The Navy in 1840
After Trafalgar the British navy was at the zenith of its fame, for we had established a complete supremacy on the ocean, and swept from the sea all hostile ﬂeets.
Every project of Napoleon for distant conquest had been frustrated by our ﬂeet, and in after years, at St Helena, he frankly recognised the fact. ‘ You,’ he said to O’Meara, in one of those many interesting conversations recorded by the latter, ‘are superior in maritime force to all the world united, and while you conﬁne yourself to that arm you will always be dreaded.’ On another occasion he remarked : ‘ Your soldiers are brave, nobody can deny it ; but it was bad policy to encourage the military mania instead of sticking to your marine, which is the real force of your country, and one which, while you preserve it, will always render you powerful.’ The Peninsular War and the battle of Waterloo, however, diverted the mind of the country from the navy, and for many years after the conclusion of peace, in 18I5, we were content to rest upon the glories we had achieved, exhausted by that long continued struggle. Our maritime strength gradually declined, but it was not until the Reform Bill of 1832 was passed that the navy suffered materially from the desire for economy in State expenditure which then prevailed. At that time the naval estimates for the effective service were about £4,250,000. In 1834 this was reduced to £3,000,000, and in 1835-36 to £2,750,000.
Our squadrons maintained abroad gradually dwindled in numbers, and it seemed as if a perpetual peace was expected. Not content, however, with reductions in the number of ships employed, the complements of individual vessels were reduced to what was termed a peace establishment, and we even went so far as to send vessels abroad without some of their guns. I believe it is a fact that a line-of-battle ship about this time was sent as ﬂagship to a station without her lower deck guns, in order to give more room for the admiral’s staff. During the ﬁrst half of the century few changes had been made in naval architecture or armaments. Fleets still consisted of sailing line-of-battle ships, frigates, and smaller vessels. Ofﬁcers were discussing the value of square or round sterns, the latter introduced by Sir Robert Seppings, then Surveyor of the Navy. The square stern was constructively weak, and the guns it carried could not be directed on a certain bearing termed the point of impunity. This had been observed in previous actions, when ships lost their masts and were not under command. The navy was reluctant to give up the square stern, as it afforded more cabin accommodation . But, as one of the most experienced ofﬁcers of the day said: ‘In peace time the circular stern will not be popular, but in the event of a change to hostilities its utility will ﬁnd innumerable advocates.’
A considerable modiﬁcation in the form of ships was, however, made when Captain—afterwards Sir William— Symonds was appointed Surveyor of the Navy in 1832. Being a naval ofﬁcer, there was considerable opposition to this appointment, which had hitherto been held by a member of the School of Naval Architecture. This school had been established in 1806 for the education of a more skilful class of trained Shipwrights. There had been many complaints in the old wars that our ships were inferior in design to the French. Charnock observes that ‘when the French captured an English ship they either put her on a lower rating or threw her aside. Their foundered or wrecked ships were invariably British built. When we were in chase, the French prizes of the squadron took the lead, and every officer desired to command them.’ It was only the splendid handling of any class by our ofﬁcers which overcame the defects of our designs. Moreover, captured vessels became the models from which we built. Even as late as 1850, out of 150 ships on the Navy Lz'sl, upwards of ﬁfty were from foreign models. Nor were the Spanish types considered unworthy of this honour.
Many of them are said to have been the production of an Irishman named Mullens, who went over to Spain and offered his improved plans to that Government after having failed with the English Admiralty. The ‘San josef’ and ‘San Nicolas,’ taken by Nelson in Lord St Vincent’s action, were both handsome vessels. The principle of Sir William Symonds was to give greater beam at the water line and sharpness below.
