NOTE.—The essay upon which Ensign Frost was awarded honorable mention 1915, is entitled "Tactics." On account of its confidential nature, its publication in the PROCEEDINGS has been refused.
Motto: "Each lieutenant without asking for orders from the general himself took the best practicable dispositions."—Caesar.
The control of a large fleet in action is the most difficult tactical problem of the commander-in-chief of a fleet. In the naval actions of the past many different methods of control have been devised to make the control most perfect.
I will illustrate these methods by a description and discussion of a number of the most famous naval actions of the past, and will attempt to show the methods used, and the way in which these methods actually worked out in action, with comments on the value of the various methods. I will then compare the naval action in the days of sailing ships with the naval action to-day, and will attempt to show the value of the various methods, and deduce the method best fitted for the control of a fleet in a naval action to-day.
The battle of Southwold Bay was fought June 7, 1672, between the Dutch, under their famous admiral, De Ruyter, with 90 ships, and the allied English and French fleets of 100 ships. The Allies were at anchor close to the English coast, the English in two squadrons, A and B, and the French in one squadron, C, the crews being engaged in taking on water from the shore. The wind, ESE, was toward the shore. When the Dutch were sighted the Allies got under way, the English squadrons cm the starboard tack heading about northeast, while the French took the port tack heading about south, thus widely separating their forces. De Ruyter dispatched front his fleet, D, a very small division, D, to contain the French squadron, and then with the main body of his fleet attacked the English, having by this skillful disposition obtained superior numbers at the decisive point. The Dutch containing force, being to windward, was able, by clever handling, to keep the French in play without coming to close action. De Ruyter inflicted severe losses upon the English, so as to delay for some months the projected invasion of Holland.
In this action there seems to have been no control whatever of the Allied fleet. There were several methods that could have been used. In this case the commander-in-chief could well have issued prearranged instructions as to the manner of getting under way and the general positions of the three squadrons in the battle formation, or at least the general direction in which the fleet was to form for action. If the commander-in-chief had most carefully educated his subordinates in tactics, and especially his own tactics, the French admiral would certainly have realized the importance of keeping his squadron within supporting distance of the rest of the fleet, especially as the enemy had the wind in his favor, and was free to make a quick attack on that part of: the formation which offered the most chances of success. The commander-in-chief was actually taken completely by surprise and, had not made any of these necessary preparations. He could not have followed Napoleon's maxim: " A great captain ought to say to himself several times a day: If the enemy's army appeared in front, on my right, or on my left, what should I do? If he finds himself embarrassed, he is badly stationed, he is not according to the rules, he ought to seek a remedy." However, even if he had made these mistakes, it certainly ought to have been possible to have signalled to his squadron commanders his general plan of action, or at least the tack on which to get under way. There seems to have been no control in the Allied fleets. It is true that the control of an allied squadron is more difficult than one of the same nationality, on account of the difference in languages and signals, and the frequent jealousy of the admirals. However this could have been remedied to some extent at least, as later- we see D'Orvilliers using five days in arranging signals for a fleet composed of French and Spanish squadrons.
The Dutch fleet was controlled with great skill. It is not known whether De Ruyter had issued the plan to contain the French and attack the English with the bulk of his force before coming within sight of the enemy, or whether this move was decided on after the separation of the Allied fleets was noticed. What seems most probable is that De Ruyter had discussed with his admirals and Captains the various plans open to him among which was the plan actually used. That De Ruyter had educated his, captains in tactics is shown by the very clever way that the French were held in play without having to come to close action, and the great improvement shown by the admirals and captains in this action over their conduct in the last war, six years before. And it is also probable that this definite plan was not prescribed until after the enemy were sighted and the separation of their squadrons seen. However, as the French fleet at that time was known to De Ruyter to be extremely inefficient, and was organized in a separate squadron, his decision to contain it, even if made before he was in sight of the enemy, was really made after the dispositions of the enemy were known, and was therefore, in the true sense of the phrase, not a prearranged plan. That the Allies would divide their forces in such an incredible way could surely not have been foreseen by the Dutch, and it is to take advantage of such errors on the part of the enemy that the general plan of action should be delayed until all the dispositions of the enemy are seen. After the general plan was signalled, De Ruyter allowed it to be executed by his subordinates, using their own initiative, except that he probably himself commanded the center squadron, as was usual for the commander-in-chief to do, when the forces engaged were so large that he was unable to control the whole fleet. The granting of initiative to subordinate commanders was necessary in fleets of from 50 to ioo ships.
BATTLE OF THE TEXEL, AUGUST 21, 1673
The battle of the Texel was fought Off the Dutch coast, August 21, 1673, between the Dutch, having 70 ships, with De Ruyter as commander-in-chief, and the allied English and French, having go ships, of which 30 were French. At daybreak De Ruyter bore down to the attack with the wind. The leading Dutch squadron, C, was composed of about io ships and had opposed to it a French squadron of 30 ships. To this squadron De Ruyter gave orders to contain the French squadron, while he with the two remaining squadrons attacked the English on equal terms, thus repeating his tactics of Southwold Bay. After the French had been held in play for some time, their admiral made signal for the van to tack around the leading Dutch ships and attack them from the other side, to put them between two fires. When this maneuver was partly executed, the Dutch, under the same commander who had maneuvered so successfully against the French in the previous action, wore and ran through the French column on the starboard hand. Seeing that the French were in confusion and did not follow, this Dutch squadron stood down to the aid of De Ruyter's own squadron and joined in the fight there. This was a most brilliant concentration of superior numbers at the decisive point, and was accomplished despite the fact that the Dutch were decidedly inferior to the Allies. In this action the French played an almost incredible part, and that the French admiral had orders not to risk his ships, as the report is, is extremely probable. However this does not lessen the skill of the Dutch, for they took advantage most quickly of the weakness of the enemy.
In this action De Ruyter used the same plan that was so successful at Southold Bay. As the opposing fleets were anchored for over 12 hours within sight of each other, the plan of action was probably issued to the subordinates before getting under way, and this was in this case safe because the dispositions of the Allies could be seen, and the fact that they were to leeward, and grouped hit such an unwieldy formation, prevented any important maneuver before they could be reached. That the Dutch were educated In tactics is owed by the way the commander of the van came to the assistance of the center, after having first thrown off his immediate opponent. His initiative was used in accordance with the most important principle of tactics, to bring superior numbers to the decisive point. His action must have been thoroughly in accordance with the wishes of the commander-in-chief. Initiative used in this way is obedience. On the other hand, the initiative used by the Allied officers was nothing but insubordination. The action of the French was practically treachery. The English officer commanding the rear had a personal grudge against the Dutch admiral, Tromp, who commanded the rear squadron of the Dutch fleet. The English admiral, in his haste to get into action, hove to his squadron, thus forming a big gap between it and the center. With his flagship he opposed the flagship of the enemy, neglecting the control of his squadron. Being forced to shift his flag to another ship, his boat was swamped in the passage and, he was drowned. During this time the Allied center was being attacked by the Dutch center and van, while both their own rear and van were at such a distance that they could give no assistance. Initiative that is not used to further the plan is certainly most injurious. As initiative is most necessary in a naval action, the education of the officers in the correct tactical principles is most important.
De Ruyter's method in these two actions appears to be as follows: First, careful education of the admirals and captains in his own tactical ideas. Second, the formation of his general plan after the dispositions of the enemy were known, this plan being given to the squadron commanders. Third, the granting of initiative to subordinates to execute the general plan, and to act in general as they thought best when the plan became no longer
BATTLE OF BEACI1Y HEAD, JULY 10, 1690
useful. This most excellent method of control was not to be seen again until the days of Suffren and Nelson. The battle of Beachy Head was fought July 10, 1690, between the Allied English and Dutch fleets, 56 ships, and the French, under Tourville, 70 ships. The Allies in three squadrons stood down to the attack with the wind. The van, A, composed of Dutch ships, coming into action first, unsupported by the center and rear, was roughly handled. The Allied center, C, composed of English ships, was kept at long range to prevent the enemy from doubling on the rear, which, being composed of a mixture of Dutch and English ships, came to close range, E. This action of the Allied commander-in-chief caused a gap between the van and the center. The commander of the French van tacked his leading ships around the Dutch column and attacked it from both sides, B. Tourville, having beaten off the Allied center, Signalled for his leading ships to attack the rear of the enemy's van. This move decided the action, in which the Allies lost 10 ships, and would have lost many more had Tourville pushed the Pursuit. This move was similar to that made at the Texel, except in this case it was made by the commander-in-chief, who was actually acting at the time as a squadron commander. The direct control by the commander-in-chief of one squadron, or over the ships nearest to him, will be noticed in most battles.
The first battle between Suffren and Hughes was fought February 17, 1782. The French, under Suffren, had 12 ships against the English nine. In this action Suffren acted under a prearranged plan which had been issued to his second in command,
FIRST BATTLE BETWEEN "SUFFREN" AND “HUGHES," FEBRUARY 17, 1782
but does not seem to have been explained to his captains. "If we are to windward, as the English are not more than eight or at most nine, my intention is to double on their rear. Supposing your division to be in the rear, you will see by your position what number of ships will overlap the enemy's line and will make signal to them to engage on the lee side. In any case, I beg you to order to your division the maneuvers which you think best fitted to assure the success of the action."
