Copyright
Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de Marmont.

The spirit of military institutions online

. (page 9 of 33)
Online LibraryAuguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de MarmontThe spirit of military institutions → online text (page 9 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


tion of certain principles, the public and the military authorities will care very
little whether the principles themselves are new or old. By Mr. Whitworth's plan
of reducing the diameter of the shot, and, therefore, the boro of the gun, he con-
tends that not only are the range and accuracy increased, but the gun itself can
be constructed of the same relative strength of metal, though nearly two-thirds
lightor than the ordinary brass guns. The value of this reduction in weight, by
allowing fewer horses and fewer men to manœuvre heavier guns at greater speed»
must be apparent to any one, more especially to those who have seen what a very
little way the largest transports in the service go toward transporting two or three
ordinary field batteries, with their present complement of twenty-one wagons and
carriages, two hundred and fifty horses, and some two hundred and fifty men.

The colebrated 3-pounder gun of Whitworth, with carriage and limber complete,
could bo brought into action, and manoeuvred and served with the utmost rapidity,
by two horses and two men only. In this respect, however, the Whitworth gun has
no advantage over that of Armstrong; on the contrary, as far as we have yet seen,
the Armstrong large guns are much lighter.

It has been stated that the Armstrong 70-pounders can be worked by five men as
easily as the old smooth-bore 68-poundor by seventeen; and the precision of fire
attainable by it is alleged, by competent authority, to be fifty times greater than
that obtained with the ordinary servico gun, throwing solid shot of equal weight,
each at a distance of ono thousand yards ; indeed, it is said to be six times more



MILITARY INSTITUTIONS. 83

accurate at three thousand than the ordinary smooth-bore gun at one thousand
yards.

With reference to range, however, Sir William Armstrong himself states that,
beyond a certain distance, range, for general purposes, has no practical value, and
that as for artillerymen firing in the field at objects five miles distant, without any
clue to guide them but their eye, they might as well firo at the moon. It is not
only a question of which shot goes furthest, but what the shot effects when it does
roach the mark. The formation of his gun, ho states, has not been his chief or only
object— which, in fact, has boon as much directed to inventing the most destructive
projectile.

To secure this all-important object he has been compelled to give up, toacertain
extent, the attainment of an immense range, and increase the diameter of his gun
in order to enable it to carry the Armstrong shell, which, for terrible destructive-
ness, deserves to be almost moro celebrated than the gun itself. Thus he states
that, as yet, no fair comparison can be drawn between the results he has achieved
While trying only for destructive effect, and the results obtained by a gun which
was merely fired for range.

The real test as to their merits, both ho and Mr. Whitworth very justly maintain,
can only bo got by putting the two guni side by side, and trying them under
similar conditions for range, accuracy, and, above all, for destructive effect.
. The introduction into the service of either the Armstrong or the Whitworth
effective and, comparatively, light guns, will probably prove a check to experiments
for the construction of huge pieces of ordnance, such as Mallet's two thirty-six inch
mortars, which, it is said, were made at a cost of £40,000, and one of them was dis-
abled by a charge of forty pounds of powder, although the full charge should have
been four hundred pounds/ These would seem, however, to be mere pocket-pieces
compared with one, the proper material for the construction of which was alluded
to by Captain Blakely, R.A., in a lecture delivered at the Royal United Service
Institution. Tho monster mortar contemplated by this gallant officer was to be of
sixty inches calibre, to throw seven tons ten miles!

Sir W. Armstrong claims to have constructed his gun on certain fundamental
principles; these Mr. Whitworth disregards, and forms his gnu as unlike Sir Wil-
liam's in principle as two guns can well be.

