"The best of prophets of the future is the past."
In the study of the naval battles of the past we may learn of the many tactical problems that have arisen, and how they were solved by the great commanders of fleets; how they met with success, or the causes of their defeat. The causes are frequently obscure, as so many varying circumstances surround the tactical problem, and it is difficult to set forth the problem and its solution cleared from outside interferences. The best of tactics have failed, at times, to win success because of a change in circumstances or because of faulty instruments. And, at times, hard fighting has prevented failures that were earned by faulty tactics. Yet through all the thread of truth can be followed, and the rules that have led most frequently to success in naval warfare can be traced out for future guidance when acting under similar conditions.
The difficulty met with in discussing the problems that may arise in the future is the great change in the vessels, in the weapons and in the motive power. All have made such strides forward in the march of improvement, since any great naval combats were fought, as to cause some to think that past battles can furnish no guide to the tactics of the present or future.
The first steam tactics prepared for the student in the art of war were mainly drawn from studies of tactics under sail, the necessary modifications being made to suit the change in motive power. It was evident that many of the old rules still applied; that the uncertainty produced by being obliged to rely upon the wind having been eliminated, it became possible to be more exact in the performance of maneuvers and more regular in formations. To concentrate a large portion of your force on a small portion of the enemy's was still the thing for which to strive and more than ever likely to bring success. As sail was partially a source of reliance, injury to the engines was not entirely fatal; and the knowledge of how to handle a vessel under sail was a necessity. The facility with which vessels could be handled under steam and the ease with which concentration could be accomplished gave them such an immense superiority over vessels dependent upon sail alone that it caused sails to fall gradually into disuse. Superiority in speed and in handiness were still elements of advantage that facilitated the following of the tactical rule of concentration.
The improvements now came so rapidly, and the differences between the new and the old weapons became so great that the minds of naval men were unsettled. It became difficult to draw any analogy between an old fleet and one of modern times. The tactical relations between the various weapons and between the different types of ships were constantly changing, and it was difficult, if not impossible, to estimate the tactical values of these varying quantities. Each tactician had his favorite weapon and favorite type of ship, and used a few facts and many suppositions to support his theory. Armor was placed in all positions, guns of many calibres were carried, vessels were built of all sizes and carried weapons of various kinds, and the kinds, of powder and projectiles supplied were no less numerous. Some tacticians relied on ramming, some upon torpedoes, and some upon the use of guns as the principal weapons, putting the others in the background as auxiliaries.
While many of the main principles of tactics remain as unchanged as the laws of strategy, nothing is more certain than the fact that tactics change with the weapons and with the change in their relative values as tactical weapons. Such principles as to strike immediately when the enemy is surprised, when not in battle formation, or when changing formation; to bring a large portion of your force to bear upon a small portion of the force of the enemy; and that the flanks and the rear are the usual weak points of a formation, are unchanged, and have been known since tactics were first a subject of study by naval men. But the best formations in which to carry out these maxims, and the proper evolutions to bring them into effect, change with the change in the weapons.
Sir Howard Douglas formulated an excellent system of tactics for steam vessels; but steam was at that time only an auxiliary to the sails, and the well accepted rules for sailing vessels were modified only so far as was necessary to take full advantage of the new motive power. Being no longer dependent upon the direction and the force of the wind, the formations were more elastic and the concentrations were made with more precision. The guns carried in broadside were the weapons both for attack and defense, and boarding was the only other way of carrying on a conflict. Boarding could be resorted to, except in very rare cases, only after the opposing battery had been almost, if not completely, silenced.
Shell guns came into use and were improved, as was the steam engine; but there was no cause to alter the tactics. Such was the destructive effect of shell guns that the wooden sides no longer afforded any protection to the fighting crews, and the vessels themselves were liable to destruction after being under fire a short time. Naturally a more efficient protection was sought, and ironclads came into existence. Now commenced a contest for supremacy between guns and armor that continues at the present day. Guns were built that pierced the armor, then came thicker and heavier armor, then more powerful guns. To carry the increased weights vessels increased in size, and yet the guns had to be decreased in number, and the armor had to be concentrated on vital portions in place of covering all the above water sides.
With heavily armored vessels naturally came the idea of running down the weaker vessels; besides, the crews of the few guns and the vitals of the ship being well protected, the necessity for a more decisive weapon led to the idea of the ram. The gun lost in relative value as a tactical weapon, and the ram came to the fore. Tactics must be changed to use this weapon to the best advantage. The enemy was no longer to be crushed with the broadside, but with the bow. It was no longer a concentration of fire but one of iron beaks that was necessary, and columns, lines and groups were urged by their several advocates.
Torpedoes grew slowly into prominence, and the auto-mobile torpedo became a weapon with which tactics was forced to deal. The large, unwieldy battle-ships with few guns, loading and firing slowly, had but little power of offense or defense against small torpedo-boats. Admiral Aube and his followers were to maintain naval supremacy by a mosquito fleet: and the tactics best adapted to torpedo-boats were the rage. The inability of these boats to keep the high sea or maintain their speed in any but smooth water soon cast a damper upon this misplaced enthusiasm, and it was recognized by most naval minds that victory would still remain on the side of the fleet of battle-ships, and that there was no cheap or easy road to naval supremacy.
Rapid-fire and machine guns, with electric search-lights, were developed as the necessity arose, and the battle-ships were again able to protect themselves near shore as well as at sea; and heavily armored vessels became necessary for coast defense as well as for sea fleets. Again the gun was raised in its relative tactical value.
The battle-ship is now fitted with torpedo tubes, and many believe that they can be used with such effect as to make an attempt to ram dangerous to the vessel making it, so that this further use of torpedoes has helped to increase the tactical value of the gun.
The cruiser has developed side by side with the battle-ship. The displacement devoted to armor in the battle-ship is devoted to motive power and fuel in the cruiser. They have increased greatly in speed, and upon the advent of rapid-fire guns it became necessary to furnish them with some protection, and we have gone from unprotected cruisers to partially protected cruisers, to protected cruisers, and to belted or armored cruisers. The latter are fit, usually, to take their place in the line of battle, and are battle-ships of great coal endurance with comparatively light armor; as, on the other hand, the coast defense vessel is a battle-ship of small coal endurance but heavily armored. The one sacrifices more displacement to the power of making long cruises, while the other sacrifices in favor of protection.
The protected cruisers depend upon a steel protective deck, numerous water-tight compartments, minute subdivisions, with water-excluding material, for protecting the buoyancy of the vessel, and depend upon shields, etc., for the protection of the crew.
There are many vessels of special design and constructed for various purposes, and on which other weapons than the gun take the principal place. They each require their peculiar tactics to develop best the weapon they carry.
At the present day it looks as if the great strides in the progress of both vessels and weapons had ceased for a time, and that the changes to be expected in the near future are not great, but that the tendency is to settle down to fewer types of vessels and to less rapid improvements in these and in the weapons. If this is true, the tactics that are correct for the present time will remain so for a number of years, or until some new start is made in the improvement by sudden changes in vessels or in weapons. The general character of the vessels and the tactical value of the weapons may be considered fixed for our purposes.
The various changes in tactics corresponding to the changes in weapons may be traced in the writings at the time the improvements developed. Of course there is considerable overlapping, particularly at the time when the three weapons were supposed to be nearly equal in value. The more enthusiastic would seize eagerly upon a weapon early in its career, or rather in its new stage of development, and the more obstinate would hold on longer to a weapon in its decline. There were times when the gun was distinctly the principal weapon, and then tactics required that vessels be fought with their broadsides presented to the enemy. Again there were times when the ram had far the greatest number of adherents, and then they required the vessels to present their bows. The ram and torpedo required close quarters. Admiral Colomb, R.N., preferred the ram in 1871 and the gun in 1884; Admiral Fremantle, R.N., the ram in 1880 and the gun in 1886; Commander Sturdee, R.N., the torpedo in 1886 and the gun in 1894. The weight of opinion is now strongly in favor of the gun as the principal weapon.
Take two vessels equal or nearly equal in all respects. Let one attempt to ram and let the other continue circling, but endeavoring to avoid the ram. Know thoroughly their tactical diameters for various helm angles, and plan the light as in still water. It will require quite serious mistakes in the one that endeavors to avoid the ram before his adversary can strike a bad blow. Allow even quite a difference in speed and handiness between the two vessels, and yet how difficult for the superior to ram the inferior. Allow the inferior vessel to make slight changes in her speed, almost if not quite imperceptible to her adversary, and see where the would-be rammer will bring up. Then take these vessels under ordinary conditions of wind and sea, their speed and tactical diameter changing as they change their position relative to the wind and sea, and note the difficulty of estimating the speed or the size of the turning circle on your own vessel, and the still greater difficulty of estimating that of the enemy. Does not ramming under such circumstances become a matter of chance? Imagine the captain of a ship attempting this delicate operation from the conning tower, his view limited and partially obscured by smoke, his helmsman with no view at all, nothing to steady his helm by except possibly a small compass that is liable to jump with each fire of the adjacent guns. Most of us have noticed the difficulty, when piloting, in steadying the head of a ship if the helmsman could not see ahead and was obliged to rely on a good compass for steadying or meeting with the helm. This difficulty must be greatly increased in a conning tower, and yawing must result at a time when the slightest deviation may change a vessel from the destroyer into the destroyed. Again, there is the danger that may appear greater or less to the tactician as he has greater or less faith in torpedoes, of coming within the range of that weapon. Certainly the danger from the torpedo and the danger of being rammed instead of ramming prevents the ram from being the principal weapon.
The gun has been greatly developed in power, in range, in accuracy and in rapidity of fire. The questions that remain somewhat unsettled at the present time are the kind of powder to be used, the proportion between the length of a gun and the calibre, and the proportion of rapid-fire guns to those of larger calibre. It appears to be quite definitely settled that 13 inches is the limiting calibre of guns to be carried on battle-ships, as in guns of this size the weight has become as great as can be reasonably carried on a man-of-war, and the time occupied in loading as long as could be permitted in battle. The largest guns must be handled by machinery, which adds another weak point to the battle-ship. Many are of the opinion that lo inches should be the limiting calibre, and that the guns should be capable of being handled by man power as well as by steam, air or electricity. They believe that there is sufficient penetration by the projectiles of high-powered lo-inch guns at reasonable ranges, and that the reduction in weight and in time between fires more than makes up for decreased penetration.
Lieutenant Meigs, who has given so much attention to the development of gunnery practice and is one of the best authorities on the tactical value of the gun, suggests the rule that within reasonable limits the vessels should carry guns proportioned to their own protection. This rule is fairly well followed, for the heavily armored coast-defense vessel carries a few large calibre guns, and the protected cruiser numerous guns of smaller calibre. The armored vessel also carries a number of smaller guns; the smaller rapid-fire and machine guns to drive off torpedo-boats and other small craft; the larger rapid-fire guns to attack unarmored ends and to crush lightly protected vessels. In the cruiser the calibre is kept somewhat larger than required by the rule, for the sake of gaining in explosive force of the shell, the consequent gain in damage inflicted being sufficiently great, up to certain calibres, to more than balance other disadvantages.
The length in proportion to calibre has been increasing with the improvements in powder, thus gaining higher velocities, therefore greater penetration and greater range. This increase in length was made possible by adopting breech-loading devices, and requires slow-burning powders. It would seem as if it might be better to follow the spirit of the rule above mentioned more closely, and in cruisers to decrease the length of the larger guns and increase their calibre. This might be done without unduly increasing the height of the trajectory for moderate ranges, and with the larger shell thus gained the explosive force would be considerably increased. It is logical to arm cruisers to fight cruisers, and other things being equal, the cruiser throwing the larger shell would be more powerful than one armed as at present.
Smokeless powder suitable to the smaller calibres has already been manufactured successfully, and the development is in the direction of smokeless powder for all calibres. Numerous attempts, more or less successful, have been made to fire shell charged with high explosives. They have been sufficiently successful to start an alteration in the distribution of armor, causing it to be spread over a larger surface. Comparatively thin armor, that is, armor that would not stop an ordinary shell, will cause those charged with high explosives to burst outside, causing little or no damage. Improvement is to be sought in the shell more than in the character of the high explosive, as the more perfect the shell the further it will penetrate before detonating the charge.
The improvement in armor has been great, from wrought-iron to composite, to homogeneous steel, to nickel steel, and now to Harveyized nickel steel; but the improvements in the gun and in the armor-piercing projectiles have been greater. At present a peculiar point has been reached; when the resistance of the armor and the penetrating power of the a.p. shell are nearly equal, a very slight difference in the shell makes a great difference in the effect. Where a shell well formed, with perfect point and smooth exterior, will remain intact and almost uninjured after piercing the armor, a similar shell having about the same physical characteristics, but slightly less well formed, will break up with only a slight penetration upon the same armor. It would appear as if the high velocities with which the shell is driven through the armor transmits by vibrations, where there are slight inequalities on the surface of the shell, a tremendous force that disrupts the smaller mass of the shell, but is distributed throughout the larger mass of the armor plate without causing serious injury. Is there not some analogy between this fact reached with high velocities in the shell, and the importance of wave resistance when high speeds are made by the vessel? Experiments are now being made by covering the point of the a.p. projectile with some comparatively soft and readily fused metal, such as lead; the idea being to gain entry with the point uninjured, the lead being melted by the heat developed upon impact.
The modern tendency is to increase the proportion of rapid-fire guns. Where armor is carried sufficiently heavy to resist them there must be unarmored ends and lightly protected guns for them to attack; and the larger calibre rapid-fire guns are capable of attacking all but the heaviest armor. The decision of the battle may rest with the heavy slow-firing guns, and yet it may be decided by the numerous rapid-fire guns before the heavy guns have been loaded and fired more than a few times. Guns of position are usually necessary to reduce a fortress, but no battle could be brought to a successful conclusion in modern times without light artillery.
The questions formulated by Mr. Clowes in No. 70 of the Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute are very pertinent to naval warfare, and indirectly affect tactics, as they are founded upon the consideration of the battle-ship in action. An attempt to answer them, or at least to indicate the direction in which correct answers are to be sought, is almost necessary before seeking for correct solutions of modern tactical problems.
The first question is a most important one: ''Would it be prudent for any battle-ship to go into an engagement cleared for action merely as she is generally cleared for it during peace practice or maneuvers? Is any clearing for action that is not most complete and thorough, of use as an instruction?"
It would be imprudent evidently to go into an engagement without making all the preparations that are possible in the time allowed by the circumstances of the case. That there are many precautions omitted in the ordinary exercise of clearing ship for action we all know. I have been told of an occasion when the admiral commanding the English Mediterranean fleet signaled to his vessels one morning to report when cleared for action, and some of them did not report until noon of the next day. Some of this time must have been occupied in rigging a torpedo defense, nets, booms, etc., as the vessels were at anchor; but many things ordinarily omitted must have been done to fill up so much time. More lately, the Detroit, Commander Brownson, at Rio Janeiro, when she was to steam in and protect our merchantmen while proceeding to a wharf, against the Brazilian rebel fleet, took about two hours to clear for action. The officers and men worked hard, and everything was done that experience or fertility of resource could suggest. It was far more thorough than would be practicable in an ordinary drill.
