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0105_001E The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

The Eve Of Armageddon

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As the relief expedition had been fully decided upon, whether the British Government recognised the Federation or not, everything was in readiness for an immediate start as soon as the Ithuriel brought definite news as to the acceptation or rejection of the President's second offer. For the last seven weeks the ten dockyards of the east coast of America, and at Halifax in Nova Scotia, had been thronged with shipping, and swarming with workmen and sailors.

All the vessels which had been swept off the Atlantic by the war-storm, and which were of sufficient size and speed to take part in the expedition, had been collected at these eleven ports. Whole fleets of liners of half a dozen different nationalities, which had been laid up since the establishment of the blockade, were now lying alongside the quays, taking in vast quantities of wheat and miscellaneous food-stuffs, which were being poured into their holds from the glutted markets of America and Canada. Every one of these vessels was fitted up as a troopship, and by the time all arrangements were complete, more than a thousand vessels, carrying on an average twelve hundred men each, were ready to take the sea.

In addition to these there was a fleet of warships as yet unscathed by shot or shell, consisting of thirty battleships, a hundred and ten cruisers, and the flotilla of dynamite cruisers which had been constructed by the late Government at the expense of the capitalist Ring. There were no less than two hundred of these strange but terribly destructive craft, the lineal descendants of the Vesuvius, which, as the naval reader will remember, was commissioned in 1890.

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They were double-hulled vessels built on the whale-back plan, and the compartments between the inner and outer hull could be wholly or partially filled with water. When they were entirely filled the hull sank below the surface, leaving nothing as a mark to an enemy save a platform standing ten feet above the water. This platform, constructed throughout of 6-inch nickel-steel, was of oval shape, a hundred feet long and thirty broad in its greatest diameter, and carried the heavily armoured wheel-house and conning-tower, two funnels, six ventilators, and two huge pneumatic guns, each seventy-five feet long, working on pivots nearly amidships.

These weapons, with an air-charge of three hundred atmospheres, would throw four hundred pounds of dynamite to a distance of three miles with such accuracy that the projectile would invariably fall within a space of twenty feet square. The guns could be discharged once a minute, and could thus hurl 48,000 lbs. of dynamite an hour upon a hostile fleet or fortifications.

Each cruiser also carried two under-water torpedo tubes ahead and two astern. The funnels emitted no smoke, but merely supplied draught to the petroleum furnaces, which burned with practically no waste, and developed a head of steam which drove the long submerged hulls through the water at a rate of thirty-two knots, or more than thirty-six miles an hour.

Such was the enormous naval armament, manned by nearly a hundred thousand men, which hoisted the Federation flag at one o'clock on the afternoon of the 30th of November, when orders were telegraphed north and south from Washington to get ready for sea. Two hours later the vast flotilla of warships and transports had cleared American waters, and was converging towards a point indicated by the intersection of the 41st parallel of latitude with the 40th meridian of longitude.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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