Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 1) >> The Pen as Sword: Simms and the Beginning of the War — Rediscovered Writings from 1861 >> Page 22

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Page 22

Secondary Scholarship | 2007
Transcription We note, from recent experiments in England, that the ball, under certain
conditions, will penetrate the iron plate, even of five-inch thickness, no
doubt. If it does not always or often penetrate, it will be apt to fracture it, and
just where the rivets or bolts are driven in. Even when quilted,. or lapped, it
will not be secure from this danger, whatever its thickness, unless due care
be taken of certain other considerations. The firing at a target is apt to be
illusory, except as regards accuracy of aim and extent of range. An upright
target, however strong and covered with iron —a target placed
perpendicularly—will delude greatly, if this be recognized as a standard by
which to determine its powers of passive resistance to shot or shell. We are
not simply to consider the strength and hardness of iron. This constitutes but
one element of utility for battery defenses. We are to regard its smoothness
of surface in connection with its hardness; a smoothness which, if the shot
strikes it, at a tolerably acute angle, will always be sure to result in its
ricocheting, or glancing off. Place the iron in such range with the
bombarding gun, as to present an inclined plane to the shot, and it will not
only not penetrate, but hardly disturb bolt or rivet. The ball will glance, as
from a field of ice. The railroad iron, T or U Rail, embodies the principle of
the arch in. its resistance to the shot. It is a raised arch in the centre, and the
bolts being driven into the wood through the flanges, or flat sides, bolt or
rivet is thus protected. We note that, recently, a writer in Blackwood 's
Magazine proposes to increase the strength of the iron, in plating ships, by
fluting it; in other words, by raising it into hollow ridges, like railroad iron.
The object is to increase the power of resistance by the arch principle,
without increasing the weight of the metal. Our iron battery was an
experiment something on this principle. The point, then, of most singular
importance, in the use of iron on ships or batteries, is to expose it, on a
tolerably acute plane, to the enemies' fire. Now, from what little we have
seen of the descriptions given of the French steel clad ship La Gloire, and
the British "Warrior," the builders do not seem to recognize the uses of iron
beyond the hardness of the metal for resistance. They do not seem to have
made any calculations in reference to the facility with which it will throw off
the shot, because of its equal smoothness and hardness, if this be delivered
against the plane and not against the perpendicular; at least they have
continued so to build them. Future time may adapt the mould of their ships
to their new uses.
Might not ships be so constructed as to show along the sides two pretty
sharp angles, above and below, to an enemy's fire above, the inclination
should begin from the bands, and sufficiently above the water line, so that
the ricocheting shot should pass clean over the vessel; below the bands and
down to the water line, there might be a similar plane, inwards towards the
keel;--the effects of which would be to cause the shot to recoil, as above,
glance and recoil, and bury itself in the sea some feet from the vessel. At the
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