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evinces an accurate knowledge of the whole subject, while, at the same time, its general views are sound and comprehensive. I consider it a very able document.
Under these circumstances, I have thought it proper to submit some general remarks, explanatory of my own views, concerning a practical system of defence, and which will show how far the plans and details are in conformity with my opinion. I feel that this course is due to myself.
I shall confine my observations to the maritime frontier. Our inland border rests, in the southwest and northeast, upon the possessions of civilized nations, and requires defensive preparations to meet those contingencies only which, in the present state of society, we may reasonably anticipate. In the existing intercourse of nations, hostilities can scarcely overtake us so suddenly as not to leave time to move the necessary force to any point upon these frontiers threatened with attack. I am not aware of any peculiar position upon either of these lines of separation which commands the approaches to the country, or whose possession would give much superiority to an invading or defensive force. In fact, the division is, in both cases, an artificial line through much of its extent, and a portion of the natural boundary offers scarcely any impediment to military operations. Under such circumstances, it seems altogether inexpedient to construct expensive fortifications, which would do little more than protect the space
under cover of their guns; which are not required as places of depot; which guard no avenue of communication, and which would leave the surrounding country penetrable in all directions. Without indulging in any improper speculations concerning the ultimate destiny of any portion of the country in juxtaposition with us, or looking for security to any political change, we may safely anticipate that our own advance in all the elements of power will be at least equal to that of the people who adjoin us ; nor does the most prudent forecast dictate any precautions, founded upon the opinion that our relative strength will decrease and theirs increase. The lake frontier, indeed, presents some peculiar consideration; and I think the views submitted by the engineer department, respecting Lake Champlain, are entitled to much weight. This long, narrow sheet of navigable water opens a direct communication into the States of New York and Vermont, while its outlet is in a foreign country, and is commanded by a position of great natural strength. It is also within a few miles of the most powerful and populous portion of Canada, and open to all its resources and energies. With a view, perhaps, to possible rather than to probable events, it may be deemed expedient to construct a work at some proper site within our boundary which shall close the entrance of the lake to all vessels ascending its outlet. As such a work, however, would be an advanced post, and, from circumstances, peculiarly liable to attack, its extent and defences should be in proportion to its exposure.
There is already a considerable commercial marine upon the four great lakes, Ontario, Erie, Huron, and Michigan, which are open to the enterprise of our citizens. And this will increase with the augmenting population which is flowing in upon the regions washed by these internal seas. It is obvious that, from natural causes, the physical superiority will be found upon the southern shores of these lakes. The resolution of the Senate embraces the inquiry into the expediency of constructing permanent fortifications in this quarter. And this inquiry properly divides itself into two branches :
1st. The policy of fortifying the harbors on the lakes; and, 2d. The policy of commanding, by permanent works, the communications Both of these measures presuppose that the naval superiority upon these waters may be doubtful. But it is difficult to foresee the probable existence of any circumstances which would give this ascendency to the other party. It is
H. Rep. Com. 86—5
unnecessary to investigate the considerations which bear upon this subject, as they are too obvious to require examination. They are to be seen and felt in all those wonderful evidences of increase and improvement which are now in such active operation. A victorious fleet upon these lakes could disembark an army at almost any point. If a harbor were closed by fortifications they would only have to seek the nearest beach, and land their men from boats, so that no defences we could construct would secure us against invasion; and temporary block-houses and batteries would probably be found sufficiently powerful to repel the attacks of any vessels seeking to enter the narrow harbors upon the lakes, if we could foresee the existence of any circumstances which would induce an enemy to endeavor to force an entrance into them.
As to the communication between the lakes, the inquiry, from geographical causes, is necessarily restricted to that from Lake Erie to Lake Huron, and to the straits of Michilimackinac. Of the former, almost sixty miles consist of two rivers, completely commanded from their opposite banks, while the entrance into one of these, the river St. Clair, is impeded by a bar, over which there are but about eight feet of water. No armed vessels could force their way up these rivers while the shores were in an enemy's possession, who might construct batteries at every projecting point, and who, in fact, might in many places sweep the decks with musketry. As to the straits of Michilimackinac, they are too broad to be commanded by stationary fortifications, even if any circumstances should lead to the construction and equipment of a hostile fleet upon the bleak and remote shores of Matchedask bay, in the northeastern extremity of Lake Huron.
I am therefore of opinion that our lake frontier requires no permanent defences, and that we may safely rely for its security upon those resources, both in the personnel and materiel
, which the extent and other advantages our country insures to us, and which must give us the superiority in that quarter.
It may, perhaps, be deemed expedient to establish a depot for the reception of munitions of war in some part of the peninsula of Michigan, and to strengthen it by such defences as will enable it to resist any coup de main which may be attempted. From the geographical features of the country, our possessions here recede from their natural points of support, and are placed in immediate contact with a fertile and populous part of the neighboring colony. In the event of disturbances, the ordinary communications might be interrupted, and it would probably be advisable to have in deposit a supply of all the necessary means for offensive or defensive operations, and to place these beyond the reach of any enterprising officer who might be disposed, by a sudden movement, to gain possession of them. The expenditure for such an object would be comparatively unimportant, even should the contingency be judged sufficiently probable to justify precautionary measures.
