The same reasons which operated on the minds of the naval ofﬁcers in respect to the application of steam propulsion retarded the use of iron for the construction of war vessels. That material was ﬁrst employed for canal boats about the year 1812, and afterwards for steamers of the mercantile marine. About 1834 the Admiralty were urged to institute experiments to ascertain whether iron might not be utilised for ships of war, but they moved so slowly that the ﬁrst iron war steamer built in this country was the ‘Birkenhead,’ by Messrs Laird, in 1845. For reasons to be mentioned presently she was turned into a troopship. She was lost in 1852 at the Cape, under the circumstances well known from the heroic conduct of the soldiers and seamen on the occasion. To test the behaviour of iron under the effects of shot, and to compare it with wood, some experiments were carried out at Portsmouth from 1849 to 1851. Iron plates, g in. thick, placed 35 ft.
apart, to represent a section of the ‘Simoom,’ a vessel then under construction, were ﬁred at from a 32-pounder. The effect was most ominous. Not only were the iron splinters produced by the shot passing through the side of a destructive nature, but it was found that the shot broke up in perforating the plate, and became an additional cloud of splinters too numerous to be counted.
The experiment was repeated with the addition that the iron was backed with 5 in. of oak. A similar result ensued, but wooden splinters mingled with the iron. When wood alone was tried, the splinters were itriﬂing as compared with those from the iron. Other experiments were then carried out to see if these effects could be mitigated, but without success. The deduction was that the destructive effects of shot on iron ships could not be prevented. If the iron sides were of the thickness required to give adequate strength to the ship—as % or, at least, half-an-inch—the shot was broken up. If the plates were thinner, the ships would be deﬁcient in strength, and though the shot might pass through without breaking up, the disc of iron driven in was broken into numerous small pieces.
These results created a great sensation. A verdict was given that iron vessels, however convenient and advantageous in other respects, were utterly unﬁt for purposes of war, and a committee of naval and military ofﬁcers, which had been directed to report how far it might be possible to arm vessels of the packet service in case of war, rejected all constructed of iron. Many years were to elapse before this material was taken into favour again. It was even a question then whether iron steamers were ﬁt to be employed as transports for the conveyance of troops and stores during war. However, the Admiralty decided to employ those which were being built as troop ships. In one or two others which were completed the armament was removed from the main deck, and timber substituted for iron in the upper works, behind which a few light guns were placed. Considering the present almost universal adoption of iron and steel for naval architecture, the foregoing events appear to me to have, no little interest. I have not dwelt upon the defects of the substances employed, such as cast-iron shot, and probably the inferior nature of the plates. No doubt both had an important bearing on the results obtained , but I will pass on to the revival of iron for warship construction. As practically in England this occurred simultaneously with the introduction of armour, I shall deal with them together in reference to the creation of our modern navy. With many inventions it is difﬁcult to assign to any country or individual either actual discovery or practical application. In most cases the two operations are distinct, and separated by a considerable interval of time. This is certainly true as regards both the idea of protecting ships with an external casing of iron and its actual use. The ﬁrst idea is, I think, due to Colonel Paixhans, the French ofﬁcer who was mainly instrumental in substituting horizontal shell ﬁre in place of shot. In 1825 be expressed an opinion that line-of-battle Ships might be cuirassed against cannon shot by sacriﬁcing a tier of guns, and that seven or eight inches of iron would effect it. In this we see a complete foreshadowing of what was to come thirty years later. He recognised at once the revolution his own invention would effect in naval armaments, and that provision must be made against it.
Though no sailor or naval architect, he saw that his new idea was incompatible with the lofty sides of the old liner; but still more strangely, considering the date of his opinion, he indicated an amount of protectiou which was not reached for some years after the introduction of armour, as though he had an inkling of the later development of ordnance now so familiar to us.
