Motto: What boots it at one gate to make defense,
And at another to let in the foe?—Milton.
The Uses of a Navy in Time of War.
The naval force of a country engaged in war will act either on the offensive or defensive, but in both cases its objective will be the fleet of the enemy. A portion of the force may be acting offensively against the enemy while another portion remains to defend the coast. The stronger force will generally seek the enemy's fleet near his coast, while the weaker force will remain near home ports, so as to utilize the advantages of short lines of communications, repair shops, supply depots and coast fortifications.
The stronger force will endeavor to obtain "command of the sea," and after that, utilize this command by invading the enemy's country, blockading his ports and destroying his mercantile marine, endeavoring to bring the war to a successful ending by seizing his territory and destroying his commerce; while the weaker fleet will dispute the "command of the sea," and will endeavor, by taking advantage of the mistakes or misfortunes of the enemy, to defeat him and, if possible, to turn the tables upon him and seize the "command of the sea" with all its attendant advantages.
Every country must look to its "sea power," not only to defend its coasts, but also to protect all its interest beyond its coast; and every civilized, and many uncivilized, countries have extended and varied interests all over the world. No country can be a great maritime nation without adequate sea power. It may have a large commerce without a large merchant marine; but such foreign commerce carried on in foreign bottoms will never expand to its proper dimensions unless aided by its own merchant marine and protected by its own navy.
The Sea Power required by the United States because of Its Geographical and Political Situation.
Those who advocate placing the country in a state of "preparedness for war" are often called "jingoes" by those who advocate peace at any price; and when told that the surest way to prevent war is to be prepared against all comers, they then erect their crests in a warlike and, what they believe to be, a patriotic manner, and loudly assert that no one will dare attack this country with its immense resources. They then point to the wonders that have been accomplished in former wars. Without endeavoring to point out where we failed, and what immense sacrifices we were forced to make when we succeeded, for want of being prepared for war, it should only be necessary to show how in modern times, as never before, time is a great element, and that all our immense resources, money, wealth and ingenuity, would be unable to create a respectable sea power within the ordinary limits of a modern war. Dilke and Wilkinson, in their "Imperial Defense," say: "The suffering entailed on men by every international conflict, the suspicion that wars have too often been entered upon without justification or without a clear understanding of the purposes to be served by them, and the growth of a human sympathy which rightly shrinks from every form of violence, have given rise to a widespread feeling that war is wicked in itself and might perhaps, by political arrangement, be rendered unnecessary. Many of our countrymen, accordingly, abstain from all enquiry into the principles of naval and military administration, believing that the discussion of these questions promotes the growth of a militant disposition and thereby increase the evil which they wish to avoid." Not only is this feeling widespread in the United States, but also one that its immense resources are a protection in themselves. When did a policeman or a police force serve to create lawlessness? Would a court be effective without its officers to enforce its mandates? The idea of arbitration is undoubtedly one suitable to civilized nations and would serve to diminish the risks of war between mutually respecting countries; but there must be mutual respect backed by a reasonable show of power to enforce respect, the policeman must carry his club, until political and personal morals have progressed far beyond their present condition. Great Britain meant well with her arbitration treaty, but she did not offer to cede Bermuda to the United States.
The geographical position of the United States is one that plainly indicates the necessity of efficient armed forces to protect its extended frontiers, so long as political morality requires strength to protect wealth. North and south its frontiers are partly land and partly water, but on both the east and the west they are water.
Invasion by land can be resisted only by land forces. Invasion by sea may be resisted partially by land forces; but it is an imperfect and expensive way, and an invasion by sea should be met by sea forces. Moreover, in all countries bordering on the water, their borders are extended into the sea in proportion to their commercial interests, and these sea rights and interests can be protected only by sea forces.
At the present time our land frontiers are bordered by states comparatively weak in military strength, and it would be madness for them to attempt invasion while our small army is maintained at its present strength and efficiency. Of course, to disband or to materially reduce our army would be to invite border raids, if not to permit serious invasion.
Our eastern frontier is open to the attack of the great navies of the world; so is our western, only to a less degree, as it is more distant from their permanent bases. The first question to consider is, how far into the sea do our interests extend? At the present time we have a large foreign and coastwise trade, with a very small amount of tonnage engaged in the foreign trade and a very large tonnage engaged in the coastwise trade. Our interests at present do not demand protection far from our shores, and our citizens only require protection abroad when in uncivilized countries. If our coast trade routes were well protected and our seaports kept free for ingress and egress, our interests beyond our shore would be well guarded. Still our interests have extended and our vessels have navigated to all parts of the world, and will do so again if our country continues to grow in prosperity and power. Then the trade routes must be protected and our commerce rendered secure along the line as well as at both extremities.
All history shows that great states do not remain long at a standstill. There is a rise and a fall among the great nations in their struggle for existence, more or less regular and constantly moving in one direction or the other. Our country must expand in its growth, extend its interests and continue to rise, or it will contract, diminish its interests and commence to fall from its great height. The struggle for existence in nations, like that in individuals, is ceaseless, vigorous and relentless. The law of the survival of the fittest is as true for the political aggregation as for the individual. Much has been written on the decline, in fact almost complete annihilation, of our merchant marine engaged in the foreign carrying trade. Before the war our vessels engaged in the foreign carrying trade were numerous. The effect of the war was to greatly diminish their numbers. Vessels destroyed by privateers, vessels whitewashed, hoisting another flag, and vessels laid up because those of other nations had seized their lines of trade formed together by far the larger portion of our merchant marine. At this time came the change from sails to steam as a motive power, and from wood to iron and steel as a material for hulls. We were prevented by the war from keeping abreast of the improvements, and the conclusion of the war found us behind in the race. Our navigation laws were such as to discourage capitalists from going into the foreign trade under our own flag. But the most potent factor of all was the change in the condition of the internal communications that took place about the end of the war. Before the war, rivers and canals formed the principal routes for moving internal commerce; but after the war an impetus was given to railroad construction. Then both capital and labor found ample scope in developing the internal sources of wealth of the country, and better returns were promised than could be obtained by developing our foreign commerce and carrying trade.
Formerly the internal development was confined to a comparatively small strip of the country, and following natural laws, capital sought larger returns by developing foreign commerce; but with the spread of the railroads capital found ample employment in the development of internal commerce, and room was found for large quantities of foreign wealth, and our foreign trade moved along slowly, our foreign carrying trade ceased to exist. But there are signs showing that the quick returns and big profits reaped by capital in internal development are no longer easily obtained. There is still ample room for small profits due to steady development, but the speculative mind must turn once more to the increase of our foreign trade. We are now passing through a period of financial depression, and many nostrums are offered as sure cures to the public. Some would have free silver, others would withdraw the greenbacks, and others would have a higher tariff. In the meantime there is plenty of money ready to invest, but there is lack of confidence in the investments offered. Whether or no confidence returns with the passage of the tariff bill, when it does return, money will begin to find its way into foreign commerce, for it is certain that our farms and factories produce more than we can consume or export without new markets, and the glutted markets have reacted on each other. With new markets for our manufactures, the operators can afford to consume more products of the farm, and with new markets for the farm produce, the farmers can afford to use more manufactured articles. So that new markets are the road to wealth, and we must seek new markets in our own merchant vessels.
We must begin to seek our share in the new parts of China that are now about to be thrown open to the world, as is foreshadowed by the opening of West River in the south and the calling for bids for many tons of steel rails in the north. We must strengthen our trade with Japan, we must seek for a market in all portions of the globe; but above all we must develop our commerce with Mexico, Central' and South America. Then we must have our own ships, for the competition in the commercial world is excessive, and the best markets go with the carrying trade. Once again our flag will be flown in all portions of the world, the protection of the navy must be extended far beyond our shore, and we must have command of the Caribbean Sea. To other nations it may be as the Mediterranean is to Europe, but to us it must be as the Irish Sea is to Great Britain.
The policy of our country is not an aggressive one, we only require armed forces for the protection of our country and its interests. At present the protection of our coastwise commerce and the sea-coast is all we are called upon to undertake; but with our extended coast-line this is a large, if necessary, undertaking. To insure its safety against the strongest maritime power. Great Britain, will be to insure it against any probable combination of other powers. The most complete security is obtained by being sufficiently powerful to carry the attack to the coasts of the enemy; but with the immense sea forces of Great Britain such a measure of protection would strain the resources of our country, would tend to disturb our peaceful policy, and is certainly beyond the views of our most enlightened legislators, and therefore impossible of realization. Even with our present weak army, embryo navy and defenseless ports, there are many who assert we have nothing to fear from foreign nations. Not only do they prevent advance or increase, but they deprecate even expenditures necessary to maintain the little that we have in a reasonable state of efficiency. Yet there are some few who realize that we are a great nation, whose interests and affairs are so closely interwoven with those of other nations as to preclude us from remaining isolated in the political world, however anxious we may be to avoid the responsibilities attaching to our international position. There are a few who realize that while our resources are immense, we are unprepared for war, unprepared to assume the responsibilities forced upon us by our greatness. Some few who realize that millions of men unarmed are no better than a flock of sheep; undrilled, no better than a mob; and that a great and wealthy nation unprotected is but a temptation to others well prepared, and when that nation becomes aggressive in its attitude the temptation becomes irresistible.
Some few would see our country prepared for war as the best means to insure peace; and should war come, to insure against the evil results consequent upon a want of preparation. Some few, who would fortify our ports, strengthen our army sufficiently to man the fortifications without depleting the mobile force; and above all, would build up our navy, without which fortifications and armies would be powerless to protect our coast. Some few, very few, would even recognize the necessity of accepting coaling stations dominating our coasts and ready to fall into our hands.
Many see the advantages of the Nicaragua Canal, but while recognizing the commercial gain, fail to see the greatly increased political responsibilities. The gains are well worth the risk, but unless the dangers are properly met the gains will prove illusive.
Few there are whose bosoms failed to swell with pride at the re-announcement, by the last administration, of the great American policy sometime called the Monroe Doctrine—an old policy somewhat enlarged to fit new conditions and new responsibilities, but still the true American doctrine of America for Americans—a doctrine recognizing that the strong United States is responsible for the protection of the weaker American states; that its true interests require it to extend its sheltering arm over them and to see that their people are free to follow her towards a higher civilization and a greater prosperity.
