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English and American Iron-Cased Ships

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1138, p. 352.

April 5, 1862

At the meeting of the Institution of Naval Architects—held on Thursday week, under the presidency of Sir John Pakington—the secretary, Mr. E. J. Reed, announced that he had received a letter from the Hon. Captain Cochrane, in command of her Majesty's steamer Warrior, accompanied by a chart or diagram of a perfectly novel kind, in which what might be called a complete scientific record of that vessel's voyage to Lisbon and Gibraltar and home again was set forth. From Mr. Reed's explanatory statement it appeared that the Warrior rolled or lurched worst on the 24th of January, when entering the Bay of Biscay, where she met with exceedingly heavy rollers nearly abeam, and a head sea. The greatest angle through which she lurched on that day was 39 deg. measured from the extremes. This was at seven o'clock in the morning, and she continued to lurch through angles exceeding 50 deg. at intervals until twelve o'clock, the rolls being measured in all cases by a clinometer placed 20ft. 6in. before the foremost sternpost, and 3ft. 6in. below the upper deck. It was even stated by some on board that the ship inclined three several times, on this 24th of January, through angles exceeding 39 deg.; but the correctness of the observations in these cases is doubted. On the homeward voyage no such extreme rolling was experienced, the greatest inclinations then attained being 17 deg. to port and 6 deg. to starboard on one occasion, and 10 deg. to port, and 15 deg. to starboard on another. It should be observed, however, that the time of rolling—taking the worst days on the outward and homeward voyages respectively for comparison—did not vary greatly, the average oscillation being, in the former case, 6·5 per minute, and in the latter 6·25. The average number during the whole outward voyage was 6; during the homeward, 4·77. Even when unassisted by her sails, the good ship several times approximated towards the speed produced at the measured mile, which was 14·35 knots. On leaving Lisbon for Gibraltar, for example, with all sails furled, she ran at more than 13 knots for nearly a day, and part of the time actually exceeded 14 knots. In his letter to the secretary Captain Cochrane says:—"I cannot refrain from taking this opportunity of mentioning that the Warrior behaved nobly in the severe gales and heavy sea she encountered, and that on her return to England she had sustained no damage, and was perfectly ready to proceed on active service to any part of the world." Sir J. Pakington read a letter, handed to him by a friend and written by Commander Tryon, of the Warrior, in which the ship was spoken of in the highest terms. Sir J.C.D. Hay, M.P., chairman of the Iron-Plato Committee, in the course of his remarks upon ships' armour, stated that the report of the committee was now in the printers' hands, but that no satisfactory conclusion had been reached as the best mode of attaching the armour to the ship's sides. He stated, however, that the committee were persuaded that what is called angulated sides possessed no real advantages as compared with the usual upright sides, when all the circumstances of the case were considered.

At the evening meeting of the institution Mr. John Laird, M.P., presided; and, after giving a general description of the Merrimac and Monitor, and exhibiting drawings of these vessels, he read an extract from a private letter which he had received from a reliable friend at New York, to the following effect:—"The success of the Rodman gun has induced our Government to try experiments on a scale still larger, and they are about constructing guns of 20 inches bore, throwing shot of l000lb., which, it is thought, will crush in the side of any iron-plated ship, no matter what the thickness of the plates. The little Monitor iron-plated gun-boat, with revolving tower, built by Ericsson, has proved a great success, and withstood a storm of shot and shell for six hours from guns of very heavy calibre. I am quite satisfied that gun-boats will be of more service than large ships with iron sides. We are making rapid progress in building up a navy effective and not expensive. It is the intention to make our power on the ocean equal to that of any other nation, and then we are sure of peace from all parties."


Captain Coles, the inventor of the "shield-ship " (one of the most Important features of which was pirated by Captain Ericsson in constructing the Monitor for the Federal Government), writes to the Times:—"This action (Newport's [sic] News) has proved every word that I wrote advocating an organised coast defence (or patrol) of iron-cased ships, in lieu of immovable forts, which ships, if ever we possess them, must not permit a vessel to come near our ports, but must grapple with and arrest her as the Monitor did the Merrimac. I will, therefore, merely draw your attention to the late Admiral Sir R. S. Dundas's letter to the Royal Commissioners, wherein he shows that for the estimated expense (£840,000) of these three forts at Spithead, twenty of our screw and now useless line-of-battle ships could be converted into most efficient iron blockships. I can convert into a shield-ship any of those screw line-of-battle ships. She shall be practically invulnerable, and she shall carry a broadside, according to her tonnage, of from twelve to fourteen guns, 110 or 68-pounders; if 300-pounders are brought into use, she shall carry a broadside of from five to six of them, and that these ships shall work those heavy guns when the Warrior and such-like vessels dare not open their ports. Let me again ask if a coast patrol, as I propose, of these converted vessels, with others carrying from two guns up to twelve, would not give this country more security than these forts, which are estimated at millions, but may cost any amount before completed, and then only serve as unmistakable beacons for the enemy's iron-clad ships to pass between?"

Mr. Ford, of the Thames Ironworks Company, also writes to the Times:—"The exploits of the Merrimac having fully demonstrated that a vessel of war, capable of using her prow as a means of offence, is a much more formidable opponent to the enemy than an ordinary vessel, which is not built with a running-down stem, it will doubtless be satisfactory to the public to know that our noble ship the Warrior, although now presenting the graceful outline and appearance of a gigantic yacht, is so constructed that, at the cost of a few hundred pounds, she may be converted into an irresistible ram, fully capable of running down any number of wooden ships without injury to herself. It is only necessary to take away the overhanging cutwater, figurehead, &c., when a stem of gigantic proportions and enormous strength, forged and fitted with this object, will make its appearance, and to this the bowplates can be easily connected. The Merrimac, being a wooden vessel, received such considerable injury to her bow, in running down and sinking the Cumberland, as to oblige her to go into dock for repairs; but there are so many examples of iron vessels, with stems vastly inferior in strength to the Warrior, running down other ships, without receiving any injury, that no such need be entertained on her account."

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