Friday, March 31, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Wednesday, May 20, 1863

Admiral Lee has been here for two or three days consulting in regard to Wilmington. The blockade of Cape Fear is difficult and gives infinite trouble, but the War Department has manifested no desire to relieve us and prevent that means of Rebel communication. To-day we had a long conference. Lee has seen General Totten, and the conclusion is that the army must capture the place, assisted by the Navy, which will cover the landing. The practice of relying upon the Navy to do the principal fighting when forts or batteries are to be taken has had a bad effect in some respects and is vitiating the army.

Admiral Du Pont sends forward charges against Chief Engineer Stimers, who, on his passage from Charleston to New York after the late demonstration, expressed an opinion that Sumter might have been passed or taken. Du Pont requested Stimers to be sent to Port Royal for trial. Every officer under Du Pont has expressed a different opinion from Stimers and they would constitute the court. It is a strange request, and it would be quite as strange were I to comply with it. I would not trust Stimers, or any one whom Du Pont wished to make a victim, in his power. If not a little deranged, D. is a shrewd and selfish man. I think he is morbidly diseased. Drayton expresses this opinion. His conduct and influence have been unfortunate in many respects on his subordinates. Instead of sending Stimers to Port Royal to be sacrificed, I will order a court of inquiry at New York, where the facts may be elicited without prejudice or partiality. The alleged offense hardly justifies an inquiry in form, but nothing less will satisfy Du Pont, who wants a victim. More than this, he wants to lay his failure at Charleston on the ironclads, and with such a court as he would organize, and such witnesses as he has already trained, he would procure both Stimers and vessels to be condemned. It would be best for the ends of truth and justice to have an inquiry away from all partisanship, and from all unfair influences and management.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 306-7

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