Civil War Iron Clads


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Harper's Weekly Description of New Shot-Proof "Ironclad" Warships

The February 9, 1861 Edition of Harper's Weekly

Biographies of Seceding Alabama Delegation | Civil War News, February 9, 1861 | Captain Foster News Article | Iowa Indian Agency | Secession News | Louisiana Secession | Confederate State House, Montgomery Alabama | Vicksburg During Civil War | Vicksburg, Mississippi Civil War News | Civil War Iron Clads | Civil War Iron Clad Story in Harper's Weekly | Civil War Slave Cartoon





[FEBRUARY 9, 1861.




WE engrave herewith pictures of the famous new experiments in ships of war—the British Warrior, and the French La Gloire, which are just now attracting so much attention. A British authority gives the following description of the two vessels : " When the Warrior was designed, La Gloire was not afloat. All that was then known of her in England (and we have learned but little more of her since) amounted to this: that she was a timber-built ship, very much resembling one of our line-of-battle ships cut down, and cased from end to end with iron plates 4 1/2 inches thick ; that she was 252 feet 6 inches long (between the perpendiculars), 55 feet broad, and 27 feet 6 inches deep below the water-line; that her ports were to be 8 feet 6 inches apart, and from 5 to 6 feet above the water ; that she was to be lightly rigged, and to possess but small sail-power ; that her engines were to be of 900 (nominal) horse-power ; that her estimated speed was about 11 knots per hour; and that she was to carry 34 guns on her main-deck, each firing 54-lb. shot, and two shell guns forward. The problem which the naval architects of this country were called upon to solve was this: what kind of vessel will best enable our seamen to contend successfully against La Gloire and similar ships? "Before this problem came practically under the consideration of the naval architects at Whitehall, Mr. Scott Russel, the designer and builder of the Great Eastern, had, it appears, submitted


 to the Controller of the Navy designs for an iron-plated ship of war, in which was adopted a novel and ingenious device — that of defending only the central portion of the ship with armor, leaving her extremities free from its encumbrance. "From the fact that Sir John Pakington and his colleagues insisted upon a speed of 14 knots an hour, and the power of carrying provisions for four months, it is manifest that they resolved to oppose to La Gloire a real sea-going ship of war; not a mere floating battery, nor a craft that would have to keep the land in sight, but a ship which should be fit to take the open sea, and, if need be, to bear the flag of old England once more to the enemy's coasts. They clearly were determined, if not to reassert our old supremacy upon the ocean, at least to prevent supremacy being asserted by others. To this end, a high speed, and the power of keeping the sea for months together, were absolutely essential. This rendered several specific qualities necessary. For example, a sea-going ship must be furnished with masts and sails of sufficient dimensions to keep her perfectly manageable and sea-worthy in all weathers, under sail alone. No steamship of war

can carry sufficient coals to keep her under full steam for more than a few days, and, consequently, neither the blockade of an enemy's port nor the pursuit of a hostile fleet—operations from which the British navy has never shrunk hitherto—can be performed by ships without large sail-power. It was necessary, again, to place the battery of such a ship at a considerable height above the water—not less than 9 feet, say ; for a vessel whose battery is nearer the water, has to close her ports and silence her guns at the first approach of rough weather, and is altogether incapable at such a time of defending herself efficiently against a ship that has the advantage of her in this respect. "In all these features the Warrior is, beyond question, superior to La Gloire. We assume here, to start with, that her speed will be at least two knots an hour greater than that of the latter ship. La Gloire, with her form, dimensions, and engine power, can not keep up an average speed of more than 11, 1/2 knots an hour ; while, on the other hand, it is pretty certain that the Warrior, with her form, dimensions, and engine power, will prove capable of an average speed of at least 13 knots. " She will likewise have the advantage of her in respect of sail-power, inasmuch as while La Gloire is lightly rigged for channel service only, the Warrior is furnished with the masts, spars, and sails of an English 80-gun ship. "A comparison of the armaments of these extraordinary vessels is not a very important matter ; because, supposing La Gloire to be impregnable, no British officer would think of spending time in exchanging shot or shell with her, when he had a ship of the Warrior's speed under his command. He would, of course, immediately close with her, and carry her by the good old English method of boarding—this being, in fact, the prime object of her great speed. With the 'tops' and rigging of the Warrior swarming with riflemen,

no crew could be prevailed upon to keep the weather-deck of La Gloire when once the faster ship had closed upon her; and although provision for deck defense against boarders has been made in the French ship, we, at least, can not believe that her tri-color would long continue flying. The height of the Warrior's sides is eminently favorable to the operation, as the men could readily leap from them upon the low deck of La Gloire.

"Notwithstanding these considerations, however, it may be well to state what the armaments of the two ships are. La Gloire is supposed to carry 34 guns upon her main-deck, all of them 54-pounders; and two heavy shell guns forward, with an oblique screen in front of them. All her guns are, therefore, under the cover of armor. In the Warrior, on the other hand, only 26 are protected ; but all of them are to be large 68-pounders, each weighing 100 cwt. At long range, neither ship could harm the other seriously ; at short range the 68-pounders would be by far the most formidable weapons. But besides the 26 guns that are protected, the Warrior can, and probably will, carry 12 additional guns on the main-deck, of the same size as the others; and on her (Next Page)



Civil War Iron Clad La Gloire"
Civil War Iron Clad "Warrior"
Launch of the Warrior



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