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still registered in the name of her ostensible owner, though
she was all that time engaged in hostilities agaiust the
United States. A year later she returned to Liverpool and
was dismantled. Whether she was then a ship-of-war or a
merchant vessel does not appear. She was soon after sold
to an English subject, the bill of sale being signed by
Bullock, just as the Sumter had been sold at Gibraltar, when
Semmes found that he could not take her out to sea.

The Kappahannook left Sheerness in haste as a merchant-
vessel, with her workmen still in her, assumed a public
character in the run across the channel, and sought admis-

• Barl Eussell's letter of February 12, 1865.


sion at Calais as a ship-of-war in distress. The Tuscaloosa,
a prize of the Alabama, entered the harbor at the Cape with a
prize crew, and with her captured cargo, which she hoped to
sell, still on board, and claimed the privileges of a ship-of-
war, because her captor chose so to designate her; and
after being accorded these privileges, she left the harbor to
carry her wool to Angra PequeSa, where it was actually sold.
A British Vice-Admiralty court could obtain no evidence at
Nassau that the Florida, an exact copy of the gun-vessels of
the English navy, was other than a merchantman, owned by
a British firm, and in a week after her release she was at sea
as a Confederate ship-of-war. Toward the close of the war
blockade-runners were hastily converted into cruisers, and
as hastily changed back to blockade-runners, until the Con-
federate navy list must have been a hopeless muddle. The
blockade-runner Edith suddenly appeared out of Wilming-
ton one night in October, 1864, under the character and des-
ignation of the " C. S. Steamer Chickamauga," armed with
a 64-pounder and a 32-pounder, and, after seiziug and de-
stroying four or five unfortunate coasters, returned to port
in three weeks, to resume her former state and occupation.
It is hard to see what purpose could be served by belliger-
ent operations of such a character, at this stage of the con-
flict, and it shows the desperate straits to which the Con-
federate Government was put toward the end in attempting
to keep up the semblance of a naval war.

But the vessel which had the most varied career was the
Tallahassee. She was originally called the Atlanta, and
under t^at name sh& arrived at Bermuda in the spring of
1864 She made two trips to Wilmington as a blockade-
runner. She was then converted into a cruiser, under the
name of the Tallahassee, and sailed from Wilmington early
in August. Her course was shaped for Halifax, where she


arrived on the 19th, after having destroyed several vessels.
Owing to the vigilance of the authorities, who for once were
on the alert to prevent infringements of the neutrality regu-
lations, she was unable to accomplish all that she wanted in
getting repairs and coal, and on the 26th, she returned to
Wilmington. In November she made another short cruise,
this time under the name of the Olustee,' during which she
took a few prizes. With this cruise her belligerent career
came to an end. Her battery was removed, and her officers
and crew were detached. A bill of sale was drawn up, the
ostensible purchaser being the navy agent at Wilmington ; a
register was issued, a crew engaged, a cargo of cotton
shipped, and invoices and bills of lading made out in the
prescribed form. She received the name of the Chameleon,
which must have been a piece of pleasantry on the part of
whoever may have been considered as her owner. She left
Wilmington in December, under the command of Captain
Wilkinson, of the Confederate navy, under orders-from the
Navy Department, and her object was to obtain a supply of
provisions at Bermuda, of which the army was in dire need.
Upon her arrival the Lieutenant-Governor was somewhat
exercised as to her character, but finally decided that she
was not a man-of-war, having been " sold to a private mer-
chant," to borrow the phrase of the British counter-case at
Geneva. According to Wilkinson, the vessel had been " so
thoroughly whitewashed" that the authorities could find
nothing to lay hold of. After loading her cargo, she steered
for Wilmington, but Fort Fisher had now fallen, and she was
compelled to put back. Charleston was tried with no better
success ; and after landing her provisions at Nassau, the

' According to the statement in the case of the United States at Geneva, ** it is
not quite clear whether she made two tripfi, one under each name, or whether the
name was changed in one trip,"


Chameleon was taken to Liverpool, and delivered to Fraser,
Trenholm & Co., the Confederate agents. She was subse-
quently seized by the British Government, and ultimately
surrendered to the United States.

