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she, at the same time, commanded the battery—that is to say, if, from her spar deck, she could look down upon its platform—then she must at once, with her grape and canister, have driven the garrison from that platform, leaving only the lower and covered tier of guns, if there were such a tier, for service. With our imperfect knowledge of the fortifications, all this must however, be left to conjecture.
But there are matters connected with the service of the batteries which are not conjecture. Not a shot was fired until the Queen Charlotte had anchored.
What a different vessel, when she anchored, might not this ship have been, if the Mole-head battery had employed its fire of more than 100 guns in raking her, from the time she arrived within a mile and a half until she had anchored within fifty yards? How different might have been the condition of the fleet, generally, if they had been subjected, during the approach, and while assuming their stations, to the raking fire of all the 200 guns?
It does not appear that a single hot shot was fired from the batteries.
We might also rest on this fact, and assert that a defence which had failed to provide itself with this auxiliary means, must have been carried on in disregard, if not in violation, of all rules, all knowledge, and all experience; that it was probably without plan or combination, and, not less probable, without preparation in other particulars of importance scarcely inferior.
Before leaving this example it may be well to inquire what, after all, was the effect of these batteries upon the ships, compared with the effect of ships upon ships.
In the battle of the Nile, the French fleet, rated at 1,190 guns, caused a loss in Nelson's fleet of 895 killed and wounded; which is in the proportion of ten French guns to less than eight Englishmen killed and wounded. In the battle of Trafalgar the French fleet carried not less than 3,000 guns, and they caused a loss to the English of 1,587 killed and wounded; which is in the proportion of ten guns to less than six killed and wounded. In this affair of Algiers, with a force not exceeding 200 guns, the batteries caused a loss of 883 killed and wounded, being in the proportion of 10 guns to 44 men; and, if we take into account every gun that was pointed upon the bay, (say 350 guns,) the proportion will be 10 guns to 25 men; being an effect more than three times as great as that produced by the French ships at the battle of the Nile, and more than four times as great as that produced by the ships of the same nation at Trafalgar.
While reflecting on the circumstances of this battle the mind is not satisfied with any reasons that present themselves for the withdrawal of Lord Exmouth, the moment the land wind enabled him to do so. On the supposition of entire success on his part, it is not understood why he should feel the great anxiety he states himself to have been under that this wind should spring up. “Providence at this interval,” (between 10 and 11 at night,) "gave to my anxious wishes the usual land wind, common in this bay; and my expectations were completed. We were all hands employed in warping and towing off, and, by the help of the light air, the whole were under sail, and came to anchor out of the reach of shells about two in the morning, after twelve hours incessant labor.”
Now, if anything had been decided by the action, it must have been one of two things : either the ships were victorious, or the batteries were so. If the ships were completely victorious, it would seem to have been judicious for them to remain where they were, in order, if there was to be any more fighting, to be ready to press their advantage; and, especially, in order to maintain the ascendency, by preventing the remounting of guns, repairing of batteries, and resupplying them munitions, &c.
Had the people possessed the inflexibility report ascribed to the Dey, and had they set zealously about the work of preparation for a new contest, it might not have been easy for Lord Exmouth, in the condition to which his ships are acknowledged, by authentic accounts, to have been reduced, to enforce his demands. It is not understood, therefore, why, if he had been so successful as to be certain that his end was attained, he should be so anxious to get out of gunshot, when, by so doing, he involved the issue in more or less doubt and hazard.
He relied on the effects produced on the people by his dreadful cannonade, and the result proves that he was right; but his anxiety to clear the vessels from the contest shows that there was a power still unconquered, which he thought it better to leave to be restrained by the suffering population of the city, than keep in a state of exasperation and activity by his presence. What was this power but an unsubdued energy in the batteries?
The true solution of the question is, then, not so much the amount of injury done on the one side or the other—particularly as there was, on the one side, a city to suffer, as well as the batteries—as the relative efficiency of the parties when the battle closed at about eleven o'clock. All political agitation and popular clamor aside, what would have been the result had the fight been continued, or even had Lord Exmouth renewed it next morning ?
