Gentlemen:—With the introduction of the 8 inch converted rifle, the United States Navy has taken its first decided step in the practical development of a system of rifled ordnance; and it becomes a matter not only of interest but of the greatest importance to all naval officers, that they should be able to form a rational opinion of the value and probable results of this first experiment. We are all aware that in the composition of this ship's battery there is but little that is original with Americans; and in considering its details, those who have but lightly followed up the progress of rifle development in Europe find themselves lost in a maze of inquiries. Why, for example, is the Palliser mode of conversion taken instead of the Parsons? Why do we insert a tube into a gun of a large calibre instead of rifling and hooping an 8 inch smooth-bore on the old French plan? Why do we convert guns at all? If we build them, should they be of steel like the German, steel and wrought iron like the English, steel and cast iron like the French, or cast and wrought iron like our own Parrott guns? Should we have breech or muzzle loaders; mechanical fitting, expanding or compressing projectiles; regular or increasing twist, square headed or pointed solid shot &c.?
I wish that it were in my power to satisfactorily answer all or even a great part of the perfectly rational questions that might be asked on the subject of the proper system of ordnance to be adopted; but as ordnance stands to-day, apparently so nearly perfect and yet developed in different countries in systems almost directly opposed to each other in details, no one can do more than carefully review the courses pursued by different nations; become acquainted with the difficulties that have been encountered and with the changes that have been introduced to surmount them, and then, by comparing the systems, choose such parts as seem most to embody correct principles, and combine them into an economical and trustworthy system. This is the course which I shall attempt to follow in my lecture. To enter fully into a discussion of the development of the different systems would carry me far beyond the limits of an evening discourse; I shall therefore restrict myself to the history of rifled artillery, dating from the commencement of the Crimean war, I shall take the systems as adopted in France, England, Germany, Russia, Austria, Italy, and Spain, confining myself as much as possible to naval artillery, and follow each system up from the time of its inception until the present; and although I may contribute no new ideas, I trust that such as I do express, will be detailed connectedly and in such a manner as not to prove a trial to your patience.
In this historical record I give to France the place of honor, as I believe that to Colonel Treuille de Beaulieu of the French Artillery belongs the merit of having proposed the first successful system of rifling for heavy artillery, about 1842, No opportunity or rather necessity for the development of his ideas occurred until the breaking out of the Crimean war when several experimental guns were put in the field and embarked on the French cruisers. The first of these guns sent to sea were of a calibre of 16 c. m, or about 6 ½ inches. Although of the 16 c.m. calibre, these guns were cast to the dimensions of the service 22 c.m. smooth-bore; that is, they were not unlike the old 68 pounders, with 32 pounder bores. The twist of the rifling was from right to left, the reason for this arrangement being that the naval firing-ground at Gavre was on a beach with the water on the right, so that had the twist been to the right, projectiles would have drifted into the water and their records would thus have been imperfect. It would be well to remember this point, as at the present time the French navy rifle is the only one in the world aside from a few unimportant Italian field-pieces, having the twist from right to left. Their own army guns are all rifled in the opposite direction. They had two grooves of a regular twist, the origin being at the front end of the chamber, and at the extremities of the horizontal diameter. The reason of this arrangement was that spherical as well as rifled projectiles might be used in the gun without destroying the grooves; since, as you know, the scoring caused by the balloting of round shot in a bore is always at its bottom and top.
The grooves were of a curved shape, the bottom being of a long radius and connected to the bore by sharper arcs, the loading and driving sides being similar. The studs on the projectiles were two in number, opposite the centre of gravity and cast in one with the shot, being finished to a size and shape such as would enable them to move easily in the grooves without jamming. This then was their first gun, and in this shape the experimental one first tested at Gavre stood one thousand rounds without bursting, while there was no noticeable deterioration of the grooves until after the six hundredth. In the course of experiments however, it was found that there was a great liability of the guns to burst without warning and after only a few rounds, and in 1858 we find several changes introduced; and here it is interesting to note the attempts to cure the gun of bursting. It was noticed that fractures were determined in the grooves and near the seat of the shot; so first we see the ingenious application of the increasing twist, commencing at nothing, so as to allow the shot to get started, and gradually increasing to the full twist at the muzzle. Then, since the planes of weakness caused by the grooves were opposite each other, we find another change, to three equidistant grooves, the grooves being made shallower. At first the origin of one of the grooves was at the top of the bore, so as to allow spherical shot to be fired. But here was a new difficulty. The vent opened into this groove, and the blast escaping through it rapidly destroyed its edges; so the position was reversed and the groove commenced at the bottom of the bore. Again, it had been noticed that owing to the loose fit of the shot it wobbled or was irregular in its flight. Here was introduced a decidedly novel improvement. The stud on the shot was decreased in size and on its driving side a zinc attachment was dovetailed. The object of this is plain. Zinc being very soft, when the shot started the edge of the groove sheared it so that before going far it became wedged firmly by the overriding of the stud. In order to make this shearing process certain, the driving side of the groove was cut square, the sharp edge being beveled off slightly to assist the overriding. When this had been done a new trouble showed itself. It was found that the sharp corner at the bottom of the driving side made the gun liable to crack there, so we find them compromising a little and making a curve at this angle. About this time the army discovered the idea of centering shots on the simple principle of the resolution of forces, and bear in mind the distinction between their idea and that of Commander Scott which will be detailed farther on. In the army, the driving side of the groove was made in an inclined plane perpendicular to the resultant of the forces acting on the stud, so that the shot instead of depending on the shearing of the stud for firmness, turned into a section of a smaller diameter. The navy people saw a flaw in this idea in the great increase of strain on the walls of the gun caused by the wedge-like action of the shot, so, as I said before, they seem to have compromised by a curve on the driving side of a less radius than that on the loading, thus making the bursting strain less directly radial in its action. This groove, the idea of naval officers, was what is known as the "anse de pannier" or basket handle, and is the one which under a modified form was adopted as the English Woolwich groove. It was never changed in the French navy and is the groove now used with their mechanical fitting projectiles.
