Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Wednesday, May 6, 1863

We have news, via Richmond, that Stoneman has destroyed bridges and torn up rails on the Richmond road, thus cutting off communication between that city and the Rebel army. Simultaneously with this intelligence, there is a rumor that Hooker has recrossed the river and is at Falmouth. I went to the War Department about noon to ascertain the facts, but Stanton said he had no such intelligence nor did he believe it. I told him I had nothing definite or very authentic, — that he certainly ought to be better posted than I could be, — but I had seen a brief telegram from young Dahlgren, who is on Hooker's staff, dated this a.m., “Headquarters near Falmouth — All right.” This to me was pretty significant of the fact that Hooker and his army had recrossed. Stanton was a little disconcerted. He said Hooker had as yet no definite plan; his headquarters are not far from Falmouth. Of course nothing farther was to be said, yet I was by no means satisfied with his remarks or manner.

An hour later Sumner came into my room, and raising both hands exclaimed, “Lost, lost, all is lost!” I asked what he meant. He said Hooker and his army had been defeated and driven back to this side of the Rappahannock. Sumner came direct from the President, who, he said, was extremely dejected. I told him I had been apprehensive that disaster had occurred, but when I asked under what circumstances this reverse had taken place, he could give me no particulars.

I went soon after to the War Department. Seward was sitting with Stanton, as when I left him two or three hours before. I asked Stanton if he knew where Hooker was. He answered, curtly, “No.” I looked at him sharply, and I have no doubt with incredulity, for he, after a moment's pause, said, “He is on this side of the river, but I know not where.” “Well,” said I, “he is near his old quarters, and I wish to know if Stoneman is with him, or if he or you know anything of that force.” Stanton said he had no information in regard to that force, and it was one of the most unpleasant things of the whole affair that Hooker should have abandoned Stoneman.

Last night and to-day we have had a violent rainstorm from the northeast. Fox and Edgar, my son, left this A.M. for Falmouth. The President, uneasy, uncomfortable, and dissatisfied with the meagre information and its gloomy aspect, went himself this evening to the army with General Halleck.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 293-4

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