Monday, January 2, 2017

Diary of John Hay: September 5, 1862

This morning I walked with the President over to the War Department, to ascertain the truth of the report that Jackson had crossed the Potomac. We went to the telegraph office and found it true. On the way over, the President said: — “McClellan is working like a beaver. He seems to be aroused to doing something by the sort of snubbing he got last week. I am of opinion that this public feeling against him will make it expedient to take important command from him. The Cabinet yesterday were unanimous against him. They were all ready to denounce me for it, except Blair. He has acted badly in this matter, but we must use what tools we have. There is no man in the army who can man these fortifications and lick these troops of ours into shape half as well as he.” I spoke of the general feeling against McClellan as evinced by the Prests mail. He rejoined:— “Unquestionably he has acted badly toward Pope. He wanted him to fail. That is unpardonable. But he is too useful just now to sacrifice.” At another time he said: — “If he can't fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight” . . . .

To-day, going into the Executive Mansion, I met Gov. Seward coming out. I turned back and walked home with him. He said our foreign affairs are very much confused. He acknowledged himself a little saddened. Walking on, he said: — “Mr. Hay, what is the use of growing old? You learn something of men and things, but never until too late to use it. I have only just now found out what military jealousy is. I have been wishing for some months to go home to my people; but could not while our armies were scattered and in danger. The other day I went down to Alexandria, and found General McClellan’s army landing. I considered our armies united virtually and thought them invincible. I went home, and the first news I received was that each had been attacked, and each, in effect, beaten. It never had occurred to me that any jealousy could prevent these Generals from acting for their common fame and the welfare of the country.”

I said it never would have seemed possible to me that one American General should write of another to the President, suggesting that “Pope be allowed to get out of his own scrape his own way.”

He answered: — “I don't see why you should have expected it. You are not old. I should have known it.” He said this gloomily and sadly.

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 64-6; Tyler Dennett, Editor, Lincoln and the Civil War: in the Diaries and letters of John Hay, p. 47-9.

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