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Title: Lessons of the war with Spain and other articles
Author: Mahan, A. T. (Alfred Thayer), 1840-1914
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Lessons of the War with Spain

And Other Articles

Lessons of the War
with Spain

_And Other Articles_

Captain United States Navy



_Copyright, 1898, 1899,_

_Copyright, 1898,_

_Copyright, 1899,_

_Copyright, 1899,_

_Copyright, 1899,_

_All rights reserved_

University Press


The original intention, with which the leading articles of the present
collection were undertaken, was to elicit some of the lessons
derivable from the war between the United States and Spain; but in the
process of conception and of treatment there was imparted to them the
further purpose of presenting, in a form as little technical and as
much popular as is consistent with seriousness of treatment, some of
the elementary conceptions of warfare in general and of naval warfare
in particular. The importance of popular understanding in such matters
is twofold. It promotes interest and induces intelligent pressure upon
the representatives of the people, to provide during peace the
organization of force demanded by the conditions of the nation; and it
also tends to avert the unintelligent pressure which, when war exists,
is apt to assume the form of unreasoning and unreasonable panic. As a
British admiral said two hundred years ago, "It is better to be
alarmed now, as I am, than next summer when the French fleet may be in
the Channel." Indifference in times of quiet leads directly to
perturbation in emergency; for when emergency comes, indifference is
found to have resulted in ignorance, and fear is never so overpowering
as when, through want of comprehension, there is no check upon the
luxuriance of the imagination.

It is, of course, vain to expect that the great majority of men should
attain even an elementary knowledge of what constitutes the strength
or weakness of a military situation; but it does not seem extravagant
to hope that the individuals, who will interest themselves thus far,
may be numerous enough, and so distributed throughout a country, as to
constitute rallying points for the establishment of a sound public
opinion, and thus, in critical moments, to liberate the responsible
authorities from demands which, however unreasonable, no
representative government can wholly withstand.

The articles do not in any sense constitute a series. Written for
various occasions, at various times, there is in them no sequence of
treatment, or even of conception. Except the last, however, they all
have had a common origin in the war with Spain. This may seem somewhat
questionable as regards the one on the Peace Conference; but, without
assuming to divine all the motives which led to the call for that
assembly, the writer is persuaded that between it and the war there
was the direct sequence of a corollary to its proposition. The
hostilities with Spain brought doubtless the usual train of
sufferings, but these were not on such a scale as in themselves to
provoke an outcry for universal peace. The political consequences, on
the other hand, were much in excess of those commonly resultant from
war,--even from maritime war. The quiet, superficially peaceful
progress with which Russia was successfully advancing her boundaries
in Asia, adding gain to gain, unrestrained and apparently
irrestrainable, was suddenly confronted with the appearance of the
United States in the Philippines, under conditions which made
inevitable both a continuance of occupancy and a great increase of
military and naval strength. This intrusion, into a sphere hitherto
alien to it, of a new military power, capable of becoming one of the
first force, if it so willed, was momentous in itself; but it was
attended further with circumstances which caused Great Britain, and
Great Britain alone among the nations of the earth, to appear the
friend of the United States in the latter's conflict. How this
friendliness was emphasized in the Philippines is a matter of common

Coincident with all this, though also partly preceding it, has been
the growing recognition by the western nations, and by Japan, of the
imminence of great political issues at stake in the near future of
China. Whether regarded as a field for commerce, or for the exercise
of the varied activities by which the waste places of the earth are
redeemed and developed, it is evidently a matter of economical--and
therefore of political--importance to civilized nations to prevent the
too preponderant control there of any one of their number, lest the
energies of their own citizens be debarred from a fair opportunity to
share in these advantages. The present conditions, and the recent
manifestations of antagonism and rivalry, are too well known for
repetition. The general situation is sufficiently understood, yet it
is doubtful whether the completeness and rapidity of the revolution
which has taken place in men's thoughts about the Pacific are duly
appreciated. They are shown not only by overt aggressive demands of
various European states, or by the extraordinary change of sentiment
on the subject of expansion that has swept over America, but very
emphatically by the fact, little noted yet well assured, that leading
statesmen of Japan--which only three years ago warned the United
States Government that even the annexation of Hawaii could not by her
be seen with indifference--now welcome our presence in the

This altered attitude, on the part of a people of such keen
intelligence, has a justification which should not be ignored, and a
significance which should not be overlooked. It bears vivid testimony
to the rate at which events, as well as their appreciation of events
and of conditions, have been advancing. It is one of the symptoms of a
gathering accord of conviction upon a momentous subject. At such a
time, and on such a scene, the sympathetic drawing together of the two
great English-speaking nations, intensely commercial and enterprising,
yet also intensely warlike when aroused, and which exceed all others
in their possibilities of maritime greatness, gave reason for
reflection far exceeding that which springs from imaginative
calculations of the future devastations of war. It was a direct result
of the war with Spain, inevitably suggesting a probable drift towards
concurrent action upon the greatest question of the immediate future,
in which the influence of force will be none the less real because
sedulously kept in the background of controversies. If, however, the
organic development of military strength could be temporarily arrested
by general agreement, or by the prevalence of an opinion that war is
practically a thing of the past, the odds would be in favor of the
state which at the moment of such arrest enjoys the most advantageous
conditions of position, and of power already created.

In reproducing these articles, the writer has done a little editing,
of which it is needless to speak except in one respect. His views on
the utility of coast fortification have met with pronounced adverse
criticism in some quarters in England. Of this he has neither cause
nor wish to complain; but he is somewhat surprised that his opinions
on the subject here expressed are thought to be essentially opposed to
those he has previously avowed in his books,--the Influence of
Sea-Power upon History, and upon the French Revolution. While wholly
convinced of the primacy of the navy in maritime warfare, and
maintaining the subordination to it of the elements of power which
rest mainly upon land positions, he has always clearly recognized, and
incidentally stated, not only the importance of the latter, but the
general necessity of affording them the security of fortification,
which enables a weaker force to hold its own against sudden attack,
and until relief can be given. Fortifications, like natural accidents
of ground, serve to counterbalance superiority of numbers, or other
disparity of means; both in land and sea warfare, therefore, and in
both strategy and tactics, they are valuable adjuncts to a defence,
for they constitute a passive reinforcement of strength, which
liberates an active equivalent, in troops or in ships, for offensive
operations. Nor was it anticipated that when coast defence by
fortification was affirmed to be a nearly constant element, the word
"constant" would be understood to mean the same for all countries, or
under varying conditions of popular panic, instead of applying to the
deliberate conclusions of competent experts dealing with a particular
military problem.

Of the needs of Great Britain, British officers should be the best
judge, although even there there is divergence of opinion; but to his
own countrymen the author would say that our experience has shown that
adequate protection of a frontier, by permanent works judiciously
planned, conduces to the energetic prosecution of offensive war. The
fears for Washington in the Civil War, and for our chief seaports in
the war with Spain, alike illustrate the injurious effects of
insufficient home defence upon movements of the armies in the field,
or of the navies in campaign. In both instances dispositions of the
mobile forces, vicious from a purely military standpoint, were imposed
by fears for stationary positions believed, whether rightly or
wrongly, to be in peril.

For the permission to republish these articles the author begs to
thank the proprietors of the several periodicals in which they first
appeared. The names of these, and the dates, are given, together with
the title of each article, in the Table of Contents.


    McClure's Magazine, December, 1898-April, 1899.


  I. How the Motive of the War gave Direction to its Earlier
      Movements.--Strategic Value of Puerto
      Rico.--Considerations on the Size and Qualities of
      Battleships.--Mutual Relations of Coast Defence and Navy      21

  II. The Effect of Deficient Coast-Defence upon the Movements
      of the Navy.--The Military and Naval Conditions of Spain
      at the Outbreak of the War                                    53

  III. Possibilities open to the Spanish Navy at the Beginning
      of the War.--The Reasons for Blockading Cuba.--First
      Movements of the Squadrons under Admirals Sampson and
      Cervera                                                       90

  IV. Problems presented by Cervera's Appearance in West Indian
      Waters.--Movements of the United States Divisions and of
      the _Oregon_.--Functions of Cruisers in a Naval Campaign     126

  V. The Guard set over Cervera.--Influence of Inadequate
      Numbers upon the Conduct of Naval and Military
      Operations.--Cámara's Rush through the Mediterranean, and
      Consequent Measures taken by the United States               170

    North American Review, October, 1899.

    Engineering Magazine, January, 1899.

DISTINGUISHING QUALITIES OF SHIPS OF WAR                           257
    Scripps-McRae Newspaper League, November, 1898.

CURRENT FALLACIES UPON NAVAL SUBJECTS                              277
    Harpers' Monthly Magazine, June, 1898.


ISLAND OF CUBA            _To face page_                            59

THE CARIBBEAN SEA         _To face page_                           113






It is somewhat of a commonplace among writers upon the Art of War,
that with it, as with Art in general, the leading principles remain
unimpaired from age to age. When recognized and truly mastered, not
held by a passive acquiescence in the statements of another, but
really appropriated, so as to enter decisively into a man's habit of
thought, forming in that direction the fibre of his mind, they not
only illuminate conditions apparently novel, by revealing the
essential analogies between them and the past, but they supply the
clue by which the intricacies of the present can best be threaded.
Nothing could be more utterly superficial, for instance, than the
remark of a popular writer that "the days of tacks and sheets"--of
sailing ships, that is--"have no value as lessons for the days of
steam and armor." Contrast with such an utterance the saying of the
great master of the art,--Napoleon: "If a man will surprise the
secrets of warfare, let him study the campaigns of Hannibal and of
Cæsar, as well as those of Frederick the Great and my own."

Comprehension of warfare, therefore, consists, first, in the
apprehension and acceptance--the mental grasp--of a few simple general
principles, elucidated and formulated by admitted authorities upon the
subject, and, second, in copious illustration of these principles by
the application of them to numerous specific instances, drawn from
actual experiences of war--from history. Such illustration, adequately
developed by exposition of facts and of principles in the several
cases, pointing out, where necessary, substantial identity underlying
superficial diversity, establishes gradually a body of precedents,
which reinforce, by all the weight of cumulative authority, the
principle that they illuminate. Thus is laid the substantial
foundation upon which the Art of War securely rests. It is perhaps
advisable--though it should be needless--to say that, when a student
has achieved such comprehension, when his mind has mastered the
principles, and his memory is richly stored with well-ordered
precedents, he is, in war, as in all other active pursuits of life,
but at the beginning of his labors. He has girded on his armor, but he
has not yet proved it,--far less is qualified to boast as one about to
put it off after a good life's fight. It remains yet to be seen
whether he has the gifts and the manhood to use that which he has
laboriously acquired, or whether, as happens with many other men
apparently well qualified, and actually well furnished with the raw
material of knowledge in various professions, he will be unable to
turn power into success. This question trial alone can decide in each
individual case; but while experience thus forces all to realize that
knowledge does not necessarily imply capacity to use it, that there
may be foundation upon which no superstructure will be raised,
few--and those not the wisest--are inclined to dispute that antecedent
training, well-ordered equipment, where other things are equal, does
give a distinct advantage to the man who has received it. The blaze
of glory and of success which, after forty years of patient waiting,
crowned the last six months of Havelock's life, raising him from
obscurity to a place among the immortals, attests the rapidity with
which the perfect flower of achievement can bud and fully bloom, when,
and only when, good seed has been sown in ground fitly prepared.

There are two principal methods of imparting the illustrations that,
in their entirety, compose the body of precedents, by which the
primary teachings of the Art of War are at once elucidated and
established. By the first, the several principles may be separately
stated, more or less at large, each being followed closely by the
appropriate illustrations, drawn, as these in such a treatment most
suitably may, from different periods and from conditions which on the
surface appear most divergent. Or, on the other hand, the consecutive
narrative of a particular series of operations may be given, in such
detail as is necessary, accompanied by a running commentary or
criticism, in which the successive occurrences are brought to the test
of recognized standards; inference being drawn, or judgment passed,
accordingly. The former is the more formal and methodical; it serves
better, perhaps, for starting upon his career the beginner who
proposes to make war the profession of his life; for it provides him,
in a compact and systematic manner, with certain brief rules, by the
use of which he can most readily apply, to his subsequent reading of
military history, criteria drawn from the experience of centuries. He
is thus supplied, in short, with digested knowledge. But digestion by
other minds can in no wise take the place of assimilation performed by
one's own mental processes. The cut and dried information of the
lecture room, and of the treatise, must in every profession be
supplemented by the hard work of personal practice; and failing the
experience of the campaign,--of actual warfare,--the one school of
progress for the soldier or seaman is to be found in the study of
military and naval history, which embodies the experience of others.
To such study the second method contributes; it bears to the first the
relation of an advanced course.

Nor let it be supposed that the experience of others, thus imparted,
is a poor substitute for that acquired by the actual hard work of the
field, or of the ocean. By the process, the fruit possibly may not be
fully matured; but it arrives at that perfection of form which
requires but a few suns to ripen. This, moreover, if not the only way
by which experience in the art of directing operations of war--of
command-in-chief--can be stored, is by far the most comprehensive and
thorough; for while utility cannot be denied to annual manoeuvres, and
to the practice of the sham battle, it must be remembered that these,
dealing with circumstances limited both in time and place, give a very
narrow range of observation; and, still more important, as was
remarked by the late General Sherman, the moral elements of danger and
uncertainty, which count for so much in real warfare, cannot be
adequately reproduced in mimic. The field of military history, on the
other hand, has no limit short of the military experience of the race;
it records the effect of moral influences of every kind, as well as of
the most diverse material conditions; the personal observation of even
the greatest of captains is in comparison but narrow. "What
experience of command," says one of the most eminent, "can a general
have, before he is called to command? and the experience of what one
commander, even after years of warfare, can cover all cases?"
Therefore he prescribes study; and as a help thereto tells the story
of one of his most successful campaigns, accompanying it with a
commentary in which he by no means spares himself. Napoleon abounds in
the same sense. "On the field of battle the happiest inspiration is
often but a recollection,"--not necessarily of one's own past; and he
admitted in after years that no finer work had been done by him than
in his first campaign, to which he came--a genius indeed, but--with
the acquisitions chiefly of a student, deep-steeped in reading and
reflection upon the history of warfare.

The utility of such study of military history to the intending warrior
is established, not only by a few such eminent authorities, but by a
consensus among the leading soldiers and seamen of our own day,
whether they personally have, or have not, had the opportunity of
command in war. It may be asserted to be a matter of contemporary
professional agreement, as much as any other current opinion that now
obtains. In such study, native individual capacity and individual
temperament will largely affect inference and opinion; not only
causing them to differ more or less, but resulting frequently in
direct opposition of conclusion. It cannot be otherwise; for, like all
other callings of active life, war is a matter, not merely of
knowledge and of general principles, but of sound judgment, without
which both information and rules, being wrongly applied, become
useless. Opinions, even of the most eminent, while accorded the
respect due to their reputation, should therefore be brought to the
test of personal reflection.

The study of the Art and History of War is pre-eminently necessary to
men of the profession, but there are reasons which commend it also,
suitably presented, to all citizens of our country. Questions
connected with war--when resort to war is justifiable, preparation for
war, the conduct of war--are questions of national moment, in which
each voter--nay, each talker--has an influence for intelligent and
adequate action, by the formation of sound public opinion; and public
opinion, in operation, constitutes national policy. Hence it is
greatly to be desired that there should be more diffused interest in
the critical study of warfare in its broader lines. Knowledge of
technical details is not necessary to the apprehension of the greater
general principles, nor to an understanding of the application of
those principles to particular cases, when made by individual
students,--officers or others. The remark is sometimes heard, "When
military or naval officers agree, Congress--or the people--may be
expected to act." The same idea applied to other professions--waiting
for universal agreement--would bring the world to a standstill. Better
must be accepted without waiting for best. Better is more worth having
to-day than best is the day after the need has come and gone.
Hesitation and inaction, continued till the doctors agree, may result
in the death of the patient; yet such hesitation is almost inevitable
where there is no formed public opinion, and quite inevitable where
there is no public interest antecedent to the emergency arising.

It may be due to the bias of personal or professional inclination that
the present writer believes that military history,--including therein
naval,--simply and clearly presented in its leading outlines, divested
of superfluous and merely technical details, would be found to possess
an interest far exceeding that which is commonly imagined. The logical
coherence of any series of events, as of any process of Nature,
possesses an innate attraction for the inquisitive element of which
few intelligent minds are devoid. Unfortunately, technical men are
prone to delight in their technicalities, and to depreciate, with the
adjective "popular," attempts to bring their specialties within the
comprehension of the general public, or to make them pleasing and
attractive to it. However it may be with other specialties, the
utility of which is more willingly admitted, the navy and army in our
country cannot afford to take such an attitude. The brilliant, but
vague, excitement and glory of war, in its more stirring phases,
touches readily the popular imagination, as does intense action of
every description. It has all the charm of the dramatic, heightened by
the splendor of the heroic. But where there is no appeal beyond the
imagination to the intellect, such impressions lack distinctness, and
leave no really useful results. While there is a certain exaltation in
sharing, through vivid narrative, the emotions of those who have borne
a part in some deed of conspicuous daring, the fascination does not
equal that wrought upon the intellect, as it traces for the first time
the long-drawn sequence by which successive occurrences are seen to
issue in their necessary results, or causes apparently remote to
converge upon a common end, and understanding succeeds to the previous
sense of bewilderment, which is produced by military events as too
commonly treated.

There is, moreover, no science--or art--which lends itself to such
exposition more readily than does the Art of War. Its principles are
clear, and not numerous. Outlines of operations, presented in
skeleton, as they usually may be, are in most instances surprisingly
clear; and, these once grasped, the details fall into place with a
readiness and a precision that convey an ever increasing intellectual
enjoyment. The writer has more than once been witness of the pleasure
thus occasioned to men wholly strangers to military matters; a
pleasure partly of novelty, but which possesses the elements of
endurance because the stimulus is one that renews itself continually,
opening field after field for the exercise of the mind.

If such pleasure were the sole result, however, there might be
well-founded diffidence in recommending the study. The advantage
conferred upon the nation by a more wide-spread and intelligent
understanding of military matters, as a factor in national life that
must exist for some ages to come, and one which recent events, so far
from lessening, have rendered more conspicuous and more necessary,
affords a sounder ground for insisting that it is an obligation of
each citizen to understand something of the principles of warfare, and
of the national needs in respect of preparation, as well as thrill
with patriotic emotion over an heroic episode or a brilliant victory.

It is with the object of contributing to such intelligent
comprehension that the following critical narrative, which first
appeared in one of our popular monthlies, is again submitted to the
public in its present form. It professes no more than to be an
attempt, by a student of military as well as naval warfare, to
present a reasoned outline of a part of the operations of the war,
interspersed with such reflections upon naval warfare, in its generals
and its particulars, as have arisen naturally in the course of the
story. The method adopted, consequently, is the second of those
mentioned in the beginning of these remarks; a consecutive narrative,
utilized as a medium for illustrating the principles of war. The
application of those principles in this discussion represents the
views of one man, believed by him to be in accordance with a
considerable body of professional thought, although for this he has no
commission to speak; but to some of them also there is, in other
quarters, a certain distinct professional opposition.

The aim of the author here, as in all his writings, has been so to
present his theme as to invest it with the rational interest attaching
to a clear exposition of causes and effects, as shown in a series of
events. Where he may have failed, the failure is in himself, not in
his subject. The recent Spanish-American War, while possessing, as
every war does, characteristics of its own, differentiating it from
others, nevertheless, in its broad analogies, falls into line with
its predecessors, evidencing that unity of teaching which pervades the
art from its beginnings unto this day. It has, moreover, the special
value of illustrating the reciprocal needs and offices of the army and
the navy, than which no lesson is more valuable to a nation situated
as ours is. Protected from any serious attempt at invasion by our
isolated position, and by our vast intrinsic strength, we are
nevertheless vulnerable in an extensive seaboard, greater, relatively
to our population and wealth--great as they are--than that of any
other state. Upon this, moreover, rests an immense coasting trade, the
importance of which to our internal commercial system is now scarcely
realized, but will be keenly felt if we ever are unable to insure its
freedom of movement.

We also are committed, inevitably and irrevocably, to an over-sea
policy, to the successful maintenance of which will be needed, not
only lofty political conceptions of right and of honor, but also the
power to support, and if need be to enforce, the course of action
which such conceptions shall from time to time demand. Such
maintenance will depend primarily upon the navy, but not upon it
alone; there will be needed besides an adequate and extremely mobile
army, and an efficient correlation of the one with the other, based
upon an accurate conception of their respective functions. The true
corrective to the natural tendency of each to exaggerate its own
importance to the common end is to be found only in some general
understanding of the subject diffused throughout the body of the
people, who are the ultimate arbiters of national policy.

In short, the people of the United States will need to understand, not
only what righteousness dictates, but what power, military and naval,
requires, in order duly to assert itself. The disappointment and
impatience, now being manifested in too many quarters, over the
inevitable protraction of the military situation in the Philippines,
indicates a lack of such understanding; for, did it exist, men would
not need to be told that even out of the best material, of which we
have an abundance, a soldier is not made in a day, nor an army in a
season; that when these, the necessary tools, are wanting, or are
insufficient in number, the work cannot but lag until they are
supplied; in short, that in war, as in every calling, he who wills the
end must also understand and will the means. It was the same with the
wide-spread panic that swept along our seaboard at the beginning of
the late war. So far as it was excusable, it was due to the want of
previous preparation; so far as it was unreasonable, it was due to
ignorance; but both the want of preparation and the ignorance were the
result of the preceding general indifference of the nation to military
and naval affairs, an indifference which necessarily had found its
reflection in the halting and inadequate provisions made by Congress.

Although changes and additions have been introduced where it has
seemed expedient, the author has decided to allow these articles to
stand, in the main, substantially as written immediately after the
close of hostilities. The opening paragraphs, while less applicable,
in their immediate purport, to the present moment, are nevertheless
not inappropriate as an explanation of the general tenor of the work
itself; and they suggest, moreover, another line of reflection upon
the influence, imperceptibly exerted, and passively accepted in men's
minds, by the quiet passing of even a single calendar year.

The very lapse of time and subsidence of excitement which tend to
insure dispassionate and impartial treatment by the historian, and a
juster proportion of impression in spectators, tend also to produce
indifference and lethargy in the people at large; whereas in fact the
need for sustained interest of a practical character still exists.
Intelligent provision for the present and future ought now to succeed
to the emotional experiences of the actual war. The reading public has
been gorged and surfeited with war literature, a fact which has been
only too painfully realized by publishers and editors, who purvey for
its appetite and have overstocked the larder. Coincident with this has
come an immense wave of national prosperity and consequent business
activity, which increasingly engross the attention of men's minds. So
far as the mere movement of the imagination, or the stirring of the
heart is concerned, this reaction to indifference after excessive
agitation was inevitable, and is not in itself unduly to be deplored;
but it will be a matter, not merely of lasting regret, but of
permanent harm, if the nation again sinks into the general apathy
concerning its military and naval necessities which previously
existed, and which, as the experience of Great Britain has shown, is
unfortunately characteristic of popular representative governments,
where present votes are more considered than future emergencies. Not
the least striking among the analogies of warfare are the sufferings
undergone, and the risks of failure incurred, through imperfect
organization, in the Crimea, and in our own recent hostilities with
Spain. And let not the public deceive itself, nor lay the fault
exclusively, or even chiefly, upon its servants, whether in the
military services or in the halls of Congress. The one and the other
will respond adequately to any demand made upon them, if the means are
placed betimes in their hands; and the officers of the army and navy
certainly have not to reproach themselves, as a body, with official
failure to represent the dangers, the exposure, and the needs of the
commonwealth. It should be needless to add that circumstances now are
greatly changed, through the occurrences of last year; and that
henceforth the risks from neglect, if continued, will vastly exceed
those of former days. The issue lies with the voters.



It is a common and a true remark that final judgment cannot be passed
upon events still recent. Not only is time required for the mere
process of collecting data, of assorting and testing the numerous
statements, always imperfect and often conflicting, which form the
material for history, but a certain and not very short interval must
be permitted to elapse during which men's brains and feelings may
return to normal conditions, and permit the various incidents which
have exalted or depressed them to be seen in their totality, as well
as in their true relative importance. There are thus at least two
distinct operations essential to that accuracy of judgment to which
alone finality can be attributed,--first, the diligent and close study
of detail, by which knowledge is completed; and, second, a certain
detachment of the mind from the prejudgments and passions engendered
by immediate contact, a certain remoteness, corresponding to the idea
of physical distance, in virtue of which confusion and distortion of
impression disappear, and one is enabled not only to distinguish the
decisive outlines of a period, but also to relegate to their true
place in the scheme subordinate details which, at the moment of
occurrence, had made an exaggerated impression from their very

It is yet too soon to look for such fulness and justness of treatment
in respect to the late hostilities with Spain. Mere literal truth of
narrative cannot yet be attained, even in the always limited degree to
which historical truth is gradually elicited from a mass of partial
and often irreconcilable testimony; and literal truth, when presented,
needs to be accompanied by a discriminating analysis and estimate of
the influence exerted upon the general result by individual
occurrences, positive or negative. I say positive or negative, for we
are too apt to overlook the vast importance of negative factors, of
inaction as compared to action, of things not done in comparison with
those that were done, of mistakes of omission as contrasted with those
of commission. Too frequently men, spectators or actors in careers
essentially of action, imagine that a safe course is being held
because things continue seemingly as they were; whereas, at least in
war, failure to dare greatly is often to run the greatest of risks.
"Admiral Hotham," wrote Nelson in 1795, "is perfectly satisfied that
each month passes without any losses on our side." The result of this
purely negative conduct, of this military sin of mere omission, was
that Bonaparte's great Italian campaign of 1796 became possible, that
the British Fleet was forced to quit the Mediterranean, and the map of
Europe was changed. It is, of course, a commonplace that things never
really remain as they were; that they are always getting better or
worse, at least relatively.

