Prize Essay for 1888.
''Aunque me costo algun trabajo componerla.''
I.THEIR PLACE IN NAVAL WARFARE.
In undertaking the subject of torpedoes, it will doubtless be as well to settle a few points at the outset as to the nomenclature and detail. For many years the word "torpedo" has been used to cover all classes of explosive cases used either upon the surface of the water or concealed under it. The great variety of forms for containing the explosives, the marked characteristics of some of these, and the varying conditions incidental to their use, have rendered it advisable to classify these weapons, and to-day we have two large groups of quite distinct features, known as Torpedoes and Submarine Mines. As now generally understood, the word torpedo applies to those boats or cases constructed to carry an explosive agent to a distance, that have within themselves their motive and directing powers, and are capable of firing their charges on contact. It is to this torpedo that attention will be called in the subsequent pages. The term is qualified for descriptive purposes, and so we have controlled torpedoes, which, like the torpedo, carry their motive power with them, but are designed to be under the control of an operator who at a fixed station directs its flight and may fire its charge, using the electric current to work his will. Besides these, the other qualified torpedoes are towing torpedoes, drifting torpedoes, and the spar torpedo.
In the group of submarine mines are all cases or vessels constructed to contain explosive agents which are fixed in a certain position, being retained there either by dint of their own weight or by being moored securely to the bottom. This group may be subdivided into ground mines and constant depth mines, and are known by various names, as electric, electro-contact, electro-mechanical, and simple contact mines. These magazines of powder, gun-cotton, or dynamite are generally fired by the electric current.
In the discussion of the place of the torpedo in warfare in its fullest sense, it will be assumed that in the present awakening to the need of a naval power, now manifesting itself, we shall have swift cruisers and powerful ships for war purposes. The results of this rehabilitation of the Navy are being felt, and now that we have seen that the workshops and navy yards of the country can produce a modern ship of the more modest type, it is to be hoped that their energies and resources will be called upon to produce something of still higher type, until we shall have taken our former place amongst the naval powers of the world. We have the benefit of the experiments of years, made by our neighbors across the sea, and we are therefore in a position to avoid their errors and to reproduce and perhaps improve upon their successes.
No discussion of the torpedo can be comprehensive unless we may assume that we shall have both the weapon and its carriage in their most perfect forms. As I understand the subject under consideration, we are not limited to a spar torpedo carried by a slow moving wooden steam launch. With the new ships will come new steam launches of high speed and noiseless engines, to carry our old friend the spar, and a class of specially designed torpedo boats to carry our ideal torpedo. This assumption being allowed, we shall have our torpedo stepping into the arena coincidently with those other great actors in modern naval warfare—the ram and the high-powered gun. These are all new factors in the problem of war, so far as our Navy is concerned, and in dealing with them we must depend to a great extent upon the experiences of others. This is on some accounts unfortunate, and if in the discussion some bias be observed, it maybe due to this fact; for our opinions are likely to partake somewhat of the color of those who have had experience. However, having the opinions of the best known writers on these subjects before us, as well as many official reports now familiar to all the naval world, we shall find that one of the first steps necessary in considering all this data will be to sift it carefully.
Exaggerated notions as to the performances of some of the modern inventions are prevalent. Every one is expecting some new discovery which will revolutionize all accepted tactics and render war easy. Nor is this unnatural in the face of the startling changes which have taken place since 1860. Much is urged in behalf of the torpedo boat on the one hand, and these arguments are met on the other hand by confident assertions as to the infallibility of the rapid fire and machine guns. It is the privilege of our officers to weigh all the facts thus presented, and clearing them from all exaggerations, to endeavor to assign to each weapon its fair and reasonable share of power. Fish torpedoes (the torpedo) of reputed certainty of action have been rather unfortunate when the opportunity for proving success in action has been presented. But rapid fire and machine guns, of whose unfailing mechanism and absolute precision so much has been boasted, do not always sink torpedo boats, and sometimes jam or get deranged at the very moment when the greatest dependence has been placed in them. The crucial test for all weapons is made only on the field of battle. Instances of the truth of these deductions may be found by the perusal of the accounts of any of the naval actions where the Whitehead torpedo has figured. The experience of the French in 1870 with their machine guns has caused the blame of more than one lost action to be attributed to the undue dependence placed upon them. Again, the more recent machine guns used in the Soudan by the English gave great cause of complaint.
We come now to the consideration of the torpedo as a weapon, unhampered, to a certain extent, by the too complete submission to so-called facts. It is generally conceded that the torpedo—automobile, self-directing, and self-firing—will be a most prominent factor in all future wars. Even if we look at the modified type now known and used in this country, it must have a place in the front rank in any defensive operations, and will not be found wanting in the offensive. With us, the spar, with the mine on its end fired by electricity, has been so perfected that it is not to be despised, and when borne in suitable launches, it will doubtless do effective service.
The torpedo has been called by a well known Englishman "the weapon of the feeble," and it is undoubtedly a great leveler. But while it promises to exercise great power physically, it should not be gauged by this consideration alone. Its greatest power lies in its immense moral influence. It is herein that may be based its claim to be one of the most potent agents of the day. No admiral exists who would venture to anchor his fleet off a port where swift torpedo boats are known to be, and lie there without other protection than his picket boats, his search lights, and rapid-fire guns. His safety depends on his mobility, and to lie off the port will involve a destruction of this power of moving, in that he must so surround himself by nets and booms that he himself destroys his mobility. Such a view was doubtless had by Captain Fitzgerald, R.N., who, in a recent discussion, expressed the opinion that "the torpedo will prevent blockading by making it inadvisable to anchor or lie within the cruising radius of torpedo boats." The torpedo has caused a movement which foreshadows the abandonment of the ironclad. The energies and inventive powers of naval architects are strained to devise some plan to make the vessels of the day unsinkable, and the tendency to insure this will work injury to speed, that great desideratum. There is no consideration as to the building of ships of war, or the fighting thereof, into which the possibilities of the destructive effects of the torpedo do not enter and become the greatest factor.
When compared with the two other great weapons, we must yield the Jirsi place to the torpedo. As to the ram, we believe the torpedo has caused it to take second place. This view, taken by many prominent officers of foreign navies, is so clearly stated by Capt. Colomb, R.N., that we venture to quote his words: "I think the effect of the torpedo is to push the ram back almost if not entirely, for I cannot conceive anybody attacking with the ram if he can attack with the torpedo instead."
Now let us consider the gun for a moment. As ships are now built, their destruction by artillery fire will be a most difficult operation. The most perfect guns, while capable of long ranges, are not considered as being at their best unless within comparatively short ranges. Careful estimates give the proportion of hits from modern guns at about 25 per cent at 1000 yards. One in four is not much as against a well appointed ship commanded by a brave man who insists upon pushing ahead at great speed, notwithstanding artillery fire, until he gets within torpedo range. The torpedo will keep the ram at a respectful distance and defy the gun.
To sum up this comparison between the gun, the ram, and the torpedo, we think the first place belongs to the last-named weapon. Vessels are armored to resist the attacks of the one, and may be so skillfully handled as to avoid the onslaughts of the other; but this silent foe speeding beneath the waves cannot so easily be avoided. It may fail occasionally—it will, perhaps, fail frequently—but it will succeed at times, and when one of these easily built and comparatively inexpensive weapons does strike, the effect will be something to remember, and the moral influence on the personnel of an enemy will be long felt. Machine guns can do no harm to this hidden missile. Judged by its real effects as shown in the scanty and widely separated instances when used in actual warfare, this weapon is worthy of respectful attention. No vessel of the new navy should be unprovided with auto-mobile torpedoes and the means of firing them in any direction. Experiments of the most comprehensive nature are needed to determine the best means of their discharge from ships. Emphasizing the claims of first place for the torpedo, we now pass to a consideration of that form which we should adopt in our service.
II. CHARACTER OF THE TORPEDOES AND TORPEDO VESSELS REQUIRED FOR THE NAVAL SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES.
There are many torpedoes now before the public. Their mechanisms are as different as their names. Nearly all are constructed to run beneath the surface, and it is claimed that good results either have been or will be attained by each and all. Without indicating any preference, we may mention a few that have and do claim attention, viz. the Lay, Lay-Haight, Berdan, Sims, Paulson, Howell, Hall, Patrick, and the Whitehead. Specific claims are advanced in each instance, and many trials have been made, with varying success. Experiments are in progress now with the Howell, Hall, and Patrick torpedoes; these are of American invention, as indeed are some of the others named. Future developments are anxiously awaited, pending which we must turn to the torpedo now most widely known.
The Whitehead torpedo will hardly need a description. It is a torpedo as defined, and this weapon, or something as good, or better, is what we are awaiting. This torpedo has been before the public for nearly twenty years, having been first experimented with in 1868. Nearly all nations having navies have purchased its secret and have provided themselves with the torpedoes in greater or less numbers. Since its origin, many improvements, both by its inventors and by the English, have been made. Greater speed and certainty of direction have been secured during these years, and to-day it is claimed that it has been so far improved that it possesses the element of great certainty within somewhat limited ranges. An immense gain in speed has undoubtedly been attained. The Admiralty official reports of exercises with the Whitehead go to show that during the past three years as large a number of hits has been made as 75 per cent for a general average. In some of these years the number of trial shots, from which this showing is made, amounted to 1000. It is true that the target was at rest and two hundred feet in length, and it is presumed that the circumstances were all favorable; but even if we throw out a liberal percentage due to the various features of an engagement, such as the motion of the target, movement of the firing platform, possible deflections by bow wave, and last, but not least, excitement of the men who are working the torpedo discharge, still, in the face of all this, we may not be far wrong in stating the possible hits during an action under ordinary circumstances—injecting the supposition, however, that we have trained men—to be about 30 per cent, which would be sufficient to disable, perhaps destroy, a certain number of the opposing ships. We are forced to the conclusion that so far as results have been shown, meagre though they be, in actual warfare, this weapon stands without a rival among torpedoes at the present writing. But it must be remembered that when it has had an opportunity it has failed, from a variety of causes, to score those brilliant successes that those who used it had a right to expect. Let it be borne in mind that we do not advocate this torpedo as a perfect weapon. It is the best known, most generally used, and the only one of its family that has ever seen actual service, hence it is used in illustration.
The Whitehead was first used by H.M.S. Shah against the Huascar, May 29, 1877. The results were unsatisfactory. During the war between the Russians and Turks it was employed on a number of occasions with generally unsatisfactory results, although one Turkish vessel was destroyed by the Russian officers using the Whitehead. This was at Batoum, in 1878. Two torpedoes were fired, and it is not known whether only one or both torpedoes struck; the vessel, however, sunk in two minutes. It is only fair to state that the Russians could not have been familiar with its workings, as they had no Whiteheads when war was first declared. Two were lost on one occasion during this war, and having run on shore and failed to explode, saved the Turkish Government the expense of purchasing the secret. It was reported that the firing pins had not been adjusted.
These results are not satisfactory, but such are the only war experiences with this weapon. It is true that great improvements have been made since those days, and the great faith placed in the Whitehead by the most intelligent officers of the English and other navies indicate good results from experiments repeatedly made by them. We are inclined to think that it would be well if our naval officers might have the opportunity afforded them to make exhaustive experiments with this weapon under all possible circumstances.
The effective range of the Whitehead is small as yet. It may be effective at 800 yards, but it is much more certain of effect at closer quarters; 400 yards may perhaps be stated as the range at which it may be counted on with a reasonable degree of certainty. Its speed has been developed until it is, beyond question, very great. Much has been claimed by the various competitors with this weapon, but it remains to be proven with what show of right.
The torpedo for our service is yet to be adopted, but we may be permitted to hope that in the near future it is to be developed. We who have always held the foremost place in the inventive world, and who first introduced this kind of warfare to the world, must find a torpedo wherein all of the objectionable features of this at present almost perfect weapon shall be avoided and a closer approach to perfection obtained. No stimulating agency should be neglected. A great reward for a perfect torpedo should be offered, open to all American competitors; but while waiting for the coming of this ideal torpedo, we submit that it would be well to be provided with "the best that can be had." We stand committed in this paper to the conclusion that we do need a torpedo for all of our new vessels, and until something better offers we should have the Whitehead.
We would sum up the requisite qualities to be found in our ideal torpedo to be: 1. Long range; 2. Certainty of action, certainty of starting on course, and certainty of explosion when contact is made; 3. Heavy charges, so that it will be dangerous even if stopped by nets; 4. Security from enemy's fire (the Whitehead is very dangerous to those handling it if it be struck by a small shot even); 5. Great speed to the end of run; 6. Directing power; 7. Ease of manipulation; 8. Capability of being fired frequently for trial without derangement; 9. Maintenance of a constant depth to the end of run; 10. Noiselessness and invisibility; 11. Simplicity of construction and ease of repair; 12. Inexpensive of manufacture and not easily injured by corrosion of parts.
We now pass to a modification of the torpedo which we already have in use, and which we think it necessary to retain as part of the equipment of every man-of-war flying the pennant, namely,
The Spar Torpedo.
All vessels of war in the U. S. Navy are furnished with the cases, spars, and electric outfits for such of their boats as are adapted for this work, i.e. steam launches and cutters. Spars or booms are fitted to the ships themselves, and cases are provided, suitably stored, as are also the electric plant and connections.
As regards the efficiency of these spars or booms attached to slow going modern ships, except as a defensive weapon, we have nothing to say, but as regards the usefulness of the spar or outrigger carried in steam launches of a good type, and the advisability of retaining them, we think there can be no doubt, and we are fully prepared to believe that the brilliant successes achieved by Gushing, handicapped as he was by a cumbersome boat and crude firing apparatus, as against the Albemarle with its outlying protective boom, can and will be accomplished by our officers again. The light running and noiseless steam launch of great speed, bearing perfected machinery for handling the boom, and a case containing an explosive, dangerous only when made so by him who commands, fired by a simple touch on a key, are as great gains for the offense as are the steel hawser, rapid fire and machine guns, and the electric search light for the defense.
