Abbildungen der Seite

be always kept in a state of efficiency. In the early days of steam propulsion, it was imagined by Paixhans and others, that a few small steamers, with little or no sailing power, might destroy or capture any ship if properly attacked on her weak points; and this is true in calms, and of operations in inland seas and waters, in which fleets of large ships of war can neither manoeuvre, nor follow vessels of small draught of water into shallow creeks or channels. But for steam-warfare on the ocean, ships must be rigged and equipped with full sailing power, and, consequently, fully manned with able seamen as before; and thus, nautical skill and good practical seamanship will be as necessary as ever to steam-fleets, and will continue to tell, as heretofore, in favour of that party which is most proficient in nautical skill and expert seamanship. It must not therefore be assumed, in preparing for steam-warfare, that the sail will be entirely supplanted by steam, or that steam fleets may dispense with crews of able seamen.

100. A smooth sea and no wind is always propitious for steaming and for good gunnery; but, in a perfect calm, contending fleets would be enveloped in sucli dense clouds of vapour and smoke that neither the ships nor the signals of the chiefs could be seen ; this disadvantage is felt even when a gentle breeze is blowing; and, in this case, it is more or less favourable or unfavourable to either fleet according as it may be placed with respect to the direction of the wind.— (Paul Hoste, Translated by Capt. Boswall, R.N., pp. 23 to 27.)

The direction and force of the wind, and thereby the setting and amount of the swell, though immaterial to the progress of steam-ships, are important disturbances to the practice of gunnery. With the swell abeam, or a cross-swell, the rolling motion of a heavilymasted steam-ship with the sails furled, will be far greater and more rapid than it would be when those motions are checked by sails. The gunnery of a steam fleet, will not, therefore, excepting in a smooth sea, be so efficient as that of a fleet of sailing ships; and it will require all the skill and tact of well-trained seamengunners, to watch the roll and catch the proper moment of pulling the trigger-line. See Naval G-unnery, 4th ed., Art. 383, et seq.

101. The movements of steam fleets may, like those of armies, be conducted on tactical principles best adapted to the great end of all preliminary manoeuvres —the formation for battle in the most simple, speedy, and precise manner. This power of executing the evolutions of fleets and armies on the same tactical principles, cannot but be considered as one of the greatest benefits which will result from the application of steam propulsion in naval warfare.

The intended formation may, in all cases, be accomplished by steam-fleets, with as much precision as the formation of an army on land, and with the like regard to the avoidance of a premature display of the whole force, or a disclosure of the intentions of the commander."

102. This avoidance is seldom possible with fleets of sailing ships: the complicated manoeuvres, and the time required to execute the formation of columns, or divisions, of ships into one long line of battle in presence of an enemy, particularly if he be to windward, are such, that, fearful of being attacked while the evolutions are being made, fleets of sailing ships are generally extended into line, before it is tactically prudent, or, with steamers, necessary to do so.b

103. In exemplification of the complexity of the evolutions required in forming a line of battle, let it be supposed that a fleet, sailing upon a wind in three parallel columns, each in line ahead, is signalled to form line upon the centre column—and this is a formation which can be more rapidly executed than one upon either of the other columns—the windward division bears down and forms line ahead of the central division; the ships of the lee division tack, simultaneously, and stand on, till they fetch into the wake of the division to be formed upon; and then, tacking again, proceed as quickly as possible to close to their stations in the new line. If the formation is to be made on the windward division, the process is still more complicated and protracted : both the centre and rear divisions tack simultaneously, and, when they have fetched, in succession, into the wake of the windward division, tack again, and close to their stations in the new line; thus having to make two tacks and two "boards;" passing therefore over two sides of a triangle instead of one, and being at the same time subject to the contingencies of the wind. In steam fleets this operation may be simply executed by its ships proceeding rapidly and with certainty in diagonal lines to take their proper places.

* " Un ge'ne'ral habile et tacticien, s'il est dans la necessity de recevoir une bataille, ne demasquera sa disposition de defense qu'apres qu'il aura reconnu les points oil 1'ennemi vent faire effort. II tiendra son arme'e en oolonnes sur le champ de bataille qu'il devra occuper, afin de na determiner la repartition de ses troupes que sur celle des troupes de 1'ennemi."—(fiuxbert, vol. ii. p. 185.)

b Numerous instances of the difficulty, uncertainty, and the time required to form sailing ships into line of battle, may be met with in naval history. In the action between the British and French fleets in the East Indies, in 1782, Sir Edward Hughes, seeing that Admiral Suffrein was bearing down upon him, made the signal at daylight to form line ahead, but, on account of the variable state of the wind, the line could not be formed before eight o'clock.

