Showing posts with label Edwin M Stanton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Edwin M Stanton. 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: Monday, August 1, 1864

We yesterday had word that our forces had mined and blown up a fortification in front of Petersburg. All sorts of stories were current, some of them absurdly wild and ridiculous. Petersburg was said to be in flames. Our army were reported to have undermined & large portion of the city. Men of sense gave credit to the absurdity. I went over to the War Department, and Stanton showed me a telegram from Grant, stating the mine had been sprung, but the result is inconclusive, and evidently, I think, a disappointment. Stanton seemed uncertain and confused.

Exciting and silly stories prevailed about the raid into Pennsylvania. Street rumors put the Rebels at 40,000, and the press states that number, but reports are contradictory. Am still of the opinion that the force is small and the scare great. Governor Curtin and all Harrisburg are doubtless in a ferment. Was told the bells in Harrisburg were all ringing an alarm. I asked if it included the dinnerbell of Governor Curtin, for he would be frantic to stir up the people, and never disbelieved the largest fib that was sent abroad.

Had a letter from Tom this A.M., dated at Headquarters of the 18th Army Corps, at midnight of the 29th, stating an assault was to be made in the morning. Could not give details. There would be a sharp conflict, and he would do his duty. Bidding good-bye and sending love to all. This evening we hear from him after the fight, that he was well but tired and exhausted.

The President went yesterday to Fortress Monroe to meet General Grant, by prior arrangement, which made me distrust final operations at Petersburg, for if such were the fact, he could not well be absent. The President tells me the movement was well planned and well executed up to the closing struggle, when our men failed to do their duty. There must, I apprehend, have been fault in the officers also, not Grant, who originates nothing, is dull and heavy, but persistent.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 89-90

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

Diary of Gideon Welles: Saturday, August 6, 1864

I had a telegram from Tom this morning, stating that Colonel Stedman was mortally wounded and would probably not survive the night, that General Ord desired his promotion without delay, that it might be received before his death, and wishing me to call at once on the President. I did so, who responded readily to the recommendation, and I then, at his request, saw Secretary Stanton, who met me in the right spirit.

While at the President's Blair came in, and the President informed us he had a telegram from Greeley, desiring the publication of the whole peace correspondence. Both Blair and myself advised it, but the President said he had telegraphed Greeley to come on, for he desired him to erase some of the lamentations in his longest letter. I told him while I regretted it was there, the whole had better be published. Blair said it would have to come to that ultimately. But the President thought it better that that part should be omitted.

I remarked that I had seen the Wade and Winter Davis protest. He said, Well, let them wriggle, but it was strange that Greeley, whom they made their organ in publishing the protest, approved his course and therein differed from the protestants. The protest is violent and abusive of the President, who is denounced with malignity for what I deem the prudent and wise omission to sign a law prescribing how and in what way the Union shall be reconstructed. There are many offensive features in the law, which is, in itself, a usurpation and abuse of authority. How or in what way or ways the several States are to put themselves right — retrieve their position - is in the future and cannot well be specified. There must be latitude given, and not a stiff and too stringent policy pursued in this respect by either the Executive or Congress. We have a Constitution, and there is still something in popular government.

In getting up this law it was as much an object of Mr. Winter Davis and some others to pull down the Administration as to reconstruct the Union. I think they had the former more directly in view than the latter. Davis's conduct is not surprising, but I should not have expected that Wade, who has a good deal of patriotic feeling, common sense, and a strong, though coarse and vulgar, mind, would have lent himself to such a despicable assault on the President.

There is, however, an infinity of party and personal intrigue just at this time. A Presidential election is approaching, and there are many aspirants, not only for Presidential but other honors or positions. H. Winter Davis has a good deal of talent but is rash and uncertain. There is scarcely a more ambitious man, and no one that cannot be more safely trusted. He is impulsive and mad and has been acute and contriving in this whole measure and has drawn Wade, who is ardent, and others into it. Sumner, I perceived, was bitten before he left Washington. Whether he has improved I am not informed. Sumner is not a constitutionalist, but more of a centralist than the generality of our people, and would be likely to sanction what seem to me some of the more offensive features of this bill. Consolidating makes it more a government of the people than of the States.

