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mode of attack adopted, especially by the Queen Charlotte, of one hundred and ten guns, was calculated to test, in the severest manner, the principles on which this work had been planned. She so placed herself within “fifty yards” of the extremity of this battery, that she could either rake or take in reverse every part of it. If she at the same time commanded the battery—that is to say, if from her spar-deck she could look down upon its platform—then she must at once, with her grape and canister, have driven the garrison from that platform, leaving only the lower and covered tier of guns, if there were such a tier, for service. With our imperfect knowledge of the fortifications, all this must, however, be left to conjecture.
But there are matters connected with the service of batteries which are not conjecture. Not a shot was fired until the Queen Charlotte had anchored.
What a different vessel, when she anchored, might not this ship have been if the Molehead battery had employed its fire of more than one hundred guns,
in raking her from the time she arrived within a mile and a half until she had anchored within fifty yards! How different might have been the condition of the fleet, generally, if they had been subjected during the approach, and while assuming their stations, to the raking fire of all the two hundred guns!
It does not appear that a single red-hot shot was fired from the batteries.
We might almost rest on this fact, and assert that a defence which had failed to provide itself with this auxiliary means must have been carried on in disregard if not in violation of all rules, all knowledge, and all experience; that it was probably without plan or combination, and not less probably without preparation in other particulars of importance scarcely inferior.
Before leaving this example it may be well to inquire what, after all, was the effect of these batteries upon the ships, compared with the effect of ships upon ships.
In the battle of the Nile the French fleet, rated at one thousand one hundred and ninety guns, caused a loss in Nelson's fleet of eight hundred and ninetyfive killed and wounded, which is in the proportion of ten French guns to less than eight Englishmen killed and wounded. In the battle of Trafalgar the French fleet carried not less than three thousand guns, and they caused a loss to the English of one thousand five hundred and eighty-seven killed and wounded, which is in the proportion of ten guns to less than six killed and wounded. In this affair of Algiers, with a force not exceeding two hundred guns, the batteries caused a loss of eight hundred and eighty-three killed and wounded, being in the proportion of ten guns to forty-four men; and if we take into account every gun that was pointed over the bay, (say three hundred and fifty guns,) the proportion will be ten guns to twenty-five men; being an effect more than three times as great as that produced by the French ships at the battle of the Nile, and more than four times as great as that produced by the same nation at Trafalgar.
While reflecting on the circumstances of this battle the mind is not satisfied with any reasons that present themselves for the withdrawal of Lord Exmouth, the moment the land wind enabled him to do so, on the supposition of entire success on his part. It is not understood why he should feel the great anxiety he states himself to have been under that this wind should spring up. “Providence at this interval,” (between ten and eleven o'clock at night,) "gave to my anxious wishes the usual land wind common in this bay, and my expectations were completed. We were all hands employed in warping and towing off, and, by the help of the light air, the whole were under sail and came to anchor out of the reach of shells about two in the morning, after twelve hours of incessant labor."
Now if anything had been decided by the action, it must have been one of two things: either the ships were victorious or the batteries were so. If the ships were completely victorious it would seem to have been judicious for them to remain where they were, in order, if there was to be any more fighting, to be ready to press their advantage, and especially in order to maintain the ascendency, by preventing the remounting of guns, repairing batteries, and re-supplying them with munitions, &c.
Had the people possessed the inflexibility report ascribed to the Dey,and had they set zealously about the work of preparation for a new contest, it might not have been easy for Lord Exmouth, in the condition to which his ships are ac. knowledged by authentic accounts to have been reduced, to enforce his demands. It is not understood, therefore, why, if he had been so successful as to be certain that his end was attained, he should be so anxious to get out of gunshot, when by so doing he involved the issue in more or less doubt and hazard.
He relied on the effect produced on the people by his dreadful cannonade, and the result proves that he was right; but his anxiety to clear the vessels from the contest shows that there was a power still unconquered, which he thought it best 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 city to suffer as well as the batteries—as the relative efficiency of the parties when the battle closed at about eleven o'clock. 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, this battle, although it stands pre-eminent as an example of naval success over batteries, presents no argument to shake the confidence which fortifications, well situated, well planned and well fought, deserve as the defences of a seaboard.
Gibraltar.—The attack on the water batteries of Gibraltar, in September, 1782, by the French and Spanish floating batteries, is a well known instance of the
power of These floating batteries had been rendered, as was supposed, shot proof and shell proof, by several additional thicknesses of timber to the sides, and by covering the decks with a roof of sloping timbers.
They mounted one hundred and forty-two guns on the engaged side, with seventy in reserve to replace any that might be dismounted. They were anchored at the distance of about one thousand yards from the walls, and were opposed by about eighty-five guns.
After a protracted cannonade nine of the floating batteries were burnt by hot shot from the shore, and the tenth, having been taken possession of by the victors, was set on fire by them.
No material injury was done to the works of the town by their fire, and only eighty-five men and officers were killed and wounded by the fire from these vessels, together with a very violent cannonade and bombardment from the siege batteries.
