« AnteriorContinua »
to Gomer's Ponds, on the western extreme of Stokes Bay. From the front of this line, the dockyard would be 4,500 yards distant, far beyond the range of shot or shell; the ground is more open, and much of it being waste and marshy, it is less costly to purchase, and is better adapted for defence. A ditch 200 feet wide, with 15 feet of water in it, and a covered way in front, would afford earth for the ramparts. The line selected being three miles long, there would be twelve miles of rampart, capable, if fully armed, of mounting 3000 guns, and in any case certainly able to bring three guns to bear on one of the enemy's. A return on the right, to prevent an enemy from turning the works on that flank, and a military canal from the left to Fort Monkton, to prevent a landing in Stokes Bay, complete a summary view of Mr. Fergusson's proposal; which we do not assert to be the best possible work for the purpose, but which, from its evident advantages over the few detached works which it is understood are to be erected, including the superior economy claimed for it, unquestionably deserves the utmost consideration. Wediffer on this point from Colonel Jebb who (p. 32.) holds economy of construction to be a secondary consideration. The situation of this country makes her case very different from those which are liable to become the battle ground of nations, and where consequently first-class fortresses are absolutely necessary. There are other works proposed on Portsea Island, and at Porchester Castle, — for a description of which we refer the reader to the book itself, reserving the few additional remarks we have to make for that portion which relates to the sea defences of Portsmouth, on the strength and weakness of which we differ very materially from Mr. Fergusson.
In considering the attack of Portsmouth by a squadron passing the batteries and entering the harbour, the author sets aside, as incapable of forcing the entrance, sailing ships, because they require a leading wind; and paddle-wheel steamers, because they are deficient in broadside guns, and the batteries are sin‘gularly well placed for hitting or disabling their paddles, and
the parts of their machinery above water.' "We would remark here, that if the batteries are so singularly well placed, they can scarcely deserve the severe judgment which Mr. Fergusson subsequently passes on them, He proceeds thus:
*But it could be attempted by screw line-of-battle ships, and if I am not very much mistaken, with every prospect of success. The French now possess four such ships, the “Napoleon,” the “Charlemagne,” the "Austerlitz,"* and the “Jean Bart,” and are understood to be building
It may not be generally known, that when the French fleet passed Malta, on its way to the Levant, in May, of the three screw-ships in
others. These vessels carry from 90 to 100 guns of the heaviest calibre ; and though the speed of the “Napoleon” is probably not so great as reported thirteen or fourteen knots an hour—they are all equal to at least ten knots an hour in smooth water, and with a floodtide in the springs, both of which they could easily command.
At this rate of speed, about ten minutes would elapse from the time when they first came within effective reach of the guns of Southsea Castle till they were safely past all danger and anchored inside the harbour.' (P. 15.)
Having thus summarily given possession of Portsmouth Harbour to four sail-of-the-line, the author proceeds to consider the means of resistance, inefficient as they are, in his opinion, to detain an enemy even for ten minutes. He enumerates 12 guns mounted on Southsea Castle, 21 on the King's Bastion and the adjacent faces, 10 on the flank of the Platform and the orillion of the Point Batteries, 12 on the Point Battery, and 24 on Blockhouse Fort; in all, 79 pieces, most of them heavy ordnance. Then, stating how ineffective most of these guns would be, he clenches an argument which he seems to think unanswerable, with a quotation from General Lewis's Aide Memoire:'-No battery or batteries, however strong, can stop or prevent any ship of war or steamer from entering a
harbour when the navigation is free and the course nearly • direct, if she chooses her time. We must beg to inform Mr. Fergusson that this opinion is very far from supporting his argument, inasmuch as the navigation into Portsmouth Harbour is not free, the course is not nearly direct, and she can not choose her time. Although ships of the line do now, by aid of steam, pass in or out with their lower deck guns on board, they can only do so at high water spring tides, and, in these days of peace, when the ramparts are manned only with a crowd of admiring
a friends, a slow rate of going and the utmost circumspection are required to conduct a heavy ship in safety through the narrow and tortuous channel leading from Spithead into the harbour; even with frigates, the period for passing is very limited, and the passage never attempted till the stream of tide has slackened.
If such be the case under favourable circumstances, it is evident the difficulties must be multiplied many fold were the passage to be attempted during a heavy cannonade between the batteries and the ships; when, even if the pilot could see his way through the clouds of smoke, the helmsman could scarcely comprehend his orders or signs. Let
Let us, however, suppose, that the adventurous enemy has reached the commencement of the channel between the buoys of the Spit and the Boyne: he is then less than a mile from the anchorage at Spithead, about 2000 yards from the angle of the King's Bastion, and half that distance from Southsea Castle, towards which his bows are directed, until, having rounded the end of the Spit, his course is pretty direct to the harbour's mouth. On arriving within 600 yards of the King's Bastion, and 1,300 yards from Blockhouse Fort, which is right ahead, he enters the narrowest part of the channel, now marked by buoys, which assuredly would not be left there to guide a foe, while the leading marks would almost certainly be obscured by smoke. The width of this part is not 200 yards, and if some of the leading ships did not here take the ground, they would be fortunate indeed. But let them pass through that difficulty, and, notwithstanding that they have followed the singular recommendation of Mr. Fergusson, and have coiled their hemp cables in their bows, and stowed there “the spare sails and hammocks!' further, suppose that they have not caught fire, and approach the mouth of the harbour. Will they find it a haven of refuge after the perils of the passage, or will they not rather find guardships and blockships laid across ready to pour in a storm of shot as one by one they opened that narrow entrance, such as no ships in the world could withstand? They who witnessed the tremendous effect of the concussion shells this summer upon the ‘York' hulk, will be disposed to think that, instead of our sinking ships to prevent the entrance of an enemy, it would be the sunken foe that would cause an obstruction to ourselves in the mouth of Portsmouth harbour.
