Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

afloat on the river or in progress in the yards, presented an object to England worthy of one of her great efforts.

The troops embarked on this expedition consisted of upwards of 33,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, more than 3,000 artillery, and some hundreds of sappens and miners-constituting an army of about 40,000 men. The naval portion consisted of 35 sail of the line, 23 frigates, 33 sloops-of-war, 28 gun, mortar, and bomb vessels, 36 smaller vessels, and 82 gunboats; making a total of 155 ships and other armed vessels and 82 gunboats. The guns, mortars, &c., provided for such bombardments and sieges as the troops might have to conduct amounted to 158 pieces, with the suitable supplies of ammunition and stores of every kind.

The idea of sailing right up to their object, in spite of the forts and batteries, seems not to have found favor, notwithstanding the power of the fleet. The plan of operations, therefore, contemplated the landing a portion of the army ca the island of Walcheren, to carry on the siege of Flushing, while another portion proceeded up the Scheldt as high as Fort Bartz, which was to be taken, after which the army would push on by land about twenty miles further, and lay siege to Antwerp; all which, it was thought might be accomplished in eighteen or twenty days from the first landing.

The execution did not accord with the design. Flushing, it is true, was reduced within fifteen days, and in less than a week from the debarcation (which was on the 31st of July) Fort Bartz was in possession of the English, having been abandoned by the garrison. But it was twenty-five days before the main body, with all necessary supplies for a siege, were assembled at this point and ready to take up the line of march against Antwerp. Since the first descent of the British matters had, however, greatly changed. The French were now in force; they had put their remaining defences in good condition; they had spread inundations over the face of the country; and not only would there be little chance of further success, but the safety of the expedition, formidable as it was, might have been compromised by a further advance. It was therefore decided in council to abandon the movement against Antwerp: The troops alcordingly returned to the island of Walcheren, which they did not finally leave till the end of December.

The failure in the ultimate object of the expedition is to be ascribed to the omission to seize, in the first instance, the south shore of the river, and capture the batteries there, as was originally designed, and which was prevented by the difficulty of landing enough troops at any one debarcation, in the bad weather then prevailing. The capture of these batteries would have enabled the expedition to have reached Fort Bartz during the first week; and, in the then unpr. pared state of the French, the issue of a dash upon Antwerp can hardly be doubted.

The dreadful mortality that assailed the British army is wholly unconnected with the plans, conduct, or issue of the enterprise, as a military movement; unless, indeed, it may have frustrated a scheme for occupying the island of Walcheren as a position during the war.

Possession was held of the island for five months; and it was finally abandoned from no pressure upon it by the French, although, after the first six weeks, the British force consisted, in the aggregate, of less than 17,000 men; of which, for the greater part of the time, more than half were sick-effectives being often reduced below 5,000 men.

We sec, therefore, that an effective force of less than 10,000 men maintainel possession of the island, in the face of, and in close proximity to, the most for midable military power in Europe, for more than three months; and no reason can be perceived why it might not have remained an indefinite period, while possessed of naval superiority.

The proximity of England undoubtedly lessened the expense of the expedilon, but it influenced the result in no other way material to the argument. We will allude to no other instances of large expeditions sent by the English distant countries, than the two expeditions, each of about 10,000 men, sent in ne year 1814 against this country : one by the way of Canada, the other to the fulf of Mexico. United in a single force of 20,000 men against our sea-coast, he expense would have been less, and the results more certain.

The French, notwithstanding their constant naval inferiority, have found pportunities to embark in great undertakings of the same nature.

In 1802, eclerc proceeded to St. Domingo with 34 line-of-battle ships and large frigates, fore than 20 small frigates and sloops, and upwards of 20,000 men.

We learn from these points in history what constitutes an object worthy of ast preparations; and it is impossible to resist the fact, that our own coast, and ivers, and bays, possess many establishments not less inviting to an enemy than Plushing and Antwerp. We are taught, moreover, what constitutes a great expedition; in other words, that is the amount of force we must prepare to meet; and, more than all, we are aught that such an expedition, seizing a favorable moment, when the military rrangements of a country are incomplete—when the armies are absent, or imherfect in their organization or discipline-does not hesitate to land in the face f the most populous districts, and, availing of the local peculiarities, and covered nd supplied by a fleet, to undertake operations which penetrate deep into the ountry, and consume considerable time. It seems, therefore, that whenever the object we are to cover possesses a value ikely to provoke the cupidity of an enemy, or to stimulate his desire to inflict a erious blow, it is not enough that the approaches by water are guarded against is ships; it will be indispensable to place safeguards against attacks by and also. A force considerable enough for very vigorous attacks against the and side of the fortifications may be thrown upon the shore; and if these yield, I way is opened for the ships, and the enemy carries his object.

