Therefore, they had shallow drafts and rode low in the water; while they were more seaworthy than many of the northern ironclads, their weatherly qualities were dubious.
Bulloch, too, was initially unsuccessful in purchasing any ironclads in England;  however, in February 1862, Mallory's hopes for obtaining European-built ironclads rose.
Unfortunately for the Confederacy, the recurrent hopes of purchasing ironclads in Europe may have delayed the eventual decision to build ironclads domestically; the two ironclads at New Orleans were authorized only in September 1861, after the attempts to purchase European-built warships failed.
The key would have been to obtain the iron plating and machinery both to speed construction of the Virginia and other ironclads and to improve these vessels' quality.
The Confederate States of America failed to field a navy strong enough to gain superiority on the American waters; specifically, the South never completed enough ironclads to wrest control of the American waterways.
Third, the early decision to rely upon European-built warships proved wasteful in terms of time, energy, and purchasing power, and the unrealized hopes for such warships may have delayed domestic construction of ironclads.
The South's increased purchasing power could have enabled it both to obtain sufficient iron plating and machinery to build rapidly several ironclads and to reduce the disruption to its economy caused by the Federal blockade.
Indeed, although the Federals were aware in late 1861 of Confederate ironclad-building efforts at Memphis, New Orleans, and Norfolk, they reacted only belatedly and in a limited way: only three ironclads were begun by the Federal navy.
During the war, an entire class of ironclads (twenty vessels) proved defective, costing over ten million dollars; the fiasco was investigated by a congressional committee.