Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

The North American review (Volume 139) online

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" machine " is not considered applicable to them.

I purpose to consider separately the employment of machine
guns, first for naval and secondly for military purposes. For
naval use, the first of the three classes of weapons rifle- caliber ma
chine guns must be subdivided into three sections, viz., heavy,
medium, and light guns, dependent upon the total weight of the
weapon, and not on the number of its barrels. Heavy rifle-cali
ber machine guns would comprise all such weapons as are of
too great weight, and occupy too much space, to be conveniently
mounted in the tops of a ship, or in the smaller boats of the
vessel, or cannot be moved with ease by men with drag-ropes
when employed in shore operations. The Gardner five-barrel,
the Gatling ten-barrel, and the Nordenf elt twelve, ten, and seven-
barrel guns, are representatives of the heavy rifle-caliber machine
guns. Still, the term " heavy JJ can only be applied compara
tively, for the heaviest of the above-named guns the Gardner
five-barrel and the Nordenf elt twelve-barrel weigh only about
two hundred and eighty pounds each, while the seven-barrel gun
of the latter system weighs only one hundred and thirty-eight
pounds. Medium rifle-caliber machine guns comprise those
which can be conveniently placed in the tops and smaller boats
of a ship, and which do not require animal transport on shore,
but can be drawn or carried by the men of the gun detachment.
The Gardner two-barrel and Nordenfelt and Gatling five-barrel
guns are representatives of this section. Lastly, are those rifle-
caliber machine guns which are exceptionally light, such as the
Gardner single-barrel and the Nordenfelt three, two, and single-
barrel guns. With the exception of the three-barrel weapon of
the latter system, weighing some fifty-six pounds, it is exceed
ingly doubtful whether any of the guns of this section possess
really practical advantages over a good repeating rifle.

Till lately, the Montigny (thirty-seven barrels) and the
Gatling (ten barrels) rifle-caliber machine guns were the only


naval weapons of this nature in general use, and practically the
only representatives of that class, the former being employed
in the Italian navy, and the latter in the American, English,
Russian, and other navies ; whilst now we find included in the
small-bore, or rifle-caliber class of machine guns, specially
devised weapons for the particular work they are required to
perform, which have in common the property of great rapidity
of fire, and automatic loading, firing, and extracting mechanism.

The vast improvement effected in the construction of machine
guns of rifle caliber will be at once apparent from a glance at the
following statement : The Gatling ten-barrel gun, above referred
to, weighs four hundred and fifty pounds, and its rate of fire
for one minute is about five hundred shots ; while the Nordenfelt
and the improved Gatling ten-barrel guns, weighing each about
two hundred and thirty pounds, can fire a thousand shots a
minute. Again, the Nordenfelt five-barrel gun, which weighs
but one hundred and twenty-eight pounds, has a greater rapidity
of fire than the original pattern Gatling ten-barrel gun. Lastly,
the Montigny, with its thirty-seven barrels, weighs three hun
dred and seventy pounds, and fires only three hundred shots a
minute, not so great a rapidity as the Nordenfelt three-barrel

The heavy weapons are intended partly for ship defense and
partly for the armament of the small cutters, life-boats, etc.,
of a man-of-war. The medium weapons would be the most
generally useful, as they can be employed for a variety of pur
poses, but are more particularly intended for mounting in the
tops of a ship and for service on shore as naval landing guns.
The medium rifle-caliber machine guns would probably form the
entire equipment of troop-ships, dispatch vessels, gunboats, and
such craft. The light weapons seem to have no actual place in
naval machine-gun armaments, unless it be the Nordenfelt
three-barrel gun for mounting in the tops of the smaller ships,
or as an exceptionally light and handy landing gun. The
necessity for the employment of a weapon such as the heavy
or medium rifle-caliber machine gun, in modern naval war
fare, results from the fact that the crews of even our largest
men-of-war are numerically very much weaker than those of
the line-of -battle ships of twenty years ago. And though, as far
as iron-clads are concerned, no deliberate attempt to board may
be made, yet, owing to the introduction of the ram, this function


of naval warfare will often be rendered obligatory by two ships,
which have failed in an attempt to ram, falling aboard and
becoming locked together. In such case the success of an
attempt to board by one or other of the ships' crews will
depend in a great measure on the actual power of rifle fire that
can be brought into play to sweep a clear passage for the first
rush of the boarders.

