For many years, we have, perforce, remained comparatively idle, without making any improvement in our Navy, content that it should be so because the art of building ships of war was making such rapid strides that it was out of the question for us, with our small appropriations, to keep pace with European nations, and because we felt that it was just as well for us to save our money and to remain quiet observers, while a jealous watch was kept upon all improvements, and an intelligent body of officers was studying every step taken in advance, so that, when the time came for us to build, we might be warned by the mistakes of other nations and profit by their successes. Once we were pioneers in ship-building, now we are out of the race altogether; but it seems that our legislators are waking up to a realization of the forlorn condition of the materiel of the navy, and that a more generous spirit is likely to predominate in their councils; and a proposition has been made to vote a certain sum yearly to be expended in laying down new ships. This, then, seems to be eminently the time for naval officers to say what ships they want, what speed they are to have, what batteries they are to carry, in short what work they are to be able to do.
Before going into the question of the future type for our own service we must consider the vessels we are to encounter.
Great Britain, with her large mercantile marine, first of all nations, recognizes the necessity of protecting her commerce, and her first object is to build vessels powerful enough to perform that duty, not vessels to prey upon an enemy’s merchant ships and run away from his war vessels. A distinguished writer in a London magazine not long ago enunciated the principle which has governed the English authorities in laying down ships. “England is bound always to maintain an unarmored fleet more powerful than that of the United States and not to allow individual unarmored ships in her navy to be surpassed in speed or power by vessels of the American Navy.”
Our naval history has been a glorious one; our flag has never been dishonored on the sea, but, though few in numbers, our ships have always held their own, and done noble service against a powerful enemy; but our successes in 1812 were due to the fact that our fathers, with wise forethought, built their individual ships so as to be stronger than those with which they would have to cope; where the English had 38 gun frigates, we had 44 gun frigates; where they had 32 pdr. carronades we had 44 pdrs.; where they had long 18's we had long 24's. So it must be in the future, if we are to enforce obedience to our laws on our coasts and in our own harbors, or if we are to fight with honor to ourselves and our country. We are peculiarly situated; our harbors are easily protected from an enemy; hostile squadrons will not be able to cruise on our coasts, and there will be no fleet actions; there will be, as in 1812, engagements between individual ships at sea, and we must have vessels to carry our flag on every sea able to meet any unarmored cruiser and perhaps engage with success an armored vessel.
If we look upon the vessels of our Navy as "commerce destroyers,'' we make a grievous mistake. Some vessels there must be whose mission is to "sink, burn and destroy," but that duty may be performed by swift, small vessels, armed with one or two heavy guns, in which every consideration is sacrificed to speed, but let the main duty of the Navy be that of "commerce protector," a duty nobler in every sense of the word and one that more exactly fulfills the ideal of every true hearted sailor. The vessels to perform this duty must be superior to the Raleigh, the Boadicea, the Rover, or the Duquesne in speed, in guns, and in their ability to keep the sea. No one quality should be subordinated to another; but the vessel of the future should be large enough and strong enough to carry a powerful engine, it should be a ram of sufficient strength to do its work without serious injury to itself, it should have a battery of heavy guns, delivering an all round fire, it should have coal capacity to steam at least three weeks at 9 knots, and sufficient sail power to cruise under sail alone.
Having considered the subject from two points of view, viz.—what other nations have and what we need, there remains one more point to be noticed, and that is what we have. The following table gives all the vessels available as cruisers:
To these might be added the four steam frigates. It is needless for me to go into detail with regard to these vessels as their qualities are only too well known. Suffice it to say that most of them are so slow as to be of very little service in time of war, while their batteries, which are numerically large are principally composed of nine inch smooth bore guns which are not guns which would give us the victory in any naval action. Of all these vessels only two are worthy of mention. The others are old, out of repair, or as I have said, carry insignificant batteries. The two to which I refer are the Trenton and the Monongahela. The Monongahela has two 8-inch rifles and a large coal capacity. The Trenton is the least known of any of our ships as it is the last one fitted out. This ship, in general terms may be said to fulfill the purposes for which it was designed, as it can steam 12 knots and perhaps more; it carries a battery of eleven 8-inch rifles; it has a powerful ram and great handiness for turning, and is the only cruiser in the navy which has an all round fire. But with these good qualities there are many defects to which I propose to call attention, and at the same time to offer suggestions for their correction which occur to me from my observations on board of foreign men-of-war. These suggestions are offered, not in a spirit of carping criticism but to elicit discussion and, perhaps, to insure improvements in the next vessel built.
