Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/The Royal Sovereign
THE ROYAL SOVEREIGN.
The permanent attraction in Portsmouth Harbour is, of course, the Victory, Nelson’s Victory, the ship in which that greatest of seamen, and most admirable of heroes, conquered and died; and in which every memorial of him is, to this day, preserved with the most judicious and reverential care. To her, as to his shrine and fittest monument, year after year, an almost daily stream of pilgrims pay an affectionate homage, which is very rarely drawn away by the most striking novelty, or the most attractive object of fresh interest. But the present moment is one in which she is temporarily superseded in the public curiosity, and the vessel which is the observed of all observers is indebted for the attention which she excites, not to her gracefulness of outline or beauty of proportion, for even her architect and her captain, in spite of the professional pride they naturally take in her, confess her to be the very ugliest craft that has ever yet floated on the waters, nor to any excellence as a sea-boat which she is expected to exhibit, for she is neither supposed nor intended to be able to go out of sight of our own shores; but to the circumstance that, while all other ships are only developments or modifications of ancient systems, she exhibits the result of the exertions of a perfectly original genius. We do not, in saying this, propose here to prejudge the question, which indeed is as yet hardly ripe for decision, whether her constructor is over-sanguine or not in thinking that the armament which he has given her must ultimately supersede every other for purposes of war; but that for many kinds of service she will be pre-eminently useful there can be no doubt whatever, and still less question can there be of the credit due to a boldness of invention which has thus struck out for itself an entirely new path, while every one else employed on similar tasks has been contented with adhering to established models, and has sought to attain his objects by the mere enlargement of old plans, or the application of them to new materials.
The ship of which we are speaking is the Royal Sovereign, a wooden three-decker, cut down, and, in the place of her original armament of 130 guns, equipped with one of five under the direction of Captain C. P. Coles, R.N. The circumstances which led to the conception of so singular and unprecedented a conversion have been fully explained by Captain Coles himself on more than one occasion, and it may enable our readers better to comprehend its objects, if we briefly recapitulate the most striking points of his explanation.
Captain Coles is a nephew of the late distinguished admiral, Lord Lyons; and at the first breaking out of the Russian war in 1854 was that officer’s flag-lieutenant in the Agamemnon. He was soon afterwards promoted, and received the command of the Stromboli gunboat. In one ship or the other he had the good fortune to be present at the most important operations undertaken by our fleets in the Black Sea. Of all the ships in the fleet the Agamemnon got closest to the Russian batteries on the 17th October, 1854; and the next year the Stromboli made one of the gallant squadron of gunboats with which the lamented Lyons of the Miranda, and, after his death, Osborn of the Vesuvius (the same officer who is now captain of the Royal Sovereign), swept the Sea of Azov, and with ceaseless vigilance and energy destroyed the greater part of the stores on which the garrison of Sebastopol depended, and so contributed their full share to the fall of that all-important fortress. In the Stromboli, too, Captain Coles bore a part in the reduction of Kinburn; and from his judicious reflections on what happened under his own eyes during the attack on that place sprang, in a great degree, his conception of the new plan which the visitors to the Royal Sovereign see exhibited to them in that vessel. The performances of a raft called the Nancy with a 32-lb. gun mounted in the centre, during the campaign in the Sea of Azov, had led him to the conclusion that a gun so placed, being necessarily steadier than one at the side of a vessel, was capable of being fired with greater precision by reason of that increased steadiness. The casualties occurring among the gunners of the French floating batteries at Kinburn, several of whom were killed or wounded by shot which entered the portholes of the gun which they were serving, pointed out to him further the great need which existed of some new plan for the protection of that important portion of the crew, who, while a gun scarcely more than a foot in diameter required a porthole of at least 13 square feet for its training, were necessarily exposed to great danger. Led by these considerations, he applied his mind to devise a vessel which should combine steadiness of platform for the guns with protection to the crew, and before the end of the year he submitted to the Board of Admiralty a plan for a raft armed with one heavy gun to be worked within a hemispherical iron shield. The Board appointed a commission, composed of officers serving in the Black Sea, and presided over by Sir Houston Stewart, to examine the projector and his design; and their report was so favorable to the plan on all its most important points, that Captain Coles was ordered to repair to England, and preparations were made for constructing a number of vessels such as he had designed, which would have been sent the next year to attack Cronstadt, had not peace happily rendered them unnecessary. As far as the Admiralty was concerned the idea was, from that moment, abandoned, but it was fructifying in the fertile mind of the inventor. The raft, which, in his original plan, was to have been composed mainly of water-casks, was manifestly but a temporary expedient, of which one of the principal merits was that a whole flotilla of such vessels could be constructed with cheapness and despatch; but in the hemispherical iron shield it contained a germ which, when elaborated by patient thought and ingenuity, could not fail to produce far greater results. To work out such results, therefore, by adapting his principle to large ships, Captain Coles now began to apply himself. The more he considered the matter the more strongly did the conviction force itself upon his mind that the system of portholes, which was inseparable from a broadside armament, was not only fraught with needless danger to the gunners, but was, at all events from the moment that we began to cover ships with iron plates, a source of weakness to the ship; and consequently the more was he led to adhere to his principle of the shield. But, if the gun had to be trained within the shield, it was clear that it would still require a porthole. To obviate this he presently hit upon the idea of making the shield itself revolve upon a turntable, so that what should be trained should be not the gun by itself, but the shield containing the gun, and thus mounted the gun would require an opening only very little larger than its muzzle. There were still many points to be considered, especially with respect to rigging, steam-power, &c., before a design, framed for a coasting raft could be made available for a large ship fitted to contend with an Atlantic gale, or to take its place in a line of battle. But all difficulties yielded before a resolution to surmount them, and at last, in June, 1860, he produced a design for two classes of ships, one suited for home service only, the other capable of long and distant voyages; and in a lecture which he delivered at the United Service Institution, he fully explained the details of his plan, and all the advantages which he expected to derive from it, especially in action; he pointed out that a ship armed on his principle, with her guns placed, as he proposed, along her centre, would be free from that roll, so disconcerting to the gunner’s aim, which, independently of any smoothness or roughness of the sea itself, is caused by the mere working of the guns when placed at the side of the ship; while the character of the shields, revolving round the entire circle, would enable the fire of all the guns to be concentrated on any point on either side except one exactly fore or aft, the end turrets being able to command those points also. He explained also his plans for ventilation, and for getting rid of the smoke, so that the captain of each gun would always be able to see his object: while his vessel, though having her guns higher out of the water than could be the case in any ship armed on the broadside principle, would yet have her gunwale nearer the water, and so would offer a far smaller target to the enemy; and finally, he proved that a vessel so armed would require a much smaller crew; would be, in fact, not only cheaper in her first construction, but infinitely cheaper in her maintenance in an effective state, and in her whole subsequent working. His scheme, as proposed on this occasion, embraced a row of nine turrets, each containing two guns of 100 lbs. each; and as the Warrior, our first iron-plated ship, which had been commenced in May, 1859, was to have a broadside of something over 1600 lbs., of which only 13 68-pounders were to be protected by armour, he contrasted with that force the 1800 pounds of shot which the revolving power of his shields or turrets would enable his vessel to throw on either side at pleasure, pointing out with self-evident truth that the effect of a ship’s fire would depend, not so much on the mere weight of her collected broadside, as on the smallness of the number of the shot which made up that weight. The originality, boldness, and undeniable plausibility of the plan, while it startled some, who thought, as indeed they still think, that Captain Coles, like other men proud of, and confident in, their inventions, was disposed to underrate the objections to it, and to overrate the evils attendant on the broadside system, and the difficulty of removing or diminishing those evils, yet made a great impression on his hearers, and on the public in general; but apparently it was not regarded with equal favour by the Admiralty, who, while ordering ships to be laid down on the old models with different trifling variations, steadily resisted every proposal to give Captain Coles’s novel designs a trial. However, as time wore on, the new plan was discussed and favorably estimated in Parliament; the Prince Consort, who, from a careful examination of its details, had conceived a high opinion of its probable success, and, at all events, of the genius and merit of the inventor, pressed it on the notice of those in authority at Whitehall; and at last, after a year had elapsed, a trial was so far given to it that a turret was constructed on an old vessel called the Trusty, from which a gun was worked in competition with another gun mounted in the old fashion at the side of the ship; and the strength and working of the turret was further tested by a heavy cannonade from 68 and 110-pounders being directed at it from a distance of only 200 yards. Whether for offence or defence the turret proved a complete success. It was hit by 44 shot, which not only failed to penetrate it at any point, but utterly failed also to destroy, or even in the least to diminish the ease and rapidity with which it worked round. So utterly, indeed, that the men employed at it declared (we should think with some slight exaggeration) that the pounding it had received had made it work, “if anything, rather better.” As a weapon of offence the gun which it contained, though only 7 men were required by it, while 12 were wanted for the gun at the ship’s side, never fired fewer than three shots for every two that could be discharged from the other; and on one occasion, when the smoke (from which its position on deck relieved those in the turret) enveloped those at the broadside gun between decks, she actually fired seven shots, bringing each to bear with true aim at a gunboat passing at full speed, while her rival could only deliver one.
