No. 120. [3d Session.
SYSTEM OF DEFENCE, BY LAND OR WATER, BY THE USE OF INFLAMMABLE FLUID.
COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JANUARY 2, 1815.
Navy Department, December 23d, 1814.
In obedience to an order of the honorable the House of Representatives, of the 6th instant, referring the memorial of Uriah Brown, "and such parts thereof as relates to operations on the water," to the Secretary of the Navy, I have the honor to report:
That the system of annoyance presented by Uriah Brown appears to combine principles of science distinct in their nature, and which may be classed under the following heads:
1st; The construction, capacity, and stability of the vessel, for the purposes proposed.
2d. The power of the machinery for propelling, and the security of the enginery for ejecting the inflammable fluid successfully to its object
3d. The efficacy of the whole system, and its probable effects on the enemy's vessels in our waters.
First. The construction of the vessel of a sufficient thickness to render it impervious to the shot of an enemy, of capacity to contain the whole machinery, with men, fuel, &c. and covered with sheet iron to prevent combustion, appears well calculated, upon the principle of an inclined plane, to reflect shot at any possible angle at which they can be fired from a ship to be assailed; and upon the well known principle of ricochet firing, if a ball be fired, and impinge a plane of oak timber, at an angle of about forty-five degrees, it will be reflected at nearly the same angle as the angle of incidence, and will continue to rebound until its force is overcome by its gravity and the resistance of the atmosphere. The guns of a ship of war cannot be depressed more than ten, or, at most, twelve degrees, which angle meeting the approaching vessels, at any point, cannot penetrate the mass of wood and iron, so as to endanger her safety, or impede her progress, and the means of defence are ample to defeat an attempt at boarding with armed boats, and to destroy those who may be in them.
Second. The power of the machinery for propelling, and the security of the engine works within, the vessel for ejecting the inflammable fluid. The propelling power by steam is practically known; the security from injury by the shot of an enemy's ship, is clearly demonstrated in the plan and drawing, while the rapidity of approach by steam, at the rate of five miles an hour, and the low surface presented to the enemy's fire, lessen the chances of any one shot taking effect injuriously, while this vessel, pursuing her course in the night, or approaching an enemy in a calm, and choosing the point of attack, combines more advantages than any other plan, in proportion to the expense, that has been offered to the Navy Department.
Third. The efficacy of the whole system, and probability of success in operating against the enemy's vessels. As respects the security of the machinery, in connexion with the power necessary to effectual operation, the care of the artist, the solidity of the workmanship, and thorough knowledge of its principles, are all so essential, that the operator must combine the talents and mechanical knowledge to direct and decide these important points for self-preservation.
The experiment having been recently made, in the presence of thousands, of the irresistible power of Mr. Brown's liquid fire to envelop in flames any combustible object at which it is directed, appears to have produced conviction of its efficacy.
I humbly conceive that it may be successfully applied to drive the enemy from our bays and harbors; and, more particularly on the lakes, it may be the means of obtaining our absolute ascendancy.
Should Congress in their wisdom patronise the attempt, the result would, probably, justify the means and the expense.
All which is respectfully submitted.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
The Honorable the Speaker of the House of Representatives.