Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Captain Gustavus V. Fox to Montgomery Blair, February 23, 1861

NEW YORK, February 23, 1861.

MY DEAR BLAIR: Mr. Blunt received a telegraph from General Scott a few days since which he thought indicated an adjournment of my plan; but I put the construction upon it that another was substituted for mine, and I feel certain it must be “boats.” To corroborate this the New York Times, of February 21, says: “Government has determined to relieve Fort Sumter by boats at night.” I consider this plan possible, and the alternative of mine, but inferior at every step. The distance from Fort Sumter to outside is five miles – an hour's pull. From this point the open ocean, winter season, and at night, say two hundred men (requiring for six months five hundred and forty-six barrels of provisions) are to be put into boats, rowed over a very dangerous bar, and subjected for half an hour to a fire of grape from sixty guns. Besides, if a single tug (they have four) eludes Major Anderson's vigilance, she would run in amongst these boats with perfect impunity to herself and utter destruction to them. I have made two cruises on the coast of Africa, where the passing of bars by boats, unless very light and in broad daylight, was considered the most dangerous duty we were subjected to, fatal accidents being common in the smoothest weather. Moreover, this plan has been spoken of publicly in connection with the U. S. ship Brooklyn, and from this fact is probably made a special study by the Charlestonians.

I simply propose three tugs, convoyed by light-draught men-of-war. These tugs are sea-boats, six feet draught, speed fourteen knots. The boilers are below, with three and a half feet space on each side, to be filled with coal. The machinery comes up between the wheel-houses, with a gangway on either hand of five to six feet, enabling us to pack the machinery with two or three thicknesses of bales of cotton or hay. This renders the vulnerable parts of the steamer proof against grape and fragments of shells, but the momentum of a solid shot would probably move the whole mass and disable the engine. The men are below, entirely protected from grape – provisions on deck. The first tug to lead in empty, to open their fire. The other two to follow, with the force divided, and towing the large iron boats of the Baltic, which would hold the whole force should every tug be disabled, and empty they would not impede the tugs. When such men as George W. Blunt, Charles K. Marshall, and Russell Sturgis, all seamen, give my plan the preference, it must have merit. At Kinburn, in the Black Sea, eight gunboats passed in the night forts mounting eighty guns – only one boat hit. The next day, in broad daylight, the Cracker (English) came out under their deliberate fire – distance nine hundred yards. The Vladimar (Russian steamer at Sebastopol) was under fire at various distances during the whole war, but her motion prevented her being disabled. How few of Dahlgren's shots hit the target with all the elements of success he is capable of producing! I am sure I could convince the authorities of the preference that is due to this plan, if I could argue the plan instead of write it.

Sincerely yours,
 G. V. FOX.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 1 (Serial No. 1), p. 204-5

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