Lessons of recent naval wars
Though the ﬂeet of this country has not taken part at sea in hostilities against any great maritime power under the changed conditions of the last forty years, there have been two wars between foreign countries, comparatively recently, in which naval operations exercised an important inﬂuence, and from which many valuable lessons can be derived. At the beginning of August 1894 China declared war against Japan, owing to a dispute about Corea, and as both belligerents possessed a ﬂeet which each believed to be fully capable of defeating the other, the war in its early stages became a struggle for command of the sea.
The necessity for an efﬁcient naval force had no doubt been brought home to these countries by earlier wars with ourselves. China had been brought to terms with us by a series of conﬂicts culminating in the occupation of Pekin in 1860. In all these our navy had taken a prominent part. The lack of such a force and the insufﬁciency of ﬁxed defences alone to prevent attacks, which would also apply to possible future antagonists of minor sea power, determined China to create a modern navy. Japan also had suffered in similar fashion, for in 1863 and 1864, at Kagosima and Simonoseki, we had plainly demonstrated to this nation the power conferred by a ﬂeet to enforce demands with which it was not disposed to comply. From that date Japan studied Western methods, and among the customs followed was the building up of a ﬂeet. Although by 1894 her ships had not attained the number and strength since displayed , this country then proved she had not studied in vain, but realised that modern ships and weapons do not of themselves make a ﬂeet efﬁcient unless handled with skill and intelligence produced by careful training.
Funds did not permit at ﬁrst going beyond the acquisition of two or three small ironclads of the broadside type, such as we had in the ‘Pallas’ twenty years ago; then, as size and cost of war-ships increased, Japan devoted the money she could spare for this service to acquiring fast and powerful cruisers principally built over here, and she employed British ofﬁcers and instructors to train her seamen. The principal towns of China being up rivers, that country ﬁrst sought craft capable of operating in such localities, and obtained a number of gunboats, which, carrying one very heavy gun, would be formidable to much larger vessels. She then had built in Germany two ironclads of 7500 tons, armed with four 12-in. Krupp guns, mounted in two barbettes placed en ec/relon within a citadel somewhat similar to the design of our ‘Ajax’ and ‘Agamemnon.’ These two comprised her battle ships, and, supplemented by some small belted and protected cruisers, formed the ﬂeet China had at the beginning of 1894. It was not homogeneous in organisation, being made up of several squadrons under the viceroys of the different provinces into which China is divided, and stationed in peace time at Canton, Foo Chow, Shanghai and Peiho. Little control was exercised from Pekin over the viceroys in the equipment and administration of these squadrons, and hence it is not surprising if a diversity of methods became apparent when the squadrons combined to meet an enemy. British ofﬁcers and instructors had also trained the Chinese to a fair amount of proﬁciency, but the nature of the classes from which the ofﬁcers are obtained is such that they relapse into evil ways when the eye of the mentor is removed.
As the Chinese ﬂeet did not, for some time after the declaration of war, put to sea in strength, Japan continued despatching troops to Corea until her victories on land impelled China to land reinforcements. The quickest route was by sea to the mouth of the Yalu River, convoyed by the ﬂeet.
In these ﬂeets the advantage of modern and rapid ﬁre ordnance lay with the japanese, and the average speed of their ships was 2 knots faster. They had on the other hand only two small ironclads, the squadron consisting principally of protected cruisers. The strength of the Chinese ﬂeet rested upon the two battle ships, ‘Ting Yuen’ and ‘Chen Yuen,’ while the cruisers were distinctly inferior to their adversaries. Admiral Ting commanded the Chinese ﬂeet in the ‘Ting Yuen,’ while Admiral Ito, in the ‘Matsushima,’ led the japanese. The Chinese transports, with the ‘Ping Yuen,’ ‘Kuang Ping,’ and the two torpedo boats, were up the river, while the bulk of the squadron lay at anchor off the mouth. On observing the smoke of the japanese ﬂeet, Admiral Ting signalled to weigh anchor and his squadron put to sea.
