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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 is to 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, I 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 fortify 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 Hoating, 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 correet in the views I have taken of this branch of the subject, a change in the system proposed is necessary. 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 guch 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.
An open battery, under many circumstances, might fulfil the first condition but not the second, and therefore these works should be closed and regularly
constructed. It is not to be denied that the proper boundary between the magnitude and nature of the works necessary to attain the objects indicated, and those required to resist successfully à formal investment, will sometimes become a matter of doubt; nor that circumstances may not be stated which might induce an enemy to open his trenches against one of these works, because its capacity for defence was not greater. That capacity, however, with relation to the question under consideration, has a far more intimate connexion with the magnitude than with the form of the works, because, if unnecessarily large, they entail upon the country a serious evil in the increased means for their defence, independently of the additional expense in their construction. It is principally, therefore, in the latter point of view that I have presented the doubts which I have expressed upon this point.
Among the hypothetical cases heretofore stated by the board of engineers was one which supposed that an army of twenty thousand men might be assembled upon one of the flanks of our coast, and that we ought to be prepared, at every important point, to resist the first shock of such a force. I have already glanced at the reasons, geographical, political, financial, and prudential, which, in my opinion, leave little room to expect that any enemy will, hereafter, project an enterprise of this magnitude, so certain in its expense, so uncertain in its result, and so disproportioned to any object which could probably be attained. And the suggestion which was made by the board, of defending the city of Washington by works erected near the mouth of the Patuxent, proceeds upon similar views. Our navy, our floating batteries, our means of communication and concentration, seem to me far better adapted to the defence of this city than forts at the distance of nearly fifty miles, whose principal effect, if an enemy were resolved upon the enterprise, would be to compel him to make a detour in his expedition, or which would send him to some part of the coast of the bay between Patuxent and Annapolis, or into the Potomac, where his descent would be uninterrupted, and where he would be but little, if any, further from Washington than at the head of navigation of the Patuxent.
Even during the last war, when the navy of Great Britain rode triumphant upon the ocean, but one serious attempt was made to force an entrance into a fortified harbor, and that was unsuccessful. The greatest possible force which can be brought, and the greatest possible resistance which can be applied, do not constitute a practical rule for the construction of our fixed defences. Moral considerations must also have weight. Probabilities must be examined. The power of the permanent batteries is one of the elements of security. So are the dangers of dispersion and shipwreck, and all the hazards of a distant expedition, as these must operate on the councils of any country meditating such an enterprise, the efforts of our navy, the co-operation of the floating defences, and the troops which may be ready to meet the enemy upon his debarkation or march.
In submitting these reflections, I am desirous only of discharging the duty confided to me. I am gratified that the whole subject will be presented for the consideration of Congress in a systematic form, and that the principles of its future prosecution can now be settled. The plan originally devised was recommended upon great consideration, and, at the time its initiatory measures were adopted, was calculated for the state of the country. We had just come out of a severe struggle, and had felt the want of adequate preparation, and, above all, we had seen and deplored the circumstances which gave
enemy undisturbed possession of the Chesapeake, and its disastrous consequences. And it was to be expected that our arrangements for future defence should be planned upon the then existing state of things. I imagine there were few who did not concur in this sentiment. Because, therefore, some of our works, from the wonderful advancement of the country in all the element of power, and from the development of new means of annoyance, are larger than are found necessary at this time, still this does not bring into question the wisdom of the original measure. And, as it is, they are most valuable and useful; but the experience we have acquired may be profitably employed in re-examining the plans proposed for the prosecution of the system, and in inquiring whether the change which has taken place in the condition of the country will not justify a corresponding change in the nature of our preparations, and whether we may not depend more upon floating, and less upon stationary defences.
During the period which has intervened since the last war, we have nearly doubled in our population, and all our other resources have probably increased in a still greater ratio. Certainly, some of the facilities and means of defence are augmented beyond any rational expectations. The power of transporting troops and munitions of war has already opened new views upon this subject, and such is the progress and probable extent of the new system of intercommunication that the time will soon come when almost any amount of physical force may be thrown upon any point threatened by an enemy. Nashville may succor New Orleans in sixty hours; Cincinnati may aid Charleston in about the same time; Pittsburg will require but twenty-four hours to relieve Baltimore, and troops from that city and from Boston may leave each place in the morning, and meet in New York in the evening. This wonderful capacity for move ment increases, in effect, some of the most important elements of national power It neutralizes one of the great advantages of an assailing force, choosing its point of attack, and possessing the necessary means of reaching it. Detachments liable, under former circumstances, to be cut off in detail, may now be concentrated without delay, and most of the garrisons upon the seaboard may be brought together, and, after accomplishing the object of their concentration, be returned to their stations in time to repel any attack meditated against them.
