The Diary of Gideon Welles



Thursday, September 22, 1864.
BLAIR tells me that he [Seward] is manœuvring for a change of Cabinet, and Morgan so writes me. He has for that reason, B[lair] says, set his curs and hounds barking at my heels, and is trying to prejudice the President against me. Not unlikely; but I can go into no counter-intrigues. If the President were to surrender himself into such hands, which I do not believe, he would be unworthy of his position.

Friday, September 23, 1864.
No business of importance brought before the Cabinet to-day. Some newspaper rumors of peace, and of letters from Jeff Davis and others, all wholly groundless. Seward and Fessenden left early. Mr. Bates and myself came out of the Executive Mansion together, and were holding a moment’s conversation when Blair joined us, remarking as he did so, “ I suppose you are both aware that my head is decapitated — that I am no longer a member of the Cabinet.” It was necessary that he should repeat before I could comprehend what I had heard.

[Blair’s withdrawal from the Cabinet was the result of a political agreement made by Lincoln, whereby Frémont, radical candidate for the Presidency, was to withdraw, while Blair, the Cabinet member most antipathetic to radicals, was to resign. Blair accepted the situation with patriotism and good sense.]

Blair has just left me. I was writing and just closing the preceding page as he called. He says he has written his resignation and sent it in or rather handed it to the President. The letter from the President which he received this morning was to him entirely unexpected. But though a surprise, he thinks it right and will eventuate well. That Seward has advised it he does not doubt, though the President does not intimate it. But the President tells him that Washburne 2 recommended it. Strange if the President is influenced by so untruthful, unreliable and mean a man as Washburne. But Washburne thinks it will help the President among the Germans. The President thinks it is necessary to conciliate Weed (he might have said Chase also), who, with his friends, defeated Wadsworth for Governor two years ago. Such are Blair’s conclusions and, I may add, my own.

[In the election held on November 8, Lincoln and Johnson received 212 electoral votes against 21 for their opponents, backed by a popular majority of close upon half a million.]

Friday, November 25, 1864.
For some weeks I have been unable to note down occurrences daily. On the evening of the election, the 8th, I went to the War Department about nine o’clock by invitation of the President, — took Fox with me, who was a little reluctant to go lest he should meet Stanton, who had for some days been ill. The Department was locked, but we were guided to the south door. The President was already there, and some returns from different quarters had been received. He detailed particulars of each telegram which had been received. Hay soon joined us, and after a little time General Eaton. Mr. Eckert, the operator, had a fine supper prepared, of which we partook soon after ten. It was evident shortly after that the election had gone pretty much one way. Some doubts about New Jersey and Delaware.3 We remained until past one in the morning and left. All was well.


The President on two or three occasions in Cabinet meeting alluded to his message. It seemed to dwell heavy on his mind, more than I have witnessed on any former occasion. On Friday, the 25th, he read to us what he had prepared. There was nothing very striking, and he evidently labors in getting it up. The subject of reconstruction and how it should be effected is the most important theme. He says he cannot treat with Jeff Davis and the Jeff Davis government, which is all very well, but whom will he treat with, or how commence the work ? All expressed themselves very much gratified with the document and his views.

Saturday, December 3, 1864.
The President read his message at a special Cabinet meeting to-day, and general criticism took place. His own portion has been much improved. The briefs submitted by the several members were incorporated pretty much in their own words. One paragraph proposing an amendment to the Constitution, recognizing the Deity in that instrument, met with no favorable response from any one member of the Cabinet. The President before reading it expressed his own doubts in regard to it, but [said] it had been urged by certain religionists.
I should have been glad, and so stated, had there been a more earnest appeal to the Southern people, and to the states respectively, to return to duty. I would have said to the people that their states are part of the Union, that they were not to be considered, not to be treated, as outlaws ; that by returning to their allegiance, their persons and property should be respected, and I would have invited state action.

[On December 6, Lincoln with complete magnanimity sent in the nomination of Chase to succeed to the office left vacant by the death of Chief Justice Taney.]