These are questions that can be answered only on conjecture; but the manner the battle ended certainly leaves room for many doubts whether, had the subsequent demands of Lord Exmouth been rejected, he had it in his power to enforce them by his ships: whether, indeed, if he had renewed the fight, he would not have been signally defeated.
On the whole, we do not think that this battle, although it stands pre-eminent as an example of naval success over batteries, presents any arguments to shake the confidence which fortifications, well situated, well planned, and well fought, deserve, as the defences of a seaboard.
The attack on the water batteries of Gibraltar in September, 1782, by the French and Spanish floating batteries, is a well known instance of the power of guns on shore.
These floating batteries had been rendered, as was supposed, shot-proof and shell-proof, by several additional thicknesses of timber to the sides, and by covering the decks with a roof of sloping timbers.
They mounted 142 guns on the engaged side, with 70 in reserve to replace any that might be dismounted. They were anchored at the distance of about 1,000 yards from the walls, and were opposed by about 85 guns.
After a protracted cannonade, nine of the floating batteries were burnt by hot shot from the shore, and the tenth, having been taken possession of by the victors, was set on fire by them.
No material injury was done to the works of the town by their fire; and only eighty-five men and officers were killed and wounded by the fire from these vessels, together with a very violent cannonade and bombardment from the siege batteries.
BATTLE OF ALGESIRAS.
On the 6th July, 1801, the French Admiral Lenois was lying at anchor off the town of Algesiras with two ships of 80 guns, one of 74 guns, and one frigate. To the south of him, on a small island, was a battery called the Green Island battery, mounting seven 18 and 24-pounders; and to the north of him, on the main, another battery called St Jaques's battery, mounting five 18-pounders. There were, besides, fourteen Spanish gunboats anchored near, making a total of 306 guns afloat and 12 guns in battery-altogether, 318 guns.
Sir James Saumarez, hearing that Lenois was in this position, advanced against him from Cadiz with two ships of 80 guns, four of 74 guns, one frigate,
and a lugger—in all, 502 guns. On his approach, Lenois, who was anchored in a line nearly north and south, at some distance from the shore, cut his cables and ran into shoal water, to prevent being doubled upon by the British line; this manœuvre, at the same time, entirely unmasked the fire of the batteries.
The Hannibal, one of the British 74's, in attempting to close with the French admiral, touched the ground and could not be floated off. She, however, continued the fight with great obstinacy, even for a considerable time after she was deserted by her consorts. Not being able to double upon the French line, an attempt was made to assault the Green Isle battery, which, being badly served by the Spaniards, had nearly ceased firing. But this attempt was anticipated by the arrival at the island of a party sent from the French frigate lying near, and the assault was defeated, with the loss to the English of one boat sunk and another taken, the Frenchmen renewing with vigor the fire of the battery. At the north end of the line the French admiral was aided by seven gunboats, which took so active a part in the fight that five of them were sunk or rendered unserviceable. The St. Jaques battery being, however, served sluggishly by the Spaniards, the French sent a party from the Dessaix to impart greater activity and effect.
After the combat had continued about six hours, the British squadron drew off greatly damaged, leaving the Hannibal 74 alone and aground; and she, after suffering great loss, was obliged to strike. The French insist that the Pompée, an English ship of 80 guns, had struck her colors, but, as they could not take possession, she drifted off and was then towed away; it is believed she was entirely dismasted.
We do not know the loss in the French squadron, but the killed, wounded, and missing in the English fleet amounted to 375 men, being more than twelve men for every ten guns against them, and being twice as great, in proportion, as the English loss in the battle of Trafalgar.
In this battle of Algesiras there were 502 English guns afloat, acting against 306 French guns afloat. As the English chose their own time for the attack, and had the wind, it is only reasonable to suppose that 306 of the English guns were a match for the 306 guns in the French vessels. This will leave 196 English guns afloat opposed to the 12 guns in the batteries, or, reckoning one side only of each ship, it shows 98 guns in the British fleet to have been overmatched by the twelve guns in the batteries.
