The blockade and the cruisers.
The Naval War of 1861 was marked by two principal features.
The first is that while one side had a small force of naval vessels, which were generally good of their kind, the other entered the contest with absolutely nothing that could be called a man-of-war.
The second is that though certain developments in the character and construction of ships and of weapons had been foreshadowed before the war, and had even been partially realized, it was while the struggle was actually in progress that changes took place in these respects which amounted to a revolution in naval warfare.
At the beginning the fact that sailing vessels were soon to be laid aside was still far from general recognition, especially among officers of conservative tendencies; the three great weapons of to-day, the rifled gun, the ram, and the torpedo, were almost unknown in the service; and iron armor was still an experiment.
The modifications of the past fifteen years had accustomed men's minds to the idea that considerable changes would gradually take place; but none foresaw or were prepared for the tremendous development that was wrought in four years of actual fighting.
Modern naval warfare was therefore almost a new art to the officers that were called in 1861 into active service.
The long period of profound peace that followed the wars of Napoleon
had been broken only by the war with Mexico
in 1846, the Crimean War
in 1854, and the Franco-Austrian War
None of these was marked by naval operations on any important scale, and such operations as there were indicated but faintly the coming development.
In the contest with Mexico
, steamers were used in war for the first time; but the enemy was so destitute of naval resources that their overwhelming importance was not fully recognized.
The operations of the navy were confined to the attack of imperfectly-fortified points on the seaboard, and to blockading a country that had no commercial importance.
The Crimean War advanced a step farther.
The destruction of the Turkish fleet at Sinope
, in 1853, showed the effectiveness of horizontal shell-firing, as invented by Paixhans
, while the success of the French ironclads at Kinburn led the way to the practice of casing ships-of-war in armor.
In 1858 experiments were made at Portsmouth
with the Erebus
and Meteor, two lightly-armored floating batteries; and these were followed, in France
and in England
, by the Gloire and the Warrior
, veritable ironclad cruisers.
But the new system was still in its experimental stage; and it was left to the war of 1861 to show clearly its practical value.
The application of armor to the sides of vessels was accompanied, or rather induced, by improvements in ordnance, especially by the introduction of rifled guns in Europe
and of the heavy cast-iron smooth-bores of Dahlgren
Both these improvements, however, were of recent date.
The first successful employment of rifled cannon in actual war was made by the French
in the Italian
1859; while the heavy Dahlgren
guns had hardly been ten years in use, and were still undergoing development.
In regard to the ram, though seemingly a paradox, it may be said that its employment in naval warfare was so ancient that in 1861 it was really a new weapon.
Its revival was a direct consequence of the application of steam to the propulsion of vessels.
had used it in their galley-fights with destructive effect; and it was only displaced by heavy guns when oars were displaced by sails, when ships no longer fought end-on, but broadside to broadside, and when the close-hauled line ahead took the place of the direct attack in line abreast, of the old galley tactics.
The introduction of steam, by giving ships-of-war a motive power under their own control, independent of the action of the wind—an advantage similar to that which the triremes possessed in their banks of oars—revived the trireme's mode of attack, and made the ram once more an effective weapon.
But in 1861 this phase of naval development had not been recognized, and the sinking of the Cumberland
, in March of the next year, first revealed the addition that steam had made to the number and variety of implements of destruction.
Torpedoes, though of more recent introduction than rams, were not wholly new weapons.
The idea of the torpedo, first discovered by Bushnell
, and developed by Fulton
, was rejected by the English Government
in 1805, because it was recognized as giving an advantage to a weak navy over a powerful one, and its adoption could only impair the maritime supremacy of Great Britain
On account of this advantage which the torpedo gave to the weaker side, it was brought into use by the Russians in the Crimea, and, though none of the allied vessels were destroyed by its agency, it none the less contributed appreciably to the protection of Russian
But its great importance was not established
until the Civil War
, and then only in the second year.
The Confederates took it up for the same reason that the Russians had adopted it in 1854, and the English
had rejected it in 1805.
Driven by the poverty of their naval resources to the use of every device that ingenuity could suggest, in the fall of 1862 they established a bureau at Richmond
to elaborate and systematize torpedo warfare; and the destruction of the Housatonic
, the Tecumseh
, the Patapsco
, and many smaller vessels, showed the tremendous power of the newly adopted weapon.