Thursday, December 15, 1864.
Sumner declares to me that Chase will retire from the field of politics and not be a candidate for the Presidency. I questioned it, but S[umner] said with emphasis it was so. He had assured the President that Chase would retire from party politics. I have no doubt Sumner believes it. What foundation he has for the belief I know not, though he speaks positively, and as if he had assurance. My own convictions are that, if he lives, Chase will be a candidate, and his restless and ambitious mind is already at work. It is his nature.
In his interview with me to-day, it being the first time we have met since he reached Washington, Sumner commenced by praising my report, which he complimented as a model paper, the best report he had read from a department, etc. As he is a scholar and critic, a statesman and politician capable of forming an opinion, has culture, discrimination and good judgment, I could not but feel gratified with his praise. He says he read every word of it. Very many members have given me similar complimentary assurances, but no one has gratified me so much as Sumner.

Saturday, December 24, 1864.
Called on the President to commute the punishment of a person condemned to be hung. He at once assented. Is always disposed to mitigate punishment, and to grant favors. Sometimes this is a weakness. As a matter of duty and friendship I mentioned to him the case of Laura Jones, a young lady who was residing in Richmond, and there engaged to be married, but [who] came up three years ago to attend her sick mother, and had been unable to pass through the lines and return.
I briefly stated her case and handed a letter from her to Mrs. Welles that he might read. It was a touching appeal from the poor girl, who says truly the years of her youth are passing away. I knew if the President read the letter, Laura would get the pass. I therefore only mentioned some of the general facts. He at once said he would give her a pass. I told him her sympathies were with the secessionists, and it would be better he should read her own statement. But he declined and said he would let her go, the war had depopulated the country and prevented marriages enough, and if he could do a kindness of this sort he was disposed to, unless I advised otherwise. He wrote a pass and handed it to me.
The numerous frauds at the Philadelphia Navy Yard are surprising. But it is well to have an exposure, hit where and whom it may.

Sunday, January 1, 1865.
The date admonishes me of passing time and accumulating years. Our country is still in the great struggle for national unity and national life; but progress has been made during the year that has just terminated, and it seems to me the rebellion is not far from its close. The years that I have been here have been oppressive, wearisome, and exhaustive, but I have labored willingly if sometimes sadly in the cause of my country, and of mankind.

[The fall of Fort Fisher closed Wilmington, the last open door of the Confederacy.]

Tuesday , January 17, 1865.
The glorious news of the capture of Fort Fisher came this morning. We had two or three telegrams from Porter and officers of the navy, and General Terry and Comstock of the army. Fort Fisher was taken Sunday evening by assault, after five hours’ hard fighting. The sailors and marines participated in the assault. We lose Preston and Porter, two of the very best young officers of our navy. Have not yet particulars. This will be severe for Butler, who insisted that the place could not be taken but by a siege, since his powder boat failed.
Wrote Admiral Porter a hasty private note, while the messenger was waiting, congratulating him. It is a great triumph for Porter, greater since the first failure and the difference with Butler.
At the Cabinet meeting there was a very pleasant feeling. Seward thought there was little now for the navy to do. Dennison thought he would like a few fast steamers for mail service. The President was happy. Says he is amused with the manners and views of some who address him, who tell him that he is now reelected and can do just as he has a mind to, which means that he can do some unworthy thing that the person who addresses him has a mind to. There is very much of this.

Monday, February 6, 1865.
There was a Cabinet meeting last evening. The President had matured a scheme which he hoped would be successful in promoting peace. It was a proposition for paying the expenses of the war for two hundred days, or four hundred millions, to the rebel states to be for the extinguishment of slavery, or for such purpose as the states were disposed. This, in few words, was the scheme. It did not meet with favor, but was dropped. The earnest desire of the President to conciliate and effect peace was manifest, but there may be such a thing as so overdoing as to cause a distrust or adverse feeling. In the present temper of Congress the proposed measure, if a wise one, could not be carried through successfully.
I do not think the scheme could accomplish any good results. The rebels would misconstrue it if the offer was made. If attempted arid defeated, it would do harm.

Tuesday, February 7, 1865.
Very little before the Cabinet. The President, when I entered the room, was reading with much enjoyment certain portions of Petroleum V. Nasby to Dennison and Speed. The book is a broad burlesque on modern Democratic party men. Fessenden, who came in just after me, evidently thought it hardly a proper subject for the occasion, and the President hastily dropped it.

