General Wadsworth,1 Mr. Fenton, and others urgently insist on some changes in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, of masters who, they claim, are active partisans. 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 molestation. 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 immersed in politics as to neglect his business, and is a candidate for comptroller. As he manifests a willingness and intention to leave the service for another place, I think he can depart a few days in advance without detriment. This taking advantage of an excited election to thrust miserable partisans into places which they are often indifferently 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 and Blair thought the military should. Stanton opposed it. Seward thought the affair might be looked into. I remarked that if the transaction had occurred in the Navy, we should at least have had a court of inquiry.
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.
SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 178-9