From the fact that the navy at this period was concerned with an essentially living and growing science, it was important that its officers, above all in the senior grades, should be men of progressive minds and of energetic and rapid action.
Especially was this the case when the navy found itself upon the threshold of a great war, in which every variety of naval operation was to be attempted, and every contrivance of mechanical art was to be employed.
No doubt a war always brings new men to the front, irrespective of rank or age. But the main object of a navy's existence in time of peace is to be in a condition of instant readiness for war, and this object can only be attained by having the ablest and most energetic men in the foremost places.
Unless such a provision is made, and made before war begins, the possibilities of naval development will be neglected; the vigor and audacity that should mark the earlier operations of a war will be wanting; and the opportunity of striking sharp and sudden blows at the outset will be lost.
Unfortunately, in 1861, the arrangement of the navy list failed to meet this essential condition of readiness for active operations.
Long years of peace, the unbroken course of seniority promotion, and the absence of any provision for retirement, had filled the highest grade with gallant veterans,
most of whom had reached an age that unfitted them for active service afloat.
At the head of the list were the seventy-eight captains.
A few of them were men of commanding talents, and these few left their mark upon the records of the war. Of the rest, some had obtained distinction in an earlier period of their career.
But it is only in exceptional men that the physical and mental vigor is to be found that resists the enfeebling influences of advancing years; and it would be unjust to expect the active operations of war to be successfully carried on by a body of commanding officers most of whom had passed their sixtieth year.
This was, however, only one of the difficulties of the situation.
The excessive accumulation of older officers at the head of the list was felt as a heavy drag all the way down to the foot.
Promotion was blocked, as there was no provision for retirement; and the commanders and lieutenants, many of whom were conspicuous for ability and energy, were stagnating in subordinate positions.
The commanders at the head of the list were between fifty-eight and sixty years of age—a time of life at which few men are useful for active service.
The upper lieutenants were forty-eight or fifty—some indeed were past fifty—and very few were in command of vessels, as there were two hundred officers above them.
of the Hartford
, at that time the flagship of the East India squadron, had been thirty-four years in the service.
He and his contemporaries, who had entered the navy at sixteen or thereabout, had not yet risen to the responsibilities of command.
This enforced continuance in subordinate stations could not fail to tell upon even the best men. The tendency of such a system is to make mere routine men, and to substitute apathy and inindolence for zeal and energy.
If a man that has had proper
training is not fit for command at thirty-six, it is not likely that he will ever be fit for it. If he has reached the point of fitness, every year of postponement, unless he is a very extraordinary man, is a year of deterioration.
The efficiency of the service was further weakened by the vicious system of promotion by seniority, to which the navy has always clung tenaciously, in the face of reason and precedent, of the analogies of civil preferment, and the example of other military and naval establishments.
The defects of this system may be briefly indicated.
Every man who lives long enough, unless gross incompetency can be proved against him, goes to the head of the list, while those who have entered the service later, however much they may excel in ability or zeal, remain below to wait their turn.
It is purely a question of survival.
An officer comes to look upon promotion as his light, apart from any considerations of merit or distinction.
Public opinion in the service has no leaders, for the leading minds are not destined, as they would be in every other profession, to gravitate to the leading positions.
They simply take their turn.
The natural conservatism of a military body is exaggerated, and judgment becomes warped by tradition.
As promotion is sure, there is no inducement to effort.
No one will readily assume responsibility, for he only runs a risk without any prospect of reward.
It is not so much the presence of poor material that injures a service, as its elevation by an iron rule of promotion, and the enforced subordination of more capable men. As the Secretary of the Navy
in 1855 tersely put it, ‘It is neither more nor less than elevating the incompetent, and then ordering the unpromoted competent to do their work.’
It became evident, shortly after the war began, that steps must be taken to remedy the existing state of things; but
nothing could be done at once, and it was only in December, 1861, that a law was passed retiring all officers at the age of sixty-two, or after forty-five years of service.
By the same law, any captain or commander might be selected for the command of a squadron, with the rank of flag-officer, which should give him authority over his seniors in the squadron.