The English were in column headed to the east, A, with the French running down with the wind, B. By the most fortunate chance, Hughes, believing that there was not wind enough to tack, remained in this position, which was perfectly suited for the execution of Suffren's plan. The French commander-in-chief, taking the lead, followed by three ships, attacked on the weather side the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth ships in the English column, as was the plan. He then Signalled for three ships to engage the English to leeward, and for all to come to within pistol shot of the enemy. Neither of these signals were obeyed, although the second in command knew of the prearranged plan, for which an opportunity had so fortunately arrived. Only one ship that received the order engaged on the lee side of the English column, although another on the initiative of the captain engaged without orders. The flagship did not come to Within pistol range of the English, standing off at long range to prevent the leading English ships from tacking to double on the French van. This was a perfectly proper position for the leading ship, but in thus standing off an example was given which induced the other ships to likewise stay at long range, despite the signal that was flying for close action. The attack, due to this misunderstanding and the inefficiency of the second in command, most of whose ships took no part whatever in the action, failed, and an indecisive action resulted, in which the advantage rested with the French despite their blunders.
This action illustrates the use of a prearranged tactical plan, devised—when the only information of the enemy was that their fleet consisted of eight or nine ships. The use of a prearranged plan by such an able man as Suffren requires a careful examination into the value of such a plan. In the first place, while we see that the second in command was informed of the plan, it can be inferred from an incident of the battle that the captains were not carefully instructed in the tactical plans of the admiral. If the plan had been explained, or if the captain's had been educated in tactics, they would have realized the reason why the flagship did not close to pistol range as the signal required. This reason was that if the first ships closed, it would have been possible for the leading English ships to have doubled on them. In other words, it was the duty of the first ships by keeping at long range to contain the first ships of the enemy, De Ruyter's maneuver on a small scale, so that superior forces could be concentrated on the English rear. Had the French captains understood this, they would not have followed the example of the flagship, but would have closed to pistol range as both the signal and the plan required. Also, if the captains of the rear ships had been acquainted with Suffren's plan, it is probable that more would have obeyed the signal to engage to leeward, or if the signal was not seen would have engaged without orders. Thus we see that Suffren had not educated the captains in his tactical plans.
If a prearranged plan is of any value, the conditions in this case were certainly as favorable for its success as could be wished for the small numbers on each side were favorable, as well as the fact that the French had the advantage in numbers, 12 to 9. The first requisite of the plan was the advantage of the wind. The French were most fortunate in obtaining this. To concentrate on the rear of a line, while the leading ships. are out of the action, is a maneuver so difficult that there is practically no chance of it succeeding, if the enemy Makes any counter maneuver to avoid it, or an offensive maneuver against the attacking squadron. The English admiral formed column on the tack most favorable for the enemy to attack his rear, and made no effort to avoid it, although he Must have seen it in time, as he says in his report. The enemy steered down on the rear of our line in an irregular line abreast." He claims that there was not enough wind to tack. Then this was extremely lucky for the French. But there was nothing to prevent him from keeping away before the wind, and then forming on the tack which would prevent an attack on his rear, as he had already made this maneuver before. On that same day. As it happened, due to remarkable luck and the poor judgment of the enemy, an excellent chance was afforded for the success of the plan, which was ruined by the tactics of the captains, to whom the plan had not been explained. It must be realized that any prearranged tactical plan counts on the fact that the enemy will stand passively on the defensive, and make no attempt to avoid it or any offensive maneuver against the Attacking fleet. A plan that in this way relies on conditions over which the commander-in-chief has no control, is evidently dangerous, especially as it is made before the dispositions of the enemy are known; or his initial maneuvers seen. It will be noticed that this plan was not definitely ordered, as it was stated to be only the intention of the commander-in-chief, and that the plan was indicated to the captains during the approach to the battle, by the example of the flagship in stopping opposite the fifth ship in the English column, and by the signal for three ships to engage on the lee side. This plan, therefore, cannot be called a definite prearranged tactical plan, but the probable plan of the commander-in-chief, to be executed only when the signal for it was made. Instead of indicating but one plan, for the execution of which it was not likely that the conditions would be favorable, would it not have been more advisable to have carefully instructed the captains in all the plans and ideas of the admiral, leaving the decision as to the exact plan until the dispositions of the enemy were known and the fleets were so near that a decided maneuver by the enemy would be impossible? That Suffren considered it very probable that the plan could not be executed as planned, is indicated by his most wise instructions to the second in command: "In any case, I beg you to order to your division the maneuvers which you think best fitted to assure the success of the action." That this granting of most liberal freedom of action to the second in command was wise is proved by Suffren's own words: "Being at the head, I could not well see what was going on in the rear." Had the second in command obeyed these instructions and fallen on the rear of the enemy with all his force there can be no doubt that a decisive victory would have been gained. The action of one captain in engaging his ship from the lee side without orders was a most wise use of the initiative that should be allowed to every captain. Nelson said: "No captain can do very wrong who places his ship alongside that of an enemy," which maxim this captain obeyed, and in addition placed his ship in the position his commander desired.
In the battle of May 29, 1794, the English, with Howe in command, had 25 ships, while the French, under Villaret Joyeuse, had a like number. At the beginning of the action the fleets were in long parallel columns, AA and BB, the French being to windward. At 6 a. m. the English started to tack in succession to the position CC, to try to engage the rear of the French fleet, which had been avoiding the action. At 7.45 Villaret, seeing that the English van might reach his rear, started to wear in succession, and stood down on the line DD. The French van, arriving opposite their rear, with which the English van had been able to exchange a few shots, hauled to the wind in succession, EE, so as not to lose any more ground to leeward. This brought the two fleets again on parallel courses. These maneuvers were ordered by signal from the flagship to the leading ships. The English flagship was tenth in the column, and the French flagship twelfth, and there seems to have been no difficulty in this method of control, as long as the fleets were not engaged. At 10 the French van, FF, stood down and engaged the English van at long range. At noon Howe signailed to tack in succession and pass through the French column. The Caesar, the leading English ship; did nothing until the signal had been up one hour, when she wore instead of tacking. The next seven ships followed the example of the Caesar, and headed for the French, but only one reached their line, being subjected to a heavy concentrated fire as the French column passed it. Howe himself, to give the example, then tacked and stood for the French line, followed by the ship ahead and the ship astern of the flagship. These reached and passed through the French line. The two rear French ships, which had suffered severely in an action the day before, were rather behind and to leeward of the French column. These were attacked and surrounded by five or six
ACTION OF MAY 29, 1794, BETWEEN HOWE AND VILLARET JOYEUSE
English ships, and received severe losses. The French admiral, to protect his rear ships, signalled to wear in succession. The leading ship was too much injured to come about, and therefore the French flagship, to set the examples wore and, followed by the ships astern of her, stood down toward the rear. The two end ships were rescued by this move, the English fleet by this time being entirely out of formation. The English then formed column to windward of the French, but made no further effort on this day to force the action.
In this action each fleet was formed in one body, which appeared to have no subdivisions, the commanders-in-chief having direct control over the whole fleet, except in the one case of the French van, which for a time Was separated from the main body. While outside of range, before the action commenced, this system seemed to work with a certain degree of success. The signals seem to have been transmitted correctly, but the maneuvers in succession took about two hours each, which is a big disadvantage of this formation, which is necessary for the system of direct control used in this action. The value of this control was quickly proved as soon as the action began. The signal for a simple maneuver, to tack in succession, after flying for one hour without result, threw the entire English fleet into confusion. The French admiral had no better results, as his signal was never obeyed. All initiative in subordinates seemed to be stifled; there appear to be no admirals engaged on either side except the commanders-in-chief: it is certain that the influence of other admirals was not seen outside their own flagships. As no initiative was allowed, when the system of control broke, there was no one who had the courage to act as he thought best. The commander of the French rear made no attempt to rally his ships and aid the two ships in the rear, which were both dismasted and rendered useless for any further action before Villaret could reach them from his distant position. Nor do the Captains seem to have used their proper initiative. When the signal to a leading ship was not obeyed, no other captains seem to have obeyed it. Each one could do nothing but follow, and the leaders failed. To have their orders partly obeyed, the commanders-in-chief were obliged to give the example with their own ships. To gather all his ships into one body, to attempt to control them all directly from his own flagship, seems to be the last resort of an admiral with a poorly trained fleet. In this method the ability of subordinates is not used, for they are allowed no initiative, the fleet is unwieldy and can use but the simplest maneuvers, principally those made in succession, which take so long a time to complete, and, in the end, all control is lost and the action becomes a melee.
