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[134]

An epoch in naval warfare

Under the date of July 4, 1861, the Secretary of the Navy of the United States, the Honorable Gideon Welles, in his report, explained very clearly the exact position of the iron-clad vessel of war during its period of inception. Caution, and doubt as to the feasibility of such construction are clearly expressed here, and also a certain temerity in the way of expending the departmental allowance:
Much attention has been given within the last few years to the subject of floating batteries, or iron-clad steamers. Other governments, and particularly France and England, have made it a special object in connection with naval improvements; and the ingenuity and inventive faculties of our own countrymen have also been stimulated by recent occurrences toward the construction of this class of vessel. The period is, perhaps, not one best adapted to heavy expenditures by way of experiment, and the time and attention of some of those who are most competent to investigate and form correct conclusions on this subject are otherwise employed. I would, however, recommend the appointment of a proper and competent board to inquire into and report in regard to a measure so important; and it is for Congress to decide whether, on a favorable report, they will order one or more iron-clad steamers, or floating batteries, to be constructed, with a view to perfect protection from the effects of present ordnance at short range, and make an appropriation for that purpose.

For a long time the armored vessel had been the pet of the inventor, and the building of iron ships of war had been contemplated. To go into the history of such attempts would be to review, in a measure, all the records of the past, for ironprotected ships had been constructed for many years, and as far back as 1583 the Dutch had built a flat-bottomed sailing

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