He advanced in line abreast in two divisions, but this order was not maintained; the wing ships dropped astern, and the interval between the two divisions was not preserved, so that soon the whole force appeared as an irregular line of crescent shape. The Admiral had given out that a ruling principle should be to keep bows on to the enemy, being perhaps inﬂuenced in this decision by the disposition of the armament of ‘Ting Yuen’ and ‘Chen Yuen,’ whose double turrets could ﬁre ahead. Admiral Ito had organised his ﬂeet into a van and main squadron, which seem to have acted independently. Four ships composed the van, consisting of the ‘Yoshino,’ ‘Takachiho,’ ‘ Akitsusu’ and ‘Naniwa,’ all fast cruisers, and led by Rear-Admiral Tsuboi in the ﬁrst named. The rest of the ﬂeet, headed by Admiral Ito in the ‘Matsushima,’ formed the main squadron. Soon after noon, when the two ﬂeets were about 6000 yards apart, the ‘Ting Yuen’ opened ﬁre, but the shot fell short. It had some effect, however, where not expected nor desired, for the concussion on the bridge of the Chinese ﬂagship was so great that those on it were thrown down, among them the Admiral, who, being considerably hurt, had to be taken below for a time. The japanese did not reply, but their van squadron, steering for the right wing of the enemy, opened ﬁre when within 3000 yards. The main squadron soon followed suit, and continuing on the same course passed round the Chinese right and engaged them in rear. This movement, executed at speed, left two small and slow Japanese ships, the ‘ Saikio ’ and ‘ Akagi,’ isolated and exposed, so the van squadron, instead of passing round the right wing, turned the other way and came to their assistance. In the meantime the Chinese, keeping their bows on, inclined to the right, now found themselves between the two squadrons of the enemy and attacked on both sides. The effect of Ito’s vigorous onset soon became apparent. The ‘ Chao Yung,’ being set on ﬁre, turned towards the shore, but was run into and sunk by the ‘Tsi Yuen.’ This vessel, as well as the‘ Kuang Chia,’ went out ofaction and left the scene. Next the ‘ Lai Yuen’ was set on ﬁre by a shell from the ‘ Akagi ’ and practically put out of action, for the ﬂames could not be subdued until they had almost gutted the ship. She remained aﬂoat, and eventually reached Port Arthur. The ‘Chih Yuen’ received such severe injuries at the water line from shells that she sank, and the same fate befell the ‘King Yuen ’ a little later. In the meantime the ‘Ting Yuen’ and ‘Chen Yuen’ were offering the only effectual resistance to the Japanese ships, which circled round them at a distance from 2000 to 3000 yards.
If the Chinese guns were not served with rapidity, nor discharged with great accuracy, the armour on these ships enabled them to sustain the heavy ﬁre directed upon them. The ‘Chen Yuen’ gallantly supported the ﬂagship , and though both were set on ﬁre more than once, and their unprotected parts riddled, they con— tinued the contest. Nor were all their shots thrown away. A 12-in. shell from the ‘Ting Yuen’ struck the ‘Matsushima’ and burst in the fore battery, causing great destruction, killing and wounding a large number of the crew. In fact, she suffered so much that Admiral Ito transferred his ﬂag to the ‘Hashidate.’ Other vessels received damage, but not to the same extent.
While the main Japanese squadron concentrated its attention on the two ironclads, and the van attacked the detached and ﬂying Chinese cruisers with the results already mentioned, the small ‘Akagi’ and ‘Saikio’ had more than their share of the ﬁghting.
The former lost her captain, and two of the lieutenants were wounded. She had to go out of action, but rejoined the ﬂeet at the end of the day. The ‘Saikio’ was attacked by the Chinese cruisers and torpedo boats that were up the river, but joined in the ﬁght soon after it commenced. Had not assistance come the ‘Saikio’ might have succumbed. One torpedo, it is said, passed under her, and she received several shots in the hull. The ‘Hiyei’ actually passed through the enemy’s line in order to rejoin her own ships. She was struck by several shells and set on ﬁre, which obliged her to haul out of action. At 5.30 pm. the Japanese van squadron had, in pursuit of the enemy, got some distance off, while one or two Chinese cruisers had gathered round the two ironclads. So Admiral Ito recalled his vessels, and Admiral Ting proceeded towards Port Arthur. Sunset approaching, Ito discontinued the action, and though he also steamed in the same direction, when daylight came the Chinese ﬂeet could not be seen. The Japanese therefore retraced their steps to the scene of action, and found the ‘Yang Wei’ on a reef, which vessel they destroyed with a spar torpedo. They did not lose a single ship themselves, and a short time suﬂiced to repair damages. Their casualties were 10 ofﬁcers and 80 men killed; 16 ofﬁcers and 188 men wounded. The Chinese lost four ships and at least 800 in killed, wounded and drowned. The injuries to their remaining vessels were extensive, especially in the case of the ‘Lai Yuen,’ nearly the whole of the interior of which had been destroyed by ﬁre. This action, the ﬁrst in which all the vessels taking part were built of iron or steel, demonstrated that it is not sufﬁcient to have hulls and principal portions of non-inﬂammable material, but that wood should be eliminated as much as possible in the construction, unless it can be made ﬁreproof. It is remarkable-— but the fact is conﬁrmed in a later war—how rapidly and