Fremont’s personal conduct in these disagreeable circumstances was entirely commendable. He took leave of the army in a short farewell order, couched in terms of perfect obedience to authority and courtesy to his successor, asking for him the same cordial support he had himself received. Nor did he by word or act justify the suspicions of insubordination for which some of his indiscreet adherents had given cause. Under the instructions President Lincoln had outlined in his order to Hunter, that general gave up the idea of indefinitely pursuing Price, and divided the army into two corps of observation, which were drawn back and posted, for the time being, at the two railroad termini of Rolla and Sedalia, to be recruited and prepared for further service.
Royal Captured—The Trent
Affair—Lincoln Suggests Arbitration—Seward’s Despatch—McClellan at
Washington—Army of the Potomac—McClellan’s Quarrel with
Scott—Retirement of Scott—Lincoln’s Memorandum—“All Quiet on the
Potomac”—Conditions in Kentucky—Cameron’s Visit to Sherman—East
Tennessee—Instructions to Buell—Buell’s Neglect—Halleck in Missouri
Following the fall of Fort Sumter, the navy of the United States was in no condition to enforce the blockade from Chesapeake Bay to the Rio Grande declared by Lincoln’s proclamation of April 19. Of the forty-two vessels then in commission nearly all were on foreign stations. Another serious cause of weakness was that within a few days after the Sumter attack one hundred and twenty-four officers of the navy resigned, or were dismissed for disloyalty, and the number of such was doubled before the fourth of July. Yet by the strenuous efforts of the department in fitting out ships that had been laid up, in completing those under construction, and in extensive purchases and arming of all classes of vessels that could be put to use, from screw and side-wheel merchant steamers to ferry-boats and tugs, a legally effective blockade was established within a period of six months. A considerable number of new war-ships was also immediately placed under construction. The special session of Congress created a commission to study the subject of ironclads, and on its recommendation three experimental vessels of this class were placed under contract. One of these, completed early in the following year, rendered a momentous service, hereafter to be mentioned, and completely revolutionized naval warfare.
Meanwhile, as rapidly as vessels could be gathered and prepared, the Navy Department organized effective expeditions to operate against points on the Atlantic coast. On August 29 a small fleet, under command of Flag Officer Stringham, took possession of Hatteras Inlet, after silencing the forts the insurgents had erected to guard the entrance, and captured twenty-five guns and seven hundred prisoners. This success, achieved without the loss of a man to the Union fleet, was of great importance, opening, as it did, the way for a succession of victories in the interior waters of North Carolina early in the following year.