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قراءة كتاب Continental Monthly , Vol. 6, No. 1, July, 1864 Devoted to Literature and National Policy.

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‏اللغة: English
Continental Monthly , Vol. 6,  No. 1, July, 1864
Devoted to Literature and National Policy.

Continental Monthly , Vol. 6, No. 1, July, 1864 Devoted to Literature and National Policy.

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 4

rations, and the surplus is allowed for by the commissaries in money, by which a company fund can be created, and expended in the purchase of gloves, gaiters, etc., or luxuries for the table. A hospital fund is formed in the same way—by an allowance for the portions of the rations not consumed by the patients—and is expended in articles adapted to diet for the sick. The rations are ample and of good quality, though the salt meat is rather tough occasionally, and the consistency of the hard bread is shot-proof. Company cooks are allowed, and in camp they contrive to furnish quite appetizing meals. Their position is rather difficult to fill, and woe is the portion of the cook not competent for his profession. The practical annoyances to which he is subject make him realize to the fullest extent 'the unfathomable depths of human woe.' On the march the men usually prefer to boil their coffee in tin cups, and to cook their meat on ram-rods—without waiting for the more formal movements of the cooks. To reach camp before sunset, after a twenty-mile march, to pitch his little shelter tent, throw in it his heavy arms and accoutrements, collect some pine twigs for a couch, wash in some adjacent stream, drink his cup of hot, strong coffee, eat his salt pork and hard bread, and then wrap himself in his blanket for a dreamless slumber, is one of the most delicious combinations of luxurious enjoyment a soldier knows. To-morrow, perhaps, he starts up at the early reveille, takes his hasty breakfast, is marshalled into line before the enemy, there is a shriek in the air rent by the murderous shell, and the soldier's last march is ended.

The next department we shall consider is that of ordnance, which supplies the munitions and portions of accoutrements.

The subject of artillery is perhaps the most interesting of the great number connected with warfare. In the popular estimation it overshadows all others. All the poetry of war celebrates the grandeur of

'Those mortal engines whose rude throats
The immortal Jove's dread clamors counterfeit.'

The thunder of great guns and the dashing of cavalry are the incidents which spontaneously present themselves to the mind when a battle is mentioned. Perhaps the accounts of Waterloo are responsible for this. The steady fighting of masses of infantry, having less particulars to attract the imagination, is overlooked; the fact, preëminent above all others in military science, that it is the infantry which contests and decides battles, that artillery and cavalry are only subordinate agencies—is forgotten. So splendid have been the inventions and achievements of the last few years in respect to artillery, as illustrated particularly at Charleston, that some excuse may easily be found for the popular misconception. A few remarks presenting some truths relative to the appropriate sphere of artillery and its powers, and stating succinctly the results which have been accomplished, may be found interesting.

Without entering into the history of artillery, it will be sufficient to state that the peculiar distinguishing excellence of modern improvements in cannon is the attainment of superior efficiency, accuracy, and mobility, with a decrease in weight of metal. A gun of any given size is now many times superior to one of the same size in use fifty or a hundred years ago. It is not so much in big guns that we excel our predecessors—for there are many specimens of old cannon of great dimensions; but by our advance in science we are able so to shape our guns and our projectiles that with less weight of material we can throw larger shot to a greater distance and with more accuracy. A long course of mathematical experiment and calculation has determined the exact pressure of a charge of powder at all points in the bore of a cannon during its combustion and evolution into gas. These experiments have proved that strength is principally required near the breech, and that a cannon need not be of so great length as was formerly supposed to be necessary. We are thus able to construct guns which can be handled, throwing balls of several hundred pounds' weight. Another splendid result of scientific investigation is the method adopted for casting such monster guns. In order that the mass of metal may be of uniform tenacity and character, it should cool equably. This has been secured by a plan for introducing a stream of water through the core of the casting, so that the metal cools both within and without simultaneously.

About the time that the Italian war commenced, the subject of rifled cannon excited much popular interest. Exaggerated expectations were formed of the changes to be produced by them in the art of warfare. Many saw in them the means of abolishing war entirely. Of what use is it, they said, to array armies against each other, if they can be destroyed at two or three miles' distance? At the commencement of our own contest there was an undue partiality for rifled ordnance. Almost every commander of a battery desired to have rifled guns. The more correct views of the thoroughly accomplished artillery officers to whom was confided the arrangement of this branch of the service, and actual experience, have dissipated the unfounded estimate of their utility for field service, and established the proper proportions in an artillery force which they should compose. It has been ascertained that fighting will never be confined to long ranges—that guns which can throw large volumes of spherical case and canister into lines only a few hundred yards distant are as necessary as ever.

The necessity for rifled cannon arose from the perfection of rifled muskets. When these arms reached such a degree of excellence that horses and gunners could be shot down at a distance of one thousand yards, the old-fashioned smooth-bore artillery was deprived of its prestige. To retrieve this disadvantage and restore the superiority of artillery over musketry in length of range, methods of rifling cannon for field service became an important study. For assailing distant lines of troops, for opening a battle, for dispersing bodies of cavalry, for shelling intrenchments, for firing over troops from hills in their rear, rifled guns are of invaluable service. But, notwithstanding troops are now universally armed with muskets of long range, no battle of importance is fought without close engagements of the lines. The alternate advances and retreats of the infantry, firing at distances of less than one hundred yards, charging with fixed bayonets and frantic shouts, will always characterize any battle fought with vigor and enthusiasm. In such conflicts, wide-mouthed smooth bores, belching their torrents of iron, must play a conspicuous part.

Another fact, which will perhaps surprise the general reader, is that the form and character of projectiles have been matters of as much difficulty, have received as much investigation, and are of as much importance, as the shape and character of the guns. In fact, rifled pieces would be comparatively ineffective except projectiles adapted to them had been invented. It was necessary that projectiles of greater weight, of less resistance to the atmosphere, and of more accuracy of flight, than the old round shot, should be introduced. To accomplish these ends several things were necessary: 1st, the projectiles should be elongated; 2d, they should have conical points; 3d, the centre of gravity should be at a proper distance in front of the centre; 4th, there should be methods of steering them so that they should always go point foremost through the whole curve of their flight; 5th, they should fit the gun so as to take the rifles, yet not so closely as to strain it. To attain these and other requisites, innumerable plans have been devised. The projectile offering the best normal conditions is the