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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

Screw propulsion by foot power


the antagonists at Hampton Roads ended their careers before the close of 1862; the _Merrimac_ was burned by her crew at the evacuation of Norfolk, and the _Monitor_ was sunk under tow in a gale off Hatteras. But turret ships, monitors, and armored gunboats soon multiplied in the Union navy and did effective service against the defenses of Southern harbors and rivers. Under Farragut's energetic leadership, vessels both armored and unarmored passed with relatively slight injury the forts below New Orleans, at Vicksburg, and at the entrance to Mobile Bay. Even granting that the shore artillery was out of date and not very expertly served, it is well to realize that similar conditions may conceivably recur, and that the superiority of forts over ships is qualified by conditions of equipment and personnel.

Actually to destroy or capture shore batteries by naval force is another matter. As Ericsson said, "A single shot will sink a ship, while 100 rounds cannot silence a fort."[1] Attacks of this kind against Fort McAllister and Charleston failed. At Charleston, April 7, 1863, the ironclads faced a cross-fire from several forts, 47 smoothbores and 17 rifles against 29 smoothbores and 4 rifles in the ships, and in waters full of obstructions and mines.

[Footnote 1: Wilson, IRONCLADS IN ACTION, Vol. I, p. 91.]

The capture of Fort Fisher, commanding the main entrance to Wilmington, North

Carolina, was accomplished in January, 1865, by the combined efforts of the army and navy. The fort, situated on a narrow neck of land between the Cape Fear River and the sea, had 20 guns on its land face and 24 on its sea face, 15 of them rifled. Against it were brought 5 ironclads with 18 guns, backed up by over 200 guns in the rest of the fleet. After a storm of shot and shell for three successive days, rising at times to "drum-fire," the barrage was lifted at a signal and troops and sailors dashed forward from their positions on shore. Even after this preparation the capture cost 1000 men. As at Kinhurn in the Crimean War, the effectiveness of the naval forces was due less to protective armor than to volume of fire.

_Submarines and Torpedoes_

In the defense of Southern harbors, mines and torpedoes for the first time came into general use, and the submarine scored its first victim. Experiments with these devices had been going on for centuries, but were first brought close to practical success by David Bushnell, a Connecticut Yankee of the American Revolution. His tiny submarine, resembling a mud-turtle standing on its tail, embodied many features of modern underwater boats, including a primitive conning tower, screw propulsion (by foot power), a vertical screw to drive the craft down, and a detachable magazine with 150 pounds of gunpowder. The _Turtle_ paddled around and even under British men-of-war off New York and New London, but could not drive a spike through their copper bottoms to attach its mine.

Robert Fulton, probably the greatest genius in nautical invention, carried the development of bath mines and submarines much further. His _Nautilus_, so-called because its collapsible sail resembled that of the familiar chambered nautilus, was surprisingly ahead of its time; it had a fish-like shape, screw propulsion (by a two-man hand winch), horizontal diving rudder, compressed air tank, water tank filled or emptied by a pump, and a torpedo[1] consisting of a detachable case of gunpowder. A lanyard ran from the torpedo through an eye in a spike, to be driven in the enemy hull, and thence to the submarine, which as it moved away brought the torpedo up taut against the spike and caused its explosion. Fulton interested Napoleon in his project, submerged frequently for an hour or more, and blew up a hulk in Brest harbor. But the greybeards in the French navy frowned on these novel methods, declaring them "immoral" and "contrary to the laws of war."

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