Tuesday, January 4, 2011

State of the Fleet 1861

Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter complained in his memoirs of service that the Navy did not have the resources to snuff out the fires of secession in its early stages.  The fact of the matter was that despite the looming conflict, the United States Navy still had a job to do patrolling the world's oceans.  Below is a downloadable map of the state of fleet as of January 1861.


  1. This is a really interesting map. Along with the subsequent post by Craig on the USS Brooklyn and Ft. Sumter, I have to pose the question; if the US Navy did have the resources it needed (per Adm. Porter's complaint), could it have stopped the secession movement??? If a squadron of USN ships sailed into Charleston Harbor and returned the fire of the Confederate gunners in April 1861, would that have stopped secession, or would it have further fanned the flames of the movement?? Seaman Rob.

  2. Seaman Rob,

    Secession was unstoppable by the Navy because it had already taken place. Fort Sumter was not an issue of stopping secession so much as holding the Union property in Charleston. The Navy could have possibly assisted in holding Ft. Sumter, but that wouldn't have suddenly brought South Carolina back into the Union. It could have changed the course of the war somewhat, perhaps, but a larger more prepared Navy would probably not have avoided the Civil War. It most likely would have just started it in an different way.
    It may have, as you mentioned, "further fanned the flames of the movement," since a Union victory would still have been seen as northern aggression.

    Just my opinion though. I hope the others chime in, since they tend to know more about the military stuff than I do.

  3. Rob and Sarah,

    Thank you for the excellent comments. There are some great and valid points here that warrant further discussion. I will repost this question on the CWN 150 Board (on the tab on the page's masthead) if you or anybody else would like to post any further comments.


    Matthew T. Eng