Thursday, January 30, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, May 17, 1864

A painful suspense in military operations. It is a necessary suspense, but the intense anxiety is oppressive, and almost unfits the mind for mental activity. We know it cannot be long before one or more bloody battles will take place in which not only many dear friends will be slaughtered but probably the Civil War will be decided as to its continuance, or termination. My faith is firm in Union success, but I shall be glad when faith is past.

There was nothing special to-day at the Cabinet. No information received from the Army of the Potomac. Sherman had had hard fighting in northern Georgia at Resaca, and the Rebels under Johnston have retreated.

The President informs me that four of the Massachusetts delegation have waited upon him in relation to the condition of affairs at the Charlestown Navy Yard. They fear the Navy has too much control, and charge Admiral Smith with opposition to the Administration. I stated briefly to the President some of the difficulties, and that Mr. Gooch was not a free agent when there was a conflict or difference between the Government and the Navy Yard, that G. could not do otherwise than go with the men in the yard, and that Merriam was a cunning fellow who stirred up a citizen's feeling for selfish purposes.

Things are getting in such condition that I see no alternative but to dismiss the man Merriam. Admiral Stringham writes me that M. has got up a paper or memorial to the Massachusetts Senators and Representatives which he has hired a man to circulate for signatures, remonstrating against the naval management of the yard and getting up a hostile feeling. It is this, I presume, which led to the call on the President.

Met Governor Morrill this evening, who at once spoke of the misconduct of the Treasury agents. We frankly discussed the subject. He is on the Committee of Commerce and has a right to know the facts, which I gave him. The whole proceeding is a disgrace and wickedness. I agree with Governor M. that the Secretary of the Treasury has enough to do to attend to the finances without going into the cotton trade. But Chase is very ambitious and very fond of power. He has, moreover, the fault of most of our politicians, who believe that the patronage of office, or bestowment of public favors, is a source of popularity. It is the reverse, as he will learn.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 33-4

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