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The Brain Of The Battle-Ship
by [?]

Build an inverted Harvey-steel box about eight feet high, one hundred and fifty feet long, half as wide, with walls of eighteen-inch thickness, and a roof of three, and you have strong protection against shot and shell. Build up from the ends of the box two steel barbettes with revolving turrets as heavy as your side-walls; place in each a pair of thirteen-inch rifles; flank these turrets with four others of eight-inch wall, each holding two eight-inch guns; these again with four smaller, containing four six-inch guns, and you have power of offense nearly equal to your protection. Loosely speaking, a modern gun-projectile will, at short range, pierce steel equal to itself in cross-section, and from an elevated muzzle will travel as many miles as this cross-section measures in inches. Placed upon an outlying shoal, this box with its guns would make an efficient fortress, but would lack the advantage of being able to move and choose position.

Build underneath and each way from the ends of the box a cellular hull to float it; place within it, and below the box, magazines, boilers, and engines; construct above, between the turrets, a lighter superstructure to hold additional quick-fire guns and torpedo-tubes; cap the whole with a military mast supporting fighting-tops, and containing an armored conning-tower in its base; man and equip, provision and coal the fabric, and you can go to sea, confident of your ability to destroy everything that floats, except icebergs and other battle-ships.

Of these essentials was the first-class coast-defense battle-ship Argyll. She was of ten thousand tons displacement, and was propelled by twin screws which received ten thousand horse-power from twin engines placed below the water-line. Three long tubes–one fixed in the stem, two movable in the superstructure–could launch Whitehead torpedoes,–mechanical fish carrying two hundred and twenty pounds of guncotton in their heads,–which sought in the water a twenty-foot depth, and hurried where pointed at a thirty-knot rate of speed. Their impact below the water-line was deadly, and only equaled in effect by the work of the ram-bow, the blow of the ship as a whole–the last glorious, suicidal charge on an enemy that had dismounted the guns, if such could happen.

Besides her thirteen-, eight-, and six-inch guns, she carried a secondary quick-fire battery of twenty six-pounders, four one-pounders, and four Gatling guns distributed about the superstructure and in the fighting-tops. The peculiar efficacy of this battery lay in its menace to threatening torpedo-boats, and its hostility to range-finders, big-gun sights, and opposing gunners. A torpedo-boat, receiving the full attention of her quick-fire battery, could be disintegrated and sunk in a yeasty froth raised by the rain of projectiles long before she could come within range of torpedo action; while a simultaneous discharge of all guns would distribute over seven thousand pounds of metal with foot-tons of energy sufficient to lift the ship herself high out of water. Bristling, glistening, and massive, a reservoir of death potential, a center of radiant destruction, a spitting, chattering, thundering epitome of racial hatred, she bore within her steel walls the ever-growing burden of progressive human thought. She was a maker of history, a changer of boundaries, a friend of young governments; and it chanced that on a fine tropical morning, in company with three armored cruisers, four protected cruisers, and a fleet of torpedo-boats and destroyers, she went into action.

She was stripped to bare steel and signal-halyards. Davits, anchors, and cables were stowed and secured. Ladders, gratings, stanchions, and all movable deck-fittings were below the water-line. Wooden bulkheads, productive of splinters, were knocked down and discarded, while all boats, with the plugs out, were overboard, riding to a sea-anchor made up of oars and small spars.

The crew was at quarters. Below, in the magazine, handling-rooms, stoke-holds, and bunkers, bare-waisted men worked and waited in stifling heat; for she was under forced draft, and compartments were closed, even though the enemy was still five miles away. The chief and his first assistant engineer watched the main engines in their twin compartments, while the subordinate aids and machinists attended to the dynamos, motors, and auxiliary cylinders that worked the turrets, pumps, and ammunition-hoists. All boilers were hot and hissing steam; all fire-pumps were working; all fire-hose connected and spouting streams of water. Perspiring men with strained faces deluged one another while they waited.