Imatges de pÓgina

the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, and from the Atlantic ocean up the Hudson river into the lakes; and from one lake into any other.

4. The creation of a fortress on the river St. Lawrence, or at the foot of Lake Ontario, of a capacity and power fully equal to or superior to that at Kingston, on the opposite shore ; also, fortifications on the Niagara or at the foot of Lake Erie, of equal capacity.

5. The construction, for the protection of the Pacific ocean frontier, of a first-class military communication between the river Missouri and the bay of San Francisco.

6. Å decided increase in our means of building and repairing vessels-of-war; of manufacturing, testing, and repairing ordnance and small arms of all grades; and of making and testing projectiles of all kinds and for every branch of the service.

7. The duplication or enlargement of the Military and Naval Academies iminediately after the extinction of the rebellion and the re-establishment of peace. And,

8. The constitution and permanent maintenance of an army and navy sufficient in numbers and excellence to command respect both at home and abroad—a respect based on reasonable assurance of our physical ability to promptly repress domestic insurrection and to repel foreign aggression.

Your committee invite special attention to each of these points. They will be considered in their order.

In 1851, after a careful survey of what had been done, one of the engineers declared in an official report that an examination proved " that the United States, at this time, possess the best fortified seacoast in the world.” This, probably, no longer remains true; but if still true, it is none the less important to us to know whether our fortifications have sufficient strength to endure the modern tests to which, in the event of a war with a first-class maritime power, they would be instantly subjected? Whether, in addition to protecting themselves, they can shield from the assaults of iron-clad vessels the cities in the adjacent harbors? And this brings us to the consideration of the most important point in a system of defences constructed for the protection of a water frontier.


1. Will the fortifications constructed by the United States on our Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, and Lake frontiers certainly exclude a large and well-organized fleet of armored ships-of-war from our harbors ? Could the forts, even if well garrisoned and heavily armed with the best ordnance hitherto in the service, prevent, by day and by night, the entrance of iron-clad steam.vessels (such as are now maintained on Europeon peace establishments) into either one of our harbors, and from shelling the city located within it?


It was very clearly shown by Lieutenant Dahlgren, of the navy, (in a report made by him in 1851,) that a skilful naval commander of a powerful fleet of steamships of the line could pass into the inner harbor of New York itself, in despite of the utmost opposition that could be made by the forts located at the Narrows. Your committee do not believe that the increased weight and range since given to ordnance placed in our more important forts has increased the effectiveness of the forts to a greater degree than the armoring of steamships has increased their power of resistance. Hence it is considered in the highest degree probable that if, in 1851, a fleet of iron-clad steamships of the line could force a passage into New York harbor, especially if their commander was willing to sacrifice a few of them to effect the passage, a fleet of armored steamships, by a similar sacrifice, (and probably single ones without sacrifice,) can achieve a similar result in 1862.


Here, then, is the first defect in our present system of frontier defence. It is vulnerable. The fortifications cannot shield the cities they were built to protect; they cannot protect the objects they were specially designed to shelter against the assaults of even a few vessels-perhaps, not against one or two.

So far as can now be discerned, we cannot rely on our fortifications for reasonable protection; if they cannot be sufficiently strengthened to be effective, then they must be superseded by what can be shown to be adequate. A remedy for this defect should be found without unnecessary delay; our cities cannot be left open to sudden incursions from every petty principality which has money or credit enough to build or buy an iron-clad ship. We cannot fail to perceive that hereafter leading maritime nations will maintain, at least as a part of their ordinary peace establishments, a fleet of vessels not only able to pass our forts uninjured, but, armed with the fifteen or twenty-inch guns now likely to be introduced, able, probably, to demolish the forts. In all ages of the world ambition and rapacity have found occasion to plunder defenceless cities. To be able to maintain our independence, to live in safety, and to preserve peace, our military defences must be adequate to afford protection against all attacks, except those of unusual and extraordinary power.

ADDITIONAL DEFENCES. Probably the remedying of the defects of our present system of defences, which recent events have revealed to us, will not, necessarily, be very expensive. The remedy may possibly be found in a few additional forts, in armoring with iron both the old and the new ones, and arming them with the heaviest ordnance attainable by art. Besides these changes, it may be found necessary to add iron-clad floating batteries and steam-rams in aid of the forts; and also, in times of danger, to anchor rafts entirely across the channels leading into the harbors, or close them with chain cables. The rafts, properly placed, would arrest the progress of hostile vessels when in front of the forts under the direct fire of their guns. Thus detained, the ships must retire or consent to be destroyed; for it is not at all likely that a ship can be constructed possessing as much power as can be given to a first-class fortification.—(See extract of report of engineers on means of obstructing harbors, hereto annexed.)

Possibly an entirely new system of defences may be found best; this, however, is scarcely to be expected, even in this age of wonderful mechanical contrivances. Being purely a question of engineering, and the United States having a corps of engineers and of naval officers eminently worthy of confidence, the committee recommend the reference of the subject to them, with directions to devise a plan which, when fully executed, will enable the United States to exclude hos fleets from all important harbors on our several water frontiers.

The committee will not withhold an expression of opinion that powerful, perhaps entirely adequate, means of defence, original in character and simple in application, may be found to repel the most powerful fleets and armaments. We have reason to believe that this will be found to be true, though an allusion even to the nature and character of these plans, some of which are now under examination, would be premature.


"We must bear in mind that the destruction of some of the important points on the frontier would alone cost more to the nation than the expense of fortifying the whole line would amount to; while the temporary occupation of others would drive us into expedies far surpassing those of the projected defences."

These reflections of this eminent man being sound, we cannot dispense with defensive works merely because of their expense. The only question really open to discussion is, what system of defences will be adequate to the end in view ?

