The distinguishing feature of the “Kentucky” was the method adopted of carrying the 13-inch and 8-inch guns of the main battery. With a view to obtaining as wide an arc of fire as possible, these guns were mounted in superposed or double-deck turrets, as to the merits of which there arose a very wide diversity of opinion among naval men. The 13-inch guns are mounted in the lower turret, upon the roof of which is carried a smaller turret for the 8-inch guns. The two turrets being constructed integrally, one turning mechanism serves for both pairs of guns; but each pair is, of course, provided with its own elevating gear. The obvious advantage of this mounting is that the 8-inch are never masked by the 13-inch guns, or by the superstructure, as is the case in the “Oregon,” and all four of them are, therefore, available not only for end-on fire, but for fire on either broadside. The disadvantages are that a single successful hit by the enemy would probably put all the four guns of the turret out of commission at once. Another and perhaps more serious drawback is that four of the heaviest guns have to wait upon one another, and the rapidity of fire is, therefore, diminished. The ideal mounting for rapidity and general efficiency of fire is to carry each gun in a turret by itself. It can then be fired as often and whenever the officer in command desires, and without any reference to the fire of any other gun. Another element of danger is the open communications from the guns to the magazines, a fault for which, both in these and later ships, we were to pay dearly. Also the central battery of fourteen 5-inch guns is exposed to destruction by a single large shell. The “Kentucky” is a small battleship as size goes nowadays, with a displacement of 11,540 tons, a trial speed of 16.9 knots, and a bunker capacity of 1,591 tons. At the waterline she is protected by a belt 16% inches thick amidships, tapering to 4 inches at the bow; the belt is not continuous, but terminates in the wake of the after main barbette, the protection of the after portion of the ship being left to the protective deck, which here is from 3 to 5 inches in thickness, being elsewhere in the fiat portions of it 2%, inches in thickness. Above the belt the side of the ship for about two-thirds of its length amidships is protected by a wall of 5-inch armor which extends to the main deck. Above this is a casemate battery protected by a wall of 6-inch armor, within which is mounted a battery of fourteen 5-inch guns, seven on a side. Also the ship carries twenty 6-pounders, eight of them on the gun deck, and twelve of them on the superstructure deck. All of the guns are served by electric hoists, and the big guns are also handled electrically. These ships are powerfully armed for their size; but, judged by modern ideas, their freeboard is low, being only about 13 feet, and the secondary battery, according to the ideas of the days in which they were built, was too light. But, curious to relate, the reversal of ideas as to the armament of ships has been such that, in respect of her secondary battery, the “Kearsarge” is thoroughly up-to-date, carrying a main armament of heavy guns, and a secondary armament of 5-inch guns for repelling torpedo attack. An improved type of this gun is to be mounted on our latest 20,000-ton ships of the “Delaware” class
This article was originally published with the title "Battleships"