The battle of Cape St. Vincent was fought February 14, 1797, between the English, under Jervis (15 ships), and the Spanish (27 ships). The latter, headed for Cadiz and not expecting an attack, were divided into two irregular bodies, about eight miles apart, the windward division consisting of 21 ships and the leeward division of six ships. When the hostile fleets came in sight of one another, the lee division hauled to the wind to rejoin the main body. The English headed between the two divisions in a single column. Three Spanish ships of the weather division succeeded in passing ahead of the English and joining the lee division. Before more could pass, the English column had separated the two divisions. The weather division now headed to the north to pass the rear of the enemy, while the lee division headed directly for the English in an attempt to break through the line. Jervis signalled from his flagship, the Victory, seventh in the column, to tack in succession and bring the weather division to close action. As the Spanish lee division drew near, the Victory slowed to wait for them, and with the ships astern beat off the attack, the Spaniards being so severely handled that they took no further part in the action. Then the Victory tacked after the leading ships toward the weather division. This division had a considerable
BATTLE OF CAPE ST. VINCENT, FEBRUARY 14, 1707.
start on the leading ships of the English column, and the English rear ships until they reached the point of turning would be actually going in the opposite direction from their objective. Therefore, Nelson, a commodore at this time and in command of the third ship from the rear, knowing that the plan of the commander-in-chief was to keep the two divisions of the enemy from joining, wore out of line and stood across the bows of the leading ships of the weather division, which was still in an irregular group formation. The rear ship, commanded by Collingwood, received orders to follow him from the admiral. These two ships with the assistance of the leading ships succeeded in taking four of the largest Spanish ships.
The move of Nelson's was a most proper use of the initiative that should be granted the captain of a ship. In a discussion of this move the conditions of the action should be taken into consideration. The lee division had been easily defeated, and as these ships took no further part in the action, the odds were at this time only 18 to 15. The weather division had made every effort to avoid the action, and in fact had a very good chance to escape it altogether. The inefficient condition of the Spanish Navy was known to all, and had been shown earlier in the action by the weak effort of the lee ships. At the time of this maneuver the action was practically a general chase. At such a time it was important to stop them until the van ships could arrive, even if one or two ships were sacrificed to stop them. That Nelson's move was thought correct by the admiral was shown by his signal to Collingwood to follow him. Although Nelson's ship was disabled, and at one time was under the fire of five ships of the enemy, he so delayed them that Collingwood and the four leading ships arrived in time. The plan of the English commander-in-chief was formed after the dispositions of the enemy were known, in order to take advantage of the error made by the enemy in letting their ships become so widely scattered. The plan was executed partly by subordinates acting on their own initiative and partly by direct signals from the flagship. These signals, however, were all made during times when the flagship was not under fire. Jervis had very carefully educated his captains in his tactics, as was shown by the excellent control he had over his fleet during the action. The subordinates quickly saw the intentions of the admiral, and carried them out most promptly.
The battle of the Nile was fought between the English, under Nelson (13 ships and one 50-gun ship), and the French, under Brueys (13 ships). The main body of the English fleet sighted at 3 p. m. the French fleet at anchor in Aboukir Bay. Although three ships, the Culloden, Swiftsure and Alexander, with the 50-gun ship Leander, were at some distance from the main body of the fleet scouting (there being no frigates with the fleet), Nelson decided upon immediate action. The English hauled sharp on the wind to clear the shoals off Aboukir Island. Nelson signalled to prepare for action, to anchor by the stern, and that it was his intention to engage the van and center of the enemy. Rounding the shoal the flagship was the third in column. Captain Hood in the Zealous, second ship, stood in close to the reef in turning, sounding continually, so that all ships outside of him would be safe. Captain Foley in the Goliath, leading ship, with brilliant initiative, decided to pass inside the French line, and, crossing the bow of the first French ship, passed her on its port hand and anchored off the port quarter of the second ship, opening fire at sunset. The Zealous followed and anchored inside the first ship. The Orion passed around both these ships and anchored on the
BATTLE OF THE NILE, AUGUST 1, 1798
inner side of the fifth French ship. The Theseus went between the Goliath and Zealous and the ships opposed to them, and anchored inside the' third in the French column.
The Audacious, steering between the first and second French ships, took position on the inner bow of the latter. The first five ships had all anchored inside the French line. Nelson had dropped back from the third to the sixth position in the order, so as to guide the remaining ships into their positions. He stood along the outside of the column, anchoring opposite the third ship, which was already engaged with the Theseus on the other side. The Minotaur anchored outside the fourth ship, which had no opponent on the port side, while the Defense attacked the fifth ship, which was already engaged with the Orion. Thus eight English ships were concentrated on five French ships of the same size. The last two ships in the column, the Bellerophon and Majestic, anchored opposite the seventh and eighth ships, the Orient, flagship, and the Tonnant, of 120 and 80 guns, respectively. The Culloden, somewhat behind the other ships, ran aground on the reef off Aboukir Island and was not able to take any part in the action.
While the French van was being crushed by superior numbers, the action in the center was going against the English. The Bellerophon and Majestic were no match for the heavier ships opposed to them. At about 8 o'clock, the Bellerophon wore out of line and took no further part in the action. At this time most fortunately for the English, their late ships arrived upon the scene of action, and by the admirable initiative of their captains were directed toward the center of the French line. The Swiftsure anchored on the starboard bow of the Orient, the Alexander on the port quarter and the Leander (50 guns) a little on the starboard bow of the Franklin, the sixth ship, where it could rake both the Franklin and the Orient. The Orion and the Defense, having defeated the fifth ship, also opened fire on the Franklin and the Orient. This overwhelming concentration quickly decided the action in the center. The Orient caught fire and blew up at 10 o'clock, and the Franklin surrendered at midnight. Before this the first five ships had also surrendered.
At this point Nelson, by signals to individual ships, endeavored to concentrate his available force on the French rear, but with little success. The Tonnant was dismasted, and the Herreux and Mercure received considerable injuries. At daybreak these were attacked again and with the Timoleon, last ship, were run ashore by their own crews. The other two ships escaped, as no English ships were in a condition to pursue.
For several months prior to the battle Nelson had most carefully instructed his captains in tactics and had explained to them in detail his intentions as to his method of attack for all possible conditions under which he might meet the enemy." Nelson, in addition throughout the whole of this memorable cruise turned the quarterdeck into what can only be described as a perpetual school for captains. Whenever the weather admitted, he summoned the captains aboard the flagship, where he would fully develop to them his own ideas of the different and best modes of attack and the plans he proposed to execute upon falling with the enemy. Whatever their position might be by night or clay, there was no possible position in which they could be found that he did not take into his calculations, and for the most advantageous attack of which lie had digested and arranged the best possible plans. With the masterly ideas of their admiral, therefore, on the whole subject of naval tactics every one.of his captains was most thoroughly acquainted." (Fitchett.) This is really a study of tactics in general, and in particular a study of the admiral's own ideas on tactics, so that before the action only general signals will be necessary for the plan to be perfectly understood by the subordinates.
Although Nelson had in this way discussed with his captains his ideas on tactics, it will be noticed that he did not issue any prearranged plan, or give out any one probable plan that he would attempt to execute. He very rightly left his final decision until he could see the dispositions. of the enemy.
The very general scope of Nelson's plan will be noticed. His only signals were to prepare for action, to anchor by the stern, and that it was his intention to engage the van and center of the French column. No details as to the proposed positions of the individual ships were prescribed, as these would probably serve only to confuse the captains, even if they could be received in time.
No order was given to pass inside the French line, nor was such a step even suggested. This plan had been discussed, and the commander-in-chief was sure that the captains would execute it, if it proved possible. Nelson trusted on the initiative of his subordinates, whom he had so carefully instructed.
It might well be said that "every captain distinguished himself." During the first few hours of the action every captain had acted entirely on his own initiative, and had made practically no mistakes. Captain Hood, without orders, stood in close to the reef and acted as a pilot for the rest of the fleet. Captain Foley, with rare courage, passed inside the French line. The captains of the three late ships, Swiftsure, Alexander and Leander, were at once attracted to the rescue of the Bellerophon, and took most favorable positions to concentrate on the French center, and restored the fight where it looked most unfavorable
After five ships had passed inside, Nelson indicated the course for the remainder by the example of his flagship passing along outside of the line. This was a perfect opportunity for leading by example.
After the action in the van and center had been decided, the concentration of all the English ships available on the French rear would naturally appear to be the correct move. We may assume that the captains, educated as they were in tactics, recognized this to be the correct move. At this time, due to the darkness and the losses sustained, and the severe exertions of the many hours of continual fighting, the English fleet was in confusion and almost completely exhausted. It would have required captains of the most exceptional ability to have forced the pursuit on their own initiative under these severe conditions. In this case, a general signal, under normal conditions the proper proceedure, for all ships to attack the French rear would not have the force in spurring the captains on to renewed efforts that individual signals would have. This pressure on the captains must have been Nelson's object in sending the individual signals, and this is their only justification because the admiral could not know the condition of his own ships or those of the enemy, especially as he was badly wounded and was able to stay on deck but a part of the time, and the captains were certainly in, a better position to know what their ships were capable of and to decide the exact manner in Which their ships could be used to the most advantage. Nelson in this action lived up to his statement of many years before: "Now had we taken ten sail and allowed the eleventh to escape when it would have been possible to have got at her, I could never have called it well done."
