« 前へ次へ »
able weapons which Great Britain, by her unfriendly and deceitful course, has prepared against herself whenever the occasion comes. Compared with what these new American steamers are able to do, her Alabamas, and Floridas, and Shenandoahs are very harmless ships; and in a war with America now any foreign nation would meet such powers for destruction as Europe has never encountered.”
Happily for Europe, and for this country in particular, the glowing anticipations here expressed have scarcely been realised in the ships of this class which have been completed and tried. This we shall proceed to show hereafter; but would remark before doing so that the general policy laid down in the foregoing extract-minus the " tall talk” with which Dr. Boynton has seen fit to embellish his outline of it-is undoubtedly a good one, and that there is no primâ facie reason why it should not have been realised in most of its particulars. We have already drawn attention to the high speed and moderate armament which unarmoured cruisers should possess; these features the Americans intended to have obtained. The other points on which Dr. Boynton lays great stress,--the necessity for a large coal supply and good sail power,-are also of primary importance in this class of ship, and especially in cruisers belonging to a country which, unlike England, does not possess coaling stations in all parts of the world. When a steam ship is also efficient under sail alone, she can obviously economise her coal very greatly by performing the greater part of her ordinary services under sail, and reserving her steam-power for pressing occasions. We have an excellent illustration of this in the Alabama herself, of which Captain Semmes observes," she was a perfect steamer and a perfect sailing ship at the same time, neither of her two modes of locomotion being at all dependent upon the other.” This fact enabled her to perform nearly all her cruising services under sail alone, and to economise fuel to such an extent as to make what would have been an eighteen days' supply for continuous steaming last for more than three months. In short, it is obvious that unarmoured cruisers should never be without sufficient coal on board to enable them to avoid a war ship which they cannot fight; and to ensure this, as well as to enable them to proceed on distant and cruising services without renewing the coal supply, good sail power and large coal-carrying power must be conjoined. As they were burdened neither with heavy weights of armour nor large armaments, there was no reason why the intentions of the designers of the American ships should not have been realised in these respects; but we shall see that they have not.
Keeping in mind the foregoing statements, and especially the
opinions expressed by Dr. Boynton, let us now turn to a brief examination of what has been actually accomplished in America and in this country towards the creation of a fleet of unarmoured cruisers. As we have said, the Americans led the way, and we shall therefore give their ships the precedence. At present, from the best accounts in our possession, it appears that there are from ten to fifteen of these cruisers belonging to the United States navy, several of these being in commission, and others having been tried at sea. Their tonnages range from about 3000 to 3700 tons—that is, from three to four times the Alabama's burden-and their lengths from about 310 to 335 feet. In external form and proportions they resemble mail steamships rather than other classes of war ships, every precaution having been taken to provide the fine shape adapted to high speeds. The other essential provision for high speed under steam-great engine power -has also been made; in fact, it appears that in this respect Dr. Boynton's description falls below the truth, since instead of having “the most powerful engines that even their immense hulls can bear," they have engines so powerful as to seriously strain and shake those hulls, for we have it stated by reliable authorities that after a cruise under steam seams have to be caulked, and other repairs effected, in order to restore the ships to efficiency. But even with these, in one sense, too powerful engines, the high estimated speeds cannot be attained by most of the ships, the Wampanoag being the only vessel that appears to have exceeded thirteen knots at sea. This vessel has achieved the highest speed of any steam war ship on record, having, according to official American reports, under sail and steam proceeded for twenty-four hours at a speed but little below seventeen knots. What her speed would have been under steam only, we have no means of judging ; but there can be little doubt that it would have reached fifteen knots. In this respect, however, she stands alone, and we shall see that her superiority to her consorts has been dearly purchased. The Macawaska, sister ship to the Vampanoag, made only twelve and three-quarter knots on trial; the Guerrière, another of the class, has been beaten by mail steamers in the South Atlantic, her speed not exceeding twelve knots; and the Idaho, which, like the others, should have gone fifteen knots, has not realised ten knots. The last-named ship has proved such a failure, that, when last heard of, she was in use as a store and hospital ship. These facts-drawn, be it remembered, from American authorities, who are scarcely likely to have exaggerated the failure of a class of ship on which they had so set their hearts-show that in the prime feature of speed under steam, the Wampanoag class, as a whole, are failures; and
that the "enormous sea-racers," as Dr. Boynton styles them, could be overtaken, not only by our finest wood frigates, like the Orlando, Ariadne, and Galatea, but also by most of our iron-clad ships. What their fate would be in either case, we need not attempt to describe. Dr. Boynton says they are not intended “to fight the British navy,” and these facts show that they are not “ fleet enough to avoid a conflict" with our ships ; the conclusion is obvious that they cannot play the part for which they were designed.
