Confederates Retreat from Washington

July 13, 1864

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “The news this morning would seem to indicate that the enemy is retiring from every point.

The President thinks we should push our whole column right up the River Road & cut off as many as possible of the retreating raiders.

There seems to be no head about this whole affair. Halleck hates responsibility: hates to give orders. Wright, Gillmore & McCook must of course report to somebody & await somebody’s orders which they don’t get.

I rode out to the front this morning, R.T.L. and I. We visited Wright’s Headquarters first. On our way out we found the road full of black men and women who had come out to see the fun & had been turned back by the hard-hearted guard.

From New York, Tribune Editor Horace Greeley writes President Lincoln: “I have now information on which I can rely that two persons duly commissioned and empowered to negotiate for peace are at this moment not far from Niagara Falls, in Canada, and are desirous of conforming with yourself, or with such persons as you may appoint and empower to treat with them. Their names (only given in confidence) are Hon. Clement C. Clay, of Alabama, and Hon. Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi. If you should prefer to meet them in person, they require safe-conducts for themselves, and for George N. Sanders, who will accompany them. Should you choose to empower one or more persons to treat with them in Canada, they will of course need no safe-conduct; but they cannot be expected to exhibit credentials save to commissioners empowered as they are. In negotiating directly with yourself, all grounds of cavil would be avoided, and you would be enabled at all times to act upon the freshest advices of the military situation. You will of course understand I know nothing, and have proposed nothing as to terms, and that nothing is conceded or taken for granted by the meeting of persons empowered to negotiate for peace. Al that is assumed is a mutual desire to terminate this wholesale slaughter, if a basis of adjustment can be mutually agreed on, and it seems to mehigh time that an effort to this end should be made. I am of course quite other than sanguine that a peace can now be made, but I am quite sure that a frank, earnest, anxious effort to terminate the war   on honorable terms would immensely strengthen the Government in case of its failure, and would help us in the eyes of the civilized world, which now accuses us of obstinacy, and indisposition even to seek a peaceful solution of our sanguinary, devastating conflict. Hoping to hear that you have resolved to act in the premises, and to act so promptly that a good influence may even yet be exerted on the North Carolina election next month.

General Henry W. Halleck fulminates about complaints from Postmaster General Montgomery about the Confederate destruction of his family home in Silver Spring, Maryland.

I deem it my duty to bring to your notice the following facts: I am informed by an officer of rank and standing in the military service that the Hon. M. Blair, Postmaster-General, in speaking of the burning of his house in Maryland, this morning, said, in effect, that ‘the officers in command about Washington are poltroons; that there were not more than 500 rebels on the Silver Spring road, and we had 1,000,000 of men in arms; that it was a disgrace; that General Wallace was in comparison with them far better, as he would at least fight.’

As there have been for the last few days a large number of officers on duty in and about Washington who have devoted their time and energies, night and day, and have periled their lives in the support of the Government, it is due to them, as well as to the War Department, that it should be known whether such wholesale denouncement and accusation by a member of the Cabinet receives the sanction and approbation of the President of the United States.

If so, the names of the officers accused should be stricken from the rolls of the Army; if not, it is due to the honor of the accused that the slanderer should be dismissed from the Cabinet.

Published in: on July 13, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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