Met Blair at the depot. Told him of the conversation I had last evening with the President and the appearance of things at the War Department. It affected him greatly. He has never had confidence in either Stanton, Halleck, or Hooker. He fairly groaned that the President should continue to trust them and defer to them, when the magnitude of the questions is considered. “Strange, strange,” he exclaimed, “that the President, who has sterling ability, should give himself over so completely to Stanton and Seward.”
Something of a panic pervades the city. Singular rumors reach us of Rebel advances into Maryland. It is said they have reached Hagerstown, and some of them have penetrated as far as Chambersburg in Pennsylvania. These reports are doubtless exaggerations, but I can get nothing satisfactory from the War Department of the Rebel movements, or of our own. There is trouble, confusion, uncertainty, where there should be calm intelligence.
I have a panic telegraph from Governor Curtin, who is excitable and easily alarmed, entreating that guns and gunners may be sent from the navy yard at Philadelphia to Harrisburg without delay. We have not a gunner that we can spare. Commodore Stribling can spare men, temporarily, from the navy yard. I went again, at a late hour, to the War Department, but could get no facts or intelligence from the Secretary, who either does not know or dislikes to disclose the position and condition of the army. He did not know that the Rebels had reached Hagerstown; did not know but some of them had; quite as likely to be in Philadelphia as Harrisburg. Ridiculed Curtin's fears. Thought it would be well, however, to send such guns and men as could be spared to allay his apprehension. I could not get a word concerning General Milroy and his command, — whether safe or captured, retreating or maintaining his position. All was vague, opaque, thick darkness. I really think Stanton is no better posted than myself, and from what Stanton says am afraid Hooker does not comprehend Lee's intentions nor know how to counteract them. Halleck has no activity; never exhibits sagacity or foresight, though he can record and criticize the past. It looks to me as if Lee was putting forth his whole energy and force in one great and desperate struggle which shall be decisive; that he means to strike a blow that will be severely felt, and of serious consequences, and thus bring the War to a close. But all is conjecture.
SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 329-30