The Whitworth gun, as distinguished from the Armstrong, is bored from one
solid cylinder of homogeneous iron. There is no rifling, as is generally understood
by the term, in the bore, which is a plain hexagon, making one complete turn,
which varies witli the diameter of the gun. Thus there is one turn in about eight
feet in the largest guns (from 50 to 120-pounders), one complete turn in five feet in
the medium-sized ordnance (12 to .TJ-pounders^and one complete turn in three feet
four inches in the small guns, or from 3 to 12-pounders. All the guns above 18-
pounders are hooped round with rings of iron forced on by hydraulic pressure — an
additional strength which is apparently not required, and which, in weight, gives
the Armstrong guns, of the same calibres, a most important advantage. The
breech-loading arrangement is a hinge at the end of the gun supporting a hoop of
iron, in which is the breech <>r rap. which screws on to the end of the piece. The
shot is of cast-iron, and in form precisely like a nincpin. with its thickest part at
the middle pared off. to fit with mechanical precision tho hexagonal nid«s of the
bore. Thus the projectile haï a hnarillf surface on the whole of the barrel, and

runs fit'cly in or out of the mm. so thai in H f an enemy's shot striking the

breech and jamming the «crew, or ot hei injury to it. the gun could be used an a
muzzle-loader with the HUM fi'ility as an ordinary smooth bore field-piece. We



84 THE SPIRIT OF

need scarcely say that this is not the case with the Armstrong; anything happening
to the arrangement of the breech at once rendering the gun useless, till another
breech is fitted on at the factories at Elswick or Woolwich.

With the Whit worth gun there is no chamber for the reception of shot and pow-
der — an advantage of the utmost importance. The Armstrong chamber adds to the
length of the gun, without being rifled, or assisting in impelling the shot in any
way. With the Whitworth, the gun is rifled throughout its entire length from
end to end, and every inch is used to aid the flight and give rotation to the pro-
jectile. From the chamber in the Armstrong being of a certain size, it follows
that only shot of a certain length can be used. In the Whitworth, on the con-
trary, it is contended that shots of any length, or a charge of powder of any
strength, can be used indifferently. Thus the 3, 12 and 80-pounders are, in fact,
only guns of the calibre we mention, as long as they are required to throw a
distance of five or five and a half miles. Reduce this enormous range to the dis-
tance at which long range guns are generally used — say three thousand yards —
and the length of the projectiles of these ordnance may be more than doubled:
the 3-pounder used for nine pound shot, the 12-pounder for thirty-two pounds, and
the 80-pouuder for a shot of even two hundred pounds. In naval warfare, great
weight must be attached to these advantages. 12-pounder boat guns could be used
as 12-pounders or 36-pounders, according to the distance at which they chose to
engage, while ships could double-shot or even treble-shot their broadsido guns as.
they closed with an enemy. The only limit, in fact, to the number of shots with
which the Whitworth can be loaded when engaged at close quarters, is the limit to
the strength of the powder to eject them. Thus, in the course of the experiments
tried to ascertain this fact, it was found that the 3-pounder got rid of ten shots»
placed one over another, at one discharge, but failed to eject eleven, when all the
powder in the charge burnt out like a squib through the touchhole, leaving the
Bhots in the gun.

Captain TMakely has lately advanced a claim to a portion of the world-wide fame
which Sir W. Armstrong and Mr. Whitworth have achieved for themselves by the
invention of their wonderful ordnance. Ho has constructed a new cannon eight
and a half feet long, and weighing only forty-eight hundred woight, which projects
shells of fifty-eight pounds weight to a distance of upwards of a mile and a half,
with only five degrees of elevation — beating, it is alleged, Mr. Whitworth's 80-
ponnder solid shot gun, weighing eighty-four hundred weight, by one hundred
yards, at the same elevation. It has also been asserted that as Captain Blakely's
gun is six inches in bore, and Mr. Whitworth's only four and a half, the initiatory
velocity of the shells from the former must be vastly superior, and their advan-
tages at shorter ranges still greater than at the distance chosen for experiment.

We subjoin, as a further illustration, a debate in the House of Lords on the con-
troversy between the Armstrong and Whitworth guns, on February 9, 1864, which
will prove of interest to artillery officers:

"The Earl of Hardwicke wished to know whether Hor Majesty's ships were sup-
plied with any guns or projectiles that could penetrate the iron plates of a ship's
side four inches and a half thick. This question had a most important bearing upon
the warlike power of this country. By modern improvements the range of mus-
ketry had been so extended that field artillery was commanded by it. Inventors
then set about devising means to meet this altered state of musketry range, and
one invention was produced which excited the wonder of artillerists by length of
range and precision of aim. He was a member of the Cabinet to whom the inven-
tion was made known, and after the most careful consideration of the experiments



MILITARY INSTITUTIONS.



