Question. State your knowledge as to the effectiveness of the river defense fleet. In what respect and by what means, if any, might the same have been made more efficient in the defense of the city?
Answer. The boats were fitted up generally very well for use as rams. I considered most of them as better for that purpose than the Queen of the West, a ram taken from the enemy, which I have well examined since her capture. There was no discipline, no organization, but little or no drill of the crews. I frequently requested the commanding officers (Montgomery and Townsend) to drill their men at a gun I placed on one of the vessels expressly for that purpose. I offered to employ a Navy officer to drill them. I also employed a person; who had been a gunner in the U. S. Navy to act as such to the fleet; to mount the guns; to have a general superintendence of everything belonging to the gunner's department; also to teach the officers and men of the fleet how to use and manage the guns. I do not believe one of the officers in command of any of the vessels of the fleet knew how to load or manage heavy guns. Some of the vessels had men employed as gunners. Some of the captains told me they knew nothing about heavy guns and must have gunners.
Question. Were there in Department Numbers 1 any vessels not of the river-defense fleet which might have been fitted up similarly for resisting the enemy?
Answer. In my opinion the best steamers were taken and fitted out for the river defense; there were a number of to other steamers that might have been fitted out as rams and gunboats.
Question. Were the rams of the river-defense fleet and such other vessels as were in Department Numbers 1 capable of being fitted out as rams or gunboats? Was it practicable, after October 1, 1861, to have prepared a fleet sufficient to cope with the war vessels of the Federal fleet or which passed the forts?
Answer. In my opinion no fleet could have been fitted os in New Orleans since October 1, 1861, out of the steamers there, to be able to cope with that of the enemy. One might have been fitted out to assist greatly regular gunboats like the Mississippi had they been properly officered and manned.
Question. Were as many shipwrights employed upon the Mississippi as could have been worked to advantage and could they have worked at night?
Answer. I am unable to say how many were employed. Work could have been done at night on the vessels with great advantage. She could have been lighted up very easily with gas or by light-wood torches from a steamboat anchored on the outside of her and by torches from the shore or the inside. I suggested this latter plan to Mr. Tift two or three times. I have seen the workmen quit the vessel by sundown, when they ought to have worked an hour or two longer.
Question. Could the Mississippi have been saved; if so, how?
Answer. My opinion is that she could and ought to have been saved by having vessels ready to tow her off, and there was an ample number of steamers at new Orleans that could have been used for that purpose. In my opinion, had they begun to make these steamers ready as soon as the report of the passage of the forts had reached the city, the Mississippi could have been removed. I received information about 5 o'clock on the morning of the 24th that the enemy's fleet had passed the forts; it anchored before the city about 12 m. the next day. About 11 a. m. on the 24th Captains St. Clair applied to me for the steamers I had gotten ready. I refused him all but one-the second largest of the three; the largest was, I think, then being loaded with commissary stores.
Question. Was the Star of the West at New Orleans at that time; if so, describe her, as so also the Peytona and St. Charles.
Answer. She was there, a regular sea-going side-wheel steamer, of good power for towing. The Peytona was a river steamboat of fine power. The St. charles was an old tow-boat, one that I had discharged as not strong enough to work on the rafts, and the two were, in my opinion, unable to tow the Mississippi. The Star of the West, the Peytona, and another strong boat could have done it.
Question. As the result of your knowledge, military and nautical,