Hilton Head, S. C,
April 16, 1863.
MY DEAR NICOLAY:
The General and the Admiral this morning received the orders from Washington directing the continuance of operations against Charleston. The contrast was very great in the manner in which they received them. The General was absolutely delighted. He said he felt more encouraged, and was in better heart and hope than before, at this indication of the earnestness of the government to finish this business here. He said, however, that the Admiral seemed in very low spirits about it. He talked despondingly about it, adhering to the same impressions of the desperate character of the enterprise as I reported to the President after my first interview with him. Perhaps having so strongly expressed his belief that the enterprise was impracticable he feels that he is rebuked by an opposite opinion from Washington.
General Hunter is in the best feather about the matter. He believed before we came back that with the help of the gunboats we could take Morris Island and from that point reduce Fort Sumter; and he is well pleased to have another chance at it. Whether the intention of the government be to reduce Charleston now, with adequate men and means, or by powerful demonstrations to retain a large force of the enemy here, he is equally anxious to go to work again.
I write this entirely confidentially for you and for the President to know the ideas prevalent here.
Gen. Seymour has been with you before this, and has given to the government the fullest information relative to military matters here. His arrival, I suppose, will only confirm the resolution already taken. Admiral Dupont's despatches by the Flambeau of course put a darker shade on the matter than anything Seymour will say, as he was strongly in favor of staying there and fighting it out. . . .
SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 81-3; Michael Burlingame, Editor, At Lincoln’s Side: John Hay’s Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings, p. 36-7 where the entire letter appears.