Imatges de pÓgina
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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 subject, 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 vessels, 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 from 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 Neck 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 sufficient 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

that it would afford a secure lodgement, whence expeditions could be sent to every part of our coast. But it is to be observed that no part of Narraganset bay is necessary for the safety of a hostile fleet watching that part of our coast. Gardiner's bay in that vicinity is a most safe and convenient station, which was occupied by the British during almost the whole of the late war, and it is pretty clear that it cannot be defended by any stationary fortifications that can be constructed. If it can by floating batteries, so may Narraganset bay, and the enemy thus prevented from occupying the latter also without these extensive arrangements, requiring, after Fort Adams shall have been completed at an expense of one million three hundred and twelve thousand dollars, four other forts and a sea-wall to be constructed, and eleven hundred and fifty-seven thousand dollars to be expended.

I do not think that the most prudent forecast ought to lead to the apprehension that a force competent to seize such a position would be sent to our country, or that any circumstances could enable them to maintain it in the face of the vigorous efforts that would be made to recover it, and in the midst of a country abounding in all the means to give effect to their exertions. But perhaps the most striking objection to the completion of this extensive plan is, that under no possible circumstance can it effect the desired object. That object, if I understand it, is not the mere exclusion of an enemy from Rhode Island, but it

prevent him from taking possession of a safe and convenient position, whence he could detach his forces by means of his naval superiority to any other part of the coast which would thus be exposed to his depredations.

The value of Gardiner's bay as a place of naval rendezvous I have already described. Block island, in its neighborhood, could be occupied by troops desiring only a lodgement, and so could Nantucket island and Martha's Vineyard, and these are only a few hours' sail from Narraganset bay. Buzzard's bay is also a safe and capacious harbor which cannot be defended, and Martha's Vineyard sound affords commodious places of anchorage. A fleet riding in these moorings would have under its command all the islands in this group, and could secure its communications with its land forces encamped upon them, which would thus be enabled, at any proper time, to throw itself upon other parts of the coast. It may be doubted, if there were not a cannon mounted upon Rhode Island, whether an enemy acquainted with the topography and resources of this country would select it as his place of arms, if I may so term it, when there are islands in the neighborhood which would answer this purpose nearly as well, and where he would be in perfect safety as long as he could maintain his naval ascendency; and longer than that he could not, under any circumstances, occupy Rhode Island. And if I rightly appreciate the strength and spirit of that part of the country, his tenure, in any event, would be short and difficult. I do not mean to convey the idea that Rhode Island should not be defended. I think it should be; but I do not think that precautions should be taken against events which are not likely to happen. As there is no naval establishment here, it is not necessary to enter into any question concerning defensive arrangements exclusively connected with that object.

It will be perceived also that it is proposed to fortify Mount Desert island, on the coast of Maine, and that the expense is estimated at five hundred thousand dollars, and the number of the garrison competent to maintain it at one thousand men. This proposition is founded, not on the value of this harbor to us, for it possesses little, and is, in effect, unoccupied, but on account of its importance to the enemy. Were there no other secure position they could occupy in that quarter, and which could not be defended, Í should think the views submitted upon this branch of the subject entitled to great weight. But there are many indentations upon this coast, affording safe anchorage, and which are either not capable of being defended, or from their great number would involve an enormous expense, which no sound views of the subject could justify. An

enemy, therefore, cannot be deprived of the means of stationing himself upon this coast. And before this expenditure at Mount Desert island is encountered, it ought to be clearly ascertained that the difference, in its practical advantages to an enemy, between the occupation of Mount Desert island and that of some of the other roadsteads in this quarter, incapable of defence, would be sufficiently great to warrant this measure. My present impression is that it would not.

And on the subject of roadsteads generally, with a few exceptions, depending on their local positions, I am inclined to the opinion that any attempt to fortity them would be injudicious. I do not speak of harbors and inlets which are occupied by cities and towns, but of mere anchorage grounds, deriving their value from the shelter they afford. If all could be defended, and an enemy excluded from them, the advantages would justify any reasonable expenditure. But this is impracticable, and I doubt whether the circumstances, in which most of them differ, give such marked superiority to those we can defend over those we cannot, as to lead to any attempt to fortify them, in the first instance, and to maintain garrisons in them during a war.

I have adverted to these particular cases in order to present my views more distinctly than I could do by mere general observations. Certainly not from the remotest design of criticising the reports and the labors of the able professional men to whom the subject has been referred, nor of pursuing the investigation into any further detail.

I consider the duty of the government to afford adequate protection to the sea-coast a subject of paramount obligation; and I believe we are called upon by every consideration of policy to push the necessary arrangements as rapidly as the circumstances of the country and the proper execution of the work will allow. I think every town large enough to tempt the cupidity of an enemy should be defended by works, fixed or floating, suited to its local position, and sufficiently extensive to resist such attempts as would probably be made against it. There will, of course, after laying down such a general rule, be much latitude of discretion in its application. Upon this branch of the subject I would give to the opinion of the engineer officers great and almost controlling weight, after the proper limitations are established. These relate principally to the mag nitude of the works, and if I am correct in the views I have taken of this branch of the subject, a change in the system proposed is necessary. Works should not be projected upon the presumption that they are to be exposed to and must be capable of resisting the attacks of an European army, with its battering train, and all its preparations for a regular siege. Neither our relative circumstances, nor those of any nation with which we shall probably be brought into conflict, can justify us in such an anticipation. All the defences should be projected upon a scale proportioned to the importance of the place, and should be calculated to resist any naval attack, and any sudden assault that a body of land troops might make upon them. But further than this it appears to me we ought not to go. The results at Stonington, at Mobile Point, at Fort Jackson, and at Baltimore, during the late war, show that formidable armaments may be successfully resisted with apparently inferior means. These, indeed, do not furnish examples to be followed as to the scale of our preparations, but they show what stationary batteries have done in our country against ships-of-war.

It is to be observed that the great object of our fortifications is to exclude a naval force from our harbors. This end they ought fully to answer, and in this problem there are two conditions to be fulfilled:

1. That they be able to resist any naval batteries that will probably be placed against them; and

2. That they be also able to resist any coup de main or escalade which might be attempted by land.

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An battery, under many circumstances, might fulfil the first condition but not the second, and therefore these works should be closed and regularly

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