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Chapter 7: sea-coast defences..—Brief description of our maritime fortifications, with an Examination of the several Contests that have taken place between ships and forts, including the attack on San Juan d'ulloa, and on St. Jean d'acre

The principal attacks which we have had to sustain, either as colonies or states, from civilized foes, have come from Canada. As colonies we were continually encountering difficulties and dangers from the French possessions. In the war of the Revolution, it being one of national emancipation, the military operations were more general throughout the several states ; but in the war of 1812 the attacks were confined to the northern frontier and a few exposed points along the; coast. In these two contests with Great Britain, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, and New Orleans, being within reach of the British naval power, and offering the dazzling attraction of rich booty, have each been subjected to powerful assaults.

Similar attacks will undoubtedly be made in any future war with England. An attempt at permanent lodgment would be based either on Canada or a servile insurrection in the southern states. The former project, in a military point of view, offers the greatest advantages, but most probably the latter would also be resorted to for effecting a diversion, if nothing more. But for inflicting upon us a sudden and severe injury by the destruction of large amounts of public and private property, our seaport towns offer inducements not likely to be disregarded. This mode of warfare, barbarous though it be, will certainly attend a conflict with any great maritime power. How [156] can we best prepare in time of peace to repel these attacks?

Immediately after the war of 1812 a joint commission of our most distinguished military and naval officers was formed, to devise a system of defensive works, to be erected in time of peace for the security of the most important and the most exposed points on our sea-coast. It may be well here to point out, in very general terms, the positions and character of these works, mentioning only such as have been completed, or are now in course of construction, and such as are intended to be built as soon as Congress shall grant the requisite funds. There are other works projected for some future period, but as they do not belong to the class required for immediate use, they will not be referred to.


Beginning at the northeastern extremity of our coast, we have, for Eastport and Wiscasset, projected works estimated to carry about fifty guns. Nothing has yet been done to these works.

Next Portland, with works carrying about forty or fifty guns, and Fort Penobscot and batteries, carrying about one hundred and fifty guns. These are only partly built.

New Hampshire.

Defenses of Portsmouth and the vicinity, about two hundred guns. These works are also only partly built.


Projected works east of Boston, carrying about sixty guns These are not yet commenced.

Works for defence of Boston Harbor carry about five hundred guns. These are nearly three-quarters completed. Those of New Bedford harbor carry fifty guns: not yet begun. [157]

Rhode Island.

Newport harbor,--works carry about five hundred guns, nearly completed.


New London harbor, New Haven, and the Connecticut river. The first of these nearly completed ; the two latter not yet begun.

New York.

The works projected for the defence of New York harbor are estimated to carry about one thousand guns. These works are not yet one-half constructed.


The works projected for the ;defence of the Delaware Bay and Philadelphia will carry about one hundred and fifty guns. They are not one-quarter built.

Maryland and Virginia.

Baltimore and Annapolis — these works will carry some two hundred and fifty guns. The works for the Chesapeake Bay will carry about six hundred guns; and those for the Potomac river about eighty guns. These are more than one-half completed.

North Carolina.

The works at Beaufort and Smithville carry about one hundred and fifty guns. They are essentially completed.

South Carolina.

The works for the defence of Charleston carry some two hundred guns. They are one-half constructed. [158]


The defences of Savannah carry about two hundred guns, and are nearly three-quarters finished.


The works projected for the defence of St. Augustine, Key West, Tortugas, and Pensacola will carry some eight or nine hundred guns. Those at St. Augustine and Pensacola are essentially completed, but those at Key West and Tortugas are barely begun.


The works for the defence of Mobile will carry about one hundred and sixty guns. These are nearly constructed.


The works for the defence of New Orleans will carry some two hundred and fifty or three hundred guns; they are nearly completed.

The works north of the Chesapeake cost about three thousand dollars per gun; those south of that point about six thousand dollars per gun. This difference in cost is due in part to the character of the soil on which the fortifications are built, and in part to the high prices paid in the south for materials and workmanship.

Having pointed out the character and condition of our system of sea-coast defences, let us briefly examine how far these works may be relied on as a means of security against a maritime descent.

To come to a proper conclusion on this subject, let us first examine the three or four great maritime descents attempted by the English during the wars of the French Revolution; a period at which the great naval superiority of [159] England over other nations, gave her the title of mistress of the seas. Let us notice what have been the results of the several attempts made by this power at maritime invasions, and the means by which such attacks have been repelled.

In 1795, a maritime expedition was fitted out against Quiberon, at an expense of eight millions of dollars. This port of the French coast had then a naval defence of near thirty sail, carrying about sixteen hundred guns. Lord Bridport attacked it with fourteen sail of the line, five frigates, and some smaller vessels, about fifteen hundred guns in all, captured a portion of the fleet, and forced the remainder to take shelter under the guns of the fortifications of L'Orient. The French naval defence being destroyed, the British now entered Quiberon without opposition. This bay is said by Brenton, in his British Naval History, to be “the finest on the coast of France, or perhaps in the world, for landing an army.” Besides these natural advantages in favor of the English, the inhabitants of the surrounding country were in open insurrection, ready to receive the invaders with open arms. A body of ten thousand troops were landed, and clothing, arms, &c., furnished to as many more royalist troops ; but the combined forces failed in their attack upon St. Barbe, and General Hoche, from his intrenchments, with seven thousand men, held in check a body of eighteen thousand, penned up, without defences, in the narrow peninsula. Reinforced by a new debarkation, the allies again attempted to advance, but were soon defeated, and ultimately almost entirely destroyed.

In 1799, the English and Russians made a descent upon Holland with fourteen ships of the line and ten frigates, carrying about eleven hundred guns and a great number of transports, with an army of thirty-six thousand men. The Dutch naval defences consisted of eight ships of the [160] line, three fifty-four gun ships, eight forty-eight gun ships, and eight smaller frigates, carrying in all about twelve hundred guns; but this force contributed little or nothing to the defence, and was soon forced to hoist the hostile flag. The defensive army was at first only twelve thousand, but the Republicans afterwards increased it to twenty-two thousand, and finally to twenty-eight thousand men. But notwithstanding this immense naval and military superiority, and the co-operation of the Orange party in assisting the landing of their troops, the allies failed to get possession of a single strong place; and after a loss of six thousand men, were compelled to capitulate. “Such,” says Alison, “was the disastrous issue of the greatest expedition which had yet sailed from the British harbors during the war.”

In 1801, Nelson, with three ships of the line, two frigates, and thirty-five smaller vessels, made a desperate attack upon the harbor of Boulogne, but was repulsed with severe loss.

Passing over some unimportant attacks, we come to the descent upon the Scheldt, or as it is commonly called, the Walcheren expedition, in 1809. This expedition, though a failure, has often been referred to as proving the expediency of maritime descents. The following is a brief narrative of this expedition :--

Napoleon had projected vast fortifications, dock-yards, and naval arsenals at Flushing and Antwerp for the protection of a maritime force in the Scheldt. But no sooner was the execution of this project begun, than the English fitted out an expedition to seize upon the defences of the Scheldt, and capture or destroy the naval force. Flushing, at the mouth of the river, was but ill-secured, and Antwerp, some sixty or seventy miles further up the river, was entirely defenceless; the rampart was unarmed with cannon, dilapidated, and tottering, and its garrison consisted [161] of only about two hundred invalids and recruits. Napoleon's regular army was employed on the Danube and in the Peninsula. The British attacking force consisted of thirty-seven ships of the line, twenty-three frigates, thirty-three sloops of war, twenty-eight gun, mortar, and bomb vessels, thirty-six smaller vessels, eighty-two gun-boats, in-numerable transports, with over forty thousand troops, and an immense artillery train; making in all, says the English historian, “an hundred.thousand combatants.” A landing was made upon the island of Walcheren, and siege laid to Flushing, which place was not reduced till eighteen days after the landing; the attack upon the water was made by seven or eight ships of the line, and a large flotilla of bomb vessels, but produced no effect. The channel at the mouth of the river was too broad to be defended by the works of Flushing, and the main portion of the fleet passed out of reach of the guns, and ascended the Scheldt part way up to Antwerp. But in the mean time, the fortifications of that place had been repaired, and, after a fruitless operation of a whole month in the river, the English were gradually forced to retreat to Walcheren, and finally to evacuate their entire conquest.

The cost of the expedition was immense, both in treasure and in life. It was certainly very poorly managed. But we cannot help noticing the superior value of fortifications as a defence against such descents. They did much to retard the operations of the enemy till a defensive army could be raised. The works of Flushing were never intended to close up the Scheldt, and of course could not intercept the passage of shipping; but they were not reduced by the English naval force, as has sometimes been alleged. Col. Mitchel, of the English service, says that the fleet “kept up so tremendous a fire upon the batteries, that the French officers who had been present at Austerlitz and Jena, declared that the cannonade in these battles [162] had been a mere jeu d'enfans in comparison. Yet what was the effect produced on the defences of the place by this lire, so formidable, to judge by the sound alone? The writer can answer the question with some accuracy, for he went along the entire sea-line the very day after the capitulation, and found no part of the parapet injured so as to be of the slightest consequence, and only one solitary gun dismounted, evidently by the bursting of a shell, and which could not, of course, have been thrown from the line of battle ships, but must have been thrown from the land batteries.” 1

But it may be said that although great naval descents on a hostile coast are almost always unsuccessful, never-theless a direct naval attack upon a single fortified position will be attended with more favorable results; and that our seaport towns, however fortified, will be exposed to bombardment and destruction by the enemy's fleets. In other words, that in a direct contest between ships and forts the former will have at least an equal chance of success.

Let us suppose a fair trial of this relative strength. The fort is to be properly constructed and in good repair; its guns in a position to be used with effect; its garrison skilful and efficient; its commander capable and brave. The ship is of the very best character, and in perfect order; the crew disciplined and courageous; its commander skilful and adroit; the wind, and tide, and sea — all as could be desired.2 The numbers of the garrison and crew are to be no more than requisite, with no unnecessary exposure of human life to swell the lists of the slain. The issue of this contest, unless attended with [163] extraordinary and easily distinguishable circumstances, would be a fair test of their relative strength.

