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Naval Revolution in East

Naval Revolution in East



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Published by Emir Yener
a treatise about the ironclad revolution in Ottoman Empire and Quing China
a treatise about the ironclad revolution in Ottoman Empire and Quing China

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Published by: Emir Yener on Aug 13, 2007
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Emir Yener 2006700837
 Naval Transformation of the Ottoman Empire and Quing China
The “long” 19th century is among the most thorough periods of transformation duringwhole the world history. The industrial revolution transformed the very nature of societies andstates; either directly or indirectly. Among the most fantastic transformations is the change innaval warfare. Starting from early 1830’s, steam power was introduced and refined into all of the first and second rank navies. Then in 1860’s, the ironclad revolution completed the allround transformation of the naval warfare. This transformation had the most profound effectsin technological, institutional, strategic and human aspects of navies. Perhaps the most visibleeffect of the naval revolution is the succesful boom of European imperialism. In previouscenturies, especially in 16th and 17th centuries, the first naval revolution of ocean-going andcannon armed sailing ships had enabled Europeans to infiltrate and eventually to topple thehangover stone age cultures of Americas, and to carve out enclaves in Africa and Far East.However, the civilised societies of the east were by no means defenceless nor vulnerable towestern colonialism, and united with the limitations of nautical technology, the very existenceof european presence in the east hung on a delicate balance of bargain and diplomacy withregional powers; not to coercive force. In 1800, only some %35 of the global territory belonged to the western powers but on the eve of the first world war, that percentage had risento an astonishing %85. It was the sobering result of the unilateral and overwhelming tip in the balance of military, above all nautical technology. True, the economic and social leap of thewest was the “deep” factor in the eventual collapse of old order in Africa and East but withoutcoercive force, it is very doubtful that westerners would have the course of events go as theywished.It was all too natural that the victims of this changing world reacted most urgently to theimminent danger. The only possible way of warding the western interlopers with any chanceof success was to reform the state along the lines of antagonists and thus fight on even terms.However, that kind of reformation required the same institutional, socio-political andintellectual framework which spawned the western superiority. In the end, whole humancommunity transformed as a result of this survivalist desire to change. Against this background, a study of the attempts to reform in the non-western navies may provide us avery interesting picture of the degree of success for the overall modernization of these states.The navies in 19th century became the most complex industrial institutions, uniting the mostsophisticated advances in engineering, metallurgy, propulsion, communications and ballistics.A modern warship became a true microcosmos of technicians to properly function. In manystates, the “modern” or “technical” man first appeared in the navy. The case of two easternempires with their dramatic fates during the course of 19th century provides us a superbcomparative study chance to understand the effectiveness of modernization in non-western powers. These two empires are those of Ottomans and the Chinese
The Naval Revolution
At the end of Napoleonic Wars, the main arbiter of the naval might on the high seas wasthe ship-of-the-line. Tracing back its origins to the early 17th century, the ship of the line wasthe most refined and excelled early modern tool of war. Bristling with 74 to 120 cannons of heavy caliber (mainly 32 and 24 pounders), the ship of the line possessed a firepower which
far surpassed a 30.000 men army corps (30-50 light calibre field guns). Only the mostelaborate bastions of latest design with thick masonry would stand off to the deadly broadsideof such a battleship. Indeed, the appearance of a small squadron of those floating fortressesoff a trouble point was often enough to compel the assailed side to come to terms. The shipsof the line were constructed of hardwoods resistant to saltwater rot, such as oak, teak andcedar. The propulsive power was the wind and a 74 gun ship of the line should set up to some4.500 square meters of canvas in favourable weather. When pitted against each other, ships of the line would form a single file, called “line ahead” and try to batter their opponent intosubmission via sheer weight of fire while sailing on parallel courses. Success thus relied to therapidity and accuracy of fire which required a constant drill, discipline and integrity of thecrew.By 1815, the undisputed command of the seas was at the hands of British. Honed to perfection by constant warfare on every part of the world oceans from 1793 to 1815; theRoyal Navy was quantitatively and qualicatively the unsurpassed master of naval warfare. It’sno coincidence that 19th century was called “Pax Brittanica”, guarded by the wooden walls of the Royal Navy.Besides the huge battleships, there were frigates, corvettes and sloops; collectively called“cruisers”. These carried between 28-54 medium calibre cannons and were used to patrol far flung seas, trade routes and colonies. In 19th century, the last surge of piracy which followedthe Napoleonic Wars was suppressed by ardent patrols of British and American frigates. Intimes of war, frigates also proved to be excellent craft to raid and disrupt the opponent’s trade.Most of the second or third rank navies opted to acquire frigates as the backbone of their navies instead of costly ships of the line, which would not be versatile either.By 1820’s and ‘30s first practical naval steamers also start to appear. The steam power was in succesful use at sea since 1807 (American inventor Robert Fulton’s
 North River Steamer 