Tuesday, February 21, 1865.
We have made great progress in the rebel war within a brief period. Charleston and Columbia have come into our possession without any hard fighting. The brag and bluster, the threats and defiance, which have been for thirty years the mental aliment of South Carolina, prove impotent and ridiculous. They have displayed a talking courage, a manufactured bravery, but no more, and I think not so much inherent heroism as others. Their fulminations that their cities would be Saragossas were mere gasconade, — their Pinckneys, and McGrawths, and others, were blatant political partisans.
General Sherman is proving himself a great general, and his movements from Chattanooga to the present demonstrate his ability as an officer. He has undoubtedly greater resources —a more prolific mind — than Grant, and perhaps as much tenacity, if less cunning and selfishness.
In Congress there is a wild radical element in regard to the rebellious states and people. They are to be treated by a radical Congress as no longer states, but territories without rights, and must have a new birth or creation by permission of Congress. These are the mistaken theories and schemes of Chase, perhaps in conjunction with others.
I found the President and AttorneyGeneral Speed in consultation over an apprehended decision of Chief Justice Chase whenever he could reach the question of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Some intimation comes through Stanton that his honor the Chief Justice intends to make himself felt by the administration when he can reach them. I shall not be surprised, for he is ambitious and able.
A few days since the President sent into the Senate the nomination of Senator E. D. Morgan 4 for the Treasury. It was without consultation with M[organ], who immediately called on the President and declined the position.
Seward, whom I saw on that evening, stated facts to me which gave me some uneasiness. He called, he says, on the President at twelve to read to him a despatch, and a gentleman was present, whom he would not name, — butS[eward] told the gentleman if he would wait a few moments he would be brief, but the despatch must be got off for Europe. The gentleman declined waiting, but as he left the President said, “ I will not send the paper in to-day but will hold on until tomorrow.” Seward says he has no doubt the conversation related to M[organ]’s nomination, but that the paper being made out, his private secretary took it up with the other nominations, and the President when aware of the fact sent an express to recall it, in order to keep faith with the gentleman mentioned. This gentleman was no doubt Fessenden.
I called on Governor Morgan on Sunday evening and had over an hour’s conversation with him, expressing my wish and earnest desire that he should accept the place, more on the country’s account than his own. He gave me no favorable response. Said that Thurlow Weed had spent several hours with him that morning to the same effect as myself trying to persuade him to change his mind, but that he would give Weed no assurance; on the contrary had persisted in his refusal. He (Morgan) was frank and communicative, as he has generally been with me on important questions, and reviewed the ground, state-wise and national-wise. What, he inquired, is Seward’s object? He never in such matters acts without a motive, and Weed would not have been called here except to gain an end. Seward, he says, wants to be President. What does he intend to do ? Will he remain in the Cabinet, or will he leave it ? Will he go abroad, remain at home ? These, and a multitude of questions which he put me, showed that Morgan had given the subject much thought, and especially as it affected himself and Seward. Morgan has his own aspirations, and is not prepared to be used by Weed or Seward in their own.
My own impressions are that Morgan has committed a great mistake as regards himself. Seward may be jealous of him as M[organ] is suspicious he is, but I doubt if that was the controlling motive with S[eward]. I think he preferred Morgan, as I do, for the Treasury, to any tool of Chase.

[Sherman’s successful advance and his occupation of Columbia, S. C., obliged the Confederates to evacuate Charleston on February 18.]

February 22, 1865.
The late news combines with the anniversary to make this an interesting day. While the heavy salutes at Meridian were firing, young Cushing came in with the intelligence of the capture of Fort Anderson. I went with him to the President,— while there General Joe Hooker came in; and Seward, for whom the President had sent, brought a despatch from Bigelow at Paris of a favorable character. General H[ooker] thinks it the brightest day in five years.
The President was cheerful and laughed heartily over Cushing’s account of the dumb monitor which he sent past Fort Anderson, causing the rebels to evacuate without stopping even to spike their guns.
The belief seems general that McCulloch will receive the appointment of Secretary of the Treasury. If I do not mistake, the rival opponents of the President desire this and have been active in getting up an opinion for the case. So far as I know, the President has not consulted the Cabinet. Some of them, I know, are as unenlightened as myself.


Governor Morgan called upon me and expresses a pretty decided conviction that McCulloch is not the candidate of Chase, and [that] Fessenden does not endorse Chase’s schemes and wall put himself on the true basis. This gives me some confidence.

