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[27]

On the evening of that memorable Sunday, I received from Dahlgren, who was in command of the Navy Yard, a message, stating that he, and all the force he could command, were employed in loading and preparing the boats which had been sent to the yard. He supposed by my order and with my approval, although he had received no word from me. I replied that I had purchased no boats, given no orders, and that if I, rightly apprehended the object and intention of the work in which he was engaged, I did not approve it. When I called on the President the next morning, Stanton was already there, stating some grievance, and, as I entered, he turned to me and inquired my reason for countermanding his orders. He proceeded to state that he had directed the purchase of all the boats that could be procured in Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria, which were being laden with stone and earth, under the direction of Colonel Meigs and Dahlgren, with a view of sinking them at Kettle Bottom Shoals, some fifty miles or more below, in order to prevent the ascension of the “Merrimac.” That while the officers whom he had detailed, he supposed with my approval, were actively engaged, they had been suddenly stopped by an order from me to Dahlgren. He was still complaining when Dahlgren, and I believe Meigs also, came in, and I then learned that great preparations had been made to procure a fleet of boats, which were to be sunk at Kettle Bottom, to protect Washington. I objected, and said I would rather expend money to remove obstacles than to impede navigation; that the navy had labored through the fall and winter to keep open this avenue to the ocean; that the army had not driven the rebels from the Virginia shore, nor assisted us in this work, though they had been greatly benefited by our efforts in the transportation of their supplies, forage, etc.; that to our shame there was but a single railroad track to the Capital, though we had here an army of more than one hundred thousand to feed, and that I should not consent to take any of the naval appropriation to cut off water communication, unless so ordered by the President; but should protest against obstructing the channel of — the river. Our conversation was very earnest, and the President attentively listened, but with an evident inclination to guard in every way against the “Merrimac,” but yet unwilling to interrupt ocean communication, so essential to Washington. Giving the interview a pleasant turn, he said that it was evident that Mars not only wanted exclusive control of military operations, (Stanton had manifested much dissatisfaction with McClellan as General-in-Chief,) but that he wanted a navy, and had begun to improvise one. Having already got his fleet, the President thought he might as well be permitted to

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