« AnteriorContinua »
injured by heavy weather, or in conflict with an enemy; with vessels bringing in prizes, or pursued by a superior force.
T'his use of the port would almost necessarily bring with it the demand for the means of repairing and refitting; and the concentration of these upon some suitable spot would be the beginning of a permanent dock yard.
For the same reason that ships-of-war would collect here, it would be a favorite point of rendezvous for privateers and their prizes, and a common place of refuge for merchantmen.
From this, as a naval station, the navigation of Long Island sound, and the communication between this and Martha's Vineyard sound, or Buzzard's bay, might be well protected; New London harbor would be covered; the navy yard would command southwardly, as from Hampton roads northwardly, the great inward curve of the coast between Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras; the influence of which command over the blockading operations of an enemy will be apparent, when it is considered that the only harbors of refuge left to him will be the Delaware, Gardiner's, and Buzzard's bays, and Martha's Vineyard sound.
The bays first mentioned belong to the class before alluded to, which, being too wide for complete defence by batteries, must call in such auxiliary defences as the navy may supply; and in reference to their defence by these means, nothing can be more important than the fortification of Narraganset roads, be cause all but the first of the bays just named (including an anchorage for shipsof-war under Block island) would be commanded by a single squadron of those floating defences lying in these roads. To a squadron of steam batteries, for instance, lying under the fortifications, it would be a matter of little consequence into which of the above anchorages an enemy should go—all being within reach in three or four hours, and some within sight. We will here observe, by the way, that this use of floating defences is in accordance with the principle before insisted on; they are not expected to close the entrance into these several bays, that would require a squadron for each at least equal to the enemy's; but as the enemy goes in merely for rest or shelter, and there is no object that he can injure, he may be permitted to enter, and our squadron will assail him only when the circumstances of wind, weather, &c., give all the advantages to the attack. The fortification of Narraganset roads is therefore, in effect, a most important contribution toward the defence of all the neighboring anchorages.
But the same properties that make Narraganset roads so precious to us would recommend them to the enemy also; and their natural advantages will be enhanced in his eyes by the value of all the objects these advantages may have accumulated therein.
If this roadstead were without defence an enemy could occupy it without op position, and, by the aid of naval superiority, form a lodgement on the island of Rhode Island for the war. Occupying this island with his troops, and with his fleets the channels on either side, he might defy all the forces of the eastern States; and while, from this position, his troops would keep in alarm and motion the population of the east, feigned expeditions against New York, or against more southern cities, would equally alarm the country in that direction; and thus, though he might do no more than menace, it is difficult to estimate the embarrassment and expense into which he would drive the government.
It has been alleged that similar consequences would flow from the occupation of other positions, (such, for instance, as are afforded in the bays just mentioned,) and that, therefore, the defence in a strong manner of Narraganset roads is useless.
Even allowing that there are other advantageous and inaccessible positions whereon an enemy might place himself, is it a reason because the foe can in spite of us, possess himself of comparatively unsafe and open harbors, that we should not apply to our own uses, but yield up to him the very best harbor on
the coast; that we should submit to capture and destruction the valuable objects that accumulate in consequence of the properties of the harbor ?
But it is believed that none of the outer and wider harbors will answer for such an establishment as we have supposed, nor for any other purpose occasional anchorage of ships-of-war; and for these reasons, amongst others : that although ships-of-war might possibly ride in these broad waters at all seasons, it would seem to be a measure of great temerity for transports to attempt it, except in the mildest seasons; and there can be but little doubt that a hostile expedition would resort to no harbor as a place of rendezvous, unless it afforded sure protection to its transports; these being the only means by which ulterior purposes could be executed, or final retreat from the country effected.
If, moreover, Narraganset roads be fortified and become a naval station, or at least the station of a floating force designed to act against these outer waters, such an establishment by any enemy would at once be put upon the defensive, and require the constant presence of a superior fleet, thus measurably losing the object of the establishment.
Independent of the qualities of the harbor, however, none of these bays would answer our purpose: 1st. Because they cannot be securely defended; and, 2d. Because they are difficult of access from the main—the communication with them being liable to interruption by bad weather, and liable to be cut off by the enemy.
The defence adopted for Narraganset roads must be formidable on the important points, because they will be exposed to powerful expeditions. Although the possession of this harbor, the destruction of the naval establishment, the capture of the floating defences, and the possession of the island as a place of debarkation and refreshment should not be considered as constituting, of themselves, objects worthy a great expedition, they might very well be the preliminary steps of such expedition; and defences weak in their character might tempt, rather than deter it; for, although unable to resist his enterprise, they might be fully competent, after being captured and strengthened by such means as he would have at hand, to protect him.from offensive demonstrations on our part.
