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other to the Gulf of Mexico. United, in a single force of twenty thousand men against our sea-coast, the expense would have been less and the result more certain.
The French, notwithstanding their constant naval inferiority, have found opportunities to embark in great undertakings of the same nature. In 1802 Leclerc proceeded to St. Domingo with thirty-four line-of-battle-ships and large frigates, more than twenty small frigates and sloops, and upwards of twenty thousand men. We learn from these points in history, what constitutes an object worthy of vast preparations, and it is impossible to resist the fact that our own coast and rivers and bays possess many establishments not less inviting to an enemy than Flushing and Antwerp.
We are taught, moreover, what constitutes a great expedition; in other words, what is the amount of force we must prepare to meet. And, more than all, we are taught that such an expedition, seizing a favorable moment when the military arrangements of a country are incomplete, when the armies are absent or imperfect in their organization or discipline, does not hesitate to land in the face of the most populous districts; and availing of the local peculiarities, and covered and supplied by a fleet, to undertake operations which penetrate into the country and consume considerable time.
It seems, therefore, that whenever the object we are to cover possesses a value likely to provoke the cupidity of an enemy, or to stimulate his desire to inflict a serious blow, it is not enough that the approaches by water are guarded against his ships; it will be indispensable to place safeguards against attacks by land also. A force considerable enough for very vigorous attacks against the land sides of the fortifications may be thrown upon the shore; and, if these yield, a way is opened for the ships, and the enemy carries his object.
İn certain positions the local circumstances would favor the land operations of an enemy, permitting him, while operating against the fortifications, to be aided by the fleet and covered from the reaction of the general force of the country. In other positions the extreme thinness of the population in the neighborhood would require the forts to rely for a considerable time solely on their own strength. In all such eases a much greater power of resistance would be requisite than in circumstances of an opposite nature. In all such circumstances the works should be of a strength adequate to resist an attack, although persevered in vigorously for several days. But when these land operations lead away from the shipping, or when the surrounding population is considerable, or when considerable numbers of volunteers or regulars can be speedily drawn in by steamers or railroads, or the enemy is unable to shelter his movements by local peculiarities, then it will suffice if the work can withstand vigorous attacks for a few hours only.
The magnitude and strength of the work will depend, therefore, on the joint influence of the value of the objects covered, the natural strength of the position, and the succor to be drawn from the country. We may introduce, as instances, New York and Pensacola. The former is as attackable as the latter; that is to say, it equally requires artificial defences; and, owing to its capacious harbor and easy entrance, it is not easy to place it in a satisfactory condition as to the approaches by water. But, while an enemy in approaching any of the principal works by land could not well cover himself from the attacks of the concentrated population of the vicinity, the rapid means of communication from the interior would daily bring great accession to the defence. A land attack against the city must consequently be restricted to a day or two, and the works will fulfil their object if impregnable to a coup de main.
Pensacola, an object in many respects of the highest importance, and growing in consequence every day, is capable of being defended as perfectly as the city just mentioned. The principal defences lie on a long sandy island which closes in the harbor from the sea. An enemy landed on this island (Santa Rosa) would
H. Rep. Com. 8625
be in uninterrupted communication with his fleet, could, owing to the sparseness of its population, have nothing to apprehend for some time from any re-enforcements arriving at the place, and would be well protected by position from the effects of this succor when it should arrive.
While in possession of naval superiority, he might, therefore, not unreasonably calculate on being able to press a siege of many days of the work which occupies the extremity of the island and guards the entrance to the harbor. And even before coming into possession of this work, his gun and mortar batteries on the same island could destroy everything not bomb-proof and incombustible at the navy yard.
An attack not less persevering, and with equal chances of success, might be made from the other side of the harbor also.
If, therefore, the power to resist a coup de main be all that is conferred on the works at Pensacola, their object will be attained only through the forbearance of the enemy, it being obviously indispensable that the principal of these works be competent to resist a short siege. If this liability resulted from the thinness of the neighboring population, it would still be many years before this state of things would be materially altered.
But it does not depend on this alone: the peculiar topographical features will continue this liability in spite of increasing numbers and ever so easy and rapid communication with the interior, it having been proved that a fleet may lie broad off this shore and hold daily communication therewith during the most tempestuous season. The English fleet of men-of-war and transports lay, during the last war, from February 7 to March 15, 1814, anchored abreast of Dauphin island and Mobile Point, where the exposure is the same as that off Pensacola.
Between the cases cited, which may be regarded as the class of extreme cases, (a class comprising, however, many important positions,) almost every conceivable modification of the defence will be called for to suit the various conditions of the several points.
