The Diary of Gideon Welles



[General Nathaniel P. Banks, a civilian general, formerly Speaker of the House of Representatives, had superseded Butler in New Orleans toward the end of 1862. In 1864 he was placed in command of the so-called Red River Expedition, designed to drive the Rebels from western Louisiana. After a defeat at Sabine Cross Roads, and a success at Pleasant Hill, the expedition ended in futile fashion.]

Tuesday, April 26, 1864.
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 [that] 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 It is to be attributed in a great degree to Seward, who caused Butler to be superseded by Banks, and naturally desires he should not prove a failure, and therefore hopes and strives against facts.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. [He] 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 today, 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.

Saturday, May 7, 1864.
Some fragmentary intelligence comes to us of a conflict of the two great armies. A two days’ fight is said to have taken place. The President came into my room about 1 P. M. and told me he had slept none last night. He lay down for a short time on the sofa in my room and detailed all the news he had gathered.
Mr. Wing, a correspondent of the New York Tribune, called upon me this evening. He brings the first news we have had, but this is not full and conclusive.

[Two great movements of the Federal armies were in progress. On May 3 Grant crossed the Rapidan and advanced into the Wilderness, where on May 5 the bloodiest struggle of the war began. On May 6 Sherman had started from Chattanooga on his march through Georgia. ]

Monday, May 9, 1864.
We had yesterday great feelings, deep interest, but little news, little in the way of detail though great in importance. Nothing came from General Grant, who is no braggart, and does not mean to have tidings precipitated in advance. A despatch from General Ingalls to Quartermaster General Meigs calls for forage, which indicates an onward movement. Other incidental information is to the same effect. At least this is my inference, and [that of] others also.
To-day’s news confirms the impression, yet we have nothing specific. All our conclusions however are one way, and there can be no doubt the rebels have fallen back, and our forces have advanced.
Mr. Heap, Clerk to Rear Admiral Porter, arrived yesterday from Alexandria on the Red River. He brings a deplorable account of affairs in a confidential despatch from Admiral Porter, and more fully detailed by himself. The misfortunes are attributed entirely and exclusively to the incapacity of General Banks. Neither Admiral Porter, nor Mr. Heap admit any mitigating circumstances, but impute to his imbecility the loss of the expedition and the probable sacrifice of the fleet. They accuse him of equivocating, of electioneering, of speculating in cotton, and general malfeasance and mismanagement.
I took Heap with me to the President and had him tell his own story. It was less full and denunciatory than to me, but it seemed to convince the President, who I have thought was over partial to Banks, and I have thought that Seward contributed to that feeling. The President after hearing Heap said he had rather cottoned up to Banks, but for some time past had begun to think he was erring in so doing. He repeated two verses from Moore, commencing —

’T was ever thus from childhood’s hour
I ’ve seen my fondest hopes decay.

It would not do to retain him in military command at such obvious sacrifice of the public interest.
I am not one of the admirers of Banks. He has a certain degree of offhand smartness, very good elocution and command of language, with perfect self-possession, but is not profound. He is a pretender, not a statesman, a politician of a certain description. He has great ambition, but little fixed principle. It was Seward’s doings that sent him to New Orleans.

[On May 11 Grant sent his famous dispatch to Halleck, “ I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.” The terrible series of attacks on Lee’s fortified lines continued daily.]

Wednesday, May 11, 1864.
A craving, uneasy feeling pervaded the community through the day. No intelligence from any quarter received, yet a conviction pervades everywhere that much is being done. I was at the War Department at 9 p. M. The President and Stanton were anxiously waiting intelligence.

Thursday, May 12, 1864.
Late last night, Mr. Byington, a newspaper correspondent, called at my house. He left General Grant’s headquarters at 8 A. M. yesterday. Reports hard fighting on Tuesday, but represents our troops to have had the best of it. General Robinson, severely wounded, arrived in Washington.

Friday, May 13, 1864.
The army news is interesting, and as well received as the great loss of life will permit. Hancock has made a successful onset and captured Ed Johnson and two other Generals, with about fifty other officers and four thousand prisoners, thirty pieces of cannon, etc. General Sheridan with his cavalry has got in rear of Lee and destroyed about ten miles of railroad, captured two trains, and destroyed the depot of rebel supplies at Beaver Dam. Our troops are in good heart and everything looks auspicious for the Republic. Many valuable lives have been offered up for the Union, and many a rebel has fallen. I dwell not on particulars. The public press and documents will give them. The tidings have caused joy to the patriotic everywhere, but among the intense partisans, known as Copperheads, it is obvious there is not gratification in the success of the Union arms. It is painful to witness this factious and traitorous spirit, but it plainly shows itself.

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 near 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 has had hard fighting in Northern Georgia at Resaca, and the rebels under Johnston have retreated.


[Two young newspaper men, probably without more serious notives than the depression of the stock market, left at every newspaper office in New York City, just before the hour of going to press, copies of a forged proclamation, signed with the President’s name, which called in terms of extreme dejection for four hundred thousand fresh troops. The only papers which fell into the trap happened to be two of the most rabid enemies of the administration, and Stanton promptly gave orders for the suppression of both papers. The editors were not, however, imprisoned, and after an interval of three days the papers were suffered to appear as usual.]

May 18, 1864. Mr. Seward called on me this afternoon at a late hour in reference to the alleged misconduct of the Marigold, which is charged with firing a gun at a blockade runner within six hundred yards of Morro Castle. As Temple, Fleet Captain of the East Gulf Squadron, had left me but a few minutes previously, I sent for him, there having been no report of the case. While waiting for Temple, Mr. S[eward] informed me that a forged proclamation had been published by sundry papers in New York, among others by the World and Journal of Commerce, imposing a fast on account of the failures of Grant and calling for a draft of 300,000 men. Seward said he at once sent on contradicting it, and had ordered the English steamer to be delayed. He then had called on Stanton to know whether such a document had passed over the regular telegraph. Stanton said there had not. Seward then ordered that the other line should be at once seized, which was done. Seward then asked if the World and Journal of Commerce had been shut up. Stanton said he knew of their course only a minute before. Seward said the papers had been published a minute too long; and Stanton said if he and the President directed, they should be suspended. Seward thought there should be no delay.
Gold, under the excitement, has gone up ten per cent., and the cotton loan will advance on the arrival of the steamer at Liverpool with the tidings [manufactured] probably by the rebels and the gold speculators, as they are called, who are in sympathy with them.

Thursday, May 19, 1864.
The bogus proclamation has been the principal topic to-day. The knowledge that it is a forgery has not quieted the public mind.

