Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

one in the fort—the Arabs had deserted. The ships were not once fired upon by the fort, and we suppose there was no means of doing it, for the cold shot thrown over the walls at the storming party were the same the ships had fired into the work. The fort, when taken, was but slightly injured, and the garrison unharmed as long as they remained inside.

"Sumatra, Java, and the rich city of Manilla.-A battle was fought by the English and Dutch fleets, in the harbor of Java, in 1807, but the land batteries took little or no part in the contest. The English had eight ships-of-war, carrying four hundred guns; and the Dutch only nine small vessels, carrying one hundred and forty guns. The Dutch shipping, including twenty merchant vessels, were destroyed. This place was again attacked in 1811, by an army fitted out at Madras, numbering a little more than twelve thousand men, one-half of whom were Europeans. The naval force consisted of four ships-of-the-line, fourteen frigates, and seven sloops, carrying nine hundred and twenty-two guns; besides eight cruisers, fifty-seven transports, and some gunboats—making in all a fleet of one hundred sail. The defence consisted of the combined French and Dutch forces of Generals Jansens and Daendels, numbering in all between eight and ten thousand men; but the latter were too disaffected with the French to be of any service in the defence, and indeed a portion of them soon deserted to the new invaders. The British troops and a party of seamen and marines landed upon an undefended part of the island, twelve miles from Batavia, attacked General Jansens, and, after an obstinate contest of two months, forced him to surrender. The contest was wholly upon land; the ships were not once brought into action against the forts, and in no way whatever could it be regarded as a naval attack. The capture of Manilla, alluded to in the report, was that, we suppose, of 1762; but this capture was effected entirely by land forces, ships not entering into the contest at all. All that was required of the navy, says Dr. Campbell, was a light frigate to transport Colonel Draper and his command. This force amounted to two thousand three hundred effective land troops, and a body of seamen and marines, arranged into companies like soldiers. The defences of Manilla were small, incomplete, and garrisoned by only eight hundred Spaniards, and defended by some thirty pieces of brass cannon; they had also two pieces of field artillery! The Indians, being undiciplined and entirely unacquainted with the use of fire-arms, could be of little value in the defence. The English writers say that the garrison were wholly unprepared for an attack, not even knowing of the declaration of war. The place was besieged in form; its guns being silenced by the land batteries, it was carried by a storming party of three thousand men, issuing from the second parallel.

Madras, Calcutta, Pondicherry, Ceylon, were all taken by the British fleets.”—The bare fact of some town having been reduced by some certain fleet would hardly seem decisive of the general question of comparative strength; yet such is the purpose for which the above is adduced. There is not one single feature in the East India conquests that can be regarded as confirming, in any degree, the positions of the Apalachicola report. These conquests were made from the rude natives of the country, or from Europeans while distracted by political broils. Ceylon, for instance, was summoned to surrender to the crown of England, to be held in trust for the stadtholder. Columbo, the seat of government, obeyed without the least resistance, and ordered the other towns to do the same. The

governor of Trincomallé “ merely required the formation of a camp and the firing of a few shot as a justification of his conduct in surrendering the fort intrusted to his command. The fort of Osnaburg, standing on a bill, and commanding the entrance to the harbor, surrendered without firing a shot.” When Pondicherry was reduced by Colonel Floyd, in 1793, the fleet merely acted as a blockading force, cutting off all supplies and reinforcements from France. The only breaches in the fort were made by the land batteries ; these had considerably injured it; “still, however,” says the English historian,

[ocr errors]

