Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

guns. The attack was kept up for some time; but, at length, the fleet, receiving more injuries from the batteries than it inflicted on them, withdrew from the contest, and hastened home with precipitation. In 1693, a considerable fleet was sent out from England, to attempt the reduction of Quebec; but a portion of the crews being destroyed by the yellow fever, the project was abandoned. In 1709, a combined attack by sea and land was planned against Quebec and Montreal; the army

advanced as far as Wood creek, but the fleet never ascended as far as Quebec, and the expedition was abandoned. In 1711, an English fleet of fifteen ships-of-war, carrying over 800 guns, forty transports, and six storeships, with over 5,000 seamen and a large land force, attempted the conquest of this place; they failed, however, to reach their destination, and, after losing in the St. Lawrence a part of the ships and more than 1,000 men, abandoned the project. In the latter part of 1745, the English colonial fleet of some 600 guns, at Louisburg, was directed to attack Quebec; but, not receiving the promised reinforcements from the Duke of Newcastle, they did not venture to ascend the St. Lawrence. The fleets of Admiral Saunders and Holmes consisted of "twenty-two ships-of-the-line, and an equal number of frigates and small armed vessels.” The ships-of-the-line alone carried 1,500 guns. Wolfe's army amounted to about 8,000 men. The works of Quebec were armed with ninety-four guns and five mortars, and only a part of these could be brought to bear upon the shipping. The fleet ascended the St. Lawrence without difficulty, and arrived at the Isle of Orleans in the latter part of June, but did not approach the city until after Wolfe had “secured the posts, without the command of which, the fleet could not have lain in safety in the harbor.” Admiral Holmes's division first ascended the St. Lawrence above Quebec, but was soon withdrawn, to cover the landing of the troops at the falls of Montmorenci, where an unsuccessful attack was made upon the intrenchments of Montcalm. Several attempts with the combined sea and land forces were made to carry the works, but they proved equally unsuccessful. Although the ships carried fifteen or twenty times as many guns as the forts, their inability to reduce these works was acknowledged. The siege had continued for two months, and still the fortifications were uninjured. General Wolfe himself distinctly stated, that in any further attempt to carry the place, the “guns of the shipping could not be of much use;" and the chief engineer of the expedition gave it as his opinion, that " the ships would receive great damage from the shot and bombs of the upper batteries, without making the least impression upon them.” Under these circumstances, it was finally determined to endeavor to decoy Montcalm from his works, and make him risk a battle in the open field. In an evil hour, the French consented to forego the advantages of their fortifications, and the contest was finally decided upon the plains of Abraham, with forces nearly equal in number, but greatly dissimilar in character—the English being disciplined and chosen troops, while nearly one-half of their opponents were militia and Indians, who gave but a weak support to the regulars. Both Wolfe and Montcalm fell in this battle, but the former on the field of victory; and five days afterwards the inhabitants, weakened and dispirited by their losses, surrendered the town, although its fortifications were still unharmed.

"The frigate Roebuck silenced the efficient batteries at Red Hook," fr.—The little batteries of Red Hook and Governor's Island, however much ridiculed by the Apalachicola report, were really of great importance to the security of Washington's army, which was then intrenched in the lines of Brooklyn, with its right resting upon the small field works of a few guns at Red Hook. This little work, and the corresponding one on Governor's Island, prevented the British shipping from passing into the East river, where they could have assailed the Americans in rear, and cut off their retreat. The former of these batteris was never very seriously engaged ; and we cannot find, either in American or English histories, any notice of its being silenced by the Roebuck. We know that it was not abandoned till Washingion had effected his retreat across the East river. Beatson says, the Roebuck exchanged only a few random shots with it.

The entire English attacking force consisted of 103 ships, carrying over 2,600 guns, and a veteran army of 30,000 men. The fleet lay some days at the Narrows before landing the troops, and seven days more elapsed previous to Washington's retreat.

Baltimore and Washington. The attacks upon these two places by the British, in the war 1812, are referred to in the Apalachicola report; the first as proof of the inefficiency of a fortress, well situated, having a good garrisonnay, where all the requisite conditions are fulfilled,to withstand the fire of shipping; for it " was evacuated by the fire of the two hostile frigates ;” and the second as being defended without the use of fortifications, inasmuch as the "attacking fleet could not approach the works erected for the defence of the city, and therefore neither received nor inflicted much injury."