effectually shells bursting on board will set a ship on ﬁre. Not less apparent is the difﬁculty of subduing the ﬂames and ﬁghting the ship at the same time. Only the highest standard of discipline can cope with such a condition. The ‘Ting Yuen’ was badly on ﬁre forward during the action, and it required all the efforts of the foreign ofﬁcers on board to prevent the crew becoming completely demoralised . We and other nations did not proﬁt sufﬁciently by this lesson and rigorously discard wood in our ships where its place could well be taken by a non-inﬂammable substance. And the danger of ﬁre has been increased by the introduction of guns that can discharge shells in rapid succession, leaving little time to extinguish a ﬂame before a fresh one is created. The only alternative is to clothe all ships in sufﬁcient armour to prevent common shell entering at any part. While on the one hand the Battle of Yalu proved the value of guns rapidly served hurling these ﬁre-producing projectiles, it also demonstrated the value of armour. The ‘Ting Yuen’ and ‘Chen Yuen’ were able to sustain the prolonged attack of Admiral Ito’s main body owing to the immunity from severe damage conferred on them by the I4 and 12-in. compound armour which formed the citadel and encircled their turrets. Had the same weight of armour been given to them in the form of a protective deck, their Vitals would doubtless have remained intact, but they would not probably have steamed away at the end of the day with the Chinese ﬂag ﬂying; for they only suffered a loss between them of about 30 killed and 50 wounded. Curiously enough, not a single Chinese ship surrendered. Though all did not behave with courage, those who fought did not shrink under a heavy ﬁre; and went down with colours ﬂying. It may have been that they expected to receive no quarter, and had been prepared to deal out equal measure to the adversary if successful. We gain no information from this battle as regards the use of torpedoes. Both sides had them, but the japanese wisely refrained from discharging any. In a ﬂeet action there is a risk of hitting friend as well as foe, while an above-water torpedo in a cruiser is a source of danger before the missile is discharged. The Chinese appear to have had torpedoes in the tubes, and ﬁred one or two, but it seems probable that they had previously taken the precaution to render them harmless to themselves , and hence equally ineffective against the enemy. Nor did ramming play any part at the ‘ Yalu.’ The japanese vessels were not suitable for this evolution, their tactics being not to come to close quarters but take advantage of their superior speed, and to rely upon gun ﬁre. The Chinese ironclads were too slow to give them any chance of ramming tactics.
The effect of a single 12-in. shell in the fore part of the‘Matsushima’ shows that the big gun has its value apart from the question of armour penetration. In fact it is the power of its shell that causes us to regret the absence of a 9.2-in. gun in our ‘ Diadem’ and ‘Monmouth’ classes, and placing in them no ordnance of greater calibre than 6 in.
In this battle and subsequent operations the japanese gave every indication that they had grasped the essential factors for success at sea. It encouraged them to continue their efforts to acquire a ﬂeet worthy of comparison with the principal maritime powers. To—day this has attained, collectively as a whole, and individually in its ships, to such a condition as to be an important factor in any policy affecting the Far East. It was a fortunate circumstance for the United States, as regards her late war with Spain, which determined the nation comparatively recently to create a ﬂeet capable not only of protecting its extensive sea frontier but also of resenting aggression or insult in foreign waters. The acquisition of modern navies by small neighbouring states clearly demonstrated not many years ago the danger of a day arriving when a power great in resources might, for lack of an adequate ﬂeet, be unable to deal promptly and effectually with the situation. The incidents gave an impulse to a movement on the part of the people which representation and entreaty by a few had failed to secure, so that henceforward ample funds were forthcoming to provide a ﬂeet worthy of the country. Nor was it necessary to go outside for the material and talent which, combined, are necessary to produce efﬁcient war-ships to-day.
And if these were at hand, only waiting the demand for their application, no less present was the skill required to put to best use such a force, appearing as it did in the West, without passing through the lengthy experimental stage which the ﬂeets of European nations have had to undergo. Though a navy may be stagnant for years, traditions survive, and these, if combined with energy and experience, will enable a race with instincts for the sea to quickly resume its place among maritime states. The terrible Civil \Var in America produced able and fearless seamen, worthy successors of those who alone among the nations which faced us at sea in the old wars could—having the same stock—compete with our own crews. But the struggle left them with a predilection for the low freeboard monitor, which, admirable for coast defence, could not proceed to any part of the world where the national interests were threatened. That duty was left to a few cruisers which gradually became more and more obsolete, sail power in them being a predominant feature, while steam, as with us, continued to be viewed as an auxiliary only.