The French appear to have been completely surprised. Evidently nothing had been arranged beforehand. It had not even been decided whether, if the English appeared, they would fight under way or at anchor. When the English were sighted, a council of war was held, and it was decided to fight at anchor. If this was their plan, their position should have been made as secure as possible. Their leading ship was anchored so far from the shallow water that ships could easily pass inside. In fact, after the Zealous was anchored, another ship passed inside of it. The interval between Ships was great, and the rear flank was in the air. Instructions had been issued to pass cables between ships, to prevent the enemy from breaking through the line, and to have Springs on the anchors, so that the ships could be headed in any direction desired, but none of these directions were carried out. A large part of the men were ashore getting water, and some were unable to return to the ships before the action commenced.
BATTLE OF COPEN HAGEN, APE1L 2, 1801
After the action commenced the French acted passively on the defensive. The rear ships, when they saw that no attack was made against them, made no effort to come to the aid of the van and the center. As the wind was against them this would have been somewhat difficult, and at least would have given the rear ships a better chance to escape in case of a defeat.
The battle of Copenhagen was fought between the English (12 ships and three frigates), under Nelson, and Danish floating and shore batteries before the city of Copenhagen. The main fleet, of which Nelson's division was a detachment, was anchored four miles from the city at A. The day before the action, Nelson was anchored at B. On the day of the battle, April 2, 1800, the captains were given their final orders on board the flagship. The prearranged plan was for the ships of the line to anchor in prescribed positions opposite the line of Danish hulks, DD, and the Three Crown Battery, E, the principal effort to be made against the hulks, which could bring to bear about 400 guns. The frigates were to wait in reserve until the plan was developed and then were to be used to the most advantage. Three English ships, GGG, either ran aground or were unable to weather the shoal. This rendered useless the elaborate plan, and required the stations of the ships to be changed at the last minute, Nelson himself hailing the captains as the ships passed. The English line was so weakened that five hours were required to silence the fire of the hulks, while the ships, H, and the Three Crown Battery, having only frigates opposed to them were little injured. These frigates, F, which had taken the place of the ships that had run aground, were themselves severely injured. The battery, E, flanked the retreat of the English, whose ships were severely damaged and capable of little further effort. Nelson at this point persuaded the Danes to cease firing, with the threat of burning the floating batteries, and the promise to land the wounded Danes from them. When the Danes wished to obtain an armistice, he referred them to the commander-in-chief. While they were doing this five of the worst English ships were sent out past the battery, and bomb ships were brought in to a position from where they could fire on the city. This stratagem removed the English from a dangerous position.
A prearranged plan can be spoiled in two ways: maneuvers of the enemy and false maneuvers and mishaps of our own ships. This action gave great chalices of success to.a prearranged plan, because the enemy were not able to maneuver. On the other hand, the channel was difficult and practically unknown, which fact caused three ships to be of no use in the action, and to a great degree, spoiled the plan. This plan provided an exact station for each ship and prescribed the course by which this position was to be gained. This is in sharp contrast to the battle of the Nile, where the positions of the ships and the courses to gain these positions were left entirely to the captains. When the English ships grounded, Nelson, hailing the ships as they passed, changed altogether their instructions. This action proved that the prearranged plan is of doubtful advantage even under the most favorable conditions.
In the middle of the action the signal was hoisted on the flagship of the commander-in-chief, four miles from the scene of the action, to "leave off action." This signal was made from a position where comparatively nothing was known of the actual conditions of the battle. Direct orders given from a distance, where the actual conditions are not known, will be very nearly always incorrect, and if correct will be so by pure chance. In this case if obeyed, they would have caused great danger to the English fleet. It was the result of exceptional circumstances only that they were not obeyed. Nelson acknowledged it, but neither obeyed it nor repeated it to the fleet. Graves, his second in command, repeated the signal, but left up the signal for close action. No ships of the line obeyed the signal. The frigates, however, withdrew from the attack, and passing the Three Crown Battery suffered severe losses. It is evident that no orders should be given except by an officer who knows accurately all the actual conditions. Colonel Henderson says on this subject: "It was understood, therefore, in the Prussian armies of 1866 and 1870 that no order was to be blindly obeyed unless the superior was actually present, and therefore cognizant of the situation at the time it was received. If this was not the case, the recipient was to use his own judgment, and act as he believed his superior would have directed him to do had he been aware how matters stood."
The battle of Trafalgar was fought October 21, 1805, between the English (27 ships), under Nelson, and the allied French and Spanish fleets (33 ships), under Villeneuve. The English were divided into two squadrons. The one of the commander-in-chief, Nelson, consisted of 12 ships. The squadron under the command of Collingwood, second in command, consisted of 15 ships. When first sighted at daybreak, the Allies were in one long irregular column, beaded to the south. At 6.40 Nelson signalled to form the order of sailing, to prepare for battle, and to bear up toward the enemy. The two flagships turned toward the enemy, distant about 10 miles, followed in the most irregular order by the ships in their squadrons, forming two parallel columns at right angles to the column of the enemy.
As soon as the English move was seen in the Allied fleet, Villeneuve signalled his entire fleet to wear together, this maneuver taking until to o'clock. At this time the Allies were headed to the north in considerable confusion, which was usual when such a long column was used.
At 8 o'clock the frigate commanders reported aboard the Victory, Nelson's flagship, for their instructions. Blackwood, in command of all the frigates, was given authority to do as he thought best, and was even given authority to direct in Nelson's name the movements of the last ships in the columns toward the position in which he believed they' would be most needed.
At 11 Nelson signalled to Collingwood "I intent to pass through the van of the enemy's line to prevent him from getting
BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR, OCTOBER 21, 1805
into Cadiz." The course was changed a little toward the north. At noon the French opened fire on the Royal Sovereign, Collingwood's flagship, which was some distance ahead of the other ships in the column. At 12.10 this ship broke through the enemy's line. At 12.20 Villeneuve's flagship opened fire on the Victory, and Nelson directed Blackwood to return to his ship, passing along the line and telling each ship to get into action as quickly as possible, regardless of the plan. At 1 the Victory broke the line, the French ships crowding around the flagship for support. At this point, four ships directly behind the French flagship wore out of the line and stood down toward the rear, for what reason it is unknown. The Allied rear closed up on the center and joined the action, but the van continued on its course and drew farther away from the action. At 2 Villeneuve signalled: The ships that are not engaged take positions that will bring them most rapidly under fire:" The van ships by 2.30 had headed toward the southward, five passing to windward, and five to leeward of the action. The last two ships of Nelson's column, just now coming into action, were a most valuable reinforcement, and with their aid the five to windward were beaten off. Those to leeward passed clear of the engaged ships. At 4.45 Admiral Gravina, commander of the rear, retreated to Cadiz with the ships that had not surrendered, 15 in all. Eighteen including the flagship of the commander-in-chief. Were either sunk or taken.
This action is especially interesting on account of the fact that Nelson, the most famous admiral in history, had make known his intentions before the action in the famous Memorandum. The prearranged plan he proposed must be carefully studied and compared with the actual results of the battle.
"Thinking it almost impossible to bring a fleet of 40 sail of the line into a line of battle in variable winds, thick weather, and other circumstances that Mita occur, without such a loss of time that the opportunity will probably be lost of bringing the enemy to battle in such a manner as to make the business decisive, I have therefore made up my mind to keep the fleet in that position of sailing (with the exception of the first and second in command) that the order of sailing is to be the order of battle, placing the fleet into lines of 16 ships each, with an advanced squadron of eight of the fastest of the two-decked ships, which will always make, if wanted, a line of 24 sail on whichever line the commander-in-chief may direct."
While all fleets were divided into the van, center and rear, with an officer to command each, these divisions were, as a rule, joined into one column for action, and their commanders were allowed very little initiative. The whole fleet was under the direct command of the commander-in-chief. De Ruyter, over 100 years before, had made definite divisions of his fleet to great advantage, and after his plan was issued he allowed it to be executed by the initiative of his squadron commanders. After this time the systern of separate squadrons was little Used and all ships were united in one long column. Captains were court-martialled who left the line, and admirals were dismissed because they engaged before their line was formed. While Suffren in his actions allowed initiative to his second in command, his whole fleet was brought into action in one body. Possibly if he had had better captains he would have organized his fleet into divisions, and allowed these to be brought into action by subordinates. Nelson was the first admiral since De Ruyter to divide his fleet into definite divisions. Before the Nile, he had recognized this excellent principle by forming his little fleet into three divisions, but these do not appear to have been used at this action. After joining the fleet before Trafalgar, his first move was to form his squadrons, realizing the sooner this was done the better the captains would become acquainted with the abilities of their neighboring ships, and the better the admirals would know the sailing and maneuvering abilities of their squadrons. Another wise provision of the Memorandum was that the fleet were to keep constantly in battle formation, so that they would be ready for action at all times. The advanced squadron was never formed as Nelson's 40 ships never joined his command.