It may be necessary to prepare for action with but little warning. Many essentials can be accomplished in a comparatively short time. By exercise these are done as a matter of routine. The men become acquainted with their stations and duties, and, being accustomed to perform the work, there is no undue excitement. The work will be done more quickly and there is less liability of omitting important particulars than if no such drill were prescribed.
It is well once in a while to make a thorough business of it; but there must be many precautions that can be taken which could not be included reasonably in an ordinary drill. It might be said that a battle-ship should be prepared at all times, at least during war or when likely to encounter the enemy, but this is not practicable; for instance, time was spent on the Detroit in rigging up and protecting ready magazines, and in adjusting caps of nose fuzes, without which it would be difficult to keep up a running fight with rapid-fire guns. It would not do to keep shell on deck in sufficient quantities for any great length of time; and as hammocks, awnings, etc., are used for the protection, the time for which they can be used is limited. Ready magazines may be constructed and properly protected. Base fuzes may do away with the necessity of shifting the cap; but plenty of work can be found to occupy the time to advantage. Protection can be extemporized for the bridge and other exposed points. The boats may be moved or more securely stowed, filled with water and otherwise protected. A longer time will thus be occupied than would be reasonable for an ordinary drill; but it would be wise to occasionally devote the time necessary to thorough preparation.
The amount of time that the circumstances have permitted to be devoted to preparation may directly affect the tactics of vessel or fleet; for without an ample supply of ammunition ready to hand it would be unwise to enter into a close running fight, and it would be good tactics to maneuver for a distant engagement until ready magazines could be prepared.
The second question is: "What should be done with a ship's boat's upon clearing for action? Would it be prudent to hoist them all out, and leave them in tow of the steamboats, a few miles astern; or would it be prudent to expose them to the enemy’s gun-fire in their position on the booms and elsewhere? Preservation of the boats and reduction to the lowest possible quantity of the splinters flying about the deck must be considered on the one hand; on the other hand, the possible escape of one or more boats from the effects of projectiles, and the importance, if it can be secured, of having something ready for immediate lowering, deserve attention!''
In whatever way this question may be handled tactics will not be involved. It certainly does not seem wise to leave the boats astern, for the rear in an action is liable to change frequently and become the front or be in any other direction, tactically speaking. At sea it would be better to carry the boats. If there are any that are so situated that their splinters would endanger a gun's crew, and the men could not be protected from them, it would be well to put them overboard, risking their recovery at the end of the action. Ordinarily the splinters could be prevented from flying by filling the boats with water and surrounding them with their sails. It would be well to improvise protection against machine-gun fire; but in a close, long-continued action they would be rendered useless in all probability for immediate lowering. It might be wise to have a collapsible boat stowed below the water-line or behind heavy armor. Before going into action in a harbor, or when preparing for one just outside your own harbor, it would be well to send the boats to a safe place, trusting to the boats of a tender being sent if necessary.
The third question is: "What is likely to be the effect upon a ship’s anchors, of a successful attempt to use the ram? What the effect upon them, of the ship's heavy forward guns if fired nearly ahead and with some depression? Is it or is it not important that you shall be in a condition to anchor at the close of an engagement? "
Undoubtedly a ship's anchors are liable to be torn from their place when a successful attempt to ram is made. This is one of the risks necessary to run when ramming. The bow may be smashed in or the ram twisted. It is not likely that one vessel will ram another without both receiving injuries. The chains should always be unbent when going into action, to prevent unnecessary danger. As to the effect of the heavy guns when fired with depression, it would depend somewhat upon the distance from the muzzle of the guns from the deck. The anchors should be so secured as to stand the blast if the decks can resist it. With proper securing bolts, the anchors can be lashed so as to hold as long as the decks. It may be quite important to be able to anchor at the close of an engagement. If on a lee shore with damaged engines and bad weather threatening, anchoring may be the only means of safety; as was the case with the English fleet after Trafalgar. A spare anchor might be a most valuable thing to have at hand, but weights must be considered, and no precautions will prevent naval warfare from being dangerous for lives and material.
The fourth question is: ''Have you a thoroughly workable scheme whereby you can at once provide the proper substitute for any officer who may be killed or wounded, no matter in what part of the ship he may be stationed? Can you instantly make good the chain of authority throughout the vessel, no matter in what link it may be broken? Can you do this repeatedly? Can you do it if two or three links should break at once? Does your method of making good these breaks leave your chain dangerously weak in places, or only shorter as a whole?"
All of these questions except the last could be answered correctly in the negative, as to answer them in the affirmative would be to expect to be able to perform impossibilities. In the various divisions and in the many parts of the ship the train of authority may go from senior to junior officer, through petty officers to the lowest in the seaman grade. It may happen that an important division or station will be left without an officer to command. Undoubtedly it will be weakened; but we can trust that there will be found among the brave, intelligent and well drilled seamen one who can carry on the fight until an officer can be found to take command or even until the action is over. It would be impracticable to be shifting stations and divisions during an action so that the most experienced officer should always hold the most important station. During a naval engagement the chain is liable to become dangerously weak as well as dangerously short, in spite of all precautions. Fighting cannot be made a safe business.
The succession to command is the most important portion of the chain of authority to preserve unimpaired. The position that the executive officer may happen to occupy at the time of an injury to the captain is a matter of vital importance. The United States Naval Regulations say of the executive, on page 119, Article 523, that "In battle he shall look after the general working of the armament, and from time to time repair to any part of the ship where his duty may be performed to the best advantage." If the executive supervises the general working of the armament, his position at any one time is uncertain, and when he is wanted to assume command he may not be found readily, and when he does assume command he may have but little knowledge of events outside of his own ship, unless this regulation is interpreted, as it should be properly, to mean from the conning tower deck or bridge, except in cases of emergency. Otherwise the position of other vessels or their condition may be entirely unknown to him. This would be always an unfortunate condition of affairs, and under certain circumstances could only result in disaster. The removal of the captain by wounds or by death during action must be always quite a serious event. No matter how well the next in command may be acquainted with the scheme of action, the captain's methods, and the surrounding circumstances, there must be a short time elapse before he can hold the reins firmly. Should the ship be about to ram or be attempting to escape the ram of an opponent at the time, a slight wavering or uncertainty during the time the second brain was taking the command relinquished by the first, might be sufficient to turn a position of safety into one of imminent danger, or to turn victory into defeat. The latitude allowed by the regulations is necessary, as emergencies might arise requiring the presence of the executive in any part of the ship; but they must not be construed too liberally, for during the greater part of a battle his duties can be performed to the best advantage in positions not far from his commanding officer. The Germans station the executive, the second in command, on a lower deck, in a position of comparative safety. Here he is unlikely to be injured by the same accident that incapacitates the captain, and he can always be found; but his knowledge of passing events must depend upon such reports as he may receive from time to time, and it would take some minutes before he could act intelligently should he be called upon to assume command. The second in command should be near the captain, so as to learn from him his scheme of action from time to time. He should be able from his station to keep himself informed of the sequence of surrounding events. He should be sufficiently near to prevent any interregnum, where he could notice the fall of the captain and where he could exercise at once the command that devolved upon him. And yet he should be in such a position as would render it unlikely that both of them should be injured at the same time, and where he can render efficient service superintending the general working of the armament. When the captain is on deck the executive should be in the conning tower, and if the captain be in the conning tower the executive should be on deck under some protection.
When piloting is necessary the navigator must be at or near the wheel to conn the ship and keep her from running aground, as the captain would probably need all his faculties to fight his ship properly. When no piloting is required he could be stationed in some comparatively safe and central position, from which he could be called readily to assume the duties of executive should it become necessary. The senior watch and ordnance officer should not be called from his duties, unless required to take the position of executive.
The fifth question is: "To what extent do you propose to rely upon voice-tubes, electric wires for lighting, firing and signaling, helm indicators, engine-room telegraphs, etc., in action, and what provisions have you for finding substitutes at an instants notice for any or all of them?"
Voice-tubes or telephones are absolutely necessary for the proper command of a modern vessel. The distances are too great and the passages are too intricate to admit of relying upon messengers, and a chain of messengers is as liable to damage as a voice-tube, and the liability of error's arising is greater in the former than in the latter. The number of voice-tubes can be increased easily, and different stations arranged for their use; but the size of the crew is limited, within reason, to the berthing capacity of the ship. Some messengers are necessary, but the number of the crew that can be spared for such purposes is limited. There will be many times during war when the strain upon the crew will be great, and it might easily grow excessive if they were not properly berthed so as to be able to get the necessary rest when suitable opportunities occurred. Lighting by electricity is more in danger of interruption than by lamps; but when there are sufficient dynamos, and the battle circuits are properly run, this danger is reduced to a minimum. Lanterns should be kept filled and trimmed ready for lighting at all points where light is a necessity. Helm indicators and engine-room telegraphs add to the precision with which orders can be delivered and executed. They should always be supplemented by gongs and voice-tubes. It must be remembered that injury to the conning tower may injure the steering wheel and the communications at the same time, and that other stations must be provided with means of communication to the engine-room, and also to the tiller-room, at which place it may become necessary to steer the ship. It is extremely doubtful whether the electric control for firing broadsides is an advantage or not. It must not be depended upon; but there should be an electric signal by drop-shutter or otherwise, so that the captain may be informed when any guns are put out of action. It might modify his tactics considerably should he be informed that a portion of his guns were rendered useless. There might be great choice as to which broadside to turn to the enemy; or if sheering to increase the strength of fire, the helm to use would be regulated in accordance with the location of the damaged guns. For night signaling, rockets, Very's signals and torches would be provided always to take the place of electricity, should that means of signaling fail.
The sixth question is: "How much more or less complicated and delicate gear have you in your ship upon which you would not think of depending if you were going into action? Do you use it at present? Is it wise to use it if you would not think of depending upon it?"
This question appears to refer to the subjects of the fifth question already considered. All methods of signaling, securing communication with the various parts of the ship and operating the machinery should be as reliable as possible and the same used under ordinary circumstances as would be used in action. This is necessary to secure familiarity with the gear and reasonable certainty of working in time of battle. Simplicity and strength should be sought for; but it must be remembered that a ship of war is a complicated machine, and that there are of necessity many parts which are delicate and liable to be injured. To multiply these unnecessarily would be a serious mistake, but there are few machines more complicated or more delicate than man himself, yet his services are indispensable. A compromise on this question as well as on many others that arise in the consideration of a man-of-war is necessary. There has been a tendency abroad, but not at home, to sacrifice too much of the strength of moving parts in order to economize weights. Guns may be handled more swiftly and accurately by machinery than by hand, and yet a damaged man may be replaced when it would be impossible to replace or repair the machine. Where to draw the line will always require anxious thought and numerous experiments. The tendency will continue to be in the line of an increase in the amount of machinery for replacing hand power as improvements are made and designs perfected.
The seventh question is: "What provisions have you for making or answering signals in action? Have you any protected station for your signalmen?"
The ordinary provisions for signaling in action are quite inadequate, and in no direction is improvement more necessary; but whatever method may be used, shapes, semaphore, or flags, protection must be provided for the signalmen. In some of the accounts of the Yalu river fight it is stated that the Chinese were obliged to remain in their weak formation because all the signal halliards were cut early in the action. It may be believed that this was not the only reason for the helplessness of the Chinese fleet, but it must be recognized that as signals are necessary for the proper handling of a fleet, protection for the signalmen, at least, must be provided against machine-gun and small-arm fire.
The eighth question is: "What effect may be anticipated should a hostile projectile strike a fuzed shell in your racks, or a charged torpedo? How does a knowledge of what may happen in such an event influence your arrangements for keeping up a supply of ammunition to your more exposed guns, and for using your above-water torpedo tubes?"
If a projectile should strike a fuzed shell it would be very likely to explode; but there is no reason why the remaining shells should explode. Not very long since an army caisson exploded and some of the shells must have been exploded by the concussion of the others; but it is probable that they were badly fuzed, and such an accident is not liable to happen with the navy fuze. Under any circumstances it is necessary to have a supply of ammunition for your guns, and the risk must be run, only it can be narrowed as much as possible by using permanent or improvised protection.
The reservoir of a Whitehead torpedo would make quite a serious explosion if struck by a projectile, and it is probable that both the Howell and the Whitehead charges would be detonated by an exploding shell, if not by the concussion of a projectile. For this reason it is unwise to carry charged torpedoes in unprotected above-water tubes, as they may possibly prove more damaging to your own vessel than to the enemy. Of course this refers to battle-ships and to cruisers, not to torpedo-boats.
The ninth question is: "How would a suspicion that your bow tube might at the moment contain a live torpedo influence your decision, should an opportunity for ramming present itself?"
My bow tube would not contain a live torpedo so long as the motive power of the ship remained uninjured. A bow tube is of little value on a battle-ship. It should only contain a charged torpedo when the motive power has been so impaired as to render ramming impossible and being rammed probable, and then the bow would be the least useful place to have one.
The tenth question is: "Is there from your battery-deck an up-draught which would quickly free the battery from the gases of any explosion that might occur there? What consequences are to be apprehended there or elsewhere from the gaseous products of certain high explosives?"
The first part of this question evidently refers to the earlier type of battle-ship. It is hardly probable that much of an up-draught could be procured. From the experiments with modern high explosives it is hardly probable that many would escape the effect of the concussion or of being asphyxiated by the explosion of a shell so charged in a casemate or other gun enclosure.
The eleventh question is: "Can you get in your torpedo-net defenses sufficiently to enable you to maneuver your ship, without the necessity of employing your men outboard, in such a manner as to mask much of your own gun-fire, as well as to expose the men to the fire of the enemy? If not, do you purpose, in war-time, to ever use your net defenses when you are liable to sudden attack?"
No known net defense can be rigged in securely without exposure of men and important loss of time. The torpedo-net is mainly useful when coaling and repairing within the radius of the enemy's torpedo-boats, or when attacking a harbor where there is no liability of being attacked in return by other battle-ships. It would be criminal to use them when able to steam and liable to be attacked by other ships.
The twelfth question is: ''Do you realize the continuous nature of the strain likely to be put upon executive officers by the conditions of modern warfare? Have you ready any scheme whereby this strain may be as much as possible equalized, and whereby both officers and men may husband their strength and nervous energy to the best advantage? For how long do you consider that a crew could stand the wear and tear of maintaining a position, say within fifty miles of a great port in which lay a hostile fleet and a large flotilla of torpedo-boats?"