Met [Attorney-General] Speed at the President’s a day or two since. He is apprehensive Chase will fail the administration on the question of habeas corpus and state arrests. The President expresses and feels astonishment. Calls up the committals of Chase on these measures. Yet I think an adroit intriguer can, if he chooses, escape these committals. I remember that on one occasion when I was with him, Chase made a fling which he meant should hit Seward on these matters, and as Seward is, he imagines, a rival for high position, the ambition of Chase will not permit the opportunity to pass, when it occurs, of striking his competitor. There is no man with more fine aspirations than Chase, and the bench will be used to promote his personal ends.

Speed and myself called on Seward on Monday, after the foregoing interview with the President. Seward thinks Chase, if badly disposed, cannot carry the court; but this is a mere random conjecture. He has, so far as I can ascertain, no facts.

In the course of his remarks, Seward, who was very much disturbed, broke out strongly against Chase, who had, he said, been a disturber from the beginning and ought never to have gone into the Cabinet. [He said] that he had objected to it, and that but from a conviction that he (Seward) could better serve the country than any other man in the State Department, he would not have taken office with Chase for an associate, [and] that the Cabinet, with the single exception of Chase, had been harmonious and united. He spoke of the early trouble of the blockade, which, he said, Chase opposed, and then tried to make difficulty [for]. It is not the first time when I have detected an infirmity of [his] memory and of statement on this point. I at once corrected Seward and told him I was the man who made the strong stand against him on the question of blockade, and that Chase failed to sustain me. I have no doubt that Seward in those early days imputed my course on that question to Chase’s influence, whereas nothing was farther from the truth. I had not even the assistance I expected and was promised from Chase. Mr. Blair and Mr. Bates stood by me, — Chase promised to, but did not.

Thursday, March 2, 1865.
Had a house full of visitors to witness the inauguration. Speaker Colfax is grouty because Mrs. Welles has not called on his mother — a piece of etiquette which Seward says is proper. I doubt it, but Seward jumps to strange conclusions.

Saturday, March 4, 1865.
Was at the Capitol last night until twelve. All the Cabinet were present with the President. As usual, the time passed very pleasantly. Chief Justice Chase came in and spent half an hour. Later in the night I saw him in the Senate.
Speed says Chase leaves the court daily to visit the Senate, and is full of aspirations. I rode from the Capitol home at midnight with Seward, tie expressed himself more unreservedly and warmly against Chase than I have ever heard him before.
The inauguration took place to-day. There was great want of arrangement and completeness in the ceremonies. All was confusion, and without order. A jumble.


The Vice-President-elect made a rambling and strange harangue, which was listened to with pain and mortification by all his friends. My impressions were that he was under the influence of stimulants, yet I know not that he drinks. He has been sick and is feeble, perhaps he may have taken medicine, or stimulants, or his brain from sickness may have been over-active in these new responsibilities. Whatever the cause, it was all in bad taste.

The delivery of the inaugural address, the administering of the oath, and the whole deportment of the President were well done, and the retiring Vice-President appeared to advantage, when contrasted with his successor who has humiliated his friends. Speed, who sat at my left, whispered me that “all this is in wretched bad taste;” and very soon he said, “The man is certainly deranged.” I said to Stanton, who was on my right, “ Johnson is either drunk or crazy.” Stanton replied, “There is evidently something wrong.” Seward says it was emotional on returning and revisiting the Senate — that he can appreciate Johnson’s feelings, who was much overcome. I hope Seward is right, but don’t entirely concur with him. There is, as Stanton says, something wrong. I hope it is sickness.

Tuesday, March 7, 1865.
The meeting at the Cabinet was interesting— the topics miscellaneous. VicePresident Johnson’s infirmity was mentioned, Seward’s tone and opinions were much changed since Saturday. He seems to have given up Johnson now, but no one appears to have been aware of his failing. I trust and am inclined to believe it a temporary ailment, which may, if rightly treated, be overcome.