In future naval engagements, whether between fleets or
single ships, the ram will form the principal engine of attack,
thus affording to the rifle-caliber machine gun every opportunity
for proving the effectiveness and the deadly nature of its fire,
by sweeping an enemy's decks, and pouring into her gun-ports
and tops a hail of rifle bullets, and by discharging volley after
volley against the conning towers, in the probability that one or
more of the bullets will pass through the loop-holes or directing-
ports and kill, wound, or at least distract the attention of, the
officers and men confined therein to such a degree that at the
critical moment the enemy may be placed in a position favorable
to being rammed, or, on the other hand, prevented from deliv
ering her ram attack with any chance of success. Then, as the
armament of the smaller boats of a man-of-war, the rifle-caliber
machine gun, both heavy and medium, is exceedingly effective,
whether for covering the debarkation or embarkation of troops
or naval brigades, for expeditions necessitating the penetration
of an enemy's country by river, for cutting-out expeditions, for
capturing slave vessels, or for other boat service For naval
landing purposes the medium rifle-caliber machine gun is par
ticularly adapted, as this service usually requires a weapon
possessing considerable rapidity of fire so as to counter
balance, as far as possible, the numerical weakness of naval
parties employed on shore and capable of being dragged with
the greatest facility over rough ground by a few men.

We now come to the consideration of the class of machine
guns that, though having a much larger caliber than those
previously treated of, are not permitted by the Geneva Con
vention to fire other than solid shot. Those powers that have
not subscribed to this Convention are at liberty to use any kind
of ammunition, no matter what the caliber of the weapon may
be. But, apart from the fact that such a mode of warfare would
be condemned by all civilized nations as unfair and barbarous,
no practical object is gained by the use of very small shells,

VOL. cxxxix. -NO. 335. 27


such as would have to be discharged from weapons having a
caliber of one inch and under, while considerable danger would
attend the firing of such small-bore machine guns at the high
rate of discharge common to them, if any kind of shell ammuni
tion were employed. Next are the machine guns of one-inch
caliber, now represented by the Nordenf elt four-barreled and
two-barreled one-inch guns 5 the former, usually termed anti-
torpedo-boat guns, being expressly intended for the defense of
ships against the attack of torpedo boats, while the latter are
employed by England, Italy, and other powers, as the arma
ment of torpedo boats.

This brings us to one of the most important problems of
modern naval warfare, viz. , the most effective manner in which
to provide ships of war with a defense against the attacks of
torpedo boats armed with the formidable Whitehead torpedo,
or some other similar weapon of offense, such as the Harvey,
rocket, or spar torpedo. Numerous devices have been proposed
from time to time, but a special form of machine-gun arma
ment promises to meet the requirements better than any other
contrivance that has yet been discovered. This remark applies
more particularly to vessels under way, for rarely should a fair
opportunity be accorded to the torpedo boat for making an
attack on a vessel at anchor. Should circumstances force the
ship to place herself in such a position, then of course some
external means of protection, such as nets, booms, guard-boats,
etc., must be resorted to ; and whether she is under way or at
anchor, the electric light will, of course, be employed with con
siderable advantage.

