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on the second shot, and the gun had subsequently been fired lying on the sill of the embrasu re : so that, in fact, the attack of an eighty-gun ship and two frigates had been resisted by a single piece of ordnance.” (Journal of . Sieges, by Col. John T. Jones.)
- The Corsican tower above mentioned, which had, in like manner, completely bailed a naval cannonade, was very soon found to surrender when attacked by land ; not, however, before a small battery had been made [erecied) to reduce it.” (Pasley's Course, vol. 111.)
Here are two examples:
Ist. A single heavy gun, mounted on a tower, beat off one or two British ships.
2d. A barbette battery, containing two guns, beat off a British eighty gun ship, supported by two frigates.
It would seen that no exception can possibly be taken to either instance, as trials of relative power. There is no complication of circumstances on one side or the other; nothing to confuse or mislead; all is perfectly simple and plain. A small body of artillery, judiciously posted on the shore, is attacked by armed vessels bearing forly or fisty times as many guns; and the ships, unable to produce any effect of consequence, are beaten off with loss.
The cases present no peculiar advantage on the side of the batteries either as regards position or quality ; for both works were immediately reduced by a land attack; that which the eighty gun ship and two frigates were unable to effect, being immediately accomplished by landing two field. . pieces, with a very small portion of the crew of one of the vessels.
On the other hand, there was no peculiar disadvantage on the part of the ships, as the time and mode of arack were of their own choice.
In order that there might be no unjust disparagement of the vessels, in the manner of representing the affairs, the language of British military writers (the ships being British) has been exactly quoted. (See Pasley's Course of Elementary Fortifications, vol. iii; and Journal of Sieges, by Colonel John T. Jones.)
Had the representation of these actions been taken from the victorious party, the result would have appeared still more to the disadvantage of the ships.
The circumstances attending the attack and defence of Copenhagen, in April, 1801, seem to have been the following:
On the northeast side of the city, (the only side exposed to attack from heavy ships,) there lies a shoalspreading outward from the walls, about threequarters of a mile in the narrowest part. Through this shoal there runs, ' in a northeast and-by north direction, a narrow channel, connecting the besin, in the heart of the city, with deep water. Were it not for this shoal, vesels might approach even to the walls of the city, on a length of about one and a half mile; as it is, they can get no nearer, in any place, than about three. quarters of a mile, without following the channel just mentioned. As the edge of the shoal lies nearly north and south, and the channel passes through it in a northeast-by-north direction, the great mass of the shoal is to the southward, or on the right-hand side of the channel. We will call this the southern shoal. The “Three crown battery” is situated upon this southern shoal, and near the channel.
The Danish defences consisted
of the line a block.ath, a pro2 guns ock.ship
little to were mostrigale
1st. Of the fortifications on this side of the city, including the Three. crown battery, Nelson estimated the batteries supporting the Danish vessels at about ninety guns.
2d. Of four sail of the line, mounting 282 guns, and one frigate and two sloops, mounting 76 guns; making 358 guns. All these vessels lying in the channel besore mentioned, and some of them near its mouth; they constituted the left of the Danish floating defences, and were thus posted to defend the entrance to the inner harbor or basin.
3d. Of a line of floating defences, of various kinds, moored near the edge of the southern shoal. They were eighteen in number, as follows, counting from the right or southern extremity: Ist, a block ship of 56 gins; 2d, a block-ship of 48 guns; 3d, a praam of 20 guns; 4th, a praam of 20 guns ; 5th, a block-ship of 48 guns; 6th, a raft of 20 guns; 7th, a block-ship of 22 guns; 8th, a ratt of 20 guns ; 9th, a block-ship of 62 guns; 10th, a small vessel of 6 guns; 11th, a raft of 24 guns; 12th, a praam of 20 guns; 13th, a ship of the line of 74 guns; 141h, a block.ship of 26 gius; 15th, a raft of 18 guns; 16th, a ship of the line of 60 guns; 17th, a block-ship of 64 guns; 18th, a "frigate” of 20 guns : total in this line 628 guns. These vessels were moored in a line extending south from a point outside and a little to the southward of the Three-crown battery; and the part of the line nearest the walls was not less than three quarters of a mile distant.
Lord Nelson carried to the attack the Elephant, 74 guns; Defiance, 74; Monarch, 74; Bellona, 74; Edgar, 74; Russell, 74; Ganges, 74; Glutton, 54; Isis, 50; Agamemnon, 64; Polyphemus, 74; Ardent, 64; Amazon, 38; Desirée, 38; Blanche, 36; Alcmene, 32; Dart, 30; Arrow, 18; Cruiser, 18; Harpy, 18; Zephyr, 14; Otter, 14; Discovery, 16; Sulphur, 10; Hecla, 10; Explosion, 8; Zebra, 16; Terror, 10; Volcano, 8: making a total of 1,074 guns, besides a few in gun-boats. The Agamemnon did not get into action ; which reduces the force employed to 1,010 guns. The Bellona and Russell grounded; but Lord Nelson says, “ although not in the situation assigned them, yet they were so placed as to be of good service."