85



made and the results obtained, the government entered into negotiations with Sir
W. Armstrong to superintend the manufacture of guns on his principle for the pub-
lic service. The government then in power was careful to limit the manufacture
to field guns, and he believed those guns wore now regarded as very valuable
weapons. By the peculiar mode of rifling adopted by Sir W. Armstrong, and the,
exact fitting of the projectile to the bore of the gun. breech-loading was necessary,
and in that shape the Armstrong gun was undoubtedly an excellant weapon:

« Soon after a rival appeared to the gun in the form of iron plating for ships. Ex-
periments were made, the result of which was to prove that the old 68-pounder gun
was the most destructive weapon. Immediately afterward appeared another in-
vention of cauuon and projectiles upon a wholly different principle. Ho did not
think the government had done justice to themselves nor to the inventor by the
course they had pursued, although it was not unnatural when another inventor
had been placed at the head of the government manufactory of cannon, and had
expended about two and a half millions of money in producing weapons upon his
principle. The Armstrong guns were found to be ineffective against iron plating,
but nevertheless they formed a portion of the armament of our ships-of-war^
together with 68-pounder guns of the old pattern.

"It appeared that Mr. Whitworth had not been permitted to carry out his
experiments exactly in the mannor he wished, although he was well known as a
man who had devoted much attention to the subject of the manufacture of guns,
and in 1857 had taken out a patent to secure his invention. At last Mr. Whitworth
was permitted to make some experiments, and the House would understand the
reason for the question he was about to put when ho stated that Mr. Whitworth had
never failed to penetrate the iron plating to which his guns were opposed, thus
rendering our iron-plated ships no better than the old wooden ships. That fact
should Induce the government to allow Mr. Whitworth to show all that he could
do; and if that gentleman succeeded in all that he undertook to do the result would
be to relieve this country from a great expenditure, and to give us again a fleot of
ships which could fight and float in the severest weather.

"In May, 1860, an experiment took plan-, of which he believed the noble duke was
a witness. One of Mr. Whitworth's guns was fired against the Trusty, a ship plated
with four-inch iron, originally built for harbor defence. The result of the experi-
ment was that every shot from the Whitworth gun passed clean through the iron
plating. He then brought a heavier gun, and the result was the same. Since then
there had been important experiments at Shoeburyness against targets made
exactly to represent ships' sides. Mr. Whitworth brought a 70-pounder gun and
also a 12-ponnder, and the effect, he understood, was marvellous. At every dis-
charge his shot went clean through the target, and there could be no hesitation as
to the result of his gun on a ship's side.

"He had spoken of sol id projectiles: he now turned to shell. In 1862 Sir William
Armstrong Stated to B scientific society at Sheffield: <It .nay certainly he said that
the shells are of no avail against iron-plated ships, and that neither a 68-pounder
nor a HOpOunder gun with solid, round, or conical shot is effective against them.'
In Hay, 1800, the experiments against the Trusty took place, and he might con-
clude, from what Sir William Armstrong said, that there was no shell firing then.
But Mr. Whitworth's shell went right through the target as if it hid been paper-
maklng frightful haw of the interior lining of the ship. This distinguished aan-

omctnrei had a*w«d ■ 1 '"" vvh:,t '" ha,i ' ' ''"■ iUlfl if he h *' 1 failed in any

Instance it wa* h*c.u,* n ho had b**n w^rkinc with frld c^t iron gun» rifled by

himself.

c



86 THE SPIRIT OF

"Tho armamont of the sea service Armstrong gun might not be useful on board
ship, and would not bear the charge required for heavy artillery. The machinery
was so delicate, and tbe fitting of the vent-piece so nicely adjusted to prevent the
escape of gas, that a gun with anything like a quick discharge became useless in
two or three rounds. Under these circumstances he had thought it his duty to put
thrs question to the noble lord. It was time that the talent» of such inventors as
Mr. Whitworth should be made available by the country, and if his gun and pro-
jectile were such as he believed them to be, the more rapidly they were brought
into the use of the public tho better. The question was, whether Her Majesty's
ships were supplied with a gun and projectile which at once would penetrate a
ship's side plated with iron four and a half inches thick?"

