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One of the first Southern naval men to resign from the Federal Naval Department was Commander Raphael Semmes, who at once went South to enter the service of the new Government. He was sent to the North to secure what arms and ammunition he could, to contract for the delivery of more, and, if possible, to find ships that might serve as a nucleus for the navy of the Confederacy. A large amount of ordnance supplies was delivered or contracted for, but no vessels could be found that would be in the least adapted to service on the high seas, and with this portion of his mission unfulfilled, Semmes returned to Montgomery, twelve days before the firing on Fort Sumter.

Meanwhile, other agents of the Government had been attempting to find suitable ships in the Southern harbors that might be bought. All of these were reported as unsuitable for service as naval vessels, but Commander Semmes, after learning the qualifications of one of them, asked the Secretary of the Navy to secure her, have her altered, give him command, and then allow him to go to sea. The secretary acceded to this request, and the little boat was taken into New Orleans and operations were started to transform her into a gunboat which might fly the Confederate colors and, by harassing the commerce of the North, do her share in the work of warfare. The plans for the reconstruction of the vessel had scarcely been completed when the word was flashed around the world that Fort Sumter had been fired on and had fallen, and the ship, the first of a navy that was to contend against the third largest navy in the world, was christened after the first Fort to fall into the hands of the Confederacy, the Sumter.

The Navy Department of the South now redoubled its efforts to provide the ships necessary for the defense of its coast and inland rivers. Almost any craft that could be fitted to mount a gun was pressed into service, and as quickly as the means would allow, these boats were prepared for their work, and officers and crews assigned to them.

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