In view of the immense ocean, bay and river line of Eastern Virginia
, numbering several hundred miles in the aggregate, and of the total absence of a single State fortification, leaving us seemingly at the mercy of a fleet of marauding invaders, this question becomes one of absorbing importance.
Yet, after a close examination of the matter, we do not hesitate in saving, that Eastern Virginia
can be speedily, cheaply, and effectually fortified against an invasion from the ocean.
This must be by means of earthwork batteries, at the various points which the coast surveys show to most effectually command the various bays and channels of the tide-water section.
The successful defence of Fort Moultrie
--a miserable work of earth and timber; of Craney Island
, and of New Orleans, in the war of 1812-14, and the hastily-erected batteries in Charleston harbor
, which so effectually pounded out the Federal
troops at Sumter
, are among the hundreds of illustrations of the effective value of this class of fortifications.
But the graphic experiences of the Crimean war, between allied France
, and Russia
, demonstrate this point most conclusively.
The first battle of that war on the Danube
, between the Turks and Russians, was fought by the former more by the spade than the musket; at the second the Turks had also, in comparatively a few days, so strongly entrenched themselves, that when the Russians attempted to carry them by assault, they were driven back with immense slaughter.
The defence of Silistria is, perhaps, the best illustration of the whole.
This place is situated on a point of land running out into the broad river.
It was defended landward by a semi-circular battery of masonry, extending from water to water.
About a thousand yards to the rear of this, an elevated ridge ran entirely across the little peninsula.
In the war of 1829, the Russians took possession of this ridge, and, in a hotly contested siege, compelled the garrison to surrender; but, taught by the experiences of that struggle, the Turks now
seized upon the ridge, upon which they threw up a line of earth-works, against which the whole force of the Russians was directed.
They first attempted to carry them by assault, but terribly defeated in this, they resorted to bombardment, and then to mining.
here turned over a new leaf in the art of defence fortification.
They eagerly listened to the Russians at work below them, and instead of countermanding, simply threw up a new line of works in the rear, so that when a breach was made by explosions, they had a new line erected, with guns bearing immediately upon the opening!
This plan was steadily followed, the Turks regularly resisting with new works as fast as the Russians destroyed the old ones — perpetually exhibiting a perfect line of entrenchments which their enemy could not carry, until, at the end of forty-four days, the Russians raised the siege in despair, leaving the Turks not only with a complete entrenchment, but with unexhausted supplies, and enough room still to fall back upon, so as to have made the siege almost interminable.
The history of this siege taught the world not only that earth works were immensely valuable as a means of attacking fortresses, but that as a means of defence they were superior to masonry, inasmuch as by following out the plan of Silistria, the defence could be protracted to almost any extent, while the duration of defence in a casemate fortress was limited to the time necessary to breach it, or, in other words, a simple calculation of time and force of projectiles.
The remarkably protracted defence of Sebastopol
was due simply to the good sense of Gen. Todliben
in adopting the plan so rudely taught his countrymen at Silistria was rebuilding his entrenchments with earth Steadfast as his casemates were battered to pieces cts.
Woods have only, then, to erect earth fortification on the points we have suggested, to give homes, the women and children of East Virginia
an effectual defence against the ma The State has already a good amount of ordnance, which could be multiplied to almost any extent, by means of the efficient foundries of Richmond
These works will, however, require an immense force of laborers, which should be immediately called into requisition, the points selected, and the work pushed vigorously forward.
We have immense resources for this kind of labor in the following classes:
First, in a large number of our white population, ready and willing to handle the spade in erecting defences for their homes and firesides.
Second, in the surplus slave population, who here, as at Charleston
, could render effective aid.
Third, in the large number of free negroes in Nansemond, Isle of Wight
, and other counties, numbering several thousands, who should at once be employed in this service.
Fourth, in the force of the contractors on our public works, who could be speedily transferred to the new field of operations.
And fifth, in the convicts at the Penitentiary, who, as the labor is stationary, could be effectually secured with the ball and chain, most of whom are now lying idle for want of employment.
With a prompt organization of this force under the lead of competent instructors, with a proper attention to ordnance supplies, Eastern Virginia
can be easily, cheaply, and effectually fortified; and thousands of homes, and hundreds of thousands of defenseless women and children, will be protected from the invader.
Let it be done before it is too late!