lord Lyons, is waiting for this 
information before taking any further steps. 

It appears, therefore, that this Depar't is expected to give di- 
rections for the assessment of damages in a case where it has 
repeatedly stated it would be improper for the Department to 
interfere, where the Judicial tribunal, which had cognizance, 
had decided that no damages are due, and where it is admitted 
that the master and owner have renounced all claim to damages. 

The Department has been placed in this unfortunate and 
somewhat anomalous position, partly by its own fault in too 
readily acquiescing in the proffered reparation by the State 
Department, and an arrangement that had been made by that 
Department with Her Majesty's representative, to ascertain 
and agree upon the damages to be paid, and to consider and dis- 
pose of the whole subject. 

In consequence of the representations communicated in your 
letter of the 7th of May, the Department has conveyed to the 
Commander of the Octorara the Executive censure for doing 
what the Court has decided he was excusable in doing. Although 
in this case of the "Mont Blanc," as on repeated occasions, the 
impropriety of interfering hi matters of prize, which belong 
legitimately to the courts, was freely expressed, yet under the 
urgent appeals that were made, an assurance that the amount 
was small, and the case could be more speedily and satisfactorily 
disposed of, by referring it to some person at or near Key West 
to consider and dispose of the whole subject without an appeal 
to the Court, the Department, without fully considering the 



1863] THE CASE OF THE MONT BLANG 425 

effect, and the legal power to afford reparation, was induced, in 
accordance with your request that some suitable person should 
be designated to take part in a conference as to damages, to 
name Acting Rear Admiral Bailey, for it knew no other in that 
locality unconnected with the Court. 

No instructions, however, have yet been given Acting Rear 
Admiral Bailey, and the case, as it now stands, is such that the 
Department doubts its power to give the instructions which 
seem to be required and expected. The powers of the Depart- 
ment are limited by law, and I am aware of no law which auth- 
orizes it to decide what you represent as a political claim only 
to be tried and adjudicated by the two Governments concerned, 
"a national claim of this sort." The authority of the De- 
partment extends only to legal, individual claims, in cases where 
it is clearly responsible in law for the acts of its agents. But 
in this case the law, or the tribunal which had authority to ex- 
pound and administer the law, has exonerated the agent of the 
Department from any responsibility. It is admitted that there 
is no claim in law only a political claim: no individual claim, 
but "a national claim." 

In such a case the Depar't would be perplexed in attempting 
to assess the damages, or in instructing others how to assess 
them. If it admits in this case that the legal renunciation of 
damages was of no effect, and that the claimant retained a legal 
claim for damages, it must make the same admission in every 
case, and ignore a well settled rule of admiralty and international 
law. 

If it undertakes to estimate a pecuniary equivalent for an 
aggression upon the dignity of a foreign government, its action 
might seem offensive, while it had every disposition to avoid 
giving offense. An apology for an injury to "sovereignty and 
dignity" may be more or less earnest, but how can such in- 
juries be estimated in dollars and cents, or pounds, shillings 
and pence? It is to be presumed that the British Government 
does not desire the claim to be considered in this light. 

It may be said the amount of damages in this case would be 
the amount which the Court at Key West would have awarded, 
had its decision been what a foreign government claims would 
have been righteous. But the Department cannot assent to 
this, for it has no authority to repudiate or set aside the decision 
of a Court of the United States. That can be done only by a 



426 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 24 

Superior Court or by Congress. It is the duty of this Depart- 
ment to respect and obey the decisions of the Courts of the 
United States. 

It is said that the decree "did not foreclose" the rights of 
the Government of Great Britain to claim redress in this case. 
In one sense to a certain extent this is true. The decision 
of the highest court in the land would not be conclusive on a 
foreign government. But if a claimant voluntarily renounces 
his claim, or right to appeal, can his government claim that 
justice has been denied him? Does not ordinary comity "fore- 
close" any government from taking it for granted that it cannot 
obtain justice from the tribunals of another, until it has at least 
made the attempt? In this case of the "Mont Blanc" there 
was an appeal open to the Supreme Court of the United States. 
Had it been taken, the result might possibly have been that the 
decree of the lower court would have been set aside and the case 
remanded with directions to grant ample damages; or, on the 
other hand, the decree of the lower court might have been con- 
firmed, for reasons so clear and convincing that the claimant him- 
self would have acquiesced, and his government have been fore- 
closed by its own sense of justice. 

Viewing the matter in this light, it appears to me that the 
right of the British Government to claim damages in this par- 
ticular case has been foreclosed, not by the decision of the Prize 
Court at Key West, but by the acquiescence of the claimants in 
that decision. The question of damages for injuries to "sover- 
eignty and dignity" is one which this Department has no au- 
thority to investigate or settle, and should pecuniary amends be 
required, it has no fund at its disposal to which the disburse- 
ment could be charged. 

Acting Rear Admiral Bailey having been designated as a 
suitable person to confer on the subject of damages, before it 
was known that the Court had adjudicated the case, I have the 
honor to enclose herewith a copy of the order which has been 
sent to that officer, directing him to attend to the duty, should 
it be further prosecuted, whenever he shall receive instructions 
from the Secretary of State in the premises. 

Very respectfully, 

GIDEON WELLES, 

HON. WM. H. SBWABD, Secty. of Navy. 

Secty. of State. 



1863J THE CASE OF THE MONT BLANC 427 

NAVT DEPARTMENT, 

26 August, 1863. 
SIR, 

In the case of the Mont Blanc, seized by Commander Collins 
at Sand Cay as a prize, the Court decreed: "That the cause of 
the U. S. against the schooner 'Mont Blanc' and cargo, having 
come on to be heard, it is ordered by consent of all the parties 
interested that the vessel and cargo be restored to the claimant 
for the benefit of whom it may concern; that there was proba- 
ble cause for the capture and detention of the vessel, and that 
each party pay his own costs." 

The proper tribunal having thus disposed of the question as 
between the parties, a further claim is presented by the British 
Government for damages for violated sovereignty, and the 
Secretary of State, who has communicated with Her Majesty's 
representative on this subject, having desired me to designate 
some person at Key West to confer with Vice Consul Butter- 
field on the matter of damages, I have presented your name to 
him for that duty. 

The case being, in its present position, one of a political na- 
ture, the Secretary of State will furnish you with the necessary 
instructions, should the subject be prosecuted. 

I am, respectfully, 
Your Obd't Serv't 
GIDEON WELLES, 

Secty. of the Navy. 
Acting Rear Admiral T. BAILEY, 
Commd'g. E. G. B. Squadron, 
Key West. 

August 25, Tuesday. The Rebel accounts of things at 
Charleston speak of Sumter in ruins, its walls fallen in, 
and a threatened assault on the city. I do not expect im- 
mediate possession of the place, for it will be defended 
with desperation, pride, courage, Nullification chivalry, 
which is something Quixotic, with the Lady Dulcineas to 
stimulate the Secession heroes; but matters are encour- 
aging. 

Thus far, the Navy has been the cooperating force, 
aiding and protecting the army on Morris Island. 



428 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 28 

August 28, Friday. The Rebels are demoralized and 
discouraged, yet have not the manly resolution to con- 
fess it. Great is the tyranny of public opinion in all this 
land of ours, and little is the individual independence that 
is exercised. Men surrender their honest convictions to 
the dictates of others, often of less sense and ability than 
themselves. The discipline and mandates of party are 
omnipotent, North as well as South. Toombs of Georgia 
publishes a letter hi which he speaks with freedom and 
boldness of the wretched condition of affairs among the 
Rebels, and of the rum that is before them. This is au- 
dacity rather than courage. Toombs is a malcontent. 
Scarcely a man has contributed more than Toombs to 
the calamities that are upon us, and I am glad to see that 
he is aware of the misery which he and his associates 
have inflicted on the country. I have ever considered 
him a reckless and audacious partisan, an unfit leader in 
public affairs, and my mind has not changed in regard to 
hmi. Toombs, however, was never a sycophant. 