With this force Lord Nelson engaged the line of floating defences that was moored near the edge of the southern shoal. He approached from the south, with a fair wind; and as his leading vessel got abreast of the most southern of the Danish line, she anchored by the stern. The second English vessel passed on until she had reached the next position, when she anchored, also, in the same way; and thus, inverting his line as he ex. tended it, he brought his whole force against the outer and southern part of the Danish force. His line did not reach as far northward as the Threecrown battery, and mouth of the channel ; for he says, in speaking of the grounding of the Bellona, Russell, and Agamemnon: “ These accidents prevented the extension of our line by the three ships before mentioned, who would, I am confident, have silenced the Crown islands, (Three-crown battery,) the outer ships in the harbor's mouth, and prevented the heavy loss in the Defiance and Monarch.”
Concentrating, as he did, the force of 1,010 guns upon a portion of the Danish array, not only inferior to him by 382 guns, but so situated as to be beyond the scope of succor, and without a chance of escape, Lord Nelson had no reason to doubt that signal success would crown his able arrangement. Every vessel in this outer Danish line was taken or destroyed,
except one or two smaller vessels, which cut and ran in under shelter of the fortifications.
The vessels lying in the narrow channel could participate in no mate. rial degree, in the action, because the British line did not reach abreast of them; and because, not being advanced beyond the general direction of the Danish line, but, on the contrary, retired behind it, they could not act upon any of the British vessels- except, perhaps, obliquely upon two or three of the most northern ships. But, had all the Danish vessels that were lying in the parrow channel been m ingled, from the first, with the line that was destroyed, the result would probably have been still more to the advantage of the assailants: that is to say, these vessels, also, would have been cap. tured or destroyed ; because, not only would the aggregate Danish force of 936 guns have been inferior to the 1,010 guns of the British, but it would, also, hare been without the ability to counteract the power of concentration possessed by the latter, whereby the whole force would have acted on parts of the Danish line in succession.
For the same reason that the squadron which lay in the narrow channel could not materially aid in resisting the attack made on the line of floating defences anchored along the edge of the shoal, the action of the 'Three-crown battery, and the guns on the shore, must have been greatly restricted. Situated upon the shoal, the Three crown battery was behind the Danish line, which consequently masked it, and also the shore batteries, from a view of the English line. Under such circumstances, it is not conceivable that the batteries could be used with effect; and the commander of the Danish forces says, expressly, that the Three-crown battery " did not come at all into action;" and a chronicler of the times states that the fortifications of the town" 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 that the parley appeared." In proportion as the Danish vessels passed into the hands of the English, as some were burnt, and others blown up, the scope of the batteries would enlarge, and their power be felt; but, just as all impediment of this sort had been removed, Lord Nelson himself proposed the cessation of hostilities, and the action ceased. It might be profitable to discuss the probable consequences of a continuance of the action; to inquire why it was that Lord Nelson, after he had conquered two-thirds of the 986 floating guns opposed to him, did not pursue bis advantage, and concentrate his 1,010 guns upon the 358 guns, which were all that remained of the floating defences of the Danes, especially as the wind was in favor of such a manœuvre. But having already devoted con much space to this particular contest, we will suppose some dictate of poicy, perhaps of humanity, induced him to close the contest, relying on the serere blow lie had already inflicted, and the commanding tone it ena. bled him to assume, for such a termination of the pending negotiation as the loterest or policy of Great Britain demanded.
It is important, however, yet to notice, that, as soon as the negotiation opened, Lord Nelson's vessels passed out of the reach of the Three-crown battery, as fast as they could be withdrawn. Lord Nelson himself states that this battery was not siienced.
A British writer, speaking of this crisis, says: “It must not, however, be concealed that Lord Nelson, at the time he dictated this note to the Dane, was placed in rather awkward and difficult circumstances: the principal batteries, as well as the ships which were stationed at the mouth of the har
bor, were still unconquered ; two of his own vessels were aground, 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. These considerations, undoubt. edly, influenced him in resolving to endeavor to put a stop to hostilities, in addition to the instructions he had to spare the Danes, and the respect he might have felt for their brave defence." (Campbell's Naval History, vol. yii, p. 203.)
The circumstances above detailed show, clearly
1st. That the battle of Copenhagen was fought between an English fleet, mounting 1,010 guns, and a Danish line of floating defences, mounting 628 guns; and that all the latter were conquered.
