Seeing the destructive power of these modern engines of war, it may well be asked how many pieces the defense will be able to preserve intact for the last period of a siege--for the very moment at which it has most need of a few guns to hold the assailants in check and destroy the assaulting columns. Engineers have proposed two methods of protecting these few indispensable pieces. The first of these consists in placing each gun under a masonry vault, which is covered with earth on all sides except the one that contains the embrasure, this side being covered with armor plate.
The second consists in placing one or two guns under a metallic cupola, the embrasures in which are as small as possible. The cannon, in a vertical aim, revolves around the center of an aperture which may be of very small dimensions. As regards direct aim, the carriages are absolutely fixed to the cupola, which itself revolves around a vertical axis. These cupolas may be struck in three different ways: (1) at right angles, by a direct shot, and consequently with a full charge--very dangerous blows, that necessitate a great thickness of the armor plate; (2) obliquely, when the projectile, if the normal component of its real velocity is not sufficient to make it penetrate, will be deflected without doing the plate much harm; and (3) by a vertical shot that may strike the armor plate with great accuracy.
General Brialmont says that the metal of the cupola should be able to withstand both penetration and breakage; but these two conditions unfortunately require opposite qualities. A metal of sufficient ductility to withstand breakage is easily penetrated, and, conversely, one that is hard and does not permit of penetration does not resist shocks well. Up to the present, casehardened iron (Gruson) has appeared to best satisfy the contradictory conditions of the problem. Upon the tempered exterior of this, projectiles of chilled iron and cast steel break upon striking, absorbing a part of their live force for their own breakage.
In 1875 Commandant Mougin performed some experiments with a chilled iron turret established after these plans. The thickness of the metal normally to the blows was 23½ inches, and the projectiles were of cast steel. The trial consisted in firing two solid 12 in. navy projectiles, 46 cylindrical 6 in. ones, weighing 100 lb., and 129 solid, pointed ones, 12 in. in diameter. The 6 inch projectiles were fired from a distance of 3,280 feet, with a remanent velocity of 1,300 feet. The different phases of the experiment are shown in Figs. 4, 5, and 6. The cupola was broken; but it is to be remarked that a movable and well-covered one would not have been placed under so disadvantageous circumstances as the one under consideration, upon which it was easy to superpose the blows. An endeavor was next made to substitute a tougher metal for casehardened iron, and steel was naturally thought of. But hammered steel broke likewise, and a mixed or compound metal was still less successful. It became necessary, therefore, to reject hard metals, and to have recourse to malleable ones; and the one selected was rolled iron.
Armor plate composed of this latter has been submitted to several tests, which appear to show that a thickness of 18 inches will serve as a sufficient barrier to the shots of any gun that an enemy can conveniently bring into the field.
FIG. 7.--Casemate Of Chilled Iron After Receiving Ninety-Six Shots.
Armor Plated Casemates
Fig. 7 shows the state of a chilled iron casemate after a vigorous firing. The system that we are about to describe is much better, and is due to Commandant Mougin.
FIG. 8.--Mougin's Armor-Plate Casemate.
The gun is placed under a vault whose generatrices are at right angles to the line of fire (Fig. 8), and which contains a niche that traverses the parapet. This niche is of concrete, and its walls in the vicinity of the embrasure are protected by thick iron plate. The rectangular armor plate of rolled iron rests against an elastic cushion of sand compactly rammed into an iron plate caisson. The conical embrasure traverses this cushion by means of a cast-steel piece firmly bolted to the caisson, and applied to the armor through the intermedium of a leaden ring. Externally, the cheeks of the embrasure and the merlons consist of blocks of concrete held in caissons of strong iron plate. The surrounding earthwork is of sand. For closing the embrasure, Commandant Mougin provides the armor with a disk, c, of heavy rolled iron, which contains two symmetrical apertures. This disk is movable around a horizontal axis, and its lower part and its trunnions are protected by the sloping mass of concrete that covers the head of the casemate. A windlass and chain give the disk the motion that brings one of its apertures opposite the embrasure or that closes the latter.
