The object of the French launch making a landing at Pass Christian was to communicate with the French consul at New Orleans.
The officers inform our men that some twenty-two war vessels, English and French, were in the Gulf on our coast.
The Yankee transports (large sailing ships) being towed out while the wind was blowing from the westward would seem to indicate an eastward destination.
While on this cruise our men purchased 12,000 pounds of lead back of Biloxi, at 8 cents per pound, which they will have here in a few days. They return to-day for this lead and to make further reconnaissance about the enemy's headquarters on Ship Island.
The man Frederic, of Pascagoula, failed in his first trip to Ship Island (could not get there) to obtain information; but he returned this morning to the island with two old ladies of Pascagoula, who go over for their runaway slaves. He expected to be allowed to land at the fort, and will be back in a day or two with information which I will report to you.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Richmond, Va., January 19, 1862.
Major General MANSFIELD LOVELL,
New Orleans, La.:
SIR: A few days ago I sent you a telegram requesting the seizure for account of the Government of fourteen steamships, and received your reply informing me that the request had been complied with.
These instructions were sent you in consequence of the passage by Congress of two laws, Nos. 344 and 350, herewith forwarded, providing $ 1,000,000 for application to floating defenses for the Western rivers, to be expended at the discretion of the President by the Secretary of War or Secretary of the Navy, as he shall direct, and authorizing a corps of not more than 6,000 men to be raised for temporary and special service on the Western waters.
The terms of the facts will at once suggest to you that the force intended is a peculiar one. It is not to be part of the Navy, for it is intended for service on the rivers, and will be composed of the steamboat men of the Western waters.
It will be subject to the general command of the military chief of the department where it may be ordered to operate, but the boats will be commanded by steamboat captains and manned by steamboat crews, who will be armed with such weapons as the captains may choose, and the boats will be fitted out as the respective captains may desire. The intention and design are to strengthen the vessels with iron casing at the bows, and to use them at high speed to run down or run over and sink, if possible, the gunboats and mortar rafts prepared by the enemy for attack at our river defenses. These gunboats and mortar rafts have been so far protected by iron plates and by their peculiar construction as to offer, in the judgment of the President and of Congress, but small chance of our being able to arrest their descent of the river by shot or shell, while at the same time their weight, their unwieldy construction, and their slow movement, together with the fact that they show very little surface above the water line, render them peculiarly liable to the mode of attack devised by the enterprising captains who have undertaken