I had the honor, in a communication to the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs of the Senate, dated February 19, 1836, a copy of which was sent to the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs of the House of Representatives, to suggest the mode best adapted, in my opinion, to secure our frontier against the depredations of the Indians. The basis of the plan was the establishment of a road from some point upon the upper Mississippi to Red river, passing west of Missouri and Arkansas, and the construction of posts in proper situations along it. I think the ordinary mode of construction ought not to be departed from. Stockaded forts, with log block-houses, have been found fully sufficient for all the purposes of defence against Indians. They may be built speedily, with little expense, and, when necessary, by the labor of the troops. Our Indian boundary has heretofore been a receding, not a stationary one, and much of it is yet of this character. And even where we have planted the Indians who have been removed, and guaranteed their permanent occupation of the possessions assigned to them, we may find it necessary, in the redemption
of the pledge we have given to protect them, to establish posts upon their exterior boundary, and thus prevent collisions between them and the ruder indigenous tribes of that region. I think, therefore, that no works of a more permanent character than these should be constructed upon our Indian frontier. A cordon established at proper distances upon such a road, with the requisite means of operation deposited in the posts, and with competent garrisons to occupy them, would probably afford greater security to the advanced settlements than any other measures in our power. The dragoons should be kept in motion along it during the open season of the year, when Indian disturbances are most to be apprehended, and their presence and facility of movement would tend powerfully to restrain the predatory disposition of the Indians; and if any sudden impulse should operate or drive them into hostilities, the means of assembling a strong force, with all necessary supplies, would be at hand, and, as circumstances permit
, the posts in the Indian country now in the rear of this proposed line of operations should be abandoned and the garrisons transferred to it.
But it is upon our maritime frontier that we are most exposed. Our coast for three thousand miles is washed by the ocean, which separates us from those nations who have made the highest advances in all the arts, and particularly in those which minister to the operations of war, and with whom, from our intercourse and political relations, we are most liable to be drawn into collision. If this great medium of communication, the element at the same time of separation and of union, interposes peculiar obstacles to the progress of hostile demonstrations, it also offers advantages which are not less obvious, and which, to be successfully resisted, require corresponding arrangements and exertions. These advantages depend on the economy and facility of transportation, on the celerity of movement, and on the power of an enemy to threaten the whole shore spread out before him, and to select his point of attack at pleasure. A powerful hostile fleet upon the coast of the United States presents some of the features of a war, where a heavy mass is brought to act against detachments which may be cut up in detail, although their combined force would exceed the assailing foe. Our points of exposure are so numerous and distant that it would be impracticable to keep, at each of them, a force competent to resist the attack of an enemy, prepared by his naval ascendency, and his other arrangements, to make a sudden and vigorous inroad upon our shores. It becomes us, therefore, to inquire how the consequences of this state of things are to be best met and averted.
The first and most obvious, and in every point of view the most proper, method of defence is an augmentation of our naval means to an extent proportioned to the resources and the necessities of the nation. I do not mean the actual construction and equipment of vessels only. The number of those in service must depend on the state of the country at a given period; but I mean the collection of all such materials as may be preserved without injury, and a due encouragement of those branches of interest essential to the growth of a navy, and which may be properly nurtured by the government; so that, on the approach of danger, a fleet may put to sea, without delay, sufficiently powerful to meet any force which will probably be sent to our coast.
Our great battle upon the ocean is yet to be fought, and we shall gain nothing by shutting our eyes to the nature of the struggle, or to the exertions we shali find it necessary to make. All our institutions are essentially pacific, and every citizen feels that his share of the common interest is affected by the derangement of business, by the enormous expense, and by the uncertain result, of a war. This feeling presses upon the community and the government, and is a zure guarantee that we shall never be precipitated into a contest, nor embark in one, unless imperiously required by those considerations which leave no alternative between resistance and dishonor. Accordingly, all our history shows that we are more disposed to bear, while evils ought to be borne, than to seek redress by appeals to arms; still, however, a contest must come, and it behooves us, while we have the means and the opportunity, to look forward to its attendant circumstances, and to prepare for the consequences.
It is no part of my object to enter into the details of a naval establishment. That duty will be much more appropriately and ably performed by the proper department; but as some of the views I shall present on the subject of our system of fortifications must be materially affected by any general plan of naval operations which, in the event of hostilities, might be adopted, I am necessarily led to submit a few remarks, not professional, but general, upon the extent and employment of our military marine.
There is as little need of inquiry now into our moral as into our physical capacity to maintain a navy, and to meet upon equal terms the ships and seamen of any other nation. Our extended commerce, creating and created by those resources which are essential to the building and equipment of fleets, removes all doubt upon the one point, and the history of our naval enterprise, from the moment when the colors were first hoisted upon the hastily-prepared vessels at the commencement of our revolutionary struggle to the last contest in which any of our ships have been engaged, is equally satisfactory upon the other. The achievements of our navy have stamped its character with the country and the world. The simple recital of its exploits is the highest enlogium which can be pronounced upon it.