“its strength, both by nature and art was such that the conquest might have required a considerable length of time, and been attended with no small diffculty and loss, had not disputes between the royalist and republican parties taken place in the garrison, in consequence of which it was compelled to surrender.” This place had been previoualy attacked (in 1748) by 5,000 Enropeans and 2,000 native troops, and a fleet of five ships, carrying six hundred and sixty-six guns, under Admiral Boscawen. The water defences of Pondicherry could carry only one hundred guns in all; and yet, although the blockade was continued for several months, the attempt at conquest was entirely unsuccessful. Again, in 1760–61, when garrisoned by only 1,487 men, including volunteers, it was besieged by an army of near 4,000 men, under Colonel Coote, and blockaded by a fleet of nineteen sail, carrying one thousand and fifty-two guns, under Commodore Stevens. There was no engagement whatever between the ships and forts; but all supplies being cut off by the siege and blockade, the provisions became exhausted, and, after a siege of seren or eight months, the inhabitants were forced to surrender, to avoid starvation. The garrison, however, refused to capitulate, although the town had been given up by the starving inhabitants. The fortifications of Calcutta, when attacked by the fleet of Admiral Watson, were not worth mentioning, and the town surrendered as soon as the British had prepared to open their batteries. Madras was attacked on the 14th of September, 1746, by a British fleet of nine ships, and an army of 1,500 Europeans, and 800 " well-armed, well-trained and disciplined" sepoys and negroes. This place, says the British chronicler of the siege, was defended by only “one weak battalion of four hundred men. Its fortifications were likewise of the most contemptible order, consisting, for the most part, of a common wall, which might at any moment be escaladed should the process of breaching be deemed too expensive; indeed, out of the three divisions into which it was parted, only one (called Fort St George, in which the chief functionaries resided) could boast either of bastion or rampart, far less of cannon or mortars. Against this open and ill-provided place, a heavy fire was opened by both sea and land, and the confusion within the walls soon became fearful.

This siege, if such it deserves to be called, lasted five days, and ended in the surrender of the place." These several conquests were made by the land troops, and there was no trial

, except in the unequal contest just mentioned, of strength between the ships and forts. The navy was of vast service in transporting troops and supplies, blockading the enemy's bastions, and cutting him off from all resources; but nothing occurred to justify the inferences drawn in the report above alluded to.

Gibraltar,says the Apalachicola reporter, was only once in its history attacked by a fleet, when it was taken by a squadron under Admiral Rooke."To any one who has ever read of Gibralter, this assertion will be received with unmingled surprise. The following are the principal facts of the conquest by Admiral Rooke, in 1704 :

The attacking squadron consisted of forty-one ships-of-the-line and many smaller vessels, carrying 2,935 guns, and near 20,000 men.

The fort was garrisoned by only 150 men, and armed with one hundred guns, all included.*

The attack was made simultaneously by land and water; 1,800 men being landed for this purpose. The outworks were soon reduced, and the town forced to capitulate, but not till after the English had sustained a loss of 267 men. We know of but one inference that can be drawn from this conquest. It is: that a fort may be taken by a combined land and naval force more than a keadred times greater than itself! Surely, no one could object to such an inference.

Aware of the importance of Gibraltar, the Spaniards immediately attempted

• The French accounts state the strength of the garrison even less than this, bat we give the English version of the affair.

its recovery, sending out for this purpose a fleet of 92 sail, carrying over 4,000 guns and 25,000 men. A battle was fought with the British off Malaga, but without any decided result, the victory being claimed by both sides. In the latter part of this year and the beginning of 1705, the French and Spaniards besieged Gibraltar both by sea and land. 8,000 bombs and 70,000 cannon balls were fired at the work without materially injuring it, and the besiegers were at last forced to retire with a loss of near 10,000 men, while the loss of garrison amounted to only 400.

This place was again besieged by the Spaniards in 1720 with a considerable fleet; the garrison at that time consisted of only three weak battalions;” nevertheless, the naval attack proved abortive. Another attack in 1726 was mostly by land forces; the loss of the besiegers 3,000, of the garrison 300.

Although the Spaniards had been thrice defeated in their attempts to recover Gibraltar, the siege was renewed at the commencement of the war in 1779. The garrison now

numbered 5,382 men. The blockade was begun about the middle of the summer with a considerable fleet, but it was soon afterwards suspended till the winter of 1780. This blockade was raised in 1781 by the arrival of a large British naval force, but the shipping on both sides was much annoyed by the land batieries which the two parties had erected. So vigorously was the land attack continued, that, on the 4th of May, 1782, not a single day had elapsed without firing from these batteries for a space of nearly 13 months!"

