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Interesting from Europe.

British opinion of the naval battle in Hampton Roads — the revolution in Marine warfare commenced.

Our extracts from English papers include dates as late as March 26th, We copy the comments of the Times on our naval victory in Hampton Roads.

[from the London Times, March 25,]

The campaign in Virginia has at last begun. A naval battle and a general advance of the Federal army on the Potomac are the events which we record to-day. The first of these is one of the most interesting incidents that have marked the war. For the first time, the newest applications of science have been tested in a fight between foes of equal courage. Who would have thought it possible that after England and France had theorized so long on iron-plated and iron-prowed vessels, the first real trial should be made by the inhabitants of the peaceful New World met in unnatural strife, and, furthermore, that victory should rest with the party less versed in naval-tactics-and-construction? Though for a long time there has been mention of the Merrimac in the Southern papers, we were not prepared for the achievements in the James river.

The Confederate frigate seems to have gained an easy victory over her wooden opponents. The accounts of the action are rather vague, but it appears that she disabled the Cumberland and the Congress in a very showtime, fulfilling in the most complete manner the expectations that have been formed concerning iron-plated vessels. She received the broadsides of two of her opponents at one hundred yards without sustaining any damage. She then ran into the Cumberland with her iron prow and laid open her sides Thus, both in defence and attack, the Merrimac has realized the calculations of European constructors. It must now be looked upon as proved, that wooden vessels go to sure and speedy defeat whenever they venture into action against an iron-plated adversary. Those who object to iron sides, that they are not invulnerable, inasmuch as, however strong the ship may be, cannon can be constructed powerful enough to pierce it, must we think, abandon their too captious criticism.

We see in the Merrimac that a vessel can be made practically invulnerable, even to the heavy naval guns which are at present in use. Nothing now remains for our Admiralty but to discontinue the building of wooden vessels, and to convert all that will bear it into machines of war resembling the Confederate frigate. The only real opponent which the Merrimac found was another iron-plated frigate, and, had it not been for this vessel, It is possible that the Merrimac might have destroyed the whole Federal squadron. The Merrimac is described as ‘ "covered with sloping iron plates, extending two feet below the water line, and meeting above like the roof of a house."’ This peculiarity of construction may possibly not be necessary to efficiency; but, as a vessel thus built has actually made a great success, it would be worth while fully to examine the principle before constructing any more of our own, on the plan already adopted.

The equipment of the Merrimac shows that there are good heads in the Navy Department of the South, and the gallant manner in which she was handled in action is a token that the Confederate courage it still as high as ever. But it is not by sea fights that the fortunes of the new republic are to be determined. The brilliant affair of the James river will, no doubt, do much to reanimates the Southerners after their successive defeats, but in itself it is of little importance.

Scientific Deductions from the result of the battle — the Reconstruction of the English Navy a work of necessity [from the London Times, March 26.]

When President Davis, in his recent message to his constituents, reviewed the position of the Southern Confederacy, he expressed a hope that the navy of the seceding States would soon contribute something towards the success of the cause. These expectations have certainly been justified by the naval victory which we yesterday reported a victory gained over a Federal force of great strength, and in waters where the Northerners probably conceived that the supremacy was unassailably their own. Three frigates and a heavy sloop are mentioned as either taking, or endeavoring to take, a part in the action against the small squadron of the Confederates, and a further and most effective reinforcement afterwards arrived in the shape of a floating battery.

From the reports of the action, It appears that the Merrimac, through mounting only twelve guns, did not hesitate to proceed in company with the two other steamers, in search of an encounter with such a squadron as we have described above. The Congress and the Cumberland carried between them seventy-four guns, and the Minnesota and the St. Lawrence ninety more. The Minnesota however got aground, and could therefore, neither come up herself nor tow the St. Lawrence into action. The Merriman and her attendants had consequently only one frigate and a sloop to deal with, and it seems that the took the sloop to herself, and left the frigate to the other steamers. The Cumberland had not a chance against her. She received no broadsides at one hundred yards distance without sustaining any damage, and then deliberately run into the sloop with an iron prow constructed for this special purpose, and cuthen sides open. After this she poured a broadside into her antagonist, dashed as her ones more, and then left her to sink Nothing could be more successful of destructive than her caused.

Next morning, how ever she found an enemy more worthy of her. During, the night the new floating battery called the Monitor, came round to the Monitor which thus drew the first blood, and the Merrimac then rattled. not seem, however, that she was disabled, and we are expressly assured that on board the Monitor not a man was hurt.

Facts like these well indicated to reflect. We find, that a wooden vessel, when matched against an iron one, is literally as helpless as was predicted. The Merrimac did actually knock the Cumberland ‘"into matches,"’ and in a very few minutes; but when she was encountered by a ship of her own class, an action of five hours ended; with no great damage to either side. Yet we cannot imagine that either of these vessels makes any approach, in strengthen power, to the frigates we have built on this side of the Atlantic. --The Monitor was to be finished in one hundred days, and at a cost of loss than £ 60,000,while the urgent needs of the Confederates forbid us to believe that any great amount of time or money can have been expended on the Merrimac Nevertheless these extemporized iron-sides are sufficient to give a character to the whole war, and if they and not neutralized each other either of them would probably have given a good account of an entire squadron of the enemy. What a sailing ship is to a steamer an ordinary steamer is to an iron, clad frigate. It will be remembered that the Americans were slow to recognize the new principle, and most reluctant to adopt it; but when the time for action arrived, necessity made itself felt, and they have now given the theory all the practical confirmation it needed.