Monday, May 23, 1864.
The author of [the] forged proclamation has been detected. His name is Howard, and he has been long connected with the New York papers, but especially with the Times. If I am not mistaken he has been one of my assailants and a defamer of the Department. He is of a pestiferous class of reckless sensation-writers for an unscrupulous set of journalists, who misinform the public mind. Scarcely one of them has regard for truth, and nearly all make use of their positions to subserve selfish mercenary ends. This forger and falsifier Howard is a specimen of the miserable tribe.
The seizure of the office of the World and Journal of Commerce for publishing this forgery was hasty, rash, inconsiderate and wrong, and cannot be defended. They are mischievous and pernicious, working assiduously against the Union and the government, and giving countenance and encouragement to the rebellion, but were in this instance the dupes — perhaps the willing dupes — of a knave and wretch. The act of suspending these journals, and the whole arbitrary and oppressive proceedings, had its origin with the Secretary of State. Stanton I have no doubt was willing to act on Seward’s promptings, and the President in deference to Seward yielded to it.
These things are to be regretted. They weaken the administration and strengthen its enemies. Yet the administration ought not to be condemned for the misdeeds of one, or at most two, of its members. They would not be if the President was less influenced by them.

Thursday, June 2, 1864.
There is intense anxiety in regard to the Army of the Potomac. Great confidence is felt in Grant, but the immense slaughter of our brave men chills and sickens us all. The hospitals are crowded with the thousands of mutilated and dying heroes who have poured out their blood for the Union cause.
Lee has returned to the vicinity of Richmond, overpowered by numbers, beaten, but hardly defeated.

Friday, June 3, 1864.
For several days the delegates to the National Convention have been coming in. Had a call from several. Met a number at the President’s. All favor the President. There is a spirit of discontent among the members of Congress, stirred up I think by the Treasury Department. Chase has his flings and insinuations against the President’s policy or want of policy. Nothing suits him.
There seems some difference among the delegates about the Vice-Presidency, but they will be likely to renominate Hamlin, though he has not much personal strength and has not the mind and temperament to build up a party for the country. There is an impression here that he has great strength in New England, but that is not my opinion. He has party cunning and management, but not breadth and strength, and is but little cared for there. [He] is not offensive or obnoxious, but there is no zeal for him. As the President is a Western man and will be renominated, the Convention will very likely feel inclined to go East and to renominate the Vice-President also. Should New York be united on Dix or Dickinson, the nomination would be conceded to the Empire State, but there can be no union in that state upon either of those men or any other.

[On June 3 the Army of the Potomac encountered a terrific repulse in the assault on Lee’s lines, known as the Battle of Cold Harbor.]

Saturday, June 4, 1864.
Many delegates to Convention in town. Some attempts [are] made by members of Congress to influence them. The friends of Chase improve the opportunity to exclaim against Blair.
There has been continued fighting, though represented as not very important. Still there is heavy loss, but we are becoming accustomed to the sacrifice. Grant has not great regard for human life.

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 [he] 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.

[The vote of Missouri at the convention was cast for Grant on the first ballot, although her twenty-two ballots were afterwards transferred to Lincoln to make his nomination unanimous.]

Wednesday, June 8, 1864.
The President was renominated today at Baltimore. A contest took place in regard to Missouri, and the wrong delegates were admitted by an almost unanimous vote. A strange perversion! There was neither sense nor reason nor justice in the decision. Rogues, fanatics, hypocrites, and untruthful men secured and triumphed over good and true men. Prejudice overcame truth and reason. The Convention exhibited great stupidity, and actually stultified itself in this matter.
When the vote of the Convention was taken on the nomination for President, it was found the Missouri delegation who had been admitted were not in harmony with the Convention. They would not vote for Mr. Lincoln. He had all the rest of the votes. There was much intrigue and much misconception in this thing.


On the question of Vice President, there was greater diversity of opinion at the beginning, but ultimately all united on Andrew Johnson. Personally I did not regret this result although I took no part in its accomplishment. The delegates and papers of my state generally have disapproved of Hamlin s course toward me, and I have no doubt it contributed to their casting a united vote at the start for Johnson. Hamlin and his friends will give me credit for influence which I do not possess, and ascribe to me rage or malevolence which I never felt.2 Without cause, and because I would not extend undue favor to one of his friends by official abuse, he has treated me coldly, discourteously, and with bad temper, so much so as to attract attention and lead to opposition to his renomination.

Thursday, June 9, 1864.
There seems to be general dissatisfaction with the nominations made at Baltimore, and with the resolutions adopted. Except the nomination for Vice President, the whole proceedings were a matter of course. It was the wish of Seward that Hamlin should again be the Vice President, and the President himself was inclined to the same policy, though personally his choice is Johnson. This I think was the current administration opinion, though with no particular zeal or feeling. Blair inclined to the policy of taking Hamlin, though partial to Johnson. I took no part, and could not well take any. Yet to-day from several quarters it is said to me that Connecticut overthrew Hamlin, and that it was my doings which led to it. While this is not correct, I am no wise disposed to be dissatisfied with the change that has been made.

[The so-called “Gold Bill,” which became law on June 17, “ provided penalties for effecting contracts in gold coin or bullion or foreign exchange for future delivery and declared all such contracts absolutely void.” This bill, which made it still easier for gold speculators to monopolize their commodity, resulted within ten days in a rise of the precious metal from 200 to 250. On July 2 the measure was repealed.]

Monday, June 20, 1864.
The gold bill, as it is called, has been finally enacted, and we shall soon ascertain whether it effects any good. Chase and his school have the absurd follies of the Whigs and John Law in regard to money and finance. I have no confidence in his financial wisdom or intelligence on those subjects.
We get no good army news from Petersburg. Our troops have suffered much and accomplished but little so far as I can learn. But there is disinclination to communicate army intelligence as usual. Were the news favorable it would be otherwise.
The President in his intense anxiety has made up his mind to visit General Grant at his headquarters, and left this P. M. at five. Mr. Fox has gone with him, and not unlikely favored and encouraged the President in this step, which I do not approve. It has been my policy to discourage these Presidential excursions. Some of the Cabinet favored them. Stanton and Chase, I think, have given them countenance heretofore.
He can do no good. It can hardly be otherwise than harmful, even if no accident befalls him.

Wednesday, June 22, 1864.
Much sensational news concerning delay of army movements. I am inclined to think our people have learned caution from dear experience — dear in the best blood of the country.
Gold has gone up, to-day to 230. Legislation does not keep down the price or regulate values. In other and plainer terms, paper is constantly depreciating and the tinkering has produced the contrary effect from that intended by our financiers.

Friday, June 24, 1864.
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 despatches 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.

Saturday, June 25, 1864.
The Treasury management is terrible, ruinous. Navy requisitions are wantonly withheld for weeks, to the ruin of the contractor. In the end the government will suffer greatly, for persons will not under these ruinous delays deal with the government at ordinary current rates. The pay of the sailors and workmen is delayed until they are almost mutinous and riotous. There is no justifiable excuse for this neglect. But Mr. Chase, having committed blunders in his issues, is now desirous of retiring certain paper, and avails himself of funds of creditors on naval accounts to accomplish this. It is most unjust. The money honestly due to government creditors should not be withheld for Treasury schemes, or to retrieve its mistakes.
I am daily more dissatisfied with the Treasury management. Everything is growing worse. Chase, though a man of mark, has not the sagacity, knowledge, taste, or ability of a financier. [He] has expedients, and will break down the government. The President has surrendered the finances to his management entirely. Other members of the Cabinet are not Consulted. Any dissent from, or doubt even of his measures is considered as a declaration of hostility and an embarrassment to his administration. I believe I am the only one who has expressed opinions that questioned his policy, and that expression was mild and kindly uttered. Blair said about as much, and both [he and I] were lectured by Chase. But he knew not then, nor does he know now, the elementary principles of finance and currency. Congress surrenders to his capricious and superficial qualities as pliantly as the President and the Cabinet. If they do not legalize his projects, the Treasury is to be closed, and under a threat or something approaching a threat, his schemes are sanctioned, and laws are made to carry them into effect, but woe waits the country in consequence.

