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the consequent difficulties and dangers, and the possibility that the convoying fleet might be overpowered by a superior force, and the whole expedition captured or destroyed. All these are considerations which no prudent statesman, directing such an enterprise, will overlook. But beyond these is a question bearing still more directly upon the point under examination. Is there any object to be attained sufficiently important to justify the risk of placing a body of land troops before one of these works, too strong to be carried by a coup de main, and endeavoring to destroy the defence by a regular investment ? I think there can be none.
I take it for granted that no nation would embark in the quixotic enterprise of conquering this country. Any army, therefore, thrown upon our coast would push forward with some definite object to be attained by a prompt movement and by vigorous exertions. Our experience, more than half a century ago, demonstrated that an invading force could command little more than the position it actually occupied. The system of fortifications adopted in Europe is not applicable to our condition. There military movements must be made upon great avenues of communication, natural or artificial, and these are closed or defended by fortresses constructed with all the skill that science and experience can supply, and with all the means that wealth and power can command. An invading army must carry these positions by escalade or by siege, or leave sufficient detachments to blockade them, or must turn them and move on with all the difficulties attending the interruption of their communication, and with the dangers which such a force in their rear must necessarily occasion. Works of this character are keys to many of the European states, whose political safety depends upon their preservation. Their possession enables their governments to meet the first shock of war, and to prepare their arrangements, political or military, to resist or avert the coming storm. And although, during some of the wars which arose out of the French revolution, when, from causes which history is now developing, the armies of France set at defiance the received maxims of military experience, and justifying their apparent rashness by success, reduced, with unexampled facility, or carried on their operations almost in contempt of the strongest fortifications, the subjugation of each of which had been till then the work of a campaign, still the opinion is yet entertained by many that this system of defence is best adapted to the condition of the European community.
There is also a striking difference between the political situation of those countries and that of ours, which give to these defensive preparations a character of importance which can never apply to the United States. The possession of a capital in the eastern hemisphere is too often the possession of the kingdom. Habits of feeling and opinion, political associations, and other causes, combine to give the metropolis an undue ascendency. Internal parties, contending for superiority, and external enemies, aiming at conquest, cqually seek to gain possession of the seat of government. And the most careless observer of the events of the last half century must be struck with the fact that the fate of the capitals and the kingdoms of modern Europe are closely connected together. Under such circumstances, it may be prudent, by powerful fortresses, to bar the approaches to these favored places, and frequently to construct works to defend them from external attack, or to maintain their occupation against internal violence.
But there is nothing like this in our country, nor can there be till there is a total change in our institutions. Our seats of government are merely the places where the business of the proper departments is conducted, and have not themselves the slightest influence upon any course of measures, except what is due to public opinion and to their just share of it. If the machine itself were itinerant, the result would be precisely the same. Or, if by any of the accidents of war or pestilence, the proper authorities were compelled to change their place of convocation, the change would be wholly unobserved, except by the few whose
personal convenience would be affected by the measure. Nor have our commercial capitals any more preponderating influence than our political ones. And although their capture by an enemy, and the probable loss of property, and derangement of business, which would be the result, might seriously affect the community, yet it would not produce the slightest effect upon the social or political systems of the country. The power belongs to all, and is exercised by all.
It follows, therefore, that an enemy could have no inducement to hazard an expedition against any of our cities, under the expectation that their capture and possession would lead to political results favorable to them. Washington may indeed be taken again, and its fall would produce the same emotion which was everywhere felt when its former capture was known. But an enemy would retire from it with as few advantages as marked its first abondonment, and if his course were the same, with as few laurels as he won by its possession. I make these remarks, because it seems to me that some of the principles of the European system of fortifications may possibly be transferred to this country, without sufficient attention having been given to those circumstances, both geographical and political, which require a plan exclusively adapted to our own condition.
I consider some of the existing and projected works larger than are now necessary, and calculated for exigencies we ought not, with the prospects before ts, to anticipate. If such is the fact, the objection is not only to the expense of their construction and preservation, but also to the greater difficulty of defending them, and the increased garrisons which must be provided and maintained. The hypothesis upon which their extent has been determined is, that they may be exposed to investment, both seaward and landward, and that they ought to be capable of resisting a combined attack, or, in other words, that their water batteries should be sufficient to repel an assailing squadron, and that their land defences should be sufficient to resist a besieging army.
It is certain that whatever works we erect should be so constructed as to be beyond the reach of any coup de main that would probably be attempted against them; and this capacity must depend upon their exposure and upon the facility with which they can be relieved. But this proposition is far different from one to construct them upon a scale of magnitude which presupposes they are to be formally invested by a powerful land force, and which provides for their ability to make a successful resistance. A dashing military or naval officer may be willing to risk something to get possession of an insulated post by a prompt movement, expecting to accomplish his enterprise before his adversary can be prepared, or succor obtained; and this, even when he looks to no other advantage than the capture of the garrison, and the effect which a brilliant exploit is calculated to produce, and when he is aware that he must abandon his conquest with as much celerity as he attained it. But formal investments of fortified places, with all their difficulties, and expense, and uncertainty, are only undertaken when there is some object of corresponding importance to be expected. We have works constructed which it would require armies to reduce. Have we any reason to anticipate that they will be assailed by a force proportioned to their magnitude?
