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

. (page 33 of 35)
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 33 of 35)
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approach nearer than one mile; and thus their fire was by no means so
intense as it would have been at shorter range."

"This was the sole occasion in which the floating batteries had an
opportunity of proving their endurance; which was the question of most
importance, as no one could doubt the effect of long 50-pounders, or
68-pounders, when brought within a few hundred yards of masonry, and
able to retain the steadiness indispensable to a breaching fire."

"No siege operation had ever embraced batteries of such power, for
though the English had employed long 68-pounders at Sebastopol, yet the
distance from the objects exceeded a thousand yards; and the
concentration of fire, so far as any opinion can be formed from the
published statements, was far inferior to that of the thirty-six
50-pounders, in the broadsides of the three batteries anchored in close

"They were hulled repeatedly by shot; one of them (the _Devastation_),
it is said, sixty-seven times, without any other effect on the stout
iron plates than to dint them, at the most, one and a half
inches, - still, there were ten men killed and wounded in this battery by
shot and shell which entered the ports, - and the majority of damage to
the French personnel (twenty-seven men) occurred in the three

Major Barnard, in commenting upon this affair, says that it "proves
nothing, unless it be, that dilapidated, and ill-designed, and
ill-constructed works, armed with inferior calibres, cannot contend
against such an overwhelming array of force as was here displayed. * * *
The Fort of Kinburn surrendered, _not because_ it was breached - not
because the defenders were so far diminished by their losses as to be
unable to protract the contest, - but simply because the guns and
gunners, exposed in all possible ways, were put hors-du-combat, and the
calibres (of the guns in Kinburn) were incapable of doing any great
damage to the vessels, at the distance they were stationed."

The guns in the low _open_ batteries were exposed to a ricochet and
vertical fire, to which latter the French admiral attributed, in good
part, the surrender of the place. The buildings behind the batteries,
built of wood, "slightly constructed and plastered over," were set on
fire, and the heat and smoke must have rendered the service of the guns
almost impracticable. Nevertheless, out of a garrison of 1,400, only 157
were killed and wounded - a very small loss under all the circumstances.
If the works had been well-constructed casemates, covering the men from
the ricochet and vertical fires and the sharpshooters of the troops who
invested the land fronts, the loss of the garrison would have been still
less; and if they had been armed with heavier projectiles, much greater
damage would have been inflicted upon the attacking force.

With respect to the use of floating-batteries in this case, Commander
Dahlgren very judiciously remarks: -

"The use that can be made of floating-batteries, as auxiliaries in
attacking shore-works, must depend on further confirmation of their
asserted invulnerability. It may be that the performance at Kinburn
answered the expectation of the French emperor as regards offensive
power, for that is a mere question of the battering capacity of the
heaviest calibres, which is undoubted; but the main issue, which
concerns their endurance, cannot be settled by the impact of 32-pounder
shot, fired at 600 and 700 yards. Far heavier projectiles will in future
be found on all seaboard fortifications; and the ingenuity of the
artillerist may also be exerted more successfully than at Kinburn.
Still, it is not to be doubted that the floating-battery is a formidable
element in assailing forts, even if its endurance falls short of
absolute invulnerability; and the defence will do well to provide
against its employment."

The works at Bomarsund were taken by means of _land-batteries_, which
breached the exposed walls of the towers and main works. An auxiliary
fire was opened upon the water front by the fleet, but it produced very
little effect. But after the work had been reduced, an experimental
firing was made by the _Edinburgh_, armed with the largest and most
powerful guns in the British navy.

In speaking of the effects of the siege batteries upon the walls of
Bomarsund, and the experimental fire of the _Edinburgh_, Sir Howard
Douglas remarks: -

"This successful operation (of the land batteries) is very generally,
but erroneously, stated to have been effected by the fire of the ships,
and it is even strongly held up as a proof of what ships can do, and
ought to attempt elsewhere."