The Trenton is a frigate-built vessel, 253 feet long between perpendiculars, 48 feet beam, and 21 feet draught, with a ram projecting about 15 feet from the perpendicular, made of solid wood bolted to the stem and deadwood, and covered with a casing of bronze which is bolted through and through the stem. The shape is peculiar and lacking in strength and if it were injured in ramming, the injury would be fatal to the ship. The swan-breast shape with modifications is generally conceded to be the best and less liable to be broken off. Such a shape might be fitted to the Trenton and better supported so that a sudden wrench would not break it off.
There are, as usual, two hawse holes on each side for the cables, the inner one being very near the stem and not quite 8 feet from the water line. The hawse pipes are below the main deck and the cables come in on the upper part of the berth deck instead of on the main deck as is customary. In consequence of the nearness of the hawse holes to the stem and of the peculiar shape of the ram, the bill of the anchor frequently hooks in the ram in heaving up the anchor and incidentally there is added trouble in mooring and unmooring and clearing hawse. The cables lead from the hawse holes near the ceiling to the steam capstan which is on the deck itself, consequently the cable comes in at a right angle or less, and, although the capstan is a powerful one, it often becomes necessary to assist it with a deck tackle, particularly in heavy heaving, while there is always an undue strain on the cable from its coming at such a sharp angle; when the anchor is let go the tendency of the cable is to fly up off the bitts, at the same time violently striking the deck overhead. The berth deck is of course very dirty and it is more difficult to clean than a gun deck; while, small as it is, the little remaining space is taken up with cables, bitts, manger, &c. In addition to all these, there is still another and more serious defect. The hawse holes are so lows coming in as they do, on the berth deck, that they are always a source of leakage while steaming head to sea, and they would be a source of absolute danger in getting underway on a lee shore. Even in getting underway in the harbor of Ville-franche, in a moderate sea the berth deck was flooded with water.
These defects might be remedied by moving the hawse holes farther from the stem, continuing their pipes to the gun deck, and leading the cables to bitts near the foremast and then over rollers to the steam capstan. There are three water-tight compartments forward of the fire room but they hardly deserve the name, as the bulk-head of the forward one only comes up to the orlop deck, which is some six feet below the water line, and the others only to the berth deck. There are no means of pumping them out separately but there are valves leading from one to the other and there is a pump for the after one. It is evident that the division of a ship into compartments has not, as yet, received much attention from our constructors, but it is hardly necessary to describe the arrangements usually made, as they are to be found in so many books. One thing is vitally necessary, which we lack very much, namely, powerful pumps that can be worked by hand to clear each compartment, and, if need be, to serve in case of fire; while the bulkheads should come up to the gun deck.
The bowsprit is intended to be rigged in, in clearing for action and it was the original intention to have it come straight in on the gun deck, the iron stanchions, supporting the spar deck, being triced up to make room for it, but the spar deck was so overloaded with forecastle guns that the iron stanchions could not support it and had to be replaced by permanent wooden ones. In consequence of this change a plan had to be devised for making the bowsprit diverge from the direct line and go off in a diagonal direction to starboard. This is an arrangement of doubtful utility because if there is any strain on the head gear it will be difficult to give it the new direction. As it required a long time at the Navy Yard, with all the dock appliances, to get it in place, it is probable that it will not be moved. If it became necessary to get rid of it in order to use the rum in action, the simplest and most expeditious course would be to saw it off outside the gammoning; at the same time, one cannot but be struck by the incongruity of an arrangement for rigging in the bowsprit with the lower and topmast stays rove through bee blocks. In connection with the bowsprit I suggest that a top gallant forecastle could be built and a much shorter bowsprit, without any other head booms, be fitted to rig in and out on top of it, the fore and foretopmast stays being set up at the knightheads.
An important consideration in connection with the health and comfort of the crew is the location of the heads. These are built on the forward part of the gun deck and may be said to have no ventilation whatever; they are a constant source of annoyance, particularly at sea when the forward ports have to be closed; and the discomfort which they cause to the men who are berthed in that part of the ship can be better imagined than described. They should be moved to the spar deck forward of the fore rigging and discharged through iron shoots bolted outside the ship. They should be roofed over, with air ports in the side and slats all round so that a current of air would always be maintained. Large tanks should be built overhead in which soluble disinfectants could be put and there would always be a good head of water for flushing the troughs, at the same time doing away with any disagreeable odors.
The sick bays are placed one on each side of the berth-deck forward of the coal bunkers and are about 80 feet long and 8 feet wide, extending as far forward as the bitts, which leaves a space of 50 feet from bay to manger in which to stow mess, chests and bags for 450 men and to berth a portion of the crew. There is no ventilation for either sick bay except through the air ports and there is a water closet in the end of each one. The remedy which I propose in this case is to put the hospital on the gun deck forward of the battery on one side, taking one or two ports.
