Tidings from New York to-day are sad respecting Admiral Foote. I fear he cannot recover and that his hours upon earth are few. His death will be a great loss to the country, a greater one in this emergency to me than to any other out of his own family. Individual sorrows and bereavements and personal friendship are not to weigh in matters of national concernment, but I cannot forget that “we were boys together,” and that in later and recent years we have mutually sustained each other. I need him and the prestige of his name in the place to which he has been ordered.
I have sent Dr. Whelan, an old and intimate friend and shipmate of Foote, who thoroughly understands his physical system and peculiarities, — has been his daily companion for years in different climes, — to New York. His presence, even, will be cheering and pleasant to Foote.
Sumner's opinion and estimate of men does not agree with Chase's. Sumner expresses an absolute want of confidence in Hooker; says he knows him to be a blasphemous wretch; that after crossing the Rappahannock and reaching Centerville, Hooker exultingly exclaimed, “The enemy is in my power, and God Almighty cannot deprive me of them.” I have heard before of this, but not so direct and positive. The sudden paralysis that followed, when the army in the midst of a successful career was suddenly checked and commenced its retreat, has never been explained. Whiskey is said by Sumner to have done the work. The President said if Hooker had been killed by the shot which knocked over the pillar that stunned him, we should have been successful.
SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 335-6