No. 309.
Mr. Maynard to Mr. Fish.

No. 88.]

Sir: I have had the honor from time to time to communicate such information of the condition of the Ottoman government as was accessible and of general interest. In the absence of statistics, and to a great extent of regular official reports, it is difficult to arrive at facts.

A favorite object of the late Sultan was to increase and strengthen the navy. He caused to be built many iron-clad ships, the largest and most powerful known in the present state of naval architecture. So long as the interest was regularly and promptly paid upon the public debt no complaint was made of this policy; indeed, it was rather commended as enlightened, far-seeing, and progressive; but when the payment of interest ceased it was denounced as extravagance and folly. He always kept several large ships in commission and anchored in front of his palace. By creating his young son an officer of high rank in the navy he evidently intended to show still further his interest in the service; but at his downfall, so far from sustaining him, both the navy and the army had been converted by the ministers into instruments for his, destruction.

I had occasion some time since to inquire into the strength of the Ottoman navy, but received nothing very satisfactory. A publication has just been made in the city, evidently from official sources, and is probably not far from the truth. I append a copy, both in English and in French.

I am, &c.,

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The Turkish navy.

The imperial Ottoman navy consists at the present time of some 15 iron-clads, 5 wooden frigates, 11 wooden corvettes, 2 gun-vessels, and 11 gunboats, 7 of which are armor-plated. In addition to these vessels, which may be considered as the efficient portion of the fighting part of the navy, there are about 7 large transports, 5 of them paddle-wheel steamers and the other 2 screw-ships; six fast dispatch-vessel paddle-wheel steamers and 2 imperial yachts, which, on occasion, are also employed upon the public service. Besides the ships thus enumerated there are 3 old wooden line-of-battle ships and a few small schooners in commission, as well as 4 very smart schooner-rigged screws steamers for the revenue-service. The official navy-list represents a much greater force than is here represented, as the names of a number of old wooden hulks are still retained, and also those of a few steamers, which from the length of service they have seen are in anything but an efficient condition and of little use as either transports or fighting-craft. But our object being to enable our readers to form a correct idea as to the strength and value of the imperial Ottoman navy, these have been purposely left out of the consideration.

To commence, then, with the iron-clad fleet, which in point of numbers, strength of construction and armament, is, after that of England, one of the most powerful in the world. Of the 15 iron-clads of which it is composed, 4, namely, the Mahmoudieh, Orchanitch, Osmanieh, and Azizieh, are broadside frigates, with 4-inch armor-plates, and carry each of them 16 heavy Armstrong guns, 14 on the main deck, 150-pounders, and 2 revolving guns on the upper deck, one, a 300-pouuder, at the stern. (These vessels are each of 4,221 tons, and their horse-power 900.) Then there are 4 of another class, box-battery ships, as they are sometimes called, built after a design by Mr. Reed, C. B., in which the attempt is made to secure the advantages of a turret-ship by giving them a certain amount of all-round fire, while retaining the stability of a broadside craft. The names of these vessels are as follows: Fethi Bulend, (Great Victory,) Mouani Zaffir, Avni Illah, (Gift of God), and the Mukadenieh Khair, (Happy Beginning.) The Fethi Bulend and Mukadenieh Khair are sister ships, having been constructed upon the same lines, the first-named in England by the Thames Iron-Works Company, and the other at the imperial arsenal at the Golden Horn. They are both very formidable craft, being protected with 9-inch armor-plating, and carrying 4 Armstrong 12½-ton guns in a central battery, with the ports so arranged as to admit of fore and aft fire. Their tonnage is 1601.6, and the horse-power of their engines 500. The other two, the Mouani Zaffir and Avni Illah, are of the same type, but their armor-plating is not quite so thick, nor their guns so heavy. They are not quite so large either, their tonnage being only 1,399, and their horse-power 400.

