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Armstrong Guns Ridiculed.


November and December 1863

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, November 11, 1863.

Armstrong Guns Ridiculed.

[From the Scientific American.]

We recently gave (page 233, current volume, Scientific American) an account of the vast sums – amounting to more than ten millions of dollars – which the British Government had expended on Armstrong guns, and that they had at last been condemned. On the subject the Examiner (London) indulges in the following amusing piece of criticism:

“It is a perfect anomaly to send our armor-clad fleet to sail around our islands and visit our ports without an effective gun on board any of them which could make a hole in the side of its neighbor. We are thereby reminded of the brave knights of old, who were so encased in steel as to fight half a day without hurting anybody, unless some of them fell down, and, not being able to flounder on their legs, were smothered in their armor.” And one of its correspondents growls that “two years have given the Americans forty or more 200-pounders, which have beaten down a strong fortress at a distance of two miles. Sir William Armstrong’s 210-pounder, at that distance, could hardly knock an old duck off its nest; and no gun that was ever cast or forged, with the charge of twelve pounds of gunpowder, could do that which Parrott’s guns have done.”

The London Telegraph indulges in the following bitter sarcasm on the subject: “Instead of calling all scientific England to put their heads together and watch events with the Ordnance Office, Sir William Armstrong was shoved up the ladder alone; his own committee approved his own guns; his own factory at Elswick turned them out, on his own evidence, without sufficient proof in trial; in the first hundred of the 110-pounders were served out before experiments upon them had been concluded. In a country full of founderies and inventors, Elswick’s alone drew £1,066,794 between 1859 and 1863, and will which, under the orders of the ‘retired partner,’ spent another £1,471,753.”

If all these statements are reliable respecting the Armstrong guns, the Government officials – such as General Peel, Secretary of War, and others who patronized them, deserve condemnation for stupidity and cupidity. A few years ago this gun was proclaimed to be the wonder of the world, and those very papers which now pelted with their sarcasm, were as loud in its praise as they are now voluble in its censure. And who was like its great fabricator? He was held up to be the right arm of Britain’s defense, and was dubbed with knighthood for his great achievement in the production of such incomparable war-dogs. Now, after expending over two million pound sterling, and arming the navy with them, they are found to be incapable of “knocking an old duck off its nest.”