But while it is true that men must perforce be content to wait a while
for the full and sure accounts, and for the summing up which shall
pass a final judgment upon the importance of events and upon the
reputations of the actors in them, it is also true that in the drive
of life, and for the practical guidance of life, which, like time and
tide, waits for no man, a rapid, and therefore rough, but still a
working decision must be formed from the new experiences, and
inferences must be drawn for our governance in the present and the
near future, whose exigencies attend us. Absolutely correct
conclusions, if ever attained in practical life, are reached by a
series of approximations; and it will not do to postpone action until
exhaustive certainty has been gained. We have tried it at least once
in the navy, watching for a finality of results in the experimental
progress of European services. What the condition of our own fleet was
at the end of those years might be fresh in all our memories, if we
had time to remember. Delayed action maybe eminently proper at one
moment; at another it may mean the loss of opportunity. Nor is the
process of rapid decision--essential in the field--wholly unsafe in
council, if inference and conclusion are checked by reference to
well-settled principles and fortified by knowledge of the experience
of ages upon whose broad bases those principles rest. Pottering over
mechanical details doubtless has its place, but it tends to foster a
hesitancy of action which wastes time more valuable than the resultant

The preceding remarks indicate sufficiently the scope of these papers.
It is not proposed to give a complete story of the operations, for
which the material is not yet available. Neither will it be attempted
to pronounce decisions absolutely final, for the time is not yet ripe.
The effort will be rather to suggest general directions to thought,
which may be useful to a reader as he follows the many narratives,
official or personal, given to the public; to draw attention to facts
and to analogies; to point out experiences, the lessons from which may
be profitable in determining the character of the action that must
speedily be taken to place the sea power of the Republic upon a proper
material basis; and, finally, to bring the course of this war into
relation with the teachings of previous history,--the experiences of
the recent past to reinforce or to modify those of the remoter past;
for under superficial diversity, due to differences of conditions,
there often rests fundamental identity, the recognition of which
equips the mind, quickens it, and strengthens it for grappling with
the problems of the present and the future. The value of history to us
is as a record of human experience; but experiences must be

The character and the direction of the first movements of the United
States in this conflict with Spain were determined by the occasion,
and by the professed object, of the hostilities. As frequently
happens, the latter began before any formal declaration of war had
been made; and, as the avowed purpose and cause of our action were not
primarily redress for grievances of the United States against Spain,
but to enforce the departure of the latter from Cuba, it followed
logically that the island became the objective of our military
movements, as its deliverance from oppression was the object of the
war. Had a more general appreciation of the situation been adopted, a
view embracing the undeniable injury to the United States, from the
then existing conditions, and the generally iniquitous character of
Spanish rule in the colonies, and had war for these reasons been
declared, the objective of our operations might have been differently
chosen for strategic reasons; for our leading object in such case
would not have been to help Cuba, but to constrain Spain, and to
compel her to such terms as we might demand. It would have been open,
for instance, to urge that Puerto Rico, being between five and six
hundred miles from the eastern end of Cuba and nearly double that
distance from the two ports of the island most important to
Spain,--Havana on the north and Cienfuegos on the south,--would be
invaluable to the mother country as an intermediate naval station and
as a base of supplies and reinforcements for both her fleet and army;
that, if left in her undisturbed possession, it would enable her,
practically, to enjoy the same advantage of nearness to the great
scene of operations that the United States had in virtue of our
geographical situation; and that, therefore, the first objective of
the war should be the eastern island, and its reduction the first
object. The effect of this would have been to throw Spain back upon
her home territory for the support of any operations in Cuba, thus
entailing upon her an extremely long line of communications, exposed
everywhere throughout its course, but especially to the molestation of
small cruisers issuing from the harbors of Puerto Rico, which flank
the routes, and which, upon the supposition, would have passed into
our hands. This view of the matter was urged upon the writer, a few
days before hostilities began, by a very old and intelligent naval
officer who had served in our own navy and in that of the Confederate
States. To a European nation the argument must have been quite
decisive; for to it, as distant, or more distant than Spain from Cuba,
such an intermediate station would have been an almost insurmountable
obstacle while in an enemy's hands, and an equally valuable base if
wrested from him. To the United States these considerations were
applicable only in part; for, while the inconvenience to Spain would
be the same, the gain to us would be but little, as our lines of
communication to Cuba neither required the support of Puerto Rico, nor
were by it particularly endangered.

This estimate of the military importance of Puerto Rico should never
be lost sight of by us as long as we have any responsibility, direct
or indirect, for the safety or independence of Cuba. Puerto Rico,
considered militarily, is to Cuba, to the future Isthmian canal, and
to our Pacific coast, what Malta is, or may be, to Egypt and the
beyond; and there is for us the like necessity to hold and strengthen
the one, in its entirety and in its immediate surroundings, that there
is for Great Britain to hold the other for the security of her
position in Egypt, for her use of the Suez Canal, and for the control
of the route to India. It would be extremely difficult for a European
state to sustain operations in the eastern Mediterranean with a
British fleet at Malta. Similarly, it would be very difficult for a
transatlantic state to maintain operations in the western Caribbean
with a United States fleet based upon Puerto Rico and the adjacent
islands. The same reasons prompted Bonaparte to seize Malta in his
expedition against Egypt and India in 1798. In his masterly eyes, as
in those of Nelson, it was essential to the communications between
France, Egypt, and India. His scheme failed, not because Malta was
less than invaluable, but for want of adequate naval strength,
without which no maritime position possesses value.

There were, therefore, in America two possible objectives for the
United States, in case of a war against Spain waged upon grounds at
all general in their nature; but to proceed against either was purely
a question of relative naval strength. Unless, and until, the United
States fleet available for service in the Caribbean Sea was strong
enough to control permanently the waters which separated the Spanish
islands from our territory nearest to them, the admitted vast
superiority of this country in potential resources for land warfare
was completely neutralized. If the Spanish Navy preponderated over
ours, it would be evidently impossible for transports carrying troops
and supplies to traverse the seas safely; and, unless they could so
do, operations of war in the enemy's colonies could neither be begun
nor continued. If, again, the two fleets were so equally balanced as
to make the question of ultimate preponderance doubtful, it was
clearly foolish to land in the islands men whom we might be compelled,
by an unlucky sea-fight, to abandon there.

This last condition was that which obtained, as war became imminent.
The force of the Spanish Navy--on paper, as the expression goes--was
so nearly equal to our own that it was well within the limits of
possibility that an unlucky incident--the loss, for example, of a
battleship--might make the Spaniard decisively superior in nominal, or
even in actual, available force. An excellent authority told the
writer that he considered that the loss of the _Maine_ had changed the
balance--that is, that whereas with the _Maine_ our fleet had been
slightly superior, so after her destruction the advantage, still
nominal, was rather the other way. We had, of course, a well-founded
confidence in the superior efficiency of our officers and men, and in
the probable better condition of our ships and guns; but where so much
is at stake as the result of a war, or even as the unnecessary
prolongation of war, with its sufferings and anxieties, the only safe
rule is to regard the apparent as the actual, until its reality has
been tested. However good their information, nations, like fencers,
must try their adversary's force before they take liberties.
Reconnaissance must precede decisive action. There was, on the part
of the Navy Department, no indisposition to take risks, provided
success, if obtained, would give an adequate gain. It was clearly
recognized that war cannot be made without running risks; but it was
also held, unwaveringly, that no merely possible success justified
risk, unless it gave a fair promise of diminishing the enemy's naval
force, and so of deciding the control of the sea, upon which the issue
of the war depended. This single idea, and concentration of purpose
upon it, underlay and dictated every step of the Navy Department from
first to last,--so far, at least, as the writer knows,--and it must be
borne in mind by any reader who wishes to pass intelligent judgment
upon the action or non-action of the Department in particular

It was this consideration that brought the _Oregon_ from the Pacific
to the Atlantic,--a movement initiated before hostilities opened,
though not concluded until after they began. The wisdom of the step
was justified not merely, nor chiefly, by the fine part played by that
ship on July 3, but by the touch of certainty her presence imparted to
the grip of our fleet upon Cervera's squadron during the preceding
month, and the consequent power to move the army without fear by sea
to Santiago. Few realize the doubts, uncertainties, and difficulties
of the sustained watchfulness which attends such operations as the
"bottling" of the Spanish fleet by Admiral Sampson; for "bottling" a
hostile fleet does not resemble the chance and careless shoving of a
cork into a half-used bottle,--it is rather like the wiring down of
champagne by bonds that cannot be broken and through which nothing can
ooze. This it is which constitutes the claim of the American
Commander-in-Chief upon the gratitude of his countrymen; for to his
skill and tenacity in conducting that operation is primarily due the
early ending of the war, the opportunity to remove our stricken
soldiery from a sickly climate, the ending of suspense, and the saving
of many lives. "The moment Admiral Cervera's fleet was destroyed,"
truly said the London "Times" (August 16), "the war was practically at
an end, unless Spain had elected to fight on to save the point of
honor;" for she could have saved nothing else by continued war.

To such successful operation, however, there is needed not only ships
individually powerful, but numbers of such ships; and that the numbers
of Sampson's fleet were maintained--not drawn off to other, though
important, operations--even under such sore temptation as the dash of
Cámara's fleet from Cadiz towards the Philippines, was due to the
Department's ability to hold fast the primary conception of
concentration upon a single purpose, even though running thereby such
a risk as was feared from Cámara's armored ships reaching Dewey's
unarmored cruisers before they were reinforced. The chances of the
race to Manila, between Cámara, when he started from Cadiz, and the
two monitors from San Francisco, were deliberately taken, in order to
ensure the retention of Cervera's squadron in Santiago, or its
destruction in case of attempted escape. Not till that was
sufficiently provided for would Watson's division be allowed to
depart. Such exclusive tenacity of purpose, under suspense, is more
difficult of maintenance than can be readily recognized by those who
have not undergone it. To avoid misconception, it should be added here
that our division at the Philippines was not itself endangered,
although it was quite possible that Manila Bay might have to be
temporarily abandoned if Cámara kept on. The movements of the monitors
were well in hand, and their junction assured, even under the control
of a commander of less conspicuous ability than that already shown by
Admiral Dewey. The return of the united force would speedily have
ensured Cámara's destruction and the restoration of previous
conditions. It is evident, however, that a certain amount of national
mortification, and possibly of political complication, might have
occurred in the interim.

The necessity and the difficulty of thus watching the squadrons of an
enemy within his ports--of "blockading" them, to use a common
expression, of "containing" them, to conform to a strictly accurate
military terminology--are more familiar to the British naval mind than
to ours; for, both by long historical experience and by present-day
needs, the vital importance of so narrowly observing the enemy's
movements has been forced upon its consciousness. A committee of very
distinguished British admirals a few years since reported that, having
in view the difficulty of the operation in itself, and the chances of
the force detailed falling below its _minimum_ by accidents, or by
absence for coal or refits, British naval supremacy, vital to the
Empire, demanded the number of five British battleships to three of
the fleet thus to be controlled. Admiral Sampson's armored ships
numbered seven to Cervera's four, a proportion not dissimilar; but
those seven were all the armored ships, save monitors, worthless for
such purpose, that the United States owned, or would own for some
months yet to come. It should be instructive and convincing to the
American people to note that when two powerful armored ships of the
enemy were thus on their way to attack at one end of the world an
admiral and a division that had deserved so well of their country, our
whole battle-fleet, properly so called, was employed to maintain off
Santiago the proportions which foreign officers, writing long before
the conditions arose, had fixed as necessary. Yet the state with which
we were at war ranks very low among naval Powers.

The circumstance possesses a furthermost practical present interest,
from its bearing upon the question between numbers and individual
size in the organization of the naval line of battle; for the ever
importunate demand for increase in dimensions in the single ship is
already upon the United States Navy, and to it no logical, no simply
rational, limit has yet been set This question may be stated as
follows: A country can, or will, pay only so much for its war fleet.
That amount of money means so much aggregate tonnage. How shall that
tonnage be allotted? And, especially, how shall the total tonnage
invested in armored ships be divided? Will you have a few very big
ships, or more numerous medium ships? Where will you strike your mean
between numbers and individual size? You cannot have both, unless your
purse is unlimited. The Santiago incident, alike in the battle, in the
preceding blockade, and in the concurrent necessity of sending
battleships to Dewey, illustrates various phases of the argument in
favor of numbers as against extremes of individual size. Heavier ships
were not needed; fewer ships might have allowed some enemy to escape;
when Cervera came out, the _Massachusetts_ was coaling at Guantanamo,
and the _New York_ necessarily several miles distant, circumstances
which, had the ships been bigger and fewer, would have taken much
more, proportionately, from the entire squadron at a critical moment.
Above all, had that aggregate, 65,934 of tonnage, in seven ships, been
divided among five only, of 13,000 each, I know not how the two ships
that were designated to go with Watson to the Philippines could
possibly have sailed.

The question is momentous, and claims intelligent and immediate
decision; for tonnage once locked up in a built ship cannot be got out
and redistributed to meet the call of the moment. Neither may men
evade a definite conclusion by saying that they will have both
unlimited power--that is, size--and unlimited number; for this they
cannot have. A decision must be reached, and upon it purpose must be
concentrated unwaveringly; the disadvantages as well as the advantages
of the choice must be accepted with singleness of mind. Individual
size is needed, for specific reasons; numbers also are necessary.
Between the two opposing demands there is doubtless a mean of
individual size which will ensure the maximum offensive power _of the
fleet_; for that, and not the maximum power of the single ship, is
the true object of battleship construction. Battleships in all ages
are meant to act together, in fleets; not singly, as mere cruisers.

A full discussion of all the considerations, on one side or the other,
of this question, would demand more space, and more of technical
detail, than the scope of these papers permits. As with most
conclusions of a concrete character dealing with contradictory
elements, the result reached will inevitably be rather an
approximation than an absolute demonstrable certainty; a broad general
statement, not a narrow formula. All rules of War, which is not an
exact science, but an art, have this characteristic. They do not tell
one exactly how to do right, but they give warning when a step is
being contemplated which the experience of ages asserts to be wrong.
To an instructed mind they cry silently, "Despite all plausible
arguments, this one element involved in that which you are thinking to
do shows that in it you will go wrong." In the judgment of the writer,
two conditions must be primarily considered in determining a class of
battleship to which, for the sake of homogeneousness, most of the
fleet should conform. Of these two, one must be given in general
terms; the other can be stated with more precision. The chief
requisite to be kept in view in the battleship is the offensive power
of the fleet of which it is a member. The aggregate gun-power of the
fleet remaining the same, the increase of its numbers, by limiting the
size of the individual ships, tends, up to a certain point, to
increase its offensive power; for war depends largely upon
combination, and facility of combination increases with numbers.
Numbers, therefore, mean increase of offensive power, other things
remaining equal. I do not quote in defence of this position Nelson's
saying, that "numbers only can annihilate," because in his day
experience had determined a certain mean size of working battleship,
and he probably meant merely that preponderant numbers of that type
were necessary; but weight may justly be laid upon the fact that our
forerunners had, under the test of experience, accepted a certain
working mean, and had rejected those above and below that mean, save
for exceptional uses.

The second requisite to be fulfilled in the battleship is known
technically as coal endurance,--ability to steam a certain distance
without recoaling, allowing in the calculation a reasonable margin of
safety, as in all designs. This standard distance should be the
greatest that separates two coaling places, as they exist in the
scheme of fortified coaling ports which every naval nation should
frame for itself. In our own case, such distance is that from Honolulu
to Guam, in the Ladrones,--3,500 miles. The excellent results obtained
from our vessels already in commission, embodying as they do the
tentative experiences of other countries, as well as the reflective
powers of our own designers, make it antecedently probable that 10,000
and 12,000 tons represent the extremes of normal displacement
advantageous for the United States battleship. When this limit is
exceeded, observation of foreign navies goes to show that the numbers
of the fleet will be diminished and its aggregate gun-power not
increased,--that is, ships of 15,000 tons actually have little more
gun-power than those of 10,000. Both results are deviations from the
ideal of the battle-fleet already given. In the United States Navy the
tendency to huge ships needs to be particularly watched, for we have
a tradition in their favor, inherited from the successes of our heavy
frigates in the early years of this century. It must be recalled,
therefore, that those ships were meant to act singly, but that long
experience has shown that for fleet operations a mean of size gives
greater aggregate efficiency, both in force and in precision of
manoeuvre. In the battleship great speed also is distinctly secondary
to offensive power and to coal endurance.

To return from a long digression. Either Cuba or Puerto Rico might, in
an ordinary case of war, have been selected as the first objective of
the United States operations, with very good reasons for either
choice. What the British island Santa Lucia is to Jamaica, what
Martinique would be to France, engaged in important hostilities in the
Caribbean, that, in measure, Puerto Rico is to Cuba, and was to Spain.
To this was due the general and justifiable professional expectation
that Cervera's squadron would first make for that point, although the
anchorage at San Juan, the principal port, leaves very much to be
desired in the point of military security for a fleet,--a fact that
will call for close and intelligent attention on the part of the
professional advisers of the Navy Department. But, while either of the
Spanish islands was thus eligible, it would have been quite out of the
question to attempt both at the same time, our navy being only equal
to the nominal force of Spain; nor, it should be added, could a
decided superiority over the latter have justified operations against
both, unless our numbers had sufficed to overbear the whole of the
hostile war fleet at both points. To have the greater force and then
to divide it, so that the enemy can attack either or both fractions
with decisively superior numbers, is the acme of military stupidity;
nor is it the less stupid because in practice it has been frequently
done. In it has often consisted the vaunted operation of "surrounding
an enemy," "bringing him between two fires," and so forth; pompous and
troublesome combinations by which a divided force, that could
perfectly well move as a whole, starts from two or three widely
separated points to converge upon a concentrated enemy, permitting him
meanwhile the opportunity, if alert enough, to strike the divisions in

Having this obvious consideration in mind, it is curious now to recall
that in the "North American Review," so lately as February, 1897,
appeared an article entitled, "Can the United States afford to fight
Spain?" by "A Foreign Naval Officer,"--evidently, from internal
indications, a Spaniard,--in which occurred this brilliant statement:
"For the purposes of an attack upon Spain in the West Indies, the
American fleet would necessarily divide itself into two squadrons, one
ostensibly destined for Puerto Rico, the other for Cuba.... Spain,
before attempting to inflict serious damage upon places on the
American coast, would certainly try to cut off the connection between
the two American squadrons operating in the West Indies, and to attack
each separately." The remark illustrates the fool's paradise in which
many Spaniards, even naval officers, were living before the war, as is
evidenced by articles in their own professional periodicals. To
attribute such folly to us was not complimentary; and I own my
remarks, upon first reading it, were not complimentary to the writer's
professional competency.

All reasons, therefore, combined to direct the first movement of the
United States upon Cuba, and upon Cuba alone, leaving Spain in
undisputed possession of such advantages as Puerto Rico might give.
But Cuba and Puerto Rico, points for attack, were not, unluckily, the
only two considerations forced upon the attention of the United
States. We have a very long coast-line, and it was notorious that the
defences were not so far advanced, judged by modern standards, as to
inspire perfect confidence, either in professional men or in the
inhabitants. By some of the latter, indeed, were displayed evidences
of panic unworthy of men, unmeasured, irreflective, and therefore
irrational; due largely, it is to be feared, to that false gospel of
peace which preaches it for the physical comfort and ease of mind
attendant, and in its argument against war strives to smother
righteous indignation or noble ideals by appealing to the fear of
loss,--casting the pearls of peace before the swine of self-interest.
But a popular outcry, whether well or ill founded, cannot be wholly
disregarded by a representative Government; and, outside of the
dangers to the coast,--which, in the case of the larger cities at
least, were probably exaggerated,--there was certainly an opportunity
for an enterprising enemy to embarrass seriously the great coasting
trade carried on under our own flag. There was much idle talk, in
Spain and elsewhere, about the injury that could be done to United
States commerce by scattered cruisers, commerce-destroyers. It was
overlooked that our commerce under our own flag is inconsiderable:
there were very few American ships abroad to be captured. But the
coasting trade, being wholly under our own flag, was, and remains, an
extremely vulnerable interest, one the protection of which will make
heavy demands upon us in any maritime war. Nor can it be urged that
that interest alone will suffer by its own interruption. The bulky
cargoes carried by it cannot be transferred to the coastwise railroads
without overtaxing the capacities of the latter; all of which means,
ultimately, increase of cost and consequent suffering to the consumer,
together with serious injury to all related industries dependent upon
this traffic.

Under these combined influences the United States Government found
itself confronted from the beginning with two objects of military
solicitude, widely divergent one from the other, both in geographical
position and in method of action; namely, the attack upon Cuba and the
protection of its own shores. As the defences did not inspire
confidence, the navy had to supplement their weakness, although it is
essentially an offensive, and not a defensive, organization. Upon this
the enemy counted much at the first. "To defend the Atlantic coasts in
case of war," wrote a Spanish lieutenant who had been Naval Attaché in
Washington, "the United States will need one squadron to protect the
port of New York and another for the Gulf of Mexico. But if the
squadron which it now possesses is devoted to the defence of New York
(including Long Island Sound), the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico must
be entirely abandoned and left at the mercy of blockade and
bombardment." Our total force for the order of battle, prior to the
arrival of the _Oregon_, was nominally only equal to that of the
enemy, and, when divided between the two objects named, the halves
were not decisively superior to the single squadron under
Cervera,--which also might be reinforced by some of the armored ships
then in Spain. The situation, therefore, was one that is not
infrequent, but always embarrassing,--a double purpose and a single
force, which, although divisible, ought not to be divided.

It is proper here to say, for the remark is both pertinent and most
important, that coast defences and naval force are not interchangeable
things; neither are they opponents, one of the other, but
complementary. The one is stationary, the other mobile; and, however
perfect in itself either may be, the other is necessary to its
completeness. In different nations the relative consequence of the two
may vary. In Great Britain, whose people are fed, and their raw
materials obtained, from the outside world, the need for a fleet
vastly exceeds that for coast defences. With us, able to live off
ourselves, there is more approach to parity. Men may even differ as to
which is the more important; but such difference, in this question,
which is purely military, is not according to knowledge. In equal
amounts, mobile offensive power is always, and under all conditions,
more effective to the ends of war than stationary defensive power.
Why, then, provide the latter? Because mobile force, whatever shape
it take, ships or men, is limited narrowly as to the weight it can
bear; whereas stationary force, generally, being tied to the earth, is
restricted in the same direction only by the ability of the designer
to cope with the conditions. Given a firm foundation, which
practically can always be had, and there is no limit to the amount of
armor,--mere defensive outfit,--be it wood, stone, bricks, or iron,
that you can erect upon it; neither is there any limit to the weight
of guns, the offensive element, that the earth can bear; only they
will be motionless guns. The power of a steam navy to move is
practically unfettered; its ability to carry weight, whether guns or
armor, is comparatively very small. Fortifications, on the contrary,
have almost unbounded power to bear weight, whereas their power to
move is _nil_; which again amounts to saying that, being chained, they
can put forth offensive power only at arm's length, as it were. Thus
stated, it is seen that these two elements of sea warfare are in the
strictest sense complementary, one possessing what the other has not;
and that the difference is fundamental, essential, unchangeable,--not
accidental or temporary. Given local conditions which are generally
to be found, greater power, defensive and offensive, can be
established in permanent works than can be brought to the spot by
fleets. When, therefore, circumstances permit ships to be squarely
pitted against fortifications,--not merely to pass swiftly by
them,--it is only because the builders of the shore works have not,
for some reason, possibly quite adequate, given them the power to
repel attack which they might have had. It will not be asserted that
there are no exceptions to this, as to most general rules; but as a
broad statement it is almost universally true. "I took the liberty to
observe," wrote Nelson at the siege of Calvi, when the commanding
general suggested that some vessels might batter the forts, "that the
business of laying wood against walls was much altered of late."
Precisely what was in his mind when he said "of late" does not appear,
but the phrase itself shows that the conditions which induced any
momentary equality between ships and forts when brought within range
were essentially transient.

As seaports, and all entrances from the sea, are stationary, it
follows naturally that the arrangements for their defence also should,
as a rule, be permanent and stationary, for as such they are
strongest. Indeed, unless stationary, they are apt not to be
permanent, as was conclusively shown in the late hostilities, where
all the new monitors, six in number, intended for coast defence, were
diverted from that object and despatched to distant points; two going
to Manila, and stripping the Pacific coast of protection, so far as
based upon them. This is one of the essential vices of a system of
coast defence dependent upon ships, even when constructed for that
purpose; they are always liable to be withdrawn by an emergency, real
or fancied. Upon the danger of such diversion to the local security,
Nelson insisted, when charged with the guard of the Thames in 1801.
The block ships (floating batteries), he directed, were on no account
to be moved for any momentary advantage; for it might very well be
impossible for them to regain their carefully chosen positions when
wanted there. Our naval scheme in past years has been seriously
damaged, and now suffers, from two misleading conceptions: one that a
navy is for defence primarily, and not for offensive war; the other,
consequent mainly upon the first, that the monitor, being stronger
defensively than offensively, and of inferior mobility, was the best
type of warship. The Civil War, being, so far as the sea was
concerned, essentially a coast war, naturally fostered this opinion.
The monitor in smooth water is better able to stand up to shore guns
than ships are which present a larger target; but, for all that, it is
more vulnerable, both above water and below, than shore guns are if
these are properly distributed. It is a hybrid, neither able to bear
the weight that fortifications do, nor having the mobility of ships;
and it is, moreover, a poor gun-platform in a sea-way.

