Showing posts with label Cabinet Meetings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cabinet Meetings. Show all posts

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, July 26, 1864

Fessenden has got out an advertisement for a new loan and an address to the people in its behalf. Am not certain that the latter is judicious. Capitalists will not as a general thing loan or invest for patriotism, but for good returns. The advertisement gives high interest, but accompanied by the appeal will excite doubt, rather than inspire confidence among the money-lenders. I am inclined to think he will get funds, for his plan is sensible and much wiser than anything of his predecessor. The idea with Chase seemed to be to pay low interest in money but high prices in irredeemable paper, a scheme that might have temporary success in getting friends and popularity with speculators but is ruinous to the country. The errors of Chase in this respect Mr. Fessenden seems inclined to correct, but other measures are wanted and I trust we shall have them.

Only Bates, Usher, and myself were at the Cabinet to day. Stanton sent over to inquire if his attendance was necessary.

There are rumors that the retreating Rebels have turned upon our troops in the valley, and that our forces, badly weakened by the withdrawal of the Sixth Army Corps, are retreating towards Harper's Ferry. This is not improbable. They may have been strengthened as our forces were weakened.

Rode out this evening, accompanied by Mrs. Welles, and spent an hour with the President and Mrs. Lincoln at the Soldiers' Home.

The papers contain a letter from Governor Letcher stating that General Hunter gave the order for burning his (L.'s) house. I shall wish to hear from H. before believing that he could give such an order, and yet I confess I am not without apprehensions, for Hunter is not always possessed of so much prudence as one should have who holds so responsible a position. The burning of the Institute at the same place and time was not creditable to the army, and if there is any justification or ameliorating circumstances, they should be made to appear. The crude and indefensible notions of some of our people, however, are not general. Indiscriminate warfare on all in the insurrectionary region is not general, and few would destroy private property wantonly.

The New York papers are engaged in a covert and systematic attack on the Navy Department, — covert so far as the Republican or Administration press is concerned. Greeley of the Tribune is secretly hostile to the President and assails him indirectly in this way; so of the Evening Post, a paper hitherto friendly but whose publisher is under bail for embezzlement and fraud which the Navy Department would not conceal. The Times is a profligate Seward and Weed organ, wholly unreliable and in these matters regardless of truth or principle. It supports the President because it is the present policy of Seward. The principal editor, Raymond, is an unscrupulous soldier of fortune, yet recently appointed Chairman of the Republican National Executive Committee. He and some of his colleagues are not to be trusted, yet these political vagabonds are the managers of the party organization. His paper, as well as others, are in a combination with Norman Wiard and pretenders like him against the monitors. Let the poor devils work at that question. The people will not be duped or misled to any great extent by them.

There are demonstrations for a new raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania. I told the President I trusted there would be some energy and decision in getting behind them, cutting them off, and not permitting them to go back, instead of a scare and getting forces to drive them back with their plunder. He said those were precisely his views and he had just been to see and say as much to Halleck. I inquired how H. responded to the suggestion. The President said he was considering it, and was now wanting to ascertain where they had crossed the Potomac and the direction they had taken.

I apprehend it is not a large force, but a cavalry raid, which will move rapidly and create alarm. Likely they will go into the Cumberland Valley and then west, for they will scarcely take the old route to return. But these are crude speculations of mine. I get nothing from Halleck, and I doubt if he has any plan, purpose, or suggestion. Before he will come to a conclusion the raiders will have passed beyond his reach.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 86-8

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, August 2, 1864

Judge Thomas and Mr. Train, counsel for Smith Brothers of Boston, had an interview of nearly two hours with me on Saturday, wishing the trial postponed, a different court, and that the trial should take place in Boston. They called and were with me half an hour yesterday. Finally arranged that the trial should be postponed four weeks, until Tuesday the 30th, although their friends had urged a speedy trial, but declined other changes. Two hours later the President sent for me and also for Mr. Fox. On going to the Executive Mansion, I found Messrs. Thomas and Train with the President, where they had gone over the whole subject that they had previously discussed with me. The President heard them kindly and then said he could not act without consulting me. I remarked that I had given the subject a hearing and examination, and supposed it was disposed of. The President said he could not interfere, but should be glad if it could be arranged so as to give them time and also a trial at Boston.

