Friday, May 12, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Thursday, June 18, 1863

I find that Fox, whom I authorized to telegraph to the Commandant of the Yards the other night to get off immediately vessels after the pirate Tacony, amplified the order, and that a very large number of vessels are being chartered or pressed into the service. While it was necessary to have some, there is such a thing as overdoing, but the order having gone out in my name, I could not contest it.

Have information that Admiral Foote is quite ill at the Astor House, New York. He came on from New Haven to New York, expecting to take the Tuscarora on Monday for Port Royal, but that vessel had been dispatched after the pirate Tacony. This disappointment, the excitement, over-exertion, and domestic anxiety and affliction have probably had an effect on his sensitive and nervous mind. He told me with some emotion, when last here, that his wife's health was such it would detain him a few days to make certain indispensable arrangements, for their parting would be final, she could not be expected to live till he returned.

Wrote Seward that the condition of affairs on the Rio Grande and at Matamoras was unsatisfactory. We have had several conversations on the subject, in which I have tried to convince him of the injury done by the unrestricted trade and communication on that river, and to persuade him that he could make his mark and do a great public service by procuring to be established a principle in regard to the right of adjoining nations, like the United States and Mexico, and the occupancy of a mutual highway like the Rio Grande, with the necessary authority to enforce a blockade, — questions that have never yet been decided and settled among nations. Our blockade is rendered in a great degree ineffective because we cannot shut off traffic and mail facilities, or exclude commercial and postal intercourse with the Rebels via the Rio Grande. An immense commerce has suddenly sprung up, nominally with Matamoras, but actually with Texas and the whole Southwest, nay, with the entire Rebel region, for letters are interchanged between Richmond and England by that route.

There are one or two hundred vessels off the mouth of the Rio Grande, where there were never more than six or eight before the War, nor will there be more than a dozen when the War is over. English merchant adventurers are establishing regular lines with Matamoras, of which the Peterhoff was one, carrying supplies and mails to the Rebels and receiving cotton in return. Unfortunately, Mr. Seward has given encouragement to them, by conceding the sanctity of captured mails, which, with the evidence which would insure condemnation, are to be forwarded unopened to their destination. In no respect, way, or manner does the Secretary of State furnish a correction by assisting or proposing a principle to be recognized by nations, or by any arrangement with Mexico, or France, or both.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 333-5

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