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This domestic and social result, however, is the less deplorable consequence of such army reductions in England. There are those who never will believe that Great Britain can be too well prepared to maintain her position among the nations; and the constant state of unpreparedness in which she has always been surprised by her wars, the last among the rest—seems to justify the opinion. The numerous European “difficulties” as well as the American, will most assuredly not be more easily settled in consequence of the disarmament and “defenceless state of Great Britain."
The contemplated reductions in the Army for the next financial year are stated to be as follows. Two companies will at once be taken off each battalion of infantry at home or returning home, and fifty battalions will thus be affected. One hundred captains will be placed on half-pay, but it is said that this number will be somewhat lessened by the granting of a certain number of unattached majorities and lieutenant-colonelcies to senior officers, whose places will be filled by the superfluous captains, the sum thus realised being carried to the reserve fund, out of which it can be again taken to diminish the half-pay list.
The subalterns will remain in their regiments as supernumeraries until absorbed.
The cavalry, we are glad to hear, as affirmed, will escape reduction altogether, and even the depôt battalions are not likely to be touched for the present, but the change now contemplated is calculated to produce dismay amongst the expectants of promotion, and those who have been preparing themselves for obtaining direct commissions in the infantry will have to wait a considerable time.
The past month has dealt hardly with some men of note in the United Services. Sir Edward Whinnyates, of the Royal Artillery, Sir J. F. Love, of the 43rd, General Lautour, of the 3rd King's Hussars, and Sir John Hall, and Sir John Macgregor, of the Medical Department, are all lost to us, four of the five being Peninsular and Waterloo men, and one of their number enjoying the somewhat rare distinction of serving before New Orleans in January, 1815, and at Waterloo six inonths after. Sir John Hall's services as principal medical officer of the Eastern Army, when for more than two years he was not absent from duty for a single day, will not readily be forgotten. All have departed full of years as of honours.
We hope that we are not premature in hailing the return of the head-quarters of the 65th Regiment to England, as the “ beginning of the end” of our troubles with the Maories. Experience has demonstrated that our treatment of these people has been a terrible mistake, and that thrusting on them institutions wliich have grown up among ourselves only in the course of long ages of civilization has done them at last as much, if not far more mischief than the old plan of settling down among "any people not Christian” without leave or license, could have occasioned. We have given them "native magistrates," and "native policemen," we have recognised native “ rights” and native " claims” to the extent of sheer absurdity, and have given them Protectors by the dozen ; and the result has been a state of war, which often appeared to be coming to a close, only to break out afresh elsewhere. To remedy this, we have kept this regiment as well as others, for a period now approaching to twenty years at the Antipodes, and it is only after such a lapse of time, that we recognise the wisdom of leaving the settlers and the savages to fight out their quarrel by themselves. We know well what the result will be, as it has been seen a thousand times before; we would avert it if we could, but we know that to be impossible, and our only hope is that no future English statesinan will suffer himself to be persuaded to employ the British soldier in so hopeless a task.
Some twenty years ago, when railway accidents were rife, a couplet of a popular song ran as follows :
“Once a week, the upset of a passenger train ;
Once a fortnight, a new revolution in Spain.” Whatever may now be the case with railways, an improvement seemed to be effected in Spain, and therefore it was with soine surprise that most people learnt, just about New Year's Day, that the old game of military pronunciamientos had recommenced, and that a General of European reputation was at the head of it. The O'Donnell Cabinet seem to have been sorely perplexed, and well they might. They knew that their chief had forced himself into power in the same way that Prim was attempting-indeed, this seems to be the approved Spanish mode of "going to the country,” and as Prim was undoubtedly a popular favourile, there was but too much, reason to fear that he also might succeed. It is true that but a sna'l force turned out with hin, but the feeling of the rest was so doubtful, that Zabala and others who went in pursuit never ventured to close with liim, lest their own men should deliver them up as prisoners. So there has been a vast amount of “marching and countermarching," with as bloodless a result as those of Major Strugeon, "from Acton to Ealing, and from Ealing to Acton,” though the “rebels” were always just on the point of being obliged to surrender by a force a hundred miles behind them. Thus, three weeks have passed away, and now it is said that Prim has abandoned his enterprize and retired into Portugal. If so, this is “ most lame and impotent conclusion,” as little satisfactory to some, who remember the events of 1841, 1845, 1848, and 1854, which gave
such severe shocks to the throne of Isabella II, as were the last days of Donnybrook to poor Pat, who exclaimed “Och ! murther ! twelve o'clock, and no fight yet!” But we do not feel sure that we have come to the conclusion on the present occasion.