While these experiments had been carried on, it had been found that the zinc part of the stud did not need the iron reinforcement, so it was abandoned; the shot were cast plain and the zinc stud was afterwards swedged into a countersunk hole. Ever since the commencement of the experiments, great trouble had been experienced with the breaking up of shot in the bore, and for a long time the trouble could not be accounted for, as the shot were made of the best material; but finally it was found to be owing to the thumping of the shot in the bore. Remember that there was but one row of studs on the shot so that the ends were free to wobble, and by bumping along the bore the base was cracked, and of course the shot broke up.
The first suggestion would naturally be, apply another row of studs; but this was impossible with the increasing twist, as both sets would not of course take the driving edge. To remedy this a smaller row of studs or buttons was put on the rear of the shot in such a manner, that when it was first entered into the bore the main studs and these "plaques isolantes" or steadying buttons both rode in freely, but when the shot was home, the stud being properly in its seat, the button bore hard on the driving side. Being much thinner it sheared very easily and so allowed the main stud to get a bearing and the shot came out straight. This was an effectual remedy for the breaking of shot. We have now brought the experiments down to 1859 at which time the 17 c. m. gun was introduced; this and higher calibers being given five grooves. At this time the idea of hooping guns was borrowed from England. This was accomplished by turning down the reinforce of the gun until it was cylindrical and then shrinking on hoops of soft puddled steel, the hooped part at first only coming as far forward as the trunnions, but, as charges and length of projectiles increased, the guns were cast without trunnions, and these were made up with one of the hoops. Great advantages were found from hooping. The gun was found to be greatly strengthened without the addition of much weight, the pieces did not fly about much when the gun burst and it was found that the gun would give a warning before bursting by a separation of the hoops. In 1860, immediately after the adoption of hoops, experiments were made in breech-loading and a system was adopted.
The gun being bored completely through was hooped, the last hoop being much heavier than the others and made with greater care. The breech mechanism was of the type known as the slotted screw. That is, a male screw-thread being cut on the breech-plug and a female one in its seat, three sectors of 60° each were cut out so that the plug could be pushed in and locked by one sixth of a turn. Through the axis of the plug ran an arm having at its outer end a handle, which served to push in or pull out the plug. On its inner end was a piece called the gas-check carrier. This was of steel and all except the front- portion was of the diameter of the plug seat. Three scores were cut in the circumference of this carrier corresponding to the screw sectors, which kept the carrier from turning when the plug was in place. This was necessary in order not to disturb the gas-check when it had been carefully jammed into place. The gas-check was made of a single piece of sheet-steel, hot pressed into shape. It was circular with a turned up and bearded edge. A circular piece was cut from the centre and the check was held in place by a broad-headed screw which made a tight joint. The breechblock was hollowed out in order to make it as light as possible without weakening it, but even this was not found sufficient to allow the block to be handled easily. In order to overcome this difficulty a heavy piece of bronze was bolted to the right and below the rear of the bore. This piece of bronze had a groove, in which travelled a saddle so shaped as to receive and hold the breech-block when withdrawn; by pulling to the right the block and saddle were slid aside and the bore was unmasked. A small iron plate shaped to the bottom of the bore was then pushed in until it took against the seat of the gas-check, so that its upper surface was flush with the bottom of the bore and carried a prolongation of the lower groove which served to guide the projectile to its seat in loading. There was danger, in loading, of pushing the projectile in too far, and to remedy this a short section of the lower groove was cut back making a little seat. On the projectile and alongside the "plaque isolante" a smaller button was dovetailed which brought up in this seat when the shot was home and was completely sheared off when it started out. In 1866 the sliding saddle was changed to the hinged one similar in its mode of working to that of our breech-loading three inch rifle. Since with breech loaders it became necessary to use great care against premature discharge and firing with the plug only partially locked, an arrangement was made which on locking caught and held the opening lever. Near this was an arrangement through which the primer lanyard rove and was firmly held until the locking lever released it. In addition, a small iron plate covered the vent until the breech was locked. All these attachments worked automatically by being touched by the locking lever when firmly in place.
