The New International Encyclopædia/Ship, Armored

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SHIP, Armored. The first real armored vessels were floating batteries used at the siege of Gibraltar in 1782. The first proposal to build an armored steam vessel seems to have been made by Colonel John Stevens of New Jersey, who, in 1812, prepared plans for such a craft. In 1841 his son, R. L. Stevens, made proposals to the United States Navy Department to build an ironclad steamer of high speed in which all of the machinery, including the propellers, should be below water. This vessel was not built on the original designs, as it was considered desirable to increase the thickness of armor to be

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carried from 4.5 to 6.75 inches. The keel was not laid until 1854, only two months before the commencement of the ‘Kinburn batteries’ in France, but it is to be noted that the French vessels were floating batteries and not high-speed sea-going ships, as was Stevens's. The latter, whose construction, after the death of R. L. Stevens (1856), was continued by his brother, E. A. Stevens, was never completed, and the French were the first to produce a sea-going armorclad, the Gloire (for description see Armor Plate), which was a screw line-of-battle ship rebuilt in 1858-59 and armored; they also commenced the first iron-hulled armorclad (the Couronne) . The Gloire and Couronne were quickly followed by the Warrior, which was laid down in England in 1859. In 1860 the Italians ordered the armored frigates Terribile and Formidabile in France; and in the latter part of 1861 the Russians changed the plans of the wooden frigate Petropavlovsk, then building, and gave her a complete water-line belt and casement of iron. So far the application of armor to vessels had brought about no change in the type except to reduce the number of decks on which guns were carried. But in 1861 the Monitor and Merrimac (Virginia) were designed. They differed from all previous men-of-war in being mastless; each was completely armored: one mounted its guns in a revolving turret and one in a central armored battery. If you place a monitor's turret at each end of the Merrimac's citadel, make the sides more nearly vertical, and raise the upper deck sufficiently to give seaworthiness, you have the general features of the battleship of 1903.

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In 1861, under an act of Congress providing for armored vessels, the Galena, the New Ironsides, and the Monitor were constructed. The Galena was an armored gunboat of the ordinary type, except that her sides amidships inclined inward (‘tumbled home’) at an angle of about 45 degrees and were covered with 2.5 inches of armor. Her plating was found to be too thin to be of much use and she was regarded as a failure. She was completed early in 1862 and took part in the attack on Drewry's Bluff forts, when her armor was repeatedly perforated. In this case, since the forts were elevated, the inclination of her sides was a disadvantage. The New Ironsides was finished late in 1862 and attached to the blockading fleet off Charleston, where she remained for two years. She was built of wood and her general plans were similar to those of an ordinary steam frigate of her day, except that she had a ram bow and a retreating stern like that of many recent battleships. Her sides ‘tumbled home’ at an angle of about 30 degrees from the vertical for about two-thirds her length, and over this portion she was covered by 4.5-inch iron plates of large size from some distance below the water line to the upper deck. The broadside armor was joined at the ends by thwartship plating of equal thickness, the whole forming a citadel protecting the battery, boilers, and engines. She was 232 feet long, 58 feet broad, and had a displacement of 4120 tons at her designed load draught. Her battery consisted of sixteen 11-inch Dahlgren smooth-bores, two 220-pounder Parrot rifles, and four 24-pounder howitzers. She was the most successful armored ship of her day, was in action more times than any other vessel ever built (so far as existing records show) and was struck by more projectiles than any other vessel, yet her armor was never pierced, she was never put out of action, and she was never forced to go to a home port or depend upon outside assistance, while in some of the actions in which she was engaged other ironclads were sunk and several monitors were disabled and forced out of action. After the war, in 1866, she was accidentally destroyed by fire at the Philadelphia navy yard.

