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Remarks Relative To Iron-Clad Gunboats

14, 1863.

Our gunboats are defective in six respects.

FIRST. They have no speed, going only from 3 to 5 miles an hour, in smooth water and no current.

SECOND. They are of too great draught to navigate our inland waters.

THIRD. They are unseaworthy, by their shape and construction, as represented by naval officers. Even in the harbor, they are at times considered unsafe in a storm.

FOURTH. They are incapable of resisting the enemy's 15-inch shots at close quarters, as shown by the Atlanta, in Warsaw Sound last spring.

FIFTH. They cannot fight at long range, their guns not admitting an elevation greater than from 5 to 7, corresponding to 1 to 1 miles range. Even at long range, naval officers are of opinion that the oblique sides and flat decks of our gunboats would not resist the plunging shots of the enemy's 200 and 300 pounders.

(The best proof of the total failure of the three iron-clad gunboats, Chicora, Palmetto State, and Charleston, constructed at such cost and labor, is that, although commanded by our most gallant officers, they did not fire one shot in the defense of Fort Sumter during the naval attack of the 7th of April last, nor have they fired a shot in the defense of Morris Island and Sumter during the present siege which has lasted over four months, excepting on one occasion, the assault on Sumter during the night of September 8 last, when the Chicora fired a few shots on the enemy's boats and barges.)

SIXTH. They are very costly, warm, uncomfortable, and badly ventilated, consequently sickly.

       The enemy's iron-clads being invulnerable to shots above water beyond 800 yards, they should be attacked below water. The best way to accomplish this is by means of swift sea-going steamers, capable of traveling 10 or 12 miles all hour, shot-proof above water and armed with Capt. F. D. Lee's submarine repeating spar torpedo, which is both simple and certain in its operation. Not one of his submarine torpedoes has yet failed to explode on striking a resisting object. The experiment of the David, a small cigar torpedo-boat, against the New Ironsides, shows the effect of a 70-pound torpedo, only 6 feet below water, on the thick sides--over 5 feet--of that sea monster. Since the attack, about one month ago, the New Ironsides has not fired one shot, notwithstanding the renewed bombardment of Sumter has been going on twenty days and nights, showing evidently that she has been seriously injured. Moreover, she has left her anchorage only once for about half an hour, when she returned to her former position, abreast of Morris Island. It is stated that a proper sized steamer, 400 or 500 tons, built like a blockade runner, but made shot-proof, and armed with one of Lee's repeating submarine torpedo apparatus, could be built, in about three months' working time in England, for the sum of about $250,000.
       I venture to say that with one of those vessels here, the blockade of Charleston could be raised in less than one week, and the army of Gillmore captured very shortly afterward. Half a dozen of these steamers would raise the blockade of our Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and enable us to recover the navigation of the Mississippi River. Indeed, a few years hence, we will ask ourselves in astonishment, how it was that with such a great discovery, offering such magnificent results, we never applied it to any useful purpose in this contest for our homes and independence. It is evident, according to Lord John Russell's own views, that those steamers can be constructed in England, as shot-proof, unarmed blockade runners, without incurring the risk of being seized by the English Government.

General, C. S. Army.

Source:  Official Records of the War of the Rebellion

This Page last updated 10/18/03


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