Monday, March 13, 1865.
Rear-Admiral Porter spent the evening at my house. Among other things he detailed what he saw and knew of Jeff Davis and others in the early days of the rebellion. He was, he admits, and as I was aware, on intimate terms with Davis and Mrs. Davis, and had been so for some years. On the evening after reception of the news that South Carolina passed the secession ordinance, he called at Davis’s house. A number of secession leaders, he says, were there. It was a rainy, disagreeable evening, but Mrs. Davis came down stairs bonneted and prepared to go out. She caught him and congratulated him on the glorious news. South Carolina had declared herself out of the Union, which was to be broken up. She was going to see President Buchanan and congratulate him. Wanted to be the first to communicate the intelligence to him.
Porter told her the weather and roads were such she could not walk, and one of the members of Congress having come in a hack, he, Porter, took it and accompanied her. On the way he inquired why she should feel so much elated. She said she wanted to get rid of the old government, that they would have a monarchy [in the] South, and gentlemen to fill official positions. This he found was the most earnest sentiment, not only of herself but others. Returning in the carriage to Davis’s house, he found that the crowd of gentlemen was just preparing to follow Mrs. D[avis] to call on the President and interchange congratulations. They all spoke of Buchanan, he says, as being with them in sentiment; and Porter believes him to have been one of the most guilty in that nefarious business, — that he encouraged the active conspirators in his intercourse with them, if he did not openly approve them before the world.

Tuesday, March 14, 1865.
The President was indisposed and in bed, but not seriously ill. The members met in his bedroom. Seward had a paper for excluding blockade-runners and persons in complicity with the rebels, from the country.
John P. Hale’s 5 appointment to Spain was brought up. Seward tried to gloss it over. Wanted Hale to call and see me, and make friends with Fox. Hale promised he would, and Seward thought he might get a passage out in a government vessel.

Tuesday, March 28, 1865.
The President being absent on a visit to the army near Richmond, there was to-day no Cabinet meeting.

Wednesday, March 29, 1865.
The President still remains with the army. Seward yesterday left to join him. It was after I saw him, for he was then expecting the President would return last evening or this morning. Stanton, who was present, remarked that it was quite as pleasant to have the President away, that he (Stanton) was much less annoyed. Neither Seward nor myself responded. As Seward left within less than three hours after this interview, I think the President must have telegraphed for him, and if so I come to the conclusion that efforts are again being made for peace.
I am by no means certain that this irregular proceeding and importunity by the Executive is the wisest course. Yet the President has much shrewdness and sagacity. He has been apprehensive that the military men are not very solicitous to close hostilities, fears our generals will exact severe terms.

Saturday, April 1, 1865.
The President yet remains with the army, and the indications are that a great and perhaps final battle is near. Tom 6 writes me, dating his letter “Headquarters Army of the James, near Hatches’s Run,” — saying he had scarcely slept for forty-eight hours, the army having commenced moving on the evening of the 27th, and his letter was dated the evening of the 29th. General Ord must therefore have moved his army from before Richmond across the James, and got below Petersburg. I infer, therefore, that the demonstration will be on that plan, and I trust [will result in] defeat and capture of Lee and his army.
Greeley’s letter of last summer to the President urging peace for our “ bleeding, bankrupt, ruined country ” has been published in England. This was the letter which led to the Niagara conference. I advised its publication and the whole correspondence at the time, but the President was unwilling just then, unless Greeley would consent to omit the passage concerning our ruined country, but to this Greeley would not consent, and in that exhibited weakness, for it was the most offensive and objectionable part of his letter.
How it comes now to be published in England I do not understand. I should have preferred its appearance at home in the first instance. Poor Greeley is nearly played out. He has a morbid appetite for notoriety. Four years ago [he] was zealous or willing to let the states secede if they wished, six months later [he] was vociferating, “ On to Richmond.” Has been scolding and urging forward hostile operations. Suddenly is for peace, and ready to pay the rebels four hundred millions or more to get it, he being allowed to figure in it. He craves public attention. Does not exhibit a high regard for principle. I doubt his honesty about as much as his consistency. It is put on for effect. He is a greedy officehunter.


Sunday, April 2, 1865.
A telegram from the President to the War Department this morning states that a furious fight is going on. Sheridan has got west of Petersburg on the South Side Railroad creeping from the west, at the same time Grant has ordered an advance of our lines. Wright and Parke are said to have broken through the rebel lines. General Ord is fighting, but the results are unknown. General Halleck states that Lee has undoubtedly sent out his force to protect the railroad and preserve his communications, that this has left Richmond weak, and Ord is pressing on the city. I enquired if Ord was not below Petersburg at Hatches’s Run. He said no, that was newspaper talk. Told him I had supposed otherwise.
On going to the War Department a few hours later to make further inquiries, I carried with me Tom’s letter. Stanton, however, maintained the same ground until I read Tom’s letter, when he yielded.