Yet even after this apparent verification of all that the inventor had promised, no steps were taken to give the invention such further trial as to build a ship in accordance with it, till, in the spring of the next year, the increasing pressure of public opinion, fortified by the knowledge that the Americans had borrowed the idea, and had proved its value in real warfare, became irresistible, and at last the Admiralty yielded, and orders were issued to apply it to two ships, one of which, the Prince Albert, was to be built on purpose; the other, the Royal Sovereign, a splendid three-decker, which had never been to sea, was to be altered to receive the turrets, as other vessels, such as the Royal Oak, the Prince Consort, &c., had been reduced to receive their armour-plates. The Prince Albert is not yet ready for sea; the Royal Sovereign was completed in the spring of the present year, and of her we will now attempt to present some description to our readers.
We must premise however that she is not built or equipped exactly in accordance with Captain Coles’s original plan. Some alterations have been made by himself; others, strange to say, in spite of his most earnest protest. The vast increase in the size of ordnance which had been made since his lecture in 1860, led him to reduce the number of his turrets, though making them, from the superior calibre of the guns which he now placed in them, very far more powerful than those which he had originally designed. In fact, the effect of shot is now so clearly ascertained to increase in almost geometrical progression according to its calibre, that a single 300-pounder will probably disable a hostile ship more than twenty guns of a third of that size, just as one lion would be more formidable to a herd of oxen than a score of cats. The alterations, however, which have been made by others, in disregard of his wishes, affecting as they do her masts, her tonnage, and her whole general character to a degree which disqualifies her from being used as a sea-going ship, may almost be looked upon as neutralising the advantage gained by the increase of her gun-power. A little while before the commencement of her conversion into a turret-ship the Admiralty had appointed a Mr. Reed Chief Constructor of the Navy, though he had previously had scarcely any experience as a ship builder; and, though he was chiefly known as the champion of a plan diametrically opposed to that of Captain Coles, gave him authority to decide on and alter the details of that officer’s design—authority which he certainly exercised with no very great forbearance. It would seem to have been a singular policy of the Board so to tamper with a new invention as to leave the inventor the credit of any success which his ship might achieve, while thus dividing the discredit of any defect which she might develop between themselves and their new constructor.
We must however look at her as she is; and a very singular vessel she certainly appears to eyes accustomed to the tapering masts and lofty sides gaping with portholes and bristling with cannon of the honoured old Victory or the modern Duke of Wellington, both of which, as if to provoke the comparison, lie almost by her side. Instead of those graceful stately fabrics we see a long low mass, so low indeed that her figurehead, the crowned lion of England, is raised far above her deck, and looking longer than she really is, by reason of that exceeding lowness. Her sides too project no threatening muzzles from rows of great square openings, but present one solid unbroken wall, which, on inquiry, we learn is composed of 18 inches of timber, protected on the outside by solid plates of 5½ inches of wrought iron, and coated on the inside also with a stout iron skin. Her deck too, which, as being originally the lower deck of a three-decker, is of an unusual width, not less than 63 feet, and also unusually arched, so as to give a rise in the centre of 18 inches, has an underclothing of inch iron; and, rising out of it along the centre, are four circular turrets, which contain the ship’s offensive power. They too are as solid as the sides of the ship; but in them we perceive small oval openings, one in each of the three sternmost, and two in the foremost, each of which is almost filled up with the muzzle of a huge 300-pounder Armstrong gun; the only vacant space being one of 3 inches below, and 4 inches above the gun, to give room for its occasional depression or elevation. And lest this small opening should prove a source of weakness, an extra 4½ inch iron plate is added for a space of 4 feet on each side of the port; giving a thickness there of no less than 10 inches of solid iron. The largest or 2-gun turret in the bow rises 5 feet above the deck, measures 23 feet in diameter, and weighs, including its guns, 144 tons; the three smaller turrets rise 4 feet 6 inches, measure 20 feet 6 inches in diameter, and, with their gun, weigh 103 tons each, the weight of a gun and carriage being 16 tons.