In certain positions, the local circumstances would favor the land operations of an enemy; permitting him, while operating against the fortifications, to be tided by the fleet, and covered from the reaction of the general force of the country. In other positions, the extreme thinness of the population in the seighborhood would require the forts to rely, for a considerable time, on their wwn strength. In all such cases a much greater power of resistance would be requisite than in circumstances of an opposite nature. In all such circumstances the works should be of a strength adequate to resist an attack, although perseFered in vigorously for several days. But when these land operations lead away from the shipping, or when the surrounding population is considerable, or the enemy is unable to shelter his movements by local peculiarities, then it will suffice if the works be competent to resist attacks, vigorous also, of a few hours only.

The magnitude and strength of the works will depend, therefore, on the joint influence of the value of the object covered, the natural strength of the position, and the succor to be drawn from the neighborhood. We may introduce, as instances, New York and Pensacola. The former is as attackable as the latter: that is to say, it equally requires artificial defences ; and, owing to its capacious harbor and easy entrance, it is not easy to place it in a satisfactory condition as to the approaches by water. But while an enemy, in approaching any of the principal works by land, could not well cover himself from the attacks of the concentrated population of the vicinity, the rapid means of communication from the interior would daily bring great accessions to the defence. A land attack against the city inųst, consequently, be restricted to a few days; and the works will fulfil their object, if impregnable to a coup de main.

Pensacola, an object, in many respects, of the highest importance, and growing in consequence every day, is capable of being defended as perfectly as the city just mentioned. The principal defences lie on a long sandy island, which closes in the harbor from the sea. An enemy landed on this island (Santa Rosa) would be in uninterrupted communication with his fleet; could, owing to the sparseness of the population, have nothing to apprehend, for some time, from any re-enforcements arriving at the place; and would be well protected, by position, from the effects of this succor, when it should arrive. While in possession of naval superiority, he might, therefore, not unreasonably calculate on being able to press a siege of many days of the work which occupies the extremity of the island, and guards the entrance to the harbor. And even before coming into possession of this work his gun and mortar batteries, on the same island, would destroy every thing not bomb-proof and incombustible at the navy yard. An attack not less persevering, and with equal chances of success, might be made from the other side of the harbor also.

If, therefore, the power to resist a coup de main be all that is conferred on the works at Pensacola, their object will be obtained only through the forbearance of the enemy; it being obviously indispensable that the principal of these works be competent to resist a short siege. If this liability resulted from the thinness of the neighboring population, it would still be many years before this state of things would be materially altered. But it does not depend on this alone; the peculiar topographical features will continue this liability in spite of increasing numbers, and ever so easy and rapid communication with the interior; it having been proved that a fleet may lie broad off this shore and hold daily communication therewith during the most tempestuous season. The English fleet of men-of-war and transports lay, during the last war, from the 7th of February to the 15th of March, 1814, anchored abreast of Dauphin island and Mobile Point, where the exposure is the same as that off Pensacola.

Between the cases cited, which may be regarded as of the class of extreme cases, (a class comprising, however, many important positions,) almost every conceivable modification of the defence will be called for, to suit the various conditions of the several points.

The fortifications of the coast must therefore be competent to the double task of interdicting the passage of ships and resisting land attacks—two distinet and independent qualities. The first demands merely an array in suitable numbers and in proper proportions of heavy guns, covered by parapets proof against shot and shells; the second demands inacessibility. As there is nothing in the first quality neccessarily involving the last, it has often happened, either from the little value of the position, or from the supposed improbability of a land attack, or from the want of time to construct proper works, that this property of inaccessibility has been neglected.

Whenever we have an object of sufficient value to be covered by a battery, we should bear in mind that the enemy will know the value of the object as well as ourselves. That it is a very easy thing for him to land a party of men for an expedition of an hour or two; and, unless we take the necessary pre ventive measures, his party will be sure to take the battery first ; after which nothing will prevent his vessels consummating the design it was the purpose of the battery to prevent.

In general, the same fortifications that guard the water approaches will protect the avenues by land also, but in certain cases a force may be so landed as to evade the channel defences, reaching the object by a route entirely inland. Of course this danger must be guarded against by suitable works.

After the preceding exposition of our views on the general subject of the defences of the coast, it may not be out of place here to indicate the mode by which the system of fortifications on which we could rely can be manned and served without an augmentation for that particular purpose of the regular army.

The force that should be employed for this service in time of war is the militia, fusing the term in a comprehensive sense;) the probability being that, in most of the defended points on the seaboard, the uniformed and volunteer companies will supply the garrisons needed. And it may be shown that it is a service to which militia are better adapted than any other.

The prominent defect of a militia force results from the impossibility of so training the men to field movements in the brief period of their service as to give them any confidence in themselves as maneuvrers in the face of regular troops ; the little they learn merely suffices to show them that it is but little ; every attempt of the kind proving, by the disorder that they know not how to avoid, how much greater would be the disorder if in face of an enemy and under fire.