But this conception of the future battle ship remained unheeded until the Crimean War, when the Emperor Napoleon, who in matters of war material often showed considerable ability, proposed the construction of ﬂoating batteries, or ships protected on the exterior by thick plates of iron, and shortly after ﬁve such batteries were commenced in France. All were of the same dimensions, 172 ft. long and 44 ft. broad. The side above the water line, which was only a few feet high, had a covering of 412- in. of iron, a thickness determined after experiments with existing guns and projectiles. Behind the armour was a backing of 17 in. of timber. This added to the protection, besides being useful for supporting the heavy weight of iron with bolts. The ﬁrst was launched in March 1855, and the others in July. We followed suit with three similar vessels, the ‘ Thunderbolt,’ ‘ Erebus,’ and ‘Terror.’ They were at ﬁrst intended for an attack on Cronstadt, but this idea being abandoned, they were sent to the Black Sea, and arrived in October 1855. Three of the French batteries had been previously despatched to the same locality, and took part in the bombardment of Kinburn. Our vessels were armed with thirty 68-pounders, the largest piece of ordnance then in use. Having a ﬂat bottom, they only drew 9 ft. of water. They were, in fact, ships from which a thick slice had been removed from their hulls above and below the water. They were well suited, from their light draught, for the shallow waters of the Baltic, and with their powerful armament could have attacked the forts at Cronstadt with advantage, because these were all low down, and not of the formidable nature asserted at the time.
The defence of Kinburn in the Black Sea consisted of a strong casemated fort armed with over sixty guns, and supported by earthworks with 'a few additional guns. These batteries were on a narrow spit of land at the entrance to the River Boug, about forty miles east of Odessa. A combined English and French force was sent to attack them early in October 1855. It consisted of ships of the line, steamers, gunboats, mortar vessels, and the three French ﬂoating batteries lately arrived. On the 17th the assault took place. The mortar boats ﬁrst opened ﬁre, and then the ﬂoating batteries. Curiosity was excited as to the behaviour of the new constructions, and it was soon evident, after the forts commenced returning the ﬁre, that the iron plates afforded efﬁcient protection. The ﬂoating batteries were repeatedly struck by shot, which hardly indented the sides, and the shells burst harmlessly against them. Damage, of course, they received as, having numerous port holes, all the projectiles and pieces of shell could not be excluded, but the injuries received were small in comparison to what they would have been had the sides been without the armour. To have been completely effectual there should have been at least a dozen of these batteries. The number of guns three could bring into action was relatively small. After a two hours’ cannonade the line-of-battle and other ships advanced and poured in a heavy ﬁre. In less than halfan -hour the batteries were silenced, and the appearance of a white ﬂag showed that all resistance was at an end.
The success attending the employment of these ﬂoating batteries in the Black Sea indicated that in some such direction was to be found the solution of a problem now exercising men’s minds, namely, how to resist the destructive effects of shell. In England we were disposed to rely on what had in former years admirably answered the purpose, and given us a supremacy on the sea by which the security of the country was ensured. Had our ﬂeet suffered defeat, we might have been more ready to adopt new inventions, indeed, to initiate them, rather than wait until their utility was proved by others. But the weapons to hand not having failed, the natural tendency was to let them go with reluctance. In France, on the other hand, no such sentiment prevailed ; and the skill she had always shown in naval construction was at once displayed when an entirely new departure for the designs of battle ships was taken. She had, moreover, in the head of the naval constructive department at that time, a man of genius and originality. M. Dupuy de Lorne had already given proof of both these qualities, and now he determined to boldly transform a wooden line-ofbattle ship into an armour-clad which should be a seaworthy as well as a formidable ﬁghting structure. To this end he took the ‘Napoleon,’ a ﬁne two-decker, -removed the upper portion, lengthened her by 24 ft., and placed 5-in. armour plates on the side, with 26 in. of wood backing. This work was commenced in 1857, but not completed till the autumn of 1859. The vessel thus changed was renamed ‘La Gloire,’ and is now historically famous as the ﬁrst seagoing ironclad . Her armament was placed along the main deck,
as in a frigate. With a length of 235 ft., and breadth of 55 ft., she had a displacement of 5000 tons, and her speed under steam was about 12 knots. Her completion created even more excitement than the appearance of the ‘ Niagara’ but two years previously.