Each gun is but just clear of the deck, and, except in action, is nearly concealed from the sight of anyone outside the vessel by an iron bulwark about 3 feet high, made in compartments resting on hinges and secured by pins, the withdrawal of which—an operation that can be performed in a few seconds—leaves the gun a clear space in front for its fire. The position of the gun in the centre, coupled with that raising of the deck which has already been mentioned, enables it to be depressed so low as to strike the water at a distance of only 23 yards from the ship. The perpendicular depression of the gun, or its elevation, which by the arrangement of the carriage can be carried as high as 35 degrees, is of course effected by moving the gun itself, but the lateral training, which in the central turrets amounts to about 60 degrees each way, making an arc of 120 degrees, and which in those at the bow and stern, from their having nothing on one side of them, is much greater, is effected by revolutions given to the turrets themselves. And of them we will now speak, pausing only to remind or inform our readers that the greatest degree of lateral training of which a broadside gun is susceptible is 28 degrees, making an arc of 56 degrees, and to effect this her ports are forced to be not less than 13 square feet in size.
The entrance to the turrets is below the deck, and there also it is that they and the guns which they contain are worked, the whole crew being below, with the exception of the captain, whose place in action is in a little watch-tower, as it may be called, slightly raised above the deck, and plated as strongly as the turrets, in which, while fully protected and concealed from the sight of the enemy, he has a full view of all that is going on, and from which, by means of a set of voice pipes ingeniously placed around him, he can convey his orders to every part of the ship. Each turret is supported on a turn-table, the idea of which Captain Coles borrowed from that in ordinary use on our railways; and each turntable revolves on a gigantic pivot, two feet in diameter, made of wrought iron, hollow, with sides four inches thick, and fitted with bearings like the shaft of a paddle-wheel. The men who fight the gun have ample standing room in the turret, which, when it is desired to train it in any direction, is moved by a double set of winches, outside and inside, which, in the case of the smaller turrets, can be worked by as few as four men, though there is room for double that number if required. They can turn it with extreme rapidity or with the most deliberate slowness, and stop its revolution at a word, thus bringing the gun to bear on its object with the most perfect nicety. And this was tested and proved in the most satisfactory manner at the end of July, when the ship closed her first series of experimental firing in the open sea by destroying, with the concentrated fire of all her guns at a single discharge, a target only a foot square at a distance of 1000 yards. The trial she had then just completed of repeated and rapid firing of all her guns with full charges proving also, as Captain Coles had predicted, that very little smoke entered the turrets, and also, what was least expected, at least by the adversaries of the plan, that the concussion was less felt in them than in other parts of the ship. The gun carriages run on a kind of rail, the recoil after fire bringing the gun back within the turret sufficiently to allow of its being reloaded without any exposure of the gunners, and at the same time (from the admirable arrangement of all the gear which holds the gun) being under the most complete control, as may be udged by the following circumstance. Since from the small size of the interior of the turret (the walls of which are two feet thick) there is no clear space of any extent behind the gun, as is the case with those at the side of a ship, stout beams of oak are fixed at the rear of each, against the wall of the turret, to act as buffers; and though every gun has gone through repeated trials, nearly two hundred rounds having been fired altogether, on only one of these beams is the very slightest dent visible.
The Royal Sovereign’s masts are three low wooden spars, without yards, looking more suitable for a schooner yacht than for a mighty ship of war; and though they may be useful at times in steadying her, or may perhaps assist her in beating off shore in the event of any accident happening to her screw, they are wholly different from the powerful iron tubular masts in which Captain Coles designed to spread a cloud of canvas half as large again as is usually carried by ships of her tonnage, and with which he would not have feared to undertake the longest voyage, to race with the speediest vessel, or to encounter the heaviest weather.
