On November 30, bids were opened at the Navy Department for the construction of two new battleships authorized by act of the last Congress, and prospectively, at least, our line of battle is thus augmented to six first-class ships of this type and of American de-sign—the Texas, a second-class battleship, being from English plans. In the Kearsarge, a namesake of the historic craft, and her sister ship, No. 6, as yet unnamed, we have the highest examples of their type. Their general dimensions and principal features are ; Length on load water line, 368 feet ; beam, extreme, 72 feet 2-5 inches ; free board fo rward, 14 feet 30 inches; freeboard aft, 12 feet 30 inches; normal displacement, 11,50 tons; correspon din g draught. 23 feet 6-0 inches ; indicated horse power, estimated, 10,000 ; corresponding speed, 16 knots ; coal supply on normal displacement, 410 tons ; coal supply at 25 foot draught, 1,210 tons. Batteries : Main, four 13 inch breech loading rifles, four 8 inch breech loading rifles ; secondary, fourteen 5 inch rapid fire breech loadi n g rifles ; auxiliary, twenty 6 pounder rapid firers, six 1 pounder rapid firers, four mach ine guns. Th e torpedo tubes, of which there are five, will be disposed one in the stem and two on each broadside amidships, and all will be of the above water type ; the bow tube firing directly ahead and the broads id e tubes discharging through an arc of fifty degrees toward the end of the ship nearest th em. The character of Oilr coast and the generally shallow waters about manv of our wealthiest seaports made a comparatively light draught an indispensable prerequisite in these new ships ; in fact, the secretary insisted that they should draw less water than any other first-class battleshi p either here or abroad. The largest of European ships of this sort usually draw about 28 feet w h en fully laden. and our own Iowa and Indiana class draw something over 24 feet under normal conditions. The Kearsarge and No. 6. however, with all weights on board ready for sea and with 410 tons of coal in their bunkers, will draw but 23 feet of water, and with 1.210 tons of coal dumped loosel y into their bunkers, without packing or further handling, will have an even keel draught of 25 feet. The general practice abroad of recent years. regarding the size of big guns, has been to restrict their heaviest armaments to calibers not exceeding 12 inches, apportioning the weight thus saved among more rapid fire guns or a wi der or heavier distribution of armor protection. This matter was pretty thoroughly discussed anent the new ships, the Chief of Ordn ance holdi ng that the 13 in ch gun would make our ships many degrees superior to our European neighbors, in fact, preponderously so; and, housed in two double-decked turrets, the four 13 inch and four S inch rifles would be more effective and better protected than could be the other guns in separate turrets of independent action, and this scheme was adopted. The double-decked turret is essentially novel. Resting upon the protective deck, 3 feet 6 inches above the water line, the barbettes of 15 inch steel rise up to a height of three feet above the main deck, and within the protection of these heavy walls the turni ng, loading and other vital mechanisms of the guns and turrets are worked in comparative security. The turrets for the 13 inch guns will be as thick as their supporting barbettes, except where augmented two inches about the ports th rough which the guns peer out. The turrets for the 8 inch guns, rigidly fixed to the more pon-derous one below and incapable of independent lateral movement, are 9 inches thick generally, except for a similar thickening of 2 inches about the face. The primary! features of advantage possessed by this un-common type of turret are the concentration of mo-ti ve mechanisms and the unusual protection given the ammunition hoists for the 8 inch guns above. The guns in the turrets fire each through an arc of 270, and in that have a pretty effectual sweep. In the broadside batteries of 5 inc h rapid fire guns, seven on each side, firing through an arc of 90, these vessels are unique, and may be said to bear directly the impress of lessons learned in the late Chino-Japanese conflicts, the 2 inch steel splinter bulkhead between each gun station and the side protection of 6 inches of solid steel armor being features of unusual safeguard for the rapid fire guns of any ships of this description. The battery above, of 6 pounder rapid flre guns, and the distribution of others of similar caliber on the berth deck forward and aft, give promise of very effect-ive service against torpedo boat attack, while the 1 pounders and Gatlings in the tops will sweep the decks andother exposed positions of an enemy. Offensively, the ships are extremely formidable, and defensively are exceptional in the thickness and dis-tribution of armor protection about the guns and vital parts. From the after barbette forward to the stem the water line region will be protecte d by a belt of armor 7Yz feet wide, 4 feet of it being below water at normal draught. From the after barbette to the forward barbette this belt will have a maximum thickness of 16Yz inches. tapering to 9Yz inch es at the edge below water, and from the forward barbette to the stem this armor will gradually diminish to 4 inches. At