When the‘ Trenton,’ of 4000 tons, with large sail area and a steam speed of about 13 knots, was launched in 1876, most people considered her an efﬁcient cruiser; but when she was wrecked at Samoa a few years afterwards, being unable to steam out against the hurricane—a feat accomplished by our ‘Calliope ’—it was fully realised that all cruisers must have powerful machinery, while sail power —if desirable at all—could only be an auxiliary. The reconstruction of the United States cruiser ﬂeet began in 1883, and had gradually developed until,at the beginning of 1898, a considerable number had been acquired. But cruisers alone will not sufﬁce if a vigorous policy at sea should be required against any country possessing battle ships, and this being brought home—as I have said—to the United States, she wisely began to produce such vessels not much more than ten years ago.
Beginning, in a small way, with the ‘Texas’ and ‘Maine,’ vessels of 6300 and 6800 tons respectively in 1890, three much larger were then completed. These, named the ‘ Oregon,’ ‘ Indiana’ and ‘Massachusetts,’ are of 10,500 tons, with a powerful armament of four I3-in. guns in two turrets, one at each end; eight 8—in. guns mounted in pairs in four' smaller turrets, between and slightly above the 13-in. guns; four 6-in. guns, two on each broadside and a number of small quick ﬁrers. They have an armoured belt, 18 in. thick, and citadel, while the armour on the turrets is 17, I5 and 8 in. thick. They are somewhat low in the water, so in the ‘Iowa,’ built later, and 1000 tons larger, the freeboard is higher, especially forward, which gives the guns greater command of ﬁre. These consist of four 12—in. in two, and eight 8-in. in four, turrets, besides six 4-in. and smaller quick-ﬁre guns. Nor have armoured cruisers been neglected. The ‘ New York,’ of 8200 tons, is a fast and powerful vessel, armed with six 8-in. and twelve 4-in. quick-ﬁre guns, and protected with a 4-in. armour belt. The ‘Brooklyn,’ of 9200 tons, is still more powerful, having eight 8-in. and twelve 5-in. guns. In addition to these armoured vessels the United States possessed a number of large protected and small cruisers.
Spain, on the other hand, had allowed her navy to decline. In common with the rest of Europe, she, between 1860 and 1870, acquired a few ironclads, but they gradually became ineffective or obsolete, and for many years after she neither added to nor replaced them. She devoted the money voted for the ﬂeet to cruisers. Then between 1885 and 1890 a solitary battle ship was built for Spain in France. The ‘ Pelayo,’ of 10,000 tons, has the features of French war-ships of that date, such as the ‘ Admiral Duperré ’; four heavy .guns in as many separate positions, mounted en baroette at each end and on each broadside. A complete belt with a maximum thickness of 17 in. forms the chief protection to the hull. As one of a squadron of similar vessels she could be useful; as a single specimen she could effect little, and her inferior speed would reduce the mobility of a force of fast cruisers. She consequently took no part in the war. In 1887 Spain decided to build some fast armoured cruisers, which led to the completion of the ‘ Infanta Maria Teresa,’ ‘Vizcaya’ and ‘Almirante Oquendo.’ Of 7000 tons displacement , they carried an II-in. gun at each end, and ten 5§-in. guns on the broadside. The armour consisted of a narrow water line belt 12 in. thick opposite the machinery. Others of the same type were not ready at the beginning of 1898. A superior vessel to these was the ‘ Cristobal Colon,’ built in Italy. Of about the same dimensions, she carried two IO-in., ten 6-in. and six 4.7-in. quick-ﬁre guns. But the armour was distributed in less thickness over a greater area, and hence afforded better protection to the broadside guns and their crews. When commissioned, however , her IO-in. guns were not ready, or could not be supplied, and hence her offensive power was much weakened. When we add to these a number of less modern and smaller cruisers, with one or two torpedo boat destroyers, it will be seen that Spain was ill ﬁtted to cope at sea with the more powerful and better-trained American Navy. For there can be no question as to the want of training in the Spanish Fleet as acquired by practice at sea, which can alone give proﬁciency.
With a race that does not instinctively take to salt water, only rigid discipline can overcome the tendency to slackness and to omit exercises because it is more comfortable to be in harbour than at sea. Absence of this higher discipline in all ranks brought disaster upon Spain at the end, as it did at the beginning, of the nineteenth century. It is unnecessary to deal at length with the events which brought these two countries to war. Frequent rebellions in Cuba, and the inability of Spain either to subdue or govern the natives, had produced a feeling in the United States that the time for interference was at hand, when the destruction of the ‘Maine’ in Havana Harbour, on the night of February 15th, 1898, occurred. The American nation behaved with admirable calmness while a board of its naval oﬂicers inquired on the spot into the circumstances. When this reported the disaster due to a submarine mine that must have been placed for the purpose, all hope of peace disappeared. An ultimatum by the United States, that Spain must withdraw from Cuba, led to war commencing between the two countries on April zlst, and the despatch of an American squadron to blockade a portion of the coast of that island.
