Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/399

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

experimented with by the Russians in the Crimea, but it had proved ineffectual against the allied fleets. Under the spur of dire necessity the Confederates turned their attention to it, and it was brought to such a state of efficiency that Charleston, Wilmington, and Savannah maintained a successful defense till near the end of the war, despite the efforts of Dupont and Dahlgren to force an entrance through their harbors. Their destructiveness was demonstrated at many other points, and fifty-eight vessels, including ironclads, were destroyed by this means in Southern waters.

Shortly after the breaking out of the war, the naval department of the Confederacy began experiments of various sorts with floating batteries and naval rams, many of which were conducted under the supervision of Lieutenant Catesby ApR. Jones. The name of Lieutenant Jones, together with that of Lieutenant John M. Brooke, the inventor of the "Brooke gun," and deviser of the plan by which the hull of the frigate Virginia was converted into the ironclad Merrimac, deserve mention along with Maury and Buchanan, as being the men who probably did most toward rendering the naval appliances of the Confederates effective. English and French officers who witnessed the fight in Hampton Roads of March 8, 1862, when the Merrimac sunk what were then considered as among the finest war ships, remarked to a Confederate naval officer. Captain H. B. Littlepage: "We have not a war ship in our navy; a wooden ship is no longer a war ship; that fight will rebuild and remodel the navies of the world." "The British navy," says Captain Littlepage, "which cost hundreds of millions of dollars, was as effectually destroyed on that eventful 8th of March as was the noble old Cumberland, sunk to her topsail yards by the Merrimac's ram, a weapon practically unknown before. The 9th of March but emphasized the value and importance of iron-plated vessels, and illustrated two principles in the construction of war ships which must last for all time—i. e., the deflecting and turreted armors."

The Confederate Ordnance Department had at its head a highly competent officer. Colonel Gorgas, and through a system of rigid civil-service examinations a set of efficient men were obtained. In the early part of the war, before the blockade became stringent, ordnance stores were purchased in Europe, and these, with what were captured from the enemy, were used. Many instances might be cited to show the difficulties that were gone through with to supply the army, such as the making of percussion caps for the last year of the war (the Confederates being armed entirely with muzzle-loaders) out of turpentine and brandy stills gathered in North Carolina, the only copper mines in the South having fallen into the hands of the enemy. Another