Was at the navy yard with E[dgar] and F[ox] to examine 
the Clyde, one of the fast boats purchased by the Rebels 
in England, which was captured by our blockaders. 

August 29, Saturday. Have reluctantly come to the 
conclusion to visit the navy yards. It is a matter of duty, 
and the physicians and friends insist it will be conducive 
to health and strength. If I could go quietly it would give 
me pleasure, but I have a positive dislike to notoriety and 
parade, not because I dislike well-earned applause, not 
because I do not need encouragement, but there is so 
much insincerity in their showy and ostentatious parades, 
where the heartless and artful are often the most pro- 
minent. 

The President cordially approves my purpose, which he 
thinks and says will do me good and strengthen me for 
coming labors. 

Chase has been to me, urging the dispatch of several 



1863] THE ENGLISH CRUISERS 429 

vessels to seize the armored ships which are approaching 
completion in Great Britain and which may be captured 
off the English coast. The objections are: first, we cannot 
spare the ships; second, to place a naval force in British 
waters for the purpose indicated would be likely to embroil 
us with that power; third, the Secretary of State assures 
me in confidence that the armored vessels building in 
England will not be allowed to leave. This third objec- 
tion, which, if reliable, is in itself a sufficient reason for 
non-action on my part, I am not permitted to communi- 
cate to the Secretary of the Treasury, who is a part of the 
government and ought to know the fact. It may be right 
that the commercial community, who are deeply interested 
and who, of course, blame me for not taking more active 
and energetic measures, should be kept in ignorance of the 
true state of the case, but why withhold the truth from 
the Secretary of the Treasury? If he is not to be trusted, he 
is unfit for his place; but it is not because he is not to be 
trusted. These little things injure the Administration, 
and are in themselves wrong. I am, moreover, compelled 
to rely on the oral, unwritten statement of the Secretary 
of State, who may be imposed upon and deceived, who is 
often mistaken; and, should those vessels escape, the 
blame for not taking preliminary steps to seize them 
will fall heavily on me. It grieves Chase at this moment 
and lessens me in his estimation, because I am doing 
nothing against these threatened marauders and can give 
him no sufficient reasons why I am not. 

The subject of a reunion is much discussed. Shall we 
receive back the Rebel States? is asked of me daily. The 
question implies that the States have seceded, actually 
gone out from us, that the Union is at present dissolved, 
which I do not admit. People have rebelled, some volun- 
tarily, some by compulsion. Discrimination should be 
made in regard to them. Some should be hung, some exiled, 
some fined, etc., and all who remain should do so on con- 
ditions satisfactory and safe. I do not trouble myself about 



430 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [AUG. 29 

the Emancipation Proclamation, which disturbs so many. 
If New York can establish slavery or imprison for debt, 
so can Georgia. The States are and must be equal in po- 
litical rights. No one State can be restricted or denied 
privileges or rights which the others possess, or have bur- 
dens or conditions imposed from which its co-States are 
exempt. The Constitution must be amended, and our Union 
and system of government changed, to reach what is de- 
manded by extreme men in this matter. 



XII 

Return from a Tour among the Navy Yards Abuse of the Writ of Habeas 
Corpus in connection with the Draft The President suspends the 
Writ on Military Questions Newspaper Alarm over the Ironclads 
building in England Seward communicates the Assurances of the 
.British Ministry in regard to the Rams The News of Chickamauga 
The President laments the Inefficiency of the Generals The Presi- 
dent's Opinion of Farragut The Failure at Sabine Pass The English 
Government prevents the Laird Ram from coming out The Russian 
Fleet arrives at New York Reinforcing Rosecrans An Irregular 
Proceeding of Seward's The Conduct of the Generals at Chicka- 
mauga A Report about the Laird Ram. 

September 11, Friday. I left Washington on the 31st 
ult. on an official visit to the several navy yards. Have a 
good report of affairs during my absence. Met the mem- 
bers of the Cabinet with the exception of Stanton at the 
regular meeting. All glad to see me, none more so than 
the President, who cordially and earnestly greeted me. I 
have been less absent than any other member and was 
therefore perhaps more missed. 

Had a call from Admiral Farragut of a most cheerful 
and friendly character. Also from Commodore Pennock 
from Cairo. 

September 12, Saturday. Exceedingly busy in bringing 
up and disposing of matters which accumulated during 
my absence. Admiral Farragut and a few friends to dine 
with me. The more I see and know of Farragut, the better 
I like him. He has the qualities I supposed when he was 
selected. The ardor and sincerity which struck me during 
the Mexican War when he wished to take Vera Cruz, with 
the unassuming and the unpresuming gentleness of a true 
hero. 

September 14, Monday. The President called a special 



432 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 14 

Cabinet council this morning at eleven. The course pur- 
sued by certain judges is, he says, defeating the draft. 
They are discharging the drafted men rapidly under 
habeas corpus, and he is determined to put a stop to these 
factious and mischievous proceedings if he has the au- 
thority. The Secretary of State and Attorney-General 
have each been consulted and declare they have no doubt 
of his authority. Mr. Blair was satisfied the President had 
the legal power, but whether the measure proposed, which 
is an order from the President directing the provost mar- 
shals to disregard the writ, or to make return that the per- 
son to be discharged was held by authority of the Presi- 
dent, was perhaps not the best process. Mr. Chase feared 
civil war would be inaugurated if the privilege of the writ 
of habeas corpus was suspended. Mr. Usher had doubts 
and uncertainties. 

The President was very determined, and intimated that 
he would not only enforce the law, but if Judge Lowry 
and others continued to interfere and interrupt the draft 
he would send them after Vallandigham. As considerable 
discussion had taken place, he was prepared to act, though 
willing to listen to, and, if mistaken, to defer to, others. 
Up to this point neither Mr. Stanton or myself had taken 
part in the discussion, though Stanton had undoubtedly 
expressed his opinion and prompted the proposed ac- 
tion. 

I remarked that the subject was not new to me, that 
I had two or three times experienced this interference 
by judges to release men from service, not in relation to 
the recent draft, but that we were and had been suffering 
constant annoyance. Vessels were delayed on the eve of 
sailing, by interference of State judges, who assumed juris- 
diction and authority to discharge enlisted men in the 
national service in time of war, on habeas corpus. I had 
as high regard and reverence for that writ as any one, but 
it seemed to me there should be some way to prevent its 
abuse. A factious and evil-minded judge and we had 



1863] HABEAS CORPUS SUSPENDED 433 

many such holding State appointments could embar- 
rass the Government, could delay the departure of a vessel 
on an important mission, involving perhaps war or peace, 
or interrupt great military movements by an abused exer- 
cise of this writ, could stop armies on the march. I had 
questioned whether a local State or municipal judge should 
have this power to control national naval and military 
operations in a civil war, during the existence of hostili- 
ties, and suggested that, especially in time of war, United 
States judges were the only proper officers to decide in 
these naval and military cases affecting the law and serv- 
ice of the United States. Hitherto the Army had suffered 
less than the Navy, and I was not sorry the subject had 
been brought forward by others. 

The President said he would prepare and submit a paper 
at an adjourned meeting for criticism to-morrow at 9 A.M. 

