Did Not the American Navy Invent and Use the First Dreadnought?
Wm. Boerum Wetmore, Esq.—In the battleships of the Lord Nelson class of 1906, the British had come to about the limit of their intermediate battery, which consisted of ten 9.2-inch guns; these being substituted for the four 9.2 and ten 6-inch of the King Edward VII class launched three years previous. In this same year they also launched their first "all big gun" ship, the Dreadnought, by abolishing the 9.2-inch guns, substituting in their place six 12-inch guns and adding them to the four 12-inch guns, which the other two classes already had, making 10 in all and placing them in pairs in five turrets. This is the ship that in three years has revolutionized the navies of the world, all of whom are now building this class, known as Dreadnoughts. But was not this idea of the "all big gun" ship taken from one that was first produced in the American Navy?
The definition of a Dreadnought, as I understand it, is an armored ship, with a high free-board, carrying only guns of the largest caliber in use. These arranged on one deck in pairs and in revolving armored turrets; the number of turrets not being restricted necessarily to five. Can be one more or one less, according to the tonnage of the ship.
In 1852 there was a steam frigate built by the United States, at the Gosport Navy Yard at Norfolk, Va., and called the Roanoke. She was 265 feet in length, with a breadth of 521/2 feet and a depth of 26.
Her machinery was built by the Tredegar Iron Works, at Richmond, Va., and consisted of a pair of trunk engines equal to 72-inch diameter and 36-inch stroke.
This frigate was anchored in Hampton Roads, at the time of the battle between the Monitor and Merrimac. After this fight which introduced to the world the revolving armored turret with its pair of heaviest guns afloat (15-inch smooth bores), she was taken to New York and razeed at the Brooklyn navy yard. Her masts and sails were removed, her sides were armored and she was equipped with three Ericsson turrets at the Novelty Iron Works, in 1863. Each of the turrets contained a pair of the heaviest guns in use and were placed fore and aft on the center line of the vessel, which is the arrangement of the turrets on American Dreadnoughts. The vessel had no masts and no secondary or auxiliary battery, only the "all big gun" armament.
It seems to me that the Roanoke complies in every way with the definition of the modern Dreadnought, that the idea of the Dreadnought was first developed in her and that she was the first Dreadnought, or in other words the great Dreadnoughts are developed Roanokes. Their arrangement of guns, armor and turrets are from her.
The Roanoke had no military or skeleton masts or rapid-fire guns, these at that time not being necessary as wireless telegraphy and torpedoboats were not then known.
The American Navy had the first steam vessel of war and the first monitor, and should it not be credited with the first "all big gun" ship, the Roanoke, of which the Dreadnoughts are but an enlargement of the same idea? I enclose a photograph of the Roanoke taken from a large lithograph made for the Navy Department and presented to me by the Assistant Secretary, G. V. Fox, with a number of others, in 1863.
The Visibility of Objects on a Clear, Dark Night, at Sea.
(SEE No. 130.)
Willard C. Tyler, Esq.—I have read, with much interest, the writings on this subject, in the last two issues of the Proceedings. I have voyaged in all the seas north of the equator to the extent of some 114,000 miles. My own experience has been, that under nearly all conditions of fairly clear weather, I could make out an approaching vessel or land, much better by looking at an angle a few degrees over it, rather than directly at it. I have proven this many times and do not understand it, as I have excellent far-sight eyes.
Another View of Alma Mater.
(SEE No. 131.)
Rear-Admiral Richard Wainwright, U. S. Navy.—As with all who are interested in the Naval Academy, not only from early associations, but from constant interest in its yearly product, I have found much to attract my attention in "Another View of Alma Mater" in the September number of the Proceedings. I agree generally with Admiral Goodrich, when he states principles, but I find myself frequently at variance with him in his application of them to the Naval Academy.