Another act, passed in the following summer, created the grades of rear-admiral and commodore, recast the whole corps of officers, and established promotion by selection temporarily in the highest grade.
These measures, though late in coming, had the desired effect.
The veterans were gradually replaced by younger men; the commanders and lieutenants were raised to the places they were qualified to fill; and new life was infused into the service.
But the spirit of routine had for thirty years pervaded the naval establishment, and the change could not be effected in a day. The whole tendency of the navy had been to preserve traditions, and to repress individuality in the junior officers
Men thought alike, talked alike, and acted alike.
The officers in active service, grown old in the lower grades, and but little encouraged to exercise their powers of volition, had come to regard themselves as parts of a machine, and to wait for the orders of their superior.
As a general thing, the assumption of responsibility was neither desired nor permitted; and the subordinate who presumed, even in an emergency, to act upon his own judgment, was apt to bring down upon himself official censure.
It is related of one of the captains at the battle of New Orleans
, a man of unquestioned courage, that when he fell in with the Manassas
, the hailed ship after ship to obtain an order from the admiral to run her down.
Nor was this an extreme case.
As it happened, the character of the war was such as to call especially for self-reliance, resolute action, readiness of resource, and
the exercise of individual judgment.
But confirmed habits are not easily shaken off; and the operations of the first two years show from time to time the persistence of oldtradi-tions.
Nothing short of a complete upheaval of the service brought about the needful change; commanders became admirals by a single step; and junior officers became first-lieutenants of the ships in which they were serving as midshipmen.
Finally, when the great leaders came into positions of active command, their encouragement and approval of individual enterprise gave to their juniors the opportunities of which the latter were only too eager to avail themselves.
It was another unfortunate feature of the situation, that while there was a superabundance of old officers, there was a deficiency in the junior grades.
Below the lieutenants there were less than a hundred masters and midshipmen.
These, together with a dozen of the younger lieutenants, were graduates of the Naval Academy; and their service during the war showed the value of their thorough training.
To fill the gap at the foot of the list the three upper classes of acting midshipmen were ordered from the Academy into active service.
Most of these were mere boys.
They found themselves, with only the experience of two or three years at the Naval School, suddenly placed in positions of difficulty and responsibility.
Many of them were lieutenants at nineteen; but no better work was done in the naval war than that which was placed in the hands of these lads from the Academy.
The deficiency of officers was increased by the resignation or dismissal of those who took side with the South
There were 322 of these of all grades and corps, and among them were several of marked ability.
But even without the losses occasioned by retirement and by resignation, the number of
officers would have been wholly insufficient to meet the demands of the war. Volunteers were called for, and great numbers entered the service.
There were appointed altogether about 7,500.
The regular officers formed only one-seventh of the whole service; but in general they filled the most important positions.
The additions to the line of the navy were composed of a great variety of material.
Some were merchant captains and mates of experience; others had never been at sea. Those employed on the Mississippi
were chiefly steamboat men and pilots.
Many of them were capable and gallant men, who, though unused to the handling of guns and the discipline of a military service, conducted themselves honorably and acquitted themselves with credit.
As a class, the volunteers were an indispensable addition to the naval force, and rendered valuable service.
Without the least reflection upon their good qualities, it may be said that their efficiency would have been increased by a previous military training.
But no attempt had ever been made to form a reserve for the navy; and the administration was fortunate when it secured any nautical experience, although military training might be wholly wanting.
Great as was the want of officers, the want of trained seamen was equally great.
The complement of the navy had been fixed at 7,600.
Of these there were on March 10, 1861, only 207 in all the ports and receiving-ships on the Atlantic coast
It was a striking illustration of the improvidence of naval legislation and administration, that in a country of thirty millions of people only a couple of hundred were at the disposal of the Navy Department.
Seamen could not be had either to man the slips that might be commissioned, or to protect the exposed stations at Annapolis
Prompt measures were taken during the first year to increase
the force; and later, a great expansion took place.
In July, 1863, there were 34,000 men in the service.
But at all times there was a difficulty in obtaining trained seamen.
Large bounties were offered by State and local authorities for enlistment in the army, and transfers between the two services were not authorized by law. When the draft was established, mariners were subjected to it like other citizens, without any regard to the service which they would prefer, or for which they might be specially fitted.