What result should we anticipate from the nature of the contending forces? The ship, under the circumstances we have supposed, can choose her point of attack, selecting the one she may deem the most vulnerable; but she herself is everywhere vulnerable; her men and guns are much concentrated, and consequently much exposed. But in the fort the guns and men are more distributed, a fort with an interior area of several acres not having a garrison as large as the crew of a seventy-four-gun ship. All parts of the vessel are liable to injury; while the fort offers but a small mark,--the opening of the embrasures, a small part of the carriage, and now and then a head or arm raised above the parapet,--the ratio of exposed surfaces being not less than twenty to one. In the vessel the guns are fired from an oscillating deck, and the balls go at random; in the fort the guns are fired from an immoveable platform, and the balls reach their object with unerring aim. There is always more or less motion in the water, so that the ship's gun, though accurately pointed at one moment, at the next will be thrown entirely away from the object, even when the motion is too slight to be otherwise noticed; whereas in the battery the guns will be fired just as they are pointed; and the motion of the vessel will merely vary to the extent of a few inches the spot in which the shot is received. In the fort the men and guns are behind impenetrable walls of stone and earth; in the vessel they are behind frail bulwarks, whose splinters are equally destructive with the shot. The fort is incombustible; while the ship may readily be set on fire by incendiary projectiles. The ship has many points exposed that may be called vital points. By losing her rudder, or portions of her rigging, or of her spars, she may become unmanageable, and unable to use [164] her strength; she may receive shots under water, and be liable to sink; she may receive hot shot, and be set on fire: these damages are in addition to those of having her guns dismounted and her people killed by shots that pierce her sides and scatter splinters from her timbers; while the risks of the battery are confined to those mentioned above — namely, the risk that the gun, the carriage, or the men may be struck.

The opinions of military writers, and the facts of history, fully accord with these deductions of theory. Some few individuals mistaking, or misstating, the facts of a few recent trials, assert that modern improvements in the naval service have so far outstripped the progress in the art of land defence, that a floating force is now abundantly able to cope, upon equal terms, with a land battery. Ignorant and superficial persons, hearing merely that certain forts had recently yielded to a naval force, and taking no trouble to learn the real facts of the case, have paraded them before the public as proofs positive of a new era in military science. This conclusion, however groundless and absurd, has received credit merely from its novelty. Let us examine the several trials of strength which have taken place between ships and forts within the last fifty years, and see what have been the results.

In 1792 a considerable French squadron attacked Cagliari, whose fortifications were at that time so dilapidated and weak, as scarcely to deserve the name of defences. Nevertheless, the French fleet, after a bombardment of three days, was most signally defeated and obliged to retire.

In 1794 two British ships, “the Fortitude of seventy-four, and the Juno frigate of thirty-two guns,” attacked a small town in the bay of Martello, Corsica, which was armed with one gun in barbette, and a garrison of thirty men. After a bombardment of two and a half hours, these [165] ships were forced to haul off with considerable damage and loss of life. The little tower had received no injury, and its garrison were unharmed. Here were one hundred and six guns afloat against one on shore; and yet the latter was successful.

In 1797 Nelson attacked the little inefficient batteries of Santa Crux, in Teneriffe, with eight vessels carrying four hundred guns. But notwithstanding his great superiority in numbers, skill, and bravery, he was repelled with the loss of two hundred and fifty men, while the garrison received little or no damage. A single ball from the land battery, striking the side of one of his vessels, instantly sunk her with near a hundred seamen and marines!

In 1798, a French flotilla of fifty-two brigs and gunboats, manned with near seven thousand men, attacked a little English redoubt on the island of Marcou, which was armed with two thirty-two-pounders, two six-pounders, four four-pounders, and two carronades, and garrisoned with two hundred and fifty men. Notwithstanding this great disparity of numbers, the little redoubt sunk seven of the enemy's brigs and gunboats, captured another, and forced the remainder to retreat with great loss; while the garrison had but one man killed and three wounded.

In 1801, the French, with three frigates and six thousand men, attacked the poorly-constructed works of Porto Ferrairo, whose defensive force was a motley garrison of fifteen hundred Corsicans, Tuscans, and English. Here the attacking force was four times as great as that of the garrison; nevertheless they were unsuccessful after several bombardments and a siege of five months.

In July of the same year, 1801, Admiral Saumarez, with an English fleet of six ships of the line and two smaller vessels, carrying in all five hundred and two guns, attacked the Spanish and French defences of Algesiras. [166] Supposing the floating forces of the contending parties to be equal, gun for gun, (which is certainly a very fair estimate for the attacking force, considering the circumstances of the case,) we have a French land-battery of only twelve guns opposed by an English floating force of one hundred and ninety-six guns. Notwithstanding this inequality of nearly seventeen to one, the little battery compelled the superior naval force to retreat with great loss.

Shortly after this, the French and Spanish fleets attacked the same English squadron with a force of nearly three to one, but met with a most signal defeat; whereas with a land-battery of only one to seventeen, the same party had been victorious. What proof can be more decisive of the superiority of guns on shore over those afloat!

In 1803 the English garrison of Diamond Rock, near Port Royal Bay, with only one hundred men and some fifteen guns, repelled a French squadron of two seventy-four-gun ships, a frigate, and a brig, assisted by a land attack of two hundred troops. There was not a single man killed or wounded in the redoubt, while the French lost fifty men! The place was afterwards reduced by famine.

In 1806 a French battery on Cape Licosa, of only two guns and a garrison of twenty-five men, resisted the attacks of a British eighty-gun ship and two frigates. The carriage of one of the land-guns failed on the second shot, so that, in fact, only one of them was available during the action. Here was a single piece of ordnance and a garrison of twenty-five men, opposed to a naval force of over one hundred and fifty guns and about thirteen hundred men. And what effects were produced by this strange combat? The attacking force lost thirty-seven men killed and wounded, the eighty-gun ship was much disabled, [167] while the fort and garrison escaped entirely unharmed! What could not be effected by force was afterwards obtained by negotiation.

In 1808 a French land-battery of only three guns, near Fort Trinidad, drove off an English seventy-four-gun ship, and a bomb-vessel.

In 1813 Leghorn, whose defences were of a very mediocre character, and whose garrison at that time was exceedingly weak, was attacked by an English squadron of six ships, carrying over three hundred guns, and a land force of one thousand troops. The whole attempt was a perfect failure.

“In 1814, when the English advanced against Antwerp,” says Colonel Mitchell, an English historian, “Fort Frederick, a small work of only two guns, was established in a bend of the Polder Dyke, at some distance below Lillo. The armament was a long eighteen-pounder and a five and a half inch howitzer. From this post the French determined to dislodge the English, and an eighty-gun ship dropped down with the tide and anchored near the Flanders shore, about six hundred yards from the British battery. By her position she was secured from the fire of the eighteen-pounder, and exposed to that of the howitzer only. As soon as every thing was made tight her broadside was opened; and if noise and smoke were alone sufficient to ensure success in war, as so many of the moderns seem to think, the result of this strange contest would not have been long doubtful, for the thunder of the French artillery actually made the earth to shake again; but though the earth shook, the single British howitzer was neither dismounted nor silenced; and though the artillerymen could not, perfectly exposed as they were, stand to their gun while the iron hail was striking thick and fast around, yet no sooner did the enemy's fire slacken for a moment than they sprang to their [168] post, ready to return at least one shot for eighty. This extraordinary combat lasted from seven o'clock in the morning till near twelve at noon, when the French ship, having had forty-one men killed and wounded, her commander being in the list of the latter, and having besides sustained serious damage in her hull and rigging, returned to Antwerp without effecting any thing whatever. The howitzer was not dismounted, the fort was not injured,--there being in fact nothing to injure,--and the British had only one man killed and two wounded.”

It is unnecessary to further specify examples from the wars of the French Revolution; the whole history of these wars is one continued proof of the superiority of fortifications as a maritime frontier defence. The sea-coast of France is almost within stone's throw3 of the principal British naval depots; here were large towns and harbors, filled with the rich commerce of the world, offering the dazzling attraction of rich booty. The French navy was at this time utterly incompetent to their defence; while England supported a maritime force at an annual expense of near ninety millions of dollars. Her largest fleets were continually cruising within sight of these seaports, and not unfrequently attempting to cut out their shipping. “At this period,” says one of her naval historians, “the naval force of Britain, so multiplied and so expert from long practice, had acquired an intimate knowledge of their (the French) harbors, their bays and creeks; her officers knew the depth of water, and the resistance likely to be met with in every situation.” On the other hand, these harbors and towns were frequently stripped of their garrisons by the necessities of distant wars, being left with no other defence than their fortifications and militia. And yet, notwithstanding all this, they escaped [169] unharmed during the entire contest. They were frequently attacked, and in some instances the most desperate efforts were made to effect a permanent lodgment; but in no case was the success at all commensurate with the expense of life and treasure sacrificed, and no permanent hold was made on either the maritime frontiers of France or her allies. This certainly was owing to no inferiority of skill and bravery on the part of the British navy, as the battles of Aboukir and Trafalgar, and the almost total annihilation of the French marine, have but too plainly proven. Why then did these places escape? We know of no other reason, than that they were fortified; and that the French knew how to defend their fortifications. The British maritime expeditions to Quiberon, Holland, Boulogne, the Scheldt, Constantinople, Buenos Ayres, &c., sufficiently prove the ill-success, and the waste of life and treasure with which they must always be attended. But when her naval power was applied to the destruction of the enemy's marine, and in transporting her land forces to solid bases of operations on the soil of her allies, in Portugal and Belgium, the fall of Napoleon crowned the glory of their achievements.

Let us now examine the several British naval attacks on our own forts, in the wars of the Revolution and of 1812.

