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[521]

It would not be just to conclude this account without acknowledging that the delays which occurred in the execution of Captain Blakely's contract were due to the difficulties which were encountered in the first efforts to produce guns of these dimensions and of such great strength; and the difficulties did not cease when the guns were finished. There were but three lathes in England large enough to turn them, and Knapp only could bore the 18-inch ingots of such steel. When the first 11-inch guns were finished, no steamers could be found willing to transport them from Hull to London; and it was only after much time that trucks were found capable of carrying such weight upon the railroads. The British Government would not have consented to their proof at Woolwich Arsenal, with the knowledge that they were intended for our use; and a fiction had to be set afloat, and carefully kept alive, that they were for the Russian Government. This was so well done, that, after the account of their proof appeared in the Times, the Russian military officers in London applied to know when they were to be delivered, and were surprised to learn that they were already at sea, on their voyage to America. The first gun, on being hoisted out of the lighter at Woolwich, carried away the crane, and, falling through the bottom of the lighter, sunk the whole; when landed, the bridge across the moat of Woolwich Arsenal had to be strengthened before they could be drawn across it to the proving ground; and so great was the interest felt in the result, that numbers of English artillery officers and cannon-founders attended the proof. Great was their surprise at seeing a bolt weighing 533 pounds, driven by fifty pounds of English powder, penetrate thirty-one feet into the rammed earth of the abatis. The difficulties of shipment were also great. A portion of the 8-inch guns were sent one day to Portsmouth, where it was supposed they belonged to the British Government, until, to the surprise of the townspeople and officials, as well as of the passengers, one of the Bremen line of steamers came in, and took them quickly on board. Colonel Ritchie was also closely watched, and had, for the first ten days, devoted himself to putting the detectives who followed him on a wrong scent.

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