Tuesday, June 28, 1864.
GOLD has gone up to 240. Paper which our financiers make the money standard is settling down out of sight. This is the result of the gold bill and similar measures, yet Chase learns no wisdom. We are hurrying onward into a financial abyss. There is no vigorous mind in Congress to check the current, and the prospect is dark for the country under the present financial management. It cannot be sustained.

Wednesday, June 29, 1864.
Congress is getting restive and discontented with the financial management. The papers speak of the appointment of Field, Assistant Secretary, to be Assistant Treasurer at New York, in the place of Cisco. I doubt if any one but Chase would think of him for the place; and Chase, as usual, does not know the reason. Morgan prefers Hillhouse, and Seward wants Blatchford. But Field has talents, and Chase takes him from association.

The closing hours of Congress are crowded, as usual, but I believe matters are about as usual. Our naval bills have mostly been disposed of.


[Lincoln’s behavior towards Chase was long-suffering under continued and extreme provocation. The Secretary’s frequent intrigues in support of his Presidential aspirations were passed over by his superior with humorous comment, but in the summer of 1864 the difficulties of retaining Chase became practical impossibilities. Within six months Chase had twice offered his resignation, and Cabinet councils were still further embittered by the increasing intensity of the hatred between Chase and Montgomery Blair, the Postmaster General, whose brother, Frank P. Blair, made matters worse by a speech in the House of Representatives filled with invective against the Secretary of the Treasury. While his relations to the administration were strained almost to the breaking point, an opportunity occurred for the appointment of a new Assistant Treasurer in New York City. Chase urgently supported M. B. Field, who was resolutely opposed by Senator Morgan of New York. Knowing that such a nomination would split the party in New York state, where harmony was of great moment to the Union cause, Lincoln refused to accept Chase’s suggestion, but framed his reply in the most conciliatory way. The Secretary refused to be mollified, and on June 29 resigned his office. “ Chase,” said the President, “ thinks he has become indispensable to the country, that his intimate friends know it, and he cannot comprehend why the country does n’t know it.”]

Thursday, June 30, 1864.
All were surprised with the resignation of Secretary Chase and the nomination of Governor David Tod as his successor. I knew nothing of it till the fact was told me by Senator Doolittle who came to see and advise with me, supposing I knew something of the circumstances. But I was wholly ignorant. Chase had not thought proper to consult me as to his resignation, nor had the President as to his action upon it, or the selection. My first impression was that he had consulted Seward and perhaps Blair. I learn, however, he advised with none of his Cabinet, but acted from his own impulses.
I have doubts of Tod’s ability for this position though he has good common sense and was trained in the right school, being a hard-money man. Not having seen the President since this movement took place, I do not comprehend his policy. It can hardly be his intention to reverse the action of Chase entirely without consulting those who are associated with him in the government. And yet the selection of Tod indicates that, if there be any system in the movement. The President has given but little attention to finance and the currency, but yet he can hardly be ignorant of the fact that Chase and Tod are opposites. The selection of Tod is a move in the right direction if he has made the subject a sufficient study to wield the vast machine. On this point I have my doubts. His nomination will disturb the “ Bubbles ” (the papermoney men), and the question was not acted upon, but referred to the finance committee who have been with the Senate. I have no doubt their astonishment at the obtrusion of a hard-money man upon them was made manifest.
The retirement of Chase, so far as I hear opinions expressed, and they are generally freely given, appears to give relief rather than otherwise, which surprises me. I had thought it might create a shock for a brief period, though I did not fear that it would be lasting. I look upon it as a blessing. The country could not go on a great while longer under his management, which has been one of expedients and of no fixed principles, or profound and correct financial knowledge.
It is given out that a disagreement between himself and the President in relation to the appointment of Assistant Treasurer at New York was the cause of his leaving. I think it likely that was the cause of his tendering his resignation, and I have little doubt that he was greatly surprised that it was accepted. He may not admit this, but it is none the less true, I apprehend. Yet there were some circumstances to favor his going — there is a financial gulf ahead.

Friday, July 1, 1864.
This day is the anniversary of my birth. I am sixty-two years of age. Life is brief. Should I survive another year I shall then have attained my grand climacteric. Yet it is but the journey of a day, and of those who set out with me in the morning of life how few remain! Each year thins out the ranks of those who went with me to the old district school in my childhood.
Governor Tod has declined the position of Secretary of the Treasury. It does not surprise [me]. Senator Fessenden has been appointed, who will, it is said, accept, which does surprise me. I doubt if his health will permit him to bear the burden. He has abilities; is of the same school as Chase. Has been Chairman of the Committee of Finance during Chase’s administration of the Treasury, and, I have supposed, a supporter of his policy. Yet I have had an impression that Fessenden is an improvement upon Chase, and I trust he is.
But the President’s course is a riddle. Tod is a hard-money man. Fessenden has pressed through Congress the paper system of Chase. One day Tod is selected: on his refusal Fessenden is brought forward. This can in no other way be reconciled than in the President’s want of knowledge of the subject. His attention never has been given to the finances. He seems not aware that within twenty-four hours he has swung to opposite extremes.
Seward can hardly have been consulted, for Fessenden has been his sharp and avowed opponent of late, and unless he has changed, or shall change, will prove a troublesome man for him in the Cabinet.
The President has great regard for Chase’s abilities but is glad to be relieved of him, for C[hase] has been a load of late. [He] is a little disappointed and dissatisfied, has been captious and uncertain, favored the fault-finders, and, in a way, encouraged opposition to the President.

July 2, 1864.
Telegrams this A. M. inform us that the pirate Alabama was sunk on the 19th of June off Cherbourg by the Steamer Kearsarge, Commander Winslow, after a fight of one hour and a half. Informed the President and Cabinet of the tidings which was matter of general congratulation and rejoicing.
Mr. Fessenden appeared at Cabinet meeting as the successor of Mr. Chase.
The subject of the arrest and trial of General Dix in New York for suspending the publication of the World and Journal of Commerce was brought forward. There was a little squeamishness with some on the subject. The President very frankly avowed the act to be his, and he thought the government should protect Dix. Seward was positive and bold on that.
I expressed no opinion, nor did Blair or Bates. While I regret that the papers should have been suppressed or meddled with, I would not, I think, permit a general officer to be arrested and tried by a state Judge for obeying an order of the President. If there is a disposition to try the question before the United States tribunals, it would be well to permit it. This was my hasty conclusion.
Admiral Porter called on me to-day direct from his command. Had a long interview on his affairs.