If you have a properly organized force, with a reasonable proportion of cruisers and torpedo gunboats or catchers, you can, by making proper tactical dispositions of your forces, prevent any excessive strain upon officers or men. In fact, in no other way will a tactician have a better opportunity to show his ability than in so disposing his vessels as to prevent sudden alarms and undue tension from being inflicted upon his entire fleet. In the daytime, except in foggy weather, and even in bright nights, but few lookout vessels would be necessary to prevent a surprise; but on dark nights and in thick weather it would require all the cruisers and gunboats to guard the battle-ships, and numerous lookouts would be necessary on all the vessels of the fleet. The circumstances may be too varied to admit of fixed rules, and with only a small proportion of unarmored fast vessels the strain must be great under any circumstances. If fifty miles away, the battleships can cruise under low steam, or remain at anchor, with heavy banked fires, during the day in clear weather or during bright nights. The hostile port must be watched closely by three or four light vessels, the number depending upon the size and character of the entrance guarded. At night these out guards must be cautioned to examine headlands, wooded points, etc., as closely as the enemy's batteries will permit, to prevent torpedo-boats from sneaking along the land. Outside of these, in a central position, within easy signal distance, the main guard of torpedo-catchers must cruise at night. In the daytime one or two cruisers to pass back the signals can take their place. Within five or six miles of the fleet again will be stationed two or three torpedo-catchers, to watch for torpedo-boats that may have passed the out guards. Between the fleet and the in guards the main body of in guards will be stationed at night. The guards of the night previous will be stationed where there is the least chance of their being subjected to sudden attacks. If the position being maintained is a harbor, the mouth will be closely guarded and the fleet anchored so that it can steam out and be drawn up in battle formation at a point where it has ample sea-room, soon after the notice of the movement of the enemy's heavy vessels. It would only be practicable to thus maintain a point fifty miles from a hostile fleet, when it was only necessary to watch and keep in touch with the fleet of the enemy. But if masking or blockading the enemy's fleet, it would be necessary to hold the fleet nearer the hostile port and to be kept underway at all times. Then the point fifty miles away might be maintained for coal, ammunition and other supplies and for repairs. In foggy weather the line must be drawn more closely around the port, and the main guard should join them in picket duty. The work would then become most arduous, and signals must be carefully arranged to prevent the attacking of friends. The cruising ground must be carefully laid out to prevent the necessity of too frequent signaling that would betray the whereabouts of the guard to the enemy. Sound signals only would be possible, and they could be changed from time to time, using the steam whistle, the boatswain's call and the bugle. If a harbor is the point maintained, picket-boats and torpedo-boats must swarm at the entrance. It would hardly be possible for the enemy to make an attack with his heavy vessels in a thick fog, and if he did, the torpedo-boats and torpedo gunboats should be able to defeat him. If the point were an open roadstead, it would be practicable to anchor the fleet when there were ample torpedo-boats for protection and when the weather was suitable for handling them. But if the sea were too rough for the boats, the fleet should stand out from land at a moderate speed, followed by the cruisers and gunboats in a formation with a broad front, and running out for an agreed upon length of time, then upon the signal being made, standing in at a slow speed with the cruisers spread out in front. A column of cruisers should connect the line of cruisers with the battle-ships, to pass sound signals and to keep touch in the fog. In this way of disposing the vessels the strain should not be excessive, unless an inordinate amount of foggy weather is encountered, as the greater fatigue would fall upon the younger officers and men who should be more able to endure it, and being in the smaller boats could be the most readily relieved, and would be from necessity more frequently relieved for coaling, etc.
Should you be blockading the port or masking the fleet it would not be practicable to closely guard the enemy during foggy weather with the heavy vessels. For if he can feel his way out he can keep in close order and attack everything he sees or hears, and when separated make for a pre-arranged rendezvous. With the use of torpedo-boats and torpedo gunboats his attempt to escape could be made highly dangerous, if not impossible, and the heavy boats should be kept well off the port.
The thirteenth question is: ''What will be the effect upon the occupants of a conning tower, even if it withstand the blow of a heavy projectile, (a) from the concussion, (b) from the displacement of the fittings? Should a commanding officer attempt to fight his ship from the conning tower? If not, how should she be steered, and from what position can the captain enjoy the necessary view, while still maintaining communication of some sort with his officers?"
The question of the conning tower is a most vital one. It has been discussed partially already in the question (No. 4) about maintaining the chain of command. We have some previous experience from which to judge, viz., the reports of the commanders of our monitors during the war. They all spoke of the difficulty of handling their vessels with the limited view afforded by the conning tower, especially during the smoke of battle. The effect of concussion can only be estimated. Wooden mantlets prevent direct contact that would be fatal at the time of the blow, deaden the force of the concussion by the intervention of an air cushion, and prevent injury from flying bolts. A vessel might be well handled from the conning tower, provided it were well constructed, if it were maneuvering against one vessel only; but if the vessel were in a fleet, or were maneuvering against several vessels, it is difficult to imagine how the captain could obtain a sufficiently all-around view to fight his ship from the conning tower. There would be little likelihood of the same commanding officer being able to carry through an engagement unless he were afforded some protection, for without it he would be sacrificed, probably, at close quarters, at a time when it would be most disadvantageous to change the officer in command. There should be several protected stations, at least one on each bow, from which the captain could fight his ship. These stations must be clearly visible to those inside the conning tower, and they should be connected with the conning tower by gongs, telephones or indicators, or by all. They should also be connected with the steering station in the tiller-room and with the engine-room. The captain could communicate by signs with those in the conning tower under many circumstances, but must be able to have recourse to other methods at times. The conning tower should be accessible from the deck, so that the captain can enter when desirable, and his officers and messengers can leave it to communicate directly with him. Even with all these facilities, to accurately handle the ship he will require great experience under service conditions. The captain, the officer at the conn, and the helmsman must work in unison. The finest display of the seaman's art will be the handling of a battle-ship in action. Seamen are more than ever necessary, and without a high order of intelligence, guided by experience, the immense ship, with its numerous guns, powerful engines and intricate machinery, will be wasted in the combat.
The fourteenth question is: "To what extent, if any, can glass over dials, lamps, lanterns, etc., be depended upon in the event of a heavy explosion in its vicinity? To what extent, if any, can horn or talc be substituted for it? Is it advantageous, or otherwise, to have a brightly lighted battery on the occasion of a night action?"
The first portions of this question might well be the subject of experiment, and could be exactly determined without difficulty. Thicker glass than used ordinarily might be found advisable where it was practicable to sacrifice some of the light. The last portion of the question can have but one correct answer. No one who has had experience on board ship, who has looked out of a lighted pilot-house or chart-room at night, can fail to answer in the negative. The gunner's view is frequently seriously limited in the daytime; at night from a brightly-lighted battery he would see hardly anything, and to bring his sights on anything but a brightly-lighted object would be an impossibility. Only so much light as is necessary for loading the guns and setting the sights should be used, and that should come from behind the gunner, and care should be taken that it is not reflected from the side or from the gun into the gunner's eyes.
The fifteenth question is: ''Will it in all cases be advantageous to use smokeless powder? What provision is there for the production of smoke should it be needed to serve as a screen to leeward?"
A battle-ship must have a clear view, and therefore under most circumstances must be seen, so that smokeless powder prevents being taken unawares by the enemy and mistaking him for a friend, as well as giving a clear target for the guns. There have been several smoke-producing inventions for army use that might be useful in preparing for an attack to be made by your own torpedo-boats. All the smoke needed can be produced also by a raft with a burning tar-kettle.
The sixteenth question is: ''What are the possible defenses of a ship underway, against a torpedo that is approaching her? What is her safest position (a) if moving slowly, (b) if moving at speed, supposing that she cannot in time move out of the line of fire? What is the effect upon a torpedo of the explosion of a heavy charge under water within a short distance of it? What provision have you for the explosion of such a charge at short notice, in or near the path of an advancing torpedo?"
Under the circumstances mentioned, the helm and rapid-fire and machine-guns are the means of defense. If a vessel is moving rapidly and cannot move out of the line of fire in time, her safest position to receive the torpedo is bows on, and stern on if moving slowly. With speed the bow wave would be more apt to deflect the torpedo; it should be taken slightly on one bow where the wave forms less than a right angle with the keel. Going slow, the wash from the propeller would be more apt to deflect the torpedo, and it should be taken slightly on one quarter. While heavy charges exploded in the immediate vicinity would probably explode it by concussion or deflect it, it would seem as if it were impracticable to have heavy charges ready at the appropriate places, and the chances of hand grenades being effective seem too few to warrant their presence about the deck.
The seventeenth question is: "If your funnels be seriously damaged by projectiles, what speedily available provision can be made for the maintenance of a reasonable amount of draught?''
This has become a more important question lately than it was when more dependence was placed on forced draught. The modern tendency to rely on increased length of funnel for draught has increased the weakness of that feature and has made the injury of the enemy's funnel an important tactical consideration. The enemy's speed might be greatly reduced by the fire of the rapid-fire guns. Small injuries might be repaired by a species of soft patch, but the heat developed at the lower part of the funnel above the armor case is usually too great, when going at high speed, to permit the use of temporary expedients, and the main reliance must be placed upon forced draught. Besides the loss of draught, the escape of smoke and cinders, at a slight elevation above the decks, might interfere seriously with battery and helm.
The eighteenth question is: ''If you decide to ram, at what speed will you steam, and how will your decision be affected by the direction in which the enemy is moving? Will you or will you not reduce speed, upon making or immediately before making contact?''
The ship's best speed is the proper speed to make when attempting to ram, that is, not a spurt that may give out before reaching the enemy, but the highest steady speed that can be counted upon to continue during the maneuver. Then smaller angles of helm will produce greater effect. It would be well to shut off the steam upon making contact with the enemy when striking him on or nearly on the broadside, otherwise it would be well to notice the effect of the blow before stopping the engines. You might escape with less injury after delivering the blow if the pressure was continued than if it was shut off from the engines.
The nineteenth question is: ''Having sustained serious underwater injuries to her forward part, should a ship be steamed ahead or astern in order to run her into shallow water?"
Here again the seaman must be guided by the circumstances attending the case. If the water-tight bulkheads will stand the pressure, it is advisable to steam ahead into shallow water for several reasons. The ship can ordinarily be handled more easily when steaming ahead. Collision mats, etc., that would be put over the bow, when practicable, to lessen the leak, would be of little or no use when steaming astern, but would be held in place by the pressure when going ahead. Unless the injury at the bow had caused the draught forward to increase seriously, it would be advisable to ground the ship bows first, for otherwise on a steep-to beach the sinking of the bow might drag the ship off into deep water. The injury might be so serious as to make the bulkheads remaining unable to stand the weight of water with the additional pressure caused by steaming ahead, in spite of all possible efforts to support them; then it would be necessary to steam astern into shoal water.
The twentieth question is: "To what extent does the principle of the isolation of heavy guns as carried out, for example, in the Royal Sovereign, Almirante Tamandare, etc., conflict with the control by the captain and by the battery-officers of the ship’s gunfire? Can any disadvantage which might arise, owing to this isolation, be neutralized by the issue beforehand of general orders?"
The captain will only be able to have a very general control of the battery, heavy guns and light, unless it is deemed wise to indulge in broadside firing by electricity; but they will be under the charge of the officers of divisions, and the captain will give them general and special instructions for their guidance. When practicable, the heavier guns will be aimed by junior officers. The captain will inform his divisional officers of his general intentions, tell them how he proposes to carry on the action and at what range he proposes to open fire with the different calibres; in other words, will give them tactical instructions. In fleet, he should be able to designate at which opponent they are to direct their fire, and he should designate the various parts of the enemy's vessel as targets for each calibre, and see that the officers understand how to change the point aimed at according to the construction of the enemy's vessel. He must have some means of communicating with all the divisions, so as to direct them to open and cease firing, to give them the range, and when they cannot observe the fall of their shot, let them know if they are raising the sight-bar too high or dropping it too low. He must know from them when their guns are disabled.
The twenty-first question is: ''To what extent does the principle of closed water-tight compartments conflict with the communication of orders to various parts of the ship, supposing voice-tubes, wires, etc., to be dislocated or unserviceable? How is the difficulty to be provided against?"
This will depend largely upon the construction of the ship; but any modern-built battle-ship will be in very bad circumstances when all means of communication, except by messenger, have been cut off. At some points doors must be left open, at others messages may be passed through traps in the doors; but it would be wise to have several points or centers of communication and separate lines of tubes and wires to lessen the chances of complete interruption of communication.
The twenty-second question is: ''What provision is therefore the prompt removal below of wounded men, without undue interference with the continuous transport to the deck of ammunition and with the passage of messengers, etc.?"
This question must be answered separately for each ship according to its construction; and to provide for the care and transportation of the wounded without interfering with the service of the guns must be a matter of anxious thought. In an action of any length of time, other men will be wanted besides the usual aids to the wounded, or the guns may be left without men.
The twenty-third question is: "Of what use to an officer especially one employed below, is a sword? Should any officer upon going to general quarters wear a sword f Would a couple of revolvers, supplemented perhaps by a short, heavy, pointed weapon, shaped like the Roman sword, be more useful?"
This is not a matter of great importance. Every officer should carry some symbol of authority, and a sword is one easily recognized; and some means of immediately enforcing authority should be in every officer's hands. A revolver would answer this latter purpose very well. One revolver is enough for any ordinary man to manage, and an officer would not look well weighted down with weapons. Little niceties of uniform and etiquette have much to do with the preservation of discipline without friction. The design of the sword should be such as to be suitable to all occasions, so that an officer may have it at hand always when on duty. A rapier has been suggested by some, one of medium length, as it is easily kept ready for service, is less apt to become a mere useless ornament, and at the same time is well suited to dress occasions.
The twenty-fourth question is: "Are you prepared with any scheme whereby, even at risk to your ship, you can take on board, while underway, at least some coal, if such a proceeding is desirable? Do you habitually complete with coal in the shortest possible time, and is it desirable that when coaling you should do this?"
No satisfactory method has yet been found for coaling at sea. The only method at all practicable in a seaway is by trains of coal-bags between the collier and the ship, one towing the other. If the collier is heavy enough the ship can be towed astern, and if an accident should happen, the greater injury will happen to the one of smaller value; besides, if the bags should dip in the sea, the wash on them will help them toward their destination, in place of being a drag. If the collier were too light it would be preferable to tow her on the quarter, using spring as well as tow line. The arrangement of the runners would depend upon the relative heights of the two vessels, and they could be rigged easily by a skillful seaman. The problem of re-coaling rapidly is almost as important as that of repairing rapidly, and countries with large fleets will have colliers with coal elevators for rapid coaling in smooth water.
Under most circumstances it would be wise to coal in the shortest time possible, and the duty should be performed with the exactness and promptitude required at a drill, for much may depend upon the rapidity with which the vessel is coaled, and the dirty work has a demoralizing tendency upon discipline and should be completed as soon as practicable.
The twenty-fifth question is: ''What are the advantages and dangers attendant upon the use of the electric search-light against an enemy? Where should a search-light, if used, be projected from? What is its effect upon the sight of your own people? What its effect upon the sight of an enemy? To what extent can the projected ray be used as a screen? Are you prepared with any better method whereby an enemy's ships or works may at night be rendered visible to your gunners?"
The electric light permits you to search out your enemy in the dark, and at times to blind his sight, preventing officers of torpedo-boats from judging your distance correctly and the gunners of the enemy from pointing their guns. A search-light for picking up torpedo-boats should be as low as possible, but it should be in rear or to one side of your guns. The two requirements are difficult to reconcile, and positions for the lights must be selected according to the arrangements of the ship.
The light may be used improperly and dazzle the eyes of your own people or serve as a guide to show the enemy your position. It may be used as a screen by being thrown into the eyes of the enemy's gunners. It must be remembered in a fleet that you may blind friends as well as enemies, and may cause confusion by crossing the beams. Rockets and fire balls have been proposed to take the place of search-lights for illuminating an enemy's ships or works; but they are better adapted to being used from forts than from ships.
The twenty-sixth question is: ''Is any range-finder as practically useful and quick, in daylight, as a rapid-firing gun? Would you use any other in action?''
