I came across a dispatch from Henry Halleck to U.S. Grant the other day that serves as a nearly perfect Halleckism.
By early April 1863, Grant was undertaking yet another of his attempts at Vicksburg, this time up the Yazoo River. Although all had come to naught, Grant kept trying, but Halleck was running out of patience (and, I’d go so far to say, hoping for Grant to fail). President Lincoln, though, seemed content for the time being to let Grant keep trying. Halleck, though, intimated to Grant that Lincoln’s patience was beginning to wear thin.
Writing on April 9, Halleck offered this fine rhetorical gem:
“You are too well advised of the anxiety of the Government for your success, and its disappointment at the delay, to render it necessary to urge upon you the importance of early action.”
Let me translate: I don’t need to tell you how anxious the government is, but by telling you that I don’t need to tell you, I’m telling you while I’m pretending I’m not.
Halleck was great at saying nothing while pretending to say something, or saying what he wanted while couching it in ways that sounded like he wasn’t saying anything. He was a verbal eel.
I don’t have a whole lot of respect for “Old Brains,” who was more worried about preserving his reputation than maybe even winning the war. His equivocations were endless. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles had it perfectly right when in the summer of 1863, he said Halleck “originates nothing, anticipates nothing . . . takes no responsibility, plans nothing, suggests nothing, is good for nothing.”
I wonder what Old Brains would think if he could see what his reputation has become—the reputation he tried so hard to preserve.
 Halleck to Grant, 9 April 1863, OR XXIV, Pt. 1, 28.
 Gideon Welles, diary, vol. 1, 26 July 1863, 384.