September 15, Tuesday. The President read the paper 
which he had drawn up. Mr. Chase proposed as a pre- 
ferable course that the President should, pursuant to the 
act of the 3rd of March last, suspend by proclamation the 
privilege of the writ of habeas corpus on military questions. 
This proposition, after discussion, met with favor from 
all, and the Council adjourned to 1 P.M. for Mr. Seward to 
prepare a proclamation. On meeting at one o'clock, the 
draft which Mr. Seward had prepared was criticized and 
after some modifications was ordered to be recopied^ and 
carried into effect. All came into the arrangement cor- 
dially after Stanton read the reports of sundry provost 
marshals and others detailing the schemes practiced for 
defeating the draft. 

The question is raised whether the executive can sus- 
pend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus without 
Congressional action. If the executive can suspend in the 
cases specified, which is generally admitted, the policy 
of falling back on the act of the 3d of March last is more 
than questionable, for if Congress has, as claimed, the 



434 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. is 

exclusive right, can it delegate away that right? If the 
right is in the Executive, it is not wise nor proper to place 
the proclamation on the delegated grant in the law of 
last March which is made the basis of the proclamation. 
I think I am not mistaken in my impression that Mr.Chase 
is one of those who has claimed that the President had 
the constitutional right to suspend the privilege of this 
writ, yet he was to-day sensitive beyond all others in re- 
gard to it and proposed relying on the act of Congress in- 
stead of the constitutional Executive prerogative. He feared 
if the President acted on Executive authority a civil war 
in the Free States would be inevitable; fears popular tu- 
mult, would not offend Congress, etc. I have none of his 
apprehensions, and if it is the duty of the President, 
would not permit legislative aggression, but maintain .the 
prerogative of the Executive. 

Commander Shufeldt, an officer of ability, gives me 
trouble by a restless but natural desire for change and more 
active employment. Wishes an independent command, 
is dissatisfied to be in the South Atlantic Squadron. In- 
admissible. It is only recently he has been reinstated 
in the service, on my special recommendation and by my 
efforts, against the remonstrance of many officers and their 
friends in and out of Congress. Now to give him choice of 
position over others who never left the service would be 
unjust. I cannot do it. Duty on his present station is ard- 
uous, irksome, exhausting; some one must perform it were 
he to leave. 

September 16, Wednesday. Dispatches and also a private 
letter from Dahlgren speak of the assault and repulse at 
Sumter. Neither is clear and explicit. I should judge 
it had been a hasty and not very thoroughly matured 
movement. 

September 17, Thursday. Unpleasant rumors of a dis- 
agreement between Dahlgren and Gillmore and that the 



1863] ALARM OVER THE ENGLISH RAMS 435 

latter had requested to be relieved of his present command. 
This, I think, must be a mischievous rumor, perhaps 
a speculative one. 

A new panic is rising respecting the ironclads in Eng- 
land, and some of our sensation journals fan the excite- 
ment. It does not surprise me that the New York Times, 
Raymond's paper, controlled by Thurlow Weed, and all 
papers influenced by Seward should be alarmed. The 
latter knows those vessels are to be detained, yet will not 
come out and state the fact, but is not unwilling to have 
apprehension excited. It will glorify him if it is said 
they are detained through protest from our minister. If 
he does not prompt the Times, he could check its loud 
apprehensions. I am under restrictions which prevent 
me from making known facts that would dissipate this 
alarm. The Evening Post, I am sorry to see, falls in with 
the Times and its managers, and unwittingly assists those 
whom it does not admire. Both these journals are im- 
portunate, and insist that the Roanoke shall be returned 
to New York. But the Navy Department is not under 
newspaper control, though they have the cooperation of 
distinguished men. To station a steam frigate in New 
York would involve the necessity of stationing one also 
in the Delaware, and another at Boston. There would 
be no limit to the demand for naval defenses, yet it is 
claimed the coast defenses belong exclusively to the mil- 
itary. 

September 18, Friday. The proclamation suspending 
the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus has been gener- 
ally well received. I have never feared the popular pulse 
would not beat a heathful response even to a stringent 
measure in these times, if the public good demanded it. 

At the Cabinet-meeting Chase inquired of Seward 
how he and the Secretary of the Navy got on with the 
English ironclad rams. Seward treated the matter lightly 
and turned the conversation aside skillfully, I thought, 



436 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 18 

for I was interested in the question. No one could do 
this more adroitly than he. On returning from the Cabinet 
I found upon my table two letters received by the noon 
mail, one from Consul Dudley of Liverpool of the 5th 
and one from Consul Cleaveland at Cardiff of the 3rd, 
both private, but each warning me, earnestly, that the 
English government manifested no intention to detain 
these vessels, and expressing their belief that they will be 
allowed to leave. 

I went directly to the State Department with these 
letters, which I read to Seward, and reminded him of our 
conversation in August when he quieted my apprehension 
so far that I left Washington to visit the navy yards, 
by assurances which he had received that we should not 
be disturbed by these formidable vessels. 

He answered very pleasantly that he remembered the 
interview and the assurances he gave me, and seemed not 
the least disturbed by the information of threatened 
danger. On the contrary he appeared gratified and self- 
satisfied. After a remark or two of assumed indifference, 
he saw I was in earnest and not to be put off with mere 
words. He suddenly asked if I was a mason. I replied 
I was, but this was a matter of public concern. He said 
he wanted to tell me a secret which I must not com- 
municate to any living person, and he should be unwilling 
to tell it to me on other consideration while things were 
in their present condition. He must enjoin upon me es- 
pecially not to tell the President, nor let him know I had 
been informed, for he should himself probably let the 
President have the fact which he was about to disclose 
to me. "You must promise me," said he, "that you will 
neither communicate nor talk about it." 

I said that any matter thus communicated I should not 
be likely to repeat, but I must necessarily talk about these 
rams and communicate with others concerning them, 
it was my business and duty to do it. I had come to him 
to talk about them, and I must, from the information I 



1863] ASSURANCES FROM GREAT BRITAIN 437 

had, some of which I had just submitted, take action unless 
I had something from him to justify my abstaining to 
move. 

He had a hesitating and inquiring look. "If," said he, 
"England lets these vessels out we must let loose our 
privateers." 

This I had repeatedly said on previous occasions, and 
I now fully concurred, but I had delayed extra efforts 
in consequence of his assurances, and we are in no con- 
dition for these troubles. We must act, and with prompt- 
ness and energy, unless he had something to say as a pre- 
ventive. 

"Well, they won't come out," said he. "The English 
Ministry are our friends with the exception of the chief. 
His course and conduct are execrable, and with his organ 
are damnable. I don't know," continued S., "what he, 
the premier, means. For certain reasons they gave out on 
the 4th of November that the government could do no- 
thing to prevent the rams from coming out. On the 5th 
of November, the next day, they gave us assurances they 
should not come out. They will be retained in port, but 
you must not know this fact, nor must any one else know 
it. Mr. Adams is not aware of it. No one but you and the 
President and I must know it here, and it is best that he 
should not know that you know it." 

"Do you mean to say," I asked, "that this state of 
facts was communicated to you last November, nearly 
one year ago?" "No," replied he, "did I say November? 
I meant September. I have dispatches here. I have 
not read all. I left the Cabinet early, as you observed." 

After some farther remarks, some additional injunctions, 
assurances that no member of the Cabinet knew or must 
be allowed to know anything on the subject, there 
was a necessity that I should be informed, but yet appear 
to the world as if I were not informed, some allusions 
to the Emma, recently captured and taken into service, 
our interview terminated. Before leaving, however, he 



438 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 18 

expressed a wish that we had a fast steamer off Brest to 
capture the Florida, without recollecting that neither of 
our good neutral friends of England and France will al- 
low us to coal or remain in port over twenty-four hours. 