The assaults of these men on the Administration may break it down. They are, in their earnest zeal on the part of some, and ambition and malignity on the part of others, doing an injury that they cannot repair. I do not think Winter Davis is troubled in that respect, or like to be, but I cannot believe otherwise of Wade and others; yet the conduct of Wade for some time past, commencing with the organization of the present Congress in December last, has, after the amnesty proclamation and conciliatory policy of reconstruction, been in some respects strange and difficult to be accounted for, except as an aspiring factionist. I am inclined to believe that he has been bitten with the Presidential fever, is disappointed, and, in his disappointment, with a vague, indefinite hope that he may be successful, prompted and stimulated not only by Davis but Colfax, he has been flattered to do a foolish act.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 94-6

Diary of Gideon Welles: Monday, August 8, 1864

Going into the War Department yesterday morning to inquire if any tidings had been received concerning Colonel Stedman of the 11th Connecticut Infantry, who was wounded, probably mortally, on Friday, I found the President with General Grant, Stanton, and General Halleck in the Secretary's room. I proposed leaving on making the single inquiry, provided they were in secret council, but the President and General Grant declared they were not, for me. Learning that poor Stedman was dead, and that some little intelligence had been received from Mobile, I soon left, for there was, it appeared to me, a little stiffness as if I had interrupted proceedings. General Grant has been to Frederick and placed Sheridan in command of the forces on the upper Potomac instead of Hunter, which is a good change, for H., though violently earnest, is not exactly the man for that command. I think him honest and patriotic, which are virtues in these days, but he has not that discretion and forbearance sufficient to comprehend rightly the position that was given him.

Mr. Seward sent me to-day some strange documents from Raymond, Chairman of the National Executive Committee. I met R. some days since at the President's, with whom he was closeted. At first I did not recognize Raymond, who was sitting near the President conversing in a low tone of voice. Indeed, I did not look at him, supposing he was some ordinary visitor, until the President remarked, “Here he is; it is as good a time as any to bring up the question.” I was sitting on the sofa but then went forward and saw it was Raymond. He said there were complaints in relation to the Brooklyn Navy Yard; that we were having, and to have, a hard political battle the approaching fall, and that the fate of two districts and that of King's County also depended upon the Navy Yard. It was, he said, the desire of our friends that the masters in the yard should have the exclusive selection and dismissal of hands, instead of having them subject to revision by the Commandant of the yard. The Commandant himself they wished to have removed. I told him such changes could not well be made and ought not to be made. The present organization of the yard was in a right way, and if there were any abuses I would have them corrected.

He then told me that in attempting to collect a party assessment at the yard, the Naval Constructor had objected, and on appealing to the Commandant, he had expressly forbidden the collection. This had given great dissatisfaction to our party friends, for these assessments had always been made and collected under preceding administrations. I told him I doubted if it had been done—certainly not in such an offensive and public manner; that I thought it very wrong for a party committee to go into the yard on pay-day and levy a tax on each man as he received his wages for party purposes; that I was aware parties did strange things in New York, but there was no law or justice in it, and the proceeding was, in my view, inexcusable and indefensible; that I could make no record enforcing such assessment; that the matter could not stand investigation. He admitted that the course pursued was not a politic one, but he repeated former administrations had practiced it. I questioned it still, and insisted that it was not right in itself. He said it doubtless might be done in a more quiet manner. I told him if obnoxious men, open and offensive opponents of the Administration, were there, they could be dismissed. If the Commandant interposed to sustain such men, as he suggested might be the case, there was an appeal to the Department; whatever was reasonable and right I was disposed to do. We parted, and I expected to see him again, but, instead of calling himself, he has written Mr. Seward, who sent his son with the papers to me. In these papers a party committee propose to take the organization of the navy yard into their keeping, to name the Commandant, to remove the Naval Constructor, to change the regulations, and make the yard a party machine for the benefit of party, and to employ men to elect candidates instead of building ships. I am amazed that Raymond could debase himself so far as to submit such a proposition, and more that he expects me to enforce it.

The President, in a conversation with Blair and myself on the Wade and Davis protest, remarked that he had not, and probably should not read it. From what was said of it he had no desire to, could himself take no part in such a controversy as they seemed to wish to provoke. Perhaps he is right, provided he has some judicious friend to state to him what there is really substantial in the protest entitled to consideration without the vituperative asperity.