each end of the thickest part of this belt there will be an athwart-ship bulkhead, 10 inches thick forward and 12 inches thi ck aft, to oppose an enemys raki ng fire. On top of I the four walls thus formed will rest a fiat steel pro- tective deck 2:!i i n ch es thick, completely roofing over and compassing the spaces occupied by the vitals, as the engines, boilers, and magazines are called. Forward and aft of the boiler, engine and magazine spaces. this protective deck will slant to below the water line at the extremities, backing up the ram bow, and]will be increased to 3 and 5 inches on the sloping sides of these parts of this armor deck. A complete belt of corn pith cellulose will be worked fro n stem to stern, augmenting the protection of m any feet of coal, and the 6 inches of armor extending from the top of the water-line belt up to the main deck and running i n a fore and aft direction from barbette to barbette. A double bottom, reaching from the keel up to the lower edge of t h e armor belt. 4 feet below the water line, will protect the vessel from injury in grounding and minor damage from torpedoes. Within this heavy steel box of Harveyized material, below the water and beneath many feet of coal. are the two sets of triple-expansion engines, one on each shaft, having cylinders of 33% inch, 51 inch and 78 inch diameters, and a com m on stroke of 48 inches. which will drive the twin screws, while the five boil ers—three double ended and two single ended—having a total grate surface of 685 square feet and a heating surface of half an acre—in four separate watertight compartments, will supply, at a working pressure 180 pounds. the steam needful to revolve the 16 foot propellers 120 times a minute when making the m axi m um eontract speed of 16 knots an hour. Large fans will induce the needful forced draught, and pumps of thousands of gallons minute capacity will induce a circulation of water, feed the boilers, and clear the bilges. Just under the pilot house there will be a conning tower ten inches thick, connected by a complex system of call bells, speaking tubes, mechanical telegraphs, and electrical telltales with every important center in the ship, bringing the captain, in action, in immediate touch with every department essential to complete control and knowledge of his ships condition. The least possible amount of wood will be used, light metal work being the general substitute, and where wood material is used and needful, it will be su bjected to an electrical flreproofing process of established efficacy. Cork sheeting will cover the metal bulkheads in the staterooms and living spaces, to reduce the possibility of unhealthful condensation. The ships will be lighted by electricity, ventilated by natural and fan-induced ventilation, and pumped and drained in the most approved manner by steam and hand appliances; and every consideration has been studied to make the vessels comfortable and healthful nabitations for their flagship complements of 520 persons. Compared with the old time craft, this complement seems inadequate; but hundreds of mechanical devices and numerous auxiliary en-gines have lessened the tax upon the muscular energies of the crew, and narrowed their duties to the simple direction of those conveni-ences which have made manifold the output of every mans efforts and given the vessels possibilities a n d facilities undreamed of twenty years ago. With 1.210 tons of coal on board, at a cruising speed of 10 knots, the vessels will be able to cover 6,000 knots, and at a speed of 13 knots will be able to cross the Atlantic and then have coal enough left to travel a thousand knots farther. There will be no s pee d premiums. A penalty, however, of $100,000 a knot is imposed for failure to reach the cont r act speed of 16 knots. The cost of these vessels, ex-clusive of armor and armament, is limited to $4,000,000 each, and the time of construction specified as three years from the time of signing of contract. Trial of a New Torpedo. The new Howell torpedo, commonly called the Baby Howell, was tried officially December 4, at Newport, R. I., before Commodore Sampson, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, and Lieuts. Roy C. Smith and Brown, of the Torpedo Board of the navy. Three shots were fired from the testing station of the Hotchkiss Gun Company in the Seaconnet River. For a range of 600 yards, about all the government cares for, an average of between 27 and 28 knots was made, the torpedo being submerged 4Yz feet. It appeared to hold this depth throughout its entire run of about 1.100 yards. Each time the torpedo came to the surface at about the same spot, and the time of the several runs did not vary 3Yz seconds. This regularity was as pleasing to the officials as was the speed attained. The projectile, in more favorable weather, has made more than 29 knots, and the company say that they will show 32 for 600 yards, with their regular powder charge of 200 pounds. ALL the copper tubes in the English torpedo boat destroyers of the reserve fleet at Portsmouth are to he taken out and galvanized steel tubes substituted. The copper fittings have broken down in a number of the boats that have been tested.
This article was originally published with the title "Battleships Nos. 5 and 6" in Scientific American 73, 24, 376-377 (December 1895)