Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

being fired from the batteries. The action commenced at a quarter before three, and did not entirely cease till half-past eleven. The ships now took advantage of the land breeze, and, by warping and towing off

, were able to get under sail and come to anchor beyond reach of the land batteries. Negotiations were again opened, and the Dey surrendered the Christian slaves, and yielded to the terms of the treaty.

During the contest, the fleet "fired nearly 118 tons of powder and 50,000 shot, (weighing more than 500 tons of iron,) besides 960 thirteen and ten inch shells, (thrown by the bomb vessels,) and the shells and rockets from the flotilla." The vessels were considerably crippled, and their loss in killed and wounded amounted to $83. The land batteries were much injured, and a large part of their

guns dismounted. Their loss is not known; the English confess they could obtain no account of it, but suppose it to have been very great. This seems more than probable; for, besides those actually employed in the defence, large numbers of people crowded into the forts to witness the contest. So great was this curiosity, that, when the action commenced, the parapets were covered with the multitude, gazing at the maneuvres of the ships. To avoid so unnecessary and indiscrimite a slaughter, Lord Exmouth (showing humanity that does him great credit) motioned with his hand to the ignorant wretches to retire to some place of safety. This loss of life in the batteries, the burning of the buildings within the town and about the mole, the entire destruction of their feet and merchant vessels anchored within the mole and in the harbor, had a depressing effect upon the inhabltants, and probably did more than the injuries received by the batteries in securing an honorable conclusion to the treaty. We know very well that these batteries, though much injured, were not silenced when Lord Exmouth took advantage of the land breeze, and sailed beyond their reach. The ships retired: first, because they had become much injured, and their ammunition nearly exhausted; second, in order to escape from a position so hazardous, in case of a storm; and third, to get beyond the reach of the Algerine batteries. Lord Exmouth himself gives these as his reasons for the retreat, and says: “The land wind saved me many a gallant fellow.” And Vice-Admiral Von de Capellan, in his report of the battle, gives the same opinion: “ In this retreat,says he, “which, from want of wind and the damage suffered in the rigging, was very slow, the ships had still to suffer much from the new opened and redoubled fire of the enemy's batteries, at last, the land breeze springing up," &c.

An English officer, who took part in this affair, says: “It was well for us that the land wind came off, or we should never have got out; and God knows what would have been our fate, had we remained all night.”

The motives of the retreat cannot, therefore, be doubted. Had the Arabs set themselves zealously at work during the night to prepare for a new contest, by remounting their guns, and placing others behind the ruins of those batteries which had fallen-in other words, had the works now been placed in hands as skilful and experienced as the English, the contest would have been far from ended. But, in the words of the board of defence, “ Lord Exmouth relied on the effects produced on the people by his dreadful cannonade, and the result proves that he was right. 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 to 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 to suffer as as the batteries, as the

parties when the battle closed. 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 preeminent as an example of naval success over batteries, presents an argument to shake the confidence which fortifications, well situated, well planned, and well fought, deserve, as the defences of a seabord.”

We cannot help regarding these conclusions just when we reflect upon all the circumstances of the case. The high character, skill, and bravery of the attacking force; their immense superiority in number of guns, with no surplus human life to be exposed; the antiquated and ill-managed works of defence; the entire want of skill of the Algerine artillerists and the neglect of the ordinary means of preparation; the severe execution which these ill-served guns did upon the enemy's ships, an execution far more dreadful than that effected by the French or Dutch fleets in their best contested naval battles with the ships of the saine foe—from these facts we must think that those who are so ready to draw from this case conclusions unfavorable to the use of land batteries as a means of defence against shipping know but little of the nature of the contest.