The whole subject of what is called reconstruction is beset with difficulty, and while the executive has indicated one course and Congress another, a better and different one than either may be ultimately pursued. I think the President would have done well to advise with his whole Cabinet in the measures he has adopted, not only as to reconstruction or re√ęstablishing the Union, but as to this particular bill and the proclamation he has issued in regard to it.

When the Rebellion shall have been effectually suppressed, the Union government will be itself again, union will speedily follow in the natural course of events, - but there are those who do not wish or intend reunion on the principle of political equality of the States. Unless they can furnish the mode and terms, and for fear they may not be successful, various schemes are projected.

The issuing of the proclamation with reasons for not signing the bill, and yet expressing his acquiescence in the policy if any of the States adopt it, is denounced as anomalous; so is the condition of the country, and so will be reunion, whenever and however it may take place. I have never asked who was the adviser and counsellor of the President in issuing the proclamation. It is sufficient that I was not. There is one who was, and how many more is not material. There may have been one, possibly two, but the project is wholly the President's.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 96-9

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Diary of Gideon Welles: Monday, July 25, 1864

There has been a little ferment in military circles, as newspaper correspondents write. Blair told me a few days since that Cutts came on his steps to sympathize and express his regret that the vandals should have burnt his (Blair's) house. Blair said that nothing better could be expected while poltroons and cowards had the management of military affairs. Cutts left abruptly. I now hear it stated that General Halleck reported the remark to Stanton, and Stanton forwarded Halleck's letter to the President, who remarked that men would speak their minds freely in this country. I have no idea that either Halleck or Stanton will press the subject farther. It would please Blair, I think, if they would.

Mr. Solicitor Whiting spent an hour at my house last evening. The principal topic of discussion was that of Reconstruction. He maintains that the States which have seceded have no rights, - that they cannot resume position in the Union without consent, and the formation of a new constitution in each which excludes slavery. I denied the right of Congress to impose that condition on a State, like North Carolina for instance, and insisted that the States must be equal in political rights, — that if Massachusetts or any of the old States reserved and retained that power, it belonged as well to North Carolina. An amendment of the Constitution would be necessary abolishing slavery in all. Without meeting that point, he expressed a disbelief in the reserved right of Massachusetts on that subject. He denied that a majority, or the whole people, of North Carolina could establish or re√ęstablish a government and continue to be or to become a member of the Union after having been in rebellion, except by consent or permission. “Then," said I, "you recognize the right and the fact of secession.” This he was unwilling to admit, but dwelt on international law, belligerent attitudes, and matters outside of the Constitution to punish States inside. I asked what he would do with loyal citizens in Rebel States, those who had never borne arms or done any act to forfeit their allegiance, men like John Minor Botts or Andrew Johnson, for instance. He maintained that being in States that rebelled they were to be treated like the Rebels.

Solicitor Whiting is self-sufficient but superficial, with many words, some reading, but no very sound or well-founded political views. Yet he considers himself a pater conscriptus, a teacher learned in the law and wise on the subject of government. Seward consults him, and Stanton uses him. He writes letters and opinions to order, gets up pamphlets; is serving without pay, and is careful to tell that fact. One of these years, sooner or later, let no one be surprised to find all his services fully compensated. Men who profess to serve the government gratuitously are usually better paid than others.

Met General Emory at Blair's. Has just come in from pursuit of the raiders, without overtaking them. Had quite a talk concerning matters on the Red River and our disaster there. He gives an interesting detail. Tells the old story of a multitude of fussy men who accompanied Banks with little carpet-bags filled with greenbacks, etc.

Donald McKay publishes a letter defending the Navy Department from newspaper attacks on the subject of the monitors. It is very well done and unexpected. The Evening Post publishes it, and so does the Times copy it, but not yet the Tribune.

Blair is sore and vexed because the President frequently makes a confidant and adviser of Seward, without consulting the rest of the Cabinet. I told him this had been the course from the beginning; Seward and Chase had each striven for the position of Special Executive Counsel; that it had apparently been divided between them, but Seward had outgeneraled or outintrigued Chase. The latter was often consulted when others were not, but often he was not aware of things which were intrusted to Seward (who was superserviceable) and managed by 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. 84-6