There is no saying of Napoleon's known to the writer more pregnant of
the whole art and practice of war than this, "Exclusiveness of purpose
is the secret of great successes and of great operations." If,
therefore, in maritime war, you wish permanent defences for your
coasts, rely exclusively upon stationary works, if the conditions
admit, not upon floating batteries which have the weaknesses of ships.
If you wish offensive war carried on vigorously upon the seas, rely
exclusively upon ships that have the qualities of ships and not of
floating batteries. We had in the recent hostilities 26,000 tons of
shipping sealed up in monitors, of comparatively recent construction,
in the Atlantic and the Pacific. There was not an hour from first to
last, I will venture to say, that we would not gladly have exchanged
the whole six for two battleships of less aggregate displacement; and
that although, from the weakness of the Spanish defences, we were able
to hug pretty closely most parts of the Cuban coast. Had the Spanish
guns at Santiago kept our fleet at a greater distance, we should have
lamented still more bitterly the policy which gave us sluggish
monitors for mobile battleships.



The unsatisfactory condition of the coast defences, whereby the navy
lost the support of its complementary factor in the scheme of national
sea power, imposed a vicious, though inevitable, change in the
initial plan of campaign, which should have been directed in full
force against the coast of Cuba. The four newer monitors on the
Atlantic coast, if distributed among our principal ports, were not
adequate, singly, to resist the attack which was suggested by the
possibilities of the case--though remote--and still more by the panic
among certain of our citizens. On the other hand, if the four were
massed and centrally placed, which is the correct disposition of any
mobile force, military or naval, intended to counteract the attack of
an enemy whose particular line of approach is as yet uncertain, their
sluggishness and defective nautical qualities would make them
comparatively inefficient. New York, for instance, is a singularly
central and suitable point, relatively to our northern Atlantic
seaboard, in which to station a division intended to meet and thwart
the plans of a squadron like Cervera's, if directed against our coast
ports, in accordance with the fertile imaginations of evil which were
the fashion in that hour. Did the enemy appear off either Boston, the
Delaware, or the Chesapeake, he could not effect material injury
before a division of ships of the _Oregon_ class would be upon him;
and within the limits named are found the major external commercial
interests of the country as well as the ocean approaches along which
they travel. But had the monitors been substituted for battleships,
not to speak of their greater slowness, their inferiority as steady
gun-platforms would have placed them at a serious disadvantage if the
enemy were met outside, as he perfectly well might be.

It was probably such considerations as these, though the writer was
not privy to them, that determined the division of the battle fleet,
and the confiding to the section styled the Flying Squadron the
defence of the Atlantic coast for the time being. The monitors were
all sent to Key West, where they would be at hand to act against
Havana; the narrowness of the field in which that city, Key West, and
Matanzas are comprised making their slowness less of a drawback, while
the moderate weather which might be expected to prevail would permit
their shooting to be less inaccurate. The station of the Flying
Squadron in Hampton Roads, though not so central as New York
relatively to the more important commercial interests, upon which, if
upon any, the Spanish attack might fall, was more central as regards
the whole coast; and, above all, was nearer than New York to Havana
and to Puerto Rico. The time element also entered the calculations in
another way, for a fleet of heavy ships is more certainly able to put
to sea at a moment's notice, in all conditions of tide and weather,
from the Chesapeake than from New York Bay. In short, the position
chosen may be taken to indicate that, in the opinion of the Navy
Department and its advisers, Cervera was not likely to attempt a dash
at an Atlantic port, and that it was more important to be able to
reach the West Indies speedily than to protect New York or Boston,--a
conclusion which the writer entirely shared.

The country, however, should not fail to note that the division of the
armored fleet into two sections, nearly a thousand miles apart, though
probably the best that could be done under all the circumstances of
the moment, was contrary to sound practice; and that the conditions
which made it necessary should not have existed. Thus, deficient coast
protection reacts unfavorably upon the war fleet, which in all its
movements should be free from any responsibility for the mere safety
of the ports it quits. Under such conditions as then obtained, it
might have been possible for Spain to force our entire battle fleet
from its offensive undertaking against Cuba, and to relegate it to
mere coast defence. Had Cervera's squadron, instead of being
despatched alone to the Antilles, been recalled to Spain, as it should
have been, and there reinforced by the two armored ships which
afterwards went to Suez with Cámara, the approach of this compact body
would have compelled our fleet to concentrate; for each of our
divisions of three ships--prior to the arrival of the _Oregon_--would
have been too weak to hazard an engagement with the enemy's six. When
thus concentrated, where should it be placed? Off Havana, or at
Hampton Roads? It could not be at both. The answer undoubtedly should
be, "Off Havana;" for there it would be guarding the most important
part of the enemy's coast, blocking the access to it of the Spanish
fleet, and at the same time covering Key West, our naval base of
operations. But if the condition of our coast defences at all
corresponded to the tremors of our seaport citizens, the Government
manifestly would be unable to hold the fleet thus at the front. Had
it, on the contrary, been impossible for an enemy's fleet to approach
nearer than three miles to our sea-coast without great and evident
danger of having ships damaged which could not be replaced, and of
wasting ammunition at ranges too long even for bombardments, the
Spanish battle fleet would have kept away, and would have pursued its
proper object of supporting their campaign in Cuba by driving off our
fleet--if it could. It is true that no amount of fortification will
secure the coasting trade beyond easy gunshot of the works; but as the
enemy's battle fleet could not have devoted itself for long to
molesting the coasters--because our fleet would thereby be drawn to
the spot--that duty must have devolved upon vessels of another class,
against which we also would have provided, and did provide, by the
squadron of cruisers under Commodore Howell. In short, proper coast
defence, the true and necessary complement of an efficient navy,
releases the latter for its proper work,--offensive, upon the open
seas, or off the enemy's shores.

[Illustration: Map of Cuba (map)]

The subject receives further illumination when we consider, in
addition to the hypothetical case just discussed,--the approach of six
Spanish ships,--the actual conditions at the opening of the campaign.
We had chosen Cuba for our objective, had begun our operations,
Cervera was on his way across the ocean, and our battle fleet was
divided and posted as stated. It was reasonable for us to estimate
each division of our ships--one comprising the _New York_, _Iowa_, and
_Indiana_, the other the _Brooklyn_, _Massachusetts_, and _Texas_--as
able to meet Cervera's four, these being of a class slightly inferior
to the best of ours. We might at least flatter ourselves that, to use
a frequent phrase of Nelson's, by the time they had soundly beaten one
of these groups, they would give us no more trouble for the rest of
the year. We could, therefore, with perfect military propriety, have
applied the two divisions to separate tasks on the Cuban coast, if our
own coast had been adequately fortified.

The advantage--nay, the necessity--of thus distributing our
battleships, having only four enemies to fear, will appear from a
glance at the map of Cuba. It will there be seen that the island is
particularly narrow abreast of Havana, and that from there, for a
couple of hundred miles to the eastward, extends the only tolerably
developed railroad system, by which the capital is kept in
communication with the seaports, on the north coast as far as Sagua la
Grande, and on the south with Cienfuegos and Batabano. This
narrowness, and the comparative facility of communication indicated by
the railroads, enabled Spain, during her occupation, effectually to
prevent combined movements between the insurgents in the east and
those in the west; a power which Weyler endeavored to increase by the
_trocha_ system,--a ditch or ditches, with closely supporting works,
extending across the island. Individuals, or small parties, might slip
by unperceived; but it should have been impossible for any serious
co-operation to take place. The coast-wise railroads, again, kept
Havana and the country adjacent to them in open, if limited,
communication with the sea, so long as any one port upon their lines
remained unblockaded. For reasons such as these, in this belt of land,
from Havana to Sagua and Cienfuegos, lay the chief strength of the
Spanish tenure, which centred upon Havana; and in it the greatest
part of the Spanish army was massed. Until, therefore, we were ready
to invade, which should not have been before the close of the rainy
season, the one obvious course open to us was to isolate the capital
and the army from the sea, through which supplies of all kinds--daily
bread, almost, of food and ammunition--were introduced; for Cuba, in
these respects, produces little.

To perfect such isolation, however, it was necessary not only to place
before each port armed cruisers able to stop merchant steamers, but
also to give to the vessels so stationed, as well on the south as on
the north side, a backbone of support by the presence of an armored
fleet, which should both close the great ports--Havana and
Cienfuegos--and afford a rallying-point to the smaller ships, if
driven in by the appearance of Cervera's division. The main
fleet--three armored ships--on the north was thus used, although the
blockade, from the fewness of available cruisers, was not at first
extended beyond Cardenas. On the south a similar body--the Flying
Squadron--should from the first have been stationed before
Cienfuegos; for each division, as has been said, could with military
propriety have been risked singly against Cervera's four ships. This
was not done, because it was possible--though most improbable--that
the Spanish squadron might attempt one of our own ports; because we
had not perfect confidence in the harbor defences; and because, also,
of the popular outcry. Consequently, the extremely important port of
Cienfuegos, a back door to Havana, was blockaded only by a few light
cruisers; and when the Spanish squadron was reported at Curaçao, these
had to be withdrawn. One only was left to maintain in form the
blockade which had been declared; and she had instructions to clear
out quickly if the enemy appeared. Neither one, nor a dozen, of such
ships would have been the slightest impediment to Cervera's entering
Cienfuegos, raising our blockade by force; and this, it is needless to
add, would have been hailed in Spain and throughout the Continent of
Europe as a distinct defeat for us,--which, in truth, it would have
been, carrying with it consequences political as well as military.

This naval mishap, had it occurred, would have been due mainly to
inadequate armament of our coasts; for to retain the Flying Squadron
in the Chesapeake, merely as a guard to the coasting trade, would have
been a serious military error, subordinating an offensive
operation--off Cienfuegos--to one merely defensive, and not absolutely
vital. "The best protection against an enemy's fire," said Farragut,
"is a well-directed fire from our own guns." Analogically, the best
defence for one's own shores is to harass and threaten seriously those
of the opponent; but this best defence cannot be employed to the
utmost, if the inferior, passive defence of fortification has been
neglected. The fencer who wears also a breastplate may be looser in
his guard. Seaports cannot strike beyond the range of their guns; but
if the great commercial ports and naval stations can strike
effectively so far, the fleet can launch into the deep rejoicing,
knowing that its home interests, behind the buckler of the fixed
defences, are safe till it returns.

The broader determining conditions, and the consequent dispositions
made by the Government of the United States and its naval authorities,
in the recent campaign, have now been stated and discussed. In them
is particularly to be noted the crippling effect upon naval operations
produced by the consciousness of inadequate coast defences of the
permanent type. The sane conclusion to be drawn is, that while
sea-coast fortification can never take the place of fleets; that
while, as a defence even, it, being passive, is far inferior to the
active measure of offensive defence, which protects its own interests
by carrying offensive war out on to the sea, and, it may be, to the
enemy's shores; nevertheless, by the fearless freedom of movement it
permits to the navy, it is to the latter complementary,--completes it;
the two words being etymologically equivalent.

The other comments hitherto made upon our initial plan of
operations--for example, the impropriety of attempting simultaneous
movements against Puerto Rico and Cuba, and the advisability or
necessity, under the same conditions, of moving against both
Cienfuegos and Havana by the measure of a blockade--were simply
special applications of general principles of warfare, universally
true, to particular instances in this campaign. They address
themselves, it may be said, chiefly to the soldier or seaman, as
illustrating his especial business of directing war; and while their
value to the civilian cannot be denied,--for whatever really
enlightens public opinion in a country like ours facilitates military
operations,--nevertheless the function of coast defence, as
contributory to sea power, is a lesson most necessary to be absorbed
by laymen; for it, as well as the maintenance of the fleet, is in this
age the work of peace times, when the need of preparation for war is
too little heeded to be understood. The illustrations of the
embarrassment actually incurred from this deficiency in the late
hostilities are of the nature of an object lesson, and as such should
be pondered.

At the same time, however, that attention is thus called to the
inevitable and far-reaching effect of such antecedent neglects, shown
in directions where men would not ordinarily have expected them, it is
necessary to check exaggeration of coast defence, in extent or in
degree, by remarking that in any true conception of war,
fortification, defence, inland and sea-coast alike, is of value merely
in so far as it conduces to offensive operations. This is
conspicuously illustrated by our recent experience. The great evil of
our deficiencies in coast armament was that they neutralized
temporarily a large part of our navy; prevented our sending it to
Cuba; made possible that Cervera's squadron, during quite an interval,
might do this or that thing of several things thus left open to him,
the result of which would have been to encourage the enemy, and
possibly to produce political action by our ill-wishers abroad.
Directly upon this consideration--of the use that the Flying Squadron
might have been, if not held up for coast defence--follows the further
reflection how much more useful still would have been a third
squadron; that is, a navy half as large again as we then had.
Expecting Cervera's force alone, a navy of such size, free from
anxiety about coast defence, could have barred to him San Juan de
Puerto Rico as well as Cienfuegos and Havana; or had Cámara been
joined to Cervera, as he should have been, such a force would have
closed both Cienfuegos and Havana with divisions that need not have
feared the combined enemy. If, further, there had been a fourth
squadron--our coast defence in each case remaining the same--our
evident naval supremacy would probably have kept the Spanish fleet in
Europe. Not unlikely there would have been no war; in which event, the
anti-imperialist may observe there would, thanks to a great and
prepared navy, have been no question of the Philippines, and possibly
none of Hawaii.

In short, it is with coast defence and the navy as it is with numbers
_versus_ size in battleships. Both being necessary, the question of
proportion demands close attention, but in both cases the same single
principle dominates: offensive power, not defensive, determines the
issues of war. In the solution of the problem, the extent to be given
coast defence by fortification depends, as do all military decisions,
whether of preparation or of actual warfare, upon certain
well-recognized principles; and for a given country or coast, since
the natural conditions remain permanent, the general dispositions, and
the relative power of the several works, if determined by men of
competent military knowledge, will remain practically constant during
long periods. It is true, doubtless, that purely military conclusions
must submit to some modification, in deference to the liability of a
population to panics. The fact illustrates again the urgent necessity
for the spread of sound elementary ideas on military subjects among
the people at large; but, if the great coast cities are satisfied of
their safety, a government will be able to resist the unreasonable
clamor--for such it is--of small towns and villages, which are
protected by their own insignificance. The navy is a more variable
element; for the demands upon it depend upon external conditions of a
political character, which may undergo changes not only sudden, but
extensive. The results of the war with Spain, for instance, have
affected but little the question of passive coast defence, by
fortification or otherwise; but they have greatly altered the
circumstances which hitherto have dictated the size of our active
forces, both land and sea. Upon the greater or less strength of the
navy depends, in a maritime conflict, the aggressive efficiency which
shortens war, and so mitigates its evils. In the general question of
preparation for naval war, therefore, the important centres and
internal waterways of commerce must receive local protection, where
they are exposed to attack from the sea; the rest must trust, and can
in such case safely trust, to the fleet, upon which, as the offensive
arm, all other expenditure for military maritime efficiency should be
made. The preposterous and humiliating terrors of the past months,
that a hostile fleet would waste coal and ammunition in shelling
villages and bathers on a beach, we may hope will not recur.

Before proceeding to study the operations of the war, the military and
naval conditions of the enemy at its outbreak must be briefly

Spain, being a state that maintains at all times a regular army,
respectable in numbers as well as in personal valor, had at the
beginning, and, from the shortness of the war, continued to the end to
have a decided land superiority over ourselves. Whatever we might hope
eventually to produce in the way of an effective army, large enough
for the work in Cuba, time was needed for the result, and time was not
allowed. In one respect only the condition of the Peninsula seems to
have resembled our own; that was in the inadequacy of the coast
defences. The matter there was even more serious than with us,
because not only were the preparations less, but several large
sea-coast cities--for instance, Barcelona, Malaga, Cadiz--lie
immediately upon the sea-shore; whereas most of ours are at the head
of considerable estuaries, remote from the entrance. The exposure of
important commercial centres to bombardment, therefore, was for them
much greater. This consideration was indeed so evident, that there was
in the United States Navy a perceptible current of feeling in favor of
carrying maritime war to the coast of Spain, and to its commercial

The objection to this, on the part of the Navy Department, was, with
slight modifications, the same as to the undertaking of operations
against Puerto Rico. There was not at our disposition, either in
armored ships or in cruisers, any superfluity of force over and above
the requirements of the projected blockade of Cuba. To divert ships
from this object, therefore, would be false to the golden rule of
concentration of effort,--to the single eye that gives light in
warfare. Moreover, in such a movement, the reliance, as represented in
the writer's hearing, would have been upon moral effect, upon the
dismay of the enemy; for we should soon have come to the end of our
physical coercion. As Nelson said of bombarding Copenhagen, "We should
have done our worst, and no nearer friends." The influence of moral
effect in war is indisputable, and often tremendous; but like some
drugs in the pharmacopoeia, it is very uncertain in its action. The
other party may not, as the boys say, "scare worth a cent;" whereas
material forces can be closely measured beforehand, and their results
reasonably predicted. This statement, generally true, is historically
especially true of the Spaniard, attacked in his own land. The
tenacity of the race has never come out so strongly as under such
conditions, as was witnessed in the old War of the Spanish Succession,
and during the usurpation of Napoleon.

On the other hand, such an enterprise on our part, if directed against
Spanish commerce on the seas, as was suggested by several excellent
officers, would have had but a trivial objective. The commerce of
Spain was cut up, root and branch, by our expeditions against her
colonies, Cuba and Manila; for her most important trade depended upon
monopoly of the colonial markets. The slight stream of traffic
maintained in Spanish bottoms between the English Channel and the
Peninsula, was so small that it could readily have been transferred to
neutral ships, whose flag we had for this war engaged should protect
enemy's goods. Under these circumstances, the coasts of the
Philippines and of Cuba were to us the coast of Spain, and far more
conveniently so than that of the home country would have been. A
Spanish merchant captain, writing from Barcelona as early as the 7th
of May, had said: "At this moment we have shut up in this port the
[steam] fleets of five transatlantic companies," which he names. "The
sailing-vessels are tied up permanently. Several [named] ships have
fallen into the hands of the enemy. Meantime the blockade of Cuba,
Puerto Rico, and Manila continues, at least for our flag, and maritime
commerce is at a standstill. In Barcelona some foreign firms,
exporters to the Philippines, have failed, as well as several
custom-house brokers, owing to the total cessation of mercantile
movement. The losses already suffered by our trade are incalculable,
amounting to much more than the millions needed to maintain a
half-dozen armored ships, which would have prevented the Yankees from
daring so much." These vessels continued to lie idle in Barcelona
until the dread of Commodore Watson's threatened approach caused them
to be sent to Marseilles, seeking the protection of the neutral port.
A few weeks later the same Spanish writer comments: "The result of our
mistakes," in the management of the navy, "is the loss of the markets
of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, and, in consequence, the
death of our merchant marine." Inquiries were addressed by the state
to the Chambers of Commerce, for suggestions as to the opening of new
markets, to compensate for the existing suspension of communications
with "the over-sea provinces."

With such results from our operations in the Antilles and the
Philippines, there was no inducement, and indeed no justification, for
sending cruisers across the ocean, until we had enough and to spare
for the blockade of Cuba and Puerto Rico. This was at no time the
case, up to the close of the war, owing to a combination of causes.
The work of paralyzing Spanish trade was being effectually done by
the same measures that tended to strangle the Spanish armies in Cuba
and the Philippines, and which, when fully developed, would entirely
sever their necessary communications with the outside world. Besides
all this, the concentration of our efforts upon Cuba, with a
subsequent slight extension to the single port of San Juan in Puerto
Rico, imposed upon Spain the burden of sustaining the war between
three and four thousand miles from home, and spared us the like
additional strain. Every consideration so far entertained, therefore,
of energy as well as of prudence, dictated the application of all the
pressure at our disposal at the beginning of hostilities, and until
the destruction of Cervera's squadron, upon Cuba, and in a very minor
degree upon Puerto Rico. Indeed, the ships placed before San Juan were
not for blockade, properly so called, but to check any mischievous
display of energy by the torpedo cruiser within.

After thus noting briefly the conditions of the enemy's coast defences
and commerce, there remains to consider the one other element of his
sea power--the combatant navy--with regard to its force and to its
disposition when war began.

As was before said, the disparity between the armored fleets of the
two nations was nominally inconsiderable; and the Spaniards possessed
one extremely valuable--and by us unrivalled--advantage in a nearly
homogeneous group of five[1] armored cruisers, very fast, and very
similar both in nautical qualities and in armament. It is difficult to
estimate too highly the possibilities open to such a body of ships,
regarded as a "fleet in being," to use an expression that many of our
readers may have seen, but perhaps scarcely fully understood.

The phrase "fleet in being," having within recent years gained much
currency in naval writing, demands--like the word "jingo"--preciseness
of definition; and this, in general acceptance, it has not yet
attained. It remains, therefore, somewhat vague, and so occasions
misunderstandings between men whose opinions perhaps do not materially
differ. The writer will not attempt to define, but a brief
explanation of the term and its origin may not be amiss. It was first
used, in 1690, by the British admiral Lord Torrington, when defending
his course in declining to engage decisively, with an inferior force,
a French fleet, then dominating in the Channel, and under cover of
which it was expected that a descent upon the English coast would be
made by a great French army. "Had I fought otherwise," he said, "our
fleet had been totally lost, and the kingdom had lain open to
invasion. As it was, most men were in fear that the French would
invade; but I was always of another opinion, for I always said that
whilst we had a fleet in being, they would not dare to make an

A "fleet in being," therefore, is one the existence and maintenance of
which, although inferior, on or near the scene of operations, is a
perpetual menace to the various more or less exposed interests of the
enemy, who cannot tell when a blow may fall, and who is therefore
compelled to restrict his operations, otherwise possible, until that
fleet can be destroyed or neutralized. It corresponds very closely to
"a position on the flank and rear" of an enemy, where the presence of
a smaller force, as every military student knows, harasses, and may
even paralyze offensive movements. When such a force is extremely
mobile, as a fleet of armored cruisers may be, its power of mischief
is very great; potentially, it is forever on the flank and rear,
threatening the lines of communications. It is indeed as a threat to
communications that the "fleet in being" is chiefly formidable.

The theory received concrete and convincing illustration during the
recent hostilities, from the effect exerted--and justly exerted--upon
our plans and movements by Cervera's squadron, until there had been
assembled before Santiago a force at once so strong and so numerous as
to make his escape very improbable. Even so, when a telegram was
received from a capable officer that he had identified by night, off
the north coast of Cuba, an armored cruiser,--which, if of that class,
was most probably an enemy,--the sailing of Shafter's expedition was
stopped until the report could be verified. So much for the positive,
material influence--in the judgment of the writer, the reasonable
influence--of a "fleet in being." As regards the moral effect, the
effect upon the imagination, it is scarcely necessary more than to
allude to the extraordinary play of the fancy, the kaleidoscopic
effects elicited from our own people, and from some foreign critics,
in propounding dangers for ourselves and ubiquity for Cervera. Against
the infection of such tremors it is one of the tasks of those in
responsibility to guard themselves and, if possible, their people.
"Don't make pictures for yourself," was Napoleon's warning to his
generals. "Every naval operation since I became head of the government
has failed, because my admirals see double and have learned--where I
don't know--that war can be made without running risks."

The probable value of a "fleet in being" has, in the opinion of the
writer, been much overstated; for, even at the best, the game of
evasion, which this is, if persisted in, can have but one issue. The
superior force will in the end run the inferior to earth. In the
meanwhile, however, vital time may have been lost. It is conceivable,
for instance, that Cervera's squadron, if thoroughly effective, might,
by swift and well-concealed movements, have detained our fleet in the
West Indies until the hurricane of September, 1898, swept over the
Caribbean. We had then no reserve to replace armored ships lost or
damaged. But, for such persistence of action, there is needed in each
unit of the "fleet in being" an efficiency rarely attainable, and
liable to be lost by unforeseen accident at a critical moment. Where
effect, nay, safety, depends upon mere celerity of movement, as in
retreat, a crippled ship means a lost ship; or a lost fleet, if the
body sticks to its disabled member. Such efficiency it is probable
Cervera's division never possessed. The length of its passage across
the Atlantic, however increased by the embarrassment of frequently
recoaling the torpedo destroyers, so far over-passed the extreme
calculations of our naval authorities, that ready credence was given
to an apparently authentic report that it had returned to Spain; the
more so that such concentration was strategically correct, and it was
incorrect to adventure an important detachment so far from home,
without the reinforcement it might have received in Cadiz. This delay,
in ships whose individual speed had originally been very high, has
been commonly attributed in our service to the inefficiency of the
engine-room force; and this opinion is confirmed by a Spanish officer
writing in their "Revista de la Marina." "The Americans," he says,
"keep their ships cruising constantly, in every sea, and therefore
have a large and qualified engine-room force. We have but few
machinists, and are almost destitute of firemen." This inequality,
however, is fundamentally due to the essential differences of
mechanical capacity and development in the two nations. An amusing
story was told the writer some years ago by one of our consuls in
Cuba. Making a rather rough passage between two ports, he saw an
elderly Cuban or Spanish gentleman peering frequently into the
engine-room, with evident uneasiness. When asked the cause of his
concern, the reply was, "I don't feel comfortable unless the man in
charge of the engines talks English to them."