In the meantime we had been watching with curiosity the experiment of our neighbours, unable to recognise that the day had arrived when a new system of naval architecture for war purposes must be adopted. But public opinion was roused, and the Admiralty saw that change could not be resisted. Designs were invited from various quarters, but the plan prepared by the Chief Constructor of the Navy, Mr Isaac Watts, in conjunction with the eminent naval architect Mr Scott Russell, was decided upon. This produced the ‘Warrior,’ ordered in 1859, and completed in 1861. She embodied some remarkable characteristics. In the ﬁrst place, her hull was of iron, and considering what had taken place ten years previously, the boldness of this step can be appreciated . But as any project of adding iron to the lofty sides of a line-of-battle ship was impracticable, the necessity of limiting the principal armament to one deck was apparent. To compensate for such a reduction, the single deck should carry a number of the most powerful guns then in use, with greater space between them than had usually been accorded, so as to reduce the injury that the entrance of a shell would inﬂict. Though the sides might be impregnable, the port holes were so many weak points which must not be lost sight of. In ‘La Gloire’ they were very close together, and hence much of the value of the armour was lost. Such considerations involved a length of ship which previous experience with the ‘ Mersey’ and ‘Orlando’ had shown to be impossible in vessels built of wood and carrying power— ful machinery. Another point urged was that iron would be less subject to ﬁre than wood, so the former material was adopted. The result was an iron frigate 382 ft. long at the water line, which was increased to 420 ft. over all when the old graceful form of bow was added. All former associations could not be given up at a swoop, and as the ram was not then considered an important weapon, it only received partial recognition. This was effected by the stem at the water line being made to project slightly in the form of a spur, but the bow added to the upper part hid the ram thus disposed and gave the ‘Warrior’ the appearance forward of a
sailing clipper. In the event of ramming, the overhanging portion would be knocked away, and the spur be brought in contact. On the ship’s side, for a length of 212 ft., plates of iron 4% in. thick were secured to teak backing 18 in. thick. This wood is durable, and had other advantages for such service. The side armour left off a little over 80 ft. from bow and stem, as it was not considered desirable to load the ends of the ship with such weights.
The main armament consisted of thirty-eight 68-pounders. Of these thirty-six were on the main deck, eighteen on each side, forming a battery extending nearly the whole length of the ship, but only thirteen on each side were behind the armour. Two 68-pounders were placed on the upper deck, one forward and the other aft. As these guns weighed 95 cwt., only a few hitherto had been mounted in battle ships, in conjunction with numerous 8-in. and 32-pounder guns. The principle of concentrating the armament in a small number of heavy guns was thus introduced, and we had sprung from a three-decked ship 260 ft. long to an armoured frigate of 400 ft. As regards speed, the dimensions of the ‘Warrior,’ and the machinery given her, enabled her to steam over 14 knots an hour, an advance of more than 2 knots over her rival ‘ La Gloire ’ and the wooden screw ships of that day. I have heard ofﬁcers express an opinion that ‘La Gloire’ was the better conception, because she was armoured from stem to stern. In an important locality the ‘Warrior’ was undoubtedly weak. The rudder head and steering apparatus were neither below the water nor behind armour, and consequently the directive power was liable to be disabled early in an action. This defect was aggravated by the ship having a large aperture in the stern, which enabled the screw to be raised, when required , out of the water. This operation was only carried out when the vessel was under sail, to add to her capability in this respect, and prevent the screw dragging in the water. When, even now, many question the expediency of relying only on steam, it can be understood that thirty years ago a seagoing battleship without masts and yards could ﬁnd no favour. Yet such a radical view had been put forward. In a work by the late Lord Dunsany—Our Naval Position and Policy, published in 1859, he says: ‘Old sailors will laugh at the idea of ships without masts, but we shall surely see them. As steamers themselves and railways were at ﬁrst scoffed at, so will be the idea of mastless ships. In runs across the Atlantic the masts are mere encum
brances, as in action they are sources of great danger.’ Two years previously the First Lord of the Admiralty had defended the sending of troops to India in sailing ships, on the ground that if the screw ships ran short of fuel they would be helpless.
