Monday, June 12, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Thursday, July 2, 1863

A telegram this morning advises me of the death of General R. C. Hale, the brother of Mrs. Welles, at Reedsville in the County of Mifflin, Pennsylvania. He was the efficient Quartermaster-General of Pennsylvania, a good officer and capable and upright man. The public never had a more faithful and honest officer.

Met Sumner and went with him to the War Department. The President was there, and we read dispatches received from General Meade. There was a smart fight, but without results, near Gettysburg yesterday. A rumor is here that we have captured six thousand prisoners, and on calling again this evening at the War Department I saw a telegram which confirms it. General Reynolds is reported killed. The tone of Meade's dispatch is good.

Met the elder Blair this evening at his son's, the Postmaster-General. The old gentleman has been compelled to leave his pleasant home at Silver Spring, his house being in range of fire and Rebel raiders at his door. He tells me McClellan wrote Stanton after the seven days' fight near Richmond that he (Stanton) had sacrificed that army. Stanton replied cringingly, and in a most supplicating manner, assuring McClellan he, Stanton, was his true friend. Mr. F. P. Blair assures me he has seen the letters. He also says he has positive, unequivocal testimony that Stanton acted with the Secessionists early in the War and favored a division of the Union. He mentions a conversation at John Lee's house, where Stanton set forth the advantages that would follow from a division.

Mr. Montgomery Blair said Stanton was talking Secession to one class, and holding different language to another; that while in Buchanan's Cabinet he communicated Toucey's treason to Jake Howard and secretly urged the arrest of Toucey. During the winter of 1860 and 1861, Stanton was betraying the Buchanan Administration to Seward, disclosing its condition and secrets, and that for his treachery to his then associates and his becoming the tool of Seward, he was finally brought into the present Cabinet.

These things I have heard from others also, and there have been some facts and circumstances to corroborate them within my own knowledge. Mr. Seward, who has no very strong convictions and will never sacrifice his life for an opinion, had no belief that the insurrection would be serious or of long continuance. Familiar with the fierce denunciations and contentions of parties in New York, where he had, from his prominent position and strong adherents, been accustomed to excite and direct, and then modify, the excesses roused by anti-Masonry and anti-rent outbreaks by pliable and liberal action, he entertained no doubt that he should have equal success in bringing about a satisfactory result in national affairs by meeting exaction with concessions. He was strengthened in this by the fact that there was no adequate cause for a civil war, or for the inflammatory, excited, and acrimonious language which flowed from his heated associates in Congress. Through the infidelity of Stanton he learned the feelings and designs of the Buchanan Administration, which were not of the ultra character of the more impassioned Secession leaders. One of the Cabinet already paid court to him; Dix1 and some others he knew were not disunionists; and, never wanting faith in his own skill and management, he intended, if his opponents would not go with him, as the last alternative to go with them and call a convention to remodel the Constitution. Until some weeks after Mr. Lincoln's inauguration Seward never doubted that he could by some expedient — a convention or otherwise — allay the storm. Some who ultimately went into the Rebellion also hoped it. Both he and they overestimated his power and influence. Stanton in the winter of 1861 whispered in his ear state secrets, it was understood, because Seward was to be first in the Cabinet of Lincoln, who was already elected. The Blairs charge Stanton with infidelity to party and to country from mere selfish considerations, and with being by nature treacherous and wholly unreliable. Were any overwhelming adversity to befall the country, they look upon him as ready to betray it.

1 John A. Dix, Secretary of the Treasury In 1861.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 354-6

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