An English historian of some note, in speaking of this attack, says: “It is but little to the purpose, unless to prove what may be accomplished by fleets against towns exactly so circumstanced, placed, and governed. Algiers is situated on an amphitheatre of hills sloping down towards the sea, and presenting, therefore, the fairest mark to the fire of hostile ships. But where is the capital exactly so situated that we are ever likely to attack? And as to the destruction of a few second-rate towns, even when practicable, it is a mean, unworthy species of warfare, by which nothing was ever gained. The severe loss sustained before Algiers must also be taken into account, because it was inflicted by mere Algerine artillery, and was much inferior to what may be expected from a contest maintained against batteries manned with soldiers instructed by officers of skill and science, not only in working the guns, but in the endless duties of detail necessary for keeping the whole of an artillery material in a proper state of formidable efficiency.

San Juan d'Ulloa, falling before a small French squadron after a few hours' cannonading.”—I'Le following facts relative to this attack are drawn principally from the report of the French engineer officer, who was one of the expedition. The French fleet consisted of four ships carrying 188 guns, two armed steamboats, and two bomb ketches, with four large mortars. The whole number of guns found in the fort was 187; a considerable portion of these, however, were for land defence. When the French vessels were towed into the position selected for the attack “it was lucky for us,” says their reporter, “ that the Mexicans did not disturb this operation, which lasted nearly two hours, and that they permitted us to commence the fire.” “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 nineteen pieces only.If these be converted into equivalent 24-pounders, in proportion to the weight of balls, the whole 19 guns will be less than 12 24-pounders! This estimate is much too great, for it allows three 8-pounders to be equal to one 24-pounder, and each of the 18-pounder carronades to be three-quarters the power of a long 24-pounder; whereas, at the distance at which the parties were engaged, these small pieces were nearly harmless. Two of the powder magazines, not being bomb-proof, were blown up during the engagement, by which three of the 19 guns on the water front of the castle were dismounted, thus reducing the land force to an equivalent of ten 24-pounders. The other 17 guns were still effective when abandoned by the Dlexicans.

It appears from the above-mentioned report that the number of guns actually brought into action by the floating force amounted to 94, besides four heavy sea mortars ; that the whole number so employed in the fort was only 19 ; that these were generally so small and inefficient that their balls would not enter the sides of the ordinary attacking frigates ; that the principal injury sustained by the castle was produced by the explosion of powder magazines, which were injudiciously placed and improperly secured ; that the castle, though built of poor materials, was but slightly injured by the French fire; that the Mexicans proved themselves ignorant of the ordinary means of defence, and abandoned their works when only a few of their guns had been dismounted; that, notwithstanding all the circumstances in favor of the French, their killed and wounded, in proportion to the guns acting against them, was upwards of four times as great as the loss of the English at the battle of Trafalgar !

St. Jean d'Acre reduced in a few hours by a British fleet, and taken possession of by the scamen and marines.”—Fortunately, the principal facts connected with this attack are now fully authenticated. For the armament of the fleet we quote from the British official papers, and for that of the fort from the pamphlet of Lieutenant Colonel Matuszewiez.

The fortifications were built of poor materials, antiquated in their plans, and much decayed. Their entire armament amounted to only 200 guns, some of which were merely field-pieces. The water fronts were armed with 100 cannon and 16 mortars, those of the smaller calibre included. When approached by the British fleet the works were undergoing repairs, and, says Commodore Napier, “were fast getting into a state of preparation against attack."

