Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, July 17, 1863

At the Cabinet council Seward expressed great apprehension of a break-up of the British Ministry. I see in the papers an intimation that should Roebuck's motion for a recognition of the Confederacy prevail, Earl Russell would resign. I have no fears that the motion will prevail. The English, though mischievously inclined, are not demented. I wish the policy of our Secretary of State, who assumes to be wise, was as discreet as theirs. He handed me consular dispatches from Mr. Dudley at Liverpool and is exceedingly alarmed; fears England will let all the ironclads and rovers go out, and that the sea robbers will plunder and destroy our commerce. Mr. Dudley is an excellent consul, vigilant, but somewhat, and excusably, nervous, and he naturally presents the facts which he gets in a form that will not do injustice to the activity and zeal of the consul. Seward gives, and always has given, the fullest credit to the wildest rumors.

Some remarks on the great error of General Meade in permitting Lee and the Rebel army with all their plunder to escape led the President to say he would not yet give up that officer. “He has committed,” said the President, “a terrible mistake, but we will try him farther.” No one expressed his approval, but Seward said, “Excepting the escape of Lee, Meade has shown ability.” It was evident that the retention of Meade had been decided.

In a conversation with General Wadsworth, who called on me, I learned that at the council of the general officers, Meade was disposed to make an attack, and was supported by Wadsworth, Howard, and Pleasonton, but Sedgwick, Sykes, and the older regular officers dissented. Meade, rightly disposed but timid and irresolute, hesitated and delayed until too late. Want of decision and self-reliance in an emergency has cost him and the country dear, for had he fallen upon Lee it could hardly have been otherwise than the capture of most of the Rebel army.

The surrender of Port Hudson is undoubtedly a fact. It could not hold out after the fall of Vicksburg. We have information also that Sherman has caught up with and beaten Johnston.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 374-5

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