Monday, April 3, 1865.
Intelligence of the evacuation of Petersburg and the capture of Richmond was received this A. M., and the city has been in an uproar through the day. Most of the clerks and others left the Departments, and there were immense gatherings in the streets. Joy and gladness lightened every countenance. Secessionists and their sympathizers must have retired, and yet it seemed as if the entire population, the male portion of it, was abroad in the streets. Flags were flying from every house and store that had them. Many of the stores were closed, and Washington appeared patriotic beyond anything ever before witnessed. The absence of the Assistant, Chief Clerk and Solicitor compelled my attendance until after 3 P. M. close of mail.
Attorney-General Speed and myself met by agreement at Stanton’s room last night at nine, to learn the condition of affairs with the armies. We had previously been two or three times there during the day. It was about eleven before a despatch was received and deciphered. The conversation between us three was free, and turning on events connected with the rebellion, our thoughts and talk naturally travelled back to the early days of the insurrection and the incipient treason in Buchanan’s Cabinet. Stanton became quite communicative. He was invited, as I have previously understood, through the influence of Black.7 He says Buchanan was a miserable coward, so alarmed and enfeebled by the gathering storm as to be mentally and physically prostrated; and [that] he [himself] was apprehensive the President would not survive until the 4th of March. The discussion in regard to the course to be pursued towards Anderson and the little garrison at Sumter became excited and violent in December, 1860. On the 27th or 29th of that month there were three sessions of the Cabinet in council. Sitting late at night, wrapped in an old dressing gown, or cloak, Buchanan crouched in a corner near the fire, trembling like an aspen leaf. He asked what he should do. Declared that Stanton said he ought to be hung, and that others of the Cabinet concurred with him. This, Stanton said, grew out of his remarks that if they yielded up Sumter to the conspirators it was treason, and no more to be defended than Arnold’s. In the discussion, Holt was very emphatic and decided in his loyalty; Toucey8 the most abject of all. When called upon by the President for his opinion, Toucey said he was for ordering Anderson to return immediately to Fort Moultrie. He was asked if he was aware that Moultrie was dismantled, and replied that would make no difference — Anderson had gone to Sumter without orders and against orders of Floyd, and he would order him back forthwith. Stanton says he inquired of Toucey if he expected to go back to Connecticut after taking that position, and Toucey said he did, but asked Stanton why he put the question. Stanton replied that he had inquired in good faith that he might know the character of the people in Connecticut or Toucey’s estimate of them, for were he, S[tanton], to take that position, and it were knowm to the people of Pennsylvania, he should expect they would stone him the moment he set foot in the state, stone him through the state, and tie a stone around his neck and throw him in the river when he reached Pittsburg. Stanton gives Toucey the most despicable character in the Buchanan Cabinet, not excepting Floyd or Thompson.

Tuesday, April 4, 1865.
Very little intelligence received from the armies to-day. The President still at City Point.

Wednesday, April 5, 1865.
Mr. Seward read to Mr. McCulloch and myself a proclamation which he had prepared for the President to sign, closing the ports to foreign powers in the rebel states.
Within half an hour of our parting from Mr. Seward, his horses ran away with the carriage in which he was taking a ride. He jumped from the vehicle, was taken up badly injured, with his arm and jaw broken, and his head and face badly bruised.


