Authorization of Union Pirates is Discussion

April 3, 1863

A morning cabinet meeting discusses letters of marque as a way to interrupt Confederate shipping.  Gideon Welles reports in his diary regarding his differences with Secretary of State William H. Seward: “Had some side talk with Seward at the Cabinet-meeting, on letters of marque. He persists in the Policy, but I think begins to have some misgivings. Insists on having a naval officer assigned him, on whom he can devolve the labor. I requested him to employ some of his own Department force or a civilian in whom he had confidence; told him the subject belonged exclusively to the State Department; the Secretary of State had it in charge in the War of 1812 by law, and I desired the Navy should not now be blended with the proceeding. He admitted his object in asking for a naval officer was to be relieved of responsibility and details. The truth is, he has pressed forward this measure without knowledge, or examination, or practical experience, but has vague indefinite notions that privateers may be efficient against the Rebels, that they will constitute a force appendant to his Department, that there will be many of them, and that he will derive credit from their exploits. If his scheme fails, and a naval officer has charge of that part of his duties, the Navy and Navy Department will bear the censure. Foote, whom he most desires should be detailed, adroitly declines the honor of being attached to the State Department in this work, and has recommended Admiral Davis, who is acceptable and willing to take the position which Foote declines.

Seward tells me he already has an application from responsible parties who want a letter of marque, and assures me there will be a flood of applications, but I am still incredulous. Our merchants will not spend their money in the idle scheme of attempting to spear sharks for wool. In the case of this first application Seward wishes me, as he is not yet prepared and the parties are ready, to take the case as I have suggested might be done under the Act of July, 1861; says it will only be temporary.

The Committee on the Conduct of the War releases a report on operations of the Army of the Potomac.  Historian Bruce Tap wrote: “Released to the Associated Press on April 3, the report on the Army of the Potomac created a stir in the nation’s newspapers.  Although reports on Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff, and Fremont’s administration of the West were also released, the operations of the Army of the Potomac drew the most attention.  It was signed by every member of the committee, including Democrat Odell.  ‘Had the success of the Army of the Potomac during this period corresponded with success of our arms in other parts of the country,’ the report stated, ‘there is reason to believe that the termination of the campaign of 1862 would have seen the rebellion well-nigh, if not entirely, overthrown.’” Blame for reverses and setbacks was attributed to General George B. McClellan.

President Lincoln telegraphs General Hooker, who now commands the Army of the Potomac that McClellan was command, regarding an upcoming visit to the Virginia war front: “Our plan is to pass Saturday-night on the boat; go over from Acquia-creek to your camp Sunday morning; remain with you till Tuesday morning, and then return. Our party will probably not exceed six persons of all sorts.”   Hooker responded: “I am rejoiced to learn that you have appointed a time to visit this Army and only regret that your party is not as large as our hospitality.”

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Published in: on April 3, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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