Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 16.djvu/227
The Merrimac and Monitor. 221
Mr. Ericsson, if he was the author of a communication which had been attributed to him, stated that she was quite a new vessel, and that he had built her partly as an admonition to the British govern- ment. He (the Duke of Somerset) was obliged to the people of America for their admonition, and still more obliged to them for their experiments. If they would only make a few more of these experi- ments they would save the naval authorities in this country a good deal of trouble in firing at their target at Shoeburyness. The Afoiii- tor appeared to be something between a raft and a diving-bell. She was only two feet above water when the water was smooth. It was impossible to stand on her deck, and except in a calm sea her deck would be under water.
Her crew, therefore, had to live under water, and to breath through a pipe that came down through the deck. She had a cupola that was plated with layers of iron of one inch of thickness over another; and it was found that such a plate was much less solid than iron of the same thickness formed of one mass. He also learned from an account published in a Montreal paper that the Monitor, in her voyage from New York, was very near being lost ; that the waves broke over and extinguished her fires, and that but for a steamer which was employed to tow her, she must have gone down ; and further, that her crew narrowly escaped suffocation during the fight ; that living in such a vessel was a sort of Calcutta Blackhole exis- tence, and that the eyes and nose of nearly every man at the guns literally shed blood. Another important question was the nature of the armament which these vessels carried. All the American guns were Dahlgren, or shell guns, and every one knew that shells were wholly ineffective against iron plates. The force, too, with which a projectile struck depended on its velocity, and it appeared that the velocity of the shells fired from the Dahlgren, which was a rifled gun, was only nine hundred feet per second, while our 68-pounders gave a velocity of fifteen hundred feet per second. The velocity of a pro- jectile from a smooth-bore gun, at a distance of only two hundred yards, was much greater than that of a rifled gun, and amounted to seventeen hundred feet per second. Now his belief was, that those American vessels would not have withstood such a shock as that, and in all probability, before the lapse of two years, much larger guns would be constructed and we should have to come back to smooth- bore guns for firing at near objects. We should require three classes of vessels. There must be fast sailing ships as well as heavily armed vessels. It was said recently, when a force was sent to Canada,