There never was a more signal and complete discomfiture; and it will admit of no other explanation than that just given, namely, that the two small batteries, one of 5 and the other of 7 guns, partly 18 and partly 24-pounders, more than compensated for the difference in favor of the British fleet of 196 guns. The Hannibal got aground, it is true, but she continued to use her guns
with the best effect until she surrendered; and, even on the supposition that this ship was useless after she grounded, the British had still an excess of 122 guns over the French fleet and batteries.
These batteries were well placed, and probably well planned and constructed, but there was nothing extraordinary about them; their condition before the fight was complained of by Admiral Lenois; and they were badly fought in the early part of the action; still the 12 guns on shore were found to be more than equivalent for two seventy-fours and one frigate.
BATTLE OF FUENTERABIA.
This recent affair introduces steam batteries to our notice.
On the 11th July, 1836, six armed steamers, together with two British and several Spanish gunboats, attacked the little town of Fuenterabia. The place is surrounded only by an old wall; and two guns of small calibre, to which, on the evening of the attack, a third gun of larger calibre was added, formed the entire of its artillery. The squadron cannonaded this place during a whole day, and effected absolutely nothing beyond unroofing and demolishing a few poor and paltry houses, not worth perhaps the ammunition wasted in the attack. What may have been the number of guns and weight of metal which the assailants brought is unknown; though the superiority, independent of the superior weight of metal, must have been at least ten to one; but not the slightest military result was obtained.—(See United Service Journal, August, 1836, page 53i.)
We will now turn to affairs of a similar character on our own coast.
In June, 1776, Sir Peter Parker, commanding a squadron of two ships of 50 guns, four of 28 guns, two of 20 guns, and a bomb-ketch-in all (according to their rate) 252 guns-attacked Fort Moultrie, in Charleston harbor, South Carolina.
It is stated that the fort mounted “about thirty pieces of heavy artillery." Three of the smaller vessels were aground for a time during the action; and one of them could not be floated off, and was, in consequence, burnt by the English. Deducting this vessel as not contributing to the attack, and supposing that the other two were engaged but half the time, the English force may be estimated at 200 guns; or, reckoning on broadside only, at 100 guns against 30 guns.
The English were defeated with great loss of life, and injury to the vessels ; while the fort suffered in no material degree, and lost but 30 men. The killed and wounded in the squadron were reported by the commodore to be 205, being for every ten guns employed against them more than 68 men killed and wounded, a loss more than eleven times as great, in proportion to the opposing force, as the loss at the battle of Trafalgar.
In September, 1814, a squadron of small vessels, consisting of two ships and two brigs, mounting about 90 guns, attacked Fort Boyer, at the mouth of Mobile bay. A false attack was at the same time made by a party of marines, artillery, and Indians, on the land side. The fort was very small, and could not have mounted more than twenty guns on all sides, nor more than fifteen guns on the water fronts. The action continued between two and three hours, when one of the ships being so injured as to be unmanageable, drifted ashore under the guns, and was abandoned and burnt by the English; the other vessels retreated after suffering severely. There were ten men killed and wounded in the fort; the loss on the other part is not known.
The affair of Stonington during the last war affords another instance of suecessful defence by a battery. In this case there were only two guns, (eighteenpounders,) in a battery which was only three feet high and without embrasures. The battery, being manned exclusively by citizen volunteers from the town, repelled a persevering attack of a sloop-of-war, causing serious loss and damage, but suffering none.
The only other instance we will adduce is that of the late attack on the castle of St. Juan de Ulloa. Having before us a plan of this work, made on the spot after the surrender, by a French engineer officer who was one of the expedition; having also his official account of the affair, as well as narratives by several eyewitnesses, we can fully understand the circumstances attending the operations, and are liable to no material errors.