The old school were in favour of less beam. The average length had hitherto been 3.6 to 3.9 times the breadth. In Sir William Symonds’s Ships it ran from 3.1 to 3.3 times. He adopted the same principle for great and small, so that one would ﬁt inside another like a series of trays. The ‘ Vernon’ was the ﬁrst large vessel built from his designs. She was a 50-gun frigate, 183 ft. long, with a beam of 53 ft. Hitherto Surveyors of the Navy had been limited in the proportion of guns to tonnage, but Captain Symonds refused to have his hands tied in this respect, and no limitation was enforced on him. He therefore built the ‘Vernon’ of 2080 tons, a considerable increase over the tonnage of existing frigates. A great success was the result. The ‘Vernon’ sailed remarkably well, and is still up Portsmouth Harbour, having served for many years as the torpedo school ship.
The ‘Pique,’ another frigate of his design, of thirtysix guns, launched in 1834, was rendered famous in 1835, when, under the command of Captain the Hon. H. Rous, she came across the Atlantic without a rudder. She had previously grounded at the mouth of the St Lawrence, and sustained severe damage, but was got off, and her captain determined to proceed to England. Three days after starting she lost her rudder. This was a severe demand even upon the scamanship of those days, but a jury rudder was rigged up by which the ship was steered the rest of the way home. When Captain Rous afterwards stood for Westminster he was met at the hustings with the usual cry, ‘Who are you ?’ He answered,‘ Captain Rous of the “ Pique,” who brought her across the Atlantic without a rudder.’ ‘Bravo Rous ! ’ shouted everyone, and ‘Bravo Rous’ became for a time the common cry in London.
Owing to the economical principles then in vogue, it was not until 1835 that the ﬁrst line-of-battle ship on the designs of Captain Symonds was launched. This was the ‘ Vanguard,’ of 2610 tons and eighty guns. Her dimensions were, length 190 ft., and breadth 57 ft. She was the broadest ship in the navy. Her principal characteristics were speed and handiness under canvas, with great space between decks. A great improvement effected by Captain Symonds in 1836 was in reducing the different lists of ships’ stores, which had gradually accumulated to the number of eighty-seven, owing to there being so many classes of vessels in the navy. It is recorded that when Nelson was off Cadiz he had no less than seven classes of 74-gun ships each requiring different spars, so that if one had been disabled the others could not have supplied her wants.
In 1839 the ‘Queen,’ a three-decker, and the largest ship built by Sir William Symonds—he was knighted in 1836—was launched at Portsmouth. Her dimensions were, size 3Ioo tons, length 204 ft., and beam 61 ft.
The armament consisted of a hundred 32-pounders and ten 68-pounders. Her total cost was £115,000. The Shape of the stern was elliptical, an improvement on Seppings’s round stem. The ‘Queen’ was justly considered a remarkably ﬁne vessel, and formed the model on which many future designs were based. Up to 1830 the want of precision in our ideas as to the best types of line-of-battle ships to adopt had been very apparent. But after that date we discontinued building small three-deckers, and converted some into two-decked ships of eighty guns. In the same way small two-deckers were cut down to 50-gun frigates. These were termed Razées. A certain lot of vessels were known as Jackass frigates, because it was said they could neither ﬁght nor run, while a batch of small two-deckers were called the ‘forty thieves.’ The general outcome of the old wars had brought home to the minds of all who studied the question that neither the very great nor the very small in ship construction was desirable. Number, not size, was our great requirement, and moderate dimensions had sufﬁced to maintain the sea against all comers. The next great war will probably lead to the same result in modern naval architecture.
Turning to the armaments of ships of war at that period, we ﬁnd little advance since the beginning of the century. Cast-iron smooth bore ordnance was universally employed, with spherical projectiles. In 1838 the heaviest solid shot gun was a. 32-pounder, 9 ft. 6 in. long, and weighing 56 cwt. A 42-pounder had been used in the old wars, but was now discarded as having no advantages over the lighter piece. But guns for throwing hollow shot and shell had recently been designed, though not at ﬁrst regarded with great favour. The: principle on which guns were constructed in those days was exceedingly simple. The rule of Mr Monk, who then designed ordnance, was to have 1% cwt. of metal in the gun to each pound in weight of shot. A great advance, however, was made about 1840 by the introduction of a gun weighing 95 cwt., which threw a solid shot of sixtyeight pounds. It was at ﬁrst intended as a pivot gun for steamers, but afterwards was almost universally carried by all ships, and remained for many years our heaviest piece of ordnance aﬂoat. Carronades, short guns of large calibre, also formed part of a ship’s armament.
