Thursday, January 12, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Monday, February 16, 1863

General Foster was here yesterday, Sunday. Has let out the proposed attack on Charleston. This indicates what I have lately feared, —  that Du Pont shrinks, dreads, the conflict he has sought, yet is unwilling that any other should undertake it, is afraid the reputation of Du Pont will suffer. This jeopardizes the whole, — makes a botched thing of it. I am disappointed, but not wholly surprised. A mandate he will obey, but I cannot well give it, for there are preliminaries and contingencies which would influence his movements and of which he must judge. The President desires Fox to go down to Charleston with General Foster, and came with Fox to see me. Told him it was a time when the active force of the Department was most wanted, it being near the close of the session of Congress, when every variety of call was made and delays to answer are inadmissible, and some important bills were to be acted upon and engineered through; nevertheless, if it was indispensable, he must go, but the very fact that Fox was sent on such an errand as proposed would touch Du Pont's pride, which is great, and do perhaps more harm than good. The President comprehended my views, and it was thought best that Fox should not go, but Foster was informed of our ideas, — that the Navy could move independent of the army, and pass Sumter, not stop to batter it. Once in the rear of the fort and having the town under the guns of the ironclads, the military in the forts and on James Island would be compelled to come to terms. All is clear and well enough but Du Pont should have such a force as to inspire confidence in himself and men in order to insure a favorable result. Will and determination are necessary to success. While it is right that he should be circumspect and vigilant, I deplore the signs of misgiving and doubt which have recently come over him, — his shirking policy, getting in with the army, making approaches, etc. It is not what we have talked of, not what we expected of him; is not like the firm and impetuous but sagacious and resolute Farragut.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 236-7

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