A great deal of uncalled-for abuse has been heaped upon
the South for the work of the Confederate cruisers, and
their mode of warfare has been repeatedly denounced as
barbarous and piratical in ofScial and unofficial publications.
But neither the privateers, like the Petrel and the Savannah,
nor the commissioned cruisers, like the Alabama and the
Florida, were guilty of any practices which, as against their
enemies, were contrary to the laws of war. The expediency
of enforcing the right of maritime capture has been much
discussed during the last hundred years, and has often been
questioned on humanitarian grounds. It is not proposed to
consider that question here. For the present purpose, it is
sufficient that the right to capture an enemy's private prop-
erty at sea is fully recognized by the law and practice of na-
tions to-day. All that is necessary is to establish the enemy
ownership, and this being done, the prize-courts of every
country in the world will decree confiscation. Whether the
prize is destroyed at sea, or is brought into a prize-court and
condemned, can make no possible difference to the owner, if
the owner is clearly an enemy. The officer making the cap-
ture is responsible to liis Government, and as the proceeds
of the prize usually go in part to the State, the officer's
Government may and doubtless will require him to bring in
his prize, if possible, for adjudication. But this is a matter
purely of internal discipline, a question between the' State
and its officers. So also, if by accident or intention neutral
property is captured and destroyed, a question arises between
the captor's government and that of the neutral, but it is a
question with which the other belligerentTias nothing to do.


So much for the law on the subject. As for the practice,
it is usual for governments to require their officers to give
sufficient reason why a prize is not brought in. Either the
unseaworthiness of the prize, or the want of men to navigate
her, would manifestly be a sufficient reason. In the absence
of any preventing cause, the prize should be brought to a
port of adjudication ; and, if that is impossible, to the near-
est neutral port that will admit it. But during the war, the
ports of the Confederates were under blockade, and the rule
was generally adopted by neutrals of excluding the prizes of
both belligerents. Nothing then remained but to destroy
the captured vessel at sea. To have done otherwise would
have been to abandon the right of maritime capture.

The practice of destroying prizes, however, even when it is
possible to send them in, is no new thing in maritime war-
fare, especially in the maritime warfare of the United States.
The cruise of the Argus in 1813 was precisely parallel to those
of the Alabama and Florida ; and the instructions of the Navy
Department to commanding officers during the war of 1812
were to " destroy all you capture, unless in some extraordinary
cases that clearly warrant an exception." To take a later in-
stance, in a decision in the High Court of Admiralty during
the Crimean War, Dr. Lushington said, " It may be justifia-
ble, or even praiseworthy in the captors to destroy an enemy's
vessel. Indeed, the bringing into adjudication at all of an
enemy's vessel is not called for by any respect to the rights of
the enemy proprietor, where there is no neutral property on
board." The French, in at least two cases in the war of 1870,
burned prizes at sea, because it was inconvenient to send
prize crews on board ; and from more recent events it is clear
that other Governments, in case of war with a commercial
power, will deem themselves fortunate if they can rival the
achievements of the Confederate commerce-destroyers.



As it was a part of the object of this book to deal with the
condition of the navy at the outbreak of the war and with
the preparations made by the Government to carry it on, it
will not be out of place to dwell for a moment upon certain
conclusions which may be drawn from a consideration of this
branch of the subject. As conclusions by a non-professional
observer, they are submitted with hesitation and diffidence ;
and as they carry with them no weight of authority, they
may be taken simply at their own worth.

A military force, whether intended to operate on land or
at sea, exists primarily for purposes of war. Cruising on
foreign stations during peace, in these days when piracy has
disappeared, is not an occupation calculated to exercise
fully its powers. Ships-of-war are no doubt of use from
time to time at various points, but their usefulness is not so
great that a government whose foreign relations are gener-
ally amicable would keep up a large establishment for this
object alone. Their real purpose is to become the national
defence in time of war. As with the ships, so with the offi-
cers ; it is in war, not in peace, that the fruit of their la-
bors is to be gathered.