Is it not necessary to secure our possessions at home before we can hope to render secure those of other American states? We should not be over-confident because of the success of our last effort to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. We were then reasoning with a free people, accustomed to deliberate, loving fair play, with interest bound up in our own, and with many entanglements threatening. They preferred arbitration to war; but we must remember that sometimes it may require persuasion backed by force to carry out the decisions of the arbitrator. Some there are who would rely on our great wealth and large resources, but should their policy rule they will surely find that the resources will come into play too late and the wealth will be sacrificed to their error. Some would narrow and confine all commerce within the United States, would keep our citizens at home, sell and receive goods only at our own ports, and sympathize distantly with the ills of other nations. These may dam up our commerce for a time, but it must overflow all artificial barriers and spread in streams radiating in all directions. Steam and electricity have bound the world in too narrow a compass for even China to remain shut out from the family of nations. Loss of money through pestilence in India is felt in
the pockets of the farmer in Illinois, and part of the war indemnity paid by China comes from the pockets of the manufacturer in Manchester. The peace at any price, without honor and with shame party will feel war, when it does come, and it surely will come, where it is most sensitive, in its pocket. Men insure their lives and their property, and insure against every ill that man inherits. Why not insure against the evils of war? Let us command peace, and if war comes, command a speedy return to peace. Let us have a military power, both sea and land, such as will command respect and will insure the safety of our citizens in life, liberty and property in any and every portion of the globe.
The Line drawn between the Mobile and Immobile Defenses of our Coasts.
Before outlining the work to be performed by the sea forces and showing of what classes of vessel they should consist, it is necessary to show where the line should be drawn between the work to be performed by the land forces and that by the sea forces, as well as the line between the mobile and immobile defenses, both land and sea.
The immobile defenses of a harbor or coast include the fortifications with their armament and the mines and other obstructions. The mobile defenses consist of the army, that part not confined to any fortress; and the fleet. All nations are limited in their defenses by their cost or the amount of money available for such purposes, so that in order to have the best defense for the money allotted it becomes necessary to carefully consider the amount to be devoted to any one position or for any particular object. The greatest difficulty in making a wise disposition of the available funds is encountered when considering the points where the functions of the mobile and immobile defenses overlap. It is therefore necessary to consider carefully the function of each class of the defenses in order to draw the dividing line.
It must be evident to all that there can be but few harbors or positions on or near a coast that cannot be rendered impregnable by immobile defenses against all possible attack. But while some of these can be defended with comparatively small expenditure, many of them could be rendered impregnable only after the expenditure of very large sums of money. Also that such a naval force could be created that it would prevent any likelihood of an attack. Not only would such a force be beyond the calculations of any nation, but also quite a large portion of it must be so confined to particular localities as to largely partake of the nature of immobile defenses. The cost of mounting guns on ships, the cost of the ship being included, is very large in proportion to that of mounting guns in fortifications, the cost of the fortifications being also included. But the effective radius of the gun is limited on shore to its range and arc of fire, while that of the gun afloat is only limited by the power to renew the supply of fuel for the vessel. The amount of protection that can be given to the guns on shore and to the men who serve them is practically unlimited, while the protection that can be given on a vessel is closely limited by numerous conditions. Again, immobile defense can be used only on the defensive, whereas a naval force is at its best when employed in offensive operations.
The correct solution of the problem of dividing the expenditures between the mobile and immobile defenses so as to obtain the most secure defense requires that the peculiar properties of each kind of defense should be developed to the uttermost.
There is quite a difference between applying this rule to the defense of Great Britain and to applying it to the United States. The naval strength of the former so far exceeds the requirements of mere coast defense that the amount of immobile defenses can be considerably diminished, whereas the United States can only hope for a fleet sufficient to protect when proper advantage is taken of the fortifications. The policy of this country does not permit the building of great fleets, and it will be years before our naval force will be of sufficient size for an economical defense; but as our fortifications are in the same or even more backward state, the two should grow together, and by fully utilizing the peculiar advantages of each class of defense in its proper place, the most thorough and most economical protection of our harbors and of our coasts will be attained.
Immobile defenses, intended to provide against a sea attack, may be to defend a port, to strengthen a defensive or offensive line and to protect naval bases. The port may be of more or less importance strategically, according to its geographical, political, naval, military and commercial value. Ports will vary among each other in all these particulars. In New York they all unite to make it the most important port from all points of view. Here the immobile defenses should be sufficient, with the aid of the mobile army, to resist any probable attack, even when our fleet was not able to assist. Admiral Colomb gives the following rule for the strength of immobile defenses: "The only point to secure is that the enemy shall not be allowed to believe he can succeed in completing any open conquest before the arrival of the defending mobile force." In the term "defending mobile force" he included both army and navy. With the navy of Great Britain, maintained as it is at present, sufficient in strength to cope successfully with that of any two of the great powers, there is little or no danger of her fleet being many hours behind that of her enemy, and her army has comparatively small distances to travel. But our fleet might be held elsewhere by a superior force for some little time.
Commercial ports must be defended in some proportion to their importance, which may be increased by their being also naval or military bases, and in direct proportion to the depth of water that can be carried within gunshot of them. When of small importance they only need such defenses as will keep off cruiser raids, and as their importance increases so does their danger from stronger attacks and consequent necessity for stronger defense; but it is in no case advisable to protect against battle-ships when there is insufficient water to allow these vessels to come within the range of their guns.
Advance naval bases should require such protection as is necessary to render the base safe against cruiser raids, or such light attacks as might be attempted during the temporary absence of the guarding fleet. The point is that if the guarding fleet were absent it would be in touch with the fleet of the enemy, so that he could not afford to send away large detachments. The bases may require still stronger protection if they should happen to be the only suitable bases for an enemy attacking that portion of the coast. Then they should be able to withstand an attack in force.
When the cost of the immobile defenses of a coast, including maintenance, approaches the cost of the probable fleet that any possible enemy could bring against it, then that coast can be defended far more securely by maintaining a fleet of commensurate cost without immobile defenses. For it must be remembered that even when all points of importance have been well covered by immobile defenses, the very thing that has made these ports of importance, their communications, may be easily cut off. And while the shipping and some of the wealth may be safely locked up within fortresses, values will fade away and wealth be diminished because the communications have disappeared. Again, although these fortresses may protect the actual vicinity of the port, it would be impracticable, with an extended coast line, to defend all possible landing points; and without a defending fleet the enemy could transport his army freely from point to point, avoiding fortifications, and probably outstripping the mobile army of the defense.
On the other hand the mobile defenses can only give perfect protection by being confined to specific localities, and thus losing some of their mobility. The navy should form the main coast defense and the fortifications the main harbor defense. Even Great Britain would find it impossible to give adequate protection to her coasts, colonies, and trade routes and Hues of communication by her navy alone. She might have "command of the sea" in the larger meaning of the term, but she would be without local command for a time at many points. Her great ports, arsenals and fortresses would prove well worth a raid in force, and are therefore well worth protecting by immobile defenses against such raids. Her coaling stations also need immobile defense, only she should be careful not to let the secondary object obscure the primary and forget that local command is a small thing in comparison with the "command of the sea," and that while local defenses may strengthen the sea power, they can never give the command of the sea.
A national scheme of immobile defenses will provide sufficient protection to the permanent naval bases to prevent their capture by the sea force of the enemy. As next in importance should come the naval lines of defense. The advance bases on the lines should be so protected as to prevent their being seized by raiders during the temporary absence of the mobile defenses. There may also be found on these lines certain points so situated tactically as to admit of their acting with the fleet. Such points are to be found at the Race on the Gardner's Bay-Fisher's Island line; and at the Tortugas, on the Key West-Tortugas line.
A naval line of defense, such as those named above, is chosen at points of sufficient strategical importance, where the surroundings, topographic and hydrographic, permit the fleet to concentrate in force, and contains one or more advance bases where the immediate supplies of the fleet are kept. The line should be so situated that the fleet under way can co-operate with the forts to resist the attack; that is, the shore defenses would be so placed that the defending fleet could not be attacked without coming within the range of a number of the guns, etc., of the fortifications; and this not with the fleet at anchor under the guns, but capable of maneuvering and concentrating at that point of the line attacked. Thus the advance bases would not be fortresses where the fleet could retire and be masked by the enemy's fleet, but an extended line of fortifications which must be forced in the face of the fleet. Thus the Race would partake somewhat of the nature of a defile or pass, with the adjoining hills crowned with guns, and the defending army drawn across the further end, ready to crush the heads of the columns as they emerge from the pass.
A small but active fleet could hold such a line against a much larger force, and by meeting the enemy on the line, would be far more likely to do more damage to the enemy and have more influence in thwarting his purposes than by attacks when issuing from some fortress.
With these naval lines well fortified, and with a fleet of reasonable dimensions, large portions of the coast can be protected and the coastwise commerce remain uninterrupted. With the Gardner's Bay-Fisher's Island line well fortified, a small active "fleet in being" can hold a very large fleet at bay, and can force the enemy to keep his fleet together, thus protecting other portions of the coast.
Finally comes the immobile defense necessary for commercial ports. This should be proportioned to their importance and to the attractions they present to an enemy inducing him to make an attack; and it should be closely limited by the depth of water in the channels, for a large number of our ports are already protected by nature from attacks by battle-ships, and it is a great waste of strength to mount heavy armor-piercing guns when armored ships draw too much water to approach within gun range of the port. In considering the amount of immobile defenses to give to any one place, care must be taken not to exaggerate its importance. It is well to remember that while the property itself may be held safe, that its principal value may be destroyed by the enemy for as long a time as he can cut off all communication. It is at this point that the mobile defenses come into play, and it is the part of the fleet to prevent this interruption or to shorten its duration.
During the war of 1812 our ports were well fortified for that time. The British fleet made no impression upon our ports, but for want of a defending fleet our commercial losses were enormous, and the value of our commerce diminished from about $250,000,000 to $21,250,000.
General Abbot paid great attention to the subject of defending our coast, and has written and lectured frequently on the subject; but he entertained the same error as is held by many military men, viz. that it is the duty of the army to provide safe fortresses for our fleets whence they can sally at will to assume the defensive. They imagine some large harbor, strongly fortified, where a fleet can lie idle, safe from the attacks of the enemy until opportunity arises to sally forth and strike him at a disadvantage. This is a most dangerous fallacy; a passive fleet has little opportunity for observation. History is against the efficiency of an idle fleet, and while some of the maneuvers of modern times appear to show that it is not difficult for vessels to escape from a blockaded port, they must escape in small numbers at a time. A powerful enemy first seeks to find his foe, and next to meeting him and crushing him on the high seas, he desires to bottle him up in some port from which he cannot move without his motions being observed; and from many such ports he can only come out in a formation presenting a narrow front and thus giving his enemy the advantage of gun fire. The safe rendezvous should be a line with bases, where the immobile defenses can aid the weaker fleet in sustaining an attack and can hold secure the necessary supplies. Another fallacy held by General Abbot was that shore defenses could prevent distant bombardment; and Lieut. Weaver advocated 20-inch guns that would serve to keep vessels off at a distance of six miles. To the naval mind this seems absurd, and it looks as if both our own and English army officers have an exaggerated idea of the accuracy possible with modern high-powered guns. It is true that with range and position finders and with telescopic sights the guns can be pointed with remarkable accuracy, and the errors of modern guns are comparatively small; yet when one remembers the very small angle subtended by the largest battle-ship at long ranges, it becomes evident that the chances of hitting such a ship at anchor, much less when moving, are very small. Even with the correct range and the gun accurately laid, the slightest inaccuracy in the projectile, or difference in the quality of powder, and the projectile will fly wide of the mark. When the movement of the vessel with the time of flight of the projectile is further taken into account, it would seem that guns are not formidable when firing at ships from a great distance. When the city is so situated as to permit the use of barrier forts at a distance, then permanent works will serve to forbid distant bombardment.