Received despatches to-day from Captain Winslow of the Kearsarge relative to sinking the Alabama. Wrote congratulatory letter. There is great rejoicing throughout the country over this success, which is universally and justly conceded a triumph over England as well as over the rebels. In my first draft I made a point or two, rather too strong perhaps against England and the mercenary piratical spirit of Semmes, who had accumulated chronometers.

While the people generally award me more credit than I deserve in this matter, a malevolent partisan spirit exhibits itself in some, which would find fault with me because this battle did not sooner take place. These assaults disturb me less perhaps than they ought — they give me very little uneasiness, because I know them to be groundless. Violent attacks have been made on the Department and myself for the reason that our naval vessels were not efficient — had no speed: but in the account of the battle the Kearsarge is said, by way of lessening the calamity, to have had greater steaming power than the Alabama, and to have controlled the movement. Our large smooth-bore guns, “ the Dahlgrens,” 3 have been ridiculed and denounced by the enemies of the Navy Department, but the swift destruction of the Alabama is now imputed to the great guns which tore her in pieces.

[For the time being, Grant seemed to have been fought to a standstill. Lee detached Early with 20,000 veterans to invade the Shenandoah valley and, if occasion offered, to attack Washington. The capital was in imminent danger (had Early appreciated the condition of affairs) and might have been actually captured on July 11.]

A summer raid down the valley of the Shenandoah by the rebels and the capture of Harper’s Ferry are exciting matters, and yet the War Department is disinclined to communicate the facts. Of course I will not ask. A few words from Stanton about “ cursed mistakes of our generals ” — loss of stores that had been sent forward — bode disaster.

Friday, July 8, 1864.
Stanton tells me that he has no idea the rebels are in any force above, and should not give them a serious thought but that Grant says he thinks they are in force, without, however, giving his reasons or any facts. The President has been a good deal incredulous about a very large army on the upper Potomac, yet he begins to manifest anxiety. But he is under constraint I perceive, such as I know is sometimes imposed upon by the dunderheads at the War Office, when they are in a fog, or scare, and know not what to say or do. It is not natural, or the way of the President, to withhold information or speculation at such times, and I can always tell how things are with Halleck and Stanton when there are important movements going on. The President is now enjoined to silence, while Halleck is in a perfect maze, bewildered, without intelligent decision or self-reliance, and Stanton is wisely ignorant. I am inclined to believe, however, that at this time profound ignorance reigns at the War Department concerning the rebel raid in the Shenandoah valley, that they absolutely know nothing of it.

Saturday, July 9, 1864.
The rebel invasion of Maryland, if not so large or formidable as last year and year before, looks to me very annoying — the more so because I learn nothing satisfactory or reliable from the War Office, and am persuaded there is both neglect, and ignorance there.
Our Alabama news comes in opportunely to encourage and sustain the nation’s heart. It does them, as well as me, good to dwell upon the subject and the discomfiture of the British and Rebels. The perfidy of the former is as infamous as the treason of the latter. Both were whipped by the Kearsarge — a Yankee ship with a Yankee commander and a Yankee crew.


Sunday, July 10, 1884.
When at the Department Sunday morning the 10th, examining my mail, one of the clerks came in and stated that the rebel pickets were on the outskirts of Georgetown within the District lines. There had been no information to warn us of this near approach of the enemy, but my informant was so positive and soon confirmed by another, that I sent to the War Department to ascertain the facts. They were ignorant — had heard street rumors, but they were unworthy of notice — and ridiculed my enquiry.
Later I learned that young King, son of my neighbor Z. P. K[ingj, was captured by the rebel pickets within the District lines and is a prisoner.

Monday, July 11, 1864.
The rebels are upon us. Having visited Upper Maryland they are turning their attention hitherward. General Wallace has been defeated, and it was yesterday current that General Tyler and Colonel Seward were prisoners, the latter wounded. But it seems only the last is true of the latter.
The rebel pickets appear in strength in front of Forts Stevens and De Bussy, on the borders and within the District lines. Went to Stanton, but got from him nothing at all. He exhibits none of the alarm and fright I have seen in him on former occasions. It is evident he considers the force not large, or such that it cannot be controlled, and yet he cannot tell their number, nor where they are.
I rode out this evening to Fort Stevens, latterly called Fort Massachusetts. Found General Wright and General McCook with what I am assured is an ample force for its defence. Passed and met as we returned three or four thousands, perhaps more, volunteers under General Meigs, going to the front. Could see the line of pickets of both armies in the valley, extending a mile or more. There was continual firing — without any casualties so far as I could observe, or hear. Two houses in the vicinity were in flames, set on fire by our own people because they obstructed the range of our guns and gave shelter to rebel sharpshooters. Other houses and buildings had also been destroyed. A pretty grove nearly opposite the fort was being cut down. War would not spare the tree if the woodman had.
I enquired where the rebel force was, and the officers said, over the hills, pointing in the direction of Silver Spring. Are they near Gunpowder or Baltimore — where are they? Oh! within a short distance, a mile or two only. I asked why their whereabouts was not ascertained, and their strength known. The reply was that we had no fresh cavalry.
The truth is the forts around Washington have been vacated and the troops sent back to General Grant who was promised reinforcement to take Richmond. But he has been in its vicinity more than a month, resting apparently after his bloody march, but [has] effected nothing since his arrival on the James.

