The sheathing of ships-of-war with iron is a subject which has engaged of late the profound attention of European Governments.--Although the discussion of the merits of such vessels has not ceased in naval circles, they can no longer be considered an experiment.-- Louis Napoleon
, whose fertile genius availed itself of the hints and efforts of former projectors in this line, has the credit of being the first to put them in successful execution.
The public cannot have forgotten the mortifying shortcomings of the English Navy
in the Crimean war. If there is anything that England
justly prides herself on it is her Navy, and never was it more powerful and efficient than in the beginning of the Russian
contest — Such a fleet as Sir Charles Napier
took to the Baltic
, to say nothing of the squadron in the Black Sea
, the world had never before seen.
We doubt whether the combined navies of the world could have held the ocean an hour in the presence of such an enemy.
But the English Navy
did literally nothing in the Crimean war.--The small Russian
navy kept very prudently under the protection of its fortresses, and those the fleets dared not attack.
Sir Chas. Napier
invited the Russian Admiral
to come out, and the Commandant of Cronstadt
invited Sir Charles to come in invitations which neither was in a hurry to accept.--Whenever a ship ventured to attack even a small land battery, it was invariably worsted.
These results prompted Louis Napoleon
to try the experiment of sheathing gunboats with iron, which was accomplished in time to enable a number of them to engage in the attack upon the Russian
fortifications of Kinburm, which resulted in complete success, the fortifications being silenced, and the gunboats, though often struck by the enemy's balls, being scarcely injured at all. The next experiment of the Emperor
was sheathing large ships in the same manner, the frigate La Gloire
being the first attempt, and it is claimed entirely successful.
Although never tested in battle, she has made several cruises one in rough weather, which showed that her qualities as a sea-boat were not impaired by the iron sheathing.
It is believed that this vessel, thus protected, could whip a small squadron of frigates of her own size.
At any rate, the Emperor
is so satisfied of it that he has had a dozen more constructed in the same manner, and the English Government
is following his example.
It is true, the old seamen of the British
service, who opposed the introduction of steam and every other innovation upon established usages, scout the iron sheathed vessels, but the significant fact remains that England
, not withstanding the enormous expense she has already incurred by converting her whole sailing navy into a steam navy, is building one vessel on this new plan for every one that is built at the French
, where iron is not as accessible as in England
, the vessels are wooden vessels, sheathed with iron; in England
, iron is preferred, we believe, for the whole vessel.
Under these circumstances, the construction of one or two iron of steel-plated vessels by the Confederate Government would seem to be the dictate of true policy.
We have little doubt that a single vessel of this kind would sink the whole blockading squadron in Hampton Roads
, and assist materially in the reduction of the fortress.
The subject is worthy the grave consideration and the prompt action of the Government