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.

January 11, 2014

Diary of Gideon Welles


January 11, Monday. Mr. Seward sent to me at my house on Saturday evening a voluminous bundle of dispatches, which had been placed in his hands by Lord Lyons, relative to the case of the Chesapeake, and desired me after reading them to interchange views in regard to the course to be pursued.

The documents were, first, sundry papers from a Mrs. Henry of Halifax, complaining that her husband and a brother had gone on board the Chesapeake on the 15th of December, and she apprehended they were detained. The owner and captain of the schooner Intendant, which was in [Sambro Harbor] when the American gunboat Ella and Annie took possession of that vessel, says he saw them on board and did not see them leave. He further avers that when the Ella and Annie appeared off the harbor, the Chesapeake raised the American flag union down, and he with his vessel ran a few hundred yards further up the harbor; that the boats of the Ella and Annie after taking possession of the Chesapeake, boarded the Intendant, took some trunks that had been brought from the C. and a man, Wade, who had been secreted, etc., etc. The other papers related to the capture of the Chesapeake, her surrender to the Colonial authorities, etc., much as we have in the newspapers.

It is evident the first papers, relating to the Henrys and the schooner, were thrust into the foreground for a purpose, and are a matter which should have no connection with the act of piracy.

I called on the Secretary of State this morning and told him the case required no hasty action on his part. That it had gone into the Admiralty Court, which was all very well if the British authorities had anything to do in the premises. My advice is to wait, and not be drawn into any premature action.

Mr. Blair, the elder, and Governor Dennison of Ohio called on me last evening. The chief talk related to Presidential matters, current events, and proceedings in Congress. They were both at the President’s to-day, and it seems some conversation took place in regard to Senator Hale’s strange course towards the Navy Department, he being Chairman of the Committee. The President said it was to him unaccountable except in one way, and that did no credit to Hale’s integrity. It was unpleasant to think a Senator made use of his place to spite a Department because it would not permit him to use its patronage for his private benefit.

Both Mr. Blair and Governor Dennison were pretty full of the Presidency, and I apprehend they had a shadow of doubt in regard to my opinions and preferences, and yet I know not why they should have had. The subject is one on which I cared to exhibit no intense partisanship, and I may misjudge the tone of public sentiment, but my convictions are and have been that it is best to reelect the President, and if I mistake not this is the public opinion. On this question, while not forward to announce my views, I have had no concealment.

I am inclined to believe that there have been whispered misrepresentations from sly intriguers in regard to me that have given some anxiety to Blair and Dennison. The conduct of Dixon has been singular in some respects, and he has a willing tool in Brandegee (Augustus Brandegee, a Member of Congress from Connecticut). . . .

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