One principal point of variance may be best shown by pointing out what I believe to be a serious error in Dr. Pritchett's statement as quoted by Admiral Goodrich. "In the essential things which they seek to accomplish, West Point and Harvard strive towards the same ends … In the college of discipline, the tendency is to emphasize the duty to society, as represented by the organization, at the expense of the individual; in the college of freedom, the tendency is to emphasize the rights of the individual at the expense of social organization." This is true but there is a grave difference if strictly applied, for in the college of freedom the student is being prepared for a life of far more freedom than in the case of the student of the college of discipline. I believe the graduate of West Point, and I am sure the graduate of the Naval Academy must for some years after graduation live a life of fairly rigid discipline, and he must be prepared for this life as far as possible. The graduate of the Naval Academy must for some years after graduation live a somewhat unnatural life at sea and form a part of a small community that could only exist under strict discipline. Every individual as a member of society must sacrifice some of his freedom for the sake of the organization; but a naval officer must do this to far more than the ordinary extent. To become an efficient officer on a man-of-war with the important duty of supervising American seamen without careful disciplinary training would be impracticable to the ordinary man. To again quote Dr. Pritchett with Admiral Goodrich's italics, "discipline to be effective, must in the long run be self-discipline." Surely he cannot govern, who cannot first govern himself; but the road to self-discipline must be taught.
The graduate as he conies on board ship is a splendid product of careful education and to my mind his faults are not due to excess of military training at the Academy; but to lack of early discipline. We see much complaint in recent magazines of the early training of American youths. Their want of the power of conscious concentration. Even Harvard, with the freedom introduced by ex-President Elliot, is criticized. From my own observation and from what I have read I believe there is a serious error in the early methods of educating the young in this country.
It is the extension of the kindergarten system through all the graded schools and into the colleges. The misuse of the laboratory method. The painful effort to make all the paths of learning easy until the student loses the power of conquering unusual or uninteresting difficulties and loses the power of conscious concentration. We see it at the Naval Academy, when some carefully educated, brilliant young men make easy progress with the studies that attract them but fail lamentably in those they deem dry and uninteresting. Whereas other young men who have had to work hard for their little education plod along for a while, but accustomed to disagreeable -work they overcome the difficulties and soon pass the brilliant students in their race for the top of the class.
It is a great pleasure to work with our young officers in gunnery and ordnance, and lately in steam; and no body of men could work harder or more effectively in this class of work, for close competition has incited warm interest; but in many duties of almost if not quite as much importance the average young officer requires frequent spurring from his seniors to keep him up to the mark. The situation would be far worse, if not practically impossible, were it not for the four years of strict discipline at the Academy. Now they generally learn after a few years at sea to take an interest in all their duties; without it few would qualify for command.
Again, as to the question of the selection of cadet officers from the first class. It certainly is a pity that all cannot have more opportunities and equal opportunity for acquiring the knowledge of handling men, the power of command. But I believe the incentive of reward and the simulating of the conditions of after life to be more important than equal opportunity. The character training both for those selected and for those who fail to obtain cadet rank is more important and lasting than any school-boyish feeling of injustice. They must learn that to obtain recognition in the service requires hard work and close attention to duty. Of course there is some talk of greasing, of unfair selection, but it has little depth and is generally left behind with other boyish things while the real facts remain as a lasting lesson. No human weighing machine can be perfect, but the methods of selecting the cadet officers at the Naval Academy are as near so as possible and aptitude for the service and scholarship are carefully considered by a large body of officers. One who is so near his last sea duty may be pardoned for mentioning self and I can truly say that no lesson was more valuable to me than the one I received when I found I was one of a very few of my classmates who did not receive cadet rank. I never questioned the justice of the decision; but I did realize that being undisciplined, trying to have my own way and neglecting my duty was not the way to meet with success and consideration in the service.
I believe that dry studies and strict discipline are most necessary for the character training of the student at Annapolis. The value of mathematics and of rigid rules, in teaching him to overcome difficulties and to add the power of conscious to that of unconscious concentration cannot be exaggerated. No doubt the course and system of training at the Naval Academy may be improved, there can be no standing still; but the most important change should be made at an early age before entering the Academy. The pendulum should be allowed to swing back a little; and the child given a daily task. Not to return to the days when all studies were dry and all lessons committed to memory; but still sufficient to show him that all work is not wandering through a meadow gathering flowers by the way.
