« AnteriorContinuar »
Salem harbor.—The port of Salem is distant from Marblehead two miles, and separated therefrom by a peninsula. The occupation of the extremity of Winter island (where are the ruins of Fort Pickering) on one side, and Nangus Head on the other, will effectually secure this harbor. Projects have been presented for this desence, estimated to cost $225,000. (Statement I, tables D and F.) On a sudden emergency, old Fort Lee may be put in an effective state for $2,000. (Table A.)
Marblehead harbor.- Besides covering, in some measure, the harbor of Bosun, Salem and Marblehead barbors possess an important commerce of their own, and also afford shelter for vessels prevented, by certain winds, from entering Boston or pursuing their course eastward. The proposed
de of defending Marblehead harbor consists in occupying, on the north side, the hillock which commands the present Fort Sewall, (which will be so perseded by the new work,) and, on the south, the position of Jack's point. The two works will cost $318,000. (Statement 1, tables D and F.)
To repair old Fort Sewall, which may be necessary is the new works are not soon begun, will require $10,000. (Table A.)
Boston harbor.-We come now to the most important harbor in the eastern section of the coast; and, considering the relation to general commerce, and the interests of the navy, one of the most important in the whole Union.
After a careful examination of all the necessary conditions of such a problem, the board of naval officers and engineers, in their joint report of 1520. gave this harbor a preference over all other positions to the east, and inclusive, of New York bay and the Hudson, as the seat of the great northern naval depot; and the Government, by the great additions and improrements that have from year to year been since made to the navy-yard on the Charlestown side, have virtually sanctioned the recommendation of the board. Bat, independent of the navy-yard, Boston is a city of great wealth, and possesses an extensive and active commerce.
The old works defended merely the interior basin from attacks by water; but, as it often happens that vessels enter Nantasket roads with a wind too scant to take them to the city, or are detained in President roads by light winds or an adverse tide; as the former, especially, is a very convenient anchorage whence to proceed to sea; and, above all, as Nantasket roads affords the best possible station for a blockading squadron, it was deemed indispensable to place permanent defences at the inouth of the harbor. The project of defence regards the existing works, with the necessary repairs and modifications, as constituting a second barrier.
Besides a permanent work, now well advanced, on George's island, it contemplates permanent works on Nantasket Head; filling up the Broad Soond channel, so as to leave no passage in that direction for ships of war.
Cetil the best draught for steam vessels of war shall be well ascertained, it will not be safe to say to what depth the Broad Sound channel should be restricted; nor, indeed, can it be positively asserted that this description of vessel can be conveniently excluded by such means. Other vessels can, however, be thus excluded ; and steam.vessels passing this channel would still have to pass the inner barrier. The estimated cost of the works for this harbor is $2,040,000.
Besides the works of a permanent character, it will be necessary, in the begioning of a war, to erect several temporary works on certain positions in the harbor, and on the lateral approaches to the navy yard. (Statement 1, tables A, E, and F.)
Plymouth and Provincetown harbors. These harbors have a commerce of some consequence of their own, but they are particularly interesting in reference to the port of Boston. While these are undefended, an enemy's squadron blockading Massachusetts bay will have ports of refuge under his lee, which would enable him to maintain his blockade, even throughout the most stormy seasons-knowing that the winds which would force him to seek shelter would be adverse to outward-bound, and fatal to such inward vessels as should venture near the Cape. Were the enemy deprived of these harbors, he would be unable to enforce a rigorous investment, as he would be constrained to take an offing on every approach of foul weather. Our own vessels coming in from sea, and finding an enemy interposed between them and Boston, or being turned from their course by adverse winds, would, in case of the defence of these ports, find to the south of Boston shelters equivalent to those provided in the east, at Marblehead, Salem, Gloucester, and Portsmouth. Plymouth harbor has not been fully surveyed. Provincetown harbor has been su veyed, but the projects of defence have not been formed. The former, it is thought, may be suitably covered by a work of no great cost on Garnett point; while, to fortify Provincetown harbor in such a way as to cover vessels taking shelter therein, and at the same time to deprive an enemy of sale anchorages, will involve considerable expense. Probably no nearer estimate can be formed at present, than that offered by the Engineer Department some years ago, which gave $100,000 for Plymouth, and $600,000 for Provincetown. (Statement 1, tables D and E.)
The coast between Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras differs from the northeastern section in possessing fewer harbors, in having but little rocky and a great portion of sandy shore, in its milder climate and clearer atmosphere ; and it differs from all the other portions in the depth and magnitude of its interior seas and sounds, and in the distance to which deep tide navi. gation extends up its numerous large rivers. The circuit of the coast, not including the shores of the great bays, measures 650 miles ; while a straight line from one of the abovenamed capes to the other measures about 520 miles.