When to the need of constant and sustained ability to move at high
speed is added the necessity of frequent recoaling, allowing the
hostile navy time to come up, it is evident that the active use of a
"fleet in being," however perplexing to the enemy, must be both
anxious and precarious to its own commander. The contest is one of
strategic wits, and it is quite possible that the stronger, though
slower, force, centrally placed, may, in these days of cables, be able
to receive word and to corner its antagonist before the latter can
fill his bunkers. Of this fact we should probably have received a very
convincing illustration, had a satisfactory condition of our coast
defences permitted the Flying Squadron to be off Cienfuegos, or even
off Havana, instead of in Hampton Roads. Cervera's entrance to
Santiago was known to us within twenty-four hours. In twenty-four more
it could have been communicated off Cienfuegos by a fast despatch
boat, after which less than forty-eight would have placed our division
before Santiago. The uncertainty felt by Commodore Schley, when he
arrived off Cienfuegos, as to whether the Spanish division was inside
or no, would not have existed had his squadron been previously
blockading; and his consequent delay of over forty-eight hours--with
the rare chance thus offered to Cervera--would not have occurred. To
coal four great ships within that time was probably beyond the
resources of Santiago; whereas the speed predicated for our own
movements is rather below than above the dispositions contemplated to
ensure it.

The great end of a war fleet, however, is not to chase, nor to fly,
but to control the seas. Had Cervera escaped our pursuit at Santiago,
it would have been only to be again paralyzed at Cienfuegos or at
Havana. When speed, not force, is the reliance, destruction may be
postponed, but can be escaped only by remaining in port. Let it not,
therefore, be inferred, from the possible, though temporary, effect of
a "fleet in being," that speed is the chief of all factors in the
battleship. This plausible, superficial notion, too easily accepted in
these days of hurry and of unreflecting dependence upon machinery as
the all in all, threatens much harm to the future efficiency of the
navy. Not speed, but power of offensive action, is the dominant factor
in war. The decisive preponderant element of great land forces has
ever been the infantry, which, it is needless to say, is also the
slowest. The homely summary of the art of war, "To get there first
with the most men," has with strange perverseness been so distorted
in naval--and still more in popular--conception, that the second and
more important consideration has been subordinated to the former and
less essential. Force does not exist for mobility, but mobility for
force. It is of no use to get there first unless, when the enemy in
turn arrives, you have also the most men,--the greater force. This is
especially true of the sea, because there inferiority of force--of gun
power--cannot be compensated, as on land it at times may be, by
judiciously using accidents of the ground. I do not propose to fall
into an absurdity of my own by questioning the usefulness of higher
speed, _provided_ the increase is not purchased at the expense of
strictly offensive power; but the time has come to say plainly that
its value is being exaggerated; that it is in the battleship secondary
to gun power; that a battle fleet can never attain, nor maintain, the
highest rate of any ship in it, except of that one which at the moment
is the slowest, for it is a commonplace of naval action that fleet
speed is that of the slowest ship; that not exaggerated speed, but
uniform speed--sustained speed--is the requisite of the battle fleet;
that it is not machinery, as is often affirmed, but brains and guns,
that win battles and control the sea. The true speed of war is not
headlong precipitancy, but the unremitting energy which wastes no

For the reasons that have been given, the safest, though not the most
effective, disposition of an inferior "fleet in being" is to lock it
up in an impregnable port or ports, imposing upon the enemy the
intense and continuous strain of watchfulness against escape. This it
was that Torrington, the author of the phrase, proposed for the time
to do. Thus it was that Napoleon, to some extent before Trafalgar, but
afterward with set and exclusive purpose, used the French Navy, which
he was continually augmenting, and yet never, to the end of his reign,
permitted again to undertake any serious expedition. The mere
maintenance of several formidable detachments, in apparent readiness,
from the Scheldt round to Toulon, presented to the British so many
possibilities of mischief that they were compelled to keep constantly
before each of the French ports a force superior to that within,
entailing an expense and an anxiety by which the Emperor hoped to
exhaust their endurance. To some extent this was Cervera's position
and function in Santiago, whence followed logically the advisability
of a land attack upon the port, to force to a decisive issue a
situation which was endurable only if incurable. "The destruction of
Cervera's squadron," justly commented an Italian writer, before the
result was known, "is the only really decisive fact that can result
from the expedition to Santiago, because it will reduce to impotence
the naval power of Spain. The determination of the conflict will
depend throughout upon the destruction of the Spanish sea power, and
not upon territorial descents, although the latter may aggravate the
situation." The American admiral from before Santiago, when urging the
expedition of a land force to make the bay untenable, telegraphed,
"The destruction of this squadron will end the war;" and it did.

In other respects it is probable that the Spanish admiral had little
confidence in a squadron which, whatever the courage or other
qualities of the officers and seamen, had never manoeuvred together
until it left the Cape de Verde Islands. Since its destruction, a
writer in a Spanish naval magazine has told the following incident:
"A little more than a year ago we visited General Cervera in La
Carraca, [the Cadiz arsenal], and we said to him: 'You appear to be
indicated, by professional opinion, for the command of the squadron in
case war is declared.' 'In that case,' he replied, 'I shall accept,
knowing, however, that I am going to a Trafalgar.' 'And how could that
disaster be avoided?' 'By allowing me to expend beforehand fifty
thousand tons of coal in evolutions and ten thousand projectiles in
target practice. Otherwise we shall go to a Trafalgar. Remember what I

It is curious to contrast with this well-founded fear of an
experienced and gallant officer, expressed in private conversation,
the opinion of another Spanish officer, lately Minister of Marine,
reported to the Madrid public through a newspaper,--the "Heraldo," of
April 6, 1898. It illustrates, further, the curious illusions
entertained in high quarters in Spain:

"We had an opportunity to-day of talking for a long time with General
Beranger, the last Secretary of the Navy under the Conservative
Cabinet. To the questions which we directed to him concerning the
conflict pending with the United States, he was kind enough to inform
us that he confided absolutely in the triumph of our naval forces....
'We shall conquer on the sea, and I am now going to give you my
reasons. The first of these is the remarkable discipline that prevails
on our warships; and the second, as soon as fire is opened, the crews
of the American ships will commence to desert, since we all know that
among them are people of all nationalities. Ship against ship,
therefore, a failure is not to be feared. I believe that the squadron
detained at Cape de Verde, and particularly the destroyers, should
have, and could have, continued the voyage to Cuba, since they have
nothing to fear from the American fleet.'"

The review from which Cervera's opinion is quoted has, since the
disasters to the Spanish Navy, been full of complaints and of detailed
statements concerning the neglect of the navy, both in its material
and in drills, during the antecedent months of peace, owing to the
practice of a misplaced, if necessary, economy. But that economy, it
is justly argued, would not have been required to a disabling degree,
if so disproportionate an amount of money had not been expended upon
the army, by a state whose great colonial system could in war be
sustained only by a fleet. "In more than a year," writes a captain in
the Spanish Navy, "we have had only one target practice, and that
limited in extent, in order to expend the least possible amount of
ammunition." The short brilliant moments of triumph in war are the
sign and the seal of the long hours of obscure preparations, of which
target practice is but one item. Had even the nominal force of Spain
been kept in efficient condition for immediate action, the task of the
United States would have been greatly prolonged and far from so easy
as it has been since declared by those among our people who delight to
belittle the great work our country has just achieved, and to
undervalue the magnanimity of its resolution to put a stop to outrages
at our doors which were well said to have become intolerable. Neither
by land nor by sea was the state of the case so judged by professional
men, either at home or abroad. It was indeed evident that, if we
persevered, there could be but one issue; but this might have been
postponed, by an active opponent, long enough to have disheartened our
nation, if it was as easily to be discouraged by the difficulties and
dangers, now past, as it is in some quarters represented again to be
by the problems arising out of the war and its conquests. Such
discouragement, perplexity, and consequent frustration of the
adversary's purposes are indeed the prime function of a "fleet in
being,"--to create and to maintain moral effect, in short, rather than
physical, unless indeed the enemy, yielding to moral effect, divides
his forces in such wise as to give a chance for a blow at one portion
of them. The tendency to this also received illustration in our war.
"Our sea-coast," said a person then in authority to the present
writer, "was in a condition of unreasoning panic, and fought to have
little squadrons scattered along it everywhere, according to the
theory of defence always favored by stupid terror." The "stupidity,"
by all military experience, was absolute--unqualified; but the Navy
Department succeeded in withstanding the "terror"--the moral
effect--so far as to compromise on the Flying Squadron; a rational
solution, though not unimpeachable. We thus, instead of a half-dozen
naval groups, had only two, the combination of which might perhaps be
effected in time enough.


[1] In this number is included the _Emperador Carlos V._; which,
however, did not accompany the other four under Cervera.



For the reasons just stated, it was upon Cervera's squadron that the
attention of instructed military students was chiefly turned at the
outset of the war. Grave suspicions as to its efficiency, indeed, were
felt in many quarters, based partly upon actual knowledge of the
neglect of the navy practised by the Spanish Government, and partly
upon the inference that the general incapacity evident for years past
in all the actions of the Spanish authorities, and notably in Cuba,
could not but extend to the navy,--one of the most sensitive and
delicate parts of any political organization; one of the first to go
to pieces when the social and political foundations of a State are
shaken, as was notably shown in the French Revolution. But, though
suspected, the ineffectiveness of that squadron could not be assumed
before proved. Until then--to use the words of an Italian writer who
has treated the whole subject of this war with comprehensive and
instructive perspicacity--Spain had "the possibility of contesting the
command of the sea, and even of securing a definite preponderance, by
means of a squadron possessed of truly exceptional characteristics,
both tactical and strategic,"--in short, by means of a "fleet in

It is true that in this estimate the writer quoted included the
_Carlos V._, a new and high-powered armored cruiser, and also a number
of protected cruisers and of torpedo vessels, of various kinds, all
possessing a rate of speed much superior to the more distinctly
fighting ships in which consisted the strength of the United States
squadrons. Such a fleet, homogeneous in respect to the particular
function which constitutes the power of a "fleet in being," whose
effectiveness lies in its legs and in its moral effect, in its power
to evade pursuit and to play upon the fears of an enemy, should be
capable of rapid continuous movement; and such a fleet Spain actually
possessed when the war broke out--only it was not ready. "This
splendid fleet," resumed our Italian critic, giving rein, perhaps, to
a Southern imagination, but not wholly without just reason, "would be
in a condition to impose upon the enemy the character which the
conflict should assume, alike in strategy and in tactics, and thereby
could draw the best and greatest advantage from the actual situation,
with a strong probability of partial results calculated to restore the
equilibrium between the two belligerent fleets, or even of successes
so decisive, if obtained immediately after the declaration of war, as
to include a possibility of a Spanish preponderance." The present
writer guards himself from being understood to accept fully this
extensive programme for a fleet distinctly inferior in actual
combative force; but the general assumption of the author quoted
indicates the direction of effort which alone held out a hope of
success, and which for that reason should have been vigorously
followed by the Spanish authorities.

As the Spanish Navy--whatever its defects in organization and
practice--is not lacking in thoughtful and instructed officers, it is
probable that the despatch of Cervera with only four ships, instead of
at least the five armored cruisers well qualified to act together,
which he might have had, not to speak of the important auxiliaries
also disposable, was due to uninstructed popular and political
pressure, of the same kind that in our country sought to force the
division of our fleet among our ports. That the Spanish Government was
thus goaded and taunted, at the critical period when Cervera was lying
in Santiago, is certain. To that, most probably, judging from the
words used in the Cortes, we owe the desperate sortie which delivered
him into our hands and reduced Spain to inevitable submission. "The
continuance of Cervera's division in Santiago, and its apparent
inactivity," stated a leading naval periodical in Madrid, issued two
days before the destruction of the squadron, "is causing marked
currents of pessimism, and of disaffection towards the navy,
especially since the Yankees have succeeded in effecting their
proposed landing. This state of public feeling, which has been
expressed with unrestricted openness in some journals, has been
sanctioned in Congress by one of the Opposition members uttering very
unguarded opinions, and reflecting injuriously upon the navy itself,
as though upon it depended having more or fewer ships." The Minister
of Marine, replying in the Cortes, paraphrased as follows, without
contradiction, the words of this critic, which voiced, as it would
appear, a popular clamor: "You ask, 'Why, after reaching Santiago, has
the squadron not gone out, and why does it not now go out?' Why do
four ships not go out to fight twenty? You ask again: 'If it does not
go out, if it does not hasten to seek death, what is the use of
squadrons? For what are fleets built, if not to be lost?' We are bound
to believe, Señor Romero Robledo, that your words in this case express
neither what you intended to say nor your real opinion." Nevertheless,
they seem not to have received correction, nor to have been retracted;
and to the sting of them, and of others of like character, is
doubtless due the express order of the Ministry under which Cervera
quitted his anchorage.

Like ourselves, our enemy at the outset of the war had his fleet in
two principal divisions: one still somewhat formless and as yet
unready, but of very considerable power, was in the ports of the
Peninsula; the other--Cervera's--at the Cape Verde Islands, a
possession of Portugal. The latter was really exceptional in its
qualities, as our Italian author has said. It was exceptional in a
general sense, because homogeneous and composed of vessels of very
high qualities, offensive and defensive; it was exceptional also, as
towards us in particular, because we had of the same class but two
ships,--one-half its own force,--the _New York_ and the _Brooklyn_;
and, moreover, we had no torpedo cruisers to oppose to the three which
accompanied it. These small vessels, while undoubtedly an encumbrance
to a fleet in extended strategic movements in boisterous seas, because
they cannot always keep up, are a formidable adjunct--tactical in
character--in the day of battle, especially if the enemy has none of
them; and in the mild Caribbean it was possible that they might not
greatly delay their heavy consorts in passages which would usually be

The two main divisions of the Spanish fleet were thus about fifteen
hundred miles apart when war began on the 25th of April. The
neutrality of Portugal made it impossible for Cervera to remain long
in his then anchorage, and an immediate decision was forced upon his
Government. It is incredible that among the advisers of the Minister
of Marine--himself a naval officer--there was no one to point out that
to send Cervera at once to the Antilles, no matter to what port, was
to make it possible for the United States to prevent any future
junction between himself and the remaining vessels of their navy. The
squadron of either Sampson or Schley was able to fight him on terms of
reasonable equality, to say the least. Either of our divisions,
therefore, was capable of blockading him, if caught in port; and it
was no more than just to us to infer that, when once thus cornered, we
should, as we actually did at Santiago, assemble both divisions, so as
to render escape most improbable and the junction of a reinforcement
practically impossible. Such, in fact, was the intention from the very
first: for, this done, all our other undertakings, Cuban blockade and
what not, would be carried on safely, under cover of our watching
fleet, were the latter distant ten miles or a thousand from such other
operations. The writer, personally, attaches but little importance to
the actual consequences of strictly offensive operations attempted by
a "fleet in being," when of so inferior force. As suggested by Spanish
and foreign officers, in various publications, they have appeared to
him fantastic pranks of the imagination, such as he himself indulged
in as a boy, rather than a sober judgment formed after considering
both sides of the case. "I cannot but admire Captain Owen's zeal,"
wrote Nelson on one occasion, "in his anxious desire to get at the
enemy, but I am afraid it has made him overleap sandbanks and tides,
and laid him aboard the enemy. I am as little used to find out the
impossible as most folks, and I think I can discriminate between the
impracticable and the fair prospect of success." The potentialities of
Cervera's squadron, after reaching the Spanish Antilles, must be
considered under the limitations of his sandbanks and tides; of
telegraph cables betraying his secrets, of difficulties and delays in
coaling, of the chances of sudden occasional accidents to which all
machinery is liable, multiplied in a fleet by the number of vessels
composing it; and to these troubles, inevitable accompaniments of
such operations, must in fairness be added the assumption of
reasonable watchfulness and intelligence on the part of the United
States, in the distribution of its lookouts and of its ships.

The obvious palliative to the disadvantage thus incurred by Spain
would have been to add to Cervera ships sufficient to force us at
least to unite our two divisions, and to keep them joined. This,
however, could not be done at once, because the contingent in Spain
was not yet ready; and fear of political consequences and public
criticism at home, such as that already quoted, probably deterred the
enemy from the correct military measure of drawing Cervera's squadron
back to the Canaries, some eight hundred or nine hundred miles; or
even to Spain, if necessary. This squadron itself had recently been
formed in just this way; two ships being drawn back from the Antilles
and two sent forward from the Peninsula. If Spain decided to carry on
the naval war in the Caribbean,--and to decide otherwise was to
abandon Cuba in accordance with our demand,--she should have sent all
the armored ships she could get together, and have thrown herself
frankly, and at whatever cost, upon a mere defensive policy for her
home waters, relying upon coast defences--or upon mere luck, if need
were--for the safety of the ports. War cannot be made without running
risks. When you have chosen your field for fighting, you must
concentrate upon it, letting your other interests take their chance.
To do this, however, men must have convictions, and conviction must
rest upon knowledge, or else ignorant clamor and contagious panic will
sweep away every reasonable teaching of military experience. And so
Cervera went forth with his four gallant ships, foredoomed to his fate
by folly, or by national false pride, exhibited in the form of
political pressure disregarding sound professional judgment and
military experience. We were not without manifestations here of the
same uninstructed and ignoble outcry; but fortunately our home
conditions permitted it to be disregarded without difficulty.
Nevertheless, although under circumstances thus favorable we escaped
the worst effects of such lack of understanding, the indications were
sufficient to show how hard, in a moment of real emergency, it will be
for the Government to adhere to sound military principles, if there
be not some appreciation of these in the mass of the people; or, at
the very least, among the leaders to whom the various parts of the
country are accustomed to look for guidance.

It may be profitable at this point to recall a few dates; after which
the narrative, avoiding superfluous details, can be continued in such
outline as is required for profitable comment, and for eliciting the
more influential factors in the course of events, with the consequent
military lessons from them to be deduced.

On April 20th the President of the United States approved the joint
resolution passed by the two Houses of Congress, declaring the
independence of Cuba, and demanding that Spain should relinquish her
authority there and withdraw her forces. A blockade, dated April 22nd,
was declared of the north coast of Cuba, from Cardenas on the east to
Bahia Honda, west of Havana, and of the port of Cienfuegos on the
south side of the island. On April 25th a bill declaring that war
between the United States and Spain existed, and had existed since the
21st of the month, was passed by Congress and approved the same
evening by the President, thus adding another instance to the now
commonplace observation that hostilities more frequently precede than
follow a formal declaration. On April 29th, Admiral Cervera's
division--four armored cruisers and three torpedo destroyers--quitted
the Cape de Verde Islands for an unknown destination, and disappeared
during near a fortnight from the knowledge of the United States
authorities. On May 1, Commodore Dewey by a dash, the rapidity and
audacity of which reflected the highest credit upon his professional
qualities, destroyed the Spanish squadron at Manila, thereby
paralyzing also all Spanish operations in the East. The Government of
the United States was thus, during an appreciable time, and as it
turned out finally, released from all military anxiety about the
course of events in that quarter.

Meantime the blockade of the Cuban coasts, as indicated above, had
been established effectively, to the extent demanded by international
law, which requires the presence upon the coast, or before the port,
declared blockaded, of such a force as shall constitute a manifest
danger of capture to vessels seeking to enter or to depart. In the
reserved, not to say unfriendly, attitude assumed by many of the
European States, the precise character of which is not fully known,
and perhaps never will be, it was not only right, but practically
necessary, to limit the extent of coast barred to merchant ships to
that which could be thus effectually guarded, leaving to neutral
governments no sound ground for complaint. Blockade is one of the
rights conceded to belligerent States, by universal agreement, which
directly, as well as indirectly, injures neutrals, imposing pecuniary
losses by restraints upon trade previously in their hands. The ravages
of the insurrection and the narrow policy of Spain in seeking to
monopolize intercourse with her colonies had, indeed, already
grievously reduced the commerce of the island; but with our war there
was sure to spring up a vigorous effort, both legal and contraband, to
introduce stores of all kinds, especially the essentials of life, the
supply of which was deficient. Such cargoes, not being clearly
contraband, could be certainly excluded only by blockade; and the
latter, in order fully to serve our military objects, needed at the
least to cover every port In railway communication with Havana, where
the bulk of the Spanish army was assembled. This it was impossible to
effect at the first, because we had not ships enough; and therefore,
as always in such cases, a brisk neutral trade, starting from Jamaica
and from Mexico, as well as from Europe and the North American
Continent, was directed upon the harbors just outside the limits of
the blockade,--towards Sagua la Grande and adjacent waters in the
north, and to Batabano and other ports in the south. Such trade would
be strictly lawful, from an international standpoint, unless declared
by us to be contraband, because aiding to support the army of the
enemy; and such declarations, by which provisions are included in the
elastic, but ill-defined category of contraband, tend always to
provoke the recriminations and unfriendliness of neutral states.
Blockade avoids the necessity for definitions, for by it all goods
become contraband; the extension of it therefore was to us imperative.

As things were, although this neutral trade frustrated our purposes to
a considerable degree, it afforded us no ground for complaint. On the
contrary, we were at times hard driven by want of vessels to avoid
laying ourselves open to reclamation, on the score of the blockade
being invalid, even within its limited range, because ineffective.
This was especially the case at the moment when the army was being
convoyed from Tampa, as well as immediately before, and for some days
after that occasion: before, because it was necessary then to detach
from the blockade and to assemble elsewhere the numerous small vessels
needed to check the possible harmful activity of the Spanish gunboats
along the northern coast, and afterwards, because the preliminary
operations about Santiago, concurring with dark nights favorable to
Cervera's escape, made it expedient to retain there many of the
lighter cruisers, which, moreover, needed recoaling,--a slow business
when so many ships were involved. Our operations throughout
labored--sometimes more, sometimes less--under this embarrassment,
which should be borne in mind as a constant, necessary, yet perplexing
element in the naval and military plans. The blockade, in fact, while
the army was still unready, and until the Spanish Navy came within
reach, was the one decisive measure, sure though slow in its working,
which could be taken; the necessary effect of which was to bring the
enemy's ships to this side of the ocean, unless Spain was prepared to
abandon the contest. The Italian writer already quoted, a fair critic,
though Spanish in his leanings, enumerates among the circumstances
most creditable to the direction of the war by the Navy Department the
perception that "blockade must inevitably cause collapse, given the
conditions of insurrection and of exhaustion already existing in the

From this specific instance, the same author, whose military judgments
show much breadth of view, later on draws a general conclusion which is
well worth the attention of American readers, because much of our
public thought is committed to the belief that at sea private property,
so called,--that is, merchant ships and their cargoes,--should not be
liable to capture in war; which, duly interpreted, means that the
commerce of one belligerent is not to be attacked or interrupted by the
other. "Blockade," says our Italian, "is the fundamental basis of the
conflict for the dominion of the seas, when the contest cannot be
brought to an immediate issue;" that is, to immediate battle. Blockade,
however, is but one form of the unbloody pressure brought to bear upon
an enemy by interruption of his commerce. The stoppage of commerce, in
whole or in part, exhausts without fighting. It compels peace without
sacrificing life. It is the most scientific warfare, because the least
sanguinary, and because, like the highest strategy, it is directed
against the communications,--the resources,--not the persons, of the
enemy. It has been the glory of sea-power that its ends are attained by
draining men of their dollars instead of their blood. Eliminate the
attack upon an enemy's sea-borne commerce from the conditions of naval
war,--in which heretofore it has been always a most important
factor,--and the sacrifice of life will be proportionately increased,
for two reasons: First, the whole decision of the contest will rest
upon actual conflict; and, second, failing decisive results in battle,
the war will be prolonged, because by retaining his trade uninjured the
enemy retains all his money power to keep up his armed forces.

The establishment and maintenance of the blockade therefore was, in
the judgment of the present writer, not only the first step in order,
but also the first, by far, in importance, open to the Government of
the United States as things were; prior, that is, to the arrival of
Cervera's division at some known and accessible point. Its importance
lay in its twofold tendency; to exhaust the enemy's army in Cuba, and
to force his navy to come to the relief. No effect more decisive than
these two could be produced by us before the coming of the hostile
navy, or the readiness of our own army to take the field, permitted
the contest to be brought, using the words of our Italian commentator,
"to an immediate issue." Upon the blockade, therefore, the generally
accepted principles of warfare would demand that effort should be
concentrated, until some evident radical change in the conditions
dictated a change of object,--a new objective; upon which, when
accepted, effort should again be concentrated, with a certain amount
of "exclusiveness of purpose."

Blockade, however, implies not merely a sufficient number of cruisers
to prevent the entry or departure of merchant ships. It further
implies, because it requires, a strong supporting force sufficient to
resist being driven off by an attack from within or from without the
port; for it is an accepted tenet of international law that a blockade
raised by force ceases to exist, and cannot be considered
re-established until a new proclamation and reoccupancy of the ground
in force. Hence it follows that, prior to such re-establishment,
merchant vessels trying to enter or to depart cannot be captured in
virtue of the previous proclamation. Consequent upon this requirement,
therefore, the blockades on the north and on the south side, to be
secure against this military accident, should each have been supported
by a division of armored ships capable of meeting Cervera's division
on fairly equal terms; for, considering the sea distance between
Cienfuegos and Havana, one such division could not support both
blockades. It has already been indicated why it was impossible so to
sustain the Cienfuegos blockaders. The reason, in the last analysis,
was our insufficient sea-coast fortification. The Flying Squadron was
kept in Hampton Roads to calm the fears of the seaboard, and to check
any enterprise there of Cervera, if intended or attempted. The other
division of the armored fleet, however, was placed before Havana,
where its presence not only strengthened adequately the blockading
force proper, but assured also the safety of our naval base at Key
West, both objects being attainable by the same squadron, on account
of their nearness to each other.