So far, doubtless, everybody is agreed ; in fact, what has
been said is little more than a truism. But the logical in-
ference drawn from the premises is far from commanding


Tiniversal assent, and still farther from obtaining recognition
in practice. The inference is this : that the primary object
for a navy at all times is to maintain itself, in all its
branches, mat&iel, personnel, and organization, in the most
perfect state that is possible of readiness and efllciency for
war. This should be the first and ever-present considera-
tion with those who enact, who administer, and who execute
measures of naval policy ; the ability to place the whole es-
tablishment in the condition of active warlike operation, as
instantaneously and as smoothly as an engineer starts his

In 1861, the navy was J3y no means in a condition of
readiness for war, although war was the purpose for which it
existed. In matSriel, it had a few ships suitable for cruis-
ing purposes, and it had superior ordnance ; but half the
fleet was antiquated, and the rest was displaying the flag on
distant stations. As to the personnel, it is useless to deny
the fact that the list was heavily weighted by the old officers
at the head, who had reached their position, not because of
merit, but because of the date when they happened to enter
the service ; that the middle of the list was suffering from
long stagnation, and from the absence of any inducement
to effort ; and finally, that the young men, who were to bear
the brunt of the work, were altogether too few for the needs
of the service. It is commonly said that the navy was on a
peace footing ; but if that was the case, a complete and well-
defined provision should have been made for expansion. To
speak of a " peace footing" implies that a " war footing" is
something different ; and no naval establishment can con-
sider itself prepared for war that has not made beforehand
all the arrangements necessary to pass at once from one to
the other.

Oonceding the necessity of a peace footing for personnel


and materiel, on the score of expense, there is no necessity
for such a thing as a peace footing for organization. The
organization of a military or naval establishment is fixed
primarily with a view to eflBciency in war, and only snch
slight modifications are introduced in time of peace as are
indispensable. So far from this being the case in 1861, the
whole administration was arranged on an exactly opposite
basis. It was about as unfitted for the conduct of a war as
it was possible to be. The organization was that of five
bureaus, independent of each other, and only united by a
common subordination to the Head of the Department.
Now, whatever merits the system of nearly independent
bureaus may have in time of peace, it is entirely inadequate
as an organization for carrying on war. The direction of
military or naval operations must be centralized, not only in
the person of the Departmental head, but in his responsible
professional advisers ; and to impose this heavy burden upon
Chiefs of Bureaus, whose business is with certain specific
branches of administration, is to expect men to take in at
the same moment the whole field of view and the minutest
details of a single part. It is the essence of a good organ-
ization that every branch of it should have its own work,
and should confine itself to that; and for that, and that
alone, it should be held to the fullest responsibility. The
province of a Bureau is to furnish a gun, or a hull, or an
engine, or a crew, the best possible that can be obtained ;
and to devolve upon its Chief the duty of planning cam-
paigns is only to divert him from his legitimate business,
and would, in the nature of things, result disastrously both
to the campaign and the bureau. The general direction of
military and naval operations, if we are to accept the testi-
mony of the highest authorities and the evidence of the most
successful campaigns, is the work of men bred in the busi-


ness. It cannot be done successfully, according to the de-
mands, of modern warfare, by this or that officer picked up
on the spur of the moment, or by boards of officers created
as the exigency arises. It must be put in the hands of those
■who have spent much labor and thought in examining and
fastening upon the strong and weak points of all possible
enemies; who have made their office the repository of all
possible information ; who have, as Moltke is said to have
had, the whole details of campaigns in their pigeon-holes, to
be modified, month by month, as new circumstances arise ;
and finally, who are studying, not gunnery, nor machinery,
nor construction, nor fleet-tactics alone, but the science of
WAB, in all its bearings, as an actual, living, and, above all,
as a growing science. In short, the direction of naval opera-
tions, like that of military operations, should be entrusted
to a previously-trained and previously-equipped General