CORRESPONDENCE. [With the view of promoting the interests of the United Services,
this department of the Magazine is open to all authenticated communications, and therefore the Editor cannot hold himself responsible for the opinions expressed.]
IS GUN-COTTON AN ADEQUATE SUBSTITUTE FOR
GUNPOWDER? Sir,--It may prevent a great deal of useless trouble and costly experiments if the facts involved in the above question be duly considered. Three
years ago, when the Austrian experiments with Gun-Cotton were detailed at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, I was, like every one else, very sanguine on the subject; but a little more knowledge of it has tended to establish very serious doubts as to the possibility of ever supplying the place of Gunpowder by Gun-Cotton.
Baron Liebig has certainly spoken of Gun-Cotton as “the explosive of the future,” that is to say, should we be even able to endow it with the necessary qualities which shall enable it to take the place of Gun. powder--which it has not at present.
As the delusion of substituting Gun-Cotton for Gunpowder is very far from having subsided, in spite of its rejection by the Austrians after a long course of experiments, at all events as far as fire arms are concerned, it may be worth while to consider the question a little in detail, as presented to us by those who have studied the subject; among the rest Captain Schultze of the Prussian Artillery.
One of the most inestimable virtues of Gunpowder is its pliability, its suppleness, its inherent capability of being modified for different purposes. Gun-Cotton possesses nothing of the kind. It is an ideal force, à ne plus ultra of force, if you like; but then precisely One Force, and no more, being unchangeable, unalterable in its composition. It is a rigid, fixed chemical preparation, incapable of any modification. It is a stubborn, ugly customer, of noble family, no doubt, who whenever he makes his appearance shows himself with outrageous violence, and will not accommodate himself in the least to existing arrangements. Gun-Cotton behaves itself like an autocrat, like a revolutionist of the first order, requiring that everything shall consult his convenience, and that the whole edifice of gun-construction raised upon the basis of centuries shall be demolished, because, forsooth, he has appeared on the scene, Gun-Cotton, in short, demands the construction of new artillery and new small arms.
Of course this would be and is possible; but what a revolution it would bring about! How deeply it would encroach on the established institutions of the present time;
Gun-Cotton cannot fill the place of Gunpowder in all its manifold combinations which have been called into existence in the course of time. It cannot at the same time play the various parts of sporting powder, military powder, and blasting powder. As pure force it suffices only for a single purpose—for blasting. This is its strong point, and in this no Gunpowder can equal it; but there is a formidable drawback against this magnificent virtue-its low igniting temperature.
The temperature at which Gunpowder ignites, that is, the degree of heat at which it catches fire, is so high that a strong friction of two bodies striking each other, such as the hammer and the anvil, or the ramming of the charge as it occurs in the bores for blasting rocks, cannot produce such a degree of heat as would suffice to ignite Gunpowder, and consequently the workmen charged with the task of filling the bores, are secured as far as possible against the danger of spontaneous and sudden explosions from this source.
Now Gun-Cotton has a considerably lower igniting temperature, which indeed, to complicate the matter, differs according to the different methods of preparation. At a temperature as low as 302 degrees F., it will ignite, even when well prepared, whilst on the other hand, in cases of bad preparation, it has often ignited at a degree much below 234 degrees F. This low temperature of ignition may often canse spontaneous explosion under the energetic manipulation to which Gun.Cotton is necessarily subjected in filling the bores : so that the workmen charged with this duty, run a risk of losing their lives. It is owing to this defect that the confidence of the workmen in this new blasting agent has already been so shaken that they think nothing of the advantage it possesses of producing a much more powerful effect than Gunpowder, and they continue to prefer the latter to it. Now in creating a new agent intended to replace gunpowder, it is indispensably necessary to make its temperature of ignition so high that there can be no danger of its igniting of itself, either when employed in fire-arms, or for the purpose of blasting.