The fortifications of the coast must therefore be competent to the double task of interdicting the passage of ships and resisting land attacks-two distinct and independent qualities. The first demands merely an array, in suitable numbers and in proper proportions, of heavy guns covered by parapets proof against shot and shells; the second demands inaccessibility. As there is nothing in the first quality necessarily involving the last, it has often happened, either from the little value of the position or from the supposed improbability of a land attack, or from the want of time to construct proper works, that this property of inaccessibility has been neglected.
Whenever we have an object of sufficient value to be covered by a battery, we should bear in mind that the enemy will know the value of the object as well as ourselves; that it is a very easy thing for him to land a party of men for an expedition of an hour or two; and unless we take the necessary preventive measures his party will be sure to take the battery first, after which nothing will prevent his vessels consummating the design it was the puruose of the battery to prevent. In general, the same fortifications that guard the water approaches will protect the avenues by land also; but in certain cases a force may be so landed as to evade the channel defences, reaching the object by a route entirely inland. Of course this danger must be guarded against by suitable works whenever the people cannot come promptly to the rescue.
After the preceding exposition of views on the general subject of the defences of the coast, it may not be out of place here to indicate the mode by which the system of fortifications can be manned and served without an augmentation, for that particular purpose, of the regular army.
The force that should be employed for this service in time of war is the militia, (using the term in a comprehensive sense, the probability being that, in most of the defended points on the seaboard, the uniformed and volunteer companies will supply the garrisons needed; and it may be shown that it is a service to which militia are better adapted than to any other. The prominent defect of a militia force results from the impossibility of so training the men to field movements in the brief period of their service, as to give them any confidence in themselves as maneuvrérs in the face of regular troops. The little they learn merely suffices to show them that it is but little; every attempt of the kind proving, by the disorders that they know not how to avoid, how much greater would be the disorder if in the face of an enemy and under fire.
Without the knowledge to be obtained only by long and laborious practice, the militiaman feels that he is no match, in the field, for the regular soldier, and it would not be surprising should he desire to avoid an encounter. But there is no such difficulty in the service of fixed batteries ; the militiaman has there to be taught
merely the service of a single gun, than which nothing can be more simple. He must learn to use the rammer and the sponge, the handspike and the linstock; to load and to run to battery, to trail and to fire; these are all. Each of these operations is of the utmost simplicity, depending on individual action and not on concert, and they may all be taught in a very short time. There is no maneuvring, no marching, no wheeling. The squad of one gun may be marched to another, but the service of both is the same. Even the art of pointing cannon is to an American militiaman an art of easy attainment, from the skill that all our countrymen acquire in the use of fire-arms, “drawing sight” or “aiming” being the same art, modified only by the difference in the gun.
The mode of applying this force may be illustrated by the case of any of our cities on the seaboard. The forts and batteries being put in perfect condition, should be garrisoned by a small body of regular artillery, such as a moderate military force could supply, and sufficient for the preservation of the public property, and to afford indispensable daily guards. To these should be added two or three men of the ordnance department, especially charged with the condition of the armament and ammunition, and two or three engineer soldiers, whose sole duty it would be to attend to the condition of the fortifications, keeping every part in a state of perfect repair. In certain important works, however, that would be liable to a violent assault, or exposed to siege, or to analogous operations, it would be necessary, especially on the approach of a war, to keep up a more considerable body of regular troops. The volunteer force of the city should then be divided into detachments, if possible, without disturbing their company organization, and should be assigned to the several works according to the war garrisons required at each—from four to six men, according to circumstances, being allowed to cach gun. The larger works might require ten, fifteen, or even twenty companies; the smaller ones, two, three, or more companies; and in some cases even a platoon might suffice. Being thus occupied, each portion of the city force would have its definite alarm post, and should be often taken to it and there exercised in all the duties of its garrison, and more especially in the service of its batteries, and in its defence against assault. The multiplicity of steainboats in all the cities would enable the volunteers to reach even the most distant alarm posts in a short time. In order that all these troops may become expert in their duty, one of the works most convenient to the city, beside being the alarm post of some particular portion of the volunteers, should, during peace, be the ordinary school of drill for all; and in this the detachments should in turns assemble and exercise.
Beside the mere manual of the gun and battery, there should be frequent target practice, as being not only necessary in teaching the proper use of the battery, but as imparting interest and excitement to the service.
It might be necessary for a time to submit the volunteers to the drill of a competent officer or non-commissioned officer of the regular artillery; and in particular, to conduct the practice with shot and shells under such inspection.