"But the results of the experimental firing at the remnant of the
fort, which, unless the previous firing of the ships during the attack
was absolutely harmless, must have been somewhat damaged, and moreover
shaken by the blowing-up of the contiguous portions, do not warrant
this conclusion, even should the attacking ships be permitted, like
the _Edinburgh_, to take up, quietly and coolly, positions within 500
yards, and then deliberately commence and continue their firing, without
being fired at! The firing of the _Edinburgh_, at 1,060 yards, was
unsatisfactory. 390 shot and shells were fired, from the largest and
most powerful guns in the British navy (viz., from the Lancaster gun
of 95 cwt., with an elongated shell of 100 lbs.; - from 68-pounders of 95
cwt., and 32-pounders of 56 cwt., solid shot guns; - from 10-inch shell
guns of 84 cwt., with hollow shot of 84 lbs.; - from 8-inch shell guns of
65 and 60 cwt., with hollow shot of 56 lbs.), and did but little injury
to the work. At 480 yards, 250 shot, shells, and hollow shot were fired.
A small breach was formed in the facing of the outer wall, of extremely
bad masonry, and considerable damage done to the embrasures and
other portions of the wall; but no decisive result was obtained - no
practicable breach formed, by which the work might be assaulted,
taken, and effectually destroyed, although 640 shot and shells (40,000
lbs. of metal) were fired into the place, first at 1,060, and then at
480 yards."

Surely, this "naval attack," taken in connection with the true facts of
the capture of Kinburn, the abortive attempt of the British fleet in the
Pacific upon the Russian works of Petropauloski, is not calculated to
affect the well established opinion of the ability of forts to resist
maritime attacks.

Few are now disposed to dispute the general superiority of guns ashore
over guns afloat; but some think that works of masonry are incapable of
resisting the heavy and continuous fire which may now be brought against
it by fleets and floating-batteries, and would therefore extend the area
of the works and rely mainly upon earthen parapets, with guns in
barbette. This conclusion they form from the results of the maritime
attack on Kinburn, and of the land-batteries on Bomarsund.

Major Barnard, in his valuable work on "The Dangers and Defences of New
York," draws a very different conclusion from these attacks, and
contends that they abundantly prove the capability of well-constructed
stone masonry to resist the fire of ships and floating-batteries, if the
latter are opposed by proper armaments in the forts; moreover, that they
proved the superiority of casemated forts over low open batteries, with
guns in barbette, in covering the garrison from the effects of a
vertical and ricochet fire. Unquestionably the masonry at Bomarsund was
poorly constructed; nevertheless, the fire of the shipping produced very
little effect upon it. It is also equally certain that Kinburn Was
taken, not by a breaching fire, but mainly by the effects of vertical
and ricochet fires.

With respect to our own system of sea-coast defences, it may be
remarked, that, since this chapter was written, the works mentioned
therein as having been commenced, have been gradually advanced towards
completion, and that the acquisition of Texas and California, and the
settlement of Oregon and Washington Territory, by greatly extending our
line of maritime defence, have rendered necessary the fortification of
other points. It should also be noted that while the value and necessity
of these works are generally admitted, and while the general outline of
the system is almost universally approved, many are of the opinion that
the increased facilities for naval attacks, and the immense power of
modern maritime expeditions, like that upon Sebastopol, render it
necessary to more strongly fortify the great naval and commercial ports
of New York and San Francisco - one the _key point_ of the Atlantic, and
the other of the Pacific coast. Perhaps the system adopted by our Boards
of Engineers may be open to the objection that they have adopted _too
many_ points of defence, without giving sufficient prominence to our
great seaports, which are necessarily the strategic points of coast
defence. However this may have been _at the time the system was
adopted_, there can be no question that the relative strength of the
works designed for the different points of our coast does not correspond
to _the present_ relative importance of the places to be defended, and
the relative temptations they offer to an enemy capable of organizing
the means of maritime attack. On this subject we quote from the work of
Major Barnard: -

"While the means of maritime attack have of late years assumed
a magnitude and formidableness not dreamed of when our defensive
system was planned, and our country has so increased in population,
wealth and military resources, that no enemy can hope to make any
impression by an invasion of our territory, - our great maritime places
like New York, have, on the other hand, increased in even greater
proportion, in every thing that could make them objects of attack."

