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A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine

And the automatic classes of torpedoes


In

the year 1870 the writer proposed[99] a classification of vessels other than torpedo-vessels, which has since been also proposed in a somewhat modified form by Mr. J. Scott Russell.[100] The author then remarked that the increase so rapidly occurring in weight of ordnance and of armor, and in speed of war-vessels, would probably soon compel a division of the vessels of every navy into three classes of ships, exclusive of torpedo-vessels, one for general service in time of peace, the others for use only in time of war.

[99] _Journal Franklin Institute_, 1870. H. B. M. S. Monarch.

[100] London _Engineering_, 1875.

"The first class may consist of unarmored vessels of moderate size, fair speed under steam, armed with a few tolerably heavy guns, and carrying full sail-power.

"The second class may be vessels of great speed under steam, unarmored, carrying light batteries and as great spread of canvas as can readily be given them; very much such vessels as the Wampanoag class of our own navy were intended to be--calculated expressly to destroy the commerce of an enemy.

"The third class may consist of ships carrying the heaviest possible armor and armament, with strongly-built bows, the most powerful machinery that can be given them, of large coal-carrying capacity, and unencumbered by sails, everything being

made secondary to the one object of obtaining victory in contending with the most powerful of possible opponents. Such vessels could never go to sea singly, but would cruise in couples or in squadrons. It seems hardly doubtful that attempts to combine the qualities of all classes in a single vessel, as has hitherto been done, will be necessarily given up, although the classification indicated will certainly tend largely to restrict naval operations."

The introduction of the stationary, the floating, and the automatic classes of torpedoes, and of torpedo-vessels, has now become accomplished, and this element, which it was predicted by Bushnell and by Fulton three-quarters of a century ago would at some future time become important in warfare, is now well recognized by all nations. How far it may modify future naval establishments cannot be yet confidently stated, but it seems sufficiently evident that the attack, by any navy, of stationary defenses protected by torpedoes is now quite a thing of the past. It may be perhaps looked upon as exceedingly probable that torpedo-ships of very high speed will yet drive all heavily-armored vessels from the ocean, thus completing the historic parallel between the man-in-armor of the middle ages and the armored man-of-war of our own time.[101]

[101] _Vide_ "Report on Machinery and Manufactures, etc., at Vienna," by the author, Washington, 1875.

Of these classes, the third is of most interest, as exhibiting most perfectly the importance and variety of the work which the steam-engine is made to perform. On the later of these vessels, the anchor is raised by a steam anchor-hoisting apparatus; the heavier spars and sails are handled by the aid of a steam-windlass; the helm is controlled by a steering-engine, and the helmsman, with his little finger, sets in motion a steam-engine, which adjusts the rudder with a power which is unimpeded by wind or sea, and with an exactness that could not be exceeded by the hand-steering gear of a yacht; the guns are loaded by steam, are elevated or depressed, and are given lateral training, by the same power; the turrets in which the guns are incased are turned, and the guns are whirled toward every point of the compass, in less time than is required to sponge and reload them; and the ship itself is driven through the water by the power of ten thousand horses, at a speed which is only excelled on land by that of the railroad-train.


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