It has been said by Gommander Sleeman: "It (the spar torpedo) has the advantage .... that it always carries with it the intelligence of the officer in command up to the very last instant of attack." This is an element too often lost sight of. Here will be no uncertainty as to the cause of failure or success. Of course, many things may conspire to prevent success, but the man is there to adopt one expedient after another before yielding and confessing defeat. In connection with this subject, although not wishing to cite the incidents as of a convincing nature, we would call attention to the account of the French operations on the Min river by M. Chabaud-Arnault. He says: "On the 23d August, 1884, two torpedo boats armed with spar torpedoes passed from the unexposed side of the French ships and succeeded in destroying two Chinese gunboats, the Yang-Woo and the Foo-Poo, in broad daylight." Again: "Two Chinese ships were attacked in Sheipeo Roads, 15th February, 1885. The boats carrying the torpedoes (spar) were small and slow, but they succeeded in finding the frigate Ya-Yuen and sunk her." In the first case no resistance seems to have been made, but in the second instance the boats received a number of shots, one 11, the other 6, and one petty officer was killed; the shots did, however, but little damage to the boats. In both cases the spars got foul of the enemy's ships, and were cleared only after great difficulty and exposure to great danger. The French naval authorities since these experiences have ordered complete spar torpedo outfits to be supplied to all ships in commission. Sir Thomas Brassey, Naval Annual, 1886, says, speaking of spar torpedoes as used in connection with "Defense and Attack of Portsmouth, 1880": "Those who saw the steam pinnaces driven at full speed over the booms will probably be of the opinion that for such use they were better adapted than fragile torpedo boats." This matter of the fragile character of the smaller torpedo boats will be spoken of further on. Admiral Gore Jones, R.N., citing some American experiments, commends the value of the spar torpedo shown by work done by the Intrepid and the Alarm on several occasions. He emphasizes the fact that mind was brought to bear and the torpedo was "exploded at the exact spot." Now, although these opinions were the expression of impressions formed a few years ago, it must be remembered that then speeds were slow as compared with what is possible now, and if the rapidity of motion in the target lessens the likelihood of being struck, then the spar torpedo gains by the fact, and what was then remarked upon favorably would probably be within the possibilities now, notwithstanding rapid-gun fire.
Against the use of this form of weapon, as also against the use of any torpedo boat, has been urged the great influence of the electric search light. While it is true that this light is very powerful as a spotter of the boats, it will be remembered that its use before an attack will hardly be resorted to, for by its use one of the principal difficulties of a torpedo attack will be obviated. It is not easy to find vessels at night, whether at anchor or under way, when as a precautionary measure all lights on board are carefully concealed from view, and this is true whether the night is dark or only partly so. Many instances might be shown of the difficulty encountered by boats in finding ships known to be at anchor in the neighboring waters. The imprudent use of the electric light will solve this difficulty for the boats. Besides, the light affords a most excellent target, and the attack would perhaps consider it of sufficient importance to have one of its larger vessels with the boats or near them, having the destruction of this light as its object. It is not advanced in behalf of the spar torpedo that it can do impossibilities, but it and the torpedo should both be in the hands of our officers. As an adjunct to a harbor defense it will be invaluable, and as a weapon to have at hand on shipboard ready to strike at an enemy under favorable circumstances, we are convinced that it is of great use.
Having thus endeavored to show that we need a perfect torpedo, and also that it will be advisable to retain and improve our old friend, the spar torpedo, we will pass to the next subject for consideration, i. e., the boats to carry them.
- Torpedo boats, 1st and 2d class.
- Submarine boats.
- Launches to carry spar torpedoes.
- Torpedo supply and repair boats.
In nothing has a greater diversity of opinion been manifested in naval circles in all parts of the world than on this subject. Each year sees some innovation which is readily grasped as a realization of the ideal, and for a while holds its place as a complete solution of all the difficulties of this complex question, but it is soon superseded by some other device which is to do still greater things. At no period of naval history has there been so much credulity evinced; any innovation is seized upon with almost feverish haste. This is hardly to be wondered at when one looks at the wonderful changes since the introduction of iron and steel in naval construction, the coming of the torpedo, and the general use of electricity. From the multitude of typical vessels, many of them consigned to the oblivion of the "rotten rows" of all navy yards, we may draw many lessons and avoid, perhaps, many mistakes. As we understand the wants of the U.S. Navy, there will be two classes of torpedo boats needed. One, the 1st class, good sized vessels, fairly protected, suitable for sea duties; the other, much smaller, for duties in enclosed waters and in connection with harbor defenses.
The qualities requisite for 1st class torpedo boats will probably be as follows: Speed is of course of the very first importance. Size sufficiently large to be able to keep the seas; with ample accommodations for the officers and crew, and storage capacity for coal and provisions. Reasonable protection from machine and rapid gun fire. Minute compartment subdivision to render the boat as unsinkable as possible. Draft of water, so light as to enable the boat to get into the most important harbors on the coast. Great handiness in turning and reversing. Armament capable of resisting an ordinary attack when torpedoes are expended. Comparatively great coal endurance.
Naval architects point out that in designing ships some of the desiderata must be sacrificed if we wish to develop abnormal qualities in a certain direction. Up to a very recent date everything has been sacrificed in the endeavor to obtain great speed, and now we have come to a period when other essentials are pointed out and recognized as important features.
Much stress was laid upon the fact that the torpedo boats ordered to assemble in Toulon for the evolutionary squadron in 1886 succeeded in making the voyage from Brest to Toulon; but if the accounts are carefully studied, it is seen that this result was obtained by dint of the utmost care and watchfulness, and caused the complete exhaustion of the crews, composed of men picked for the purpose. The experiences of the English squadrons at Bantry Bay proved the inexpediency of sending the torpedo boats to cruise with the fleet.
Now a boat that has all she can do to live in a sea is not a very dangerous antagonist, and as the sea is rough at times, the small nutshells heretofore known abroad as 1st class torpedo boats could not be counted upon with any certainty. A modification of this class of boats, however, will be exceedingly useful in the defense of our coast and harbors, or in offensive operations near their bases and within certain limited circles. A radius of 60 miles is suggested as within the possibilities of our smaller (2d class) fast torpedo boats. It is generally conceded in England that defense by submarine mines must be supplemented by torpedo boats, or else such defense will be weak. That this is recognized in our country is shown by the recommendations of the Coast Defense Board, who include torpedo boats as necessary adjuncts to all proper harbor defense. Indeed, a port with the peculiar features of San Francisco can only be defended by guns and torpedo boats. Such vessels as those now called torpedo hunters and torpedo boat catchers, we will drop from consideration. They are swift men-of-war with many torpedo discharge tubes, and do not come under the same head as the vessels under discussion. In many cases it may be difficult to decide just where the torpedo boat ends and the hunter or catcher begins, so nearly are some allied.
A review of a few of the more recent constructions coming under the head of sea-going and sea-keeping torpedo boats may not be out of place. Those named are somewhat like the 1st class torpedo boat which will be advocated here. As typical vessels we cite the two torpedo boats built in England in 1885 for the Austrian Government, the Panther and the Leopard. Their excellent sea-going qualities have been proven. These vessels are intended for service as torpedo cruisers and as rallying points for the smaller torpedo boats. They are unarmored rams, with a speed of 18 knots, 225 feet long, 1570 tons displacement, 4000 I. H. P., armed with two 5" Krupp B. L. and 10 machine guns. In France the Condor class are somewhat similar, being 216 ft. long, 29I beam, 1300 tons displacement, estimated speed 17 knots, armament 5 10-cm. guns, 6 machine guns, and two torpedo tubes. The building of these vessels led to the ordering of the Scout class in England, of about 225 ft. length, 19 ft. draft, 1430 tons displacement, I.H.P. 3200; having twin screws and triple expansion engines, and eleven torpedo discharge tubes. There is a protective deck of steel 1 in. in thickness over boilers and machinery. Seven of these are being built. A second type is known as the Grasshopper type and includes the Rattlesnake, Sand Fly, Spider, etc. They have steel hulls, displacement 450 tons, I.H.P. 2700, 200 feet in length, 23 ft. beam, draft of water only 8 feet, speed 19 knots; engines, two sets of triple expansion of the vertical type, four locomotive boilers. They have ¾-in. plating on sides to protect boilers and machinery. Armament, 4 torpedo tubes for Whitehead torpedoes, one right ahead, one astern, and two pivots amidships; one B. L. 4-in. gun, six 3-pdr. rapid fire guns, crew about 600 men. These boats are to carry 100 tons of coal for 600 knots at full speed, or for 4000 knots at 10 knots per hour. No rig except two light poles for signal purposes. Cost about $175,000 each. Still another boat which has attracted attention is the White turn-about boat. "These boats have their dead wood removed in order to obtain facility in turning, and are fitted with an inner and outer rudder, simultaneously actuated, either of which would suffice to steer the vessel in the event of the other being lost or disabled. Length 150 ft., 17 ft. 6 in. beam, 9 feet 6 in. deep, displacement 125 tons, built of thin steel plates, conning tower amidships. Speed on measured mile, 20.79 knots. When running at full speed they can be brought to a full stop in a few seconds." These boats show remarkable handiness in turning. A new boat built by Thornycroft & Co. for the Spanish Government—the Ariete, a twin screw boat, 147 feet long—has attained a very high rate of speed, over 26 knots! Yarrow & Co. have just built for the same government two fast boats of the smaller class, 135 feet long—the Azor and Halcon.
It is, however, to the Leopard, Scout, Condor, and Grasshopper types that attention is particularly called while on the subject of the 1st class torpedo boat proposed for the U. S. Navy. These are all sea-going boats, and are useful in peace as well as in war. The general tendency everywhere is toward larger boats and better protected ones. The speed requirements seem to have attained a satisfactory point, for the tendency is now toward a recognition of the fact that too much is being sacrificed to speed, and the endeavor is in the direction of securing more trustworthy vessels and adding protection against the rapid fire and machine guns. The necessity of this will be shown if ever torpedo boats meet in actual war, and this refers not only to strength of hull but also to machinery protection. It is pointed out in the Report of the Secretary of the Navy of this year that the Japanese have taken a step in this direction. They have just had a boat built 166 feet long, with boiler and machinery protection of 1-inch steel armor.
In the United States several boats of small size have been put into the water by the Herreschoff firm, mainly with a view to develop speed. The Now-Then is only 86 feet long. She has triple expansion condensing type engines, and has attained a speed of 23.2 knots. Such a vessel, if properly constructed for war purposes, would meet some of the requirements for our modern 2d class torpedo boats.
Having glanced hastily at what is being done by others, and keeping in view what we require on so extended a coast as ours, with oftentimes heavy weather to contend with, we would venture to suggest that the U. S. torpedo boats of the 1st class should have the following characteristics: Length, 200 feet as a minimum, 22 feet beam minimum, 14 feet draft of water maximum; to be ram-bowed; to have twin screws; 2 independent engines of triple expansion condensing type, using forced draft; boilers in separate compartments; reserve coal to be carried as a protection abreast the engines and machinery; to have numerous compartments and a longitudinal bulkhead; protective deck over boilers and machinery of at least 1 ¼ inches steel; greater beam may be given to allow of the coal protection, it being well known that coal is a great stifler of the explosive effect. This boat should be provided with at least four torpedo tubes, so that torpedo fire may be had ahead, astern, and on either bow and either quarter; the latter to be worked in pivot. These firing tubes, as well as the guns, should be placed under dome shaped protection, or a turtle-back of at least 1 ½-inch steel plating. The conning tower should be of 3-inch steel plates, and built up independent of the "tube" protection. Her armament should be 4 6-inch rapid fire guns, 4 Hotchkiss revolving cannon, and 4 Gatling guns, so disposed as to secure all-round fire; speed about 18 knots with service weights on board. All torpedo boats of the 1st class should be furnished with the search light. Such a vessel would have ample capacity for coal and provisions, and her accommodations would afford fair comfort for her officers and crew. A vessel something like this would combine the features of a 1st class torpedo boat with those of the so-called torpedo hunters or catchers.
The 2d class boats should be of greater speed, less draft of water, less solidly constructed, less coal capacity. A light protective inclined deck should cover the vital parts. One requisite would be that they be built stiff enough to stand hoisting on board and lowering, if that be contemplated, but mainly that they may be capable of standing railroad transportation, as that would become a very important consideration in our country, particularly if it were desired to concentrate on the Lakes, for instance. Recent experiments in France have demonstrated the feasibility of such transportation. The carriage of these boats on battle ships is not seriously contemplated. It is done in foreign navies, and numerous devices are adopted for getting them into the water with safety and despatch, but it seems that the lowering and hoisting of such frail-sided constructions of great length, built in many instances of plates only 1/12 of an inch thick, will be attended with the greatest risk to the boats and their delicate machinery. In a seaway the boat would either be crushed against the ship or swamped alongside. Torpedo boats, whether of the 1st or 2d class, should be independent, and if not injured by an enemy, should be able to take care of themselves before, during, and after an engagement. Guns of 100 tons have been transported by rail, and torpedo boats of the same tonnage (2d class) could be also.
Should it ever come to pass that the United States possessed a flotilla of first and second class boats, the necessity will arise for torpedo depot ships, floating shops for repairs, and storehouses from which torpedoes and torpedo stores may be supplied. Those who served during the Rebellion in the then new types, the monitors, will realize how advisable something of this kind will be, when they recall the workshops for repairs that it was found necessary to establish in the immediate vicinity of the monitor fleet off Charleston. These torpedo depot ships would visit each station in succession and would be found of immense service. Boats at Key West or New Orleans would find them welcome visitors. These vessels must needs be large, of great beam to ensure great carrying capacity; good speed, say 15 or 16 knots; fitted with torpedo tubes for defense and to permit tests; protective deck, large numbers of rapid fire guns, and net protection, in order to resist torpedo attacks. A large space would have to be allotted as a workshop, and she should carry duplicate parts of machinery for the torpedo boats, as well as spare outfits for the spar torpedo.
