Washington, 5th Dec., 1861.
I got here on Saturday night, and was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Ashman, whom you may recollect at Quebec. He has been extremely attentive to me, and as he knows everyone and has access everywhere, I can assure you I have had unusually good opportunities of learning the public opinion of Washington, and I am happy to say it is not of that unfriendly character to us that we might suppose from the papers.
That which has most struck me here is the quiet and order which prevails. No one could suppose we were within 15 or 20 miles of two rival armies of 300,000 men. It is true the streets and hotels are crowded with men in uniform and the roads covered with four-horse or mule waggons carrying stores to the army, but yet there is no disturbance, little or no drunkenness, and very little military music. I have not yet visited the Army in the field, but evidence exists everywhere of the magnitude of the efforts made, and I am bound to add of the success which has attended them.
I dined with Lord Lyons en famille on Sunday. He was very pleasant, and talked freely on public matters here, of which, however, I need say nothing. I also saw Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, on Sunday; he did not impress me much; seemed fidgety, and out of temper. On Monday I went to the opening of the Congress, and was introduced to many of the leading men. There was no ceremony at the opening, merely calling over names. The President's Message was delivered on Tuesday. I did not think much of it, and its tone as regards foreign countries did not please me.
Yesterday I went with Mr. Ashman thro' the Treasury and War offices, calling on Mr. Cameron, Secretary at War. Mr. Chase, Secretary to the Treasury, is shut up preparing his report, and I have not yet seen him.
I went by appointment last night to see the President, and had a long and satisfactory private interview. He is very tall, thin, and with marked features, appears fond of anecdote, of which he has a fund. I liked him for his straight-forward, strong commonsense. I was to have seen Mrs. Lincoln, but she was indisposed.
I dine with Lord Lyons again to-day, and shall to-morrow visit the lines of the Army across the Potomac, and will write you again.
A. T. G.