Military Science in the nineteenth century



The science of war gained much from the United States' experiences in the sixties. In the matter of battle-ships the lesson changed the old-world system entirely. There had been iron-clad vessels in Europe for several years before our war; but they had not stood the test of action. The first effective vessel of this kind was the Confederate ram Merrimack, and her famous conflict with the Monitor has been called the most important naval battle in the world. The Merrimack was a wooden frigate that had burned to the water's edge and sunk. The Confederates raised and rebuilt her, enclosing her vitals with iron plates two inches thick. A bulwark was built, and similarly covered, and a cast-iron ram was attached to the bow about two feet under water. The Monitor had been built after a design of John Ericsson, who for twenty years had been endeavoring to secure its adoption. It was an iron-plated hull, 172 feet over all, 41 feet beam, and 11 1-3 feet depth, and with a revolving iron turret containing two guns. The target surface was reduced to a minimum, the hull being less than two feet high and plated with five inches of iron. The turret was nine inches high, and covered with eight inches of iron. It was a floating fortress. The story of the fight needs no telling here. Its moral revolutionized the navies of the world.

Not only have battle-ships changed, but their guns and ammunition have been radically modernized, chiefly by American inventors, of whom Gatling and Maxim are probably the most famous. The heliograph first demonstrated its efficiency and utility for field intercommunication in the Indian wars of the Western frontier, beginning in 1886. There years later Major W. J. Volkman, U. S. A., demonstrated in Arizona and New Mexico the possibility of carrying on communication by heliograph over a range of 200 miles. The network of communication begun by General Miles in 1886, and continued by Lieutenant W. A. Glassford, was perfected in 1889 at ranges of 85, 88, 95, and 125 miles, over a country inconceivably rugged and broken, the stronghold of the Apache and other hostile Indian tribes.

In 1862 General McClellan organized a balloon corps, with Thaddeus S. C. Lowe at its head. The innovation soon became a component part of the Army of the Potomac, as it did good service in disclosing the military operations of the Confederates. Now all the leading military nations of the world have their balloon corps, specially trained and equipped for reconnoitering purposes. At the battle of Santiago, on July 1, 1898, the movements of the enemy were observed from a balloon by Sergeant Thomas Carroll Boone. A telegraph wire connected the basket of the balloon with the ground, and observations were transmitted in that manner to the officers below.





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