Coast defenses when applied to fortifications are generally misnomers. They are usually harbor defenses, and are only coast defenses when defending advance naval bases. The true coast defenses are the vessels of the fleet. It may be necessary to use some portion of the fleet to assist the fortifications in defending a harbor. In this use the mobile defenses most closely approach the immobile, and the best quality of the vessels, their mobility, is greatly restricted. Great care must be taken to prevent localizing the sea force more than is absolutely necessary. Floating batteries should never be used where their work can be performed as well by guns on shore. There are some harbors, like San Francisco, where guns on shore will not afford sufficient defense, then floating batteries must be used, and they become part of the local defense, losing much of their mobility. Picket launches are needed to guard the mines in foggy weather, when the rapid-fire batteries on shore might prove insufficient; and torpedo-boats would prove most valuable weapons. These latter, when not sea-going boats, should be attached to districts and not to special ports, so that their mobility can be developed as fully as possible.
It is apparent from the newspapers, from the speeches in Congress, and from the appropriations granted, that the people of the United States have become impressed with the necessity of a secure defense, and after years of very small or no appropriations for fortifications and guns, comparatively large appropriations have been made and the entire engineer corps of the army has been at work on plans for our numerous harbors. There is a great element of strength in any scheme of land fortifications when striving for appropriations; each locality is deeply interested in the fortifications in its immediate vicinity, both because of the additional security and because of the money spent and labor employed. This serves to bring votes, and strong efforts are made to obtain and to increase appropriations for this object, so that there is danger of the fortification bill becoming like the river and harbor bill, where local interests are apt to be more potent than national necessities. Were the public purse unlimited this feature would not be objectionable from a naval or military point of view, but as the appropriations are closely scanned and the sum-total to be spent for defense confined within narrow limits, there is great danger that what is given to the immobile defenses may be taken from the mobile, and the Navy may be left without chance of increase, the real safety of our coast sacrificed, and the mobility of our army destroyed by being localized and scattered among numerous fortifications.
On the other hand it does not do to put too small an estimate on the value and power of land defenses when properly used. High angle firing will be freely used, and with modern B.L. mortars the accuracy, rapidity and efficiency of high angle fire have been increased greatly. Anchoring within 10,000 yards of one or more mortar batteries would be to invite destruction. Here the large number of shots fired serve to make up for the inaccuracies of pointing. Motion, including both change of speed and change of direction, would be necessary to enable a vessel to remain within range with any reasonable degree of safety. Mortars can be placed so as to be almost, if not entirely, safe from modern high-powered guns mounted on board ship. As far as security goes the same may be said of guns mounted on disappearing carriages, their emplacements can be well scattered and yet their fire controlled by one commander. The range-finder and the improved ballistics of modern times permit quite accurate firing within reasonable ranges, so that it will be a most difficult task to destroy or to subdue the fire of modem fortifications by purely fleet operations. The ship can still run past the forts, and it must be arrested under the fire of the forts by submarine mines or other obstructions, or barrier forts will prove unsuccessful.
The accuracy of fire with the new B.L. mortars has been carefully studied and their probable rectangles calculated from actual practice. It is apparent that within ordinary range a battery of mortars would prove most destructive to ships at anchor, but with ships underway and with sufficient room to maneuver, their fire would not prove very dangerous provided the ships changed their speed and course from time to time.
Lieut. Hawthorne, First Artillery, in a paper in a late number of the Journal of the U.S. Artillery, raises the question of vessels anchoring when attacking forts. He says: "The attack on the forts at Hatteras Inlet gives a strong contrast between the values of a fire from ships moving and that from ships at anchor within fair range. The accuracy with which a moving object can be found by modern range-finders on shore makes the method of anchoring all the more necessary, as the range-finding thus becomes nearly facile for both sides." Now, apart from the great danger of anchoring within mortar range, there are other things to be considered that make anchoring before fortifications inadvisable. If with these fortifications there are no mobile defenses, neither battle-ships, rams nor torpedo boats, if there are no well placed mortar batteries, and if there is no danger of an enemy's fleet appearing upon the scene, an admiral might consider the advisability of anchoring his fleet so as to give his vessels a steadier gun platform. Even then he would hesitate, for he would be sacrificing one great advantage of the mobile force. Both ships and forts will be supplied with range-finders, the latter somewhat more accurate, but both sufficiently accurate to be within the errors of the gun. Both must predict the range when the ships are moving, because it takes some little time to read off the range, transmit it to the gun, set the sights, lay and fire the gun. The movement of the ship must be allowed for or the sights will be wrong when the gun is fired. Both must predict the distance between the ship and the fort at the time the gun is to be fired, and the one controlling the motions of the ships can do this with far greater accuracy than he who, if he depend upon the ships moving with regularity in speed and direction, may be easily deceived. On board ship the gun's elevation will be fixed so as to be correct at the time of firing, and the train will be altered by keeping the sights on. The usual way on shore will be to lay the gun both for train and elevation for some point where by means of range-finders and tables the battery commander predicts that the ship will be at a certain future time. The gun is fired at this time. Now with the ships anchored the prediction will be accurate and the ship will probably be struck if within reasonable range, but if the ship is moving, a change of direction or speed or both will throw the prediction out, whereas the necessary change can be predicted for the moving gun by the officer controlling her movements.
Lieut. Hawthorne also draws certain conclusions from the British attack on Alexandria, but the conditions of the defense of this port were such as to make it very dangerous to infer that it would be safe to moor when bombarding modern fortifications, even when high angle fire was not used against the ships. And the damage inflicted by the bombardment was not such as to encourage ships to attack forts. At the expiration of the bombardment the ships had exhausted their supply of ammunition, and the injuries inflicted on the forts and on those who manned them were comparatively trifling; and if the Egyptians had been a well trained and well disciplined force, the bombardment would have been ineffectual and some of the ships might have been seriously injured.
The French have made some recent experiments of the effect of gun fire upon shore defenses, and while the accounts are not very definite as to the conclusions reached, the introduction of howitzers for high angle fire on some vessels shows that they found that the gun with a low trajectory was not very efficient when attacking land defenses. This does not affect us greatly, except it tends to show how much assistance can be given to the mobile defense by a few guns properly placed on shore.
The entire question of the manner of attacking fortifications with ships is too large a one to give it more than a passing consideration in this article. The difficulties of drawing accurate conclusions from history are very great, owing to the great changes in the weapons employed. Barbette and casemate batteries, as is shown by history, can be silenced for a time by a concentrated fire from ships; and if they were the principal reliance of the defense, ships would naturally come to close range and crush down the fire of the forts with their rapid-fire guns. This might permit them to remove the obstructions, pass the batteries, work the slow heavy guns with effect, or land troops for the occupation of the forts, all without undue exposure to danger. The case is certainly different when mortar batteries and disappearing guns are used; their history has yet to be written, but knowing how little permanent injury has been inflicted on the fortifications by ships, the hope of silencing their fire, even temporarily, except by long bombardments, would seem very slight, and the rapid-fire guns would be of little value against guns so emplaced.
The Assistant Secretary, Mr. McAdoo, in his address delivered at the opening of the War College in 1896, clearly pointed out the necessity of a closer connection between the army and navy, particularly upon the subject of coast defense. Unless the navy is consulted in a matter so purely naval, the importance of shore defenses will be exaggerated to the detriment of our sea power, and the shore defenses will not be well suited to the purpose for which they are constructed. The nation may be lulled into a feeling of security by a large system of coast and harbor fortifications, while the great arteries of commerce may be exposed to the grasp of the enemy.
Lines suitable for the concentration of the battle fleet, such as the Penobscot-Portland line, the Gardner's Bay-Fisher's Island line, and the Key West-Tortugas line, are more important to the people of the United States than the fortification of any number of harbors. Until the mobile defenses on these lines are reduced no great operations can be undertaken by the enemy, and large portions of the sea-coast communications will be protected. It is the duty of the naval officer to select and point out these lines, to point out what class of attack is likely to be made upon any port or base, and to prevent extensive fortifications being erected where only light draught unarmored cruisers may be expected to conduct the attack.
The naval force should not be localized, but should be concentrated and placed between the enemy and our communications along carefully selected lines. The fortifications can only protect their immediate locality and cannot prevent the enemy from interrupting the communications. Each has its advantages while utilizing its peculiar functions, and each becomes extravagant when usurping the functions of the other. It would be far better to have some of our largest ports laid under contribution, their shipping destroyed and their docks laid waste, than to have our water communications blocked for an extended period. And far better that the country should have no navy than that its vessels should be scattered and locked up in various ports for harbor defense.
The Fleet in Being.
When defending our coast by occupying the lines with fortified bases our fleet must be handled as an active "fleet in being," and the doctrine of the "fleet in being" becomes of great importance to us.
The value of technical phrases is readily appreciated by all of us. Such phrases as "Sea Power," "Command of the Sea," "Fleet in Being," etc., are of great use as serving to crystallize a set of ideas into a few words. But the use of these phrases is not without danger. To the non-technical mind an argument bristling with technical terms is apt to be convincing even if the foundation is weak; but this is the lesser danger. The real danger is that students of the subject are inclined sometimes to enlarge the idea until the facts upon which it rests are lost sight of. The term "Fleet in Being" has at times been so badly misused as to cause much controversy. Some have so lost the substance while retaining the form as to endow the weak fleet with powers far beyond those it could hope to exercise.
The difficulties encountered when studying naval history are very great, especially so before the advent of the luminous writings of Mahan, Colomb and Laughton; and the ruling laws of strategy and tactics are so clouded by collateral events and conflicting narratives that in ascertaining these laws the deductive method is apt to be preferred to the inductive, and the theory is first formed and afterwards the facts are hunted up from many examples. This sometimes leads to a distortion of the facts to fit the theory, and may serve to weaken a good theory or to bolster up a bad one.
