US Secretary of War James Longstreet ate too much salted meat. US Secretary of War James Longstreet ate too much salted meat. On a hot day like today, if he stood too close, or, to be honest, even if he did not, you could smell the mix of whiskey and salted pork oozing from his pores. Currently the secretary of war was standing over a long wooden table in the blazing sun of an unexpectedly warm early spring day in Richmond, a number of model tin ships spread upon it and the outline of the Chilean coast drawn in thick black ink along one edge. In addition to the secretary of war, around the table stood the Secretary of Commerce James Ronald Chalmers, Secretary of State James Ewell Brown Stuart, US President Nathan Bedford Forest, and Commodore John Taylor Wood. Wood had only recently arrived via fast steamer from Chile with news of the naval battle between the allied Chilean and US fleet and the British one. Having thoroughly briefed Longstreet, the sweating Secretary of War was now providing a much more slurred, and entertaining, debriefing to the US cabinet. Longstreet picked up one of the British ships and smashed it into an American one, USS Gerber, a picket gunship and sent it sprawling, “British ships steamed up the southern coast an ad about seven eh em were spotted by…well… this little American gunship,” he slurred. “Gerber sir,” interjected Wood. “Right. Good show commodore,” continued Longstreet. “Gerber stokes her fires and heads for north but the British steamers overtake her at approximately eight twenty and she receives a shot to her midship that nearly breaks her in two. Fadally damaged, she limps for shore.” The secretary of war pushes the model British ships haphazardly north along the outline of the Chilean shore. Several of the model ships tip over. Wood is visibly anxious and is obviously restraining himself from righting them and placing them in their proper order only with great difficulty. When Longstreet straightens himself and circles the table to pour himself another glass of whiskey, Chalmers taking two large strides back to inspect something in the grass as he does, Wood’s compulsion is too great and he rights and orders the British ships in accordance with an outline sketched upon a piece of paper he withdraws from his pocket. Longstreet returns to the ships and begins outlining the opening salvos of the British ships, whom, he explains, “Due to their sinking of ar scout picket were able to approach our allied flit unobserved and so assume, initially a commanding upwind and seaward position. From here the British flit, formed up, was able to cause significant initial damage, striking the USS Louisiana in the stern and punching through her armor. The high explosive shells immediately set fire to her under-decks and as the fire spread and cooked her eight inch gun’s ammunichon, the captain ordered all hands to abandon ship.” Here Wood interrupted, “The Louisiana never fired a shot in battle.” Forrest took a shot of whiskey and nodded. Otherwise the table was silent. Longstreet seemed to have lost some of his momentum as the table grew contemplative and Wood, sensing the duty to have fallen to him continued, “The disadvantageous position actually cost both the Chilean and American navies several smaller ships including 4 gun ships and 1 frigate. As our own ships steamed to respond the Kirby-Smiths, took screening positions. These performed admirably, their powerful 3-chamber engines quickly moving them to position and their 8” armor easily turning the guns of the smaller British support craft. As our ships guns began to train upon the British fleet properly, the initial British advantage was soon blunted. A well-placed shot from the USS Carpenter was able to strike the British cruiser, HMS Victor’s main guns, effective forcing her into a purely support role.” Wood pointed to one of the British ships to indicate the Victor. Around the table the cabinet was focusing intently, eyes flickering between the toy ships and the commodore. Forrest paced furiously and his face wore his characteristic undisguised look of impatience and broiling anger while Chalmers was contemplative, slowly smoking his cigar, ignoring the whiskey. Stuart had joined Longstreet and poured himself a very generous helping of whiskey, helping himself also to a second cigar that hung, unlit, from his right hand- which somehow also balanced his whiskey. “The exchange quickly disabled the USS Dakota’s engines leaving her to drift and slowly fall behind the USS Washington,” Wood moved the model of a US cruiser slowly behind one of the two Smith-class battleships models with the bottom of a half-full glass dripping condensation upon the table. In this way the commodore provided an in-depth explanation of the battle of Corcovado. Throughout, the executive cabinet listened quietly, Longfellow and Stuart drinking steadily, Forrest and Chalmers more slowly. At one point, as Wood explained a Valkyrie’s torpedo run upon the HMS Northhampton, Longfellow broke the solemn and respectful atmosphere by forgetting himself and reaching across the table, knocking over an empty bottle as he did, picking up the model of the Valkyrie and knocking it into the Northhampton’s model several times saying “Boom Boom Boom”. Regardless, the tale was told and the US cabinet learned of how their navy had won the first naval battle of Patagonia but paid most dearly for the small victory. Afterwards, Stuart, who considered himself a man of faith, offered a prayer for the dead and missing Americans who paid with their lives that day in November and everyone but Wood finally took their seats. They sat quietly for some time, contemplative, perhaps considering the dead, perhaps the next move to make when suddenly and without warning Longstreet disgorged a prestigious amount of whiskey and bacon-filled vomit upon the table. The man blinked several times without saying anything as the others withdrew, startled, and with unexpected dignity calmly tipped his hat to the President and quietly excused himself, carrying himself with unexpected balance and poise as he did. Commodore John Taylor Wood looked upon the map and the tiny ships at they sailed in the sea of vomit and half-chewed pork and couldn’t help but wonder at the symbolism.