War of the Rebellion: Serial 006 Page 0578 OPERATIONS IN W. FLA., S. ALA., S. MISS., AND LA. Chapter XVI.

Search Civil War Official Records

ness, which the committee ascertained to amount to $600,000. This latter point received the attention of the President and the matter was arranged. I do not know that any other action was taken upon the representations of the committee.

Question. Did the Committee of Safety urge the laughing of the stammer Mississippi? When and by whom was it undertaken? State all the facts connected with the launching of this vessel from first to last, with names of the parties engaged.

Answer. About four weeks before the city fell the Committee of Safety, through the sub-committee, as well as various members who certainly visited the Mississippi, became convinced that the vessel should be launched without delay, and for the following reasons:

1st. That the vessel was in such a condition of completion that to launch her would not at all interfere with subsequent work on her, and then, in case of the fall of the city, she could at any moment be towed off to a place of safety.

2nd. That the river was rising rapidly; the stern of the vessel was being deeply immersed in the water; the bottom on which she lay was being softened, and the least giving way of the mud would result in "logging" her on the ways, thereby rendering it impossible to launch her.

They made these representations to Mr. Tift, and repeatedly urged him to launch her. He positively refused. Desiring to do only that which was right, and willing to admit the judgment of Mr. Tift in opposition to their own, they called his constructor (Mr. Pearce) before them, and asked his opinion on the subject. he unqualifiedly approved our recommendation to launch her, and assured the committee that he had personally urged the launching of the vessel. He expressed the greatest anxiety for the safety of his vessell, and expressed his fears that she would never be launched. The committee then appointed a special committee, composed of eminently practical and intelligent men, mostly outside the committee, to survey the vessel and report forth-with. The survey was cheerfully and promptly made,and the committee unanimously reported in favor of launching and for the reasons stated. This report was sent to Mr. Tift, with renewed application for the launch. He refused ultimately, and, as I firmly believe, under the pressure of public opinion, a few days before the city fell he attempted the launch by attaching steamers to the ram, which steamers were to pull utterly failed. That he would fail was the opinion of every intelligent man I met on the ground, as the vessels pulling were lower than the vessel pulled, and the mechanical effect was to pull the ram more and more firmly down on her ways at every effort. A conference was held with our practical men, and the result was that they went to the ship next morning with hydraulic rams and pushed her right out into the river. Bitterly disappointed by the persevering refusal of Mr. Tift to launch the vessel, and despairing of even her safety, the committee was on the eve of making a public announcement of the condition of things and calling on them to take the matter in hand, when one of its members (Mr. J. M. Marks, if I cam not greatly in error as to name) received a private note from the commanding general, telling him that he was apprised of the probable action of the committee; that such an act on their part would apprise the enemy of our weakness, ad intimating clearly that he would not permit such an act on the part of the committee. This note was read to the committee and I read it personally. The committee then abandoned all idea of the safety or utility of the ram.

The court adjourned to meet at 10 a. m. the 18th instant.

APRIL 18, 1863-10 a. m.

The court met pursuant to adjournment.

Present, all the members of the court, the judge-advocate, and Major General Mansfield Lovell.

The proceedings of yesterday were read over.

T. S. WILLIAMS was then sworn and examined as a witness.

By Major General M. LOVELL:

Question. What is your present occupation and how long have you been engaged in it?

Answer. I am general superintendent of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad; have been such for four years, and engaged on the road for the last ten years.