The Wampanoag is, as we have said, an exception as respects speed, and a few additional remarks are required respecting this, the most successful vessel of her class. Everything in her design has been made to give way to the provision of space and weight for the propelling apparatus. Her hold is, to an unusually large extent, taken up with engines and boilers; the coal has, in consequence, to be carried on the lower deck instead of in the hold, thus inconveniencing the crew; the weight of the engines, &c., is so great, that the ship's carrying power has been seriously reduced, her coal supply, armament, &c., having suffered ; and she has the unusual number of four funnels, nearly all other war ships having at most two. Perhaps these facts will be better understood if we give a few figures. The total weight of the ship and her lading is, in round numbers, 4400 tons; her hull weighs at least 2000 tons, and the remaining 2400 tons go into weight for engines, boilers, masts, rigging, guns, equipment, stores, and provisions. More than one-half of this weight (1250 tons) is put into propelling apparatus alone; and yet these heavy engines are not capable of developing greater power than engines by English makers—such as Penn or Maudslay-weighing at least 400 tons less, would develope. From this it will be seen that about seventeen per cent. of the Wampanoag's total carrying power has been sacrificed to the adoption of the type of engines which the American Bureau of Steam Engineering have designed ; and to this fact must be attributed her failure in nearly every other particular except that of steaming capability. Both American and English scientific journals have joined in this opinion, and the former assert that the weight of coal intended to be carried has been cut down, that the equipment has been reduced greatly, and the sail-power almost sacrificed, in order to carry these unnecessarily heavy engines.
Most of the other cruisers appear to be defective in their enginepower in proportion to the weight of the engines, but in them the sacrifices made are not so great as in the Wampanoag. Still, as their speeds under steam are so low, we should be warranted in condemning them on that account, even if they had not failed in other most im
portant respects-notably in sail-power and coal-supply. These two features are, as we have seen, closely connected; but it must be added here, that the rate of consumption of the American engines is much higher than-perhaps nearly twice as great as—that of the most improved engines made in this country. Hence the 700 tons of coal which some of these ships are said to carry, would not last longer than, say, 500 tons would in the same ship if she had English engines. This is most important. With respect to the sailing capabilities of these ships, reports are far from satisfactory-at least, to Americans. Their spread of canvas is, in fact, far from enormous;" their propellers do not lift, and cause a heavy drag when the ships are sailing; and so far are they from having “the utmost speed attainable by vessels under sail,” that some of them are stated by American journals to be incapable of tacking without the aid of steam. The Army and Navy Journal, for example, says of this class, “the vessels which of all others should be of the highest efficiency under canvas are the least efficient under sail of any ever built for the navy. They cannot even tack without the use of steam.” All these statements go
that in these respects, as well as in speed under steam, the cruisers have fallen far below what was intended, and that they could not keep the sea for any length of time. As respects their armaments, nothing very definite is stated in the published accounts, but the original intention of carrying a few 9-inch guns seems to have been carried out. The real cause of their failure is, we think, to be found in the inferiority of their engines; but it must be stated that if lighter and more powerful engines were put into them, their hulls would soon be shaken to pieces, unless constantly repaired, for they are lightly built of wood, and have already shown signs of weakness. They can never play their intended róle, since they are not able to outstrip armoured ships, or to overhaul mail steamers; and while they would probably do some damage to our mercantile marine in case of war, their career would probably be shorter, and they would probably cause less havoc, than the irregular fleet of steam privateers which we should be able to equip. Those of them at present in commission are employed as cruisers for the protection of the commercial marine of the United States, just as the unarmoured ships of our own navy are employed ; and there is every reason to believe that although these ships were designed for very different and special services, they are little more efficient as war ships than many of our recent wood sloops, such as the Danae and Blanche. These facts are likely to prove satisfactory to English readers, who have from time to time heard of the progress made in America with these im
proved Alabamas, but may not have become acquainted with the results of their trials, a
Next, let us glance at our side of the picture, and see what has been done to compete with the Americans, remembering that at the time when the Admiralty began to move in this matter it was known that a number of swift cruisers had been commenced in the States, and were being pressed on with all possible rapidity. At that time there seemed every prospect that these vessels would be successful ; and we have shown that it was mainly in consequence of the defective engines that they did not succeed; so that there was then no reason whatever to anticipate their failure. Under the impulse of such considerations as these, involving as they did the future safety of our mercantile marine, the Admiralty ordered one ship, the Inconstant ; and after a considerable interval, about two years ago, two smaller vessels, the Volage and Active, for the same service. In moving thus slowly the Admiralty were, of course, acting consistently to their traditional policy. When screw line-of-battle ships were introduced, they waited till the French had begun the Napoleon before they ordered the Agamemnon; when iron-clads came into vogue, La Gloire was almost finished before the Warrior was commenced ; and in this case the Wampanoag class were well advanced before the Inconstant was laid down. Consistency in such a policy has, however, little merit; and had it not been for the failure of the American cruisers, we might have occupied a vastly different position relatively to them than we now do. There is no doubt that when once we had fixed the type, the numbers of our swift cruisers could have been rapidly multiplied in the numerous ship-building yards of this country ; but we might have had to pay a terrible price for such delay.
At present, as we have said, we possess three swift unarmoured cruisers, which, without flattery to our national pride, may be considered as fully capable of playing the part for which the American ships were designed. In the design of the first of these, the Inconstant, the Admiralty were undoubtedly influenced by the wish to produce a vessel which in every respect should equal, if not surpass, the best of the American cruisers. The largest of these ships was of more than 3700 tons burden ; the Inconstant was made of more than
· The views expressed above receive striking confirmation by the following extract from the Times of December 13 : “It is stated that the Secretary of the (United States) Navy, in his forthcoming report, will recommend ..... the sale of all the old and worthless vessels of the Isherwood (Wampanoag) class, and the construction of some new and more serviceable ships."