They were formidable at close range, but no match for long guns at any distance. Consequently only a certain number of these guns were carried, because if the wind failed at a critical moment, before close quarters could be reached, an enemy with a single long gun might do great damage, without her adversary having any power of reply. Instances of this had occurred during the old wars. Loading guns with double shot was still in force, but owing to the inaccuracy of this mode of ﬁring it was only used at very close quarters. As regards penetration of wooden sides, some curious results were obtained, at Gavre in France, about the year 1838. A 32-pounder with double shot was ﬁred against timber, and it was found that the shot nearest the charge penetrated 29 in., while the one furthest from the charge penetrated 42 in.
There were three types of mortars then in the sea service, the 13 in. of 100 cwt. and 81 cwt., and the 10 in. of 52 cwt. They had a range of about 4000 yards, with an elevation of 45°, and their object was, in abombardment, to crush buildings and penetrate magazines. Their transport by sea was not difﬁcult or costly, and it was considered that a fleet should be provided with vessels for this service. The introduction of shells was slow. The old prejudice in favour of solid shot was not easily overcome. The latter were said to be more accurate, and to have greater range and penetration than hollow shell. Objections were also raised to putting too many shell guns in ships, on account of the danger of accidental explosions.
Another argument used against the introduction of these projectiles was their cost. Sir Howard Douglas, in his work on Naval Gunnery, says: ‘The expense of shell equipment is enormous. The cost of every 8-inch shell in box is 115. 6d. Each one ﬁred costs 175. 4%d.’ The I 75. 4%d. included the powder, the amount of which was 10 lbs. What would Sir Howard have said if told that ﬁfty years later the cost of a single round from guns mounted in battle ships would range from £150 to £200? How insigniﬁcant seems the 68-pound shot, propelled by 16 lbs. of powder, beside the 1800-lb.
projectile of to-day. But as regards shell, it required the incident of Sinope a few years later to demonstrate the terrible effect of shell ﬁre upon wooden ships, and the necessity of a change in naval architecture. In other matters connected with ordnance we were also very conservative. Our guns were still ﬁred with ﬁint locks, which had replaced the priming horn and match in I 780. The French had already adopted the percussion lock.
In a letter from Commander Milne—now Sir Alexander Milne—t0 the Surveyor of the Navy, dated May 5th, 1839, when the former was in command of the ‘ Snake,’ at Bermuda, he says: ‘The French Squadron have left Vera Cruz. We were nearly three months lying together at that place, and had an opportunity of seeing their new improvements. The chief one was the invariable use of detonating locks, acting on the principle of a hammer falling down on the vent hole, in which a tube is placed of the same material as ours, the top alone being of detonating powder. They say they answer most completely, and never miss ﬁre.’ We did not introduce the hammer and percussion tube until 1842. Our powder was enclosed in paper cartridges, but in a few years flannel was substituted, and continued in use until a comparatively recent period.
In gunnery training, however, our seamen had not been neglected. The ‘Excellent’ had been established at Portsmouth in 1830, by Lord Melville, for training seamen in gunnery. This establishment was extended by Sir James Graham in 1832, and placed under Captain Sir Thomas Hastings. There it has remained until the present time, turning out an admirable corps of naval gunners, which may be truly considered the backbone of the ﬂeet as far as its seamen are concerned. Previously to this there had been no systematic gunnery in the navy, and proﬁciency in this respect much depended on individual captains. Not long after the ‘Excellent’ was established at Portsmouth, the ‘Edinburgh,’ a 58-gun ship, was stationed at Plymouth for the same purpose, and placed under the ‘Excellent.’ It is now better known as the ‘Cambridge,’ where equally good work is carried out, and efﬁciency is ensured by the healthy rivalry maintained between the two depots.