"The Duke of Somerset, who was heard with great difficulty, said, as his noble
friend's question immediately related to tbe navy, it might be more convenient
that be should reply to it, having from the first been acquainted with and taken
part in these experiments. When the present government came into office, in
1859, they found a record in the department strongly approving and praising tho
gun of Sir William Armstrong, and one of his guns had been ordered to be made.
He was very anxious, as the public also was, that the navy should be sup-
plied with a rifled gun ; he therefore communicated with tbe late Lord Herbert
on the subject. A 70-pounder gun was sent to them in November. It was sent
to sea under charge of Sir W. Wiseman, who was to report upon it. In point of
accuracy, and every other quality required, it was pronounced excellent for all
purposes. Accordingly, a certain number of those guns, which were to be 100-
pounders, were ordered. In the meantime it was true, as the noble earl had %
stated, that the question of armor-plates arose; and it was found when tried at
Shoeburyness that the gun, of which the accuracy and power against wooden
ships was tremendous, had not sufficient power against iron plates. Neither the
68-pounder nor the 110-pounder could penetrate the iron plates. If anything, the
68-pouuder struck the beavier blow.

" He then saw Mr. Whitworth, who said to him that he could produce a gun and
projectile that should penetrate the iron plates. The projectile, he said, raudt be
of a very peculiar manufacture, but it could be done. He accordingly communi-
cated with Lord Herbert, who said he was most anxious to try tho experiment.
They went down the river to the Nore, and had the Trusty anchored two hundred
yards off. The gun was fired, and undoubtedly the bolt went right through into
the vessel, and had they gone on with two or three shots more they would have
sunk the vessel. He proposed to Lord Herbert that they should buy that gun ;
they paid Mr. Whitworth a large sum for it, and they continued to try some other
experiments. The misfortune was, that in some of their trials the gun was found
to have a flaw, and eventually it burst. Still, he was in hopes that they should
have some more guns supplied. They frequently tried to obtain other guns from
Mr. Whitworth. He could assure the noble earl, so far from favoring any one
manufacturer— Sir W. Armstrong or any one else— they wore only anxious to get
a gun that would answer for the navy.

"Rather more than a year ago he had further communication with Mr. Whit-
worth, who said the difficulty was as to the material, to get coiled homogeneous
metal; for the gun produced was made at the royal factory at Woolwich.. He
repeated to him that they were most anxious to make a trial of his gun against
that of Sir William Armstrong. From that day to this they had never got tho
gun.

"Mr. Whit worth's inventions were, he admitted, very clever, and he certainly



MILITARY INSTITUTIONS.



87



had no favoritism for one inventor over another. AU he desired was to get a good
gun for the service. Whatever was the quantity of powder they put into tho
gun, if they fired with cast-iron shot, the effect was very trifling. Indeed, they
might almost as well fire mud at the target, unless the projectile was of a very
hard substance. No sooner, however, had they obtained a hard projectile than
not only Mr. Whitworth's, but Sir W. Armstrong's, gun could fire a shot that
would penetrate an iron plate. The iron plate committee, which had watched
these experiments, had not reported that the flat end was of the least importance
to the projectile. Yet they had been left in great difficulty as regarded the navy,
because, although thoy had 130 and 150-pounders which would send a shot through
an iron plate, they had not got a broadside gun that would answer their purpose.
" About a year ago he communicated with his noble friend at the head of the
War department, and with his concurrence sent for Sir W. Armstrong, and told
him that while they were going on with their experiments and trying various
schemes for rifling, which might occupy their attention for months, and it might
be for years, the Admiralty would never get a gun; that thoy really wantod a
plain gnu in the meantime for the use of the navy, which they might charge with
from twenty-five to thirty pounds of powder. Sit W. Armstrong said that that
could easily be furnished; and while such a gun was making he also suggested
that the War department or Sir W. Armstrong should make a gun of from six to
six and a quarter tons weight for the navy, for practical convenience required
some limit to be put upon the weight. Accordingly that gun was produced in
September or October last, and tho results were very satisfactory. The practice
made at from one thousand to twelve hundred yards was accurate. At twenty-six
hundred yards the practice was still good, although inferior to that made by the
rifled 110-pounder. The concussion between the deck* did not appear to be ob-
jectionable; they found no difficulty in training the gun, and when tried in a
gunboat it was as easily controlled as the 68-pounder. The gun was considered
superior for service against iron-plated ships to any gun they had.

