January 25th.—Clear, and very cold. We lost gun-boat Drewry yesterday in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the enemy’s pontoon bridge down the river. Fort Harrison was not taken as reported, nor is it likely to be.
The rumor of an armistice remains, nevertheless, and Mr. Blair dined with the President on Sunday, and has had frequent interviews with him. This is published in the papers, and will cause the President to be severely censured.
Congress failed to expel Mr. Foote yesterday (he is off again), not having a two-thirds vote, but censured him by a decided majority. What will it end in?
No successors yet announced to Seddon and Campbell—Secretary and Assistant Secretary of War. Perhaps they can be persuaded to remain.
After all, it appears that our fleet did not return, but remains down the river; and as the enemy’s gun-boats have been mostly sent to North Carolina, Gen. Lee may give Grant some trouble. If he destroys the bridges, the Federal troops on this side the river will be cut off from their main army.
It is said the President has signed the bill creating a commander-in-chief.
Rev. W. Spottswood Fontaine writes from Greensborough, N. C., that —— reports that Senator Hunter is in favor of Virginia negotiating a separate peace with the United States, as the other States will probably abandon her to her fate, etc. I saw Mr. Lyons to-day, who told me Mr. Hunter dined with him yesterday, and that Gen. Lee took tea with him last evening, and seemed in good spirits, hope, etc. Mr. Lyons thinks Gen. Lee was always a thorough emancipationist. He owns no slaves. He (Mr. Lyons) thinks that using the negroes in the war will be equivalent to universal emancipation, that not a slave will remain after the President’s idea (which he don’t seem to condemn) is expanded and reduced to practice. He favors sending out a commissioner to Europe for aid, on the basis of emancipation, etc., as a dernier ressort. He thinks our cause has received most injury from Congress, of which he is no longer a member.
If it be really so, and if it were generally known, that Gen. Lee is, and always has been opposed to slavery, how soon would his great popularity vanish like the mist of the morning! Can it be possible that he has influenced the President’s mind on this subject? Did he influence the mind of his father-in-law, G. W. Park Custis, to emancipate his hundreds of slaves? Gen. Lee would have been heir to all, as his wife was an only child. There’s some mistake about it.
The Secretary of State (still there!) informs the Secretary of War (still here!) that the gold he wrote about to the President on the 18th inst. for Gen. Hardee and for Mr. Conrad, is ready and subject to his order.
Four steamers have run into Charleston with a large amount of commissary stores. This is providential.