In assigning the quotas to each locality, no allowance was made to maritime communities for the seamen they had furnished; so that they were forced, in self-defence, to send their seafaring population into the army.
In 1864, a law was passed correcting these evils; but meantime the navy suffered, and vessels were occasionally unable to go to sea for want of men. As the necessities of the service grew more pressing, the number of men in the navy increased.
To obtain them, it was necessary to hold out extraordinary inducements; and in the last months, bounties as high as one thousand dollars were offered and paid for a single seaman.
When the war ended, there were 51,500 men in the service.
Nothing shows more forcibly the dependence of the navy upon the merchant marine for recruiting its ranks in time of war than the enormous additions both of officers and seamen that took place between 1861 and 1865.
It is from the merchant marine that such reinforcements must always be chiefly drawn.
To fill the cadres of the army a well-trained and organized militia stands always ready, at least in many of the States; but no steps have ever been taken toward establishing a sea-militia, even since its importance has been demonstrated by the war. A trained reserve force is a greater necessity for the navy than for the army, not because the one service is more important than the other, but because
its ranks are less easily recruited.
It may be said that drill will make any man a soldier, while a special training is required to make an efficient man-of-war's man. The army is purely a military profession; the navy combines two professions—each an occupation by itself—the military and the nautical.
Hence the greater necessity for the navy of a large body of trained officers; and hence, also, the greater importance of a partially-trained naval reserve.
In materiel, the navy was by no means in a backward condition.
The wise policy, begun before the establishment of the Navy Department, of building vessels which should be the best possible specimens of their class, had been steadily adhered to; and in war-ship construction the United States
still held, and continued to hold until 1867, a place very near the highest.
When the importance of steam as a motive power had become established, the early side-wheelers were built,—first the Mississippi
, and later the Powhatan
, and Saranac.
The Powhatan and Susquehanna
, at the time they were launched, in 1850, were the most efficient naval vessels afloat.
Next came the six screw-frigates, which were built in 1855, and were regarded all the world over as the model men-of-war of the period.
Of these the largest was the Niagara
The other five, the Roanoke
, Colorado, Merrimac
, Minnesota, and Wabash, were vessels of a little over three thousand tons, and they carried, for their day, a powerful battery.
Again, in 1858, twelve screw-sloops of two classes were built, most of which were admirable vessels, though they were wanting, with a few exceptions, in the important quality of speed.
The first class, vessels of about two thousand tons, included the Lancaster
, and Pensacola
The second class, of which the Pawnee
were the largest, were also serviceable vessels.
Finally, in February,
1861, Congress had made appropriation for seven new screw-sloops, which were intended to be as efficient as their predecessors.
But these measures, well-judged though they were, were only a first step in the general conversion of the naval force from sailing vessels into steamers.
Of the ninety names borne on the Navy Register
in 1861, fifty were those of vessels of the older type—ships-of-the-line, frigates, sloops, and brigs.
Several of the liners were still on the stocks, never having been completed.
The others were notable ships in their day, but their day was past and gone forever.
The list of frigates was headed by the Constitution
and the United States
, built originally in the last century, and rendered famous by the victories of 1812.
Others had been built within a more recent period, but the type had not been materially altered.
The frigates were useful as receiving and practice-ships; but as far as war–service was concerned, they had only a historic value.
But little more could be said of the sloops and brigs; and the remainder of the sailing fleet were store-ships.
Though swelling the total of ships-of-war to a considerable figure, the sailing vessels added little or nothing to the efficiency of the force.
This fact explains, in some degree, the inadequacy of the navy at the beginning of the war. A change had taken place about fifteen years before in the motive power of ships, so radical that all the constructions of an earlier date were completely superseded.
In 1840 the navy was stronger for its day than in 1860; because in 1840 all its ships were ships of the period, while in 1860 only half the fleet could be so regarded.
The distance in time that separated the second Macedonian from the Powhatan
was not much greater than that between the Powhatan
and the Hartford
; yet in the first case the change was a revolution,
while in the second it was only a development.