The term "fleet in being" was first used, I believe, by Admiral Herbert, Lord Torrington, in his defense made by him during his trial after the battle at Beachy Head. Torrington was tried and was acquitted in spite of the efforts of the ministry. Admiral Colomb seized upon the term and has used it in illustrating one of the laws of strategy in his most valuable book, "Naval Warfare." The conduct of Torrington on that occasion has been the source of much dispute, and writers have put many interpretations upon the doctrine of the " fleet in being," varying as their opinions of Torrington vary. The great value to the policy of Great Britain of the correct interpretation of this term is due to the fact that many of the arguments for and against large land forces and numerous fortifications center around the phrase. Admiral Colomb has shown clearly, as have some others, the importance to Great Britain of a powerful navy and the uselessness, even harmfulness, of extensive immobile defenses when the naval force is adequate. His opponents, who play upon the fears of the credulous, endeavor to upset his reasoning by asserting that he relies too much upon the "fleet in being," then giving their definition of a "fleet in being," and showing the absurdity of placing any reliance in an idea.
A correct interpretation of the term is important to this country, as for many years to come we cannot hope to have a fleet of equal force to such a one as might be brought against us by some of our possible enemies, and therefore we must know how far the doctrine holds good. We must avoid both extremes, one of exaggerating its importance and inducing us to be satisfied with an inadequate fleet, and the other of belittling its importance, inducing us to place our trust in fortifications. There is no doubt that some civilian, and I am afraid some military, minds have been so pleased with the term "fleet in being" as to consider the theory to apply to a small fleet lying passively behind fortifications without information or too far from the theatre of operations to act upon information, and to hold such a fleet so situated as sufficient to paralyze the actions of a strong active fleet.
Admiral Colomb, in his account of Torrington's movements before and after the battle off Beachy Head, plainly sets forth the doctrine of the "fleet in being." Torrington's idea was that it was his duty to closely follow the movements of the French fleet, and that his so doing would prevent that fleet from attempting to land troops, detach a portion of the fleet for other operations, or attack either Killegrew's or Sir Cloudesley Shovel's fleets before crushing his fleet. That if he attacked the French fleet and was badly beaten it would enable the French to accomplish any or all of the objects mentioned. And that with the odds against him the possibilities of defeat were too great to justify him in running the risk of an action. He also knew that he was likely to grow stronger as time elapsed, and the French were likely to grow weaker; besides, he might be joined by the two squadrons that were forming, and could then hope to defeat the French. He was ordered by the Queen Regent to attack, and did so off Beachy Head, but adopted such tactics as to avoid a decisive action. His tactics have been severely criticized, and they were certainly faulty had he intended to risk all in this battle, as he kept a large portion of his force from coming to close action; but they were well suited to his ideas, and while beaten he was able to withdraw his vessels still organized as a fleet. He was imbued with the idea that if his fleet was lost the kingdom would be open to invasion at a time when the king and the best part of the army were in Ireland, and therefore, while obeying the order, he avoided a decisive engagement. He says: "Had I fought otherwise our fleet had been totally lost and the kingdom had lain open to invasion. What then would have become of us in the absence of his Majesty and most of the land forces? As it was, most men were in fear that the French would invade, but I was always of another opinion, for I always said that whilst we had a fleet in being they would not dare to make an attempt."
Tourville failed to make the best of his partial victory; he chased, but without vigor, and the allied vessels remained an organized fleet. Admiral Colomb says: "So that, even though the beaten allied fleet had come to an anchor at the Nore in great confusion; and expecting that the French might attack them, all the buoys were taken up, and other necessary dispositions made as soon as they got there, yet the strategy of the conditions was such as to leave and keep the great French fleet powerless. If, indeed, the enemy had followed up and beaten the fleet at the Nore, absolutely all would have been at his mercy. But a 'fleet in being,' even though it was discredited, inferior, and shut up behind unbuoyed sand banks, was such a power in observation as to paralyze the action of an apparently victorious fleet either against sea or shore." Here the opponents of the "fleet in being" theory generally take issue. They deny that a discredited and inferior fleet, shut up behind unbuoyed sand banks, is such a power as could paralyze the action of a powerful victorious fleet if it were well commanded. Admiral Colomb is careful to use the term "power in observation," and his critics fail to appreciate the value and weight of the term. It means the power to come out and as an organized fleet observe the motions of the enemy, and frustrate any hostile action he might attempt by attacking him at such times when he would be liable to defeat. Had Torrington's fleet been found by Tourville at anchor in the Nore and showing little disposition to come from behind the banks, Tourville might have left a few vessels in observation and proceeded against Killegrew's or Sir Qoudesley Shovel's fleet, and he might have succeeded in beating them in detail. But he found Torrington's fleet was keeping in touch with him and was attacked by him, so that he felt certain that Torrington would continue to be an active "fleet in being" and follow his actions closely.
Mr. David Hanway, in an article in the New Review for October, 1895, attacks the generally accepted idea of the "fleet in being." He says: "All through the arguments of the believers in this kind of fleet [the fleet in being] it is taken for granted that there are some trustworthy means of avoiding battle and yet paralyzing the enemy." "What the partisans of the 'fleet in being' have got to prove is that there are some means—not dependent on accident, or on the presence in the hostile ranks of cause of weakness, due to moral, material or intellectual conditions—which enable a force, so far weaker that it prefers to avoid battle, to escape being forced into action, and at the same time to 'paralyze' its opponent." Admiral Colomb answers him in four articles in the Broad Arrow for October and November, 1895. In these articles he plainly points out the limits of the "fleet in being," that is, that while this fleet is in active existence there is a limit to what the more powerful fleet may reasonably expect to accomplish and that there is no occult power invested in the mere name. He says, speaking of Torrington, "But he knows that when it [his fleet] was intact and in sight of the French fleet, and when it was at the Nore repairing damages after the battle, the question was for the French, not for the English. The French 'would not dare to make an attempt.' 'Had they dared,' he seems to say to us, 'I should have attacked them at all hazards, and the knowledge that I would attack them at all hazards is that which would prevent them from daring.'" That is, that it was too hazardous for a wise admiral to attempt to land troops in the face of an active fleet. He also quotes De Tourville: "If they had thirty ships of war more than the fleet of your Majesty they might make their disembarkation, while leaving ten ships of war with their transports and coming with the rest of their fleet before that of your Majesty in order to offer it battle." Here the main fleet would paralyze the " fleet in being," while there would be sufficient force left to guard the disembarkation against a few escaping vessels or scattered effort. Again Colomb says: "When we prepared for the capture of Belleisle in 1761, Keppel took seventeen sail of the line to cover the landing of 10,000 men, and he dispatched twelve sail of the line and three frigates to Brest to mask the force there. It is safe to say that Belleisle would not have been attacked if there had not been there twelve sail of the line over and above the force necessary to cover and support the landing." Had such been the case the inferior "fleet in being" in Brest, by its effect on the mind of Keppel, would thus have kept the island in the hands of the French.
Again Colomb says: "There is positively nothing in the phrase 'fleet in being' and in the doctrine behind it than the question of the amount of naval force any power must provide which thinks of undertaking serious invasion. Torrington could not possibly have meant more than what De Tourville said in his memorial to the King of France. Any power undertaking to invade a country over the sea must provide two fleets, one to cover the landing, and the other to mask, overawe and 'paralyze' any naval force that the enemy may possess, and which, but for this 'paralyzing,' might be expected to interfere with and perhaps stop the landing, as Tegethoff did at Lissa."
A discussion on this subject was raised in the Army and Navy Gazette, August and September, 1895, by an editorial on an article that appeared in Macmillan. This discussion is particularly valuable, as during it Professor Laughton gave a definition of the phrase "fleet in being." He says: "A 'fleet in being' is a fleet which is neither cowed, crushed nor effectually masked, and is still able to threaten interference with an enemy's plans of territorial attack." This is clear and to the point; but I think for the sake of accuracy it should be limited slightly in one direction and extended in another. The following definition, which is Professor Laughton's slightly amended, more accurately represents, I think, the present doctrine: A ''fleet in being" is a fleet, relatively inferior to the enemy, which is neither cowed, crushed nor effectually masked, and is still able to observe and to threaten interference with an enemy's plans of territorial attack, coast blockade or other extended operations. It is necessary to limit the "fleet in being" to a fleet inferior in force to the enemy, otherwise the phrase would lose some of its value as being too indefinite; and it is necessary to extend the possible operations of the enemy that he is also prevented from undertaking by the danger of interference while the fleet is in "being," and the fleet must be able to observe or it would be unable to threaten interference.
The writer of the article in Macmillan says: "But that is not what the 'fleet in being' was when I saw it. Then it was a weaker fleet, which had some power of at once paralyzing the enemy, and escaping being forced either to fight or show itself useless. I neither did, do, nor can believe in any such fleet." Here the writer shows plainly his difficulty in understanding the limitations of the phrase. It is true the "fleet in being" is a weaker fleet, but it does not paralyze the enemy, it only forces him to devote his attention to the weaker fleet before undertaking other operations. He must force the weaker fleet to fight or he must mask it. The "fleet in being" will attempt to avoid being forced to fight a decisive battle until it can do so with chances of success; but to remain a "fleet in being" it must actively threaten the enemy and show itself ready to attack upon favorable opportunity arising. The strongest defense is made by attacking the coast of the enemy; but with a weaker fleet this is impracticable, and then it becomes necessary to take advantage of the strength gained by short lines of communications and by coast fortifications. It is not by refusing to fight that the "fleet in being" defends its coasts, but by forcing the fight at the proper moment. It must be remembered that the attacking fleet labors under many disadvantages as compared with the defending fleet. Its lines of communication are longer. While for a short time a fleet may exist without supplies, a modern fleet soon requires coal and ammunition, and even with supply ships, must find anchorages where a portion of the fleet can coal and take supplies. Having steamed from its base to the enemy's coast, the vessels of the attacking fleet will need coal before those of the "fleet in being," and here is the latter's opportunity to force a fight with the fleet nearer equality. Again, the defending fleet will have torpedo-boats and a mosquito fleet to aid in constantly harassing the enemy that may again aid in reducing the odds and enabling the "fleet in being" to force the fight to advantage. Where not running serious risk of being masked, advantage may be gained by leading the attacking fleet into narrow waters, by utilizing the facility for repairs, and above all, advantage can be gained by placing the fleet along a line of defense, with fortified advance bases, so that the larger fleet will be forced to attack while the "fleet in being" will be assisted by the land defenses and the position of the channels. It is by taking full advantage of all these favorable conditions that the "fleet in being" gains its power, by choosing the time and place to fight, and not by avoiding fighting, that it is enabled to "paralyze" the larger fleet, that is, to prevent the larger fleet from attempting to attain any of its objects before fighting the smaller.
The "fleet in being" must be an active, not a passive fleet; it must be kept in touch with the enemy, or be held in positions that will obstruct the advance of the enemy. It must be held on lines of defense where it is free to move with its force fully developed; not shut up in fortresses or behind shoals where it may be blockaded or masked and from whence it can expect to make its escape only by vessels and not as a fleet.
The true objective of the fleet is the fleet of the enemy, and success either in attack or defense can only be gained by fighting.
The Strategic Position of Hawaii.
Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, is on the island of Oahu and centrally located in the Pacific Ocean. It is 2016 miles from Unalaska, 2395 from Sitka, about 2300 from the British naval station at Esquimalt, 2305 from Port Townsend, 2089 from San Francisco, 3310 from Acapulco, 4665 from Panama, 3399 from Yokohama, 4961 from Hong Kong, 4614 from Sydney via Apia. It is the natural stopping point on all routes from America to China and Japan, and lies between the ports of British Columbia and Australia. It is about 2000 miles from all the Pacific ports of the United States, from San Diego in the south to Unalaska in the northwest. The importance of its position, both commercially and strategically, would be greatly increased by the opening of the Nicaragua canal.
It is not within the province of this paper to attempt to discuss the commercial value of the Hawaiian islands to the United States in time of peace, but to endeavor to show how important they must be to the United States in time of war, from their strategic position. Any one considering the defense of our eastern coast must see at once the difficulties that would be removed with Bermuda out of our way, and the advantages they offer to Great Britain should she be the attacking party. The Hawaiian islands would not be as valuable as Bermuda to an attacking enemy, because of their greater distance from our coast, but they would be more valuable to us as a point from which to defend our transoceanic routes. It would not be difficult for us to hold the same position in the northeastern Pacific towards other naval powers that Great Britain holds in the remaining waters of the world; and if we really develop our foreign commerce and take advantage of the new and most valuable openings for trade in China, the only rival who should closely approach us in sea power would be Japan.
The advantage of outlying ports and coaling stations, in times of peace, is freely admitted on all sides. The controversy arises when the possibility of war is considered. The wisdom of Great Britain in seizing and holding her imperial fortresses, Halifax, Bermuda, Gibraltar and Malta; her imperial coaling stations, fifteen in number; and her other defended outlying ports, twenty-one in number, can hardly be denied; but then, say some strategists who carry the theory of "command of the sea" to extremes. Great Britain can hold these ports with honor and safety, as she holds command of the sea; but for other countries to do so would serve to weaken their power by attempts to defend them, and in the end would be furnishing an easy prey for the forces of Great Britain. And right here is a comparison used by nearly all strategists, a natural one, but one which if carried too far leads to error. It is natural to compare all sea force with that of the country pre-eminent in such force; but it would be foolish for a country to relinquish advantages or safeguards because, as against Great Britain, they might prove disadvantages or dangers, for there are other countries besides Great Britain who are struggling for the commerce of the world. This misconception of the theory of the command of the sea leads some to object to our attempting to hold Tortugas, and leads some of the French into the idiocy of commerce-destroying and torpedo-boat defense.
There are to be found men even in Great Britain, generally termed "Little Englanders," who would relinquish Malta and Gibraltar and would withdraw from the Mediterranean, because Great Britain would find it difficult, under some circumstances, to hold command of that sea, and because by relinquishing all effort there she would be stronger at other and more vital points. Relinquishing Malta and Gibraltar would be the first step on the road that leads to the disintegration of the British Empire and to the re-establishment of "Little England."
Let us see how far such an argument, if logically carried out, would take the "Little Englanders." Great Britain has long reigned paramount in the China seas. With her chain of ports and colonies between China and the mother country she has found it easy to maintain the strongest naval force in those waters, resting on Hong Kong as a base. But the condition of affairs in those seas is changing rapidly, and it is not hard to foresee the time when she will find it difficult and extremely expensive to maintain a fleet equal to that of at least two of the nations interested in those waters. Germany has made great advances in her trade with China, and Germany has a growing desire for colonies and a determination to create a large navy, but she has no chain of ports and no base at present in the China seas. France has been extending her territory at the expense of China. Her navy is second only to that of Great Britain. She has a broken chain of defended ports in Dakar, Reunion, Diego Suarez and New Caledonia, and a base at Saigon. Russia's territory borders China, her navy is large and increasing, she has the home base of Vladivostock, and this fortress will soon be connected by rail with the seat of her resources and her power. Russia, France and Germany dictated the terms of the China-Japan treaty, while England held aloof. But most important of all, a new sea power has arisen in the East, and Japan is now creating a navy that she can maintain easily at a strength greater than the forces that any other power can maintain in the China sea without great exertion and enormous expense. The manifest destiny of Japan, unless her new civilization be checked, is to be the great maritime power of the East. Would the "Little Englanders" withdraw from Hong Kong, relinquish their influence in China, and retire to India, because she cannot command all the China seas? What would the great body of merchants, centered at Calcutta, say to such a policy? It is well known that their counsels are almost supreme at London when Eastern affairs are considered. Is it not plain that such a policy of retreat would lead to the disintegration of the British Empire? It is this mistaken view of naval strategy that would lead us to reject the Hawaiian islands, for although we are not dependent upon colonies, we have a coast to protect with some commerce that is destined to be a great source of wealth.
Is Great Britain the only country that can afford to hold coaling stations? The military doctrine that applies to islands, coaling stations and outlying ports separated from the military strength of the country by water is intimately connected with the doctrine of the "command of the sea." The primary object of each maritime power in time of war is to obtain "command of the sea," and until this is obtained it is hazardous to attempt other operations, such as invasions, territorial attacks, blockades or commerce-destroying on a large scale. A country may have "command of the sea" in a general sense and yet its enemy may hold command in certain localities. Again the time limit becomes important. Some operations, such as serious invasions, might require that the "command of the sea" be held for a practically unlimited time, whereas an important raid might be made with the command lasting for a short time only. Fortresses, coaling stations and defended ports all would have a limit to their endurance. For each one the force necessary for its capture and the time it could hold out against such a force could be calculated. That is, against each one might be placed a figure representing the force and time necessary for its subjugation. Let us say that Great Britain had lost command of the Mediterranean and that it was held by France, or France and Russia. Malta must fall eventually to the allies, but the allies must pay for it by the expenditure of a certain amount of material—men killed and wounded, ships sunk and injured, ammunition and supplies expended—and the force must be occupied a certain length of time and thus prevented from undertaking other operations possibly more important, while the time thus occupied might enable Great Britain to assemble a force sufficient to regain the command of the Mediterranean and with it Malta. Again, suppose we were at war with Great Britain and her fleet occupied the Gulf of Maine and were off Boston. We might start out from the Chesapeake with our vessels and transports and seize Bermuda while we had temporary command in that locality. We could not hold it, for the superior fleet would drive us away and the troops would soon be made prisoners, unless they were transported back to our coast in time. The fact is that the entire expedition would be in great danger from the time of leaving until its return to our own ports, but we might have inflicted serious damage to the enemy. The danger of such eccentric operations is that it leaves the enemy free to inflict great damages without his running serious risks, and our vessels and troops might have been employed in the defense in a manner calculated to have a more lasting effect on the war as a whole. As it is, Bermuda adds strength to Great Britain's sea power.
In time of war a coaling station or defended port has great value as a point of refuge for merchant vessels, and as a point where your own vessels may reasonably expect to find coal and be able to take it on board with comparative safety. It would be valuable without a coal pile, for coal could be sent there in colliers. If undefended, the coal pile might be seized by the enemy and the colliers seized or driven away. Again, it is valuable as a point where your enemy's vessels cannot take refuge and where he cannot coal until he has reduced the fortifications. If this station was owned by you and undefended, or belonged to a weak neutral, your enemy might use it freely as a coaling station, and it would be next in value to him to one of his defended ports.
While Great Britain would be likely to have "command of the sea" if at war with any one or even any two naval powers, she would be without the local command at many points, and it is therefore necessary for her to fortify her coaling stations. She has four points where her fleet might be gathered for attack or defense, for repairs, coal, ammunition or other supplies, that she has deemed to be of sufficient importance to turn them into fortresses. These places are strong enough to resist a powerful attack for quite a period of time. Two of them are close to the coast of the United States. The coaling stations are only sufficiently strong to drive off raiders or unorganized attacks.
For the purposes of this discussion the defended places may be divided into three classes. First, the class of small isolated islands where landing beyond the range of the fortifications would be practically impossible until the fortifications were reduced, but where those who man the forts were mainly or entirely dependent upon the supplies stored up before attack. Second, the class where only the entrance to a port is defended, where troops could be landed beyond range of the fortifications, and where ample supplies could be drawn from the immediate locality. Third, the class where a site is selected and fortifications erected so as to protect both sea and land sides, where ample supplies can be obtained unless the fortress is invested both by land and by sea.
The places of the first class must be reduced by ships either by direct bombardment, by starvation or by both. In this connection the following quotation from "Naval Warfare," by Admiral Colomb, is worthy of notice: "'Vessels are not yet, and never will be, able to fight on even terms with forts.' This broad issue, so put, is equivalent to saying that all the modern improvements in ships have been met by equivalent improvements in forts, and unless the capacity for engaging at longer range is a change, there is none. Other broad issues arising out of the bombardment of the forts at Alexandria are, that the surrender of a place cannot be achieved without troops to occupy any more now than formerly, and that the command of the sea remains a necessity." Places of the second class may be captured by landing troops at a distance from the guns of the fortifications and by bombardment. Places of the third class, if strong enough to resist bombardment, can be starved out only if invested on shore as well as at sea. Pearl Harbor, ten miles from Honolulu, can easily be turned into a port of this class.
There are some strategists who would leave all coaling stations to Great Britain because of her great "sea power"; they compare the coaling ports to outposts on shore that are required to withdraw to the main lines when likely to be cut off by a superior force. Still there are many cases where outposts are called upon to hold out to their uttermost, thus delaying the enemy, possibly frustrating some of his designs and admitting the possibility of a rescue. These arguments if carried to a logical conclusion would prevent all countries, other than Great Britain, from building up a navy, or would drive them to isolated commerce-destroying as a means of waging a serious war. It is well to remember that time and material are valuable, and that even when no valuable time is lost, that for every dollar spent in defending the port the enemy must spend ten to capture it, and while capturing the port more important work may be neglected.
Should Hawaii be a part of the United States, at least we should secure it from having a fortified port in adverse hands at the beginning of the war. Of course we would be under obligations to protect it, but we do not hesitate to risk our wealth in San Francisco until it is so fortified as to be safe against an enemy. We will be obliged to protect Hawaii, but its possession will bring greater security than obligations to protect. Pearl Harbor can be securely protected from land and sea, and can be supplied easily unless closely invested. It would not be an expensive operation to render Oahu secure against anything but a strongly organized expedition, a strong military force of all arms and a strong naval force. Such an expedition would be impossible for any probable enemy until they had obtained "command of the sea" by crushing our naval force.
Hawaii, from its strategical position, belongs to the United States. It will be a source of strength and not of weakness. It will be a refuge for our marine and a danger to our enemy's marine. It can be readily protected, as well as fitted to assist in protecting our Pacific coast. And at the very worst, should we fail to afford it land protection and neglect our naval forces in the Pacific, it will not form an immediate refuge and base for our enemy. Every dollar spent in protecting Hawaii will require at least ten dollars from an enemy who attempts its capture, and the security gained, by holding our possible enemies at bay 2000 miles from our coast, cannot be estimated in dollars and cents.
