Mr. Yeaman to Mr. Seward.
Sir: It is stated, and generally believed here, that Prussia has proposed to Denmark to order the election by universal suffrage in North Sehleswig, provided for by the treaty of Prague, to determine whether the people will remain with Prussia or return to Denmark, excepting from the vote Als, an important and beautiful island off the eastern coast of the Duchy, and excepting also the important fortress of Duppel, and requiring that some special and extra protection shall be extended in some respects to the few Germans living within the bounds of the district that may be restored in virtue of the vote and the treaty. It is believed that Denmark has rejected or will reject the proposition.
I have recently visited a new and remarkably well built fort in the harbor of Copenhagen, which presented to me some points of great interest. The greater part, all the upper and most exposed portions of the walls of the fort, as well as the magazines and interior apartments, are built of a composite of cement and pebbles or small stones, forming one solid and connected mass; and the very intelligent officer accompanying us, by the kind attentions of the minister of war, assured me that reliable and satisfactory experiments and experience have proved that it will resist either the concussion of a ball or the explosion of powder, as of a mine or a magazine, more effectively than the most approved granite masonry.
I was shown, while in the fort, a Danish invention for obtaining almost instantly the exact range of an enemy’s ship. There are three forts in the harbor, properly arranged for the defence of the city with reference to the approaches. These have submarine telegraphic communication with each other, and with the citadel on land. Each fort is supplied with a carefully graduated chart of the harbor, the sound, and all the batteries, each fort on this chart being made the centre of a number of circles. When an enemy man-of-war appears, its angle or bearing from each fort can be instantly taken by a fixed mathematical instrument, made for the purpose. This bearing is in a moment telegraphed from each fort to both of the others, and thus each fort has acquired almos instantly the data for reckoning with precision the distance of the man-of-war from its battery. When the angles are thus obtained no calculation is needed, but their intersection is at once obtained with delicate threads of silk or hair attached to the centre of each fort as represented on the chart, and the application of good instruments gives the distance.
It is far more than probable that our military men are so familiar with these ideas that they would smile at my meagre and unscientific description; but if, perchance, their attention has not been called to this ingenious device, I am sure they would feel very great interest in it, especially if, in their opinion, it would offer any practical advantage in gunnery by so getting the range of an object as to bring a battery to bear upon it with effect at the first round. In the use of modern heavy artillery of immense range, with which firing cannot be so rapid, and when one well-placed ball would often decide the fate of a vessel, it must be of importance to know the precise distance of the vessel from the gun at the earliest possible moment.
There were two American citizens with me, Messrs. Strout and Farrington, of Boston, and in returning they proposed we should make an informal, unannounced visit to the flag-ship of the Russian squadron which conveyed the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess from Petersburg to Copenhagen. The admiral and other officers received us with marked warmth and hospitality. Several appropriate and decided sentiments were proposed touching the friendly alliance between Russia and the United States, and when we had taken our leave and our boat was moving off from the Ship, a splendid United States flag was run [Page 660] up to the masthead and saluted with sixteen guns. We received, standing and uncovered, this token of respect to our country and its loved emblem, a standard everywhere dear, and dearer the farther from home it is seen.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.