"The works deemed adequate in former years for the defence of
New York could not, therefore, in the nature of things, be adequate at
the present day."

"The recent war of England and France against Russia may illustrate
my meaning; for it has taught us what to expect were either of
these nations to wage war against the United States."

"No invasion of territory, no attempt at territorial conquest was
made, or thought of; for it was well foreseen that no decisive results
would flow from such means. The war consisted exclusively in attacks
upon maritime places - great seaports - seats of commercial and naval
power. Such places, by their vast importance to the well-being and
prosperity of a nation - by the large populations and immense amount
of wealth concentrated in them, and by their exposure to maritime
attack, offer themselves at once as points at which the most decisive
results may be produced. Cronstadt, Sebastopol, Sweaborg, Kinburn,
Odessa, Kertch, Petropauloski, and other places of less note, were in
succession or simultaneously objects of attack; while such as the first
named became, indeed, the true seats of war."

"Around Sebastopol assailed and assailant gathered their resources,
and on the result of the arduous struggle may be said to have
turned the issue of the war. Had it not been so decided _there_,
Cronstadt would have been the next field of combat, - for which, indeed,
the allies had made the most enormous preparations."

"Is it not _certain_ that in future all war of maritime powers against
the United States, will take a similar course? All territorial invasion
being out of the question, it is against our _great_ seaports and
strategic points of coast defence - such as New York, New Orleans, and
San Francisco - pre-eminently New York, - that an enemy will concentrate
his efforts. Against these he will prepare such immense armaments,
- against these he will call into existence special agencies of attack,
which (unless met by an inexpugnable defensive system) shall _insure_

"The mere defense of the city against _ordinary fleets_, is no longer
the question; but _through the defensive works to be here erected, the
nation is to measure its strength against the most lavish use of the
resources of a great maritime power, aided by all that modern science
and mechanical ingenuity in creating or inventing means of attack, can
bring against them_; in short, in fortifying New York, _we are really
preparing the battle-field on which the issue of future momentous
contests is to be decided_."

A few, however, object to the system at present adopted, on the ground
that casemated works do not offer sufficient resistance to ships and
floating-batteries, and that earthen works, covering a greater area,
will accomplish that object much more effectually, while their longer
land fronts will be more difficult of reduction by siege.

It cannot be doubted that earthen batteries, with guns in barbette, can,
as a general rule, be more easily taken by assault, that they are more
exposed to vertical and ricochet firing, and more expose their gunners
to be picked off by sharpshooters. Moreover, they give but a very
limited fire upon the most desirable point, as the entrance to a harbor.
On the other hand, it has not been proved that masonry-casemated works,
when properly constructed and properly armed, will not effectually
resist a naval cannonade, whether from ships or floating-batteries. The
results of recent wars, and of the West Point experiments by General
Totten, would seem to prove them abundantly capable of doing this.
Against such proofs the mere _ad captandum_ assertion of their
incapacity can have but little weight - certainly not enough to justify
the abandonment of a system approved by the best military authorities
of this country and Europe, and sanctioned by long experience.

Major Barnard, in speaking of the capacity of masonry casemated forts to
resist the fire of a hostile armament, and of the propriety of
abandoning them for earthen batteries in our system of Coast Defences,
uses the following forcible language: - "When we bear in mind that the
hostile 'floating batteries,' of whatever description, will themselves
be exposed to the most formidable projectiles that can be thrown from
shore batteries, - that when they choose to come to 'close quarters,' to
attempt to breach, _their_ 'embrasures' present openings through which
deluges of grape, canister, and musket balls can be poured upon the
gunners; and consider what experience has so far shown, and reason has
taught us, with regard to the casemate, - we need not be under
apprehension that our casemated works will be battered down; nor doubt
that they will, as they did in Russia, answer the important purposes for
which they were designed."

