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BB-1 Indiana-class Armament

When the battleships Indiana, Massachusetts, and Oregon were commenced, a prejudice still existed in the United States against 'high-sided' armorclads, and these were designated us 'coast-line battleships' and given very moderate freeboard. They were very remarkable ships for their day. Their speed was rather low than high-but the battery was powerful and included, in addition to four 13-inch guns, a powerful auxiliary battery of eight 8-inch and four 6-inch guns.

Like all other steel or iron vessels, a battleship is a matter of frames, plates, and rivets, put together after most skilful planning and much hammering. It is constructed with due regard to that mathematical quality known as specific gravity, but which the layman can best understand by the word steadiness. It is a delicate adjustment of curves of solid steel to the changeable resistance of waves of air and water. It is as much superior to the ordinary vessel, and as much more complicated, as an opera is to an ordinary hymn-tune. It is simply packed with machinery. Unlike the merchantman, speed is not the thing most desired.

For the hull alone 25 principal plans were made, and fully 400 separate drawings were prepared, and duplicated by photograph. This of itself was enough work to keep a force of expert draftsmen busy continuously for eight months. For the engines more than 250 separate drawings are required, and these, in all their delicate details, would take a force of fifty men nearly a year to complete, if engaged continuously at the task. The preparation of plans continued as the vessel is building, and did not cease until almost the very day she went into commission. Not only must every rivet, every joint, be marked out and noted, but there must be the most complicated computation of strains and weights. Space must be economized in every way, and the interior fittings, and the machinery with its two main engines and four tremendous boilers, through any of which a horse carmight almost be driven, must not only be so placed as to do the best work as quickly as possible, but also so as to preserve the equilibrium of the ship.

The ships would probably always operate near the American coast, and, therefore, with bottoms cleaner than those of an enemy operating against them from a distant base. Though designed to be fitted with bilge keels, these were not initially fitted. On account of their low freeboard, they are, of course, wet, if the weather is at all rough; but, even without bilge keels, they seldom encountered weather that would have prevented them from using their guns.

On one or two occasions, however, the Indiana showed excessive rolling. On her way from Hampton Roads to New York in the fall of 1896 she encountered a very heavy gale, in which her forward 13-inch turret broke loose. This turret is unbalanced, its centre of gravity being about 3}^ feet from its axis of rotation, and its revolving weight about 489 tons. Any seafaring man can appreciate from these figures that the breaking loose of this turret in a gale of wind constituted a serious emergency. By prompt and skilful action the turret was secured temporarily by hawser. After reaching port, stronger securing gear was fitted. This was the most serious accident that has ever happened to any of these vessels.

In February, 1897, the United States North Atlantic Squadron encountered heavy weather off the coast of North Carolina. The Indiana began to roll so heavily that her commanding officer requested and received permission to put back into Hampton Roads. These events showed the need of bilge keels ; and, as soon as possible, these were fitted.

Later, the Massachusetts, on a trip from Boston to St. Johns, passed within 250 miles of a cyclone centre and encountered tremendous gales and very heavy seas. The vessel slowed down during the worst of the storm. With reference to it, her commanding officer reported: - "During this time the ship behaved beautifully, never making less than 6 knots per hour, nearly, on her course, and never rolling over 5 degrees. Her steadiness was so remarkable during the entire passage that it must be, in great measure, attributed to bilge keels."

The battle-ship Indiana when finished weighed 10,296 tons. This is within 200 tons of the gross register of the well-known American liner, the Paris, but the Indian was four knots an hour slower, was 179 feet shorter, six feet broader, and drew two feet more water. Of these 10,296 tons of her displacement 4,400 tons were of magnificent steel for the hull. The armor, rolled and toughened until it was the best in the world, some of it eighteen inches thick, weighed 2700 tons. The engines and machinery, acknowledged to be superior to those constructed abroad, weighed 875 tons, and the rest of the weight consisted of armament, coal, and stores. In putting all this together about 700 tons of rivets are used.

The steel fort is 190 feet long, 72 feet deep, and 18 inches thick. At each end a barbette roses to protect the monster 13-inch guns. These barbettes are 35 feet in diameter, 17 inches thick, and 12 feet high. Built around this fort, and with its smoke-stacks, conning-tower, and military mast rising above it from the inside of the steel fortress, is a sturdy craft which may be entirely shot away at the ends, and is 348 feet long, 69 feet broad, and 24 feet deep. Its speed was to be 16 knots an hour, and its steam power that of 10,000 horses.

The protective deck is a turtle-back of steel from three to four inches thick reaching from side to side, and in most naval vessels from bow to stern. At the sides it extends about three feet below the water line. Below this deck are the engines, boilers, and a spare steering-apparatus. If a shot could get through the sides of the vessel it might kill men, that is to be expected in warfare, but it must pass through this sloping inner deck of steel before it can disable the vital parts of the vessel. It is on this protective deck that the steel fort of the Indiana rests. From the ends of the redoubt this protective deck runs fore and aft, to bow and stern, and if all this frail part of the vessel were shot away, the ship could still float and fight.

Except for the belt of armor along its sides and on it turrets and conning-tower, the steel plates of the ship are only five eighths of an inch thick, made to keep out water rather than projectiles. A ship like this has one large military mast, a steel tower ninety feet tall, protruding at intervals through saucer-like receptacles called fighting-tops and extending above the uppermost one like an old-fashioned candlestick from its standard.

The vessel's two elliptical smoke-stacks had 16 feet of diameter the broadest way across. Inside of this vessel are 66 separate engines. Each of the two main engines is so tremendous that, tucked away under its arms, as its frames reach up two or three stories high, are two little engines, the sole purpose of which is to start the big ones going. The condensing-tubes of this craft alone would make a single tube nearly 12 miles long. It takes 30 tons of water to fill her boilers full before steam is generated. The boilers, about 16 feet in diameter, and 20 feet long, must stand a pressure of 160 pounds to the square inch. Mile upon mile of tubing is used in them, and numerous engines for pumping, for ventilation, for steering, are scattered through the hold. Three immense dynamos, each of 300 amperes capacity, are used in the ship an electric plant that could light up a town of 5000 inhabitants.

Twenty-one sets of speaking-tubes ran throughout the vessel, and center at 12 telephone stations. Electric call-bells, automatic signals, registering-devices of various sorts, add to the complication of the details.

Around on the superstructure are arranged 14 boats, steam launches, whale-boats, gigs, and one electric launch. Down in the water, at the end of the shafts that project from each side of the flanks, are two screws to propel the ship, and at the bow, curving only a few feet under the water like a protruding chin, not too pronounced to be ungainly, is the ram, a single steel-casting, so buttressed and strengthened that with sufficient momentum it could cut steel armor like a knife.

Under nearly an acre of heating surface the boilers generated a force of steam that pushed the vessel fiercely through the water, and the ram became a terrible weapon. The designers calculated roughly that if the Indiana were driven at full force against a stationary object, such as one of the Brooklyn Bridge towers, she would strike with a force of 100,000 foot tons, that is, a force that could lift 100,000 tons one foot. Certainly no vessel struck by such a blow could live.

With her four powerful search-lights for eyes this terrible craft had the power of discerning small boats, mere specks on the water, at a distance of one to three miles in the night.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:35:20 ZULU