When President Lincoln
and his administration found themselves confronted with the most stupendous problem that any nation had had as yet to face, there was one element in their favor that counted more heavily than any other, an element whose value has been overlooked by the early historians of the war. It was the possession not only of a navy but of shipyards and a vast merchant marine from which to draw both vessels and men, and thus to increase the Northern
fighting efficiency at sea.
Though both North and South were wholly unprepared for the gigantic struggle, at the command of the Federal Government
were inexhaustible resources.
Manufactories and establishments of all kinds were at hand, together with shipbuilding yards that had turned out a merchant marine which, previous to the outbreak of hostilities, had gained the commerce-carrying supremacy of the world.
These factors and advantages were of tremendous importance in contributing to the final success of the Federal
Not only was the part of the trained sailor significant, but the mechanic and inventor found a peculiar scope and wide field for development in the application of their genius and talents to the navy's needs.
In five years, the whole science of naval warfare was to be changed; the wooden fleets of Europe
were to become antiquated and practically useless, and the ironclad whose appearance had been adumbrated was now to become a reality for all sea fighting.
Ninety ships of war made up the United States navy at the opening of the year 1861, but of these only forty-two were in any measure ready for active service; the remainder were