I wrote a letter to Pickering, Winslow & Co., who, with certain Bostonians, wish to do something to assist the blockade. They hardly know what or how.

At the Cabinet, Messrs. Blair, Bates, and myself were present. Fessenden and Usher are absent. Seward and Stanton had been there in advance. There is design in all this. Went over proceedings of the armies at Atlanta and Petersburg. Stanton dislikes to meet Blair in council, knowing that B. dislikes and distrusts him. Seward and Stanton move together in all matters, yet Seward fears a quarrel with Blair, and he tries to keep in with him and at the same time preserve his intimacy with Stanton. Both mouse about the President, who, in his intense interest and inquisitiveness, spends much of his time at the War Department, watching the telegraph. Of course, opportunities like these are not lost by Stanton, and, General Halleck being placed here indorsed by General Scott as the military adviser of the President, he has equal or greater advantages to play the sycophant, and does so.

The explosion and assault at Petersburg on Saturday last appears to have been badly managed. The results were bad and the effect has been disheartening in the extreme. There must have been some defect or weakness on the part of some one or more. I have been waiting to get the facts, but do not yet get them to my satisfaction. It is stated in some of the letters written that lots were cast as to which corps and which officers should lead in the assault. I fear there may be truth in the report, but if so, and Grant was in it or cognizant of it, my confidence in him — never very great — would be impaired. I should not be surprised to learn that Meade committed such an act, for I do not consider him adequate to his high position, and yet I may do him injustice. My personal acquaintance with him is slight, but he has in no way impressed me as a man of breadth and strength or capabilities, and instead of selecting and designating the officer for such a duty, it would be in accordance with my conceptions of him to say, Let any one, Cast lots, etc., but I shall be reluctant to believe this of Grant, who is reticent and, I fear, less able than he is credited. He may have given the matter over to Meade, who has done this. Admiral Porter has always said there was something wanting in Grant, which Sherman could always supply, and vice versa, as regards Sherman, but that the two together made a very perfect general officer and they ought never to be separated. If Grant is confiding in Meade, relying on him, as he did on Sherman,— Grant will make a failure, I fear, for Meade is not Sherman, nor the equal of Sherman. Grant relies on others, but does not know men, — can't discriminate. I feel quite unhappy over this Petersburg matter, — less, however, from the result, bad as it is, than from an awakening apprehension that Grant is not equal to the position assigned him. God grant that I may be mistaken, for the slaughtered thousands of my countrymen who have poured out their rich blood for three months on the soil of Virginia from the Wilderness to Petersburg under his generalship can never be atoned in this world or the next if he without Sherman prove a failure. A blight and sadness comes over me like a dark shadow when I dwell on the subject, a melancholy feeling of the past, a foreboding of the future. A nation's destiny almost has been committed to this man, and if it is an improper committal, where are we?

The consequence of the Petersburg failure, and the late successful raid of the Rebels, will embolden them to our injury. They will take courage, keep fewer troops to man their batteries at Richmond, and send more to harass our frontiers, perhaps to strengthen Hood in opposing Thomas and Sherman.

In the mean time, where is Halleck and what is he doing? I hear nothing of him, do not see him. The President goes to advise with him, but I do not think he is ever wiser or better for these interviews.

Seward and Stanton make themselves the special confidants of the President, and they also consult with Halleck, so that the country is in a great degree in the hands of this triumvirate, who, while they have little confidence in each other, can yet combine to control or influence the President, who is honest.

Attorney-General Bates, who spent last evening with me, opened his heart freely as regards the Cabinet. Of Blair he thought pretty well, but said he felt no intimacy with, or really friendly feelings for, any one but me; that I had his confidence and respect, and had from our first meeting. Mr. Seward had been constantly sinking in his estimation; that he had much cunning but little wisdom, was no lawyer and no statesman. Chase, he assures me, is not well versed in law principles even, - is not sound nor of good judgment. General Halleck he had deliberately charged with intentional falsehood and put it in writing, that there should be no mistake or claim to have misapprehended him. He regretted that the President should have such a fellow near him.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 90-3

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, August 5, 1864

Only four of us with the President today. Mr. Fessenden has gone to Maine. Seward and Stanton were absent when the rest were there.

