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RUSSIAN PREPARATION. FOR WAR. [From the Times."]

During the last three months, much has been done not only in strengthening Cronstadt, but also in fortifying the entrances to the Neva, in building gunboats, batteries, &c.

Cronstadt is being strengthened under the superintendence of General Todleben and General Zareva, by placing the old forts in a better state of defence, aud at many points covering up the masonry by earthworks. On the main island of Cronstadt, seaward, large earthworks are being thrown up, some of which are nearly finished. From the sea, they will be scarcely visible, and they not only enfilade the channel, but some of them, being connected by parallels one with another, will be able to hold guns to take in reverse any ships winch may run the gauntlet of their fire and that of the forts. Some of these earthworks, more exposed than others, are to be covered with 7i-inch plates, placed on an angle of 45 degrees, and curved over the top, so as to form a cover from vertical fire, and at the same time to obviate the necessity of having bolts or any other fastenings to retain the plates in position. The embrasures will be closed immediately the gun is fired by a slide of 11-inch iron, or by a drop door. The guns to be placed in these iron-clad and other earthworks are to be 9-inch rifled cast steel, carrying a 3001b. rifled shot, or a 2501b. shell, 22 inches long. For the protection of the granite forts, enormous supplies of earth and fascines are placed at different points, all carried thence from St. Petersburg at enormous labour and expense. To provide further against the possibility of a fleet passing up to the back of Cronstadt by the south channel, about 300 lighters, laden with stones, have been sunk, so that now in no part is there more than four feet of water.

The authorities have supposed a possibility of some hostile fleet passing the outer forts and earthworks. They are therefore preparing to lay 300 infernal machines in the channel, each of which will contain 701bs. of powder, and explode by a slight touch from a vessel passing over. Yet, still further, the enemy, we shall suppose, has passed Cronstadt, and arrived some ten miles up, to the head of the bay, and wishes to pass the bar and enter the Neva. Here, on either hand, are fresh earthworks thrown up ; they will not be completed for some weeks yet, but will be capable of mounting, in all, about ninety guns of the largest calibre, and enfilade the entrance to the river at a point where it is about 3,000 feet wide. A supply of infernal machines is also to be kept ready to sink in the narrow channel of the bar.

Another means of defence is also in course of preparation — a submarine boat of colossal dimensions, in the construction of which about 200 tons of iron and steel are to be used. It is rapidly progressing towards completion, Great secrecy is being used about this boat. We can, however, say that it is to have engines worked by compressed air, to have a very strong beak, with provision for attaching large cylinders charged with pow der to the bottoms of vessels, to be fired by electricity. The parties navigating the vessel will see what they are doing by means of bulls- eyes, and they will be able to regulate the depth at which they swim, generally keeping quite close to the surface. The Emperor has not only approved of the plans, but some months since signed the decree appropriating about £27,000 — bay 175.000 silver roubles — for this monster.

By the Ist of June, 1864, the Marine Department confidently expects to have at Cronstadt sixteen iron-dud vessels, and they consider this a very poor fleet for such a power as Eussia. There will be four vessels of larger size, all in many respects alike, including the Pcrvenetz, lately arrived iroin England, aud which i» now receiving her armament and being

1 finished off at Cronstadt. The second is building in ' St. Petersburg, tinder contract, by Messrs. Mitchell, iof Newcastle. All her armour-plates are ou the | spot, from Messrs. John Brown and Co.'s works, and ! she should be ready at the time named, and is to be I called "Ne Tron Menya" (Touch me not). The third is building in St. Petersburg by Messrs. Semenikoff and Politika, and progresses fast towards completion. Her armour-plates are also supplied by Messrs. John Brown and Co. The third is building by the Marine Department in the new Admiraltyyard, and her armour-plates are also from the same firm. The general dimensions of these vessels are as follow : — Length over all, about 240 feet ; breadth, 53 feet ; depth, 27 feet ; builder's measurement, 2,500 tons ; the armament is not exactly settled, but will be rifled guns of heavy calibre. The remaining twelve vessels arc all Monitors, but only one will have solid armour-plates, supplied by Messrs. Beale, and building by Messrs. Mitchell. She is from Captain Cole's design, and very nearly a fac-simile of the Danish vessel Eolf Krake. Her length is 175 feet between perpendiculars j breadth, 38 feet ; depth, fourteen feet ; tonnage (b.m.), 1,230. The remaining eleven vessels aro building by Messrs. Carr and Macpherson, two; Semenikoff and Co., two ; Kondroftzott, two ; and the Government, five. They are to be clad with four and five one-inch plates, rolled in long lengths, following the American plan. The towers are to be of 11 one-inch plates bolted together, although a question has just arisen whether it wo\Ud not be advisable to tap them through and through, and by that means strengthen them. The covering of these vessels with one-inch plates results partly from the haste with which the resolution to build was taken, and partly from the want of machinery in Eussia to roll heavier plates. This want they are now about to meet by erecting at their Colpino works a large armour-plate mill, the machinery for which has been sent from England, but wlu'ch will not be sufficient for rolling the very largest plates. It is, however, proposed to build a second rolling mill ; not, hownver, by the Government, but with a guarantee from the authorities of a certain amount of work. The building of this is, however, somewhat problematical.