The ship is particularly defective in ventilation. The iron ventilators which are generally placed in fire rooms have been placed in this ship but perhaps as much because of their utility for hoisting ashes as for any other reason. There are two pipes from the shaft alley to the outside of the ship at the stern, with branches to the ward room pantry, but, as they were arranged, the current was generally into the wardroom from the alley, particularly with a following wind. These were removed. There are no other ventilators except the wind sails which serve to carry fresh air below, but there are no artificial means for crating a return up current for the foul air of the bilges; but the deck strakes on the gun and berth decks were scored on top as far as the timbers so that between every timber there was an up current of mephitic air, discharging into officers' quarters, hospitals, gun and berth decks. At the same time that part of the bilge under the after magazine was entirely enclosed so that it could not be cleared without cutting holes in the bulk heads; where this was done it was found that a large quantity of decaying animal and vegetable matter had collected here, which caused a most unhealthy smell, and, in consequence of those arrangements, officers and men, sick and well, were obliged to eat and sleep in a vitiated atmosphere. These openings have been nearly all closed.
While on the subject of health and comfort I wish to say a few words about our system of feeding and messing the crew. There is no need for me to describe it; every one who hears me is familiar with it, and with the degrading and at the same time injurious effects which it has on the men. Long since abandoned in every Navy but our own it has fastened itself on our service by the force of habit, and no one in authority does anything to eradicate it, while it might be done at very little trouble or expense by supplying tables and benches. Every one acknowledges that if we want a good class of men we must do something to raise the standard instead of lowering it, and yet we adhere to one custom at least which, more than almost any other, is brutalizing to the men and discreditable to the officers.
The life-saving apparatus is lamentably defective. There is a life buoy on each quarter but they were put on when the cabin ports were closed; when they are open, the buoys cannot be dropped until the laniards are cast off below, or cut. There are no rubber life rafts, and the only chance a man who fell overboard would have would be to swim until a boat picked him up.
The boats of the ship will carry in smooth water, crowded to their utmost capacity, about 400 men, with water and bread at short rations for two days, leaving 70 men on board. The station bill of the ship provides for building a raft in case of emergency, to carry the other 70 men, but there is only one wooden balsa to serve as a foundation for a raft, and any one who has had experience in building a raft from resources on board ship can judge how long it will take to build one to float 70 men; but if an accident happens to the ship in a seaway not so many men by 80 can get into the boats, so there will be 150 men unprovided for, who would inevitably be lost. These defects are easily remedied. A change in the position of the life buoys, a supply of life rafts, and a reduction in the number of the crew in times of peace, and an increase in the number and size of the boats;—all of these are easily effected, and imperatively needed.
Another very important point presents itself in connection with the fact that this vessel is intended for ramming. The side of a ram vessel should be perfectly smooth; no projection should be allowed which can be caught by another vessel in passing, but here we have an almost immovable bowsprit, three channels on each side, catheads and all the boat davits, even the guns should be mounted so that the muzzles will scarcely project beyond the ports.
The steam steering engine is located on the main deck in the battery, a most objectionable position. It can be worked either on the spar deck or on the gun deck, but there is no compass on the gun deck, and no conveniences for working it there. The holes for the wheel ropes are the same as those for the hand-wheel on the quarter-deck so that one set must be unrove before the others can be used. The hand-wheel is of the ordinary kind but not sufficiently powerful for four men to control the rudder, particularly in a seaway. Both arrangements might be made more efficient if the steam wheel were moved to the spar deck near the fore-mast, covered over and worked by a wheel on the bridge above, with an independent set of wheel ropes, and the quarter-deck wheel made more powerful and fitted with a strap brake.
In connection with the battery, I shall only refer to the location of the guns. There are four 8 inch rifles on each side of the main deck, two on the spar-deck forward of the foremast and one abaft the mizzen mast, and it is with these last that we have most to do. The guns with their carriages weigh nearly twelve tons so we have twenty-four tons at one end and twelve at the other which are not waterborne and must strain the ship. At the same time the complication of tracks and pivots rendered necessary by an adhesion to the old system of maneuvering guns has defeated its own object and there is a loss instead of a gain in handiness and rapidity of fire. These guns are manned by twenty-five men each and they are totally exposed to the fire of sharp shooters so that soon after beginning an engagement they would probably be hers du combat. The top-gallant fore castle suggested would obviate one difficulty in screening the men, and the removal of one gun and mounting the other on a turn table with a muzzle pivoting carriage would obviate another. The two remaining guns could be mounted on the quarter-deck with muzzle pivoting carriages also, and arranged to fire in three directions by means of indented ports.