I was with the President on Wednesday when Governor Morgan was there, and the President produced the correspondence that had passed between himself and Chase at the time C. resigned. It was throughout characteristic. I do not think the event was wholly unexpected to either, and yet both were a little surprised. The President fully understands Chase and had made up his mind that he would not be again overridden in his own appointments.

Chase, a good deal ambitious and somewhat presuming, felt he must enforce his determinations, which he had always successfully carried out. In coming to the conclusion that a separation must take place, the President was prompted by some, and sustained by all, his Cabinet without an exception. Chase's retirement has offended nobody, and has gratified almost everybody.

I told Blair as we left the Executive Mansion to-day that I felt depressed in consequence of the result at Petersburg, beyond what I ought from the fight itself, in consequence of impaired confidence in Grant. He tried to encourage me and partially succeeded. I do not distrust or depreciate General G.; but, if he has ability, I think he needs a better second in command, a more competent executive officer than General Meade, and he should have known that fact earlier. The knowledge of the worth of our generals is often purchased at too great a cost of blood and treasure. It is dear tuition.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 93-4

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, July 19, 1864

 At the Cabinet-meeting to-day, the President brought forward specially the riot in Coles County, Illinois, and the controversy between Governor Peirpoint and General Butler, with especial reference in the latter case to affairs at Norfolk, where the military authorities have submitted a vote to the inhabitants whether they will be governed by martial law. Of course the friends of civil administration, who denied the validity of the whole proceeding, would not vote, and the military had it all as they pleased. This exhibition of popular sovereignty destroying itself pleases Butler. He claims to have found large quantities of whiskey, which he seized and sold. But all the whiskey in Norfolk is there under permits issued by himself. While Butler has talents and capacity, he is not to be trusted. The more I see of him, the greater is my distrust of his integrity. All whiskey carried to Norfolk is in violation of the blockade.

Mr. Ericsson and the newspapers are discussing the monitors. He is honest and intelligent, though too enthusiastic, and claiming too much for his invention, but the newspapers are dishonest and ignorant in their statements, and their whole purpose is to assail the Department. But the system will vindicate itself. There have been errors and mistakes in the light-class monitors. I trusted too much to Fox and Stimers, and am therefore not blameless. But I was deceived, without its being intended perhaps, supposing that Ericsson and Lenthall had a supervision of them until considerable progress had been made towards their completion. I confided in Fox, who was giving these vessels special attention, and he confided in Stimers without my being aware that he was giving him the exclusive management of them. Fox and Lenthall were daily together, and I had not a doubt that much of the consultation was in regard to them, until, becoming concerned from what I heard, I questioned Lenthall direct, when he disclaimed all responsibility and almost all knowledge of them. I then inquired clearly and earnestly of Fox, who placed the whole blame on Stimers. The latter, I heard, had quarrelled with Ericsson and had been carrying forward the construction of these vessels, reporting and consulting with no one but Fox and Admiral Gregory.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 81-2

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, July 15, 1864

We had some talk at Cabinet-meeting to-day on the Rebel invasion. The President wants to believe there was a large force, and yet evidently his private convictions are otherwise. But the military leaders, the War Office, have insisted there was a large force. We have done nothing, and it is more gratifying to our self-pride to believe there were many of them, especially as we are likely to let them off with considerable plunder scot-free.

The National Intelligencer comments with a good deal of truth and ability on our national humiliation, as exemplified in this late affair. There is no getting away from the statements and facts presented.

Seward and Stanton seem disturbed. There is something which does not suit them. Seward followed Stanton out, and had a talk in the anteroom. I met Solicitor Whiting as I left the White House, who was very anxious to talk. Deplored the miserable military management. Imputes the whole folly and scare to General Halleck. Says Stanton has disapproved his policy, but [that] the President clings to Halleck, who is damaging him and the Administration greatly; that Halleck and Blair are both injuring the President. “Why,” said I, “you do not mean to identify Blair with this pitiful business.” “Oh no,” said he, “but Blair is so perverse on the slavery question that he is getting all the radical element of the country against the Administration.” As I did not care to enter into controversy on that topic, and it was late, I left him. But the conversation indicates that Stanton intends to throw off responsibility on to Halleck.