The third vessel was the far-famed Monitor. The contract for her construction was signed October 4, 1861, and she was launched January 30, 1862. Her dimensions were: extreme length, 172 feet; length of hull proper, 124 feet; extreme beam, 41.5 feet; width of hull where it joined the overhang, 34 feet; width of hull at bottom, 18 feet; depth of hold, 11.33 feet; mean draught, 10.5 feet; inside diameter of turret, 20 feet; height of turret, 9 feet; displacement, 987 tons.

The Monitor was a most remarkable vessel in many ways, but she was not a ship of war, but a floating battery, and useful only in smooth water. She was fortunate in meeting a craft equally unseaworthy. She was not even the first turret vessel to be commenced, nor was she the best when finished. Before the contract was drawn for the Monitor. Denmark had contracted with Captain Cowper Coles for the building of the double-turreted, sea-going ironclad Rolf Krake, and her keel was laid before the construction of the Monitor was authorized. The Rolf Krake was a very successful vessel, and, although she was never in close action with another ship, she several times silenced Prussian batteries and held the whole Prussian fleet in check in 1864.

Ericsson, however, was probably the first to produce plans of a practical revolving turret mounted on board a vessel, as there seems to be no design of one antedating those he sent to Napoleon III. in 1854. Ericsson's Monitor, also, was the first completed vessel carrying a revolving turret, and while many of her details were faulty, others were original and ingenious in the highest degree.

Whether the fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac was a drawn battle, as some assert, or a complete victory, the results are the same. The Monitor, as in some sense a savior of the country, was accorded an importance its intrinsic merits did not warrant. Other monitors were built, improved in some respects, but embodying many of the defects of the original and some of their own. Almost every nation in Europe also built vessels of the monitor type, but having no patriotic reasons to revere them, the evolution of the turret ship proceeded rapidly, though the value of broadside fire from numerous guns was never quite forgotten, and in many designs, in a modified form, it displaced the turret. This modified form was of two types, called the bow battery and central battery, the latter exemplifying the fullest development of the idea, which was to secure heavy end-on fire without much sacrifice of weight in the broadside.

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OCEAN, FRANCE, 1865-66.

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In 1863 the British converted several vessels into turret ships with four turrets (Royal Sovereign class); the North German Confederation ordered the Arminius, a turret ship of 1600 tons, similar to the Rolf Krake; France laid down a number of turret vessels of about 3000 tons (Taureau class); Italy laid down the turret ship Affondatore of 4400 tons, and Russia, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden began the construction of numerous monitors of the American low freeboard type. The reaction against the turret ship is noticed in the vessels produced in the next two or three years, which are mostly central battery ships. The long row of guns on the broadside is given up, for it was seen to be impossible adequately to protect so great an area with armor. The guns were decreased in number, but increased in size, and gathered in a group amidships. To secure fire ahead and astern, some guns were mounted in the angles of polygonal citadels or in circular barbette towers over the corners of the battery. Of the great Powers, Russia alone adhered chiefly to the turret, although she built one or two central battery ships. In 1866 Great Britain reverted to turret ships in the high freeboard Monarch and the rather low freeboard Captain. The uselessness of sail power in heavy fighting ships was not yet appreciated; and the Captain, with her very moderate height of side, attempting to carry sail in heavy weather in the Bay of Biscay, capsized and went to the bottom with nearly every soul on board. The danger of masting low freeboard ships was then fully appreciated. France continued to develop the barbette ship in the Ocean and Friedland types. Italy constructed only central battery or bow battery ships until 1872. Russia built nothing but turret ships, except some armored cruisers (begun in 1870). Great Britain followed the Monarch and Captain with several low freeboard turret ships, reverting again in 1873 to the central battery in the Alexandra, one of the last and best of this type. France built a few central battery ships with barbette towers in addition, but continued the development of the barbette, with or without an unprotected auxiliary battery. Germany built chiefly central battery ships in the period 1865-73. Italy built no ships at this time. Russia built three or four central battery craft (but they properly belonged to the cruiser class) and one heavy turret ship, the Pietr Velikii.