At this time a slight change was made in the studs and grooves, the former, for the heavier patterns, were made of brass instead of zinc, and were a neat fit in the grooves when home. The grooves were made decreasing in depth from the seat of the shot to the muzzle so that the studs were pinched slightly. About this time, 1865, breech-loaders were definitely adopted as the service navy gun, and the calibres were increased up to 27 c. m. or 10 ½ inches. In 1865, Mr. Parsons, an Englishman, submitted a plan to the French government for strengthening guns by inserting a steel tube from the rear. A gun strengthened on this plan was tested at Gavre and showed a remarkable endurance. The French seeing at once a great advantage in this idea adopted it and worked it up. There was another point over which the French had studied for a long time. It was well known that the violent rush of gas through a windage ring causes quick deterioration of the bore. Many plans had been suggested for overcoming this difficulty and the first results from experiment appeared in 1871 when a new system was adopted full fledged. The calibres established for this system were 32, 27,24, 19 and 14 c. m., or 12 ½, 10 ½, 9 4-10, 7 4-10, and 5 ½ inches. These guns like those already described were of cast iron and hooped, and in addition were tubed on the Parsons plan, the tube being of Bessemer steel tempered in oil. The length of the tube corresponded to the length of the hooped section and it was secured in place by screw-threads worked on the rear end. They were breech-loaders as already described. The great change however was in the substitution of the compressing for the mechanical fitting projectiles. The number of grooves corresponded to the number of centimeters of calibre, or, when this was an uneven number, to the number plus one. I have called these grooves, although properly speaking they were ribs, this name for the projections being certainly more definite than the literal translation of the French term, "rayures saillantes," or projecting grooves. These ribs were equally spaced with square edges, the rib and bore being connected by an arc of small radius. The twist was increasing. The projectile was furnished with two belts, the forward one being of the diameter across the ribs and simply serving to hold the nose of the projectile in place, the rear one was of the diameter of the bore, the ribs cutting into it and giving the twist to the shot. These belts were made of brass and dovetailed into the shot. This, then, is the gun as fully developed up to the present time. It will be noticed that throughout the course of this development, the French held fast to a cast-iron body for the gun. They had two good reasons for it. First, there were no manufacturers in France who could produce steel of a proper quality in the required large masses and it would have been to the last degree impolitic to trust to foreign manufacturers. Again, throughout the whole course they, seemed to have an eye to the conversion of all their great stock of heavy smooth bores, which in a measure accounts for the careful nursing of the cast-iron. Here is a point that may well be soberly considered by those officers who sneer at the idea of doctoring up smooth bores. If such you meet, you may well cite to them the example of France, who is to-day contending for supremacy in ordnance power making new guns of cast-iron and still using effectively her old converted ones. I will here mention that the cast-iron system is not the final one of the French. Steel is their metal and they are now slowly introducing steel heavy guns, built I believe on the Vavasseur plan of hooping. This change cannot be called completed yet, however, as the steel is not considered fully enough worked up for the heavy calibres. Another point of interest is the tenacity with which they clung to the mechanical fitting projectile, doctoring studs and grooves and working against great odds until the minds of experimenters were fairly forced out of the rut they had been traveling in, when at once comes the radical change to the compression system. To sum up the French development then, that of the gun may be divided into five periods: 1st. that of the old smooth bore converted into a rifle by cutting two grooves in the bore, then the application of hoops to the outside, then the change from muzzle to breech loaders, then the introduction of the steel tube and finally the change now in progress, to an all steel gun. With the rifling; we have first the regular and then the increasing twist. With the grooves; first the similar sided curve and two grooves, then the bluff fronted followed by the anse de pannier groove, the change to three and afterward to five grooves, and finally the multi-groove system for the compressing projectile. With the studs; first cast iron in one with the body, then zinc reinforced by cast iron, then zinc alone, then the plaque isolante, then the button for breech-loading, then the brass snug fitting stud, and finally the belt.
I will now consider the English development. Before entering on this part of the lecture I wish to emphasize the point, that in France, while following the same system in the main, the army and the navy worked independently of each other, each one building its own guns. In England matters are managed differently. The navy at first had nothing to do with the guns. They were designed, manufactured and even put aboard ships by the army. Finally, after Commander Scott and a few other naval officers had patiently labored until the war office was obliged to take some notice of them, the navy was allowed to suggest what it thought proper for its armament; but beyond that it has not been allowed to go; as witness a request of the admiralty to the war office for a gun that shall pierce twenty inches of iron at one thousand yards. Their request was acceded to, and the army is now making the final experiments with the navy eighty-one ton gun. I sincerely hope that American naval officers may always be given credit for being able to do their own work, and I might add that I hope that they will see to it that the credit is not misplaced.
