Friday, July 21, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, August 11, 1863

Admiral Farragut has arrived in New York and telegraphs me he will report in person when I direct. I congratulated him on his safe return but advised repose with his family and friends during this heated term and to report when it should suit his convenience.

At the Cabinet council the President read another letter from Governor Seymour. I have little respect for him. It may be politic for the President to treat him with respect in consequence of his position.

The draft makes an inroad on the clerical force of the Departments and on the experts in the public service. The law authorizing the draft is crude, and loose, and wrong in many respects; was never matter of Cabinet consultation, but was got up in the War Department in consultation with the Military Committees, or Wilson, and submitted to no one of the Secretaries, who all, except Stanton, were ignorant of its extraordinary provisions. Some sixty men, many of them experts whose places can hardly be supplied, are drafted as common soldiers from the ordnance works. I have striven to get some action in regard to these men, whose services are indispensable for military purposes, whose labors are of ten times the importance to the government and country in their present employment that they would be were they bearing arms in camp, but as yet without success. I proposed to Chase, who is much annoyed and vexed with the operation of the law in his Department, that we should have the subject considered in the Cabinet to-day; but he declined, said he had no favors to ask of the War Department and nothing to do with it. If the law and that Department in its construction of the law would take the clerks from the Treasury desks, so as to interrupt its business and destroy their capacity, he should be relieved and glad of it. He was bitter toward the War Department, which he has heretofore assiduously courted.

I brought up the subject, but Chase had left. Stanton said he had not yet decided what rule would govern him, but promised he would do as well by the employees of the Navy as of the War Department. He thought, however, he should exact the $200, a substitute, or the military service in all cases, when the conscript was not relieved by physical disabilities. All present acquiesced in this view, Chase being absent, but Attorney-General Bates, who agreed with me.

A singular telegram from General Halleck to his partner in California in relation to the Almaden mines (quicksilver) was brought forward by Mr. Bates and Mr. Usher. In the opinion of these gentlemen it did not exhibit a pure mind, right intentions, or high integrity on the part of the General-in-Chief. The President, who had been apprised of the facts, thought Halleck had been hasty and indiscreet but he hoped nothing worse. Stanton said, with some asperity and emphasis, that the press and distinguished men had abused him on these matters, — had lied about him and knew they were lies. He turned away from Blair as he poured out these denunciations, yet there was no mistaking for whom these invectives were intended.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 396-8

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