The accommodation for the crew, at least for the officers, is perhaps rather more scanty than we are accustomed to see in a ship of the tonnage of the Royal Sovereign; but it must be remembered that, including marines, artillery, and engine officers, she carries only 300 men; and among her officers there are no midshipmen, an arrangement which, though it saves one mess-room, we should think of very doubtful policy, since there could hardly be a more useful school for the very youngest officers than would be afforded by the practical working of a vessel equipped on so novel a system. Even the captain’s cabin is made out of what was originally the bread-room of the three-decker, and is crowded by the wheel, for which no other place can be found, but which the captain has converted into a piece of ornamental furniture, painting on it Nelson’s signal in letters of gold, thus proclaiming his recognition of that heroic principle as the rule of his own conduct, and inculcating obedience to it on others. Another decoration which the cabin contains may not be passed over, a pair of pictures of the Queen and her lamented husband, who took a judicious and clearsighted interest in Captain Coles’s plan from its first announcement. They are the gift of her Majesty herself to Captain Osborn, as a testimony of her approval of his efforts to do that plan justice, and of the success which, as far as opportunity has been given him, has attended those efforts. The captain himself is a remarkable man, who has seen more service than perhaps any officer of his standing, who on all occasions has displayed the most brilliant professional skill and courage, and who combines with them no ordinary degree of scientific knowledge and acuteness as well as of literary attainment. He not only bore an active share in the search for the lamented Franklin and his comrades, but from him, while all in England were in a state of doubt and uncertainty, came by far the most accurate conjectures as to the course which Franklin had taken, and the region in which consequently the chief search should be made, that was at any time offered to the Admiralty. To him, as its commander, was chiefly owing the admirable success achieved by our squadron in the Sea of Azov, to which allusion has already been made. He it was who, having seen some of his earliest service in China under Sir W. Parker, revisited the same waters under the most distinguished of all the successors of that gallant officer, and, penetrating to Hankow (far beyond the utmost limits of the expedition of 1841) and returning in safety under difficulties which severely tested his seamanship, earned for himself so high a reputation that, when the Chinese government sought the aid of a European fleet against the Taeping rebels, it entrusted the command to him. The misunderstandings arising between the Mandarins and M. Lay, which ended in his laying down his command, added to his credit by giving him the opportunity of displaying a high degree of moral courage and promptitude of decision. Fortunately also for Captain Coles, his system, now placed fairly on its trial, thus obtained the aid of so consummate a master of every branch of his profession.
Such a captain cannot have a bad crew; and the perfect state of discipline to which he has brought them cannot perhaps be better described than by saying that they can clear their ship for action, let fall the bulwarks, train the guns to any point required, load and discharge them all in less than five minutes, and that afterwards, two minutes and fifty seconds is all the time they require to repeat the broadside, so that they can fire 21 broadsides in less than an hour; a result far surpassing anything that, under any other system, has been effected by a crew of 300 men, or of twice that number.
In the middle of September the Royal Sovereign returned to harbour from Portland, where she had been undergoing a series of severe trials to test her capabilities as a sea-boat, and also the working of her guns and turrets in the open sea. In both points she has been found to work admirably. Her speed is, of course, not great; but she has made eight knots against a heavy sea and a strong head wind; and her extreme roll, even in double-reefed topsail breeze, is not more than has been experienced in some of our finest wooden vessels of the old time. While in the very roughest weather the turrets and guns have been found to work admirably; nor, though nearly two hundred rounds have been fired in every variety of weather and sea, has a single breeching been carried away, nor (a thing which might easily have happened when the heaviest guns ever yet put on board a ship were being worked on a wholly novel plan) has the most trifling hurt been sustained by a single man.