The information thus given in confidence relieves me of 
much labor and anxiety, yet I am not without some 
anxiety. I dislike this mystery, this reticence towards our 
colleagues in the government. Should the English fail us, 
or Seward find it convenient under a calamitous condition 
of affairs to deny what he has told me, or claim that he was 
misunderstood, I could not escape censure and condemna- 
tion. There is no record or writing in my possession. I 
have, on verbal, confidential assurances, omitted to take 
precautionary measures, which, without those assurances, 
I should have taken, and it was my duty to take, last 
August and now. If the rams come out and damage us, 
the denunciations against me will be severe, and I am with- 
out remedy but must bear the odium of neglect and in- 
action, for I cannot make public what has been told me. 

The Emma was not a naval capture. She was taken by 
the Arago, an army transport, and was purchased under 
order of the court by the Navy. Her Majesty's repre- 
sentative is pressing the question of sale to the Navy of 
this vessel, captured by an army transport, for a purpose. 

September 21, Monday. A battle was fought on Satur- 
day near Chattanooga and resumed yesterday. Am ap- 
prehensive our troops have suffered and perhaps are in 
danger. As yet the news is not sufficiently definite. 

The President came to me this afternoon with the latest 
news. He was feeling badly. Tells me a dispatch was sent 
to him at the Soldiers' Home shortly after he got asleep, 
and so disturbed him that he had no more rest, but arose 
and came to the city and passed the remainder of the 
night awake and watchful. He has a telegram this P.M. 
which he brings me that is more encouraging. Our men 
stood well their ground and fought like Union heroes for 



1863] THE NEWS OF CHICKAMAUGA 439 

their country and cause. We conclude the Rebels have 
concentrated a large force to overpower Rosecrans and 
recapture Chattanooga. While this has been doing, Hal- 
leek has frittered away time and dispersed our forces. 
Most of Grant's effective force appears to have been sent 
across the Mississippi, where a large force is not needed. 
Burnside is in northeastern Tennessee, two hundred 
miles away from Chattanooga. While our men are thus 
scattered, a large division from Lee's army in our front 
has been sent under Longstreet to Bragg; and Hill's and 
Ewell's corps, it is reported, are there also. I trust this 
account is exaggerated, though the President gives it 
credence. I do not learn, nor can I ascertain, that General 
Halleck was apprised of, or even suspected, what was 
being done; certainly he has made no preparation. The 
President is, I perceive, not satisfied, but yet he does not 
censure or complain. Better, perhaps, if he did. 

I expressed surprise to the President at the management 
and his forbearance, and it touched him. I asked what 
Meade was doing with his immense army and Lee 's skele- 
ton and depleted show in front. He said he could not learn 
that Meade was doing anything, or wanted to do any- 
thing. "It is," said he, "the same old story of this Army 
of the Potomac. Imbecility, inefficiency don't want to 
do is defending the Capital. I inquired of Meade," 
said he, "what force was in front. Meade replied he 
thought there were 40,000 infantry. I replied he might 
have said 50,000, and if Lee with 50,000 could defend their 
capital against our 90,000, and if defense is all our 
armies are to do, we might, I thought, detach 50,000 
from his command, and thus leave him with 40,000 to 
defend us. Oh," groaned the President, "it is terrible, 
terrible, this weakness, this indifference of our Potomac 
generals, with such armies of good and brave men." 

"Why," said I, "not rid yourself of Meade, who may 
be a good man and a good officer but is not a great gen- 
eral, has not breadth or strength, certainly is not the man 



440 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 21 

for the position he occupies? The escape of Lee with 
his army across the Potomac has distressed me almost 
beyond any occurrence of the War. And the impression 
made upon me in the personal interview shortly after 
was not what I wished, had inspired no confidence, though 
he is faithful and will obey orders; but he can't originate." 

The President assented to all I said, but "What can I 
do," he asked, "with such generals as we have? Who 
among them is any better than Meade? To sweep away 
the whole of them from the chief command and substitute 
a new man would cause a shock, and be likely to lead to 
combinations and troubles greater than we now have. I 
see all the difficulties as you do. They oppress me." 

Alluding to the failures of the generals, particularly 
those who commanded the armies of the Potomac, he 
thought the selections, if unfortunate, were not imputable 
entirely to him. The Generals-in-Chief and the Secre- 
tary of War should, he said, know the men better than he. 
The Navy Department had given him no trouble in this 
respect; perhaps naval training was more uniform and 
equal than the military. I thought not; said we had our 
troubles, but they were less conspicuous. In the selection 
of Farragut and Porter, I thought we had been particu- 
larly fortunate; and Du Pont had merit also. He thought 
there had not been, take it all in all, so good an appoint- 
ment in either branch of the service as Farragut, whom he 
did not know or recollect when I gave him command. 
Du Pont he classed, and has often, with McClellan, but 
Porter he considers a busy schemer, bold but not of high 
qualities as a chief. For some reason he has not so high an 
appreciation of Porter as I think he deserves, but no man 
surpasses Farragut in his estimation. 

In returning to Secretary Seward a dispatch of Minister 
Dayton at Paris, in relation to the predatory Rebel Flor- 
ida, asking one or more fast steamers to intercept that 
vessel, which is now at Brest, I took a different view from 
the two gentlemen. To blockade Brest would require not 



1863] THE FAILURE AT SABINE PASS 441 

less than five vessels. If we could spare five such vessels, 
whence would they get supply of fuel, etc.? England and 
France allow only sufficient to take the vessel home; and 
for three months thereafter our vessels receiving supplies 
are excluded from their ports. As England and France 
have recognized the Rebels, who have no commerce, no 
navy, no nationality, as the equals of the United States, 
with whom they have treaties, and, professedly, amicable 
relations, I deem it best under the circumstances to abstain 
from proceedings which would be likely to complicate and 
embroil us, and would leave those countries to develop the 
policy which shall govern themselves and nations in the 
future. They must abide the consequences. 



September 22, Tuesday. But little additional intelli- 
gence from Rosecrans and the South. We have informa- 
tion of a failure on our part at Sabine Pass, where an at- 
tempt was made to capture formidable batteries with 
frail boats, the army as spectators. The expedition ap- 
pears to have been badly conceived, planned, and exe- 
cuted. A large military force was sent to take these bat- 
teries. Neither General Halleck nor the Secretary of War 
consulted the Navy in this matter. General Banks ap- 
pears to have originated it, and made a requisition on 
Commodore Bell, who readily responded, in the absence 
of Farragut, with light boats built for transporting pas- 
sengers in Northern rivers. Admiral Farragut was at the 
Navy Department when dispatches were received from 
Commodore Bell, stating that application for cooperation 
and aid had been made on him, and how he had answered 
the call. When Farragut read the dispatch, he laid down 
the paper and said to me: "The expedition will be a fail- 
ure. The army officers have an impression that naval 
vessels can do anything; this call is made for boats to 
accompany an army expedition; it is expected the Navy 
will capture the batteries, and, the army being there in 



442 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 22 

force with a general in command, they will take the credit. 
But there will be no credit in the case, and you may ex- 
pect to hear of disaster. These boats which Bell has 
given them cannot encounter batteries; they might co- 
operate with and assist the army, but that is evidently 
not the object. The soldiers should land and attack in the 
rear, and the vessels aid them in front. But that is not 
the army plan. The soldiers are not to land until the 
Navy had done an impossibility, with such boats. There- 
fore there will be disaster." The news of to-day verifies 
his prediction. This Sabine expedition was substituted, 
I suppose, for that of Indianola, which I suggested, and 
we may now have the promised word of General Halleck. 
He will have heard from Banks. 

