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by the recent improvements in steam vessels, except that in the case before adverted to, where from the breadth of the waters defence from the shore would be unavailing, a more active and formidable floating defence than by gumboats and Hoating batteries is provided.
It must be remembered that by far the greatest improvement in steam vessels consists in having adapted them to ocean navigation; and one inevitable consequence of this improvement will be, that if the defence of harbors by steam batteries be regarded as securing them from the attacks of ships-of-the-line and frigates, or at least of placing the defence quite above that kind of attack, they will no longer be attacked by sailing vessels, but by steam vessels similar in all warlike properties to those relied on for detence,
Not only are there no impediments to transferring these vessels across the ocean, but the rapidity and certainty of these transfers are such as to enjoin a state of the most perfect readiness everywhere and at all times; and also a complete independence of arrangement at each particular point, both the state of preparation and the independence of arrangement being much more important than when the enemy's motions were governed by the uncertain favor of winds and weather.
It is not easy to conceive of any important properties belonging to steam batteries acting defensively, that the attacking steam vessels may not bring with them, or at least may not have imparted to them on their arrival upon
the coast, unless it should be thought proper to give to the former a greater thickness of bulwark than would be admissible in sea-going vessels.
But the peculiar advantage conferred by steam lies in the faculty of moving with promptitude and rapidity, and any attempts to strengthen the harbor veszeli by thickening their bulwarks considerably would unavoidably lessen their mobility, thereby partially neutralizing the advantage sought. At the same time it is extremely doubtful whether any benefit would be derived from the thicker sides. It is probable that the best kind of bulwarks for these vessels and all others, is that which will be just proof against grape and canister-shot fired from moderate distances, because with such bulwarks a shell fired from a bomb-cannon within a reasonable distance would pierce both sides, that is to say, would in one side of the ship and out at the opposite side, producing no greater effect than a solid shot of the same calibre, while with thickened sides every shell would lodge in the timbers and produce terrible ravages by bursting.
In the practice with these missiles in this country it has been found difficult to lodge a shell in thin targets, even when the load of the gun was so reduced as to increase materially the uncertainty of aim. As it is probable, therefore, that the protection from solid shot afforded by massive bulwarks would be inore than counterbalanced by the greater injury horizontal shells would inflict by means of these bulwarks, we may conclude that the harbor steam battery will not differ in this respect materially from the attacking steamships; and it they do differ in having more solid and impervious bulwarks, that no advantage over the enemy will result therefrom.
We come, therefore, to the same result as when considering the application of the other kinds of floating force to the defence of harbors; and this result is, that there is no way of placing the coast in a condition of reasonable security but by having at any point the enemy may happen to select a force in perfect readiness, which shall be superior to that brought to the attack.
There not only prevails the idea that we ought to rely upon these floating defences, but also the idea that we may postpone the fitting them for service till the commencement of war. Turning again to the six ports before mentioned, our whole peace navy that may happen to be in port and ready for use, being appropriated to local defence in its several stations, immense additions would have to be made at each port; and whether these additions were to be supplied from the ship-yards or by conversion of merchant vessels and service steamers
into floating batteries, a considerable time must necessarily elapse before there could be anything like readiness. In the meantime the enemy, sending a small squadron of war steamers against each-nothing being ready, large squadrons would not be needed—would nip all preparations in the bud. We have to keep in mind a fundamental principle of this system, which is, not to incur the expense of preparation till the certainty of war has arrived, or, as it might be phrased, till there will no longer be time to prepare.
I should not have gone so much at length into a branch of one subject wherein the general conclusion appears to be so obvious and incontrovertible but for the prevalence of opinions which I consider not erroneous merely, but highly dangerous, and which, think, must give way before a full exhibition of the truth. I do not anticipate any formidable objections to the positions assumed, nor to the illustrations; but even should all these, in the form presented, be objected to, I may still challenge opposition to the following broad propositions, namely:
1st. If the sea-coast is to be defended by naval means exclusively, the defensive force at each point deemed worthy of protection must be at least equal in power to the attacking force.
2d. As, from the nature of the case, there can be no reason for expecting an attack on one of these points rather than on another, and no time for transferring our state of preparation from one to another after an attack has been declared, each of them must have assigned to it the requisite means; and,
3d. Consequently, this system demands a power in the defence as many times greater than that in the attack as there are points to be covered.
Believing that a well-digested system of fortification will save the country from the danger attending every form of defence by naval means, and the intolerable
experise of a full provision of these means, I will now endeavor to show that such a system is worthy of all reliance.
There has been but one practice among nations as to the defence of ports and harbors, and that has been a resort to fortifications. All the experience that history exhibits is on one side only; it is the opposition of forts or other works comprehended by the term fortification to attacks by vessels; and although history affords some instances wherein this defence has not availed, we see that the resort is still the same. No nation omits covering the exposed points upon her seaboard with fortifications, nor hesitates in confiding in them.
But it has been asserted, in a way to convey incorrect and hurtful impressions to the country, that fortifications for such purposes are obsolete resorts; that the improvements in the instruments and appliances of war within late years
have caused the abandonment of such reliances. This, however, is far from being true; and it is quite important in respect to the quarters whence such assertions have sometimes proceeded not only to sustain, but to enforce this denial.