The rapid-fire gun is the best range-finder for the larger guns if it is in the hands of an excellent marksman; but the rangefinder would be most serviceable to help put the rapid-fire gun on the target, to check the gunner, and to determine the rate of change in range when the vessels are moving rapidly. The great advantage of using the rapid-fire gun as a range-finder is that for the guns you do not wish the exact range, but the apparent range. The low trajectory of modern guns makes this less necessary than formerly; still it must be taken into account that it would be a strange state of the atmosphere when there was no refraction.
Having considered the various tactical details involved in the preparation of a battle-ship for action, the next tactical problem in order is the combat of two ships. This is one of the simplest problems of battle tactics, and yet there are so many points that may arise under so many varying circumstances as to make it possible, within reasonable limits, to consider only the more prominent phases of the combat. As the gun is considered as the ruling weapon, both for offense and for defense, the object of the maneuvers will be to have as many guns as possible bearing on the enemy, to keep within fair range, to avoid unnecessary waste of ammunition, and to allow him to use as few of his guns as possible.
Two vessels meeting on approximately opposite courses, and both being ready for the combat, the first point to decide would be the time to open fire. It is pretty generally conceded that 4000 yards is the extreme opening range; for greater ranges the probabilities of hitting are too small to warrant an expenditure of ammunition when the limited supply that can be carried is remembered. Still as two ships approaching at the rate of fifteen knots each would lessen the distance by one thousand yards a minute, the time of distant firing would be too short to make early firing a serious mistake for rapid-fire guns. With heavy guns the time occupied in loading and training becomes an element of importance. At the speed mentioned, two vessels distant four thousand yards would meet in four minutes. Now, at short range the probabilities of hitting become so much greater than at long range, and where armor must be pierced the damage that can be inflicted is so much greater, that it becomes important to be able to fire at close quarters. The time elapsing between fires will differ among the heavy guns according to their calibre and mount; but it would seem safe to fire one round from about four thousand yards, and then loading at once, reserve the next round for close quarters if the vessels are drawing together rapidly. The opening range being too great to admit of piercing the heavy armor of a battle-ship, shell should be used, and the unarmored or lightly armored portions of the enemy should be the target. At close quarters a.p. projectiles would be used. Of course when firing at unarmored vessels common shell would be used at all ranges.
As the two vessels approach each other, one, if not both captains will see the advantage of employing as many guns as possible, and will use the helm to present the broadside. If the idea should enter the minds of both captains at the same time, the chances would be even as to whether they would use the same or opposite helms. When one ship has indicated her intention to sheer off the course, the other would naturally use the opposite helm, so that the ships' heads would be turned in the same general direction. Any other direction would indicate that the latter was not desirous of continuing the fight and was ready to draw off for a time, if permitted. So that naturally the vessels would tend towards each other, and when at fairly close range tend to take up parallel courses. Unless willing to enter into a ramming contest, the enemy must not be allowed to draw too close.
We may meet with an enemy who is determined to try his ram. He will endeavor to keep his ram directly on our bow. If we turn in ample time we will be able to fire more guns than he can and yet prevent him from occupying a position of advantage. Lieutenant Bethel, R.N., has pointed out the position of danger. It is having your enemy at such a distance astern that your reduced speed will permit him, by following the chord, to reach a point upon your circle at the same time you do; in other words, to ram you. This distance astern varies with the speed. While you might be able to extricate yourself from this position, it is one where you are in danger of being rammed; and usually, as bow fire is generally stronger than stern fire, he would have the advantage in guns and might damage your steering gear or your propeller.
The part of the ship towards which the attack should be directed is a point of considerable importance; it depends upon the design of the ship attacked and the relative position of the two vessels. When first opening fire the vessels will be bow on or nearly so, and from necessity the target would be limited to the forward part of the ship; but when the broadside of the enemy is exposed the target is more ample. For battle-ships the heavy guns loaded with a.p. projectiles will be used against the midship section to injure the motive power by piercing armor and striking engines or boilers; the secondary battery against unprotected or lightly protected gun crews. Smaller rapid-fire guns may be told off to injure the funnel, and by reducing the draught cut down the speed of the enemy. The small arms and machine guns will search all openings if at really close quarters. The guns in tops will pay attention to guns mounted in barbettes.
It may be found when broadsides are bearing that sufficient damage has been done already to the unarmored bow of the enemy to make it advisable to ensure considerable damage by continuing to use it as a target. The bow compartments being filled with water, the speed will be decreased by the increased resistance of the bow and the decreased immersion of the screws, and the ship will be more difficult to handle. A portion of the screws and rudder may become exposed and a well-placed shot leave the vessel an easy prey to the ram. Many of the older battle-ships have no protection for their secondary battery, and these must lose much of their power early in the combat. Some are still armed with muzzle-loading rifles for their heavy guns, and these guns would be silenced when within machine-gun range.
For cruisers the location of the battery would seem to be the most important target, for with the destruction of the guns' crews the principal sting of the cruiser would be drawn. In many cruisers there is the same danger of being raked as in the old sailing ships. At the latter part of the action, or at any time when liable to come to close quarters, it may be well to direct a certain portion of the lighter rapid-fire guns at the above-water torpedo tubes. There have been built certain cruisers that it would be wise to attack at the water-line, especially if the sea is not smooth, for they are liable to extreme lists with the admission of a comparatively small quantity of water above the protective deck. Properly protected cruisers using cellulose, cork or other water-excluding substances, and with reasonable meta-centric height, should be attacked about the battery.
The object for which the engagement is fought will have some weight in determining the tactics to be pursued. The most fruitful source of single combats will be the meeting of scouts. A fleet starting out with a definite object will endeavor to cover its movements with a number of scouts, as an army does with cavalry. The opposing fleet will push out scouts to gain information. An attacking fleet without speedy cruisers loses the advantage of its mobility, as the enemy readily obtains warning of its intended movements. A fleet acting on the defensive, without an ample number of cruisers, is liable to find itself in the wrong place when its services are wanted elsewhere, and that the enemy has succeeded because his intentions have remained hidden.
Scouts must press home for news, and their main object when forced into a fight is to temporarily disable their enemy so as to avoid pursuit; whereas it is the object of the enemy to capture, disable or drive back the opposing scout. A scout after information would be instructed to avoid combats when possible. On the other hand, a covering scout will offer battle on most occasions, even risking an attack on a more powerful vessel. Therefore when scouting for information, and not seeking a decisive engagement, the hull would be the target, for with one or two of his enemy's bow compartments filled he could easily avoid pursuit. The covering cruiser would desire a decisive result, as each scout captured or thoroughly defeated is one removed from his path, one less chance of betrayal.
Should you be inferior to your enemy in battery power, and not his superior in gunnery, you would be forced to attempt ramming. It is not very difficult to draw many curves on paper representing the paths of the ships in smooth water and show how a successful ramming encounter may be conducted; but the tactical diameter, speed and handiness are so changeable under the effects of sea and wind that they can only serve as general guides and permit us to pick out the main principles to be followed. If in moving in an opposite direction you pass the enemy, turn toward his stern, not away from it. Get inside his circle if possible and keep him outside of your circle. If astern of him, and not so far away as to permit him to complete sixteen points before you reach his circle, you should be able to ram him. Inside of your enemy's circle he cannot ram you, and you may ram him. Beyond these rules all must be left to the eye and hand of the seaman. He may know all that his vessel will do in smooth water, and he may have studied the theory of ramming for years, but unless he has a quick eye, with ready decision, guided by experience, he will make a miserable failure when trying to put his theories into practice.
The consideration of a fleet in action naturally follows that of the combat between two ships. In discussing a fleet engagement it becomes necessary to consider what maneuvers are possible or advisable during the combat, and by what method the use of the weapons employed can be best developed so as to carry out the tactical maxims already mentioned, the most important being to so handle your fleet as to concentrate a superior portion of your force on an inferior portion of the enemy's force.
Admiral Colomb says: "I think you must look back to the tactics of a former age as the only foundation on which you can prepare your future tactics." Also, "The doubling now is that two or more ships should pass one ship and give her broadside after broadside or torpedo after torpedo, and thus double on her in succession and not in position."
In regard to the possibility of attempting evolutions during an action. Admiral Boys says: "The conclusion was that there was no impediment to the gun fire from the smoke whatever, and I think ships going at that speed (8 or 9 knots), in a general action, will find very little." With a speed of from 12 to 17 knots there will be still less difficulty encountered from smoke, and to have it hang about the fleet the wind must be quite fresh and come from a direction nearly astern. It is evident that the formations to be used, and the evolutions to be performed with the necessary signals, should be as few and as simple as possible.
Assume two fleets approaching on opposite courses, A in echelon and B in line (1. Fig. 1). A turns to starboard (2, Fig. 1), in order to develop the fire of the battery and to threaten B's left flank. Should B continue on the original course, A, when clear of B's left flank (3, Fig. 1), can reform echelon, vessels turning to port (4, Fig. 1). Here it is plainly manifest that having for a time its broadside fire opposed to B's right ahead fire, A has the advantage; and as it draws towards B's left flank the fire of one after another of B's fleet is shut out by its left-hand neighbor, until all of A's fleet are opposed to the one vessel on B's left flank, and B's left flank has been doubled upon.
The disadvantage to which B is put by these maneuvers of A is so manifest that even the most rabid against tactics would hardly fail to attempt a counter-evolution, only not believing in tactics he has more than an even chance of undertaking to make the wrong move. B might attempt to develop his fire by forming column, the vessels changing course eight points to starboard (3, Fig. 2). This would be in the nature of a retreat. A would wait until B's fleet bore abaft the beam (4, Fig. 2), and then follow in chase (5, Fig. 2). A should not alter course at once, as that would give B the advantage of fire, but by following after, A can concentrate fire on B's rear vessels.
B might develop his fire by forming column, vessels turning eight points to port. Then he would have a slight advantage of fire, as A would be attacking on a diagonal; but unless B slow down, his rear would be exposed to A's fleet; and should he slow, A might charge at full speed, vessels turning four points to port; or A might slow and change direction of column so as to run parallel to B's direction.
B's best move would be to form echelon, vessels turning to port (2, Fig. 3), threatening to charge and keeping his vessels headed toward A's fleet. When near A's vessels he might form column, vessels turning to port (4, Fig. 3), thus gaining a slight advantage of fire and forcing A to change direction (4, Fig. 3). Or he might continue his course, forcing A's vessels to turn to port and receive his charge through. Should he do this, A will have had the advantage of fire up to the time of turning for the charge.
The advantage will be always in the favor of the fleet formed for battle in echelon, if correctly maneuvered against a fleet formed in line, although it will not last for a long time with vessels steaming at the rate of fifteen knots if B's fleet is also maneuvered correctly. Echelon is a formation which if vessels hold it is difficult to double upon any of them, either in succession or in position.
With B's fleet formed in column (1, Fig. 4), A would continue his course, having the right ahead fire of his six vessels opposed to the right ahead fire of B's leaders. A would turn in time, vessels turning sixteen points to the right or left, and then have the stern fire of his six vessels opposed to the right ahead fire of B's leaders. This might continue until B's leaders were disabled or until he tired of the attack under such disadvantages; and then A would assume the attack. A might decide to develop his fire at once by forming column, vessels turning to starboard (2, Fig. 4), then again to starboard, developing broadside fire, and again to starboard in retreat (4, Fig. 4). Thus always having the right ahead or right astern, and part of the time the broadside fire of his fleet opposed to the right ahead fire of B's leader.
Should B change direction to port when A formed column from echelon (3, Fig. 5), A could parallel B's direction by changing course or direction of column; or by forming echelon, vessels turning to starboard (5, Fig. 5), keep his line of fire across B's direction. B might change course to make less than a right angle with his former direction, so as to strike somewhere near the center of A's column. Should A find that B's leader was damaged seriously by the concentrated fire of his fleet, he would change direction in time so as to run parallel with B's fleet, and thus hasten the conclusion of the action, but otherwise he would prefer to turn in retreat when B's leader approached his column, so as to continue for a longer time his advantage of fire over B (5, Fig. 6).
After A has turned to starboard, B might change direction to starboard (Fig. 7). Then A might pass in parallel or nearly parallel lines his leader, changing direction when clear of B's rear (5. Fig. 1), being satisfied with a short advantage of fire over B. Or he might turn about, keeping his advantage longer, and then continuing the fight by running in parallel lines (5, Fig. 8), unless B could force a charge.
Should A be in line with B in column, the evolutions would be practically the same as above where A is in echelon. Even should A, when in line or echelon, continue his course, permitting B to charge through, B's fleet would be at a disadvantage, for the leader would be damaged and might be disabled by the fire of A's six vessels before reaching A's line, and his leader, with those immediately behind, would be in danger of being rammed, having vessels on either hand. Admiral Fremantle, speaking of an attack in line ahead (column), says: "When, for instance, should the leader be rammed, the rest of the squadron must be huddled up in a heap on top of her."
It would seem impossible almost for the leader to escape damage and the column to escape being thrown into confusion.
It now becomes necessary to discuss what can be gained by the advantage of fire, and here as in single vessels we can first look to history as a guide. For even with the immense changes in ships and weapons since history has had to deal with sea fights, something of probable results may be gathered from its pages. Since guns were used first in sea fights, the motive power and the crew have been the principal objects of attack. Destruction of the vessels by sinking or by burning has been only incidental. The slaughter of the crews of the vessels composing the fleet has settled the result in the large majority of cases. By injury to their spars and sails their power of maneuvering was destroyed and this permitted their more skillful or more fortunate antagonists to take up a position on bow or quarter, and bringing their broadsides to bear against a few guns, to slaughter the men on the unfortunate vessels.
The first use of iron armor was to protect the crews working the guns and the engine propelling the ships against shell fire. This only afforded the same kind of protection against the more powerful guns that the thick wooden sides did against the guns of inferior energy. In the accounts of many of the sea fights you read of the shot sticking in the sides of wooden ships as raisins in a plum pudding. In the English and French and English and Spanish naval battles, the slaughter on the French or Spanish side nearly always far exceeded that on the English side. The French ships were fought with extreme gallantry, and the men frequently stood by their guns long after defeat was inevitable. They were defeated by superior seamanship and superior gunnery. Much of the success of the English was due to the skill with which their vessels were handled, and much to the rapidity with which they worked their guns; but a part must have been due also to their superior ballistics. The English followed the custom of reserving their fire until alongside the enemy, and then firing rapidly; but nothing can as well account for the far greater effect of the English fire as superior penetration that permitted such frightful slaughter.
The advent of shell guns made armor a necessity; but as protection increased the power of the gun increased, and the armor still being penetrable, the great size of the guns threatened the speedy destruction of the ship. Then the armor was taken from various parts of the ship, principally the ends, to protect the power of flotation by increased water-line protection. The motive power was placed below the water-line and thus well protected. The guns increased in size and power, and being of such great weight only a few could be carried. These were grouped together and well protected by armor. At this time not only were the guns' crews well protected, but they required few men in proportion to the size of the ship, and the places of the killed and wounded could be easily supplied; so the slaughter of the crew was not of vital importance. The fear of the loss of the vessel by sinking, growing with the size of the gun, was increased by the craze for rams and torpedoes. Great battleships were thought to be unwieldy and to be at the mercy of small rams and numerous torpedo-boats. Some common-sense and minute subdivision of the hull dissipated much of the fear of the former; electric lights, subdivision of the hull, but above all rapid-fire guns, stripped the latter of its excessive terrors. The Italians were the first to recognize that the gun was again in the ascendant, and that guns' crews must be well protected. They devoted a large portion of their armor to the protection of the battery, using subdivision of the hull, with water-excluding substances, to preserve the buoyancy of the vessel. Again the guns caused a change in the disposition of the armor, for it was found possible to use shell charged with high explosives which had an enormous shattering effect. While the heavy armor of turrets and barbettes protected the crew from direct assault, the effect of the high explosives was so great as to seriously threaten this huge structure from underneath. Not only did experiment show that they were all in danger from the force of explosion from below, but its great force threatened to blow out supports and let the structures down. About six inches of armor is considered sufficient at present to cause shells charged with high explosives to explode on the outside where they can do little or no damage.
