QUARTERMASTER-GENERAL'S OFFICE, Washington, D. C., July 6, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to return the letter* of General Foster asking that the Thirteenth New York Heavy Artillery may be ordered to the Department of the South, with the armed transports Burnside, Reno, Parke, and Foster, built by Mr. Wiard, and that the Savannah and Augusta, also built by Mr. Wiard, may be likewise forwarded to him for operation in the department under his command. The first four of these steamers were purchased by this department under urgent requisitions from the commanding generals of North Carolina and at Fort Monroe. Three are now in the waters of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, and one repairing at Baltimore. Reports received at this office as to their efficiency and value or contradictory. I inclose an abstract of these reports.+ General butler informed me verbally that he found them very useful. My own opinion is that while they can penetrate shallow creeks, defended only by musketry, they are liable to meet field or heavier guns n almost all such expeditions, and that they would almost certainly be sunk upon coming under fire of artillery; still, any wooden gun-boat with exposed boilers is liable to this accident, and, in the experience of the campaign on the Southern coast, the navy has lost more than one in such conflicts. The Savannah and Augusta are, it is reported by Mr. Wiard (see his letter inclosed+), completely fitted for service. The guns and carriages, I understand, have been furnished at the expense of the War Department. I know of no promise or obligation on the part of the United States to purchase of inspection.
If the operations contemplated by General Foster are approved and sanctioned, I think these two steamers should be sent to him, provided they can be obtained at a reasonable cost and on inspection prove to be well constructed. They are armed transports rather than gun-boats, inferior in strength and superior in carrying capacity to what are generally understood to be gun-boats. With them the troops can penetrate the creeks to some extent and harass the enemy. Without some such vessels I presume a purely defensive attitude, waiting for attack, only can be maintained.
Over the four vessels asked for, but now under General Butler's command, the Quartermaster-General can exercise no control.
The requisition of General Foster is respectfully returned.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. C. MEIGS,
JULY 9, 1864.
Respectfully referred to Lieutenant-General Grant, for his decision on the plans of General Foster and on sending to him the boats now in General Butler's department.
H. W. HALLECK,
Major-General, Chief of Staff.
*See June 22, p. 144.