Grant and the Army of the Potomac are reposing in immense force near Richmond. Our troops have been sent from here and drawn from all quarters to reinforce the great army, which has suffered immense losses in its march, without accomplishing anything except to reach the ground from which McClellan was withdrawn. While daily reinforced, Grant could push on to a given point, but he seems destitute of strategy or skill, while Lee exhibits tact. This raid, which might have taken Washington and which has for several days cut off our communications with the North, was devised by Lee while beleaguered at Richmond, and, though failing to do as much as might have been accomplished, has effected a good deal.

The deportment of Stanton has been wholly different during this raid from any former one. He has been quiet, subdued, and apparently oppressed with some matter that gave him disquiet. On former occasions he has been active, earnest, violent, alarmed, apprehensive of danger from every quarter. It may be that he and Halleck have disagreed. Neither of them has done himself credit at this time.

The arrest of Henderson, Navy Agent, and his removal from office have seriously disturbed the editors of the Evening Post, who seem to make his cause their own. This subject coming up to-day, I told the President of the conduct of his District Attorney, Delafield Smith, who, when the case was laid before him by Mr. Wilson, attorney for the Department, remarked that it was not worth while to prosecute, that the same thing was done by others, at Washington as well as New York, and no notice was taken of it. Wilson asked him if he, the prosecuting law officer of the Government, meant to be understood as saying it was not worth while to notice embezzlement, etc. I related this to the President, who thereupon brought out a correspondence that had taken place between himself and W. C. Bryant. The latter averred that H. was innocent, and denounced Savage, the principal witness against him, because arrested and under bonds. To this the President replied that the character of Savage before his arrest was as good as Henderson’s before he was arrested. He stated that he knew nothing of H.’s alleged malfeasance until brought to his notice by me, in a letter, already written, for his removal; that he inquired of me if I was satisfied he was guilty; that I said I was; and that he then directed, or said to me, “Go ahead, let him be removed.” These are substantially the facts. I said to him that the attorneys who had investigated the subject expressed a full conviction of his guilt; that I had come to the same conclusion, and did not see how a prosecution and summary proceedings could be avoided. The Evening Post manifests a belligerent spirit, and evidently intends to make war upon the Navy Department because I will not connive at the malfeasance of its publisher. In a cautious and timid manner they have supported the policy of the Navy Department hitherto, though fearful of being taunted for so doing. Because their publisher was Navy Agent they have done this gently. But they now, since Henderson's arrest and trial, assail the monitors and the monitor system, which they have hitherto supported, and insidiously and unfairly misrepresent them and the Department. I am surprised at the want of judgment manifested in hastening to make this assault. It would have been more politic, certainly, to have delayed, for the motive which leads them to make this abrupt turn cannot be misunderstood. They know it is painful for me to prosecute one of their firm, that it pains me to believe him guilty, but that when the facts are presented, they should know me well enough to be aware that I would not cover or conceal the rascality even to oblige them. I claim no merit, but I deserve no censure for this plain and straightforward discharge of my duty. I hear it said to-day that there has been disagreement between Stanton and Grant; that the latter had ordered General Hinks to Point Lookout and Stanton countermanded the order for General Barnes.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 77-80

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, June 24, 1864

Telegraphed to Wilson directly on reaching Department (and finding no letter from Wilson), directing him to bail the Smiths in sums of $20,000 each.

Have given some examination of the Scofield trial, which is very voluminous, and had Watkins investigate, review, and report. I conclude to approve the finding, though there may be some irregularities and mistakes adverse to the Government. Mr. Bliss, counsel for S., filed a document, excepting to some legal points, yesterday. To-day, after learning my conclusion and looking at the finding, he takes stronger exceptions and declares the finding not conformable to facts and evidence. He wishes me to submit the legal questions to the Attorney-General or some one else. Alluded to Mr. Eames. Wishes Mr. Watkins to examine the evidence. To Eames he says that it is the intention of Scofield and his counsel to prosecute the members of the court individually for false imprisonment. To Watkins, he further says that it is their intention to hold me accountable, and to have me arrested when I am in New York. All this does not induce me to change my conclusion of approving the verdict of the court martial, but I think it may be proper to advise the court that it is in error on the subject of jurisdiction, that they can take cognizance of open-market purchases as well as others, and though, had they done so, the punishment might have been greater, yet I will still approve the finding. Let him have the benefit of the mistake the court has made.

