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Bureau of foreign supplies.

It soon became obvious that in the Ordnance Department we must rely greatly on the introduction of articles of prime necessity through the blockade ports. As before stated, President Davis early saw this, and had an officer detailed to go abroad as the agent of the department. To systematize the introduction of the purchases, it was soon found advisable to own and run our own steamers. Major Huse made the suggestion also from that side of the water. Accordingly, he purchased and sent in the Robert E. Lee at a cost of 300, 000, a vessel capable of stowing six hundred and fifty bales of cotton. This vessel was kept running between Bermuda and Wilmington, and made some fifteen to eighteen successive trips before she was finally captured—the first twelve with the regularity of a packet. She was commanded first by Captain Wilkinson, of the navy. Soon the Cornubia, named the Lady Davis, was added, and ran as successfully as the R. E. Lee. She had the capacity of about four hundred and fifty bales, and was during the latter part of her career commanded also by a former navy officer, Captain R. H. Gayle. These vessels were long, low and rather narrow, built for swiftness, and with their lights [80] out and with fuel that made little smoke they contrived to slip in and out of Wilmington at pleasure, in spite of a cordon of Federal cruisers eager for the spoils of a blockade-runner. Other vessels— the Eugenia, a beautiful ship, the Stag, and several others were added, all devoted to carrying ordnance supplies, and finally general suplies. To supervise shipments at Bermuda, to which point they were brought by neutrals, either by steam or sail, Major Norman Walker was sent there by Mr. Secretary Randolph about midsummer, 1862. Later, an army officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Smith Stansbury, was detached to take charge of the stores accumulated there. Depots were likewise made at Nassau and Havana. Thus much of the foreign organization.

But the organization of the business outside of our own soil was much the simplest part of the service. The home administration involved a variety of work so foreign to my other duties that I soon looked about for the proper person to discharge them in the most effective manner by exclusive devotion to them; and I had Lieutenant-Colonel Bayne detailed to my office for this duty. He had been wounded at Shiloh, and on his recovery joined me about September, 1862.

It was soon found necessary, in order that the vessels coming in through the blockade might have their lading promptly on their arrival, that the Bureau should undertake the procuring and shipment of cotton to Wilmington, Charleston, and other points, for we had vessels arriving at half-a-dozen ports, from Wilmington to Galveston. This necessitated the establishment of a steam compress at Wilmington, and, affiliated with it, agents to procure the cotton in the interior and see it to its destination; for the railroads were now so overtasked that it was only by placing positive orders from the Secretary of War in the hands of a selected agent that the cotton could be certainly forwarded over the various roads. The steam press was kept fully at work, in charge of Captain James M. Seixas (Washington artillery). The necessity for transportation over the railroads brought us in contact with them, and gave them claim on us for assistance in the matter of supplies, such as steel, iron, copper, &c., and especially for work at the various foundries and machine-shops, in which precedence was of course claimed for army work, and which were therefore in great part controlled by the Ordnance Department. The foreign supplies were not all conveyed through steamers. Contracts were out for supplies through Texas from Mexico.

Finding that the other departments of the Government would naturally claim a share in this avenue for supplies, which had been opened [81] chiefly through my Bureau, it was detached at my own instance, but remained in charge of Colonel Bayne, with a good staff of officers and agents as a separate Bureau.

Thus the Ordnance Department consisted of a Bureau proper of Ordnance having its officers in the field and at the arsenals and depots; of the Nitre and Mining Bureau, and of the Bureau of Foreign Supplies.

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