The midshipmen have a code of their own somewhat different from that in the service, but the large majority of them obey their code. He is a most successful officer who can improve their code and bring it more into harmony with the one they must live by when graduated. Then hazing, when not cruel, will always be cowardly. Gouging even when only for a two five will be cheating, and they will avoid deception even when only used to evade regulations.
The Naval Academy will be improved, is improving; but the process should be gradual, the midshipmen as a body are too well suited to the needs of the service to warrant radical remedies.
Commander G. R. Clark, U. S. Navy.—Referring to the article "Another View of Alma Mater," by Admiral Goodrich, it may not be out of place to quote from a little talk given to the fourth class several months ago (before the publication of the article referred to), in an effort to point them fair:
… "It should be the pride of a midshipman to learn, and to conform to, the customs and traditions of the service. The first and most important point to learn, the foundation of the whole structure, the beginning and end of a naval officer's career, is duty. When you get the right idea about duty, its importance and necessity, you will be well started on your work. Conversely, without that idea you will never make headway.
"We hear a good deal about codes, class codes and the like. There should be but one recognized, and that is the naval or government code. You owe duty, not to your class, but to the service. Your oath is not to your companions, but to the government. You can never learn to command (and that is the main object of your training) until you learn to obey, and this obedience is to be given to all in authority. At the hail, "Who goes there"? stop and give the countersign, and this whether the sentry be officer, corporal or private …
"In your general reading you will find occasional criticisms of this school. To reject these at once would be a mistake, but a greater mistake would be to accept and adopt them without thought or inquiry. It should be kept in mind that the education of a naval officer is like the building of the battleship he may some day command; it is necessarily a compromise; one quality has to be sacrificed, wholly or in part, for another. The naval school cannot rightly be compared with civilian schools. Here the preparation is for a particular profession; it is technical. There one may choose his subjects and limit the number to a few to which he devotes his whole time. Here there are many pebbles on the beach that must be picked up before the tide comes in, and there is a flood tide every four years."
… The charge is sometimes made that graduates care but little for the Academy, that the love of the naval officer for his Alma Mater does not equal that of the Harvard or Yale graduate. It is true that young men, suddenly released from restraint, clad in their new civilian clothes, diploma stowed away in shining suit-cases, hurry away to their friends, gladly and cheerfully, heaving sighs of relief, and declaring that they hope never to see the place again. But do they really mean it? I think not. It is merely the expression of relief following the sudden release from four years of discipline, the change from the school's section room to the world's ball field, to green pastures where there are no signs "keep off the grass!" Of course they are glad, but, just the same, in after years they look back with feelings of pleasure and gratitude to their Alma Mater, about which cluster loving memories of pleasant experiences and loyal friendships. Deep down in their hearts they love it. Their growls are no deeper than those of the bluejacket who fights at the drop of the hat for his officer and ship.
It must be remembered that there are more "donts" and "musts" at the Naval Academy than at other schools because it is a military school. Elsewhere a student's privileges are restricted only by the size of his purse. There "his ways are ways of pleasantness and all his paths are peace." Yet we all know how prone we are to remember the pleasant things and to forget the disagreeable. Ask anyone who has spent many years at sea, and you will learn that he remembers Nice and Naples and has forgotten Panama and Panay. "All his hits are history and all his misses mystery."
"Rah, rah, navy, navy!" is the cry that goes up on the ball field. It should come from the brain and the heart, prompted by the intellect and the affections, drowning all mutterings and complaints. Let us paraphrase Decatur's words and say, "My Alma Mater, right or wrong," and remember that what Webster said of Dartmouth applies here: "It is small and has its faults, but there are those who love it." Be of that number.
Lieutenant Ridgely Hunt, U. S. Navy.—Once again has our distinguished Admiral Goodrich come to the front with suggestions for the benefiting of the navy, the personnel, the fleet. In his recent essay “Another View of Alma Mater” he gives in agreeable words, pleasant to read and easy to understand, his views of a new order of affairs which might be brought about, or at least attempted to be instituted, in part if not wholly, at Annapolis, for the purpose of developing the undergraduates there so that from entering the Academy as undisciplined boys they shall leave it as officers and gentlemen.