I have gone thus much into details, some of them disagreeable ones, because it is in the details that the ship is defective, and because this is the only new ship in the service in which any modern appliances have been placed; but the manner of using them shows a want of study of those appliances, and a neglect of some of the most important principles of efficiency and health and comfort which should govern the internal arrangements of a man-of-war.
Having considered what we have and what we want I now pass to the explanation of the designs for the proposed cruiser.
Length at water line, 275 feet
Beam, 52 feet
Mean draught, 21 feet
Height of main truck from water line, 150 feet
Displacement, 4,900 tons
Coal capacity, 720 tons
Rig.—Full brig—lower, top-sail and top-gallant yards.
Spar-deck. Five 8 inch rifles.
Four 20 pdr. B. L. R. on depression carriages.
One 3 in. B. L. R.
Two 12 pdr. S. B. howitzers on forecastle.
Main-deck. Ten 8 inch (or 9 inch) M. L. R.
Boats. One steam launch. Three pulling launches.
Four 12 oared cutters. Two 10 oared cutters.
One whale-boat—One gig. One dingy.
Complement. 500 men.
Type. Unarmored, iron, sheathed with wood.
Ram, projecting 6 feet.
Materials. Iron for frames and beams; steel for plating.
System. Longitudinal. The ship to be divided by bulkheads into compartments; between the bulkheads, transverse girders. Flat plate keel, of same breadth as garboard strakes with internal vertical keel of mild steel: the vertical keel is composed of a continuous plate running over the girders riveted to intercostal pieces between the girders, and these in turn, riveted to the flat keel plate by angle irons, also intercostal. The longitudinals are iron stringers, one along the center of every plate of the skin. The main longitudinals are continuous from stem to stern and made like the vertical keel. They are carried as high as the gun deck: at the bow they meet and form breast-hooks, which are plated across as far as the ram bulkhead. The alternate longitudinals extend from the stuffing box bulkhead to the ram bulkhead and are only carried as high as the berth deck: they are intercostal to the bulkheads to which they are riveted by angle irons. The berth deck is of iron, continuous, carried by the bulkheads and by longitudinals under it. The transverse girders and the intercostal pieces of the longitudinals have holes cut for water courses. The ram is made by bolting heavy forged plates to the longitudinals and breast-hooks. Very heavy forgings will not be required for the bow by this system of construction as the strength of the ram is in the structure of the bow which takes up the force of the blow and transmits it by the longitudinals and berth deck throughout the ship. Thus each portion of the ship is made to do its work in ramming and the whole ship becomes the ram and not that part only which is forward of the ram compartment. The plating is covered with two courses of plank sheathed with zinc.
Compartments. The first compartment extends from the stem to the first bulkhead and is called the ram compartment. The bulkhead extends athwart-ship from side to side and from the keel to the gun deck. It is water-tight and can be entered only from the berth deck by a door which must always be kept closed. The plating of the breast hooks and of the berth deck has man holes cut so as to permit communication throughout the compartment. There is no pump in this compartment, but there is a sluice valve near the keel, by which, if necessary, water may be allowed to run into the next compartment and can then be pumped out. All the bulkheads are alike except No. 6 which duly extends as high as the berth deck. The second compartment is between 1 and 2 bulkheads, and includes a shell room, store room, cable tier, a small orlop for stores, and the capstan engine on the berth deck. It is entered by a hatch on the gun deck and by a door in the bulkhead on the berth deck. An iron floor is laid on the vertical keel extending to either side, and no bulkhead in the compartment comes below this floor, thus leaving an open space for cleaning and ventilation, A man hole is cut in this floor on either side of the vertical keel to permit entrance to the inner bottom: holes for water courses are cut in the intercostal pieces of the vertical keel. The third compartment is between 2 and 3 bulkheads and includes a magazine, two shell rooms, an orlop with general store room, bread room, sail room and marine store room. The floors in all the compartments are laid as already described. The foremast is in this compartment and has three holes cut in it which ventilate the inner bottom, the orlop and the berth deck. The fourth compartment includes the hold and coal bunker. There is a side bunker on the berth deck from which the main bunker on the berth deck is filled from a coaling port in the ship's side, the inner plates of the berth deck within the bunker being omitted. The fifth compartment includes the engines and boilers, and side bunkers. The side bunkers are made of the shape shown in the drawing of the transverse section with a coaling port for each bunker. On the berth deck running along the bulkheads of the side bunkers are rows of shelves for rigging, tackles, blocks &c. which have generally been kept in the hold. The sixth compartment includes magazines and shell rooms, an orlop with store rooms, tiller room, steerage and warrant officers quarters on the berth deck. Abaft No. 6 bulkhead is a small compartment which contains the stuffing box for the shaft.
