Monday, December 26, 2016

Diary of Gideon Welles: Thursday, January 22, 1863

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over them, their plans and operations broken up, and the commander whom they respected and to whom they were attached superseded and virtually disgraced.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, it was a crime which should not go unrebuked or unpunished. 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 associates. 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 partisan 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 second 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 Breakwater, as did some of our best wooden steamers.

General Burnside was to have made a forward movement, 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.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 225-6

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