Battle of Algesiras.—On the 6th of July, 1801, the French admiral Lenois was lying at anchor off the town of Algesiras with two ships of eighty guns, one of seventy-four guns, and one frigate. To the south of him, on a small island, was a battery, called the Green island battery, mounting seven eighteen and twenty-four pounders; and to the north of him, on the main, another battery, called St. Jacques's battery, mounting five eighteen-pounders. There were, besides, fourteen Spanish gunboats anchored near, making a total of three
guns on shore.
On his ap
hundred and six guns afloat and twelve guns in battery-altogether three hundred and eighteen guns.
Sir James Saumarez hearing that Lenois was in this position, advanced against him from Cadiz with two ships of eighty guns, four of seventy-four guns, one frigate, and a lugger-in all five hundred and two guns. proach, Lenois, who was anchored in a line nearly north and south at some distance from the shore, cut his cables, and ran into shoal water to prevent being doubled upon by the British line: this manœuvre at the same time entirely unmasked the fire of the batteries.
The Hannibal, one of the British seventy-fours, in attempting to close with the French admiral, touched the ground and could not be floated off. She, however, continued the fight with great obstinacy, even for a considerable time after she was deserted by her consorts. Not being able to double upon the French line, an attempt was made 'to assault the Green island battery, which, being badly served by the Spaniards, had nearly ceased firing.
But this attempt was anticipated by the arrival at the island of a party sent from the French frigate lying near; and the assault was defeated with the loss to the English of one boat sunk and another taken—the Frenchmen renewing with vigor the fire of the battery. At the north end of the line the French admiral was aided by seven gunboats, which took so active a part in the fight that five of them were sunk or rendered unserviceable. The St. Jacques battery being, however, served sluggishly by the Spaniards, the French sent a party from the Dessaix to impart greater activity and effect.
After the combat had continued about six hours, the British squadron drew off greatly damaged, leaving the Hannibal seventy-four alone and aground; and she, after suffering great loss, was obliged to strike. The French insist that the Pompée, an English ship of eighty guns, had struck her colors; but as they could not take possession, she drifted off and was towed away: it is believed she was entirely dismasted.
We do not know the loss in the French squadron, but the killed, wounded, and missing in the English fleet amounted to three hundred and seventy-five inen; being more than twelve men for every ten guns against them, and being twice as great in proportion as the English loss in the battle of Trafalgar.
In this battle of Algesiras there were five hundred and two English guns afloat acting against three hundred and six French guns afloat. As the English chose their own time for the attack and had the wind, it is only reasonable to suppose that three hundred and six of the English guns were a match for the three hundred and six guns of the French vessels. This will leave one hundred and ninety-six English guns afloat, opposed to the twelve guns in the batteries ; or, reckoning one side only of each ship, it shows ninety-eight guns in the British fleet to have been overmatched by the twelve guns in the batteries.
There never was a more signal and complete discomfiture, and it will admit of no other explanation than that just given ; namely, that the two small batteries, one of five and the other of seven guns, partly eighteen and partly twenty-four pounders, more than compensated for the difference in favor of the British fleet of one hundred and ninety-six guns.
The Hannibal got aground, it is true; but she continued to use her guns with the best effect until she surrendered ; and even on the supposition that this ship was useless after she grounded, the British had still an excess of one hundred and twenty-two guns over the French fleet and batteries.
These batteries were well placed, and probably well planned and constructed, but there was nothing extraordinary about them; their condition before the fight was complained of by Admiral Lenois, and they were badly fought in the early part of the action; still the twelve guns on shore were found to be more than equivalent to two seventy-fours and one frigate.
Battle of Fuenterabia.—This recent affair introduces steam batteries to our notice.
On the 11th of July, 1836, six armed steamers, together with two British and several Spanish gunboats, attacked the little town of Fuenterabia. The place is surrounded only by an old wall, and two guns of small calibre, to which, on the evening of the attack, a third gun of larger calibre. was added, formed the entire of its artillery. The squadron cannonaded this place during a whole day, and effected absolutely nothing beyond unroofing and demolishing a few poor and paltry houses, not worth, perhaps, the ammunition wasted in the attack.
have been the number of guns and weight of metal which the assailants brought is unknown; though the superiority, independent of the superior weight of metal, must have been at least ten to one; but not the slightest military result was obtained.-(See United Service Journal, August, 1836, p. 531.)
We will now turn to affairs of a similar character on our own coast.
In June, 1776, Sir Peter Parker, commanding a squadron of two ships of fifty guns, four of twenty-eight guns, two of twenty guns, and a bomb ketch—in all (according to their rate) two hundred and fifty-two guns-attacked Fort Moultrie, in Charleston harbor, South Carolina.
