Saturday, July 8, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Sunday, July 26, 1863

Dispatches from Admiral Dahlgren under date of the 21st were received in the second mail. He says Gillmore had but 8000 men when he commenced operations, that of these he has lost by casualties — killed, wounded, and prisoners — about 1200, and a like number are useless by illness, the result of overexertion, etc., so that he has actually less than 6000 effective men. The War Department does not propose to strengthen him. Dahlgren three or four times has said the force was inadequate, and expressed a hope for reinforcements. I sent Assistant Fox with these dispatches to Halleck, who rebuffed him, — said General Gillmore had called for no more troops, and if we would take care of the Navy, he would take care of the Army.

I went this noon (Sunday) to the President with Dahlgren's dispatches; told him the force under Gillmore was insufficient for the work assigned him; that it ought not now to fail; that it ought not to have been begun unless it was understood his force was to have been increased; that such was his expectation, and I wished to know if it could not be done. It would be unwise to wait until Gillmore was crushed and repelled, and to then try and regain lost ground, which seemed to be the policy of General Halleck; instead of remaining inactive till Gillmore, exhausted, cried for help, his wants should be anticipated.

The President agreed with me fully, but said he knew not where the troops could come from, unless from the Army of the Potomac, but if they were going to fight they would want all their men. I asked if he really believed Meade was going to have a battle. He looked at me earnestly for a moment and said: “Well, to be candid, I have no faith that Meade will attack Lee; nothing looks like it to me. I believe he can never have another as good opportunity as that which he trifled away. Everything since has dragged with him. No, I don't believe he is going to fight.”

“Why, then,” I asked, “not send a few regiments to Charleston? Gillmore ought to be reinforced with ten thousand men. We intend to send additional seamen and marines.” “Well,” said the President, “I will see Halleck. I think we should strain a point. May I say to him that you are going to strengthen Dahlgren?” “Yes,” I replied. “But it would be better that you should say you ordered it, and that you also ordered the necessary army increase. Let us all do our best.”

Our interview was in the library, and was earnest and cordial. If, following the dictates of his own good judgment, instead of deferring to Halleck, who lacks power, sagacity, ability, comprehension, and foresight to devise, propose, plan, and direct great operations, and who is reported to be engaged on some literary work at this important period, the President were to order and direct measures, the army would be inspired and the country benefited. A delicacy on the part of Gillmore to ask for aid is made the excuse of the inert General-in-Chief for not sending the troops which are wanted, and when he learns from a reliable source of the weak condition of the command, he will not strengthen it, or move, till calamity overtakes it, or he is himself ordered to do his duty. Halleck originates nothing, anticipates nothing, to assist others; takes no responsibility, plans nothing, suggests nothing, is good for nothing. His being at Headquarters is a national misfortune.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 382-4

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