The machinery of steamers built for commercial purposes is far more exposed than of vessels designed to carry guns; the question of war is simply one of relative strength
and preparation of the combatants; in that respect the National
vessels in commission, as a whole, were immensely superior to those of the Confederates
, or any that could be built and fitted for service within the limits of the Confederacy
The difference between a very vulnerable naval force and another still more so, was not only regarded with gratulation, but in sheer ignorance and vanity was magnified and expressed in the grandiloquent phrase that ‘the United States
had the strongest navy in the world,’ when nine-tenths of the vessels bearing guns under the National
flag would have been quite powerless to meet vessels of war of the same tonnage of any civilized nation.
Toward the close of the war we had several double-turreted vessels of an improved Monitor type that were in their day by all odds the strongest vessels then afloat, yet at the present time they would be but ‘paper ships’ under the fire of many vessels of nearly all of the navies of the world.
It is so pleasant to deceive ourselves, that now, when our flag waves over a wide and broad land, with its fifty-two millions of inhabitants, some of our legislators insist that ‘no nation would dare attack us.’
Others speak of ‘appropriating liberally for the building up of a navy’ and then gravely propose the munificent sum of $1,300,000 for the cruising navy and half that sum, more or less, to complete an improved Monitor.
To the naval mind, or to the person who looks at forces relatively, there is something painfully ludicrous in such propositions.
The men ‘who fought out the war’ are rapidly passing away; their rude experiences, on both sides, now happily capable of serving a common and National purpose, will soon be wholly of the past.