Into a discussion of all the details of the plan put forward by the Admiral for a more liberal treatment of midshipmen than appears to be compatible with the rules and regulations in force to day, there is no call for me to enter, for with pretty nearly every suggested change and the reasons therefor, set before us in the Admiral's paper, I find myself in cordial agreement; and with the underlying idea—that contained in the sentence the Admiral has adopted as his motto—I am in deep sympathy. I would like now, however, to ask consideration of a few additional words of my own, on the subject of hazing. Hazing exists to a greater or less extent in all colleges, so I read, and always as a means to attain the end connoted by the expression quoted by the Admiral, "To take the freshness out of the plebes." Likewise to eradicate similar "freshness" a new member of the stock exchange is hazed and an entrant into a masonic order has to "ride the goat." This love of violent teasing or of playing practical jokes or of bringing visible discomfort and embarrassment to every new corner into an established organization, seems to be inherent in our nature whether the horse-play be authorized or not. However, the ethics or morals of hazing need not long detain us since we have to speak on only one side of the question; unauthorized hazing, that which contravenes the law; such hazing as is practiced by undergraduates and especially by the undergraduates at Annapolis and West Point, where the laws against the practice form a component part of the laws of that government these undergraduates are sworn to protect and support.
It is a curious phenomenon that at Annapolis and at West Point, where the means of preventing, detecting, and punishing hazing are always at hand and in constant evidence, this unlawful practice has greater vogue than it has in other colleges! Of these other colleges, President Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia writes: "The crude and cruel practices of hazing, while still heard of occasionally, are much less frequent than they once were, and it is the improved tone of student opinion even more than the strict prohibitions of college authorities, that is influential in bringing this about." And of Annapolis Admiral Goodrich says, "What is needed is not so much punishment as prevention and less frequent appeal to discipline." This statement, as I understand it, has the same significance as Dr. Butler's, and means, I think, that a superintendent of rich personality and human sympathy and insight can rest assured that student opinion trusted with responsibility for the good name of a college will show itself strong and willing to protect it. From which I deduce that the wild passion of hazing which at Annapolis has in times past been rampant, can be quieted and to a great extent controlled by co-operation between the superintendent of the velvet hand and his young barbarians. And I think that this alliance, if I may so call it, of the old with the young, of the wise with the foolish, of the tame with the wild, of the responsible with the irresponsible, will most surely conduce to the happiness of all concerned if it be buttressed by that comprehensive sentiment found in the Lord's Prayer: "Lead us not into temptation."
I appreciate so fully the wisdom of nearly every suggestion put forward by the Admiral for the betterment of academic life, that I am reluctant to disagree with any thing he says. I therefore, submit with hesitation, my opinion, that to assign every plebe to the charge of some individual first classman, as a practical help towards solving the hazing problem, will not produce the effect desired. Wise counsellors and friends some first classmen may prove to be; I was fortunate to have such a mentor; but there were other first classmen, when I was a plebe, that I intensely disliked; men whose personality was displeasing to my fastidious taste—if it so please you—and whose influence, had I been subjected to it, would certainly have been pernicious. Why? For no reason that I can adduce: one finds a Dr. Fell even among his own classmates. Again, I have heard of a three striper high stand man, subsequently dismissed for hazing, etc., who not only told plebes that they must keep below a 2.7 mark in studies, but also that the whole life at Annapolis was "rotten," there was "nothing in it" and it were "best to quit it." I only mention this exceptionally rare case, to justify my belief that while a few first classmen would considerately help their charges, the majority would, perhaps, not injure them, but makes fags of them. I think first classmen might cheer the drooping spirits of the plebes by entertaining the youngsters at afternoon tea. Why not every Saturday or Sunday at 4 authorize the first class to invite the fourth class to drop in to the class room for a cup of tea? This would give opportunity for easy conversation and the display of friendly interest. Incidentally it would he some training for the first class in the art of entertaining. Not a bad thing for a naval officer to know something about.
I venture to suggest segregation as the most important measure to adopt to protect fourth classmen from predatory hordes. Segregation of freshmen, by the way, is advocated by the Asst. Dean of Harvard who has special charge of the freshmen; and President Lowell in his inaugural approved it. By keeping each class intact its members can be more easily influenced than, it seems to me, can be the case where the men are quartered by divisions and intermingled with different classmen of diverse ways of thinking and unsympathetic to the last degree.
