Chase, Blair, Bates, and myself were at the Cabinet-meeting. Seward was absent, but his son was present. So also was Judge Otto, Assistant Secretary of the Interior. Stanton, though absent, sent no representative. He condemns the practice of allowing assistants to be present in Cabinet council, a practice which was introduced by Seward, and says he will never submit or discuss any important question, when an assistant is present. I think this is the general feeling and the practice of all.
There was some discussion of affairs at Vicksburg. The importance of capturing that stronghold and opening the navigation of the river is appreciated by all, and confidence is expressed in Grant, but it seems that not enough was doing. The President said Halleck declares he can furnish no additional troops. As yet I have seen nothing to admire in the military management of General Halleck, whose mind is heavy and, if employed at all, is apparently engaged on something else than the public matter in hand. At this time when the resources of the nation should be called out and activity pervade all military operations, he sits back in his chair, doing comparatively nothing. It worries the President, yet he relies upon Halleck and apparently no one else in the War Department. No one more fully realizes the magnitude of the occasion, and the vast consequences involved, than the President; he wishes all to be done that can be done, but yet in army operations will not move or do except by the consent of the dull, stolid, inefficient, and incompetent General-in-Chief.
Stanton does not attend one half of the Cabinet-meetings. When he comes, he communicates little of importance. Not unfrequently he has a private conference with the President in the corner of the room, or with Seward in the library. Chase, Blair, and Bates have each expressed their mortification and chagrin that things were so conducted. To-day, as we came away, Blair joined me, and said he knew not what we were coming to; that he had tried to have things different.
SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 319-20