Sunday, June 18, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Wednesday, July 8, 1863

There was a serenade last night in honor of the success of our arms at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The last has excited a degree of enthusiasm not excelled during the war. The serenade was got up for a purpose. As a matter of course the first music was at the President's. Mr. Seward's friend, General Martindale, arranged matters, and a speech of Mr. Seward duly prepared was loudly delivered, but the music did not do him the honors. To Mr. Secretary Stanton and Major-General Halleck they discoursed sweet sounds, and each responded in characteristic remarks. No allusion was made by either of them to the Navy, or its services. General Halleck never by a scratch of his pen, or by a word from his mouth, ever awarded any credit to the Navy for anything. I am not aware that his sluggish mind has ever done good of any kind to the country.

The rejoicing in regard to Vicksburg is immense. Admiral Porter's brief dispatch to me was promptly transmitted over the whole country, and led, everywhere, to spontaneous gatherings, firing of guns, ringing of bells, and general gratification and gladness. The price of gold, to use the perverted method of speech, fell ten or fifteen cents and the whole country is joyous. I am told, however, that Stanton is excessively angry because Admiral Porter heralded the news to me in advance of General Grant to the War Department. The telegraph office is in the War Department Building, which has a censorship over all that passes or is received. Everything goes under the Secretary's eye, and he craves to announce all important information. In these matters of announcing news he takes as deep an interest as in army movements which decide the welfare of the country.

The Potomac is swollen by the late heavy rains, and the passage of the Rebel army is rendered impossible for several days. They are short of ammunition. In the mean time our generals should not lose their opportunity. I trust they will not. Providence favors them. Want of celerity, however, has been one of the infirmities of some of our generals in all this war. Stanton and Halleck should stimulate the officers to press forward at such a time as this, but I fear that they are engaged in smaller matters and they will be more unmindful of these which are more important. Halleck's policy consists in stopping the enemy's advance, or in driving the enemy back, — never to capture. Enough has been said to S. and H. to make them aware of the urgency of the President and Cabinet, and I trust it may have a good effect, but I do not learn that anything extra is being done. The President says he is rebuffed when he undertakes to push matters.

I yesterday informed Vice-President Hamlin and the Maine Senators we should try to keep a couple of steamers and two sailing-vessels cruising off New England during the fishing season; that we could not furnish a gunboat to every place; that the shore defenses belonged properly to the War Department, etc. They on the whole seemed satisfied.

The President sends me a strange letter from Hamlin, asking as a personal favor that prizes may be sent to Portland for adjudication, — says he has not had many favors, asks this on personal grounds. Mr. Hamlin spoke on this subject to me, — said the President referred it to me; — and both he and Mr. Fessenden made a strong local appeal in behalf of Portland. I informed them that such a matter was not to be disposed of on personal grounds or local favoritism; that Portsmouth, Providence, New Haven, and other places had equal claims, if there were any claims, but that public consideration must govern, and not personal favoritism; that additional courts would involve great additional expense; that we had no navy yard or station at Portland, with officers to whom the captors could report, no prison to confine prisoners, no naval constructors or engineers to examine captured vessels, etc., etc. These facts, while they somewhat staggered the gentlemen, quieted Fessenden, but did not cause Hamlin, who is rapacious as a wolf, to abate his demand for government favors. He wanted these paraphernalia, these extra persons, extra boards, and extra expenditures at Portland, and solicited them of the President, as special to himself personally.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 365-7

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