The ‘Warrior’ was thus given extensive sail power, and to all appearance she was a long, graceful frigate. The transition was thereby rendered more palatable to the old navy, whereas if we had gone at once to those structures irreverently—but not inaptly—termed ‘ﬂatirons ,’ now so familiar in the later turret ships, the exasperated feelings of the ancient mariners would have been pitiable to contemplate.
The ‘ Warrior’ was built at the Thames Iron Works, and a proof of the excellence of her construction is to be found in the fact that after an interval of thirty years her hull is as sound as the day on which she was launched. That day was a memorable occasion. All the world had been interested in the ‘bold experiment,’ as Sir John Pakington truly described it on her trial trip. No ship ever had so many visitors from all parts during her construction . In France, though ﬁrst in the ﬁeld, they had simply cut down a wooden ship and plated her with iron. It was a great advance on the ﬂoating batteries, but in England an entirely new departure had been taken, and in my opinion there is no question as to which was the best ﬁghting ship. I should inﬁnitely have preferred to command the ‘Warrior,’ taking into consideration her higher speed and greater dispersion of armament. The gun ports were 15 ft. apart, in ‘La Gloire’ they were much closer. Hence shell entering the battery of the latter would have taken much greater effect.
It is not my intention to detail at length the changes made in successive designs after the ‘ Warrior.’ Already riﬂed ordnance was imposing a fresh advance, and the struggle between guns and armour had begun. The ‘Warrior’ had one sister, the ‘Black Prince’; and that the second-class battle ship, corresponding to the twodecker , should be represented under the new order, two smaller armour-clads, the ‘Defence’ and ‘Resistance,’ were begun. The disposition of their armour was similar to that of the ‘Warrior,’ but they were only 280 ft. long, and the displacement 6150 tons. The ‘Hector’ and ‘Valiant’ were two other ships of the same type, with slight modiﬁcations. In the next designs it was determined to remedy the defect already alluded to, namely, the unprotected ends. This was ﬁrst done in the ‘Achilles.’ Her length was the same as that of the ‘Warrior,’ but she was 600 tons larger, to allow of the armour being carried completely to the ends. This ship may be considered the ﬁrst example of the armoured belt, with gun battery in the centre, though this battery before long became even more contracted.
We come now to three more ships of the ‘Warrior’ type, the ‘ Minotaur,’ ‘ Northumberland.’ and ‘Agincourt.’ To have the advantages of their model, without the defects, the length was increased to 400 ft., and the armour taken completely round. Its thickness was increased to 5% in., but secured to only 9 in. of wood
backing. This was not found to have greater resisting power against shot than the 4é-in. plates and 18-in. backing. The armament of this class was improved by the introduction of riﬂed guns of greater weight than the 68-pounder. Such modiﬁcations involved a larger vessel, and the ‘Minotaur’ and her sisters reached 10,600 tons, a considerable advance on the ‘ Warrior.’ While the weight of the ‘ Warrior’s’ armour and backing amounted to 1350 tons, the ‘ Minotaur’s ’ protection weighed 2100 tons. As sail power was still considered necessary, these vessels were given ﬁve masts. Thus equipped they presented a curious appearance, and puzzled the nautical world. It is related that a merchant vessel on one occasion approached inconveniently near one of the ‘Minotaur’ class at night, her great length and the ﬁve masts leading those in charge of the other to believe that there were two ships, and that their own might pass between! It may be imagined that the change from wood to iron in construction did not ﬁnd us—in our dock yards, at least—with a body of men accustomed to work with the new material, and when it was decided to build an iron ship of the ‘Warrior’ type at Chatham it had to be carried out by shipwrights whose previous experience had been limited to wooden shipbuilding. I have heard it said they used the same tools for the harder substance, but whether so or not the ship was completed in less time than the others, and the workmanship was excellent. All the previous vessels had been built in private yards.