In 1776 Sir Peter Parker, with a British :fleet of nine vessels, carrying about two hundred and seventy4 guns, attacked Fort Moultrie, in Charleston harbor, which was then armed with only twenty-six guns, and garrisoned by only three hundred and seventy-five regulars and a few militia. In this contest the British were entirely defeated, and lost, in killed and wounded, two hundred and five men, while their whole two hundred and seventy guns killed and wounded only thirty-two men in the fort. Of this [170] trial of strength, which was certainly a fair one, Cooper, in his Naval History, says :--“It goes fully to prove the important military position that ships cannot withstand forts, when the latter are properly armed, constructed, and garrisoned. General Moultrie says only thirty rounds from the battery were fired, and was of opinion that the want of powder alone prevented the Americans from destroying the men-of-war.”

In 1814 a British fleet of four vessels, carrying ninety-two guns, attacked Fort Boyer, a small redoubt, located on a point of land commanding the passage from the Gulf into the bay of Mobile. This redoubt was garrisoned by only one hundred and twenty combatants, officers included; and its armament was but twenty small pieces of cannon, some of which were almost entirely useless, and most of them poorly mounted “in batteries hastily thrown up, and leaving the gunners uncovered from the knee up-ward,” while the enemy's land force, acting in concert with the ships, consisted of twenty artillerists with a battery of two guns, and seven hundred and thirty marines, Indians, and negroes. His ships carried five hundred and ninety men in all. This immense disparity of numbers and strength did not allow to the British military and naval commanders the slightest apprehension “that four British ships, carrying ninety-two guns, and a land force somewhat exceeding seven hundred combatants, could fail in reducing a small work mounting only twenty short carronades, and defended by a little more than a hundred men, unprovided alike with furnaces for heating shot, or casements to cover themselves from rockets and shells.” Nevertheless, the enemy was completely repulsed; one of his largest ships was entirely destroyed, and 85 men were killed and wounded on board the other; while our loss was only eight or nine. Here a naval force of five to one was repelled by the land-battery. [171]

Again, in 1814, a barbette battery of one four-pounder and two eighteen-pounder guns at Stonington, repelled a British fleet of one hundred and thirty-four guns. During the engagement the Americans exhausted their ammunition, and spiked their eighteen-pounders, arid only one of them was afterwards used. Two of the enemy's ships, carrying one hundred and twelve guus, were engaged during the whole time of attack, and during much of this time bombarded the town from a position beyond reach of the land-battery. They were entirely too far off for the four-pounder gun to be of any use. Supposing the two eighteen-pounders to have been employed during the whole action, and also all the guns of the fleet, one eighteen-pounder on land must have been more than equivalent to sixty-seven guns afloat, for the ships were so much injured as to render it necessary for them to withdraw. The British loss was twenty killed, and more than fifty wounded. Ours was only two killed and six wounded.5

The fleet sent to the attack of Baltimore, in 1814, consisted of forty sail, the largest of which were ships of the line, carrying an army of over six thousand combatants. The troops were landed at North Point, while sixteen of the bomb-vessels and frigates approached within reach of Fort McHenry, and commenced a bombardment which lasted twenty-five hours. During this attack, the enemy threw “fifteen hundred shells, four hundred of which exploded within the walls of the fort, but without making any impression on either the strength of the work or the garrison,” and the British were compelled to retire with much loss.

In 1815, a squadron of British ships, stationed off the mouths of the Mississippi, for the purpose of a blockade ascended the river as high as Fort St. Philip, which is a [172] small work capable of an armament of only twenty guns in all. A heavy fire of shot and shells was continued with but few and short pauses. for nine days and nights, but making no impression either on the fort or garrison, they retreated to their former position at the mouth of the river.

There is but a single instance in the war of 1812, where the enemy's vessels succeeded in reducing a fort; and this has sometimes been alluded to, by persons ignorant of the real facts of the case, as a proof against the ability of our fortifications to resist naval attacks. Even if it were a case of decided failure, would this single exception be sufficient to overthrow the weight of evidence on the other side? We allude to the reduction of the so-called Fort Washington by the British fleet that ascended the Potomac in 1814, to assist in the disgraceful and barbarous operation of burning the capitol and destroying the archives of the nation. Fort Washington was a very small and inefficient work, incorrectly planned by an incompetent French engineer; only a small part of the fort was then built, and it has not yet been completed. The portion constructed was never, until very recently, properly prepared for receiving its armament, and at the time of attack could not possibly have held out a long time. But no defence whatever was made. Capt. Gordon, with a squadron of eight sail, carrying one hundred and seventy-three guns, under orders “6 to ascend the river as high as Fort Washington, and try upon it the experiment of a bombardment,” approached that fort, and, upon firing a single shell, which did no injury to either the fort or the garrison, the latter deserted the works, and rapidly retreated. The commanding officer was immediately dismissed for his cowardice. An English naval officer, who was one of the expedition, in speaking of the retreat of the garrison, says: “We were at loss to account for such an extraordinary [173] step. The position was good, and the capture would have cost us at least fifty men, and more, had it been properly defended; besides, an unfavorable wind and many other chances were in their favor,” &c. The fleet ascended the river to Alexandria, but learning soon afterwards that batteries were preparing at White House and Indian Head to cut off its retreat, it retired, in much haste, but not without injury.

Some have also pretended to find in modern European history a few examples contradictory of the relative power which we have here assigned to ships and forts. Overlooking the numerous and well-authenticated examples, where forts of small dimensions and of small armament have repelled large fleets, they would draw their conclusions from the four or five instances where fleets have gained (as was at first supposed) a somewhat doubtful victory over forts. But a careful and critical examination of the facts in these cases, will show that even these are no exceptions to the general rule of the superiority of guns ashore over guns afloat.

The only instances where it has ever been pretended by writers of any note, that ships have gained advantage, are those of the attack on Copenhagen in 1801; the passage of the Dardanelles, in 1807; the attack on Algiers, in 1816; the attack on San Juan d'ulloa, in 1838; and the attack on St. Jean d'acre, in 1840.

Let us examine these examples a little in detail :--

Copenhagen.--The British fleet sent to attack Copenhagen, in 1801, consisted of fifty-two sail, eighteen of them being line-of-battle ships, four frigates, &c. They sailed from Yarmouth roads on the 12th of March, passed the Sound on the 30th, and attacked and defeated the Danish line on the 2d of April.

The Sound between Cronenberg and the Swedish coast is about two and a half miles wide, (vide Fig. 34.) The [174] batteries of Cronenberg and Elsinore were lined with one hundred pieces of cannon and. mortars; but the Swedish battery had been much neglected, and then mounted only six guns. Nevertheless, the British admiral, to avoid the damage his squadron would have to sustain in the passage of this wide channel, defended by a force scarcely superior to a single one of his ships, preferred to attempt the difficult passage of the Belt; but after a few of his light vessels, acting as scouts, had run on rocks, he returned to the Sound.

He then tried to negotiate a peaceful passage, threatening, however, a declaration of war if his vessels should be fired upon. It must be remembered that at this time England was at peace with both Denmark and Sweden, and that no just cause of war existed. Hence, the admiral inferred that the commanders of these batteries would be loath to involve their countries in a war with so formidable a power as England, by commencing hostilities, when only a free passage was asked. The Danish commander replied, that he should not permit a fleet to pass his post, whose object and destination were unknown to him. He fired upon them, as he was bound to do by long-existing commercial regulations, and not as an act of hostility against the English. The Swedes, on the contrary, remained neutral, and allowed the British vessels to lie near by for several days without firing upon them. Seeing this friendly disposition of the Swedes, the fleet neared their coast, and passed out of the reach of the Danish batteries, which opened a fire of balls and shells; but all of them fell more than two hundred yards short of the fleet, which escaped without the loss of a single man.

The Swedes excused their treachery by the plea that it would have been impossible to construct batteries at that season, and that, even had it been possible, Denmark [175] would not have consented to their doing so, for fear that Sweden would renew her old claim to one half of the rich duties levied by Denmark on all ships passing the strait. There may have been some grounds for the last excuse; but the true reason for their conduct was the fear of getting involved in a war with England. Napoleon says that, even at that season, a few days would have been sufficient for placing a hundred guns in battery, and that Sweden had much more time than was requisite. And with a hundred guns on each side of the channel, served with skill and energy, the fleet must necessarily have sustained so much damage as to render it unfit to attack Copenhagen.

On this passage, we remark:--

1st. The whole number of guns and mortars in the forts of the Sound amounted to only one hundred and six, while the fleet carried over seventeen hundred guns; and yet, with this immense superiority of more than sixteen to one, the British admiral preferred the dangerous passage of the Belt to encountering the fire of these land-batteries.

2d. By negotiations, and threatening the vengeance of England, he persuaded the small Swedish battery to remain silent and allow the fleet to pass near that shore, out of reach of Cronenberg and Elsinore.

3d. It is the opinion of Napoleon and the best English writers, that if the Swedish battery had been put in order, and acted in concert with the Danish works, they might have so damaged the fleet as to render it incapable of any serious attempt on Copenhagen.

