"On Naval Warfare with Steam" 1860

Monday, February 4, 2013

Found this gem at the Internet Archives.

This book is an interesting treatise on the changes in naval warfare in the mid 19th century brought on by the adoption of steam power for naval vessels. What is most fascinating to me is the attempt by the author, an ARMY General, Sir Howard Douglas, to try to predict what effect steam power would have. Note this document pre-dates wide spread adoption of armour plating even, the French La Gloire was launched November 1859 and the British Warrior in 1860.

An interesting read, highly recommended to get a feel for the effect such technological change was having.

On Naval warfare with Steam

Link to File

General Sir Howard Douglas
Bart., G.C.B, G.C.M.B, D.C.L., F.R.S.


John Murray
Albermarle Street

Quote from Introduction

We are now at the commencement of a new era in
naval warfare, in consequence of the introduction of
steam as a propelling power for ships, and its applica-
tion, by all the maritime powers of Europe, to vessels
of war, from those of the lowest class to line-of-battle
ships of the greatest magnitude. This new power
will necessarily modify, and, to a great extent, over-
turn, the present tactics of war on the ocean.

Hitherto the execution of naval evolutions has de-
pended on atmospherical conditions, and often the best-
concerted plans for attack or defence at sea have been
frustrated, when at the point of being successfully
carried out, by sudden calms, or by unforeseen changes
in the direction of the wind ; while now, an elaborate
system of appropriate machinery, put in motion by the
expansive force of steam, by enabling a vessel to be
moved at pleasure, with more or less rapidity, or to be
brought to a state of rest, or again, to have the direc-
tion of its motion changed through the guiding power
of the helm, will enable the commander of a ship or
fleet to put in practice, without risk of failure, what-
ever manoeuvre he may have determined on, whether
for coming to action, or for counteracting the measures
taken by his opponent, previously to, or during, all
the battle movements of the fleet.

It is generally supposed that the present naval su-
premacy of Great Britain is mainly due to circum-
stances arising out of the particular nature of the
moving power by which the evolutions of vessels,
singly or in fleets, have been performed. That moving
power is the wind acting on the sails of the ships — a
power in its nature very variable ; and it is evident
that the introduction of steam, as a propelling power,
whose action is entirely under the control of the engi-
neer, will bring about great changes in the relative
conditions of British and foreign navies, affecting, in
consequence, the maritime importance of the several
European nations.

Keep your sightglass full and your firebox trimmed.


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