We deny the correctness of these assertions. The fort on the Potomac was not a fortress, was not well situated, was not well garrisioned, nor were the requisite conditions of defence fulfilled. It was a small inefficient work, incorrectly planned by an incompetent French engineer, and has not yet been completed. The portion constructed was never, until very recently, properly prepared for receiving its armament, and at the time of attack could not possibly have held out a very long time. But no defence whatever was made. Captain Gordon, with a squadron of eight sail, carrying 173 guns, under orders to “ ascend the river as high as Fort Washington, and try upon it the experiment of a bombardment," approached that fort, and, upon firing a single shell, which did no injury to either the fort or the garrison, the latter deserted the works, and rapidly retreated. The commanding officer was immediately dismissed for his cowardicc. The Heet ascended the river to Alexandria ; but learning, soon afterwards, that batteries were preparing at the White House and Indian Head, to cut off his retreat, it retired in much haste, but not without injury.

The whole fleet sent to the attack of Baltiinore consisted of forty sail, the largest of which were ships-of-the-line, carrying an army of over six thousand combatants. The troops were landed at North Point, while sixteen of the bomb vessels and frigates approached within reach of Fort McHenry, and commenced a bombardment which lasted twenty-five hours. During this attack, the enemy

threw 1,500 shells, four hundred of which exploded within the walls of the fort, but without making any unfavorable impression on either the strength of the work or the spirit of the garrison.” The forts labored under the disadvantage of being armed with guns of too small a calibre to reach the shipping; but a teet of barges sent to storm one of the batteries was repulsed with loss, and both fleet and army soon withdrew from the contest. We thought it was a fact too well known to need re-assertion at the present day, that the gallant resistance of Colonel Armistead in Fort McHenry, and of General Smith upon the enemy's line of approach per North Point, saved that beautiful city from being destroyed by the ruthless foe.

" Charleston was taken, notwithstanding the attack on Fort Moultrie failed.—When this second attack was made on Charleston, Marshall says

that Fort Moultrie was out of repair, and Fort Johnson in ruins. There was, however, some time before this attack, a full trial of strength, before Charleston, between the American batteries and British ships. The fort mounted only 26 guns, while the fleet carried 270 guns. In this contest the British were entirely defeated, and lost, in killed and wounded, more than seventy men to every ten guns brought against them, while their whole 270 guns killed and wounded only thirty-two men in the fort. Of this trial of strength, which was certainly a fair one, Cooper, in his Naval History, says: “It goes fully to prove the important military position, that ships cannot withstand forts, when the latter are properly armed, constructed, and garrisoned. General Moultrie says, only thirty rounds from the battery were fired, and was of opinion that the want of powder alone prevented the Americans from destroying the men-of-war.”

Mobile fort fell without resistance, yielding up near five hundred regular troops, officers and men, and a full supply of the necessaries for a vigorous defence.”—In 1814, a British fleet of four vessels, carrying 92 guns, attacked Fort Boyer, a small redoubt, located on a point of land commanding the passage from the Gulf into the bay of Mobile. This redoubt was garrisoned by only one hundred and twenty combatants, officers included, and its armament was but twenty small pieces of cannon, some of which were almost entirely useless, and most of them poorly mounted, “ in batteries hastily thrown up, and leaving the gunners uncovered from the knee upwards;" while the enemy's land force, acting in concert with the ships, consisted of twenty artillerists, with a battery of one twelvepounder and a howitzer, one hundred and thirty marines, and six hundred Indians and negroes. His ships carried five hundred and ninety men in all. This immense disparity of numbers and strength did not allow to the British military and naval commanders the slightest apprehension that four British ships, carrying 92 guns, and a land force somewhat exceeding seven hundred combatants, could hardly fail in reducing a small work, mounting only twenty short carronades, and defended by a little more than one hundred men, unprovided alike with furnaces for heating shot or casemates to cover themselves from rockets and shells.” Nevertheless, the enemy was completely repulsed; one of his largest ships was entirely destroyed; his entire loss in killed and wounded could have fallen but a little short of one hundred, while ours was only eight or nine. Here was a fair trial of strength, with a result most flattering to the American pride; but the Apalachicola report passes it by in silence, and quotes, as proof of the superiority of British ships over American batteries, the land attack of General Lambert, in February, 1815, in which not a single ship was in the remotest de