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In 1873-74 a radical change was introduced in the British and Italian navies. Up to this time, with few exceptions, the armor belt of battleships had extended from bow to stern. In 1873 Italy began the construction of the turret ships Duilio and Dandolo, and Great Britain laid down the Inflexible. These ships were remarkable in many ways. They were of unprecedented size (almost 12,000 tons); almost their whole battery was concentrated in four enormous guns behind very thick armor; the complete belt was given up and a central citadel, extending only a small portion of the length (in the case of the Inflexible, less than one-third), hut of enormously thick armor, protected the vitals, but did not absolutely insure stability if the unarmored ends were destroyed; to assist in reducing danger in case of injury to the ends, a submerged armored deck extended from the citadel to the bow and to the stern a few feet below water; and lastly, their turrets, instead of being on the middle line of the ship, were placed in ‘echelon,’ the forward one close out to one side of the ship. and the after one close out to the other. This method of mounting theoretically doubled the fire ahead and astern; practically the principal result was to reduce the weight of fire on one bow and one quarter and almost destroy fire directly ahead or astern because of interference of the upper works. From this time on the development in each of the principal navies was along different lines. The British next built two reduced copies of the Inflexible; then some small single-turret ships shaped like a shoe—high aft, low forward; then two more modified copies of the Inflexible. In the Admiral class (Collingwood, Benbow, etc.), which followed, the short belt of the Inflexible was retained and made narrower by the height of a deck, the main battery was mounted in barbettes on the middle line, one forward, one aft, and an auxiliary battery of 6-inch guns provided, though they were not protected by armor. Following these came two more shoe-shaped single-turreted vessels of large size (10,500 tons). These were the Sanspareil and her sister, the ill-fated Victoria; they carried two 110-ton guns in the turret forward, a 10-inch gun on the poop, and a battery of twelve 6-inch guns, which was protected by thin armor. In one of the Admiral NIE 1905 Ship, Armored - Majestic.jpg
(Magnificent class).
class and in the Victoria and Sanspareil the very heavy gun reached its maximum in weight. In the next ships laid down the weight was reduced from 110 tons to 67, and the calibre from 16.25 inches to 13.5. These ships, the Nile and Trafalgar, were great improvements on their predecessors, and, although their auxiliary batteries were weak, they were well protected, as was the hull. The next design was that of the Royal Sovereign class of 14,150 tons, the first of which was laid down in 1889; in these vessels the modern battleship is foreshadowed, but it was not until the Magnificent class (1893) that the principal details were well settled. These carried 12-inch guns in turrets and 6-inch guns in armored sponsons. The later ships resembled these quite closely, but in the Bulwark class (1899) the water-line belt was carried to the bow instead of merely covering the vitals amidships, and in the Albion (1898) and Commonwealth (1901) classes it was carried to both bow and stern. In the last named four guns of 9.2-inch calibre were added to the auxiliary battery of 6-inch pieces, and the displacement was brought up to 16,350 tons.

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In French ships the complete water-line belt, extending from stem to stern, was invariably retained. For many years the heavy guns of all French battleships were mounted high above the water in barbettes, one in each (never in pairs—in order to prevent the disabling of two guns by one shot). The arrangement of the heavy guns differed from the practice in other navies; one was placed on the forecastle, one each side amidships. The importance of an auxiliary battery of guns of medium size was never lost sight of in French designs, though for many years they were unprotected by armor, the Brennus, commenced in 1888, being the first in which armor protection was afforded them. In 1893 the Charlemagne class was commenced; in these vessels the heavy guns were mounted, as in American and British battleships, in pairs in turrets forward and aft, and this plan has been followed in all subsequent designs.