We now proceed to consider the circumstances attending the attack and defence of Copenhagen itself. The only side of the town exposed to the attack of heavy shipping is the northern, where there lies a shoal extending out a considerable distance, leaving only a very narrow approach to the heart of the city, (Fig. 35.) On the most [176] advanced part of this shoal are the Crown-batteries, car rying in all eighty-eight guns.6 The entrance into the Baltic between Copenhagen and Salthorn, is divided into two channels by a bank, called the Middle Ground, which is situated directly opposite Copenhagen. To defend the entrance on the left of the Crown-batteries, they placed near the mouth of the channel four ships of the line, one frigate, and two sloops, carrying in all three hundred and fifty-eight guns. To secure the port and city from bombardment from the King's Channel, (that between the Middle Ground and town,) a line of floating defences were moored near the edge of the shoal, and manned principally by volunteers. This line consisted of old hulls of vessels, block-ships, prames, rafts, &c., carrying in all six hundred and twenty-eight guns — a force strong enough to prevent the approach of bomb-vessels and gunboats, (the purpose for which it was intended,) but utterly incapable of contending with first-rate ships of war; but these the Danes thought would be deterred from approaching by the difficulties of navigation. These difficulties were certainly very great; and Nelson said, beforehand, that “the wind which might carry him in would most probably not bring out a crippled ship.” Had the Danes supposed it possible for Nelson to approach with his large vessels, the line of floating defences would have been formed nearer Copenhagen, the right supported by batteries raised on the isle of Amack. “In that case,” says Napoleon, “it is probable that Nelson would have failed in his attack; for it would have been impossible for him to pass between the line and shore thus lined with cannon.” As it was, the line was too extended for strength, and its right too far advanced to receive assistance from the battery of [177] Amack. A part of the fleet remained as a reserve, under Admiral Parker, while the others, under Nelson, advanced to the King's Channel. This attacking force consisted of eight ships of the line and thirty-six smaller vessels, carrying in all eleven hundred guns, (without including those in the six gun-brigs, whose armament is not given.) One of the seventy-four-gun ships could :not be brought into action, and two others grounded; but, Lord Nelson says, “although not in the situation assigned them, yet they were so placed as to be of great service.” This force was concentrated upon a part of the Danish line of floating defences, the whole of which was not only inferior to it by three hundred and eighty-two guns, but so situated as to be beyond the reach of succor, and without a chance of escape. The result was what night have been expected. Every vessel of the right and centre of this outer Danish line was taken or destroyed, except one or two small ones, which cut and run under protection of the fortifications. The left of the line, being supported by the Crown-battery, remained unbroken. A division of frigates, in hopes of providing an adequate substitute for the ships intended to attack the batteries, ventured to engage them, but “it suffered considerable loss, and, in spite of all its efforts, was obliged to relinquish this enterprise, and sheer off.”

The Danish vessels lying in the entrance of the channel which leads to the city, were not attacked, and took no material part in the contest. They are to be reckoned in the defence on the same grounds that the British ships of the reserve should be included in the attacking force. Nor was any use made of the guns on shore, for the enemy did not advance far enough to be within their range.

The Crown-battery was behind the Danish line, and mainly masked by it. A part only of its guns could be used in support of the left of this line, and in repelling the [178] direct attacks of the frigates, which it did most effectually. But we now come to a new feature in this battle. As the Danish line of floating defences fell into the hands of the English, the range of the Crown-battery enlarged, and its power was felt. Nelson saw the danger to which his fleet was exposed, and, being at last convinced of the prudence of the admiral's signal for retreat, “made up his mind to weigh anchor and retire from the engagement.” To retreat, however, from his present position, was exceedingly difficult and dangerous. He therefore determined to endeavor to effect an armistice, and dispatched the following letter to the prince-regent:

Lord Nelson has directions to spare Denmark when no longer resisting; but if the firing is continued on the part of Denmark, Lord Nelson must be obliged to set on fire all the floating batteries he has taken, without the power to save the brave Danes who have defended them.

This produced an armistice, and hostilities had hardly ceased, when three of the English ships, including that in which Nelson himself was, struck upon the bank. “They were in the jaws of destruction, and would never have escaped if the batteries had continued their fire. They therefore owed their safety to this armistice.” A convention was soon. signed, by which every thing was left in status quo, and the fleet of Admiral Parker allowed. to proceed into the Baltic. Edward Baines, the able English historian of the wars of the French Revolution, in speaking of Nelson's request for an armistice, says: “This letter, which exhibited a happy union of policy and courage, was written at a moment when Lord Nelson perceived that, in consequence of the unfavorable state of the wind, the admiral was not likely to get up to aid the enterprise; that the principal batteries of the enemy, and the ships at the mouth of the harbor, were yet untouched; that two of his own division had grounded, and others were [179] likely to share the same fate” Campbell says these batteries and ships “were still unconquered. Two of his [Nelson's] own vessels were grounded and exposed to a heavy fire; others, if the battle continued, might be exposed to a similar fate, while he found it would be scarcely practicable to bring off the prizes under the fire of the batteries.”

With respect to the fortifications of the town, a chronicler of the times says they were of no service while the action lasted. “They began to fire when the enemy took possession of the abandoned ships, but it was at the same time the parley appeared.” The Danish commander, speaking of the general contest between the two lines, says: “The Crown-battery did not come at all into action.” An English writer says distinctly: “( The works (fortifications) of Copenhagen were absolutely untouched at the close of the action.” Colonel Mitchel, the English historian, says: “Lord Nelson never fired a shot at the town or fortifications of Copenhagen; he destroyed a line of block-ships, prames, and floating batteries that defended the sea approach to the town; and the Crown. Prince, seeing his capital exposed, was willing to finish by armistice a war, the object of which was neither very popular nor well understood. What the result of the action between Copenhagen and the British fleet might ultimately have been, is therefore altogether uncertain. The Bombardment of Copenhagen by Nelson, as it is generally styled, is therefore, like most other oracular phrases of the day, a mere combination of words, without the slightest meaning.”

The British lost in killed and wounded nine hundred and forty-three men; and the loss of the Danes, according to their own account, which is confirmed by the French, was but very little higher. The English, however, say it amounted to sixteen or eighteen hundred; but let the loss [180] be what it may, it was almost exclusively confined to the floating defences, and can in no way determine the relative accuracy of aim of the guns ashore and guns afloat.

The facts and testimony we have adduced, prove incontestably--

1st. That of the fleet of fifty-two sail and seventeen hundred guns sent by the English to the attack upon Copenhagen, two ships carrying one hundred and forty-eight guns were grounded or wrecked; seven ships of the line, and thirty-six smaller vessels, carrying over one thousand guns, were actually brought into the action; while the remainder were held as a reserve to act upon the first favorable opportunity.

2d. That the Danish line of floating defences, consisting mostly of hulls, sloops, rafts, &c., carried only six hundred and twenty-eight guns of all descriptions; that the fixed batteries supporting this line did not carry over eighty or ninety guns at most; and that both these land and floating batteries were mostly manned and the guns served by volunteers.

3d. That the fixed batteries in the system of defence were either so completely masked, or so far distant, as to be useless during the contest between the fleet and floating force.

4th. That the few guns of these batteries which were rendered available by the position of the floating defences, repelled, with little or no loss to themselves, and some injury to the enemy, a vastly superior force of frigates which attacked them.

5th. That the line of floating defences was conquered and mostly destroyed, while the fixed batteries were uninjured.

6th. That the fortifications of the city and of Amack island were not attacked, and had no part in the contest.

7th. That, as soon as the Crown-batteries were unmasked [181] and began to act, Nelson prepared to retreat, but, on account of the difficulty of doing so, he opened a parley, threatening, with a cruelty unworthy of the most barbarous ages, that, unless the batteries ceased their fire upon his ships, he would burn all the floating defences with the Danish prisoners in his possession; and that this armistice was concluded just in time to save his own ships from destruction.

8th. That, consequently, the battle of Copenhagen cannot be regarded as a contest between ships and forts, or a triumph of ships over forts: that, so far as the guns on shore were engaged, they showed a vast superiority over those afloat — a superiority known and confessed by the English themselves.

Constantinople.--The channel of the Dardanelles is about twelve leagues long, three miles wide at its entrance, and about three-quarters of a mile at its narrowest point. Its principal defences are the outer and inner castles of Europe and Asia, and the castles of Sestos and Abydos. Constantinople stands about one hundred miles from its entrance into the Sea of Marmora, and at nearly the opposite extremity of this sea. The defences of the channel had been allowed to go to decay; but few guns were mounted, and the forts were but partially garrisoned. In Constantinople not a gun was mounted, and no preparations for defence were made; indeed, previous to the approach of the fleet, the Turks had not determined whether to side with the English or the French, and even then the French ambassador had the greatest difficulty in persuading them to resist the demands of Duckforth.

The British fleet consisted of six sail of the line, two frigates, two sloops, and several bomb-vessels, carrying eight hundred and eighteen guns, (besides those in the bomb-ships.) Admiral Duckforth sailed through the Dardanelles on the 19th of February, 1807, with little or no [182] opposition. This being a Turkish festival day, the soldiers of the scanty garrison were enjoying the festivities of the occasion, and none were left to serve the few guns of the forts which had been prepared for defence. But while the admiral was waiting on the Sea of Marmora for the result of negotiations, or for a favorable wind to make the attack upon Constantinople, the fortifications of this city were put in order, and the Turks actively employed, under French engineers and artillery officers, in repairing the defences of the Straits. Campbell, in his Naval History, says :--“Admiral Duckforth now fully perceived the critical situation in which he was placed. He might, indeed, succeed, should the weather become favorable, in bombarding Constantinople; but unless the bombardment should prove completely successful in forcing the Turks to pacific terms, the injury he might do to the city would not compensate for the damage which his fleet must necessarily sustain. With this damaged and crippled fleet, he must repass the Dardanelles, now rendered infinitely stronger than they were when he came through them.”

Under these circumstances the admiral determined to retreat; and on the 3d of April escaped through the Dardanelles, steering midway of the channel, with a favorable and strong current. “This escape, however,” says Baines, “was only from destruction, but by no means from serious loss and injury. * * * * In what in-stance in the whole course of our naval warfare, have ships received equal damage in so short a time as in this extraordinary enterprise?” In detailing the extent of this damage, we will take the ships in the order they descended. The first had her wheel. carried away, and her hull much damaged, but escaped with the loss of only three men. A stone shot penetrated the second, between the poop and quarter deck, badly injured the mizzen-mast, carried away the wheel, and did other serious damage, killing [183] and wounding twenty men. Two shot struck the third, carrying away her shrouds and injuring her masts; loss in killed and wounded, thirty. The fourth had her mainmast destroyed, with a loss of sixteen. The fifth had a large shot, six feet eight inches in circumference, enter her lower deck; loss fifty-five. The sixth, not injured. The seventh, a good deal damaged, with a loss of seventeen. The eighth had no loss. The ninth was so much injured that, “had there been a necessity for hauling the wind on the opposite tack, she must have gone down :” her loss was eight. The tenth lost twelve. The eleventh was much injured, with a loss of eight--making a total loss in repassing the Dardanelles, of one hundred and sixty-seven; and in the whole expedition two hundred and eighty-one, exclusive of two hundred and fifty men who perished in the burning of the Ajax.