The situation at present is this: the larger calibre of guns can penetrate, at close quarters, any armor that can be carried reasonably on a battle-ship, and but few guns of large calibre can be carried, and they require some minutes to load and fire. High explosives must be kept out and guns' crews must be protected, at least from the fire of the smaller rapid-fire and the machine guns. These circumstances have led to two principal types of armored vessels: the light armored vessels of high endurance, the real armored cruiser; and the heavy armored vessel of limited endurance, the battle-ship—both ships of the line. The finest developments of these types were outlined in the report of our Naval Policy Board, and are fairly exemplified, the first in the New York and the second in the Indiana. They are by all odds the finest vessels of their kind afloat to-day, and the present outlook is that they are types that will survive for many years, and the future improvements will be more in the line of perfection of detail than in change of design. The same parts of the vessel should be chosen as a target as indicated in the discussion of a combat between two vessels, and the admiral of a fleet should have it in his power to indicate to his ships upon what ship of the enemy they should concentrate their fire when the proper one is not evident from the situation.
A few vessels may be sunk and some may be set on fire by exploding shells; but in the battles of the future, as well as in those of the past, either before or after the motive power has suffered serious injury, the defeated ships will have retreated or surrendered because of the slaughter among the crew. It may be argued that it is more important to drive the enemy back with damaged ships than with diminished crews. But the manning of the fleets of any country will exhaust all or nearly all the trained men, and ships can be repaired, with reasonable facilities, in less time than men can be trained. Untrained men will be of but little use on modem men-of-war.
The condition of affairs has not changed the probable results so greatly as at first view would seem to be the case. Ships are much larger, and some carry very thick armor; but guns have kept pace also, and the relative value of protection and guns has not altered greatly. Increased calibre, better projectiles, improved ballistics, facility of train and rapidity in loading have kept the ratios from great changes, and the results of former combats may still serve to elucidate modern problems. Well trained men, good marksmen, on inferior ships, may serve to win the day; and with equally well designed ships and weapons, the best trained men must conquer if the ships are handled by seamen.
Should the enemy be your superior in gun power, it will be necessary to try conclusions with the ram at the earliest opportunity, provided he is a good tactician and develops his gun fire, using his superiority to the best advantage. Should he be rash enough to attack with a narrow front, you can more than equalize his superiority in gun fire by maintaining a good formation; but as soon as his maneuvers cause you to run in parallel lines you must endeavor to close and charge him. The best formation in which to charge is fleet in line.
Having the advantage in numbers, it becomes a question how to make the best use of them. The advantage may be original or it may occur during the engagement, being caused by the enemy's vessels falling out of line, because of loss of men or because of damage to the motive power. Now, superiority in speed will tell greatly, for it becomes easy to double on end or flank vessels of the enemy, and such doubling up must prove fatal to the vessels attacked. With equal speeds it will require considerable skill to develop the full value of the superior fire; but by hanging a little off the quarter astern and a little off the bows ahead, some additional guns can be brought to bear from the extra ships when in column, as also by holding a little in advance on the flanks when in line. Another way to give the full effect to the additional numbers is to pass the enemy's fleet on an opposite course, both being in column, as in Fig. 7; but this the enemy can prevent easily. In case of ramming, the full value of the extra ships may be made to tell by forming them astern of the line and having them attack' after the other ships have passed through.
With two fleets of equal speed it can hardly be expected that the formations will remain intact after much damage has been inflicted, for if one fleet commander finds his ships suffering more than those of his enemy, he will seek to close and gain in the melee, at close quarters or with the ram, what is denied him at longer ranges for want of skill with his guns. The admiral who has gained by gun fire will be loath to sacrifice his known advantage by allowing the enemy to close; but he will find it difficult to avoid doing so, if both fleets are handled with equal skill. Again, accidents or damage will serve to disorganize the fleets, and here superior numbers can be used to advantage by filling up the gaps.
With two well handled fleets, the combat may be expected to be carried on with the ships in column and steering in nearly parallel directions, the interval gradually closing, until one threatening to charge and the other heading to meet it, the fleets come together. As they pass, some vessels may attempt to ram because of tempting opportunities, some to make up for loss of gun fire, some because they are threatened by their opposite numbers in the other fleet, and some because they believe in ramming at any and all times. Now good drill will tell. For a time the admiral will lose control of his fleet, but if his ships are well drilled and are instructed to haul out of the melee and form promptly, he may take a slower enemy at a disadvantage and concentrate his entire force on a portion of the enemy's unformed force. Superiority in numbers will now tell strongly. If it is sufficiently large to admit of forming a reserve, they can be sent against the enemy and strike him while in confusion. And if not held actually in reserve, they can form a second line; or if in the first line, some must be without opponents in the charge and be ready to return immediately to the fight.
The number of vessels that should constitute the line of a fleet is a mooted question. As is given in some tactical books, it is sixteen, eight forming a division and four a squadron. By some this is thought to be too large a number to form in one line. The distance being two cables, four hundred yards, the distance between the centers of the flank vessels would be six thousand yards, with sixteen vessels in line, so that the flank vessels would be too far away from the head of an attacking column to deliver an effective fire, and this difficulty would be increased with the fleet in echelon. The fleet might be maneuvered at a distance of one cable, and thus the distance apart of the flank vessels would be halved; but it is extremely doubtful whether the vessels could be maneuvered with safety in such close order during an action. When in column at half distance there would be less than a ship's length between the bow of one ship and the stem of the next ahead, and great confusion, if not disaster, would be probable if one of the vessels should be forced to stop suddenly. Close order could be maintained readily in line, and might be an advantage when intending to charge, but it would prevent maneuvering with safety.
Eight battle-ships is a sufficient number to handle in one line, and the additional vessels should be handled separately as a semi-independent command. They could act in reserve or be used to strengthen either flank, or to extend the line should be enemy's ships overlap either flank. The fastest vessels should be held in reserve, so that they can be pushed around either flank when possible to double on a portion of the enemy's line.
Unless cruising near home ports, torpedo-boats will not be found forming a part of the fleet under ordinary circumstances. In long cruises they would serve to retard the fleet in its movements, and they would run very serious risks; but with a home fleet guarding the coasts, they would follow the fleet when not required to move too rapidly or too far for them. Then they could take refuge when the weather made it necessary. Whenever the weather permitted, and an action was probable near home, some, if not all, the harbor defense vessels would join the fleet, the proportion remaining in port depending upon circumstances.
It is well conceded that to open an attack, in daylight and in clear weather, with torpedo-boats is to invite their destruction without adequate returns. So the torpedo-boats of a fleet must remain under the shelter of the battle-ships, in a day attack, until a favorable opportunity arises for a surprise. They would be particularly useful in a charge, as coming around under the stern of one of their own ships, they could attack the bows of an enemy under the cover of the smoke that would be at its thickest at such a time, and after launching their torpedoes could seek the shelter of the same or another ship of their own fleet. Even if smokeless powder is used, the time of their exposure to fire would be very short, and the battle-ships would have to keep a very keen lookout for them.
One of the great difficulties in a melee will be to distinguish friend from foe, and the captain will require a cool head and a quick eye to be sure of his target when handling either battleship, cruiser or torpedo-boat, and the latter will be in danger frequently from friends as well as from enemies. They could carry distinguishing shapes in daytime. At night pre-arranged flashes from the search-light, and in fog blasts from the whistle could be used when the officer commanding the boat was certain he was approaching a friend.
To be thoroughly effective the fleet will require fast cruisers to signal the vicinity of an enemy and to collect and disseminate information. Besides the vessels attached directly to the fleet arid forming part of it, many cruisers will be needed to seek out the enemy and report his movements, and to drive back the scouts of an enemy and to prevent them from gaining similar information; those attached to the fleet being thrown out as the advance and flank guards of an army, while the latter are like the scouts of an army, striving to keep in touch with the enemy and cutting off his scouts. The scouts will operate independently of the movements of the fleet, being kept informed of the points at which the fleet is to be found. The admiral will make regular rendezvous for certain times, and use his despatch vessels to keep his scouts informed of any change in the program. The cruisers of the fleet will be sent well out on the flanks and in advance, keeping directly within signal distance or having repeating ships between the fleet and their position. The position of the cruisers in front of the fleet must be at a greater distance than that of those on the flanks, as the distance between the fleets will close so much more rapidly if the enemy is approaching on the line of advance than if he appears on the flank. If armed merchant ships are used as auxiliaries, they will be more efficient as lookout vessels for the fleet than as scouts. In the latter service they would be badly handicapped for want of protection, and would fall an easy prey to a cruiser with her engines and boiler below the water-line and with a protective deck, even if she carried a more effective battery than a cruiser.
When operating near the home coasts the cruisers will be most useful in collecting information from the signal stations, sending orders for coal and other supplies and instructions to ships separated from the fleet. A system of telegraph lines, semaphore stations, pigeon stations and lookouts, to co-operate with the fleet, is an important and necessary adjunct to all naval operations conducted in home waters and form points to be attacked by cruisers when operating on an enemy's coast. The effective value of a naval force operating in its own waters will be increased greatly by proper shore stations and telegraphic facilities. Combinations can be made with greater certainty, supplies can be obtained more readily, and an efficient watch kept upon the movements of an enemy. Where lodgments are effected on an enemy's coast for supply stations to fleets masking other fleets or blockading or preparing to bombard ports, the telegraph cable is likely to come into play; and it seems probable that a telegraphic supply ship, with its corps of signalmen, will become as necessary a part of the equipment of an attacking fleet as the flying field telegraph is of an invading army.
A fleet must have attached to it ammunition and coal vessels, unless operating near a base from which supplies can be obtained readily. A reserve supply of ammunition will be found to be as imperatively necessary on the water as it is known to be on the land. Torpedo-catchers or torpedo-gunboats become important auxiliaries when operating where the enemy may be expected to have torpedo-boats.
It is important to have the vessels attached to a fleet, both those of the line and the auxiliaries, capable of maintaining about the same speed, otherwise at important moments the fleet may be tied down to some slow vessel, or to some light vessel, swift in smooth water but unable to steam rapidly in rough weather.
All great operations with fleets must be first directed to securing or maintaining the supremacy of the sea, afterwards utilizing this supremacy. For that purpose the first object of the attacking fleet will be to seek the enemy and endeavor to crush his fleet. Should the fleets be of equal force there will be but little difficulty under ordinary circumstances in bringing about an engagement but should one fleet be inferior it may be forced to act on the defensive, when it will strive to avoid the stronger fleet, and yet to keep so near striking distance as to prevent its enemy from attempting any considerable operation while it was at large. The superior force, if in sufficient numbers, may strive to mask the inferior one with enough vessels for the purpose, leaving the remainder to undertake some other operation of importance. If not in sufficient numbers for this purpose it must endeavor to so operate as to force its opponent into risking an engagement. Upon the number of the cruisers and the manner in which they are handled will depend largely the success of either the attack or the defense. Should the defense be better served, the weaker force might be able to neutralize the effect of superior numbers. But should the superior force have also the larger number of cruisers it should be able to mask its own movements whilst keeping constantly informed of those of its enemy.
The formations and evolutions necessary for battle are few and simple, and therefore a complicated code of signals will be unnecessary for maneuvering a fleet in action. The following code of signals has been arranged to show how few combinations and hoists are necessary, and is not worked out as an ideal code. Of course, shapes or positions of the semaphore arms could be readily substituted for the flags. The ruling idea has been to so arrange shape and color as to make the signal easily recognized. Each ship should repeat the signal when understood, and the haul-down should be the signal of execution.
The only formations needed are column and line, the echelon being formed from line or column, the vessels being drawn up on the line of bearing in one or the other of those formations, and then turning together 45° in the desired direction.
Most of this essay was written before an account of the fight off the Yalu river was received in this country. Since then many reports of the fight have been published in the papers; but it is still impossible to make an accurate analysis of the evolutions performed. The Secretary of the Navy, in an article in "The North American Review" for November, has effectually demolished the outcry that by this fight battle-ships were proved to be failures. With the aid of the tables in his article, and by sifting out the probable truth from the many accounts, a fairly accurate idea may be formed of Admiral Ito's method of solving the tactical problem that confronted him on the 17th of September, 1894.
The following are the main features of the problem: The vessels of both fleets were of mixed types. The Chinese had five armored vessels. These five and one other had protection for their heavy guns. Of the four remaining, two were protected cruisers and two were gunboats. The Japanese had three armored vessels. These three, with three other vessels, had some gun protection. Of the five remaining, four were protected cruisers and one a gunboat. The displacement of the Chinese vessels ran from 7430 to 1350, aggregating 32,915 tons; and the Japanese ran from 4277 to 614, aggregating 36,462 tons. The highest nominal speed of the Chinese was 18.5, and the lowest 10.5 knots. Of the Japanese the highest was 23 and the lowest was 13 knots. The Chinese had eight 4.7" guns, seventeen 6" and twenty-five larger guns, and the Japanese had fifty-nine 4.7" guns, twenty-six 6" guns and seventeen of larger calibre. At least four of the Chinese and five of the Japanese had no place in a line of battle under ordinary circumstances. There were besides the vessels mentioned above, several Chinese gunboats and torpedo-boats that did not enter into the fight.
The Chinese were probably drawn up in double echelon, apex to the front, with the two battle-ships of 7430 tons each in the center. If they were in line or double column, the formation was so irregular as to give the appearance of double echelon.
Admiral Ito knew that the extreme speed of his enemy was ten and one-half knots, while his own extreme speed was thirteen knots while in formation, with the probabilities of at least one knot less. That the two battle-ships were his most formidable antagonists, as they were larger and better protected than any of his vessels, and could make over fifteen knots. That while the Chinese had a few more heavy guns than his vessels, they had only a few light guns and very few rapid-fire guns; whereas all the vessels of his fleet were well supplied with light guns and carried fifty-nine rapid-fire guns. He saw that with his great weight of fire properly developed he might fairly expect to crush down the fire of his enemy and damage his guns or drive his crews from them. That until the enemy's fire slackened, when he could draw closer, he could greatly lessen the danger from the slow-firing guns of the Chinese by keeping his vessels moving rapidly at a rather long range. He determined therefore to cross the line of direction of his enemy, with his fleet in column (Fig. 9), with broadsides bearing, concentrating his fire on the two battle-ships at the apex, and thus to damage them so as to prevent them from any future attempt to ram with any reasonable hopes of success. He chose the distance of about 4000 yards, so that his fleet would be able to draw well clear should the Chinese attempt to charge. He then, after passing the battle-ships and finding that they made no attempt to charge, changed direction, and drew his line past the flank of the Chinese, thus concentrating all his fleet on one or two of his enemy's vessels. After this the accounts are confusing. Admiral Ito had won the first move, and his enemy was unable to recover the advantage he gained. His fleet evidently circled around the flanks and rear of the Chinese in one or two divisions. The Chinese, while fighting bravely, were being slaughtered so rapidly as to be unable to do anything but keep up a slow fire with the heavily protected guns that remained uninjured. The Chinese drew off, followed at a distance by the Japanese. Four of the Chinese ships were sunk and one of the battle-ships was injured. Some reports say that the Ting-yuen, a battle-ship, was down by the head when the fight was over, and all agree that both battle-ships were on fire forward, which will account for their not attempting to ram. But the accounts of the killed and wounded are still more significant. Over one thousand Chinese were killed or wounded out of about four thousand men, while the Japanese lost less than three hundred, with about the same number of men.