We cannot with the English rifle as with the French, enter at once into the discussion of naval guns. Whether rifles were used aboard ship during the Crimean war or not I am unable to state but I think not; the first bona fide English rifle, however, used in service was the Lancaster gun, so named from the system of rifling proposed by the inventor Mr. Lancaster. The first of these guns tried at Shoeburyness was an eight inch cast-iron gun strengthened at the chase and muzzle with wrought iron hoops, the bore being oval in section. It stood the test quite well and a number of eight inch and sixty-eight pounders were immediately rifled but not strengthened and sent to the front. It had been found that cast-iron projectiles would invariably break up in the bore as there was no twist in their shape to correspond to that of the bore nor could there be since it was an increasing twist. Wrought-iron projectiles were, therefore, supplied. This type of gun almost completely failed, as the gun invariably broke up at the forward part of the chase. They were used, however, and quite effectively after the chase had been blown away as howitzers in the parallels before Sebastopol. Mr. Lancaster afterward changed the twist of his rifling to a regular one and altered the shape of the projectile, but his system was never able to contend with the others presented. About the time of the introduction of the Lancaster gun Mr. Armstrong presented his system of breech-loaders. These guns were found good in every respect as field pieces and were formally adopted into service in 1858, Mr. Armstrong being shortly afterward knighted and appointed Superintendent of the Royal Gun factories. In order to follow up the development more clearly I will consider the changes in the different portions of the gun separately, commencing with the development of the groove. As before stated Lancaster's groove or rather oval bore with an increasing twist proved a failure, and the next in order is Armstrong's style of multi-groove for compressing projectile. As submitted in his early patterns, this groove was saw-toothed in shape, the driving side being radial to the centre of the bore and the loading side curved off. The number of grooves varied with the caliber of the gun from thirty-six to seventy-six and bad a regular twist. This system of grooves for the Armstrong breech loader has never been changed. In 1863 an Ordnance Special Committee was appointed to decide upon the respective merits of the Armstrong and Whitworth systems. In this contest three styles of grooves were presented. Whitworth's was hexagonal, a form with which you are no doubt all acquainted since it is one of the distinct features of his gun, differing from that of any other gun in the world. Armstrong's grooves were, the one just described, and the shunt groove for muzzle-loaders; an ingenious arrangement for centering shots. This groove was a double one, the driving half being shallower than the loading, gradually growing into the latter towards the seat of the projectile. The projectile being inserted into the muzzle with the studs in the loading side went home quite easily, being shunted off to the driving side by a slight cant of the loading side at the bottom of the bore. As in coming out it constantly met the driving side it gradually rose up into the shallower part where it was firmly pinched and centered. The result of the contest was in favor of the Armstrong systems, that is the breech-loader with the multi-groove and regular twist, with lead coated projectiles for the light guns and the muzzle-loader with shunt grooves, regular twist and soft metal studs for the heavier. Both of these patterns were introduced at once into the navy. The shunt groove was found objectionable in the following points.
It was complex, requiring great care in cutting. The projectile met with a sudden increase of resistance which endangered the life of the gun at its weakest part, near the muzzle, and the studs tended to override the grooves thus making the accuracy uncertain. As at this time the government had decided to adopt muzzle loaders for the heavy calibres, it became necessary amongst other things to find a suitable groove. Guns rifled on different principles were submitted to a competitive test. The most prominent of these systems were the Lancaster, Whitworth, Armstrong, Scott, Britten and French anse de pannier. I will here remark that of the ten or a dozen systems submitted but one was due to the genius of a British officer, that of Commander Scott of the Royal navy. His groove came very near winning in the contest and met with unqualified praise. It was a centering groove, constructed on scientific principles and certainly accomplished all that was demanded of it. The system submitted by Britten was suspiciously like our own Parrott rifling, being equally spaced rectangular rifling intended for a projectile with an expanding base-ring. It was condemned on account of the liability of the base-ring to fly to pieces. The contest resulted in favor of the Scott and French systems, Whitworth's being inseparable from his gun. Of the two successful grooves a compromise seems to have been made resulting in the Woolwich groove, which differs but slightly from the French navy groove. This is the groove as it stands to-day for all muzzle-loaders in the English service save the old Armstrong shunt guns which are still in use although none are manufactured. With regard to the pitch of the rifling, Armstrong had always used a regular twist but when the French groove was adopted the increasing twist seems to have been taken with it. Later, however, a return was made to the regular twist for all guns below a calibre of seven inches, above that the twist is increasing in order to distribute the strain better along the bore. I will now turn for a moment to the projectile. The segment shell, familiar to you all, was of Armstrong's invention and intended simply to present solidity enough for impact with breaking up power enough to serve also as shrapnel. The outer coating of lead of this projectile was about 1-10 of an inch in thickness, into which the grooves or fine teeth of the rifling cut. This shell was only used with the breech-loader. For the shunt groove a double row of gun metal studs was used. Studs are of course necessary with the Woolwich groove and since the twist is increasing for the heavier calibres, the rear studs served simply as bearings for the rear of the projectile, while the front studs gave the spin to the shot. For a long time great trouble was experienced with the action of