The chief objects then which Captain Coles proposed to himself and promised to his countrymen,—greater rapidity and accuracy in shooting; greater, indeed complete protection to the crew; and greater economy in the construction, maintenance, and working of the ship,—appears to have been successfully attained. The attainment of the first is established by the trials of which we have already spoken. The attainment of the second, at least until it is defeated by the production of guns so large as to crush through any armour under which a ship can float, is proved by the details which have been given above of the composition of her sides and her turrets, to be so far perfect as to be equal in every respect to that of any ship yet launched or designed, and to be superior to that of any except vessels of the Minotaur class, the only ones which carry plates of the same thickness, 5½-inch, those of the Warrior class, the Royal Oak class, and the Achilles being all alike 4½-inch. To even the strongest of these, the Minotaur, the Royal Sovereign is still superior in that most important point of having no port-holes, the Minotaur, like the Warrior, having 20 on a side, presenting collectively an opening of 260 square feet. Moreover, the crew of the Royal Sovereign have an additional protection in the smallness of the target which their ship presents to the enemy. She is 240 feet long, and, as we have said before, 8 feet out of the water, or, including the rise in her deck, 9 feet 6 inches, the whole area therefore which she presents to the aim of an enemy, including her four turrets, is one of 2668 square feet. The Warrior has a length of 380 feet, and her gunwale is 22 feet out of the water, she therefore affords a mark of 8360 feet, while we must add, as a source of danger to her men ,the opening of 260 square feet of porthole. How undeniably the third object, cheapness in construction and working, is arrived at, is proved by the Parliamentary returns. As she is a converted ship it is impossible to state with precision the cost of the Royal Sovereign: but that of the Prince Albert is fixed at £157,303, an amount which would be augmented by less than £10,000 if she were built as a sea-going ship with somewhat increased tonnage, and with the masts to fit her for a long voyage, while the cost of the Warrior is given in the Parliamentary returns as having amounted to no less than 360,995l. The economy in maintaining and working her is equally established by a comparison of the number of her crew with that of the Warrior, the Royal Sovereign having, as has already been said, 300 men only of every class and rank; while the crew of the Warrior, reckoned in the same manner, exceeds 800; nor, leaving out of the question the saving of money, would it be a trifling advantage in the event of war breaking out suddenly, and its becoming requisite to equip a fleet in haste, to be able to man two ships completely with fewer men than would otherwise be required for one.
The Royal Sovereign, as we have said, is not a sea-going ship, but Captain Coles earnestly desired to make her such, and not only believes that there is nothing in his plan of construction nor in the disposition of weight on board such a ship calculated in the least to render her unfit for long voyages, but he even maintains that his system is especially suited for ships to fight in the open sea, since guns placed in the centre of the ship are less likely to be disabled by its roll in a heavy sea than guns on a broadside, where it is sometimes necessary to close the portholes,—the guns even of the Warrior, though unusually high above the water, being six inches nearer to it than the guns of the Royal Sovereign. To which argument, it may perhaps be added, that no other kind of ship gives room for availing ourselves of these improvements in artillery which are now proceeding at so rapid a pace. Whatever may be the size to which guns may eventually be carried, none can be made so large or so heavy that, if we believe Captain Coles, a turret ship cannot receive and work them, while it is not clear that our gun makers have not already produced pieces too large to be placed at the side of a ship: at all events it is certain that even on board the Minotaur, a ship exceeding the Royal Sovereign in size by nearly 3000 tons, it is not contemplated to place any gun of more than 1lOlbs. calibre; though against 5½ inch plates, a ball from such a gun would be almost impotent. Moreover, though we have as yet taken no steps to test this portion of Captain Coles’s assertions, other nations have had sea-going ships built entirely on his plan; and the complete success achieved by the Danish Rolf-krake, in her action with a very superior force has of course stimulated the desire to possess vessels like her. Another, the Smirch, has been already sent from this country to Russia, and more than one of our private yards are building similar or larger vessels on the same plan for one or other of the foreign powers which may some day use them against ourselves.
That Captain Coles’s plan did not at first find favour with the present Board of Admiralty is so notorious, and the step which has been unexpectedly taken, since this article was commenced, of removing the Royal Sovereign into the steam reserve, seems so strange, that many, and especially naval men, have inferred from it that the complete success achieved by this ship in all the trials that she has as yet had the opportunity of making, has only strengthened the disinclination of the Board to allow that success to be more fully established by a continuance of her experiments, lest they should at last be compelled to give the plan the still further trial of allowing Captain Coles to build a ship wholly in accordance with his own views, without the interference of any civil constructor. But such a course would be so shameful that, it cannot, we are convinced, be truly imputed to any part of a British Ministry. It is probable rather that, looking on the justice of Captain Coles’s views to be as completely established as it was possible for a vessel of the limited capabilities of the Royal Sovereign to establish them, and remembering that the fact of those capabilities being limited is owing not to any imperfection in Captain Coles’s plan, but to the circumstance of others having been admitted to interfere with and vary the details of that plan, the Board now considers that Captain Coles is entitled,—it would be more correct to say, that the country is entitled,—to have these views tested more completely in a sea-going vessel, and that therefore they are about to entrust him with the construction of such a ship, as the only method of finally deciding the question at issue between guns in turrets and guns in broadsides: a question which in the present critical state of Europe admits of no postponement, and of which it would be neither creditable nor safe for us to leave the solution to other nations, perhaps at our own expense.