The following is Dr. Campbell's account of the general attack in September of the same year: According to bis authority the combined forces consisted of * 40,000 land troops, 47 sail of the line besides floating batteries, frigates, and other vessels-of-war.” A simultaneous attack by land and sea

was first planned, in which a loss of 20 ships-of-war and a proportional number of troops was expected by the besiegers; and “there can be little doubt that the Spanish monarch, in his extreme eagerness to obtain possession of Gibraltar, would not have hesitated to make this enormous sacrifice, provided there was a reasonable chance of success; but, to all who knew the strength of the fortress, the scheme was regarded as wild and impracticable. Another was therefore proposed.” This was, to besiege the works at the same time by land and seathe sea attack to be made by ships and a large number of floating batteries, constructed in such a manner as to be bomb proof, and to contain within themselves the means of extinguishing the fires caused by red hot shot. This was supposed to be effected by means of water pipes and tamping with wet sand. The hanging roofs were contrived in such a manner that they could be raised and let down with the greatest facility, at the pleasure of those on board the vessels.

These battering ships were armed with 154 pieces of heavy ordnance on the attacking side, with 58 in reserve, to be used in case of accident. “The whole number of men on board could not be less than 6,000 or 7,000.” As the effect of these vessels would “depend in a great measure on the rapidity and constancy with which they were fired, a kind of match was contrived by which they were all to go off together, as it had been by a single shot.” The roofs and sides of the ships were so thick that, for a long time, says Drinkwater, the balls could not be made to penetrate them. Another English writer says, “their powers of resistance to projectiles of artillery were certainly greater than that afforded by the British) squadron at Algiers."

The attack was commenced on the 8th of September by the troops and the ships then present. For the land siege they employed 1,200 pieces of heavy ordnance, and more than 83,000 barrels of powder ! For several days the besiegers “fired at the rate of 6,500 cannon shot and 1,080 shells in every 24 hours.” On the 9th the combined fleets of France and Spain in the bay amounted to 48 sail of the line, 10 battering ships, a large number of frigates, gun and mortar boats, bomb ketches, &c. The new battering ships joined in the attack about 8 o'clock on the morning of the 13th, anchoring about 900 yards from the works. They seemed for a long time, says Campbell

, “ completely invulnerable to all attempts made by the garrison to destroy them; while they continued through the greatest part of the day to maintain a heavy and destructive cannonade, they resisted the combined powers of fire and artillery to such a degree that the incessant showers of shells and the red hot shot with which they were assailed made no visible impression upon them. About 2 o'clock, however, there were evident symptoms of their approaching destruction;" and during the night a large portion of them were either burnt or torn in pieces. “It is impossible to ascertain the loss of the Spaniards on this memorable day; that it was enormous is certain, both from the nature and effect of the fire from the garrison, and from the very circumstance that they published only a vague and contradictory account respecting it. Such admirable measures had been taken for the security of the garrison, that their loss was comparatively light. In the course of about nine weeks the whole number of slain amounted only to 65, and the wounded to 388. How little chance the Spaniards had of succeeding in their attack, even if their battering ships had not taken fire, may be judged from this circumstance—that the works of the fortress were scarcely damaged.” “As the enemy now had most melancholy proof that Gibraltar could not be taken by any means that human power could bring against it, the only chance that remained to them was by famine.” A blockade and the land siege were therefore kept up for some time, but were unsuccessful.

Drinkwater gives nearly the same account as above. The number of men in the garrison, when attacked, was 7,000. Neither the whole number of guns in the fort nor in the ships could be brought into action; but, according to Drinkwater, the number of guns afloat, which were actually brought to bear on the fortifications, was 300, while this fire was returned by only 80 cannon, 7 mortars, and 7 howitzers. The loss of the garrison during this engagement was 16 killed and 67 wounded, while the enemy's loss during the same time was estimated at 2,000.

We add a third account from the British Naval Chronicle, coinciding with those already given: “ 47 sail of the line, 10 invincible battering ships, carrying 212 guns, numerous frigates, xebecs, bomb ketches, cutters, and gun and mortar boats, with small craft, for the purpose of disembarkation, were assembled in the bay. On the land side were stupendous batteries and works, mounting 200 pieces of ordnance, and protected by an army of 40,000 men, commanded by a victorious and active general, and animated by the presence of two princes of the blood, a number of officers of the first distinction, and the general expectation of the world. To this prodigious force was opposed a garrison of 7,000 effective men, including the marine brigade, with only 80 cannon, 7 mortars, and 9 howitzers." • The loss of the enemy in killed and prisoners was calculated at 2,000, while the garrison, in so furious an attack, had only 1 officer, 2 subalterns, and 13 privates killed, and 5 officers and 63 privates wounded. The damage sustained by the fortress itself was so small that the whole sea line was put in order before night.”

