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[63]

Fighters afloat-gunboat men on the “Mendota Here on the deck of the “Mendota” on the James River, late in 1864, has gathered a typical group of gunboat men. While there are some foreign faces among them, many (particularly the younger ones) betoken the native American that responded to the call to arms by enlisting in the navy. At the outbreak of the war there were but seven thousand six hundred sailors in the Federal navy. It was a matter of no small difficulty to procure crews promptly for the new vessels that were being converted and constructed so rapidly, especially when the military service was making such frequent and sweeping requisitions upon the able-bodied men of the country. Nevertheless, at the close of the war the number of sailors in the navy had been increased to fifty-one thousand five hundred. It was an even more difficult problem to secure competent officers. Volunteers were called for by the Navy Department at the very outset of the struggle. As many of these enrolled as there had been sailors in the navy at the war's outbreak. Many vessels were officered entirely by volunteers, and these men acquitted themselves in a manner no less distinguished than the officers of the regular service. The gun in the picture is one of the “Mendota's” 200-pounder rifles, of which she carried two. In the war the American navy broke away from the old tradition that the effectiveness of a fighting-vessel is in proportion to the number of guns she carries. The distinct tendency became not to divide the weight she could safely bear among numerous guns of small caliber, but rather to have fewer guns of higher efficiency. Many of the small Federal gunboats carried 100-pounder rifles.

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1864 AD (1)
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