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CHAPTER X.

THE PREPARATION OF THE SUMTER FOR SEA- -SHE DROPS DOWN BETWEEN THE FORTS JACKSON, AND ST. PHILIPRECEIVES HER SAILING ORDERS-LIST OF OFFICERS.

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GREAT change was apparent in New Orleans since I had last visited it. The levée in front of the city was no longer a great mart of commerce, piled with cotton bales, and supplies going back to the planter; densely packed with steamers, and thronged with a busy multitude. The long lines of shipping above the city had been greatly thinned, and a general air of desolation hung over the river front. It seemed as though a pestilence brooded over the doomed city, and that its inhabitants had fled before the fell destroyer. The Sumter lay on the opposite side of the river, at Algiers, and I crossed over every morning to superintend her refitment. I was sometimes detained at the ferry-house, waiting for the ferry-boat, and on these occasions, casting my eyes up and down the late busy river, it was not unfrequent to see it without so much as a skiff in motion on its bosom.

But this first simoon of the desert which had swept over the city, as a foretaste of what was to come, had by no means discouraged its patriotic inhabitants. The activity of commerce had ceased, it is true, but another description of activity had taken its place. War now occupied the thoughts of the multitude, and the sound of the drum, and the tramp of armed men were heard in the streets. The balconies were crowded with lovely women in gay attire, to witness the military processions, and the Confederate flag in miniature was pinned on almost every bosom. The enthusiasm of the Frenchman had been most easily and gracefully blended with the stern determination of the Southern man of English descent; the consequence of which was, that there was more demonstrative

patriotism in New Orleans, than in any other of our Southern cities. Nor was this patriotism demonstrative only, it was deep and real, and was afterward sealed with some of the best Creole blood of the land, poured out, freely, on many a desperate battle-field. Alas! poor Louisiana. Once the seat of wealth, and of a gay and refined hospitality, thy manorial residences are deserted, and in decay, or have been levelled by the torch of the incendiary; thy fruitful fields, that were cultivated by the contented laborer, who whistled his merriment to his lazy plow, have been given to the jungle; thy fair daughters have been insulted, by the coarse, and rude Vandal; and even thy liberties have been given in charge of thy freedmen; and all this, because thou wouldst thyself be free!

I now took my ship actively in hand, and set gangs of mechanics at work to remove her upper cabins, and other tophamper, preparatory to making the necessary alterations. These latter were considerable, and I soon found that I had a tedious job on my hands. It was no longer the case, as it had been in former years, when I had had occasion to fit out a ship, that I could go into a navy-yard, with well-provided workshops, and skilled workmen ready with all the requsite materials at hand to execute my orders. Everything had to be improvised, from the manufacture of a water-tank, to the "kids, and cans" of the berth-deck messes, and from a gun-carriage to a friction-primer. I had not only to devise all the alterations but to make plans, and drawings of them, before they could be comprehended. The main deck was strengthened, by the addition of heavy beams to enable it to support the battery; a berth-deck was laid for the accommodation of the crew; the engine, which was partly above the water-line, was protected by a system of wood-work, and iron bars; the ship's rig was altered so as to convert her into a barkentine, with square-sails on her fore and main-masts; the officers' quarters, including my own cabin, were re-arranged; new suits of sails were made, and new boats constructed; hammocks and bedding were procured for the crew, and guns, gun-carriages, and ammunition ordered. Two long, tedious months were consumed in making these various alterations, and additions. My battery was to consist of an eight-inch shell gun, to be pivoted amid

ships, and of four light thirty-two pounders, of thirteen cwt. each, in broadside.

The Secretary of the Navy, who was as anxious as myself that I should get to sea immediately, had given me all the assistance in his power, readily acceding to my requests, and promptly filling, or causing to be filled, all my requisitions. With the secession of Virginia we had become possessed of a valuable depot of naval supplies, in the Norfolk Navy Yard. It was filled with guns, shot, shell, cordage, and everything that was useful in the equipment of a ship, but it was far away from New Orleans, and such was the confusion along the different lines of railroad, that it was difficult to procure transportation. Commander Terry Sinclair, the active ordnance officer of the yard, had early dispatched my guns, by railroad, but weeks elapsed without my being able to hear anything of them. I was finally obliged to send a lieutenant in search of them, who picked them up, one by one, as they had been thrown out on the road-side, to make room for other freight. My gun-carriages I was obliged to have constructed myself, and I was fortunate enough to obtain the services of a very ingenious mechanic to assist me in this part of my dutiesMr. Roy, a former employee of the Custom-House, within whose ample walls he had established his work-shop. He contrived most ingeniously, and constructed out of railroad iron, one of the best carriages (or rather, slide and circle) for a pivotgun, which I have ever seen. The large foundry of Leeds & Co. took the contract for casting my shot, and shells, and executed it to my satisfaction.