In consequence of orders recently issued by the Emperor of Austria, the Gun-Cotton used for bursters of hollow projectiles is to be taken out of the latter, and together with whatever may be in store, either sold by auction or destroyed. The great danger of explosion in this material when thus employed seems to have been the motive of this measure.
Besides the stubborness of this agent, its incapability of modification, it is the low igniting temperature of Gun-Cotton, and finally, its higher price, higher to the extent of from one-tenth to one-fourth, it is these three weighty circumstances which form so great and well grounded an obstacle against its introduction in the place of Gunpowder. The last of these primary objects might be removed, in case the price of raw cotton should sink again; the other two defects, however, are incorrigible, because Gun-cotton is a fixed chemical combination, inaccessible to the slighest alteration, just as much as carbonic acid, nitrate of silver, or a thousand other chemical combinations or preparations.
No reliance can be placed on the effects of Gun-Cotton. Experiments, repeated a thousand times, have shown that Gun-Cotton, according to its various degrees of condensation, produces the most widely different results; and indeed there is a particular degree of condensation which we may call the most convenient, at which the highest power of propul. sion is attained. Above this limit, no less than below it, the effects produced on the shot to be propelled, grow weaker, whilst the total effect and the damage done to the gun remain about the same. This is due to the great inclination of Gun-Cotton to approach in its effects the detonating preparations—the fulminates.
It is not, however, only density that is required in Gun-Cotton for the full effect for its propulsion; there must also be rigidity in its confinement. There must be either a firm partition or a heavy shot to block
space in front of it, or the development of the active gases must be carried on in compartments as nearly as possible hermetically sealed, until the separation of the propulsive body (nitrous oxide) is formed. It is only in this case that the force of propulsion is on a level with that of Gunpowder.
As windage is annihilated in rifled fire-arms, it is possible that this may be the case with Gun-Cotton in them as the motive force; but, on the other hand, if the object in front is inconsiderable, or the confinement not complete, as in the case of smooth bore cannon and muskets, and especially in the case of sporting small sbot, the force of the propul. sion is insignificant and might almost be set down as zero. The reason is that in such circumstances, the separation of the nitrous oxide then formed, cannot take place.
The chief reason why Gun-Cotton will never be able to drive Gun. powder out of the field, lies in its products of combustion ; and as all its gases are generated almost instantaneously, they assume a vastly increased volume with the utmost suddenness. With this, however, all their work is done, and no sustained effort is put forth, nor is there any expansion of the volume of the gases to speak of.
It has been tried to check this combustion; but even though the rate of the combustion of Gun-Cotton is retarded by artificial means-as by winding it round a wooden plug, &c., the nature of Gun-Cotton must always remain the same, the entire effect of its gases will be exhausted with the first impulse. If the projectile is moved from its position by this first impulse, then the gases generated afterwards hardly spend any of their effect on the shot, but act with all their force on the contiguous parts, that is, the walls of the gun. Consequently, by delaying the action of the force by retarding the combustion, we only diminish the effective force brought to bear upon the shot; it does not alter the nature of the force itself, which as we have said, is essentially of a blasting or bursting character, similar to that of detonating preparations.
The result of this state of things with respect to Gon-Cotton is rather curious. A given quantity of it, which in a rock of firm texture exerts three or four times as much power as the same quantity of Gunpowder, will in the case of rifled cannon, when cartridges made of wooden reels surrounded with Gun-Cotton are applied, only put forth two and a half times the force of the same kind and quantity of Gunpowder in question; and in the case of smooth bore cannon with a weak resistance on the part of the projectile, it exercises a much smaller etlect still than the same quantity of powder. This proves the assertion that even in the case of a rifled bore, not the entire force, but, owing to the retardation of the combustion, only a part of it, and in the smooth bore cannon a far smaller part of the force is brought to bear upon