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HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE CONSORT, K.G.,
Authorized and honoured by your Royal Highness's gracious permission to dedicate to your Royal Highness this attempt to treat of a subject of vital importance to the country with which your Royal Highness is happily associated and identified, I have only to hope that my endeavour to give unity of system to the tactics of war by land and sea, as well as military strength to the formations of fleets, by applying the principles which regulate the dispositions and movements of armies to the new system of warfare on the ocean, for which this country ought to be fully prepared, may not be considered unworthy of the illustrious name by which my humble efforts are patronized, and not altogether useless to that great branch of Her Majesty's Service, on the efficiency and the supremacy of which the security of the Insular and Colonial Empire of Great Britain, must ever depend.
I have the honour to be,
With sentiments of the most profound respect,
WE are now at the commencement of a new era in naval warfare, in consequence of the introduction of steam as a propelling power for ships, and its application, by all the maritime powers of Europe, to vessels of war, from those of the lowest class to line-of-battle ships of the greatest magnitude. This new power will necessarily modify, and, to a great extent, overturn, the present tactics of war on the ocean.
Hitherto the execution of naval evolutions has depended on atmospherical conditions, and often the best concerted plans for attack or defence at sea have been frustrated, when at the point of being successfully carried out, by sudden calms, or by unforeseen changes in the direction of the wind; while now, an elaborate system of appropriate machinery, put in motion by the expansive force of steam, by enabling a vessel to be moved at pleasure, with more or less rapidity, or to be brought to a state of rest, or again, to have the direction of its motion changed through the guiding power of the helm, will enable the commander of a ship or fleet to put in practice, without risk of failure, what. ever manœuvre he may have determined on, whether for coming to action, or for counteracting the measures taken by his opponent, previously to, or during, all the battle movements of the fleet.
It is generally supposed that the present naval supremacy of Great Britain is mainly due to circumstances arising out of the particular nature of the moving power by which the evolutions of vessels, singly or in fleets, have been performed. That moving power is the wind acting on the sails of the ships-a power in its nature very variable; and it is evident that the introduction of steam, as a propelling power, whose action is entirely under the control of the engineer, will bring about great changes in the relative conditions of British and foreign navies, affecting, in consequence, the maritime importance of the several European nations.
This subject has already attracted the notice of scientific men in foreign countries; and an opinion prevails abroad, that the employment of steam as a moving power for ships of war will be attended with results beneficial to the nations of the Continent, while it will operate to the disadvantage of Great Britain.
It is supposed that to superior tactical skill in our commanders, in anticipating the effects likely to arise from variations in the force and direction of the wind, and to the superior practical experience and expertness of our operative seamen in executing the orders of the officers, with respect to the manipulation of the rigging and sails, the British navy is in a great measure indebted for the success which has hitherto attended it in the hostile collisions of its ships with those of other nations ;
a 66 Des machines puissantes du genre d'un moteur obéissant rendra inutiles et la marine et les marins à voile dont la Grande Bretagne est un ruche si féconde.”—Des Propulsions Sous-Marins, par M. Labrouse, 1843.
“ Ce changement rendra l'expérience et les habitudes navales moins utiles, et tournera à l'avantage de la France bien plus que de l'Angleterre.”—Paixhans, Sur une Arme Nouvelle Maritime, p. 28.
6 La vapeur menaçait l'Angleterre de mettre la marine à la portée de tout grand peuple qui aurait des soldats aguerris et des finances prospérés. ..... La vapeur, pénétrons-nous bien de cette vérité, place la question de suprématie maritime sur un terrain plus abordable pour nous."- De la Gravière, Guerres Maritimes, vol. ii. pp. 256, 264.