Captain Henry C. Taylor to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
U.S.S.INDIANA, 1st rate,
Dry Tortugas, Fla.,
March 21, 1898.
Bureau Ordnance letter # 2255,received and I have sent it to the War College, asking Captain Goodrich if the plans mentioned are not in the files there, to send over to the Torpedo Station and see if Commander Converse left them there.1
About two years ago Commander Converse informed me, that if the general plan of any naval campaign demanded a large mosquito fleet quickly, that the mechanical work could on Narragansett bay would be able to provide them,(as far as the engines were concerned) the machinery complete of the first one within 3 weeks, and thereafter could turn out one a week, or even more if desirable.2
I do not remember whether or not the hull construction of these boats was arranged for, but I know that we were about to take up this question with builders on Narrangansetts bay, the Hudson river and on Lake Erie, when circumstances made it no longer necessary,3 in fact more desirable not to go into details, but enough was done to show clearly that hulls and fittings could be provided as quickly as the engines mentioned.
The above is written from memory but I hope to see Captain Converse in Key West, to which point I am now on my way from Tortugas, and talk with him about it, however, the rapidity of construction would depend largely upon a system thoroughly worked out beforehand and with the private manufactures working under government supervision.
One large firm informed Captain Converse of their willingness to do this if serious trouble threatened; they could continue their work without change of methods, but, the kind and quality and amount of output to be determined by naval officers put in charge there by the Department.
I will only add that the construction of parger [i.e., larger] vessels than small torpedo boats, but to be part of our mosquito fleet, was also under consideration, but had not advanced to the stage of actual preliminary agreement.
I believe that the War College in combination with the Torpedo Station could give the Bureau in a few days most satisfactory information about this, for Captain Converse and I, when we were stationed there, had no doubt of our ability to put small vessels afloat with surprising rapidity.4
3. Permit me to add that as a result of my experience in these waters, that torpedo boats are not efficient for picket duty and the protection of the heavier ships from the enimies small craft. They rae [i.e., are] themselves, not comfortable in a moderate sea-way and cannot be as good lokouts as a flotilla improvised from the tug boats and steam yachts of our coast. I would respectfully submit to the Bereau, that torpedo boats as well as destroyers, defend a fleet best by the active offenceive and by persistent attacks upon the enemy’s vessels and harbors, destroying the enemys small craft or causing them to stay at home. The cannot, as I said, act for a long period, as pickets for our heavier ships, and our own steam cutters and rowing cutters are more useful to us in that respect, when painted a dark color as we have done with our picket boats, that the torpedo boats could be.
Source Note: TCy, DLC-MSS, Papers of Henry C. Taylor. Addressed below close: “The/Secretary of the Navy,/Washing ton,D.C. (Ordinance).” Second and third pages are paginated and dated in the upper-left corner.
Footnote 1: That is Capt. Caspar F. Goodrich. This portion indicates that the war plans of the Naval War College were used by the Navy at the onset of hostilities. Capt. Taylor wrote a number of them. Comdr. George A. Converse was Principal Assistant Inspector of Ordnance and Instructor in High-Speed Engines at the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, RI. See: Pre-War Planning.
Footnote 2: Possibly a reference to Hereshoff Manufacturing Co., of Bristol, RI. Taylor’s “mosquito fleet” was to protect American seaports in case of war. However, as is clear from paragraph 3 of this letter, others saw them as auxiliaries to be attached to the main American battle fleet.
Footnote 3: The places mentioned coupled with the use of the word “circumstances” suggest that Taylor is referring to war preparations made for a possible conflict with Great Britain, including an attack on Canada, during the crisis over Venezuela in 1895-96. On this crisis and war preparations, see Kenneth Bourne, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America 1815-1908. (Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967), 319-21.
Footnote 4: Taylor was president of the Naval War College from 1893 to 1896.