Fortified bases, whether for coaling, for repairs, for supplies or for refuge, become sources of strength to a maritime power when they are well selected, and are only sources of weakness when selected without a definite place in a naval program, or when so situated that to protect them would require an excessive naval force, or the use of the naval force in an improper direction, that is, divert it from more useful aims. To attempt to hold a fortified port off the English coast would be to throw away a portion of our resources, for we could not hope to have local command of the sea at such a point for any useful period of time, and at any time after the outbreak of war she could reduce it without fear of definite resistance from our sea forces. Whereas for us to hold the Tortugas or Bermudas would be to multiply our resources, as we could hold local command of the sea at such points, and such places could not be reduced until after our fleet had been crushed, and the possession of fortifications at these points would so strengthen our fleet as to require a much superior force to crush it. It must be remembered that cross raiding has little effect on the final results of a war. All the valuable possessions of the defense may become the property of the attack when it is successful, and improperly selected bases of the defense may fall to the attack without diverting it from the main issue, but well selected bases become an integral part of the defense and enable it to resist the attack, and should only fall after a complete failure of the defense, or after costing the attack such an expenditure of time and material as to proportionally weaken it. Not to create a naval force of sufficient power to make well selected bases valuable is to relinquish the attempt to conduct a successful defense against a maritime power, and to relegate all the vessels of war and all the fortifications near the sea front to attempting to defend isolated localities against strong attacks, so that a well equipped enemy could seize our fortified points one by one and even dominate our coasts without giving us the opportunity of making more than a feeble resistance. Would it not be better to trust to peaceful arguments to avert war, and when these fail to pay an indemnity to the aggressor, than to aggravate the enemy into increasing our penalty by making a feeble resistance? There can be no question but that in the present state of the morals of the inhabitants of this globe force must be met by force, and putting aside questions such as avenging insults, vindicating principles or righting wrongs, there still remains the necessity for a strong naval force with well fortified bases for the sole purpose of protecting our coasts and safeguarding our wealth, if not our lives and our liberties.
The Nicaragua Canal.
An inter-oceanic canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans has long been desired by the merchants of all nations, and one under the protection of this country has for some years been advocated by our statesmen and has strong support among our thinking people.
Among the many routes proposed, two have been accepted generally as the best, that is, Nicaragua and Panama, Any one examining the surveys and reports and weighing all reasonably accurate data would be at a loss to explain the selection of the Panama route, if unacquainted with the reasons other than economic that determined its choice. The history of the Panama canal is fairly well known at the present day. How, after the expenditure of millions, but little valuable work was left to show for the money that had taken wings, and how at the present time, after a slight resurvey, a pretense of work is again being made without any real attempt to overcome the serious natural difficulties.
It is difficult to believe that the Tehuantepec ship-railway was seriously considered by any number of men of importance, but it has been used to retard the important undertaking in Nicaragua.
Few can doubt the great commercial advantages to this country of an inter-oceanic canal; even the transcontinental railroads must see that although they may lose some heavy freight, that they must be the gainers by the establishment of a canal that will serve to increase the prosperity of both coasts and therefore increase the freight and passengers moving over their lines. Competition between rail and water routes is never real and never lasting; each route soon carries the class of freight for which it is peculiarly adapted, and the prosperity of one is increased by the establishment of the other.
Only those who believe in the certainty of universal peace in modern times can look without alarm upon the building of a canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific by a company virtually if not nominally under the protection of a European power. A new state on the American continent under the protection of a European power would be less menacing to the vital interests of the United States.
The commercial advantages of such a canal being admitted, so far as the interests of the United States are concerned, the next question is one of military policy. It does not require an expert to see the enormous advantages and great gain to the military strength of the country that have resulted from the close communication established by means of railroads between the Atlantic and Pacific States. When the mind is not clouded by the idea that forts form a satisfactory coast defense, and the value of ships is clearly understood, the advantage to us of a means by which our naval force can be concentrated on either coast becomes apparent. For then we would have no rival in the race for the command of the sea in the eastern Pacific, and our position in the Atlantic would be greatly strengthened. The radical difference between the railroads and a canal is that the former lie within our own territory while the latter must be located at some distance beyond. The one requires military and the other naval protection. The one is already secure; the other must be made secure by holding the command of the connected seas if we are to fulfill our manifest destiny and become a great manufacturing country.
Does such protection require a more powerful naval force than would be otherwise necessary to safeguard the interests of our country? It does not do to consider any of the great interests of a country as if they were so many isolated quantities, as in so doing grave errors must be committed. Doing so might lead to the following reasoning: That there was no utility in constructing a canal because of lack of commerce; no use to increase our commerce because of lack of naval force for its protection; and no use to build up the Navy because there was no canal and no commerce to defend. We cannot become a great manufacturing state or dispose of our surplus farming produce to advantage unless we increase our commerce. We cannot greatly increase our commerce unless we increase our merchant marine. We cannot increase our commerce and our merchant marine without increasing our responsibilities and therefore increasing the need for a naval force. With a naval force commensurate with our necessities we must become the dominant naval power in American waters, and the safety of all routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific be secured.
The consideration of the protection of the Nicaraguan canal draws out similar lines of argument to that of the protection of fortified bases. The distance of the canal from home bases becomes of vital importance. Any one of the great naval powers of Europe might maintain in its own waters an overwhelming force as compared to ours, and yet be unable to hold command of the Caribbean sea or to attack Greytown with reasonable chances of success. Some of these powers have bases in these waters, while up to the present time we have neglected all our opportunities; but while these advance bases would enable them to maintain a limited force for a limited time in the waters in question, the distance between the advance and home bases would prevent them from maintaining a powerful force there, and would make it doubtful for a limited force for an extended period during war. Without advance bases, except such as would be seized at the time, a powerful force operating in these waters would be possible for us when impossible for a European power, and with proper advance bases we could maintain command of the Caribbean sea without straining our resources. The problem on the Pacific coast is less complicated. There the ease with which we can command the sea is apparent, and it only requires a little thought and use of opportunities to prevent unnecessary expense.
Depth and Draft.
The depth of water in the channel leading into any harbor should be the ruling element in the design of its defenses. For the draft of the attacking ships is limited by the depth of the channel, and the armored protection of the ship is somewhat proportional to its draft. Ships may be heavily armored and yet be of light draft, as are our monitors; but in securing light draft and maintaining heavy armor and armament, coaling radius and seagoing qualities have been sacrificed. It is not likely that any such vessel would cross the ocean to attack our coasts. Again it is the general rule, although there are notable exceptions, that the calibre of guns corresponds in some degree with the amount of armor carried. Small calibre guns do not require very heavy fortifications, and it would seem reasonable that the class of guns to be carried in the forts should be determined by the class of ships that is likely to attack them. A well located shell from a large calibre gun, lo-in. and upwards, would be sufficient to seriously damage or destroy an unarmored cruiser. But large calibre guns are loaded, aimed and fired slowly, and the percentage of hits in actual combat is not likely to be large, even if the vessel is not moving rapidly, and of course the percentage of well located hits must be much smaller. A fair sized battery of rapid-fire guns would be almost certain to stop a cruiser that might pass a few lo-in. guns without serious damage; and the cost of such a battery would be much less than that of the emplacements, carriages and guns of the heavier calibre. When unarmored vessels only can be expected to make the attack, the defense made by a rapid-fire battery would have the advantage over guns of larger calibre in the points of efficiency and expense as well as of choice of location, etc. That the greater range of the larger calibre can be neglected fairly must be admitted by all who have given the subject full consideration. At great ranges the slightest change in the weight or conformation of the projectile, in the quantity or quality of the powder, in the temperature of the gun, in the condition of the atmosphere and in the direction of the wind, the slightest difference in any one of these uncertain quantities is sufficient to cause a clean miss.
Let us consult one of the late lists of the war vessels of Great Britain and pick out all the armored vessels drawing less than 20 feet. We find the Penelope, 4470 tons, drawing 17 ft. 6 in., capable of steaming 1360 miles at 10 knots speed, carrying eight 8-in. muzzle-loading rifles and protected by 6-in. armor. The Glatton, 4910 tons, draft 19 ft. 6 in., steaming radius 2000 miles at 10 knots, guns two 12-in. muzzle-loading rifles, armor 7 to 14 in. The Cyclops, Gorgon, Hecate, and Hydra, 3560 tons, draft 16 ft. 4 in., steaming radius 1250 miles, guns four lo-in. M.L.R., armor 5 to 10 in. The Magdala, 3340 tons, draft 15 ft. 3 in., steaming radius 800 miles, guns four 8-in. B.L.R., armor 7 to 10 in. The Abyssinia, 2900 tons, draft 15 ft., steaming radius 1000 miles, guns four 8-in. B.L.R., armor 6 to 10 in. The Scorpion and Wivern, 2750 tons, draft 17 ft, steaming radius 11 50 miles, guns four 9-in. M.L.R., armor 4.5 to 5 in.
All of these vessels are armored with iron plates, and their water line belt can be pierced by 6-in. guns. All are slow, and only one carries sufficient coal to steam 2000 miles. All but two are armed with muzzle-loading guns. The two armed with breech-loading guns were built for the coast defense of India and have a very limited coal endurance. In fact we may conclude that all of our ports whose channels have only 20 feet of water are secure from attack by armored vessels except where sufficiently near the sea to permit of distant bombardment.
Again consulting the list for vessels drawing under 25 ft. we find the following in addition to those already mentioned. The Conqueror and Hero, 6200 tons, draft 24 ft, steaming radius 5200 miles, guns two 12-in. B.L.R,, armor 8-in. to 10-in, compound. The Audacious, Invincible, and Iron Duke, 6010 tons, draft 23 ft. 8 in., steaming radius 3900 miles, guns ten 9-in. M.L.R., armor 4-in. to 8-in. iron. The Belleisle and Orion, 4870 tons, draft 21 ft., steaming radius 1850 miles, guns four 12-in. M.L.R., armor 6-in. to 12-in. iron. The Rupert, 5440 tons, draft 23 ft. 7 in., steaming radius 1350 miles, guns two 9.2-in. B. L. R., armor 7-in. to 12-in. The Hotspur, 4010 tons, draft 21 ft. 10 in., steaming radius 950 miles, guns two 12-in. M.L.R., armor 7-in. to 11-in. iron. The Prince Albert, 3880 tons, draft 20 ft. 4 in., steaming radius 950 miles, guns four 9-in. M.L.R., armor 4.5-in. to 5.5-in. iron. And the Aurora, 5600 tons, draft 22 ft. 6 in., steaming radius 8000 miles, guns two 9.2-in. B.L.R., armor 10-in, to 16-in.