Also revenue cutter ‘ Hugh M‘Culloch’ and two colliers. The slow speed of the ‘Petrel’ prevented the squadron maintaining more than 8 knots an hour, but on the 30th they made the Island of Luzon. Having reconnoitred Subic Bay without seeing anything of the enemy, and hearing they were at Manila, Dewey decided to enter the bay that night.
Three islands at the entrance guard the approach, the principal one, Corregidor, being strongly fortiﬁed. Before arrival the American ships were prepared for battle; bulkheads taken down, and all useless lumber thrown overboard. Far different were the proceedings on the other side. The proximity of this squadron was known to the Spanish Admiral, Montojo, but he did not even take the precaution to have vedette ships or picquet boats patrolling outside to give notice of its approach. Hence the American ships, having extinguished all lights, except one on the stern of each vessel as a guide to her next ahead, were not discovered until abreast of the islands, just before midnight . Then rockets went up from Corregidor and a few shots were ﬁred upon the passing ships without effect, and soon the squadron passed out of sight and range. No mines or torpedo boats impeded its course, and Manila Bay had been entered without let or hindrance. Proceeding at moderate speed up the bay, the squadron arrived off Manila just before daybreak, and then observed the Spanish ﬂeet in the small bay formed by the promontory of Cavite.
A comparison of the two squadrons will show how inferior in all respects was that of the Spaniards, but the shore batteries, if efﬁciently armed and served, should have compensated for weakness aﬂoat. A parallel case is that of the Turkish squadron at Sinope in November 1853, where a few feeble batteries failed to avert destruction from the unfortunate frigates in the bay, and in like manner the Spanish forts at Cavite could produce no impression upon the force which had arrived on the same mission as Admiral Nachimoff. With obsolete artillery, probably never practised at a moving target, the American ships could run past them with comparative impunity while pouring in a destructive ﬁre upon the ships collected in that small bay. Such was the course pursued by Commodore Dewey. Coming down from Manila with his ships in line ahead the enemy opened ﬁre upon him shortly after 5 am, and two mines exploded a short distance ahead of the ‘Olympia.’
These were no doubt ﬁred by observation, a system very liable to error, which is usually corrected by placing several mines in line or in a group. They did not deter the American Commodore, and when within 5000 yards, ﬁrst the ‘Olympia’ and then the other ships began a cannonade, which was kept up for two hours, the squadron steaming backwards and forwards until ﬁve runs were completed, the last one being at much closer range. The Spanish guns meanwhile were not silent, and some of their shot took effect. A shell struck the ‘Olympia,’ but exploded outside, doing little damage. The ‘Baltimore’ was hit twice, wounding several men, but the Spanish gunnery on the whole was most defective. Doubtless the punishment they were receiving accounted in some measure for this; for the storm of shot and shell poured into them tended not only to demoralise but had set one or two ships on ﬁre. When the American squadron ceased ﬁring at 7.40 am. and hauled off to give the men breakfast, victory, however, by no means appeared evident, and it became necessary to ascertain what ammunition remained in the different ships, as they had no reserve supply at hand. This proving satisfactory, the squadron returned to action about II a.m., and as the reply was feeble the Commodore sent a portion of his squadron nearer in to attack the vessels that his guns had hardly yet been able to reach.
The ‘Petrel,’ owing to her light draught, could do this most effectually, and she performed the service with skill and daring. But the enemy offered little further resistance. The ‘Christina’ and ‘ Castilla’ had been on ﬁre for some time, while all the ships had lost heavily and suffered severe damage. Under these conditions no alternative remained but to haul down the Spanish ﬂag at the Arsenal as a signal of surrender. This terminated the battle, which resulted in the destruction of the Spanish squadron, for those ships not sunk were set on ﬁre, a transport and a few small craft only being retained as prizes. The Spaniards lost 167 killed and 214 wounded, of which a very large proportion belonged to the ‘Christina.’ No one was killed in the American ﬂeet, and. only ten ofﬁcers and men received wounds.