A captain that fought the Invincible Armada
would have been more at home in the typical war-ship of 1840, than the average captain of 1840 could have been at that time in the advanced types of the Civil War
. As a matter of fact, it was no uncommon thing in 1861 to find officers in command of steamers who had never served in steamers before, and who were far more anxious about their boilers than about their enemy.
As naval science had advanced more in the last twenty-five years than in the two hundred years preceding, more than half the vessels on the navy list had become suddenly useless, and the effective force was narrowed down to the forty that had steam as a motive power.
Another fact which helped to account for the want of preparation in 1861 was the supineness of the Navy Department during the last months of Buchanan
Few wars come on without some note of warning; and this was no exception.
The effective force, small as it was, might easily have been so disposed as to be ready for an emergency, without even exciting comment.
The failure to take the necessary measures need not, however, be imputed to a treacherous sympathy with the insurgents.
It was only a part of the general policy of inaction, deliberately adopted by the Government
during the winter of 1860–‘61, which forbade any measures pointing even remotely to coercion.
The most ordinary preparations were neglected; and if the crippling of the fleet had been intentional, it could not have been more effectual.
Of the forty steamers included in the general list, five were unserviceable, two of them being still on the stocks, and the others useless except as receiving-ships.
Two more were mere tugs, and, together with the Michigan
, stationed on the lakes, may be thrown out of the calculation.
Eight others, including the five frigates, were laid up in ordinary.
There remained twenty-four steamers, whose disposition on the 4th of March was as follows: ***
It will be observed that of the twelve vessels composing the Home Squadron, seven were steamers; and of these only three, the Pawnee
, and Crusader
, were in northern ports and at the immediate disposal of the new administration.
The best part of the fleet was scattered all over the world.
In the matter of ordnance, as in ships, the navy had been making active progress.
In the old sailing vessels, the
32 pounder, which was simply a development of the 18s and 24s of 1812, and the Viii-inch shell-gun were still the usual guns.
Since 1850, the powerful Dahlgren
smooth-bore shell-guns had been introduced, and the new steam-frigates and sloops were armed with them.
The Ix-inch guns of this description were mounted in broadside, and the Xi-inch (with a few X-inch) on pivots.
The powers of the Xi-inch had not been fully tested, and the prescribed service-charge was smaller than it was afterward found that the gun would bear.
The latest development of the smooth-bore gun was the Xv-inch, one of which was generally mounted in each monitor turret.
Rifled guns were gradually introduced during the war. These were chiefly Parrott guns, 20-, 30-, and 100-pounders.
They were cast-iron guns, strengthened by a wrought-iron band around the breech.
Later, 60-pounders and 150-pounders were manufactured.
gun of the smaller calibres was serviceable, but as a heavy gun it was dangerous, and occasionally burst.
Besides the Parrott guns, a few light cast-iron Dahlgren rifles were made; and in the Western
flotilla, when it was transferred to the navy, there were several army rifled 42-pounders, which were so dangerous as to be nearly useless.
The demands of the new service were many and various.
There was the river service, where the navy acted largely in co-operation with the army, in the reduction of fortified points, and in opening and keeping open the lines of communication.
For this the essential qualification was light draft.
It needed small handy vessels, capable of approaching the shore, and of passing through shallow and difficult channels.
Quite distinct from it was the ocean service, which meant the pursuit and capture of Confederate cruisers, and of vessels engaged in illegal trade.
The prime necessity here was speed.
Lastly, there was the coast service,
comprising the maintenance of the blockade, and detached operations against fortifications protected by powerful batteries.
The blockade required vessels that combined both speed and light draft, together with seaworthiness, and a certain degree of force to resist the sudden attacks which were made from time to time, in the hope of raising the blockade, or what was perhaps of equal importance, of inducing a belief abroad that such a result had been accomplished.
The attack of fortified harbors, on the other hand, though from the nature of things carried on in connection with the blockade, called for an entirely different type of vessel.
Here, force pure and simple, was needed; force offensive and defensive, heavy guns and heavy armor.
For all these kinds of service, vessels were required, and vessels in great numbers.
A small force could accomplish nothing.
The operations on the Mississippi
and its tributaries alone, operations which were second to none in extent and efficiency, and carried on wholly in the enemy's country, required a large fleet.
For the ocean service, the vessels, to accomplish their object, must be numerous; while a very few served every purpose of the enemy.