It may not be out of place to suggest that when we decide upon a torpedo boat that shall be found to answer all requirements, all the boats should be built alike, so that spare parts may be constructed and kept on board the depots. The experiences of the late civil war would serve to show the inexpediency of a multitude of types. Vessels of the blockade were continually coming to a navy yard, and while there their services were lost to the country. If the torpedo boats are to be kept in a serviceable condition on their stations in time of war, then the depot ship seems to be a prime necessity. Experience will teach us the best class of materials for these boats.
In closing the remarks on the torpedo boats it is not out of place to call attention to the usefulness of a fast boat of the 1st class as a despatch boat for the Admiral during an action, and also that in the designing of the 2d class boat it must be remembered that she must be able to enter any of the numerous coves and inlets along the coast in the immediate neighborhood of her station, and that therefore she must not draw much water. Her salvation may depend on being able to go where an enemy dare not follow.
General attention is being drawn to this class of boat at this moment, and as we are treating of new types we will consider this as coming within our scope. Ever since the days of Bushnell and Fulton, attempts have been made to solve the problem of under water navigation.
The history of submarine boats, until within a very recent date, has been one of failure and disaster. The Russians have made many experiments in this direction, but are not known to have acquired any marked success. The Rebels succeeded in constructing a submarine boat which finally destroyed the Housatonic, but the lives of the destroyers were sacrificed, as the boat sank by the side of her victim, and thus lost her fourth crew, having failed to come to the surface on three other occasions.
In this country a submarine boat has recently promised good results, and in Europe the Nordenfelt has been successfully operated and it is said to be a good type. The construction of a boat of this class having been authorized by Congress, invitations for plans have been made, and we may expect to see some interesting models. The Nordenfelt launched in March, 1887, is the largest boat of this class ever attempted, being 123 feet long, and her displacement when wholly immersed is 243 tons. If this boat can do all that is claimed, then is our labor in vain and the building of ships may as well be discontinued, but we cannot forget that Bushnell and Fulton were no less confident of success. Many points will have to be settled before this problem is solved; for while it is not doubted that boats can be and have been constructed to move below the surface of the water and remain there for varying periods of time, still the question as to the effect of the explosion of the torpedo upon the submarine boat will have to be settled.
It may be suggested that if steel nets will keep out a Whitehead torpedo they will also keep out a submarine boat. All that the battle ship will have to do, if forced to anchor in hostile waters, will be to "come to" in as shoal water as may be consistent with safety and lower her nets until they touch the bottom. Whatever novelty is developed by the offensive will find a corresponding novelty devised by the defense. The use of the electric light below water, recently experimented upon at the Torpedo Station in connection with countermining, may suggest its possibilities as an illuminator of the subaqueous field; and once a certain zone of light is established about a ship below the surface, an easy mode of disposing of the submarine terror will be the attack from directly overhead. These are mere suggestions, and while we are willing to regard the submarine boat as a possibility, we can hardly rank it as a probable success. Nordenfelt's boat, moving just below the surface, with its cupolas just awash, presenting a minimum of surface exposed to view, while permitting intelligent direction and the admission of air, seems feasible, and a dangerous opponent to grapple with, but once below the waves, it will be no easy matter to find a ship rapidly changing her position.
Steam Launches to Carry the Spar Torpedo.
These boats should be strongly built and as large as possible consistent with the capacity of the ships carrying them. Steel will perhaps be used in their construction as giving a maximum of strength with a minimum of weight. The engines should be powerful and noiseless, and have provision made that there be no flame visible at the smokestack at night. It is to be regretted that the petroleum launches experimented with a few years ago could not have been perfected, for in them no smoke-pipe was needed. It is equally to be deplored that the electric motor has not developed, as yet, sufficient power to drive these boats at any high speed. The reason for the anxiety to do away with the funnel is that experiment has proved that when used as torpedo boats, sparks from the launch's funnel betrayed her before she was heard or her neighborhood otherwise indicated, and again it is a fact that the first thing the electric light detects in an approaching boat is the escaping steam.
Any white object is rendered particularly prominent by the search light. It has been found expedient to paint all objects on the boat a dead black, even to the faces and hands of the men, if an attempt to approach a vessel is made in the face of an electric light. The launch as perfected and armed with the spar torpedo is presumed here to do away with the necessity for carrying the so-called second and third class torpedo boats now crowding the decks of the battle ships. In the launch we have during the time of peace an efficient and useful boat for all ship's purposes, readily lowered in any ordinary sea, of great capacity for carrying men in the event of a fatal accident to the ship, and withal a good serviceable boat when fitted for war purposes. We want good strong boats of great capacity and of first class sea qualities. We do not want phenomenal speed in boats that are to carry the spar. No boom would long stand the strain upon it, and besides it will be advisable to fire the torpedo with engines reversed, lest we be "hoisted by our own petard." No complicated machinery should be fitted up for the handling of the boom—that furnished at present seems all sufficient. Provision should be made for the complete unshipping of the boom at once if it should become fouled alongside an enemy.
The largest launch of 1st class vessels should, perhaps, be fitted with a tube to fire a torpedo, but it, as well as all others, should carry the spar torpedo. The superiority of the launches for attacks on booms or other obstructions has already been pointed out, as compared with the "fragile torpedo boat."
If possible, the engine and boiler should be placed well aft, leaving the working space forward. As the launches are built to-day the officer cannot get forward quickly. This is a very important point to be attended to in the building of the new boats. Let the engine and boiler be aft and as low down as possible, then the officer and the crew will all be together in the fore part; all work can be done silently, without the necessity of "orders"; the wheel is there, and, moreover, greater space will be obtained to work either the torpedo and its tube or the spar torpedo. It may be possible to devise a hood of 1-inch steel to form a shield for the steersman and men handling the torpedo, or, in fact, for general protection. This hood could be made to be shipped when equipped for action, and might be unshipped when the boat was used as a working boat.
The danger apprehended by many of being easily sunk by machine gun fire in one of these thin-shelled boats is not so great after all. Even if pierced—a small hole—the rapid movement will prevent the water from entering in any great quantity. Some degree of risk will attend every encounter of the future.
It has been said: "In all discussions of the present day the most important factor seems to be left out; weapons are discussed and their potency pointed out most clearly, but man and his individuality have been lost sight of." It is in this light that we urge the claims of properly built steam launches as against the very small torpedo boats. The launch is to be the better sea boat, and could be employed in night attacks when too rough for very small boats—we refer here to boats carried by ships—torpedo boats, so-called. There is some comfort in the launch, there is every discomfort in the torpedo boat. Even the toughest men of the English and French navies suffered from seasickness; no food could be prepared for days, and herein comes the consideration of man. No man having once had this experience will subject himself to it again. In ordinary circumstances of weather, and given the most remote chances of success, we believe men generally would prefer to serve in the ship's launches rather than in the ship's torpedo boats. As part of the equipment of steam launches' crews for torpedo attack, the officers and men should be provided with a jacket to be worn while in service, made of webbing or light canvas, and lined with cork, or quilted in with the same, so as not to be cumbersome and so prevent the work being rapidly done. This jacket or vest would not only be a life preserver, but would act also somewhat like an armor as against small missiles. If these pages contain matter of a somewhat speculative nature, it may be urged that, until we have had larger experiences of our own, the whole subject must be somewhat speculative.
III. ORGANIZATION OF NAVAL TORPEDO SERVICE AND INSTRUCTION OF ITS PERSONNEL.
The organization of the Confederate Submarine Battery Service in 1862, during the War of the Rebellion, was the first instance of an attempt to secure the services of trained officers and men whose duties were to perfect themselves in this class of warfare, to devise and experiment with all such weapons, and to use them finally in the face of an enemy. M.F. Maury, of the old navy, was made chief of the Torpedo Bureau, headquarters at Richmond. He selected officers with whom he had been associated in the U.S. Navy and with whose abilities he was familiar. These officers were a nucleus about which was soon formed an efficient corps. The status of this corps was fixed by an Act of the Confederate Congress. The officers organized and drilled the men. The men were sworn to secrecy, and had good pay and many privileges. Submarine mines were at once laid in all the principal harbors, and offices were established in the cities near by. Drifting torpedoes were devised and sent down the currents, and when the torpedo boats of various designs came to be known, this corps first tried them and then manned and worked them. All reports from subordinate officers were made directly to the chief of the bureau in Richmond.
In England the torpedo service is not as yet clearly fixed. Officers and men are instructed and drilled, both in the army and navy, but it is not as yet systematized. It is generally understood that all submarine mine systems, being under the protection of the forts and being connected with them, are in charge of the Royal Engineers. It is also claimed by the officers of that corps that not only the mines and forts, but also the torpedo boats for harbor defense, should be in the hands of the commanding officer of the harbor defenses. However this may be finally settled, it is certainly very important that there should be no clashing of opinions at the critical moment. The Confederate service owed a great deal of its success to the fact that only one chief was to be consulted and his orders were final. M. Gabriel Charmes tells us that in France: "We have at Boyardville an excellent school for our officers, and the torpedo school ship Japan graduates mechanicians of the utmost skill It is wonderful to see them exercise: these schools furnish us with personnel of the first order."
As in England, so it is with us at present. The system of submarine defense of a harbor, with the mine field covered as it must needs be by the guns of the fortifications, and with its firing system led by galleries to within the fort, must be entrusted to the engineer corps of the army, as also would be those torpedoes designed to be fired from the shore. All movable torpedoes, except as before noted, and their carriers, should be in the hands of the Navy Department or some bureau thereof. Both in England and in the United States the rank and file of the engineer corps is wholly inadequate, in point of numbers, as at present constituted, to give proper attention at each harbor. In England the formation of a volunteer torpedo corps has been urged as a means of solving these difficulties.
The organization of a naval torpedo service should be effected, and that at once, and its status should be fixed by Act of Congress, so that its existence may be legally established as is that of the artillery or engineer corps of the United States army. The personnel of such a corps would have to be most carefully selected at first, so that intelligence might establish rules based upon common sense, and be liable to such changes only as may be caused by the change in the weapons from time to time. It is suggested, therefore, that an officer of high rank, not below the grade of captain, and of known abilities, be selected as chief of the Torpedo Corps, U. S. Navy, whose office should be established at the Navy Department, Washington, D. C.; the Secretary of the Navy to be his only superior as far as the duties of his office are concerned. The office should be provided with proper assistants and clerical forces. We would add further officers as follows:
Four Commanders—as chiefs of sections, these sections being geographical divisions of the coast, arranged in somewhat the same manner as the lighthouse districts, having their offices at the principal city of their sections.
A number of intelligent lieutenants, of both grades, and ensigns who have had the benefit of the Torpedo School instruction, should be detailed to this corps, to be assigned for service in all ports and harbors where torpedo-boat defense has been recommended by the Board of Coast and Harbor Defense. It will be the duty of these officers to instruct and drill the men who are to be enlisted, having frequent and complete exercises with the torpedo boats and spar torpedo.
As to the proposed division of the seacoast of the United States into "sections" over which the commanders are to exercise control so far as torpedo service is concerned, it is proposed, for the sake of illustration, that it be as follows:
1st Section.—Maine to New Jersey, including the Lakes.
2d Section.—New Jersey to the southern end of Florida on the Atlantic coast.
3d Section.—Gulf Coast and the Mississippi.
4th Section.—The Pacific Coast.
The commander of a section will have charge of all torpedoes, torpedo boats of 2d class, and all launches and spar torpedoes which may be assigned to the ports or harbors of his district. He will frequently inspect the boats and stores and will attend exercises. The boats are to be commanded by one of the junior officers attached to the harbors, and are to be manned by the torpedo corps detail stationed there, with such assistance as will be suggested further on.
As all of these officers, except perhaps the chief, will be required to do their usual sea duties, one commander and one fourth of all juniors may be made available for sea service each year, their places to be filled by new details, drawn as far as possible from the class under instruction at the Torpedo School at Newport, as these generally are but recently from sea duty. At present 100 men might be sufficient. They should be young and intelligent seamen drawn from the Apprentice Corps, and available only when they shall have completed their term of service as apprentices. These men should be selected with a view to make of them a permanent corps, being drilled most thoroughly, step by step, into a perfect understanding of the practical workings of whatever boats and torpedoes are finally decided upon. These men are not to be drawn into the general service under any circumstances, and will not be detailed for duty on board men-of-war, except only when ordered by their bureau to perform certain torpedo service under their own officers. As they will have great responsibilities, and must bring with them a high degree of intelligence, they should be treated with consideration; and certain privileges, good pay, and a system of promotion, should be incentives to study and to strict attention to duty. Their enlistment in the Torpedo Corps should be for a long period, and it may not be, perhaps, too much to propose that those who distinguish themselves by unusual qualities might be promoted after proper examinations to be commissioned officers, beginning with the position of 3d Lieutenant, Torpedo Corps. A certain number of these torpedo men should be permanently located at the ports of the section where torpedo depots are to be established and boats maintained.
The establishment of a permanent torpedo corps does not do away for a moment with the necessity of torpedo instruction and drill on board ship. The system of sending officers from this duty to sea will ensure an efficient body of instructors in the various squadrons.
Carefully revised manuals of torpedo drill and torpedo tactics should be prepared by the Torpedo Bureau, and officers trained at the Torpedo Station, perhaps fresh from practical work in the torpedo corps, will be on board every ship in the service and must be detailed to instruct. The system of study and all the requirements necessary to the receipt of a Torpedo Diploma or Certificate will be settled by the Torpedo Chief with the approval of his superior, the Secretary of the Navy. The Torpedo Station, as well as everything pertaining to this service, should be in charge of the Torpedo Bureau.
At first glance it might seem advisable that some of the torpedo men should be detailed to the general service, but we have, after due reflection, avoided that, as herein lies one reason why men do not care to take the long and tedious course, i. e., the possibility of being drafted for general duties. As it is now, when a young man who has completed his service as an apprentice and is ambitious re-enlists and obtains detail to the Torpedo Station with a view of perfecting himself in that branch, or is sent to Washington to study in the Ordnance Yard, he has no guarantee that he will not be called upon at any time for service afloat, and when he goes on board ship he finds himself very often assigned to duties entirely foreign to those for which he has been educating himself.