"The second in command will, after my intentions are made known to him, have the entire direction of his line to make the attack upon the enemy, and to follow up the blow until they are captured or destroyed."
The words "after my intentions are made known to him " indicate that Nelson had determined to make his final plan of action after the dispositions of the enemy were known. This plan was to be signalled to the second in command, who was to execute it entirely on his own initiative, both in making the initial attack and following it up until the enemy were destroyed. The two squadron commanders in turn left the control of the individual ships entirely to the captains, who were thoroughly acquainted with the tactical ideas of the commander-in-chief. Nelson said, after the Royal Sovereign had broken the line: "Now I can do no more." After thus indicating that the final plan would not be issued until the last hours before the battle, Nelson describes as follows his probable plan if the enemy should be discovered to windward:
"If the enemy's fleet should be seen to windward in line of battle, and that the two lines and the advanced squadron can fetch them, they will probably be so extended that their van could not succor their rear.
"I should therefore probably make the second in command's signal to lead through, about their twelfth ship from the rear (or wherever he could fetch, if not able to get so far advanced); my line would lead through about their center, and tile advanced squadron to cut two or three or four ships ahead of their center, so as to ensure getting at their commander-in-chief, on whom every effort must be made to capture."
The very general terms of this plan will be noticed. That nothing was prescribed exactly is shown by the words "or wherever he can fetch," "about their center," "two or three or four." That it was not prescribed as a hard and fast rule is shown by the words " I shall therefore probably make the second in command's signal," which prove that the final plan was to be issued after the dispositions of the enemy were seen. I believe that the plan was issued more as an example of the way in which Nelson wished to concentrate than as an actual plan which he hoped to execute as prescribed. His plan assumed that the commander-in-chief would be in the center of the enemy's column, that the enemy would all be in one column (which formation he himself thought most inadvisable to use), that the line of the second in command would be nearest the rear of the enemy, that the enemy would make no maneuver, but would allow the English to strike the points they aimed at, even though they had the weather position, from which they could easily attempt an offensive move. Unless this plan was used merely as an example, it would seem to be most inadvisable to issue such a detailed plan, which it was practically impossible to execute without many changes, due to facts that could not be foreseen. It would seem better to have limited the plan to the very general ideas in the following paragraphs;
”The whole impression of the British fleet must be to overpower from two to three ships ahead of their commander-in-chief, supposed to be in the center, to the rear of their fleet. I will suppose 20 sail of the enemy's line to lie untouched, it must be some time before they could perform a maneuver to bring their force compact to attack any part of the British fleet engaged, or to succor their own ships, which indeed would be impossible without mixing with the ships engaged.
"Something must be, left to chance: nothing is sure in a sea fight beyond all others. Shot will carry away the masts and yards of friends as well as foes; but I look with confidence to a victory before the van of the enemy could succor their rear, and then that the British fleet would most of them be ready to receive their 20 sail of the line, or to pursue them, should they endeavor to make off."
These two paragraphs show the general plan to crush the rear and center of the enemy before the van can come to the rescue. It is probable that after the detailed plan was written Nelson, realizing that it would be hardly possible to execute it as ordered, gave the more general plan, so that the second in command and the captains would know the essential parts of the plan, and would use their own initiative to change the details or to devise other details to execute the essential parts.
"If the van of the enemy tacks, the captured ships must run to leeward of the British fleet; if the enemy wears, the British must place themselves between the enemy and the captured; and should the enemy close, I have no fears .as to the result."
These instructions seem unnecessary, if the captains were educated in tactics.
"The second in command will in all possible things direct the movements of his line, by keeping them as compact as the nature of the circumstances will admit. Captains are to look to their particular line as their rallying point. But, in case signals can neither be seen nor perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy."
This gives general instructions to the second in command and to the captains, and most wisely allows them a wide initiative.
"Of the intended attack from to windward, the enemy in line of battle ready to receive an attack,
"The divisions of the British fleet Will be brought nearly within gun shot of, the enemy's center. The signal will most probably then be made for the lee line to bear up together, to set all their sails, even steering sails, in order to get as quickly as possible to the enemy's line, and to cut through, beginning with the twelfth ship from the enemy's rear. Some ships may not get through their exact place, but they will always be at hand to assist their friends; and if any are thrown around the rear of the enemy, they will effectually complete the business of 12 sail of the enemy.
"Should the enemy wear together, or bear up and sail large, still the 12 ships composing, in the first position, the enemy's rear are to be the object of attack of the lee line, unless otherwise directed from the commander-in-chief, which is scarcely to be expected, as the entire management of the lee line, after the intention of the commander-in-chief is signified, is intended to be left to the judgment of the admiral commanding that line.
"The remainder of the enemy's fleet, 34 sail, are to be left to the management of the commander-in-chief, who will endeavor to take care that the movements of the second in command are as little interrupted as possible."
As the attack was actually made from to windward, let us see how this plan actually worked out in the battle.
The plan was not to be made without a signal to do so after the dispositions of the enemy were seen. Also this plan was for but one of the squadrons. The initial move was planned the maneuvers of his own line were left by Nelson until the countermoves of the enemy were seen.
As is evident from the sketch drawn by Nelson, the fleet was to be formed in three lines opposite the enemy's center. The attack was actually made in two parallel columns. Collingwood’s squadron was to come into action with all its ships at one time. The ships did come into action in succession, allowing the Allies to concentrate on the leading ships. Next the order says: "Should the enemy wear together . . . . still the 12 ships composing, in the first position, the enemy's rear are to be the object of attack of the lee line." Mahan says: "At 20 minutes before seven Nelson made in quick succession the signals to form the order of sailing and to prepare for battle: Ten minutes later followed the command to "bear up." . . . . The two columns steered east about a mile apart, that of Nelson being to the windward when the development of the British maneuver was recognized by Villeneuve he saw that fighting was inevitable, and wishing to keep Cadiz under his lead he ordered the combined fleets to wear together. . . Their ships which had been head division, Admiral Dewa, four protected cruisers; fourth division, Admiral Uryu, four protected cruisers; fifth division, Admiral Kataoka, four protected cruisers; sixth division, Rear-Admiral Togo, four protected cruisers; first, second, third, fourth and fifth destroyer flotillas (four destroyers in each) ; first, ninth, tenth, eleventh, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth torpedo-boat flotillas (four boats each).
The Russian fleet was organized as follows: First division,• Admiral Rodjestvenski, four battleships; second division, three battleships, one armored cruiser; third division, Admiral Nebogatoff, one battleship, three coast defence ships; first cruiser division, Admiral Enquist, two armored cruisers, two protected cruisers; second cruiser division, four protected cruisers; five auxiliary cruisers, nine destroyers, 16 transports, with a considerable train of hospital ships, supply ships, repair ships and tugs. However, of these imposing numbers, only the four battleships of the first division were modern ships. The other armored ships were practically obsolete, and armed with old guns. Few ships had rapid-fire guns in their torpedo defence battery.
The Japanese scouts sighted the Russian fleet at about 5 a. m. and kept in touch with it until the action, sending by radio minute information as to the numbers and dispositions of the Russians. At 10 the fifth and sixth divisions discovered the enemy and took position, the fifth on the port bow and the sixth ahead of the Russian fleet. At 6.30 the commander-in-chief, with the first, second, third and fourth divisions left the anchorage for the enemy.
"In spite of the thick mist, which confined the vision to five miles, the information thus received (from the scouts by radio) enabled me at a distance of 30 or 40 miles, to form a vivid picture of the condition of the enemy. I was thus able, before I could see the enemy with my own eyes, to know that the enemy's fighting sections comprised the whole of the second and third squadrons; that they were accompanied by seven special service ships at their rear; that the enemy's ships were disposed in double column formation; that their main strength was placed at the head of the right column; that the enemy's speed was about 12 knots; that the enemy were steaming in a northeasterly direction. On the strength of this information I was able to form a mental resolution to meet the enemy with the main strength of my fleet near Okinoshirna at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and open the attack on the head of the enemy's left column." (Togo's Official Report.)
The first division, in column formation, followed closely by the second division, headed southwest to get on the port side of the enemy, as soon as the latter were sighted at 1.40 p. m. At 2.05 the first division countermarched toward the enemy, followed by the
second division. At 2.08 the Russians opened fire. (Position 1.) At 2.10 the Japanese commenced firing, two ships of the first division concentrating on the Suvorov, leader of the right column, at ranges from 6400 to 7000 meters, and four on the Oslabaya, at ranges from 5800 to 7000 meters, each ship opening fire as soon as the turn was completed. At 2.11 the second division commenced the turn, each ship, as the turn was completed and it was steadied on course ENE., opening fire. One ship concentrated on the Suvorov, three on the Oslabaya, leader of the left column, and two on the Nikolai I, at ranges from 5400 to 6000 meters. A large part of the Japanese fire was therefore directed on the two leaders of the Russian columns. These columns both changed course slightly to starboard, forming one long irregular column. Both fleets gradually changed course to starboard, the Japanese drawing
ahead into a very favorable position; with a constantly decreasing range. (Position 2.) By 2.50 the Russian flagship, the Suvorov, and the second ship in the column, the Alexander III, had left the line and the fifth ship, the Oslabaya, was sinking. The leading ship, the Borodino, changed course 10 points to port in the attempt to escape past the rear of the Russian fleet. The first Japanese division went "ships left about," and formed column with
Sketches taken principally from Japanese Staff Reports. Distances in meters. Numbers indicate divisions.