It was easy for the half-dozen commerce-destroyers to catch merchantmen, with which every sea was filled, while it was a very difficult matter to catch the half-dozen commerce-destroyers.
Similarly, the blockade service required vessels at every port and inlet; otherwise it was not even legal, to say nothing of its being ineffective.
In meeting the wants of the navy, the new administration proceeded with energy.
All the ships on foreign stations, except three, were recalled.
Measures were taken at once to increase the force by fitting out all the serviceable vessels that were laid up, by building in navy yards, and in private yards on contract, and by purchase in the open market.
difficulties were great, for the force required was enormous; and there were neither officers, men, ships, nor guns available, nor authority to procure them.
Ship-owners had failed to see that steamers were to supplant sailing-vessels for commercial purposes, and though the merchant marine was still considerable, it had not been modernized.
Nor had any systematic plan been adopted, by which a Government inspection might secure the construction of merchant vessels, imperfectly perhaps, yet in some degree adapted for conversion into men of war. Indeed, in the absence of a demand, ship-builders were not prepared to supply steamers of any kind to a considerable extent.
The number of machine-shops was small—from twenty to thirty at the most—and their plant only equal to the ordinary work of the construction and repair of machinery.
There were not more than eight of these of any considerable size; and, in the sudden demand for locomotives and transports for the army and for marine engines for the navy, they were strained to the utmost.
Five distinct measures were immediately adopted for the increase of the naval force.
The first was to buy everything afloat that could be made of service.
Purchases were made directly by the Department, or by officers acting under its direction.
By the 1st of July, twelve steamers had been bought, and nine were employed under charter.
Subsequently it appeared that the business of purchasing, being a purely mercantile matter, might be suitably placed in the hands of a business man, who should act as the responsible agent of the Department in conducting the transactions.
This plan was adopted in July.
Each purchase was inspected by a board of officers, and in this way the Department was enabled to secure, as far as any such were to be found, suitable vessels at a suitable price.
The board of inspection could not exact a very high degree of excellence or
fitness, because everything afloat that could in any way be made to answer a purpose was pressed into the service.
The vessels were of all sizes and descriptions, from screw-steamers and side-wheelers of two thousand tons to ferry-boats and tugs.
Some of the larger steamers were fast vessels and made efficient cruisers.
, the Cuyler
, the De Soto
, and the Santiago de Cuba
paid for their cost several times over in the prizes they captured.
The majority of the purchased steamers were between one hundred and eight hundred tons.
Some of the least promising of these improvised men-of-war did good service against blockade-runners.
The steamer Circassian
, one of the most valuable prizes made during the war, was captured outside of Havana
by a Fulton ferry-boat.
Even for fighting purposes, however, the ferry-boats, with their heavy guns, were by no means to be despised.
There were purchased altogether up to December, 1861, 79 steamers and 58 sailing vessels, 137 in all. The number of vessels bought during the whole war amounted to 418, of which 313 were steamers.
After the war was over, they were rapidly sold, at less than half their cost.
The second measure adopted by the administration was the construction of sloops-of-war.
Seven of these had been authorized by Congress in February, but the Department resolved to build eight, assigning two to each navy yard.
Four of these vessels, the Oneida
, Wachusett, and Tuscarora
, were reproductions of three of the sloops of 1858, which made the work of construction quicker and easier, the designs being already prepared.
In the latter part of 1861, eight additional sloops were built, of the same general class, but larger.
All these fourteen sloops, like their models of two years before, were excellent vessels, and several of them are still in the service as second-rates and third-rates.
The third measure adopted by the Department, on its own responsibility, without waiting for the action of Congress, was to contract with private parties for the construction of small, heavily armed screw-gunboats.
Twenty-three of these were built, of which the Unadilla
may be regarded as types.
They were of five hundred and seven tons each, and mounted from four to seven guns.
Some of them, within four months from the date of contract, were afloat, armed, and manned, and took part in the battle of Port Royal
From their rapid construction, they were commonly known as the ‘ninety-day gunboats.’
Nine of them were in Farragut
's fleet at the passage of the forts below New Orleans.
They were an important addition to the navy, and were actively employed both in fighting and blockading during the whole war.
