Unless some satisfactory plan of such vessels can be devised here, the best course will perhaps be to submit the question, thought Commander Bullock to some of the best builders and machinists of France and England; and, after determining the plan, to contract, if possible, for their construction and delivery at sea, or at some neutral port.
It is proper to say, however, that it will always be in the power of any enemy to anchor his ship and protect her against torpedo-boats by means familiar to seamen and readily attainable, and similar to those now employed to protect the Ironsides. And it is believed that the General iron-clads anchored in Charleston harbor can protect themselves against such attacks with more certainly than against those made by heavy guns or heavy rams.
In reference to your remarks relative to asking an appropriation form Congress for this purpose, I will be happy to confer with you, and also to obtain the benefit of any suggestion you may make to facilitate the object in view.
General Beuaregard's notes on the iron-clads in Charleston having been thus presented, it is proper to advert to them. After stating that they are defective in six respects, he says, "they are unseaworthy." Certainly they are unseaworthy, as vessels usually are that are built as these were, for harbor defense chiefly. They are not expected to got to sea, in the ordinary acceptation of the term. To have made them seaworthy would have decreased their defensive power.
Such of the enemy's monitors as are seaworthy, do not expose themselves at close quarters ot his heavy guns.
He says, further, "they are incapable of resisting the enemy's 15-inch shot at close quarters." Their power of resistance to such shot is probably greater than those of the enemy's ships; but it may well be doubted whether any iron-clad yet built is capable of resisting them. If the inclined shields of these iron-clads are in cable of such resistance, the shields of the enemy, nearly vertical, are less so.
He further says:
They cannot fight at long range, their guns not admitting an elevation greater than 5o to 7o, corresponding to 1 1\4 to 1 1\2 miles range. Even at long range, naval officers are of opinion that the oblique sides and flat decks of our gunboats would not resist the plunging host of the enemy's 200 and 300 pounders.
These vessels were designed and armed to fight the enemy's ironclad, which can only be successfully assailed at close quarters, and the range of their guns is ample for this purpose.
But, in point of fact, their guns have the elevation usually given to the prot guns of cruising ships. "If," as General Beauregard says,"the enemy's iron-clads re invulnerable ot shoes above water beyond 800 yards," a greater range than from 1 1\4 to 1 1\2 miles, which he says our vessels possess, would seem onto only to be called for, but a defect, demanding, as it would seem not only to be uncalled for, but a defect, demanding, as it would, a larger opening for the gun.
He further says:
The best proof of the total failure of the three iron-clad gunboats, Chicora, Palmetto State, and Charleston, constructed at such cost and labor, is that although commanded by our most gallant officer, they did not fire one shot in the defense of Fort Sumter during the naval attack of the 7th of April last. Nor have they fired a shot in the defense of Morris Island and Sumter during the present siege (which has lasted over four months), except on one occasion, the assault on Sumter during the night of September 8 last, when the Chicora fired a few shots on the enemy's boats and barges.