It is notorious that the
in the fleet, not one could use her screw. ' Napoleon' is shaken to pieces.
We are of opinion with Mr. Fergusson, that a battery of heavy guns between Southsea Castle and the King's Bastion would be a valuable addition to the defences on the sea side ; but there are many points whose weakness claims precedence, as, for example, Sconces' Point and Warden's Ledge, for forts at which places 25,0001. and 15,0007. have been voted this year.
Mr. Fergusson devotes several pages to the discussion of various modes of invasion which may be apprehended, and of defence which may be adopted, into which we need not follow him : the public mind having become fully alive to the necessity of providing a system of defence capable of resisting successfully the attacks of an enemy; or, what is more ardently to be desired, of strength and completeness sufficient to deter him from so rash an attempt.
The Navy estimates for the present year greatly exceed those of 1835-6, with which year we will again make a comparison. The votes for the two years stand thus:
Effective Branch. Non-effective. Total. 1835-6 • £2,416,300 £1,561,423 £3,977,723 1853-4
4,763,440 1,319,103 6,082,543 On comparing the estimates, it appears that the excess of the present over the former year may be broadly stated to lie under the five following heads :
£993,054 £1,736,236 Victuals
615,426 Wages to Artificers in Esta
1,023,011 New Works
The two first items being dependent on the number of seamen, which is proportioned to the requirements of the public service, we need only show the numbers for the two years.
Seamen. Boys. Marines. Total. 1835-6
15,500 2,000 9,000 26,000 1853-4
2,000 12,500 45,500 The increase under the other heads may be referred mainly to the expenses entailed by the progress of steam navigation : to the erection and working of establishments for making and repairing machinery,- the steam factories at Woolwich and Portsmouth alone employ 1,200 artificers ; – to the enlargement of old, and the excavation of new docks, capable of receiving ships of the greatly increased dimensions now built: to the purchase of engines, machinery, coals. These are a few of the most important sources of increased expenditure ; but the result is, that we possess the largest and most powerful navy in the world, composed in part of the finest ships ever seen.
As our object is only to present a general view of the present condition of our national defences, we shall not enter into any detail of the numbers and force of the ships of the Royal Navy, as a whole, but merely note some particulars of the steam branch of the service, which has become so important.
In 1835, the navy possessed only 16 steamers of all denominations.
In 1845, the force had increased to 55 vessels, of the gross nominal power of 11,500 horses.
In 1853, thereare about 170 steam vessels of a gross nominal power of 45,500 horses, besides eight or 10 line-of-battle ships
and frigates building. In 1845, the average horse-power was a little over 200: it is now about 266, showing a large increase in the power, as well as in the number of our steamers. The nominal horse-power is by no means to be taken as a measure of the actual power: for example, the engines of the Agamemnon,' nominally of 600, actually work up to more than 2000 horses. The original cost of engines is from 55l. to 60l. per nominal horse-puwer; thus, the machinery of our steam-navy, at the present time, represents a capital of above two-and-a-half millions.
We will close our remarks on this branch of our subject by stating, that a few weeks would enable us to send to sea a fleet of seventeen sail of screw line-of-battle ships, a number which next spring will see largely augmented; and we may challenge the world to show two ships, in their respective classes, superior to the 'Duke of Wellington' of 130, and the Impé
• rieuse' of 60 guns. The naval review of the 11th August was unquestionably a brilliant demonstration of the steam power of the British navy ; but it has led, not unnaturally, to some exaggerated notions, and an undue depreciation of vessels whose sails are their only means of propulsion. The most important step hitherto taken in the adaptation of steam to the purposes of maritime warfare, was the adoption of the screw propeller, with which the whole of the broadside becomes available for carrying guns; and the ship, unlike the paddle steamer, is equal to any other sailing ship when not under steam. Now this last quality is of the highest importance: for we believe that a vastly larger proportion of the service in any future war, will be performed under sail than under steam. Indeed, if we reflect on the enormous supplies of coal that it will be requisite to send to the depôts and arsenals on foreign stations, it will be evident that to keep pace with the consumption must be a matter of extreme difficulty under the casualties of war; and it is by no means impossible that the day may arrive when the fate of nations will depend on the capture, or safe arrival at its destination, of a convoy of colliers, whose precious freight will then more than ever deserve the appellation of Black Diamonds.
We could have wished, had our limits permitted, to have entered into some detail respecting the great improvements made in our dockyard system in the last five years. We can only state some of the results.
At page 389. of the Report of the Commons' Committee on Dockyard Appointments, we find a return of the numbers of men employed in the yards in each year since 1848. In that and the previous year, upwards of 12,000 men were employed, VOL. XCVIII. NO. CC.