September 23. Stanton tells me that General Meade is 
hi town. I trust some efficient blows to be struck now that 
Lee is weak. The opportunity should not be lost, but the 
army is to me a puzzle. I do not find that Stanton has 
much to say or do. If there are facilities of combination and 
concentration, it is not developed. No offensive move- 
ments here; no assistance has been rendered Rosecrans. 
For four weeks the Rebels have been operating to over- 
whelm him, but not a move has been made, a step taken, 
or an order given, that I can learn. Halleck has done 
nothing, proposed nothing, and is now just beginning to 
take measures to reinforce Rosecrans. Has he the mind, 
energy, or any of the qualities or capabilities for the im- 
portant position assigned him? 

September 24, Thursday. I am more desponding than 
I care to acknowledge. The army management distresses 
all of us, but we must not say so. It is no tune for fault- 
finding; besides I understand there is a move to reinforce 
the army in Tennessee. 

Last July, on the suggestion of Seward, I was in con- 
sultation with him, Stanton, and Halleck in regard to 



1863] RUSSIAN FLEET AT NEW YORK 443 

Texas. Neither Stanton nor Halleck had any views on the 
subject, nor a proposition or suggestion to make. I pro- 
posed a descent on Indianola. Halleck did not know where 
it was. Would consent to nothing, nor to any considera- 
tion of the subject, till he heard from Banks; would then 
immediately notify Seward and myself. This was at least 
two months ago, and the last I have heard from Major- 
General Halleck, until we are now told General Banks or- 
ganized an expedition to Texas. Heigho! the SabinePass? 

September 25, Friday. The President was not with us 
to-day at the Cabinet-meeting, being at the War Depart- 
ment with Stanton. All were present but them. Little 
known of army movements, but anxiety on the part of 
each. The English Government has interposed to prevent 
the armored rams built by the Lairds from coming out. 
Seward announced the fact, and also that he had placed 
me under injunctions of secrecy. This was the reason 
why no explanation had been given for my non-action* 
for which I have been much blamed. 

Things look a little threatening from France, but Louis 
Napoleon may not persist when he learns that England 
has changed her policy. Should we meet with defeat at 
Chattanooga, it is by no means certain England will not 
again assume unfriendly airs, and refer the question of the 
departure of the armored ships to the "law officers of the 
Crown." Our own ironclads and the fear of privateers 
which would ruin her commerce are, however, the best 
law, and our best safeguards. 

The Russian fleet has come out of the Baltic and are 
now in New York, or a large number of the vessels have 
arrived. They are not to be confined in the Baltic by a 
northern winter. In sending them to this country at this 
time there is something significant. What will be its effect 
on France and the French policy we shall learn in due time. 
It may moderate; it may exasperate. God bless the Rus- 
sians. 



444 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 26 

September 26, Saturday. We have had for a week, com- 
mencing last Saturday, unusually cool weather for the 
season in this climate. I have found a fire agreeable and 
necessary for pleasant work every day in my library at 
home and also at the Department. The weather has been 
admirable for army operations, but I do not learn that 
there have been any movements in this vicinity on the 
part of our friends. 

General Halleck has earnestly and constantly smoked 
cigars and rubbed his elbows, while the Rebels have been 
vigorously concentrating their forces to overwhelm Rose- 
crans. We all, except General Halleck, know that Long- 
street with 20,000 men has gone from Lee's army some- 
where. The information does not seem to have reached 
Halleck; if it has he has taken no measures in regard to it. 
Not a man until within three days and probably too late 
was sent to Rosecrans, who held the key that con- 
trolled the Rebel centre, and of which they must dispos- 
sess him or their cause is endangered. H. has never 
seemed to realize the importance of that position nor, 
I am sorry to say, of any other. 

I learned from the President that two divisions of the 
army under Hooker are moving to strengthen Rosecrans. 
It was decided at the War Department that an effort 
should be made. Seward and Chase were there, and I 
think the latter suggested the movement, which was 
warmly seconded and adopted by Stanton. The President 
does not say how active a part he took, but from our 
conversations I know his anxiety for this step has been 
great. 

The most reliable account we have of the battle leaves 
little doubt we were beaten, and only the skill and valor 
of General Thomas and his command saved the whole 
concern from a disastrous defeat. McCook and Critten- 
den are reported to have behaved ingloriously. There is 
obscurity and uncertainty respecting Rosecrans on the 
last day that should be cleared up. Reasons, as yet un- 



1863] A BETTER TEMPER IN ENGLAND 445 

explained, may have existed for his withdrawal, but these 
defects are always painful. 

September 28, Monday. The last arrivals indicate a 
better tone and temper in England, and I think in France 
also. From the articles in their papers, Cole's letter, etc., 
I think our monitors and heavy ordnance have had a peace- 
ful tendency, a tranquillizing effect. The guns of the Wee- 
hawken have knocked the breath out of British statesmen 
as well as the crew of the Atlanta. The " swamp angel," as 
they call Gillmore's gun which throws shot from Morris 
Island into Charleston, has made itself felt and heard in 
England. 

The President sent for me this noon. I found Seward 
with him, reading his dispatches for the next steamer. 
One to Dayton somewhat interesting, to Motley and others 
commonplace. 

A letter which he had prepared, to Stuart in the absence 
of Lord Lyons, in the case of the Emma, was the special 
occasion of calling me to the interview. This vessel had 
run the blockade, but the Arago, an army transport, 
falling in with her, the commander became alarmed and 
commenced throwing overboard his cargo of cotton and 
putting on more steam in order to escape. Her efforts 
excited suspicion, and the Arago ran down to the Emma, 
which surrendered. The captain acknowledged her guilt, 
and she was brought into New York. The District At- 
torney procured an order of sale from the court, the Navy 
Department took her at her appraised value, and she was 
sent to the Navy Yard for alterations, adapting her to 
naval purposes. It now transpires that Mr. Seward in 
May last, without consulting or communicating with 
others, made a strange promise to Mr. Stuart, that he 
would get an opinion from the Attorney-General as to the 
construction of an act passed by the last Congress in re- 
lation to the sale of captured neutral vessels. In the mean 
time he pledged himself to Her Majesty's representative 



446 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 28 

that no sale should take place until there was a decision 
on the point which Mr. Stuart, or Mr. Seward, or both 
thought of doubtful validity. But the Attorney-General, 
was pressed with business, had been absent some weeks 
in Missouri, and his opinion did not come in until late. 
In the mean time the Emma had been sold to the Navy 
and transferred to the navy yard, where she had under- 
gone a complete transformation. 

Mr. Seward now finds himself embarrassed by the 
promise which he inconsiderately made and of which im- 
propriety none of us were advised; says the faith of the 
State Department is pledged, and he wishes all proceed- 
ings stopped till the court shall have decided on the valid- 
ity of the capture. The President had been appealed to, 
and, though evidently annoyed by the hasty and imprud- 
ent action of Mr. Seward, he desired the appeal of the 
Secretary of State should be considered, and his pledge 
redeemed. I informed him that the sale had been made, 
the transfer completed, the vessel had been for weeks at 
the navy yard undergoing repairs and alterations, that she 
was an entirely different craft from what she was when 
captured, that the best we could do under the circum- 
stances was to detain her at the yard and not put her in 
commission. 

These irregular and unauthorized proceedings are cause 
of constant difficulty and embarrassment, and are very in- 
jurious to the public service. We want and have prepared 
this vessel for special duty, which, had we known the 
pledges of the Secretary of State, we should have allotted 
differently. As it is, the government must sustain loss 
and the Navy Department be straitened by this irregu- 
larity. 