With ample means, therefore, to meet upon the ocean, by which they must approach us, any armaments that may be destined for our shores, we are called upon by every prudential consideration to do so. In the first place, though all wars in which we may be engaged will probably be defensive in their character, undertaken to repel or resent some injury, or to assert some right, and rendered necessary by the conduct of other nations, still the objects of the war can be best attained by its rigorous prosecution. Defensive in its causes, it should be offensive in its character. The greater injury we can inflict upon our opponent the sooner and the more satisfactory will be the redress we seek. Our principal belligerent measures should have for their aim 'to attack our antagonist where he is most vulnerable. If we are to receive his assaults, we abandon the rantage ground, and endeavor, in effect, to compel him to do us justice by inviting his descent upon our shores, and by all those consequences which mark the progress of an invading force, whether for depredation or for conquest. By the ocean only can we be seriously assailed, and by the ocean only can we seriously assail any power with which we are likely to be brought into collision.
But, independently of the policy of making an adversary feel the calamities of war, it is obvious that, even in a defensive point of view alone, the ocean should be our great field of operations. No one would advocate the project of endeavoring to make our coast impervious to attack. Such a scheme would be utterly impracticable. A superior fleet, conveying the necessary troops, could effect a landing at numerous points upon our shores, even if the best devised plan of fortifying them were consummated; and, from the nature of maritime operations, such a fleet could bring its whole strength to bear upon any particular position, and by threatening or assailing various portions of the coast, either anticipate the tardy movements of troops upon land, and effect the object before their concentration, or render it necessary to keep in service a force far superior to that of the enemy, but so divided as to be inferior to it upon any given point. These dangers and difficulties would be averted or avoided by the maintenance of a fleet competent to meet any hostile squadrons which might be detached to our seas. Our coast would thus be defexded on the ocean, and the calamities of war would be as little felt as the circumstances of such a conflict would permit.
As to the other advantages of a navy, in the protection of commerce, they do not come within the scope of my inquiries, and are not, therefore, adverted to; nor is it necessary, or indeed proper, that I should present those considerations of distance, of exposure, and of station, which would render a fleet numerically inferior in the aggregate to that of the enemy, yet still sufficiently powerful, upon our own coasts, to meet and overcome any armament which could probably be sent here.
It seems to me, therefore, that our first and best fortification is the navy. Nor do I see any limit to our naval preparations, except that imposed by a due regard to the public revenues from time to time, and by the probable condition of other maritime nations. Much of the materiel employed in the construction and equipment of vessels is almost indestructible, or, at any rate, may be preserved for a long series of years; and if ships can be thus kept without injury upon the stocks, by being built under cover, I do not see what should restrain us from proceeding to build as many as may be deemed necessary, and as fast as a due regard to their economical and substantial construction will permit, and to collect and prepare for immediate use all the munitions of war, and other articles of equipment not liable to injury or decay by the lapse of time. Nor do I see that these preparations should be strictly graduated by the number of seamen who would probably enter the service at this time, or within any short period. To build and equip vessels properly requires much time, as well with reference to the execution of the work as to the proper condition of the materials employed. And the costly experiment made by England, when she too hastily increased her fleet, about thirty years ago, by building ships with improper materials and bad workmanship, ought to furnish us with a profitable lesson. These vessels soon decayed, after rendering very little service. Naval means should therefore be provided at a period of leisure, to be ready for immediate employment in a period of exigency; and a due regard to prudence dictates that these means should so far exceed the estimated demands of the service as to supply, in the shortest time, any loss occasioned by the hazards of the ocean and the accidents of war. We may safely calculate that the number of seamen in the United States will increase in proportion to that rapid augmentation which is going on in all the other branches of national interest. If we assume that at a given period we may expect to embark in war, our capacity to man a fleet will exceed our present means by a ratio not difficult to ascertain. And even then, by greater exertions and perhaps higher wages, a larger portion may be induced to enter the naval service, while no exertions can make a corresponding addition to the navy itself, but at a loss of time and expense, and a sacrifice of its permanent interest.
But whatever arrangements we may make to overcome any naval armaments sent out to assail us, we are liable to be defeated and to be exposed to all the consequences resulting from the ascendency of an enemy. And the practical question is, what shall be done with a view to such a state of things ? As I have already remarked, any attempt by fortifications to shut up our coast, so that an enterprising foe, with a victorious fleet, conveying a competent force, and disposed to encounter all the risk of such an expedition, could not make his descent upon the shore, would be useless in itself, and would expose to just censare those who should project such a scheme. And, on the other hand, the government would, if possible, be still more censurable were our important maritime places left without any defensive works. Between these extremes is a practical medium, and to ascertain where it lies we must briefly look at the varions considerations affecting the subject.
What have we to apprehend in the event of a war? Is it within the limits of a reasonable cılculation that any enemy will be able and disposed to debark apon our coast an army sufficiently powerful to lay siege to our fortifications and to endeavor, by this slow and uncertain process, to obtain possession of them? I put out of view the enormous expense attending such a plan; the distance of the scene of operations from the points of supply and support, with