Navy Department, December 19, 1862.
Dear Sir, — I have yours of 17th inst. I fancy there can be no ironclads for the rebels put into the water before May. But they require strict watching and ample measures to guard against their coming over here. Mr. Seward is of the opinion that the English government are very anxious for us to come into their market for the purchase of vessels, that we may be put upon an equal footing with the South. The reclamations in the matter of the Alabama have disturbed them very much. With this view of the matter, Mr. Welles rather inclines to some doubt about making any purchases. I think you and Mr. Upton better come on after the holidays; it would be good to discuss that and other matters.
When a superintending Providence deprives us of all means of recruiting our armies, I believe we will call upon those who, at least, will, by their desertion, paralyze the rebels. The President remarked to me the other night that he was very anxious to have us take Sumter, and that he would man it with negroes. When the Nahant leaves, we shall have the number of ironclads fixed upon as the least number to go into Charleston. That vessel will not probably leave before the first of January.
There is a good deal of depression felt at the repulse at Fredericksburg, and the President is exceedingly disturbed; but it seems to me that, looking over the whole ground, the movements contemplated West, and the probability of getting possession of the remaining ports South, we should hardly deserve success if we allowed our faith to waver now. It is a matter of regret, however, that the whole military force of the country is not used to expel the enemy from Virginia.
SOURCE: Sarah Forbes Hughes, Letters and Recollections of John Murray Forbes, Volume 1, p. 342-3