Tuesday, July 12, 1864.
The rebels captured a train of cars on the Philadelphia and Baltimore Road, and have burnt the bridge over Gunpowder and Bush rivers. It is said there were 1500 of these raiders.
Governor Bradford’s house, a short distance out of Baltimore, was burnt by a small party. General demoralization seems to have taken place among the troops, and there is as little intelligence among them as at the War Office in regard to the rebels.
We have no mails, and the telegraph lines have been cut, so that we are without news or information from the outer world.
Went to the President’s at twelve, being day of regular Cabinet meeting. Mr. Bates and Usher were there — the President was signing a batch of commissions. Fessenden is absent in New York. The condition of affairs connected with the rebels on the outskirts was discussed. The President said he and Seward had visited several of the fortifications. I asked where the rebels were in force. He said he did not know with certainty, but he thought the main body at Silver Spring.
I expressed a doubt whether there was any large force at any one point, but [thought] that they were in squads of from 500 to perhaps 1500 scattered along from the Gunpowder to the falls of the Potomac, who kept up an alarm on the outer rim while the marauders were driving off horses and cattle. The President did not respond farther than to again remark he thought there must be a pretty large force in the neighborhood of Silver Spring.
I am sorry there should be so little accurate knowledge of the rebels, sorry that at such a time there is not a full Cabinet, and especially sorry that the Secretary of War is not present. In the interviews which I have had with him, I can obtain no facts, no opinions. He seems dull and stupefied. Others tell me the same.
Rode out this P. M. to Fort Stevens. Went up to the summit of the road on the right of the fort. There were many collected. Looking over the valley below, where the continued popping of the pickets was still going on, though less brisk than yesterday, I saw a line of our men lying close near the bottom of the valley. Senator Wade came up beside me. Our views corresponded — that the rebels were few in front, and that our men greatly exceeded them in numbers. We went together into the fort where we found the President was sitting in the shade — his back against the parapet towards the enemy.
Generals Wright and McCook informed us they were about to open battery and shell the rebel pickets, and after three discharges an assault was to be made by two regiments which were lying in wait in the valley.
The firing from the battery was accurate. The shells that were sent into a fine mansion occupied by the rebel sharpshooters soon set it afire. As the firing from the fort ceased our men ran to the charge and the rebels fled. We could sec them running across the field, seeking the woods on the brow of the opposite hills. It was an interesting and exciting spectacle. But below we could see here and there some of our own men bearing away their wounded comrades. I should judge the distance to be something over three hundred yards. Occasionally a bullet from some long-range rifle passed above our heads. One man had been shot in the fort a few minutes before we entered.
As we came out of the fort, four or five of the wounded men were carried by on stretchers. It was nearly dark as we left. Driving in, as was the case when driving out, we passed fields as well as roads full of soldiers, horses, teams, mules. Campfires lighted up the woods, which seemed to be more eagerly sought than open fields.
The day has been exceedingly warm, and the stragglers by the wayside were many. Some were doubtless sick, some were drunk, some weary and exhausted. Then men, on horseback, on mules, in wagons as well as on foot, batteries of artillery, caissons, an innumerable throng. It was exciting and wild. Much of life and much of sadness. Strange that in this age and country there is this strife and struggle, under one of the most beneficent governments which ever blessed mankind, and all in sight of the Capitol.
In times gone by I had passed over these roads little anticipating scenes like this, and a few years hence they will scarcely be believed to have occurred.

Wednesday, July 13, 1864.
It is no doubt true that the rebels have left. I called on General Halleck on a matter of business and while there about eleven he had a telegram saying the rebels passed through Rockville to the northwest about three this A. M. They are making, I remarked, for Edward’s Ferry, and will get off with their plunder if we have no force there to prevent. He said it was by no means certain they would cross at Edward’s Ferry.
We looked over the map together, and he, like myself, thought it probable they had taken that course. I remarked that they appeared not to have concentrated their force upon any one place. Halleck asked by what authority I said that. There was harshness and spite in his tone. I coolly said, by my own judgment and the observation of almost anyone who had any intelligence on the subject. He said he did not think I had heard so from any military man who knew anything about it. I said no military man or any other had been able to tell me where they were concentrated to the amount of five thousand. Nor have I found any one except Halleck, Hitchcock, and a few around the Department, express an opinion that there was a large number or that they were concentrated. They were defiant and insolent; our men were resolute and brave, but the bureau generals were alarmed and ignorant, and have made themselves and the Administration appear contemptible.
The rebels before leaving burnt the house of Judge Blair, Post-Master General. This they claimed to have done in retaliation for the destruction of the house of Governor Letcher, — a disgraceful act and a disgraceful precedent.

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.
Seward and Stanton seem disturbed. There is something which does not suit them. Seward followed Stanton out, and had a talk in the ante-room. I met Solicitor Whiting as I left the White House, who was very anxious to talk. Deplores 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 Halleek 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 Halleek.


[On his own initiative, Horace Greeley attempted to open negotiations with the Confederate Government for bringing the war to a close. Lincoln subsequently authorized Greeley to bring with him to Washington any person “ professing to have any proposition of Jefferson Davis, in writing, for peace, embracing the restoration of the Union and abandonment of slavery.” Greeley proceeded to Niagara Falls, and after desultory negotiations with Confederates in Canada, learned that they possessed no authority from the Confederate Government. The negotiations eventually broke up in futile fashion.]

Friday, July 22, 1864.
At the Cabinet meeting the President read his correspondence with Horace Greeley on the subject of peace propositions with George Saunders and others at Niagara Falls. The President has acquitted himself very well if he was to engage in the matter at all; but I am sorry that he permits himself in this irregular way to be induced to engage in correspondence with irresponsible parties like Saunders and Clay, or scheming busybodies like Greeley. There is no doubt that the President and the whole administration are misrepresented and misunderstood on the subject of peace, and Greeley is one of those who has done and is doing great harm and injustice in this matter. In this instance he was evidently anxious to thrust himself forward as an actor; and yet when once engaged he began to be alarmed — he failed to honestly and frankly communicate the President’s first letter, as was his duty, but sent a letter of his own, which was not true and correct, and found himself involved in the meshes of his own frail act.

Thursday, July 28, 1864.
Rode out this evening, accompanied by Mrs. Welles, and spent an hour with the President and Mrs. Lincoln at the Soldiers’ Home.
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 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, vet 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 Monitors. Let the poor devils work at that question. The people will not be duped or misled to any great extent by them.


[After repeated failures to capture Petersburg by assault, Grant attempted to blow up part of the Confederate works by an extensive mine filled with powder. The execution of the attempt was attended with inexcusable blundering and cowardice. The result was a costly and mortifying failure.]

Tuesday, August 2, 1864.
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 had 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.
Seward and Stanton make themselves the special confidants of the President, and they also consult with Halleck — so that the country is in a degree in the hands of this triumvirate who, while they have little confidence in each other, can yet combine to 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 [that he had] misapprehended him. He regretted that the President should have such a fellow near him.

Thursday, August 4, 1864.
This day is set apart for fasting, humiliation, and prayer. There is much wretchedness and great humiliation in the land, and need of earnest prayer.
General Hooker has arrived from Atlanta, having left in a pet because General Howard was given McPherson’s position. He is vain, has some good and fighting qualities, and thinks highly and too much of himself.


Monday. August 8, 1864.
Mr, Seward sent me to-day some strange documents from Raymond, Chairman of the National Executive Committee. I met R[aymond] 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 [were] to have a hard political battle the approaching fall, and that the fate of two districts and that of Kings 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 an attempt 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 payday 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 practised 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.


There is not an honest fair-dealing administration journal in New York City. A majority of them profess to be administrative, and yet it is without sincerity.

The New York Herald, with a deservedly bad name, gives tone and direction to the New York press, particularly those of Whig antecedents, and which profess to support the administration. It is not of course acknowledged by them, nor are they conscious of the leadership, but it is nevertheless obvious and clear. When the Herald has in view to defame or put a mask upon a man, it commences and persists in its course against him. He may be the friend of the Tribune and Times, [and in that case] of course they do not at first assent to what is said by the Herald. Sometimes they will make a defence — perhaps an earnest and strong one — but the Herald does not regard it, and goes on attacking, ridiculing, abusing, and defaming. Gradually one of the journals gives way, echoes slightly the slanders of the Herald, and once commenced it follows up the work. The other journals, when things have proceeded to that length, also acquiesce. This is a truthful statement of the standing and course and conduct of the papers I have named.