We assert again that the formation of the proposed corps in no way prevents the regular torpedo drills and exercises on board ship, but should rather have a stimulating effect, and such officers and men as, while on shipboard, were distinguished by their aptitude for this work and application to the drill, would find a detail to the corps awaiting them when the cruise was over. All reports of torpedo exercises, all torpedo receipts and expenditures will be reported to the bureau by the officer who may have been designated as torpedo officer. All such reports would, of course, go through the regular channels as now established.
As a further and most important feature in the organization of the Torpedo Corps, we desire to fix attention on the fact that this small body of 100 men is a nucleus only; for, of course, many more must be added, and this may be effected in the following manner: Suppose we have now this body of 100 men divided up into squads often men each, and they and their particular officers are established at Portland, Boston, Newport, New York, and so on. They pursue their drill and attract attention, particularly amongst those men who frequent the waters of the harbor,—and it is just these whose attention we wish to attract. It is important that we should enlist in each port a certain number of young Americans who have been born near the harbor and whose families have been waterside people.
Fishermen and "coasters" are the men we shall need. Their knowledge of the bays, rivers, and inlets, and of the currents and tides of their particular localities would be most valuable. It will be the object and aim of the officers and men to interest young watermen in the corps, and by good pay and good pension provisions the services of this class could be secured. A special uniform should be adopted, and the assurance of permanent employment, when once properly qualified, near their homes, will have the effect of making men connect themselves with the corps. The possibilities of promotion should be held out for distinguished attainments or services. Once this home corps of torpedo men is established, the original men will be advanced to the more responsible positions; as, for instance, depot storekeepers, commanders of boats under ordinary circumstances, etc. There must be certain leading men, and they may be named mates, coxswains, or sergeants as may be decided upon, and their pay must be higher than that of the private. By this means it is believed that a corps of efficients would be gradually built up and would perhaps be in working shape by the time the new boats and torpedoes were ready for use.
In the event of war, which would necessitate the calling in of great numbers of officers now on detached service, it is not improbable that 1st class torpedo men would in many cases take temporarily the command of the harbor boats.
The growth and efficiency of the Signal Service of the United States is due to a certain extent to its independent and separate character. The same may be said of the Life Saving Service. It is not necessary to contemplate the diversion of a large number of naval officers from their legitimate duties in order to form this corps, except at first. After a little while, only the leading officers would be drawn from the regular Navy list. There are plenty of bright young men in and about every seaport who have been well educated, and who have nautical tastes, whose services as officers could be easily secured by generous legislation. We may instance the U.S. Revenue Marine Service, now completely organized, having its school for cadets, training ships, and regular system of detail and promotion. Let it be clearly understood that we advocate this organization of civilians as officers, only for duties in and about our coasts and harbors. The chief and the four general supervisors will always be officers of the Navy. Torpedo boats of the 1st class, torpedo depot ships, and harbor defense monitors belong to the regular Navy and would be commanded by officers of that service. If torpedo boats are carried on our battle ships they will be commanded by officers and manned by men from the ships. It is not suggested that these torpedo officers be identified with the Navy proper; the very nature of their duties would preclude this. We here propose the rank of 1st lieutenant as the highest attainable at present. Something will have to be done. Already at a minimum, the officers of the Navy are demanded for many duties other than their regular sea duties. Shore duties have multiplied ten-fold since the close of the war. The Coast Survey and Fish Commission, Lighthouse Service, Steel Inspection and Hydrographic details, all doubtless of great importance, call for the employment of many officers who for the time being are not working in the Navy proper. Again, the drain of men is something very heavy. With the small number allowed by law it is all that one can do to get a sufficient number to fill the complements of ships in commission, but still we have some hundreds of men diverted to the Coast Survey, Fish Commission, Torpedo Station, and Tug Service, and the time has come when, if any further duties are expected, either more men and officers must be provided for the regular Navy, or some scheme must be devised to fill these needs from outside the service.
Instruction of the Personnel.
It is to be understood that in this discussion the usefulness of the instruction as now carried out at the Torpedo Station at Newport is not undervalued, and the officers and men that it is proposed to take as the nucleus of our proposed system are presumed to have had the course there, and the officers not only the usual course but the advanced or extended course. The usual course embraces, stated in a general way:
Lectures on movable and spar torpedoes, and on mining and countermining.
Electricity, as regards its application as a motor, or its use for lighting or firing purposes.
Chemistry, as applicable to the correct understanding of the components of explosives.
The mode of manufacture, handling, storing, and the preservation of explosives, as well as their uses in warfare.
Submarine diving is also taught, as are also the use of the electric search light and the manufacture of electric and other fuzes.
The course is very complete, and experiments in electricity of the most comprehensive character are carried out, so much so as to excite the warm commendations of officers abroad. Frequent experiments are made in the use of the weapons in our possession, and new inventions are often tested at the Station. It has been thought that the time allowed for the course there might be extended, and there exists a question as to the expediency of establishing a certificate of proficiency, following, we suppose, the same general plan adopted in the English Navy.
In the same harbor, though having no connection with the Torpedo School, the Naval War College is located, and it has been the custom to send officers from the Torpedo School, on the completion of that course, to the War College to attend the lectures there. While the one course is not intended to supplement the other, it is possible, as time goes on, that the War College may have a branch for the study of torpedo boat tactics, which is not necessarily included in the studies of a school of technique.
The instruction at the School, as far as it goes, is all that can be desired, but it is only an introduction after all, so far as the practical handling of torpedoes and torpedo boats goes, remembering all the time that we have in our mind's eye the ideal torpedo and the new boats of the 1st and 2d class. The torpedo boats and torpedoes will doubtless be at Newport for the purposes of drill, practice, and illustration; but it will not be sufficient that officers should have seen the torpedo fired, or have been out on a trial trip on several occasions in the boats. The officers and men of the torpedo corps must have ample opportunities to learn to know their weapons. We quote a well known English authority as conveying the idea before us most clearly: "One thing is certain, that the efficiency of a torpedo boat mainly depends on the amount of practice and experience the crew have had in her. A nation with no boats to practice with in time of peace will find but little value in the few she may hurriedly get together in time of war." Pending the arrival of the torpedoes and torpedo boats on the scene, the officers and men should practice in mining and countermining; in the use of the spar torpedo; in the study of the coasts and harbors; in the construction of torpedo charts on which all good defensive points on the coast will be laid down, together with the location of the mine fields and proposed ingress and egress channels, taken from the engineer's charts; in the establishment of depots for torpedo material, and in constructing a series of torpedo magazines; and in the use of the search light, and the electric light below water.
It may be stated that while it is conceded that mining will necessarily be under control of the army where regular fields are laid under the fort's protection, still many cases may arise where a knowledge of the subject of mining will be called into play, as for instance when it may become necessary to protect a squadron lying in some harbor of refuge unprotected by fortifications and menaced by the torpedo attacks of a hostile fleet. As to countermining, it will necessarily be a part of the education of the torpedo corps as well as of the Navy, as it will fall to them very often to force a passage and clear a way through mine fields. It is not part of our plan to get together a party of officers and men in or near a port whose duties will be performed in a perfunctory manner and where occasional drills may be had to "cover the order"; but it is supposed that the officer will have the perfecting of his men at heart, and will do all that lies in his power to keep up the interest in the work. Steam launches should be furnished as soon as the men are detailed, and exercises had against stationary and floating targets. The men would attain great proficiency and some new points would certainly be brought out. Practice as divers in submarine work should be had, and to this end each station should have the complete apparatus. Frequent excursions should be made in suitable weather for the exploration of every inlet, creek, or inside passage until such familiarity was acquired that use might be made of this knowledge on the darkest night. When the boats and torpedoes do come into the hands of the men, they should be put to every possible test, and again it is suggested that these tests, going forward in the different ports, would develop new points of great value. Neither the boats nor the torpedoes can be laid up to be "called for" when war begins. Admiral Boys, R.N., in speaking of the Whitehead, in a discussion before the United Service Institution, says: "We are told that it is a very simple weapon and wants but little attention; my experience of it was that it was a very complicated weapon and required the greatest attention; . . . . that to make the 'Whitehead' torpedo a success and keep it in complete order you must love it, you must be always at it, inspecting it and cleaning it; it must not have the least detail or particle out of order." What is said here of the Whitehead will doubtless apply with equal force to any other torpedo. In the attack upon the Hecla, in Portland, England, the lecturer. Commander Gallway, R.N., states, after detailing the number of hits: "In this case we had experienced lieutenants in every boat, each officer having had a month's constant practice in the boat under his charge." Captain Fitzgerald, R.N., already quoted, said in this discussion: "They are most complicated weapons; not only the torpedoes, but the boats themselves. Anybody might be told away to go and attack an enemy; it is a thing that requires immense practice. I am told if you put the engines on to full speed she jumps from under you like a horse, and it requires a great deal of practice to be able to sit her, let alone work her." Again, Captain Harris, R.N., in his very able paper, says: "It is a great mistake to suppose that a lieutenant taken from the bridge of a large ship and placed in charge of a swift torpedo boat will at first be able to make efficient use of her. Not only must he have time to get used to the peculiarities of these boats, their rapid loss of way when stopped, the quickness with which they acquire a high speed when the engines are started, but he must have time to overcome the strange sense of lowness in the water To conduct a flotilla of torpedo boats to the attack of ships is in itself an education; there are fifty wrinkles and dodges that will suggest themselves to a clever officer when practiced in making such attacks which he would never have dreamed of without."
Pages of similar extracts might be quoted, but these are sufficient to show that the opinions of those who are most familiar with the workings of the new arms point to the necessity of constant care and practice; and it is deemed therefore of the very first importance to practice on every possible occasion and under every possible condition of the weather. As an instance of the class of practice referred to we would cite the following: The German Government telegraphs to Wilhelmshavn: "A squadron in the North Sea is coming down to attack you, defend yourselves." The squadron came. It was a rainy, storming night. They anchored some distance from the shore, and the Admiral, feeling sure that torpedo boats would never venture out, turned in to get his needed rest, having given no orders of a special nature. That night the torpedo boats were in the middle of the fleet and could have wrought great destruction.
It may be remarked that we have made no suggestions as to the sending of torpedo-men as instructors to our ships. Our experience with seaman instructors does not warrant the serious contemplation of such a plan. It is said to work well in the English Navy, and instructors in the various drills are drawn from the better class of men who are specially rated for the purpose. The complex character of the crews of American ships precludes the advisability of making the trial even. There are plenty of officers to do the instruction. In closing this part of the discussion we can only repeat that the instruction now imparted at the Torpedo School is as complete as in the nature of things is possible. It has been often said of the colleges for civilians, and of the Naval Academy for officers, that they serve only to prepare one for further study, if great success is to be attained. So with the Torpedo School, it lays the groundwork and prepares us for further study in one branch of the complex science of modern warfare. After theories are learned let us have plenty of intelligent practice as the best instruction.
IV. THE TACTICS TO BE EMPLOYED IN OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE WARFARE.
Before proceeding to the consideration of the torpedo and torpedo boats as engaged in warfare either offensive or defensive, we desire to free the discussion of some weights which bear too heavily upon the just consideration of the subject. So much stress is laid by many writers on the terrible effects of rapid fire and machine guns that no consideration of torpedo boats is ever had without finding this "lion in the path." Reference has already been made in a general way to this subject, but we shall now particularize by giving a few instances to the point. "Experiments carried out in England by firing at models of torpedo boats show the number of hits that may be made by an approaching ship. In these experiments the mean result of six runs showed that the mean number of hits made from a ship steaming at 6 knots, when firing at a stationary target, was 16 per minute from a Nordenfelt gun, and 6 per minute from the Hotchkiss revolver cannon. The guns had the advantage of continuing the firing up to 100 yards, and the observers who were stationed near the target remarked that all the shot that were fired under 300 yards struck the boat." This is the most favorable showing ever made for these guns, to my knowledge; but for the sake of argument let us suppose that a torpedo boat is approaching this vessel at a high speed, say 20 knots per hour. How long will she be in the dangerous zone? 30 seconds if we extend the zone to 1000 yards, and only 15 seconds if we approach a more reasonable distance. In 30 seconds she will have received, by the above showing, 8 shots from the Nordenfelt and 3 from the Hotchkiss. At 500 yards, that is, from 500 yards circle to alongside, 15 seconds, she would have received half that number. This is a supposititious case in which everything is conceded to the gun. Let us turn from this most favorable result for the gun to another view of the matter. One night while in the river Min a boat was discovered approaching the French fleet; what her character was is not stated, but the electric lights were brought to bear and the fire of the whole of the Hotchkiss guns from four ships was directed at the boat. In the end they had to send steam launches to bring her alongside, and they then found that she was not even hit. Comment here is unnecessary, except to call attention to the fact that the French gunners are generally well trained. Now it has been asserted that the machine-gun fire directed from the tops of the ships drove the cannoneers from their guns in forts Ada and Pharos during the bombardment of Alexandria, but a critical examination after the battle showed but a meagre number of bullet-hit marks on the guns or carriages, the number being less than ten.
Many other cases could be cited pro and con, but we will content ourselves by the results of target practice on an extensive scale, made very recently at Newport, R.I., under the intelligent supervision of the fleet gunnery officer of the North Atlantic Squadron. The Hotchkiss and machine guns were fired from moderately unsteady platforms at stationary targets. The results were highly unsatisfactory; so much so that we refrain from giving exact figures. These guns were fired by men who were to a reasonable degree familiar with them, and under direction of officers who knew what they were about. There is no disposition to decry the usefulness of these guns, but we are seeking to strip them of the exaggerations which always accompany them, and we would endeavor to show that the torpedo boat may have some chance for life, before we attempt to touch the subject of tactics. The other bugbear which torpedo boats are to contend with is the electric light. We have shown in another place that the use of the electric light before the boats are discovered has objectionable features. Let us quote from an officer upon whom we have already drawn. "I myself saw last summer (1884) a fleet of six second-class boats get within 50 yards of the flagship of the Channel Fleet before being discovered, although six electric lights were employed in searching around the fleet."