We have now disposed of the several examples adduced in the Apalachicola report to prove the superiority of British naval armaments, gun for gun, over both American and European batteries. There are a few other trials of strength between ships and forts, which are not mentioned in that report_trials too well known to admit of any doubt or difference of opinion respecting their results. Why does the report pass over in silence the attacks upon Stonington, Cagliari, Martello, Santa Cruz, Marcou, &c., and offer such examples as “ Constantinople by a Venetian fleet,” Mocha, in Arabia,” “Senegal,” “Canton ?" &e. We will in part supply this omission, limiting ourselves, however, to the period of the French revolution.

On the 21st of January, 1792, a considerable French squadron attacked Cagliari, in Sardinia, but after a bombardment of three days, (during which they attempted to land,) they were most signally defeated and obliged to retire.

In 1794, in the bay of Martello, Corsica, a small tower armed with one gun in barbette, was attacked by two English ships, “ the Fortitude of seventy-four and the Juno frigate of thirty-two guns. After having engaged it for two hours and a half, they were obliged to haul off with considerable damage. The Fortitude lost seven men, and was three or four times set on fire by heated shot; once in the cock pit and state room. There were about thirty men in the tower, though three were sufficient to work the gun.” The garrison does not appear to have sustained any loss. Colonel Pasley, an English officer of high standing, says that this attack “proved the superiority which guns on shore must always, in certain positions, possess over shipping, no matter whether the former are mounted on a tower or not.”

In July, 1797. Nelson, with a squadron of eight ships of his own choosing, carrying near four hundred guns, entered the bay of Santa Croix, Tenerife, and attacked the town. The ships fired upon the small land batteries without

gree concerned.

producing any effect, and a force of one thousand men was several times landed in boats, but as often driven back with great loss; a single ball striking the side of the Fox cutter instantly sunk her, with near one hundred seamen and marines. After many desperate attempts by the dauntless Nelson to carry the works, the British were compelled to retire with a loss of two hundred and fifty killed and wounded, while the garrison received little or no damage.

In the early wars of the French revolution the English took possession of the islands of Marcou and fortified them, in order to command the coast trade between Cherbourg and Havre. In 1798 the French attempted to retake these little islands, and attacked the English redoubt with fifty-two brigs and gunboats, carrying 80 long 36's and 18-pounders and six or seven thousand inen. The redoubt was armed with two 32-pounders, two 6-pounders, four 4-pounders, and two carronades ; its garrison consisted of only 250 seamen and marines. Notwithstanding this great disparity of numbers, the little redoubt sunk seven of the enemy's brigs and boats, captured another, and forced the remainder to retreat with great loss. The loss of the garrison was only one man killed and three wounded.

In July, 1801, Porto Ferrairo was garrisoned by 300 British, 800 Tuscans, and 400 Corsicans. The French army which besieged this motley garrison first consisted of 1,500 men, but was afterwards increased to 6,000 land forces and three frigates. The siege was continued for five months, during which time the place was several times bombarded and assaulted without success, and was at last surrendered by the treaty of Amiens.

In July, 1801, Admiral Saumarez attacked the defences of Algesiras with a fleet of one 80-gun ship, five 74's, one frigate, and a lugger, carrying in all 502 guns. The land defences consisted of Green island battery of seven 18 and 24-pounders, and St. Jaques battery of five 18-pounders. The floating defences consisted of two 80-gun ships, one of 74, one of 44, and some gun-boats; in all 306 guns. The English here chose their time and mode of attack, had the wind in their favor, and a naval superiority of 196 guns; and yet they were most signally defeated, and compelled to retire with the entire loss of one ship and with the others much injured. Can this be attributed to the superior skill and bravery of the French and Spanish ships and crews ? Such a supposition would be in contradiction to the whole history of the war, and we must therefore attribute it to the fire of the land batteries. An examination of the details of this battle will prove clearly that these 12 guns ashore more than compeneated for the 196 extra guns of the English. The Hannibal, 74 guns, ran aground near the land battery, and thus became exposed to its fire. Her position was such, however, that she continued to return the fire even after the other ships had retired. An attempt was made by the Audacious, 74 guns, and the Cæsar, 80 guns, to cut out the Hannibal, but the fire of the little battery was so severe that the admiral says in his despatches, he was obliged to make sail and leave her to her fate. 'I'he whole loss of the English in killed and Wounded was 375. All the ships were much injured. The Cæsar and Pompee were so much shattered as to preclude the hope of their being ready in any seasonable time to proceed to sea, but by working night and day, the former was got ready for the first battle of Trafalgar, but the latter was reduced almost to a wreck.