Fox is much dissatisfied with the verdict. Thinks it inadequate; should have been imprisoned five years and fined one hundred thousand dollars. He wishes me to return the papers for revision, and to state the punishment is inadequate. But this is not advisable, even were it strictly correct and allowable. The ends desired will be accomplished by this punishment. A more severe one, such as he suggests, will endanger a reaction.

The President was in very good spirits at the Cabinet. His journey has done him good, physically, and strengthened him mentally and inspired confidence in the General and army. Chase was not at the Cabinet-meeting. I know not if he is at home, but he latterly makes it a point not to attend. No one was more prompt and punctual than himself until about a year since. As the Presidential contest approached he has ceased in a great measure to come to the meetings. Stanton is but little better. If he comes, it is to whisper to the President, or take the dispatches or the papers from his pocket and go into a corner with the President. When he has no specialty of his own, he withdraws after some five or ten minutes.

Mr. Seward generally attends the Cabinet-meetings, but the questions and matters of his Department he seldom brings forward. These he discusses with the President alone. Some of them he communicates to me, because it is indispensable that I should be informed, but the other members are generally excluded.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 57-8

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, June 21, 1864

The President being absent, there was no Cabinet-meeting to-day. Massachusetts Representatives are sensitive and sore concerning the arrest of the Smiths. I wrote Mr. Wilson not to be severe and to take bail.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 55

Friday, May 15, 2020

Diary of Edward Bates: July 22, 1864

In C.[abinet] C[ouncil]—present, Welles, Usher, Blair, Bates, and part of the time, Fessenden. absent Seward and Stanton—

The Prest. gave a minute account of the (pretended) attempt to negotiate for peace, thro' George [N.] Sanders, Clem. C. Clay and Holcolm[be] by the agency of that meddlesome blockhead, Jewitt [Jewett] and Horace Greel[e]y. He read us all the letters.

I am surprised to find the Prest. green enough to be entrapped into such a correspondence; but being in, his letters seem to me cautious and prudent.

Jewitt [Jewett] a crack-brained simpleton (who aspires to be a knave, while he really belongs to a lower order of entities) opens the affair, by a letter and telegram to Greel[e]y; and Greel[e]y carries on the play, by writing to the President, to draw him out, and, if possible, commit him, to his hurt — while the pretended Confederate Commissioners play dumby, — wa[i]ting to avail themselves of some probable blunder, on this side.

I noticed that the gentlemen present were, at first, very chary, in speaking of Greel[e]y, evidently afraid of him and his paper, the Tribune; and so, I said “I cant [sic] yet see the color of the cat, but there is certainly a cat in that mealtub.” The contrivers of the plot counted largely on the Presidents [sic] gullibility, else they never would have started it by the agency of such a mad fellow as Jewitt [Jewett] — perhaps they used him prudently, thinking that if bluffed off, at the start, they might pass it off as a joke.

I consider it a very serious affair — a double trick. — On the part of the Rebel Commissioners (now at Niagara, on the Canada side) the hope might have been entertained that a show of negotiation for peace might produce a truce, relax the war, and give them a breathing spell, at this critical moment of their fate. And as for Greel[e]y, I think he was cunningly seeking to make a pretext for bolting the Baltimore nomination.

The President, I fear, is afraid of the Tribune, and thinks he cant [sic] afford to have it for an enemy. And Usher tries to deepen that impression. But Blair says there is no danger of that; that Greel[e]y is restrained by Hall,1 who controls the paper, and Greel[e]y too, owning 6/10 of the stock, and is a fast friend of the President — (of that? [I question.])

<[Note.] Oct [ ]. It appears that Greel[e]y is now ruled in, as Blair said. He is now a sound (?) Lincoln man — Elector at large, for the State of N. Y! Having, vainly, exhausted his strength against Mr. Lincoln's candidacy, he now, adopts the candidate (manifestly forced upon him, by popular demonstration) and plays the next best game, i. e. tries to convert him to his own use, by making him as great a Radical as himself. >
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1 Henry Hall, son of a leading New York jurist, was connected with the Tribune for twenty-six years during eighteen of which he was business manager.

