“With twenty more 10-inch and rifle guns… Charleston could resist any fleet….”: Jones requests more guns

The day after complaining to General Braxton Bragg that he had more guns than crews to man them, Major-General Samuel Jones inquired about getting some more guns for Charleston.  By way of his Adjutant, Captain Henry Wemyss Feilden, Jones sent this inquiry to Colonel Josiah Gorgas at the Confederate Ordnance Bureau:

It is extremely probable that the fleet now attacking Mobile under Admiral Farragut may, during the fall, be brought to operate against the fortifications and city of Charleston combined with the fleet now here under the command of Admiral Dahlgren. I am led to this supposition from two reasons: If the enemy fails in his present operations against Mobile, Farragut’s fleet would be uselessly employed in the harbor of that place, now that the Tennessee and others of our vessels are destroyed, three or four monitors and a few light-draught gun-boats will effectually blockade the city of Mobile. If, on the other hand, Mobile falls, Farragut’s fleet would be set at liberty for operations on the eastern coast, and there can be little doubt that Charleston would be the first place assailed. My conviction is that an iron-clad fleet, as numerous as these combined ones would be, could under resolute commander pass between our batteries on Sullivan’s Island and Fort Sumter with more or less loss. If the interior harbor of Charleston was properly armed with guns of heavy caliber I should have no fear of the ultimate result; as it is, our interior defenses are very inadequately armed. In consequence of the enemy’s daily increase of fire on our outworks, I have had from time to time to remove guns from the inner to the outer defenses, and their places have not been refilled. I do sincerely hope you will use every exertion to supply me with more heavy guns. With twenty more 10-inch and rifle guns I believe Charleston could resist any fleet that the Federal Government might send against it; in our present position, I feel deeply apprehensive as to the result of a grand naval attack.

If there is any doubt as to the shock felt throughout the Confederacy after Rear-Admiral David G. Farragut ran into Mobile Bay, here is ample evidence.  More than just a morale boost to the northern population, “damn the torpedoes” indicated the Federals could force their way into any harbor of the Confederacy if desired.  And, as seen at Mobile, once they were in the bay, the only chance to resist the the ironclads was inner harbor defenses (slim though that might be).

During his tenure, General P.G.T. Beauregard constructed an inner ring of defenses for Charleston harbor with just this in mind.  Granted, those defenses were weakened in order to bolster areas directly threatened outside Charleston.  But more to the point, Beauregard had never gotten the number of guns he felt were needed in the first place. Now Jones asked for just 20 more of those big columbiads or rifles.

Consider that Tredegar cast only nineteen 10-inch Columbiads and twenty-one Brookes (rifled and smoothbore) between January 1864 and the end of the war.  On the other hand, Brigadier-General George Ramsay at the Federal Ordnance Department complained that 174 guns – 8-, 10-, and 15-inch Rodmans – delivered in the first half of 1864 was insufficient!

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, page 615.)


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