It should likewise be noticed that the same principle of concentration
of effort upon the single purpose--the blockade--forbade, _a priori_,
any attempts at bombardment by which our armored ships should be
brought within range of disablement by heavy guns on shore. If the
blockade was our object, rightly or wrongly, and if a blockade, to be
secure against serious disturbance, required all the armored ships at
our disposal,--as it did,--it follows logically and rigorously that to
risk those ships by attacking forts is false to principle, unless
special reasons can be adduced sufficiently strong to bring such
action within the scope of the principle properly applied. It is here
necessary clearly to distinguish. Sound principles in warfare are as
useful and as necessary as in morals; when established, the
presumption in any case is all on their side, and there is no one of
them better established than concentration. But as in morals, so in
war, the application of principle, the certainty of right, is not
always clear. Could it always be, war would be an exact science; which
it is not, but an art, in which true artists are as few as in painting
or sculpture. It may be that a bombardment of the fortifications of
Havana, or of some other place, might have been expedient, for reasons
unknown to the writer; but it is clearly and decisively his opinion
that if it would have entailed even a remote risk of serious injury to
an armored ship, it stood condemned irretrievably (unless it conduced
to getting at the enemy's navy), because it would hazard the
maintenance of the blockade, our chosen object, upon which our efforts
should be concentrated.[2] There is concentration of purpose, as well
as concentration in place, and ex-centric action in either sphere is
contrary to sound military principle.

The question of keeping the armored division under Admiral Sampson in
the immediate neighborhood of Havana, for the purpose of supporting
the blockade by the lighter vessels, was one upon which some diversity
of opinion might be expected to arise. Cervera's destination was
believed--as it turned out, rightly believed--to be the West Indies.
His precise point of arrival was a matter of inference only, as in
fact was his general purpose. A natural surmise was that he would go
first to Puerto Rico, for reasons previously indicated. But if coal
enough remained to him, it was very possible that he might push on at
once to his ultimate objective, if that were a Cuban port, thus
avoiding the betrayal of his presence at all until within striking
distance of his objective. That he could get to the United States
coast without first entering a coaling port, whence he would be
reported, was antecedently most improbable; and, indeed, it was fair
to suppose that, if bound to Havana, coal exigencies would compel him
to take a pretty short route, and to pass within scouting range of the
Windward Passage, between Cuba and Haïti. Whatever the particular
course of reasoning, it was decided that a squadron under Admiral
Sampson's command should proceed to the Windward Passage for the
purpose of observation, with a view to going further eastward if it
should appear advisable. Accordingly, on the 4th of May, five days
after Cervera left the Cape de Verde, the Admiral sailed for the
appointed position, taking with him all his armored sea-going
ships--the _Iowa_, the _Indiana_, and the _New York_--and two
monitors, the _Amphitrite_ and the _Terror_. Of course, some smaller
cruisers and a collier accompanied him.

It is almost too obvious for mention that this movement, if undertaken
at all, should be made, as it was, with all the force disposable, this
being too small to be safely divided. The monitors promptly, though
passively, proceeded to enforce another ancient maritime
teaching,--the necessity for homogeneousness, especially of speed and
manoeuvring qualities, in vessels intending to act together. Of
inferior speed at the best, they had, owing to their small coal
endurance, and to minimize the delay in the progress of the whole
body, consequent upon their stopping frequently to coal, to be towed
each by an armored ship,--an expedient which, although the best that
could be adopted, entailed endless trouble and frequent stoppages
through the breaking of the tow-lines.

[Illustration: The Caribbean Sea (map)]

Shortly before midnight of May 7th, the squadron was twenty miles
north of Cape Haïtien, about six hundred sea miles east of Havana. It
was there learned, by telegrams received from the Department, that no
information had yet been obtained as to the movements of the Spanish
division, but that two swift steamers, lately of the American
Transatlantic line, had been sent to scout to the eastward of
Martinique and Guadaloupe. The instructions to these vessels were to
cruise along a north and south line, eighty miles from the islands
named. They met at the middle once a day, communicated, and then went
back in opposite directions to the extremities of the beat. In case
the enemy were discovered, word of course would be sent from the
nearest cable port to Washington, and to the Admiral, if accessible.
The two vessels were directed to continue on this service up to a
certain time, which was carefully calculated to meet the extreme
possibilities of slowness on the part of the Spanish division, if
coming that way; afterwards they were to go to a given place, and
report. It may be added that they remained their full time, and yet
missed by a hair's breadth sighting the enemy. The captain of one of
them, the _Harvard_, afterwards told the writer that he believed
another stretch to the south would have rewarded him with success. The
case was one in which blame could be imputed to nobody; unless it were
to the Spaniards, in disappointing our very modest expectations
concerning their speed as a squadron, which is a very different thing
from the speed of a single ship.

Among the telegrams received at this time by the Admiral from the
Department were reports of rumors that colliers for the Spanish
division had been seen near Guadaloupe; also that Spanish vessels
were coaling and loading ammunition at St. Thomas. Neither of these
was well founded, nor was it likely that the enemy's division would
pause for such purpose at a neutral island, distant, as St. Thomas is,
less than one hundred miles from their own harbors in Puerto Rico.

Immediately after the receipt of these telegrams, the Admiral summoned
all his captains between 12 and 4 A.M., May 9th, to a consultation
regarding the situation. He then decided to go on to San Juan, the
chief seaport of Puerto Rico, upon the chance of finding the Spanish
squadron there. The coaling of the monitors, which had begun when the
squadron stopped the previous afternoon, was resumed next morning. At
11.15, May 9th, a telegram from the Department reported a story,
"published in the newspapers," that the Spanish division had been seen
on the night of the 7th, near Martinique. The Department's telegram
betrayed also some anxiety about Key West and the Havana blockade;
but, while urging a speedy return, the details of the Admiral's
movements were left to his own discretion. The squadron then stood
east, and on the early morning of the 12th arrived off San Juan. An
attack upon the forts followed at once, lasting from 5.30 to 7.45
A.M.; but, as it was evident that the Spanish division was not there,
the Admiral decided not to continue the attack, although satisfied
that he could force a surrender. His reasons for desisting are given
in his official report as follows:--

     "The fact that we should be held several days in completing
     arrangements for holding the place; that part [of the
     squadron] would have to be left to await the arrival of
     troops to garrison it; that the movements of the Spanish
     squadron, our main objective, were still unknown; that the
     Flying Squadron was still north and not in a position to
     render any aid; that Havana, Cervera's natural objective, was
     thus open to entry by such a force as his, while we were a
     thousand miles distant,--made our immediate movement toward
     Havana imperative."

It will be noted that the Admiral's conclusions, as here given,
coincided substantially with the feeling of the Department as
expressed in the telegram last mentioned. The squadron started back
immediately to the westward. During the night of this same day,
Thursday, May 12th, towards midnight, reliable information was
received at the Navy Department that Cervera's squadron had arrived
off Martinique,--four armored cruisers and three torpedo destroyers,
one of the latter entering the principal port of the island.

The movements of the Spanish division immediately preceding its
appearance off Martinique can be recovered in the main from the log of
the _Cristobal Colon_, which was found on board that ship by the
United States officers upon taking possession after her surrender on
July 3. Some uncertainty attends the conclusions reached from its
examination, because the record is brief and not always precise in its
statements; but, whatever inaccuracy of detail there may be, the
general result is clear enough.

At noon on May 10th the division was one hundred and thirty miles east
of the longitude of Martinique, and fifteen miles south of its
southernmost point. Being thus within twelve hours' run of the island,
Admiral Cervera evidently, and reasonably, considered that he might
now be in the neighborhood of danger, if the United States Government
had decided to attempt to intercept him with an armored division,
instead of sticking to the dispositions known to him when he
sailed,--the blockade of Cuba and the holding the Flying Squadron in
reserve. In order not to fall in with an enemy unexpectedly,
especially during the night, the speed of the division was reduced to
something less than four knots, and the torpedo destroyer _Terror_ was
sent ahead to reconnoitre and report. The incident of her separating
from her consorts is not noted,--a singular omission, due possibly to
its occurring at night and so escaping observation by the _Colon_; but
it is duly logged that she was sighted "to port" next morning, May
11th, at 9 A.M., and that, until she was recognized, the crew were
sent to their quarters for action. This precaution had also been
observed during the previous night, the men sleeping beside their
guns,--a sufficient evidence of the suspicions entertained by the
Spanish Admiral.

At 10 A.M.--by which hour, or very soon afterwards, the communication
of the _Terror_ with the Admiral recorded by the log must have taken
place--there had been abundance of time since daybreak for a 15-knot
torpedo destroyer, low-lying in the water, to remain unseen within
easy scouting distance of Martinique, and thence to rejoin the
squadron, which would then be forty or fifty miles distant from the
island. She could even, by putting forth all her speed, have
communicated with the shore; possibly without the knowledge of the
American representatives on the spot, if the sympathies of the
inhabitants were with the Spaniards, as has been generally believed.
However that may be, shortly after her junction the division went
ahead again seven knots, the speed logged at noon of May 11th, which,
as steam formed, was increased to ten knots. At 4 P.M. Martinique was
abeam on the starboard hand--north. At sundown the ships went to
general quarters, and the crews were again kept at their guns during
the night. By this time Cervera doubtless had been informed that
Sampson's division had gone east from Cuba, but its destination could
have been only a matter of inference with him, for the attack upon San
Juan did not take place till the following morning. The fact of
keeping his men at quarters also justifies the conclusion that he was
thus uncertain about Sampson, for the stationariness of the Flying
Squadron would be known at Martinique.

After mentioning that the ship's company went to quarters, the log of
the _Colon_ adds: "Stopped from 5.15 to 6 A.M." Whether the 5.15 was
A.M. or P.M., whether, in short, the squadron continued practically
motionless during the night of May 11th-12th, can only be conjectured,
but there can be little doubt that it did so remain. The Spaniards
still observe the old-fashioned sea-day of a century ago, abandoned
long since by the British and ourselves, according to which May 12th
begins at noon of May 11th. A continuous transaction, such as stopping
from evening to morning, would fall, therefore, in the log of the same
day, as it here does; whereas in a United States ship of war, even
were our records as brief and fragmentary as the _Colon's_, the fact
of the stoppage, extending over the logs of two days, would have been
mentioned in each. It is odd, after passing an hour or two in putting
this and that together out of so incomplete a narrative, to find
recorded in full, a few days later, the following notable incident:
"At 2.30 P.M. flagship made signal: 'If you want fresh beef, send
boat.' Answered: 'Many thanks; do not require any.'" Log-books do
state such occurrences, particularly when matters of signal; but then
they are supposed also to give a reasonably full account of each day's
important proceedings.

Whatever the movements back and forth, or the absence of movement, by
the Spanish ships during the night, at 7.10 A.M. the next day, May
12th, while Sampson's division was still engaged with the forts at San
Juan, they were close to Martinique, "four miles from Diamond Rock," a
detached islet at its southern end. The next entry, the first for the
sea-day of May 13th, is: "At 12.20 P.M. lost sight of Martinique." As
the land there is high enough to be visible forty or fifty miles under
favorable conditions, and as the squadron on its way to Curaçao
averaged 11 knots per hour, it seems reasonable to infer that the
Spanish Admiral, having received news of the attack on San Juan,
though possibly not of the result, had determined upon a hasty
departure and a hurried run to the end of his journey, before he could
be intercepted by Sampson, the original speed of whose ships was
inferior to that of his own, and whom he knew to be hampered by

The Spaniards did not take coal at Martinique. This may have been due
to refusal by the French officials to permit it, according to a common
neutral rule which allows a neutral only to give enough to reach the
nearest national port. As the ships still had enough to reach Curaçao,
they had more than enough to go to Puerto Rico. It may very well be,
also, that Cervera, not caring to meet Sampson, whose force, counting
the monitors, was superior to his own, thought best to disappear at
once again from our knowledge. He did indeed prolong his journey to
Santiago, if that were his original destination, by nearly two hundred
miles, through going to Curaçao; not to speak of the delay there in
coaling. But, if the Dutch allowed him to take all that he wanted, he
would in his final start be much nearer Cuba than at Martinique, and
he would be able, as far as fuel went, to reach either Santiago,
Cienfuegos, or Puerto Rico, or even Havana itself,--all which
possibilities would tend to perplex us. It is scarcely probable,
however, that he would have attempted the last-named port. To do so,
not to speak of the greater hazard through the greater distance,
would, in case of his success, not merely have enabled, but invited,
the United States to concentrate its fleet in the very best position
for us, where it would not only have "contained" the enemy, but have
best protected our own base at Key West.

In the absence of certain knowledge, conjectural opinions, such as the
writer has here educed, are not unprofitable; rather the reverse. To
form them, the writer and the reader place themselves perforce nearly
in Cervera's actual position, and pass through their own minds the
grist of unsolved difficulties which confronted him. The result of
such a process is a much more real mental possession than is yielded
by a quiet perusal of any ascertained facts, because it involves an
argumentative consideration of opposing conditions, and not a mere
passive acceptance of statements. The general conclusion of the
present writer, from this consideration of Cervera's position, and of
that of our own Government, is that the course of the Spanish Admiral
was opportunist, solely and simply. Such, in general, and necessarily,
must be that of any "fleet in being," in the strict sense of the
phrase, which involves inferiority of force; whereas the stronger
force, if handled with sagacity and strength, constrains the weaker
in its orbit as the earth governs the moon. Placed in an extremely
false position by the fault, militarily unpardonable, of his
Government, Admiral Cervera doubtless did the best he could. That in
so doing he caused the United States authorities to pass through some
moments of perplexity is certain, but it was the perplexity of
interest rather than of apprehension; and in so far as the latter was
felt at all, it was due to antecedent faults of disposition on our own
part, the causes of which have been in great measure indicated
already. The writer is not an angler, but he understands that there is
an anxious pleasure in the suspense of playing a fish, as in any
important contest involving skill.

To say that there was any remarkable merit in the movements of the
Spanish Admiral is as absurd as to attribute particular cleverness to
a child who, with his hands behind his back, asks the old conundrum,
"Right or left?" "It is all a matter of guess," said Nelson, "and the
world attributes wisdom to him who guesses right;" but all the same,
by unremitting watchfulness, sagacious inference, and diligent
pursuit, he ran the French fleet down. At Martinique, Admiral Cervera
had all the West Indies before him where to choose, and the United
States coast too, conditioned by coal and other needs, foreseen or
unforeseen. We ran him down at Santiago; and had he vanished from
there, we should have caught him somewhere else. The attempt of the
Spanish authorities to create an impression that some marvellous feat
of strategy was in process of execution, to the extreme discomfiture
of the United States navy, was natural enough, considering the straits
they were in, and the consciousness of the capable among them that a
squadron of that force never should have been sent across the sea;
but, though natural, the pretension was absurd, and, though echoed by
all the partisan Press in Europe, it did not for a moment impose as
true upon those who were directing the movements of the United States


[2] A principal object of these papers, as has been stated, is to form
a correct public opinion; for by public opinion, if misguided, great
embarrassment is often caused to those responsible for the conduct of a
war. As concrete examples teach far better than abstract principles,
the writer suggests to the consideration of his readers how seriously
would have been felt, during the hostilities, the accident which befell
the battleship _Massachusetts_, on Dec. 14, 1898, a month after the
above sentences were written. An injury in battle, engaged without
adequate object, would have had the same effect, and been



The departure of Admiral Cervera from Martinique for Curaçao was
almost simultaneous with that of Admiral Sampson from San Juan for Key
West. The immediate return of the latter to the westward was dictated
by reasons, already given in his own words, the weight of which he
doubtless felt more forcibly because he found himself actually so far
away from the centre of the blockade and from his base at Key West.
When he began thus to retrace his steps, he was still ignorant of
Cervera's arrival. The following night, indeed, he heard from a
passing vessel the rumor of the Spanish squadron's regaining Cadiz,
with which the Navy Department had been for a moment amused. He
stopped, therefore, to communicate with Washington, intending, if the
rumor were confirmed, to resume the attack upon San Juan. But on the
morning of the 15th--Sunday--at 3.30, his despatch-boat returned to
him with the official intelligence, not only of the enemy's being off
Martinique, but of his arrival at Curaçao, which occurred shortly
after daylight of the 14th. The same telegram informed him that the
Flying Squadron was on its way to Key West, and directed him to regain
that point himself with all possible rapidity.

Cervera left behind him at Martinique one of his torpedo destroyers,
the _Terror_. A demonstration was made by this vessel, probably,
though it may have been by one of her fellows, before St.
Pierre,--another port of the island,--where the _Harvard_ was lying;
and as the latter had been sent hurriedly from home with but a
trifling battery, some anxiety was felt lest the enemy might score a
point upon her, if the local authorities compelled her to leave. If
the Spaniard had been as fast as represented, he would have had an
advantage over the American in both speed and armament,--very serious
odds. The machinery of the former, however, was in bad order, and she
soon had to seek a harbor in Fort de France, also in Martinique; after
which the usual rule, that two belligerents may not leave the same
neutral port within twenty-four hours of each other, assured the
_Harvard_ a safe start. This incident, otherwise trivial, is worthy of
note, for it shows one of the results of our imperfect national
preparation for war. If the conditions had allowed time to equip the
_Harvard_ with suitable guns, she could have repulsed such an enemy,
as a ship of the same class, the _St. Paul_, did a few weeks later off
San Juan, whither the _Terror_ afterwards repaired, and where she
remained till the war was over.

The news of Cervera's appearance off Martinique was first received at
the Navy Department about midnight of May 12th-13th, nearly thirty-six
hours after the fact. As our representatives there, and generally
throughout the West Indies, were very much on the alert, it seems not
improbable that their telegrams, to say the least, were not given
undue precedence of other matters. That, however, is one of the
chances of life, and most especially of war. It is more to the
purpose, because more useful to future guidance, to consider the
general situation at the moment the telegram was received, the means
at hand to meet the exigencies of the case, and what instructive light
is thereby thrown back upon preceding movements, which had resulted in
the actual conditions.

Admiral Cervera's division had been at Martinique, and, after a brief
period of suspense, was known to have disappeared to the westward. The
direction taken, however, might, nay, almost certainly must, be
misleading,--that was part of his game. From it nothing could be
decisively inferred. The last news of the _Oregon_ was that she had
left Bahia, in Brazil, on the 9th of the month. Her whereabouts and
intended movements were as unknown to the United States authorities as
to the enemy. An obvious precaution, to assure getting assistance to
her, would have been to prescribe the exact route she should follow,
subject only to the conditional discretion which can never wisely be
taken from the officer in command on the spot. In that way it would
have been possible to send a division to meet her, if indications at
any moment countenanced the suspicion entertained by some--the author
among others--that Cervera would attempt to intercept her. After
careful consideration, this precaution had not been attempted,
because the tight censorship of the Press had not then been
effectually enforced, and it was feared that even so vital and evident
a necessity as that of concealing her movements would not avail
against the desire of some newspapers to manifest enterprise, at
whatever cost to national interests. If we ever again get into a
serious war, a close supervision of the Press, punitive as well as
preventive, will be one of the first military necessities, unless the
tone and disposition, not of the best, but of the worst, of its
members shall have become sensibly improved; for occasional
unintentional leakage, by well-meaning officials possessing more
information than native secretiveness, cannot be wholly obviated, and
must be accepted, practically, as one of the inevitable difficulties
of conducting war.

The _Oregon_, therefore, was left a loose end, and was considered to
be safer so than if more closely looked after. From the time she left
Bahia till she arrived at Barbados, and from thence till she turned up
off Jupiter Inlet, on the Florida coast, no one in Washington knew
where she was. Nevertheless, she continued a most important and
exposed fraction of the national naval force. That Cervera had turned
west when last seen from Martinique meant nothing. It was more
significant and reassuring to know that he had not got coal there.
Still, it was possible that he might take a chance off Barbados,
trusting, as he with perfect reason could, that when he had waited
there as long as his coal then on hand permitted, the British
authorities would let him take enough more to reach Puerto Rico, as
they did give Captain Clark sufficient to gain a United States port.
When the _Oregon_ got to Barbados at 3.20 A.M. of May 18th, less than
six days had elapsed since Cervera quitted Martinique; and the two
islands are barely one hundred miles apart. All this, of course, is
very much more clear to our present knowledge than it could possibly
be to the Spanish Admiral, who probably, and not unnaturally, thought
it far better to get his "fleet in being" under the guns of a friendly
port than to hazard it on what might prove a wild-goose chase; for,
after all, Captain Clark might not have gone to Barbados.

It may be interesting to the reader to say here that the Navy
Department,--which was as much in the dark as Cervera
himself,--although it was necessarily concerned about the _Oregon_, and
gave much thought to the problem how best to assure her safety, was
comforted by the certainty that, whatever befell the ship, the national
interests would not be gravely compromised if she did meet the enemy.
The situation was not novel or unprecedented, and historical precedents
are an immense support to the spirit in doubtful moments. Conscious of
the power of the ship herself, and confident in her captain and
officers, whom it knew well, the Department was assured, to use words
of Nelson when he was expecting to be similarly outnumbered, "Before we
are destroyed, I have little doubt but the enemy will have their wings
so completely clipped that they will be easily overtaken." Such odds
for our ship were certainly not desired; but, the best having been done
that could be in the circumstances, there was reasonable ground to
believe that, by the time the enemy got through with her, they would
not amount to much as a fighting squadron.

Some little while after the return of Admiral Sampson's squadron to
New York, the writer chanced to see, quoted as an after-dinner speech
by the chief engineer of the _Oregon_, the statement that Captain
Clark had communicated to his officers the tactics he meant to pursue,
if he fell in with the Spanish division. His purpose, as so explained,
deserves to be noted; for it assures our people, if they need any
further assurance, that in the single ship, as in the squadrons,
intelligent skill as well as courage presided in the councils of the
officers in charge. The probability was that the Spanish vessels,
though all reputed faster than the _Oregon_, had different rates of
speed, and each singly was inferior to her in fighting force, in
addition to which the American ship had a very heavy stern battery.
The intention therefore was, in case of a meeting, to turn the stern
to the enemy and to make a running fight. This not only gave a
superiority of fire to the _Oregon_ so long as the relative positions
lasted, but it tended, of course, to prolong it, confining the enemy
to their bow fire and postponing to the utmost possible the time of
their drawing near enough to open with the broadside rapid-fire
batteries. Moreover, if the Spanish vessels were not equally fast,
and if their rate of speed did not much exceed that of the _Oregon_,
both very probable conditions, it was quite possible that in the
course of the action the leading ship would outstrip her followers so
much as to be engaged singly, and even that two or more might thus be
successively beaten in detail. If it be replied that this is assuming
a great deal, and attributing stupidity to the enemy, the answer is
that the result here supposed has not infrequently followed upon
similar action, and that war is full of uncertainties,--an instance
again of the benefit and comfort which some historical acquaintance
with the experience of others imparts to a man engaged with present
perplexities. Deliberately to incur such odds would be unjustifiable;
but when unavoidably confronted with them, resolution enlightened by
knowledge may dare still to hope.

An instructive instance of drawing such support from the very fountain
heads of military history, in the remote and even legendary past, is
given by Captain Clark in a letter replying to inquiries from the
present writer:--

     "There is little to add to what you already know about the
     way I hoped to fight Cervera's fleet, if we fell in with it.
     What I feared was that he would be able to bring his ships up
     within range together, supposing that the slowest was faster
     than the _Oregon_; but there was the chance that their
     machinery was in different stages of deterioration, and there
     was also the hope that impetuosity or excitement might after
     a time make some press on in advance of the others. I, of
     course, had in mind the tactics of the last of the Horatii,
     and hopefully referred to them. The announcement Milligan
     (the chief engineer) spoke of was made before we reached
     Bahia, I think before we turned Cape Frio, as it was off that
     headland that I decided to leave the _Marietta_ and
     _Nictheroy_, (now the _Buffalo_), and to push on alone. You
     may be sure that was an anxious night for me when I decided
     to part company. The Department was, of course, obliged to
     leave much to my discretion, and I knew that the Spaniards
     might all close to rapid-fire range, overpower all but our
     turret guns, and then send in their torpedo boats."

It was upon the _Marietta_ that he had previously depended, in a
measure, to thwart the attacks of these small vessels; but in such a
contest as that with four armored cruisers she could scarcely count,
and she was delaying his progress in the run immediately before him.

     "The torpedo boat [he continues] was a rattlesnake to me,
     that I feared would get in his work while I was fighting the
     tiger; but I felt that the chances were that Cervera was
     bound to the West Indies, and so that the need of the
     _Oregon_ there was so great that the risk of his turning
     south to meet me should be run, so I hurried to Bahia, and
     cabled to the Department my opinion of what the _Oregon_
     might do alone and in a running fight.... My object was to
     add the _Oregon_ to our fleet, and not to meet the Spaniards,
     if it could be avoided."

It may be added that in this his intention coincided with the wish of
the Department.

     "So when, in Barbados, the reports came off that the Spanish
     fleet (and rumors had greatly increased its size) was at
     Martinique, that three torpedo boats had been seen from the
     island, I ordered coal to be loaded till after midnight, but
     left soon after dark, started west, then turned and went
     around the island"--that is, well to the eastward--"and made
     to the northward."

This was on the evening of May 18th. Six days later the ship was off
the coast of Florida, and in communication with the Department.

The _Oregon_ may properly be regarded as one of the three principal
detachments into which the United States fleet was divided at the
opening of the eventful week, May 12th-19th, and which, however they
might afterwards be distributed around the strategic centre,--which we
had chosen should be about Havana and Cienfuegos,--needed to be
brought to it as rapidly as possible. No time was avoidably lost. On
the evening of May 13th, eighteen hours after Cervera's appearance at
Martinique was reported, the two larger divisions, under Sampson and
Schley, were consciously converging upon our point of concentration at
Key West; while the third, the _Oregon_, far more distant, was also
moving to the same place in the purpose of the Department, though, as
yet, unconsciously to herself. Sampson had over twenty-four hours'
start of the Flying Squadron; and the distances to be traversed, from
Puerto Rico and Hampton Roads, were practically the same.[3] But the
former was much delayed by the slowness of the monitors, and, great as
he felt the need of haste to be, and urgent as was the Department's
telegram, received on the 15th, he very properly would not allow his
vessels to separate until nearer their destination. Precautionary
orders were sent by him to the _Harvard_ and _Yale_--two swift
despatch vessels then under his immediate orders--to coal to the
utmost and to hold themselves at the end of a cable ready for
immediate orders; while Commodore Remey, commanding at Key West, was
directed to have every preparation complete for coaling the squadron
on the 18th, when it might be expected to arrive. The _St. Louis_, a
vessel of the same type as the _Harvard_, met the Admiral while these
telegrams were being written. She was ordered to cut the cables at
Santiago and Guantanamo Bay, and afterwards at Ponce, Puerto Rico.

