this was begun was most meager.
The whole steam-navy of the United States
(and steamers were the only vessels effective for this service, now that almost all the blockade-runners were to be swift, light-draft steamers built on the Clyde
) consisted of but twenty-nine ships.
Five of these, the large steam frigates of the Wabash
class, were at the moment laid up. Only one was ever really utilized, this being the Wabash
, at the capture of the forts at Hilton Head
, Port Royal
, November 7, 1861.
There were five screw ships of the Hartford
class; three good side-wheel ships; eight small screw sloops, such as the Mohican;
five still smaller, and two small side-wheelers.
But even these were scattered over the seven seas; in Asia
, in the Pacific
, in the South Atlantic
, in the Mediterranean and, worst of all, on the distant and almost (at the time) unreachable coast of Africa
It was late in the summer of 1861 before the last arrived home.
On the 4th of March, there were but three in Northern ports with which to begin a blockade of three thousand six hundred miles of coast.
Such a blockade could for the moment be only a “paper” one, as, to justify the seizure on the high seas of a neutral attempting to enter a port declared blockaded, there must be a force off the port sufficient to make entry dangerous.
To enable captures of such ships to be made, the Federal Government
soon had to yield its theory of insurgency and treat the situation as one of belligerency.
The indecisive attitude of the administration during the period between the secession of South Carolina
, December 20, 1860, and the 4th of March, 1861, was of a character to encourage the secessionist movement to the utmost.
The only forts of the South
which were garrisoned were Monroe
Notwithstanding General Scott
's report of inability to garrison the Southern
forts for want of men, there can be no question, from the returns of the War Department itself, that there was a number quite sufficient to hold them against any but tried soldiers in large force.
Two hundred men at each