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The Italian navy has shown greatest originality of design, though many of the ships have never been approved by other naval authorities. The Italians early grasped the fact that powerful vessels must be large and did not hesitate to accept great dimensions. Following the Dandolo and Duilio of nearly 12,000 tons, which have already been mentioned, they built the enormous nondescripts Italia and Lepanto of over 15,000 tons. These great vessels have no side armor whatever, but in a large diagonally placed barbette, 19 inches thick, are mounted four 17-inch guns weighing 100 tons each. These were followed by three vessels of about 11,200 tons, also carrying four 100-ton guns, but having the water line protected by armor for about half the length amidships. The Sicilia, Sardegna, and Re Umberto, of 13,300 to 13,900 tons, begun in 1884, were originally planned as improved Italias without side armor, but when completed more than half the whole side from water line to upper deck was covered with 4-inch plating as a defense against small-calibre rapid-firing guns, and they were the first vessels to be so protected. In the next designs the Italians adopted the 8-inch gun as an intermediate calibre, mounting it much as it is placed in American battleships. In their newest vessels the whole auxiliary battery is made up of 8-inch guns and the speed is put at 21.5 knots, at least 2.5 knots greater than that of any other battleships built or building.

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For many years after the formation of the Empire Germany was content to remain in the second rank of naval powers, but in 1889 she began the construction of four battleships of 10,000 tons, which were remarkable from the fact that they carried six 11-inch guns in pairs in three turrets on the midship line. These vessels in 1903 were undergoing alterations with a view to removing the middle turret and its guns. From 1889 the building of battleships proceeded steadily. The ten succeeding ships are remarkable for the smallness of their principal guns (9.4-inch, a calibre adopted to secure rapid loading) and the ingenuity of distributing and mounting the guns to secure wide arcs of fire. The battleships commenced in 1901-02 are of similar design, but they carry 11-inch guns.

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U. S. S. TEXAS, 1889.

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U. S. S. OREGON, 1891.

In the United States no armored vessels except monitors were built until the small battleships Maine and Texas were begun in 1889. About two years later the larger battleships Indiana, Massachusetts, and Oregon of 10,280 tons were commenced. A prejudice still existed against ‘high-sided’ armorclads, and these were designated as ‘coast-line battleships’ and given very moderate freeboard. They were very remarkable ships for their day. Their speed was rather low than high—but the battery was powerful and included, in addition to four 13-inch guns, a powerful auxiliary battery of eight 8-inch and four 6-inch guns. The possession of 8-inch guns makes them still formidable foes for the most recent European battleships, for shells from these guns will at battle range pierce the armor protecting any auxiliary battery afloat. Two years later juster ideas of the true uses of a naval force permitted the building of the Iowa (11,340 tons), which was frankly called a ‘sea-going battleship.’ She was followed by the Kentucky and Kearsarge of 11,525 tons. These vessels embodied many new ideas, the most talked of being the superposed turrets of the 8-inch guns, which were placed on top of the turrets of the 13-inch. The second peculiarity is the arrangement of the guns in a long central battery (but separated by 1.5-inch steel screens) behind continuous armor; the side amidships is thus completely armored. The third point of interest is the wide application of electricity—every piece of auxiliary machinery outside the engine and fire rooms being driven by electric motors. In the next ships, the Alabama, Illinois, and Wisconsin (11,525 tons—completed 1901), and the Maine, Missouri, and Ohio (12,500 tons, completed in 1902-03), the 8-inch guns were omitted, following the European practice. This mistake was corrected in the next five ships, the Georgia, New Jersey, Nebraska, Virginia, and Rhode Island (15,000 tons, commenced in 1901), which have superposed 8-inch turrets over the 12-inch guns and another pair of 8-inch guns in a turret on each side amidships; in addition, a battery of twelve 6-inch guns is provided. In the next two ships, commenced about the end of 1902, the Connecticut and Louisiana (16,000 tons), the 8-inch guns were retained, but arranged over the central superstructure, nearly as in the Oregon; the four 12-inch guns are mounted as in all recent American battleships; and in addition to the 8-inch, there is an auxiliary battery of twelve 7-inch guns. These ships are much the most strongly armed ships so far designed for any navy.

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U. S. S. KEARSARGE, 1895.

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U. S. S. MAINE, 1898.

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U. S. S. GEORGIA, 1901.

