Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Thursday, May 28, 1863

I this morning got hold of the pamphlet of Sir Vernon Harcourt, “Historicus,” and am delighted to find a coincidence of views between him and myself on the subject of mails captured on vessels running the blockade, or carrying contraband. He warns his countrymen that the danger is not that Americans will concede too little but that Great Britain may accept too much. This is a mortifying, humiliating fact, the more so from its truth. Mr. Seward is not aware of what he is doing, and the injustice and dishonor he is inflicting on his country by his concession. It is lamentable that the President is misled in these matters, for Mr. Seward is tampering and trifling with national rights. I have no doubt he acted inconsiderately and ignorantly of any wrong in the first instance when he took upon himself to make these extraordinary and disgraceful concessions, but, having become involved in error, he has studied, not to enlighten himself and serve the country, but to impose upon and mislead the President in order to extricate himself.

Dahlgren to-day broached the subject of operations against Charleston. He speaks of it earnestly and energetically. Were it not so that his assignment to that command would cause dissatisfaction, I would, as the President strongly favors him, let him show his ability as an officer in his legitimate professional duty. He would enter upon the work intelligently and with a determination to be successful. Whether he has the skill, power, and ability of a first-rate naval commander is yet to be tested. He has the zeal, pride, and ambition, but there are other qualities in which he may be deficient.

Brown of the wrecked Indianola and Fontané of the burnt Mississippi, each called on me to-day. They were both captured last February, have been exchanged, and arrived to-day from Richmond. Their accounts correspond with each other and with what we have previously heard in regard to the deplorable state of things in the Rebel region. Poor beef three times a week and corn bread daily were dealt to them. The white male population was all away. The railroads are in a wretched condition, the running-stock worse than the roads.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 315-6

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