Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Recapitulation.
Total amount required for constructions, additions, and repairs to

arsenals and depots ...
Total amount required to establish an armory on the western

waters Total amount required to establish a national foundery..

$705, 000

468, 000 300, 000

Total.....

1, 473, 000

All which is respectfully submitted.

By order of the board,

JOS. G, TOTTEN,

Colonel of Engineers.

MEMORIAL OF EDMUND P. GAINES.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America

in Congress assembled : The memorial of Edmund Pendleton Gaines, a major general in the army of the United States, commanding the western division, respectfully showeth : That, believing the federal and State constitutions guarantee and consecrate to every free citizen capable of bearing arms the right and duty of participating alike in the civil and military trusts of tñe republic, solemnly requiring the soldier to exert his every faculty “in peace to prepare for war," so that on the recurrence of war he may be well qualified to fight the battles of his country in the greatest possible triumph, and at the least possible cost of blood and treasure ; requiring him, moreover, to study and respect her political and social institutions; and requiring the statesman to discipline his mind for the state and national defence, by adapting his civil acts and occasional military studies to the purposes of the national defence and protection, as well against foreign enemies in war as against the home incendiary and other criminal offenders in peace ; thus rendering the statesman and soldier equally familiarized with their common kindred duties of self government and self-defence : by a knowledge of which our independence was achieved, and without which this inestimable blessing cannot be preserved ;-your memorialist, a native Virginian, a citizen of Tennessee, schooled in her cabins and her camps to the profession of arms, has, within the last seventeen years, matured a system of national defence, to which he now respectfully solicits your attention and support: a system of national defence which the late giant strides of invention and improvement in the arts have rendered indispensable to the preserration of the Union ; a system of national defence which recommends itself peculiarly to the central, southern, and Atlantic States, as well as to those of the north and west ; as it assures to our isolated central States of Tennessee and Kentucky, and to all the western States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas, in peace, commercial advantages equal to those enjoyed by the most favored eastern, Atlantic, or southern States; and in war, giving to the disposable fighting men of these central and western States the inestimable privilege of Alying with unprecedented certainty, celerity, and comfort to any of our vulnerable seaports, to aid our brethren of the border States to repel the invading foe; and to accomplish this essential duty in one-tenth part of the time, and one-tenth part of the expense that would attend such an operation over our present bad roads. But, above all, to accomplish these great and good objects, by means that will more than double the value of our State and national domain, and without expending a dollar that may not be insured to be replaced in the public coffers in from seven to ten years after the completion of the work here recommended.

Your memorialist is admonished by the universal employment of steam power, and its applicability to every description of armament hitherto moved upon the sea by wind and canvas, or upon the land by animal power, that an epoch is at hand in which the art of war, in whatever regards the attack and defence of seaports, has undergone an unparalleled revolution.

Hitherto the transition from peace to war between neighboring nations, though sometimes sudden and unexpected, was usually preceded by some sig. nificant note of preparation not easily mistaken; and after the actual commencement of hostilities there were frequent opportunities and ample time for the belligerents, and more particularly for the nation acting upon the unerring principle of self-defence, to complete the work of preparation for war before the work of destruction upon her principal seaport towns had been begun by the invading foe. Hitherto the enemy's fleets were to be seen for weeks, often, indeed, for months in succession, “ standing off and on,” waiting for suitable winds and weather to enable them to enter and attack the destined port, and then, in case of accident, to carry them safely out again-winds such as could never be calculated on with anything like certainty. Hence the great and unavoidable delay in the attack by fleets propelled by wind and sails has often enabled the people of the threatened seaports to throw up works of defence; and after slowly marching their interior volunteers and other forces at the rate of twenty miles a day, they would in time be so well prepared for action that the menacing invaders have but seldom ventured to attack places of much innportance, but have usually condescended to vent their prowess in a petty border war against villages and private habitations, as upon the Chesapeake bay and the Georgia sea-coast in the war of 1812, 1813, and 1814.

If the obvious effect of steam power, in the rapid movement of everything to which it has been applied around us, has not been sufficient to convince us of the expediency and transcendent advantages in war and in peace of the proposed immediate work of preparation, by steam power, to guard against the incalculable disasters that must otherwise attend the sudden outbreak of war with any of the great nations of Europe able to send against us even a small fleet propelled by steam power, it would seem obvious that the late naval and military operations in the harbor of Vera Cruz were sufficient to prove clearly, that to bring a hostile fleet inside the breakers of a seaport of the country invaded, and within the desired range of the best of cannon and mortars for red-hot shot and shells of one of the strongest castles in America, was the work of but two hours ; and that the utter destruction of that castle by three small ships-of-war required but four hours more.

To provide for the defence of our seaports, and thus effectually to obviate the possibility of a sudden calamity like that which has befallen the castle of San Juan de Ulloa, and to enable us to repel by the agency of steam power every invasion suddenly forced upon us by fleets propelled by steam power, I now submit for the consideration of the national legislature the project and explanatory views which follow :

ART. I. Floating batteries for the defence of the seaports and harbors of the United States.