Such was the effect produced on the British fleet, sailing with a favorable wind and strong current past the half-armed and half-manned forts of the Dardanelles. Duckforth himself says, that “had he remained before Constantinople much longer — till the forts had been completely put in order — no return would have been open to him, and the unavoidable sacrifice of the squadron must have been the consequence.” Scarcely had the fleet cleared the Straits, before it (the fleet) was reinforced with eight sail of the line; but, even with this vast increase of strength, the English did not venture to renew the contest. They had effected a most fortunate escape. General Jomini says that if the defence had been conducted by a more enter-prising and experienced people, the expedition would have cost the English their whole squadron.

Great as was the damage done to the fleet, the forts themselves were uninjured. The English say their own fire did no execution, the shot in all probability not even strikng their objects--“the rapid change of position, occasioned [184] by a fair wind and current, preventing the certainty of aim.” The state of the batteries when the fleet first passed, is thus described in James's Naval History: “Some of them were dilapidated, and others but partially mounted and poorly manned.” And Alison says: “They had been allowed to fall into disrepair. The castles of Europe and Asia, indeed, stood in frowning majesty, to assert the dominion of the Crescent at the narrowest part of the passage, but their ramparts were antiquated, their guns in part dismounted, and such as remained, though of enormous calibre, little calculated to answer the rapidity and precision of an English broadside.”

Much has been said because the fortifications of the Dardanelles did not hermetically seal that channel, (an object they were never expected to accomplish, even had they been well armed and well served;) but it is forgotten, or entirely overlooked, that twelve Turkish line-of-battle-ships, two of them three-deckers, with nine frigates, were with their sails bent and in apparent readiness, filled with troops, and lying within the line of fortifications; and yet this naval force effected little or nothing against the invaders. It is scarcely ever mentioned, being regarded of little consequence as a means of defence ; and yet the number of its guns and the expense of its construction and support, could hardly have fallen short of the incomplete and half-armed forts, some of which were as ancient as the reign of Amurath!

Algiers.--The following narrative of the attack on Algiers, in 1816, is drawn from the reports of the English and Dutch admirals, and other official and authentic English papers.

The attack was made by the combined fleets, consisting of five sail of the line, eighteen or twenty frigates and smaller vessels, besides five bomb-vessels and several rocket-boats, carrying in all about one thousand guns. The armament of some of the smaller vessels is not given, [185] but the guns of those whose armaments are known, amount to over nine hundred. The harbor and defences of Algiers had been previously surveyed by Captain Warde, royal navy, under Lord Exmouth's direction; and the number of the combined fleet was arranged according to the information given in this survey — just so many ships, and no more, being taken, as could be employed to advantage against the city, without being needlessly exposed. Moreover, the men and officers had been selected and exercised with reference to this particular attack.

From the survey of Captain Warde, and the accompanying map, it appears that the armament of all the fortifications of Algiers and the vicinity, counting the water fronts and the parts that could flank the shore, was only two hundred and eighty-four guns of various sizes and descriptions, including mortars. But not near all of these could act upon the fleet as it lay. Other English accounts state the number of guns actually opposed to the fleet at from two hundred and twenty to two hundred and thirty. Some of these were in small and distant batteries, whereas nearly all the fleet was concentrated on the mole-head works. (Fig. 36.) Supposing only one broadside of the ships to have been engaged, the ratio of the forces, as expressed by the number of guns, must have been about as 5 to 2. This is a favorable supposition for the ships; for we know that several of them, from their position and a change of anchorage, brought both broadsides to bear; moreover, at no one time could all the guns of the water fronts of the batteries bear on the attacking ships. The Algerine shipping in the harbor was considerable, including several vessels of war, but no use was made of them in defence, and nearly all were burnt. The attacking ships commanded some of the batteries, and almost immediately dismounted their guns. The walls of the casemated works were so thin as to be very soon battered [186] down. Most of the Algerine guns were badly mounted, and many of them were useless after the first fire. They had no furnaces for heating shot, and, as “they loaded their guns with loose powder, put in with a ladle,” they could not possibly have used hot shot, even had they constructed furnaces. The ships approached the forts, and many of them anchored in their intended position, without a shot being fired from the batteries. The action commenced at a quarter before three, and did not entirely cease till half-past 11. The ships then took advantage of the land breeze, and, by warping and towing off were able to get under sail and come to anchor beyond reach of the land-batteries. Negotiations were again opened, and the Dey surrendered the Christian slaves and yielded to the terms of the treaty.

During the contest, the fleet “fired nearly one hundred and eighteen tons of powder, and fifty thousand shot, (weighing more than five hundred tons of iron,) besides nine hundred and sixty thirteen and ten-inch shells, (thrown by the bomb-vessels,) and the shells and rockets from the flotilla.” The vessels were considerably crippled, and their loss in killed and wounded amounted to eight hundred and eighty-three. The land batteries were much injured, and a large part of their guns dismounted. Their loss is not known; the English confess they could obtain no account of it, but suppose it to have been very great. This seems more than probable; for, besides those actually employed in the defence, large numbers of people crowded into the forts to witness the contest. So great was this curiosity, that, when the action commenced, the parapets were covered with the multitude gazing at the manoeuvres of the ships. To avoid so unnecessary and indiscriminate a slaughter, Lord Exmouth (showing a humanity that does him great credit) motioned with his hand to the ignorant wretches to retire to some place of [187] safety. This loss of life in the batteries, the burning of the buildings within the town and about the mole, the entire destruction of their fleet and merchant vessels anchored within the mole and in the harbor, had a depressing effect upon the inhabitants, and probably did more than the injuries received by the batteries in securing an honorable conclusion to the treaty. We know very well that these batteries, though much injured, were not silenced when Lord Exmouth took advantage of the land breeze and sailed beyond their reach. The ships retired-1st, because they had become much injured, and their ammuninition nearly exhausted; 2d, in order to escape from a position so hazardous in case of a storm; and 3d, to get beyond the reach of the Algerine batteries. Lord Exmouth himself gives these as his reasons for the retreat, and says, “the land wind saved me many a gallant fellow.” And Vice-admiral Von de Capellan, in his report of the battle, gives the same opinion: “in this retreat,” says he, “which, from wantof wind and the damage suffered in the rigging, was very slow, the ships had still to suffer much, from the new-opened and redoubled fire of the enemy's batteries; at last, the land breeze springing up,” &c. An English officer, who took part in this affair, says: “It was well for us that the land wind came off, or we should never have got out; and God knows what would have been our fate, had we remained all night.”

The motives of the retreat cannot, therefore, be doubted. Had the Arabs set themselves zealously at work, during the night, to prepare for a new contest, by remounting their guns, and placing others behind the ruins of those batteries which had fallen,--in other words, had the works now been placed in hands as skilful and experienced as the English, the contest would have been far from ended. But (to use the words of the Board of Defence) Lord Exmouth relied on the effects produced on [188] the people by his dreadful cannonade; and the result proves that he was right. His anxiety to clear the vessels from the contest shows that there was a power still unconquered, which he thought it better to leave to be restrained by the suffering population of the city, than to keep in a state of exasperation and activity by his presence. What was this power but an unsubdued energy in the batteries?

The true solution of the question is, then, not so much the amount of injury done on the one side or the other — particularly as there was on one side a city to suffer as well as the batteries — as the relative efficiency of the parties when the battle closed. All political agitation and popular clamor aside, what would have been the result had the fight been continued, or even had Lord Exmouth renewed it next morning? These are questions that can be answered only on conjecture; but the manner the battle ended certainly leaves room for many doubts whether, had the subsequent demands of Lord Exmouth been rejected, he had it in his power to enforce them by his ships; whether, indeed, if he had renewed the fight, he would not have been signally defeated. On the whole, we do not think that this battle, although it stands preeminent as an example of naval success over batteries, presents an argument to shake the confidence which fortifications, well situated, well planned, and well fought, deserve, as the defences of a seaboard.

We cannot help regarding these conclusions as just, when we reflect upon all the circumstances of the case. The high character, skill, and bravery of the attacking force; their immense superiority in number of guns, with no surplus human life to be exposed; the antiquated and ill-managed works of defence, the entire want of skill of the Algerine artillerists, and the neglect of the ordinary means of preparation; the severe execution which these [189] ill-served guns did upon the enemy's ships,--an execution far more dreadful than that effected by the French or Dutch fleets in their best-contested naval battles with the ships of the same foe,--from these facts, we must think that those who are so ready to draw from this case conclusions unfavorable to the use of land-batteries as a means of defence against shipping, know but little of the nature of the contest.

An English historian of some note, in speaking of this attack, says:--“It is but little to the purpose, unless to prove what may be accomplished by fleets against towns exactly so circumstanced, placed, and governed. Algiers is situated on an amphitheatre of hills, sloping down towards the sea, and presenting therefore the fairest mark to the fire of hostile ships. But where is the capital exactly so situated that we are ever likely to attack? And as to the destruction of a few second-rate towns, even when practicable, it is a mean, unworthy species of warfare, by which nothing was ever gained. The severe loss sustained before Algiers must also be taken into account, because it was inflicted by mere Algerine artillery, and was much inferior to what may be expected from a contest maintained against batteries manned with soldiers instructed by officers of skill and science, not only in working the guns, but in the endless duty of detail necessary for keeping the whole of an artillery material in a proper state of formidable efficiency.”

