Saturday, December 17, 2016

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, January 13, 1863

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, Memminger, 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 purposes, for the benefit to be derived from a large establishment 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 broken up, it would be well to have such an establishment as I had proposed in our own limits, etc. Assured the committee 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, sincerity, and as an American citizen acting for all, recommend 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 advantages 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.

1 Heads respectively of the Navy, Treasury, and State Departments in the Confederate Government.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 222-3

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