The next on the list are the four iron-clads originally intended for the khedive of Egypt. These vessels, named respectively the Arsari Shefket, the Nedjmi Shefket, the Arsari Tefyk, and the Ijlalieh, form a separate class again to the others, as they carry their armament in broadside ports in a central battery protected against fore and aft fire by armor-plated bulk-heads. The two first are sister ships; they each carry 4 guns, 200-pounders, on the main deck, and a heavy gun mounted on a revolving platform on the upper. They were constructed at Trieste in 1870; the thickness of their armor-plating is some 6½ inches, tonnage 1,583, and horse-power 350. The Arsari Tefyk is a much larger vessel than the last-named craft, her tonnage being 3,143 and horse-power 750. She carries 8 guns also in her broadside ports of the same caliber as the others, and though the thickness of her armor is about the same, she is a much finer vessel. The Ijlalieh differs again from the others in size and horse-power, though her armament is the same as that of the two first-mentioned vessels of this class, as is also the case with the armor-plating. This ship as well as the Arsari Tefyk is of French construction; her tonnage is 1,650, and the horse-power of her engines 300. Two turret-vessels and one more large iron-clad frigate complete the list of seagoing iron-clads.

TheLouthfi Djelil and Hiftzi Rahmin are twin screw-ships, carrying each of them 4 guns, 150-pounder Armstrongs, in two separate revolving turrets, protected by 7-inch armor-plating; their tonnage is 1,751 and horse-power 300.

The Messoudieh, the last on the list and the latest addition to the iron-clad fleet, is one of the most formidable ships afloat, being a finer vessel even than the British ironclad Hercules, the flag-ship of the Mediterranean fleet. She carries 14 guns, 12½ tons, Woolwich pattern, (the most approved type in England,) and the thickness of her defensive armor is 12 inches. The tonnage of the Messoudieh is 5,349, and the horsepower of her magnificent engines 1,200. She was built by the Thames Iron-Works Company, and was only launched about twelve months ago. In addition to the advantage this ship possesses in having such a powerful broadside armament, by special arrangement in her construction the end-ports on each side admit of those guns being trained almost in a line with the keel.

[Page 577]

The seven iron-clad gunboats which were specially built for service on the Danube are named as follows: Fethi Islam, (Moslem Victory,) Buyourdelan, (Heart-piercer,) Semandereh, Scodra, Podgoritza, Isber, (Lion,) and Saffeh, (Sword.) These craft in general draw about 5½ feet of water, and are armed with two light Armstrong guns. They are protected with a belt of 3½-inch armor, and are fitted with 80 horse-power engines. The first five on the list are already in the Danube, stationed at Widdin, and placed under the command of Kiritlee Hussein Pasha, an active officer of the imperial navy. The other two were launched but a short time ago at the arsenal up the Golden Horn, and are of a much improved type. They are each fitted with a revolving turret, in which are mounted two Krupp guns, 80-pounders, and are propelled by twin screws, worked by separate engines. At the present moment they are lying at a buoy off Tophaneh, receiving their stores preparatory to leaving for the Danube, which they will do with all dispatch. All the vessels which have been mentioned up to the present are in commission, and of the 15 large iron-clads 10 are either cruising with Hobart Pasha, or are in station at different ports of the Levant, there being but five at Constantinople at the present moment.

To turn now to the wooden vessels which have their value as cruisers, guard-ships, or transports, the names of the frigates are as follows: Selimieh, of 50 guns, 600 horse-power, and 4,717 tons; the Ertogrul, of 50 guns, 600 horse-power, and 2,344 tons; the Hundevendeghair, of 50 guns, 600 horse-power, and 2,897 tons; the Mukbiri Soroor, of 21 guns, 450 horse-power, and 1,477 tons. These four ships are in commission, and cruising about in the Levant, the last named being the training-ship for the naval cadets. The Nasul Aziz, the last on the list of the frigates, has just been thoroughly repaired, and is now being fitted for sea; she is pierced for 50 guns; her tonnage is 1,512, and horse-power 450. The armament of these vessels consists principally of smooth-bore guns, 42-pounders, with here and there a 68, but on the upper deck they all carry very heavy revolving guns of the latest pattern. The corvettes are named, respectively, Sinope, Edirneh, Mussafir, Lebnan, Mansourah, Broussa, Ismir, Iskenderia, Outarit, Meyzee, and Zouave. They are all pierced either for 12 or 14 guns; their tonnage ranges from 750 to 800, and the horse-power of their engines is 160. Their armament, like that of the frigates, consists chiefly of smooth-bore guns of small caliber, with a heavy rifled revolving gun on the forecastle. The vessels are all absent from Constantinople on service, four of them being stationed in the Adriatic, one at Trebizond, in the Black Sea, two in the Red Sea, two up the Persian gulf, and the others in the Levant. The two gun-vessels—the Sedkul Bahar and Beirut—each carry 5 four-guns, 1 heavy and the others of light caliber, and are generally employed on service in the Red Sea. The four gun-boats, called, respectively, the Akya, Shefket, Sunneh, and Varna, are fitted with 60 horse-power engines, and carry each of them light guns. Of the three old wooden line-of-battle ships, one—the Shadieh—is employed as the gunnery-ship, and is stationed up the Gulf of Ismid; one—the Fetigeh—is the depot at Klet, and the other—the Peki Zeffier—is the receiving-ship at the Golden Horn, having taken the place of the old Mahmondieh, which has been since broken up.