The vast importance of this question has been very generally
admitted by the naval powers, with the result that during
the past three or four years numerous and exhaustive experi
ments have been instituted in Europe and elsewhere, for the pur
pose of obtaining the most effective anti-torpedo-boat machine
gun ; and thus we now find either the Nordenf elt four-barreled
one-inch gun or the Hotchkiss five-barreled thirty-seven-milli
meter (about an inch and a half) shell gun forming a compo
nent part of the armament of most ships of war, especially the
iron-clads. These weapons, though intended for the same work,
differ so very materially that it may be interesting to note the
points special to each. The Nordenf elt fires only solid shot j the
Hotchkiss, solid or shell projectiles. The former can discharge


either single shots or volleys of four shots, while the latter can
only fire single shots. The Hotchkiss is a revolving cannon, and
has rotatory crank motion, while the Nordenf eltfs barrels are
fixed and in the same horizontal plane, and its firing-lever has
a forward and backward movement. Lastly, the Nordenf elt is
elevated and trained by screw gear provided with wheels, while
the Hotchkiss is aimed by means of a shoulder-piece. Which of
these weapons is best suited to the purpose of providing ships
with an efficient defense against the attack of torpedo boats, is a
question involving too many technical considerations to be dis
cussed in this paper ; and besides, this matter has become still
more complicated by the recent construction of a Nordenfelt
double-barreled one-and-a-half -inch shell gun. Thus the prob
lem to be solved is not alone that of slow-firing shell machine
guns, as compared with solid-shot rapid volley-firing machine
guns, but further, whether a double-barreled shell machine
gun, capable of firing volleys of two shots, is preferable to the
former style of weapon.

It was erroneously supposed, when this question was first
considered, that the Hotchkiss gun combined the functions
of an anti-torpedo-boat weapon and those of an ordinary naval
shell machine gun ; but now these functions are seen to require
each a special kind of machine gun, for otherwise the essen
tial features of the former weapon rapidity of discharge and
volley fire must be sacrificed to the essential features of the
latter weapon great penetrative power, or vice versa. Suffice
it to say, that either of these machine guns, if properly handled,
will render the torpedo-boat attack a service of extreme difficulty
and danger.

The experience of the Chili- Peruvian war, as well as the fact
that torpedo boats are now increasing both in number and size,
necessitates their being equipped with some kind of gun defense.
This has led to the construction of the two-barreled one-inch
machine gun, power, rapidity of fire, lightness, compactness,
etc., being its leading features. At the same time, an especially
light single-barreled shell machine gun is preferred by some
for this work, and in a few instances a rifle-caliber machine
gun has been adopted for the torpedo-boat armament.

The next subject for consideration is the introduction of
light and heavy rapid-firing single-barreled shell guns. The
weapons that now form the light naval armament have a


great many objectionable features j in fact, are in no particular
qualified for the work they are intended to be used for. These
guns, which vary but slightly in all navies, are cumbersome,
and have small penetrative power, a comparatively low degree
of accuracy, and an exceedingly slow rate of discharge j while
the class of rapid-firing shell guns affords an exceedingly power
ful and effective naval armament, whether for use in ships, in
boats, or on shore, as the features of considerable penetrative
power, high degree of accuracy, rapidity of fire, and handiness
are common to them ; besides which, this class of weapon has
the advantage of using the made-up cartridge. Comparing the
ordinary naval light gun with the rapid-firing shell gun, there
is to be found only one point of superiority on the side of
the former, viz., the discharge of heavier and larger shells, which
means a greater number of splinters, more effect, and larger area
covered by the bursting of a shell projectile of the former
weapon, when compared with the bursting of a similar projectile
fired from the latter gun. However, this advantage only remains
when shell for shell is compared ; for if we suppose both the
weapons to fire for a certain period of time, then this point of
superiority for the present naval light gun will not be sustained.
A six-pounder rapid-firing shell gun discharges, when aimed
between each shot, twelve projectiles in one minute, while an
ordinary naval twelve-pounder gun can only fire at the rate of
two shots a minute. Thus, in firing continuously for one
minute, the latter would discharge two projectiles, equivalent to
twenty-four pounds of metal, or seventy-five shell splinters,
or one hundred and seventy-six shrapnel bullets. The six-
pounder rapid-firing gun would, in the same time, discharge
twelve projectiles, equivalent to seventy-two pounds of metal, or
four hundred and eighty shell splinters, or five hundred and
eighty-eight shrapnel bullets ; and the total area of destructive
effect produced by these twelve six-pound shells or shrapnels
would be considerably greater than in the case of the two twelve-
pound shells. The continuous bursting of shell or shrapnel
discharged from the rapid-firing shell guns, amongst a body of
troops, would prove most serious.

