Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/174

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164
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
MODERN WAR VESSELS OF THE UNITED STATES NAVY.

By W. A. DOBSON, M. S. N. A.

Illustrated by CHARLES C. DODGE.

AT the close of the civil war the United States possessed a navy consisting in the main of monitors, double and single turreted, and a large fleet of wooden vessels of various types and classes; they were armed principally with smooth-bore guns and Parrott rifles, all of which were muzzle-loading; but the four years of strife which developed the monitor, the fifteen-inch gun with its mammoth powder, and the destructive capabilities of the torpedo were destined to overthrow Old World ideas of battleship requirements, to turn the thoughts of naval men abroad in entirely new and novel directions, and to inaugurate a new system of design and construction. Among the forms of naval architecture developed by the exigencies of the war the most notable is the monitor type, and therein contained was the germ from which was to spring a new development of war vessels, for, although the nation was so worn with the long struggle that it was glad to turn the energies that had been devoted to the enterprises of war to the pursuits of peace, and found itself too heavily burdened with debt to embody its naval experience in a new navy, the lessons given in naval construction and warfare were eagerly seized upon by European naval architects, and from the monitor of Ericsson, combined with Timby's revolving fort and its successors, was evolved the battle-ship of to-day. The United States having thus laid down the broad lines along which was to be developed the present fighting machine, with its steel built-up rifled guns, the slow-burning smokeless powder, the automobile and dirigible torpedoes, contented itself for the next decade and a half with building a few vessels of iron, building and repairing its wooden vessels, and converting the smooth-bore guns into makeshift rifles. Abroad, the navies of France and England adopted the monitor idea of protection to hull and machinery by means of vertical side armor, extending from a few feet below to a few feet above the load line, surmounted by a flat armored deck, with the guns placed in revolving forts or turrets, protected by walls of heavy armor; and in order to increase the habitability and sea-going qualities, light upper or false works were erected upon the armor deck, in which were placed the quarters and secondary armament. In order to obtain a hull structure sufficiently light and strong to allow a considerable amount of displacement to be devoted