the projectile. No doubt all of you have often read the discussions on the wobbling of the shot, and the battering of the bottom of the bore. Steel tubes were found to crack and become used up much faster than their strength seemed to warrant, and for a long time the excuse of poor steel was made; but evidently this excuse would not answer, for two reasons. First they used the best steel in the world and then the tubes always split in the same place. The true reason was this. Owing to the increasing twist, the rows of studs had to be quite close to each other to prevent the rear ones from overriding the loading side of the groove, so that the projectile was almost hung by its middle. It will be remembered that the French found difficulty with their single row of studs, in the shot breaking up through wobbling and they prevented it by adopting the "plaque isolante." Just why the English did not do the same thing long ago, I do not know, unless it was through obstinacy of the artillery officers who would not give up their plea of weak steel. However, they were all the time seeking a remedy not for the steel, but for the projectile and finally found it in adopting what they call a copper gas check, that is, a copper disc is bolted to the base of the projectile, which, if the projectile tends to thump, acts as a soft fender while being expanded by the explosion it stops up the windage ring and steadies the base of the projectile. This is the condition of the projectile at present, and if my opinion can be considered worth anything I should say that at least with the calibers below twelve inches it would be better to drop their mechanical fit projectiles and adopt the expanding base-ring on our system, instead of making a compromise between the two. If their copper gas-check can give the spin to their projectiles, and it certainly ought to if properly applied, the studs are useless. In 1867, Major Palliser introduced the chilled headed projectile which only differs from others in having the head chilled in a cast iron mould thus making it very hard. This is the present style of armor punching shot. I will now go back to the development of the gun. I mentioned that after the failure of the Lancaster gun, the Armstrong pattern was adopted. This gun was made up of a steel tube strengthened by wrought-iron coils. The merit of strengthening guns by hooping, in England, belongs to Captain Blakely, from whom I think that there is little doubt that Armstrong took his first ideas. They had a long controversy over the matter which was never definitely settled. There is this much, however, in favor of Armstrong, that his hoops were the first coiled ones introduced in England, and I think that the idea of coiled hoops instead of welded ones is his. His breech-closing apparatus consisted of a steel block which was dropped into a vertical hole through the gun in the plane of the bottom of the chamber, and was pressed against the bottom of the bore by a hollow tube working in a screw-thread in the direction of the axis of the bore; the screw was set up by a crank on its end, the crank being very heavy and working freely through a small arc so that the joint could be tightened or loosened by the shock of driving the crank around. This gun has remained almost unchanged ever since as a light piece for broadside and boat service. The navy found a great deal of fault with it at first and to satisfy this branch of the service, a mechanism of slightly different character was introduced known as the wedge gun. This was found to be worse than the other, however, and has gone out of service. In 1863, an Ordnance Select Committee was appointed to decide upon the merits of different systems of guns, projectiles &c., and in this contest Armstrong won. Many will doubtless remember the bitter newspaper war that was waged from '63 to '70, on account of the decisions of this committee. Whitworth has always found many supporters, not only in England but all over the world, until last year when his twelve inch steel gun tested in France completely failed in endurance. In 1865, the English government decided to adopt muzzle loading for all heavy calibers, while for the lighter ones the Armstrong breech-loader was retained. The Armstrong method of construction was also definitively adopted. This was essentially the steel tube with wrought-iron coils, the number and size of coils increasing with the caliber. The breech piece was forged in one, altering the direction of the grain of the iron in order to give greater longitudinal strength. The coils butted against each other and the layers covered joints. In 1867, Mr. Frazer modified the construction by doing away with the forged breech-piece and substituting a few large coils for the many small ones. Shortly afterwards Mr. Anderson farther improved the system by hooking the coils and since then the system has remained unchanged. In 1863, Major Palliser presented his plan for converting smooth bores, by means of inserting a reinforced coiled wrought iron tube from the muzzle, and securing it in place by a muzzle-ring. The plan was found to be excellent in every particular and was at once adopted. All the old guns, amounting I believe to about twelve hundred, 8 and 6 inch, that have been converted and sent into service, are rifled on this plan; with the Woolwich groove of course. This then constitutes the main part of the history of the development of rifled Ordnance in England. Unlike that of France we see that the original ideas are almost entirely those of civilians, and they have been numberless. While the French carefully worked out a system having an eye always to the strictest economy, the English at once plunged into a series of costly experiments. Puzzled and distracted by the many and radically different systems, it was with difficulty that she chose from the many a single system, and although she finally succeeded, it has been at great cost and has involved her artillery in a complexity of calibers and designs puzzling even to the English. To name them all would be almost useless and I confine myself to the different calibers of Naval Artillery, omitting the patterns. The Armstrong breech-loaders are the 6, 12, 20, 40 and 64 pounders, and the 7 inch or 110 pounders. The muzzle loaders are the 7 pounder bronze and steel, 9, 40 and 64 pounder Woolwich and the 64 pounder shunt guns, the 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 inch Woolwich guns, to which will soon be added the 16 inch making in all 19 patterns, not counting sub-divisions, as against the 6 or 8 in the French service.