The Times is a stipendiary sheet. Its principal editor, Raymond, is mercenary. [He] possesses talent, but is a subservient follower of Weed and Seward. At present the paper, being in the hands of Thurlow Weed and SIC, it will not for the campaign openly attack the President, who is the candidate. But it will, under the lead of the Herald, attack any and every member of the Cabinet but Seward, unless Seward through Weed restrains it.

The Tribune is owned by a company which really desired to give a fair support to the administration, but Greeley, the editor, is erratic, unreliable, without stability, an enemy of the administration because he hates Seward, a creature of sentiment and impulse, not of reason or professed principle. Having gone to extremes in the measures that fermented and brought on this war, he would now go to extremes to quell it. I am prepared to see him acquiesce in a division of the Union, or the continuance of slavery, to accomplish his personal party schemes. There are no men or measures to which he will adhere faithfully. He is ambitious, talented, but not considerate, persistent, or profound.

The Evening Post is a journal of a different description, and still retains some of its former character for ability and sense. Bryant, I am inclined to believe, means well, and of himself would do well. But he is getting on in years, and his son-in-law Godwin attempts to wield the political bludgeon.

These are the Administration journals in the City of New York. Thurlow Weed has control of the Evening Journal of Albany, and to a considerable extent of the press of the State, of Whig antecedents. He is sagacious, unscrupulous, has ability and great courage, with little honest principle, is fertile in resources, a keen party tactician, but cannot win respect and confidence, for he does not deserve them. For some time past he has been ingratiating himself with the copperhead journals and leaders, and by his skill has made fools of their editors, but I apprehend has not fooled their leading managers. He evidently believes, not without reasón, [that] he is using them. They know they are using him. To some extent each may deceive the other. There is a feigned difference between him and Seward, or there has been, but no one is misled by it. Weed is indispensable to Seward, and the master mind of the two. This is as well-known to the copperhead leaders as to any persons. Recently Weed has been here, and has had interviews with the President; to what purpose, whether of his own volition or by invitation, I have never enquired. I have noticed that Seward endeavors to impress on the President the value of Weed’s opinion, especially in party matters.

Friday, August 19, 1864.
Much pressed with duties. A pleasant hour at the Cabinet, but no special subject. Fessenden still absent, Stanton did not attend. Blair enquired about the Niagara peace correspondence. The President went over the particulars. Had sent the whole correspondence to Greeley for publication, except one or two passages in Greeley’s letters which spoke of a bankrupted country and awful calamities. But Greeley replied that he would not consent to any suppression of his letters or any part of them; and the President remarked that though G[reeley] had put him (the President]) in a false attitude, he thought it better he should bear it than that the country should be distressed by such a howl, from such a person, on such an occasion.

Concerning Greeley, to whom the President has clung too long and confidingly, he said to-day, that Greeley is “ an old shoe — good for nothing now, whatever he has been.” “ In early life with few mechanics and but little means in the west, we used,” he said, “ to make our shoes last a great while with much mending,— and sometimes, when far gone, we found the leather so rotten the stitches would not hold. Greeley is so rotten that nothing can be done with him. lie is not truthful — the stitches all tear out.”

Friday, August 19, 1864.
Seward said to-day that Mr. Raymond, Chairman of the National Executive Committee, had spoken to him concerning the Treasury, the War, the Navy, and the Post Office Departments connected with the approaching election, that he had said to Mr. Raymond that he had better reduce his ideas to writing, and [that Raymond] had sent him certain papers; but that he, Seward, had told him it would be better, or that he thought it would be better, to call in some other person, and he had therefore sent for Governor Morgan, who would be here, he presumed, on Monday. All which means an assessment is to be laid on certain officials and employees of the government for party purposes. Likely the scheme will not be as successful as anticipated, for the depreciation of money has been such that neither [party] can afford to contribute. Good clerks are somewhat indifferent about remaining, and so with mechanics. I cannot for one consent to be an instrument in this business, and I think they must go elsewhere for funds. To a great extent, the money so raised is misused, misapplied, and perverted and prostituted. A set of harpies and adventurers pocket a large portion of the money extorted. It is wanted now for Indiana, —• a state which has hosts of corrupt and mischievous political partisans, who take large pay for professed party services, without contributing anything themselves.


Tuesday, August 23, 1864.
Received despatches to-day from Admiral Farragut confirming intelligence received several days since through rebel sources. The official account confirms my own previous impressions in regard to operations. Secretary Stanton, in one of his bulletins, represented that Fort Gaines had surrendered to General Granger and the army. It is shown that the proposition of Colonel Anderson, who commanded the fort, was to surrender to the fleet after the Monitors had made an assault; that Admiral Farragut consulted with General Granger, that the terms were dictated from the squadron, that Colonel Anderson and Major Brown went on board the Admiral’s vessel when the arrangement was consummated, etc.
Why should the Secretary of War try to deprive an officer like Farragut and the naval force of what is honestly their due ?
It does not surprise nor grieve me that another and different class — the intense partisan - should wholly ignore the Navy Department in all naval victories. No word of credit is awarded us by them for the late achievement, yet I know the people are not wholly ignorant on the subject; some of the more thoughtful will appreciate the labor and responsibility devolving on those who prepared the work, and furnished the means for the work in hand. Some credit is due for the selection of Farragut in the first instance.
When the expedition to New Orleans was determined upon, the question as to who should have command of the naval forces became a subject of grave and paramount importance.
I had heard that Farragut resided in Norfolk at the beginning of the troubles, but that he abandoned the place when Virginia seceded and had taken up his residence in the city of New York. The fact interested me. I had known something of him in Folk’s administration, and his early connection with Commodore Porter was in his favor. All that I had heard of him was to his credit as a capable, energetic, and determined officer of undoubted loyalty. Admirals Jo Smith and Shubrick spoke well of him. The present Admiral, D. D. Porter, who, with others, was consulted, expressed confidence in him, and as Porter himself was to take a conspicuous part in the expedition, it had an important influence. But among naval officers there was not a united opinion. Most of them, I think, while speaking well of Farragut, doubted if he was equal to the position —certainly not so well appointed a man as others, but yet no one would name the man for a great and active campaign against Mobile or some other point. They knew not of New Orleans.
After the question was decided, and I believe after Fox and D. D. Porter both wrote Farragut unofficially of his probable selection to command the new Gulf Squadron, I was cautioned in regard to the step I was taking. Senator Hale asked me if I was certain of my man — southern born — a southern resident, with a southern wife, etc. Several members of Congress questioned me closely; a few knew Farragut, who had not then carved out a great name, and there was, I became conscious, a general impression or doubt whether I had not made a mistake. I will not follow the subject here. His works speak for themselves, and I am satisfied the selection was a proper one, probably the very best that could be made. At that time Dupont was in favor — almost a favorite.