Whilst all these various operations are going on, we may conveniently look around us upon passing events, or at least upon such of them as have a bearing upon naval operations. President Davis, a few days after the secession of Virginia, and when war had become imminent, issued a proclamation for the purpose of raising that irregular naval force, of which I have spoken in a previous page. Parties were invited to apply for letters-of-marque and reprisal, with a view to the fitting out of privateers, to prey upon the enemy's commerce. Under this proclamation several privateers-generally light-draught river-steamers, with one or two small guns each—were hastily

prepared, in New Orleans, and had already brought in some prizes captured off the mouths of the Mississippi. Even this small demonstration seemed to surprise, as well as alarm the Northern government, for President Lincoln now issued a proclamation declaring the molestation of Federal vessels, on the high seas, by Confederate cruisers, piracy. He had also issued a proclamation declaring the ports of the Confederacy in a state of blockade. The mouths of the Mississippi were to be sealed on the 25th of May.

The European governments, as soon as it became evident, that the two sections were really at war, took measures accordingly. Great Britain took the lead, and declared a strict neu. trality between the combatants. It was of the essence of such a declaration, that it should put both belligerents on the same footing. This was apparently done, and the cruisers of both sections were prohibited, alike, from taking their prizes into British ports. I shall have something to say of the unequal operation of this declaration of neutrality, in a future part of these memoirs; for the present it is only necessary to state, that it acknowledged us to be in possession of belligerent rights. This was a point gained certainly, but it was no more than was to have been expected. Indeed, Great Britain could do nothing less. In recognizing the war which had broken out between the sections, as a war, and not as a mere insurrection, she had only followed the lead of Mr. Lincoln himself. Efforts had been made it is true, both by Mr. Lincoln, and his Secretary of State, to convince the European governments that the job which they had on their hands was a small affair; a mere family quarrel, of no great significance.

But the truth would not be suppressed, and when, at last, it became necessary to declare the Confederate ports in a state of blockade, and to send ships of war thither, to enforce the declaration, the sly little game which they had been playing was all up with them. A blockade was an act of war, which came under the cognizance of the laws of nations. It concerned neutrals, as well as belligerents, and foreign nations were bound to take notice of it. It followed that there could not be a blockade without a war; and it equally followed, that there could not be a war without at least two belligerent par

ties to it. It will thus be seen, that the declaration of neutrality of Great Britain was a logical sequence of Mr. Lincoln's, and Mr. Seward's own act. And yet with sullen, and singular inconsistency, the Northern Government has objected, from that day to this, to this mere routine act of Great Britain. So much was this act considered, as a matter of course, at the time, that all the other powers of the earth, of sufficient dignity to act in the premises, at all, followed the example set them by Great Britain, and issued similar declarations; and the four years of bloody war that followed justified the wisdom of their

acts.

We may now return to the equipment of the Sumter. A rendezvouz had been opened, and a crew had been shipped for her, which was temporarily berthed on board the receiving ship, Star of the West, a transport-steamer of the enemy, which had been gallantly captured by some Texans, and turned over to the Navy. New Orleans was full of seamen, discharged from ships that had been laid up, and more men were offering themselves for service, than I could receive. I had the advantage, therefore, of picking my crew, an advantage which no one but a seaman can fully appreciate. My lieutenants, surgeon, paymaster, and marine officer had all arrived, and, with the consent of the Navy Department, I had appointed my engineers-one chief, and three assistants-boatswain, carpenter, and sailmaker. My provisions had been purchased, and were ready to be put on board, and my funds had already arrived, but we were still waiting on the mechanics, who, though doing their best, had not yet been able to turn the ship over to us. From the following letter to the Secretary of the Navy, inclosing a requisition for funds, it will be seen that my demands upon the department were quite moderate, and that I expected to make the Sumter pay her own expenses, as soon as she should get to sea.

NEW ORLEANS, May 14, 1861. SIR-I have the honor to inclose, herewith, a requisition for the sum of $10,000, which I request may be remitted to the paymaster of the Sumter, in specie, for use during my contemplated cruise. I may find it necessary to coal several times, and to supply my crew with fresh provisions, &c., before I have the opportunity of replenishing my military chest from the enemy.

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