The French Naval Fleet


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, October 7, 1865

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VOL. IX.—No. 458.]




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year 1865, by Harper & Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.


LAST week we printed an excellent engraving illustrating the international naval festival of the French and English fleets at Cherbourg. We give this week a picture illustrating the arrival of the French fleet at Portsmouth, England. This arrival was followed by a brilliant series of festivities commencing August 28, in which the Hums, OF SOMERSET, the French Minister of Marine, the local authorities of Brest, Cherbourg, and Portsmouth, and the officers and men of the rival and allied squadrons participated.

The three weeks consumed in this mutual inter-change of naval courtesies probably gave neither of the two nations any new information in regard to the fleets of the other. It is said that the French ships are faster and less perfectly protected by armor,

while the superiority in weight of ordnance rests with England. The English think that this balance of advantages is much in their favor. Says the Saturday Review : " Admiral FARRAGUT sailed into the harbor of Mobile in a wooden ship, and some other American officers have expressed a doubt whether the advantage of armor-plating provides a compensation for its inevitable cumbrousness. If guns can be used at sea heavy enough to pierce any vessel which can float, it appears not impossible that the lightest and most fragile ships may ultimately prove to be the safest."

Now if we are not mistaken our navy has ad-vantages both in respect of weight of ordnance and fleetness of vessels. M. MARS, who is no other than the PRINCE DE JOINVILLE, has contributed a paper on this subject to the Revue des Deux Mondes, showing that America has taught foreign nations two lessons : First, that the armament of a ship of

war with the heaviest guns is of more importance than defensive armor ; and, secondly, that a system of coast protection by fleets of small Monitors and swarms of torpedoes might prove too formidable even for such ships as the Solferino or the Warrior. The resume which he gives of the decisive naval events of the war goes some way to support his theories. When the Merrimac encountered the first Monitor, she was beaten by her smaller adversary simply because the Northern ship carried the heavier ordnance. The Atlanta was the next iron-clad ram which the Confederates produced, and she too was beaten by the Weehawken, a Monitor of half her size. The Atlanta carried 7-inch rifled guns, and was protected by four inches of iron inclined at an angle of about 30 degrees, backed by eighteen inches of wood. Her enemy was armed with 15-inch guns, and four shots sufficed to compel the Atlanta to strike her colors. The third ram, the

Albemarle, which was built by the Confederates, served only to illustrate the second point on which M. MARS insists—the value of torpedoes, when used with skill and audacity. She lay moored up the Roanoke, and was blown out of the water by a torpedo coolly fixed and fired by a United States lieutenant and a boat's crew of half a dozen men.

The PRINCE DE JOINVILLE evidently deems the American system of naval warfare more formidable than the French. "We have nothing," he says, " equivalent to the American 15-inch gun." While the French field and siege guns are excellent, the Prince considers the French naval gun, which is in-tended to smash iron-plates, quite another thing. The American Monitors are invulnerable to the best guns carried by the Magenta or by any other French vessel, while the guns carried by the Monitors could smash the iron-plates of the best French vessel with perfect ease.


French Navy




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