On the 27th of November, 1838, Admiral Baudin anchored at the distance of about seven-eighths of a mile in a northeast direction from the castle, with the frigates La Nerëide, of 52 guns, La Glorie, of 52 guns, and L'Iphigénie, of 60 guns, and, after being a short time in action, he was joined by La Créole, of 24 guns; in all
, 188 guns, according to the rate of the ships. In a position nearly north from the castle, and at a distance of more than a mile, two bomb-ketches, carrying cach two large mortars, were anchored. The wind being adverse, all the vessels were towed into position by two armed steamboats belonging to the squadron. “It was lucky for us,” says the reporter, " that the Mexicans did not disturb this operation, which lasted near two hours, and that they permitted us to commence the fire.” He further says: “We were exposed to the fire of one 24-pounder, five 16-pounders, seven 12-pounders, one 8-pounder, and five 18-pounder carronades-in all, 19 pieces only." In order the better to judge of these batteries, we will convert them, in proportion to the weight of balls, into 24-pounders; and we find these 19 guns equivalent to less than 12 guns of that calibre. But we must remark that, although this simplifies the expression of force, it presents it greatly exaggerated; it represents, for example, three 8-pounders as equivalent to one 24-pounder; whereas, at the distance the parties were engaged, (an efficient distance for a 24-pounder,) the 8-pounders would be nearly harmless. It represents also the 18-pounder carronades as possessing each three-fourths the power of a long 24-pounder ; whereas at that distance they would not be better than the 8-pounders, if so good. Although the above estimate of the force of the batteries is too great by full one-third, we will, nevertheless, let it stand as representing that force.
There were, then, twelve 24-pounders engaged against 94 guns, (estimating for one broadside only of each ship) and 4 sea-mortars. During the action a shell caused the magazine in the cavalier to explode, whereby three of the nineteen guns were destroyed, reducing the force to about ten 24-pounders.
Considering the manner in which this work was defended, it would not have been surprising if the ships had prevailed by mere dint of their guns; but our author states, expressly, that though the accident just mentioned completely extinguished the fire of the cavalier, still the greater part of the other pieces which could see the ships, to the number of sixteen, continued to fire till the end of the action.” They were not dismounted, therefore, and the loss of life at them could not have been great. What, then, was the cause of the surrender of the castle?
Much has been said of the great use made by the ships of horizontal shells, or shells fired at low angles from large guns; and it is a prevailing idea that the work was torn to pieces, or greatly dilapidated by these missiles. This engineer officer states that, on visiting the castle after the cannonade, he found "it had been more injured by the French balls and shells than he had expected; still the casemates in the curtains, serving as barracks for the troops, were intact.” “Of 187 guns found in the fort, 102 were still serviceable ; 29 only had been dismounted by the French fire. The heaviest injury was sustained by the cavalier” (where a magazine exploded) “ in bastion No. 2; in battery No. 5," (where another magazine was blown up,) " and the officers' quarters.” They found in the castle twenty-five men whose wounds were too severe to permit their removal with the rest of the garrison.
Of the twenty-nine guns dismounted, five were thrown down with the cavalier; the remaining twenty-four guns were no doubt situated in parts of the work opposite to the attack, being pointed in other directions, and were struck by shots or shells that had passed over the walls facing the ships. There is reason to suppose that of the remaining sixteen guns pointed at the French none were dismounted ; and we know that most of them continued to fire till the end of the action.
The two explosions may certainly have been caused by shells fired at low angles from Paixhan guns. But it is much more likely they were caused by shells from the sea-mortars, because these last were much larger, and therefore more likely to break through the masonry; because, being fired at high angles, they would fall vertically upon the magazines, which were less protected on the top than on the sides ; and because there were more of these large shells fired than of the small ones, in the ratio of 302 to 117.
But considering that the cannonade and bombardment lasted about six hours, and that 8,250 shot and shells were fixed by the French, it is extraordinary that there were no more than two explosions of magazines, and that no gram
H. Rep. Com. 86—11