During the recent night attacks on the Atlanta in Newport harbor, by boats carrying the spar torpedo, it was very noticeable with what distinctness the white boats were shown up by the electric light. In a later attack made upon the Dolphin several boat officers had taken the precaution to cover the bows of their boats with tarpaulins, and the difference between them and the all white boats was very marked when in the rays of the light.
It is to be hoped that these exercises may not be used as an argument against the probable success of a night torpedo attack, for the conditions of those attacks could hardly exist in modern warfare. In the first place, the Atlanta, having shifted her anchorage, proceeded to use her electric light long before the time of the attack. In the second place, there is no room for comparison between white ships' boats, which were with but few exceptions the old time noisy wooden launches and a lot of pulling boats, and the noiseless torpedo boat rushing through the water at a speed of at least 18 knots, armed with a torpedo good for a 400 yard range. In the subsequent discussion of this attack the opinion was freely expressed that six modern torpedo boats would have left nothing of the Atlanta. In considering this subject of the search light it must not be forgotten that a fog, even a slight one, will do much towards neutralizing the power, or effect rather, of the light. Smoke will have the same effect.
In all operations the torpedo boats may be regarded as the cavalry of the Navy, to be in advance, or on either wing of a fleet at sea, or dispersed inshore, and outside of a fleet at anchor; ready at all times to give timely notice of the approach of an enemy; to carry despatches to a distant part of the fleet; to surround and destroy or capture a crippled foe and to pursue a fleeing one; to cut off supply ships and detached vessels; and besides this they may be sent on distant expeditions, or called upon to meet a similar body in almost hand to hand conflict. In all considerations of torpedo boats in connection with the fleet we refer solely to the 1st class sea-going boat. Small fleets of these boats are now organized under some flags, and we need not be surprised if the battles of the galley period be reproduced, as to the numbers of boats engaged and the tactics adopted.
The success of a torpedo attack will depend largely upon the number of boats which can be brought to deliver it simultaneously. Eight has been stated as the greatest number that can be kept together at night. In approaching an enemy the boats will maintain slow speed (because it is known that they can be heard much farther when moving rapidly than when going slow) until discovered or they get near enough to discharge their torpedoes. When discovered they must dash ahead at full speed. The commander is supposed to hold his boats well in hand up to the moment of the charge, after which each boat must act for itself, returning, if possible, to a pre-arranged rendezvous. In the attack upon a single ship, if at anchor, several methods have been suggested which we will quote. "In December, 1885, Capt. Dubuzof discusses some plans of attack of a Capt. Azarof which differ from the Russian official torpedo manual. The manual adopts 18 boats in two lines as a squadron, and directs that each line should form three lines abreast, endeavoring to get abeam of the ship to be attacked, and then all bear down together. (Fig. 1.)
Under the circumstances shown in Fig. 1, each line of boats will be in danger of being enfiladed by ship's fire.
Captain Azarof's scheme consists in dividing the two divisions into four squadrons of four boats each. The boats are to try and form about the same distance from the ship, and attack from four quarters of the imaginary circle surrounding the ship (Fig. 2). It would be difficult to make the attack at the same time, as the distance between the squadrons of boats would be too great, and signaling cannot be done." A dark night, fog, or a dense smoke would be necessary for this evolution. Captain Harris, R.N., suggests the plan given below for an attack by day of ten torpedo boats on a ship.
"At a preconcerted signal these boats are to turn and rush at the ship. In ordinary weather they would be within easy torpedo range in six minutes, which is but a short time in which to destroy ten torpedo boats."
We would suggest that the attack be made from nearly ahead or astern, if the vessel be at anchor, and that a number of boats be held in reserve to make another attack, if necessary, before the excitement caused by the first wore off and before quiet and order were restored.
We would suggest somewhat the same tactics in attacking booms or a number of ironclads. If the ships be protected by a net or booms, the flotilla having approached to within safe distance, the commanding officer should detail a number of boats to make the attack, and he should wait until the melee was at its height, when he should approach with great speed and make an entirely distinct attack. The first attack will always develop the position of the search lights, and these he will assign to one or two boats in reserve whose whole duty will be to put the lights out of action. Let it be remembered that the new torpedo boats will all carry guns sufficiently heavy to effect that, and armed as they now are with many machine guns, they will be able to drive all people off decks and away from the rapid-fire guns; at least they can do as much with their machine guns as the big ship can with hers. Loss of life will doubtless follow, and the loss of some of the attacking boats, but no ship’s company will maintain their composure under repeated attacks. It is not possible to believe that human beings can be kept at the machine guns after a series of explosions of torpedoes.
For a moment we have lost sight of the boom or net, but following the same line of tactics in the attacks, we would send the boat whose machinery, boilers, and men were best protected, with orders to destroy the net, and it is on just such an occasion as this that we want a spar attached to our torpedo boat; a heavy charge of gun-cotton borne at the end of a spar would do this kind of work. One good torpedo exploded against the net will tear a hole sufficiently wide to admit the entrance of a second torpedo.
If torpedo attacks are to be attended with great success the risks must not be too closely weighed, and much will depend on dash. While it may be true that as a general thing the torpedo boat will be regarded somewhat in the light of a skirmisher, it is also not at all improbable that they will be massed and take part, either in general engagements or as a flotilla opposed to a similar body of the enemy's boats. Torpedo boats have attained such a size—now carrying machine and rapid-fire guns, and in some cases a respectable sized breech-loading rifle—that they become in reality small men-of-war.
Whole pages could be written setting forth the various tactical maneuvers possible to any fleet of steam vessels, all very well as a parade and duly executed as per signal; but if two squadrons or flotillas of torpedo boats approach each other to do battle, the "charge through" will probably be the general rule, delivering machine gun and rapid gun fire in passing, and perhaps ramming if opportunity is afforded. The firing of torpedoes will take place perhaps when at about 300 or 400 yards distant, but in the melee which must inevitably follow it will be difficult to distinguish friend from foe. It will then be unwise to fire the torpedoes; the targets presented are small and easily missed, and as most of the boats are of light draft, the torpedo will pass under them and as likely as not bring up against a friend. Having charged through, there should be an immediate reforming for a renewal of the charge. The details of this formation should have been arranged long beforehand, as should all orders for the performance of certain maneuvers in certain contingencies. Signaling cannot be depended upon, and commanders of torpedo flotillas should, and perhaps will, have some agreement with the officers in command of the boats, that in the event of being attacked in certain formations each individual is to do the same thing under all circumstances. Take this matter of "charging through" an enemy's squadron, for example. Let us suppose that A has instructed his officers that always under such circumstances the survivors will, as soon as well clear of the enemy, come about, using, say, starboard helm, and reform bows toward the enemy; let it be supposed that B has made no such agreement, but depends upon his ability to signal or transmit orders, then we will have some such state of affairs as is represented in Fig. 4, where we find A at A' in good order, ready to charge again, while A's squadron will be scattered and in disorder.
For a good formation for attack we perhaps cannot do much better than study the old Venetian "half moon," used with so much success by them when their galleys decided many a hard fought battle. Care must, however, be taken with the wings.
We shall now give a case of two flotillas approaching (Fig, 5). A is in "half moon" formation; advancing in two lines abreast. A stands on, and his orders are that when the leading line of B shall be abeam of his (A's) wing ships (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 13, 14 and 15), they shall wheel and attack B on the flanks, while the main body continues on to the direct attack.
If a fleet of torpedo boats be ordered to attack an enemy's ironclads, a time should be chosen when information has reached us that their boats have been diverted to some distant duty. This attack should be made on a flank ship or one out of the line (Fig. 6). If it be known that our movements are under observation, a detachment should be sent in a direction opposite that to be taken later on by the real attacking party. This detachment will be ordered to appear as a reserve later on, and will form the "second attack."
It would of course be better if the flotilla could be divided into two squadrons to fall upon the two flanks simultaneously, having a few strong boats in reserve. We do not advocate, however, putting dependence on the "simultaneous attack." Great distances must be traversed, and many accidents may occur to prevent simultaneous action. All will depend upon the celerity with which the blow is delivered, and the sudden and unexpected repetition of the attack, if found necessary, delivered by fresh boats; hence our desire to hold some boats in reserve, out of sight if possible. In these suggestions we have not considered the small torpedo boats at all. They are reserved for defensive operations nearer home. We have under consideration our proposed 1st class torpedo boat.
As to the attack on a single ship under way or at anchor, with her nets supposed to be rigged out in either case, we think that the attack must be carried out in some such manner as follows: A number of boats having been told off" to that duty will assemble beyond range. Our real points of attack will be, let us say, the starboard quarter and the port bow, and two or three boats are detailed for each point of attack (Fig. 7). Those held in reserve are to make feints on the ship from ahead and astern, rushing at her from those points and wheeling off again. These will discharge their torpedoes if they find an opportunity, but it is their duty principally to distract and divide the attention. The main attack will keep the points of attack decided upon always in view, and it is ordered that they discharge, at the given point or near it, as many torpedoes as possible, so that the "nets" may be beyond doubt carried away.
Boats at A and B are to make successive attacks and wheel as shown in Fig. 7 so that they will not be in each other's way, and the boats at C C are to make feints as explained. If the attack be at night, C C should expose lights, or in some way insure being seen.
On all occasions where torpedo boats are engaged against each other, the one difficulty will be to distinguish our own boats even in daylight, but at night it will be still more difficult. It is suggested that the boats be painted some bright color which can be easily recognized at a glance, and which should be known to our people and not to the enemy. At night some other mode must be adopted to enable our boats to be distinguished at once.
It will be the duty of the torpedo boats, no doubt, to patrol inshore of a squadron blockading a port, and to engage and capture any vessel emerging from the port, unless too powerful for them to engage, whereupon signals must be made to the squadron.
In defensive warfare the torpedo boat will be mainly used for sorties against the ships and boats of a squadron operating on the coast. A flotilla of torpedo boats being in a port, such portions as may be decided upon will be ordered for service on a certain night and they will proceed to the outside rendezvous. All plans must, as far as possible, be arranged in advance. For obvious reasons no signals can be made. Being on the offensive, they will adopt the tactics for attack. In this expedition the greater number of boats will be of the 2d class, accompanied by some 1st class boats as rallying points.
These boats will make their sudden and sharp attack on an enemy's blockaders or supply vessels, and should at once retire with all speed to such entrances or inlets as may have been decided upon beforehand, and from which they may return to their home rendezvous by inside passages. Attacks like this should be frequent, and perhaps need not be absolutely confined to nights that are dark and foggy. The peculiar coast line of the United States is favorable for secret and rapid concentration by the use of inside bays, lagoons, sounds, and canals. Boats supposed to be blockaded in New York may suddenly appear in numbers in Chesapeake Bay or Albemarle Sound without any blame resting on the blockaders, and it is this kind of warfare that will call the 2d class boats into play and will demonstrate their great usefulness.
Sudden attacks should be made on any and all vessels of an enemy approaching our coast or attempting to anchor anywhere near it. It will always be urged that the torpedo boats will be destroyed; so some of them will: lots of them may be, perhaps; but the loss of a few inexpensive and easily replaced torpedo boats will be of little moment if we destroy only one of the battle ships of an enemy; and even if we fail to destroy one ship, still the frequent repetitions of these attacks will impose constant watchfulness on the crews of the enemy's ships, and finally so harass them that they cannot remain on the coast. An active officer having at his command a number of swift torpedo boats and a complete knowledge of the coast, and having in his employ sources of obtaining reliable information, would make it very difficult for an enemy to provision or coal ship anywhere near the coast.
Let us suppose an attempted blockade of New York. Of what avail would be the usual disposition of the forces of an enemy of what use the usual electric light rays thrown on the egress channel, or the ceaseless vigilance of an inshore squadron of torpedo boats? There are many channels of egress open for light draft vessels. What will prevent us from putting a lot of 2d class torpedo boats on platform cars and transporting them to New London, or, better still, to the inlets and bays of Long Island, which being in connection with the sea will permit egress there.
A rendezvous having been arranged at the head of some bay, on a certain day or night, our flotilla sallies out and attacks the blockaders in rear and on the flanks. It is quite within the possibilities that a number of 1st class torpedo boats having made rendezvous at Charleston, S.C, or Hampton Roads, will have been ordered to make an attack some time during this very night from the other side. There seems to be no room for doubt as to the expediency of maintaining a large number of the 2d class boats in every port for the defense of the coast. These under the shelter of a few strong 1st class boats will keep the enemy on the alert, to say the least. The possession of a number of the larger boats will have a tendency to render convoys necessary, and would thereby divert a certain number of fighting ships from the active operations on the coast. It will be said that the merchant steamer will be armed, or that any ordinary cruiser may do convoy duty; but there will be required a very good ship to do battle with the torpedo boat as now proposed, with her great speed and protection and respectable armament.
But little reference has been made to the matters of harbor defense, mining and countermining, or spar torpedo tactics, as we do not understand that these subjects come within the limits of the paper.
We do not think that we shall have, perhaps we shall never need, the large fleets composed of heavy ironclads, torpedo catchers, torpedo boats of various classes, torpedo depot ships, coal supply ships, and numerous other ships. We may read seriously discussed plans of operations of fleets so constituted, numbering upwards of one hundred vessels, in any recent volume of the Proceedings of the Royal United Service Institution. Such an assemblage of vessels may become necessary for England in her possible wars in the future, but will hardly ever be necessary for us.
