and with the greatest expedition to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and New Albany, and select and prepare the most suitable steamboats I could find in the least possible time to act as steam-rams, to meet the rebel gunboats and rams on the Mississippi River, the honorable Secretary expressing the hope that not more than twenty days would be consumed in getting them ready for service.
In response to that order I selected three of the strongest and swiftest stern-wheel coal tow-boats at Pittsburg, of which the average dimensions are about 170 feet length, 30 feet beam, and over 5 feet hold.
At Cincinnati I selected two side-wheel boats, of which the largest is 180 feet long, 37 1/2 feet beam in the widest part, and 8 feet hold.
At New Albany I secured a boat of about the same length but rather less beam, and subsequently I selected another at Cincinnati, of about the same class as the last, and sent her to Madison to be fitted out.
The work was distributed among these four cities by order of the honorable Secretary of War, for the purpose of obtaining command of mechanics and materials without the risk of producing delay by overdrawing upon the resources of any one place.
I have thus in hand at this time seven rams, besides two very small stern-wheel tow-boats for tenders, which I am strengthening up so that they also may in an emergency be used as rams.
In addition to the steamers I have in preparation three large coal barges, bearing high bulwarks of oak, under which my steamers my be very much sheltered from the enemy's fire.
The preparation of these steamboats for the purpose of converting them into rams consists simply in running three heavy, solid timber bulkheads-from 12 to 16 inches thick - fore and aft, from stem to stern, placing the central one directly over the keelson; in bracing these bulk-heads one against the other, and the outer ones against the hull of the boat, and all against the deck and floor timbers, and staying the hull from side to side by iron roads and screw bolts. In fact making the whole weight of the boat add its momentum to that of the central bulkhead at the moment of collision.
In addition the soldiers and machinery are held in iron stays in all directions; the pilot-house protected against musketry, and the engines and boilers shielded by 2 feet thickness of oak timbers well bolted together.
The intention is to endeavor to surprise the enemy's vessels, and, aided by the current of the Mississippi, run these rams into them and if possible sink them.
The boats are not large, but they are made very strong in one direction and are quite swift, and will assuredly make their way through the hull of any ordinary transport or gunboat the may chance to hit fairly. The boats here are all well advanced, and some of them will be sent below early this week, lest they may be caught by low water.
I am not able to state the precise condition of those below, but I think they can be got ready for service in a few days after I reach the points where the work is in progress.
I trust that I have given you all the information needed to enable you to respond to the inquires of Commodore Footes' letter of instructions to you.
CHAS. ELLET, Jr.,