Now, in 1861, the navy had no general staff. Staff-work
was a branch of naval science as uncultivated as the attack
and defence by torpedoes ; nor did it occur to the authorities
at the time that a staff might be created. So they set about
to find a substitute. By one of those fortunate accidents,
which lead our happy-go-lucky nation to fall on its feet,
when it has come unprepared upon a crisis, a man had about
this time come forward, in connection with the relief -expedi-
tions to Fort Sumter, who was fitted, as nearly as any one man
could be, to take charge of the work. This man was Captain
Gustavus V. Fox. It may be said in passing that an accident
of this kind cannot be counted on, nor can it justify the ab-
sence of preparation, when preparation is so simple and easy
— in war nothing must be left to chance. In addition to his
natural attainments, which were' exceptional. Fox was a man
of varied experience, having passed eighteen years in the navy,


during wHcb. he had served in sMps-of-war, in the Coast Sur-
vey, and in command of mail-steamers. Five years before
the war he had resigned, and had engaged in business. He
therefore started in his career as Assistant Secretary with a
grasp of the situation, and a capacity to meet it, that could
be found in few men at that time, either outside the service
or in it. To say that he became Assistant Secretary does not
define his position. He was anything but an As'sistant Secre-
tary. He was really the Chief of Staff ; or rather he was the
whole general staff in person. Of course he could not per-
form all the details of his work himself, and as he had not at
command a previously-trained body of staff-officers, he made
judicious use of the material at his disposal by the creation
of temporary boards. One board was organized, composed
of Captains Dupont and Davis, Major Barnard of the Engi-
neers, and Professor Bache, to report on the coast of the
enemy, its points of access and its defences. Here the ex-
ceptional character of the war led to the selection of excep-
tional persons to give the information necessary for intelli-
gent operations ; for, as the enemy's coast was also our own,
no one could be better informed about its accessibility and
defences than the Superintendent of the Coast Survey, and
the engineer who had built the forts. Similarly another
board, composed of Commodores Smith and Paulding, and
Captain Davis again, was appointed to examine plans for
ironclad vessels. The board modestly stated in its report
that it approached the subject "with diffidence, having no
experience and but scanty knowledge in this branch of naval
architecture." It was composed of extremely able men, and
their conclusions were formed under the circumstances with
promptness and judgment. Yet the report of the board was
only made September 16, five months after the war may be
said to have begun, and six weeks after the Act of Congress


authorizing the expenditure for the purpose of building iron-
clads. A properly-organized general staff in ■working opera-
tion would have had every plan that could be presented
thoroughly examined and passed upon before Congress was
even in session ; and the contracts should have been ready
for signature on the day after the appropriation was made.
The importance of time, even in a war as loosely conducted
and as long drawn out as that of the Bebellion, has no better
illustration than in the case of the Monitor. Congress as-
sembled July 5 ; a month later it passed the appropriation ',
in six weeks the board reported; three weeks afterward
the contract for the Monitor was signed ; and, after all this
deliberation and discussion, had the Monitor's arrival in
Hampton Eoads been postponed by one single day, by the
infinitesimal space, considering the length of preparation, of
twenty-four hours, she would have found little in the shape
of a fleet to need her protection.

It is a common mistake to point to our experience in 1861
to show that a navy can be prepared for action at short no-
tice. It is supposed that, because the Government came out
victorious in the end in its naval operations, without having
made any preparation beforehand, it will always be safe to
postpone measures looking to war until the war is upon us —
the supply of a large body of trained officers, the selection
of the ablest men for the higher grades, the establishment
and training of a general staflf, the organization of reserves,
the construction of modern vessels. It is true that a partial
substitute for all these requisites of an efficient force was
secured before the war was over; that in 1865 there were
7,600 officers and 50,000 seamen in the service, that the ablest
men had come to the front, that a Chief of Staff was found
in the person of the Assistant Secretary, and that the fleet
had been increased from sixty-nine vessels to six hundred