But a fleet of powerful vessels with the latest and best torpedo outfits, both auto-mobile and spar torpedoes, and high powered guns, will prove the best coast defense, supplemented by the fast sea-going torpedo boats. It should be only as a last resort that we should contemplate the closing of our harbors and the resort to submarine mines and booms as a means of defense. Having strong fleets on our Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, they would intercept and engage any hostile fleet that approached our shores. If beaten or repulsed we must have fortified harbors to fall back upon, and then in the defense of the immediate waters of the harbor the 2d class torpedo boat would play its part, while some of the 1st class boats might perhaps be detailed to create a grand diversion by being sent to attack the commerce of our enemy in the West Indies, for instance.
It is rather a difficult task to suppose a system of tactics applicable to vessels which we only know by reputation and with whose real qualities we can only become familiar after some years of experience.
New inventions are coming up every day, and it is impossible to foresee where the competition between the offensive and the defensive will finally land us. Not only is this so in the United States, but it applies to all the great naval powers as well. The possibilities of the dynamite gun and its shell; the possible solution of the long studied and oft tried problem of submarine navigation; the uses to which electricity may be put, and the problem of nullifying the search light,—all are examples showing how greatly the inventive powers of man are called into play at the present hour in perfecting engines of war. It behooves us to take the best, that which the experience of others has proved to be the best, and the object kept before us in this paper has been to outline what seems the best of the known and approved weapons. As to other and untried weapons, it may be as well to do as we have done—wait a little.
All writers on the modern implements unite in this one statement, be their opinions never so greatly at variance generally: "What is needed is the experience of a great war with the modern weapons." It is after that event that we shall see many theories dropped, and perhaps some of the old methods will be found to hold good.
June 1, 1888.
Commander Thomas Nelson, U.S.N., in the chair.
Lieutenant Holman.—It is due to the essayist, in considering the paper that has been presented to us for discussion this evening, to bear in mind the fact that he undertook no easy task in grappling a subject which covers so wide a field, in the limited space allowed under the rules governing the contest for the prize of 1888. His feelings, when he found himself face to face with the topics allotted, must have been akin to those of the noted historian of whom it is related that, being seated at dinner next to a young lady who regarded it her duty to draw him out in agreeable discourse, the smiling demand was made, "My dear Mr. Blank, do tell me the history of the world!"
My first impulse is to congratulate the writer on having brought together, in such compact form, so many items of interest; my next, to regret that it was not in his power to expand certain ideas of which, under the circumstances, he could give no more than a hint. It would be manifestly unfair to criticize adversely any omissions, such as, for instance, some of the very important requirements of torpedoes and torpedo boats; or any lack of details in the consideration of organization, instruction and tactics; but there are some conclusions arrived at in the essay which I am not prepared to accept as quite correct, and I venture to allude to a few of them.
As to the place assigned the torpedo, compared with the gun and the ram—are we justified, as things now stand, in conceding it to be the most powerful of the three? Can we give other than theoretical reasons for such a preference? I must avow a strong personal predilection in favor of the torpedo, and hope that the essayist is right in stating that we must yield the first place to it; but, with all my bias in favor of the weapon, I shall want more proof before I consider the case established. The record of the gun is a long one and a strong one, and the limit of its destructive powers is not yet reached. Every day brings us news of some improvement made, some device by which its range, its accuracy, its ease of manipulation, or its rapidity of fire is increased, and the time seems not far away when the use of high explosives in projectiles, fired from ordnance of whatever caliber, will be quite practicable, and the gun will multiply its present power many-fold. It would hardly be wise to prepare our naval estimates to-day on the assumption that the torpedo is a more powerful weapon than the gun. France approached that danger not long ago, but was warned from it by the earnest voices of her friends, who argued justly that, while the torpedo is worthy of a prominent place in preparations for war, and while it is a weapon of mighty possibilities, it has, nevertheless, not yet been submitted to such tests, to be had only in actual battle, as are necessary to prove its exact value. While awaiting these tests, let us by all means have plenty of torpedoes, and that at once; but let us, before we cease to place our main reliance on the gun, follow the advice given in nearly the last sentence of the essay—"wait a little."
It is with pleasure that I notice first class torpedo boats advocated as those essential for the service of the United States, with, however, somewhat larger dimensions recommended than will probably be needed to enable them to keep the sea and make attacks in all weathers. A minimum length of 150 feet, with other corresponding dimensions, would probably bring into our flotilla no boats too small for efficient service at all times. The luxury of protective decks and of relatively heavy plating for the conning towers in these craft cannot, I fear, be indulged in beyond a very limited extent. There is a loud call for greater solidity in the construction of torpedo boats, a response to which would necessitate giving to the frames and bulkheads and plates almost every pound of available spare weight without by any means converting the boats into miniature ironclads. I see no possibility of an extension of the great contest of gun vs. armor to secondary batteries and torpedo boats. The boats must not be handicapped, but must rely almost entirely for immunity from damage by hostile fire on quickness of approach to the attack and in recession from it; on such concealment as can be gained in darkness, fog and smoke; on the confusion attendant on surprise, when surprise can be effected; and on the extreme difficulty, certain to embarrass those attempting their repulse, attending the finding and keeping of their range.
I am inclined to believe that the suggested plan of having a torpedo depot ship whose duty it should be to visit the different stations in succession, would not meet the requirements of the torpedo service, for the reason that there very probably would be causes interfering to prevent much needed visits. A greater degree of independence would be secured by attaching to each division, to cruise and to operate with it, a torpedo division ship, such, for instance, as those recently built by Schichau, a description of which may be found in the Marine Engineer, June 1, 1887. These division ships carry a full outfit of stores and spare parts, and are fitted with workshops and with hospital accommodations. They are designed to guide the divisions to which they are attached, and carry a full outfit of torpedoes and of rapid firing guns, and would constitute, on the whole, a most powerful adjunct to the flotilla.
In the part of the essay devoted to the organization of the torpedo service, I deprecate two proposals: first, that which advocates the establishment of the Torpedo Corps virtually as a separate bureau; and second, that which recommends the dissociation of naval officers from the corps to the extent set forth.
The first of these propositions is faulty in this, that it is a direct advocacy of diffusion of authority, that fruitful source of weakness in the naval or military administration of any nation subjected to its baleful influence. Centralization should be our watchword. All things designed for the accomplishment of a common object should be solidly compacted, to the end that they may work together without the possibility of clashing due to conflicting policies. Citation of the growth and efficiency of the Signal Service, the Life Saving Service, and the Revenue Marine Service, or of any other services whose chief duties are of a distinct and separate character, is no argument in favor of an independent and separate management of the Torpedo Service, which must of necessity work in harmony with and as a part of the entirety of our naval force in aggressive as well as in defensive warfare. Why should we try to make ropes of sand?
The second proposition to which I have taken particular exception—that looking to the eventual exclusion of naval officers from the Torpedo Corps, except in a few leading positions—would have been passed by in silence as a harmless one (harmless because it can never by any possibility be adopted) were it not for the unfortunate statement that "it is not necessary to contemplate the diversion of a large number of officers from their legitimate duties in order to form this corps." What! Is it possible that the handling of the naval weapon ranked first in the list is a duty not legitimate for naval officers? Are we to believe that "in the event of war, the calling in of great numbers of officers now on detached service" would necessitate the entrusting of this detached service duty, in great part, to men whose knowledge of naval warfare, not being the sole aim of a lifetime of work, must be comparatively limited? Where would these officers rally, legitimately, when called from the torpedo? Around the gun?
I hope the essayist will modify the objectionable phrase, and that he will join me in regarding as legitimate for naval officers all work that naval officers can do better than other men. If such work becomes too great for the number allowed on our list by law, the remedy—an increase of the list—is easy for a nation suffering, like ours, with the pleasant complaint of a plethoric treasury.
Commander G. W. Sumner.—Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen:—I have had much pleasure and instruction from the reading and consideration of the very able essay on torpedoes, from the pen of Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger, and while agreeing fully with many of his statements and conclusions, I yet find some instances in which I am unable to accept, without question, important points which he makes in his discussion of the various branches of his subject. In order not to take up too much time and space, however, in the present general discussion of his valuable paper, I will limit myself to a few brief remarks upon some statements occurring in the first three or four pages of the essay, as follows:
1. Page 482, par. 2. "In the group of submarine mines are all 'cases' or 'vessels' constructed to contain explosive agents, which are fixed in a certain position, being retained there either by dint of their own weight or moored securely to the bottom." This definition of a submarine mine hardly seems to cover such a system as that proposed by Graydon, wherein the mines can be run in and out at will, and in any desired number and direction.
2. Page 485, par. 2. "Every one is expecting some new discovery which will revolutionize all accepted tactics and render war easy." I rather think that, on the contrary, we shall all the while find that new discoveries—whatever may be their effect upon "all accepted tactics"—will continually render war more complex and more difficult in all its phases; certainly such has been the effect of the introduction of great speed, of the ram, of the torpedo, of the high-power gun and of the rapid-fire gun.
3. Page 485, par. 2. "Again, the more recent machine guns used in the Soudan by the English gave great cause of complaint." It was the Boxer cartridge, I think, or defective ammunition, which gave cause for complaint in the Soudan engagements, and not any failures or defects of the guns themselves.
4. Page 485, par. 3. "It is generally conceded that the torpedo—automobile, self-directing and self-firing—will be a most prominent factor in all future wars." I am scarcely prepared to admit this, so broadly stated; it seems to me that, looking to the actual practical accomplishments of the automobile torpedo up to date, there is some ground for regarding its actual efficiency with a considerable degree of suspicion, and the danger to be apprehended from it with a slight degree of composure. Then, again, I am not unwilling to concede that there may be an important future, bearing upon the torpedo problem, in the idea of projecting high explosives in large masses through the air, with great force, high velocity and extreme accuracy. To my mind this idea requires the most careful consideration, and I should not be surprised should it eventually lead to some productions and results more to be dreaded by vessels of war than any automobile or other torpedo yet produced or likely to be produced. The moral influence of the torpedo is undoubtedly considerable, but I am inclined to think that the moral influence of the high explosive gun is likely to be much greater.
5. Page 486, par. 2. "The torpedo has caused a movement which foreshadows the abandonment of the ironclad." The days of the ironclad do in fact seem to be numbered, but I am inclined to attribute this circumstance more to the great development of the power of the gun, and to the ram, than to the danger to be apprehended from the use of the torpedo.
6. Page 486, par 2. "There is no consideration as to the building of ships of war, or the fighting thereof, into which the possibilities of the destructive effects of the torpedo do not enter and become the greatest factor." This, I think, is rather an erroneous idea, and at variance with all practice up to the present time. We should not sacrifice speed, handiness, the ram, nor protection from projectiles, to any scheme for mere protection against torpedoes. And I do not agree with Captain Colomb, R. N. (see par. 4), when he says, "I think the effect of the torpedo is to push the ram back almost if not entirely for I cannot conceive anybody attacking with the ram if he can attack with the torpedo instead." I should say, rather, never neglect an opportunity to ram—a sure thing—for the very uncertain chance of striking with a torpedo. If you have reason to believe during the charge that you are not going to strike a fair and effective blow with the ram, then let drive your torpedo.
7. Page 486, par. 4. "As ships are now built, their destruction by artillery fire will be a most difficult operation." Their destruction, yes—but their disablement by projectiles carrying very large charges of high explosive, such as melinite, etc., I do not look upon as being nearly such a remote contingency; indeed, I regard this as being the contingency most likely to happen in the majority of cases, in daylight actions and engagements; certainly it will be the first method tried in nine cases out of ten.
8. Page 487, par. 1. "The torpedo will keep the ram at a respectful distance and defy the gun." I am quite willing to concede that the torpedo will defy the gun, indeed it must do so ever to be effective, but that it will keep the ram at a respectful distance I do not concede for a moment. No cool commander who sees an undoubted opportunity to give the coup de grace with the ram, will ever stop for an instant to speculate as to the possibilities of being torpedoed ere he reach his mark. The possibilities, as matters now stand, are far too great in his own favor.
9. Page 487, par. 2. "To sum up this comparison between the gun, the ram, and the torpedo, we think the first place belongs to the last named weapon." I, on the contrary, would rate them in this order: Gun, ram, torpedo—believing that in most engagements the bulk of the work will fall to the gun; the greatest certainty of effect, when used, to the ram; and to the torpedo will remain to take advantage of those special chances and contingencies which are liable to occur in any engagement in open waters. Undoubtedly there yet remains a great amount of undeveloped force in the gun, in all calibers; and every addition to speed and handiness of the vessel tends to enhance the value of the ram.
10. Page 487, par. 2. "No vessel of the new Navy should be unprovided with automobile torpedoes and the means of firing them in any direction." I fully concur in this statement and trust that our service will soon be provided with a pattern of this weapon much superior to any now in use abroad, and withal one which is much more simple in its mechanism and manipulation. The devising and manufacture of such a machine does not seem to be at all an impossibility, or even a very great difficulty, judging from the many promising competitors which are even now in the field.
Lieutenant Hamilton Hutchins.—There is one point in the essay that strikes me as being rather obscure. The essayist speaks of defending a ship against submarine boats, and proposes for the defense the use of the electric light under water. The essayist does not state to what extent this defense is to be carried out. If the lights are comparatively close to the ship, then there is no time for pointing the guns; if these are at a distance from the ship, the farther away they are the greater the circle of illumination must be. This, of course, can be done, but it renders the defense much more complicated. If any one can enlighten me on this point as to what extent the defense in this manner is to be carried out, I should be very glad.
Commander Edwin White.—Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen:—I wish to call attention to two points in the essay:
1st. The views expressed by the essayist relative to placing an officer of high rank, subordinate only to the Secretary of the Navy, in charge of all matters relating to torpedoes, I consider a species of naval heresy. The effect of this would be to establish another bureau in the Navy Department. The sentiment of the Navy is that for some years there has been too much diffusion of authority. Everything in connection with torpedoes should be under the cognizance of the Ordnance Bureau. It would be quite sufficient for the Secretary of the Navy to designate and detail such officers for torpedo work as circumstances may require. Those officers should not constitute a Torpedo Corps, but should go to sea in their regular turn.
