« PreviousContinue »
THE SEA NAVY.
March 4, 1861.
The completeness and stringency of the blockade is Completeness of the proved by the general destitution of the South at the close of the war, and by the fact that there still remained in those states cotton of the value of three hundred millions in gold, which it had been impossible to ship..
In giving the details of the creation of this navy, it may be conveniently classed under two heads: (1.) The Sea Navy; (2.) The River Navy.
(1.) Of the Sea Navy:
The first measures taken by the Navy Department to meet the requirement were directed to the increasing the navy purchase of such steamers in the commercial
First measures for
marine as could be adapted to the service. Orders were issued (April 21) to the officers in command of the navy yards at Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, to charter twenty steam-ships, each capable of carrying a nine-inch pivot-gun, the charter to be for three months, and the government to have the privilege of purchasing at a stipulated price. Orders for vessels of other classes were speedily given, and the government became possessed of some of the best and fastest steamers.
In building new ships, a work which was entered upon with great energy, the principles already acAmerican naval cepted in the American navy were uniformly carried into effect. These are, to attain the highest speed possible under the circumstances; to
concentrate the projectile power; and, in armored ships, to reduce the exposed surface to a minimum. The attainment of high speed implies an increase in the length of the ship and a diminution of her breadth; the concentration of projectile power implies diminution of the num ber of guns and increase in the weight of the shot.
At the epoch of the last Anglo-American war (1812), the principle of concentration of power had tion of power in En- been so far carried out that an American glish and American ships.
CONSTRUCTION OF WOODEN SHIPS.
forty-four gun frigate was very nearly as powerful a machine as an English line-of-battle ship. Under an equality of rate there was therefore a very great disparity of force. Thus the English forty-four gun frigate Guerriere, brought into action with the American frigate Constitution, also rated as a forty-four, was conquered in fifteen minutes, the weight of the broadside she threw being 517 pounds, that of her antagonist 768 pounds.
To aid in enforcing the blockade, twenty-three small The fleet of small gun-boats were forthwith constructed. They were for service in the shallow waters, each being of about five hundred tons burden, their speed nine knots, their armament one eleven-inch pivot-gun, two twenty-four-pound howitzers, and one twenty-pound howitzer. Their length was as great as that of the frigates of 1812, their breadth only half as much, their tonnage only one third. A large portion of this fleet was built and put in commission before December, 1861. These ships, together with those that had been purchased, established a blockade acknowledged in Europe as being valid.
With a view to the pursuit and capture of the armed cruisers built in England, a class of steamers was constructed of which the Kearsarge may be taken as the type. They were of about 1000 tons bur
The Kearsarge class.
[SECT. VIII den; their length 200 feet, their breadth 33; their armament two eleven-inch guns, one thirty-pound rifle, and four thirty-two-pounders, smooth bore. They were therefore longer than the old seventy-four-gun ship, and twenty feet narrower. It was one of this class, the Kearsarge, which sunk the Alabama.
It having been found that screw steamers were sometimes inefficient in narrow channels, because they can not retire without turning round, an operation sometimes very difficult in such confined places, and exposing the broadside to the enemy's fire, twelve side-wheel steamers, of 850 tons each, were built. These were followed by the conThe double-ender struction of another class, twenty-seven in number, of about 974 tons burden, with a maximum speed of 14 knots per hour. They received the name of double-enders from the fact that the ends were built alike, and they could move backward or forward with equal facility. Seven additional ones of the same type were added; they were of heavier burden and greater speed.
A third class, still more powerful, was provided, their The Lackawanna length 237 feet, their breadth 38, their burden 1530 tons. The armament of these ships was very powerful, though not the same in all. That of the Lackawanna was one 150-pounder rifle, pivot; one 50-pounder ditto; two eleven-inch rifles, 166-pounders; four nine-inch broadside guns. Comparing this ship with the old frigate Constitution, both were of about the same burden, 1500 tons; the broadside of the former 712, of the latter 768; but the Lackawanna was five feet narrower and sixty-two feet longer than the Constitution. The concentration of power is seen in the fact that the former has only eight guns, the latter had fifty. Moreover, these heavy modern guns were also shell guns.
In view of the contingency of war with England or
CONSTRUCTION OF WOODEN SHIPS.
THE ARMORED SHIPS.
France, and of the fact that the republic possessed no foreign coaling stations, still another class of ships was built, of which the Wampanoag is the type. This vessel is 3200 tons burden, 335 feet long, 45 feet in breadth. With the same breadth they have twice the length of the frigates of 1812. They are full ship-rigged, with an enormous spread of canvas. They carry the most powerful engines that their hulls can bear. Their armament consists of a few very heavy guns. The sails of these sea-racers are to be used to spare their coal until they reach their hunting ground, for they are intended to act against the merchant marine of the enemy, and clear it from the sea. Their speed, either under sail or steam, is to be fifteen knots per hour. The Confederate government at an early period turned its attention to the construction of iron-clad ships. At the seizure of the Norfolk navy yard, the Merrimack, one of the largest frigates in the service, had been sunk (p. 84), but under such circumstances that she was raised without difficulty.
The Wampanoag class.
The armored ships.
There was thus supplied extemporaneously to the Confederates the hull of a very powerful ship.
iron-clad Merri- They proceeded to convert it into an ironclad on the plan of the shot-proof raft that had been used in Charleston Harbor, covering her, when properly cut down, with an iron roof projecting into the water. At or below the water-line the mail extended in the opposite way, so that a shot striking in the air would glance upward, and in the water would glance downward. She was, therefore, a broadside iron-clad with sloping armor, and carrying a very formidable battery.
The national Congress had appointed a special board to examine and report on the subject of iron-clads, and had made an appropriation of $1,500,000 for the experimental construc
Congressional appropriation for iron-clads.
The first Monitor.
tion of one or more armored ships. Contracts were accordingly made for three such vessels, one a small corvette, the Galena, plated with iron three inches thick: she The three experi- proved to be a failure, being easily perfo rated with heavy shot. The second was a frigate, the New Ironsides: she was constructed as a broadside iron-clad, and with her powerful battery of eleven-inch guns did good service. The third was the Monitor, invented and constructed by John Ericsson. The Monitor is essentially a shot-proof revolving turret, containing a battery, and carried on a raft or hull so much submerged as to present the smallest possible surface to an enemy's fire. The guns of a monitor can be trained to any point of the horizon, even though the ship herself should be aground. They are mounted over the centre or axis of the vessel, and hence those of the heaviest weight may be used; the principle of condensing the weight of the broadside into a few heavy shot may be perfectly carried into effect. A monitor, in compar ison with a broadside armored ship, requires a small number of men. Its fire is more effective because of the greater steadiness of the vessel, which exposes but little surface to the waves.
The first monitor was built chiefly for the purpose of neutralizing the Confederate iron-clad Mer
Advantages of the monitor type.
ful completion of rimack. Mr. Ericsson, with great energy, commenced her construction before the contract for her was signed. He bound himself to finish her within 100 days. She reached Fortress Monroe at a most critical moment, when her antagonist had begun her work of unresisted destruction. By a crew inexperienced in her management, and worn out with a stormy voyage, she was carried without hesitation into action against her enemy, fought the battle for which she had been built, and won it.