Navy photo: The Richmond press and soon the Confederate Congress questioned Stephen Mallory’s competence as Navy secretary.
For all Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory's spending on ironclads, the Richmond press complained, “The enemy commands the water.”
The newspapers were reflecting the growing sense of dread that gripped the capital of the Confederacy as the Army of the Potomac massed at Fortress Monroe. Norfolk had fallen. The Gosport Naval Shipyard was back in Union hands. CSS Virginia was lying in the mud off Craney island. Richmond seemed ripe for attack from the river.
For months, the Dispatch, the Examiner, and the Whig demanded the James River be obstructed. They wondered what lessons – if any ¾ had been learned from the defeats at Forts Donelson and Henry, Island No. 10, which fell in a combined naval and land attack and put much of Tennessee under Union control. Worse yet was what happened below New Orleans. The ironclads being built to defend it were not ready for battle, and the Union Navy captured the South’s largest city in a daring strike up river. Along the Atlantic coast, matters were no better. Fort Macon in North Carolina was taken in a combined sea and land assault as was Fort Pulaski, defending the water approaches to Savannah, Georgia.
The Whig was scathing:"The amiable somnambulist who presides over naval affairs has contented himself ... without once putting his foot outside the city to see that work.”
The cries for Mallory’s head were soon echoing inside the Confederate Capitol.