GUN-BOATS AND ARMED TRANSPORTS.
The large and more powerful steamers owned or chartered by the department, and employed in the transportation of troops and supplies along the coast, have been generally armed sufficiently to enable them to defend themselves against privateers, or to capture such blockade-runners as in their cruises they may overhaul. Several captures have been made by these vessels. Upon the bayous of the Southwest, where transport are constantly liable to attacks by partisans, or even by large detachments of the rebel forces, the transport steamer have also been generally provided with guns and arms. In these waters, and at the mounts of the Mississippi River, several of the department vessels have been surprised and captured. This mistofortune is less frequent since the habit of arming them, and of holding the commanders and crews to a rigid accountability, has been established by Colonel Holabird, chief quartermaster Department of the Gulf, under authority from the War Department.
The Mississippi Marine Brigade has been disbanded, its officers mustered out of service, and its men distributed to the regiments to which they originally belonged. The material of the fleet-the transports, rams, and tug-boats of which it consisted-however, still remain the property of the department, and are stationed at various points on the Mississippi, ready for the transport of troops to any point at which may be required.
Upon the Upper Tennessee, it being impracticable for the gun- boats of the naval flotilla to ascend above the Muscle Shoals, four steamers were constructed in the quartermaster's dockyard at Bridgeport, under the direction of Captain Arthur Edwards, assistant quartermaster, and which launched, placed at the disposal of the Navy Department, to be armed and equipped and manned as gun-boats, to patrol the Tennessee from the Muscle Shoals to Knoxville.
Upon the Ohio, at a season of low water, when an advance of the rebels to that river was threatened, and incursions had been made by guerrillas, seizing peaceful trading steam-boats and destroying some transports engaged in the service of this department, six steamers were chartered by the advice of the Governor of Ohio, armed, and fitted for patrolling this river. They are still in service, but as the season of high water now diminishes the need of constant patrol, it is proposed, without moving the armament, to make use of them as transports.
Commanding generals of all maritime departments desire to have, subject to their immediate orders, a few armed light-draft gun- boats or transports, to be used in movements of troops upon the bays and inland channels of navigation, in which they find it difficult always to command the services of the naval flotilla.
At a time when the naval fleets were imperfectly organized this aid from the Quartermaster's Department was no doubt necessary. Now the policy of continuing the employment of these vessels, except as transports, is doubtful. Quite a number of these vessels still remain in service upon the James the waters of North and South Carolina. The department is constructing at Philadelphia four light-draft steam ferry transports, capable or carrying a battery of artillery, with its horses, a train of wagons, or a regiment of infantry, crossing the widest estuaries, or ever making short sea voyages, and still of such light draft as to run inshore and make landings without the construction of wharves or docks. They are of about 350 tons burden,