San Juan d'ulloa.--The following facts, relative to the attack on San Juan d'ulloa by the French, in 1.838, are drawn principally from the report of a French engineer officer who was one of the expedition.

The French fleet consisted of four ships, carrying one hundred and eighty-eight guns, two armed steamboats, and two bomb-ketches with four large mortars. The whole number of guns, of whatever description, found in [190] the fort was one hundred and eighty-seven; a large portion of these, however, were for land defence. (Fig. 37.)

When the French vessels were towed into the position selected for the attack, “it was lucky for us,” says the French officer in his report, “that the Mexicans did not disturb this operation, which lasted nearly two hours, and that they permitted us to commence the fire.” “We were exposed to the fire of one twenty-four-pounder, five sixteen-pounders, seven twelve-pounders, one eight-pounder, and five eighteen-pounder carronades--in all nineteen pieces only.” If these be converted into equivalent twenty-four-pounders, in proportion to the weight of the balls, the whole nineteen guns will be less than twelve twenty-four pounders. This estimate is much too great, for it allows three eight-pounders to be equal to one twenty-four-pounder, and each of the eighteen-pounder carronades to be three quarters the power of a long twenty-four-pounder; where-as, at the distance at which the parties were engaged, these small pieces were nearly harmless. Two of the powder magazines, from not being bomb-proof, were blown up during the engagement, by which three of the nineteen guns on the water front of the castle were dismounted; thus reducing the land force to an equivalent of ten twenty-four-pounders. The other sixteen guns were still effective when abandoned by the Mexicans. The cannonade and bombardment continued about six hours, eight thousand two hundred and fifty shot and shells being fired at the fort by the French. The principal injury received by the work was from the explosion of the powder magazine. But very few guns were dismounted by the fire of the French ships, and only three of these on the water front. The details of the condition of the ships and fort are given in the report of the French officer,7 but it is unnecessary to repeat them here. [191]

In general terms, it appears from the above-mentioned report, that the number of guns actually brought into action by the floating force, (counting only one broadside of the ship,) amounted to ninety-four guns, besides four heavy sea-mortars; that the whole number so employed in the fort was only nineteen, including the smallest calibres; that these guns were generally so small and inefficient, that their balls would not enter the sides of the ordinary attacking frigates; the principal injury sustained by the castle was produced by the explosion of powder magazines injudiciously placed. and improperly secured; that the castle, though built of poor materials, was but slightly injured by the French fire; that the Mexicans proved themselves ignorant of the ordinary means of defence, and abandoned their works when. only a few of their guns had been dismounted; that not-withstanding all the circumstances in favor of the French, their killed and wounded, in proportion to the guns acting against them, was upwards of four times as great as the loss of the English at the battle of Trafalgar!

St. Jean d'acre.--The narratives of the day contained most exaggerated accounts of the English attack on St. Jean d'acre; now, however, the principal facts connected with this attack are fully authenticated. For the amount of the fleet we quote from the British officials papers, a(nd for that of the fort, from the pamphlet of Lieutenant-colonel Matuszewiez. These statements are mainly confirmed by the narratives, more recently published, of several English and French eye-witnesses.

The fortifications were built of poor materials, antiquated in their plans, and much decayed. Their entire armament amounted to only two hundred guns, some of which were merely field-pieces. The water fronts were armed with one hundred cannon and sixteen mortars, those of the smaller calibre included. (Fig. 38.) When approached by the British fleet, the works were undergoing repairs, and, [192] says Commodore Napier, “were fast getting into a state of preparation against attack.”

The British fleet consisted of eight ships of the line, carrying six hundred and forty-six guns; six frigates, carrying two hundred and thirty-six guns; four steamers, carrying eighteen guns; and two or three other vessels, whose force is not given. “Only a few guns,” says Napier, “defended the approach from the northward,” and most of the ships came in from that direction. The western front was armed with about forty cannon; but opposed to this were six ships and two steamers, carrying about five hundred guns. Their fire was tremendous during the engagement, but no breach was made in the walls. The south front was armed in part by heavy artillery and in part by field-pieces. This front was attacked by six ships and two steamers, carrying over two hundred guns. The eastern front was armed only with light artillery; against this was concentrated the remainder of the fleet, carrying about two hundred and forty guns. The guns of the works were so poorly mounted, that but few could be used at all; and these, on account of the construction of the fort, could not reach the ships, though anchored close by the walls. “Only five of their guns,” says Napier, “placed in a flanking battery, were well served, and never missed; but they were pointed too high, and damaged our spars and rigging only.” The stone was of so poor a quality, says the narrative of Colonel Matuszewiez, that the walls fired upon presented on the exterior a shattered appearance, but they were nowhere seriously injured. In the words of Napier, “they were not breached, and a determined enemy might have remained secure under the breast-works, or in the numerous casemates, without suffering much loss.” The accidental explosion of a magazine within the fort, containing six thousand casks of powder, laid in ruins a space of sixty thousand square yards, opened a large [193] breach in the walls of the fortifications, partially destroyed the prisons, and killed and wounded a thousand men of the garrison. This frightful disaster, says the French account, hastened the triumph of the fleet. The prisoners and malefactors, thus released from confinement, rushed upon the garrison at the same time with the mountaineers, who had besieged the place on the land side. The uselessness of the artillery, the breaches of the fort, the attacks of the English, all combined to force the retreat of the garrison, “in the midst of scenes of blood and atrocious murders.”

We will close this account with the following extract of a speech of the Duke of Wellington, in the House of Lords, Feb. 4, 1841: “He had had,” he said, “a little experience in services of this nature; and he thought it his duty to warn their lordships, on this occasion, that they must not always expect that ships, however well commanded, or however gallant their seamen might be, were capable of commonly engaging successfully with stone walls. He had no recollection, in all his experience, except the recent instance on the coast of Syria, of any fort being taken by ships, excepting two or three years ago, when the fort of San Juan d'ulloa was captured by the French fleet. This was, he thought, the single instance that he recollected, though he believed that something of the sort had occurred at the siege of Havana, in 1763. The present achievement he considered one of the greatest of modern times. This was his opinion, and he gave the highest credit to those who had performed such a service. It was, altogether, a most skilful proceeding. He was greatly surprised at the small number of men that was lost on board the fleet; and, on inquiring how it happened, he discovered that it was because the vessels were moored within one-third of the ordinary distance. The guns of the fortress were intended to strike objects at a greater distance ; and the consequence [194] was, that the shot went over the ships that were anchored at one-third the usual distance. By that means, they sustained not more than one-tenth of the loss which they would otherwise have experienced. Not less than five hundred pieces of ordnance were directed against the walls, and the precision with which the fire was kept up, the position of the vessels, and, lastly, the blowing up of the large magazine — all aided in achieving this great victory in so short a time. He had thought it right to say thus much, because he wished to warn the public against supposing that such deeds as this could be effected every day. He would repeat that this was a singular instance, in the achievement of which undoubtedly great skill was manifested, but which was also connected with peculiar circumstances, which they could not hope always to occur. It must not therefore be expected, as a matter of course, that all such attempts must necessarily succeed.”

Having completed our examination of the ability of land batteries to cope, gun for gun, with a naval force, let us consider, for a few moments, the objection which is sometimes made to the use of fortifications for the defence of the sea-coast, viz.: that our maritime cities and arsenals can be better and more economically secured by a home squadron.

We have already alluded to the impossibility of substituting one means of defence for another. The efficiency of the bayonet can in no way enable us to dispense with artillery, nor the value of engineer troops in the passage of rivers, and the attack and defence of forts, render cavalry the less necessary in other operations of a campaign. To the navy alone must we look for the defence of our shipping upon the high seas; but it cannot replace fortifications in the protection of our harbors, bays, rivers, arsenals, and. commercial towns.

Let us take a case in point. For the defence of New York city, it is deemed highly important that the East [195] River should be closed to the approach of a hostile fleet at least fifteen or twenty miles from the city, so that an army landed there would have to cross the Westchester creek, the Bronx, Harlem river, and the defiles of Harlem heights — obstacles of great importance in a judicious defence. Throg's Neck is the position selected for this purpose; cannon placed there not only command the channel, but, from the windings of the river, sweep it for a great distance above and below. No other position, even in the channel itself, possesses equal advantages. Hence, if we had only naval means of defence, it would be best, were such a thing possible, to place the floating defences themselves on this point. Leaving entirely out of consideration the question of relative power, position alone would give the superior efficiency to the fort. But there are other considerations no less important than that of position. Fort Schuyler can be garrisoned and defended in part by the same militia force which will be employed to prevent the march of the enemy's army on the city. On the other hand, the crews of the floating defences must be seamen; they will consequently be of less value in the subsequent land operations. Moreover, forts, situated as this is, can be so planned as to bring to bear upon any part of the channel a greater number of guns than can be presented by any hostile squadron against the corresponding portion of the fort. This result can be obtained with little difficulty in narrow channels, as is done in most of the other works for the defence of New York, the works for Boston, Newport, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, &c., and an approximation to it is not incompatible with the defence of the broader estuaries, like the Chesapeake.

But we will suppose that there are no such points of land, in the inlets to our harbors, and that we rely for defence upon a naval force exclusively. Let us leave out of [196] consideration the security of all our other harbors and our commerce on the high seas, and also the importance of having at command the means of attacking the enemy's coast, in the absence of his fleet. We take the single case of the attack being made on New York harbor, and that our whole fleet is assembled there. Now, if this fleet be equal in number to the enemy, the chances of success may be regarded as equal; if inferior, the chances are against us — for an attacking force would probably be of picked men and of the best materials. But here the consequences of victory are very unequal: the enemy can lose his squadron only, while we put in peril both our squadron and the objects it is intended to defend. If we suppose our own naval force superior to that of the enemy, the defence of this harbor would in all respects be complete, provided this force never left the harbor. But, then, all the commerce of the country upon the ocean must be left to its fate; and no attempt can be made to react offensively upon the foe, unless we can control the chances of finding the enemy's fleets within his ports, and the still more uncertain chance of keeping him there; the escape of a single vessel being sufficient to cause the loss of our harbor.”