"It only remains to show the _necessity_ of such works. It, in general,
costs much less to place a gun behind an earthen parapet, than to build
a masonry structure covered with bomb-proof arches, in which to mount
it. All authorities agree that an open barbette battery (Grivel's very
forcible admission has been quoted), on a low site, and to which vessels
can approach within 300 or 400 yards, is utterly inadmissible. It may
safely be said, that in nine cases out of ten, the sites which furnish
the efficient raking and cross fires upon the channels, are exactly of
this character; and indeed it very often happens that there are _no

"When such sites _are_ found, it rarely happens that they afford room
for sufficient number of guns in open batteries. Hence the necessity of
putting them tier above tier, which involves, of course, the casemated
structure. Such works, furnishing from their lower tier a low, raking
fire, and (if of several tiers) a plunging fire from their barbettes,
offer as favorable emplacements for guns as can be contrived, and afford
to their gunners a degree of security quite as great as _can_ be given
to men thus engaged."

"On subjects which have a mere speculative importance, there is no
danger in giving rein to speculation; but on those of such real and
intense practical importance as the security against hostile aggression
of the great city and port of New York, it is not admissible to set
aside the experience of the past, or the opinions of the best minds who
have devoted themselves to such subjects. A means of defence, sanctioned
by its being confided in to protect the great ports of Europe - which
_has_ protected the great ports of Russia against the most formidable
naval armament that ever floated on the ocean, has a claim upon our
confidence which mere criticism cannot diminish; and a claim to be
adhered to in place of all new 'systems,' until time and trial shall
have _necessitated_ (not merely justified) the change."

"If, then, we refer to the practice of other nations, to find what has
been judged necessary for the defence of important ports, - to
experience, to find how such defensive systems have stood the test of
actual trial, - we may draw useful conclusions with regard to what is now
required to defend New York. We shall find at _Sebastopol_ - a narrow
harbor, which owed its importance to its being the great naval dépôt of
Russia on the Black Sea - an array of 700 guns, about 500 of which were
placed in five 'masonry-casemated' works (several of them of great
size), and the remainder in open batteries. These defensive works
fulfilled their object, and sustained the attack of the allied fleet, on
the 17th of October, 1854, without sensible damage."

"The facility with which seaports are attacked by fleets - the enormous
preparations required - the great risks encountered in landing a
besieging army on the coast of a formidable enemy (while, for protection
against the _former_ species of attack, costly works are necessary, and
against the latter, field works and men can, in emergency, afford
protection), naturally caused the Russians to make these water defences
their _first_ object. Yet, though almost unprotected on the land side,
Sebastopol resisted, for a whole year, an attack on that quarter; and
illustrated how, with plenty of men and material, an energetic and
effectual _land defence_ may be improvised, where the _sea defence_ is
provided for, as thoroughly as it was at that place."

"Let Cronstadt be another example. Great as was the importance of its
defence to Russia, it was not greater, - it was by no means _as great_,
as that of New York to our own country. This port, and military and
naval dépôt, was defended (in its main approach) by upwards of 600 guns,
500 of which were mounted in five 'masonry-casemated' works; the
remainder in an open barbette battery, which enfiladed the main channel.
This number is formidable in itself; yet the same number mounted in New
York harbor would not afford anything like such a formidable defence as
was found at Cronstadt, owing to its great area, and long line of
approach, compared with the latter."

"_These works fulfilled their object._ They protected the great port and
dépôt of Cronstadt and the capital of the empire from invasion. For two
successive years did the mighty armaments of France and England
threaten; but they were overawed by the frowning array of 'casemated
castles' which presented itself, and declined the contest."

