Obrázky stránek

fixing a piece of wood on their upper part, extending the whole distance between the breech and the muzzle, rising progressively towards the latter so as to make its upper surface form a parallel line with the bore of the gun; and along this upper surface a groove was run to enable a direct sight to be taken at an object, as if by a musket, without the necessity of having recourse to a side sight also, as is necessary when guns are not disparted. This plan was subsequently followed in British ships, and attempts have been made, it is said, to have guns made with sights of this description carved out upon them from the metal, but without success, on account of the difficulty of turning them in the lathe with such a projection. Neither cost nor labor, however, ought to be spared to secure this most important improvement; and if the difficulty is too great to be readily overcome, there is nothing to prevent breech, centre, and muzzle sights of proper altitude being cast in the guns, with deep notches for securing in them requisite sights made of malleable iron extending between the breech and the muzzle. At long shot, the surest method is to take a sight along the gun as if along a musket, and the breech and muzzle sights therefore are alone perfectly adequate to answer this purpose; but in close action, the gun is almost always levelled at the object by the practised judgment of the eye alone, as exemplified in pistol firing, and shooting of an arrow; and this can only be correctly done when there is a sight extending in a parallel line to the bore from the breech to the muzzle, to enable the eye to level the gun with greater precision at the object. The guns can be levelled at near objects as correctly and more quickly this way, as by looking along them in the mode of firing a musket; and how important therefore is it that every means should be afforded to enable the guns to be quickly and correctly levelled! The old Hottentot corps almost uniformly fired their muskets while resting at the hip, and seldom missed even the smallest object after a proper practice, while the expertness of our old English archers who shot their arrows by this sort of judg ment of the eye equalled the best of our modern rifles. In the invention of the iron gun carriage the naval service has reaped a great improvement, from its being quite as light as the wooden one, less easily disabled, more easily repaired, and taking up less Toom. By forming it chiefly of hollow cylinders, greater strength and greater lightness would also be given to it, because hollow cylinders are known to be stronger than solid ones, from the atmosphere pressing on both surfaces; while these cylinders may be cast and annealed into malleable iron in the manner in which glass is annealed, which is found to expel the carbon that is the cause of the brittleness of cast iron equally as well as hammering of it. A lock with a pan to cover the touchhole, yet falling sufficiently back to admit

of pricking the cartridge would be highly beneficial too, from preventing the priming being blown away or the gun discharged by accident. With strong carriage rings also made to open with a hinge and secure again together by a notch and screw, and an opening closed by a bolt at the breech ring, all the gun breechings might be kept fitted with hooks like the chase guns, to admit of new ones being quicklyapplied in action, and the serviceable guns shifted readily to any part of the ship to supply the place of those disabled. The Champlain action was lost for want of an arrangement of this kind, because on the whole of the guns of one side of the Confiance being disabled, an attempt was made to swing the other broadside round, which failing, the colors were consequently obliged to be struck; but had the disabled guns been replaced by fresh ones, the action might have been continued with as great effect as from swinging the other broadside, by which means the American commander might have been destroyed, from the raking fire to which he exposed himself on bringing his fresh broadside round, when the guns were disabled on the side first engaged. It is astonishing that the commander of the Confiance did not attempt the replacing of his disabled guns by fresh ones (although the process would have been tedious), because even if the fighting bolts had been destroyed, he might have secured the breechings round capstan-bars, handspikes, &c. lashed outside of the ports. How much the success or failure of a naval action depends on the ingenuity of the commander, many of our most brilliant and most unfortunate naval exploits amply testify.

How much a more efficient equipment of the guns tends to insure victory, the total disorganisation of the greater portion of them, from the simple recoil of their own fire, during several of our unsuccessful actions with the Americans, sufficiently points out. Our young officers, therefore, in their course of instruction at the Naval College, and also the whole ship's company when embarked, cannot be too thoroughly initiated into the broad-sword, pistol, musket, and great-gun exercise, from the confidence of conquest with which such will naturally inspire them, besides rendering their attack on an enemy more rapidly and economically destructive too, because broadsides will not only be more quickly poured in by them, but fewer shots be thrown away. Lectures ought in fact to be instituted on board some of the guard-ships at our principal ports, where scientific officers might give instruction on all such-like useful points, and which every naval officer who had been above two years on shore should be obliged to attend a course of. At these, the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods of manoeuvring, and positions of engaging, and the course to be adopted, and remedies tobe applied, under every possible variety of attack and defence, illustrating such with anecdotes of various actions already fought,

bearing on these particular points to imprint them more vividly on the minds of the audience. Much benefit would also accrue to the navy from having an able officer appointed to inspect the ships on arrival from every cruise, as to the state of their warlike equipments, and their proficiency in sword, pistol, musket, and great-gun exercise, causing a competition for a small prize, each time, to take place among the respective long-gun and carronade men; firstly as to the quickest firing of three rounds with blank cartridge; and secondly, as to the best shots at three rounds more with ball cartridge at a mark, and the same with pistols and muskets, as also a competition with single sticks; publishing in the newspapers the report of the inspection and the results of each trial, with the names of the captains of the guns or other individuals who gained the prizes. This would create a generous rivalry, not only among the captains of the ships, but among all on board, to uphold the credit of their respective vessels in every thing relative to warlike proficiency, from which the best effects would result.