Though we had thus by 1862 made a good start with armoured ships, the ﬂeet contained a great many wooden ships at that time, either completed or building . It was then determined to convert several of them into ironclads. A certain number were selected for this purpose, cut down. lengthened, and armoured similarly to the iron ships with 4é-in. plates secured to 30 in. of teak backing. These measures produced the ‘Prince Consort,’ ‘Ocean,’ ‘Caledonia,’ ‘ Royal Alfred,’ and ‘Royal Oak.’ In the two last the armour was 6 in. thick. Two others, the ‘Lord Clyde’ and ‘Lord Warden,’ were also built of wood and armoured.
Iron was still considered to have disadvantages, which are expressed in a memorandum by Sir Spencer Robinson , then Controller of the Navy, and dated March 2d, 1863. These were, liability of the bottom to injury and to becoming coated with marine growth; small quantity of good iron in the market and uncertainty of quality; greater cost of iron ships. If they were more durable, there was the probability of their becoming obsolete, and thus a cheaper and less durable vessel might prove best in the end. For some such reasons the French preferred wood. There is good sense in these arguments, though much might be said on the other side. The danger of durable ships is the temptation to resist building new ones, and to be content with patching up what has rendered good service. Twenty years ago we were under this inﬂuence, and our naval strength was thereby impaired. The Naval Defence Act of 1889 broke the spell.
I must, however, now pass on to a change which took place when the present Sir E. Reed was appointed Chief Constructor of the Navy. He was an advocate for iron, shorter ships, complete armour belts, and the concentration of the armament into a smaller number of heavier guns in a central battery or citadel. In 1752 a French naval architect had written: ‘11 est certain que ce sont toujours les gros canons qui sont les plus avantageux dans un combat, et ainsi il est préférable de mettre sur un vaisseau un petit nombre de gros canons qu’un grand nombre de petits,’ and yet in the old wars we had found number not size most inﬂuential in deciding a combat. This was owing to the fact that the issue depended more on the disablement of the crew than of the ship itself. Injury to the masts assisted this result, because it enabled the other ship to attain a position from which the opposing crew could be decimated with impunity. The greater the number of guns (provided their projectiles could penetrate the sides of the enemy’s ships) the more chances of disabling men and guns, until submission followed inability to resist. Ships were seldom sunk in action. Such an incident was a matter for regret, because, though diminishing the force of the enemy, it added nothing to your own, whereas a capture counted, to use a parliamentary phrase, two on a division. The prize under another ﬂag was speedily utilised by the conqueror.
Of late years sinking appears to be the object aimed at in action, and greater care is taken to avert this than to protect the crew.
The ideas of Mr Reed in reference to construction were adopted, and in one respect it could not be otherwise . The size and power of guns were being increased to overcome the resistance of armour, and this necessitated a smaller number, unless ships were to be much larger. At this time, however, a displacement of 10,000 tons was considered an outside limit. The‘ Bellerophon,’ begun in 1863, was the ﬁrst vessel under the new regime.
With a length of 300 ft., and a displacement of 7500 tons, she carried a 6-in. belt of armour, which in the centre was carried up to form a central battery to contain ten guns, each weighing 12 tons. Two more guns were placed forward to give bow ﬁre. It was soon seen that a further advance must be made to meet the growing power of the gun. This led to the design of the ‘Hercules,’ in which the displacement was increased to 8700 tons, the armoured belt to
9 in., and the principal armament to 18-ton guns. To add to the ﬁre right ahead and astern the ends of the battery at the sides were recessed. This enabled two of the battery guns to point ahead and two astern. The length of the ship did not exceed 325 ft.