2d. That the Danish line was attacked in such a manner, that none of the fixed batteries in the system of defence could participate in the contest, which was carried on up to the surrender of the Danish line, almost exclu. sively between vessels. It appears that a few of the smaller vessels, under Captain Riou, occupying the northern extremity of the English line, were under the fire of the Three-crown battery. The loss being very serere, he was obliged to retreat.
3d. That, as soon as the batteries were unmasked and began to act, the battle was closed, by Lord Nelson opening a parley. 16. 4th. That, consequently, it was in no sense a contest between ships and batteries, or a triumph of ships over batteries, and affords no ground for judging of their relative power.
5ih. That it illustrates, strikingly, the advantage that a fleet possesses over a stationary line of floating delences. Lord Nelson was superior to the whole of his adversary's floating force; but not being disposed to run any unnecessary hazard, he directed all his force upon a part of the Danish line, which was, of course, defeated; and had there been no other than a floating force present, so, of course, would have been the remainder, had it been of twice the strength it was. This example fully confirms what we have be. fore urged on this topic.
In estimating the respective forces above, we have set down the vessels of both parties at their rate : that is to say, a ship called a seventy-four, we have reckoned at 74 guns.
We now proceed to examine a great instance of naval success, in which there is no room to doubt the extent to which fortifications were engaged this instance is the attack on Algiers in 1816.
The attack was made by the combined English and Dutch Acets, mounting about one thousand guns, under the command of Lord Exmouth.
In the fortifications that looked towards the water, there are enumerated in a plan supposed to be authentic, 320 guins; but not more than 200 of these could act upon the fleet as it lay. The ratio of the forces engaged, therefore, as expressed by the number of guns, (saying nothing of the calibres, of which we know nothing,) was about as 5 to 2. The action continued from a quarter before three until nine, without intermission, and did not cease altogether until half past eleven.
It is very certain that the effects of the fire upon the Algerine shipping and town were very severe, because we know that all the shipping was de. stroyed, excepting some small vessels ; and we know, also, that Lord Ex. mouth dictated the terms of the treaty that followed.
Honorable as this result was to the combined fleets, and happy as it was for the cause of humanity, there are, nevertheless, technical circumstances connected with it, that excite doubts as to how much of the final result was due to physical chastisement, to moral effect, to inherent defects in the defences, and to ignorance in the use of these defences, such as they were. That the loss in killed and wounded in the city and works was great, is probable, because we are informed that a very great addition had been made to the garrison, in preparation for the attack, under some im. pression, no donbt, that a landing would be attempted. For the service of the guns there were needed but 3,000 or 4,000 men, at the utmost. An accumulation beyond that number would add nothing to the vigor of defence, while. by causing an increase of the casualties, it would heighten the terrors of the combat. The depressing effect of this loss of life in the batteries, and of the burning of buildings within the town, and about the mole, was of course increased by the entire destruction of the Algerine fleet, anchored within the mole.
We have no means of judging of the actual condition of the works ; nor of their fitness for the task of contending with the heavy ships of modern times.
The forts and batteries on the shore were probably too elevated to be commanded even by the largest of the assailing ships; and, provided these guns were covered with a proof parapet, they may be regarded as being well sitnated.
But more than half of the guns engaged were in the Mole head battery; and the mode of attack adopted, especially by the Queen Charlotte, of 110 guns, was calculated to test, in the severest manner, the principles on which this work had been planned. She so placed herself within "filiy yards” of the extremity of this battery, that she could either rake, or take in reverse, every part of it. If she, at the same time, commanded the baitery that is to say, if, from her spar deck, she could look down upon its platform-then she must, at once, with her grape and canister, have driven the garrison from that platform, leaving only the lower and covered tier of guns, if there were such a tier, for service. With our imperfect knowledge of the fortifications, all this must, however, be left to conjecture.
But there are matters connected with the service of the batteries, which are not conjecture. Not a shot was fired until the Queen Charlotte had anchored.
What a different vessel, when she anchored, might not this ship have been, if the Mole head battery had employed its fire of more than 100 guns in raking her, from the time she arrived within a mile and a half until she had anchored within fifty yards? How different might have been the condition of the fleet, generally, if they had been subjected, dnring the approach, and while assuming their stations, to the raking fire of all the 200 guns?
It does not appear that a single hot shot was fired from the batteries.
We might almost rest on this fact; and assert that a defence which had failed to provide itself with this auxiliary means, must have been carried on in disregard, if not in violation, of all rules, all knowledge, and all experience; that it was probably without plan or combination, and, not less probable, without preparation in other particulars of importance scarcely inferior.