At the time under review there is no doubt that the great defect of our naval system was in the manning of the ships, and the diﬂiculty of procuring seamen without great delay. Ships sometimes had to wait months before the crew was complete. Ofﬁcers had to visit all the well-known haunts of seamen, and use every sort of persuasion to get men to enter their ships.
According to the custom then, men only joined a ship for a commission, and on paying off—if no other ship was being brought forward for commission—a number of men were thus thrown on their own resources. The result was that hundreds of splendid men were lost to the navy, many going over to America, or taking up other avocations. The time required for manning a ship depended much on the captain’s reputatiOn in the service. Placards in the seaport of ﬁtting out such as the following were resorted to :—‘ Wanted active seamen for the “ Powerful "—Captain Napier. The “Powerful” is a ﬁne ship, and in the event of a war will be able to take her own part.’ ‘ Wanted seamen for the “ Superb.” A superb ship, a superb captain, and a superb crew.’
This difﬁculty of obtaining men was not experienced to the same extent when war was anticipated, because the attraction of prize money was a powerful inducement to join, and there is always the natural love of adventure in the British race. Hence on an emergency the radical defects of our system were not so apparent. In France, on the other hand, where, since Colbert established the Maritime Inscription, all seamen are bound to serve in the navy for a few years, and then pass into the reserve, there has at times been a difﬁculty in getting them back promptly when required. On one occasion, some years ago, additional ships were ordered to be equipped in France, which necessitated calling out a portion of the naval reserves. These consisted chieﬂy of coast ﬁshermen , and a number tried to put to sea in their boats to evade the order. Some succeeded, and others were arrested before they could get away. Another example may be cited. When the Crimean War broke out we were far from being prepared, yet the manning of the ﬂeet was comparatively expeditious. Lord Malmesbury records in his memoirs, on February 9th, 1854: ‘ Sailors are coming in very fast. The rapidity with which our ships are equipped excites the astonishment of the French.’ Again, on March 10th, he says: ‘The Queen reviewed the ﬂeet at Spithead. The French ﬂeet is not ready, neither are their transport for the troops.’ The result was that our squadron was in the Baltic aconsiderable time before it was joined by our allies.
When we passed from the 01d irregular method of manning the ﬂeet, and adopted the continuous service system (under which seamen enter for ten years, with the option of continuing at its expiration for a further similar period, followed by a pension), coupled with the entry and training of boys, a complete revolution was effected in this portion of the naval service. The delays of manning in peace time disappeared, and all uncertainty in the matter, when hostilities are apprehended , is removed. For a reserve in time of war we rely on 25,000 merchant seamen, only a portion of whom have served on board a man-of-war, but are annually drilled to guns and small arms at various depots round the coast. How far the comparatively large number of highly trained seamen we maintain, together with this somewhat uncertain reserve, would supply the requirements of a protracted maritime war it is difﬁcult to say. The waste, from many causes, would be very great if the struggle were severe, but seeing the number of men this country possesses who are, or have been, connected in some way with the sea, and who would be of great assistance when acting with trained seamen, I do not think that in this respect our resources will prove inadequate.
A review of the composition of navies sixty years ago would be incomplete without a reference to steam propulsion, because the paddle-wheel steamer was then in existence, and a certain number of vessels of this description were in the ﬂeet. Of course, the great step at this period was the introduction of the screw propeller, but of this it is proposed to treat in a subsequent chapter.
Previous to the year 1830 our Government only possessed a few small steamers, principally employed for the purpose of towing ships in and out of harbour, or for coast service, with an occasional trip to Malta or Gibraltar. They were all paddle-wheel vessels. There does not appear to have been at this time any general idea that the new motive power was about to supersede the propulsion of war ships by sails. Even the most advanced and talented of naval ofﬁcers could not contemplate steam vessels otherwise than as an auxiliary— more or less important—to the larger ﬁghting vessels of the past. Thus, writing to the Secretary of the Admiralty , in 1827, Captain Charles Napier says: ‘In another war steam will become to the navy what cavalry is to the army. It will be the post of honour.’ By another distinguished ofﬁcer it is compared to the horses which draw the artillery in the ﬁeld. The usefulness of steam was to be found in scouting, in towing the regular ﬁghting ships into action, and afterwards falling upon any of the enemy which might be disabled. Calms would no longer prevent our ships from closing, or light airs enable a faster sailing ship to escape. Hitherto there had been no other way of giving progress to a sailing ship in a calm than by getting the boats out to tow her, a very slow and tedious operation. But it was 'thought at this time that paddle-wheels might be utilised even though not worked by steam power.