The Flying Squadron had sailed at 4 P.M. of the 13th. Its fighting
force consisted of the _Brooklyn_, armored cruiser, flagship; the
_Massachusetts_, first-class, and the _Texas_, second-class,
battleships. It is to be inferred from the departure of these vessels
that the alarm about our own coast, felt while the whereabouts of the
hostile division was unknown, vanished when it made its appearance.
The result was, perhaps, not strictly logical; but the logic of the
step is of less consequence than its undoubted military correctness.
We had chosen our objective, and now we were concentrating upon it,--a
measure delayed too long, though unavoidably. Commodore Schley was
directed to call off Charleston for orders; for, while it is essential
to have a settled strategic idea in any campaign, it is also
necessary, in maritime warfare, at all events, to be ready to change a
purpose suddenly and to turn at once upon the great objective,--which
dominates and supersedes all others,--the enemy's navy, when a
reasonable prospect of destroying it, or any large fraction of it,
offers. When Schley left Hampton Roads, it was known only that the
Spanish division had appeared off Martinique. The general intention,
that our own should go to Key West, must therefore be held subject to
possible modification, and to that end communication at a half-way
point was imperative. No detention was thereby caused. At 4.30 P.M. of
the 15th the Flying Squadron, which had been somewhat delayed by ten
hours of dense fog, came off Charleston Bar, where a lighthouse
steamer had been waiting since the previous midnight. From the officer
in charge of her the Commodore received his orders, and at 6 P.M. was
again under way for Key West, where he arrived on the 18th,
anticipating by several hours Sampson's arrival in person, and by a
day the coming of the slower ships of the other division.

But if it is desirable to ensure frequent direct communication with
the larger divisions of the fleet, at such a moment, when their
movements must be held subject to sudden change to meet the as yet
uncertain developments of the enemy's strategy, it is still more
essential to keep touch from a central station with the swift single
cruisers, the purveyors of intelligence and distributors of the
information upon which the conduct of the war depends. If the broad
strategic conception of the naval campaign is correct, and the
consequent action consistent, the greater fighting units--squadrons or
fleets--may be well, or better, left to themselves, after the initial
impulse of direction is given, and general instructions have been
issued to their commanders. These greater units, however, cannot
usually be kept at the end of a telegraph cable; yet they must,
through cables, maintain, with their centres of intelligence,
communication so frequent as to be practically constant. The Flying
Squadron when off Cienfuegos, and Admiral Sampson's division at the
time now under consideration, while on its passage from San Juan to
Key West, are instances in point. Conversely, dependence may be placed
upon local agents to report an enemy when he enters port; but when at
sea for an unknown destination, it is necessary, if practicable, to
get and keep touch with him, and to have his movements, actual and
probable, reported. In short, steady communication must be maintained,
as far as possible, between the always fixed points where the cables
end, and the more variable positions where the enemy's squadrons and
our own are, whether for a stay or in transit. This can be done only
through swift despatch vessels; and for these, great as is the need
that no time be wasted in their missions, the homely proverb, "more
haste, less speed," has to be kept in mind. To stop off at a wayside
port, to diverge even considerably from the shortest route, may often
be a real economy of time.

The office of cruisers thus employed is to substitute certainty for
conjecture; to correct or to confirm, by fuller knowledge, the
inferences upon which the conduct of operations otherwise so much
depends. Accurate intelligence is one of the very first _desiderata_
of war, and as the means of obtaining and transmitting it are never in
excess of the necessities, those means have to be carefully
administered. Historically, no navy ever has had cruisers enough;
partly because the lookout and despatch duties themselves are so
extensive and onerous; partly because vessels of the class are wanted
for other purposes also,--as, for instance, in our late war, for the
blockade of the Cuban ports, which was never much more than
technically "effective," and for the patrolling of our Atlantic
seaboard. True economical use of the disposable vessels, obtaining the
largest results with the least expenditure of means never adequate,
demands much forethought and more management, and is best effected by
so arranging that the individual cruisers can be quickly got hold of
when wanted. This is accomplished by requiring them to call at cable
ports and report; or by circumscribing the area in which they are to
cruise, so that they can be readily found; or by prescribing the
course and speed they are to observe,--in short, by ensuring a pretty
close knowledge of their position at every moment.

For the purposes of intelligence, a cruiser with a roving commission,
or one which neglects to report its movements when opportunity offers,
is nearly useless; and few things are more justly exasperating than
the failure of a cruiser to realize this truth in practice. Of course,
no rule is hard and fast to bind the high discretion of the officer
senior on the spot; but if the captains of cruisers will bear in mind,
as a primary principle, that they, their admirals, and the central
office, are in this respect parts of one highly specialized and most
important system in which co-operation must be observed, discretion
will more rarely err in these matters, where errors may be so serious.
That with a central office, admirals, and captains, all seeking the
same ends, matters will at times work at cross purposes, only proves
the common experience that things will not always go straight here
below. When Nelson was hunting for the French fleet before the battle
of the Nile, his flagship was dismasted in a gale of wind off Corsica.
The commander of the frigates, his lookout ships, having become
separated in the gale, concluded that the Admiral would have to return
to Gibraltar, and took his frigates there. "I thought he knew me
better," commented Nelson. "Every moment I have to regret the frigates
having left me," he wrote later; "the return to Syracuse," due to want
of intelligence, "broke my heart, which on any extraordinary anxiety
now shows itself." It is not possible strictly to define official
discretion, nor to guard infallibly against its misuse; but, all the
same, it is injurious to an officer to show that he lacks sound

When the Flying Squadron sailed, there were lying in Hampton Roads
three swift cruisers,--the _New Orleans_, the _St. Paul_, and the
_Minneapolis_. Two auxiliary cruisers, the _Yosemite_ and the _Dixie_,
were nearly but not quite ready for sea. It was for some time justly
considered imperative to keep one such ship there ready for an
immediate mission. The _New Orleans_ was so retained, subject to
further requirements of the Department; but the _Minneapolis_ and the
_St. Paul_ sailed as soon as their coaling was completed,--within
twenty-four hours of the squadron. The former was to cruise between
Haïti and the Caicos Bank, on the road which Cervera would probably
follow if he went north of Haïti; the other was to watch between Haïti
and Jamaica, where he might be encountered if he took the Windward
Passage, going south of Haïti. At the time these orders were issued
the indications were that the Spanish division was hanging about
Martinique, hoping for permission to coal there; and as both of our
cruisers were very fast vessels and directed to go at full speed, the
chances were more than good that they would reach their cruising
ground before Cervera could pass it.

These intended movements were telegraphed to Sampson, and it was
added, "Very important that your fast cruisers keep touch with the
Spanish squadron." This he received May 15th. With his still imperfect
information he gave no immediate orders which would lose him his hold
of the _Harvard_ and the _Yale_; but shortly after midnight he
learned, off Cape Haïtien, that the Spanish division was to have left
Curaçao the previous evening at six o'clock--only six hours before
this despatch reached him. He at once cabled the _Harvard_ and the
_Yale_, to which, as being under his immediate charge, the Department
had given no orders, to go to sea, the former to cruise in the Mona
Passage, to detect the enemy if he passed through it for Puerto Rico,
the _Yale_ to assist the _St. Paul_ at the station of which he had
been notified from Washington. The Department was informed by him of
these dispositions. Sampson at the same time cabled Remey at Key West
to warn the blockaders off Cienfuegos--none of which were armored--of
the possible appearance of the enemy at that port. In this step he had
been anticipated by the Department, which, feeling the urgency of the
case and uncertain of communicating betimes through him, had issued an
order direct to Remey, thirty-six hours before, that those ships, with
a single exception, should be withdrawn; and that the vessels on the
north coast should be notified, but not removed.

These various movements indicate the usefulness and the employments of
the cruiser class, one of which also carried the news to Cienfuegos,
another along the north coast, while a third took Sampson's telegrams
from his position at sea to the cable port. Owing to our insufficient
number of vessels of the kind required, torpedo boats, of great speed
in smooth water, but of delicate machinery and liable to serious
retardation in a sea-way, were much used for these missions, to the
great hurt of their engines, not intended for long-continued high
exertion, and to their own consequent injury for their particular
duties. The _St. Paul's_ career exemplified also the changes of
direction to which cruisers are liable, and the consequent necessity
of keeping them well in hand both as regards position and preparation,
especially of coal. Between the time the _Minneapolis_ sailed and her
own departure, at 6 P.M., of May 14th, the news of the Spanish
division's arrival at Curaçao was received; and as there had been
previous independent information that colliers had been ordered to
meet it in the Gulf of Venezuela, only a hundred miles from Curaçao,
the conclusion was fair that the enemy needed coal and hoped to get it
in that neighborhood. Why else, indeed, if as fast as reported, and
aware, as he must be, that Sampson was as far east as San Juan, had he
not pushed direct for Cuba, his probable objective? In regard to
colliers being due in the Gulf of Venezuela, the reports proved
incorrect; but the inference as to the need of coal was accurate, and
that meant delay. The _St. Paul_ was therefore ordered to Key West,
instructions being telegraphed there to coal her full immediately on
arriving. She would there be as near the Windward Passage as Curaçao
is, and yet able, in case of necessity, to proceed by the Yucatan
Passage or in any direction that might meanwhile become expedient. It
may be added that the _St. Paul_ reached Key West and was coaled ready
for sea by the evening of May 18th, four days from the time she left
Hampton Roads, a thousand miles distant.

While on her passage, the Department had entertained the purpose of
sending her to the Gulf of Venezuela and adding to her the _Harvard_
and the _Minneapolis_, the object being not only to find the enemy, if
there, but that one of the three should report him, while the other
two dogged his path until no doubt of his destination could remain.
Their great speed, considered relatively to that which the enemy had
so far shown, gave reasonable probability that thus his approach
could be communicated by them, and by cables, throughout the whole
field of operations, with such rapidity as to ensure cornering him at
once, which was the first great essential of our campaign. A cruiser
reporting at Cape Haïtien was picked up and sent to the _Minneapolis_,
whose whereabouts was sufficiently known, because circumscribed, and
she received her orders; but they served only to develop the weakness
of that ship and of the _Columbia_, considered as cruisers. The coal
left after her rapid steaming to her cruising ground did not justify
the further sweep required, and her captain thought it imperative to
go first to St. Thomas to recoal,--a process which involved more delay
than on the surface appears. The bunkers of this ship and of her
sister, the _Columbia_, are minutely subdivided,--an arrangement very
suitable, even imperative, in a battleship, in order to localize
strictly any injury received in battle, but inconsequent and illogical
in a vessel meant primarily for speed. A moment's reflection upon the
services required of cruisers will show that their efficiency does not
depend merely upon rapid going through the water, but upon prompt
readiness to leave port, of which promptness quick coaling is a most
important factor. This is gravely retarded by bunkers much subdivided.
The design of these two ships, meant for speed, involves this lack of
facility for recoaling. There is, therefore, in them a grave failure
in that unity of conception which should dominate all designs.

The movements, actual and projected, of the cruisers at this moment
have purposely been dwelt upon at some length. Such movements and the
management of them play a most important part in all campaigns, and it
is desirable that they should be understood, through illustration such
as this; because the provision for the service should be antecedently
thorough and consistent in plan and in execution, in order to
efficiency. Confusion of thought, and consequent confusion of object,
is fatal to any conception,--at least, to any military conception; it
is absolutely opposed to concentration, for it implies duality of
object. In the designing of a cruiser, as of any class of warship, the
first step, before which none should be taken, is to decide the
primary object to be realized,--what is this ship meant to do? To
this primary requirement every other feature should be subordinated.
Its primacy is not only one of time, but of importance also. The
recognition, in practice, of this requisite does not abolish nor
exclude the others by its predominance. It simply regulates their
development; for they not only must not militate against it, they must
minister to it. It is exactly as in a novel or in a work of art, for
every military conception, from the design of a ship up, should be a
work of art. Perfection does not exclude a multiplicity of detail, but
it does demand unity of motive, a single central idea, to which all
detail is strictly accessory, to emphasize or to enhance,--not to
distract. The cruiser requirements offer a concrete illustration of
the application of this thought. Rapidity of action is the primary
object. In it is involved both coal endurance and facility for
recoaling; for each economizes time, as speed does. Defensive
strength--of which subdivision of coal bunkers is an element--conduces
only secondarily to rapidity of movement, as does offensive power;
they must, therefore, be very strictly subordinated. They must not
detract from speed; yet so far as they do not injure that, they
should be developed, for by the power to repel an enemy--to avert
detention--they minister to rapidity. With the battleship, in this
contrary to the cruiser, offensive power is the dominant feature.
While, therefore, speed is desirable to it, excessive speed is not
admissible, if, as the author believes, it can be obtained only at
some sacrifice of offensive strength.

When Admiral Sampson sent off the telegrams last mentioned, before
daylight of May 16th, the flagship was off Cape Haïtien. During her
stoppage for this purpose, the squadron continued to stand west, in
order not to increase the loss of time due to the slowness of the
monitors, through which the progress of the whole body did not exceed
from seven to eight sea miles per hour. Cape Haïtien is distant from
Key West nearly seven hundred miles; and throughout this distance,
being almost wholly along the coast of Cuba, no close telegraphic
communication could be expected. At the squadron's rate of advance it
could not count upon arriving at Key West, and so regaining touch with
Washington, before the morning of the 19th, and the Department was
thus notified. Thirty-six hours later, at 11.30 A.M., May 17th, being
then in the Old Bahama Channel, between Cuba and the Bahama Banks, the
Admiral felt that his personal presence, under existing conditions,
was more necessary near Havana and Key West. Leaving the division,
therefore, in charge of the senior officer, Captain Evans, of the
_Iowa_, he pushed forward with the flagship _New York_, the fastest of
the armored vessels. Six hours later he was met by the torpedo boat
_Dupont_, bringing him a telegram from the Department, dated the 16th,
forwarded through Key West, directing him to send his most suitable
armored ship ahead to join the Flying Squadron. This order was based
on information that Cervera was bringing munitions of war essential to
the defence of Havana, and that his instructions were peremptory to
reach either Havana or a port connected with it by railroad. Such
commands pointed evidently to Cienfuegos, which place, moreover, was
clearly indicated from the beginning of the campaign, as already shown
in these papers, as the station for one division of our armored

The Department could calculate certainly that, by the time its message
reached Sampson, his division would be so far advanced as to ensure
interposing between Havana and the Spaniards, if the latter came by
the Windward Passage--from the eastward. It was safe, therefore, or at
least involved less risk of missing the enemy, to send the Flying
Squadron to Cienfuegos, either heading him off there, or with a chance
of meeting him in the Yucatan Channel, if he tried to reach Havana by
going west of Cuba. But as Cienfuegos was thought the more likely
destination, and was for every reason a port to be effectually
blockaded, it was desirable to reinforce Schley, not by detaining him,
under the pressing need of his getting to Cienfuegos, but by a
battleship following him as soon as possible. Of course, such a ship
might be somewhat exposed to encountering the enemy's division
single-handed, which is contrary to rule. But rules are made to be
broken on occasion, as well as to be observed generally; and again,
and always, war cannot be made without running risks, of which the
greatest is misplaced or exaggerated caution. From the moment the
Spanish ships were reported at Curaçao, a close lookout had been
established in the Yucatan Channel.

By his personal action, in quitting his squadron in order to hasten
forward, Admiral Sampson had anticipated the wishes of the Department.
At 4 P.M., May 18th, he reached Key West, where he found the Flying
Squadron and the _St. Paul_, anchored in the outer roads. His own
telegrams, and those from the Secretary of the Navy, had ensured
preparations for coaling all vessels as they arrived, to the utmost
rapidity that the facilities of the port admitted. The _St. Paul_,
whose orders had been again changed, sailed the same evening for Cape
Haïtien. The Flying Squadron started for Cienfuegos at 9 A.M. the
following day, the 19th, and was followed twenty-six hours later by
the battleship _Iowa_. Shortly after the Admiral left the fleet, it
had been overtaken by the torpedo boat _Porter_, from Cape Haïtien,
bearing a despatch which showed the urgency of the general situation,
although it in no way fettered the discretion of the officer in
charge. Captain Evans, therefore, very judiciously imitated Sampson's
action, quitted the fleet, and hastened with his own ship to Key
West, arriving at dark of the 18th. Being a vessel of large coal
endurance, she did not delay there to fill up, but she took with her
the collier _Merrimac_ for the ships before Cienfuegos.

The remainder of Sampson's division arrived on the 19th. The monitors
_Puritan_ and _Miantonomoh_, which had not been to San Juan, sailed on
the 20th for the Havana blockade, where they were joined before noon
of the 21st by the _Indiana_, and the _New York_, the latter having
the Admiral on board. Commodore Schley, with the Flying Squadron,
arrived off Cienfuegos toward midnight of the same day. The _Iowa_,
came up twelve hours later, about noon of the 22nd, and some four or
five light cruisers joined on that or the following days. On the 24th
the _Oregon_ communicated with Washington off Jupiter Inlet, on the
east coast of Florida. Her engines being reported perfectly ready,
after her long cruise, she was directed to go to Key West, where she
coaled, and on the 28th left for the Havana blockade. It is difficult
to exaggerate the honor which this result does to Chief Engineer
Milligan and to the officers responsible under him for the condition
of her machinery. The combination of skill and care thus evidenced is
of the highest order.

Such, in general outline, omitting details superfluous to correct
comprehension, was the course of incidents on our side, in the Cuban
campaign, during the ten days, May 12th-21st; from the bombardment of
San Juan de Puerto Rico to the establishment of the two armored
divisions in the positions which, under better conditions of national
preparation, they should have occupied by the 1st of the month. All is
well that ends well--so far at least as the wholly past is concerned;
but for the instruction of the future it is necessary not to cast the
past entirely behind our backs before its teachings have been pondered
and assimilated. We cannot expect ever again to have an enemy so
entirely inapt as Spain showed herself to be; yet, even so, Cervera's
division reached Santiago on the 19th of May, two days before our
divisions appeared in the full force they could muster before Havana
and Cienfuegos. Had the Spanish Admiral been trying for one of those
ports, even at the low rate of speed observed in going from Curaçao
to Santiago--about seven and five-tenth knots--he could have left
Curaçao on the evening of May 15th, and have reached Cienfuegos on the
21st, between midnight and daybreak, enabling him to enter the harbor
by 8 A.M.--more than twelve hours before the arrival there of our
Flying Squadron.

The writer assumes that, had our coast defences been such as to put
our minds at ease concerning the safety of our chief seaboard cities,
the Flying Squadron would from the first have been off Cienfuegos. He
is forced to assume so, because his own military conviction has always
been that such would have been the proper course. Whatever _coup de
main_ might have been possible against a harbor inadequately defended
as were some of ours,--the fears of which, even, he considered
exaggerated,--no serious operations against a defended seaboard were
possible to any enemy after a transatlantic voyage, until recoaled. It
would have been safe, militarily speaking, to place our two divisions
before the ports named. It was safer to do so than to keep one at
Hampton Roads; for offence is a safer course than defence.

Consider the conditions. The Spaniards, after crossing the Atlantic,
would have to coal. There were four principal ports at which they
might do so,--Havana, Cienfuegos, Santiago, and San Juan de Puerto
Rico. The first two, on the assumption, would be closed to them,
unless they chose to fight a division so nearly equal to their own
force that, whatever the result of the battle, the question of coaling
would have possessed no further immediate interest for them. Santiago
and San Juan, and any other suitable eastern port open to them--if
such there was--were simply so many special instances of a particular
case; and of these San Juan was the most favorable to them, because,
being the most distant, it ensured more time for coaling and getting
away again before our divisions could arrive. After their departure
from Curaçao was known, but not their subsequent intentions, and while
our divisions were proceeding to Havana and Cienfuegos, measures were
under consideration at the Navy Department which would have made it
even then difficult for them to escape action, if they went to San
Juan for coal; but which would have raised the difficult close to the
point of the impossible, had our divisions from the first been placed
before Havana and Cienfuegos, which strategic conditions dictated, but
fears for our own inadequately defended coast prevented.

To ensure this result, the contemplated method, one simply of
sustained readiness, was as follows. Adequate lookouts around Puerto
Rico were to be stationed, by whom the enemy's approach would be
detected and quickly cabled; and our two divisions were to be kept
ready to proceed at an instant's notice, coaled to their best steaming
lines, as far as this was compatible with a sufficiency of fuel to
hold their ground after arriving off San Juan. Two of our fastest
despatch vessels, likewise at their best steaming immersion, were to
be held at Key West ready to start at once for Cienfuegos to notify
the squadron there; two, in order that if one broke down on the way,
one would surely arrive within twenty-four hours. Thus planned, the
receipt of a cable at the Department from one of the lookouts off
Puerto Rico would be like the touching of a button. The Havana
division, reached within six hours, would start at once; that at
Cienfuegos eighteen hours after the former. Barring accidents, we
should, in five days after the enemy's arrival, have had off San Juan
the conditions which it took over a week to establish at Santiago;
but, allowing for accidents, there would, within five days, have been
at least one division, a force sufficient to hold the enemy in check.

Five days, it may be said, is not soon enough. It would have been
quite soon enough in the case of Spaniards after a sea voyage of
twenty-five hundred miles, in which the larger vessels had to share
their coal with the torpedo destroyers. In case of a quicker enemy of
more executive despatch, and granting, which will be rare, that a
fleet's readiness to depart will be conditioned only by coal, and not
by necessary engine repairs to some one vessel, it is to be remarked
that the speed which can be, and has been, assumed for our ships in
this particular case, nine knots, is far less than the most modest
demands for a battleship,--such as those made even by the present
writer, who is far from an advocate of extreme speed. Had not our
deficiency of dry docks left our ships very foul, they could have
covered the distance well within four days. Ships steady at thirteen
knots would have needed little over three; and it is _sustained_ speed
like this, not a spurt of eighteen knots for twelve hours, that is
wanted. No one, however, need be at pains to dispute that
circumstances alter cases; or that the promptness and executive
ability of an enemy are very material circumstances. Similarly,
although the method proposed would have had probable success at San
Juan, and almost certain success at any shorter distance, it would at
two thousand miles be very doubtfully expedient.

Assuming, moreover, that it had been thought unadvisable to move
against San Juan, because doubtful of arriving in time, what would
have been the situation had Cervera reached there, our armored
divisions being off Havana and Cienfuegos? He would have been watched
by the four lookouts--which were ordered before Santiago immediately
upon his arrival there--and by them followed when he quitted port.
Four leaves a good margin for detaching successively to cable ports
before giving up this following game, and by that time his intentions
would be apparent. Where, indeed, should he go? Before Havana and
Cienfuegos would be divisions capable of fighting him. Santiago, or
any eastern port, is San Juan over again, with disadvantage of
distance. Matanzas is but Havana; he would find himself anticipated
there, because one of those vessels dogging his path would have
hurried on to announce his approach. Were his destination, however,
evidently a North Atlantic port, as some among us had fondly feared,
our division before Havana would be recalled by cable, and that before
Cienfuegos drawn back to Havana, leaving, of course, lookouts before
the southern port. Cienfuegos is thereby uncovered, doubtless; but
either the Spaniard fails to get there, not knowing our movements, or,
if he rightly divines them and turns back, our coast is saved.

Strategy is a game of wits, with many unknown quantities; as Napoleon
and Nelson have said--and not they alone--the unforeseen and chance
must always be allowed for. But, if there are in it no absolute
certainties, there are practical certainties, raised by experience to
maxims, reasonable observance of which gives long odds. Prominent
among these certainties are the value of the offensive over the
defensive, the advantage of a central position, and of interior lines.
All these would have been united, strategically, by placing our
armored divisions before Havana and Cienfuegos. As an offensive step,
this supported, beyond any chance of defeat, the blockade of the Cuban
coast, as proclaimed, with the incidental additional advantage that
Key West, our base, was not only accessible to us, but defended
against serious attack, by the mere situation of our Havana squadron.
Central position and interior lines were maintained, for, Havana being
nearly equidistant from Puerto Rico and the Chesapeake, the squadrons
could be moved in the shortest time in either direction, and they
covered all points of offence and defence within the limits of the
theatre of war by lines shorter than those open to the enemy, which is
what "interior lines" practically means.

If this disposition did possess these advantages, the question
naturally arises whether it was expedient for the Havana division,
before Cervera's arrival was known, and with the Flying Squadron still
at Hampton Roads, to move to the eastward to San Juan, as was done.
The motive of this step, in which the Navy Department acquiesced, was
the probability, which must be fully admitted, that San Juan was
Cervera's primary destination. If it so proved, our squadron would be
nearer at hand. It was likely, of course, that Cervera would first
communicate with a neutral port, as he did at Martinique, to learn if
the coast were clear before pushing for San Juan. The result of his
going to the latter place would have been to present the strategic
problem already discussed.

