Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Diary of Gideon Welles.

Diary of Gideon Welles.

September 28, 2013

Diary of Gideon Welles

September 28, Monday. The last arrivals indicate a better tone and temper in England, and I think in France also. From the articles in their papers, Cole’s letter, etc., I think our monitors and heavy ordnance have had a peaceful tendency, a tranquillizing effect. The guns of the Weehawken have knocked the breath out of British statesmen as well as the crew of the Atlanta. The “swamp angel,” as they call Gillmore’s gun which throws shot from Morris Island into Charleston, has made itself felt and heard in England.

The President sent for me this noon. I found Seward with him, reading his dispatches for the next steamer. One to Dayton somewhat interesting, to Motley and others commonplace.

A letter which he had prepared, to Stuart in the absence of Lord Lyons, in the case of the Emma, was the special occasion of calling me to the interview. This vessel had run the blockade, but the Arago, an army transport, falling in with her, the commander became alarmed and commenced throwing overboard his cargo of cotton and putting on more steam in order to escape. Her efforts excited suspicion, and the Arago ran down to the Emma, which surrendered. The captain acknowledged her guilt, and she was brought into New York. The District Attorney procured an order of sale from the court, the Navy Department took her at her appraised value, and she was sent to the Navy Yard for alterations, adapting her to naval purposes. It now transpires that Mr. Seward in May last, without consulting or communicating with others, made a strange promise to Mr. Stuart, that he would get an opinion from the Attorney-General as to the construction of an act passed by the last Congress in relation to the sale of captured neutral vessels. In the mean time he pledged himself to Her Majesty’s representative that no sale should take place until there was a decision on the point which Mr. Stuart, or Mr. Seward, or both thought of doubtful validity. But the Attorney-General, was pressed with business, had been absent some weeks in Missouri, and his opinion did not come in until late. In the mean time the Emma had been sold to the Navy and transferred to the navy yard, where she had undergone a complete transformation.

Mr. Seward now finds himself embarrassed by the promise which he inconsiderately made and of which impropriety none of us were advised; says the faith of the State Department is pledged, and he wishes all proceedings stopped till the court shall have decided on the validity of the capture. The President had been appealed to, and, though evidently annoyed by the hasty and imprudent action of Mr. Seward, he desired the appeal of the Secretary of State should be considered, and his pledge redeemed. I informed him that the sale had been made, the transfer completed, the vessel had been for weeks at the navy yard undergoing repairs and alterations, that she was an entirely different craft from what she was when captured, that the best we could do under the circumstances was to detain her at the yard and not put her in commission.

These irregular and unauthorized proceedings are cause of constant difficulty and embarrassment, and are very injurious to the public service. We want and have prepared this vessel for special duty, which, had we known the pledges of the Secretary of State, we should have allotted differently. As it is, the government must sustain loss and the Navy Department be straitened by this irregularity.

The President read to Seward and myself a detailed confidential dispatch from Chattanooga very derogatory to Crittenden and McCook, who wilted when every energy and resource should have been put forth, disappeared from the battle-field, returned to Chattanooga, and — went to sleep. The officers who did their duty are dissatisfied. We had their statements last week, which this confidential dispatch confirms. It makes some, but not a very satisfactory, excuse for Rosecrans, in whom the President has clearly lost confidence. He said he was urged to change all the officers, but thought he should limit his acts to Crittenden and McCook; said it would not do to send one of our generals from the East. I expressed a doubt if he had any one suitable for that command or the equal of Thomas, if a change was to be made. There was no one in the army who, from what I had seen and known of him, was so fitted for that command as General Thomas. Rosecrans had stood well with the country until this time, but Thomas was a capable general, had undoubted merit, and was a favorite with the men. Seward thought the whole three — Rosecrans, Crittenden, and McCook — should be removed.

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