Copenhagen.- The passage of the Cattegat by the British fleet in 1801, and their attack on Copenhagen, have often been alluded to in discussions on the power of ships and batteries; and although the facts and circumstances are all well authenticated, they have sometimes been most singularly perverted, and the most unwarrantable inferences drawn from them. The following are the main features and facts of the case, as drawn from the official returns and authentic records: The British fleet of fifty-two sail, eighteen of them line-ofbattle-ships, four frigates, &c., sailed from Yarmouth roads on the 12th of March, passed the sound on the 30th, and attacked and defeated the Danish line on the 2d of April.

66

The sound between Cronenberg and the Swedish coast is about two and onehalf miles wide. The batteries of Cronenberg and Elsinore were lined with 100 pieces of cannon and mortars; but the Swedish battery had been much neglected, and then mounted only six guns. Nevertheless, the British admiral, to avoid the damage his squadron would have to sustain in the passage of this wide channel, defended by a force scarcely superior to a single one of his ships, preferred to attempt the difficult passage of the Belt; but after a few of his light vessels, acting as scouts, had run on the rocks, he returned to the sound.

He then tried to negotiate a peaceful passage, threatening a declaration of war if his vessels should be fired upon. It must be remembered that England was at peace with both Denmark and Sweden, and that no just cause of war existed. Hence, the admiral inferred that the commanders of these batteries would be loth to involve their countries in a war with so formidable a power as England, by commencing hostilities, when only a free passage was asked. The Danish commander replied, that he should not permit a fleet to pass his post, whose object and destination were unknown to him. He fired upon them, as bound to do by long-existing commercial regulations, and not as an act of hostility against the English. The Swedes, on the contrary, remained neutral, and allowed the British vessels to lie near by for several days without firing upon them. Seeing this friendly disposition of the Swedes, the fleet neared their

coast, and passed out of the reach of the Danish batteries, which opened a fire of balls and shells; but all of them fell more than two hundred yards short of the fleet, which escaped without the loss of a single man.

The Swedes excused their treachery by the plea that it would have been impossible to construct batteries at that season, and, even had it been possible, Denmark would not have consented to their doing so, for fear that Sweden would renew her old claim to one-half of the rich duties levied by Denmark on all ships passing the strait. There may have been some grounds for the last excuse; but the true reason for their conduct was the fear of getting involved in a war with England. Napoleon says that, even at that season, a few days only would have been sufficient for placing one hundred guns in battery; and that Sweden had much more time than was requisite. And with one hundred guns on each side of the channel, served with skill and energy, the fleet must necessarily have sustained so much damage as to render it unfit to attack Copenhagen.

On this passage, we remark: 1st. The whole number of guns and mortars in the forts of the sound amounted to only 106, while the fleet carried over 1,700 guns; and yet, with this immense superiority of more than sixteen to one, the British admiral preferred the dangerous passage of the Belt to encountering the fire of these land batteries. 2d. By negotiations and threatening the vengeance of England, he persuaded the small Swedish battery to remain silent, and allow the fleet to pass near that shore, out of reach of the guns of Cronenberg and Elsinore. 38. It is the opinion of Napoleon and the best English writers, that if the Swedish battery had been put in order, and acted in concert with the Danish works, they might have so damaged the fleet as to render it incapable of any serious attempt on Copenhagen.

This passage of the Cattegat is quoted by the Apalachicola report as a case settling the naked question of relative strength of guns afloat and guns ashore, and as decisive of the perfect inability of our fortifications to stop the transit of a fleet!

We now proceed to consider the circumstances attending the attack and defrnce of Copenhagen itself. The only side of the town exposed to the attack of heavy shipping is the northern, where there lies a shoal extending out a considerable distance, leaving only a very narrow approach to the heart of the city. On the most advanced part of this shoal are the crown batteries, carrying in all

H. Rep. Com. 86—19

« AnteriorContinua »