Chapter XI Conclusions.
the Navy Department had an immense work to perform in the civil war. Except so far as the purchase abroad of vessels of war was concerned, it had the markets of the world to supply its wants without impediment, and it had money without stint.
That millions of dollars should have been wasted was a probable, not to say an inevitable result of a lack of preparation, and of empiricism, as shown in the construction of the Chimo and her twenty counterparts, known as the ‘totally submerged class of monitors.’
The defect of the latter was radical; no professional doctors could cure or even better them; their office was ‘to lie in cold obstruction and to rot.’
All that appears in these pages relating to them is given in the language of the Department, without comment.
To build and purchase vessels more or less adapted to war purposes; to fit, arm, officer, man, and provision them, and to keep up their supplies over a coast line of three thousand miles, with hundreds of inlets to blockade, and to provide fleets here and there to bombard, as at Fort Fisher
, required great energy on the part of the Navy Department and its subordinates; and these onerous requirements were fulfilled with a reasonable degree of success and with an immense outlay of money.
There are teachings that seem to belong to war exclusively.
Officers learned to anchor vessels anywhere off the Southern
coast, where they rode out with safety the heaviest gales that swept those waters during four years, and they learned to appreciate the advantage of carrying a heavy kedge on the quarter, ready to let go instantly when operating in narrow waters.
They learned, too, what was new then, the power of rifled guns at long distances against brick or stone forts, and also that wooden vessels armed with heavy spherical shell-guns, aided by a few ironclads, can smother and control the fire from an earthwork when brought within sixteen hundred yards of it, or better at two-thirds that distance; and further, that if vessels attack an earthwork there should be no cessation until the troops advance to the assault.
To the general, as well as the professional reader who has followed the writer through these pages, a few ideas are ventured in connection with the civil war.
Accepting the political conditions as existent facts presented by the late Alexander H. Stephens
in his remarkable address at Milledgeville, Ga.
, on November 14, 1860, the reader is lost in wonder that a sanguinary war of four years duration could have followed, without other inciting causes than those so fairly and clearly stated by him. Hundreds of thousands of men perished in battle or by disease through exposure; hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, many of them former slaves, died from violence, exposure, and want.
Thousands of millions of dollars were spent in war, by the North
and by the South
, and when the forces of the latter laid down their arms, they were absolutely without resources; many of the inhabitants in various sections would have suffered greatly, or actually perished, had not the gratuitous private charity of the North
supplied shiploads of provisions immediately after the cessation of hostilities.
No one can deny the fact that the South
commenced and continued the war with the utmost intensity of purpose, worthy of a sense of the most poignant wrongs.
It is most difficult to reconcile this fact with the plain statements of Stephens
, which were not, and never can be, fairly controverted.
In view of all this, does it not appear that the civil war was the result of prejudices, of obliquity, and misconceptions, the output of a long-continued material prosperity?
Mankind after a time regard this as a normal condition, which is far from the fact.
With the Jews of old the image of the Golden Calf
seems but the symbol of great material prosperity, bringing in its train woes and repentance in sackcloth and ashes.
Eighteen years have passed since the Confederate forces laid down their arms and returned to their homes unharmed, nor has a human being been held to accountability for all the wretchedness and misery produced by the civil war; and yet we find that prejudices, unfounded and without reason, are still paraded as facts, and as justifications of a long and sanguinary struggle.
May we not say, as a rational deduction, that the prejudices of men far outweigh their reason?
These reflections grew out of a conversation with a lifelong friend that has lately passed away.
He had been a large slave-owner, and a kind and considerate one; the comfortable cabins and the happy faces of the occupants, and the attention given them in sickness and in health could not fail to be observed.
The gentleman referred to was opposed to secession, yet when the many around him insisted on war, he took up arms, and bravely did his part.
When the war was over he was broken down in fortune and no longer young, but his courage did not forsake him, and he bravely
and honestly struggled to supply the necessities that existence imposes.
Sitting in the gloam of the evening, a few years ago, he said: ‘Had we succeeded in our efforts, our troubles would have but begun.
on the one side, and Florida
on the other, would have seceded from Georgia
, and we would have been a dismembered people.’
In sadness and in toil he had passed many succeeding years, and these were his final reflections.
May we not properly—nay, can we do other than give to such men our entire sympathy, and, in all sincerity, extend the hand of fellowship?
He was a man of thought, of courage, of action, and of purpose; it is not given to the vulgar to be possessed of such qualities, whether it be the rich or the poor vulgar, whether it be the educated or the uneducated vulgar.
With them thought and reason are as nothing; with them appetites, selfishness, and prejudices are everything.