Martha's Vineyard sound.—To the south of Cape Cod lie the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, which, with several smaller islands on the south, and the projection of Cape Malabar on the east, enclose the abovenamed sound. The channels through this sound, being sufficient for merchant vessels, and one of the channels permitting the passage even of small frigates, are not only the constant track of coasting vessels, but also of large numbers of vessels arriving in the tempestuous months from foreign voyages. There are within the sound the harbors of Tarpaulin cove, Holmes's Hole, Edgartown, Falmouth, Hyannis, and Nantucket, besides small anchorages.
In addition to the many thousand vessels passing this water annually, (of which there are sometimes forty or fifty,) a portion, containing very valuable cargoes, to be seen in the harbors awaiting a change of wind, there is supposed to be at least 40,000 tons of whaling vessels owned in the lowns of this sound. · If the harbors just named are to be defended at all, it must be by fortifi... cations. There is little or no population except in the towns, and even this is believed to be entirely without military organization. A privateer might run into either of these harbors, and capture, destroy, or levy contributions :
at pleasure. The use of the sound itself, as an anchorage for vessels of war, cannot be prevented by fortifications alone. $250,000 may, perhaps, snffice for the defence of all the harbors against the kind of enterprise to which they are exposed. (Statement 1, table F.)
New Bedford and Fairhaven harbor.-No survey has been made of this harbor, on which lie two of the most flourishing towns. It is easily defensible, and the amount formerly assumed by the Engineer Department will probably sutfice, namely, $300,000. (Statement 1, iable D.)
Buzzard's bay.—Interposed between the main and the island of Martha's Vineyard, are the Elizabeth islands, which bound Buzzard's bay on the south. This bay covers the harbor of New Bedford, and might be used as an anchorage by an enemy's fleet; but it is too wide to be defended by fortifications.
Nurruganset bay. The properties of this great roadstead will be here briefly adverted to. More ninute information may be obtained by reference to reports of 1920 and 1821.
As a harbor, this is acknowledged by all to be the best on the whole coast of the United States; and it is the only close man-of-war harbor that is accessible with a northwest wind, the prevailing and most violent wiud of the incleinent season. Numerous boards and commissions, sometimes composed of naval officers, sometimes of army officers, sometimes of officers of both services, have, at different times, had the subject of this roadstead under consideration; and all have concurred in recommending, in strong terms, that it be made a place of naval rendezvous and repair, if not a great naval depot; one or more of these commissions preferring it, for the latter purpose, to all other positions. These recommendations have not been acted on ; but it is next to certain that a war would force their adoption upon the Government.
With the opening of this anchorage properly defended, hardly a vessel of war would come, either singly or in small squadrons, upon the coast, in the boisterous season, without aiming at this port, on account of the comparative certainty of an immediate entrance. And this would be particularly the case with vessels injured by heavy weather, or in conflict with an enemy; with vessels bringing in prizes, or pursued by a superior force.
This use of the port would almost necessarily bring with it the demand for the means of repairing and refitting; and the concentration of these upon some suitable spot would be the beginping of a permanent dock yard.
For the same reason that ships of war would collect here, it would be a favorite point of rendezvous for privateers and their prizes, and a common Place of refnge for merchantmen.
From this, as a naval station, the navigation of Long Island sound, and the communication between this and Martha's Vineyard sound, or Buz. zard's bay might be well protected ; New London harbor would be covered; the navy-yard would comniand southwardly, as from Hampton roads northwardly, ilie great inward curve of the coast between Cape Cod and Cape Halteras; the influence of which command over the blockading operations of an enemy will be apparent, when it is considered that the only harbors of refuge left to him will be the Delaware, Gardiner's and Buzzard's bays, and Martha's Vineyard sound.
The bays first mentioned belong to the class before alluded to, which, being too wide for complete defence by batteries, must call in such auxiliary dulences as the navy may supply; and, in reference to their defence by
these means, nothing can be more important than the fortification of Narraganset roads, because all but the first of the bays just named (including an anchorage for ships of war under Block island) would be commanded by a single squadron of those floating defences lying in these roads. To a squadron of steam batteries, for instance, lying under the fortifications, it would be a matter of little consegnence into which of the above anchorages an enen;y should go-all being within reach in three or four hours, and some within sight. We will here observe, by the way, that this use of floating defences is in accordance with the principle before insisted on : they are not expected to close the entrance into these several bays-that would require a squadron for each, at least equal to the enemy's ; but as the enemy goes in merely for rest or shelter, and there is no object that he can injure, he may be permitted to enter; and our squadron will assail him only when the circumstances of wind, weather, &c. give all the advantages to the attack. The fortification of Narraganset roads is therefore, in effect, a most important contribution toward the defence of all the neighboring anchorages.
