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THE illustrations here given are
types of the style of iron-clad steamers which have been finally adopted by the
French and English Governments. They are based upon the general idea of plating
men-of-war of the old models with iron of sufficient thickness to resist the
shot from guns which they think can be advantageously worked on ship-board. From
4 to 5 inches of solid plates is the thickness fixed
upon. The ponderous old three and
four deckers are, with the exception of the French Solferino and Magenta—which
have two decks, and are only plated in the middle—cut down to one. Otherwise the
armament is disposed of, as in the old men-of-war, in broadside. Thus the
English Minotaur, of 10,000 tons, has 50 guns ; the French La Couronne, 6000
tons, has 40 guns. The Invincible is of nearly the same tonnage and armament.
The floating-battery Le Saigon is designed solely for harbor defense.
The first French and English
iron-clads are now conceded to be failures. Of these a competent English writer
says : " The mere multiplication of men and guns in great ships is, as Raleigh
urged almost three centuries ago, not only a waste of means but a diminution of
efficiency, as huge floating castles were slow in manoeuvring, and limited in
their movements by the depth of water which they drew. Whenever we have the
misfortune to be engaged in a maritime war such will be found to be the case of
our great show ships Warrior,
Black Prince, and the like." The trial-trips of these vessels were wholly
unsatisfactory. They were even less seaworthy than our own " Monitors," which
were never designed for sea-going vessels.
If, however, we can judge from
the reports of the trial-trip made last October of the new French iron-clads, of
which the Magenta and Invincible are types, their performances at sea were
wholly satisfactory, and the French have practically solved the prob
lem of building armored vessels
of fair speed which may safely be dispatched upon distant service. They are,
however, simply ships of war plated with four or five inches of iron, with a
great amount of exposed surface, capable of fighting only broadside on, and thus
in their numerous port-holes presenting many especially vulnerable points. If
mere target experiments prove any thing, we may be assured that four or five
inches of iron are no match for the heaviest modern artillery. But European
constructors appear to go on the
assumption that these heavy guns can not be used on shipboard, and hence the
armament of these vessels is formidable rather from the number of pieces than
from the , power of any one singly.
Our own iron-clads, with the
exception of the Ironsides and the Roanoke, are constructed on a wholly
different theory. We believe that the ship which can deliver the hardest blows
will, other things considered, be most effective. We there-
fore construct our ships so as to
leave the least possible surface exposed to the fire of the enemy, and to offer
the fewest possible vulnerable points, concentrating their main offensive power
into two or four guns mounted in revolving turrets. The exposed surface, being
smaller, can be more heavily armored, with no increase of aggregate weight.
Instead of the four or six inches of plating on the European vessels, our
turrets have from nine to thirteen—a thickness which, as far as is shown by any
experiments hitherto made, is not
penetrable by any artillery yet constructed. While, as we think, our iron-clads
are thus safe from any fire which could be brought to bear upon them from a
hostile vessel, they are furnished with a pair of guns, one or two shots from
which, fairly delivered, would destroy any French or English iron-clad. We think
that no European vessel could deliver as heavy a fire as that which our
"Monitors" have undergone before
Fort Sumter with no essential damage, while
THE ENGLISH IRON-CLAD "MINOTAUR."
THE FRENCH IRON-CLAD "LA COURONNE."
TRIAL TRIP OF THE FRENCH IRON-CLAD FLEET.—THE
"MAGENTA" IN THE FORE-GROUND.
THE FRENCH IRON-CLAD "L'INVINCIBLE."
THE FRENCH FLOATING BATTERY "LE SAIGON."