The President read to Seward and myself a detailed 
confidential dispatch from Chattanooga very derogatory 
to Crittenden and McCook, who wilted when every en- 
ergy and resource should have been put forth, disap- 
peared from the battle-field, returned to Chattanooga, 



and went to sleep. The officers who did their duty are 
dissatisfied. We had their statements last week, which 
this confidential dispatch confirms. It makes some, but 
not a very satisfactory, excuse for Rosecrans, in whom 
the President has clearly lost confidence. He said he was 
urged to change all the officers, but thought he should 
limit his acts to Crittenden and McCook; said it would 
not do to send one of our generals from the East. I ex- 
pressed a doubt if he had any one suitable for that com- 
mand or the equal of Thomas, if a change was to be 
made. There was no one in the army who, from what I 
had seen and known of him, was so fitted for that command 
as General Thomas. Rosecrans had stood well with the 
country until this time, but Thomas was a capable general, 
had undoubted merit, and was a favorite with the men. 
Seward thought the whole three Rosecrans, Crittenden, 
and McCook should be removed. 

September 29, Tuesday. No matter of special importance; 
nothing but current business in Cabinet. Seward and Stan- 
ton were not present. The latter seems to make it a 
point recently not to attend. Others, therefore, run to 
him. I will not. Military operations are of late managed at 
the War Department, irrespective of the rest of the Cabi- 
net, or of all who do not go there. This is not difficult, 
for the President spends much of his time there. Seward 
and Chase make daily visitations to Stanton, sometimes 
two or three times daily. I have not the time, nor do I 
want the privilege, though I doubtless could have it for 
Stanton treats me respectfully and with as much confid- 
ence as he does any one when I approach him, except 
Seward. But I cannot run to the War Department and pay 
court in order to obtain information that should be given. 
Chase does this, complains because he is compelled to do it, 
and then, when not bluffed, becomes reconciled. To-day 
he expressed great disgust towards Halleck; says Halleck 
has done nothing while the Rebels were concentrating, 



448 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [SEPT. 29 

has sent no reinforcements to Rosecrans and did not 
propose to send any. Those that had gone were ordered 
by Stanton. Halleck, he said, was good for nothing, and 
everybody knew it but the President. 

A large delegation of extreme party men is here from 
Missouri to see the President and Cabinet. So intense and 
fierce in their party animosities, that they would, if in 
their power, be more revengeful inflict greater injury 
on those Republicans, friends of the Administration, who 
do not conform to their extreme radical and fanatical 
views than on the Rebels in the field. The hate and narrow 
partisanship exhibited in many of the States, when there 
should be some forbearance, some tolerance, some spirit 
of kindness, are among the saddest features of the times. 

September 30, Wednesday. I am warned and admonished 
in various quarters that Laird's vessel is about to make 
a trial trip, and that it will extend across the Atlantic. 
My omission to make preparations is stigmatized as neg- 
ligence, indifference, and worse. 

Am sorry Seward treats the subject so gingerly. When 
Palmerston or Earl Russell prates about their foreign en- 
listment act, and that it is uncertain whether the law has 
really been violated by Laird, Americans must be pro- 
voked. If their municipal legislation is weak and inef- 
ficient, why is it not corrected? There are international 
obligations which cannot be disregarded. Let us have 
good faith, peace or war! 



XIII 

Slow Progress at Charleston Letter to the President in reference to In- 
structions to Naval Officers Seward refers the Spanish Claim of Mari- 
time Jurisdiction to the King of Belgium Conversation with Admiral 
Milne of the British Navy A Political Letter of McClellan's The 
Ohio and Pennsylvania Elections Lincoln's Magnanimity to Meade 
General Sickles's Account of Gettysburg Meade's "Strategy" 
The Unaccredited Minister from Venezuela desires to purchase a Naval 
Vessel General Terry and Colonel Hawley on Dahlgren An Unjust 
Complaint from Admiral Du Pont. 

October 1, Thursday. Complaints of slow progress at 
Charleston reach us. Censure is thrown upon Dahlgren 
which is not altogether just. His undue promotion re- 
quires extraordinary ability and effort to lift him above 
the rivalries and jealousies of his contemporaries in the 
profession. He has prudence, caution, intelligence, but 
not the dash and fearless daring to distinguish himself 
which would reconcile them to the favoritism he has ex- 
perienced. Then, worse than this, the Navy, and he as 
commander in a conjoint movement, encounter the army 
jealousy. All failures, or any want of success, is imputed to 
the Navy, though entirely blameless, and though the 
fault, if any, is with the military. Without the Navy, 
Morris Island could not be retained by the army, and all 
proceedings would terminate, yet the Navy gets no credit. 
Its services are not properly appreciated, and General 
Gillmore, though a good engineer, is, I apprehend, not 
adapted to full command, cannot manage men, and 
has the infirmities which belong to engineers and those 
who are trained to secondary and scientific positions. 
They can criticize, and blame others without the faculty 
of accomplishing great results themselves. 

October 3, Saturday. Mr. Seward called early this morn- 



450 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 3 

ing and read me the draft of a proclamation for Thanks- 
giving. I complimented the paper as very well done, and 
him for his talent in the preparation of such papers, 
which pleased him; but he made a remark to which I 
did not respond as favorably. He said it had been formerly 
claimed that Thanksgivings were a State institution, a 
State prerogative; bethought it a good time and oppor- 
tunity to extinguish that claim and make such days na- 
tional. I remarked there might be propriety, as at this 
time, in designating a day to be observed throughout the 
whole country, but there were occasions when a people 
in one State or section had reasons for special thanks, 
which reasons might not exist in other sections, as for a 
bountiful harvest in some latitudes when there might be 
famine and drought in others; that the most which could 
be done was recommendatory, and the practice was, I 
believed, now voluntary everywhere, but that until com- 
paratively recently the observance of Thanksgiving and 
also of Fast was in my State compulsory, and "all servile 
labor and vain recreation" on those days were "by law 
prohibited"; that it would hardly do to make this institu- 
tion national with mandatory orders, such as some States 
had ordered. 

I called on the President this afternoon relative to 
certain proposed instructions which he, at the suggestion 
of Mr. Seward, wished should be issued to naval officers. 
He had been bored with troublesome company and was 
weary and exhausted. As I opened my portfolio the quan- 
tity of papers disturbed him. I stated briefly the case, 
which, being one of Seward's, he did not distinctly re- 
member, and remarked the subject was, I thought, more 
important than he apprehended, that I had given it much 
time and thought, and it had increased in magnitude the 
more I had considered it. He became interested, recalled 
the case, and desired me to leave the papers with him and 
he would read them by himself. His mind was still con- 
fused and he wished to understand the subject more 



1863] INSTRUCTIONS TO NAVAL OFFICERS 451 

fully. Mr. Seward, whose inconsiderate and imprudent 
promises have involved him in difficulty, and who in con- 
sequence aims to involve the Administration in a most 
unwise and injudicious proceeding, will have an oppor- 
tunity to read and digest my report. It will, I think, do 
him good and Lord Lyons no harm. Fox and Faxon 
both urge me to send a duplicate to the State Department, 
that the papers may be placed on file. [The correspondence 
follows.] 

EXECUTIVE MANSION, 
Washington, July 25, 1863. 
Hon. Secretary of the Navy, 

Sm, 

Certain matters have come to my notice, and considered 
by me, which induce me to believe that it will conduce to the 
public interest for you to add to the general instructions given 
to our Naval Commanders, in relation to contraband trade, 
propositions substantially as follows, to wit: 

1st. "You will avoid the reality, and as far as possible, the 
appearance of using any neutral port to watch neutral vessels 
and then to dart out and seize them on their departure." 

Note "Complaint has been made that this has been 
practised at the Port of St. Thomas, which practice, if it exist, 
is disapproved and must cease." 

2d. ''"You will not in any case detain the crew of a captured 
neutral vessel, or any other subject of a neutral power on board 
such vessel as prisoners of war or otherwise, except the small 
number necessary as witnesses in the prize court." 

Note "The practice here forbidden is also charged to 
exist, which, if true, is disapproved and must cease." 

