Henry Wager Halleck.

Elements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, &C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, And Engineers; Adapted online

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Online LibraryHenry Wager HalleckElements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, &C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, And Engineers; Adapted → online text (page 14 of 35)
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therefore owed their safety to this armistice." A convention was soon
signed, by which every thing was left _in statu quo_, and the fleet of
Admiral Parker allowed to proceed into the Baltic. Edward Baines, the
able English historian of the wars of the French Revolution, in speaking
of Nelson's request for an armistice, says: "This letter, which
exhibited a happy union of policy and courage, was written at a moment
when Lord Nelson perceived that, in consequence of the unfavorable state
of the wind, the admiral was not likely to get up to aid the enterprise;
that _the principal batteries_ of the enemy, and the ships at the mouth
of the harbor, _were yet untouched;_ that two of his own division had
grounded, and others were likely to share the same fate." Campbell says
these batteries and ships "_were still unconquered._ Two of his
[Nelson's] own vessels were grounded and exposed to a heavy fire;
others, if the battle continued, might be exposed to a similar fate,
while he found it would be scarcely practicable to bring off the prizes
under the fire of the batteries."

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

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

The facts and testimony we have adduced, prove incontestably -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_San Juan d'Ulloa._ - The following facts, relative to the attack on San
Juan d'Ulloa by the French, in 1838, are drawn principally from the
report of a French engineer officer who was one of the expedition.

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

When the French vessels were towed into the position selected for the
attack, "it was lucky for us," says the French officer in his report,
"that the Mexicans did not disturb this operation, which lasted nearly
two hours, and that they permitted us to commence the fire." "We were
exposed to the fire of one twenty-four-pounder, five sixteen-pounders,
seven twelve-pounders, one eight-pounder, and five eighteen-pounder
carronades - _in all nineteen pieces only_." If these be converted into
equivalent twenty-four-pounders, in proportion to the weight of the
balls, the whole nineteen guns will be _less than twelve twenty-four
pounders_. This estimate is much too great, for it allows three
eight-pounders to be equal to one twenty-four-pounder, and each of the
eighteen-pounder carronades to be three quarters the power of a long
twenty-four-pounder; whereas, at the distance at which the parties were
engaged, these small pieces were nearly harmless. Two of the powder
magazines, from not being bomb-proof, were blown up during the
engagement, by which three of the nineteen guns on the water front of
the castle were dismounted; thus reducing the land force to _an
equivalent of ten twenty-four-pounders_. The other sixteen guns were
still effective when abandoned by the Mexicans. The cannonade and
bombardment continued about six hours, eight thousand two hundred and
fifty shot and shells being fired at the fort by the French. The
principal injury received by the work was from the explosion of the
powder magazine. But very few guns were dismounted by the fire of the
French ships, and only three of these on the water front. The details of
the condition of the ships and fort are given in the report of the
French officer,[22] but it is unnecessary to repeat them here.

[Footnote 22: Vide also House Doc. No. 206, twenty-sixth Congress, first

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

Online LibraryHenry Wager HalleckElements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, &C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, And Engineers; Adapted → online text (page 14 of 35)