Segregation would increase class feeling, class interest, class loyalty and class ambition. It would facilitate comradeship and create lasting friendship; and it would promote high thinking and worthy aspirations. With the large entering classes of the present day it seems to me obvious that from segregation will result more happiness and more fondness for the good things of the Academy than can arise from any distribution of the plebes, no matter how carefully made, among upper classmen. Especially do I advise segregation of the fourth classmen if with them there be associated young officers interested in their welfare and with a brotherly affection for them. I think it would be an excellent plan to domicile with the plebes all the young unmarried officers detailed as their instructors and officers in charge; to have these officers there as friends, to advise and help in studies as well as in conduct, combining, as it were, the duties of the preceptor and the proctor. This suggestion follows closely that of the Assistant Dean of Harvard, and I submit that it is a plan entitled to be taken into very serious consideration.
Now a few words about first classmen and their money.
I think that all of us who have had to learn by bitter experience that we cannot spend our pay and have it too—and what man of us has not had brought home to him the cruel necessity of acquiring habits of frugality— must strongly endorse the Admiral's suggestion that first classmen should handle their own pay. If, however, it be found impracticable to hand them the money outright, I venture to suggest thai the superintendent might give them the free spending of it on the books, requiring them to do their own book-keeping and to submit their accounts at stated intervals to an auditor, together with a signed certificate that no debts have been incurred. It seems to me that by the adoption of such a plan the graduate would be in some small degree brought to appreciate the disagreeable necessity which will confront him all his life, of adjusting his income to his expenditures.
The Admiral also, as a means of making the Academy a better school of education and training for first classmen, urgently advises the abolition of permanency in cadet officers of all grades. And he illustrates in a plain and true way by means of an allegory the envy, hatred and heart burnings caused by withholding, arbitrarily from one midshipman any chance of technically improving himself that may arbitrarily be given to another midshipman. As the Admiral puts it, to do this thing "is a distinct violation of the equities." Here again, as in the case of the keeping of accounts, I believe nearly every officer in the service will cordially support the Admiral. Frequently have I heard complaints made of the injustice of the present method of assignment. In my own class such grumblings were constant. It seems to me that if on practice cruises it be found practicable without disrupting the organization, to compel first classmen to share equally among themselves the chances to become proficient, then it would also seem to follow that by pursuing a similar course of action on shore the organization would suffer no deterioration. On shore, as at sea, marks could be given the midshipmen for the manner in which they performed the duties of cadet officers and these marks could be made to have weight in determining the final standing at graduation. This would stir the ambition and excite the desire to excell; and each cadet officer would, during his encumbency, strive to bring the battalion, the company, the crew, into a more efficient condition than he found it.
A point not dwelt on by the Admiral in his remarks on the injustice that is worked by permanency of assignment as cadet officers, is the after effect of such ephemeral authority on the character and happiness of the whilom holders. Think what a disillusionment must come to the four stripers when with clean sleeves they go for the first time on board a cruising ship, and discover that they are really insignificant persons of no more account than the midshipman who never had even a buzzard! And they must adjust themselves to the level of these least of their classmates!
The Admiral advocates a free gate for the first class. I believe few officers will be found who are not in substantial agreement with him in all that he says under this head. Perhaps were the plan proposed adopted it might be thought advisable to impose some restrictions on the egress and ingress such as no going out during study hours and no returning later than 10 p. m. But at all other times I think the freedom of movement of the first classmen should be unimpeded. There will, of course, be diversity of opinion as to the benefits which the Admiral thinks may result to the Academy by modifying or changing the existing system in its entirety so that it shall be made to conform at least in spirit to the changes and modifications he suggests, but however divergent the views of the majority of the men of the service may be on other points, I hope we are one and all agreed that the time has come for inaugurating the policy of the open door for the first class. In this connection, I venture to suggest that the superintendent himself has the power to open the gates whenever he sees fit, without let or hindrance from anyone.