1. Your memorialist proposes the immediate construction of from two to four large floating batteries for the defence of each navigable pass into the Mississippi river, and from two to five others for the defence of every other navigable inlet leading into any of the principal seaports of the United States. Each floating battery to be from 200 to 300 feet long, and from 90 to 150 feet wide-the bottom to be as nearly flat as the best tested principles of naval architecture will allow, consistently with the great weight of timber and metal to be prorided for, with the requisite facility of the movement that will be required over shoal water. Each floating battery to be secured in the bottom and sides with ropper sheeting, and copper or iron bolts; and on the upper parts, exposed to the enemy's shot and shells, with the thickest sheet iron, and iron bolts; and ntherwise made capable of sustaining a heavier broadside than the largest of pur ships-of-war is capable of sustaining; to carry from one hundred and twenty to two hundred heavy cannon-say long 24 and 32-pounders, with some 80pounders for carrying hollow shot, together with some mortars for throwing shells; with a furnace for heating red-hot shot for illuminating the enemy's fleets and transports. Each floating battery to have state-rooms for the comfortable accommodation of from 600 to 1,000 men, with storerooms for all the munitions of war, requisite for that force for six to eight months' service. Each Hoating battery to be attended and propelled by such number of tow-boats as the exigencies of the service shall from time to time demand—to be permanently stationed in each harbor in time of peace, and in war as many tow-boats to be ehartered as the commanding officer may deem necessary to render the floating batteries in the highest degree efficient. As in war tow-boats will seldom be needed for the merchant service, an ample supply of them, particularly in our large seaports, may be chartered on moderate terms : for example, in the harbor of New Orleans it is believed that twelve tow-boats, with several steamboats having the best of engines to be converted into tow-boats, would be thrown out of employment during a state of war. These could be usefully employed in the United States service, in aid of the public tow-boats and floating batteries. But should this reliance be deemed unsafe, we can readily adopt the obvious alternative of having each floating battery supplied with two tow-boats of great power, as in war they would be needed near the batteries, ready to wield them in the event of an attack, and at other times to act as tenders in supplying them with men and munitions of war. In a state of peace the floating batteries, it is believed, would require but one tow-boat each, excepting when employed in deepening the ship channelsa work which may be accomplished with the most perfect ease and to any desirable extent, wherever the bottom of the channel consists of mud and sand, as in all the outlets of the Mississippi. This important work will be done by attaching to the bottom of each floating battery a framework of ploughs and scrapers of iron, made to let down and raise up at pleasure, according to the hardness or softness of the clay and sand, or mud, of which the bar or bottom of the channel may be composed. If very hard or tough, the ploughs and scrapers might not break up and take off more than two to four inches in depth at one movement; but where the bar is composed entirely of soft mud, as that at Balize and the Northeast and Southwest passes have often been, from four to six inches in depth, it is believed, may be carried off at once—wherever the bar is very narrow, and in the immediate vicinity of very deep water, which would be the reservoir or place of deposit to which the mud and sand would be removed. But in a state of peace, when the batteries should not be employed in deepening the ship channels, their extra tow-boats might be advantageously employed in the merchant service.

2. Float ng batteries such as are here proposed, constitute, as your memorialist verily believes, the only sure means of defence of the passes into our seaports against ships-of-war propelled by steam power-means of defence without which it is in the power of any nation, or community of men, or pirates, capable of fitting out ten or even five such steamships-of-war as those employed in the destruction of the castle of San Juan de Ulloa, to destroy the city of New York or New Orlans by fire, with the newly invented 80-pound cannon shot and shells, in a single day, at any season of the year; approaching them in the night, and taking them by surprise: as with such a fleet, well manned and supplied, either city could be fired in five hundred places in one hour; and in a few hours more thousands of the most splendid edifices, by which these mag. nificent cities are embellished, would be reduced to ruin and desolation.

3. This opinion has not been formed without a full knowledge of the fact that both New York and New Orleans number among their citizens many men and volunteer corps of military science, patriotism, and unsurpassed chivalry. But these fine volunteer corps, attacked by means and by weapons hitherto unknown to them, or unprovided for, and thus taken by surprise, may share the fate of the heroic Danes at Copenhagen, when attacked by Nelson ; with this striking difference in their favor, and against us, the Danes were not taken by surprise. A protracted negotiation with England preceded the attack; and after the British fleet had made its appearance on the coast of Denmark, and in sight of their harbor, they had some three or four days for preparation; they had a fleet nearly equal to that brought into action against them by Nelson, together with an army of some thousands of men, seamen, soldiers, and volunteers, with several fortitications on land, aided by some floating batteries-presenting altogether an armament of upwards of 1,000 cannon, with an immense supply of small arms and every requisite munition of war.