Cervera heard that our fleet was at San Juan, went to Curaçao, and
afterwards to Santiago, because, as the Spanish Minister of Marine
declared in the Cortes, it was the only port to which he could go. Our
Admiral's official report, summing up the conditions after the
bombardment of San Juan, as they suggested themselves to his mind at
the time, has been quoted in a previous section. In the present we
have sought to trace as vividly as possible the hurried and various
measures consequent upon Cervera's movements; to reproduce, if may be,
the perplexities--the anxieties, perhaps, but certainly not the
apprehensions--of the next ten days, in which, though we did not fear
being beaten, we did fear being outwitted, which is to no man

If Sampson's division had been before Havana and Schley's at Hampton
Roads when Cervera appeared, the latter could have entered San Juan
undisturbed. What could we then have done? In virtue of our central
position, three courses were open. 1. We could have sent our Havana
division to San Juan, as before proposed, and the Flying Squadron
direct to the same point, with the disadvantage, however, as compared
with the disposition advocated last, that the distance to it from
Hampton Roads is four hundred miles more than from Cienfuegos. 2. We
could have moved the Havana Squadron to San Juan, sending the Flying
Squadron to Key West to coal and await further orders. This is only a
modification of No. 1. Or, 3, we could have ordered the Flying
Squadron to Key West, and at the same moment sent the Havana division
before Cienfuegos,--a simultaneous movement which would have effected
a great economy of time, yet involved no risk, owing to the distance
of the Spanish division from the centre of operations.

Of these three measures the last would have commended itself to the
writer had Cervera's appearance, reported at Martinique, left it at
all doubtful whether or not he were aiming for Havana or Cienfuegos.
In our estimation, that was the strategic centre, and therefore to be
covered before all else. So long as Cervera's destination was unknown,
and might, however improbable, be our coast, there was possible
justification for keeping the Flying Squadron there; the instant he
was known to be in the West Indies, to close the two Cuban ports
became the prime necessity. But had he entered San Juan without
previous appearance, the first or the second should have been adopted,
in accordance with the sound general principle that the enemy's fleet,
if it probably can be reached, is the objective paramount to all
others; because the control of the sea, by reducing the enemy's navy,
is the determining consideration in a naval war.

Without dogmatizing, however, upon a situation which did not obtain,
it appears now to the writer, not only that the eastward voyage of our
Havana division was unfortunate, viewed in the light of subsequent
events, but that it should have been seen beforehand to be a mistake
because inconsistent with a well-founded and generally accepted
principle of war, the non-observance of which was not commanded by the
conditions. The principle is that which condemns "eccentric"
movements. The secondary definition of this word--"odd" or
"peculiar"--has so dislodged all other meanings in common speech that
it seems necessary to recall that primarily, by derivation, it
signifies "away from the centre," to which sense it is confined in
technical military phrase. Our centre of operations had been fixed,
and rightly fixed, at Havana and Cienfuegos. It was subject, properly,
to change--instant change--when the enemy's fleet was known to be
within striking distance; but to leave the centre otherwise, on a
calculation of probabilities however plausible, was a proposition that
should have been squarely confronted with the principle, which itself
is only the concrete expression of many past experiences. It is far
from the writer's wish to advocate slavery to rule; no bondage is more
hopeless or more crushing; but when one thinks of acting contrary to
the weight of experience, the reasons for such action should be most
closely scrutinized, and their preponderance in the particular case

These remarks are offered with no view of empty criticism of a
mistake--if such it were--in which the writer was not without his
share. In military judgments error is not necessarily censurable. One
of the greatest captains has said: "The general who has made no
mistake has made few campaigns." There are mistakes and mistakes;
errors of judgment, such as the most capable man makes in the course
of a life, and errors of conduct which demonstrate essential unfitness
for office. Of the latter class was that of Admiral Byng, when he
retired from Minorca; a weakness not unparalleled in later times, but
which, whatever the indulgence accorded to the offender, is a military
sin that should for itself receive no condonement of judgment. As
instances of the former, both Nelson and Napoleon admitted, to quote
the latter's words: "I have been so often mistaken that I no longer
blush for it." My wish is to illustrate, by a recent particular
instance, a lesson professionally useful to the future,--the value of
rules. By the disregard of rule in this case we uncovered both Havana
and Cienfuegos, which it was our object to close to the enemy's
division. Had the latter been more efficient, he could have reached
one or the other before we regained the centre. Our movement was
contrary to rule; and while the inferences upon which it was based
were plausible, they were not, in the writer's judgment, adequate to
constitute the exception.


[3] The distance from Hampton Roads to Key West is increased, owing to
the adverse current of the Gulf Stream through much of the route.



The result of the various movements so far narrated was to leave the
Flying Squadron May 22nd, off Cienfuegos, and Admiral Sampson's
division off Havana, on the 21st. The latter was seriously diminished
in mobile combatant force by the removal of the _Iowa_, detached to
the south of the island to join the ships under Schley. It was
confidently expected that there, rather than at any northern port,
the enemy would make his first appearance; and for that reason the
Flying Squadron was strengthened by, and that off Havana deprived of,
a vessel whose qualities would tell heavily in conflict with an active
antagonist, such as a body of armored cruisers ought to be. Only by
great good fortune could it be expected that the monitors, upon which
Sampson for the moment had largely to depend, could impose an
engagement upon Cervera's division if the latter sought to enter
Havana by a dash. By taking from the Admiral his most powerful vessel,
he was exposed to the mortification of seeing the enemy slip by and
show his heels to our sluggish, low-freeboard, turreted vessels; but
the solution was the best that could be reached under the conditions.
It was not till the 28th of the month that the junction of the
_Oregon_ put our division before Havana on terms approaching equality
as regards quickness of movement.

On the 19th of May the Department received probable, but not certain,
information that the enemy's division had entered Santiago. This, as
is now known, had occurred on the early morning of the same day.
Singularly enough, less than twenty-four hours before, on the 18th,
the auxiliary steamer _St. Louis_, Captain Goodrich, lately one of the
American Transatlantic liners, had been close in with the mouth of
this port, which had hitherto lain outside our sphere of operations,
and had made a determined and successful attempt to cut the telegraph
cable leading from Santiago to Jamaica. In doing this, the _St.
Louis_, which, like her sister ships (except the _St. Paul_), had not
yet received an armament suitable to her size or duties, lay for
three-quarters of an hour under the fire of the enemy, at a distance
of little over a mile. Fortunately a six-inch rifled gun on the Socapa
battery, which was then being mounted, was not ready until the
following day; and the _St. Louis_ held her ground without injury
until a piece had been cut out of the cable. In this work she was
assisted by the tug _Wompatuck_, Lieutenant-Commander Jungen. The two
vessels then moved away to Guantanamo Bay, having been off Santiago
nearly forty-eight hours. It may certainly be charged as good luck to
Cervera that their departure before his arrival kept our Government
long in uncertainty as to the fact, which we needed to know in the
most positive manner before stripping the Havana blockade in order to
concentrate at Santiago. The writer remembers that the captain of the
_St. Louis_, having soon afterwards to come north for coal, found it
difficult to believe that he could have missed the Spanish vessels by
so little; and the more so because he had spent the 19th off
Guantanamo, less than fifty miles distant. By that time, however, our
information, though still less than eye-witness, was so far probable
as to preponderate over his doubts; but much perplexity would have
been spared us had the enemy been seen by this ship, whose great speed
would have brought immediate positive intelligence that all, and not
only a part, had entered the port. On this point we did not obtain
certainty until three weeks later.

In yet another respect luck, as it is commonly called, went against us
at this time. The _Wompatuck_ was sent by Captain Goodrich into the
mouth of the harbor at Guantanamo to attempt to grapple the cable
there. The tug and the _St. Louis_ were both forced to retire, not by
the weight of fire from the coast, but by a petty Spanish gunboat,
aided by "a small gun on shore." Could this fact have been
communicated to Commodore Schley when he decided to return to Key West
on the 26th, on account of the difficulty of coaling, he might have
seen the facility with which the place could be secured and utilized
for a coaling station, as it subsequently was by Admiral Sampson, and
that there thus was no necessity of starting back some seven hundred
miles to Key West, when he had with him four thousand tons of coal in
a collier. When the lower bay was occupied, on the 8th of June, our
attacking vessels were only the naval unprotected cruiser _Marblehead_
and the auxiliary cruiser _Yankee_, the former of which was with the
Flying Squadron during its passage from Cienfuegos to Santiago, and
throughout the subsequent proceedings up to Sampson's arrival off the
latter port. No resistance to them was made by the Spanish gunboat,
before which the vulnerable and inadequately armed _St. Louis_ and
_Wompatuck_ had very properly retired.

Although the information received of Cervera's entering Santiago was
not reliable enough to justify detaching Sampson's ships from before
Havana, it was probable to a degree that made it imperative to watch
the port in force at once. Telegrams were immediately sent out to
assemble the four auxiliary cruisers--_St. Paul_, _St. Louis_,
_Harvard_, and _Yale_--and the fast naval cruiser _Minneapolis_ before
the mouth of the harbor. The number of these ships shows the
importance attached to the duty. It was necessary to allow largely for
the chapter of accidents; for, to apply a pithy saying of the Chief of
the Naval Bureau of Equipment,--"the only way to have coal enough is
to have too much,"--the only way to assemble ships enough when things
grow critical, is to send more than barely enough. All those that
received their orders proceeded as rapidly as their conditions
allowed, but the Department could not get hold of the _St. Louis_.
This failure illustrates strongly the remark before made concerning
the importance of knowing just where cruisers are to be found; for of
all the five ships thus sought to be gathered, the _St. Louis_ was, at
the moment, the most important, through her experience of the
defenceless state of the harbor at Guantanamo, which she could have
communicated to Schley. The latter, when he arrived off Santiago on
the evening of the 26th, found the _Minneapolis_, the _St. Paul_, and
the _Yale_ on the ground. The _Harvard_ had already been there, but
had gone for the moment to St. Nicolas Mole, with despatches that the
Commodore had sent before him from Cienfuegos. She joined the squadron
again early next day, May 27th.

On the morning of the 25th, the _St. Paul_ had captured the British
steamer _Restormel_, with 2,400 tons of coal for the Spanish squadron.
This vessel had gone first to Puerto Rico, and from there had been
directed to Curaçao, where she arrived two days after Cervera had
departed. When taken she reported that two other colliers were in
Puerto Rico when she sailed thence. This would seem to indicate that
that port, and not Santiago, had been the original destination of the
enemy, for it would have been quite as easy for the colliers to go to
Santiago at once; probably safer, for we were not then thinking of
Santiago in comparison with San Juan. This conjecture is strengthened
by the fact that there were only 2,300 tons of Cardiff coal in
Santiago, a condition which shows both how little the Spanish
Government expected to use the port and how serious this capture at
this instant was to the enemy.

The intention of Commodore Schley to return to Key West precipitated
the movement of Admiral Sampson, with his two fastest ships, to
Santiago; but the step would certainly have been taken as soon as the
doubt whether all the Spanish division had entered was removed. The
Department, under its growing conviction that the enemy was there, had
already been increasingly disturbed by the delay of the Flying
Squadron before Cienfuegos. This delay was due to the uncertainty of
its commander as to whether or not Cervera was in the latter port; nor
was there then known reason to censure the decision of the officer on
the spot, whose information, dependent upon despatch vessels, or upon
local scouting, was necessarily, in some respects, more meagre than
that of the Department, in cable communication with many quarters.
Nevertheless, he was mistaken, and each succeeding hour made the
mistake more palpable and more serious to those in Washington; not,
indeed, that demonstrative proof had been received there--far from
it--but there was that degree of reasonable probability which
justifies practical action in all life, and especially in war. There
was not certainty enough to draw away our ships from before
Havana,--to the exposure also of Key West,--but there was quite
sufficient certainty to take the chance of leaving Cienfuegos and
going off Santiago; for, to put the case at its weakest, we could not
close both ports, and had, therefore, to make a choice. Against the
risk of the enemy trying to dash out of Santiago and run for some
other point, provision was made by a telegram to the _Yale_ to inform
every vessel off Santiago that the Flying Squadron was off Cienfuegos,
and that orders had been sent it to proceed with all possible despatch
off Santiago. If, therefore, the enemy did run out before the arrival
of Schley, our scouts would know where to look for the latter; that
is, somewhere on the shortest line between the two ports.

The embarrassment imposed upon the Department, under the telegram that
the Flying Squadron was returning to Key West, was increased greatly
by the fact that the five cruisers ordered before the port were
getting very short of coal. If the squadron held its ground, this was
comparatively immaterial. It would be injurious, unquestionably, to
the communications and to the lookout, but not necessarily fatal to
the object in view, which was that Cervera should not get out without
a fight and slip away again into the unknown. But, if the squadron
went, the cruisers could not stay, and the enemy might escape
unobserved. Fortunately, on second thoughts, the Commodore decided to
remain; but before that was known to the Department, Sampson had been
directed, on May 29th, to proceed with the _New York_ and the
_Oregon_, the latter of which had only joined him on the 28th. The
telegram announcing that the Flying Squadron would hold on came indeed
before the two ships started, but it was not thought expedient to
change their orders. Word also had then been received that two of the
Spanish division had been sighted inside from our own vessels, and
though this still left a doubt as to the whereabouts of the others, it
removed the necessity of covering Key West, which had caused the
Department, on the first knowledge of Schley's returning, to limit its
orders to Sampson to be ready to set out for Santiago the instant the
Flying Squadron returned. By the departure of the _New York_ and the
_Oregon_, the _Indiana_ was left the only battleship to the westward.
Her speed was insufficient to keep up with the two others, and it was
determined to employ her in convoying the army when it was ready,--a
duty originally designed for Sampson's division as a whole.

Admiral Sampson with his two ships arrived off Santiago on the 1st of
June at 6 A.M., and established at once the close watch of the port
which lasted until the sally and destruction of Cervera's squadron.
"From that time on," says the Spanish Lieutenant Muller, who was in
the port from the first, as second in command of the naval forces of
the province, "the hostile ships, which were afterwards increased in
number, established day and night a constant watch, without
withdrawing at nightfall, as they used to do." Into the particulars of
this watch, which lasted for a month and which effectively prevented
any attempt of the enemy to go out by night, the writer does not
purpose to enter, as his object in this series of papers is rather to
elicit the general lessons derivable from the war than to give the
details of particular operations. It is only just to say, however,
that all the dispositions of the blockade,--to use the common, but
not strictly accurate, expression,--from the beginning of June to the
day of the battle, were prescribed by the commander-in-chief on the
spot, without controlling orders, and with little, if any, suggestion
on the subject from the Department. The writer remembers none; but he
does well remember the interest with which, during the dark nights of
the month, he watched the size of the moon, which was new on the 18th,
and the anxiety each morning lest news might be received of a
successful attempt to get away on the part of the enemy, whose reputed
speed so far exceeded that of most of our ships. It was not then known
that, by reason of the methods unremittingly enforced by our squadron,
it was harder to escape from Santiago by night than by day, because of
the difficulty of steering a ship through an extremely narrow channel,
with the beam of an electric light shining straight in the eyes, as
would there have been the case for a mile before reaching the harbor's

The history of the time--now nearly a year--that has elapsed since
these lines were first written, impels the author, speaking as a
careful student of the naval operations that have illustrated the past
two centuries and a half, to say that in his judgment no more onerous
and important duty than the guard off Santiago fell upon any officer
of the United States during the hostilities; and that the judgment,
energy, and watchfulness with which it was fulfilled by Admiral
Sampson merits the highest praise. The lack of widely diffused popular
appreciation of military conditions, before referred to in these
papers, has been in nothing more manifest than in the failure to
recognize generally, and by suitable national reward, both the
difficulty of his task, and that the dispositions maintained by him
ensured the impossibility of Cervera's escaping undetected, as well as
the success of the action which followed his attempt at flight. This
made further fighting on Spain's part hopeless and vindicated, if
vindication were needed, the Department's choice of the
commander-in-chief; but, as a matter of fact, the reply of that great
admiral and experienced administrator, Lord St. Vincent, when he sent
Nelson to the Nile, meets decisively all such cases: "Those who are
responsible for results"--as the Navy Department (under the
President), was--"must be allowed the choice of their agents." The
writer may perhaps be excused for adding, that, having had no share,
direct or indirect, in this selection, which entirely preceded his
connection with the Department, he can have no motive of
self-justification regarding an appointment for which he could deserve
neither credit nor blame.

The office of the Navy Department at that moment, so far as Santiago
itself was concerned, was chiefly administrative: to maintain the
number of ships and their necessary supplies of coal, ammunition, and
healthy food at the highest point consistent with the requirements of
other parts of the field of war. During the month of June, being, as
it was, the really decisive period of the campaign, these demands for
increase of force naturally rose higher in every quarter. A numerous
convoy had to be provided for the army expedition; the battle fleet
had to be supplemented with several light cruisers; it became evident
that the sphere of the blockade must be extended, which meant many
more ships; and in the midst of all this, Cámara started for Suez. All
this only instances the common saying, "It never rains but it pours."
Our battle fleet before Santiago was more than powerful enough to
crush the hostile squadron in a very short time, if the latter
attempted a stand-up fight. The fact was so evident that it was
perfectly clear nothing of the kind would be hazarded; but,
nevertheless, we could not afford to diminish the number of armored
vessels on this spot, now become the determining centre of the
conflict. The possibility of the situation was twofold. Either the
enemy might succeed in an effort at evasion, a chance which required
us to maintain a distinctly superior force of battleships in order to
allow the occasional absence of one or two for coaling or repairs,
besides as many lighter cruisers as could be mustered for purposes of
lookout, or, by merely remaining quietly at anchor, protected from
attack by the lines of torpedoes, he might protract a situation which
tended not only to wear out our ships, but also to keep them there
into the hurricane season,--a risk which was not, perhaps, adequately
realized by the people of the United States.

It is desirable at this point to present certain other elements of the
naval situation which weightily affected naval action at the moment,
and which, also, were probably overlooked by the nation at large, for
they give a concrete illustration of conditions which ought to
influence our national policy, as regards the navy, in the present and
immediate future. We had to economize our ships because they were too
few. There was no reserve. The Navy Department had throughout, and
especially at this period, to keep in mind, not merely the exigencies
at Santiago, but the fact that we had not a battleship in the home
ports that could in six months be made ready to replace one lost or
seriously disabled, as the _Massachusetts_, for instance, not long
afterwards was, by running on an obstruction in New York Bay. Surprise
approaching disdain was expressed, both before and after the
destruction of Cervera's squadron, that the battle fleet was not sent
into Santiago either to grapple the enemy's ships there, or to support
the operations of the army, in the same way, for instance, that
Farragut crossed the torpedo lines at Mobile. The reply--and, in the
writer's judgment, the more than adequate reason--was that the country
could not at that time, under the political conditions which then
obtained, afford to risk the loss or disablement of a single
battleship, unless the enterprise in which it was hazarded carried a
reasonable probability of equal or greater loss to the enemy, leaving
us, therefore, as strong as before relatively to the naval power which
in the course of events might yet be arrayed against us. If we lost
ten thousand men, the country could replace them; if we lost a
battleship, it could not be replaced. The issue of the war, as a whole
and in every locality to which it extended, depended upon naval force,
and it was imperative to achieve, not success only, but success
delayed no longer than necessary. A million of the best soldiers would
have been powerless in face of hostile control of the sea. Dewey had
not a battleship, but there can be no doubt that that capable admiral
thought he ought to have one or more; and so he ought, if we had had
them to spare. The two monitors would be something, doubtless, when
they arrived; but, like all their class, they lacked mobility.

When Cámara started by way of Suez for the East, it was no more
evident than it was before that we ought to have battleships there.
That was perfectly plain from the beginning; but battleships no more
than men can be in two places at once, and until Cámara's movement had
passed beyond the chance of turning west, the Spanish fleet in the
Peninsula had, as regarded the two fields of war, the West Indies and
the Philippines, the recognized military advantage of an interior
position. In accepting inferiority in the East, and concentrating our
available force in the West Indies, thereby ensuring a superiority
over any possible combination of Spanish vessels in the latter
quarter, the Department acted rightly and in accordance with sound
military precedent; but it must be remembered that the Spanish Navy
was not the only possibility of the day. The writer was not in a
position to know then, and does not know now, what weight the United
States Government attached to the current rumors of possible political
friction with other states whose people were notoriously sympathizers
with our enemy. The public knows as much about that as he does; but it
was clear that if a disposition to interfere did exist anywhere, it
would not be lessened by a serious naval disaster to us, such as the
loss of one of our few battleships would be. Just as in the
maintenance of a technically "effective" blockade of the Cuban ports,
so, also, in sustaining the entireness and vigor of the battle fleet,
the attitude of foreign Powers as well as the strength of the
immediate enemy had to be considered. For such reasons it was
recommended that the orders on this point to Admiral Sampson should be
peremptory; not that any doubt existed as to the discretion of that
officer, who justly characterized the proposition to throw the ships
upon the mine fields of Santiago as suicidal folly, but because it was
felt that the burden of such a decision should be assumed by a
superior authority, less liable to suffer in personal reputation from
the idle imputations of over-caution, which at times were ignorantly
made by some who ought to have known better, but did not. "The matter
is left to your discretion," the telegram read, "except that the
United States armored vessels must not be risked."

When Cervera's squadron was once cornered, an intelligent opponent
would, under any state of naval preparedness, have seen the
advisability of forcing him out of the port by an attack in the rear,
which could be made only by an army. As Nelson said on one occasion,
"What is wanted now is not more ships, but troops." Under few
conditions should such a situation be prolonged. But the reasons
adduced in the last paragraph made it doubly incumbent upon us to
bring the matter speedily to an issue, and the combined expedition
from Tampa was at once ordered. Having in view the number of hostile
troops in the country surrounding Santiago, as shown by the subsequent
returns of prisoners, and shrewdly suspected by ourselves beforehand,
it was undoubtedly desirable to employ a larger force than was sent.
The criticism made upon the inadequate number of troops engaged in
this really daring movement is intrinsically sound, and would be
wholly accurate if directed, not against the enterprise itself, but
against the national shortsightedness which gave us so trivial an army
at the outbreak of the war. The really hazardous nature of the
movement is shown by the fact that the column of Escario, three
thousand strong, from Manzanillo, reached Santiago on July 3rd; too
late, it is true, abundantly too late, to take part in the defence of
San Juan and El Caney, upon holding which the city depended for food
and water; yet not so late but that it gives a shivering suggestion
how much more arduous would have been the task of our troops had
Escario come up in time. The incident but adds another to history's
long list of instances where desperate energy and economy of time have
wrested safety out of the jaws of imminent disaster. The occasion was
one that called upon us to take big risks; and success merely
justifies doubly an attempt which, from the obvious balance of
advantages and disadvantages, was antecedently justified by its
necessity, and would not have been fair subject for blame, even had it

The Navy Department did not, however, think that even a small chance
of injury should be taken which could be avoided; and it may be
remarked that, while the man is unfit for command who, on emergency,
is unable to run a very great risk for the sake of decisive advantage,
he, on the other hand, is only less culpable who takes even a small
risk of serious harm against which reasonable precaution can provide.
It has been well said that Nelson took more care of his topgallant
masts,[4] in ordinary cruising, than he did of his whole fleet when
the enemy was to be checked or beaten; and this combination of
qualities apparently opposed is found in all strong military
characters to the perfection of which both are necessary. It was
determined, accordingly, to collect for the transports a numerous
naval guard or convoy, to secure them against possible attacks by the
Spanish gunboats distributed along the north coast of Cuba, by which
route the voyage was to be made. The care was probably thought
excessive by many and capable men; but the unforeseen is ever
happening in war. Here or there a young Spanish officer might
unexpectedly prove, not merely brave, as they all are, but
enterprising, which few of them seem to be. The transport fleet had no
habit of manoeuvring together; the captains, many of them, were
without interest in the war, and with much interest in their owners,
upon whom they commonly depended for employment; straggling, and panic
in case of attack, could be surely predicted; and, finally, as we
scarcely had men enough for the work before them, why incur the hazard
of sacrificing even one ship-load of our most efficient but all too
small regular army? For such reasons it was decided to collect a
dozen of the smaller cruisers, any one of which could handle a Spanish
gunboat, and which, in virtue of their numbers, could be so
distributed about the transports as to forestall attack at all points.
The mere notoriety that so powerful a flotilla accompanied the
movement was protection greater, perhaps, than the force itself; for
it would impose quiescence even upon a more active enemy. As a further
measure of precaution, directions were given to watch also the torpedo
destroyer in San Juan during the passage of the army. The _Indiana_,
as has been said, formed part of the convoy; the dispositions and
order of sailing being arranged, and throughout superintended, by her
commanding officer, Captain Henry C. Taylor.

On Saturday, June 4th, Commodore Remey, commanding the naval base at
Key West, telegraphed that the naval vessels composing the convoy
would be ready to sail that evening. The army was embarked and ready
to move on the 8th, but early that morning was received the report,
alluded to in a previous paper, that an armored cruiser with three
vessels in company had been sighted by one of our blockading fleet
the evening before, in the Nicolas Channel, on the north coast of
Cuba. Upon being referred back, the statement was confirmed by the
officer making it, and also by another vessel which had passed over
the same ground at nearly the same time. The account being thus both
specific and positive, the sailing of the transports was
countermanded,--the naval vessels of the convoy being sent out from
Key West to scour the waters where the suspicious ships had been seen,
and Admiral Sampson directed to send his two fastest armored vessels
to Key West, in order that the expedition might proceed in force. The
Admiral, being satisfied that the report was a mistake, of a character
similar to others made to him at the same time, did not comply; a
decision which, under the circumstances of his fuller knowledge, must
be considered proper as well as fortunate. The incident was mortifying
at the time, and--considering by how little Escario arrived
late--might have been disastrous; but it is one of those in which it
is difficult to assign blame, though easy to draw a very obvious moral
for outlooks.