I have already remarked that a European power cannot expect to retain permanent possession of any part of this country. If, therefore, he succeed in overcoming or eluding our feets, and is prepared with a respectable land force, and ready to risk its employment upon our territory, he can land at many points which we cannot close against him. His debarkation is not a question of practicability, but of expediency. If a safe harbor or roadstead offers itself, and there is no defensive work to prevent his approach, he will, of course,
land at the nearest point to the object of his marauding exterprise. If there is such a work, it will be a question of calculation whether it is better to attack and carry
it, or to seek another, though more distant, point of debarkation. I think there can be little doubt but there are few, if any, positions in our country which an enemy would not under such circumstances avoid. He would be aware of the facility of communication which our rivers, canals, and railroads afford, of the powerful use we should be prepared to make of steam in its various forms of application, and of the immense force which in a short time could be concentrated upon a given point; and it is scarcely within the limits of possibility that he would venture formally to besiege one of our forts, or if he did, that he would not repent his rashness. Neither the co-operation of his fleet, nor the nearer proximity of the place of landing to the object of attack, would induce him to seek these advantages at the cost which must attend the slow process of besieging a fort, when, by removing to another position, he would land in safety, and save in time, in promptness of movement, and in his escape from the perils of a doubtful contest, more than he would lose by the difference in distance.
I am aware it may be objected that the weakness of a work might tempt an enemy to attack it, and that it may be supposed the power of some of our fortifications to resist a siege may hereafter furnish the true reason why they may not be compelled to encounter one. Certainly the stronger a work is, the less will it be exposed to danger. But this would not furnish a sufficient reason for making its defences out of reasonable proportion to its exposure. The true inquiry is, What circumstances will probably induce and cnable an enemy to assail a given point, and with what force; and how can we best meet and repel him? And I believe a just consideration of this proposition will lead to the conclusion that there are scarcely any positions in our country where an enemy would venture to set down before a work too strong to resist a coup de main. In the view, therefore, which I take of this whole subjeet, it will be perceived that I do not merely suppose an enemy will not invest our larger works, but that they would not do so were these works much inferior to what they are, both in their dimensions and construction.
What object would justify an enemy in attempting to land an army upon our coast? He would not expect to lay waste the country, for such a mode of warfare is not to be anticipated in the present state of society. All that, under the most favorable circumstances, he could accomplish, would be to gain sudden possession of a town and levy contributions, or to destroy a naval establishment, commercial or military, and precipitately retire to his ships before his operations could be prevented, or his retreat intercepted. I cannot, therefore, concur in the suggestion made in the engineer report, that the first of the three great objects to be attained by the fortifications of the first class should be to "prevent an enemy from forming a permanent or even a momentary establishment in the country.” It is not suited to the present and prospective situation of the United States. I understand the establishments herein contemplated are not the temporary occupation of naval arsenals and cities for the purpose of destruction or plunder, because these objects are specially enumerated, but are lodgements where armies may be stationed, and whence they may issue to commit inroads into the country.
I refer, in these remarks, to our maritime coast generally. There are, no doubt, certain points less equal to self-defence than others, and where the preparation must be greater. Of this class is the delta of the Mississippi, not only in consequence of its many avenues of approach, but because its great natural highway does not at present allow those lateral supplies of the personnel, which, from geographical formation, and from the state of the settlements, can be speedily thrown upon most other points of the country. This region, however, is admirably adapted to the use of steam batteries, and they will form its principal means of defence.
To apply these remarks to the plan of fortifications partly completed and partly projected. Fort Monroe, at Old Point Comfort, covers about sixty-three
acres of ground, and requires, by the estimates of the engineer department, two thousand seven hundred men to garrison it in time of war. Its full armament consists of 412 pieces of different descriptions and calibre. I have been desirous of comparing its superficial extent with some of the European fortresses; but the necessary information could not be obtained within the short time that could be allowed for the inquiry. I understand from General Gratiot, however, that it is probably larger than almost any of the single works in Europe which do not enclose towns within their circuit. Drinkwater, in his history of the siege of Gibraltar, states that 572 guns were mounted upon that fortress.