If considerable additions have not been made lately to the defences of many well-known European harbors, it is because they were fully fortified long ago. And it might here be asked, in passing, what would have happened to the seaports of France during the long wars between her and Great Britain, and with such naval supremacy in the hands of the latter, if the French ports had not. been well fortified? Can it be supposed that anything but these fortifications kept the English out of the great ports and naval depots of France, and perinitted large fleets to grow, great expeditions to mature, flotillas to manæuvre, under the eyes of the blockading squadron, and almost within reach of its guns?
But it happens that even in well-fortified France any improvement or change in a harbor that affords opportunity and place for new defences is sure to produce them; the Cherbourg breakwater, a work of late years, is supplied with formidable batteries, perhaps even now not quite finished.
It happens, moreover, that in Great Britain, which of all the nations of the earth has most reason to rely for defence on naval power, fortifications are the reliance for harbor defence, and of late years particularly.
The application of steam to ocean navigation has done much, and is likely to do more, to lessen the naval ascendency of that power, and the ports which formerly found security in rather indifferent fortifications under the overwhelming numbers of her men-of-war, have, in the present liability to be surprised by fleets of war steamers, received and are at this moment receiving large additions of strength in forts and batteries, and new “harbors of refuge” are being formed and strongly fortified, in order the better to protect her coast and her commerce under this change of naval relations.
Great Britain sees that she cannot effectually guard her coast and her ports from this particular danger by the number of her war vessels, great as this number is, and greatly as it may be augmented from her vast commercial marine. She does not run into the folly of posting at every dock yard a squadron of steamers as large as any that can be brought against it; but she improves and adds to her old fortifications to make them adequate of themselves, and she creates new (artificial) harbors for the sake of having fortified shelter near the probable field of activity of her navy in its various forms.
Instead, therefore, of lessening the utility of fortifications, we see that, in the opinion of the high military authorities of that government, the late changes and improvements have made the increase and improvement of fortifications indispensable. There are some particulars of her late course in this respect.
Referring to parliamentary estimates for 1847-48, 1848–49, and 1819–'50, I find that for fortification alone, including new works and repairs of old works upon the coast of Great Britain and Ireland, (chiefly along the English channel.) and ercluding estimates for barracks, quarters, storehouses, Jr., there was de manded for those years, severally, $578,766, $282,892, and $139,036, being $1,300,694 for the last three years.
I find that important colonial ports have received accessions of strength in the same way lately, and that, for example, on the water front of the redoubtable Gibraltar the same batteries that repelled and destroyed the formidable floating batteries of France and Spain in 1782, expenditures exceeding six hundred thousand dollars have been made within four or five years, and 8367,887 more are estimated to be necessary to put them in equilibrium with new means of attack.
At Malta, already possessed of very strong fortifications, about $180,000 have already been voted, and $696,000 is called for in addition, to be applied to harbor defences particularly.
The same nation is meanwhile placing in her new coast batteries eight-inch and fifty-six pounders, and thirty-two pound guns; and, at a great expense, is substituting this heaviest kind of ordnance for twenty-four pounders and eighteen pounders in the old batteries. Between the years 1839 and 1849 she has supplied, or has issued orders to supply, to sea-coast fortifications at least two thousand new pieces of the largest calibre. The increase of heavy ordnance in the batteries of Gibraltar within that period was eighty-two pieces, and at Portsmouth and vicinity it was two hundred and eighty-seven pieces.
Sir Thomas Hastings, of the Royal Nary, under examination before a committee of the House of Commons, said: “I was asked just now whether the guns at Portsmouth or other places had been fired in anger. I should be glad to bring under the consideration of the committee that the introduction of steam makes it much more possible now to make attacks upon any certain points. From the different points all along the channel a concentration may be made of a very large body of steamers, and under such circumstances an equipment" (he is speaking of sea-coast batteries) " which would have answered very well when you had only incidental attacks to contemplate from sailing vessels might be insufficient when you could bring twenty-five or thirty vessels carrying the
heaviest possible guns to bear upon your works. I will take, for example, if you will permit me, the port of Falmouth. In the event of any war occurring with this country the probability is, being the most western port, it would become the refuge of our merchantmen running into the channel to avoid privateers and steamships. If that port were left in its present state it is clear that ten powerful steamers might destroy everything in it, without any material injury to the assailants.”
In answer to the question whether, in his opinion, the merchant steamers would be as available for the defence of the coasts as war steamers, he said: "Certainly not; I think this country (England) would derive an immense power from her merchant marine; but I look upon it to propose to contend with merchant steamers against the powerful vessels which are in existence in France would be a very unwise thing."