My dear Sir, it is not intended to be insinuated that you have 
been remiss in the performance of the arduous and responsible 
duties of your Department, which I take pleasure in affirming 
has, in your hands, been conducted with admirable success. Yet 
while your subordinates are, almost of necessity, brought into 
angry collision with the subjects of foreign States, the represent- 
atives of those States and yourself do not come into immediate 
contact for the purpose of keeping the peace, in spite of such 
collisions. At that point there is an ultimate and heavy re- 
sponsibility upon me. 



452 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 3 

What I propose is in strict accordance with international law, 
and is therefore unobjectionable; while if it do no other good, it 
will contribute to sustain a considerable portion of the present 
British Ministry in their places, who, if displaced, are sure to be 
replaced by others more unfavorable to us. 

Your Obd't Serv't 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 

NAVY DEPARTMENT, 

30 Sept: 1863. 
SIB: 

Since the interview with you some weeks since, in rela- 
tion to certain proposed instructions to our Naval Officers, I 
have, as suggested, given the subject careful and thorough in- 
vestigation, and am fully satisfied that neither in British law 
nor British practice is there any authority or precedent for such 
instructions. As Her Majesty's representative has introduced 
the subject, I have embodied what I believe to be the law and 
usage on the several points, in a distinct paper, which can, if 
you think proper, be submitted to Lord Lyons, and if I have in 
that document done injustice in any respect to British authority 
and British usage, or misapprehended or misstated international 
law, I shall be happy to be corrected. 

Permit me in this connection to express my surprise and regret 
that the British Minister should so persistently insist on inter- 
fering in matters that belong to the Prize Courts, and on which 
he should not be heard from diplomatically, as, were Great 
Britain in our case and we in hers, the American Minister in 
London would not be heard diplomatically until judicial reme- 
dies have been exhausted. His right to be heard in the Court of 
Prize, according to its rules of procedure, and in the proper cases, 
is unquestioned. If the Court, after its appellate jurisdiction 
is fully exhausted, should fail to do justice in any case then un- 
doubtedly, and not till then, diplomacy may properly come in. 
But I do not understand by what authority Her Majesty's 
Minister intervenes at all, even in the Prize Courts by sugges- 
tion, or before you, in cases where the violation of territorial 
immunities of Neutral powers, other than Great Britain, is in 
question. 

If our Naval Officers violate the sovereignty, or the neutrality, 
or the municipal regulations, of a neutral state, we are, first 



1863] INSTRUCTIONS TO NAVAL OFFICERS 453 

in our Prize Courts and then diplomatically, amenable for that 
violation to the neutral state itself, and not to Great Britain, 
even though the act of violation has been perpetrated there by 
us upon a British vessel. There is no principle of international 
law better settled than this, and I respectfully insist that no 
one but the sovereign of the neutral territory which is violated, 
has the slightest right to allege or suggest such violation, even 
in our prize courts, and much less diplomatically. 

As regards persons on board of captured neutral vessels the 
best rule of law is that they shall be sent in as witnesses; the re- 
quirement of law is that some be sent in; and if the captor fails 
to send them all in, he so fails at his peril of not sending enough ; 
and if he sends them all in, all being neutral, no one has the 
right anywhere to complain of him, provided only that he had 
probable cause for capturing the ship. 

But in the war in which we are now engaged, it must be re- 
membered that no inconsiderable portion of the persons captured 
on some of the vessels, claiming to be neutral, are rebels. It is 
impossible for the captor to decide who, or how many are rebels. 
It certainly is not advisable to go counter to the rule so framed 
by all the Courts, nor to release captured rebel prisoners. 

I am not unaware of your strong desire to conciliate Great 
Britain and to make all reasonable concessions to preserve 
friendly relations with her. In this feeling I cordially partici- 
pate. But my earnest conviction is that we shall best command 
the respect which insures peace, by firmly, but not offensively, 
maintaining our rights; and in no way can amicable relations 
with Great Britain and others be so surely maintained as by our 
claiming only what is right, by surrendering nothing that is 
clearly and indisputably our own, and by referring always the 
question of what our just rights are to those tribunals of Prize, 
which are instituted by the consent of nations to adjudge these 
points, under the law of nations and in the interests of peace, 
by reason of the acknowledged inability of diplomacy, even in 
the most skilful hands, to deal satisfactorily, before-hand, with 
these complicated questions as they arise. 

I am, respectfully, &c. 

GIDEON WELLES, 

Secty of Navy. 
THE PRESIDENT. 



454 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 3 

Memoranda submitted for the consideration of the President, 
upon the proposed Instructions to Naval Officers: 

It is suggested at the instance it would seem of the British 
Government, or at least in conformity with its views and 
wishes, that our Naval Officers in command of the vessels com- 
posing our Navy, and at present engaged in belligerent opera- 
tions, shall be instructed by the government in the following 
terms: 

"1. You will avoid the reality, and as far as possible the 
appearance, of using any neutral port to watch neutral vessels 
and then to dart out and seize them on their departure." 

" 2. You will not, in any case, detain the crew of a captured 
neutral vessel, as prisoners of war, or otherwise, except the 
small number necessary as witnesses in the prize court." 

In considering the expediency of issuing at this time these 
instructions to our Naval commanders, it is proper, in the first 
place, to bear in mind, that if issued by us they will be, so far 
as is known, without any precedent in the history of the Naval 
service of any country engaged in war. 

It should be observed, in the second place, that such instruc- 
tions would impose upon our naval officers restrictions and 
limitations in the performance of their duties which are in no 
wise imposed upon them by any established principle or fixed 
rules of international law. 

It must be borne in mind, in the third place, as being alike 
important and extraordinary, that this government is so urged 
to issue to its naval commanders these stringently restrictive 
instructions, without having the slightest guarantee that simi- 
lar restrictions will be imposed in neutral ports upon the pre- 
datory sea-rovers under the rebel flag, whom neutral powers, 
under the lead of Great Britain, have already regarded and 
treated, in these ports, as having belligerent rights. 

It should not be forgotten, in the fourth place, that this gov- 
ernment is now urged to issue these instructions without any 
assurance by Great Britain, or any other neutral power, that 
if issued and acted upon by us in this war with the rebels, who 
have no Navy and no commerce, they will be held by Great 
Britain, or any other power, to constitute for it a precedent or 
a rule of action in its exercise of belligerent rights in any war, 
civil or international, in which it may hereafter engage; nor 



1863] EXAMINATION OF ADMIRALTY LAW 455 

is the slightest intimation given that such instructions to our 
naval commanders now will induce, or tend to induce Great 
Britain, or any other neutral power, to abandon or to modify 
in our favor any course of action or policy in the present 
war, of which we have complained, or have had reason to com- 
plain. 