Friday, April 7, 1865.
We have word that Sheridan has had a battle with a part of Lee’s army, has captured six rebel generals and several thousand prisoners. His despatch intimates the almost certain capture of Lee.
This rebellion, which has convulsed the nation for four years, threatened the Union, and caused such sacrifice of blood and treasure, may be traced in a great degree to the diseased imagination of certain South Carolina gentlemen, who some thirty or forty years since studied Scott’s novels, and fancied themselves cavaliers, imbued with chivalry, a superior class, not born to labor but to command, brave beyond mankind generally, more intellectual, more generous, more hospitable, more liberal than others. Such of their countrymen as did not own slaves, and who labored with their own hands, who depended on their exertions for a livelihood, who were mechanics, traders, and tillers of the soil, were, in their estimate, inferiors, who would not fight, were religious and would not gamble, moral and would not countenance dueling — were serious, and minded their own business, economical and thrifty, which was denounced as mean and miserly. Hence the chivalrous Carolinian affected to, and actually did finally hold the Yankee in contempt. The women caught the infection. They were to be patriotic, revolutionary matrons and maidens. They admired the bold, dashing, swaggering, licentious, boasting, chivalrous slave-master, who told them he wanted to fight the Yankee but could not kick and insult him into a quarrel. And they disdained and despised the pious, peddling, plodding, persevering Yankee who would not drink, and swear, and fight duels.
The speeches and letters of James Hamilton9 and his associates from 1825 forward will be found impregnated with the romance and poetry of Scott, and they came ultimately to believe themselves a superior and better race, knights of blood and spirit.
Only a war could wipe out this arrogance and folly, which had by party and sectional instrumentalities been disseminated through a large portion of the South. Face to face in battle and in field with these slandered Yankees, they learned their own weakness and [their] misconception of the Yankee character. Without self-assumption of superiority, the Yankee was proved to be as brave, as generous, as humane, as chivalric, as the vaunting and supercilious Carolinians, to say the least. Their ideal, however, in Scott’s pages of Marmion, Ivanhoe, etc., no more belonged to the sunny South, than to other sections less arrogant and presuming, but more industrious and frugal.
On the other hand, the Yankees and the North generally underestimated the energy and enduring qualities of the Southern people who were slave-owners. It was believed they were effeminate idlers, living on the toil and labors of others, who themselves could endure no hardships such as [are] indispensable to soldiers in the field. It was also believed that a civil war would, inevitably, lead to servile insurrection, and that the slaveowners would have their hands full to keep the slaves in subjection after hostilities commenced. Experience has corrected these misconceptions in each section.


Monday, April 10, 1865.
At day dawn a salute of several guns was fired. The first discharge proclaimed, as well as words could have done, the capture of Lee and his army. The morning papers detailed the particulars. The event took place yesterday, and the circumstances will be narrated in full elsewhere.
The tidings were spread over the country during the night, and the nation seems delirious with joy. Guns are firing — bells ringing — flags flying — men laughing — children cheering — all, all are jubilant. This surrender of the great rebel captain and the most formidable and reliable army of the secessionists virtually terminates the rebellion.

Called on the President, who returned last evening looking well and feeling well Signed the proclamation closing the Southern ports. Seemed gratified that Seward and myself were united in the measure, remembering, I think, without mentioning, the old differences.

Wednesday, April 12, 1865.
The President asked me what views I took of Weitzel’s calling the Virginia legislature together. Said Stanton and others were dissatisfied. Told him I doubted the policy of convening a rebel legislature. It was a recognition of them, and once convened they would, with their hostile feelings, be inclined perhaps to conspire against us. He said he had no fear of that. They were too badly beaten, too much exhausted. His idea was that the members of the legislature comprising the prominent and influential men of their respective counties, had better come together and undo their own work. He felt assured they would do this, and the movement he believed a good one. Civil government must be re-established, he said, as soon as possible; there must be courts, and law, and order, or society would be broken up, and the disbanded armies would turn into robber bands and guerrillas, which we must strive to prevent. These were the reasons why he wished prominent Virginians who had the confidence of the people to come together and turn themselves and neighbors into good Union men. But as we all had taken a different view [he said] he had perhaps made a mistake, and was ready to correct it if he had.
I remarked in the course of conversation that if the so-called legislature came together they would be likely to propose terms which might seem reasonable but which we could not accept, that I had not great faith in negotiations with large bodies of men — each would encourage the other in asking and doing what no one of them would do alone.

(To be continued.)

  1. Copyright, 1909, by EDGAR T. WELLES.
  2. E. B. Washburne, a member of Congress from Illinois.
  3. New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky were the only states carried by the Democrats.
  4. Former Governor of New York, and then U. S. Senator.
  5. Formerly Chairman of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs, and very unfriendly to the Navy Department.
  6. Thomas S. Welles, son of the Secretary.
  7. Jeremiah S. Black, Attorney-General, and subsequently Secretary of State in Buchanan’s Cabinet.
  8. Isaac Toucey of Connecticut was Secretary of the Navy in Buchanan’s Cabinet. John B. Floyd was Secretary of War, but resigned, and subsequently became a general in the Confederate service.
  9. A South Carolina politician, ardently Southern in his sympathies, who did much to promote the secession of his state.