The next country to be considered is Germany and you may thank Herr Krupp and German economy that I cannot find systems and changes enough to try your patience to a great extent. Prussia, like all other European countries, has carried on unimportant experiments in rifling bronze and cast iron guns for the past forty or fifty years, but I cannot find that anything worthy of mention was developed before 1859 or '60 when Krupp presented patterns of muzzle and breech loaders. The muzzle-loaders were at first cast-iron reinforced by steel and afterwards steel guns, but I will omit descriptions of these as they were soon dropped for breech loaders. Since that time this firm seems to have enjoyed the monopoly of developing rifled ordnance in Germany under the superintendence of government. The firm claims a secret method of preparing their steel, but of late years the outside world has inclined to the opinion that the only secret about the metal is that the firm are very careful, and strictly honest in their contracts. The first style of breech-loading gun, presented by Krupp, as far as I have been able to judge, was what might be called the infant from which the present model has grown. The breech of the gun had a transverse slot in it, square in front and hexagonal at the back. Into this slot a wedge fitted, having pivoted at its large end a lever for loosening it after the discharge. The wedge was lightened as much as possible and to save the trouble of withdrawing it completely, a hole of the size of the bore was cut out of the part of the small end that was masked by the wall of the gun when it was pushed home. I cannot warrant this description as being accurate, although it is taken from what purports to be Krupp's English patent. I am inclined to doubt its accuracy for the reason that I think there must have been some kind of a lock on the lever to hold the wedge in place during the discharge. I think also that there must have been a small chain or stop attached to the wedge to limit the withdrawal, so that the gunners could not accidentally pull the wedge all the way out and let it drop on the ground. The next pattern or possibly, it may be the first in point of time, was on the principle of Wahrendorff's mechanism, and here I will state that the Swedish Baron Wahrendorff is the real father of the present Krupp system, he having first shown the world the method of giving twist to a rifled shot by means of the lead coat and compressing system, besides the fact that his gun was similar in principle to the one about to be described. This system, known in Prussia as the Piston closure, was made secure by a keyed nut. The gun was bored completely through and a smaller transverse hole was bored at right-angles to the bottom of the bore. The breech-plug consisted of a heavy, short shaft with a disc on the end not unlike a piston and rod. The disc being pushed in from the rear formed the bottom of the bore when home. After it was in place it was keyed by a heavy cylindrical bar fitting through the transverse hole in the gun and a corresponding hole in the piston rod. A sort of door hinged across the face of the breech and when closed the end of the piston-rod projected through it. On this end a screw thread was cut and a sort of nut with a conveniently sized handle when screwed against this door set all the parts tight against the big transverse key. A chain attached to the key prevented it from being drawn back any farther than was necessary to release the piston. This system seems clumsy at first, but its manipulation was easy. Suppose for example that the gun had just been fired. A half turn back of the nut loosened the key which was pulled back the length of the chain; then by pulling straight back, the piston was withdrawn until the head struck the door which opened, swung the block aside and unmasked the bore. This system bears date 1861. The next improvement was what is known as the Kreiner system. In this a rectangular hole was cut through the gun transversely at the bottom of the bore. In this hole fitted two wedges having their inclined faces towards each other. Now it will be easily seen that by pushing the wedges in contrary directions the thickness of the two was increased or diminished. A short round arm projected from one wedge having a screw-thread cut on it, on which worked a nut which rested against the side of the gun. By turning this nut the wedge of course was moved. The other wedge was held fast by a collar which clasped the screw-shaft. The larger wedge was hollowed out on the masked part so as to admit of putting the load through it without pulling the wedges all the way out. This system was adopted in 1864 and is still, I believe, in vogue for light pieces; but when the heavy calibers were built, the well-known cylindro-prismatic or Krupp wedge was introduced. This was a single wedge, square in front and rounded at the back. The rear section of the slot was inclined at a slight angle to correspond with the slanting face of the wedge. On the back and at one end was the locking arrangement which was nothing more than a screw-shaft provided with half threads which travelled in female threads in the gun wall. These served both to lock and to set up or loosen the wedge. In the heavier calibers where the wedge is too heavy to be manipulated by hand there is another screw-shaft with a full thread working in the same manner in female threads and thus serving to traverse the block in or out. This is the Krupp gun of to-day. In the development of this idea we see, like the French, a system first carefully studied and adopted and then worked up. Unlike the French though, it commenced with an entirely new gun and while the French took cast-iron because they could not make the steel, and the English chose steel and wrought-iron probably more on account of Armstrong's powerful influence and reputation than anything else, the Germans went at once to work with the best and costliest material: they have brought forth an excellent system and apparently with less hindrance and false experiments than other nations, but precisely what and how many mistakes they have made it is probable no one will ever find out.
Next in the order of naval importance comes Russia. At the time of this rifle fever throughout Europe which may fairly be said to have infected the whole continent in 1860, Russia was in a similar position to the United States to-day. She had neither the work-shops nor experience necessary to turn out a good and original system. But she was not behind hand in the race, and after a short examination of the different growing systems she adopted the French; probably on account of its simplicity and economy and its adaptation to smooth bores. By 1864 she had converted a great many of her smooth bores. Then came a short season of muzzle loaders and shunt rifling which had as it were come into fashion all over Europe, and she came near adopting the Armstrong system throughout; but after the German war of 1867 she became enamored of the Krupp system and definitively adopted it. For some time she was totally dependent upon Krupp's factory, but with admirable energy she turned her whole attention to steel manufacture and in 1871 she could show a breech loader made of steel, claimed to be better than Krupp's. As far as experiment has been able to test it, it has shown itself at least equal to it. For light guns the breech-block is adopted from the Swiss system, which is almost identical with the Krupp, except that the block is rectangular instead of cylindro-prismatic. For heavier calibers the Kreiner system is used, differing from German guns in having the locking screw between the wedges so as to work both instead of but one, a simple and important improvement. For her heaviest calibers the Krupp system is used, differing slightly in a few minor details. For the comfort of Americans who so long clung to the idea that the smashing effect of huge spherical projectiles was superior to the penetrating effect of rifled ones, I will remark, that as late as 1871 I believe, the heaviest of Russia's iron clads the "Czar Peter the Great" was intended to carry a battery of twenty inch Rodman guns which with the fifteen inch had been definitively adopted into the Russian service.