The reports differ as to why the Japanese failed to push close after the Chinese fleet. Some say they feared the attack of the torpedo-boats after nightfall, and others that the Chinese were lost in the darkness; but it seems highly probable that after such a long engagement Admiral Ito found himself short of ammunition, and, excellent tactician that he is, he recognized the fact that the Chinese fleet was thoroughly defeated and that the strength of his ships did not warrant his attempting to destroy it by ramming. It would seem as if the only battle fought by fleets with modern weapons fully bears out the deductions drawn from the history of former battles, and that a decisive victory is to be gained by concentration of fire and concentration of ships, thus driving an enemy from his guns, rendering it impossible for him to maneuver, and disabling his fleet by the slaughter of his men.
It is known now that the problem was solved correctly, and that Japan has been well repaid for her frequent fleet maneuvers and careful organization, and that in Admiral Ito Japan has an admiral who is both a thorough seaman and a brilliant tactician. Without an accurate knowledge of the actual injuries suffered by the fleets engaged, yet the completeness of the victory is shown by the results and illustrated by the fall of Port Arthur. The results of the victory would not have been greater had Admiral Ito seized or destroyed all the opposing fleet. He gained the command of the sea, and the fight off the Yalu river must take rank as one of the decisive battles of history.
It is evident, when considering tactical problems, that the details which are of importance are numerous, but the tactical evolutions that are required in battle are few. Yet few and simple as they appear, they are necessary and must be performed correctly. A fleet engagement may be compared to a game of chess, where various openings are possible and they admit of close study, and the correct replies may be predicted for each move. Yet a brilliant chess player, unacquainted with the openings, might be beaten by one less skillful, who, knowing them, might gain a decided advantage in the outset of the game. So with the tactician, only the early part of an engagement can be studied clearly beforehand and the correct evolutions predicted; but it is most important to open correctly, and is so easy to lose the advantage early in the combat that the best tactician may have an uphill fight if he neglect his opportunities in the outset.
Above all, the tactician must be a seaman. Strategy is a science and is capable of being reduced to fairly exact rules. It is possible to carry on its study in the closet with but little sea experience. Tactics is an art, it has only a few rules capable of many applications. Study alone will not make a good tactician; he must have a wide experience with sea-going ships under service conditions, and he must have that faculty pre-eminent in all true seamen, of quick decision, with ready observation. The tactical details so necessary to the proper conduct of a fight are only learned by careful study, after intimate knowledge of a vessel of war. Of what use is a cruiser as a scout for the fleet unless the captain is a practical seaman—one accustomed to the appearance of the various types of ships at sea? When he sees his opponent he must be able to gauge his strength and tell in what points he is superior and in what inferior to his enemy, so that he may endeavor to fight in such a manner as to develop his superior points and nullify those of his enemy. When the captain of a scout sights the enemy, if he be an experienced seaman he will be able to give definite information to his admiral, and will obtain his information more readily and run fewer risks than one who has not had his advantages.
An admiral being a seaman of experience, will grasp the indications shown by the enemy and meet his movements at once. He will select the enemy's weak point and concentrate his force upon it, and he will guard his own weak points and prevent concentration of the enemy. He will recognize when his gun fire is crushing the enemy or when his vessels are being worsted by the superior fire: of the enemy. Thus he will be able to decide when to avoid a charge so as to retain his advantage, and when to charge so as to destroy his enemy's advantage, or so as to turn his first success into a complete victory.
The strategic problem may be carefully and correctly worked out, and all tactical details attended to with skill, the fleet brought in the presence of the enemy, thoroughly prepared for the fight, at the right time and in the proper place, and then, without a commander who is both a seaman and a tactician, all the finely wrought combinations fail.
There are other tactical problems, such as the tactics of the attack or of the defense of a harbor, that the limits of this essay will not permit being discussed. Many tactical details have been omitted or merely touched upon for the same reason. But the essay will have served its purpose if the writer has been able to make clear the importance of the art, its solid foundation in the history of the past and its close alliance with the art of seamanship.
Commander C.F. Goodrich, U.S.N.—This essay is an admirable example of what our Institute is capable of bringing out, and I am in agreement with the Board of Control that it well merits the distinction awarded it. There are many points wherein a difference of opinion may lie, but as a whole I think the members have cause for self-congratulation on its publication.
I confess to a wish that the elements in the fleet had been discussed at greater length, for they are yet ill-defined in my own mind. I had especially looked for light on the subject of the armored cruiser, a type whose exact place and functions are not clear to me. I grant its excellent qualities and I speak of the New York with just pride; but in time of war what shall be her role? I can understand the battle-ship and I can understand the cruiser. Their prototypes were the 74-gun ship and the frigate. The gradual settling down to one standard unit in, and the elimination of the frigate from, the line of battle is well shown by Admiral Colomb. What new necessity has arisen for the bewildering heterogeneity of the modern navies of the world? The writer carries hope to many hearts in recording "a tendency to settle down to fewer types of vessels." Yet without this tendency crystallized into rigid practice the handling of his supposed fleets will be difficult beyond measure. What can be done with a squadron of vessels all or nearly all of which vary in size, speed and tactical qualities?
I have limited my remarks to the point on which I need most enlightenment and which, it appears to me, might have been longer dwelt upon profitably. As a whole, this essay, written in a capable and conservative manner, seems exceptionally free from attack.
Lieutenant-Commander Seaton Schroeder, U.S.N.—The prize essay of this year is a comprehensive and masterly discussion of the elements necessary to naval victory. While the commander of a fleet should not have his mind burdened with details, distracting in more senses than one, it is to be observed that the successful commander is he who appreciates the value of details and who can, without direct personal supervision, ensure the perfection of his fleet in these minor essentials. A consideration, therefore, of the details involved in arming and preparing a ship for action seems eminently appropriate in a paper such as the one under discussion.
A most important question is raised in the early part of the essay as to the kind of gun best adapted for cruisers, and the suggestion that for them it would seem better to decrease the length and increase the caliber is both interesting and wise. Until comparatively recently there were many advocates of the principle of mounting a few large heavy guns in small vessels as opposed to a greater number of smaller guns. These advocates could not stand up long before the inexorable logic of facts, and the same revulsion that is always created in such cases, apparently, carried popular opinion rather too far the other way, being helped on by the extension of the application of rapid-fire mechanism to 4-inch and 5-inch guns. It is strange that in the proposal to put large guns in unarmored vessels it has always seemed to be taken for granted that they should be heavy and high-powered. Why not keep a large caliber as proposed, but decrease the weight and power? A 9-inch gun weighing 12,000 pounds, or about the same as a H.P. 6-inch, would throw a most destructive shell with an I.V. ample for all needs of a cruiser. It would not go through heavy armor; but cruisers are not intended to fight heavily armored vessels; and even if caught by one such, a vast amount of damage could be done, and the explosion of such heavy bursters might well give a chance to escape before being totally wrecked. The higher trajectory would make long range firing more dependent upon an accurate ascertainment of the range than if the battery were H.P. 6-inch; but if the vessel armed as proposed keeps pointed at full speed for the enemy it will be almost impossible for the latter to prevent the action taking place at 1500 yards or less. Of course heavy, long-range guns should be installed for end-on fire in either direction, and the broadside 9-inch guns would be fitted to use metallic case ammunition to secure rapidity of fire. Other things being equal, in a duel at a range not exceeding 1500 yards, one ship having a broadside battery of H.P. 6-inch guns and the other the same number and weight of low-powered 9-inck, there should be no doubt as to the result. As expressed by the essayist, "The cruiser throwing the larger shell would be more powerful than the one armed as at present."
In the study of the individual ship, means of internal communication under varying phases of disablement are of primary importance, and the solution of the problem comprises not only the best and most ample independent lines of voice tubes and telephones, but even still more necessarily the installation of guns, torpedoes, steering engines, dynamo rooms, magazines, etc., in such wise as to reduce to a minimum the number of such necessary lines. Every instance of the power to give an order viva voce, instead of by tube or messenger, is a distinct gain in efficiency. For all such questions bearing upon the efficient handling of the battery (which is the one object for which naval vessels are built) it would be well if the Chicago could be paraded as an object lesson before the navy.
The 7th question, regarding the provision for making signals, is well answered by the essayist, and too much weight cannot be attached to his statement that "protection must be provided for the signalmen." In all vessels a certain amount of signaling is likely, but in a flag-ship there will necessarily be much more and it will be more vital. And yet when we hear that such and such a vessel is to be changed into a flagship the alterations do not generally go much further than to cut the captain's quarters in two so that he and the admiral shall have separate places to eat and sleep. I do not remember hearing of any of our vessels thus transformed being provided with a military shelter for the commander-in-chief nor for the signal officers or men. Yet what is more important? Machine guns, as at present constituted, would annihilate all these people at a considerable range. There should be a tower for them, impervious to secondary battery fire, either immediately over or in intimate communication with that of the captain. This will add weight, of course, and the weight will be high up, but it is an absolute necessity; if that be recognized it will remain to be decided which type of ship is best for the admiral to be in, to fit up no more of those than necessary and to make the towers as small as compatible with convenience. It would seem that the necessarily restricted size of this tower constitutes in itself a valid argument against the adoption of a signal code requiring as many flags as does a letters code, which is sometimes advocated in place of one using numerals.
While I agree that there is danger in carrying live torpedoes in above-water tubes in action, I think I would have them prepared if close action appeared probable, for the chances of the little 35-grain fuze being hit are small, and the charge itself if hit should not detonate. The air flask is a source of danger, of course, but there are torpedoes that have other means of propulsion. I am referring to broadside tubes, I cannot imagine any one leaving a torpedo in a bow tube of a ship.
The hint regarding the escape of gas from explosions between decks brings us right against the time-honored custom of battening down all hatches that can be spared. What object can be gained by that practice nowadays, or what harm will result from leaving them all open, is hard to see. The exploit of the gallant topman dropping a grenade from the Bon Homme Richard's yard-arm down the hatch of the Serapis and killing and wounding sixty-odd men will not be repeated in these days.
The recommendations, in answer to the 13th question, that there should be several protected stations from which the captain could fight his ship, and that the conning tower should be of easy access and communication from the deck, will undoubtedly find a universally favorable echo. Before the importance of the matter was realized, instances were known of the route from the tower to the deck being made long and circuitous and of there being no way of communicating from the deck with the men at the conn. Such a mess simply invites disaster. There is hardly anything more important than perfect freedom of movement for the captain; he should be able to leave the tower and gain the deck at any instant, handle his ship perfectly from outside and jump in again at a moment's notice. All such terrible mistakes will probably be corrected and certainly will not be repeated; professional voices should be raised in protest, if necessary, against such a handicap.
The problem of ramming or being rammed is indeed not one of simple diagrammatic solution, and the principals in a duel will do well to remember that distances will not be as accurately estimated as on the drill ground, and furthermore that the curves described will not always be the same; difference in trim, relative force and direction of wind and sea, difference in the relative speeds of wing screws, variations in the times required to stop or reverse the inner screw and, most of all, the uncertainty as to what the other ship will do,—these all combine to take it out of the category of an exact science. A quick eye and hand skilled in sea-craft, and a cool brain comfortably stocked with sound judgment and practical sea experience, are the instruments with which one may save that vital "half-length."
The discussion of the formations in which to fight a fleet carries with it doubled weight and interest as coming from an officer known to have given so much thought to the subject. A salient feature of the position taken is approval of the echelon formation; and the fact, as stated, that it is a difficult one to double upon certainly imbues it with important tactical strength. It is difficult to work out by diagrams the innumerable problems arising from the many bearings on which the enemy may appear. The essayist has fully considered the cases in which he bears ahead from your echelon, and, if desired, that situation could generally be brought about. With him bearing at right angles to your line-of-bearing, the echelon formation will continue to present certain advantages, prominent among which is that of bringing to bear the greatest number of guns while presenting the smallest target, and that I take to be a cardinal principle. It also places the water-line and battery armor at an angle with the line of fire. It is assumed, of course, that all the broadside guns can be trained well forward and aft of the 4-point bearings; no vessel not thus arranged has a proper right in the line of battle; vessels with turrets placed diagonally carry the stigma of vital defect in their inability to concentrate the fire from both turrets on either bow and quarter.
Being in echelon, on a line-of-bearing perpendicular to the direction of the enemy, if he advances in line you will gain sea towards his flank, and, to prevent concentration of your fire on that flank, he may form column, turning in that direction and bring his broadside to bear. You will now be giving him gun for gun, while maintaining the most favorable angle of presentment. If some of your battery should become disabled a simultaneous turn of eight points towards him would put you in echelon with the other flank forward and a fresh battery in action, and you would draw toward his rear. If the relative marksmanship or gunnery power of the two fleets be such that these conditions are favorable to you, the condition should be maintained as long as possible, being prolonged possibly by reducing speed or possibly, if not too near, by changing course again eight or sixteen points and steering in retreat in echelon. The propriety of maneuvering in this way will depend a good deal upon the distance of the enemy. To change formation in his face might easily be a fatal error, and even changing front should be well considered; moreover, the time taken up would be practically lost to the guns, as the snap shots taken while turning with full helm would probably not be very effective.
A valid reproach to the echelon formation is that it is not elastic and that before entering another formation the squadron has to form line or column. Another disadvantage is that the distance between vessels is sometimes thrown out by entering it and sometimes on leaving it. But if these peculiarities are kept in mind and looked out for, great advantages may attend its employment. While maneuvering as suggested above, if the enemy makes up his mind to close you cannot well atop it; but up to the last safe moment you will have the advantage by keeping in echelon, and when the shock of the charge comes you should be in better shape than he.
I agree with the essayist that sixteen modern vessels is an unwieldy number for the line of battle. If in line or column, even with the commander-in-chief in the center, there could be little or no signaling, and, in line particularly, bearing and distance could not be well kept. While there should be as little signaling as possible after the action has become imminent, some will be necessary if only to indicate that a previously arranged 1st, 2d or 3d plan of action is to be followed; and smoke from guns and funnels will make that difficult enough without the additional perplexity of distance.
Half-distance is too close for battle. I have seen our own and a certain foreign squadron at drill at half-distance; and Admiral Walker's full squadron of eight going through Hellgate at half-distance, 10 knots, was a handsome sight and a fine object-lesson. But on all such occasions there is no shooting going on and no smoke, and, moreover, all the best compensated compasses are in place and various more or less useful implements for verifying bearing and distance are conveniently installed. In action there will be little more than the one, possibly sluggish, compass in the tower, a more or less restricted field of view, an undoubtedly greater tension on the nerves, smoke, roar, confusion, the distraction of looking out for torpedo-boats, anxiety regarding the signals, possibility of loss of control for a short but vital space of time (through disablement of steering gear or steering men), etc., etc. In line, which in some respects is safer than column, although more difficult, that thing about compasses is most serious. The echelon formation comes again to the front in this connection; the principal danger would be that when enveloped in smoke one vessel might forge ahead into the line of fire of her leader, or drop astern and endanger her follower in the same way; but that would not be as serious as the possibility of ramming the leader in column or coming together in line.