SOURCE: Edward Bates, Diary of Edward Bates, p. 388-9

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Monday, June 6, 1864

Am urged to go to Baltimore but do not deem it advisable. Some talk with Blair respecting Chase and Seward, who, though not assimilating and unlike in many respects, continue to get along. Each has a policy which seems to me unsound, and Blair coincides with me, but is so intent on other matters, personal to the Blairs and the vindictive war upon them, that he is compelled to defer the differences on grave questions to what so nearly concerns him.

I am uncomfortable about the extradition, or rather the abduction, of Arguellis, the Spaniard. The act shocks me, and the Administration will justly be held accountable. Some of us who know nothing on the subject will have to share the responsibility. I knew nothing of the subject, nor that there was such a man, until after the wrong had been committed and the man was on his way to Cuba. Marshal Murray then informed me, and said he was here to escape the grand jury. A few days after the subject was alluded to in the Cabinet. Seward introduced it incidentally, partly as a feeler and partly to affirm hereafter that the subject had been mentioned. A few words passed between him and the President. As no one said a word by way of comment, I inquired if there was not a law in New York against abduction? Seward claimed there was no law prohibiting the extradition, — that we might do it or not. It was an act of comity merely; Spain could not demand it, etc., etc. It was in answer to these remarks that I put the inquiry. I saw it grated, and when I further remarked if there was no treaty or law for it, I should doubt the propriety of acting, I saw I was making discord, and the subject dropped. The arrest is an arbitrary and unauthorized exercise of power by the Secretary of State.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 45-6

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, May 24, 1864

Nothing especial at the Cabinet. The condition and position of the armies canvassed. Chase was not present. He seldom attends of late.

Seward urges the departure of the Niagara. I have no doubt that Sanford, our Minister at Belgium, one of Seward's pets, who is now here, has been instrumental in urging this matter. He wants a public vessel to carry him abroad, and has cajoled Seward . . . to effect this object. I do not like to be bamboozled, as Colonel Benton says, by such fellows as Sanford.

There are, however, some reasons to influence action.

Seward sent to my house on Saturday evening a bundle of dispatches from Mr. Dayton, and also from Mr. Bigelow, our consul at Paris, relative to the conduct and feelings of the French Government. That breaking through the blockade for tobacco looks mischievous, and one or more vessels ought doubtless to appear in European waters.

Bigelow, in his confidential dispatch, tells Seward that it was not judicious to have explained to the French Government in regard to the resolution of our House of Representatives that they would maintain the Monroe Doctrine.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 38-9

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, May 31, 1864

No special matters in Cabinet. Mr. Seward sent me on Saturday a correspondence between himself and Lord Lyons and the Treasury Department relative to a large amount of cotton which was purchased a few months since in Georgia by one John Mulholland, an Englishman, who desires to bring it out, or, if he could not do that, to have it protected. The Secretary of State wrote the Secretary of the Treasury for views. The Treasury thought the proposition to bring it out inadmissible, but when our military lines were so extended as to include this cotton the agents of the Treasury would give it the same care as the property of loyal citizens; thinks it would be well to advise the Navy and War Departments to instruct their officers. Hence the communication to me.

I decline giving any such instructions, and so have written Mr. Seward, considering it illegal as well as inexpedient, telling him it would be a precedent for transferring all the products of the South into foreign hands to pay for munitions of war which we should be bound to protect. None but Englishmen would have the presumption to make such a request. It is entitled to no respect or consideration. Not unlikely it is cotton of the Rebel government covered

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 40

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, May 20, 1864

The Secretary of State is becoming very anxious in view of our relations with France. Wants the ironclad Dictator should be sent over soon as possible. I told him she was yet in the hands of the contractor, and was likely to be for some time, and when we had her I was not certain that it would be best to send her across the Atlantic. But he was nervous; said it was the only way to stop the Rebel ironclads from coming out, unless Grant should happen to get a victory.