No important lesson as regards construction and armament can be derived from this action, for too great an inequality existed between the opposing forces. As regards tactics, by keeping his ships on the move, Dewey eﬂected what he sought with the least possible damage to himself. . He relied upon superior gunnery, whereas at anchor or stationary his ships might have I achieved the result in less time but at greater cost. His rapid movement bafﬂed the imperfectly-trained Spanish gunners. It is for the operations preceding the ﬁght that Dewey should receive the highest commendation . For boldness in conception and promptness of execution, his entry into Manila Bay stamps him as a naval commander worthy of a place with Farragut in the memory of his countrymen.\
In the West, as I have said, the ﬁrst operation was the despatch ofa squadron to blockade Havana. This left KeyWest on April 22nd, under the command of RearAdmiral Sampson, and consisted of the ‘New York,’ ‘Iowa,’ ‘Indiana,’ ‘Amphitrite,’ ‘Cincinnati,’ ‘Mayﬂower ,’ ‘ Wilmington,’ ‘ Castine,’ ‘ Newport,’ ‘ Nashville ’ and ‘ Machias,’ with the torpedo boats ‘Porter,’ ‘ Dupont,’ ‘Foote’ and ‘\/Vinslow.’ Another squadron, under Commodore Schley, remained in home waters to guard the coast against an attack from Spain, where it was known a squadron of fast cruisers was in readiness. The American battle ship ‘Oregon’ in the Paciﬁc was ordered, at the beginning of March, to proceed to the West Indies. She left Puget Sound on March 6th, and had reached the straits of Magellan when war broke out. This news met her on arrival at Rio janeiro on April 30th, but she left on May 4th, and arrived at Key West at the end of the month without being molested. The ‘Oregon’ had travelled nearly 15,000 miles on a little over 4000 tons of coal in seventy-nine days, including stoppages, and reached her destination in excellent condition. It was a ﬁne performance.
It is unnecessary to dwell upon the early Cuban blockade, for it presents no special features. The Spaniards had recalled all their important ships, while the remainder had no intention of risking capture. Their ﬁrst act was to mobilise at home what ships they had ready, and form a ﬂying squadron of the cruisers ‘ Infanta Maria Teresa,’ ‘ Vizcaya,’ ‘ Almirante Oquendo’ and " Christobal Colon,’ with the destroyers ‘ Pluton ’ and ‘Furor.’ They were at St Vincent under Admiral Cervera when war broke out, and on April 22nd the Admiral received orders from Madrid to proceed to the West Indies. Two of his ships, the ‘Vizcaya’ and ‘Oquendo,’ had left Havana a short time before the declaration of war, and it was a strange lack of strategical acumen which sent them back with others into the jaws ofthe enemy. For they could not relieve the situation in that part unless strong enough to ﬁght the blockader and by victory relieve the blockade—to challenge, in fact, his sea supremacy in West Indian waters. If unable to do this the locality should have been avoided, alternative objectives being interception of the ‘Oregon ’ and reinforcing their squadron in the East. Cervera remonstrated to no purpose, and sailed on the 29th for Puerto Rico. His departure but not his destination soon became known on the other side, and though no information reached Admiral Sampson of the enemy, he went to Puerto Rico, arriving off the harbour of San Juan on May 12th. Observing no ships within, he bombarded the batteries for some hours ; an unnecessary proceeding, because he had not the means to occupy the place and risked injury to his ships. One or two were struck and a few men wounded, but the squadron retired intact. Another objection to such operation, is that the enemy usually ascribes to the potency of his resistance the retirement of the attackers at the end of the day.
About the time this occurred, Cervera had arrived in the West Indies and communicated with Martinique. Hearing of Sampson at Puerto Rico probably decided the Spanish Admiral not to go there, so he proceeded to Curacoa and then made a dash for Santiago de Cuba, a harbour at the south-east end of the island, where he could neither assist the governor-general at Havana nor harm the enemy. As a measure to relieve the anxiety of the Americans who had continued to credit him with aggressive intentions, and to render the task of their naval commanders comparatively easy, Cervera could not well have selected a better course. The naval power of Spain was shattered from the moment he entered Santiago on May 19th.
Though his presence in the West Indies had been known for some days, scouting had failed to reveal the locality and course of this squadron. It proved once more the necessity of many cruisers, and which we do not appear to realise. Though Sampson had a good number under his command, made up from various sources, the blockade, despatch and other services demanded so many vessels that he could not detach enough scouts to ﬁnd and keep touch with Cervera until he reached his port. Successful war at sea, as on land, depends much on efﬁcient scouting, and this cannot be achieved without adequate numbers.
But if Cervera had managed to veil his movements, the fact of his squadron being bound on no aggressive mission soon became apparent, and Commodore Schley’s squadron was then sent to reinforce the ﬂeet under Sampson. The latter was thus able to blockade Cienfuegos at the south-western end of the island, and a port for which Cervera was expected to make, while maintaining his close guard of Havana.
Cervera had been some days in Santiago before the surmise as to his presence became a certainty to Admiral Sampson, and he then directed Schley to proceed there from Cienfeugos. This ofﬁcer established a blockade of the port on the 28th, before which date Cervera had an opportunity to escape if he promptly coaled and desired to leave. But he remained, and the arrival of Sampson on June Ist removed all chance of this, for now the blockade became much closer.