Eight, therefore, appears to be about as many vessels as should ordinarily be in one line or column. If more are present a compound formation could be adopted and the second squadron would have to be more or less independent, as suggested by the essayist; that is to say, independent of all except general instructions to protect either menaced flank, concentrate on some one part of the enemy, etc. The first squadron being at "distance" apart, the other, whether the formation of each be line or column or echelon, could keep close enough on the off-side to form an effective indented line, column or echelon; that is to say, to have their guns bearing through the intervals. In case of a charge through, should the enemy receive the attack in column, the rear line should range up on this side of him with the same helm as the van and thus double on him in position; should he receive it in line, the rear ships should get astern of their leaders in the van line by the time the fleets got together, and possibly by previous signal try to ram the enemy's ships as they come through. Torpedo boats and their antidote, the "hunters," would have an influence in individual cases in modifying the decision as to what precise course to pursue; but the relative positions of squadrons just indicated appear to be the best calculated to develop to the utmost the gun power of the whole fleet, torpedo-boats or no torpedo-boats.
The closing paragraph of the essay is the enunciation of a sound maxim. The naval administration which fully realizes the importance of the art of naval tactics and its close alliance with the art of seamanship will, in war, find itself well repaid for expenses incurred in the preparation of officers and men. A seaman admiral is needed to handle a fleet, a seaman captain to handle the ship and a seaman gunner to handle the gun. In a broadened sense, "the man behind the gun" will decide the day.
Lieutenant J.F. Meigs, U.S.N.—I have read Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright's article on "Tactical Problems in Naval Warfare" and have been much interested in it. Mr. Wainwright has given us a very good historical resume of the progress of change in naval equipment and warfare. I say change, and not improvement, advisedly, for I am by no means sure that all the changes which we have witnessed in the last 30 years have been improvements. The people occupied in developing guns and torpedoes, steam engines and ships have run away with the naval officers and have produced wonderful results, but in many cases have failed to secure a proper balance of various elements. We have far too much complication in almost all respects. In my view the whole kernel of the gun question now is to be found in its breech mechanism and gas check and in the size of its bore. In other words, all other details of the modern gun are so well worked out and so nearly similar as to be devoid of interest. I question whether present guns can be operated rapidly, because of difficulties in opening the breech, and I also question whether the present strife for higher velocities, which means necessarily long guns and large powder chambers, is well advised. If ships will engage at distances less than 1000 yards from each other, as I believe will be the case, it is of small consequence what a gun will do outside of that range; and if the whole of the trajectory of the gun for 1000 yards is dangerous space, then the two elements which give flatness of trajectory—high velocity and what is called sectional density or length of shot—are sufficiently developed.
It appears to me that the respect in which needed advance has been most lost sight of is in slowness in ammunition supply. The means of supplying ammunition are not materially better than they were 50 years ago and are perhaps absolutely slower. Yet we have added numerous devices which should enable guns to be fired at much greater speed than was the case 50 years ago. My own view is that the general estimate put upon this increased celerity of fire is far too high; but there is an increased celerity of fire without a parallel increase in the facility of supplying ammunition.
Very interesting are the tactical questions of the proportion of hits which will be obtained at given ranges and the closely allied question of the determination of range. Inside of the danger space the determination of the range is unnecessary, and this is the principal reason for high velocity in projectiles. The proportion of hits which we will get to-day is not, I think, materially greater than what would have been got with the old guns, if both be operated within their danger spaces. The new gun is a more accurate instrument than the old one; but the gun is so much more accurate than the men who use it that the accuracy of the man and gun taken together has not materially changed. Nor are our methods for determining range, which becomes of consequence outside of the danger spaces, better than they were formerly. The effect and result of this is that it will be of no value to fire guns outside of their danger spaces. In other words, ships must, as they always have done, fight within the danger spaces, and though we should no doubt have the best range-finding apparatus which can be had, still because guns cannot hit often beyond their danger spaces, and because the best range-finding apparatus is inaccurate and clumsy, we must recognize the fact that guns will not be used much where range-finding is necessary. If all these things be true, numerous important tactical results follow. The range, which is the element of naval combat about which we are most uncertain, becomes fixed.
The most interesting question in gun tactics is concerned with the fixing of the caliber of a gun. Should we have in each battle-ship 13-inch guns, of 30 calibers length, weighing 60 tons, and throwing projectiles of 1100 pounds weight, or should we have 16-inch guns, of the same weight, of less length, and projectiles of the same length but necessarily of greater weight, or guns of 13-inch bore but of lighter weight than the present 13-inch? Such is one of the questions now pressing for decision. The whole world, following this country, has within the last three years adopted face-hardened armor. Such armor can be destroyed by weight of shot. It can be destroyed also, it is true, by comparatively light shot moving at high velocities; but having in view the introduction of face-hardened armor, are guns of the present right, or should they become shorter and have larger bores, heavier projectiles and lower velocities? But though the velocities become less, yet if these velocities, having in consideration the increased weight of shot, are sufficient to retain unchanged the form of the trajectory of the shot in the first 1000 yards of its flight, then for the purpose of hitting or for purposes of war the use of the larger bore gun with the same weight will cause no loss whatever. It will cause many gains which it is not necessary here to enumerate and will, as I say, cause no loss. Again, the use of larger bores and lower "power," to use the term generally employed, would carry us back to the use of smaller and lighter charges. In other words, would enable us to increase the ammunition-supply of ships, which has now, as we all know, reached an extremely low point. We used in former days, in direct fire, charges as low as 1-9th or 1-10th of the weight of the projectile. This would result, as compared with the present practice of loading- guns, in ships carrying Ave times as many charges as now without alteration of their magazines. Even if the charges were reduced to ¼ or 1/3 a material gain would be effected, or we should gain all that we hope to gain in ammunition supply by using smokeless powder.
Such questions could be multiplied indefinitely and are of the highest interest and importance. And if these be not solved, and solved correctly by naval officers, they will remain without solution. I therefore hope that Mr. Wainwright's paper may meet with a full discussion and may lead to the elucidation of the numerous points dealt with. I have no criticisms to make as such on the views which he expresses. I have no doubts in my own mind that the gun is and will remain, as he appears to admit, the principal weapon in naval warfare. Ships should, however, not be without rams and the mobility which will enable them to use these. Of the torpedo I do not feel so sure. It is extremely complicated, and it appears to me that its use anywhere but well below the water-line is most perilous.
In regard to armor: As ships stand to-day ordinary unarmored cruisers with the guns of their main batteries can penetrate their twins anywhere, even if their tops are below the horizon; that is, at ranges enormously greater than those at which they can hope to hit. One hundred years ago frigates could not penetrate their likes outside of about 1000 yards. Similarly to-day battle-ships without face-hardened armor can usually penetrate the heaviest armor of ships of the same class at about 2000 yards range, that is, at ranges where they can rarely hit; whereas in former times battle-ships could penetrate their likes at ranges of about 1000 yards or just beyond the then existing dangerous space. And unless the men who are to fight the ships to-day have steadier nerves than those of former times, the strain thrown upon them is perhaps injudicious.
Prof. P.R. Alger. U.S.N—Referring to Mr. Clowes' first question and the lecturer's answer, I think it should be pointed out that we pay too little attention to designing the internal fittings of our ships of war for war purposes. Ships should be cleared for action, as far as practicable, by their designers. We cut our decks up too much with unnecessary bulkheads; build too many staterooms and offices; have too much furniture and too many movable ladders, stanchions and canopies. Every bulkhead not actually needed for structural purposes should be removed from the gun decks, and all wooden sheathing, ladders and hatch combings should be abolished, so that the fighting decks are always as clear, fore and aft, as they can be.
As regards the lecturer's idea of designating various parts of an enemy's ship to be attacked by the different classes of guns, it needs but a glance at the accompanying sketch to show the Impracticability of such a scheme. This sketch, if held fifteen inches from the eye, represents the Indiana as she would appear at 2000 yards range, only with much sharper outlines than would be the case in reality. To attain the best results all guns should be pointed at the middle of the enemy's ship except at very close range.
Lieutenant A.P. Niblack, U.S.N.—The questions dealt with by Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright are so much to the point that whether or not his solutions are entirely satisfactory is of less importance than that a great body of progressive officers, line and staff, should be reminded that there are such questions in the naval profession. Unfortunately we need these reminders, for they are not such live issues with us as with some other navies. To be sure, our ships are noted for their smart appearance, their double bottoms are inspected with the greatest frequency, and the numerous returns and blank forms are, in the main, very creditably filled out. Everywhere the new navy makes a good impression, and in the cuts and pictures in the newspapers and periodicals the new ships lose none of their impressiveness. But in the matter of systematic target practice, of turning circles, fleet maneuvers, torpedo drill, the school of the ship, the school of the section and the things which count for battle efficiency, our experience as a body of officers is remarkably limited. This is, however, not the fault of naval authority. Our few cruisers have been entirely absorbed in police duty for the State Department and in watching various political upheavals in remote parts of the world. We can only hope for a squadron of evolution when we get battle-ships which cannot be sent off on telegraphic notice to Kamschatka or Zanzibar, and only hope for good work out of the squadron when it goes off to some secluded body of water, for two or three months at a time, to escape the distractions from the inevitable visitors. Two ships fervently employed in the school of the ship and the school of the section for two months can give more valuable experience to the people on board than can be gained by a conventional three years cruise on any station as now conducted.
Our principal data for solving tactical problems we must glean from foreign periodicals, for our familiarity as workmen with our own tools is largely theoretical.
The following are some of the points very well worth noting in the essay under consideration:
"It is evident, when considering tactical problems, that the details which are of importance are numerous, but the tactical evolutions that are required in battle are few." Our Fleet Drill Book needs revision along these lines.
"The object of the maneuvers will be to have as many guns as possible bearing on the enemy, to keep within fair range, to avoid unnecessary waste of ammunition, and to allow him to use as few of his guns as possible." If it were added also, "To keep the weather gauge," then this would fairly state the problem of battle tactics.
"When the captain is on deck the executive should be in the conning tower, and if the captain is in the conning tower the executive should be on deck under some protection…There should be several protected stations, at least one on each bow, from which the captain could fight his ship (but connected with the conning tower as to signals)…When piloting is necessary the navigator must be at or near the wheel to conn the ship and keep her from running aground, as the captain would probably need all his faculties to fight his ship properly…The senior watch (ordnance officer) should not be called from his duties, unless required to take the position of the executive.
"The tendency is to settle down to fewer types of vessels…The finest development of these types (armored cruisers and battle-ships)…are exemplified, the first in the New York and the second in the Indiana. They are by all odds the finest vessels of their kind afloat to-day, and the present outlook is that they are types that will survive for many years, and the future improvements will be more in the line of perfection of detail than in change of design."
The belted or armored cruisers "are fit, usually, to take their place in the line of battle, and are battle-ships of great coal endurance with comparatively light armor." This is rather heretical, but certainly the Brooklyn need ask no odds in the line of battle. Unless we get more ships than are planned we will not have any line of battle.
As regards what the essayist says of "Clearing Ship for Action," I think a clearer view may be had of the question by considering that its object is: 1st, removing obstructions from the working of the battery inboard and clearing the arc of each gun's fire outboard; 2d, removing splinter and missile-producing objects from the vicinity of each gun and chain of ammunition supply; 3d, taking all precautions to prevent wreckage from fouling the screws; and, 4th, improvising protection? To exposed men (signalmen, sharpshooters and helmsmen), to torpedoes and their gear, and supplementing, as far as possible, the ship's protection to its vital parts. In time of war the ship would always be as nearly ready as practicable, and on going into action as much would be done as possible in the time allowed. The unbending of chains is of doubtful expediency. If, in ramming, they should drop aboard the enemy, by veering and letting go the bitter end you might be able to present him with that much additional weight to help him down. The ability to let go anchors on soundings to spring a battery, if disabled in engines; or with a ship dangerously down by the head from being pierced forward, the ability to let go anchors and chains quickly to relieve her; or in case of an anchor being knocked off the bows from any cause the chain would hold it,—these considerations give us the choice of bending or unbending according to the chances. With a disabled crew and a ship well battered up there would be enough work to do after or during an engagement to make bending chains quite an unwelcome task. The danger from having chains bent is reduced to a very small margin if the stoppers and bitter ends are accessible for cutting or slipping quickly.
The question of steering the ship by the bridge wheel or that in the conning tower is one worth considering. As long as the danger is not too great the bridge offers every advantage, but the helmsmen should be protected by hammocks. The protection to signalmen is almost impossible except such as hammocks afford.
The question of the danger of the war-heads of the Howell or Whitehead torpedoes being detonated by a chance shot might be settled within all reasonable limits and very inexpensively at the ordnance proving-grounds by a series of experiments on models. There is no question as to the danger from the Whitehead reservoir being pierced, but I think the other danger is seriously exaggerated. Using underwater tubes reduces this to a minimum, but these have certain disadvantages.
In the question of interior communication we strike great difficulties. Speaking or voice-tubes are a failure and they weigh inordinately. The telephone is the best substitute, because any danger from interrupted communication owing to the wires being cut in action can be overcome by running wires over all as in the army field telephone service. This device consists of a reel of wire and two small telephones. For use on shore the wire is several miles long, but on board ship a number of sets of telephones with shorter wire should be kept in the conning tower in action to run to parts of the ship to where the regular communication has been cut off. This is by far the best solution of the problem.
One excellent means of getting the range of an enemy, if the height of his masts is known, is by means , of the Fiske Stadimeter. Each divisional officer should have one and determine his own distance for himself when they fail to inform him from the bridge or conning tower. If the heights of the masts are not known they can be gotten approximately as follows: Get accurately the distance of the ship by means of a range-finder; set the stadimeter at that distance and bring the images in contact by means of the tangent screw. The height can be read off the scale. Two or three approximations will give it pretty nearly.
Signaling in battle offers many difficulties. In time of peace it is not an easy matter to communicate under certain circumstances. At night we have ample means of communicating, but in the daytime flags are very unsatisfactory. The smoke of battle at times corresponds to the conditions of a fog. In our ships steam whistles are, as a rule, badly placed for signaling. The best solution of the signaling question is to put large military armored masts in all vessels that can stand them and use them for signal towers. The base of the mast should, in the flag-ship, be an armored compartment for the admiral and his staff. Some of the signalmen would be in the tops. A steam pipe should be run up the mast to a whistle for signaling purposes in the top. A cone reflector should be used with it to throw the sound in any special direction. Certain battle signals in the daytime would be made with Very's Stars and rockets. If the halliards are shot away battle signals with flags could be made from the tops by bending the desired flag (if only a one-flag signal) on a staff and waving it from the top till answered. A jack-staff in the top would enable two-flag hoists to be made.
The essayist gives a battle code of signals which is only intended "to show how few combinations and hoists are necessary, and is not worked out as an ideal code…The ruling idea has been to so arrange shape and color as to make the signal easily recognized. Each ship should repeat the signal when understood, and the haul down should be the signal of execution."