Austria is the next country. In 1861, this country started out on independent experiments with gun cotton, and for a time bid fair to introduce a system of Artillery radically different from any other; but owing to frequent accidents with the gun-cotton, the idea was abandoned in 1869. She then found herself behindhand in the race and looked about for some system to borrow. Her smooth bores were, I believe, converted on the French plan while her navy was supplied with Armstrong rifles. These form her naval battery now, the majority of the guns being muzzle-loading shunt rifles. For light guns she adopted Krupp's Kreiner system, but owing to its cost and the dependent position it placed her in with regard to Prussia, she experimented with guns of her own, and by 1874, General Uchatius had perfected his improvement in bronze, and light batteries of steel bronze were introduced. The metal is ordinary bronze, cast in a sort of semi chill mould under pressure, the ingots after boring being put in a state of tension by driving mandrils through the bore. It seems that this metal cannot be applied to heavy calibers on account of the great cost of the large masses, and it will probably not find its way into the navy in calibers heavier than three inches.
We can hardly say that there was such a country as modern Italy previous to 1861. Her artillery at the time of the consolidation of the kingdom was in a very mixed state and even now it is not reduced to proper shape. In her navy, however, Armstrong guns are found almost exclusively, the majority being muzzle-loading shunt guns except the very heavy ones which carry the Woolwich grooves. This country cannot however be passed by without giving honorable mention to Colonel Cavalli of the Sardinian service, who in 1846 presented a reliable breech-loader which until the rifle fever broke out found great favor throughout Europe. It was a cast-iron gun with two grooves on Colonel de Beaulieu's plan. The breech-closing arrangement was a simple wedge, sliding transversely into place, but having no lock to hold it. It was always displaced by the discharge but never to a great extent. The bore of the gun extended all the way through, and in case the wedge stuck fast it was loosened by prying with a hand spike inserted from the rear and fitting in a notch in the back of the wedge. There was a handle on each end, one of them being formed in a loop so as to allow the load to be passed through it.
Spain has no artillery of her own. Her smooth-bores were converted on the French plan with steel hoops, and in her Navy the Armstrong is the principal gun, although many Whitworth and Blakely rifles are found. In making up her battery she did not appear to follow any system exclusively but purchased as she needed from England. I believe that she has no Krupp guns.
Her army however has made many good improvements in minor points and they have facilities for building heavy guns. It is cheaper however, to go into foreign markets.
I have thus reviewed the Artillery of the chief nations of Europe, and find that there are three main systems. The French breech-loader, the English muzzle-loader, and the German breech-loader. All others are offshoots from these, and the question that we have to settle is, can we invent a better one of our own, or shall we adopt one of these. Now let us see in what direction our prejudices lie. The Parrott gun has been our only one, if we throw out the few rifled cast-iron guns which were only used on a small scale during the war. This Parrott system did us good service during our war but the unfortunate explosions at Fort Fisher may be said to have killed it, the more so as every cue knows that it was only accepted provisionally, until we could get a better one. I think that if the question of efficacy was put to vote here now amongst you, the verdict would be an unsparing condemnation of a system based on the Parrott gun. I propose the English system; and am I not right in the assertion that most here would shake their heads at it? Have we not read the alarming tales of England's cemetery of suicides? Do we not see almost daily complaints of the great extravagance, the perversity of the English "artillery ring," the faulty studs, and the thousand and one other lame points heralded forth by English journals? And then are we not prone to say that her principle is wrong; that it is no use putting this stretchy wrought-iron around steel. No, you say we should not take England's pattern as long as even she is dissatisfied with it. And what do you say to French? Well we don't hear much about French guns, and then they use cast iron, and haven't all the books for the past fifteen years been condemning cast-iron for rifles? Then again don't we know that France is going to use steel, as soon as she can make it of the proper quality? No, that won't do. Well, how will Krupp's gun do. Now there is something like a gun. Steel is the best metal of all, that we know. Then Germany certainly ought to know what is best, for has she not frightened half the world with her military perfection? Have not Russia, Austria, Turkey, Egypt, Japan, Chili, Peru, and a dozen other nations gone to her market for rifles? Does not Krupp boast that England dare not bring on her system for a competitive trial, and have we not ourselves seen that beautiful 35 c.m. gun, shining like a new dollar, with a breech-mechanism that works to perfection? That is the gun for us—if we only could build it. But we can't make the steel. What shall we do, for of all the systems that is the only one absolutely without a flaw. I think that I make no false hypothesis in stating that these are the opinions of the majority. But let us go slowly for a moment and consider. Now you all are absolutely certain that cast-iron is not fit for a rifle; that goes without saying. Well! At this moment, in Italy, a gun of ninety tons weight, intended to throw a projectile weighing seventeen hundred and sixty lbs, with a charge of three hundred and thirty lbs, is being built and it is to be made of cast-iron; not tubed, but hooped over the seat of the charge. Russia, to-day is building a sixty-four ton gun with a cast-iron body. France has already her thirty-five ton breech-loading cast-iron guns. Would it not be well to hold back our judgments a little? Hasty people are the ones who have said that cast-iron is too weak, and while they have been making an uproar the students have tamed the powder until the metal will hold it. So much for the boasted superiority of steel. And if our cast-iron is strong enough, and it should be, for no country can show better, Ave can throw Germany and England out at once.