The method employed in this operation is the most noticeable feature of the war. Exponents—mostly civilians—of naval warfare have declared that steam and torpedo boats have rendered blockade in modern warfare impossible; that, being no longer dependent on the wind, vessels could not be prevented leaving a port, while fear of submarine attack would deter a blockading force from remaining. off it. Sampson demonstrated that steam had rendered blockade more certain, and that torpedo attack must be dealt with otherwise than by running away from it. He drew his vessels closer in at night and increased the dimculties of an exit at such a time by stationing a vessel off the mouth of the harbour with a powerful search-light, in face of which navigation becomes extremely difﬁcult, and under the rays of which every movement within would have been visible. From sunset to daybreak he thus vigilantly kept guard over the port, his mind being concentrated on the one idea of not allowing Cervera to escape. He was even ready to forego the wished-for ﬁght if the other object could be as efﬁciently attained. Hence his attempt to block the channel by sending in and sinking across it a merchant steamer prepared for the purpose. That she failed to sink in the right place does not detract from the courage and devotion exhibited by the small band which, under Mr Hobson, were eager to face the great risks which this enterprise entailed.\
On ]une 6th the blockading squadron bombarded the batteries at the entrance of the harbour, and such vessels within as could be observed from outside. The blockaders kept up a heavy ﬁre for some hours, to which the forts replied as well as their feeble armaments would permit, but with little effect, while the impression made by the storm of shot poured into them from the squadron only caused a temporary cessation of their ﬁre. Except for the target practice it afforded to both sides, this bombardment had little result. A more useful operation was the occupation next day by the Americans of Guantanamo Bay, thirty-seven miles east of Santiago. Having an excellent harbour, it afforded facilities for coaling and small repairs in convenient proximity to the work on hand. By this time the United States had organised a force for landing in Cuba with the necessary transport , so that, the sea being now clear, this sailed from Tampa on june 14th. Under ordinary circumstances its objective would be Havana, but the presence of Cervera’s squadron at Santiago had given the latter place greater importance, and to that point the expedition proceeded. On arrival on the 20th, Daiquiri, to the east of Santiago, was selected as the point of disembarkation, and the troops landed, under cover of the squadron, two days later, without opposition.
An advance towards Santiago then commenced. I do not propose to describe the ﬁghting on land. The Spaniards offered a gallant resistance, which might have been still more effectual but for an act which removed an important factor of defence. Admiral Cervera was fated to suffer from the incompetence of those who directed the Spanish campaign. Sent on a fruitless errand against his better judgment, he was now ordered to certainly sacriﬁce his squadron. When Prince Mentschikoff, after the Alma in 1854, saw an attack on Sebastopol by land was inevitable, he, with great foresight, ordered his Admiral to sink the Russian squadron at the mouth of the harbour. This debarred our ﬂeet from entering, while a splendid force of men, with all the material of a naval arsenal, became available for land defence. History records the splendid service of the Russian Fleet in that memorable siege.
General Blanco, at Havana, orders Cervera to take his ships to sea, telling him he exaggerated the difﬁculties of doing so. He writes, ‘There is no need to ﬁght. All you are asked to do is to escape.’ And if he escaped, where should he go? \/Vhat could four cruisers do against nearly the whole American Fleet? The General at Havana could not gauge the position of the Admiral at Santiago, but he orders and is obeyed. I have looked in vain since the war to ﬁnd those brought to account who brought unnecessary disaster upon Spain.
Cervera had most of his men on shore, but these were re-embarked, and about 9 a.m. on July 3rd he put to sea with the ‘ Infanta Maria Teresa,’ ‘Vizcaya,’ ‘ Cristobal Colon ’ and ‘ Almirante Oquendo.’ Some distance behind followed the destroyers, ‘Pluton’ and ‘Furor.’ The time selected does not seem judicious. If the enemy’s search-light made navigation of the channel at night most diﬂicult, why not have gone out just before dark, so that if not immediately disabled, some ofthe ships might have escaped? If all had scattered in different directions the chances seemed favourable for such an attempt. To give an enemy of superior force the Whole day for pursuit, and to steer in one direction only facilitated his task. It could only have one result. In a few minutes the American squadron observed the movement and at once went in chase. It is not necessary to give the relative strength of the two forces nor dwell upon the details of what can hardly be called a battle. Here was a moving target, with some power of reply, it is true, but overwhelmed by superior ﬁre and marksmanship. As the Spanish ships emerged from the harbour, they turned to the right or westward, and therefore came ﬁrst under the attack of the American ships at that end of the blockading line. The ‘Texas,’ ‘Iowa,’ ‘Indiana’ and ‘Brooklyn’ indeed greeted the fugitives with shot and shell before they had turned, and then proceeded on a parallel line, keeping up a continuous storm of projectiles. The other ships soon closed up and joined in the fray. Admiral Sampson, in the ‘ New York,’ was some distance to the eastward at the time, but made all haste to the scene. Under such circumstances there could be only one end. The ‘ Maria Teresa,’ being struck repeatedly and set on ﬁre, having also severe losses, turned to the shore, ran aground and lowered her ﬂag. The ‘Oquendo’ followed suit four miles further on. Most of her guns were disabled, and the explosion of one of her own torpedoes caused great damage. The ‘ Vizcaya ’ came next. Her captain says, ‘ The ﬁring was terriﬁc ; shells were bursting all round us. My ship was set on ﬁre by a shell exploding in my cabin. My engines and pumps were disabled. A shell ﬁnally exploded in one of my forward compartments, and I was forced to head for the shore.’ The ‘Cristobal Colon ’ held out longer, her better speed enabling her to draw out of range of most of the American ships. If the engineers and stokers could have produced the full capacity of the machinery she might have escaped.
