Several weeks ago Mr. Virginius Newton, of this
city, was requested by the members of Lee Camp to read before that body
a paper relating to some of the numerous episodes during the late war.
Mr. Newton responded with the promptness of a gallant soldier, and selected
as his subject the Confederate Navy and its noble deeds.
He succeeded in giving in the most condensed form a statement of the many noble deeds executed by men who offered their lives to the cause of the Confederacy, and selected the navy as their field of operation.
In greeting you to-night, the mind, by that law
which induces contrast, leaps the gap of thirty years, and bodies forth
in memory that gallant host which lived in days that tried men's souls,
and linked heart to heart "with hoops of steel."
Men of a boundless devotion, uncalculating sacrifice, magnificent heroism, unequaled endurance, whose names, whose deeds, deeply etched upon the scroll of fame, shall live upon the lips of men, shall be lisped by the tongues of the babes of your land, so long as the English speech shall be voiced upon this planet. As comrades, as survivors of this host that laid down life itself in defence of your sacred soil, in defence of the cause of civil liberty, you I salute with
The iron required was in the bowels of the earth.
Hemp must be sown, grown, reaped, and there were no rope walks. You had
never produced a sufficiency of iron in times of peace, and now, with the
advent of war to increase its uses, the price rose from $25 to $1,300 per
No powder was stored in any of the Southern States, except in small quantities. That captured at Norfolk, and in some arsenals, amounted, it is said, to sixty thousand pounds.
The stock of percussion caps was less than 500,000, and not a machine for making them could be found in the South.
Colonel Gorgas says: "We began in April, 1861, without an arsenal, laboratory or powder mill of any capacity, and with no foundry or rolling mill, except at Richmond. During the harassments of war, holding our own in the field defiantly and successfully, against a powerful enemy; crippled by a depreciated currency, throttled by a blockade, which prevented our getting material or workmen; obliged to send almost every able-bodied man into the field; unable to use slave labor, except in the most unskilled departments; hampered by want of transportation, even of the commonest supplies of food; with no stock on hand, even of such articles as steel, copper, iron, or leather, with which to build up our establishments; against all these obstacles, and in spite of all these deficiencies, we created, before the close of 1863, literally out of the ground, foundries and rolling mills at Richmond, Selma, Atlanta and Macon, smelting works at Petersburg, chemical works at Charlotte, a powder mill far superior to any in the United States, unsurpassed by any across the ocean, a chain of arsenals, armories and laboratories from Virginia to Alabama."
You had further difficulties still. At the organization
of the Confederate government, its treasury was not only empty, but the
legislation and fiscal agency for taxation and collection of revenue had
to be adopted and applied.
Under the most favorable auspices, time and experience were necessary to adjust a scheme of taxation to the condition of your people, and to put in running order the machinery for collection of revenue. Expenses had already begun, and demands for large sums of money, for immediate use, were urgent.
The treasury of the common country was in possession of your enemies; save the paltry sum of $500,000 in the mint at New Orleans; paltry to a nation in pressing need of millions.
The receipts of the Confederate Government from February, 1861, to August, 1862--eighteen months--were $302,500,000, its expenditures, $347,300,000, and of this vast sum, but fourteen and a half millions were appropriated to the building and equipment of a navy.
You had officers sufficient, many of them already of national fame, of large experience and great abilities, but no ships, no seamen. Can you create an army without men and without muskets? The task of the Israelites in Egypt pales in the contrast; the labors of Sisyphus were not more hopeless.
What could these men do? What did they do? Taking as their guide the wisdom of Scripture, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might," they sought service in all available lines, and did a noble work, though history has failed to embalm in living record a tribute to their labors. Their reward has been found, not in the recognition of a grateful country, but in the conscious strength which sustains those whose labor is not in vain.
Some sought service in your army and rose to high
rank. Others built your seashore and river batteries, mounted your heavy
guns, drilled and instructed your men in their use; in the service of ammunition,
shot and shell; developed a torpedo and sub-marine service, and protected
the rivers and harbors of your land against invasion.
Others, still, set to work to manufacture your ordnance--ordnance stores and supplies.
The ordnance works at Richmond, under Commander Brooke, Lieutenants Minor and Wright, supplied the equipment of your vessels in the James, and at Wilmington, carriages for heavy guns in shore-batteries, and between May, '61 and '62, shipped to New Orleans, 220 heavy guns, many of them the efficient banded rifle gun, the invention of Commander John M. Brooke.
The ordnance works at Charlotte, N. C., under Ramsay, chief engineer, C. S. N. (who had seen service in the Merrimac), supplied heavy forgings, shafting for steamers, wrought-iron projectiles, gun carriages, blocks, ordnance equipment of every kind, and an ordnance laboratory.
Commander Catesby Ap. R. Jones, (late executive officer of the Merrimac), at Selma, Ala., superintended the various branches of a foundry, and the manufacture of heavy guns, forty-seven of which were used in the defences of Mobile and Charleston.
At Atlanta, Ga., Lieutenant D. P. McCorkle was in charge of ordnance works for the making of shot, shell, and gun carriages.
Lieutenant Kennon (and, subsequently, Lieutenant Eggleston), at New Orleans, was engaged in the manufacture of fuses, primers, fireworks, cannon, gun carriages, projectiles, and ordnance of all kinds.
At Petersburg the navy established a rope walk, substituting cotton for hemp, and supplied the navy, the army, coal mines, railroads, and canals.
Such industries had to be established, for your
necessities were great and urgent. Their proper conduct required skill
and intelligence, and these officers gave them the direction of greatest
efficiency. Perhaps it was well you had so few ships to give these men;
perhaps they rendered a better service in these lines.