I beg to submit here a few words about the relation existing between Annapolis and Washington. How jealous the Navy Department may be of its prerogatives no one but a superintendent can fully know, and he may not always be at liberty to tell. We do know, however, that the Academy has been often interfered with and perhaps this interference has not invariably proved to be beneficial. On the other hand there may possibly have been times when Washington may have been needlessly consulted and when perhaps its interference may have been courted'. I venture to whisper the thought that perhaps there may have been occasions when Annapolis thinking some change of regulations might be desirable has feared to take the initiative and has therefore shifted the responsibility to the Capital. Of course this idea of mine may be a wild one; certainly I can give it no substance; and therefore I dare say I may not be justified in expressing it, especially in view of the uncontroverted fact that examples innumerable can be adduced to show that often Washington has laid a heavy hand on our Alma Mater despite the protestations of those who know her best and love her most. None the less, however, I still think that a progressive, forceful superintendent can upon his own authority, inaugurate an order of affairs at Annapolis more in consonance with the trend of thought as expressed by Admiral Goodrich, than the rigid adherence to the customs of the past can possibly be.
I venture the opinion that a policy based exclusively on conservatism contains elements quite as detrimental to efficiency as a policy devoted exclusively to change has in it elements of danger. I believe that to advance the argument that because the men who were graduated fifty years ago became, as the result of being trained under a specific routine, distinguished officers; therefore, the men who are graduated to-day will, as the result of being trained under that same ancient routine, likewise attain distinction, is not a sound argument to bring forward, and' will not lead to a safe conclusion, because it does not take into account the differences in age, education and environment between the youngster of yesterday and the youngster of to-day; and also because if this line of reasoning be adhered to it will lead us back to the days of Adam and Eve; and the word progress will have no signification. In other words I am of those who hold that what was good enough for the fathers is not good enough for the sons. Since, therefore, I believe that the midshipman of to-day is a better midshipman than the midshipman of my day—better mentally, morally and physically—I feel that he should be better treated than I was. In saying this I do not wish to be understood as advocating the adoption by Annapolis of every change suggested by the Admiral in the essay now under discussion, for there are one or two points—for instance his probationary year, the admission of candidates on school certificates of proficiency and the abolition of study hours for first classmen— on which I disagree with him. But I heartily strike hands with him in the serious endeavor he is making, as evidenced by the contents of his admirable essay, to induce the good men in charge of our Alma Mater to take cognizance of the fact that in a college of discipline, to quote the words of Dr. Pritchett—" the standards tend to become so numerous that the process of living up to them becomes disciplinary rather than educational."
Towards the close of his remarks the Admiral says that it might be contended that if the Academy were organized on the lines he suggests it would lose its military character and degenerate into a big school for boys. I wish to go on record in answer to this as one of the "I think nots" of the ward room mess. To sustain my position I offer for consideration the conditions existing to-day on board our ships. I hear that in the granting of privileges, in the giving of liberty and money and in the whole treatment of the men there is a marked change from the customs of the past. And I also hear that the discipline, the morals and the military spirit are superior to what they were in my day. From all of which I deduce that a generous, considerate, sympathetic management of young men is not incompatible with a high state of discipline, a fine military character and a splendid esprit de corps. I therefore believe that instead of a loss of military character as likely to follow the suggestions of the Admiral, there would be a distinct gain.
The Admiral calls on us to criticize his suggestions favorably or unfavorably as we think them in the main sound or weak. To any man who has read my paper on Alma Mater, it is needless to say that I am convinced of their soundness. Therefore I only beg to add here my conviction that the sooner they are adopted and put in force the better.
I think we must all agree, even those who are not of the Admiral's way of thinking—if there be any such—that seldom has a more interesting article and one more replete with pertinent suggestions for the uplifting of the service, been laid before us. And since to my mind Annapolis— its curriculum, its discipline, its whole life theoretical and practical— represents the most important essential of our entire naval establishment, I feel particularly grateful to the Admiral for the very kindly, yet none the less able and forceful, manner in which he has drawn our attention to some of the things still left for us to do if we would make of our Alma Mater a better and safer college than she even now is for the making of the American naval officer.