President Samuel Bell Maxey, looked out the window of his office and surveyed the sprawling, busy capitol of the Southern Confederacy. Until 1867 the city of Montgomery had played host to both the Confederate federal government formed in 1861 and the State government of Alabama which had been located there since Alabama had been formed as a State in the Union. The Alabama State government had decided to gradually relocate to the flourishing city of Birmingham, Alabama after 1870, to free up space for the ever expanding collection of confederate capitol buildings, bureaus and offices. It had been a good move for both governments, the other states had long been uncomfortable with the two governments being placed so closely together.
Maxey, reminded himself wearily was the Confederacy's seventh president, before him six other men had occupied and grappled with the problems that came with this office. Jefferson Finis Davis who had been elected the South's first president and been in many ways one of it's most divisive and controversial. The War between the States of 1861-67 had been a long drawn out affair, lasting all of Davis's tenure and there had been times when Maxey and others had wondered if the Confederacy would last six years let alone the twenty-eight it had so far held together. Davis had fought his own Congress almost as bitterly as the Union! Of course, Maxey thought those twenty-eight years had not been easy or harmonious for everyone either, conflicts both external and internal had marred those years which ought to have been ones of peaceful recovery.
It had also set back much progress in terms of both Confederate citizens lives and already scare state and federal funds. President John Cabell Breckinridge who had been elected in 1868 had worked to repair the physical damages of the long civil war and mend as many political fences both internally and with the foreign countries who had been both enemies and allies. Breckinridge's otherwise sterling presidency which had promoted widespread agricultural diversification, land reform, industrial and education developments and internal improvements in canals, roads and railways was marred only by an unwanted war he had sought to avoid . John Brown Gordon elected in 1874, managed to negotiate an end to the botched Mexican War in 1873 started in that year by Texas's maverick Governor John Robert Baylor. Gordon had then worked with a will to strengthen the confederacy and its institutions in every way he could and left the Confederacy in much better circumstances both politically and economically then it had been for a long time.
Robert Augustus Toombs, elected in 1880, on the other hand nearly managed to tear the Confederacy apart, with his destructive conflicts with Congress and even his own cabinet. Fortunately, Toombs had died more then halfway through his six year tenure to be replaced by his vice-president Howell Cobb, who himself only lived long enough to be sworen in before dying three months later. Simon Bolivar Buckner, the former Governor of South Kentucky was sworn in by the unanimous agreement of the Confederate Congress to act as a custodial president til new elections could be arranged. Buckner served as president through 1885-1887, and gave the Southern people three years of sober, efficient and prosperous government. Buckner had by the end of his term managed to erase much of the political damage Toombs had inflicted and even improve things for many citizens both white and black and red. Now, Maxey, thought his greatest concern was the ongoing quarrels with the Union over Missouri and similar entanglements with Spain over Cuba which threatened to strain working relations with both countries to the breaking point. That was something the president adamantly would attempt to avoid, the Confederacy did not need another war.
Maxey felt the country had turned a corner in the relations between it's white and black and red populations, although negro slavery was still a going institution with the fifteen states that made up the Confederacy. A decision Congress had made back during the Civil War, which Maxey and all the presidents that had followed Davis had lived to regret, since it cost the South it's good political relations with Great Britain and France, it's war time allies. All the negro soldiers who had been enlisted in the Confederate Army or Navy from the middle of the war on, had been freed along with their immediate families. They had been granted freedman status but that had been as far as Congress had been willing to go, and even that had been too far for the likes of Bob Toombs and Howell Cobb; who had lead the opposition in both political and military circles to try and block even that concession. Maxey sighed, President Toombs had also tried to undue the good relations with the Indian Tribes he and others like Albert Pike, Douglas Hancock Cooper and Stand Watie in Oklahoma had worked so hard to build up and steadily improve.
Admiral Leonidas Holt Bullfinch stared at the tall, heavily bearded president's back, his own arms folded tightly across his chest as he regarded his leader through his one good eye. Beside Bullfinch at the conference table sat Admiral Richard Lucian Page, the outgoing uniformed Commander of the Confederate Navy, Secretary of War General Gustavus Woodson Smith and Secretary of State James Lawrence Orr along with the Secretary of the Navy John Lunsford. The meeting the president had called that morning had been both a long and at times tense one. All of the men around the table could see the president was wrestling with a black mood, they happened more and more often of late. Then again, they also could understand why, they felt it themselves it was this house and everything that went with it.
"How are we on the progress towards completing the Garth Program?" Suddenly the president remarked from the window. Bullfinch and Page shared a glance. The Garth Program; named after Louisana Senator James Louis Garth, who had proposed it to the House and the Senate in 1884, for a comprehensive and large-scale construction program of both ships, shore installations and recruitment and training for the C.S.N. in particular the construction of a battle fleet worthy of the name. The Confederacy had a coastline of some three thousand five hundred and forty-nine miles with something like one-hundred and eighty-five openings for commerce: harbours, bays, channels, rivers, lagoons and swamps. It was a massive waterfront to both defend and patrol. Prior naval construction programs had built up a sizeable fleet but it largely consisted of riverine and coastal warships, steam screw or paddle-wheel driven vessels. One hundred gunboats made up the bulk of the Patrol Fleet, backed up by a small number of larger corvettes, while one hundred larger steam frigates and cruisers made up the balance of the Cruising Fleet, most of these vessels had been designed as long range commerce raiders so they were vessels with long endurance, good turns of speed but limited armaments as they were meant to fight merchant vessels not warships. The rest of the C.S.N. that wasn't support or logistical vessels was composed almost entirely of casemate ironclads designed for one of three very specified roles: riverine, coastal and harbour defense.
Senator Garth, had recognized that the Navy lacked any real deep water force: it's largest casemate ironclads while powerful in their own right, were only capable of limited to moderate deep water operations, that could successfully carry a war to a nautical enemy. The Union and Spain being the case in point, when he proposed the highly controversial bill, both countries had powerful navies, and possessed considerable institutional experience of using naval power in all it's forms something the Confederacy was entirely deficient in some respects.
"It's proceeding well, in fact we might be just a bit ahead of schedule in the circumstances." Admiral Page said after a moment. "The heart of the new Atlantic Fleet will be out of dock and running trials by the middle of this year, and ready for duty by December at the earliest."
President Maxey nodded silently, the Atlantic Fleet, which would augment rather then replace the existing four Atlantic squadrons (which covered the C.S.A.'s coast from Chesapeake Bay, Virginia to the southern tip of Florida) would contain some sixty new vessels being constructed at the various C.S.N. Dockyards and several privates slipways in Norfolk, Charleston and Savannah - seventeen turret battleships, sixteen armoured cruisers, sixteen torpedoboat-destroyers and eleven large sea-going torpedoboats. Admiral Page looked both pleased and not a little regretful, he and then Naval Secretary Robert Hubert had shepherded Garth's bill through Congress and the bitter opposition of then President Toombs and worked out the mountain of attendant details needed to implement it, and now Page was retiring - he would be eighty-two this December - from active service just as the ten year program was coming to fruition.