and seventy-one, two Imndred and eight of which had been
built or begun while hostilities were going on. Perhaps, if
our next war lasts four years, and if all the sea-board cities
are not destroyed during the first half-year, we may do the
same again. No doubt the Administration was handicapped
at the outset by its imwillingness, for reasons of public
policy, to take the offensive ; but even allowing for this
delay, the fact remains that in the first six months — months
during which, in modern wars, not only the most telling
blows are struck, but the issue of the war is generally
decided — all that could be done with the most strenuous
efforts, and the greatest energy in the administrative head,
was to collect our fragmentary resources and to discover
the men who could make them available. Fortunately, we
were fighting a Government that was destitute of a naval
force. Had our enemy been a maritime power with a navy
in the most ordinary condition of readiness, and with a com-
petent working staff, it would have fared ill with us in the
first summer. In our next war we shall probably have no
such good fortune, and we shall learn to our cost the fatal
result of procrastination.

It is idle to suppose, in face of the changes that mechani-
cal science is making every year in our daily lives, that the
materials of naval warfare wiU remain long at any given
stage of development. Progress will go on, and the only
way in which a naval force can be kept up which shall be
equal to the barest necessities of the country is by a con-
stant adaptation of fleets and armaments to the new demands
of modern war. Objectors may say that if changes are so
rapid, new constructions will shortly be superseded by
newer ones. But science advances, whether Governments
wish it or not ; and if the navy is to be kept up at all, it
must be kept up to date. New instruments of warfare can-


not be manufactured in a day ; nor can oflcers be expected
to use them to advantage when they have had no previous
opportunity to practise their use. " Our occupation," ■wrote
Admiral Jurien de la Gravifere, shortly after the war, " was
formerly an instinct ; now it is a science." The mastery
of a science requires study ; but while war is going on, men
have little time to think, much less to study. They can
only use as best they may the new tools that are put into
their hands, if their government has not given them modem
tools beforehand. Even admitting, though it should never
be admitted for a moment, that it is too much to ask that
provision should be made for keeping the material in the
forefront of scientific progress, there is at least a limit to
the distance which it may be allowed to fall in the rear. If
we must be out of date, it is better to be four years behind
the times than to be twenty years behind.

It is hard to see how the advocates of a policy of procras-
tination can reiterate the old arguments about the success
of our naval operations in the war, to justify inaction. It
was not really a naval war, for there was hardly a naval
enemy. There were three or four cruisers at sea, some of
which were captured or destroyed after having obliterated our
commerce, and one of which, at least, never was captured.
There was an extemporized fleet here and there, made up of
anything that came to hand, such as drove the blockading
squadron from the Head of the Passes. There was one
steam-frigate that had been raised out of the water, and
made in some sense a modem war vessel, which played
havoc with her antiquated opponents, and for a month kept
the force at Hampton Roads at bay. There were other
ironclads which had been fitted out under almost every dis-
advantage that circumstances could create, and which had a
short career at various points. In coping, not with this


force, for it could hardly be called a force, but -with the sim-
ple obstruction of natural causes, the navy, as soon as it ob-
tained any suitable ships, maintained an extensive blockade,
and captured many vessels ; it occupied several points on
the coast, but only three of them in the first year ; it was
compelled to postpone attacking others until years had
been spent in making them impregnable ; and it cruised in
the dark after the commerce-destroyers, without adequate
sources of intelligence or unity of direction. In the first
sis months, the enemy had few powerful forts, and fewer
torpedoes ; his navy hardly existed ; and yet all that could
be done was to effect an entrance at Hatteras Inlet, and to
establish a blockade that during this period came near the
suspicion of being fictitious, except at a few of the principal
ports. If a navy can be built to order after a war begins,

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Online LibraryWoman's Board of MissionsThe Navy in the Civil War .. → online text (page 18 of 20)