Of these the first five are the only ones that could be brought against our fortifications. The first two are fairly formidable vessels, but their armor can be pierced by 8-in. guns. The Audacious, Invincible, and Iron Duke could not work their muzzle-loading guns against a battery of rapid-fire guns, and a large proportion of their armor can be penetrated by 6-in. guns. England has many formidable battle-ships, but they all draw over 25 feet and many closely approach 30 feet. So that for harbors whose channels have only 25 feet of water, except when it can be bombarded from the sea, the defense will be stronger if rapid-fire guns are used than if larger calibre were preferred. Even where the exception rules, guns of heavy calibre may make bombardment slightly dangerous, but it can only be prevented by the use of battle-ships and torpedo boats.
Now if we examine the charts we will see how very few harbors of importance will admit vessels drawing over 25 feet. Portsmouth, Newport, New London, New York, Baltimore (by a dredged channel). Key West (by the S.W. channel which is not safe), and New Orleans (kept open by jetties), are the principal deep water ports on the Atlantic Coast. It is expected that Boston and Norfolk will have 30 feet dredged channels at an early date. These harbors would require shore defenses against battle-ships, remembering that dredged and other narrow channels can be readily rendered impracticable with ground mines and other obstructions.
In reviewing the report of the Chief of Engineers, for the last year, one is struck at once with the large amount of work that has been completed on emplacements for heavy guns and mortars as compared with that for smaller guns. To be sure there are two good reasons for this, one that such important ports as New York require many heavy guns and mortars, and the other that as emplacements for the heavy guns take far longer than those for rapid-fire guns, it is well to undertake the installment of the heavy guns first There are some points where even heavier guns could be used to advantage, and others where it is to be hoped heavy guns will be installed, but surely ten-inch guns are not required at Portland with 21 feet of water, or at Washington with 20 feet, or 12-in. guns at Charleston with only 15 feet of water. If these guns are intended to prevent distant bombardment they should be of heavier calibre, certainly not less than 13 inches, and if they are intended to drive off cruisers they are too large. The recommendations of the Endicott Board appear to be the guides that are being followed, but conditions have changed somewhat since they were made, displacements have increased and consequently draft, armor has been improved, the rapid-fire gun has been developed, and the plans should be altered to meet the new conditions.
Type of War-Ships.
All naval powers appear to be agreed upon the necessity of three broad types, viz. battle-ships, cruisers and torpedo boats; but armored vessels are constructed upon largely varying designs, so that there are not only numerous other types besides battleships, but there are many vessels that are placed in one type by some authorities and in another type by others. The line between battle-ships and armored cruisers is far from distinct. Again, heavily armored vessels differ so in their steaming radii as to range from vessels fit for little besides harbor defense, through coast defense vessels, to sea-going battle-ships. Cruisers are so varied in design as to furnish examples to suit the most erratic fancy. Torpedo boats range from destroyers of about 350 tons to small launches. Besides these we have vessels designed for special purposes, such as rams, dynamite cruisers, etc., etc.
The question of the necessity of building battle-ships has been raised frequently. The strongest opposition to them is centered in France, and Admiral Aube has a large following, but they have been unable to control the building policy of that country for any extended period of time, and France continues to build battleships, although the designs are somewhat controlled by similar ideas to those that would stop their building.
In analyzing the many arguments raised in France for and against the building of battle-ships, the ruling idea that appears to permeate those from the new school is that there is one type suitable for the strong naval power and another for the weak. That France cannot afford to build and support such great fleets of battle-ships as England has built and is building, and therefore should put her faith in fast cruisers and torpedo boats. That there is one set of rules of strategy for the strong and another for the weak. Similar ideas led to our policy of building gun-boats instead of ships of the line and frigates, and has led to the building of many harbor defense vessels. Such ideas can only prevail because of a thorough misconception of the uses of sea power and the history of sea fights, and restricts the area of the influence of sea forces so as to make them little more than adjuncts to land forces. They limit the final operations of battle-ships to attempting to knock down forts, and would make the destruction of a great coast fortress valuable, even though it belonged to a country without naval or merchant marine. In other words, they fail to see that the true value of a fortress is to protect the inlet and outlet for trade, the vessels carrying the trade, the vessels protecting the trade, and the supplies, munitions of war, repair shops, etc. Without the vessels the fortress loses most of its value, and with the vessels cooped up within its protection its value is measured by the force of the enemy required to close its mouth. If they build any battle-ships they would build them to protect their coast, and they build fortresses to protect their battle-ships. The problem of selecting sites for fortifications on and near the coast line does not differ greatly from that of selecting them in the interior. Few engineers of the present day would think of designing immense fortresses with the idea of safeguarding an army inside. The example of Metz would be sufficient alone to prevent like errors. Why then Bazaine our fleets? Fortifications are designed to strengthen portions of the line of defense of an army, and to protect its supplies, munitions of war, and lines of communication, but not to enclose it. The value of an army is mainly dependent upon its mobility, and, although fortifications may be built around a city to strengthen its defense, the army that should seek refuge within would be partially defeated, its value for the time seriously diminished, and even the defense of the city weakened. So with coast and harbor fortifications; they should be designed to strengthen the lines of defense of the battle fleet and to protect its supplies, etc. They should also be designed to protect cities and harbors, and usually these would include points of supply. But the battle fleet, like the army, should have room to maneuver even when fighting on the defensive.
Battle-ships are not designed to attack land defenses, but to meet other vessels on the sea; and, while they may at times successfully bombard fortifications, they will do so only under exceptional circumstances, and will need land forces to succeed in extensive operations.
The greatest blow to the adherents of battle-ships has been struck lately by Admiral Colomb. The blow is severe more because of the high reputation of its author than from the weight of the argument. Admiral Colomb is one of the most advanced thinkers on naval subjects, and, in my opinion, his deductions from history are better guides than those of any other modern writer. This makes his predictions as to battle-ships the more surprising. What might be brushed aside if uttered by other men requires careful consideration when it comes from the mouth or pen of Admiral Colomb. There is one saving feature in the case, and that is the well known tendency of the Admiral to make assertions when desiring to evolve an argument and to force consideration of a subject, that, while expressing his views, are easily twisted into other meanings. In fact, any one holding opposite opinions to the Admiral is apt to argue as if the Admiral held extreme views, and then he finds he has been fighting the air, as the Admiral comes back with a clearer statement of his ideas. In this case it seems as if there were no opportunity or excuse for misstating the views of Admiral Colomb, and that he has plainly placed himself on the side of the destroyer as opposed to the battle-ship, and that he believes it is time for Great Britain to cease building large battle-ships, that an entire change in type is necessary, and that something similar to the destroyer type should take the battle-ship's place. He assumes that the battle-ship has reached its final stage of development, that the type has reached its highest point of efficiency, and that the logical deduction from this assumed fact is that a new type must be evolved to fight in the line of battle. This new type he seems to think will be of the nature of a modified destroyer. He seems to think that a number of destroyers, whose aggregate cost would be less than the cost of one battle-ship, would be more than a match for her.
If there is any one thing more than another for which Admiral Colomb is justly celebrated it is his power of predicting the future and guiding the present state of naval affairs by lessons drawn from the past. One can readily imagine how he would have scathed an advocate of a policy of building small vessels to take the place of the great vessels of the line, and what ponderous blows he would have aimed at his adversary had he not been imbued with ideas that have forced him to take the side of the small vessels. Under other circumstances what admirable examples he would have drawn from history to show the necessity of battle-ships, and how he would have shown that in each change of design the logic of events forced the building of greater vessels. Now he is limited to one lesson of the past, that is, when a type approaches the point of perfection a new type better adapted to the modified circumstances must be developed. One cannot cease to regret that a writer so powerful in argument should be found arrayed against the battle-ship.
One of the strongest examples of history that can be brought forward on the side of the small vessel is the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Here the small swift vessels of the English were more than a match for the large unwieldy vessels of the Spanish, yet England and the maritime world did not draw the false conclusion that smaller vessels were the best—they modified their vessels of the line so as to make them sufficiently powerful to overwhelm a large number of the smaller vessels.
Froude, in his lecture entitled "The Sea Cradle of the Revolution," speaking of the reign of Henry VHI, says: "Genius kindled into discovery at the call of the country. Mr. Fletcher of Rye (be his name remembered) invented a boat the like of which was never seen before, which would work to windward with sails trimmed fore and aft, the greatest revolution yet made in shipbuilding." This was about the year 1539. All through the set of lectures delivered by this author at Oxford, 1893-94, the advantage of this invention can be traced, and the evidence that the Spanish were backward in adopting it. "Their safety depended upon speed of sailing, and specially on the power of working fast to windward, which the heavy square-rigged vessels could not do." "The Pelican sailed two feet to the Cacafuego's one." "However that be, the brigantines and sloops used by the Elizabethans on all adventurous expeditions were mere boats compared with what we should use now on such occasions. The reason was obvious. Success depended upon speed and sailing power. The art of building big square-rigged ships which would work to windward had not yet been discovered, even by Mr. Fletcher of Rye. The fore and aft rig alone would enable a vessel to tack, as it is called, and this could only be used with craft of moderate tonnage." (1562.) "With some surprise the Spanish officers saw Howard reach easily to windward out of range and join Drake." (Sailing of the Armada.) "New-modeled for superiority of sailing, the English ships had the same advantage over the galleons as the steam cruisers would have over the three-deckers. While the breeze held they went where they pleased." (Same.) "The English ships had the same superiority over the galleons which steamers have now over sailing vessels. They had twice the speed; they could lie two points nearer to the wind." (Defeat of the Armada.) There were other things that led to the defeat of the Spanish Armada, but the small swift schooners of the English were the most important factors. They could choose their position so as to inflict the greatest injury to the Spaniards while receiving the least harm. Their low sides made them difficult to hit, and their power of beating to windward enabled them to move around the unhandy galleons at will, when there was sufficient wind. Their armament was superior to that of the galleons, and with some little increase in calibre of their guns they would have occupied the same position towards the ships of the line that the destroyers do to the battle-ships at the present time. The galleon was improved. The sails and spars were so improved as to permit of the square-rigged vessel making very fair work to windward, and the armament was so improved as to insure sinking the schooners at a single broadside. Each great change in type has resulted in an increase in the size of vessels designed to fight in the line of battle, from the introduction of sails, through that of steam, up to the mastless ironclad. It would seem as if the limit in size had been reached, at least for the present, but it is going very far to assume that the present type has neared its highest point of perfection.
