Thick rumors concerning the Army of the Potomac, — little, however, from official sources. I abstain from going to the War Department more than is necessary or consulting operators at the telegraph, for there is a hazy uncertainty there. This indefiniteness, and the manner attending it, is a pretty certain indication that the information received is not particularly gratifying. Whether Hooker refuses to communicate, and prevents others from communicating, I know not. Other members of the Cabinet, like myself, are, I find, disinclined to visit the War Department under the circumstances.
A very singular declaration by John Laird, Member of Parliament and one of the builders of the pirate Alabama, has been shown. Laird said in Parliament, in reply to Thomas Baring, that the Navy Department had applied to him to build vessels. It is wholly untrue, a sheer fabrication. But John Laird writes to Howard of New York, that he (Howard) had said something to him (Laird) about building vessels for the Government. Howard, I judge, was Laird's agent or broker to procure, if possible, contracts for him or his firm, but did [not] succeed. The truth is, our own shipbuilders, in consequence of the suspension of work in private yards early in the war, were clamorous for contracts, and the competition was such that we would have had terrible indignation upon us had we gone abroad for vessels, which I never thought of doing.
SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 290-1