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 A consideration of such vital importance could not escape the attention of one who, like General Beauregard, had been assigned to so high a position in the defence of his country. Early in May, 1861, when the blast of the clarion had hardly sounded defiance to the enemy, the General pressed upon the Government the adoption of a plan which seemed feasible, and which might have been of incalculable advantage to the Confederate States. A fleet of ten East India steamers was offered the Confederate Government, then at Montgomery, through Mr. W. L. Trenholm, speaking in the name and by authority of the house of John Frazer & Co., of Liverpool. His father, like himself, an American—Hon. George A. Trenholm—was a member of that English house, and stood so high in the estimate of our Government that he was subsequently appointed Secretary of the Treasury, after the resignation of Mr. Memminger. The character and position of that individual should have given great weight to that proposition. Mr. Prioleau, one of that firm, and, I believe, a distinguished citizen of South Carolina, is quoted by Colonel Roman as making the following statement: I had, from the very beginning of the struggle, been more impressed with the vital importance of the seaports than with anything else. I regarded them as the lungs of the country, which, once really closed, asphyxia must follow. I therefore took an early occasion to go to London to see what could be had in the shape of vessels fit to take and keep the sea for a lengthened period, and strong enough to carry an armament which would render them efficient war vessels, or, at all events, apt to cope with those of the enemy engaged in the blockade of the coast. ‘I was fortunate in finding exactly what I wanted. A fleet of first-class East-Indiamen was lying there idle, under circumstances of a financial nature, which made them available to a buyer at less than half their cost. They had been built with a view of being armed if required, and also to be used as transports for troops, as well as to carry valuable cargoes and treasure in time of peace. Four of them were vessels of great size and power, and of the very first class, and there were six others which, although smaller, were scarcely inferior for the required purpose. Having, with the assistance of an expert, thoroughly inspected them all, I at once entered into negotiations for their purchase, and having secured them for the reply of the Confederate authorities, I submitted the proposal,’ etc. * * * The total cost of buying, arming, and fitting out the ten ships was
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