BATTLE OF THE SEA OF JAPAN, MAY 27, 1905
the rear ship, the Nisshin, leading on course WNW. The second division did not follow this maneuver, and their position ahead of the enemy's column forced the Russians, to change course to starboard. (Position 3.) This division also changed course 'gradually to starboard, forcing the enemy to continue turning until they were headed, south. At this time, 3.10, the second division countermarched after the first division and opened fire on the enemy with the port battery. The first division, at 3.07, as soon as it was clear of the second division, opened fire with the port battery. The Russians had continued turning in a circle until they were headed northeast across the rear of the Japanese divisions. Therefore at 3.30 the first division went " ships left about" the Mikasa again becoming the leading ship, heading about east. The second division countermarched to the right and took position on the port bow of the first division. (Position 6.)
From this time the fight was continued on parallel lines, fire being concentrated on the Suvorov, which was discovered between the lines at about 4, and at the Russian main fleet, whenever it was visible. At 4.45 attacks were made on the Suvorov by two destroyer flotillas without success. At about 4.40 the main Russian fleet was lost in the fog, and the first and second divisions headed South in .pursuit, the second division leading.
"On receipt of the order at 2 p. m. to commence fighting, the Dewa, Uryu and Togo divisions, as well as the cruiser squadron (fifth division), separating themselves from our main fleet, steamed south in reversed lines with the enemy on the Ott side, and threatened in accordance with the prearranged plan, the rear of the Russian fleet. At 2:45 the Dewa and Uryu divisions, maintaining touch with each other, first opened fire in reversed lines on the Russian cruiser squadron. The joint attack of the Dewa and Uryu divisions showed a remarkable development by 4 p. m. The rear detachments of the enemy had been completely routed, and had become separated from one another. By 4.20 the cruiser squadron (fifth division) and the Togo division had arrived and they at once joined the Dewa and Uryu divisions in attacking the already routed Russian cruisers and special service ships. At 4.40 four Russian battleships (or coast defence ships) arrived and joined the Russian cruisers, so that the Uryu detachment and the cruiser squadron were for a short time engaged at a short range in an arduous fight with a powerful enemy." (Togo's Official Report.)
When the main Japanese fleet lost the enemy in the fog, the Japanese cruisers probably met his third division. At 5.30 Kamimura, hearing the sound of heavy guns in the fog, left, on his own initiative, his position ahead of the first division, and headed toward the battle. He encountered the main body of the Russians and eight cruisers, which he attacked with his starboard battery. The first division discovered the enemy at 6 and opened fire on them with the port battery. The action continued until dark, the Alexander III being sunk and the Borodino blown up. At 7.20 the Suvorov was attacked and sunk by the eleventh torpedo flotilla. At nightfall only nine ships Of the Russian fleet remained in an organized body. These, commanded by Nebogatoff, headed for Vladivostok. The Japanese destroyer and torpedo-boat flotillas attacked during the night, and dispersed the 'Russian ships, except two battleships and two coast defence ships, which surrendered without resistance the following morning. The victory of the Japanese was complete.
The Japanese system was remarkable, in that the greatest initiative was allowed to all subordinates. The efficient co-operation of the various divisions and flotillas proves that the officers were most thoroughly educated in tactics. This action can be compared with Trafalgar for the extremely small number of orders issued by the commander-in-chief. The organization of the Japanese fleet was simple, there being. six divisions, to all of which destroyer or torpedo-boat flotillas were attached. This detail of the flotillas does not seem to offer the difficulties of control that will be sure to occur if they are massed in one large flotilla of 30 to 50 boats, under the command of one man. The flotillas were attached to divisions as follows:
First division: First and third destroyer flotillas.
Second division: Second, fourth and fifth destroyer flotillas.
Third division: Ninth and fourteenth torpedo flotillas.
Fourth division: Nineteenth torpedo flotilla.
Fifth division: Eleventh, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and twentieth torpedo flotillas.
Sixth division: Tenth and fifteenth torpedo flotillas. These flotillas seem to have attached themselves to other divisions during parts of the day battle.
Upon receipt of the news that the Russian fleet was discovered; the different sections at once commenced their hostile operations along the lines respectively laid out for them in the prearranged plan." (Togo.) "Admiral Kataoka, with the third fleet, was at Ozaki Bay, and when he received the report (the enemy sighted) transmitted it to the commander-in-chief, Admiral Togo. At the same time he ordered his command to prepare for action. The sixth division . . . got under way at 5.44 (the enemy was first sighted at 4.45). At 5.05 a. m., the commander of the second fleet, When he received the report, ordered his command to get under way." (Staff Report.) The plan for keeping in touch with the enemy, after he was discovered was prearranged.
At the beginning of the action the Dewa detachment, the Uryu detachment, the cruiser squadron and the Togo detachment, in pursuance of the previous ,arrangement, steamed to the south and came upon the rear Of the enemy." (Togo.) The first two detachments carried out the plan promptly. The last two must have been slow. " The fifth and sixth divisions were ordered by the commander-in-chief, Admiral Togo, to attack the enemy's rear." (Staff Report.) After this, order all the cruiser divisions acted entirely on their own initiative.
The commander-in-chief reserved for himself the control of the first and second divisions alone. His control over the second division was throughout the action very slight, Admiral Kamimura acting on his own initiative, guided by the general idea of keeping within supporting distance of the first division, which he had evidently been instructed to do. Togo's only signals to the second division were to change course to northwest by north at the beginning of the action in order to get on the port side of the enemy; the signal to commence the action; the general signal to the fleet "The fate of the Empire depends on this battle, let every man do his utmost"; the order for the second division to take position ahead of the first division at 5 and the Signal for all ships to cruise north after the action and gather at Utsuryoto. Admiral Kamimura did not hesitate to leave his position astern of the first division When he thought it best to. "At 2.58 the first division changed course eight points to port, and the second division was about to follow them when they discovered that the leading unit of the enemy seemed about to change course to starboard, and in order to cut off their escape to the southward, the second division ceased this movement and, increasing their speed, passed astern of the first division, which was now in line abreast headed toward the enemy and opened fire at the leading ship at a range of about 3000 meters." On the other hand, while the enemy was in fairly good order he was careful not to get outside of supporting-distance of the first division." The range not only became greater, but the first division standing to the northward, it was feared that the divisions would become separated therefore, at 4.47 the second division, turning to starboard, ran northwest with the, intention of joining the first division." (Staff Report.) After the Russian fleet was defeated he did not hesitate to leave the first division altogether." But on account of the severe fire on the starboard bow, Admiral Kamimura knew that the Japanese cruisers were engaged, and without engaging these two ships he separated his command from the first division, stood quickly toward the direction from which the firing, came, and discovered the third and fourth Japanese divisions engaged with a unit of the enemy." (Staff Report.)
While the numerous turns together of the first division, prove that Togo had a fairly close control over the ships of the first division, considerable initiative was left to the captains of these ships. "The range becoming shorter, hitting was, more accurate, each ship changing her target as the circumstances warranted." (Staff Report.)
The third and fourth divisions co-operated with great efficiency. "Then changing course to port, they (fourth division) steamed north, and again at 2.10 p.m., changed, course to northeast, intending to join the third division and to co-operate with them." "From now on this division; taking position, inboard of the third division, worked in unison with this division (Staff Report.)
The fifth and sixth divisions were at the beginning of the action combined under the orders of Admiral Kataoka. "At 2.25 p. m. the sixth division received orders from Admiral Kataoka to attack the enemy's transports, which appeared to the southward." Later the sixth diVision was ordered to act independently. "Admiral Kataoka Ordered the sixth division to operate at will."
The destroyer and torpedo flotillas sometimes acted independently and sometimes under the orders of the division commanders.
"At 2.30 orders were received from the commander-in-chief, Admiral Togo, for the destroyer flotillas to operate at discretion outside of battle range As the second division passed about 2000 meters from the Suvorov, the commander of the fifth, destroyer flotilla deemed it a good opportunity for attack." (Staff Report.) "At this time the third destroyer flotilla joined the third division, but on account of the weather Admiral Dewa ordered this flotilla to operate independently." (Staff Report.) On the other hand, "The eleventh torpedo flotilla received an order from Admiral Kataoka to attack the Suvorov." At sunset the division commanders signalled for the destroyer and torpedo flotillas to attack. The attack was made by flotillas in succession in some cases flotillas were divided and the boats attacked separately.