From this brief description it is evident how rapid had been the advance in most of the ﬁghting elements of the new warship. Speed alone had not increased, but this had been maintained with a shorter and handier ship. The great length of the ‘Warrior’ and ‘Minotaur’ was inconvenient, to say the least of it, owing to the space they required to turn in. The ‘Hercules’ was universally recognised as a splendid specimen of construction, and remains to this day a great favourite with naval ofﬁcers. She was, however, eclipsed by the ‘ Alexandra,’ launched a few years after—the last representative of the broadside system. Her length was the same as that of the ‘Hercules,’ but the displacement was increased to 9500 tons, by which she was enabled to carry armour 12 in. thick at the water line opposite the machinery, and tapering to 6 in. at the bow and stem. The importance of protecting the motive power more completely than other portions of the hull had for some time been recognised, and, moreover, the extremities would be overburdened with such heavy weights as 12-in. plates. The disposition of the armament differed somewhat from that of the ‘Hercules.’ There was the same central battery, containing ten 18-ton guns, but above this was another battery, in which was placed two 25-ton guns. Both batteries had recessed ports, by which a powerful bow ﬁre was obtained. It may be observed here that the mounting and working of such heavy guns on the broadside was only possible from their comparative shortness, so that when required they could be withdrawn or housed inside the ship. Guns of the present day, and of the same diameter of bore, are twice the length. We had already adopted the twin screw, and the ‘Alexandra’ was so ﬁtted. This, added to improved machinery, gave her a speed of 15 knots. The climax in broadside ironclads had now been reached. Few were found to dispute the merits of our latest production as an engine of war. Though never yet opposed to a hostile vessel, the ‘ Alexandra’ took part in the bombardment of the Egyptian forts at Alexandria in 1882, and rendered good service on that occasion. She was struck about thirty times, but sustained no serious injury.
Space has not permitted me to allude to a number of other vessels built between the production of the ‘Warrior’ and ‘Alexandra.’ They partook more or less of the character of those described, though varying in size. The second-class ironclad was well represented by several of moderate dimensions, so that the old gradation of two and three-deckers was preserved in the new ﬂeet. Moreover, the Suez Canal was completed, and its depth was such that the heaviest ironclads could not pass through. It was desirable that some of our battle ships should be able to utilise this route to the East, instead of taking the longer passage by the Cape of Good Hope. We should never neglect this consideration whatever the temptation to add to the dimensions of warships.
In this brief review of progress between 1861 and 1877 I have conﬁned myself to the development of the broadside system of armoured vessels, and, looking back, how wonderful that progress seems. The ‘Warrior’ carried only I 350 tons weight of iron and wood for protection out of a total 9000 tons displacement. The ‘Alexandra,’ only 500 tons larger, is enabled to sustain 2300 tons employed for protection, and is a knot faster. Rolling iron plates of any thickness was practically a new industry in 1860; but in sixteen years, commencing with 4%-in. plates, the demand for a thickness of 12in. had been as promptly met.
