other steamers of immense tonnage, costing a large amount to purchase, in the first instance, and which would have been a great expense to move and keep afloat.
Vessels wholly unfit, from their great draught, to perform blockade duty on our shallow coast, were urged upon the Department, which declined to purchase them, and was soundly berated for declining.
Economy and efficiency required a smaller and different class of vessels.
The Secretary of the Navy
was compelled to act without legislative authority or appropriation, and without funds, he, on his own responsibility, entered into contract for thirty gunboats, each of about five hundred tons.
The Government was wholly destitute of iron-clad steamers or floating batteries; little interest had been given the subject, but the attention of Congress was invited thereto, at the extra session in July.
The suggestions of the Secretary
were approved, and an act was passed on the third of August, placing at the disposal of the Navy Department one and a-half millions of dollars, to carry his recommendation into effect.
On the seventh of August an advertisement was issued, inviting plans and proposals for armed vessels.
On the next day, the eighth of August, a board of naval officers was appointed to receive and report upon the plans which might be submitted within twenty-five days.
Commodore Joseph Smith
of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, was the senior officer
and chairman of this Board, and with him were associated Commodore Hiram Paulding
and Captain Charles H. Davis
All were officers of merit, but Commodore Smith
, in addition to great nautical and civil experience, possessed a singularly mechanical and practical mind.
On him devolved, ultimately, the chief responsibility and supervision of the execution of the plans adopted.
My personal relations and acquaintance with him were not only friendly, but I may say intimate.
We were each made Chief of a Naval Bureau, in the spring of 1846, and from the acquaintance then first commenced, I had confidence in his ability and intelligence, which was increased when, fifteen years later, I was called to preside over the Navy Department, where he had remained on continuous duty.
I had, therefore, whenever required, the benefit of his counsel and judgment.
Before the limit of twenty-five days for receiving proposals for iron-clads expired, I went to Hartford
, which place I had not revisited after leaving, in February, on Mr. Lincoln
's invitation to become a member of his Cabinet.
While at Hartford
, Mr. Cornelius S. Bushnell
laid before me a model, invented by John Ericsson
, for a turreted vessel, or floating battery, which impressed me favorably, as