The portion of the military force of the city not stationed in the fixed batteries would constitute, under an impending attack, a reserve posted either in one or several bodies, according to circumstances, ready to cover exposed points, to co-operate in offensive movements, or to relieve exhausted garrisons: this portion having connected with it the mounted force, the field artillery, and the heavy movable guns.
This appropriation of the volunteer force to the immediate defence of the city would operate in the most favorable way upon that force, superadding to the impulses of patriotism every feeling connected with family property and social and civil relations; and, while making military service the first of duties, relieving it of hardship and privation.
The organization of volunteer force here contemplated may comprehend the whole maritime frontier, and be applicable, also, at the more populous points upon the inland borders.
This arrangement, while it might be an enduring one, would be the least expensive by far of any that would be efficient.
The days of exercise drill and encampment should be fixed and invariable, in order that they may the less interfere with the private occupations of the volunteers. During an impending attack, greater or less portions should be constantly at their posts; but still the service in the batteries would comprise but a very small portion of the year.
According to the value of the interests to be defended, and the extent of the works to be occupied, would be the rank of the chief command, which should be intrusted to an officer of the regular army, whose control might often be extended, advantageously, over a certain extent of seaboard to the right and left, constituting a maritime department.
The existing fortifications of the sea-coast—including a few useless remains of the revolutionary works, are due to three distinct epochs, namely: 1. Those that grow out of the political agitations attending the French revolution of 1789, and the wars consequent thereon. As all the principal harbors had to be protected at once, the contracted fiscal means of the country required that the works should be small, and they were also generally of a temporary character; but they proved sufficient. France, then a weak naval power, was moreover fully occupied at home, and in pressing her continental campaign.
2. On the approach of the war of 1812, the obvious inadequacy of existing forts led to large appropriations for fortifications, so that when the war broke out there was not a town of any magnitude upon the coast not provided with one or more batteries. Every place within the reach of an enemy's marauding expeditions called for this kind of protection ; and there is no doubt that the defences supplied saved the country from great losses. These defences of the second system were also small and weak, and, being built for the sake of present economy, of cheap materials and workmanship, were very perishable. The government, aware of this weakness, called out to their support, during the war, vast bodies of militia at enormous expense—covering these troops with extensive lines of field-works.
3. The war with England being over, the government promptly entered upon a permanent system of coast defence, and to that end constituted a board of engineers, with instructions to make examinations and plans, subject to the revision of the chief engineer, and the sanction of the Secretary of War. And it is this, the third system, that has been ever since 1816 in the course of execution, and is now, as we shall see, well advanced.
Whenever the examinations of the board of engineers included positions for dock yards, naval depots, &c., naval officers of rank and experience were associated with them.
The board devoted several years uninterruptedly to the duty-presenting successive reports, and submitting, first, plans of the fortifications needed at the
most important points. Afterward, they were sufficiently in advance of the execution of the system to apply most of their time to the duties of construction, giving in occasionally additional reports and plans. In rare cases it has happened that plans have been made under the particular direction of the chief engineer, owing to the difficulty, at moments, of drawing the widely dispersed members of the board from their individual trusts.
The board and the chief engineer arranged the defences into classes, according to their view of the relative importance of the proposed works, in the order of time. This order has been generally well observed in the execution of the system, with the exception of some cases in which, by the action of Congress, certain forts were advanced out of the order advised by the board.
For many years grants for fortifications were made, annually, by Congress in a gross sum, which was apportioned according to the discretion of the President. But since March 3, 1821, the appropriations have been specific, the grants for each work being particularly stated. For many years every new fortification has, before being made the object of appropriations, been sanctioned by a special act
of Congress upon recommendation of the military committee.
The classes are as follows, giving now merely the names of forts and places : the cost, armament, &c., of the several works executed or projected will be given at the end in proper tables.
Class A includes certain old works of the first and second systems. Some of these are already repaired, some undergoing repairs, and some subject to repair, should a war impend before better works shall have been substituted. Fort Sullivan ..
Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
.Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
. Salem, Massachusetts.
. Marblehead, Massachusetts.
. Boston harbor, Massachusetts. Winthrop...
.. Boston harbor, Massachusetts.
.Governor's Island, Massachusetts.
. Governor's Island, Massachusetts.
.New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Newport, Rhode Island.
. Newport, Rhode Island.
New London, Connecticut.
.New Haven, Connecticut.
. Governor's Island, New York.
.Governor's Island, New York.
..Governor's Island, New York.
..Ellis's Island, New York.
..Bedlow's Island, New York.
Staten Island, New York.
..Staten Island, New York.
Staten Island, New York.
Staten Island, New York.
Narrows, New York harbor.
.Delaware river, Pennsylvania.
. Baltimore harbor, Maryland.