Saturday, August 27, 1864.
Mr. Wakeman, the Postmaster at New York, with whom I am on very good terms, for he is affable, insinuating and pleasant, though not profound nor reliable,— a New York politician,—has called upon me several times in relation to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Wakeman has been prompted and put forward to deal with me. He says we must have the whole power and influence of the government this coming fall, and if each department will put forth its whole strength and energy in our favor, we shall be successful. He had just called on Mr. Stanton at the request of our friends, and all was satisfactorily arranged with him. Had seen Mr. Fessenden and was to have another interview, and things were working well at the Treasury. Now, the Navy Department was quite as important as either, and he, a Connecticut man, had been requested to see me. There were things in the Navy Yard to be corrected, or our friends would not be satisfied, and the election in New York and the country might, by remissness, be endangered. This must be prevented, and he knew I would use all the means at my disposal to prevent it. He then read from a paper what he wanted should be done. It was a transcript of a document that had been sent me by Seward as coming from Raymond, for the management of the Yard, and he complained of some proceedings that had given offence. Mr. Halleck, one of the masters, had gotten two or three hundred workmen together, and was organizing them with a view to raise funds and get them on the right track; but Admiral Paulding had interfered, broken up the meetings, and prohibited them from assembling in the Navy Yard in future.
I told him I approved of Paulding’s course. That there ought to be no gathering of workmen in working hours, and while under government pay, for party schemes; and there must be no such gatherings within the limits of the yard at any time. That I would not do an act myself that I would condemn in an opponent. That such gatherings in the Government Yard were not right, and what was not right, I could not do.

He was a little staggered by my words or manner, or both; insisted we could not succeed without doing these things, that other parties had done them, and we must; but he had full confidence I would do right, and should tell them so when he returned.
Neither Wakeman. nor those who sent him, are aware that the course which he would pursue would and ought to destroy any party. No administration could justify and sustain itself that would misuse power and the public means as they propose. Their measures would not stand the test of investigation, and would be condemned by the public judgment, if healthy. They are not republican, but imperial.


[The important sea victory of Mobile Bay forced the surrender of Forts Gaines and Morgan, and gave Farragut the control of the most important harbor in the Gulf still open to the Confederacy.]

Friday, September 2, 1864.
Admiral Farragut’s despatch relative to the capture of Fort Morgan and the infamous conduct of General Page in spiking his guns after his surrender is received. It was most disgraceful, and would justify severe treatment.
Some of the administration presses and leaders have undertaken to censure me for slighting Dupont, not one of them awards me any credit for selecting Farragut. Yet it was a great responsibility, for which I was severely criticised, and until he had proved himself worthy of my choice, I felt it.
The contrast between Farragut and Dupont is marked. No one can now hesitate to say which is the real hero — yet three years ago it would have been different. Farragut is earnest, unselfish, devoted to the country and the service. He sees to every movement, forms his line of battle with care and skill, puts himself at the head, carries out his plan, if there is difficulty leads the way, regards no danger to himself, dashes by forts and overcomes obstructions. Dupont, as we saw at Sumter, puts himself in the most formidable vessel, has no order of battle, leads the way only until he gets within short cannon range, then stops, says his ship would not steer well, declines however to go in any other, but signals to them to go forward without order or any plan of battle, does not enjoin upon them to dash by the forts; they are stopped under the guns of Sumter, Moultrie, and are battered for an hour, a sufficient length of time to have gone to Charleston wharves, and then they are signalled to turn about and come back to the Admiral, out of harm’s way.
When I appointed Dupont to command a squadron I met the public expectation. All but a few naval officers, most of whom were under a cloud, approved and applauded so judicious a selection. But no cheering response was made to the appointment of Farragut. Some naval officers said he was a daring, dashing fellow, but they doubted his discretion and ability to command a squadron judiciously. Members of Congress inquired who he was, and some of them remonstrated, and questioned whether I was not making a mistake, for he was a southern man and had a southern wife. Neither the President nor any member of the Cabinet knew him, or knew of him, except, perhaps, Seward, but he was not consulted and knew nothing of the selection until after it was made. When told of the appointment, he inquired if Farragut was equal to it, and asked if it would not have been better to have transferred Dupont to that command.
Farragut became a marked man in my mind when I was informed of the circumstances under which he left Norfolk. At the time the Virginia convention voted to secede he denounced the act, and at once abandoned the state, leaving his home and property the day following, avowing openly and boldly, in the face and hearing of the rebels by whom he was surrounded, his determination to live and die owing allegiance to no flag but that of the Union under which he had served. This firm and resolute stand caused me not only to admire the act, but led me to inquire concerning the man. I had known of him slightly during Polk’s administration, when I had charge of a naval bureau, remembered his proposition to take San Juan de Ulloa at Vera Cruz, and all I heard of him was well, but he was generally spoken of as were other good officers. Fox, Foote, and Dahlgren gave him a good name. Admiral D. D. Porter was emphatic in his favor, and his knowledge and estimate of men were generally pretty correct. Admiral Smith considered him a bold, impetuous man, of a great deal of courage and energy, but his capabilities and power to command a squadron was a subject to be determined only by trial.
Had any other man than myself been Secretary of the Navy, it is not probable that either Farragut or Foote would have had a squadron. At the beginning of the rebellion, neither of them stood prominent beyond others. Their qualities had not been developed; they had not possessed opportunities. Foote and myself were youthful companions at school. And I have stated the circumstances under which Farragut was brought to my notice.
Neither had the showy name, the scholastic attainments, the wealth, the courtly talent, of Dupont. But both were heroes. Dupont is a polished naval officer, selfish, heartless, calculating, scheming, but not a hero by nature, though too proud to be a coward.

[In the Democratic Convention which met at Chicago on August 29, General McClellan was nominated for the Presidency on a platform which declared the war a failure, and demanded peace “at the earliest practicable moment.” McClellan accepted the nomination, but repudiated the salient plank of the platform. At first, everything seemed to favor his election.]

Saturday, September 3, 1864.
New York City is shouting for McClellan, and there is a forced effort elsewhere to get a favorable response to the almost traitorous proceeding at Chicago. As usual, some timid Union men are alarmed, and there are some, like Raymond, Chairman of the National Committee, who have no fixed and reliable principles to inspire confidence, who falter, and another set like Greeley, who have an uneasy lingering hope that they can yet have an opportunity to make a new candidate. But this will soon be over. The Chicago platform is unpatriotic, almost treasonable to the Union. The issue is made up. It is whether a war shall be made against Lincoln to get peace with Jeff Davis. Those who met at Chicago prefer hostility to Lincoln rather than to Davis. Such is extreme partisanism.
We have to-day word that Atlanta is in our possession, but we have yet no particulars. It has been a hard, long struggle, continued through weary months. This intelligence will not be gratifying to the zealous partisans who have just committed the mistake of sending out a peace platform, and declared the war a failure.

Monday, September 5, 1864.
Mr. Blair returned this morning from Concord. He had, I have little doubt, [been] sent for partly to see and influence me. I am not sufficiently ductile for Mr. Raymond, Chairman of the National Executive Committee, who desires to make each Navy Yard a party machine.
Blair, like a man of sense, has a right appreciation of things, as Paulding’s letter satisfied him. Whether it will Raymond and [E. B.] Washburn is another question, about which I care not two straws; only for their importuning, the President would not give the old Whig party a moment’s attention. His good sense and sagacity are against such exercise or abuse of power and patronage, as I heard him once remark. It is an extreme of partyism such as [is] practised in New York.

