to effect their destruction by running them down, if provided with swift and heavy steamers, so strengthened and protected at the bows as to allow them to rush on the descending boats without being sunk by the first fire.
Captains Montgomery and Townsend have been selected by the President as two of those who are to command these boats. Twelve other captains will be found by them and recommended to the President for appointment. Each captain will ship his own crew, fit up his own boat, and get ready within the shortest possible delay. It is not proposed to rely on cannon, which these men are not skilled, in using, nor on firearms. The men will be armed with cutlasses. On each boat, however, there will be one heavy gun, to be used in case the stern of any of the gunboats should be exposed to fire, for they are entirely unprotected behind, and if attempting to escape by flight would be very vulnerable by shot from a pursuing vessel.
I give you these details as furnishing a mere outline of the general plan to be worked out by the brave and energetic men who have undertaken it. Prompt and vigorous preparation is indispensable. The Department relies confidently on your co-operation in rendering effective this plan, which may, perhaps, not only be of vast importance for the peculiar service now hoped for on the Upper Mississippi, but may prove very formidable aids to your future operations in the lower part of the valley.
I shall at once place to your credit $300,000, to be expended for the purpose of preparing and outfitting these vessels as rapidly as possible, and shall renew the remittances as far as required while the appropriation will permit. It is expected that you will allow a very wide latitude to the captains in the preparation of these vessels, merely exercising such general supervision as to prevent the throwing away of money in purely chimerical experiments and checking any profligate expenditure.
Your chief quartermaster can keep the accounts, so as to relieve you of the responsibility of a disbursing officer, and you can discharge yourself any money liability by simply taking his receipt as your voucher for turning over this money.
To a commander of your intelligence and capacity it is deemed sufficient thus generally to sketch the outline of a scheme of defense, without attempting to lay down any minute rules or details for carrying out what is necessarily a novel experiment, yet one from which much is hoped by the Government.
This letter will be delivered to you by Captain Townsend in person, he being one of the two already elected by the President for the command of boats.
I am, your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War.
CHAP. XXXIV.-AN ACT making appropriations for certain floating defenses.
Be it enacted by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, That the sum, of one million of dollars be, and the same is hereby, appropriated for 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.
Aprroved January 9, 1862.