There are, besides, in the local circumstances, some reasons why the works should be strong. The channel on the eastern side of the island being permaDently closed by a solid bridge, requires no defensive works; but this bridge being at the upper end of the island, the channel is open to an enemy all along the eastern shore of the island. Works erected for the defence of the channel on the west side of the island cannot, therefore, prevent, nor even oppose, a landing on the eastern side. The enemy, consequently, may take possession, and bend his whole force to the reduction of the forts on the island, which cannot be relieved until a force has been organized, brought from a distance, conFeyed by water to the points attacked, and landed in the face of his batteries; all this obviously requiring several days, during which the forts should be capable of holding out. To do this against an expedition of 10,000 or 20,000 men demands something more than the strength to resist a single assault.
Unless the main works be competent to withstand a siege of a few days, they will not therefore fulfil their trust, and will be worse than useless.
It must here be noticed that, although the works do not prevent the landing of an enemy on Rhode Island, they will
, if capable of resisting his efforts for å few days, make his residence on the island for any length of time impossible; since forces in any number may be brought from the main and landed under the cover of the fire of the works.
To come now to the particular defences proposed for this roadstead. It must be stated that there are three entrances into Narraganset roads :
1st. The eastern channel, which passes up on the east side of the island of Rhode Island. This, as before stated, being shut by a solid bridge, needs no defence by fortifications, other than a field-work or two, which may be thrown up at the opening of a war.
2d. The central channel, which enters from sea by passing between Rhode Island and Canonicut island. This is by far the best entrance, and leads to the best anchorage; and this it is proposed to defend by a fort on the east side of the entrance, designed to be the principal work in the system. This work, called Fort Adams, is nearly completed. On the west side of the entrance it is proposed to place another work; and on an island, called Rose island, facing the entrance, a third work. It is also proposed to repair the old fort on Goat island, just within the mouth; and also old Fort Green, which is a little higher up, and on the island of Rhode Island.
3d. As to the western passage, three modes present themselves; first, by reducing the depth of water by an artificial ledge, so as while the passage shall be as free as it is now for the coasting trade, it shall be shut as to the vessels of war, including steam vessels; second, by relying on fortifications alone to close the channel; or, third, by resorting in part to one and in part to the other mode just mentioned. Either is practicable; but being the least expensive and most certain, the estimates are founded on the first.
The total cost of the Narraganset defences is estimated at $1,817,482.(Statement 1, tables A. B, D, E, and F.)
Gardiner's.bay.-It is uncertain whether this harbor, which would be a very valuable one to an enemy investing this part of the coast, is defensible by fortifications alone. After it shall have been surveyed, it may appear that from one or more positions the whole anchorage may be controlled by heavy sea mortars. In such a case, the defensive works would not be costly. If it be found expedient to fortify some particular portion of the bay, as an anchorage for steam batteries, (which, however, is not anticipated,) the expense would probably be as great as was anticipated some years since by the engineer department, viz: $400,000.-(Statement 1, table F.)
Sag harbor, New York, and Stonington, Connecticut.-Neither of these harbors has been surveyed with reference to defence. The first is possessed of considerable tonnage; and the second, besides being engaged in commerce, is the terminus of a railroad from Boston. $100,000 may be assigned to the first, and $200,000 to the other.—(Statement 1, tables E and F.)
New London harbor is very important to the commerce of Long Island sound; and, as a port of easy access, having great depth of water, rarely freezing, and being easily defended, it is an exellent station for the navy. It is also valuable as a shelter for vessels bound out or home, and desirous of avoiding a blockading squadron off Sandy Hook.
In the plan of defence, the present forts (Trumbull and Griswold) give place to more efficient works, whereof the expense is estimated at $441,000.-(Statement 1, tables C and F.)
Mouth of Connecticut river.—This river has been shown to be subject to the expeditions of an enemy. No survey has been made with a view to its defences; $100,000 is introduced here as the conjectural cost.—(Statement 1, table F,)
New Haven harbor.-It is proposed to defend this harbor by improving and enlarging Fort Hale, and substituting a new work for the slight redoubt erected during the last war, called Fort Wooster. The expense of both may be set down at $90,000, exclusive of $5,000 for immediate repairs of old Fort Hale.(Statement 1, table F.)
There are several towns between New Haven and New York, on both sides of the sound; none of them are very large as yet, still, most, if not all, are prosperous and increasing. Although, in their present condition, it might not be deemed necessary to apply any money to permanent defences, yet, as part of the present object is to ascertain, as near as may be, the ultimate cost of completely fortifying the coast, it seems proper to look forward to the time when some of these towns may become objects of predatory enterprises of some magnitude. Bearing in mind the probable increase of population in the mean time, and the situation of the places generally, it is thought that $200,000 will be enough to provide defences for all.-(Statement 1, table F.)
New York harbor.—The objects of the projected works for the security of New York are to cover the city from an attack by land or sea; to protect its numerous shipping; to prevent, as far as possible, the blockade of this great port; and to cover the interior communication uniting this harbor with the Delaware. In the present condition of the defences an enemy would encounter no great opposition, whether his attack were made by land or water.
There are two avenues to the city, namely: one by the main channel, direct from sea, and one by the sound. If an enemy come by the way of the sound, he may now land his forces on the New York side, at Hell Gate, within less than ten miles of New York, and the next day, at the latest, be in the city; or he may land on the Long island side at the same distance, and in the same time be master of the navy yard and of Brooklyn heights, whence the city of New York is perfectly commanded; or he may divide his forces and reach both objects at the same moment.