But the same properties that make Narraganset roads so precious to us, would recommend them to the enemy also; and their natural advantages will be enhanced in his eyes by the value of all the objects these advantages may have accumulated therein..
If this roadstead were without defence, an enemy could occupy it without opposition, and, by the aid of naval superiority, form a lodgment on the island of Rhode Island for the war. Occupying this island with his troops, and with his fleets the channels on either side, he might defy all the forces of the eastern States ; and while, from this position, his troops woulil keep in alarm and motion the population of the east, feigned expeditions against New York, or against more southern cities, would equally alarm the country in that direction : and thus, though he might do no more than menace, it is difficult to estimate the embarrassment and expense into which he would drive the Government.
It has been alleged that similar consequences would flow from the occupation of other positions; (such, for instance, as are afforded in the bays just mentioned ;) and that, therefore, the defence, in a strong manner, of Narraganset roads is useless.
Even allowing that there are other advantageous and inaccessible positions, whereon an enemy might place himselt; is it a reason, because the foe can, in spite of us, possess himself of comparatively unsafe and open harbors, that we should not apply to our own uses, but yield up to him, the very best harbor on the coast ? that we should submit to capture and destruction the valuable objects that accumulate in consequence of the properties of the harbor ?
But it is believed that none of the outer and wider harbors will answer for such an establishment as we have supposed, nor for any other purpose than an occasional anchorage of ships of war; and for these reasons, amongst others : that, although ships of war might possibly ride in these broad waters at all seasons, it would seein to be a measure of great temerity for transports to attempt it, except in the mildest seasons; and there can be Jittle doubt that a hostile expedition would resort to no harbor as a place of rendezvous, unless it afforded sure protection to its transports; these being the only means by which ulterior purposes could be executed, or final re treat from the country effected.
If, moreover, Narraganset roads be fortified and become a naval station, or at least the station of a floating force designed to act against these outer waters, such an establishment by any enemy would at once be put upon the defensive, and require the constant presence of a superior fleet; thus measurably losing the object of the establishment.
Independent of the qualities of the harbor, however, none of these bays would answer our purposes : Ist. Because they cannot be securely detended; and, 22. Because they are difficult of access from the main-the communication with them being liable to interruption by bad weather, and liable to be cut off by the enemy.
The defence adopted for Narraganset roads must be formidable on the important points, because they will be exposed to powerful expeditions. Although the possession of this harbor, the destruction of the naval establishment, the capture of the floating defences, and the possession of the island as a place of debarcation and refreshment, should not be considered as con stituting, of themselves, objects worthy a great expedition, they might very well be the preliminary steps of such expedition ; and defences weak in their character might tempt, rather than deter it; for although unable to re, sist his enterprise, they might be fully competent, after being captured and strengthened by such ineans as he would have at hand, to protect him from offensive demonstrations on our part.
There are, besides, in the local circumstances, some reasons why the works should be strong. The channel on the eastern side of the island, being permanently closed by a solid bridge, requires no defensive works: but this bridge being at the upper end of the island, the channel is open to an enemy all along the eastern shore of the island. Works erected for the defence of the channel on the west side of the island cannot, therefore, prevent, nor even oppose, a landing on the eastern side. The enemy, consequently, may take possession, and bend his whole force to the reduction of the forts on the island, which cannot be relieved until a force has been or- , ganized, bronght from a distance, conveyed by water to the points attacked, and landed in the face of his batteries : all this obviously requiring several days, duriog which the forts should be capable of holding, out. To do, this against an expedition of 10,000 or 20,000 men, demands something more than the strength to resist a single assault.
Unless the main works be competent to withstand a siege of a few days,' they will not, therefore, ful6l their trust, and will be worse than useless.
It must here be noticed, that, although the works do not prevent the landing of an enemy ou Rhode Island, they will, if capable of resisting his eff rts for a few days, make his residence on the island for any length of time impossible, since forces in any number may be brought from the main, and landes under the cover of the fire of the works,
To come now to the particular defences proposed for this roadstead. It must be stated that there are three entrances into Narraganset roads: 0
1st. The eastern channel, which passes up on the east side of the island. of Rhode Island. This, as before stated, being shut by a solid bridge, needs no defence by fortifications, other than a field work or two, which may be thrown up at the opening of a war.
20. The central channel, which enters from sea by passing between 1 Rhode Island and Canonicu: island. This is by far the best entrance, and leads to the best anchorage; and this it is proposed to defend by a fort on i the east side of the entrance, designed to be the principal work in the sys