But the speed fell off, and the ‘Oregon,’ which had been comingup ina remarkable way,now joined the‘Brooklyn,’ the leading ship. A shot from one of her heavy guns decided the captain of the ‘Colon ’ to beach his ship, and the last of the Spanish cruisers hauled her ﬂag down about one o’clock. If the large vessels were doomed to succumb, what chance of escape existed for the Destroyers , coming out as they did considerably astern of the main body? Had they moved up on leaving the harbour, taken station abreast and inshore of the cruisers, they might have withstood the ﬁrst onslaught. The smoke then gave them an opportunity for torpedo attack, or they could have pushed on and outstripped the pursuing vessels. But coming at once under a heavy ﬁre their end was speedy. Attacked especially by a small American vessel, the ‘Gloucester,’ and leaking badly, the ‘Pluton’ turned to the shore, receiving at the same time a heavy shell amidships, the explosion of which created great havoc in the engine room. She ran upon the rocks and sank. The ‘Furor’ fared no better. Hit several times by shot and shell, her engines and steering gear disabled, with most of her crew killed or disabled, she surrendered, and, soon after the survivors were removed, went to the bottom. Not a single craft escaped. It had been an easy victory, for the American squadron lost but one man killed and one wounded, testifying both to the overpowering effect of their own ﬁre in driving the Spaniards from their guns, and the absence of any effective reply. On the other hand, the loss in the Spanish squadron amounted to about 600 killed and wounded. A large number were taken prisoner, including Admiral Cervera. All the captured Spanish ofﬁcers bore testimony to the part played in the battle by the lighter ordnance guns. Crews were killed or driven from their weapons ; the decks became shambles. Then came ﬂames. The damage done by ignition of all woodwork in the ships was extraordinary . A shell on bursting seems to drive the burning explosive into the wood, and then water apparently has little effect in extinguishing the ﬂames. In the old days, the crew during action had usually to grapple with only one ﬁre at a time. Now there may be halfa dozen outbreaks in different parts requiring attention, according to the amount of inﬂammable material used in the construction. We learn mainly from this battle the necessity of reducing the quantity of wood on board war-ships to absolutely the smallest proportion. We have too long laboured under the delusion that, hulls, masts, machinery and armament being all of iron, the old danger of ﬁre in action now hardly exists. Yet in the interior we use hundreds of tons of wood for decks and ﬁttings which, under the effect of quick-ﬁre projectiles , becomes a greater danger than ever attended our wooden walls, owing to red-hot shot and common shell. That light guns would be more effective against such a squadron than those of 12 and 13-in. calibre is not remarkable. The latter are not intended for the destruction of cruisers, but as against battle ships of similar type to ‘Oregon ’ and ‘Iowa,’ guns heavier than those of 6 and even 8-in. calibre are essential. It was, moreover, the fear of the 13-in. projectiles of the ‘Oregon ’—when that ship got within range—which led to the ‘Cristobal Colon’ ceasing her efforts to escape, though practically uninjured up to that moment.
Torpedoes again played no part in this battle ; but it is evident that the universal custom of giving small cruisers this weapon is not commendable unless it is kept and discharged below the water line. The gun retains its ascendency for the same reason that caused it to supersede earlier weapons—an effective radius of action which no rival arm can approach. This superiority tends to increase rather than to diminish; for while the ram still remains a comparatively unknown factor, and the torpedo has scored but few successes in war, the gun in range. accuracy, and effect gives no indication that the limit of its power is yet reached. This latest naval war has afforded many subsidiary lessons in equipment and organisation; but it proves above all that the best weapons are of little avail without a well-trained and spirited personnel, combined with a skilful direction. Admiral Sampson and those who served under him demonstrated these qualities in a marked degree. We may rest assured they are equally present in our own ﬂeet.