These remarks are based upon the supposition that we have but the single harbor of New York; whereas Portland, Portsmouth, Boston, Newport, the Delaware, the Chesapeake, Charleston, Savannah, Pensacola, Mobile, New Orleans, and numerous other places, are equally open to attack, and therefore must be equally defended, for we know not to which the enemy will direct his assaults. If he come to one of these in the absence of our fleet, his object is attained without resistance; or, if his whole force be concentrated upon one but feebly defended, we involve both fleet and harbor in inevitable ruin. Could our fleet be so arranged as to meet these enterprises? [197] “As it cannot be denied that the enemy can select the point of attack out of the whole extent of coast, where is the prescience that can indicate the spot? And if it cannot be foretold, how is that ubiquity to be imparted that shall always place our fleet in the path of the advancing foe? Suppose we attempt to cover the coast by cruising in front of it, shall we sweep its whole length — a distance scarcely less than that which the enemy must traverse in passing from his coast to ours? Must the Gulf of Mexico be swept, as well as the Atlantic; or shall we give up the Gulf to the enemy? Shall we cover the southern cities, or give them up also? We must unquestionably do one of two things — either relinquish a great extent of coast, confining our cruisers to a small portion only, or include so much that the chances of intercepting an enemy would seem to be out of the question.”

“On the practicability of covering a small extent of coast by cruising in front of it — or, in other words, the possibility of anticipating an enemy's operations, discovering the object of movements of which we get ho glimpse and hear no tidings, and seeing the impress of his footsteps on the surface of the ocean — it may be ell to consult experience.”

The naval power of Spain under Philip II. was almost unlimited. With the treasures of India and America at his command, the fitting out of a fleet of one hundred and fifty or two hundred sail, to invade another country, was no very gigantic operation. Nevertheless, this naval force was of but little avail as a coast defence. Its efficiency for this purpose was well tested in 1596. England and Holland attacked Cadiz with a combined fleet of one hundred and seventy ships, which entered the Bay of Cadiz without, on its approach to their coast, being once seen by the Spanish navy. This same squadron, on its return to England, passed along a great portion of the Spanish coast [198] without ever meeting with the slightest opposition from the innumerable Spanish floating defences.

In 1744, a French fleet of twenty ships, and a land force of twenty-two thousand men, sailed from Brest to the English coast, without meeting with any opposition from the superior British fleet which had been sent out, under Sir John Norris, on purpose to intercept them. The landing of the troops was prevented by a storm, which drove the fleet back upon the coast of France to seek shelter.

In 1755, a French fleet of twenty-five sail of the line, and many smaller vessels, sailed from Brest for America. Nine of these soon afterwards returned to France, and the others proceeded to the gulf of St. Lawrence. An English fleet of seventeen sail of the line and some frigates ates had been sent out to intercept them; hut the two fleets passed each other in a thick fog, and all the French vessels except two reached Quebec in safety.

In 1759, a French fleet, blockaded in the port of Dunkirk by a British force under Commodore Bogs, seizing upon a favorable opportunity, escaped from the enemy, attacked the coast of Scotland, made a descent upon Carrickfergus, and cruised about till February, 1760, without meeting a single British vessel, although sixty-one ships of the line were then stationed upon the coasts of England and France, and several of these were actually in pursuit.

In 1796, when the French attempted to throw the army of Hoche into Ireland, the most strenuous efforts were made by the British navy to intercept the French fleet in its passage. The Channel fleet, of near thirty sail of the line, under Lord Bridport, was stationed at Spithead; Sir Roger Curtis, with a smaller force, was cruising to the westward; Vice-admiral Colpoys was stationed off Brest, with thirteen sail of the line; and Sir Edward [199] Pellew (afterwards Lord Exmouth) watched the harbor, with a small squadron of frigates. Notwithstanding this triple floating bulwark, as it was called--one fleet on the enemy's coast, a second in the Downs, and a third close on their own shores — the French fleet of forty-four vessels, carrying a land force of twenty-five thousand men, reached Bantry Bay in safety! This fleet was eight days on the passage, and three more in landing the troops; and most of the vessels might have returned to Brest III safety, had it not been for disasters by storms, for only one of their whole number was intercepted by the vast naval force which England had assembled for that express object. “The result of this expedition,” says Alison, “was pregnant with important instructions to the rulers of both countries. To the French, as demonstrating the extraordinary risks which attend a maritime expedition, in comparison with a land campaign; the small number of forces which can be embarked on board even a great fleet and the unforeseen disasters which frequently, on that element, defeat the best concerted enterprises. To the English, as showing that the empire of the seas does not always afford security against invasion; that, in the face of superior maritime forces, her possessions were for sixteen days at the mercy of the enemy; and that neither the skill of her sailors nor the valor of her armies, but the fury of the elements, saved them from danger in the most vulnerable part of their dominions. While these considerations are fitted to abate the confidence in invasion, they are calculated, at the same time, to weaken an overweening confidence in naval superiority, and to demonstrate that the only base upon Which certain reliance can be placed, even by an insular power, is a well-disciplined army and the patriotism of its own subjects.”

Subsequent events still further demonstrated the truth of these remarks. In the following year, a French squadron [200] of two frigates and two sloops, passed the British fleets with perfect impunity, destroyed the shipping in the port of Ilfracombe, and safely landed their troops on the coast of Wales. Again, in 1798, the immense British naval force failed to prevent the landing of General Humbert's army in the bay of Killala; and, in the latter part of the same year, a French squadron of nine vessels and three thousand men escaped Sir J. B. Warren's squadron, and safely reached the coast of Ireland. As a further illustration, we quote from the report of the Board of National Defence in 1839.

The Toulon fleet, in 1798, consisting of about twenty sail of the line and twenty smaller vessels of war, and numerous transports, making in all, three hundred sail and forty thousand troops, slipped out of port and sailed to Malta.

It was followed by Nelson, who, thinking correctly that they were bound for Egypt, shaped his course direct for Alexandria. The French, steering towards Candia, took the more circuitous passage; so that Nelson arrived at Alexandria before them, and, not finding them there, returned, by way of Caramania and Candia, to Sicily, missing his adversary in both passages. Sailing again for Alexandria, he found the French fleet at anchor in Aboukir bay, and, attacking them there, achieved the memorable victory of the Nile. When we consider the narrowness of the sea; the numerous vessels in the French fleet; the actual crossing of the two fleets on a certain night; and that Nelson, notwithstanding, could see nothing of the enemy himself, and hear nothing of them from merchant vessels, we may judge of the probability of waylaying our adversary on the broad Atlantic.

The escape of another Toulon fleet in 1805; the long search for them in the Mediterranean by the same able officer; the pursuit in the West Indies; their evasion of [201] him among the islands; the return to Europe; his vain efforts subsequently, along the coast of Portugal, in the bay of Biscay, and off the English channel; and the meeting at last at Trafalgar, brought about only because the combined fleets, trusting to the superiority that the accession of several reinforcements had given, were willing to try the issue of a battle — these are instances, of the many that might be cited, to show how small is the probability of encountering upon the ocean an enemy who desires to avoid a meeting, and how little the most untiring zeal, the most restless activity, the most exalted professional skill and judgment, can do to lessen the adverse chances. For more than a year Nelson most closely watched his enemy, who seems to have got out of port as soon as he was prepared to do so, and without attracting the notice of any of the blockading squadron. When out, Nelson, perfectly in the dark as to the course Villeneuve had taken, sought for him in vain on the coast of Egypt. Scattered by tempests, the French fleet again took refuge in Toulon; whence it again put to sea, when refitted and ready, joining the Spanish fleet at Cadiz.

On the courage, skill, vigilance, and judgment, acceded on all hands to belong in a pre-eminent degree to the naval profession in this country, this system of defence relies to accomplish, against a string of chances, objects of importance so great that not a doubt or misgiving as to the result is admissible. It demands of the navy to do perfectly, and without fail, that which, to do at all, seems impossible. The navy is required to know the secret purposes of the enemy, in spite of distance, and the broken intercourse of a state of war, even before these purposes are known to the leader who is to execute them; nay, more, before the purpose itself is formed. On an element where man is but the sport of storms, the navy is required to lie in wait for the foe at the exact spot and moment, in [202] spite of weather and seasons; to see him in spite of fogs and darkness.

Finally, after all the devices and reliances of the system are satisfactorily accomplished, and all the difficulties subdued, it submits to the issue of a single battle, on equal terms, the fate of the war, having no hope or reserve beyond.

The proper duty of our navy is, not coast or river defence; it has a more glorious sphere — that of the offensive. In our last war, instead of lying in harbor, and contenting themselves with keeping a few more of the enemy's vessels in watch over them than their own number — instead of leaving the enemy's commerce in undisturbed enjoyment of the sea, and our commerce without countenance or aid, they scattered themselves over the wide surface of the ocean, penetrated to the most remote seas, everywhere acting with the most brilliant success against the enemy's navigation. And we believe, moreover, that in the amount of the enemy's property thus destroyed, of American property protected or recovered, and in the number of hostile ships kept in pursuit of our scattered vessels, ships evaded if superior, and beaten if equal — they rendered benefits a thousand-fold greater, to say nothing of the glory they acquired for the nation, and the character they imparted to it, than any that would have resulted from a state of passiveness within the harbors. Confident that this is the true policy as regards the employment of the navy proper, we doubt not that it will in the future be acted on, as it has been in the past; and that the results, as regards both honor and advantage, will be expanded commensurately with its own enlargement. In order, however, that the navy may always assume and maintain that active and energetic deportment, in offensive operations, which is at the same time so consistent with its functions, and so consonant with its spirit, we have shown that it must not be occupied with mere coast defence.