Tuesday, September 13, 1864.
Had an interesting half hour’s talk with J. M. Forbes, a sensible man and true patriot. He wishes the President to make the issue before the country distinctly perceptible to all as democratic and aristocratic. The whole object and purpose of the leaders in the rebellion is the establishment of an aristocracy, although not distinctly avowed. Were it avowed, they would have few followers. Mr. Forbes wishes me to urge this subject upon the President. It is not in my nature to obtrude my opinions upon others. Perhaps I err in the other extreme. In the course of the conversation he related a violent and strange assault that was made upon him by Mr. Seward, some time since, in the railroad cars or on the platform at a stopping-place, denouncing him for trying to postpone the nominating convention.
Mr. Blair, in walking over with me, took the opportunity of stating his conviction that there was a deep intrigue going forward on the part of the “ little villain,” using Greeley’s epithet to Raymond, to effect a change of Cabinet next March. The grumbling and the complaint about the employees in the navy yards meant more than was expressed. It is to gradually work upon the President and get him, if possible, dissatisfied with me and with the administration of the Navy Department. I doubt if this is so, and yet should not be at all surprised to find Blair to be right in his conjectures.


Wednesday, September 14, 1864.
I had a formal call to-day from a committee consisting of Mr. Cook of Illinois, a member of the National Committee, Mr. Humphrey, an ex-member of Congress from Brooklyn, and two or three other gentlemen. Mr. Cook opened the subject by presenting me a resolution, adopted unanimously by the National Committee, complaining in general terms that the employees of the Brooklyn Navy Yard were, a majority of them, opposed to the administration. He also presented a paper, which the President had given him, from certain persons in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, complaining in a similar manner of the condition of affairs in the Charlestown and Kittery Navy Yards.
Our interview was long, and matters were pretty fully gone into. After reading the papers, I stated that these were charges in general terms, and asked if they had any specific facts, anything tangible for us to inquire into. Was there any case within their knowledge, or the knowledge of any one to whom they could refer, of wrong, or disloyalty, of offensive political bearing? They were evidently unprepared to answer. Mr. Cook said he had understood there were some warrant officers who ought to be removed. I explained there were naval officers and there were civilians in the Navy Yards. The former were detailed to duty, the latter are appointees of the Department. The Masters are appointed by the Department and they employ all the workmen, subject to the approval of the chiefs of their respective departments. I had appointed and retained all the Masters in Brooklyn by the advice of Mr. Humphrey and his associates. If there were any improper persons employed there, it was by the Masters thus selected on Mr. Humphrey’s recommendation. Mr. Cook said he had not fully understood this matter.
Mr. Humphrey said there were a good many disloyal men in the yard. I requested him to point them out, to give me their names, to specify one. He was not prepared, nor were either of the men with him. Mr. Humphrey said that a majority of the men in the yard were copperheads, opposed to the administration. I asked him how he knew that to be the case, for I could not credit it. He said he had been told so, and appealed to the Master Joiner who was present — a little deaf. The Master Joiner thought that four-sevenths were opposed to the administration. I enquired on what data he made that statement. He said he had no data, but he could tell pretty well by going round the yard and mingling with the men. I told him that besides introducing partisans into the yard, which was wrong, his figure was mere conjecture; and asked if their ward committees in the city outside the yard did their duty, if they canvassed their wards, knew how many navy yard men were in each ward, and how they stood relatively with parties. They were aware of no such canvass, had no facts, had done nothing outside.
But the burden of their complaint was against Mr. Davidson, the Assistant Naval Constructor, who would not dismiss, or give his approval to dismiss, any man of the opposition. Again I asked for facts. “ Why, if there is this wrong, has not a case been brought to my knowledge ? You must certainly, among you all, know of a single case if there is such a grievance as you represent.” Mr. Humphrey appealed to the Master Joiner, who related the circumstance of a difference that had grown up between a workman and a quarter man, — an appeal was made to Mr. Hallock, the Master; Hallock wrote his dismissal for insubordination, and Mr. Davidson had not approved it; no action had yet been taken.
This was the only case they could recollect. This, I told them, was not a case of disloyalty, or objectionable party opinion, but of discipline. If as stated, the facts should have been reported to me, and I would have given them attention. But nothing, they were confident, could be done with Mr. Davidson to favor the Republican party. I asked Mr. H[umphrey] if he knew Mr. Davidson’s political opinion. Told him Mr. D[avidson] had been recommended by every Republican member of Congress from Philadelphia. Mr. H[umphrey] did not know what his opinions were, but he had no sympathy with us. I told him my impressions were, that D[avidson] was a friend and supporter of the President — but he had gone a stranger to Brooklyn, and been treated with neglect and was much misrepresented; that I was satisfied and confirmed that my impressions were correct, that there was no proper party organization in Brooklyn, that they had no proper canvass, that they did not labor and exert themselves properly, but sat down leisurely and called on the President and Secretary of the Navy to do their party work and organization for them; that in this way they could never make themselves formidable. They must mingle with the people, be with them and of them, convince them by intercourse that the Republicans were right. That they should invite the employees to their meetings, furnish them with arguments, get them interested, and they would in that way have their willing efforts and votes.
They thought, they said, they had a pretty good organization, but if allowed to go into the yard they could better organize; it would help them much. I told them I thought such a proceeding would be wrong; it was a maxim to me not to do that which I condemned in another. They said if they could go near the Paymaster when he was paying the men off, and get the assessment off each man, it would greatly aid them. I told them it would help them to no votes. The party who was compelled to pay a party tax could not love the party who taxed him. His contribution must, like his vote, come voluntarily; and they must persuade and convince him to make him effective.
I promised to write, instructing Delano, the Constructor, to pass on the selections and dismissals of men, and not to depute this duty to his assistant. This, they thought, would afford them relief; and though I perceived there was disappointment in the matter of money-getting, which is obviously the great object in view, they went off apparently satisfied with the victory for Delano.

Tuesday, September 20, 1864.
Intelligence reaches us this morning that Sheridan has achieved a great victory over Early, in the valley of the Shenandoah, after much hard fighting. This will do much to encourage all unionloving men, and will be ominous to Lee.

(To be continued.)

  1. Copyright, 1909, by EDGAR T. WELLES.
  2. [Mr. Hamlin was disgruntled with Secretary Welles because the latter had not given a contract for building gunboats to a firm of contractors friendly to Mr. Hamlin. The tradition that Welles was covertly hostile to Hamlin is still cultivated by Hamlin’s most recent biographer, Charles E. Hamlin, who remarks: “ He [Welles] was a false friend, and pursued Mr. Hamlin with the traditional bitterness of that kind of a man.” The remarks in the Diary, never intended for publication, are an adequate commentary on this opinion.] — THE EDITORS.
  3. Named after their inventor, who later became Admiral Dahlgren.