in Albany being the first example) but it took nearly two decades to refine the newtechnology and adapt it into the open sea. Even then, steamships were not consideredsuccessful first line warships as they were propulsed by large, unwieldy and vulnerable paddles which occupied the space necessary to carry enough ordinance. Instead, they provedvaluable as tugs to ships of the line, helping to free commanders from vagaries of the wind.Perhaps their most valuable area of operation was the colonial waters, where their shallowdraught and ability to carry troops proved indispensable for expeditions to areas previouslyconsidered unassailable due to navigational difficulties and inhospitability.In 1840’s, a new and effective solution to the problem of suitable steam propulsion wasintroduced in form of the screw propellor. Situated underwater abaft of the ship, the screw didnot interfere with the space of guns, was incomparably more effective than the paddle interms of hydrodynamic aspects and should be detached and hoisted into a well when the shipwas to move by sail. After some experimental small scale craft, leading naval powers startedto fit screws into their existing ships of the line or built them outright from keel up. Britainand France took the lead, followed by United States, altough the last was focused to largecruisers rather than battleships. Most of the second rank naval powers (Russia, Austria, Italiankingdoms and Ottoman Empire) also did acquire at least one steam ship of the line.During the Crimean War (1854-55), fleets of steam powered ships proved decisive in paralysing the Russian forces and bringing the allied victory. However, the vulnerability of wooden ships to fire starting shell guns was demonstrated more than once during that conflict;the most famous example being that of Ottoman fleet’s destruction at the battle of Sinope bythe Russian Black Sea Fleet. Towards the end of the war, Emperor Napoleon III of Franceordered floating armored batteries to assail the russian fortifications in Crimea. Upon their successes, master engineer Dupuy de Lôme built an armored steam frigate,
 La Gloire
, in1858. Perceiving the threat to their naval supremacy and already well worried by the re-
waking ambitions of France, British navy answered
la Gloire
with the first modern battleship:
 HMS Warrior 
. Contrary to the
which possessed a wooden hull and relatively limitedendurance,
was built entirely of iron and was fully capable of cruising in high seas.Soon, a race of armored warships started between the two leading powers. The maritimeworld was in the age of ironclad.Along with those advances in shipbuilding and propulsion, there was an equallyimportant transformation in artillery. After Napoleonic Wars, the french fully abandoned allhopes to match the Royal Navy either in numbers of ships or in crew quality. To offset thosetwo critical deficiencies, they turned to technology. As a result of the advances in metallurgy,it was now possible to cast long and heavy guns which could resist to heavier charges of explosives, thus providing a longer range for heavy projectiles. French should have fewer ships but if they could arm these with improved guns, they would shorten the firepower gap.In 1822, Colonel Henri Paixhans from artillery produced a new 68 pounder gun which firedan explosive shell that was able to doom any wooden warship. However, the great hopes tiedto this new weapon were dashed when it was discovered that the gun was slow to load,inaccurate and possessed only half the range of lighter conventional guns. Nevertheless, the possibility of a lucky hit which can destroy a battleship in the close range mêlée was attractiveenough to naval staffs and it became customary to load a few of those pieces to battleships,frigates, and especially to auxiliary paddle warships. Heavy long guns came to their own withthe advent of steel casting and rifling, which put them on a par with conventional guns in bothrange and accuracy. The new improvements were introduced in 1850’s and half of 
’sinital 40 guns were such new weapons.Effectiveness was not without a cost tough. As the calibre and the size of the gunsincreased, it was only possible to mount fewer of them in a hull. The problem of how tomount a limited number of guns most effectively into a hull was solved with the invention of the turret. Captain Cowper Coles of the Royal Navy and the brilliant Swedish marine architectJohn Ericsson designed and introduced the first examples of turrets. Especially during theAmerican Civil War (1861-65), Union navy demostrated the effectiveness of the turret withthe succes of its armored turreted batteries designed by Ericsson, called “monitors”. The firsthigh seas turret battleship was built in 1870 for the Royal Navy. The
and most of the broadside armed early ironclads were still carrying masts and sails but with the introductionof the turret, the need for all round fire united with the dangerous instability caused by theweight of masts spelled the end of sail in naval history. By 1900, a typical battleship carriedfour 305 mm guns in two turrets along with a dozen smaller calibre secondary guns (generally105 to 150 mm) and was capable of 16-18 knots.Along with the battleship, the cruising ship was also transformed. Until 1880’s, cruiser class was the last remnant of wooden era. Britain and France were building iron hulled butunarmored frigates along with ironclads but the rest of the world preferred cheaper woodenships which were able to sail as well as steam. Then in 1884, the fabled British shipbuildingcompany Armstrong of Elswick produced a lightweight steel hulled warship armed with twoheavy calibre guns as well as smaller pieces and furnished with a powerful machinery.Christened as the protected cruiser, it became the open seas patroller, commerce raider 
 par excellence
and primary naval weapon of weaker nations along with monitors.Perhaps the most innovative new naval weapons of 19th century were the mine and thelocomotive torpedo, which brought the second dimension (underwater) to naval warfare.Prototype mines were first used as early as the Crimean war by Russians but they came intotheir own in the American Civil War, where dozens of Union warships and transports fellvictim to Confederate mines. In 1869, the British naval engineer Robert Whitehead whoworked for the Austro-Hungarian navy in Pola, invented a new weapon by uniting a minewith a cigar shaped hull propulsed by compressed air. Called a torpedo, this new weapon

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