Battle of Chancellorsville Begins

May 2, 1863

Union and Confederate forces are massing for battle around Chancellorsville, Virginia.  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Thick rumors concerning the Army of the Potomac, — little, however, from official sources. I abstain from going to the War Department more than is necessary or consulting operators at the telegraph, for there is a hazy uncertainty there. This indefiniteness, and the manner attending it, is a pretty certain indication that the information received is not particularly gratifying. Whether Hooker refuses to communicate, and prevents others from communicating, I know not. Other members of the Cabinet, like myself, are, I find, disinclined to visit the War Department under the circumstances.”   The War Department Telegraph Office is where President Lincoln receives his information about military developments.

Maryland Congressman Henry Winter is concerned about treatment of his friend, Admiral Samuel Du Pont, who military operations against Charleston, South Carolina, have been widely criticized within the Lincoln Administration.  “Davis was not about to stand idly by while his closest friend was so ‘disgracefully’ treated.  On May 2 he went to see the President and presented Du Pont’s side of the dispute,” wrote historian Gerald S. Hening.  “ He emphasized that from the very beginning the admiral had had serious reservations about the capabilities of the monitors; that he had favored a combined sea and land operation rather than a purely naval one; and that he had all along regarded the attack as ‘a desperate undertaking, a Balaklava charge, risking more than success justified…’  Lincoln maintained that these views had never been conveyed to him by either Du Pont or the Navy Department. Quickly responding, Davis pointed out that Du Pont, on countless occasions, had expressed these sentiments to Fox, but the latter had kept them to himself and had fed everyone ‘dreamy hopes and visions’ instead of facts.  Somewhat surprised by these revelations, Lincoln promised to call for and read Du Pont’s full report on the Charleston expedition.  Davis could not have been more pleased with the interview, and was convinced that once the president became aware of the situation he would use his influence in Du Pont’s behalf.:

President Lincoln writes Pennsylvania Governor Andrew G. Curtin: “Gen. [Henry W.] Halleck tells me he has a despatch from Gen. Schenck this morning, informing him that our forces have joined, and that the enemy menacing Penn. will have to fight or run to-day. I hope I am not less anxious to do my duty to Pennsylvania, than yourself; but I really do not yet see the justification for incurring the trouble and expense of calling out the militia. I shall keep watch and try to do my duty.”

President Lincoln wrote Secretary of State William H. Seward regarding a diplomatic vacancy – always a plum patronage position: “Have we any committal as to the vacant consulate at Havanna? If we have not, I am for giving it to Hon. Caleb Lyon, and of doing it at once.”

Published in: on May 2, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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