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As regards belt armor, the vessels of the Oregon class have water-line belts extending for little over half the length amidships; the Iowa’s belt is proportionately much longer; in the Kearsarge and Alabama classes the belt is extended to the bow; while in the Maine, Georgia, and Connecticut types it extends to the stern as well. Reference to the cut in the article Shipbuilding, showing a midship section of a modern battleship, will illustrate the arrangement of the armor.

We have so far considered battleships only. Many ships are more lightly armed and armored, but are given high speed and a large coal supply. These are called armored cruisers. At first, armored cruisers were rather small, and the armor confined chiefly to a belt at the water line. While older vessels, designed as battleships, partake of the character of cruisers, the first armored cruisers designed as such were the Imperieuse and Warspite, of the British navy. They were completed in 1886-88, but were designed about 1881. The armor consists of a short water-line belt and shallow barbettes for the four principal guns. The first innovation was the French Dupuy de Lôme, commenced in 1888 and finished about 1892. With the exception of a small area at the bow her sides are completely covered with 4-inch armor from the water line to the upper deck, and, in addition, she has armored barbettes for her principal guns. She was followed by other French ships almost equally covered—the armor a little thinner—but later types in all navies have much less area of side covered. In order to provide adequate sustained speed in heavy seas and to carry large supplies of coal, armor, and armament, the size of armored cruisers has grown until now many of them exceed 14,000 tons in displacement and approach the most powerful battleship in armament and protection. Such, for instance, are the Tennessee and Washington of the United States Navy, which were commenced about the end of 1902. They are 502 feet long, and have a displacement of 14,500 tons, while their battery consists of four 10-inch guns, sixteen 6-inch, twenty-two 3-inch, twelve 3-pounders, four 1-pounders, and eight automatic and machine guns.

The third type of armorclad is the coast-defense ship. The ordinary type of armored coast-defense ship is the improved monitor, of somewhat similar design, a vessel carrying heavy ordnance, and fairly thick armor, with light draught and good manœuvring qualities. Coal capacity, habitability, seaworthiness, and (usually) speed are sacrificed to keep the dimensions within moderate limits. Many small countries have built coast-defense ships on these lines, realizing their inability to maintain an adequate naval force to assume offensive operations against a first-class power. In the greater navies the coast-defense ships are largely vessels of obsolete types, many of them designed originally as sea-going ships, but now unfit for modern offensive operations. For the defense of certain harbors and channels the United States has recently built several improved monitors and a few powerful coast defenders have recently been completed by France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Russia. Many of them are thoroughly seaworthy ships, however, and only regarded as in the coast defense class because of their size and moderate coal supply.

Bibliography. For further information, consult: Annual of the Office of Naval Intelligence (United States Navy), particularly for the year 1889 and subsequent volumes; Brassey, Naval Annual (Portsmouth, England); Laughton (ed.), The Naval Pocket Book (London, annual); Aide-mémoire de l'officier de marine (Paris, annual); Taschenbuch der deutschen und der fremden Kriegsflotten (Munich, annual); Almanach für die kaiserliche und königliche Kriegs-Marine (Pola, annual); Brassey, British Navy, vol. i., “Shipbuilding for Purposes of War” (Portsmouth, 1885); Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute (published quarterly at Annapolis, Maryland), particularly vol. ix., No. 3; Army and Navy Year Book for 1895 and 1896 (Philadelphia); Journal of the Society of Naval Engineers (published quarterly at Washington); the Proceedings of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (published annually, New York); Nauticus (annual, Berlin); Transactions of the Institution of Naval Architects (published annually, London); Wilmot, The Development of Navies (London, 1892); Very, The Navies of the World (ib., 1880); King, The Warships of Europe (Portsmouth, 1878); Bennitt, The Monitor and the Navy Under Steam (Boston, 1900); Buchard, Marines étrangères (Paris, 1891); annual reports of the Secretary of the Navy. See articles on Armor Plate; Guns, Naval, etc.


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