Spars and Rigging. The bowsprit is a single spar stepped on the top gallant forecastle, and is rigged in entirely in clearing for action. The top mast and lower stays set up on the top gallant forecastle. The lower masts are hollow, of steel, with diaphragms. There are no channels and the lower rigging sets up to dead eyes above the hammock netting, the chain plates being bolted to the side and coming up through the netting. The top gallant rigging is to be of hemp instead of wire.
Pumps. The main steam bilge pumps are connected with a large pipe underneath the floor running fore and aft, near the vertical keel communicating with all the compartments except Nos. 1 and 7. This pipe has holes in each compartment which can be closed by sliding a curved plate over them. In addition to the steam pun.ips, there is a rotary pump in each compartment to be worked by hand which can be used for freeing the ship or as force pumps in case of fire.
Ventilation is obtained by means of pipes carried up between the girders from holds and berth deck fitted with cowls on the upper deck.
Stanchions are to be placed under every beam for half the length: under alternate beams before and abaft that length to be secured at head and heel to act both as strut and tie, and to be made hollow with solid heads and heels. Voice tubes and electric bells are to be placed in each compartment communicating with the bridge.
The steering engine is on the berth deck in the engine compartment. The rods and chains connecting the engine with the tiller run directly fore and aft on rollers on the deck to a leader near the tiller, then to the tiller block, back through the leader and they then join the tiller ropes from the quarter deck wheel. By means of a clamp either one can be made the standing part so that in case of an accident to one apparatus, the other can be worked immediately. If both are injured the relieving tackles from the spare tiller on the gun deck can be taken to the second drum on the spar deck wheel.
The steering engine can be worked from the bridge, the gun deck or the berth deck, so that there are five different places from which the ship can be steered with very little loss of time in changing from one to another.
The capstan engine can be understood from the figure. The ordinary capstan is placed on the gun deck and the spindle continued to the berth deck where it is connected with a two cylinder oscillating engine by means of an endless chain and cog wheels. The capstan can be disconnected from the engine and worked by means of bars.
Gun deck. Forward on the gun deck are the hospital, galley, cook's wash room and closets. A battery of ten guns, and abaft the battery a bulkhead, beyond this bulkhead are the offices and quarters of the wardroom officers. The ports for the guns are whole shutters which are hinged at the top with a small hole in the middle for the rammer or sponge handle when working with closed ports. Forward of and abaft the battery the ports are much nearer together and one foot square. There are mess tables and benches triced up between the guns for every mess.
Spar deck. There is a top gallant forecastle under which is an 8 inch rifle on a turn table and the heads for the crew. On the top of the forecastle two 12 pdr. S.B. howitzers for use against torpedo boats. The cat heads are made of metal and hinged so that the anchor being secured on the forecastle they can be swung against the side in clearing for action. Two 8 inch rifles are placed in indented ports to fire ahead or abeam: two 20 pdr. B.L. rifles on depression carriages are mounted in the waist on either side for saluting and for firing down along side: two 8 inch rifles in indented ports for firing astern or abeam, a poop containing the commanding officer's quarters, and on the poop a gatling and a 3 inch B.L. rifle. An iron gutter way sunk in the deck connecting beams and stringers to the framing runs fore and aft on either side. This serves to carry water off the deck and also as a longitudinal stringer adding a great deal to the strength of the upper works. The smoke stack is made elliptical for the sake of the additional room which is gained for working the guns and stowing the boats. The boats are stowed in nests on the deck, the steam launch on one side, a launch and two cutters on the other. The boat davits are of the shape shown in the figure, and in clearing for action the boats are to be swung in over the deck, thus preventing them from injury in firing and leaving a smooth side for ramming.
I have already stated the requirements of a type of vessel which the circumstances of our navy demand; to recapitulate, they are that the vessel should be large enough and strong enough to carry a powerful engine, that it should be a powerful ram, that it should have an all round fire of heavy guns, with large coal capacity and sufficient sail power for cruising under sail alone. The designs which I have submitted will, I believe, meet all these requirements. A vessel such as I have described would probably cost $1,250,000 but with a yearly appropriation of $3,000,000 four of these vessels could be laid down in the first year; in the second year those might be pushed to completion and two others laid down and so on. It would probably take two years at least to complete one, and in the mean time, by this progressive method new inventions might be developed and improvements made in each successive one and even this much work would stimulate ship building and iron production throughout the country.