Togo's system of command was as follows:
1. General prearranged plan for keeping in touch with the enemy as soon as they were sighted. This plan designated the objects of attack for the various divisions when the action commenced, but not the tactical details of the attack.
2. Plan for the main fleet to be made after the dispositions of the enemy were known.
3. Great initiative granted to the cruiser division commanders, who were allowed to decide upon their plan of attack, after the dispositions of the enemy cruisers and special service ships were known. Great initiative was also granted to the commander of the second division, whose only instructions evidently were to keep within supporting distance of the first division. Considerable initiative was also granted to the captains of ships, who were allowed to select and change their targets at will.
4. Co-operation between the divisions. That of the first and second divisions was perfect, and that of the third and fourth divisions was very good. The fifth and sixth divisions seem to have been unable to find the enemy until the action was nearly over. The Japanese officers must have been most carefully educated in tactics.
The Russians seem to have had no other system of command than that of following the leading ship. At different times the following ships acted as the leader: Suvorov, Alexander III, Borodino and Orel. The captains of these ships, after Rodjestvenski was wounded, all acted at times as commander-in-chief. There seems to have been no divisional control of the ships. Without divisional control, no other formation could be used than the long irregular column, and the only maneuver that could be used was a change of course in succession, in this case usually away from the enemy, because the latter had the superior speed. The Russian captains seem to have shown excellent initiative, leaving the line to put out fires and make repairs, and returning again as soon as they were in commission. Several times the Russian fleet was in a state of complete confusion, but each time as soon as there was a lull in the fighting, the ships were again rallied into formation.
The two cruiser divisions do not seem to have been able to keep the ships that composed them together in one body. They and the special service ships and destroyers seem to have been scattered all over the scene of action. The captains of many of these ships acted in a most efficient manner, and considering the vastly superior numbers of the Japanese cruisers and destroyers, seem to have stood off the attack of the enemy as well as could have been expected. In addition many of these ships rescued many men from the sinking battleships, standing by them in a most creditable manner. After sunset Admiral Enquist, in obedience to secret orders from the commander-in-chief, withdrew with his four ships from the battle, seeing that they could be of no further use. At 5.30 p. m. Admiral Rodjestvenski, being rescued from the Suvorov by a destroyer, dispatched another destroyer to Admiral Nebogatoff on the Nikolad I, ordering him to steer to Vladivostok. Nebogatoff signalled to the ships near him: "Follow me; course N. 230 E.," and rallied the remaining ships. After the torpedo attacks during the night only four ships remained in sight the next morning. Upon the approach of the whole Japanese fleet these ships surrendered, further resistance being useless.
From the various actions we have examined we have seen that many systems of control have been used. These can be tabulated as follows:
1. Direct control of the commander-in-chief over the whole fleet. Example: Howe and Villaret in the action of May 29.
2. The fleet controlled by a definite prearranged plan. Example: Nelson at Copenhagen.
3. Probable plan prearranged and issued to the fleet with the understanding that this plan is not to be executed until signal is made after the dispositions of the enemy are known. Examples: Nelson at Trafalgar and Suffren in the action of February 17.
4. The captains instructed in tactics and in the tactical ideas of the commander-in-chief, and general instructions issued for the guidance of subordinates. Examples: Nelson at the Nile and Trafalgar, and De Ruyter at the actions of Southwold Bay and the Texel.
5. General plan signalled to the fleet after the dispositions of the enemy are known. Examples: Nelson at the Nile and Trafalgar, De Ruyter at Southwold Bay and the Texel, Togo at the Sea of Japan.
6. General plan executed by the subordinates acting on their own initiative. Examples: English at the Nile and Trafalgar, and Japanese at the Sea of Japan.
7. Control by the example of the flagship. Examples: Howe and Villaret in the action of May 29, Togo and Rodjestvenski at the Sea of Japan.
8. Control of the commander-in-chief over a squadron (as a squadron commander) or over a few ships near the flagship. Examples: Tourville at Beachy Head, Nelson at Trafalgar, De Ruyter at Southwold Bay and the Texel and Togo at the Sea of Japan.
Of the actions we have considered but one, the Sea of Japan, was a battle in which the present conditions of a naval action were present. I will compare the difficulties of the commander-in-chief in exercising direct control over his fleets to-day with those present in the actions of sailing ships.
The following conditions tend to make the control of the commander-in-chief in action easier to-day than in the days of sailing ships:
1. The fighting being at a longer range the commander-in-chief will not have the same difficulty of seeing the maneuvers of his squadrons, which were often mixed up with the enemy's ships in a melee in the actions of sailing ships.
2. The use of smokeless powder also makes it easier for the commander-in-chief to trace the movements of the enemy and of his own squadrons.
3. Radiotelegraphy has improved signalling. The efficiency of this method of signalling is not as yet proved, having never been tried out in action.
The following conditions tend to make the control of the commander-in-chief more difficult to-day:
1. The great speed of modern ships and their quickly changing positions make it imperative that signals be read and obeyed immediately, or the conditions will have changed, possibly making the maneuver signalled inadvisable.
2. The extremely short time required for the decision of the battle does not give the commander-in-chief time to make new dispositions of his forces. However, after the action is decided the commander will have time to give orders for the pursuit of the enemy.
3. The greatly increased power of modern guns will probably cause the signalling apparatus to be wrecked and the masts and yards to be carried away early in the action.
4. The increased area occupied by a large fleet and the addition to the main fleet of destroyers, submarines and mine layers, while in the fights between sailing ships only ships of the line were engaged.
5. The increased range makes mist or fog more liable to conceal the enemy from the view of the commander-in-chief.
6. The smoke from stacks increases smoke interference. This especially applies to the smoke screen of destroyers.
These conditions would seem to prove that it is at least as hard for the commander-in-chief to control directly the fleet to-day as it was in the days of sailing ships, and probably harder.
We will now consider the methods of control that can be used in an action to-day, and try to determine their advantages and disadvantages.
We will first consider the method of direct control by the commander-in-chief over the entire fleet. In order to efficiently control the fleet the commander-in-chief has first to know the positions of his own fleet and the positions of the opposing fleet at all times. He must be able to transmit to the ships of his fleet orders which must be obeyed before the conditions have changed. These two essentials have led to the concentration of all the ships of the first line of battle into one body, so that their positions are known to the commander-in-chief exactly at all times, and the efficiency of signalling is increased, and the commander-in-chief is able to control his fleet by example. This method has been tried many times in the past and has been used to advantage before fire was opened, but has always failed after the action was commenced. We have seen how both Howe and Villaret lost control of their fleets and had to control by example to partly carry out their wishes. Also in the battle of the Saints both Rodney and De Grasse lost all, control over their fleets, De Grasse in particular making signal after signal that could not be received or obeyed. In the battle of Ushant, D'Orvilliers lost control over his van when there was the opportunity for an excellent maneuver. In many of the actions between Suffren and Hughes both commanders lost control. It will be noticed how De Ruyter and Nelson discarded this method as useless, the latter beginning his Memorandum as follows: " Thinking it almost impossible to bring a fleet of 40 sail of the line into a line of battle." In our latest action we see Togo exercising control over but six ships and a most nominal Control over six more, the rest of his fleet being almost entirely out of his sight during the action. In the action of sailing ships where the fleets were formed in one long column, the commander-in-chief always took position in the center of their column, so that signals for simultaneous maneuvers could be easiest sent to the fleet. These maneuvers rarely succeeded after the fleets were in touch, and have to-day been entirely discarded for a large number of ships in one line under fire. Speaking of the Japanese the Marine Rundschau, August, 1912, says " Never did more than six ships turn together; never did they make a turn after they had all suffered severely; never at any time when they were hard pressed by the enemy and they were themselves locked fast to him." Maneuvers in succession are now alone attempted when there are a large number of ships in one formation, and therefore the flagship is placed at the head so that control by example may be used, and in order that this control may be used the control by signals is made more inefficient. Therefore the control of the commander-in-chief is limited to changes of course in succession, which means that he has practically no control at all, and as the fire will usually be concentrated on the leading ship, if the flagship is in this position, it is likely that even this control will not last long. The many disadvantages of the long column will be sufficient to counterbalance the advantage of this control, if it be any advantage. "A squadron should therefore consist of eight ships or at most 12. Beyond that number of ships it would not seem possible to prescribe rules for attaining unity of control and unity of action, at least not without involving the difficulties of a double column. Hence in such cases it would be advisable to form two squadrons which should maneuver separately but coordinately." (Bernotti.)
If the fleet be divided into two or more squadrons that maneuver separately, it will be even more difficult for the commander-in-chief to exercise his control. In order to attempt this control most efficiently it would seem advisable for the flagship to be a small fast vessel out of the battle line. Here the commander-in-chief could see most clearly the situation, and his signals could be sent to the squadron commanders with more success. However, when we consider the speed with which ships change their positions, the number and different classes of ships engaged, the quickness with which the action is decided, the area covered by a large fleet and the corresponding parallax introduced in the view of the commander-in-chief, the smoke interference, it must be admitted that his control is indeed difficult, if it is possible at all. Will it even be advisable to control the fleet from such a distance that it is impossible to know the actual conditions? Should we follow the example of Parker at Copenhagen?