104. These and all other formations may be executed with so much certainty and celerity by steam fleets at any time, that the practice of extending ships into line, and particularly into a single line of battle, as soon as, or even before, the fleets come into the presence of each other, will be renounced in naval, as it has long since been in military, tactics. Well-exercised steam-fleets, like well-trained armies in the field, if skilfully commanded, should be kept concentrated in columns, or lines of bearing en echelon, so disposed as to be under the eye of the commander, and within good signalling distance, ever ready to execute the movements which he may order.

105. Modern military science renounces the practice of fighting in parallel order, line against line, multitude against multitude, ignorance against chance; and it substitutes for that rude and primitive formation, the more skilful and less sanguinary methods which were practised with splendid success during the Seven Years' War, and have since been almost invariably adopted. This method consists in turning the enemy s flank by an oblique movement, in attacking him while on a march; or, by tactical combinations, bringing a vastly superior force upon the point attacked."

Naval officers of the old school, when ships were the slaves of the wind, may at first sight be disposed to repudiate, perhaps to ridicule, the adoption in their profession, of the principles of military movements and formations, as recommended and expounded by the author. But moved as fleets will hereafter be by the obedient agency of steam, so that the station of each ship in a fleet, and the time to be occupied in performing any evolution, can be determined with as much exactness as the post of a regiment or brigade in an army, and the time required to arrive at it; it must follow that the evolutions of ships of war will be susceptible of being executed with a precision hitherto unknown in the naval service.

A distinguished and skilful admiral in the British navy has not only anticipated but met a total change in our naval tactics in this respect, and has recognised the military character which naval operations will assume from the introduction of steam propulsion. In a tract published by Admiral Bowles, C.B., in 1846,b that gallant officer observed, that we had then arrived at a new era, in which steam would enable naval commanders to conduct their operations and manoeuvres on military and scientific principles ; that fleets, moving by a force beyond the influence of wind and weather, would have it in their power to attack, or repulse an enemy in a manner hitherto unknown in naval actions; that an admiral by keeping his ships together in a collected and manageable order, and skilfully manoeuvred, could prevent the recurrence of the many indecisive and unsuccessful naval engagements of times past; and he

1 Thus Frederick II. defeated the French army at Rosshach with the loss of only 500 men, killed and wounded, while the French loss amounted to 3000 men, killed and wounded, and 5000 taken prisoners. Thus also, Napoleon I. defeated the comhined Austrian and Russian armies at Austerlitz.—(See also Ouibert, vol. ii. p. 187.)

b 'Essay on Naval Tactics,' Ridgway, 1846.


concludes that very able tract, by observing that, as in an army, so in a fleet, the force would be handled in such way as to bring the fleet into action so as to enable it to exert its powers with the most decisive advantage. To this high authority may be added that of Captain Dahlgren, U. S. Navy,8 who observes that the principles of military tactics will, hereafter, enter largely into the manoeuvres of fleets.

106. The rude practice of forming a fleet for battle in one long line, has hitherto prevailed in naval warfare, on account, chiefly, of the difficulties and uncertainties imposed by the wind, in executing compound evolutions with sailing ships. These difficulties will not exist for fleets consisting wholly of steam-ships. Armies in the field move in as many columns as there may be practicable roads, or opened routes leading to the point at which the intended deployment in order of battle is to take place; but at sea a steam fleet may always be moved in as many columns as there are divisions in its formation, and each ship of a fleet may be considered as corresponding to a battalion in a land army.

107. There is this difference, however :—- a fleet in line ahead, moving parallel to an enemy's line, is making a flank movement, and is at the same time in line of battle, which is not the case with an army making a flank movement. A fleet in line abreast is in an important order of steaming; and though it is not, properly speaking, in order of battle, yet ships in that position may commence action, each with the fire of seven or nine powerful bow-guns, and are quite in readiness to form echelon of ships or line ahead, for offensive or defensive measures, as the case may require, by a simple movement of each ship.

108. The columns of a steam fleet should be arranged in two lines of bearing, making with each other an angle of 8 points, or 90°; the lines being formed on a central ship, which is commonly distinguished by the flag of a divisional admiral or other squadron officer. The flag

'Shells and Shell-guns,' p. 394.

« ZurückWeiter »