The recent arrest of a Spaniard (Arguellis) who was in New York, and who was abducted, it is said, by certain officials under instructions or by direction of the Secretary of State is exciting inquiry. Arguellis is accused of having, in some way, participated in the slave trade. But if the assertion be true, we have no extradition treaty with Spain, and I am therefore surprised at the proceeding. There is such hostility to the slave trade that a great wrong may perhaps be perpetrated with impunity and without scrutiny, but I hope not. Nothing has ever been said in Cabinet on the subject, nor do I know anything in regard to it, except what I see in the papers.

Mr. Seward sometimes does strange things, and I am inclined to believe he has committed one of those freaks which make me constantly apprehensive of his acts. He knows that slavery is odious and all concerned in slave traffic are distrusted, and has, it seems, improved the occasion to exercise arbitrary power, expecting probably to win popular applause by doing an illegal act. Constitutional limitations are to him unnecessary restraints.

Should there be an investigation instituted and mere denunciation of the act, the President will be called upon to assume the responsibility, yet I am persuaded he has nothing to do in this affair beyond acquiescing without knowledge in what has been done. Could the abduction by any possibility be popular, Mr. S. expects it to inure to his credit.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 35-6

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, May 10, 1864

At the Cabinet, the President read dispatches from General Grant, General Butler, General Sherman, and some others. I had previously seen some of these dispatches. They were all in good and encouraging tone. There have been some conflicting doubts in regard to General Wadsworth, who is undoubtedly slain, and his body is, I think, in the hands of the Rebels. Few nobler spirits have fallen in this war. He should, by good right and fair-dealing, have been at this moment Governor of New York, but the perfidy of Thurlow Weed and others defeated him. I have always believed that Seward was, if not implicated, a sympathizer in that business. No purer or more single-minded patriot than Wadsworth has shown himself in this war. He left home and comforts and wealth to fight the battles of the Union.

A scout came in this P.M. with dispatches from General Grant. He brings information that General Sedgwick was killed yesterday by a sharpshooter. He was among the good and brave generals, though not of the class of dashing officers, and was ever reliable and persistent. The death of no general officer during the war could be more depressing, I apprehend, than this, and his loss at this juncture will be felt by the army and country.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 27-8

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, May 6, 1864

At the Cabinet-meeting each of the members read his opinion. There had, I think, been some concert between Seward and Stanton and probably Chase; that is, they had talked on the subject, although there was not coincidence of views on all respects. Although I was dissatisfied with my own, it was as well as most others.

Between Mr. Bates and Mr. Blair a suggestion came out that met my views better than anything that had previously been offered. It is that the President should by proclamation declare the officers who had command at the massacre outlaws, and require any of our officers who may capture them, to detain them in custody and not exchange them, but hold them to punishment. The thought was not very distinctly enunciated. In a conversation that followed the reading of our papers, I expressed myself favorable to this new suggestion, which relieved the subject of much of the difficulty. It avoids communication with the Rebel authorities. Takes the matter in our own hands. We get rid of the barbarity of retaliation.

Stanton fell in with my suggestion, so far as to propose that, should Forrest, or Chalmers, or any officer conspicuous in this butchery be captured, he should be turned over for trial for the murders at Fort Pillow. I sat beside Chase and mentioned to him some of the advantages of this course, and he said it made a favorable impression. I urged him to say so, for it appeared to me that the President and Seward did not appreciate it.


We get no tidings from the front. There is an impression that we are on the eve of a great battle and that it may already have commenced.


SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 24-5

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, May 3, 1864

At the Cabinet-meeting the President requested each member to give him an opinion as to what course the Government should pursue in relation to the recent massacre at Fort Pillow. The committee from Congress who have visited the scene returned yesterday and will soon report. All the reported horrors are said to be verified. The President wishes to be prepared to act as soon as the subject is brought to his notice officially, and hence Cabinet advice in advance.

The subject is one of great responsibility and great embarrassment, especially before we are in possession of the facts and evidence of the committee. There must be something in these terrible reports, but I distrust Congressional committees. They exaggerate.

Mrs. W. and Edgar left to-day for New York. She is to spend a few days at Irvington; Edgar to complete his college course.

Tom is filled with unrestrained zeal to go to the army. It is much of it youthful fervor but none the less earnest.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 23-4

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, April 26, 1864

Sent a letter to Naval Committee in favor of an iron navy yard, transmitting former communications. Action is required and should have been taken by Congress long since.

