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Encyclopedia > Paixhan
The Mortier monstre, invented by Henri-Joseph Paixhans.
The Mortier monstre, invented by Henri-Joseph Paixhans.

Henri-Joseph Paixhans was a French artillery officer of the beginning of the 19th century. Image File history File links PaixhansMonsterMortar. ... Image File history File links PaixhansMonsterMortar. ...


In 1823, he invented the first shell guns, which came to be called Paixhans guns (or "canons-obusiers" in the French Navy). Paixhans guns became the first naval guns to combine explosive shells and a flat trajectory, thereby triggering the demise of wooden ships, and the iron hull revolution in boat building. Paixhans also invented a "Mortier monstre" ("Monster Mortar"), using 500 kg bombs, which was used to terrible effect in the Siege of Antwerp in 1832. He was also a naval theorist claiming that a few aggressively armed small units could destroy the largest naval units of the time, making him a precursor of the French "Jeune Ecole" school of thought. A shell is a projectile, which, as opposed to a bullet, is not solid but contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage includes large projectiles without a filling which are properly termed shot. ... A shell is a projectile, which, as opposed to a bullet, is not solid but contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage includes large projectiles without a filling which are properly termed shot. ... US soldier firing an M224 60-mm mortar. ... The Cathedral of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp) in the Handschoenmarkt, in the old quarter of Antwerp is the largest cathedral in the Low Countries and home to a number of triptychs by Renaissance Belgian painter Rubens. ... 1832 was a leap year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... The Jeune Ecole (Young School) was a French naval school of thought developed during the 19th century. ...


The poet Victor Hugo wrote: Victor Hugo Victor-Marie Hugo (February 26, 1802 – May 22, 1885) is recognized as one of the most influential French Romantic writers of the 19th century and is often identified as the greatest French writer. ...

"Terre! l'obus est Dieu, Paixhans est son prophète."
("Earth! the shell is God, Paixhans is his Prophet.")

Contents


Paixhans naval guns

Explosive shells had long been in use in ground warfare (in howitzers and mortars), but they were only fired at high angles and with relatively low velocities. Shells are inherently dangerous to handle, and no solution had been found yet to combine the explosive character of the shells with the high-power and high velocity of a flat-trajectory gun. Loading a WW1 British 15 in (381 mm) howitzer A howitzer or hauwitzer is a type of field artillery. ...


High-trajectories are not practical however for marine combat. Naval combat essentially requires flat-trajectory guns in order to have some decent odds of hitting the target. Therefore naval warfare had consisted for centuries in encounters between flat-trajectory cannons using inert cannonballs, which a wooden boat could rather easily absorb.


Paixhans developed a delaying mechanism which, for the first time, allowed shells to be fired safely in high-powered flat-trajectory guns. The effect of explosive shells hitting wooden hulls and setting them aflame was devastating, and was demonstrated in trials against the two-decker Pacificateur in 1824. 1824 was a leap year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ...


The first Paixhans guns were founded in 1841. The barrel of the guns weighed about 10,000 pounds, and proved accurate to about two miles. In the 1840s, France, England, Russia and the United States had adopted the new naval guns.


The effect of the guns in an operational context was first demonstrated during the actions at Eckernförde in 1849 during the Danish-Prussian War, and especially at the Battle of Sinop in 1853 during the Russo-Turkish War. The First war of Schleswig (1848 – 1850), known in Denmark as the Three Years War (TreÃ¥rskrigen), was a military conflict in southern Denmark, contesting the issue of who should control the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. ... The naval Battle of Sinope (or Sinop) occurred on 30 November 1853 at Sinop, a sea port in northern Turkey, when Imperial Russian battleships annihiliated a force of Ottoman Empire frigates. ... The Russo-Turkish Wars were a series of ten wars fought between the Russian Empire and the Turkish-ruled Ottoman Empire during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. ...


Adoption

France

The guns were introduced on several ships in France, although they were limited to a small part of the total armamanent of each ship. The 1856 three-decker Bretagne, the largest French warship at the time, had 36 22cm shell guns on a total of 130 cannons.