Hence the ‘Active,’ a 46-gun frigate, was ﬁtted with paddles worked by the capstan. A speed of from two to three knots was obtained, but the plan involved so much labour 0n the part of the crew that it was given up. When, however, Captain Napier, who was then a man of great energy and enterprise, commissioned the ‘Galatea,’ a 42-gun frigate, in 1829, he was allowed to ﬁt her with paddles actuated by winches inboard.
About two-thirds of the crew were required to work them efﬁciently, and a speed of three knots in a calm could be obtained. It was, of course, hard work for the men, but as the, captain said, they did not mind it if they were thus enabled to get into harbour when the wind failed, instead of remaining outside waiting for a breeze.
Speed according to draught, . . . . 8 to 10 knots. They had three masts, and carried sails. With the paddles disconnected, and allowed to revolve freely, they sailed fairly well. They were called steam sloops, and had a few guns on the upper deck for hollow shot and shell. Later on the 68-pounder was-employed as a pivot gun at their extremities. A larger class were called steam frigates, and had guns on the main deck.
They varied in size from I200 to 1800 tons. The amount of coal carried in proportion to their Size was large, owing to the great consumption with those early engines. Thus the ‘ Sidon,’ one of these frigates, could stow 600 tons of coal. The general armament for this class consisted of fourteen 32-pounders on the main deck and four 68-pounders on the upper deck. One of this type, the ‘ Terrible,’ of 1830 tons, was considered a very ﬁne vessel, and performed efﬁcient service in the Black Sea during the Crimean War. Paddle-wheel steamers were, moreover, represented in our navy until quite recent years. All the Royal yachts are even now paddle-wheel, as this application of steam power allows of such excellent accommodation and comfort. Another advantage is that it enables a comparatively large vessel to be constructed on a light draught of water.
This review of ﬂeets sixty years ago may ﬁtly conclude with a brief notice of an operation carried out by a British naval squadron composed of sailing ships supplemented by paddle steamers. This was the bombardment of Acre in the year 1840. Steam played an unimportant part in the action, and the incident is chieﬂy valuable as showing the power of the old ships and their armaments when opposed to forts which could be attacked from the sea.
Such an attack must be considered hazardous or the reverse, according to the circumstances of the case. When to Lord Exmouth was entrusted the service of reducing the stronghold of Algiers, in the year 1816, people in England were surprised at the smallness of the force with which he entered upon the task. But his plans were based upon certain information by which he was convinced that the batteries could be destroyed by a squadron of moderate dimensions. The result entirely justiﬁed his views, and he gained the greater credit in consequence. In considering the attack of fortiﬁcations by the vessels then employed, and the success which attended such operations at Algiers and Acre, the number of guns carried by line-of-battle ships and the rapidity of their ﬁre are important points. As regards the ﬁrst point, take the armament of one of the largest ships of that day, the ‘Nelson.’ She carried 120 guns, sixty on each side. Of course, in attacking forts a ship of this type could usually only engage one broadside, but this consisted of sixty guns, and the weight of metal thrown by them was 2750 lbs. When we add to this the rapidity of ﬁre which then prevailed, say a round a minute, which was usually exceeded, an idea can be formed of the overwhelming cannonade to which a dozen line-of-battle ships could subject fortiﬁcations mounting probably far fewer guns. The height of the land defences from the sea, also, was material in affecting the result. Batteries placed nearly on a level with the water are far more subject to the ﬁre of ships, and much less formidable to them, than batteries elevated somewhat above the surface of the sea. A practical illustration of this was given in the Crimean War, when our ships attacked the forts on the north side of Sebastopol. To this I shall refer again later on. Let us now see how some of these remarks on the attack of fortresses are borne out in the bombardment of Acre.