While we, in common with other nations, were thus encasing our ships in coats of mail, the advantage conferred by this system was to my mind strikingly illustrated by an episode in the American Civil War. After a cruise of two years the celebrated ‘Alabama’ put into Cherbourg to be docked and repaired. Her commander, Captain Semmes, in his interesting account of her career, says of this period: ‘The poor old “Alabama” was not now what she had been. She was like the wearied foxhound limping back after a long chase, footsore, and longing for quiet and repose. Her commander, like herself , was well-nigh worn down.’ Three days after her arrival the United States sloop ‘ Kearsage ’ turned up off the port, and Semmes sent a message to her commander that if he would wait until the ‘Alabama’ had completed with coal' he would come out to meet him. The two vessels were not unequally matched in dimensions and armament. The ‘Kearsage,’ Captain Winslow, was a wooden sloop of 1030 tons. She carried two II-in. smooth bore guns, four 32-pounders, and one riﬂed 30-pounder. Her crew numbered 160. The ‘Alabama’ was also a wooden vessel of 1040 tons. Her armament consisted of one 8-in. smooth bore, one 7-in. riﬂed gun, and Six 32-pounders. She carried 150 men. Beyond stowing away her top hamper and making the preparations for action common to rigged vessels she took no special precautions. The ‘ Kearsage,’ on the other hand, had suspended her spare chain cables up and down the side, opposite the boilers and machinery, thus giving armour protection to that important locality and a large portion of the hull at the water line. The chain was covered over with a thin casing of wood, which effectually concealed what was beneath. This method of adding to the defence of wooden ships had been ﬁrst adopted by Admiral Farragut when passing hostile forts in the Mississippi the same year. As against the guns and projectiles of that time, and especially as a preventive to the penetration of shells, by causing them to burst outside, the plan was ingenious and effectual.
The same procedure was open to Captain Semmes, but for some reason he did not adopt it, nor does he appear to have been aware of this move of his opponent. Though Semmes afterwards sneered at an enemy ‘who went out chivalrously armoured to encounter a ship whose wooden Sides were entirely without protection,’ such utilisation of the resources of a ship to improve her defensive capability was not only perfectly justiﬁable but the plain duty of a commander desirous of ensuring the victory with as little injury as possible to his own vessel.
On the morning of June 19th, 1864, the ‘Alabama’ steamed out of Cherbourg Harbour, and steered for the ‘ Kearsage,’ then awaiting her about six miles off the port. When the distance between them had been reduced to a mile, the ‘ Alabama’ opened ﬁre, but it was not returned until the two ships were 900 yards from each other. The ‘Kearsage’ then steered to close with her antagonist, but the ‘Alabama’ kept on at full speed, and the two ships steamed round in a circle at a distance from each other of about 800 yards. The ﬁring now became very hot. The ‘Alabama’ was hulled several times, and a number of men were disabled. Her own ﬁre, on the other hand, had little effect on the ‘Kearsage,’ the chain cables affording protection to the hull, and her principal damage was aloft. After an hour’s action a shell from one of the II-in. guns of the ‘Kearsage’ struck the ‘Alabama’ near the water line and burst, making a large hole, through which the water poured into the ship. Semmes turned his vessel towards the French shore, and endeavoured to reach it under sail and steam. But the ‘Alabama’ was ﬁlling fast, and further effort being useless, her flag was hauled down. She sank soon afterwards, the officers and crew being picked up by boats from an English yacht, a French pilot vessel, and the ‘Kearsage.’ Semmes complained that his adversary was dilatory in this matter, but after an action boats are not often in a condition to be despatched at a moment’s notice, and the captain of the ‘ Kearsage’ was not a man to disregard the claims of humanity.
The casualties to the crew of the‘Alabama’ were nine killed and twenty-one wounded, while the ‘Kearsage’ had only three wounded. This vessel was struck thirty times, of which thirteen only were in the hull. The ﬁring of the ‘Alabama’ was wild, but she suffered under another great disadvantage, that she had previously little shot or shell practice against a target, being unable to replenish her ammunition. Mere drill with guns unloaded can never render men efﬁcient in action. Frequent target practice is essential to give conﬁdence and proﬁciency before the enemy. Lack of this and the improvised armour of her antagonist told against the ‘Alabama,’ and two valuable lessons were thus afforded by this action. They should not be forgotten at a time when the principle of protecting ships with armoured decks only is being so much extended, and when there is a tendency to curtail practice with full charges of powder owing to their effect upon the guns.