The old gunboats built during the Crimean war have all been thoroughly surveyed, and a contract has been made to put them in order. Fourteen are being provided with new boilers, and all are to have steam up and be in thorough working condition on the Ist of June, under heavy penalties. Many of the gun and mortar boats built ten years ago are completely used up, and the builders iv Eussia seem to have emulated their English brethren in the use of green timber, &c.

Enormous exertions are being used to obtain the requisite quantity of guns, with suitable ammunition, for all the forts, earthworks, and ships, and it will perhaps be found that the Eussians have really got ahead of England in guns and shot. The large rifled cast-steel guns which they are obtaing from Krupp, and which they will shortly commence making themselves in Petersburg, are good, and the smaller sized cast-steel guns which are being produced rapidly in the Ural, and also in PootilofFs works in St, Petersburg, on Aboukoff's system, are found to be a great step in advance. They are not, perhaps, all that could be desired ; yet they sustain a large amount of work, and their defects seem, to arise from a want of hammer power, which want will be shortly supplied. Guns are now being produced in about a dozen factories, working night and day, and in a few weeks another Elswick will commence. Its production will be solid cast- steel guns, from the six-pounder to the eleven-inch gun, which latter is to fire oOOlbs. shell. To provide the necessary shot and shell for these guns, all the foundries around St. Petersburg have orders varying from 15,000 to 50 each. All the shot and shell from twelve-pounders upwards are for rifled guns. The shot are froni two to two and ahalf diameter, are round-nosed, and are provided with soft metal bearing to fit the grooves of the guns. The production of steel shell of the same description is also increasing fast, and great exertions are being made to deliver large supplies. Kound hammered steel shot are also being prepared to suit the naval 60-pounder gun. One firm alone has in hand 30,000 of these.

The land artillery forces are also adopting the steel guns for their service, and find them well adapted by their lightness. A gun of the came calibre is about one-third lighter than a brass gun j nevertheless, fearing that the supply of steel guna for this branch of the .service may not be adequate, a large qxiantity of brass guns are ordered, and are to be ready for service early in January. Large supplies of saltpetre have been purchased during the summer, and the powder works have been extended, and are working night and day to have a full supply.

Should the anticipations of the authorities prove correct, and war be declared, they will not be able to obtain a supply of armour-plates from abroad. They are, therefore, erecting a mill at Colpino, near Petersburg, and propose to have a second mill built at once, that they may be able to produce 10,000 to 12,000 tons of armour-plates per year, independent of all foreign aid. These works, the gun-works, and the large supplies of teak, two years' supply of coal for the fleet, and the extra sums voted on account of the war expenditure during the last six months, to about fifty -five millions of roubles above the ordinary expenditure — say nine millions sterling ; and a further sum is demanded immediately of forty millions of roubles — say six millions sterling. This expenditure dees not include the extra sums laid out in clothing and general commissariat stores. Flour has been very largely bought, for delivery in February, and for those places to which the ordinary route is by water in spring ; extra prices are being paid for winter delivery.

Earthquake. — Some particulars of an earthquake felt at Lake Como on the 18th October are given in a private letter. The first symptong were heavy rain and a storm, which seemed as though the clouds had burst. The waves of the lake beat upon the shore with a loud and hissing noise. At midnight the mountain at Molina toppled over, and the masses of stone of which it was composed fell upon the houses built upon the slopes, four in number, and crushed them to the earth. Thus at one moment fifty five people sleeping in the houses became engulfed in the ruins. Only one poor mother, with her infant at her breast, was rescued alive, her husband and two sons having been killed in their sleep. A crowd of people hastened to the spot as soon as the disaster became known, and they succeeded in so far clearing away the ruins as to be able to extricate ten of the corpses of the slain. The earthquake was felt at Lugam Lake on the same day. Carate Laxio, in Lombardy, also suffered from its effects, as the coffee-house of the Villa Sanguiliani was covered with the waves of the lake, garden walls were thrown down, and all the houses on the lake's shore were more or less injured.

The American Wab. — The war appears to be costing the American Government about £lso,ooo,ooo a year ; at least, the official statement of the indebtedness of the Union on the Ist of May, 1863, was 964,000,000 dollars, and is for the Ist of September 1,228,000,000 dollars, an increase of £13,200,000 a, month. This includes every liability except unpaid bills, \*hich, though large, cannot reach the preposterous figure mentioned in the Times. Taking the dollar at a fifth of a pound, which is very nearly its value, the debt is now (November the Ist) £260,000,000, and the liabilities perhaps, £40,000,000 more, or £300,000,000 in all. By tlus time next year it will be £450,000.000 bearing an average interest of a little less than five per cent, per annum. We have taken our figures from a remarkable and apparently accurate synopsis of the financial position published in the New York correspondence of the Manchester Examiner.

General Lewehine's orders about female costume at Warsaw read like a page out of the Journal dcs Modes. Here is a specimen :—": — " The bonnet must be worn of mixed colours, or, if black, must be set off with flowers and ribbons, but not white ribbons. Wliite or black feathers in black hats are forbidden. Black cloaks may be worn if lined with any colour but black or white. Black gloves, veils, black or black and white, umbrellas, shawls, handkerchiefs, or burnous, are strictly prohibited.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NENZC18640209.2.13

Bibliographic details

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XXIII, Issue 17, 9 February 1864

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2,167

RUSSIAN PREPARATION. FOR WAR. [From the Times."] Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XXIII, Issue 17, 9 February 1864

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