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 landmark in history. The immediate effect will not be all its friends anticipate or its opponents apprehend. Passing events are steadily accomplishing what is here proclaimed.
The character of the country is in many respects undergoing 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 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 Halleck 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.
SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 212-3