I am inclined to think that whether there is an official "battle code" or not commanders-in-chief will invent codes of their own before going into battle. It is trusting too much to the chances of our code being known to the enemy if published in a signal-book. Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright's code might therefore be as good as any other if it did not involve the really vicious principle of dipping flags to indicate certain meanings. It seems to me that the logical way to make the 23 signals he gives is to make them by regular code with the regular flags, and at the same time I don't think his 23 signals cover the case. The repeating back of signals is an excellent thing. A signal might be shot away when hoisted and before answered by all the ships. The hauling down of a signal is of course the signal of execution, but tactically or otherwise a vessel should never put her helm over without indicating it to her consorts by her whistle. It is always an additional check on the signal being understood.
The essayist says also, "The only formations needed are column and line, the echelon being formed from line or column, the vessels being drawn up in the line of bearing in one or the other of those formations and then turning together 45 degrees in the desired direction." On this text an essay might be written. We have in our tactics now a mixture of the direct and the rectangular movements. I should be glad to see all the direct movements stricken out except such as are indispensable (there are several). I think that echelon is best made from line or column on a line of bearing. If vessels are in line at distance (400 yards), and echelon is formed by the direct method to the front, there is a general change of speed, and when the vessels are in echelon the oblique distance between them is 566 yards. If column is now formed by a half turn the distance is 566 yards instead of 400 yards and there must be a general closing up. In changing formations direct methods unduly increase the chances of collision and require more care and judgment in their execution.
In the maneuvers of the fleets A and B in the tactical illustrations in the essay, I don't think the author emphasizes enough the advantage of getting and keeping the weather gauge where there is a choice in flank movements.
However, any one must be very ill-natured indeed who will quarrel with Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright on his excellent essay, and I, for one, am very much indebted to him.
Lieutenant J.H. Glennon, U.S.N—In regard to the echelon formation which the prize essayist advocates it may be remarked that, referring to Fig. 1, the vessels of the B fleet should, at extreme fighting range or near there, left turn. The vessels of the A fleet would then be compelled to turn to the right. In case they do not, but half turn or keep straight to the front, the B vessels, before or when the leader arrives on the line of bearing of the A vessels, should change simultaneously to the heading of the A vessels, after which, unless A changes his formation, the signal might be made to B vessels to follow the movements of the enemy as to speed and direction.
First, supposing that A, when B's vessels left turn, turns so as to run parallel with B. If we draw lines from all of B's vessels to A's nearest vessels and then operate similarly with A's vessels we will see that the average range from B's vessels to any of the nearer vessels of A is less than that from A's vessels to the nearest of B's, though with the vessels farthest off the opposite is the case. Now, the object in a gun attack is to get more of your vessels within fighting range of some part of the enemy than he can get on any point of you, and therefore I believe that B has the advantage of position. In short, A in advancing in echelon, leading vessel in front of any part B, is really presenting his flank, and B should simply endeavor by running away, turning or changing his formation if A does, to hold on to that flank. All this is not said in any spirit of criticism, but is supplementary, if I may so put it, to what the author has written. He has not, I think, sufficiently considered the possibility of B's running away; B might go slow in the latter case, as he will lose nothing by close quarters, but will have the advantage both in guns and torpedoes, and with sea-room he will have absolutely nothing to fear from the ram.
All must admire the author's courage in presenting a consistent scheme of battle tactics and his wonderful fertility of resource in handling the questions put to the Institute by Mr. W. Laird Clowes.
There is one thing in battle that may frequently be of prime importance, and that is "interference," the interference of the Chen Yuen between the Ting Yuen, which was on fire, and the Japanese fleet at the Yalu for example. The King Yuen might possibly have been saved in the same way. Vessels will frequently become powerless through fire, and may be from sudden large loss of their fighting force and in other emergencies. A signal in time to a friend to keep between you and the enemy may often save your ship and the battle. In closing I may say that the group formation and battle, something similar to the present skirmish drill for infantry, has points well worthy of notice. The field is the sea, the perfect level to which this species of fighting is particularly applicable.
W. Laird Clowes.—I greatly regret that time will not now permit me to discuss at any length the Prize Essay which has been sent in by Lieutenant-Commander Richard Wainwright, U.S.N., whom I heartily congratulate upon his deserved success. He has, I venture to think, admirably distinguished the limitations of the teachings of the past. These are, I fear, too often lost sight of. I have myself noticed in recent controversies in which I have been engaged a tendency on the part of my opponents to hurl Nelson and Hawke at me on much too slight provocation. It ought, surely, to be our endeavor rather to try to imagine what the great commanders of old times would now do were they in our position with our materiel, than to seek slavishly to adapt our materiel to their tactical principles. In this respect Admiral Ito, at Hai-yun-Tau, seems to have hit the happy mean. He adapted the principles utilized by Nelson at the Nile and at Trafalgar—the principle, I mean in particular, of doubling on and crushing a part of the enemy's line as a preliminary operation—to modern conditions. That such a system of attack ought, if possible, to be still applied has been the opinion of all our recent British tactical writers; but I do not know that one of them has succeeded in laying down any set of rules whereby the end in view may be attained. Nor, I suspect, are any rules on the subject now capable of the broad kind of application which attached to similar rules in the days of sailing ships. Conditions are now so much more variable and diverse than they used to be. In the rapid improvisation of adequate methods lies the true genius of a naval tactician; and although a few old base principles remain unalterable, we must depend daily more and more than we did upon the cool head, the originality and the instant decision of a commander-in-chief, and less and less upon mere traditional modes.
The essayist, while giving full value to the gun as a tactical weapon, allows, I think, too much value to the ram and far too little to the torpedo. I regard the career of the ram as ended. The fear of the torpedo and the terrible effect of heavy-gun fire at short range are factors which cannot but tell for many years to come and which must inevitably render close action, in the old sense of the words, between large modern vessels very infrequent, even when one party has a superiority of speed sufficient to enable him to select his distance. But effective action cannot be maintained at much greater range than 4000 yards, and at that distance, even in daylight, torpedo-boats, lurking under the lee of the big craft, have, I am fairly convinced, splendid chances, particularly if handled as American and British officers—so far as one can judge from their past exploits and their present character—could handle them. It was mainly the presence, towards the conclusion of the engagement, of torpedo-boats with Admiral Ting's shattered force that decided Admiral Ito not to attempt that which, no doubt, he might have otherwise accomplished; I mean the total destruction of the Chinese fleet. But the torpedo, to be a really potent factor, needs even something more than good men to handle it. If employed from boats, the boats must be fast, to begin with, and must have been carefully looked after, so as not to have materially deteriorated; if employed from ships, the torpedo-tubes must be either submerged or protected by armor. I venture to quote in this connection a passage from a carefully compiled account of the recent hostilities in the China seas, which I have contributed to the as yet unpublished edition of Lord Brassey's "Naval Annual" for 1895: "All the Chinese ships went into action with torpedoes in the tubes and second torpedoes, without pistols, ready in the loading trolleys. But when presently shots began to enter the above-water torpedo-rooms the people took off the heads of the spare torpedoes and stowed them below; also, in some vessels, flinging the pistols overboard. In the Chen Yuen, a little later, several torpedoes were discharged to sink immediately, as their presence was supposed to constitute a danger to the ship. Immediately afterwards the stern tubes were actually struck by a Japanese shell. In the Ching Yuen, for the same reason, the torpedoes were hurriedly discharged, but not so as to sink, and two of them were picked up after the action. Whether the same thing happened in the Chih Yuen and King Yuen is not known, and, consequently, it cannot be determined whether or not the sudden catastrophe to the Chih Yuen was, as has been suggested, brought about by the explosion of a torpedo in one of her broadside tubes, but it is very probable that it was so." If should be added that all the experiments of which I have any knowledge—and these include a considerable number of which I have been a witness—lead me to suspect that a determined torpedo-boat attack, even by daylight, would not be so utterly hopeless an affair as is commonly imagined. If the boats, taking advantage of a lee afforded, say by ironclads or by neutral vessels (and one must admit the possibilities that neutral craft may be so used), could get within 2000 yards of their prey, not only, so I believe, would they succeed in a large proportion of their attempts, but also they would succeed with remarkably small loss. Even at 4000 yards, if helped by smoke, their prospects would be good. Modern boats, it must be remembered, and especially those of the "destroyer" class, are good sea-keepers and have a very respectable radius of action.
With the essayist's suggestion that, in certain circumstances, it would be desirable to substitute for the present long guns weapons of less length and greater caliber, I cordially agree; indeed, I have myself advocated something of the kind. For some vessels an armament of R.F. guns and B.L. howitzers seems to be peculiarly indicated.
I feel complimented when I see the large space which has been devoted by Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright in his paper to comments upon the various questions which I was permitted to formulate in No. 70 of the Proceedings. I am only afraid that he has given too much attention to points which will inevitably be answered by every commander in his own way when the moment for action arrives. My object was rather to suggest subjects for thought than to suggest topics whereon conclusions of a "regulation" character ought to be formed. I regard, however, as well worthy of attention the advice that war-ships shall carry collapsible boats either behind armor or below the protective deck.
Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright. U.S.N.—In endeavoring to reply to the criticisms in this discussion great difficulty is encountered in keeping the matter within reasonable space limits. The field is wide and there is ample room for reasonable differences of opinion, so that to properly state any one side of the question would frequently require the limits of an essay. The one raised by Commander Goodrich is of great importance, and many pages of the Proceedings could be filled in fully developing the subject. If in this discussion I fail to reply to any criticism it is not from want of appreciation of its importance, but because time and opportunity do not permit.
First as to the place and functions of an armored cruiser or battleship of great coal endurance. I believe it is but a substitute or makeshift for a heavily armored battle-ship of limited coal endurance. A homogeneous fleet of an inferior type of battle-ships would be better than a heterogeneous fleet with ships on the average of a somewhat superior type. The importance of this tactical fact cannot be exaggerated; but the absence of coaling stations requires that the United States should have some vessels of this type. It is possible that even with sufficient properly protected coaling stations that the time consumed in coaling may be of sufficient importance to require in some a sacrifice in defensive armor for the purpose of greater coal endurance.
I do not believe with Lieutenant-Commander Schroeder that it is a valid reproach to the echelon formation that it is not elastic, and that before entering another formation the squadron has to form line or column; for the reason that I believe line, column and echelon to be the only formations for battle and therefore no greater elasticity is required. As to the distances being sometimes thrown out in entering or leaving echelon formation, this only occurs when echelon is formed to the front from line or line formed to the front from column. This should not be done in the face of the enemy. In fact, the line of battle consists of line ahead, or column, line abreast, or line, and bow and quarter line or echelon, and the only changes of front permissible in face of the enemy are those made by vessels changing direction simultaneously or with vessels in column by change of direction in succession following head of column, the distance in all cases between vessels remaining unaltered.
Lieutenant Meigs is certainly correct in his statement of the necessity of increasing the rapidity of ammunition supply, and it seems as if some system similar to that used in libraries for the delivery of books might be adapted to this purpose. In any case, for the complete development of rapid fire, a supply of ammunition must be kept on hand at the guns. Ordinarily the occasions when it is advisable to use extreme rapidity of fire would be few and last only a short time; in other words, the ready magazine would be used only as an emergency similar to the use of the magazine of small arms.
The adoption of shorter 16-in. guns for the high-powered 13-in. guns may be advisable. At present it would be prevented by the greater length of time between fires owing to increased weight of projectile and of breech block. Improved methods of handling ammunition and loading, and the adoption of rolling breech blocks, may overcome these difficulties.
Professor Alger has erected his own man of straw and then successfully knocked him over. I hardly think that any seaman would contemplate pointing otherwise than at the center of the target when distant 2000 yards; but as I believe that the crucial portion of the combat will be fought usually at less than 1000 yards distance, the point at which to aim becomes important. Chance shots at the opening range may inflict some damage, but it is at close range, within the danger space of the guns, that one vessel will silence the fire of the other and then drive her off or destroy her. The essay might have been clearer upon this point.
Lieutenant Niblack does not believe in unbending chains. I think that it would be dangerous to depend upon cutting stoppers and running the chain clear to the bitter end, as would be necessary should the anchor be let go by a collision. The mere act of bending the chains when they are not run below to the lockers is not a serious task. A compromise might be adopted and the chain unshackled abaft the bitts, unless there were gun positions forward of them, when the swaying end would be a danger in case of letting go.
Lieutenant Niblack's suggestion as to the application of a field telephone service to ship's uses is admirable. I do not think range-finding in action by any of the present methods, except with the guns, is of much importance to the gunners, and I have great doubts as to the importance of the weather-gauge. With modern vessels, running at high speed, it will be a strong breeze that makes the smoke obscure the enemy. I think the question of handling the guns in a seaway and that of exposure below armor belt are more important. The lee-gauge at times might be objectionable from the increased exposure below the armor belt, and it might be an advantage as allowing the guns to be handled with greater facility.
Mr. Clowes evidently believes in under-water torpedo-tubes or he would not adhere to the point that the fear of the torpedo with the gun fire will render close action very infrequent, for he admits the inefficiency and sometimes danger of above-water tubes. I believe that submerged tubes are at present inefficient and that torpedoes are of little value on cruisers or on battle-ships, and that in spite of "the terrible effect of heavy-gun fire at short ranges" the battle will be finished frequently at very close range. Therefore ramming will be an important factor and one necessary to be considered carefully in the present state of naval weapons.
It is especially pleasing to me that Mr. Clowes believes that I have been able to distinguish the limitations of the teachings of the past, for in that particular my able critic in the New York Herald thought I was in error and seemed to believe it even more dangerous or useless to apply the facts gained from the history of past naval battles to the conduct of modern conflicts than to apply the history of stage coaches to the conduct of railroads. Although only slightly acquainted with the subject of stage coaches or of railroads, I venture to assert that if one were unable to obtain the benefit of the experience of the methods in use at present in railroad affairs he would be benefited greatly by searching through the history of stage coaches and ascertaining the rules that then governed the transportation of people and freight and then endeavoring to modify his rules so as to satisfy modern requirements. Without doubt, experience in battle with modern weapons can alone settle many problems, but it is certain also that the best substitute for experience with present weapons is the study of former battles. I do not believe that there is any danger of being induced by such study to misapprehend the great changes in weapons in the elapsed time.
Lieutenant Glennon's criticism of the movements of the A and B fleets is quite just as far as he goes; but he has only made another move for the B fleet, and A must make the proper reply. Should the right flank of A not overlap B's flank, and should A turn in pursuit to the same course as B, the latter would have the advantage; but should A gain ground to the right by running in column along the line of bearing until his right flank overlaps B's flank and then turn in pursuit, the advantage would be with A. B may then endeavor to gain ground with the port helm, forcing A to give a stronger sheer, and the final result be to bring the two fleets in parallel columns running in the same direction, as will be generally the case with two fleets handled equally well. It is not necessary to carry in the mind the lines of fire of the different vessels to get an average distance. The fleet having its center nearest the flank of an enemy has the advantage in position, and one of the points for which to strive is to have the distance between your center and one flank of the enemy shorter than the distance between his center and either flank of your fleet.
I must take advantage of this opportunity to thank my friends for their pleasant compliments, especially those who have so kindly criticized the essay.