"Let us turn our eyes now to the great naval dépôt of France. After the
almost incredible expenditure lavished here, in creating a harbor facing
the shores of her great rival, England, and an equally profuse
expenditure in providing all that constitutes a great naval dépôt, we
may suppose that the best means, without regard to cost, which the
science of man could devise, would be employed here to make this great
seat of naval power secure against the formidable means of attack
possessed by the great maritime power most likely to be the assailant.
The means there employed are (so far as regards mere _harbor_ defence)
precisely the same (viz., casemated works in several tiers, combined
with open batteries where the locations are favorable); and the
application of means is the same as we have found so successful in
Russia, - the same which constitute the system of harbor defence of New

Captain McClelland, in his official report to the War Department, on the
siege of Sebastopol, uses language equally strong and pertinent: -

"The permanent defences of Sebastopol against an attack by water,
although inferior in material and the details of construction to our own
most recent works, proved fully equal to the purpose for which they
were intended. Indeed, the occurrences on the Pacific, the Baltic, and
the Black Sea, all seem to establish beyond controversy, the soundness
of the view so long entertained by all intelligent military men, that
well constructed fortifications must always prove more than a match for
the strongest fleet."

"It is deemed that a calm consideration of the events so hastily and
imperfectly narrated in the preceding pages must lead all unprejudiced
persons among our countrymen to a firm conviction on two vital points:"

"1st. That our system of permanent coast defences is a wise and
proper one, which ought to be completed and armed with the least
possible delay."

"2d. That mere individual courage cannot suffice to overcome the
forces that would be brought against us, were we involved in an European
war, but that it must be rendered manageable by discipline, and
directed by that consummate and mechanical skill which can only be
acquired by a course of education, instituted for the special purpose,
and by long habit."

"In the day of sailing-vessels the successful siege of Sebastopol
would have been impossible. It is evident that the Russians did not
appreciate the advantages afforded by steamers, and were unprepared
to sustain a siege."

"This same power of steam would enable European nations to disembark
upon our shores even a larger force than that which finally encamped
around Sebastopol. To resist such an attack, should it ever be
made, our cities and harbors must be fortified, and those fortifications
must be provided with guns, ammunition, and instructed artillerists.
To repel the advance of such an army into the interior, it is not enough
to trust to the number of brave but undisciplined men that we can
bring to bear against it. An invading army of 15,000 or 20,000 men
could easily be crushed by the unremitting attacks of superior numbers;
but when it comes to the case of more than 100,000 disciplined
veterans, the very multitude brought to bear against them works its
own destruction; because, if without discipline and instruction, they
cannot be handled, and are in their own way. We cannot afford a Moscow

"Our regular army never can, and, perhaps, never ought to be, large
enough to provide for all the contingencies that may arise, but it
should be as large as its ordinary avocations in the defence of the
frontier will justify; the number of officers and non-commissioned
officers should be unusually large, to provide for a sudden increase;
and the greatest possible care should be bestowed upon the instruction
of the special arms of the artillery and engineer troops. The militia
and volunteer system should be placed upon some tangible and effective
basis; instructors furnished them from the regular army, and all
possible means taken to spread sound military information among them.
In the vicinity of our sea-coast fortifications, it would be well to
provide a sufficient number of volunteer companies with the means of
instruction in heavy artillery, detailing officers of the regular
artillery for instructors."

On this subject of instructing our volunteers and militia in the use of
sea-coast batteries, we add the following quotation from Major Barnard's
pamphlet: -

"One of the main causes of inefficiency in coast batteries, which
has given color to the idea that they may be passed, or even _attacked_
with impunity, I conceive to be the want of _skill_ and _care_ in the
use of the guns. The result is a prodigious smoke, and a prodigious
throwing away of balls, and very little damage done. This has been,
however, by no means a _peculiarity_ of coast defences. The same system
of random firing has hitherto prevailed, both in the use of small arms
in land and of heavy ordnance in sea battles; nor has it occurred
apparently to even the greatest masters of the art of war, to ask why,

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 33 of 35)