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[77]

This demonstration made by the Confederacy of the power of armored ships set all the great naval, powers to building ironclad navies.

At a vast cost of time and money and of terrible disaster to themselves, the French led off with a great fleet of ironclads, which kept the sea in a gale of wind in the Bay of Biscay, and made England anxious about her naval supremacy.

England at once built the Captain, the Iron Duke, the Vanguard and others of that class of ships that could withstand any artillery then in use, and at the same time keep the sea in any weather. Of these the Captain was the last completed, and the most approved by naval men of all ironclads at that time afloat. One day she was cruising with the ironclad fleet. Her commander was Captain Burgoyne, and on board of her was Captain Cowper Coles, who had designed her. The squadron was well out to sea. The wind freshened. The order to shorten sail came too late for the Captain. She careened heavily. The sea piled upon her, bore her over, and she went down, bottom up, in sixty fathoms of water, carrying with her over six hundred officers and men.

The ship went down like a diving-bell, full of air, and many of her men lived for hours, perhaps for days, in consciousness of their fearful fate. Soon after this awful calamity the Iron Duke narrowly escaped the same terrible fate. The Vanguard went down with six hundred men. Of her whole crew not one escaped. A little later the Grosser Kurfurst foundered, carrying down her whole crew of over one thousand men.

To balance this fearful suicidal destruction of armored ships, we can only point to the sinking, in the harbor of Lissa, of an Italian ironclad by an Austrian, during the late war between Austria and Italy.

Napoleon's great fleet attempted to enter one of the German Baltic ports during the Franco-Prussian war. Colonel Von Sheliha, the engineer who had so well guarded Mobile with torpedoes, was charged by Von Moltke with the torpedo defence of the German ports.

In entering one of them, the leading French ship was struck by a torpedo, whereupon the whole of that great fleet returned to Cherbourg, where it has been rusting and rotting ever since.

During the last war between Russia and Turkey, the great ironclad fleet of the Turks, after losing four ships sunk by Russian torpedoes, was paralyzed and useless for the rest of the war.


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