Shortly after this battle, the French and Spaniards, encouraged by their success at Algesiras, proceeded to attack the English at sea. The combined fleet now carried 1,012 guns, and the English only 422; the former, nevertheless, were most completely beaten—showing, as did every naval contest during the war, that on the water the English were far superior to their opponents.

In 1803 the English, under Commander Hood, constructed a small battery of some 15* guns upon Diamond rock, about six miles from Port Royal bay. It was garrisoned with about 100 men. This little work was found so much to annoy the French shipping going to and from Martinique that in 1805 they determined to destroy it. The force sent to accomplish this consisted of two 74-gun ships, one frigate, and a brig, with a detachment of 200 troops. Several ineffectual attempts were made to silence its fire or carry it by storm, and on the fourth day of the siege the little garrison, though still unharmed in their works, capitulated, for want of both ammunition and provisions. There was not a single man killed or wounded in the redoubt, while the French lost 50 men.

In 1808 a French army of 5,000 men laid siege to Fort Trinidad, then garrisoned by less than 100 Spaniards and British marines. An English seventyfour and a bomb vessel attempted to annoy the besiegers, but were soon driven off by a French land battery of three guns. During the progress of the siege an additional force of 50 seamen and 30 marines were thrown into the fort, making in all about 180 men; and this little force not only successfully sustained the siege but most bravely repulsed a storming party of 1,000 picked men, capturing the storming equipage and killing the commanding officer and all who attempted to mount the breach.

In 1806 the British ship Pompée, 80 guns, the Hydra, 38 guns, and another frigate, force not given, “anchored about 800 yards from a battery of two guns situated on the extremity of Cape Licosa, and protected from assault by a tower, in which were five and twenty French soldiers commanded by a lieutenant. The line-of-battle-ship and the frigates fired successive broadsides till their ammunition was nearly expended, the battery continually replying with a slow but destructive effect. The Pompée, at which ship alone it directed its fire, had 40 shot in her hull, her mizzen topmast carried away, a lieutenant, midshipman, and 5 men killed, and 30 men wounded. At length, force proving ineffectual, negotiation was resorted to, and, after some hours' parley, the officer capitulated. It then appeared that the carriage of one of the two guns had failed on the second shot, and the gun had subsequently been fired lying on the sill of the embrasure; so that in fact the attack of an 80-gun ship and two frigates had been resisted by a single piece of ordnance.” In the latter wars of the French revolution the British partially fortified the island of Anhault as a depot and point of communication between England and the continent. This place was attacked by the Danes in 1811 with twelve gunboats carrying 72 guns and howitzers and 800 men and several transports, with a land force whose number has been variously stated from 1,000 to 3,000. The whole Danish attacking force is estimated by several English writers at 4,000. The only fortification of importance on the island was a small redoubt, called Lighthouse fort, and the garrison consisted of only 381 men. The Danes, under cover of darkness and a thick fog, succeeded in effecting a landing; but on their approach to the batteries a well directed and destructive fire of grape and musketry was opened upon them. They were most signally defeated, with a loss of forty killed and five or six hundred wounded and prisoners. The remainder re-embarked in their boats, but were pursued by two small English vessels that had opportunely arrived and the greater part of them taken or destroyed.

Leghorn, during the absence of the army in 1813, was attacked by an English squadron of six ships, carrying over 300 guns and 1,000 troops. “This attack failed owing to the strength of the fortifications,” and the troops and seamen were re-embarked during a temporary suspension of hostilities.

When Lord Lynedock advanced against Antwerp in 1814, says Colonel Mitchell, Fort Frederick, a small work of only two guns, one at right angles and the other looking diagonally up the stream, was established in a bend of the

• The armament is said to be “ that of a sloop-of-war." Sloops-of-war then carried from 10 to 15 guns.

« AnteriorContinua »