Endeavours ought to be made also to vary more the modes of punishment practised in the navy, and to do away, as far as possible, with the degrading system of flogging, which has been the ruin of many an excellent man. The frequency of the practice has been much curtailed by reason of the returns of it now made to the Admiralty, deterring the captains from its too frequent application; and although it would not be advisable to dispense with it altogether, still the infliction of it ought only to be awarded in extreme cases, and in these the culprit should either be tried by a court martial composed of the officers of the ship, or sworn affidavitsof evidence as to the nature of the crime ought to be taken by the captain before punishing, and the proceedings in both instances forwarded home to the Admiralty. A great variety of punishments could very readily be instituted for the lighter offences, such as swab wringing, performance of all sorts of dirty work, running out and in a gun for a few hours, &c. &c. while for severer cases solitary confinement in handcuffs, on bread and water; or confinement in irons on such in the usual way might be put in practice, a judicious introduction of which would eventually, I am confident, cause flogging to be entirely dispensed with. A series of wooden cells should be formed (capable of being taken to pieces and stowed below), each sufficiently capacious to contain a man in nearly an erect posture, having air-holes round the top and bottom for ventilation, and into this the culprit should be confined on bread and water for a fixed period, placing the cell in some convenient place in the betweendecks of double-decked ships, and between the guns on the upper deck of smaller vessels, having however the cells in the latter case water tight and screened from the sun and the cold. But every punish

ment, however slight, ought not to be awarded without deliberate inquiry, making reference to the Articles of War on the case, and impressing fully on the delinquent the impropriety or criminality of his conduct; for the hurried, flippant, and inconsiderate manner in which punishments are too often awarded in the navy, in a great measure destroys the effects of them, as a full half of the good resulting from punishment depends on the manner in which it is inflicted. A daily punishment book, with an index of reference, ought also to be kept, recording in it even the most trifling offences, to which recourse should be had on every fresh complaint made against a man, and the number of his offences notified to him; and when he was aware of the faithful record of his transgressions thus kept, he would be more careful of his conduct. Punishment of some kind ought to be awarded for every offence, as nothing tends more to, increase crime than permitting individuals to escape. All bad language to the men should also be strictly forbidden, as alike degrading to the person who uses it as to the individual to whom it is applied; for the feelings of even the humblest ought not to be trifled with, as by keeping up in an individual a proper esteem for himself, you in a great measure secure him against the commission of improper actions, while by lowering him in his own eyes and those of his associates by insulting and contemptuous language, you make him regardless of what he does or says, and prepare him for all manner of vice.

The equalising of the pay and allowances of the navy officers with those of the army, no less merits the attention of His Royal Highness, the disparity on this head between most of the corresponding ranks in the two services being still very great; and doubtless the stir made about this some years ago in parliament would have, in all likelihood, been kept up, until some beneficial change had been effected, from the facility with which honorable members could compare the two rates of daily pay toge ther, by reason of both being printed in the respective Army and Navy Lists, had not the ingenious device been adopted of printing afterwards the naval pay at its amount per mensem instead of per diem, which it was rightly calculated no honorable member would put himself to the trouble of reducing into a daily pay by which to make a comparison; and the issue has fully verified the sagacity of the measure, as not a word has since been uttered about the comparative inadequacy of the naval pay. It is most amusing to contemplate the laughably absurd reason by which the opponents of equalising the pay of naval and military men have been able to convince the Honorable House of the impropriety, nay actual injus tice, of the measure, being in fact no other than that the mess and dress of naval officers are nothing like so expensive as those of

military officers, the correctness of which there cannot certainly be a doubt of, for the simple reason that the inferiority of their pay will not admit of it. That a naval mess must amount to at least double that of a military mess of the same comparative substantiality, any individual may in an instant satisfy himself; for while at the sea-ports stock of all kinds is always from ten to twenty per cent dearer than in the inland towns, naval officers thus pay generally more for their fresh stock than military officers; while having also the expense of feeding it until wanted, and to run too all the risks of deaths, and of depreciation from poor keep: the difference therefore between the fresh-stock cost of a naval and military mess is necessarily immense. In clothing too, although the first cost price is less, and naval officers can wear their uniforms to a more threadbare extremity than military men on account of their greater seclusion from the public gaze; yet on the whole, their clothes last a shorter time than those of the others, from the rougher trials they are exposed to on board ship, and the rotting influence of the sea air; while their linen is more exposed to loss and more liable to quick decay from being trusted to the care of so many strange hands, and being huddled up in a foul state often for weeks or months before it can be washed, In the following particulars too, the military officers possess a vast superiority over the naval.

Firstly; No naval officer can have leave of absence without being placed on half-pay-a military officer has the like granted him for months, nay often for years, while retaining his full-pay.

Secondly; Naval officers are obliged to pay their own expenses when ordered from one ship to join another at a distant port by land-military officers have marching money at so much per mile whenever they are moved.

Thirdly; Naval officers pay their own mess-money when ordered to join a ship on a foreign station-military officers have their mess-money paid for them.

Fourthly, Naval officers are placed on half-pay after being six weeks in hospital-military officers retain their full-pay until they are well or invalided, and often are accommodated with months, nay even years, of sick leave on full-pay while their health is suffering.

Fifthly; Naval officers have not a farthing of allowance made for loss of clothes on account of shipwreck or capture-military officers have a most liberal allowance for the like.

Sixthly; Naval officers have no foreign money allowances, except in India, and these very trifling in comparison to the army, and not descending below the rank of lieutenant-army officers have extra money allowances on all foreign stations, besides extra

« PředchozíPokračovat »