In the fifth place, these proposed instructions seem to stand 
upon an unsound principle. It is a fundamental principle of 
public law that the neutral sovereign himself and not the belli- 
gerent cruiser who lawfully resorts to the ports or waters within 
his jurisdiction is the guardian of this neutrality, and of all 
its immunities and privileges. In his own prize courts he must, 
in every case where he can obtain jurisdiction, do justice, upon 
the claim of any party injured by the infraction of his neutral 
privilege. In the prize courts of the belligerent government, 
he, the neutral sovereign, can alone be heard, even to claim 
such redress for such violation of his neutrality. So, too, neu- 
trality having its duties as well as its rights, the public law 
holds the neutral government, and it alone, responsible to all 
concerned, for any violation of neutrality within the limits of 
its jurisdiction. In the absence of treaty stipulations to the 
contrary, every neutral government exercises the right to de- 
termine and prescribe for itself, upon its responsibility, the 
conditions of ingress, egress, sojourn and conduct within its 
ports and territorial waters, upon which alone it will permit 
belligerent cruisers to resort to those places and enjoy such, and 
only such, of their accommodations as it may see fit to afford. 
Now, in defiance of this fundamental principle that the neutral 
government is always the judge of the conditions upon which 
the hospitality of its ports may be enjoyed by belligerent cruisers, 
it is proposed in these instructions that we, being belligerents, 
should gratuitously proceed beyond the requirements of public 
law and belligerent usage and establish for all our ships of war, 
certain additional restrictive conditions, within which only 
they shall use any neutral port. What assurance have we that 
any neutral government desires us now, or will desire us here- 
after to take such action, restricting ourselves in her ports, in 
the exercise, outside of her limits, of our belligerent rights, 
either of search or of capture? Will any one neutral power 
will Great Britain herself, at this time give us assurance 



456 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 3 

that in any future war which may happen, it, being then neutral, 
will by municipal regulation, adopt the stringent terms of the 
proposed instructions, and make them an indispensable con- 
dition precedent to the use of all her ports by any belligerent 
cruiser? If not, then why should we, as belligerents, be expected 
now to put such a gratuitous disability upon all our cruisers, in 
all the neutral ports of the world? Is it not enough that our 
cruisers should in all neutral ports obey all the law, public and 
municipal, which they find in force there, and in case of its 
violation, by accident and against our fixed policy, afford, in the 
proper manner, through the judicial tribunals or otherwise, 
prompt and adequate reparation? 

In the sixth place, it seems to follow from these views, that 
to instruct our cruisers, as above proposed, is no part of our 
business as belligerents? Therefore such action by us at this time 
would probably be to some neutral powers, and ought to be 
to all powers which are really and earnestly neutral, unwelcome. 
It behooves us then to consider upon what instance or urgency 
it is that we are to take this action, thus modifying our relations 
as they stand under the public law, to every neutral port, and 
to every ship claiming to be neutral, but being in fact engaged 
in illicit navigation or commerce. No one neutral power has any 
just ground to ask from us such wide-reaching action. There 
should be a neutral unanimity in the request if we are to grant 
it; and even then such unanimous request should be accompanied 
by stipulations of reciprocity of the rule in all future wars. Such 
conditions seem to be required in order to justify us in acceding 
to a proposition which goes to the curtailment of our rights in 
law as belligerents, at a moment when we have the most arduous 
blockade to enforce which any nation ever undertook to make 
effectual, and the most adventurous and persistent illicit trade to 
suppress, against which any nation ever attempted practically 
and not merely on paper, to guard. 

It is true and this idea appears to have occurred strongly to 
your mind that the issuing of such instructions by us and 
obedience to them by our ships of war, would constitute no in- 
fraction of public law, because it is the unquestionable right of 
any government engaged in war to surrender such portions as it 
sees fit of its belligerent rights and privileges; and no other injury 
is, by such surrender, inflicted upon neutrals than that which 



1863] EXAMINATION OF ADMIRALTY LAW 457 

may be found in its manifest tendency to enfeeble and thus pro- 
long the war. It should, however, be remarked that the second 
of these proposed instructions is in a direction and of a tendency 
opposed not only to the universal and traditional policy of bel- 
ligerent governments, as expressed in their statutes, in the rulings 
of their prize courts and their instructions to cruisers, but also to 
what is often insisted upon, especially by neutrals in cases of 
capture, as a duty of captors. No adjudged case, it is believed, 
can be found in which the prize court, especially in Great Britain, 
has ever held that the captor erred in sending in with his prize too 
many of the officers, crew or passengers found on board at the 
time of her capture. Certainly no adjudged case can be found in 
which the right of the captor, thus to send in with his prize as 
many of the persons found on board of her as he may see fit to 
send, has been questioned. The allegation that any person found 
at the time of capture on board of any lawfully captured ship has 
any right, in law, immediately after the capture, to leave the 
ship against the will of the captor, or that the captor is bound in 
law to give his consent to such leaving, is believed to be wholly 
novel. It is undoubtedly true, in general, that the temptation 
and inclination of captors are to err in the other direction, and to 
retain too few rather than too many of the persons so captured. 
In so doing captors subject themselves to the frequent complaints 
and censures of the prize court, and not infrequently to its pen- 
alties. In fact to instruct a naval commander never to detain any 
neutral person found on board the captured neutral ship, unless 
such person be necessary as a witness; is to subject the com- 
mander to the harsh necessity of judging upon the spot in a case 
perhaps very complicated and important, just how many and 
what persons may be necessary as witnesses, with the certainty 
of being censured by his government for violation of his orders if 
he detain too many, and of being censured and perhaps mulcted 
by the prize court for insufficient performance of his duty if he 
detains too few. It is unnecessary to say that no principle or rule 
of international law places a lawfully commissioned, honest and 
faithful capturing officer in so critical a position. It is the clear 
belligerent right of his government to shield him, while lawfully 
engaged in his duties, from so severe and perilous a responsibility. 
Our gallant naval officers, it is therefore suggested, might justly 
feel that the public service in their hands and the public right 



458 DIARY OF GIDEON WELLES [OCT. 3 

were cramped and weakened, and themselves embarrassed, if not 
aggrieved, by such an instruction. 

In regard to the first of the proposed instructions, it is not 
deemed necessary to discuss elaborately, in this paper, the extent 
to which its terms augment and aggravate the restrictions which 
international law, particularly as expounded and applied by the 
highest authorities of Great Britain, both judicial and juridical, 
impose upon the conduct of commanders of public ships of war 
of a belligerent government lawfully sojourning within neutral 
ports. It is proper, however, to state that this important point 
has been maturely considered, and the leading British authori- 
ties examined and collated with care. Citations from these 
authorities, with brief comments upon them, will be found in the 
accompanying appendix. 

Suffice it here to say that while these British authorities em- 
phatically lay down the rule that no acts of war, either immediate 
or proximate, are permitted by the public law to belligerent vessels 
in waters within neutral jurisdiction; it is yet with the utmost 
reserve, circumspection and tenderness, that they enter upon or 
even approach the delicate question of the extent to which the 
belligerent cruiser, whether a public ship or a privateer duly 
commissioned and lawfully sojourning in neutral ports or waters, 
may, under international law, in the absence of municipal regu- 
lation to the contrary, avail itself in its act of departure, and after 
its departure from such places, of any facilities or remote and 
indirect aids lawfully obtained there, for the prosecution of its 
belligerent operations against the adverse belligerents, or for the 
exercise of its belligerent rights upon neutral ships outside the 
neutral jurisdiction. Of these facilities and indirect aids, lawfully 
obtainable by peaceable means, in the neutral ports and waters, 
information often is, and always may be, the most important. In 
the absence of municipal regulation to the contrary, such cruiser 
lawfully sojourning in the neutral port has a perfect right in 
public law, in order to obtain such information, to watch in a 
peaceable manner, most vigilantly, all vessels in the port, or 
coming into it or going out of it; and to dart out of the port just 
when he pleases, with the purpose to act upon such information 
in the exercise of his belligerent rights upon the high seas, outside 
of the neutral jurisdiction, upon all neutral commercial vessels, 
in the form of search and of capture, if such search shall discover 



1863] EXAMINATION OF ADMIRALTY LAW 459 

a probable case of navigation or trade, illicit as against his gov- 
ernment. In so doing, such cruiser has but made an unforbidden 
passage over neutral territorial waters, in order to exercise in 
a lawful place his belligerent right. This under the public law, 
in the absence of municipal restraint, he has a perfect right 
to do. 

If the Sovereign of the neutral port fails to prohibit such cruiser 
from using his port as a station for the habitual doing of these 
things as distinguishable from a place of occasional visit and 
reasonable sojourn then the adverse belligerent sovereign cer- 
ta