President Lincoln Between Battles

May 23, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Met the President, Stanton, and Halleck at the War Department.  Fox was with me.  Neither Du Pont nor General Hunter has answer the President’s dispatch to them a month since.  Halleck does not favor an attack on Charleston unless by the Navy.  The army will second, so far as it can.  Fox, who commanded the first military expedition to Sumter, is for a renewed attack, and wants the Navy to take the brunt.  Stanton wants the matter prosecuted. I have very little confidence in success under the present admiral. It is evident that Du Pont is against doing anything, — that he is demoralizing others, and doing no good in that direction. If anything is to be done, we must have a new commander. Du Pont has talents and capability, but we are to have the benefit of neither at Charleston. The old army infirmity of this war, dilatory action, affects Du Pont. Commendation and encouragement, instead of stimulating him, have raised the mountain of difficulty higher daily. He is nursing Du Pont, whose fame he fears may suffer, and has sought sympathy by imparting his fears and doubts to his subordinates, until all are impressed with his apprehensions. The capture of Charleston by such a chief is an impossibility, whatever may be accomplished by another. This being the case, I have doubts of renewing the attack immediately, notwithstanding the zeal of Stanton and Fox. I certainly would not without some change of officers.

Having no faith, the commander can accomplish no work. In the struggle of war, there must sometimes be risks to accomplish results, but it is clear we can expect no great risks from Du Pont at Charleston. The difficulties increase daily [as] his imagination dwells on the subject. Under any circumstances we shall be likely to have trouble with him. He has remarkable address, is courtly, the head of a formidable clique, the most formidable in the Navy, loves intrigue, is Jesuitical, and I have reason to believe is not always frank and sincere. It was finally concluded to delay proceedings until the arrival of General Gillmore, who should be put in possession of our views.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “In order to construct the Illinois Central Railroad, a large grant of land was made by the United States to the State of Illinois, which land was again given to the Railroad Company by the State, in certain provisions of the Charter. By the U.S. grant, certain previleges were attempted to be secured from the contemplated Railroad to the U.S., and by the charter certain per centage of the income of the road was to be from time to time paid to the State of Illinois. At the beginning of the present war the Railroad did certain carrying for the U.S. for which it claims pay; and, as I understand, the U.S. claims that at least part of this the road was bound to do without pay. Though attempts have been made to settle the matter, it remains unsettled; meanwhile the Road refuses to pay the per-centage to the State. This delay is working badly; and I understand the delay exists because of there being no definite decision whether the U.S. will settle it’s own account with the Railroad, or will allow the State to settle it, & account to the State for it. If I had the leisure which I have not, I believe I could settle it; but prima facie it appears to me we better settle the account ourselves, because that will save us all question as to whether the State deals fairly with us in the settlement of our account with a third party – the R.R.”  He added: “I wish you would see Mr. Butler, late our State Treasurer, and see if something definite can not be done in the case.”

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Published in: on May 23, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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