When this portion of the disk has suffered too much from the enemy's fire, a simple maneuver gives it a half revolution, and the second aperture is then made use of.
This cupola (Fig. 9) is dome-shaped, and thus offers but little surface to direct fire; but it can be struck by a vertical shot, and it may be inquired whether its top can withstand the shock of projectiles from a 10 inch rifled mortar. It is designed for two 6 inch guns placed parallel. Its internal diameter is 19½ feet, and the dome is 8 inches in thickness and has a radius of 16½ feet. It rests upon a pivot, p, around which it revolves through the intermedium of rollers placed in a circle, r. The dome is of relatively small bulk--a bad feature as regards resistance to shock. To obviate this difficulty, the inventor partitions it internally in such a way as to leave only sufficient space to maneuver the guns. The partitions consist of iron plate boxes filled with concrete. The form of the dome has one inconvenience, viz., the embrasure in it is necessarily very oblique, and offers quite an elongated ellipse to blows, and the edges of the bevel upon a portion of the circumference are not strong enough. In order to close the embrasure as tightly as possible, the gun is surrounded with a ring provided with trunnions that enter the sides of the embrasure. The motion of the piece necessary to aim it vertically is effected around this axis of rotation.
The weight of the gun is balanced by a system of counterpoises and the chains, l, and the breech terminates in a hollow screw, f, and a nut, g, held between two directing sectors, h. The cupola is revolved by simply acting upon the rollers.
FIG. 9.--THE SCHUMANN-GRUSON CUPOLA.
The general form of this cupola (Fig. 1) is that of a cylindrical turret. It is 12¾ feet in diameter, and rises 3¼ feet above the top of the glacis. It has an advantage over the one just described in possessing more internal space, without having so large a diameter; and, as the embrasures are at right angles with the sides, the plates are less weakened. The turret consists of three plates assembled by slit and tongue joints, and rests upon a ring of strong iron plate strengthened by angle irons. Vertical partitions under the cheeks of the gun carriages serve as cross braces, and are connected with each other upon the table of the hydraulic pivot around which the entire affair revolves. This pivot terminates in a plunger that enters a strong steel press-cylinder embedded in the masonry of the lower concrete vault.
The iron plate ring carries wheels and rollers, through the intermedium of which the turret is revolved. The circular iron track over which these move is independent of the outer armor.
The whole is maneuvered through the action of one man upon the piston of a very small hydraulic press. The guns are mounted upon hydraulic carriages. The brake that limits the recoil consists of two bronze pump chambers, a and b (Fig. 10). The former of these is 4 inches in diameter, and its piston is connected with the gun, while the other is 8 inches in diameter, and its piston is connected with two rows of 26 couples of Belleville springs, d. The two cylinders communicate through a check valve.
When the gun is in battery, the liquid fills the chamber of the 4 inch pump, while the piston of the 8 inch one is at the end of its stroke. A recoil has the effect of driving in the 4 inch piston and forcing the liquid into the other chamber, whose piston compresses the springs. At the end of the recoil, the gunner has only to act upon the valve by means of a hand-wheel in order to bring the gun into battery as slowly as he desires, through the action of the springs.
FIG. 10.--MOUGIN'S HYDRAULIC GUN
For high aiming, the gun and the movable part of its carriage are capable of revolving around a strong pin, c, so placed that the axis of the piece always passes very near the center of the embrasure, thus permitting of giving the latter minimum dimensions. The chamber of the 8 inch pump is provided with projections that slide between circular guides, and carries the strap of a small hydraulic piston, p, that suffices to move the entire affair in a vertical plane, the gun and movable carriage being balanced by a counterpoise, q.
The projectiles are hoisted to the breech of the gun by a crane.
Between the outer armor and turret sufficient space is left for a man to enter, in order to make repairs when necessary.
Each of the rolled iron plates of which the turret consists weighs 19 tons. The cupolas that we have examined in this article have been constructed on the hypothesis than an enemy will not be able to bring into the field guns of much greater caliber than 6 inches.--Le Genie Civil.