A few remarks on the relative cost of ships and forts, and the economy of their support, and we will close this discussion. We do not regard this question, however, as a matter of any great importance, for it can seldom be decisive in the choice of these two means of defence. No matter what their relative cost may be, the one cannot often be substituted for the other. There are some few cases, however, where this might be taken into consideration, and would be decisive. Let us endeavor to illustrate our meaning. For the defence of New York city, the Narrows and East River must be secured by forts; ships cannot, in this case, be substituted. But let us suppose that the outer harbor of New York furnishes no favorable place for the debarkation of troops, or that the place of debarkation is so far distant that the troops cannot reach the city before the defensive forces can be prepared to repel them. This outer harbor would be of great importance to the enemy as a shelter from storms, and as a place of debarkation or of rendezvous preparatory to a forcible passage of the Narrows; while to us its possession would not be absolutely essential, though very important. Strong fortifications on Sandy Hook, and one of the shoals, might probably be so constructed as to furnish a pretty sure barrier to the entrance of this outer harbor; on the other hand, a naval force stationed within the inner harbor, and acting under the protection of forts at the Narrows, might also furnish a good, though perhaps less certain protection for this outer roadstead. Here, then, we might well consider the question of relative cost and economy of support of the proposed fortifications, and of a home squadron large enough to effect the same object, and to be kept continually at home for that special purpose. If we were to allow it to go to sea for the protection of our commerce. its character and efficiency as a harbor defence would be lost. We can therefore regard it only as a local force — fixed [204] within the limits of the defence of this particular place — and our estimates must be made accordingly.

The average durability of ships of war in the British navy, has been variously stated at seven and eight years in time of war, and from ten to twelve and fourteen years in time of peace. Mr. Perring, in his “Brief Inquiry,” published in 1812, estimates the average durability at about eight years. His calculations seem based upon authentic information. A distinguished English writer has more recently arrived at the same result, from estimates based upon the returns of the Board of Admiralty during the period of the wars of the French Revolution, The data in our own possession are less complete; the appropriations for building and repairing having been so expended as to render it impossible to draw any accurate line of distinction. But, in the returns now before us, there are generally separate and distinct amounts of the timbers used for these two purposes; and consequently, so far as this (the main item of expense) is concerned, we may form pretty accurate comparisons.

According to Edge, (pp. 20, 21,) the average cost of timber, for hulls, masts, and yards, in building an English 74 gun ship, is £ 61,382. Let us now compare this cost of timber for building, with that of the same item for repairs, for the following fifteen ships, between 1800 and 1820, The list would have been still farther enlarged, but the returns for other ships during some portion of the above period are imperfect: [205]

Name of Ship.No. of Guns.When built.Repaired fromCost.
Vengeance,74--1800 to 1807£84,720
Ildefonso,74--1807 to 180885,195
Scipio,74--1807 to 180960,785
Tremendous,74--1807 to 1810135,397
Elephant,74--1808 to 181167,007
Spencer,7418001809 to 1813124,186
Romulus,74--1810 to 181273,141
Albion,7418021810 to 1813102,295
Donegal,74--1812 to 1815101,367
Implacable,74--1813 to 181559,865
Illustrious,7418031813 to 181674,184
Northumberland,74--1814 to 181559,795
Kent,74--1814 to 181888,357
Sultan,7418071816 to 181861,518
Sterling Castle,74 1816 to 181865,280

This table, although incomplete, gives for the above fifteen ships, during a period of less than twenty years, the cost of timber alone used in their repair, an average of about $400,000 each. More timber than this was used, in all probability, upon the same vessels, and paid for out of the funds appropriated “for such as may be ordered in course of the year to be repaired.” But the amount specifically appropriated for timber for these fifteen ships, would, in every twelve or fifteen years, equal the entire first cost of the same items. If we add to this amount, the cost of labor required in the application of timber to the operations of repair, and take into consideration the expense of other materials and labor, and the decayed condition of many of the ships at the end of this period, we should not be surprised to find the whole sum expended under these heads to equal the first cost, even within the minimum estimate of seven years. The whole cost of timber used for hulls, masts, and yards, in building between 1800 and 1820, was £ 18,727,551; in repairs and “ordinary wear and tear,” £ 17,449,780; making an annual average of $4,560,158 for building timber, and $4,273,371 for that used in repairs, A large portion of [206] the vessels built were intended to replace others which had been lost, or were so decayed as to be broken up.

But it may be well to add here, the actual supplies voted for the sea-service, and for wear and tear, and the extraordinary expenses in building and repairing of ships, from 1800 to 1815.

Year.For the wear and tear of Ships.Ext. Expenses for building, repairing, &c.For entire seaservice.

It appears from this table that the appropriations for the service, during the first fifteen years of the present century, amounted to a little less than ninety millions of dollars per annum; and for the wear and tear of ships, and “the extraordinary expenses in building and repairing ships, &c.,” the annual appropriations amounted to near thirty millions.

Our own naval returns are also so imperfect that it is impossible to form any very accurate estimate of the relative cost of construction and repairs of our men-of-war. The following table, compiled from a report of the Secretary of the Navy, in 1841, (Senate Doc. No. 223, 26th Congress), will afford data for an approximate calculation:-- [207]

Name of Ship.No. of Guns.Total Cost of building, exclusive of armament, stores, &c. &c.When completed.Cost of Repairs, exclusive of ordnance, &c. &c.Repaired between
Delaware,74$543,368 001820$354,132 561827 and 1838
N. Carolina,74431,852 001825317,628 921824 and 1836
Constitution,44302,718 841797266,878 341833 and 1839
United States,44299,336 561797571,972 771821 and 1841
Brandywine,448299,218 1218259377,665 951826 and 1838
Potomac,4410231,013 0218221182,597 031829 and 1835
Concord,20115,325 80182872,796 221832 and 1840
Falmouth,2094,093 271827130,015 431828 and 1837
John Adams,20110,670 691829119,641 931834 and 1837
Boston,2091,973 191825189,264 371826 and 1840
St. Louis,20102,461 951828135,458 751834 and 1839
Vincennes,20111,512 791826178,094 811830 and 1838
Vandalia,2090,977 88182859,181 341832 and 1834
Lexington,20?114,622 35182683,386 521827 and 1837
Warren,20?99,410 011826152,596 031830 and 1838
Fairfield,20100,490 35182665,918 261831 and 1837
Natches,1220?106,232 191827129,969 801829 and 1836
Boxer,1030,697 88183128,780 481834 and 1840
Enterprise,1027,938 63183120,716 591834 and 1840
Grampus,1023,627 42182196,086 361825 and 1840
Dolphin,1038,522 62183615,013 351839 and 1840
Shark,1023,627 42182193,395 841824 and 1839

It appears from the above table, that the cost of constructing ships of the line is about $6,600 per gun; of frigates, $6,500 per gun; of smaller vessels of war, a little less than $5,000 per gun: making an average cost of vessels of war to be more than six thousand dollars per gun. And the expense of repairs for these vessels is more than seven per cent. per annum on their first cost.

We have as yet had but little experience in the use of war-steamers. The Fulton, four guns, built in 1838-39, cost three hundred and thirty-three thousand seven hundred and seventy dollars and seventy-seven cents; the Mississippi and Missouri, ten guns each, built in 1841, cost about six hundred thousand dollars a piece; making an average cost for war-steamers of over sixty thousand dollars per gun. The cost of repairs of steam ships will be much greater than those for vessels of war; but we [208] have not yet had sufficient experience to determine the exact amount. It has been estimated, however, by competent judges, that when kept, the expense of repairs will at least equal twelve per cent. of the first cost. The expense of keeping them in commission is enormously great. “Their engines,” says the Secretary of the Navy, in his annual report in 1842, “consume so much fuel as to add enormously to their expenses; and the necessity that they should return to port, after short intervals of time, for fresh supplies, renders it impossible to send them on any distant service. They cannot be relied on as cruisers, and are altogether too expensive for service in time of peace. I have therefore determined to take them out of commission, and substitute for them other and less expensive vessels.”

The average cost of permanent fortifications is but little more than three thousand dollars per gun. And it must be obvious, from the nature of the materials of which they are constructed, that the expense of their support must be inconsiderable. It is true that for some years past a large item of annual expenditure for fortifications has been under the head of “repairs;” but much of this sum is for alterations and enlargements of temporary and inefficient works, erected anterior to the war of 1812. Some of it, however, has been for actual repairs of decayed or injured portions of the forts; these injuries resulting from the nature of the climate, the foundations, the use of poor materials and poor workmanship, and from neglect and abandonment. But if we include the risk of abandonment at times, it is estimated, upon data drawn from past experience, that one-third of one per cent. per annum, of the first cost, will keep in perfect repair any of our forts that have been constructed since the last war.

But it is unnecessary to further discuss this question. [209] We repeat what has already been said, no matter what may be the relative cost of ships and forts, the one, as a general thing, cannot be substituted for the other. Each has its own sphere of action, and each will contribute, in its own way, to the national defence; and any undue increase of one, at the expense of the other, will be attended by a corresponding diminution of national power.13

1 The batteries constructed in the siege of this place were armed with fifty-two heavy guns and mortars.

2 These conditions for a battery are easily satisfied, but for the ship, are partly dependent on the elements, and seldom to be wholly attained.

3 Only eighteen and a half miles across the Channel at the narrow. est place.

4 These vessels rated two hundred and fifty-four guns, but the number actually carried is stated to have been two hundred and seventy.

5 Perkins says two killed and six wounded. Holmes says six wounded, but makes no mention of any killed.

6 Some writers say only sixty-eight or seventy; but the English writers generally say eighty-eight. A few, (apparently to increase the brilliance of the victory,) make this number still greater.

7 Vide also House Doc. No. 206, twenty-sixth Congress, first session.

8 Returns incomplete.

9 Returns incomplete.

10 Returns incomplete.

11 Returns incomplete.

12 Broken up in 1840.

13 For further information concerning our system of sea-coast defences, the reader is referred to House Doc. 206, twenty-sixth Congress, second session; Senate Doc. 85, twenty-eighth Congress, second session; and to the annual reports of the Chief Engineer.

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