The penetrative power of these rapid-firing guns is exceed
ingly high for their small caliber; for instance, one of them
of one-and-a-half-ineh caliber (Nordenfelt) during some recent
official experiments in Brazil, effected a greater penetration


in a solid two-inch iron plate than a nine-pounder three-inch
gun at the same range. The unarmored cruiser of the present
time, with its thin steel or iron sides, can be perforated by
the two-pounder, three-pounder, and six-pounder rapid-firing
guns, at respectively twenty-four hundred yards, thirty-three
hundred yards, and forty-five hundred yards, and these weap
ons fire with ease from twelve to fifteen aimed shots a minute.
There is yet another advantage to be gained by the introduc
tion of this class of machine guns, which is, that they can be
arranged to be fired from a naval landing carriage without
causing it to run back 5 and thus, by this absence of recoil,
shell after shell can be discharged in rapid succession, with
but slight derangement of aim. If the target presented be a
body of men, as would, of course, be always the case, a very
small variation in the aim is rather advantageous than other
wise, as by this means the shells are spread instead of being
dropped close together, thus enlarging the destructive area.
With the ordinary naval light gun, mounted on its landing car
riage, each shot causes the carriage to run back or recoil several
feet, thus adding another factor adverse to rapid firing} the
others being the separate loading of cartridge and projectile
and the necessity of sponging, all of which are absent in the
system of rapid-firing shell guns, where only one operation, that
of loading by hand, without rammer, is required.

Very little progress has been made in the employment of
machine guns in field service, but there is a growing and de
cided tendency on the part of the military authorities to look
with favor upon their use. The celebrated Russian General
Skobeleff always advocated their employment, though his ex
perience of such weapons was confined to the old pattern of
rifle-caliber machine guns; and Generals Lord Wolseley and
Lord Chelmsford have expressed themselves very strongly and
decidedly in favor of their adoption ; while on the continent
several papers have been read by military officers on the same
subject. The main objections hitherto urged against the intro
duction of rifle-caliber machine guns into the military service,
even for experimental purposes, have been entirely based on the
failure of the French mitrailleuses; but this failure occurred
fourteen years ago, before any of the more important improve
ments in machine guns were made, and it should no longer
operate prejudicially. Yet another cause which has tended to


prevent the introduction of rifle-caliber machine guns has been
the powerful opposition of the artillery, due in a great measure
to an unreasoning and exaggerated fear that these weapons,
if introduced, would threaten the very existence of the field
artillery; but now that those who advocate the employment
of this arm have forsaken their mistaken policy of pitting
rifle-caliber machine guns against field guns, and the actual
purpose of the weapons has at last been grasped, a decided
reaction in favor of their employment in the field is evident.
The object of rifle-caliber machine guns, as at present con
structed, is to provide either of the other branches of the
military service with an exceedingly powerful rifle fire, by
means of weapons having the property of mobility in the
highest degree. Such pieces should be treated as merely a
cluster of rifle-barrels so arranged as to afford a greater power
of rifle fire than is possible to be obtained from a similar number
of rifles in the hands of soldiers, while capable of being moved
with as great facility over any ground as infantry, and re
quiring but two or three men for their operation. In a few
words, the use of rifle-caliber machine guns offers to a general
the simplest and most effective means whereby to intensify rifle
fire at any point of his position, without causing the offensive
or defensive power of any other part to be weakened for this

