War of the Rebellion: Serial 069 Page 0830 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter XLVIII.

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consequently but 4 miles an hour, a speed, however, which is understood to be but little, if any, inferior to the enemy's monitors. Had this vessel been below the obstructions the enemy could not have sounded and dragged the river with his row-boats, followed by his wooden gun-boats, and have captured our submarine batteries, rendering our labors for two years in this work abortive. The Richmond would have kept them back and compelled him to bring forward his iron-clads, when our torpedoes would have been available for what they were designed.

My next application to have the obstructions opened was on thee 2nd of January last, as follows:

I have the honor to request that orders may be given to the engineer officers in charge of the construction of the obstructions in the James River to open those at Drewry's Bluff sufficiently to permit the passage of the iron-clads Richmond and Fredericksburg. I deem it highly important to the defenses of the river that these vessels should be below the obstructions. I beg leave to suggest for your consideration the expediency of constructing a suitable caisson to hold i readiness to be sunk in thee space made for these vessels, and which can be made by the time the obstructions are removed.

To this I received no response until the 3rd of March last, when Colonel Stevens addressed me the following letter, dated February 29, 1864:

I have the honor to state that a copy of your letter of date January 2, 1864, to the Secretary of War has been sent to me by General Bragg. I shall commence at once to open the obstructions upon the receipt of information when the gun-boats will be ready to move. I respectfully inquire if I can have a caisson built at the navy-yard?

To this I returned the following reply, dated March 10, 1864:

An earlier reply to your letter of the 29th ultimo, which was received by me on the 3rd instant, has been delayed by the want of information as to the ability of the Tredegar Works to furnish certain iron plating. I am now advised by the constructor that the Virginia will be ready to pass the obstructions in six weeks.

In reference to your inquiry as to the building of a caisson at the navy-yard here, the chief constructor states that we "cannot conveniently build a caisson at the navy-yard just now; our saw-mill is down, undergoing repairs, and we have furnished a large amount of timer to rebuild the boat bridges. The gun-carriage maker will require one month from date to complete the carriages of the Fredericksburg."

The Richmond had long been ready to pass the barrier and to fight, and I desired her to go below at once, and the Fredericksburg was completed and required only her guns to be placed on board. The Virginia was incomplete, and there was in my judgment reason for opening thee barrier as early as possible. With regard to thee report of Colonel Stevens of a conversation held with me as to the time of completing the Virginia, I have only to say that neither in that nor in any other conversation have I ever acquiesced in any delay in opening the obstructions, and that I have earnestly and repeatedly sought to have them removed is, I trust, evident from my action upon the subject.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Secretary of the Navy.


May 25, 1864.

Brigadier General W. N. PENDLETON, Commanding Artillery:

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to your order, I have inspected the horses of the batteries of horse artillery