There is one other conclusion too, which we may craw from the operations of the American belligerents. The alleged efficiency of gunboats against heavier vessels has been disproved. The Confederates appear to have built upon this theory at first, but their ‘"mosquitoes motiles"’ have never succeeded.--Neither at Port Royal nor Roanoke did their swarm of gunboats produce the least effect against the large ships of the Federal. Vessels, of this class operating upon rivers in conjunction with land forces have proved of the greatest service; indeed, the Northerners owe most of their successor to them but in narrow seas, and against heavy frigates or sloops, the small craft have been round as useless as a fleet of . No gunboats, as far as we can judge, will do the work of our Warriors, nor will any frigate, however well armed or commanded be able to make wood stand against iron. Our obligations in this matter have proved costly, but it is evident that the ‘ "reconstruction of our navy"’ was not commenced an hour ten soon.

McLellan's advance from the Potomac.
[from the London, Times, March 25th.]

All thoughts must now be directed to the combined invasion of the Southern States, which was to begin in the present month of March. This extraordinary enterprise deserves the study both of political and military students. In its magnitude, in the nature of the armies which are to operate, in the nature of the country, and of the populations whose territory is invaded the great Federal invasion stands alone in modern history. It is Napoleon's war in Spain on the scale of his expedition to Russia. Immense forces are assembled to subjugate a people who, unless they are the empties of boasters, are determined to burn homes ends and goods, to destroy the produce of their fields, to carry off their families, their negroes, their cattle, and all that they have and to leave every place a desert from which the invader forces them to retire. The real beginning of the campaign may now be witnessed.

From Tennessee we have but meagre accounts. In this region the Confederates have been thoroughly beaten. They seem to be wholly unprepared for the vigor of Grant, Buell and the rest of the Western Generals. The consequence has been the occupation of Central Tennessee by a Federal army, and the retreat of the Confederates to the Southern limits of the State. Here, however, they are said to be preparing for a stand. General Beauregard is in command, and place which is given in the telegram as Chavenoon, but which is probably Cleveland or Chattanooga, is their headquarters. These places are almost on the frontiers, of Georgina, but it is beyond a doubt that the Confederates will do all in their power to recover Tennessee. The loss of a State is especially dangerous to the Southerners, inasmuch as their Confederacy is founded on the principle of State independence, and they have too much reason to fear that if Tennessee were irrevocably annexed to the North all the Tennesseeans would leave their army, on the ground that they have no further interest in the contest.

But it is in Virginia that the most important operations will take place. Here is the strength of the Confederate army. The troops, commanded, as it is supposed, by President Davis in person, are the most numerous and the best armed that the Confederates possess. They fight in a country which its thoroughly hostile to the North. Virginia, though geographically a border State, is politically and socially one of the most extreme in the Confederacy. No State has lost so much from the growing populousness of the North. Although three age Spenser dedicated his poem to the Queen of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Virginia, yet the old State now finds herself of less importance than Illinois and California. The Virginias will, no doubt, second all the efforts of the military chiefs, and the policy of these is already manifest. The main army of the Confederates had evacuated Manassas before the 12th of March.--How long they had been gone, no one seems to know One of the strangest features of this war is the success of the Confederates in preventing the enemy from gaining any knowledge of their plans. Though it is constantly asserted that a large Union party exists at the South; though there are thousands of negroes who might gain liberty and reward by carrying intelligence to the Federal camp, yet nothing is known of their movements by the Northern Generals.

Early in March, then, the Confederates broke up from Manassas and retired southwards, desolating the country and breaking down, the bridges behind them. Whether they have withdrawn merely to what they consider a better position for giving battle, on whether they intend to avoid a battle as long as possible, will be shown by the event. Their movements have no doubt, been decided by the late events in Tennessee; and, if any, considerable part of the Potomac army has been sent West there is all the more reason that the rest, should avoid fighting until they receive the reinforcements which Mr. Davis declared that thirty days would bring. But whether the Confederates fight or not, it is plain that they will avail themselves of the fled cost expedients of warfare. The real defence of their country is its confines and desolation. The Confederates will hinder as much as possible the advance of their enemy by breaking up the roads and by destroying everything in the region through which us must pass. This is, indeed, the difficulty of the North. Where its enemies are in earnest it must look for the most bootless victories and the most exhausting conquests. It is no light thing for a great army to advance even through a rich and abundant country; but if the 290,000 men of Gen McClellan, have to march through a wilderness, and to carry with them every pound of meat and every bushes of corn, their advance will soon become impossible.

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