2d. The idea of introducing into the service a new set of officers of a lower grade, termed 1st, 2d and 3d Lieutenants, would be unwise. Those officers would not be naval officers, nor would they belong to any branch of the military service; they would be young civilians with military titles. The introduction of such a class as accessories to an efficient torpedo service must imply that the number of officers in the Navy is insufficient. This, in face of the fact that thoroughly educated young naval officers are yearly being mustered out of the service, is an extraordinary assumption. The idea of having men not regularly enlisted, but employed along the coast as torpedo men, under the direction of hermaphrodite officers, should not be considered seriously. The young seamen of the Navy can be trained for work required in the manipulation of torpedoes, and they, under the direction of naval officers, should be the chief reliance.
In touching upon these points I beg that no one may infer that I condemn the essay as a whole. On the contrary, I consider it a thoughtful production, and I doubt not that its publication will be beneficial to the service.
The Chairman.—Gentlemen:—We have listened with pleasure to your comprehensive and interesting remarks and criticisms on the Prize Essay of 1888, and, personally, I agree in the main with the opinions and ideas set forth. I think, however, that in judging of the preferences expressed and the methods presented by the essayist in treating his subject, we should do so leniently. It appears to me that his language in the early part of the essay implies not so much his absolute faith in the superiority of the Whitehead torpedo over any other weapon, as his belief that it is the best known and most efficient of its kind extant, and that its moral influence is greater than that of the ram or the gun. Hence his leaning to this arm and his recommendation and suggestions concerning it, on the general principle of taking the best we can get for the time being.
With reference to a question asked by Lieutenant Hutchins as to how the electric illumination of the water for the purpose of detecting approaching torpedoes is to be accomplished, I would say that the essayist can probably best answer the question himself. To me it appears impracticable, and even if possible, worthless as a means of torpedo defense, in so far at least as regards any electrical system dependent on a ship afloat.
With regard to the organization of a torpedo service on the plan of the essayist, I am inclined to protest. Passing by all minor details, I will simply say that in my opinion such an establishment would at once introduce a separate and independent factor in the solution of a war problem by the military commander present. The chief of the torpedo service being subject only to the orders of the Secretary of the Navy, could at any time seriously interfere with, if not actually defeat, the schemes of the responsible commander, by refusing, in the absence of specific orders from the Secretary, to co-operate with such commander in his plans. In short, any division of authority in military organization is reprehensible, and should be discouraged by all who have the welfare of the service at heart. The points in the essay having been generally covered by the arguments of Lieutenant Holman and other gentlemen present, I deem further remarks by me unnecessary, and, thanking on the part of the Institute the gentlemen who have spoken this evening, I now declare the discussion closed and the meeting adjourned.
The following remarks, received from some of those who were unable to attend the meetings, are, by direction of the Board of Control, here appended as a part of the discussion:
Rear-Admiral E. Simpson.—It is refreshing to have a subject like that of torpedoes, on which we have so much theorizing, handled in a thoroughly practical way. Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger has taken up the subject from the beginning and has carried it through, even to the tactics in the field which govern the use of the finished weapon, and in each phase in which it is presented, the needs of actual warfare are kept in view as the standard to which it must be referred. I may say in a word that I endorse nearly all he says and approve his conclusions and recommendations, but it may be more satisfactory to make a short review of the paper, and to indicate some points where I may differ in opinion, or on which I think some modification would be advisable.
The author will not expect me to yield, at this time in the action, to his demand for first place, in offensive weapons, for the torpedo. He is a practical seaman like myself, and he and I both know that, if we have determined to close with an enemy so as to deliver the torpedo attack ahead, we will not discharge our torpedo without shortening speed, and even backing the engine to deaden headway,—we don't propose to blow up our own ship. This operation will be sufficient to disclose our intention, and every gun of the enemy, large and small, will be concentrated on the point whence the torpedo is to be discharged. Such a searching fire will be apt to frustrate the effort. The practical difficulty of delivering the fire shows that the gun is the real key to the lock; if it is properly used, the lock cannot be opened. If, however, the attack is not frustrated, there is no limit to the consequences. There is no doubt of the superior destructive effect of the torpedo if successfully applied; but, ship against ship, the gun ought to control and frustrate the torpedo attack. In the darkness of night, however, and where torpedo boats attack in numbers, the chance is better; but in a conflict between two ships, much is yet needed in the method of discharging the torpedo before it can be raised to the same standard as the gun. Until this is perfected, there is very serious danger that the torpedo may be exploded in the hands of those engaged in manipulating it.
As to the character of the torpedo required, I find the requisite qualities as stated by the author to be quite exhaustive, and some of the most important of them are not possessed even by the Whitehead, which he correctly states is the best that has yet been accepted and adopted by armed nations. The two qualities required to which I refer, and in which the Whitehead is deficient, are "certainty of starting on course" and "directing power." Mr. Gabriel Charmes, in his rather severe criticisms on the practice in the French Navy, in which he asserts that little or no practical exercises are had with the torpedo (Whitehead) which has been adopted, alludes to the nervousness induced among the operators by the uncertainty that the torpedo will start on its course,—I cannot quote chapter and verse, but the allusion points to the necessity of having this quality well assured. Those familiar with the Howell torpedo know that this is assured beyond peradventure in it, as the speeding up of the fly-wheel starts the engine at its highest velocity before it is launched. The superiority of the Howell torpedo is shown in this as well as in the other quality demanded, viz. "directing power," in which the Whitehead is wholly deficient, it being as impossible for the Howell torpedo to depart from the vertical plane of direction in water as it is for a rifle bullet to depart from it in air. However valuable it may have been some years ago for us to possess the Whitehead torpedo, the lapse of time has made it less necessary, for the new torpedo (the Howell), which is now going through its last experiments in exploitation, will soon assert itself as the successful rival, and will take the place of the less perfect weapon which has long held the field alone.
I am glad that Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger says a good word for the spar torpedo, and for a good strong ship's boat to carry it,—boats to be considered as entirely apart from torpedo boats for coast and harbor defense, boats for ship use, strong built for knock-about work as well as for torpedo night work. We are altogether too slow in our development of a ship's launch for both these purposes. In going from our old monstrosities, with their ponderous weight of hull and engines, the latter sounding to give notice of approach as if a train of cars was arriving, we content ourselves by rushing to the extreme of a Thornycroft, a Yarrow, or Herreschoff floating feather, with nothing in the world but speed to recommend it, and which almost tumbles to pieces in hoisting to the davits. It is very possible to construct good strong launches of moderate weight, with light boilers and noiseless engines, having fair speed, enough for all practical work with torpedo or otherwise, and these should be supplied to all ships. This is one of the practical wants of not only the present day, but of that future day of perfections realized which we look forward to; and Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger's words are spoken at a good time, and will bear referring to until the needs of the present, at least, are supplied. I like his remarks about electric search lights on board ship. I have very serious doubts as to their use being altogether advantageous.
The two classes of torpedo boats proposed seem to cover the ground, those of the second class being for the defense of coast and harbors, and capable of transportation. This last point is specially worthy of note when we remember that the British Navy List shows a class of gunboats fitted to traverse the Canadian canals, which have been deepened to allow their passage from the sea to the lakes. A word of caution is not amiss, in this connection, to those who have to do with the construction of railway bridges on the roads to be traversed while transporting boats and guns. A load of 100 tons and upwards in a limited length is one that has not been allowed for in calculations of strength for bridges, and this is a war element that needs to be looked to.
The first class torpedo boat will have to be a vessel of some size, capable of accompanying the fleet and of keeping the sea for some days; and I am inclined to conclude, from late experiences at sea with small torpedo boats, that the idea of utilizing them in this way must be abandoned and that battle ships may be relieved from this portion of their present load. The battle ship, however, and even the unarmored cruiser, may utilize the torpedo as a part of their own batteries; for, now that I regard the adoption of the Howell torpedo as a certainty, I look forward to the introduction of some method of launching it, such as a submarine gun, thus making it available in all ships. I would discard altogether the fire ahead with torpedoes, for, having the directive power of the Howell torpedo, it could be launched from the broadside with accuracy while passing an enemy at full speed, and the danger of running over your own torpedo would be avoided.
The practical suggestions for the organization of a torpedo service for the coast and harbors is a very useful piece of work done. We have theorized for many years on torpedo defense, but no plan for organizing a service has been taken up. The only idea that I have upon the subject that seems practical in our state of unpreparedness, is to fit out our harbor tugs with spar torpedoes, and I imagine this has suggested itself to many other minds as being the only method in which we could use what we possess; I know of no matured plan that has been submitted before the suggestion of Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger. In proceeding to the adoption of any plan it is very desirable to have a draft prepared as a basis; it stops desultory talk, and the subsequent discussion has an object, either to approve, dispute, or supplement what has been suggested. In this case, the suggestions in this paper may very well be taken as a draft of a report submitted for consideration and improvement. It is a problem of some difficulty to solve, and there is no doubt that it should be settled as soon as possible, as an interval must elapse from its origin to the time when it will be in working order. This is apparent from the fact that there are two periods to be provided for, the one introductory, the other the accomplishment. During the introductory period, Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger, after placing the torpedo corps under a chief independent of all bureaus, provides the force from officers of the Navy and from the training station. Its establishment as a permanent corps is a condition precedent to inducing boys or young men who have passed creditably through the training station course, to enlist for this service. The officers will not be removed from their regular duties in the Navy, but the enlisted men are not to be subject to duty on board ship. All torpedo work on board ship will be carried on as now, under the instruction of regular officers, graduates of the torpedo school; and any enlisted men of the Navy who during a cruise may show aptitude for the torpedo service may be induced to re-enlist for this service, to which advantages of pay and position will be granted; grades for promotion will be established, and these may reach to a commission in the corps which will entitle the bearer to the command of a boat. The main supervision will always be held by the Secretary of the Navy, through the Chief of the Torpedo Bureau, and a certain number of line officers of the Navy will be in charge of the boats of the districts into which the whole coast will be divided. The corps will be regarded as is the Coast Guard in England, or the Life Saving Service and Light-house Service on our own coast; young men accustomed to the water will be attracted to the service, and good recruits may be found native to the stations. The pay must be good, for the requirements as to personal character and habits must be very severe, as is proper in all cases where explosives are to be handled. It seems to me that while much effort is being made in other directions for what is termed a Naval Reserve, we have in Lieutenant-Commander Keisinger's proposition an organization that is in itself the first and most efficient of all navy reserves; it calls for no men from the Navy, and demands the services of a few only of the regular officers of the line.
I long to see a good Naval Reserve established after we have succeeded in building up the Navy proper, but I think the construction of our new Navy is as much as we can attend to in that line at present. The maturing of some plan for providing for a torpedo defense of the coasts and harbors is, however, a necessity that has the first call, and if action can be infused into the councils that have this matter in hand, I commend the prize essay of this year as a document that may well be considered and studied for practical suggestions.
If we can find excuses for possessing no Navy to speak of, I suppose we may be excusable for not having provided for torpedo defense of the coast, inasmuch as we have no torpedo. We have neglected the era of the Whitehead, but the Howell is appearing now at the time when attention is being called to this detail of defense, and with it in our possession we can construct our boats to suit its requirements. The organization of the Torpedo Corps should go on with the introduction of the weapon; even with both provided, there will be much time required for practice to bring the practical results to a good standard of efficiency.
I make no attempt to follow Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger into the subject of the Tactics of the Torpedo. This is a wide field and must come up naturally in considering the entire subject, as the tactics is the application of the weapon for purposes of war. I rest with an endorsement of the paper, and with the hope that interest may be taken in preparing for a practical adoption of this formidable weapon for defense.
General Henry L, Abbott.—This able paper is specially interesting to Army officers where it treats of combined operations to defend the coast against a naval attack. How this duty shall be divided to effect the largest results at the least cost, how each arm of the service shall be equipped to supplement most perfectly the deficiencies of the other, and how the joint duty shall be performed with the least chance of friction, are, in my judgment, questions second in importance to no military problem now demanding attention from Congress. These questions have been discussed ever since the foundation of the Government, and sometimes in a partisan spirit; but to-day broader views seem to prevail, and Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger has given them expression very happily.
Forts and submarine mines are quite sufficient to close important approaches, but, like the forts of an entrenched camp, they are unable to threaten the enemy with offensive returns. They must be supplemented by movable bodies in reserve, ready to sally out from cover so soon as a favorable opportunity occurs. A port defended only by forts and submarine mines may be easily blockaded; defended only by a fleet, it may be occupied by a superior naval force, whose chief object in making the attack, perhaps, has been to destroy the ships of war before they can concentrate with another squadron. Both land and naval elements are, therefore, indispensable to a perfect defense. What shall be the duty of each?
In most of our chief ports the topography permits the construction of so strong a barrier as to defy attack from the water, and the only question as to how nearly this standard shall be approached is one of cost. Heavy guns can be mounted so cheaply and so permanently that we do not take much interest in armored coast defense vessels, which at the best can only reinforce the land works where they are strong, and this at enormous outlay. What progress has been made of late in the much needed Sea Cavalry, and how far it can be trusted to perform duty beyond the power of anything which can be constructed on shore, are live questions in our projects of to-day. For this information we look to naval officers, and I may be permitted to say, with the diffidence proper to a non-expert, that the views as to types and character presented by Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger seem to me to be admirably well considered.
With two slight modifications I heartily endorse his general conclusions as to coast defense, including the organization of a Naval Torpedo Corps. Since any proper system of submarine mines permits the safe passage of our own vessels, I think that our ports should be closed against the enemy before rather than after a defeat has occurred upon the first or outer line; for to be effective, the mines should be planted with due deliberation. Again, when the enemy has closed in upon our lines, it is necessary that ordinary picket duty should be performed in a manner to meet every need of the officer commanding the barrier. To form an independent land organization afloat, as was done upon the Mississippi and on the James river during the late war, would, I think, be a mistake. It would be far better to arrange a close and cordial co-operation, and how this can best be done will demand the most careful study.
