refuse to interfere to prevent their sailing, and generally understood that such an event would result in a war with England
; either from the United States
determining to consider this act of the British Government
a casus belli
, or from the recognition of the Confederate Government by England
, which would follow upon the breaking — up of our blockade of the Southern
ports, which it was deemed certain that those Laird
rams would accomplish.
It became, therefore, imperative that an agent from this State should proceed to England
to look after its interests; and the Governor
detailed Colonel Harrison Ritchie
, his senior aide-de-camp, for that duty.
sailed on the 16th of September, 1863.
He was ordered to inspect the guns and projectiles being manufactured there for the State
, and assume direction of the contracts, with power to modify the contracts in every respect, excepting so as to increase the total contract prices, and to cancel the contracts for such of the guns as it might appear to him would not probably be completed within the extension of time which had already been granted.
The distinguished engineer, Mr. J. C. Hoadley
, went out shortly after, and joined Colonel Ritchie
, for the purpose of studying the machinery and the process employed in the manufacture of Captain Blakely
's guns, with a view to the application of this knowledge at home.
As the need of a supply of guns for immediate use was so pressing, Colonel Ritchie
was, at his suggestion, further authorized to contract for not exceeding fifty 68-pounders, smooth-bore 95-cwt.
guns, if they could be delivered within four months at reasonable prices.
These last guns were originally introduced for the pivot guns of large steam frigates, but had not gone out of use on the general introduction of shell guns.
The English experiments had proved, that, though not equal to rifled guns at long ranges, yet at short ranges, with the full charge they could carry, their eight-inch shot produced more destructive effects on iron armor-plates than the Armstrong
100-pounder rifled gun. It was conjectured, that, from the fact of their not being in demand at the moment, a supply of these guns might be obtained, and that, with steel shot, they would be the most valuable guns we could