The British fleet consisted of eight ships-of-the-line, carrying 646 guns; six frigates, carrying 236 guns; four steamers, carrying eighteen guns; and two or three other vessels whose force is not given. "Only a few guns," says Napier, "defended the approach from the northward,” and most of the ships came in from that direction. The western front was armed with about forty cannon; but opposed to this were six ships and two steamers, carrying about 500 guns. Their fire was tremendous during the engagement, but no breach was made in the walls. The south front was armed in part by heavy artillery, and in part by field pieces. This front was attacked by six ships and two steamers, carrying over 200 guns. The eastern front was armed only with light artillery ; against this was concentrated the remainder of the fleet, carrying 240 guns. The guns of the works were so poorly mounted that but few could be used at all; and these, on account of the construction of the fort, could not reach the ships, though anchored close by the walls. "Only five of their guns," says Napier, “ placed in a flanking battery, were well served and never missed; but they were pointed too high, and damaged our spars and rigging only.” The stone was of so poor a quality, says the narrative of Colonel Matuszewiez, that the walls fired upon presented on the exterior a shattered appearance, but they were nowhere seriously mjured. In the words of Napier, “ they were not breached, and a determined enemy might have remained secure under the breastworks, or in the numerous casemates without suffering much loss." The explosion of a magazine within the fort, containing 6,000 casks of powder, laid in ruins a space of 60,000 square yards, opened a large breach in the walls of the fortification, partially destroyed the prisons, and killed and wounded 1,000 men of the garrison. This frightful disaster, says the French account, hastened the triumph of the fleet. The prisoners and malefactors, thus released from confinement, rushed

upon

the garrison at the same time with the mountaineers, who had besieged the place on the land side. The uselessness of the artillery, the breaches in the fort, the attacks of the English-all combined to force the retreat of the garrison, “ in the midst of scenes of blood and atrocious murders.” We will close this account with the following extract from a speech of the Duke of Wellington, in the House of Lords, February 4, 1841: "He had had," he said, “a little experience in services

of this nature, and he thought it his duty to warn their lordships on this occasion that they must not always expect that ships, however well commanded, or however gallant their seamen might be, were capable of commonly engaging successfully with stone walls. He had no recollection in all his experience, except the recent instance on the coast of Syria, of any fort being taken by ships, excepting two or three years ago, when the Fort of San Juan d'Ulloa was captured by the French fileet. This was, he thought, the single instance that he recollected, though he believed that something of the sort had occurred at the siege of Havana in 1763. The present achievement he considered one of the greatest of modern times. This was his opinion, and he gave the highest credit to those who had performed such a service. It was, altogether, a most skilful proceeding. He was greatly surprised at the small number of men that was lost on board the fleet; and, on inquiring how it happened, he discovered that it was because the vessels were moored within one-third of the ordinary distance. The guns of the fortress were intended to strike objects at a greater distance; and the consequence was, that the shot went over the ships that were anchored at one-third the usual distance. By that means they sustained not more than onetenth of the loss which they would otherwise have experienced. Not less than 500 pieces of ordnance were directed against the walls, and the precision with which the fire was kept up, the position of the vessels, and, lastly, the blowing up of the large magazine-all aided in achieving this great victory in so short a time. He had thought it right to say thus much, because he wished to warn the public against supposing that such deeds as this could be effected every day. He would repeat that this was a singular instance, in the achievement of which great skill was undoubtedly manifested, but which was also connected with peculiar circumstances, which they could not hope always to occur. It must not, therefore, be expected as a matter of course that all such attempts must necessarily succeed.”

We have now discussed the several instances, in other countries, of British naval prowess, so highly lauded by the Apalachicola report, except the taking of “Constantinople by the Venetian fleet," and the English conquest of "Canton, but just now.” With respect to the former conquest, it will be sufficient to remark, that it was made before the invention of gunpowder. The utter inefficiency of the Chinese to carry on war with modern Europeans, with anything like equality of forces, is too well known to require comment. Their land batteries were constructed in violation of all rules of the art; and they attempted to frighten away the English by the sound of their gongs, and the turning of somersets by their troops ! Ten Englishmen were anywhere more than equal to one hundred natives !

We now turn to the examples of British naval superiority, said by the report to have been exhibited in their several attacks upon the fortifications of our own country. The only refutation we shall offer is the following brief account of the facts. They are collected from the best English and American authorities.