United States

The United States Navy adopted the design, and equipped several ships with 8-inch guns of 63 and 55 cwt. in 1845, and later a 10-inch shell gun of 86 cwt. Paixhans guns were used on the USS Constitution (4 Paixhans guns) in 1842, under the command of Foxhall A. Parker, Sr., and were also present onboard the USS Mississippi (1841) (10 Paixhans guns), and the USS Susquehanna (1847) (6 Paixhans guns) during Commodore Perry's mission to open Japan in 1853. The United States Navy (USN) is the branch of the United States armed forces responsible for naval operations. ... The USS Constitution, known as Old Ironsides, is a wooden-hulled, three-masted frigate of the United States Navy. ... Foxhall Alexander Parker, Sr. ... USS Mississippi, a sidewheel steamer, was the first ship of the United States Navy bear that name. ... USS Susquehanna, a sidewheel steamer, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for a river which rises in Lake Otsego in central New York and flows across Pennsylvania and the northeast corner of Maryland to empty into the Chesapeake Bay. ... Matthew Calbraith Perry (April 10, 1794 - March 4, 1858) was the Commodore of the U.S. Navy who forced the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854, under the threat of military force. ... 1853 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ...


Russia

The Russian Navy was the first to use the guns extensively in combat. At the Battle of Sinop in 1853, Russian ships attacked and anihilated a Turkish fleet with their Paixhans explosive shell guns. The shell penetrated deep inside the wooden planking of Turkish ships, exploding and igniting the hulls. The naval Battle of Sinope (or Sinop) occurred on 30 November 1853 at Sinop, a sea port in northern Turkey, when Imperial Russian battleships annihiliated a force of Ottoman Empire frigates. ... 1853 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ...


Legacy

Ironclad warships

Wooden boats became so vulnerable that the only possible response could come with the introduction of the iron-hulled warship. The first of them was the French La Gloire, soon followed by the HMS Warrior. USS Port Royal (CG-73), a Ticonderoga class cruiser. ... The French Navys La Gloire (Glory) was the first ocean-going ironclad warship in history. ... HMS Warrior (1860) (also known as Vernon III and Oil Fuel Hulk C77) was the worlds first ocean-going iron-hulled armoured battleship. ...


Further developments

The "Paixhans" barracks in Le Mans, France.
The "Paixhans" barracks in Le Mans, France.

Paixhans's design was later improved by the American John A. Dahlgren, who wrote: Image File history File linksMetadata PaixhansBarracks. ... Image File history File linksMetadata PaixhansBarracks. ... Le Mans is a city in France, located at the Sarthe River. ... Rear Admiral John Adolph Dahlgren, USN, (1809-1870), son of the Swedish Consul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, made his career in the United States Navy. ...

"Paixhans had so far satisfied naval men of the power of shell guns as to obtain their admission on shipboard; but by unduly developing the explosive element, he had sacrificed accuracy and range.... The difference between the system of Paixhans and my own was simply that Paixhans guns were strictly shell guns, and were not designed for shot, nor for great penetration or accuracy at long ranges. They were, therefore, auxiliary to, or associates of, the shot-guns. This made a mixed armament, was objectionable as such, and never was adopted to any extent in France... My idea was, to have a gun that should generally throw shells far and accurately, with the capacity to fire solid shot when needed. Also to compose the whole battery entirely of such guns." John A. Dalgren

  Results from FactBites:
 
NationMaster - Encyclopedia: Paixhans (0 words)
Paixhans developed a delaying mecanism which, for the first time, allowed shells to be fired safely in high-powered flat-trajectory guns.
Paixhan guns.- In 1822, Lieut.-Col. Paixhan, of the French artillery, submitted, for the first time, his plan for throwing large heavy shells from long chambered guns (canons-a-bombes), in the same way that solid shot is thrown.
Up to that time, shells fired from long pieces had been limited to the smaller calibres; and it remained for Paixhan to prove, after the greatest opposition on the part of others, that it was as practicable and almost as easy to throw shells to a great distance with slight elevations, as to throw shot.
Civil War Weapons (0 words)
Siege Artillery is composed of mortars, large howitzers, Paixhan guns, or Columbiads, and all cannon of a large calibre.
Paixhan guns were invented by Colonel Bomford, of the United States Army ; but being introduced into the French service by General Paixhan, they received his name, although he had nothing to do with their invention; however, he afterward improved upon them.
The Columbiad is of the class called Sea-coast Cannon, and combines in itself the qualities of the gun, howitzer, and mortar: in other words, it is a long-chambered piece of ordnance, having the capacity to project shot or shell, with heavy charges of powder, at high angles of elevation.
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