It is stated that the fort mounted “about thirty pieces of heavy artillery." Three of the smaller vessels were aground for a time during the action, and one of them could not be floated off, and was in consequence burned by the English. Deducting this vessel as not contributing to the attack, and supposing the other two were engaged but half the time, the English force may be estimated at two hundred guns; or reckoning one broadside only, at one hundred guns against thirty guns,
The English were defeated with great loss of life and injury to the vessels ; while the fort suffered in no material degree, and lost but thirty men. The killed and wounded in the squadron were reported by the commodore to be two hundred and five; being for every ten guns employed against them more than sixty-eight men killed and wounded—a loss more than eleven times as great, in proportion to the opposing force, as the loss at the battle of Trafalgar.
In September, 1814, a squadron of small vessels, consisting of two ships and two brigs, mounting about ninety guns, attacked Fort Boyer, at the mouth of Mobile bay. A false attack was at the same time made by a party of marines, artillery, and Indians, on the land side. The fort was very small, and could not have mounted more than twenty guns on all sides, nor more than fifteen guns on the water fronts. The action continued between two and three hours, when one of the ships, being so injured as to be unmanageable, drifted ashore under the guns, and was abandoned and burned by the English; the other vessels retreated, after suffering severely.
There were ten men killed and wounded in the fort; the loss on the other part is not known.
The affair of Stonington, during the last war, affords another instance of successful defence by a battery. In this case there were only two guns eighteenpounders) in a battery which was only three feet high, and without embrasures. The battery, being manned exclusively by citizen volunteers from the town, repelled a persevering attack from a sloop-of-war, causing serious loss and damage, but suffering none.
In order not to extend this branch of the report further, I beg leave to refer for a detailed account of the attack of the French, in 1838, on the castle of St. Juan d'Ulloa, to the document above referred to.—(House Doc. 206, 1st session, 26th Congress, p. 25.) For the same reason I abstain from introducing several other instances, which, though interesting and instructive, would not sensibly affect the argument.
In the fact quoted above there is no illustration of the effect of hot shot, except in the case of Gibraltar. In that attack the floating batteries were
made proof against cold shot, and, as was thought by the constructor, proof against hot shot also ; and so, indeed, for a time, it seemed. It was conceived that the hot shot, when buried deep in the closely jointed timbers, would scarcely communicate flame, and that it would not be difficult, by the use of the fireengines provided, to subdue so stifled a combustion.
By making these floating batteries impenetrable to shot, it was supposed they had been rendered equal in perfectly smooth water to land batteries, gun for
gun. And so they might then have been, nearly, had the incombustibility of the latter been imparted to them. But now resistance to fire would not suffice; these floating batteries must either repel these horizontal shells from their bulwarks, or, if that be impossible, permit them to pass through both sides. Nothing can be better calculated to exhibit the tremendous effect of these shells than a vessel so thicksided as to stop every shell, allowing it to burst when surrounded by several feet of timber; and there can be no greater mistake than supposing that, by thickening the bulwarks of vessels-of-war, or fitting up steam-batteries with shot-proof sides, the effects of land batteries are to be annulled or in any material degree modified.
This branch of the subject will be summed up with the remark that the facts of history and the practice of all warlike nations are in perfect accordance with the conclusions of theory. The results that reason anticipated have occurred again and again. And so long as on the one side batteries are formed of earth and stone, and on the other, ships are liable to be swallowed up by the element on which they float, or to be deprived of the means by which they move-so long as they can be penetrated by solid shot, set on fire or blown up by hot shot, or torn piecemeal by shells, the same results must inevitably be repeated at each succeeding trial.
But after all, it may be urged that the general principle herein contended for, namely, the superiority of batteries in a contest with ships, might be admitted, and still it would remain to show that batteries constitute the kind of defence best adapted to our peculiar wants. This is true; and I will now proceed to consider, severally, the cases to which defence must be applied. It may be well, however, first to recall the general scope of the preceding argument. It has been contended that floating defences should not be relied on—not because they are actually incompetent to the duty, but because they cannot fulfil this duty unless provided in inordinate numbers, and at a boundless expense; and I have endeavored to show that this remark is generally true, whether the defensive fleet be made up of sea-going vessels, of Hoating batteries, or of steam batteries. I have next urged the point that properly planned and constructed batteries are an overmatch for vessels-of-war, even when greatly inferior to them in armament-sustaining the opinion by many striking examples, and explaining satisfactorily instances that have cast any doubt on such contests.
If the facts and reasoning presented do not convey the same strong convictions that sway my own mind, it must be because I have obscured rather than illustrated them; for it would seem to be impossible that facts could be more unexceptionable or reasons more beyond the reach of cavil. However that may be, I now leave them to candid and dispassionate revisal, and proceed to examine the mode of applying these defences to our own coasts.
It may be well to divide these into several distinct classes.
1. There will be all the smaller towns upon the coast, constituting a very numerous class.
At the same time that no one of these, of itself, would provoke an enterprise of magnitude, it is still necessary to guard each and all against the lesser attacks. A small vessel might suffice to guard against single vessels that would otherwise be tempted by the facility to burn the shipping and exact a contribution; but something more than this is necessary, since the amount of temptation held out by a number of these towns would be apt to induce operations on a