For service in the rivers and in narrow sounds and channels, still another class of vessels was needed.
To meet this want, a fourth measure was adopted, by building twelve paddle-wheel steamers, three or four hundred tons larger than the gunboats, but still small vessels, and of very light draft.
To avoid the necessity of turning, they were provided with a double bow, and a rudder at each end. These were the famous ‘double-enders.’
The first twelve were the so-called Octorara
Twenty-seven larger vessels of the same type were afterwards built, composing the Sassacus
, a vessel of the same size and general design, was built of iron.
Finally the Mohongo
class, also of iron, consisted of seven double-enders of still larger size, and carrying a heavier armament.
still represent this class in the service
The fifth and last measure for the increase of the naval
force was the construction of ironclads.
Congress had passed, at the extra session in August, an appropriation of a million and a half dollars for armored vessels, to be built upon plans approved by a board of officers.
The board was composed of three of the ablest captains in the service, Smith
, and Davis
Out of a large number of plans proposed, three were selected by the board and ordered by the Department.
Upon these plans were built the New Ironsides, the Galena
, and the Monitor
Most of the measures, as outlined above, refer to the first year of the war; but these five types of vessels, converted merchantmen, sloops, gunboats, double-enders, and ironclads, represent the additions to the sea-going navy during the four years. There was also an immense liver fleet, composed of liver-steamboats, rams, ironclads, tinclads,
and mortar-boats, a collection of nondescripts, which under the leadership of able commanders, made the naval operations on the Mississippi
as brilliant and successful as any in the war.
In the construction of the new ships-of-war, no attempt was made to reproduce the fine screw-frigates of 1855, as they failed to show their usefulness, except perhaps at Port Royal
and at Fort Fisher
could not be got over the bar, when Farragut
went up to New Orleans, and the Roanoke
were helpless at Hampton Roads
In the latter half of the war, however, the Department undertook the construction of a class of vessels of considerable size, but very different in character.
These were large, wooden steamers, with fine lines, excessively long and sharp and narrow, of light draft for their size, in which every quality was sacrificed to speed.
In some of these the length was as great as eight times the beam.
They were to be seagoing cruisers.
Their main purpose was to capture the commerce-destroyers; and perhaps, in case of foreign complications,
to do a little commerce-destroying themselves.
Their armament was heavy; but armament was not their principal feature.
Above all things, they were to be fast; and in those that were built, the desired result was generally secured.
One of them, the Wampanoag or Florida
, succeeded in attaining for a short time the extraordinary speed of seventeen and three-fourths knots an hour.
The plan which comprehended the construction of these vessels was a scheme of somewhat large dimensions, and was never completed.
Of the three principal types, named respectively after the Ammonoosuc
, the Java
, and the Contoocook, twenty-eight vessels were projected, and most of them were begun; but few of them were launched, and these only after the close of the war. Under the pressure of urgent necessity, they were built of unseasoned white-oak timber, instead of the live-oak which had been hitherto used for ships-of-war; and such of them as were finished were no sooner in the water than they began to decay.
Six years after the war was ended, the chief constructor
, writing of these vessels, reported that some of them, costing over a million of dollars, had made only one cruise, and then had been found too rotten to be repaired.
They served the purpose, however of contributing, with other circumstances, to modify the menacing attitude of foreign powers; and their serious imperfections were the necessary result of the situation.
The Administration was bound to do its utmost to provide for every contingency; and the failure of preparation during peace, when plans could be matured, and materials accumulated at leisure, compelled, when the time of action came, a hurried and lavish expenditure.
Great as was the task before the United States Government in preparing for a naval war, it was as nothing to that
of the enemy.
The latter had at his disposal a small number of trained officers imbued with the same ideas, and brought up in the same school, as their opponents.
Some of these, like Buchanan
, and Brooke
, were men of extraordinary professional qualities; but except in its officers, the Confederate Government had nothing in the shape of a navy.
It had not a single ship-of-war.
It had no abundant fleet of merchant-vessels in its ports from which to draw reserves.
It had no seamen, for its people were not given to seafaring pursuits.
