Confederate States Navy, to ascertain the practicability of obtaining wrought-iron plates suited for ships' armor. After some disappointment and delay, the owners of the mills at Atlanta were induced to make the necessary changes in the machinery, and undertake the work. Efforts at other places in the West had been unsuccessful, and this was one of the difficulties which an inefficient department would not have overcome. The ironclad gunboats Arkansas and Tennessee were commenced at Memphis, but the difficulty in obtaining mechanics so interfered with their construction that the Secretary of the Navy was compelled, on December 24, 1861, to write to General Polk, who was commanding at Columbus, Kentucky, asking that mechanics might be detached from his forces, so as to insure the early completion of the vessels. So promptly had the ironclad boats been put under contract that the arrangements had all been made in anticipation of the appropriation, and the contract was signed ‘on the very day the law was passed.’ On December 25, 1861, Lieutenant Isaac N. Brown, Confederate States Navy, a gallant and competent officer, well and favorably known in his subsequent service as commander of the ram Arkansas, was sent to Nashville. Information had been received that four river boats were there, and for sale, which were suited for river defense. Lieutenant Brown was instructed to purchase such as should be adaptable to the required service, ‘and to proceed forthwith with the necessary alteration and armament.’ In the latter part of 1861, it having been found impossible with the means in Richmond and Norfolk to answer the requisitions for ordnance and ordnance stores required for the naval defenses of the Mississippi, a laboratory was established in New Orleans, and authority given for the casting of heavy cannon, construction of gun carriages, and the manufacture of projectiles and ordnance equipments of all kinds. On December 12, 1861, the Secretary of the Navy submitted an estimate for an appropriation to meet the expenses incurred ‘for ordnance and ordnance stores for the defense of the Mississippi River.’ Secretary Mallory, in answer to inquiries of a joint committee of Congress, in 1863, replied that he had sent a telegram to Captain Whittle, April 17, 1862, as follows:
Is the boom, or raft, below the forts in order to resist the enemy, or has any part of it given away? State condition.On the next day the following answer was sent:
I hear the raft below the forts is not in best condition; they are strengthening it by additional lines. I have furnished anchors.