Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The U.S. Navy's Ironclad Board-Prophecies

Ironclad board members-Commodore Joseph Smith (chair), Commodore Hiram Paulding,
 Captain Charles Davis
Along with making recommendations to Secretary Welles on which ironclad designs the Navy should purchase, the three men of the Navy's Ironclad Board provided some unsolicited opinions on the short term future of naval warfare.  Given the age of each of men, one would think each of them would be out of touch with modern warfare.  However, their younger counterparts (of both navies) would have been wise to take these men's advice in the coming years.

Smoothbore or Rifled Guns
-"As yet we knowing superior to the large and heavy spherical shot in its destructive effects on vessels, whether plated or not.  Rifled guns have greater range, but the conical shot do not produce the crushing effect of spherical shot."

Armor Schemes
-"It is possible a backing of some elastic substance (soft wood, perhaps in the best) might relieve the frame of the ship somewhat from the terrible shock of a heavy projective, though the plate should not be fractured."

Brown Water Navy
-"Our immediate demands seem to require, first, so far as practicable, vessels invulnerable to shot, of light draught of water to penetrate our shoals, rives, and bayous. We therefore favor the construction of this class vessels before going into a more perfect system of large iron-clad sea-going vessels of war."

Ironclads vs. Forts
-"No ship or floating battery, however heavily she may be plated, can cope successfully with a properly constructed fortification of masonry.  The one is fixed and immovable and though constructed of material which be shattered by shot, can be covered if need be, by the same or much heavier armor than floating vessels can bear.  The other is subject to disturbances by winds and waves, and to the powerful effects of tides and currents.  Armored ships or other batteries may be employed advantageously to pass fortifications on land for ulterior objects of attack."

Foreign Warship Purchases
-"We are of the opinion that every people or nation who can maintain a navy should be capable of constructing it themselves."

Don't Forget About Wooden Ships
-"Wooden ships may be said to be but coffins for their crews when brought in conflict with iron-clad vessels; but the speed of the former, we take for granted, being greater than that of the latter, they can readily choose their position and keep out of harm's way."

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