Do we want breech or muzzle loaders? This is a question that has not been fully solved, but I think that we might go the way of the world. This ninety ton gun that I spoke of is a breech-loader. The Russian sixty-four ton gun ditto. The French thirty-five ton guns the same, and now, in muzzle-loading England, Armstrong presents his twelve inch breech-loader. If then the navies of the world want breech-loaders, so do we. In the same way and for the same reason let our breech-loaders be on the French plan. All the heavy before-mentioned guns are, and when the world agrees we had best follow. But you ask, why don't we make breechloaders of the eleven inch guns. It may be accounted for I suppose by quoting the French saw "Le jeu ue vaut pas la chandelle." Those who are in favor of putting breech mechanism in the eight inch rifle, must not grumble at the three inch. You ask then, why make breech-loaders of the one hundred pounder Parrotts? Go back to Fort Fisher and you will see. The weak part is cut out and the gun strengthened and in making a breech-loader of it we can see just how to make one that will be effectual, on a larger scale. These eighty pounders, which I fear some are inclined to sneer at before looking at, are experimental guns. We are trying an experiment that we know will not spoil the gun and which may better it. In fact, gentlemen, I think that I can state with certainty that we are not engaged in foolishness in these few weak first steps. Remember, you who would criticize, that criticism of ordnance is at present delicate business for the best informed. We have converted eleven inch smooth-bores into rifles on the Palliser system because after a test of more than ten years it has proved to be as safe and efficient as the best, and absolutely the cheapest method. We have made them into eight inch instead of nine inch because the difference in power between the two calibers is not sufficient to counterbalance the increase in cost of ammunition and the increased difficulty of handling the greater weight. But with that weight of metal as it stands, eight inches is better than nine. We have mounted those guns on hydraulic-recoil geared carriages just to see for ourselves how to make such carriages for heavy calibers. And now it remains to watch carefully for the result. Failure there cannot be, imperfect success there no doubt will be, and when that imperfection has been cured we shall be ready to take another step but not before. Another word and I will finish. I think that the majority of those who only read of the progress of ordnance from time to time are prejudiced in favor of the Krupp system. There is something sublimely indefinite about it; and just for that reason I advise you all to study it closely. You know the minutest details of every English failure. French mistakes leak out, but if we go by what we casually see there is no such thing as a faulty Krupp gun. The truth is this; Krupp could originally throw a greater strain on his steel gun than other nations could on theirs and so when the battle began, the marvelous velocities and calibres of Krupp took the world by storm; but other nations while holding to their systems, worked up their powder until they also could get the high velocities, and now we see Krupp using steel where cast-iron will do as well. I do not condemn this system in the least, but I only wish to show to those who may be such firm believers in German Artillery that while it may be the strongest in the world, that very strength may be a weakness in that it increases the cost without giving a proportional benefit. To those who favor England I suggest a careful consideration of the immense difficulties that we must encounter in order to take such a system. We have no Government shops in which such guns can be built. No private firm would undertake the construction with such slight guarantees as we could offer. Above all, skillful as our mechanics are, they cannot at once enter into the construction of such refined ordnance, and neither time nor expense can be spared for instruction. Journalists have no doubt greatly magnified the faults of the system but still the facts alone are sufficient to make us hesitate about such a serious matter as the adoption of a system. To those who favor the French system I offer the warning, that the life of a French gun is short. Although it may be fully proved that cast-iron can serve the purpose, it still is not safe with such powder as we have or as others have. To hoop and tube a large gun requires experience and money, and we have neither. Finally with regard to trusting to our own inventive genius; we must beware of England. We cannot encumber ourselves with false experiments and a multiplicity of calibers. There may be a man in the interior of Kentucky who never saw a ship, that might design a craft superior to anything afloat, but still you wouldn't go to a great expense to test his model, because you know that he has no experience to guide him. Just so with ordnance. Because a man can handle a shot gun, it is no reason that be can design a twelve inch rifle. In fact, rather the contrary, he is more liable to be guided by crotchets. Let us then make haste slowly with our judgment, and not jump at conclusions. There is no use in getting frightened because we haven't our thirty-five ton rifles. Why, if we had, we haven’t any ships to carry them to sea ; and take my word for it, when we have the vessels to carry the guns, the latter will be forthcoming; good reliable weapons with which we need not be afraid to back up our assertions. Just now all we have to do is to calmly and diligently study, and when the time comes, and Congress turns to us for help and gives us money to work with, let US be ready to jump to the front and work quickly and intelligently.