PRACTICABILITY OF CONSTRUCTING ADEQUATE NATIONAL DEFENCES. It is objected that it is quite impracticable for thirty millions of people to provide defences which are truly invulnerable for frontiers so extensive as those of the United States. To objections of this class, Mr. Secretary Poinsett replied that

"It would appear, on a superficial view, to be a gigantic and almost impracticable project to fortify such an immense extent of coast as that of the United States, and difficult, if not impossible, to provide a sufficient force to garrison and defend the works necessary for that purpose."

But, said Mr. Poinsett:

" The coast of the United States, throughout its vast extent, has but few points which require to be defended against a regular and powerful attack. A considerable portion of it is inaccessible to large vessels, and only exposed to the depredations of parties in boats and small vessels-of-war; against which inferior works and a combination of the same means, and a well-organized local militia, will afford sufficient protection.

"The only portions which require to be defended by permanent works of some strength are the avenues to the great commercial cities, and to naval and military establishments, the destruction of which would be a serious loss to the country, and be regarded by an enemy as an equivalent for the expense of a great armament.

“It is shown, also, that the number of men required, on the largest scale, for the defence of the forts—when compared with the movable force that would be necessary without them-is inconsiderable. The local militia, aided by a few regulars, and directed by engineer and artillery officers, may, with previous training, be safely intrusted with their defence in time of war.

“It cannot be too earnestly urged that a much smaller number of troops will be required to defend a fortified frontier than to cover one that is entirely unprotected; and that such a system will enable us, according to the spirit of our institutions, to employ the militia effectually for the defence of the country.”

From three causes the number of important points open to attack has increased during the twenty-two years which have elapsed since the foregoing cogent reasons were presented; but, as our wealth and population have proportionably increased, his reply is as complete to-day as it was then. The points of attack have increased, first, by the springing up of new marts of commerce; second, by the acquisition of Texas and California; and third, cities in shallow harbors now need strong defences in consequence of the recent adaptation of vessels of light draught to the work of the largest ships-of-war. The iron-clad Monitor, though of light draught, can carry as heavy a gun as the Warrior, and can as safely run by any fort in her Majesty's dominions, anchor in the harbor beyond, and, in defiance of ancient means of prevention, commence the work of destruction. But though this altered condition of affairs lays open to attack sev. eral important points not heretofore considered exposed, still, as just remarked, our increased means fully equal the increased demands upon them. Our country is competent to the task of placing the frontier in a complete state of defence without being at all distressed by the performance of it. The sum of our present expenses would, probably in one month, far more than suffice to place our frontiers in a perfectly defensible condition. The Pacific frontier is, of course, excepted in the above remark. But if, on scientific investigation, the engineers and naval officers shall ascertain that adequate national defences cannot be constructed except at great cost, the works will yet have to be built, however unwelcome the burden; unless, indeed, the nation is prepared to renounce its time-honored maxims, and consent to owe the security of its frontier cities, and the security of a commerce wbich has become as wide-spread as the world, to the mercy and forbearance of its maritime neighbors.

Having shown that the first step to take to secure our water frontiers from the casualities of unexpected assault is to construct defences, permanent and floating, which are competent to resist any sudden attack that can readily be made with such means as are ordinarily in the possession of an enemy, your committee believe that the next step in importance is:

2. To provide such means of defence of the coast near the important harbors as will compel hostile vessels to seek for a point at some distance from the harbors at which to disembark troops; thus affording to us time to convey our troops to the point threatened in advance of the arrival of the enemy.

When our roads were few and bad the importance of compelling an enemy to land a day's journey from important points was not so striking as now, when troops can be placed in that space of time in large numbers between the point threatened and an invading army. Iuformed by the telegraph, and aided by the railroads, a commander defending a country possessing so many soldiers as ours can, in a brief period of time, confront with a superior force more armies than the entire fleets of any nation can transport in one voyage across a wide ocean. This is an advantage in the defence of a country of very great moment. To achieve it, a nation situated at a great distance from warlike and ambitious governments, would be justified in making very large expenditures. If, in addition to this, we maintain respectable fleets and armies, carefully drill a well-organized militia, and take care to keep on hand abundant munitions of war, the United States would be, practically, invulnerable.

The exceptions to the general remark, that an invading army, landing at any important point in the United States, could be confronted in a few hours with a superior force, are few, and can be found only in the Gulf and Pacific States, and in those bordering on Lakes Huron and Superior. These exceptions are rapidly lessening in number, and in a few years will disappear. It is a matter of just pride and great national consequence that no country of the size of one of our largest States has such facile and as extensive lines of water and railroad communications as the United States. No system of defence, therefore, would be perfect which is not so planned as to render available, to its greatest extent, this power of concentrating forces rapidly upon any assailable point-a power which our country possesses in so extraordinary à degree. No large country, either in ancient or modern times, ever possessed such ample and reliable means for rapidly transferring large bodies of men from one distant State to another as our own; and because the great power of such means has never been effectively exhibited in a great war of a defensive character is not a reason for us to disregard it. Its inherent value and power in a country where, as all nations well know, the sudden seizure of a few places, however valuable, cannot endanger its integrity or seriously cripple its movements, are obvious to the humblest understanding. Seizures, achieved at great risk, and promising no decisive results, are rarely attempted by able leaders. Thorough defences, constructed with direct reference to a full development of the usefulness of our interior communications, will go far to insure our country even against attempts to invade it, and such a result is the highest aim of a system of military defences.

The location and character of the works necessary to prevent the landing of a hostile force on the coast near important harbors can only be determined by engineers, and to them it should be referred, with instructions to erect them.

DEFENCES OF THE NORTHERN FRONTIER. 3 and 4. How can the northern or lake frontier be successfully defended, especially as the United States are prohibited, by treaty

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