"The smooth-bore 110-pounder, with a charge of twenty-five pounds of powder,
penetrated through and through a five and a half inch iron plate with round shot.
That showed that, after all the talk about punch-headed shot, what they wanted
was a good, hard, solid shot. The result, as far as it went, was perfectly satisfac-
tory in regard to the broadside gun. A quantity of these guns had been made
while the experiments going on were in progress, and some of them would be
delivered in a very few weeks. As there was no complexity in their construction,
no breech-loading or rifling, they could be made very fast. At the same time
'that was not all that they wanted. They required a rifled gun of about the same
weight. When they got that they would see whether they lost any advantage
by the rifled gun. One advantage they must lose was that they must have a lower
calibre, and. instead of having a 9-inch bore, they would have one of about seven
inches. They had, therefore, got a rifled gun of the same weight, and were only
waiting for projectiles to be made for it. The greater nicety in the projectiles
used for the rifled gun caused some delay ; but ho hoped in a few weeks to be
able to give the House more precise details as to these experiments.

« TlH"°noble lord would see that although the guns with which tbfl navy was
provided were no more than tho 68-pounder and the 110-pounder of Sir W. Arm-
strong, yet that they wore in the way of making a gun which would answer
broadside pnrpoM-, and also of getting a gun with rifling. The truth was that
tho whole question of the manufacture of iron was now in a state of transition.
Every dav they would see new experiments with guns and projectile, and for



88 THE SPIRIT OF

this reason they wanted a projectile that would go through iron plates at a
reasonable cost. There were many qualities of iron, but they found that only the
very best steel would pierce a plate satisfactorily. There was little doubt that in
a short time they would be able to send spherical projectiles through iron-plated
ships.

"But when the noble lord said that wooden ships would therefore be as good as
iron ones, he could not agree with him. He was afraid that, whatever they might
do, they must still keep to iron-plated vessels, because, although shots might pass
through them, yet the inevitable destruction of wooden ships by shells would be
such that warfare by such ships against iron-clads would be out of the question.
Therefore, while they were increasing the force of their guns, they were also
increasing the strength of their ship's sides. The last specimen of a ship's side
which they had was very considerably stronger than those thoy had before; and
he hoped that the vessels so constructed would be able to go to sea and keep the
sea in all weathers.

" He thought, tnen, that they had made all the progress in their power. He was
sure that no pains had been spared to do so. The subject was naturally an inter-
esting one, and no one could take it up without desiring to see the progress made
in it. Many highly intelligent minds were engaged upon it, and were continually
sending in new inventions; and although the government were so overrun with
new projects that if they attended to them all endless delay would ensue, they,
nevertheless, desired not to overlook any valuable practical improvement.

" The Earl of Hardwicke did not think that what had fallen from the noble duke
at all contradicted what he had stated. It really appeared that Mr. Whitworth
had long since succeeded ift«doing all that the noble duke was about to do with
his gun. In Mr. "Whitworth they had a man who could produce a weapon and a
projectile. to penetrate a four and a half inch plate, and though they saw the
effect of his shot and shell, tho government declined to employ him. The noble
dnke had himself turned inventor, and found a smooth-bore gun which sent a
spherical shot through an iron plate. But Mr. Whitworth's projectile was one of
a most wonderful description, and with a raking broadside against an iron-cased
ship it would bo almost as effective as against a wooden one.

" He would earnestly caution the government against putting into the broadside
of a ship a gun weighing six tons. Their lordships would observe that his ques-
tion had brought out an important fact, viz : that at the present moment, not-
withstanding an enormoiïs expenditure continued during ten years, the royal navy
was not provided with a single gun capable of penetrating an irou-plated ship.

" Earl De Grey and Ripon thought the noble earl had somewhat misrepresented
the relations between the government and Mr. TVhitworth. At an early period,
as their lordships had been informed, the noble duke at the head of the Admiralty
put himself in communication with Mr. Whitworth, and the gun which had been
so successful against tho Trusty was purchased by the government. Some very



Online LibraryAuguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de MarmontThe spirit of military institutions → online text (page 9 of 33)