The projected system of defence closes this avenue at the greatest distance possible from the city, namely, at Throg's Point. The occupation of this point will force the enemy to land more than twenty miles from the city on one side, and still further from the navy yard on the other.
A work now in progress at Throg's Point will probably prevent any attempt to force this passage.
It will, as we have seen, oblige an enemy to land at a considerable distance from the object; and, as he will then be unable to turn the strong position afforded by Harlem river, the cover on the New York side will be sufficient.
But should he land on the Long Island side he might, by leaving parties on suitable positions with a view to prevent our crossing the river and falling on his rear, make a dash at the navy yard, having no obstacle in his front. To prevent this effectually, and also to accomplish other objects, a work should be erected on Wilkins's Point, opposite Throg's Point. This work, besides completing the defence of the channel, would involve a march against the navy yard from this quarter in great danger; since all the forces that could be collected on the New York shore might, under cover of this work, be crossed over to Long Island, and fall on the rear of the enemy, cutting off his communication with the fleet. The two works on Throg's and Wilkins's Points may, therefore, be regarded as perfectly protecting, on that side, the city and navy yard.
Against an attack by the main channel there are
1st. The works in the vicinity of the city, which would act upon an enemy's squadron only after its arrival before the place. They consist of Fort Columbus, Castle Williams, and South Battery, on Governor's island; Fort Wood, on Bedlow's island; and Fort Gibson, on Ellis's island.
It is necessary that these works be maintained, because, in the event of the lower barrier being forced, these would still afford a resource. It is a disadvantage of their positions, however, that the destruction of the city might be going on simultaneously with the contest between these forts and the fleet. They cannot, however, be dispensed with, until the outer barriers are entirely completed, if even then. 2d. At the Narrows, about seven miles below the city, the passage
becomes so contracted as to permit good disposition to be made for defence. On the Long Island side of the Narrows is Fort Lafayette, which is a strong water-battery standing on a reef at some distance from the shore; and immediately behind it, on the top of the bank, is a small but strong work, called Fort Hamilton. Some repairs being applied to these works this position may be regarded as well occupied.
On the west side, or Staten island side of the Narrows, are the following works belonging to the State of New York, viz: Fort Richmond, which is a waterbattery; Battery Hudson, which is at some height above the water; Battery Morton, which is a small battery on the top of the hill; and Fort Tomkins, which is also on the top of the hill, and is the principal work. All these need great repairs; but, being once in proper order, would afford a very important contribution to the defence of the passage ; nothing further, indeed, being contemplated for this position, except the construction of a small redoubt on a commanding hill, a little to the southwest. The repairs of these works cannot too soon be taken in hand; and it is hoped some arrangement may soon be made with the State authorities to that end.
With the Narrows thus defended, and the works near the city in perfect order, New York might be regarded as pretty well protected against an attack by water through this passage.
But there lies below the Narrows a capacious bay, affording good anchorage for any number of vessels-of-war and transports. An enemy's squadron being in that bay, into which entrance is very easy, would set a seal upon this outlet of the harbor. Not a vessel could enter or depart at any season of the year. And it would also intercept the water communication, by the way of the Raritan, between New York and Philadelphia.
The same squadron could land a force on the beach of Gravesend bay, (the place of the landing of the British, which brought on the battle of Long Island in the revolutionary war,) within seven miles of the city of Brooklyn, of its commanding height, and of the navy yard, with no intervening obstacle of any sort.
This danger is imminent, and it would not fail, in the event of war, to be as fully realized as it was during the last war, when, on the rumor of an expedition being in preparation in England, 27,000 militia were assembled to cover the city from an attack of this sort. It is apparent that the defences near the city, and those at the Narrows, indispensable as they are for other purposes, cannot be made to prevent this enterprise, which can be thoroughly guarded against only by
3d. An outer barrier at the very mouth of the harbor. This would accomplish two objects of great consequence, namely, rendering a close blockade of the harbor impossible; and obliging an enemy, who should design to move troops against the navy yard, to land at a distance of more than twenty miles from his object, upon a dangerous beach ; leaving, during the absence of the troops, the transports at anchor in the ocean, and entirely without shelter. The hazards of such a land expedition would, moreover, be greatly enhanced by the fact that our own troops, by passing over to Long Island under cover of the fort at Wilkins's Point, could cut off the return of the enemy to his fleet, which must lie at or somewhere near Rockaway; time, distance, and the direction of the respective marches, would make, very naturally, such a manœuvre a part of the plan of defence. Against an enemy landing in Gravesend bay, no such manæuvre could be effectual, on account of the shortness of his line of march, as well as of its direction.
In view of these considerations, the board of engineers projected additional works-one for the east bank and another for the middle ground; these positions being on shoals on either hand of the bar, outside of Sandy Hook. Before determining on the works last mentioned, the board went into much research in