free ebooks

A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

As with the Austrians at Lissa


1: This name, coined by Fulton, was from the _torpedo electricus_, or cramp fish, which kills its victim by electric shock.]

[Illustration: BUSHNELL'S TURTLE]

Later the British Government entered into negotiations with the inventor, and in October, 1804, used his mines in an unsuccessful attack an the French flotilla of invasion at Boulogne. Only one pinnace was sunk. Fulton still maintained that he could "sweep all military marines off the ocean."[2] But Trafalgar ended his chances. As the old Admiral Earl St. Vincent remarked, "Pitt [the Prime Minister] would be the greatest fool that ever existed to encourage a mode of war which they who command the sea do not want and which if successful would deprive them of it." So Fulton took L15,000 and dropped his schemes.

[Footnote 2: Letter to Pitt, Jan. 6, 1806.]

[Illustration: FULTON'S NAUTILUS]

Much cruder than the _Nautilus_, owing to their hurried construction, were the Confederate "Davids" of the Civil War. One of these launches, which ran only semi-submerged, drove a spar torpedo against the U. S. S. _New Ironsides_ off Charleston, but it exploded on the rebound, too far away. The C. S. S. _Hunley_ was a real submarine, and went down readily, but on five occasions it failed to emerge properly, and drowned in these experiments about 35 men. In August, 1864,

running on the surface, it sank by torpedo the U. S. Corvette _Housatonic_ off Charleston, but went down in the suction of the larger vessel, carrying to death its last heroic crew.

By the end of the century, chiefly owing to the genius and patient efforts of two American inventors, John P. Holland and Simon Lake, the submarine was passing from the experimental to the practical stage. Its possibilities were increased by the Whitehead torpedo (named after its inventor, a British engineer established in Fiume, Austria), which came out in 1868 and was soon adopted in European navies. With gyroscopic stabilizing devices and a "warmer" for the compressed air of its engine, the torpedo attained before 1900 a speed of 28 knots and a possible range of 1000 yards. Its first victim was the Chilean warship _Blanco_, sunk in 1891 at 50 yards after two misses. Thornycroft in England first achieved speed for small vessels, and in 1873 began turning out torpedo boats. Destroyers came in twenty years later, and by the end of the century were making over 30 knots.

Long before this time the lessons of the Civil War had hastened the adoption of armor, the new ships ranging from high-sided vessels with guns in broadside, as in the past, to low freeboard craft influenced by the _Monitor_ design, with a few large guns protected by revolving turrets or fixed barbettes, and with better provision for all-around fire. Ordnance improved in penetrating power, until the old wrought-iron armor had to be 20 inches thick and confined to waterline and batteries. Steel "facing" and the later plates of Krupp or Harveyized steel made it possible again to lighten and spread out the armor, and during the last decade of the century it steadily increased its ascendancy over the gun.

_The Battle of Lissa_

The adoption of armor meant sacrifice of armament, and a departure from Farragut's well-tried maxim, "The best protection against the enemy's fire is a well-sustained fire from your own guns." Thus the British _Dreadnought_ of 1872 gave 35% of its displacement to armor and only 5% to armament. Invulnerability was secured at the expense of offensive power. That aggressive tactics and weapons retained all their old value in warfare was to receive timely illustration in the Battle of Lissa, fought in the year after the American war. The engagement illustrated also another of Farragut's pungent maxims to the effect that iron in the ships is less important than "iron in the men"--a saying especially true when, as with the Austrians at Lissa, the iron is in the chief in command.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us