The present position seems to be this—that the small size and great speed of the destroyer, together with the power of its weapon, make the destroyer a most formidable enemy to the battle-ship. Many consider that at night-time several destroyers would be almost certain to defeat a battle-ship, and possibly in the day-time. Admiral Colomb appears to advocate a vessel somewhat larger than the present destroyer and with some armor. If destroyers are designed of over 350 tons displacement they must be of inferior speed to the present ones (with the engines and boilers as at present designed), or else they must sacrifice a greater percentage of displacement to their motive power than is sacrificed in those of 300 to 350 tons. It has been pretty conclusively proved that for the same speed a smaller percentage of the displacement is required for the motive power in vessels of about 300 tons than in any other displacement until quite high figures are reached. So that, even without armor, larger destroyers must have less speed than those of the present size. It would require considerable armor to protect against 12-pounders, although comparatively light armor would be sufficient to keep out 1 and 6 pounders. The larger destroyers would lose much of the invulnerability of other torpedo boats due to their small size. The modern destroyer is a very wonderful weapon and admirably suited to the purposes for which it was designed, the destruction of torpedo boats, but must have its limitations as have other warlike instruments. The destroyer is not the first weapon that in the earlier stages of its development was expected by its ardent admirers to revolutionize naval warfare, that is, was to change completely the design of vessels fit to fight in the line, but it is surprising to find Admiral Colomb apparently arrayed on the side of those predicting a revolution. The torpedo and ram each had its day, each made its mark on the designs of the times. They created no revolution, but they did force modifications in design. The gun regained its ascendancy over the ram and torpedo, and the torpedo boat was limited by its vulnerability to operating in the dark or in thick weather, and by its endurance to operating at short distances from its base and in smooth water. Now arises the destroyer; it will have also its effect on the design of battle-ships; it will find also its limitations.
The battle-ship is not well suited to attack land defenses, and when well designed and of sufficient strength fortifications limit the area of a battle-ship's operations. Its area of operations may be limited also by light-draft rams, as they would prove most formidable at points where vessels of heavy draft were confined to navigating narrow channels. Torpedo-boats limit the area of operations of battle-ships, in that they become dangerous in narrow waters and near the coast, in darkness or thick weather. Submarine torpedo-boats may have also their limiting effect, in that they may make it dangerous for battle-ships to approach too nearly their bases even in daylight and in clear weather. In all cases the probable danger to the battle-ship may be greater than the possible good to be gained by the attempt. But in the struggle for the command of the sea the battle-ship still reigns supreme, because the battle for the supremacy must be fought at sea by vessels capable of sustaining themselves at sea. This is the broad lesson to be drawn from all history, from all experience both ancient and modern. The real difficulty that has confronted many students of naval history, and has served to mislead the advocates of special weapons, is the attempt to make general rules from particular cases. Seeing that many naval actions have happened near the land, they have exaggerated the importance of the narrow strip of water that adjoins the seacoast, and have failed to realize that the force whose coast-line was attacked had been driven first by superior naval power from the high seas. It is this exaggeration of the importance of the strip of water adjoining the land that has served to introduce erroneous theories into both strategy and tactics. If Great Britain commands the ocean, France will benefit little from holding Toulon and Brest; and if France commands the Mediterranean, Gibraltar and Malta will be of little utility to Great Britain. It may be advisable, in order to terminate a war, to attack fortresses and occupy ports, but the most important work has been accomplished when the enemy has been driven from the high seas.
The fall of Sevastopol was insured when the Russian fleet was locked up in the waters protected by that fortress; and with all the glory gained by Todleben for his defense of Sevastopol, he might have served his country better had he retired from its walls, in place of furnishing by his energy and science a force sufficient to hold it, and thus inducing Russia to diminish her resources by attempting to maintain a relieving army in the Crimean peninsula unaided by a fleet. In warfare on land fortresses have often been mistaken for the real objects of war, and the land forces, that otherwise might have marched to victory, wasted in their reduction. In naval warfare the same errors may be made. Farragut would never have occupied his present place in history had he wasted his resources by attempting to reduce the forts below New Orleans or Mobile.
If it be true that the field to be contested by warships is the high seas, then surely the battle-ship must be a vessel capable of keeping the sea—a sea-going vessel. Weapons may be designed that still further limit its area of action, blockades made more difficult and the protection of commerce less certain, and both may require stronger forces than at present; yet the force superior in strength and energy, if properly handled, must win. Our own war of the rebellion has been often quoted to show the difficulty of maintaining a blockade, and long lists of blockade-runners who have successfully eluded the blockaders are shown to prove how incomplete the blockade was; but does any one imagine that the efforts of the blockade-runners had any vital effect on the war? Can blockade-runners subsist armies, or the gains of a host of adventurers serve to replace the profits of legitimate commerce? Many were the English vessels that fell victims to our privateers in the war of 1812, and there were other enemies striking at the same prey, yet the commerce of Great Britain continued to increase while ours faded away.
The great advantage possessed by the destroyers, besides their small size, is the very high speed of which they are capable; but they can maintain this high speed for only a short time. They have a moderate steaming radius when proceeding at a moderate speed; but should they meet an enemy at sea, at a good distance from land, they would be unable to use their high speed unless they relinquished all idea of again reaching land. If they were met by an enemy near the end of, to them, a long voyage they would not have sufficient coal for high speed. And they could not remain off a port for any reasonable time and yet have sufficient coal to utilize the most important feature in their design—high speed. Again, destroyers must be small-sized vessels, and therefore must lose their speed rapidly, as compared with large vessels, in a rough sea. In fact, except under unusual circumstances, a flotilla of destroyers must fall victims to large vessels on the high seas. Any one who has closely watched the history of the many destroyers now afloat must be convinced that they are frail boats, far too frail to allow of reliance being placed upon them in emergencies that require them to operate at a distance from their base. Weights have been so fined down that accidents are numerous, and the best of them require overhauling after a comparatively short experience of high speed. It would seem as if the function of the destroyer having been exaggerated so as to include the destruction of battle-ships on the high seas as well as the destruction of torpedo-boats, an attempt has been made to increase desirable qualities beyond the limits inherent in the design, and thus reliability and consequently efficiency have been sacrificed.
The battle-ship may be improved in several directions so as to make the destroyer's fate more certain; and yet the battleship may find its area of action still further limited by the advent of the destroyer, although employed within its legitimate sphere. But it would be a serious error for any maritime country and would be suicidal for Great Britain to neglect building battle-ships.
An inspection of the armament of various battle-ships will show a tendency of late years to decrease the number of the lighter guns carried. This is not an improvement, and an increase in calibre does not make up for a decrease in the number of shots per minute. It may be necessary, in view of the efficiency of the destroyer type, to increase the number of small guns, even if positions must be selected for them that would prevent them from being used under many circumstances, such as in a rough sea or when the larger guns were being employed—in fact, in positions where they would be used only to repel torpedo-boat attacks.
In torpedo-boats two types are gradually being settled upon by naval powers: the destroyer type and a smaller, slower type with a smaller steaming radius.
There is no settled type of cruiser, and each vessel appears to have been built to fill some pet idea of its designer. What is most essential is a type of vessel that will fill the place of the old sailing frigate and be the eyes of the battle fleet. There are two special objects to be accomplished by vessels of such a type in connection with the battle fleet. One is to seek information of the enemy's fleet, and the other to mask the movement of their own fleet. The maneuvers of the great naval powers have been somewhat misleading on this question. Each side in the maneuvers has usually had good information as to the composition of the fleet of its opponent, so that a sighting cruiser would be satisfied often with reporting the amount of smoke, and at the most with counting the vessels composing the fleet. Whereas in real war it would be necessary under most circumstances to ascertain something of the real strength of the fleet, and draw sufficiently near to distinguish battle- ships from cruisers. Again, the attacking fleet has seldom used its cruisers as a real mask, but has dispersed them in search of the defending fleet. In real war there is more likelihood of hard fighting than has been shown by the maneuvers, and the ordinary so-called protected cruiser is but poorly fitted for hard fighting; too little room is left for skill, and when two cruisers of approximately equal strength meet in battle, both of them are likely to be lost to their fleets. Some side armor as a protection to their buoyancy is necessary, and yet they should be faster and have a greater steaming radius than a battle-ship. This it has been claimed will lead to excessive displacements and will make the cruisers almost, if not quite, as expensive as battle-ships; but this large displacement has been shown to be unnecessary, although armored cruisers have been enlarged to endeavor to fit them to fight in the line. Something near the ideal type, according to my idea, has been reached in the Argentine armored cruiser San Martin; and I believe such a vessel more nearly represents the frigate of old than any other type of vessel. Here the desired qualities have been secured with a displacement under 7000 tons.
In what has gone before I have endeavored to show that for purposes of defense alone we must maintain a sea force sufficient to hold command of the sea at certain localities, such as will prevent an enemy from proceeding against our coast or commerce. That the battle which will decide the fate of our coast with its great ports and numerous lines of communication will be fought on the sea and by sea-going battle-ships. That while our force may not be sufficient to meet the enemy unaided, it should be sufficient to meet him, with reasonable chances of success, when aided by certain coast fortifications located at the advance naval bases. The entire problem of coast defense must be considered as a whole, so that the proper part may be allotted to each kind of force, naval and military, both mobile and immobile. Thus while our battle fleet may be unable to hold its own on the high seas and may be forced to seek the narrow seas adjacent to our coast, that here it may receive such reasonable support as to prevent the enemy from undertaking any important operations, other than seeking to reach conclusions by attacking our fleet at a point selected and fortified by us. With such a force and with judiciously placed fortifications, and a compact but active torpedo flotilla, we should be able to prevent military expeditions from landing on our coast, to prevent the enemy from blockading our ports and to protect our coastwise vessels.
There is no law of strategy by which, if followed, we can hope to protect our interests with a few battle-ships, but there is one, which if we follow will enable us to make a strong defense, with a reasonable fleet, against any of the great naval powers without attempting to enter into a race of construction with the nations of Europe. We need many carefully placed fortifications to aid the fleet, but unless judiciously armed and the locations properly selected our coast and harbor fortifications may become more expensive and less efficient than if all the money were devoted to floating defenses.
Already our interests are closely bound up with the other countries of the Western Hemisphere, and it requires no prophet to foretell that our merchant fleets will once again visit all portions of the globe. So that our interests are now growing beyond the waters washing our coasts, and our Navy will soon be expected to afford protection to a considerable merchant marine in all parts of the world. To do this effectively we must have, also, coaling stations so protected as to defy raiders. In fact we cannot avoid our responsibilities as one of the family of nations. We can avoid entangling alliance and should refrain from assuming the attitude of an armed ruffian, but if we are to remain prosperous and if we are to conserve our liberties we must become powerful, daring to do right and only fearing to do wrong. Avoiding aggressive war, but not so dreading war as to invite aggression from the armed bully, or so fearing to assert the truth and to stand up for justice as to drift into an armed conflict that might have been prevented by an assertion of our strength in the outset.
What boots it at one gate to make defense,
And at another to let in the foe?
(Discussion, p. 127.)