The gunboats draw light; but with the iron plating on (except 22 tons, mostly forward of the center of gravity), 5 feet 10 inch aft and 3 feet 11 inches forward, the fan-tail, forming the deck between hulls, abaft the wheel (the recess), is now 13 inches from the water lying still in smooth water. Two rudders are still to be shipped, and these in a short time, by absorption of water, will sink from their own weight if detached from the vessels. The wheel buckets are also to be put on, which will increase the weight astern. All of which you will see leaves little or no room for clearance of water, as the wheel buckets, rudders, &c., alluded to will have an actual weight of 3 1/2 tons on the extreme stern, which will reduce the clearance to 11 1/2 inches; I mean by clearance of water the confined space of 11 1/2 inches from the surface of the wheel as to prevent the escapement of water in so confined a place, for the waves caused by the action of the wheel will be 4 feet, and the half of which, of course, as you will see, will be required for clearance. Now, all this is based upon the draught they will have when ready to receive armament, outfit, stores, and crew.
In my opinion the remedy which appears the most feasible to correct the evils that I have set forth is to forth is to cut out the deck and beams covering the clearance, springing a heavy timber arch over the space, and connecting the ends of the arch beams with, say, 2 1/2-inch round iron, and upon these beams construct a light deck. Eads, the contractor, believes that the draught astern will not be increased, for the reason that so much iron planting and a large portion of the vessel's armament will go forward of the center of gravity, which will, in his opinion, lift the stern and give greater clearance. Mr. Eads also says that while he had no part in the modeling of these boats and is therefore relieved of all responsibility as to their imperfection, he thinks I am unnecessarily concerned as to the amount of clearance for the wheel and the difficulties which examined, and send herewith a rough sketch and description of them.* It is a pity that the decks will come nearly awash or even with the water; but still, the bulwarks being well caulked and secured, it is believed that the boats will carry safely the mortars and beds, with necessary appurtenances, keeping the weight below 35 tons. I am greatly exercised about the mortar boats, and also the propellers to tow them, which have been ordered by General Fremont.
I am obeying these orders, however, and fitting out the boats as far as having no money or credit for this work will enable me to do.
Please telegraph me if I am authorized to appoint officers and get men for this purpose, as we are behind time, arising from causes wholly beyond my control.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. H. FOOTE,
Captain, U. S. Navy, &c.
Washington, November 15, 1861.
Captain ANDREW H. FOOTE, U. S. N.,
Commanding Gunboats, Saint Louis, Mo.:
SIR: I am instructed to say that General Halleck has instruction in regard to the gunboats.
* Omitted as of no present importance.