Its only shipyards were Norfolk
, with its immense supplies of ordnance and equipments, was indeed invaluable; but though the three hundred new Dahlgren guns captured in the yard were a permanent acquisition, the yard itself was lost when the war was one-fourth over.
The South was without any large force of skilled mechanics; and such as it had were early summoned to the army.
There were only three rolling-mills in the country, two of which were in Tennessee
; and the third, at Atlanta
, was unfitted for heavy work.
There were hardly any machine-shops that were prepared to supply the best kind of workmanship; and in the beginning the only foundry capable of casting heavy guns was the Tredegar Iron Works, which under the direction of Commander Brooke
, was employed to its fullest capacity.
Worst of all, there were no raw materials, except the timber that was standing in the forests.
The cost of iron was enormous, and toward the end of the war it was hardly to be had at any price.
Under these circumstances, no general plan of naval policy on a large scale could be carried out; and the conflict on the Southern
side became a species of partisan, desultory warfare.
A Navy Department had been established by an act of the Provisional Congress on February 21.
had been Chairman
of the Committee
on Naval Affairs in the United States Senate, was appointed Secretary of the Navy
In matters relating to ordnance and armor, the leading spirit at the Department was Commander Brooke
, who was afterward Chief of Bureau
As early as the 15th of March an appropriation of one million dollars was made for the construction or purchase of ten steam-gunboats.
The Administration made tremendous efforts to create a navy; but in spite of the greatest perseverance and ingenuity, it found itself checked and hampered at every turn.
By dint of using everything it could lay hands on, it got together in the beginning a small and scattered fleet, which had hardly the semblance of a naval force.
Six of the revenuecutters came early into its possession.
The steam-battery Fulton
was seized at Pensacola
, and $25,000 were appropriated to complete and equip her. The Merrimac
was presently raised at Norfolk
, and found to have no serious injury.
Encouragement was given to private enterprise, by Davis
's immediate adoption of the plan of issuing letters-of-marque.
It was recognized that one of the most vulnerable points on the Union
side lay in its commerce; and it was against commerce alone that the insurgent navy throughout the war was able to sustain the offensive.
The Federal Government could not retaliate, because there was no commerce to retaliate upon.
The carrying trade of the South
was in foreign hands; and the only way to assail it was .by establishing a blockade, which affixed to it an illegal character.
Powerless to raise the blockade of their own coast, and much less to establish one at the North
, the Confederates
confined their aggressions chiefly to merchant vessels; and having, by the address of their agents, and the negligence of the English
authorities, secured a few cruisers well adapted for the purpose, they inflicted injuries
on the American
merchant marine from which it never recovered.
But this was warfare for which only a few vessels were needed.
For strictly naval warfare, where ships-of-war measured themselves against each other, the South
was never able to accumulate a sufficient force.
Old vessels were altered, new vessels were built at different points, and some of them were for a time successful, or at least did not yield without a hard struggle; but there was no possibility, except perhaps for a time on the Mississippi
, of sustained or concerted action.
The naval force that opposed Goldsborough
in the Sounds
was pitifully weak, as was that which Dupont
found at Port Royal
Little more could be said of the squadron at New Orleans, though the ironclad Mississippi
, if accident and mismanagement had not delayed her commission, might have given Farragut
's fleet some annoyance.
, under the gallant Buchanan
, fought almost single-handed the whole fleet, only to be captured after a heroic defence.
, the Atlanta
was captured almost as soon as she appeared.
was never able to make more than a raid or two.
on the blockading force.
maintained herself for six months in the waters of North Carolina
, but she was blockaded in the Roanoke River
, and was finally destroyed by the daring of Cushing
Finally the Merrimao, which was lost through our own shortcomings, had a brilliant but brief career in Hampton Roads
These isolated attempts comprised, together with the exploits of the cruisers, the sum of the naval operations on the Southern
side; Viewed in the light of the difficulties to be met by the Confederate navy, they were little less than phenomenal.
But as forming a standard of comparison for future wars, or for the strength of future enemies, they are hardly
to be considered.
To-day we are worse off, for the period in which we live, than we were in 1861, when the feebleness of our enemy gave us eight months for preparation; and if it should ever be our misfortune to be involved in another war, we shall probably have a far more formidable antagonist to encounter, and one prepared to carry on hostilities from the very outset.