Rapid-firing single-barreled shell guns possess some exceed
ingly important features for the military service, whether used
in the field, as mountain guns, or for the armament of for
tifications and earthworks. The properties that most strongly
recommend these guns for service in the field are rapid fire,
little or no recoil of gun-carriage, mobility, simplicity of
mechanism and manipulation, and, lastly, the use of made-up or
self-contained cartridges. It is difficult to conceive of more suit
able guns for light horse artillery. Take, for instance, a battery
of six rapid-firing three-pounder shell guns, each capable of dis
charging eight projectiles in half a minute, with deliberate aim
between each shot. A battery of this nature could in this short
period of time deliver forty-eight projectiles, equivalent to one
hundred and forty-four pounds of metal ; and if common shells
were used, with one thousand four hundred and forty splinters,
or for shrapnel shells, with two thousand and sixteen lead bul
lets. Such a rain of bursting shells would create terrible con-


fusion, and have a most demoralizing and destructive effect if
thrown amongst a body of troops ; while if directed against earth
works or houses, the continuous fire of shell after shell would
soon produce considerable damage. The comparative lightness
of these weapons would permit of their being provided with an
effective shield protection without reducing to any serious extent
their property of mobility j besides, the additional weight of this
shield would permit of a larger powder charge being used, with
a corresponding increase in initial velocity, accuracy, and power.
Three-pounder guns have been referred to, but six-pounders
are also adapted for field service, by allowing them to recoil and
automatically return to their original positions without causing
their carriages to run back.



So PERSISTENT has been the misrepresentation of the Ameri
can policy of protection, and so ingeniously have its opponents
employed the arts of sophistry to bring odium upon it, that though
that policy has been the means of increasing the wealth of the
United States to an extent without parallel, the adherents of one
of our great political parties, numbering nearly half of the voters
of the country, are supposed to be ready practically to abolish
the system. The advocates of free trade assume the title of
tariff-reformers; but their purpose is the destruction of the
tariff system, not its reform. A reformed protective tariff
should promote effectually the development of home industries ;
and that is the test of every project that purports to aim at
tariff reform. Does it tend to favor the production here,
rather than abroad, of the articles that we need f Does it tend
to develop the natural resources of our own country, and to call
into full play all the energies of the American people f If not,
its object and tendency is eradication, not reform ; retrogression,
not progress.

Our political economists and our law-makers, if they would
deal understandingly with the questions of free trade and pro
tection, should, first of all, ascertain what is the full measure of
our natural resources above and beneath the soil, and should
have a clear apprehension of all the bearings of these questions
upon the social condition of our whole people. The value of a
manufactured article is made up almost entirely of the amount
of labor expended in its production, and this is as true of the ton
of ore taken out of the earth and made into a railroad truck as
of the most ingenious piece of mechanism ever contrived ; hence,
in fixing the price of any product of American manufacture
which is done when the law-maker fixes the tariff at which a
competing foreign product is admissible account must be



taken of the price paid here and in foreign countries respectively,
for the same amount and kind of labor, also of the respective
rates of interest. In whatever specious phrases the builders of
a party platform may express their concern for the welfare of the
workingman, if they are not prepared to offer without ambiguity
such a tariff on foreign manufactured goods as will cover the
difference between the percentage of the cost represented by the
wages and interest current in foreign countries and the
wages and interest current in the United States respectively,
their professions of friendship for the workingman must be
largely discounted, and their declarations in favor of cherishing
American industries will be seen to be a very transparent dis
guise. The test that the great army of workers must apply to
all party platforms is one that the most skillful concocter of
honeyed phrases cannot hope to elude j it is this : Does the
party you represent favor the imposition on all imported manu
factures of such a tariff as will bring the price up to what the same
article would cost if manufactured here by American working-
men, receiving such wages as they are accustomed to receive,
and by American capital receiving such interest as is customary
in this country f No " tariff for revenue only," no " tariff for
incidental protection/ 7 will stand this test.

The proportion of the cost of a manufactured article repre
sented respectively by the raw material, and the wages of the
labor employed in the process of manufacture, presents an in
teresting subject of inquiry. I am able to furnish from my own
experience a few facts that throw some light upon it. Two or
three years ago, in conjunction with some friends, I built a
blast-furnace and rolling-mill which cost upward of $500,000.
Of this sum not less than ninety-five per cent, was expended for
labor, and not over five per cent, for the raw material. When

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 36 of 60)