Neither Chase nor Blair were at the Cabinet to-day, nor was Stanton. The course of these men is reprehensible, and yet the President, I am sorry to say, does not reprove but rather encourages it by bringing forward no important measure connected with either. As regards Chase, it is evident he presumes on his position and the condition of the finances to press a point, hoping it may favor his aspirations.

Stanton has a cabinet and is a power in his own Department. He deceives the President and Seward, makes confidants of certain leading men, and is content to have matters move on without being compelled to show his exact position. He is not on good terms with Blair, nor is Chase, which is partly attributable to that want of concert which frequent assemblages and mutual counselling on public measures would secure. At such a time the country should have the combined wisdom of all.

Rear-Admiral Porter has sent me a long, confidential letter in relation to affairs on Red River and the fights that have taken place at Mansfield, Pleasant Hill, etc. The whole affair is unfortunate. Great sacrifice of life and property has been made in consequence of an incompetent general in command. It is plain from Admiral Porter's account that Banks is no general, has no military capacity, is wholly unfit for the position assigned him. He has never exhibited military capacity, and I regret the President should adhere to him. It is to be attributed in a great degree to Seward, who caused Butler to be superseded by Banks, and naturally desires he should not prove a failure, and therefore hopes and strives against facts. Banks has much of the demagogue, is superficially smart, has volubility and a smack of party management, which is often successful. The President thinks he has Presidential pretensions and friends to back him, but it is a great mistake. Banks is not only no general, but he is not much of a statesman. He is something of a politician, and a party man of his own stamp, and for his own advancement, but is not true and reliable.

There is an attempt to convert this reverse into a victory, but the truth will disclose itself. The President should, if Porter's statements are reliable, dismiss Banks, or deprive him of military command.

I asked Halleck, who called on me to-day, what the army opinion was of the recent conflicts on Red River. He said we undoubtedly had the worst of it, and that Banks had no military talent or education. While I do not place a high estimate on Halleck himself, his expressed opinion of Banks corresponds with my own. Whether he will recommend the withdrawal of Banks from the army remains to be seen.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 17-8

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, April 22, 1864

Neither Seward nor Chase nor Stanton was at the Cabinet-meeting to-day. For some time Chase has been disinclined to be present and evidently for a purpose. When sometimes with him, he takes occasion to allude to the Administration as departmental, — as not having council, not acting in concert. There is much truth in it, and his example and conduct contribute to it. Seward is more responsible than any one, however, although he is generally present. Stanton does not care usually to come, for the President is much of his time at the War Department, and what is said or done is communicated by the President, who is fond of telling as well as of hearing what is new. Three or four times daily the President goes to the War Department and into the telegraph office to look over communications.

Congress is laboring on the tax bill. The Members fear to do their duty because taxation is unpopular. An old infirmity. Chase has not pressed for it heretofore for the same reason.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 16

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, April 19, 1864

The President did not make his appearance to-day in Cabinet. He was in Baltimore last evening at the opening of the fair, and is reported to have made a speech. He has a fondness for attending these shows only surpassed by Seward. Neither Seward, nor Blair, nor Chase was present with us to-day. Blair was with the President at Baltimore. Being a Marylander, there was propriety in his attendance.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 15

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, April 15, 1864

Chase and Blair were neither of them at the Cabinet-meeting to-day, nor was Stanton. Seward takes upon himself the French tobacco question. He wishes me to procure some one to investigate and report on the facts of the case of the Sir William Peel. I told him I thought Charles Eames as good a counsellor on prize matters as any lawyer whom I knew, and if referred to me I should give the case to Eames.

The gold panic has subsided, or rather abated. Chase is in New York. It is curious to see the speculator's conjectures and remarks on the expedients and subterfuges that are resorted to. Gold is truth. Its paper substitute is a fiction, sustained by public confidence in part because there is a belief that it will ultimately bring gold, but it has no intrinsic value and the great increase in quantity is undermining confidence.

The House passed a resolution of censure on Long for his weak and reprehensible speech. It is a pity the subject was taken up at all. No good has come of it, but I hope no harm. Lurking treason may feel a little strengthened by the failure to expel.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 12