Nevertheless, like the bird that beats its wings against its cage, they fretted against this durance vile, and longed for
January 31, 1863, your ironclads, Palmetto
State and Chicora, broke the blockade at Charleston, S. C., dispersed
the Federal fleet, and secured the surrender of two ships, the Mercedita
and Keystone State, but the victory was shorn of its triumphs by the ability
of these vessels, subsequently, to elude the pursuit of our slow steaming
August 5th, 1864, when Farragut had passed Forts Morgan and Gaines, guarding the entrance to Mobile Bay, his fleet of four monitors and fourteen ships, mounting 159 guns, engaged the Confederate armament, composed of the ironclad Tennessee and three river steamers, mounting twenty-one guns. The latter were quickly placed hors de combat, leaving, the Tennessee alone, to meet the whole force of the enemy.
Attacked on all sides by the three monitors and fourteen ships, rammed time and again, run into abeam, at full speed, hammered with steel shot of 440 pounds weight thrown from the heavy guns of the monitors at 200 yards distant, in vain endeavoring to ram her adversaries, but each time frustrated by their superior speed, the Tennessee waged this unequal contest until her rudder chains were shot away, and thus unmanageable, crippled and leaking, she was surrendered to the enemy.
Her casemates (at an angle of 4.5 degrees, covered with two feet of solid wood and five inches of iron), had been pierced by the heavy shot fired by the Monitor. The turrets of these vessels were impenetrable to the shot of the Tennessee, and after four hours of fruitless contest the issue had become that of further disaster and further fearful carnage.
In presenting to your consideration this great
disparity of the opposing forces at New Orleans and Mobile Bay, we do not
seek to pluck one leaf from the crown of the victor. His conspicuous gallantry
on both occasions places him in the front rank of the great naval commanders,
of whom history speaks, and makes his victories the more meritorious and
unique, in that they were wrested from forts and fleets combined.
The officers of your navy were as fine a body of men as ever sought service. There was no lack of skill, no lack of initiative, no want of gallantry in those so fortunate as to secure commands.
Tatnall, though near seventy years of age, at Port Royal, Savannah, and Hampton Roads, showed that the fiery courage, which had carried him, in 1859, to the assistance of the English and French at Peiho, in China, with the exclamation, "Blood is thicker than water," still animated his breast.
The services of Buchanan in the Merrimac in Hampton Roads, March 8 and 9, 1862, and August 5, 1864, in Mobile Bay, need no recital here.
Ingram, who had won national fame in 1853, in protecting American citizenship in Smyrna, in the Kostza case, at Charleston, 1863, and elsewhere, showed no decline of zeal in the maintenance of his cause.
Cooke, at Roanoke Island and Elizabeth City, in February, 1862, though breasting a forlorn hope, showed the same spirit that won him deserved promotion, in the successful career of the Albemarle, in the engagements of April 19, and May 5, 1864, in Albemarle Sound.
Brown (in the ill equipped Arkansas), on the
Mississippi River, July 15, 1862, ran the gauntlet of the Federal fleet
of four ironclads, eight rams, four gunboats, and two ships of war; inflicted
much damage to the enemy, put two of their vessels ashore in crippled condition,
and by his presence at Vicksburg, brought suspense and confusion to the
movements of the enemy in that quarter.
A suspense so effective that when a month later, you abandoned and blew her up, in consequence of defective engines, Farragut telegraphed the Navy Department: "It is the happiest moment of my life that I am able to inform the Department of the destruction of the ram Arkansas."
Glassell, in his daring attempt to torpedo the new Ironsides off the port of Charleston, the night of October 5, 1864.
Read in his captures on the high seas. His daring intrusion into the harbor of Portland, Maine, with the schooner Archer, and capture of the United States Revenue vessel Cushing. His subsequent dash, April 23, 1865, in the river steamer Webb, through the Federal fleet at the mouth of the Red River; running the gauntlet of the Federal fleet at New Orleans the day after.
John Taylor Wood, in his many daring captures by boarding, culminating in the boarding and capture of the United States gunboat Underwriter, in the Neuse River, within pistol shot of two of the enemy's forts, the night of February 1, 1864.
The heroism of Huger, Kennon, Warley, Read, and others at the capture of New Orleans, fully attest the morale of the naval service, and the promise of its efficiency in a larger field, with better means of offensive action.
Semmes in the Sumter and Alabama, Maffitt in the Florida, with a bare handful of men, stricken with yellow fever, running the blockade of Mobile in the broad daylight, there refitting and passing again through the Federal fleet. Pegram in the Nashville, Maury in the Georgia, Wood in the Tallahassee, Wilkinson in the Chickamauga, Waddell in the Shenandoah, Read in the sailing ships Clarence, Tacony, and Archer, denied all rights in foreign ports, save those of belligerents, swept the seas bare of American commerce, and inflicted a damage the country has never recovered.
In 1860, two-thirds of the commerce of America was carried in American bottoms. In 1863, three-fourths had been transferred to English registers.
The injury thus inflicted took shape after the
war in what is known as the Alabama Claims; were adjusted upon a principle
formulated by this Government, accepted by the English Government, and
placed at fifteen and a half millions by the Geneva Award, for losses
inflicted by the Alabama, Florida, and Shenandoah, alone.
One hundred and eight other ships were destroyed, the loss of which may be placed at five millions, but for which no damage was recovered.
It is needless to say that the principle which governed the Alabama Claims, and the award made thereunder, though perhaps applicable to the United States and Great Britain in future wars, was not at the time, is not now, and never will be, a principle of International Law, and the rights of a belligerent to obtain ships, unarmed and without a crew, from a neutral nation, still exist.
We have endeavored, briefly, and with scant justice, to put before you the irremediable obstacles that forbade the creation of an effective navy for the Confederate States. We have sought to break the ground, rather than till it, for the future discussion of particular engagements.