The strength of the personnel is set down officially as 1,921 officers of all ranks and 15,000 men, in which are included 3,500 marines. Besides these men, however, there are the redifs, who have already served their time in the navy, and whose number may be safely set down as another 15,000. It cannot be said that the crews of the ironclads have had all the training that is necessary to make them good and efficient seamen, yet still a good deal has been done in the way of gunnery drill, and attempts have been made of late by changing the crews of the cadet training-frigate after each voyage, to afford as many of these men as possible the opportunity of acquiring some experience at sea. A gunnery-ship was established some six years ago, and the services of a very efficient instructor obtained from the British government. Nearly the whole of the men and all the subordinate officers have passed through a regular course of drill on board of the said ship, and a number of the most intelligent among the latter have been specially trained as gunnery instructors, so that, in imitation of the British navy, each of the iron-clad has now its gunnery officer charged with the duty of keeping the men up to the mark in their gun-drill. Foreign officers, who at different times have visited the iron-clad fleet in the Bosphorus, have been particularly struck with the apparent order on board, the general neatness all round, and the manner in which the men went through their drill. Their performance with the heavy guns has been particularly praised, and there is but little doubt that with more target practice they would make splendid artillerists. Something has been done in the way of firing at a target, sufficient at least to familiarize the men with the proper manner of using the novel projectiles of the present day, and the Turk is by nature a good marksman. In the early part of last summer, also, a flying squadron was sent to sea under the command of Hassan Pasha with orders to cruise under sail in the Mediterranean, visiting particularly the ports of the African coast, Gibraltar, Marseilles, Malta, and the Adriatic. The squadron consisted of the following corvettes: Edirné, Musseffir, Ismir, and Mansourah, and was afterward joined by the school-frigate Mukbir. Starting from Crete, the ports of Bengazi, Tripoli, and Tunis were each touched at in succession, the [Page 578] voyage being always performed under sail, and advantage taken of favorable weather to perform a few simple maneuvers and to accustom the officers to signaling at sea. While at Tunis it became necessary, on account of the disturbances in Herzegovina and Bosnia, to send the squadron to Klek, so that the cruise was prematurely broken up, the muhbir returning to Constantinople, and the others soon afterward separating upon special service.

Great efforts have been made also at the naval college to impart as much professional knowledge to the cadets as possible; for, owing to the scarcity of good technical works in their own language, the cadets after leaving that establishment labor under great difficulty with regard to their after education as naval officers. With this view the pupils receive instruction on torpedoes, naval-prize law, and naval tactics. Instructors from the British navy, in addition to a large staff of Turkish professors, have been for some considerable time in the employ of the imperial Ottoman government, and quite a number of smart young officers have been sent from the naval college within the last few years to join the fleet. With regard to the fleet-maneuvering and naval tactics, in general, a step has been taken in the right direction by sending an iron-clad squadron to cruise in the Levant, for it is of the utmost importance that the captains of the iron-clads should have the opportunity of acquiring more experience in the handling of such enormous masses in motion than is to be picked up in passing from the Golden Horn to the Bosphorus, or in making a voyage simply from one port to another.