In this state of preparation the harbor of Copenhagen was entered in open day by twelve ships of the line—three of which were rendered nearly useless by having got'aground; with nine ships of the line, therefore, Nelson sustained a close action for four hours, during which time his loss was less than one thousand, while the loss of the Danes was near six thousand men, together with their fleet—to say nothing of the losses sustained by the inhabitants of the city. This was the result of an attack with nine ships of the line, propelled by wind and sails, upon the seaport of Copenhagen, when strongly fortified and defended by large naval and land forces. What then must be the fate of such a city as New York or New Orleans, without any effective means of defence, attacked by ten, or even five ships-of-war, armed with the newly invented 80-pounders, and propelled by steam power? We know that a fleet consisting of this description of ships-of-war may cross the Atlantic from a European port to New York in the short space of fourteen day's time, and that it may enter our harbors in the night, and be seen at our wharves, with matches lighted ready for action, at daylight in the morning-ready to take or destroy money or property amounting to ten times as much as all the floating batteries and railroads embraced in the proposed system of national defence would cost. In the outrageous attack on Copenhagen, England was fighting for the dominion of the sea. Denmark and Swede with Russia and France, were then nobly opposing that lawless pretension, as we, the United States, have long opposed it. Nelson, on embarking in the expedition, is reported to have said to his commander, Admiral Parker, “I hope we shall give our northern enemies that hailstorm of bullets, which gives our dear country the dominion of the sea ; we have it, and all the devils in the north cannot take it from us if our wooden walls have fair play.” This is the language of a truehearted British seaman and soldier. Such was the noble bearing of our own Decatur, when he exclaimed, “Our country! in her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be right; but in war may she always triumph-right or wrong!”

In the memorable attack on Copenhagen, it is worthy of remark here that the experienced Admiral Nelson, who had won more great naval victories than any other commander had, previous to the action stated to the commander-inchief the following opinion: “If the wind is fair, and you determine to attack the ships and Crown islands, you must expect the natural issue of such a battle ships crippled, and perhaps one or two lost ; for the wind which carries you in will most probably not bring out a crippled ship.Nelson, however, had the good fortune, after taking and destroying a fleet nearly equal to his own, and killing six times as many men as he lost in action, to sail out of the harbor, which

he had filled with wrecks, without the loss of a single British vessel, though he had several greatly damaged.

4. With floating batteries, such as are here proposed, it is more than probable that the brave Danes would have destroyed the whole of Nelson's fleet without sustaining the loss of a vessel, a battery, or one hundred men.

The floating batteries of the Danes, like those of the French and Spaniards at the siege of Gibraltar in the year 1783, were inefficient, simply because they were unwieldy. No effective means for wielding floating batteries, when large enough to be formidable, had ever been discovered previous to the discovery by Robert Fulton of that development of steam power applicable to ships and all other floating structures. With regard to the ten great floating batteries, especially constructed for the memorable siege against Gibraltar, it is obvious to every man of military mind that, however formidable such batteries might have been, even without tow-boats, or steam power in any other form, employed in the defence of a high rock fort like that of Gibraltar, such floating batteries could never be relied on as effective means of attack upon a high rock fort of that description, as the immense strength of the position and of the work, with the great elevation of the cannon of the work attacked, would insure the destruction of floating batteries, or render an attack by them unavailing. It is a well ascertained fact, however, not generally known, as but few historians have noticed it, that the floating batteries employed in the siege of Gibraltar were manned principally with convicts. This fact may be considered as the most conclusive among the principal causes of their failure, as well as of the opinion entertained and expressed by the French and Spanish commanders, that most of these batteries were set on fire by the men on board, whose duty it was to defend them. Be this as it may, a minute examination of the military history of the terrible siege of Gibraltar is respectfully referred to by your memorialist as evidence in favor of his proposition for the immediate construction of floating batteries for the defence of our ports and harbors; inasmuch as it is obvious that, if the commander of Gibraltar had been supplied with ten floating batteries, such as are here proposed, with our present means of tow-boats, with steam power to wield them, he would have destroyed the whole of the combined fleets employed against him, or at least have kept them out of the bay or harbor of Gibraltar. To the siege of Gibraltar and the attack on Copenhagen, two of the most terrible and extraordinary events known to modern history, in reference to the attack and defence of seaports, an event known to your memorialist and many

other officers now in service will be added, to show the utter impracticability of locking up a navigable river or inlet, or of arresting the movement of a fleet thereon, by fortifications with cannon placed on the banks of such river or inlet. On the night of the 6th of November, 1813, the flotilla, under the command of Major General Wilkinson, consisting of nearly 300 boats, sloops and schooners, passed the fort of Prescott, upon the Canada side of the river St. Lawrence, under a constant fire of the cannon of the fort, manned by the best of British artillerists, without the loss of a boat or other vessel, and with the loss of but one man killed and two wounded; notwithstanding the flotilla was nearly one hour in the act of passing the fort, during the whole of which time the fire of the enemy's cannon was incessant, and the line formed by the flotilla in its movement was deemed to be within pointblank shot of the fort—say from 600 to 800 yards’ distance! This fact was proven by the whistling of the enemy's shot, many, probably hundreds, of which passed apparently from 20 to 50 feet above our heads, while on board the boats in their slow passage, for they were propelled by oars, upon a gentle current, which enabled us to move at the rate of not more than three miles an hour. This movement was effected in the night, tolerably clear, but without moonlight. With the history of these three events before is, it would seem to be the height of imprudence in us to perse

« AnteriorContinua »