Because it is impossible to guess the conditions under which the enemy will be met, it is manifestly unwise to issue a definite prearranged plan, except possibly for a case where shore batteries are to be engaged or an enemy that cannot change his position. However, even in this case we have seen the failure of the plan at Copenhagen, which shows that it is undesirable to prescribe the details of action for each ship.
With the innumerable combination that may arise in an action to-day, is it probable that a commander-in-chief will be able to find the conditions favorable for the execution of a plan prepared weeks in advance? If Nelson failed so completely to use his prearranged plan at Trafalgar where he knew that the Allies were practically unable to maneuver, and actually made no offensive move, and were not even able to keep in position, what chance is there to-day that any one single prearranged plan can be executed?
While definite plans can hardly be prescribed in advance, there are many other things that can be done. The most important is the education of the admirals and captains in tactics, and in the tactical ideas of the commander-in-chief. All situations should be covered, and thought out carefully to determine the most advisable moves in such situations. The commander-in-chief should impart to his subordinates his ideas, in order that all may think in the same lines and will know ahead of time what the commander-in-chief intends to do. " Troubridge, anticipating the order, had already hoisted at the masthead his answering flag of recognition. Quick as the admiral's signal flew, the reply fluttered out, and the Culloden's sails were already shaking as she luffed up into the wind."
There are many definite instructions that can be arranged before the action. These should apply to all ships and to all conditions. These are; Formation of the ships; their division into squadrons; the object of attack of the squadrons and the various classes of ships, as given by Togo before the action; recognition lights for a night action; careful arrangement of the signals; plans for the concentration of gun-fire, and for the distribution of the gun-fire of our ships among the targets within range. These prearranged instructions should be of two classes: First, details that apply under all conditions, as Nelson's instructions " Captains are to look to their particular line as their rallying point. But in case signals can neither be seen nor perfectly understood no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy" second, a prearranged plan of minor tactics that can be indicated by a short signal from the squadron commander, as the plan for the concentration of the gun-fire of a squadron or division on a portion of the force of the enemy directly opposed to it.
We have noticed in most of the naval actions Considered, that the commander-in-chief has not decided upon his final plan until the dispositions of the enemy were known. The advantage of this is even greater to-day than in the days of sailing ships, because there are to-day many classes of ships in the battle, and these are not dependent on the wind for their ability to maneuver. After the dispositions of the enemy are known there is plenty of time to issue the general plan of action. This plan should be as short and concise as possible, it should only show the main essential principles of the plan. The details of action by subordinates should not be prescribed. It should be assumed that the subordinates are sufficiently trained in tactics to provide in their own sphere of action for all conditions that may arise. In commenting on the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 Prince Hohenlohe says: We find instructions filling six closely printed quarto pages, and all are about the same length. Everywhere, owing to changes, as many as three or four orders are issued on the same day. Who, I ask you, will read all this matter? How much time must elapse before these orders were read and understood, and then transmitted and executed? In war it is of the utmost importance to be as sparing of words in instructions and orders as of human lives in battle, or of detaching troops. For the longer the orders, the more difficult they are to understand. In looking over the orders under discussion we find that their length was due mainly to two reasons: First to their dealing with arrangements so many days in advance, and for so many different cases; secondly, because a mass of minor details were gone into which were partly matters of ordinary routine, and partly the concern of the different corps and divisions." Later, in the War of 1870, the Prussian order "To the third army as to the offensive movement which was to prevent MacMahon from crossing the Rhine, and protect Baden from invasion, and which led ultimately to the battle of Woerth, consisted of a telegram of six lines."
We have already seen the many difficulties of the direct control of the entire fleet by the commander-in-chief. The impossibility of this method of control forces the squadron commanders to act on their own initiative after the action commences to carry out, as far as possible, the original instructions of the commander-in-chief. Not only is this initiative necessary, but it is advisable. In order to act.as efficiently as possible, the commander must know the actual conditions and then he must make the decision and act immediately. The squadron commander must know more of the conditions in his part of the battle than the commander-in-chief will know at a distance. Although the squadron commander should watch the progress of the action in general, so that he may co-operate with the other squadrons, he will be watching his own squadron and the force of the enemy directly opposed to it. He will know the conditions in his own squadron, its maneuvering abilities, its actual speed, and the injuries its ships have sustained. He will know the condition of the enemy he is opposed to and will at once notice any change in their plan of action. Although he should signal information to the commander-in-chief, if this is possible, concerning the conditions in his part of the action, these signals, even if received correctly, will not give the commander-in-chief the detailed information that the squadron commander can see with his own eyes. Also these signals will take some time in being transmitted, and the information in the possession of the commander-in-chief will always be late. If the latter orders maneuvers based on these signals of information, they will be received by the squadron commander even later, and the chance for a good maneuver may be lost, or what might then have been a good move will now be a poor one, due to the changed conditions. To take advantage of favorable situations the subordinate must act immediately. If he were to inform the commander-in-chief of the favorable conditions, and to ask permission to make the movement he wished to make, before the signal could be returned, even if it could be made and returned, the conditions would probably have changed and the chance would be lost. Henderson says: "Again, officers not in direct communication with headquarters, were expected not only to watch for and utilize, on their own initiative, all opportunities of furthering the plan of campaign or battle, but, without waiting for instructions, to march to the thunder of cannon, and render prompt assistance wherever it might be required In executing the orders of the supreme command, the subordinate leaders not only did over and over again more than was demanded of them, but surpassed the highest expectations of their superiors, notably at Sedan. It often happened that the faults, mare or less inevitable, of the higher authorities were repaired by their subordinates, who thus won for them victories which they had not always deserved. In a word, the Germans were indebted to the subordinate leaders that not a single favorable occasion throughout the entire campaign was allowed to escape unutilized."
To make sure that the initiative will be properly used and that the squadrons will co-operate with each other efficiently, it is necessary that the subordinate officers be educated in tactics and in the tactical ideas of the commander-in-chief. In order that there may be a unity of purpose, the subordinates must use their initiative to further the general plan of the commander-in-chief, issued before commencing the battle. However, certain maneuvers of the enemy, or misfortunes to our fleet may make the general plan unwise. In this case, it would be unwise to attempt to continue the original plan, and if other instructions are lacking the squadron commanders must act as they think best under the circumstances.
At times in an action it may be advisable to control the fleet or a squadron of the fleet by the example of the flagship. Togo in this way exercised a loose control over his 12 armored ships. Although he had no control over the tactical details of the second division, this division followed Togo's lead, but in a different way. In controlling a squadron or a division of from four to eight ships, control by example can be used most efficiently, especially if it is realized that it is not important for ships to be exactly in position.
Throughout the action the commander-in-chief may exercise control over a squadron or over a few ships that may happen to be near him. In nearly all actions the commander-in-chief has reserved a division for his own, in this way acting as a squadron commander. Now, however, all fleets have a fleet flagship, and the commander-in-chief does not take command of a division or squadron. After the action is decided, or during a lull in the action, the commander-in-chief may again exercise control over the fleet, directing the pursuit, if victorious, and rallying the fleet around his flag, if defeated, as did Villaret after the battle of June 1, and Gravina after Trafalgar.
Through an examination of many naval actions of the past, and a study of the conditions of the naval action to-day, the following method of control seems to be most advisable:
1. Education of subordinates in tactics, and especially in the tactical ideas of the commander-in-chief. Officers must, to a great extent, give up their private opinions and agree with those of the commander-in-chief, so that there will be but one system of tactical ideas. This is necessary for the unity of action of the squadrons of the fleet.
2. General prearranged instructions concerning the details of handling ships, signals and organization, which will apply at all times, and plans of minor tactics for squadrons which can be indicated by a simple signal in action. There must be no one tactical plan definitely ordered, or even issued as probable, nor any detailed list of the plans to be used in the various special cases that may arrive in action. (Clausewitz.) "There are always only three cases possible, and when all these have been provided for, the fourth invariably happens." The mind of the commander-in-chief must remain open until the dispositions of the enemy are known.
3. The commander-in-chief should signal his general plan of action after he knows the dispositions of the enemy. This plan should not be changed unless some new maneuver of the enemy makes it necessary. "Hence in war it is better to undertake something with firm determination, than to vacillate hither and thither, order, counter-order, disorder." (Prince Hohenlohe.) The plan of the commander-in-chief should be concise and should not specify details. These should be left to the subordinates.
4. The plan should be executed loyally by the subordinates, using their own initiative in maneuvering their own squadrons and flotillas, until such a time as the plan is no longer possible, due to changed conditions, when they should maneuver and cooperate with each other as they think most advisable.
5. The commander-in-chief, after the action is decided, should use his control to force the pursuit, if victorious, or to rally his ships and make good his retreat, if defeated.