The improvements which are making in the application of steam have furnished another most important agent in the work of national protection. There can be but little doubt that floating batteries, propelled by this agent, will be among the most efficient means of coast defence. In our large estuaries, such as the bays of New York, of the Delaware, and of the Chesapeake, they will be found indispensable; and one of the most important advantages to be anticipated from the works at Old Point Comfort is the security they will afford to the floating batteries co-operating with them, and which will find a secure shelter in Hampton roads. A hostile fleet about to enter the Chesapeake would certainly calculate the means of annoyance to which it would be exposed by these formidable vessels. During a calm they would take a distant position, insuring their own safety, while, with their heavy guns, they might cripple and destroy the enemy;
and their power of motion would enable them, under almost all circumstances, to approach the fleet, and to retire, when necesary, where they could not be pursued. I think it doubtful whether a squadron would anchor in the Chesapeake, or proceed up it, if a competent number of these batteries were maintained and placed in proper positions.
These considerations may well lead us to doubt the necessity of such extensive permanent works, while their non-existence at the time the system was adopted, justifies the views which then prevailed; and without advancing any rash conjecture, we may anticipate such improvements in this branch of the public service as will make it the most efficient means of coast defence. These vessels, properly constructed, may become floating forts almost equal to permanent fortifications in their power of annoyance and defence, and in other advantages far superior to them. Being transferable defences, they can be united upon any point, and a few of them be thus enabled to protect various places. We have been brought by circumstances to a more rigid investigation of our means of defence, and to a re-examination of the whole subject. After an interval of twenty years of tranquillity, public sentiment and the attention of the government were, by unexpected circumstances, more forcibly directed to this
matter. The result cannot fail to be advantageous. The whole subject can be now re-examined by Congress, with all the benefits which much experience has brought, and with the advantage of adapting a system to the advanced state of the country.
There are two bills for fortifications now pending before Congress. One before the House, amounting to $2,180,000, and intended to prosecute works actually already commenced. The estimates for this bill may therefore be considered necessary in themselves, under any view of the general subject, and not unreasonable in amount for the present year, because they include the operations of two years. The incidental expenses, however, may be safely reduced one-half, as it will not be necessary to make such extensive repairs as were considered requisite when the estimates were prepared.
The bill pending before the Senate contains appropriations for nineteen new works, and for the sum of $600,000 to be expended for steam batteries. The estimates on which this bill was founded were prepared at a time when prudence required that arrangements should be made for a different state of things from that which now exists. An examination of the general system of defence was not then expedient; and the means of protecting the most exposed points, agreeably to information previously collected, were asked of Congress. It was no time then to stop, and instead of prosecuting established plans vigorously, to lose the period of action by surveys, examinations, and discussions. But the opportunity is now afforded, without danger to the public interest, of applying the principles suggested to the works under consideration.
It cannot be doubted but that fortifications at the following places enumerated in this bill will be necessary :
At Penobscot bay, for the protection of Bangor, &c.
These proposed works all command the approach to places sufficiently important to justify their construction under any circumstances that will probably exist. I think, therefore, that the public interest would be promoted by the passage of the necessary appropriations for them. As soon as these are made, such of these positions as may appear to require it can be examined, and the form and extent of the works adapted to existing circumstances, if any change be desirable. The construction of those not needing examination can commence immediately, and that of the others as soon as the plans are determined upon. By this proceeding, therefore, a season may be saved in the operations. The other works contained in this bill are:
For Prorincetown. And this proposition may be safely submitted to another inquiry, as the practicability of excluding an enemy from any shelter in Massachusetts bay, a matter of deep interest, and as a work at Provincetown, are closely connected.
For Rhode Island, Narraganset bay. This work may await the result of the views that may be eventually taken on the subject of fortifying this bay.
For a work at the Delaware outlet of the Chesapeake and Delaware canal.This may be postponed without injury till next season; and in the meantime a