Another Disunion piece worth reading. I couldn’t find room for the Ellet story in my podcast schedule, sadly, so I’m glad to see a good account written in the Times. (Shelby Foote did a great job with it too, as you’d expect.)
The two met in mid-March, setting aside their differences and personalities, as each of them shared enormous dismay over the state of the Navy. Ellet convinced Stanton not just of the value of rams, but that if the Union didn’t build them, the Confederacy would. Stanton authorized Ellet to build and lead a ram fleet to be kept under Stanton’s personal control — not so much because Stanton wanted his own private navy, but because Welles wanted no part of the endeavor. It was a highly unusual arrangement, especially given Ellet’s lack of a military background.
Ellet moved efficiently, quickly assembling a fleet of five steamers, plus several smaller ones and coal barges. He outfitted the ships with as few guns as possible, as he wanted lightweight boats capable of achieving maximum ramming speed. Ellet also began to put together crews, preferring river men. He obtained permission from Stanton to bring his brother Alfred from his post as a captain in the 59th Illinois Infantry to be his second in command. Alfred joined him in May, bringing with him two more Ellets: Alfred’s son and nephew, Edward and John. By the beginning of June, several more of Ellet’s family would be on the fleet, including Ellet’s teenage son, Charles Rivers Ellet, who came on as a medical cadet on June 1 – his 19th birthday.