On July 15th, 1840, a convention was concluded between Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia and Turkey, whereby the four powers agreed to support the Ottoman Empire against Mehemet Ali, the Pacha of Egypt. In the previous year a strong squadron, sent by the Sultan to act against the Egyptian forces, had deserted to the enemy without striking a blow. This squadron was now in Alexandria, watched by a detachment of our Mediterranean ﬂeet, while the remainder, in conjunction with a Turkish and Austrian Squadron, were operating against Northern Syria, then in the possession of Mehemet Ali. The operations proving successful, the attack on Acre was decided on. The fortiﬁcations of this town were considered most formidable , and had been kept in good order since the time when Acre, under Sir Sidney Smith, had resisted the efforts of Napoleon. Mehemet Ali appears to have considerably strengthened the defences on the land side, but not to have done much to the fortiﬁcations on the sea front. Nevertheless, the walls were of considerable height and solidity, mounting about 200 smooth bore guns of different dimensions. The garrison consisted of about 5000 men, who had been well trained by the commander of the place. This was a Polish officer, Colonel Schultz, who had taken service with the Egyptians, and by his exertions had brought the troops under his command into a high state of efﬁciency.
The feasibility of attacking Acre had been discussed some time previously, and two of our frigates, the ‘ Pique,’ Captain Boxer, and the ‘Talbot,’ Captain Codrington, had been employed in surveying the water approaches. This work was admirably carried out; the positions of the shoals were ascertained, and buoys placed to mark their positions. No impediment was offered by the garrison to this proceeding, and apparently the ofﬁcer in command treated such preparations with contempt.
But it was not so in reality, for he had the distances to the buoys carefully measured, and detailed the guns so that the vicinity of each buoy was commanded by a portion of the defence. Fortunately the ships, as it happened, did not take up the prearranged positions, and the casualties on our side were much reduced in consequence. The force about to attack Acre consisted of seven line-of-battle ships, the ‘Princess Charlotte,’ ‘Powerful,’ ‘Bellerophon,’ ‘Revenge,’ ‘Thunderer,’ ‘Edinburgh ,’ and ‘Benbow’; four frigates, the ‘Castor,’ ‘Pique,’ ‘Carysfort,’ and ‘Talbot’; two sloops, the ‘Wasp’ and ‘Hazard’; and four paddle steamers, the ‘Gorgon,’ ‘Stromboli,’ ‘Phoenix,’ and ‘Vesuvius.’ Admiral the Hon. Sir Robert Stopford was Commander-in-Chief, and ﬂew his ﬂag in the ‘Princess Charlotte,’ and Commodore Charles Napier, in the ‘Powerful,’ was second in command. There were also three Austrian ships and the Turkish flagship co-operating in the attack. Admiral Stopford was an ofﬁcer of long and meritorious service. He had entered the navy in 1780, and as captain of the ‘Aquilon’ participated in Lord I-Iowe’s action on the 1st of June 1794. In 1804, when in command of the ‘Spencer,’ he accompanied Lord Nelson in his chase of the French and Spanish ﬂeet to the West Indies, but did not take part in the battle of Trafalgar, having been detached a few days previously to proceed with a squadron under Rear-Admiral Louis to Gibraltar for provisions. He had also been engaged in numerous other actions, and his record was such as to leave no doubt that any operation undertaken by him would be well performed. Commodore Napier also had seen much service in all parts of the world, and gained considerable reputation for his exploits when in command of the Portuguese ﬂeet some few years previously.
He had lately been employed in Northern Syria, in land operations against the forces of Mehemet Ali, and displayed special aptitude for such irregular warfare. His energy was remarkable, but conﬁdence in his own powers tended to make him impatient of control, and hence the position of second in command was not altogether congenial to him. This characteristic led to a misunderstanding as regards the method of attacking Acre, which not only produced unpleasantness between the two chiefs, but also nearly brought about a failure in the intended attack.
