Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Diary of John Hay: July 16, 1863

Nicolay leaves to-day for the Rocky Mountains. . .  Had a little talk with the President about Milroy. Says Halleck thinks Schenck never had a military idea and never will learn one. Thinks Schenck is somewhat to blame for the Winchester business. President says, however you may doubt or disagree from Halleck, he is very apt to be right in the end. . . .

Genl Wadsworth came in. He said in answer to Alexander's question, “Why did Lee escape?” “Because nobody stopped him,” rather gruffly.

Wadsworth says that at a council of war of Corps Commanders, held on Sunday the 12th, he was present on account of the sickness of his Corps Commander, he, Wadsworth, being temporarily in command of the Corps. On the question of fight or no fight, the weight of authority was against fighting. French, Sedgwick, Slocum and —— strenuously opposed a fight. Meade was in favor of it. So was Warren , who did most of the talking on that side, and Pleasonton was very eager for it, as also was Wadsworth himself. The non-fighters thought, or seemed to think, that if we did not attack, the enemy would, and even Meade thought he was in for action, had no idea that the enemy intended to get away at once. Howard had little to say on the subject.

Meade was in favor of attacking in three columns of 20,000 men each. Wadsworth was in favor of doing as Stonewall Jackson did at Chancellorsville, double up the left, and drive them down on Williamsport. I do not question that either plan would have succeeded. Wadsworth said to Hunter who sat beside him: — “General, there are a good many officers of the regular army who have not yet entirely lost the West Point idea of southern superiority. That sometimes accounts for an otherwise unaccountable slowness of attack.”

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 86-8; Tyler Dennett, Editor, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and letters of John Hay, p. 67-8

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