Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, May 5, 1863

But little of importance at the Cabinet. The President read a brief telegram which he got last evening from General Hooker, to whom, getting nothing from the War Department, he had applied direct to ascertain whether the Rebels were in possession of the works on the heights of Fredericksburg. Hooker replied he believed it was true, but if so it was of no importance. This reply communicates nothing of operations, but the tone and whole thing — even its brevity — inspire right feelings. It is strange, however, that no reliable intelligence reaches us from the army of what it is doing, or not doing. This fact itself forebodes no good.

Sumner came in this afternoon and read to me from two or three documents — one the late speech of the Solicitor of the Treasury in the British Parliament on the matter of prize and prize courts — which are particularly favorable to our views in the Peterhoff case. From this we got on to the absorbing topic of the army under Hooker. Sumner is hopeful, and if he did not inspire me with his confidence, I was made glad by his faith. The President came in while we were discussing the subject, and, as is his way, at once earnestly participated. His suggestions and inferences struck me as probable, hopeful, nothing more. Like the rest of us, he wants facts; without them we have only surmises and surmises indicate doubt, uncertainty. He is not informed of occurrences as he should be, but is in the dark, with no official data, which confirms me in the belief that the War Department is in ignorance, for they would not withhold favorable intelligence from him, yet it is strange, very strange. In the absence of news the President strives to feel encouraged and to inspire others, but I can perceive he has doubts and misgivings, though he does not express them. Like my own, perhaps, his fears are the result of absence of facts, rather than from any information received.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 292-3

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