Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Diary of John Hay: October 26, 1861

This evening the Jacobin Club, represented by Trumbull, Chandler and Wade, came up to worry the administration into a battle. The agitation of the summer is to be renewed. The President defended McClellan's deliberateness. We then went over to the General's Headquarters. We found Col. Key there. He was talking also about the grand necessity of an immediate battle to clean out the enemy at once. He seemed to think we were ruined if we did not fight. The President asked what McC. thought about it. Key answered: — “The General is troubled in his mind. I think he is much embarrassed by the radical difference between his views and those of Gen'l Scott.”

Here McC. came in, — Key went out, — the President began to talk about his wonderful new repeating-battery of rifled guns, shooting 50 balls a minute. The President is delighted with it, and has ordered ten, and asks McC. to go down and see it, and if proper, detail a corps of men to work it. He further told the General that Reverdy Johnson wants the Maryland volunteers in Maryland to vote in November. All right.

They then talked about the Jacobins. McC. said that Wade preferred an unsuccessful battle to delay. He said a defeat could be easily repaired by the swarming recruits. McClellan answered that “he would rather have a few recruits before a victory, than a good many after a defeat.”

The President deprecated this new manifestation of popular impatience, but at the same time said it was a reality, and should be taken into the account: — “At the same time, General, you must not fight till you are ready.”

“I have everything at stake,” said the General; “if I fail, I will not see you again or anybody.”

“I have a notion to go out with you, and stand or fall with the battle” . . . .

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 48-9; Tyler Dennett, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay, p. 31-2.

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