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His indomitable character was then called to mind, and in spite of his physical feebleness and unfit condition, both of body and mind, he must go. It seemed, and thousands will bear us out in this statement, that at that moment the fate of the whole republic hung upon him. He, too, wished to go. As early as April he sent his family home to New Haven, coming himself with them as far as New York, and then returning to Washington. As he wrote in a private letter which has been quoted," I want as soon as possible to be afloat again, and there remain till we, under God, crush this atrocious rebellion."
On the 4th of June, 1863, he was detached from his position as Chief of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting, and appointed to take Admiral Dupont's place as commander of the South Atlantic blockading squadron.
One of the leading newspapers, commenting upon this appointment, said:
"Admiral Foote is a progressive man. He has inventive capacity sufficient at once to estimate the value of new and untried appliances. He is therefore eminently qualified for the position of commander of the South Atlantic blockading squadron, and we trust he will put his formidable fleet of monitors to some immediate and practical use."
Another journal remarked :
“He is believed to be the very man to show the full capabilities of the monitors and iron-clads in opposition to fortifications."
Admiral Gregory wrote to him:
“I shall be one of the first to hail your return; your daring will be the best prudence; and I shall ever be proud of the recollection that forty years ago the little boy first dipped his paddle into the great sea under
After making his final preparations in Washington, he came to New Haven to take leave of his family before re
pairing to his new post. He evidently did not believe that he should see his family again in this life. Captain Simpson, one of his dearest friends, who knew him best, declared that “he would take Fort Sumter or go to the bottom.” He expected either to die in battle or from the effects of coast malaria acting upon his enfeebled frame. It had been a common saying with him,“I can't join in the prayer, Deliver us from sudden death;" and he made the sacrifice cheerfully. The brief time he was in New Haven he was in good spirits and full of hope, though so weak that the signing of his name for autographs for a Ladies' Fair for sick soldiers almost overcame him. He was once, in fact, near falling in the street from a sudden turn of nervous prostration, and was only rallied by strong restoratives. He would sometimes sink into his chair with an air of complete lassitude, and exclaim, with his hands pressed to his head, “Rest—oh, for rest!” It seems now, in looking back upon it, extraordinary that the government, or at least his own friends, should not have seen how very ill a man he was, and that such a burden laid upon so exhausted a frame would be fatal. But it was his spirit that deceived his friends and led them to a delusive hope. His unconquerable mind made all others and himself believe that all things were possible. The following letter, which came to him in New Haven, indicates somewhat of the plans that were discussed between the government and himself in regard to the Southern coast :
“WASHINGTON, D. C., June 12, 1863. “DEAR ADMIRAL,—I have your note of the 10th inst. The matter of an attack upon Wilmington has been up for the last six months, and Lee has been in constant communication with the Department, sometimes personally, upon the subject. The monitors can not get into Wilmington, and the army can not co-operate at present. Fort Caswell is surrounded by a glacis, instead of being exposed to fire like Sumter. Lee bas full information about that fort and the defenses, and has discussed the matter with General Totten. If three or four monitors could have effected any
thing alone, we should have been in long ago. It must be a joint affair, and there is no army now except at Port Royal. The Tuscarora sailed yesterday for New York.
G. V. Fox."
Port Royal was Foote's objective point, where he was to join the squadron and co-operate with the land forces upon
Charleston. While waiting in New Haven for orders, he received a sudden summons to embark at once in the Tuscarora from New York. He left New Haven quite early in the morning, his family—some of them-seeing him then for the last time in life, as he turned in the carriage and made them his parting adieux. When he arrived in New York, he found that the Tuscarora, by some emergency, with a number of other vessels, had been ordered off a few hours before. He went at once to the Astor House, and telegraphed to his family that his sailing was delayed for two or three days. In company with Admiral Gregory, he inspected monitors that were being constructed; and when at the hotel attended to numerous visitors. After incessant occupation all day, he started at night for Washington, transacted business in that place all the following day, and returned to New York the same night. The next day he was kept in a round of excitement, and that night was taken with the first painful symptoms of his disease. In the morning he felt better, but a return of pain made it necessary to depart from simple remedies and to send for physicians. Shortly after, there was a consultation of physicians, and it was decided that the case was one of Bright's disease of the kidneys, which had been aggravated by his harassed life at the West, his wound, and especially his exertions and anxieties for the last few days. Upon the 16th came the following:
“Navy YARD, NEW YORK, June 16, 1863. “ADMIRAL, -I am authorized by the Department to charter a steamer to take you and your suite to Port Royal. The Union will sail for that destination on the 18th, and I think you might find her preferable to a chartered steamer.
“Be pleased to inform me which you prefer. I shall be most happy to second your wishes in any manner you shall name. My constant occupation here has prevented my calling to see you. Should you determine to go in the Union, it is desirable that the captain should be informed as to what number of officers you take, and what preparation you wish made. “I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
“H. PAULDING, Commandant.”
But by this time he was too ill for such matters. On the 18th and 19th he had rallied somewhat, awakening some hopes of his restoration; but he soon fell back, and he himself deliberately gave up all expectation of recovery. His wife, his daughter, his brother Augustus, with other members of his family and some of his naval friends, had now joined him, and with them he talked freely, and told them—as if the order to
cast off moorings” had been sent to him from a higher authority—“My disease is fatal; but I am prepared to meet death in this way, if God has so ordered it.” Indeed, as his pastor, Dr. Budington, who was also present, writes: “It seemed as if the admiral, as usual, was the chief actor, discharging some difficult duty, and keeping all about him employed under his direction; but the work he had now in hand was to die, and this he went about as patiently and earnestly as he had ever cleared the decks for action. His life, the mainspring of which was a constant activity in the service of God and country, was closing in the energetic performance of his last commission to die."
He said to his brother, when he first came into the room, “I'm glad to have one of my brothers with me;" and then, his face brightening up with almost a gleam of humor, he added, “I always told you I should go before you and John, and you see now I was right.” His brother replied, “That is not so certain by any means." He rejoined, “You are certainly mistaken—I know I am right, and you will see.” His brother remarked, pleasantly, “You are the same that you always were,
and you never will yield your point." The admiral then went on to say: "I wanted to go to Charleston and help the government all I could, but it is just as well. It is only a question of killing more men. I am perfectly resigned to the will of God.”
He was extremely anxious that the government should know the cause of his delay; and when he understood that an officer had returned from Washington with kind messages from the Secretary of the Navy, he seemed much relieved. He was also anxious that Admiral Dupont should be informed that it was no effort or intrigue on his part that had effected the change in the command of the squadron. After he was satisfied on these points, he quieted himself like a child, and appeared in a great measure to put away from his mind worldly things. He suffered severe pain from the rapid progress of his disease, which was a complicated affection of the liver and kidneys, that had been aggravated by his wound and his constant burden of mental anxiety; but he endured his pains with such unmurmuring patience as to draw praise from his attendants. He said once, “ If ’twas God's will, I should like to have a little quiet and sleep.”
The simple affectionateness and loving qualities of his warm sailor nature came out in all his words and looks. He greeted those who approached his bedside with a smile; and when his daughter, Mrs. Reese, was announced, he called her his ear child, and put his arms around her neck and kissed her.
He gave his last directions concerning his family and his affairs with entire clearness, and as apparently free from all excitement as if he were going upon a short journey.
Captain Sanford, his old ordnance - officer in the Western flotilla, and Captain Simpson were with him constantly, and from them and other brother-officers of the Navy, he received the most tender and unwearied attention. Captain Simpson writes: “His sufferings were so great that there were but few