Without the knowledge to be obtained only by long and laborious practice, the militiaman knows that he is no match in the field for the regular soldier, and it is not surprising that he should desire to avoid an encounter. But there is no such difficulty in the service of fixed batteries. The militiaman has to be taught merely the service of a single gun, than which nothing can be more simple. He must learn to use the rammer and the sponge, the handspike and the linstock, to load, and to run to battery, to trail and to fire; these are all. Each of these operations is of the utmost simplicity, depending on individual action and not on concert, and they may all be taught in a very short time. There is no maneuvring, no marching, no wheeling. The squad of one gun Inay be marched to another, but the service of both is the same. Even the art of pointing cannon is, to an American militiaman, an art of easy attainment, from the skill that all our countrymen acquire in the use of fire-arms—"drawing sight, or aiming," being the same art, modified only by the difference in the gun.

The mode of applying this force may be illustrated by the case of any of our cities on the seaboard. The forts and batteries, being put in perfect condition, should be garrisoned, (at least the more important ones) hy a small body of regular artillery, such as our present militrry force could supply, and sufficient for the preservation of the public property, and to afford indispensable daily guards; to these should be added two or three men of the ordnance department, especially charged with the condition of the armament and ammunition, and two or three engineer soldiers, whose sole duty it would be to attend to the condition of the fortifications; keeping every part in a state of perfect repair. In certain important works, however, that would be exposed to siege, or to analogous operations, it would be prudent, especially in the beginning of a war, to keep up a more considerable body of regular troops.

The volunteer force of the city should then be divided into detachments without disturbing their company organization, and should be assigned to the several works, according to the war garrisons required at each; from four to six men, according to circumstances, being allowed to each gun.

The larger works might require ten, fifteen, or even twenty companies ; the sinaller, one, two, three, or more companies ; and, in some cases, even a platoon might suffice. Being thus assigned, each portion of the city force would have its definite alarm-post, and should be often taken to it, and there exercised in all the duties of its garrison, and more especially in the service of its batteries and in its defence against assault. The multiplicity of steamboats in all the cities would enable the volunteers to reach even the most distant alarm-posts in a short time.

In order that all these troops may become expert in their duty, one of the works most convenient to the city, besides being the alarm-post of some particular portion of the volunteers, should, during peace, be the ordinary school of drill for all; and in this the detachments should, in turn, assemble and exercise.

Besides the mere manual of the gun and battery, there should be frequent target practice, as being not only necessary to the proper use of the battery, but as imparting interest and excitement to the service.

It might be necessary for a time to submit the volunteers to the drill of a competent officer or non-commissioned officer of the regular artillery; and, in particular, to conduct the practice with shot and shells under such instruction.

The portion of the military force of the city not stationed in the fixed batteries would constitute, under an impending attack, a reserve, posted either in one or several bodies, according to circumstances, ready to cover exposed points, to co-operate in offensive movements, or to relieve exhausted garrisons: this portion having connected with it the mounted force, the field artillery, and the heavy movable guns.

This appropriation of the volunteer force to the immediate defence of the city would operate in the most favorable way upon that force, superadding to the impulses of patriotism every feeling connected with family, property, and social and civil relations, and, while making military service the first of duties, relieving it of hardship and privation. It would be a peculiar feature in this kind of service that the governing motive in the choice of officers would be favorable to the condition of the troops, every man feeling that the safety of his dearest concerns depended on the efficiency and courage of his officers. The same motive would prompt him, moreover, to desire, and contribute to, the highest state of efficiency in the corps.

The organization of volunteer force here contemplated may comprehend the whole maritime frontier; and be applicable, also, at the more populous points upon the inland borders.

This arrangement, while it might be an enduring one, would be the least expensive by far of any that would be efficient.

The days of exercise, drill, and encampment should be fixed and invariable, in order that they may the less interfere with the private occupations of the volunteers. During an impending attack, greater or less portions should be constantly at these posts; but still the service would comprise but a very small portion of the year.

According to the value of the interest to be defended, and the extent of the works to be occupied, would be the rank of the chief command; which should be intrusted to an officer of the regular army, whose control might often be extended, advantageously, over a certain extent of seaboard to the right and left, constituting a maritime department.

In the tables to be presented at the end of this report, we shall give the whole number of men required for the complete defence of each of the works.

We now proceed to examine the coast in detail; and, in order to conform to the Senate's resolution, we shall divide the whole sea-coast of the United States into two great portions: the first portion extending from Passamaquoddy bay to Cape Florida; the second from Cape Florida to the mouth of the Sabine. In our description we shall, without any other than this general acknowledg. ment, quote largely from a report presented to Congress in April, 1836, and to be found in the Senate documents of the 1st session 24th Congress, No. 293, vol. 4. This report contains an argument on the general subject, embodying many important considerations, which we have thought best not to repeat in this lengthened report, but to refer to as worthy of perusal.

We will conduct the examination geographically beginning at the northeastern extremity, and referring in every case to accompanying tables which exhibit the several works in the order of relative importance as to time.

COAST FROM PASSAMAQUODDY BAY TO CAPE FLORIDA.

The extreme northeastern section of this coast, extending from Quoddy Head to Cape Cod, is characterized by its serrated outline and its numerous harbors, and, at certain seasons, by its foggy atmosphere. The extent of this section, measuring from point to point wherever the breaks of the coast are abrupt, is

« AnteriorContinua »