Friday, March 17, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, May 8, 1863

A telegraph dispatch this morning from Admiral Porter states he has possession of Grand Gulf. The news was highly gratifying to the President, who had not heard of it until I met him at the Cabinet-meeting.

Several of our navy and army officers arrived this day from Richmond, having left that place on Tuesday to be exchanged. They all say that Richmond might have been captured by Stoneman's cavalry, or by a single regiment, the city had been so thoroughly drained of all its male population to reinforce Lee, and so wholly unprepared were they for a raid that but little resistance could have been made. Stoneman and his force have done gallant service, but we regret they did not dash into Richmond and capture Davis and the Rebel Administration.

Commander Drayton came to see me to-day. He is one of Du Pont's intimates, a man of excellent sense and heart, but is impressed with Du Pont's opinions and feelings. All of Du Pont's set — those whom he has called around him — are schooled and trained, and have become his partisans, defer to his views, and adopt his sentiments. It is his policy, and of course theirs, to decry the monitors as if that would justify or exonerate Du Pont from any remissness or error. I told Drayton it was not necessary to condemn the monitors for the failure to capture Charleston, nor did it appear to me wise to do so, or to make any deficiencies in those vessels prominent in the official reports which were to be published. It seems an effort to impute blame somewhere, or [as] if blame existed and an excuse or justification was necessary, of which the public and the whole world should be at once informed. If the monitors are weak in any part, there was no necessity for us to proclaim that weakness to our enemies; if they needed improvements, the Government could make them. Alluding to Du Pont's long dispatch refuting, explaining, and deprecating the criticism in a Baltimore paper, I told him I was sorry to see such an expenditure of time, talent, and paper by the commander of the Squadron and his subordinates. Drayton expressed his regret at the over-sensitiveness of Du Pont, but said it was his nature, and this morbid infirmity was aggravated by his long continuance on shipboard. It is the opinion of Drayton that Charleston cannot be taken by the Navy and that the Navy can do but little towards it. He says the monitors, though slow, would have passed the batteries and reached the wharves of Charleston but for submerged obstructions.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 295-6

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