Louisburg was attacked and taken by a naval force."-So says the Apalachicola report; but we confidently affirm that, although several times attacked, it never was taken by a naval force alone, no matter how superior that force might be. This place was first reduced in 1745. For this attack the colonies raised about 4,000 men and 100 small vessels and transports, carrying between 160 and 200 guns. They were afterwards joined by ten other ships, carrying near 500 guns. This attacking force now, according to some of the English writers, consisted of 6,000 provincials, 800 seamen, and a naval force of near 700 guns. The troops landed and laid siege to the town. The garrisons of of these works consisted of 600 regulars and 1,000 Breton militia, or, according to some writers, of only 1,200 men in all. The armament of Louisburg was 101 cannon, 76 swivels, and six mortars. Auxiliary to the main works, was an island battery of thirty 22-pounders, and a battery on the main land armed with thirty large cannon. Frequent attempts were made to storm the place, but the most persevering efforts were of no avail-many of the New Englanders being killed and wounded, and their boats destroyed, while the garrison remained unharmed. At length, after a siege of 49 days, want of provisions, and the general dissatisfaction of the inhabitants, caused the garrison to surrender. When the New Englanders saw the strength of the works, and the little impression which their efforts had produced, they were not only greatly elated but astonished at their success. It should be noticed that, in the above attack, the number of guns in the fleet was almost three times as great as that of all the forts combined ; and yet the naval part of the attack was unsuccessful. The besieging army was four times as great as all the garrisons combined; and yet the place held out forty-nine days, and at last was surrendered through the want of provisions and the disaffection of the citizens.

A formidable effort was now made by the French to recover this place. For this purpose, a large fleet was sent from France, consisting of near forty shipsof-war, two artillery ships, and fifty-six transports, carrying about 3,500 men and 40,000 stand of small arms for the use of the Canadians; but this formidable armament was scattered by storms, and the project abandoned. The place was afterwards surrendered by treaty.

In 1757 a British fleet of fifteen ships-of-the-line, eighteen frigates, and many smaller vessels, and a land force of 12,000 effective men, were sent to attempt the reduction of this fortress; but, being now defended by seventeen ships-ofthe-line and a garrison of 6,000 regulars, its reduction was declared by the British to be impossible. The forces sent against this place in 1758, consisted of twenty ships-of-the-line and eighteen frigates, with an army of 14,000 men. The harbor was defended by only five ships-of-the-line, one fifty gun ship, and five frigates, three of which were sunk across the mouth of the basin. The fortifications of the town had been much neglected, and in general had fallen into ruins. The garrison consisted of only 2,500 regulars and 600 militia. Notwithstanding the number of guns of the British fleet exceeded both the armaments of the French ships and all the forts, it did not risk an attack, but merely acted as transports and as a blockading squadron. Even the French ships and the outer works commanding the harbor were reduced by the land batteries erected by Wolfe ; and the main work, although besieged by an inequality of forces of nearly five to one, held out for two months, and even then surrendered through the petitions and fears of the non-combatant inhabitants, and not because it had received any material injury from the besiegers. The defence, however, had been continued long enough to prevent, for that campaign, any further operations against Canada.

"Quebec was taken from the French by Admiral Saunders, who, with twentyone sail of the line, entered the St. Lawrence in 1759.”—This is certainly a remarkable discovery, for we are sure that no one ever before heard of Quebec being taken by Admiral Saunders. This discovery opens a new era in military history; for, hereafter, the fleet which transports an army, though it may not have a gun of its own on board, is entitled to the credit of all the conquests which that army may achieve. The battle of the Pyramids was not fought by Napoleon, but by Admiral Brueix, who conveyed the army to Egypt! The defence of Portugal was not made by Wellington, but by the ships which landed him on the peninsula!

The several naval attacks on Quebec are matters of interest, and we shall notice them briefly, not, however, for the purpose of refuting the inferences of the above-mentioned report. In 1690, Massachusetts fitted out a fleet of thirtyfour ships, the largest carrying forty-four guns and about 200 men. The whole command consisted of about 2,000 men. This force, under the command of Sir William Phipps, ascended the St. Lawrence and laid siege to Quebec, whose defences were then of the slightest character, and armed with only twenty-three

« AnteriorContinua »