In April, 1850, the Hon. Colonel Anson, in explaining the ordnance estimate to the House of Commons, said, in reference to the estimates for “ works, buildings, and repairs: “ The whole of this vote had been most carefully considered by the master general of the ordnance and her Majesty's government; and though large in amount, the House would see how small a sum was asked for new works, such as fortifications, &c., either at home or abroad. That reduction was, however, attributable to the large amount that had been spent on those works in previous years. It was needless for him now to point out to how low a state—he might say, indeed, to what a state of degradation our works of defence had fallen till within the last few years, and in what condition the means we possessed of protecting our shores from aggression and insult were in 1835. It was enough to say they were totally inadequate for the purpose. They remained nearly in the same state till 1845, and were in the very lowest possible condition in that year. But, in the meantime, the state of things had not escaped the observation of those who turned their attention to our relations with foreign powers, and many honorable gentlemen found fault with the government for not providing more effectually for the defence of the country. In 1845 the aspect of affairs became threatening; the few fortifications we had to rely upon disinantled, dilapidated, and decayed. If a squadron of steamers had chosen to make their way to any of our principal naval stations, either Portsmouth, Plymouth, or Pembroke, or up the Thames, they were completely open to attack, and an enemy might have committed any act of aggression he pleased. There was nothing to prevent his vessel coming up the Thames and insulting her Majesty in the very heart of her dominions. These considerations pressed themselves so seriously at the time that the attention of the right honorable member for Tamworth and the existing government were called to it, and they at once set to work to remedy the neglect. They proposed that a sum of money should be set apart to improve our defences, and their example had been followed by the present government to a very considerable extent. The result was, that very much had been accomplished during those four years, and he was happy to say the country might be proud of it. At Portsmouth the sea defences had been completed and made very powerful; at Plymouth they were equally complete, and he believed great improvements had taken place at Sheerness, and in the defences on the Thames. They had commenced similar works at Pembroke, which was one of the finest dock yards and harbors in the world, and he was sure the house would be prepared to meet any reasonable demand upon them for its defence. It was impossible to say what might come to pass in a few years, and though the expense might appear to be large now, when the House considered the ultimate advantage to the country from the state and the feeling of security against aggression, they would, he was certain, agree with him that it far outbalanced any temporary inconvenience from the grant of so much money."
An English officer of rank and distinction discussing, in 1849, the system of defence necessary to Great Britain, after recommending large inland fortifications to be erected against the possible march of an enemy's army upon London, estimates that it will require £1,500,000 ($6,600,000) to complete existing fortifications upon the coast, including new batteries to be constructed there, and to supply them with artillery and stores; that is to say, in his opinion, the sum of $6,600,000, in addition to what had within these few years been expended, was necessary to be applied to the coast defences of that country, in consequence of the changes lately introduced into the means of carrying on war from the ocean.
When I had advanced thus far in this report, and was still seeking facts in illustration of the course pursued by Great Britain, I met the following suminary of remarks made in relation to fortifications by Mr. Pitt, sixty-five years ago, (1786.) The principles for which he then contended are now and ever must be as sound and as applicable as when he pressed them on the consideration of Parliament with so much earnestness. The only change is one of degree. And we have just seen that the statesmen and military men of that country, at the present day, take the same view and press the same policy. During the wars of the French revolution the vast naval superiority of England enabled her to hold the closest blockade of all the ports of her adversary. This crippled French naval enterprise in a twofold manner—by shutting up the commerce which alone could supply seamen, and by shutting up the few war vessels that they were able to man. But even then, with such little apparent cause to fear anything from that navy, large sums were expended by England upon new seacoast ports, towers, and batteries. Now, when France can suddenly send out large squadrons of steam war vessels in spite of the strictest blockade, Great Britain feels the need of still greater strength at home. But it is, we see, always on fortifications that England relies for the safety of her ports ; in no case do we see her resorting to a parade of war vessels within or at the entrance to her ports. Where her largest assemblages of men-of-war of all sorts take place, and where there must at all times be a considerable number, there she places, not small batteries and insignificant forts and towers, but her strongest and heaviest fortifications. Her history demonstrates that she knows how to employ her fleets better than keeping them moored within her harbors and roadsteads.
In urging upon the House of Commons, in 1786, certain propositions in relation to fortifications, Mr. Pitt,“ to prove the utility of fortifications, appealed to the unfortunate and calamitous situation in which we were placed in the late
A considerable part of our fleet was confined to our ports in order to protect our dock yards, and thus we were obliged to do what Great Britain had never done before—to carry on a defensive war, a war in which we were under the necessity of wasting our resources and impairing our strength, without any prospect of any possible benefit by which to mitigate our distress. Mr. Pitt felt the question to be a portion of that momentous system which challenged, from its nature, the vigilance and support of every administration.”
“ Was the House ready to stand responsible to posterity for a repetition of similar misfortunes and disgrace? Were they willing to take upon themselves the hazard of transmitting the dangers and calamities which they themselves so bitterly experienced ?"
• Mr. Pitt observed that there was a consideration which ought to have more weight than others, and this was, that fortifications, being calculated to afford complete security to dock yards, would enable our fleets to go on remote services and carry on the operations of war at a distance, without exposing the materials and seed of future navies to destruction by the invasion of an enemy.” “But it was not only by foreign expeditions that we might lose the aid of our fleet; in case of invasions it might so happen that the ships, though in the