Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Diary of Gideon Welles: Monday, October 13, 1862

We have the mortifying intelligence 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 Pennsylvania 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. McClellan had returned from Philadelphia with his wife, a most estimable and charming lady who cannot have been gratified 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 wives with them in the camp and field. The arrangement does not make them better soldiers. I wish it were prohibited. Some naval officers cite army precedents when asking the company of their wives on shipboard.

Wrote Seward in 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 international law, can enlarge or circumscribe at pleasure national 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.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 169-70

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