The object to be attained by Fort Monroe, in conjunction with Fort Calhoun, intended to mount 232 guns, is to prevent an enemy from entering Hampton roads, a safe and convenient roadstead. This object is important, because this bay is perfectly landlocked, and has sufficient depth of water for the largest Fessels, and is, withal, so near the capes of the Chesapeake that it furnishes the best station which an enemy could occupy for annoying our commerce, and for committing depredations upon the shores of that extensive estuary. But these works do not command the entrance into the Chesapeake; nor is Hampton roads the only safe anchorage for a hostile fleet. Their possession, therefore, does not exclude an enemy from these waters, though they will compel him to resort to less convenient positions from whence to carry on his enterprises. A hostile squadron reaching the Chesapeake, and finding the entrance into Hampton roads guarded by sufficient works, though much less extensive than those at Fort Monroe, would necessarily consider whether the possession of that roadstead is so important as to justify the debarkation of a large body of land troops, and to attempt to carry the works by regular approaches, and this in the face of the strenuous efforts which would be made to relieve it by all the aids afforded by the most improved facilities of communication, and by the light and heavy steam batteries which, upon the approach of war, would be launched upon the Chesapeake, and which, during periods of calm, or in certain winds, could approach the hostile ships and drive them from their anchorage, or compel them to surrender, and most of which, from their draught of water, could take refuge in the inlets that other armed vessels could not enter. And even if the works were carried, they could not be maintained without the most enormous expense, nor, in fact, without efforts which no government three thousand miles off could well make, and all this, while Lynnhaven bay, York bay, the Rappahannock, Tangier island, the mouth of the Potomac, and many other places, furnish secure anchorage, and are positions from which an enemy, having the superiority, could not be excluded, and while, in fact, a great part of the Chesapeake may be considered as affording good anchorage ground for large ships. Neither of them is equal to Hampton roads, but most or all of them furnish stations for occupation and observation which would render it unnecessary to purchase the superior advantages of Hampton roads by the sacrifice and hazard which would attend the effort. The occlusion of this roadstead does not secure Norfolk, important as it is from its commerce and navy yard. It only prevents the access of ships-of-war to it. And against these there is an interior line of defence, which may be considered as accessory to, and, if necessary, independent of, the other. And a land force, deeming the destruction of the navy yard at Norfolk a sufficient object to justify such an expedition, would not sit down before Fort Monroe, if its scale of defence were far inferior to what it now is, but would debark at Lynnhaven bay, where there is no impediment, and march in five or six hours through an open country to Norfolk.
New York is, in every point of view, our most important harbor, and its defences should provide for every reasonable contingency. The engineer report recommends three classes of works : an interior one for the protection of the harbor ; an exterior one to shut up Raritan bay; and a third to prevent a hostile fleet from approaching the city through the sound nearer than the vicinity of Throg's Point. The importance of the first class cannot be doubted. That of the second depends on the value of Raritan bay to an enemy as an anchorage ground, and on the utility of excluding him froin a landing at Gravesend bay, upon Long Island, whence an army could march, without obstruction, to Brooklyn and New York. The third is proposed to be erected in order to bar his access to the lower part of the sound, or, more accurately speaking, to prevent his reaching Hell Gate, a natural barrier which no fleet could pass, and which is within ten miles of the city. Here, if his aim were New York, he would land, and would find no works to prevent his approach. The two forts proposed to be erected at Throg's Neek and Wilkin's Point, eight miles further up the sound, would compel him to debark beyond the reach of their guns, and would thus add that distance to his march, while on the north shore Harlæm river would be interposed between him and the city. On the Long Island side there would be no difference but that occasioned by the distance.
It is obvious then that, in the consideration of this plan involving an estimated expenditure in the aggregate of $5,807,969, and efficient garrisons in time of war of nine thousand men, a close investigation should be made into all the circumstances likely to influence the operations of an enemy.
Is the anchorage ground between the Narrows and Sandy Hook of sufficient value to an enemy, looking to the risk of his occupation of the coast and to the doubts that may
be reasonably entertained of the result of so great an experiment to be carried on, in fact, in the sea, to authorize the commencement of these works without a new examination ? Or is the probability of the disembarkation of an army at Gravesend bay in preference to some other point upon the coast of Long Island, if a convenient one exists, so great as to require these preparations? The same questions may be asked respecting Wilkin's Point. The work at Throg's Point is in the process of construction, and as the river is only about three-fourths of a mile wide at this place I think its completion would be sutticient for this line of defence till the proposed general examination can take place.
The situation of New York affords a fine theatre for the operation of floating batteries, and whether a sufficient number of them would secure it from the designs of an enemy better than the full completion of the extensive system of permanent fortifications recommended is a question deserving investigation. Such an investigation I recommend, and after all the necessary facts and considerations are presented the government should proceed to place this commercial metropolis of the country in a state of security.
The works at Newport cover about twenty acres and will mount four hundred and sixty-eight guns, and will need for their defence about two thousand four hundred men.
I cannot myself foresee the existence of any circumstances which now call for a fortress of this magnitude in the very heart of New England; constructed not merely to command the harbor of Newport, but to resist a siege which would probably require nearly twenty thousand men to carry it on. I am at a loss to conjecture what adequate motive could induce a foreign government to detach a fleet and army upon this enterprise. The expense would be enormous. The French army that invaded Egypt was less than forty thousand men, and required for its protection and transportation between five and six hundred vessels. The army that conquered Algiers was about equal in force, and required, it is said, about four hundred transports besides the ships-of-war. This scale of preparation for enterprises against the shores of the Mediterranean may enable us to form some conception of the arrangements that would be necessary to send across the ocean to this country, in the present day of its power, an expedition strong enough to form an establishment upon our shores, and to furnish it with supplies necessary to its subsistence and operations.
It has been supposed, indeed, by the board of engineers, that an enemy would find sufficient reason for the occupation of Rhode Island in the consideration