President Concerned with Campaign Against Charleston

March 12, 1863

President Lincoln has long been preoccupied with the joint naval-army campaign against Charleston.  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary that Admiral Samuel “Du Pont is getting as prudent as McClellan; is very careful; all dash, energy, and force are softened under the great responsibility.  He has a reputation to preserve instead of one to make.”

[Chief Engineer] Stimers arrived this morning and read to me the minutes of a council held on board the Wabash.  The army officers were present, and it is plain they were a drawback on naval operations.  Talk of beginning the attack on Charleston by an assault on the sand-batteries at the mouth of the harbor instead of running past them.  Of obstructions and torpedos little is know, but great apprehensions are entertained.  Stimers is sent up to get more ironclads and another raft.  The President came in, and the whole subject was recounted.  His views and mine are alike.  To delay for the objects stated till April will be to postpone to May.  Expressed ourselves very decidedly, and told Stimers to hurry back.

Talked over the subject of Rebewl privateers building in England.  Said to the President and Mr. Seward I thought England should be frankly informed that our countrymen would not be restrained from active operations if Great Britain persisted in making war on our commerce under Confederate colors.

Historian Brooks D. Simpson writes of Lincoln’s preoccupation with the capture of Vicksburg: “Privately, however, Lincoln worried.  Repeatedly he sought information about matters in the West once inquiring, ‘Do Richmond papers have any thing about Vicksburg?’  He considered sending Benjamin F. Butler to the Mississippi to report on the situation – and a week later Stanton drafted orders directing Butler to supersede Grant.   In March, the administration decided on a course of action.  Lacking reliable and disinterested sources of information about Grant and his command.  Lincoln and Stanton decided that if they could not see things for themselves, they could choose someone to serve as their eyes and ears.  Charles A. Dana, a former newspaper editor who was now a troubleshooter for the War Department, seemed ideal for the task.  Stanton sent him west on the pretense that he would be investigating how paymasters performed in the West: Grant had already complained that his men were not being paid on time, so the general might not suspect the true import of Dana’s mission.  Receiving his orders on March 12, Dana immediately headed to Memphis.”

President Lincoln writes: “I herewith transmit to the Senate, for its consideration and ratification, a treaty with the chiefs and headmen of the Chippewas of the Mississippi and the Pillagers and Lake Winibigoshish bands of Chippewa Indians.”  The next day, the treaty is ratified.

Presidential secretary John Hay leaves the White House for New York on his way to  Hilton Head, South Carolina “for a two or three weeks’ visit to Gen. [David] Hunter.”

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