The squadron anchored on November 2d, barely out of range of the guns of the fortress, and the plan of attack for the next day was then discussed. Acre stands on an acute angle of the coast, jutting out into the sea. It therefore presented two faces, one running nearly north and south, and facing west, while the other side ran nearly east and west, facing south. Both sides were well defended, though the batteries on the western face were more powerful, but few of the guns were much above the level of the sea. On each side Shoals prevented large ships from coming close in.
It was decided to divide the squadron into two detachments , the ‘Edinburgh,’ ‘Benbow,’ the small ships and foreign vessels were to attack the south side, and the remainder would engage the west face. The steamers were to lay off and use their shell ﬁre to best advantage. At one time it was proposed that they should tow the other vessels to their positions, but there not being enough steam vessels to do this simultaneously, the plan was abandoned. The decision come to was that the vessels should take up their positions under sail, the ‘Powerful’ to lead, until opposite the further or southern end of the west face, followed by the others, then all to anchor together in their assigned places, according to which each portion of that side would have a ship opposite to it. '
The next morning, therefore, when a fair but light breeze sprang up, the ships weighed and sailed down to Acre. Napier, however, anchored before arriving at the extremity of the west face. He for some reason misunderstood the plan, and apparently expected the other ships to pass ahead of him. The result was that a portion of the west face was not covered by an opposing force. Fortunately the ‘Revenge’ had not anchored, and she was directed by the admiral to ﬁll the gap ahead of the ‘Powerful.’ This She did. The force to act against the southern side was somewhat put out by these movements, but Captain Stewart, in the ‘Benbow,’ asked permission to pro— ceed to his station, and went on, followed by the ‘Edinburgh.’ As the ‘Benbow’ approached, Captain Stewart found deeper water than he expected, and was thus enabled to pass inside the buoys and get nearer the town. The ‘ Edinburgh ’ did the same. Up to this time no sign of life had come from the fortress, and the guns were screened. They had, however, been laid on the buoys, and the instant the ships anchored ﬂags were hoisted on shore, and a heavy ﬁre opened. Owing to the altered positions of the ships on both sides it was not nearly so deadly as it would otherwise have been. On the south side the shot just passed over the ships, and the water beyond was a sheet of foam. It would have been unsafe to hold a hand up above the bulwarks.
On the north side, also, the shot struck the water where the buoys had been placed, but as the ships anchored in other positions they escaped much of the ﬁre. The ships began the bombardment about the same time, and for two hours it was returned from the shore with gradually decreasing energy. Then an event took place which decided the fate of Acre. A large magazine blew up, having been ignited by a shell from one of the ships, and destroyed a great portion of the town and defences, and killed over [000 of the defenders. From this moment the ﬁre of the batteries on shore slackened, and half-an-hour after had virtually ceased. It being now sunset, the ships also discontinued the action, but made preparations to renew the combat next day as no indications of submission were apparent. The place, however, was evacuated in the night, and we took possession of it next morning. On our side the casualties were not numerous, consisting of eighteen killed and forty-one wounded. The damage sustained by the ships was not serious, and soon repaired. The number of the enemy killed and wounded was never ascertained, but it could not have been less than from 2000 to 3000. About the same number were taken prisoners, or gave themselves up when our force landed the following day.
Among them was Colonel Schultz, who had been wounded. He said it was impossible to withstand such an incessant stream of ﬁre as was poured from our guns. Even the bravest troops would have been demoralised. The result was due to a heavy cannonade at close quarters, kept up unremittingly from a great number of guns. At the same time the ships had certain fortuitous advantages which might not be conceded on another occasion. The action did not prove that our wooden walls could at all times attack forts with impunity, and indeed the contrary was demonstrated fourteen years later in the Black Sea. But the bombardment of Acre showed in a striking manner the terms upon which the old ships could contend successfully with land defences which at ﬁrst sight seemed almost impregnable.