As a matter of historical accuracy it may be stated that the boat which sunk the Housatonic, although designed as a submarine craft, was used on that occasion as a surface boat carrying a spar torpedo. General Beauregard makes this statement in Vol. V., Southern Historical Society Papers, adding that he refused permission to Lieutenant Dixon to make the attempt under water on account of her previous tragic history. Another common error (not appearing in this paper) is that the boat was subsequently found lying near the Housatonic. The late General Gillmore, under whose direction the wreck of the Housatonic was removed, informed me that, although carefully sought, its remains were never discovered.
Perhaps the conclusion that the electric light forms "a most excellent target" admits of question. It is claimed that, dazzling the eyes of the gunner, the source appears to be a moving object, and that its changes, eclipses, and flashes confuse him. Recently, in Russia, two light batteries practiced at an elevated light and reflector at a range of 14S5 yards without any effect. Shells exploding beyond or short could not be distinguished from each other—all seemed to take effect near the light.
New York, N. Y.
Lieutenant Seaton Schroeder.—There are several points in this essay in which I find it impossible to agree with the author.
In giving the torpedo the first place among naval weapons, he takes a stand which is more novel now than it was a few years ago. The fact, as stated, that its greatest power lies in its moral influence is, I think, undoubtedly true, and does not well comport with the consideration of it as the most potent factor in naval warfare.
In the argument made in support of his position the essayist also falls into the error of comparing proving-ground trials of the torpedo with the records of the gun in action, 75 per cent of hits being claimed for the former (with a target 200 feet long, and it and the carriage at rest) and 25 per cent for the latter at sea and with 1000 yards range. Put the gun on the proving ground and the percentage of hits will be 100, and with a mark not the size of a ship but the size of an air-port. On the other hand, I think the hope of securing 30 per cent of hits with the torpedo in action is hardly borne out by past experience, nor is it very generally entertained.
In selecting the type of torpedo most suitable to the exigencies of naval combats, no one will probably dissent from the proposition to adopt an automobile fish torpedo, and the selection of the Whitehead is perhaps not very far from right; but while it is true that it is the only one of its family that has. ever seen actual service, it should be borne in mind that on only one occasion has it ever proved successful. Proving-ground trials have a. certain value for torpedoes as well as for guns, and in view of the fact that the Howell torpedo has a more accurate flight (in consequence of its inherent directive force), is handled with greater safety under fire, carries a heavier charge (on the same displacement) and is less liable to derangement, I think the lecturer would have been on safer ground if he had simply adopted a fish torpedo, instead of particularizing in favor of the Whitehead.
In the classification of torpedo boats and the selection of a type and size, the essayist somewhat contradicts himself; he drops from consideration the torpedo-boat hunters of foreign navies as being swift men-of-war with many discharge tubes, and as not coming under the same head as the classes under discussion, and yet he adopts a vessel much larger than those built for duty as torpedo catchers, and armed and equipped in a way to fit her very much less well for a torpedo boat than for a swift man-of-war. The boat he proposes is 200 feet long, with 22 feet beam and a draft of 14; this should give a displacement of about 800 tons, which with the armament of four 6 inch rapid firing guns, four revolving cannon and four Gatlings, makes quite a powerful gun vessel, while the possession of only four tubes, two on each side, would make her under-water offensive power much less than one ought to expect from a first class torpedo boat of such a size. Her draft of 14 feet also leaves her vulnerable to the torpedoes of the vessel attacked, thus increasing the enemy's means of defense. The old and charming idea of likening the attack of a torpedo boat to that of a microbe attacking an elephant has been proved illusory, and the move now is undoubtedly in the direction of larger and more powerful craft; but the vessel proposed in the essay has more gun and less torpedo power than many larger vessels that have won admiration among students and experimenters of naval tactics. A speed of 18 knots as proposed would also become a smart gun vessel, but would be rather inadequate in a vessel whose class name indicates that she is intended to wield first and foremost the weapon of the feeble. This criticism may sound carping and as an attack simply on the value of the word "torpedo boat," and that by merely changing that to "gunboat" it would be all right and the vessel would at once become a desirable one. She would certainly be a desirable vessel (though I would suggest putting 5-inch in place of 6-inch rapid-firing guns in a ship of that size), but the tactics discussed and suggested are applicable to craft belonging to the former type and not to the latter. In the plans of attack spoken of as emanating from Captain Dubazoff and Captain Azarof, the eighteen boats would aggregate nearly double the tonnage of the vessel attacked; and even in the more modest plan suggested, of twelve boats, their total displacement would probably equal that of the armored enemy. This would seem to smack more of a fleet engagement than a torpedo attack, especially as vessels carrying 6-inch guns and a secondary battery would have to have a considerable free-board to fight them at sea, where those vessels are supposed to be, and therefore they could not pretend to have the aid of invisibility as an element of success. And while torpedo boats in the usual acceptation of the term, that is from 100 up to 300 or even 400 tons, might approach in the manner suggested, deliver their subaqueous fire and wheel off, vessels of 800 tons would require to be at a greater distance apart, and if the captain of any one should find it impossible to resist the temptation of ramming the inert enemy, such action would sadly mar the concert of the movement, but would, if successful, bring the fight to a happy close by the skillful use of a weapon not apparently contemplated.
To put electric lights out of action by gun-fire from a floating and moving platform would be a difficult job, particularly as it is impossible to sight on such blinding points from anything like close quarters.
While on the subject of boats I may also add that the suggestion later on of painting them some bright color, known to our side and not to the other, would hardly be of avail, because the other side would know very well that none of their boats would be painted a bright color. At night it is proposed to use some other mode of identification which is not specified, and as the flotilla commander would scarcely fly in the face of experience so far as to have his fleet painted bright at night, I do not see how he intends to regulate the painting of these 800-ton boats.
In regard to the second class boats, there must be a misprint where the essayist is made to suggest a radius of only 60 miles for a 100-ton boat. Schichau's 90-tonners can run 3000 knots at 10 knots, and the productions of other builders do about the same. I think also the essayist is rather optimistic when contemplating their transport by rail; the handling of the weight of a 100-ton boat and the support of such a fabric on two pivots can be managed well enough, but it is safe to say that there is not a railway in the United States nor in Europe whose curves, tunnels, bridges, etc., would admit of carrying a structure about 140 feet long and 15 or 16 broad.
On examining the proposed organization of the torpedo service, the most striking feature is the placing in the hands of volunteers the weapon that has been given the first rank in naval warfare. And it is hardly possible to consider the plan of sending the personnel of that corps on board a commissioned man-of-war to do certain torpedo service under their own officers, that is to say, presumably independent of the officers and crew of the ship. Without going into further detail, it would seem poor policy to create a new lot of commissioned officers (3d lieutenants, etc.) whose naval education would be so limited, while at the same time a number of gallant and well informed young men are being sent back into civil life every year after graduation from the Naval Academy for the given reason that there are no vacancies for them.
There is only one more point that I wish to raise, and that is the proposition to put the torpedo service under an officer in the Department, with the Honorable Secretary as his only superior. Just now, when every one seems to concur in the desirability of consolidating and reducing the number of bureaus in the much split-up Navy Department, it sounds strange to hear it proposed to add one more to the number, and that one for a simple service between which and that of the present Ordnance Bureau it is practically impossible to discriminate as regards the nature of the work whether afloat or ashore. Shells carrying high explosives find a sphere both above and below water; torpedoes also are used in air and in water; and in assuming control over the materials and the handling of armor-piercing and torpedo-case shell, or submarine and aerial torpedoes, it is difficult to see where or why the line should be drawn. Torpedoes constitute a branch of ordnance just as properly as guns do, and the present bureau is not a gunnery but an ordnance bureau. The material is not only of the same nature for the one service as for the other, but is actually in some instances identical; the training, duty, and work of the personnel also are exactly the same. There is, therefore, not only no good reason why the two weapons should not be together, but every reason why they should be under the same control.
Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I.
Lieutenant-Commander F. M. Barber.—I have read Lieutenant-Commander Reisinger's paper with a great deal of interest, and I think he has shown commendable spirit in taking hold of so difficult a subject. His general treatment of the matter shows a wide range of reading, and his advocacy of the extensive adoption of the torpedo into our service is much to be commended, but I must confess to being disappointed on arriving at the end of the first chapter to find that he has succeeded in convincing himself that the torpedo was the first weapon in point of importance as compared with the gun and ram. I am a believer in the submarine torpedo and in the aerial torpedo, but to promulgate the idea in a prize essay that they have surpassed the high powered, long ranged gun is unfortunate in the extreme, and tends to belittle the value of many excellent ideas which are elsewhere expressed in the essay. Perhaps in our navy, where we have none of us seen any modern gun or torpedo work either, it is not surprising that too much study of a favorite subject, unbalanced by practical experience, should beget an undue admiration; but if we would carry the statements, as made by the essayist at the end of this chapter, to their logical conclusion, we would simply have a navy of merchant steamers and paper boats armed with torpedoes to defend our coasts, to fight our enemies, and to capture his commerce and his sea-coast cities. Probably the essayist does not mean to give up guns and rams and armor immediately, but he relegates the two first to an auxiliary position now, and the latter he wipes out entirely in the future. On the principle of the survival of the fittest, guns and rams must eventually follow the armor.
It is reasonable to suppose that amid the varied requirements of modern warfare, a sensible man might have occasion to prefer a torpedo to a gun to meet a particular condition that might arise, or he might prefer a pneumatic gun for throwing an aerial torpedo to meet some other condition, or he might prefer a ram for still another condition; but for an all-round weapon of war that would meet the greatest number of conditions that he is likely to encounter, the gun outranks any weapon that has yet been made. When man controls the lightning's stroke he will have a weapon that cannot be surpassed, but there is no weapon in existence to-day that comes so near the lightning in its velocity, range and striking power as the high power rifled gun. The essayist gives away his case when he speaks about the captain of the "well appointed" ship who pushes ahead at "great speed" in spite of artillery fire "until he gets within torpedo range." He tacitly admits that speed is a necessity in the ship that carries the torpedo, and so it is; but it is not so with the gun, and, in this particular case, supposing the gun ship had the greater speed, the torpedo ship would be utterly at her mercy. The gun has greater simplicity, it has greater range, greater velocity, and greater accuracy than the torpedo; the latter has only a greater destructive effect and a less cost in its favor. There are times when the value of these two features of the torpedo are paramount, but to take advantage of them you must have favorable weather, great speed, and nerves of iron, and must take awful risks.
Again, the essayist says that "the torpedo has caused a movement which foreshadows the abandonment of the ironclad." Where is the proof of this? He states that "the energies of naval architects are strained to devise some plan to make the vessels unsinkable." This is true; but it is to make them unsinkable in addition to being invulnerable, and not in place of it, as one might infer. He states that "there is no consideration as to the building of ships of war, or the fighting thereof, into which the possibilities of the destructive effects of the torpedo do not enter and become the greatest factor." This is true also, but only relatively so, because all the other factors had been encountered with more or less success before the torpedo devil appeared. Ask almost any officer what is the most formidable and most useful naval fighting machine to-day. He will answer, a modern armor-clad with plenty of guns and torpedoes, plenty of water-tight compartments, good speed, and a ram bow—and why? Simply because this represents the best combination that human ingenuity has yet devised. She can do anything that is most likely to be required to be done, to a certain extent. She may not do anything to perfection, but she is a good all-round ship to be aboard of. A Polyphemus might ram her, a Vesuvius might sink her, and so might a torpedo boat; but is there anything that would stand so good a chance (taking everything into consideration) of meeting successfully the great variety of enemies that all ships are likely to encounter, whether they be the forces of humanity or of nature? In any ship built for a special purpose you sacrifice everything to the specialty, and very properly. In nothing but the armor-clad do you find a happy mean. The experiments now going on at Chalons show the turrets to be practically uninjured after a prolonged battering with shells containing 197 pounds of melinite. Suppose they do find some time in the future that dynamite and melinite and gun-cotton shells will shatter the heaviest armor; all shells are not thus charged, and an unarmored vessel would suffer infinitely more in any event. The abandonment of personal armor on the invention of gunpowder does not afford a parallel case. That kind of armor had grown so cumbersome that fighting on foot was impossible, and a dismounted horseman, as was shown at the battle of Pavia, was a mere helpless armadillo that could be stabbed to death through the joints of his armor. A modern armor-clad, however, can be just as fast and just as handy as the unarmored vessel of the same displacement. She may not carry so much coal, but she affords infinitely more protection to the people inside of her.
In trying to resist the torpedo, the Italians have come to treble bottom ships. What is the result? Simply that the French torpedoes are growing larger. Probably the next step will be to use cellulose or something else in the bottoms to stop the holes automatically. The torpedo will then grow larger still. Eventually it is certain to overcome any bottom or net either, but by this time it will be so unwieldy as to be almost unmanageable. It will be a parallel development to what we have already seen in guns and armor. When this time comes, will the Italians be willing to go back to a half-inch bottom, so that their enemy can return to his little torpedo? Certainly not.
A parity of reasoning with regard to guns also would bring us back to an unarmored ship with four or five-inch guns and a single bottom, and yet would anybody in this audience like to go to sea in one and meet the armor-clad of a nation that had not been quite so advanced in its ideas?
There is a disposition on the part of all nations, for primary reasons, to try and grasp one horn of the dilemma while avoiding the other, by building unarmored ships and arming them with heavy guns and torpedoes, just as we are doing with the Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Newark, Charleston, etc. This is a very taking idea, and seems to be peculiarly adapted to catch the economist, but it is fallacious, and the best evidence of it is that the thin protective deck, which was at first gently insinuated into the interior of the unarmored vessel at a small additional cost and sacrifice of room in order partly to protect the vitals, has grown thicker and thicker and thicker, until now we hear of 5 inches and more in the latest foreign designs. Where will this end? Certainly not in the abandonment of armor. As Lord Brassey says in his latest annual, that of 1887: "The advantages of armor as a defense against heavy guns, and still more against light guns, is admitted and its retention must be accepted as a necessity. The problem with which we have to deal is the effective application of armor to ships which shall combine a high degree of efficiency with reasonable dimensions."
Washington, D. C.