The expedition finally got away from Tampa on the 14th of June, and
arrived off Santiago on the 20th. The process of collecting and
preparing the convoy, the voyage itself, and the delay caused by the
false alarm, constituted together a period of three weeks, during
which the naval vessels of the expedition were taken away from the
blockade. Some days more were needed to coal them, and to get them
again to their stations. Meanwhile it was becoming evident that the
limits of the blockade must be extended, in order that full benefit
might be derived from it as a military measure. The southern ports of
Cuba west of Santiago, and especially the waters about the Isle of
Pines and Batabano, which is in close rail connection with Havana,
were receiving more numerous vessels, as was also the case with Sagua
la Grande, on the north. In short, the demand for necessaries was
producing an increasing supply, dependent upon Jamaica and Mexico in
the south, upon Europe and North American ports in the north, and the
whole was developing into a system which would go far to defeat our
aims, unless counteracted by more widespread and closer-knit measures
on our part. It was decided, therefore, to proclaim a blockade of the
south coast of Cuba from Cape Cruz, a little west of Santiago, to Cape
Frances, where the foul ground west of the Isle of Pines terminates.
The Isle of Pines itself was to be seized, in order to establish there
a secure base, for coal and against hurricanes, for the small vessels
which alone could operate in the surrounding shoal water; and an
expedition, composed mainly of the battalion of marines, was actually
on the way for that purpose when the protocol was signed. During the
three weeks occupied by the preparation and passage of the Santiago
expedition, the blockade had been barely "effective," technically; it
could not at all be considered satisfactory from our point of view,
although we were stripping the coast defence fleet of its cruisers,
one by one, for the service in Cuba. Our utmost hope at the time, and
with every available vessel we could muster, was so far to satisfy the
claims of technicality, as to forestall any charges of ineffectiveness
by neutrals, whose cruisers at times seemed somewhat curious.

In the midst of all this extra strain Cámara's squadron left Cadiz and
made its hurried rush eastward. One effect of this was to release,
and instantly, all the patrol vessels on our northern coast. These
were immediately ordered to Key West for blockade duty, Commodore
Howell also going in person to take charge of this work. On the other
hand, however, uneasiness could not but be felt for Dewey in case
Cámara actually went on, for, except the monitor _Monterey_, we could
get no armored ship out before the two Spanish armored vessels
arrived; and if they had the same speed which they maintained to
Suez--ten knots--it was doubtful whether the _Monterey_ would
anticipate them. It may be mentioned here, as an interesting
coincidence, that the same day that word came that Cámara had started
back for Spain, a telegram was also received that the _Monterey_ had
had to put back to Honolulu, for repairs to the collier which
accompanied her. This, of course, was news then ten days old,
communication from Honolulu to San Francisco being by steamer, not by

The strengthening of our blockade by the vessels of the northern
patrol fleet was therefore the first and, as it proved, the only
lasting result of Cámara's move. What the object was of that singular
"vagabondaggio," as it is not inaptly called by an Italian critic, is
to the author incomprehensible, to use also the qualifying word of the
same foreign writer. That the intention was merely to provoke us to
some "eccentric" movement, by playing upon our fears about our forces
at Manila, would be perfectly reconcilable with going as far as Port
Said, and remaining there for some days, as was done, in difficulty,
actual or feigned, about getting coal; but why the large expense was
incurred of passing through the canal, merely to double the amount by
returning, is beyond understanding. It may have been simply to carry
bluff to the extreme point; but it is difficult not to suspect some
motive not yet revealed, and perhaps never to be known.

Possibly, however, the measures taken by ourselves may have had upon
the Spanish Government the effect which, in part, they were intended to
produce. A squadron of two battleships and four cruisers, drawn from
Admiral Sampson's fleet, was constituted to go to Manila by way of
Suez, under the command of Commodore Watson, until then in charge of
the blockade on the north coast of Cuba. Colliers to accompany these
were at the same time prepared in our Atlantic ports. Upon the
representations of the Admiral, he was authorized to suspend the
sailing of the detachment until all the armored vessels were fully
coaled, in order to ensure maintaining before Santiago for a
considerable period the five that would be left to him. To this
modification of the first order contributed also the darkness of the
nights at that moment; for the moon, though growing, was still young.
But, as our object was even more to prevent Cámara from proceeding than
to send the reinforcement, it was desired that these dispositions
should have full publicity, and, to ensure it the more fully, Watson
was directed to go in all haste to Santiago with his flagship, the
_Newark_, to take over his new command, the avowed objective of which
was the Spanish coast, then deprived of much of its defence by the
departure of Cámara's ships, and most imperfectly provided with local
fortifications. Had Cámara gone on to the East, Watson would have
followed him, and, although arriving later, there was no insuperable
difficulty to so combining the movements of our two divisions--Dewey's
and Watson's--as to decide the final result, and to leave Spain without
her second division of ships.

Cámara's delay at the Mediterranean end of the Canal, which extended
over several days, suggested either doubts as to the reality of his
rumored destination, or a belief that the equipment and
preparation--in coal especially--for so distant an expedition had been
imperfect. This contributed to postpone Watson's departure, and the
first passage of the Canal (July 2nd) by the Spaniards coincided in
date very closely with the destruction of their other division under
Cervera. After the action off Santiago the battleships needed to be
again supplied with ammunition, and before that could be effected
Cámara was on his way back to Spain.

This abandonment by the enemy of their projected voyage to Manila
concurred with the critical position of the army before Santiago to
postpone the project of reinforcing Dewey, who no longer needed
battleships so far as his immediate operations were concerned.
Besides, the arrival of both the _Monterey_ and the _Monadnock_ was
now assured, even if the enemy resumed his movement, which was
scarcely possible. When Santiago fell, however, it was felt to be
necessary to re-establish our fleet in the Pacific, by way either of
the Straits of Magellan or of the Suez Canal. The latter was chosen,
and the entire battle fleet--except the _Texas_, rejected on account
of her small coal endurance--was directed to join the movement and to
accompany some distance within the straits the two battleships which,
with their smaller cruisers and colliers, were to go to Manila. The
preparations for this movement were kept secret for quite a time,
under the cover of an avowed intention to proceed against Puerto Rico;
but nothing, apparently, can wholly escape the prying curiosity of the
Press, which dignifies this not always reputable quality with the
title of "enterprise." No great harm resulted; possibly even the
evident wish of the Government for secrecy, though thus betrayed, may
have increased the apprehension of the enemy as to the damage intended
to their coasts.

On the latter point the position of our Government, as understood by
the writer, was perfectly simple. In case the enemy refused peace when
resistance was obviously and utterly hopeless, bombardment of a
seaport might be resorted to, but with the utmost reluctance, and
merely to compel submission and acquiescence in demonstrated facts. It
is not possible to allow one's own people to be killed and their
substance wasted merely because an adversary will not admit he is
whipped, when he is. When our fleet reached the Spanish coast that
case might have arisen; but probably the unwillingness of our
Government so to act would have postponed its decision to the very
last moment, in order to spare the enemy the final humiliation of
yielding, not to reasonable acceptance of facts, but to direct threat
of violence. The purpose of bombardment, so freely asserted by the
Press, was one of the numerous baseless discoveries with which it
enlightened its reader during the hostilities,--mixtures of truth and
error, so ingeniously proportioned as to constitute an antidote, than
which none better could then be had against its numerous

The determining factor in this proposed movement of the battle fleet
as a whole was the necessity, or at least the advantage, of
reinforcing Dewey, and of placing two battleships in the Pacific. It
was not thought expedient now to send them by themselves, as at first
proposed, for the reason already given in another instance in this
paper; that is, the impropriety of taking even a small risk, if
unnecessary. Cámara's two ships had now returned to Spain, and there
were besides in the ports of the Peninsula other armed vessels, which,
though evidently unfit for a distant voyage, might be good for some
work in the Straits of Gibraltar, where our two ships must pass. That
the latter would beat them all, if assembled, we quite believed, as we
had hoped that the _Oregon_ might do had she met Cervera; but the
_Oregon_ could not be helped without neglecting more immediately
pressing duties, whereas, at the end of July, there was nothing to
detain our heavy ships in the West Indies. It was determined,
therefore, to keep them massed and to send them across the ocean. It
was probable, nearly to the extent of absolute certainty, that neither
before nor after the separation of the division bound for the East
would the entire Spanish Navy venture an attack upon the formidable
force thus confronting its ports. To ensure success without fighting
is always a proper object of military dispositions; and, moreover,
there were reasons before alluded to for maintaining in perfect
integrity vessels whose organized fighting efficiency had now been
fully vindicated to the world. Even during peace negotiations, one's
position is not injured by the readiness of the battle fleet. In
short, it should be an accepted apothegm, with those responsible for
the conduct of military operations, that "War is business," to which
actual fighting is incidental. As in all businesses, the true aim is
the best results at the least cost; or, as the great French admiral,
Tourville, said two centuries ago, "The best victories are those which
expend least of blood, of hemp, and of iron." Such results, it is
true, are more often granted to intelligent daring than to excessive
caution; but no general rule can supersede the individual judgment
upon the conditions before it. There are no specifics in warfare.

To this main reason, others less immediately important concurred. The
ships would be taken out of a trying climate, and removed from the
chance of hurricanes; while the crews would receive a benefit, the
value of which is avouched by naval history, in change of scene, of
occupation, and of interests. The possibility of the enemy attempting
to divert us from our aim, by sending vessels to the West Indies, was
considered, and, although regarded as wildly improbable, provision
against it was made. As Nelson wrote to his commander-in-chief before
the advance on Copenhagen: "There are those who think, if you leave
the Sound open, that the Danish fleet may sail from Copenhagen to join
the Dutch or French. I own I have no fears on that subject; for it is
not likely that whilst their capital is menaced with an attack, nine
thousand of her best men should be sent out of the kingdom." It was
still less probable that Spain in the present case would attempt any
diversion to the West Indies, and the movement of our heavy-armored
vessels to her shores could now justly be considered to cover all our
operations on this side of the Atlantic. The detailed arrangements
made for frequent communication, however, would have kept the
Department practically in touch with our fleet throughout, and have
enabled us to counteract any despairing effort of the enemy.


[4] The lighter upper masts, upon which speed much depended in moderate



To determine the consequences of an historical episode, such as the
recent Peace Conference at The Hague, is not a matter for prophecy,
but for experience, which alone can decide what positive issues, for
good or for ill, shall hereafter trace their source to this beginning.
The most that the present can do is to take note of the point so far
reached, and of apparent tendencies manifested; to seek for the latter
a right direction; to guide, where it can, currents of general
thought, the outcome of which will be beneficial or injurious,
according as their course is governed by a just appreciation of
fundamental truths.

The calling of the Conference of The Hague originated in an avowed
desire to obtain relief from immediate economical burdens, by the
adoption of some agreement to restrict the preparations for war, and
the consequent expense involved in national armaments; but before its
meeting the hope of disarmament had fallen into the background, the
vacant place being taken by the project of abating the remoter evils
of recurrent warfare, by giving a further impulse, and a more clearly
defined application, to the principle of arbitration, which
thenceforth assumed pre-eminence in the councils of the Conference.
This may be considered the point at which we have arrived. The
assembled representatives of many nations, including all the greatest
upon the earth, have decided that it is to arbitration men must look
for relief, rather than to partial disarmament, or even to an arrest
in the progress of preparations for war. Of the beneficence of the
practice of arbitration, of the wisdom of substituting it, when
possible, for the appeal to arms, with all the misery therefrom
resulting, there can be no doubt; but it will be expected that in its
application, and in its attempted development, the tendencies of the
day, both good and bad, will make themselves felt. If, on the one
hand, there is solid ground for rejoicing in the growing inclination
to resort first to an impartial arbiter, if such can be found, when
occasion for collision arises, there is, on the other hand, cause for
serious reflection when this most humane impulse is seen to favor
methods, which by compulsion shall vitally impair the moral freedom,
and the consequent moral responsibility, which are the distinguishing
glory of the rational man, and of the sovereign state.

One of the most unfortunate characteristics of our present age is the
disposition to impose by legislative enactment--by external
compulsion, that is--restrictions of a moral character, which are
either fundamentally unjust, or at least do not carry with them the
moral sense of the community, as a whole. It is not religious faith
alone that in the past has sought to propagate itself by force of law,
which ultimately is force of physical coercion. If the religious
liberty of the individual has been at last won, as we hope forever, it
is sufficiently notorious that the propensity of majorities to control
the freedom of minorities, in matters of disputed right and wrong,
still exists, as certain and as tyrannical as ever was the will of
Philip II. that there should be no heretic within his dominion. Many
cannot so much as comprehend the thought of the English Bishop, that
it was better to see England free than England sober.

In matters internal to a state, the bare existence of a law imposes an
obligation upon the individual citizen, whatever his personal
conviction of its rightfulness or its wisdom. Yet is such obligation
not absolute. The primary duty, attested alike by the law and the
gospel, is submission. The presumption is in favor of the law; and if
there lie against it just cause for accusation, on the score either of
justice or of expediency, the interests of the Commonwealth and the
precepts of religion alike demand that opposition shall be conducted
according to the methods, and within the limits, which the law of the
land itself prescribes. But it may be--it has been, and yet again may
be--that the law, however regular in its enactment, and therefore
unquestionable on the score of formal authority, either outrages
fundamental political right, or violates the moral dictates of the
individual conscience. Of the former may be cited as an instance the
Stamp Act, perfectly regular as regarded statutory validity, which
kindled the flame of revolution in America. Of the second, the
Fugitive Slave Law, within the memory of many yet living, is a
conspicuous illustration. Under such conditions, the moral right of
resistance is conceded--nay, is affirmed and emphasized--by the moral
consciousness of the races from which the most part of the American
people have their origin, and to which, almost wholly, we owe our
political and religious traditions. Such resistance may be passive,
accepting meekly the penalty for disobedience, as the martyr who for
conscience' sake refused the political requirement of sacrificing to
the image of the Cæsar; or it may be active and violent, as when our
forefathers repelled taxation without representation, or when men and
women, of a generation not yet wholly passed away, refused to violate
their consciences by acquiescing in the return of a slave to his
bondage, resorting to evasion or to violence, according to their
conditions or temperaments, but in every case deriving the sanction
for their unlawful action from the mandate of their personal

And let it be carefully kept in mind that it is not the absolute right
or wrong of the particular act, as seen in the clearer light of a
later day, that justified men, whether in the particular instances
cited, or in other noteworthy incidents in the long series of steps by
which the English-speaking races have ascended to their present
political development. It is not the demonstrable rightfulness of a
particular action, as seen in the dispassionate light of the arbiter,
posterity, that has chiefly constituted the merit of the individual
rebel against the law in which he beheld iniquity; the saving salt,
which has preserved the healthfulness of the body politic, has been
the fidelity to Conscience, to the faithful, if passionate, arbiter of
the moment, whose glorious predominance in the individual or in the
nation gives a better assurance of the highest life than does the
clearest intellectual perception of the rightfulness, or of the
expediency, of a particular course. One may now see, or think that he
sees, as does the writer, with Lincoln, that if slavery is not wrong,
nothing is wrong. It was not so clear half a century ago; and while no
honor is too great for those early heroes, who for this sublime
conviction withstood obloquy and persecution, legal and illegal, it
should be never forgotten that the then slave States, in their
resolute determination to maintain, by arms, if need be, and against
superior force, that which they believed to be their constitutional
political right, made no small contribution to the record of fidelity
to conscience and to duty, which is the highest title of a nation to
honor. Be it by action or be it by submission, by action positive or
by action negative, whatsoever is not of faith--of conviction--is sin.

The just and necessary exaltation of the law as the guarantee of true
liberty, with the consequent accepted submission of the individual to
it, and the recognized presumption in favor of such submission, have
tended to blind us to the fact that the individual, in our highest
consciousness, has never surrendered his moral freedom,--his
independence of conscience. No human law overbears that supreme
appeal, which carries the matter from the tribunal of man into the
presence of God; nor can human law be pleaded at this bar as the
excuse for a violation of conscience. It is a dangerous doctrine,
doubtless, to preach that there may be a "higher law" than obedience
to law; but truth is not to be rejected because dangerous, and the
time is not long past when the phrase voiced a conviction, the
forcible assertion of which brought slavery to an end forever.

The resort to arms by a nation, when right cannot otherwise be
enforced, corresponds, or should correspond, precisely to the acts of
the individual man which have been cited; for the old conception of an
appeal to the Almighty, resembling in principle the mediæval trial by
battle, is at best but a partial view of the truth, seen from one side
only. However the result may afterwards be interpreted as indicative
of the justice of a cause,--an interpretation always questionable,--a
state, when it goes to war, should do so not to test the rightfulness
of its claims, but because, being convinced in its conscience of that
rightfulness, no other means of overcoming evil remains.

Nations, like men, have a conscience. Like men, too, the light of
conscience is in nations often clouded, or misguided, by passion or by
interest. But what of that? Does a man discard his allegiance to
conscience because he knows that, itself in harmony with right, its
message to him is perplexed and obscured by his own infirmities? Not
so. Fidelity to conscience implies not only obedience to its
dictates, but earnest heart-searching, the use of every means, to
ascertain its true command; yet withal, whatever the mistrust of the
message, the supremacy of the conscience is not impeached. When it is
recognized that its final word is spoken, nothing remains but
obedience. Even if mistaken, the moral wrong of acting against
conviction works a deeper injury to the man, and to his kind, than can
the merely material disasters that may follow upon obedience. Even the
material evils of war are less than the moral evil of compliance with

"Yes, my friend," replied to me a foreign diplomatist to whom I was
saying some such things, "but remember that only a few years ago the
conscience of your people was pressing you into war with Great Britain
in the Venezuelan question." "Admitting," I replied, "that the first
national impulse, the first movement of the conscience, if you like,
was mistaken,--which is at least open to argument,--it remains that
there was no war; time for deliberation was taken, and more than that
can be asked of no conscience, national or personal. But, further,
had the final decision of conscience been that just cause for war
existed, no evil that war brings could equal the moral declension
which a nation inflicts upon itself, and upon mankind, by deliberate
acquiescence in wrong, which it recognizes and which it might right."
Nor is this conclusion vitiated by the fact that war is made at times
upon mistaken conviction. It is not the accuracy of the decision, but
the faithfulness to conviction, that constitutes the moral worth of an
action, national or individual.

The general consciousness of this truth is witnessed by a common
phrase, which excludes from suggested schemes of arbitration all
questions which involve "national honor or vital interests." No one
thing struck me more forcibly during the Conference at The Hague than
the exception taken and expressed, although in a very few quarters, to
the word "honor," in this connection. There is for this good reason;
for the word, admirable in itself and if rightly understood, has lost
materially in the clearness of its image and superscription, by much
handling and by some misapplication. Honor does not forbid a nation to
acknowledge that it is wrong, or to recede from a step which it has
taken through wrong motives or mistaken reasons; yet it has at times
been so thought, to the grievous injury of the conception of honor. It
is not honor, necessarily, but sound policy, which prescribes that
peace with a semi-civilized foe should not be made after a defeat;
but, however justifiable the policy, the word "honor" is defaced by
thus misapplying it.

The varying fortunes, the ups and downs of the idea of arbitration at
the Conference of The Hague, as far as my intelligence could follow
them, produced in me two principal conclusions, which so far confirmed
my previous points of view that I think I may now fairly claim for
them that they have ripened into _opinions_, between which word, and
the cruder, looser views received passively as _impressions_, I have
been ever careful to mark a distinction. In the first place,
compulsory arbitration stands at present no chance of general
acceptance. There is but one way as yet in which arbitration can be
compulsory; for the dream of some advanced thinkers, of an
International Army, charged with imposing the decrees of an
International Tribunal upon a recalcitrant state, may be dismissed as
being outside of practical international politics, until at least the
nations are ready for the intermediate step of moral compulsion,
imposed by a self-assumed obligation--by a promise. Compulsory
arbitration as yet means only the moral compulsion of a pledge, taken
beforehand, and more or less comprehensive, to submit to arbitration
questions which rest still in the unknown future; the very terms of
which therefore cannot be foreseen. Although there is a certain active
current of agitation in favor of such stipulations, there is no
general disposition of governments to accede, except under very narrow
and precise limitations, and in questions of less than secondary

Secondly, there appears to be, on the other hand, a much greater
disposition than formerly to entertain favorably the idea of
arbitration, as a means to be in all cases considered, and where
possible to be adopted, in order to solve peaceably difficulties which
threaten peace. In short, the consciences of the nations are awake to
the wickedness of unnecessary war, and are disposed, as a general
rule, to seek first, and where admissible, the counterpoise of an
impartial judge, where such can be found, to correct the bias of
national self-will; but there is an absolute indisposition, an
instinctive revolt, against signing away, beforehand, the national
conscience, by a promise that any other arbiter than itself shall be
accepted in questions of the future, the import of which cannot yet be
discerned. Of this feeling the vague and somewhat clumsy phrase,
"national honor and vital interests," has in the past been the
expression; for its very indeterminateness reserved to conscience in
every case the decision,--"May another judge for me here, or must I be
bound by my own sense of right?"

Under these circumstances, and having reached so momentous a stage in
progress as is indicated by the very calling together of a world
conference for the better assuring of peace, may it not be well for us
to pause a moment and take full account of the idea, Arbitration, on
the right hand and on the left? Noble and beneficent in its true
outlines, it too may share, may even now be sharing, the liability of
the loftiest conceptions to degenerate into catchwords, or into cant.
"Liberty, what crimes have been wrought in thy name!" and does not
religion share the same reproach, and conscience also? Yet will we not
away with any of the three.

The conviction of a nation is the conviction of the mass of the
individuals thereof, and each individual has therefore a personal
responsibility for the opinion he holds on a question of great
national, or international, moment. Let us look, each of us,--and
especially each of us who fears God,--into his own inner heart, and
ask himself how far, in his personal life, he is prepared to accept
arbitration. Is it not so that the reply must be, "In doubtful
questions of moment, wherever I possibly can, knowing my necessary,
inevitable proneness to one-sided views, I will seek an impartial
adviser, that my bias may be corrected; but when that has been done,
when I have sought what aid I can, if conscience still commands, it I
must obey. From that duty, burdensome though it may be, no man can
relieve me. Conscience, diligently consulted, is to the man the voice
of God; between God and the man no other arbiter comes." And if this
be so, a pledge beforehand is impossible. I cannot bind myself for a
future of which I as yet know nothing, to abide by the decision of
any other judge than my own conscience. Much humor--less wit--has been
expended upon the Emperor of Germany's supposed carefulness to reject
arbitration because an infringement of his divine rights; a phrase
which may well be no more than a blunt expression of the sense that no
third party can relieve a man from the obligations of the position to
which he is called by God, and that for the duties of that position
the man can confidently expect divine guidance and help. Be that as it
may, the divine right of conscience will, among Americans, receive
rare challenge.

It has been urged, however, that a higher organization of the nations,
the provision of a supreme tribunal issuing and enforcing judgments,
settling thereby quarrels and disputed rights, would produce for the
nations of the earth a condition analogous to that of the individual
citizen of the state, who no longer defends his own cause, nor is
bound in conscience to maintain his own sense of right, when the law
decides against him. The conception is not novel, not even modern;
something much like it was put forth centuries ago by the Papacy
concerning its own functions. It contains two fallacies. First, the
submission of the individual citizen is to force, to the constitution
of which he personally contributes little, save his individual and
general assent. To an unjust law he submits under protest, doubtless
often silent; but he submits, not because he consents to the wrong,
whether to himself personally or to others, but because he cannot help
it. This will perhaps be denied, with the assertion that willing,
intelligent submission to law, even when unjust, is yielded by most
for the general good. One has, however, only to consider the
disposition of the average man to evade payment of taxes, to recognize
how far force daily enters into the maintenance and execution of law.
Nations, on the contrary, since no force exists, or without their
volition can exist, to compel them to accept the institution of an
authority superior to their own conscience, yield a willing
acquiescence to wrong, when they so yield in obedience to an external
authority imposed by themselves. The matter is not helped by the fact
of a previous promise to accept such decisions. The wrong-doing of an
individual, in consequence of an antecedent promise, does not relieve
the conscience thus rashly fettered. The ancient warning still stands,
"Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin." For the individual
or the nation, arbitration is not possible where the decision may
violate conscience; it therefore can be accepted only when it is known
that interest merely, not duty, will be affected by the judgment, and
such knowledge cannot exist antecedent to the difficulty arising.

There is a further--a second--fallacy in the supposed analogy between
the submission of individuals to law, and the advocated submission of
states to a central tribunal. The law of the state, overwhelming as is
its power relatively to that of the individual citizen, can neither
bind nor loose in matters pertaining to the conscience. Still less can
any tribunal, however solemnly constituted, liberate a state from its
obligation to do right; still less, I say, because the state retains,
what the individual has in great part lost, the power to maintain what
it believes to be right. Many considerations may make it more right--I
do not say _more expedient_--for a man or for a nation, to submit to,
or to acquiesce in, wrong than to resist; but in such cases it is
conscience still that decides where the balance of justice turns
distinctly to the side of wrong. It is, I presume, universally
admitted, that occasions may arise where conscience not only
justifies, but compels, resistance to law; whether it be the Christian
citizen refusing to sacrifice, or the free citizen to subject himself
to unconstitutional taxation, or to become the instrument of returning
the slave to his master. So also for the Christian state. Existing
wrong may have to be allowed, lest a greater wrong be done. Conscience
only can decide; and for that very reason conscience must be kept
free, that it may decide according to its sense of right, when the
case is presented.

There is, therefore, the very serious consideration attendant upon
what is loosely styled "compulsory" arbitration,--arbitration
stipulated, that is, in advance of a question originating, or of its
conditions being appreciated,--that a state may thereby do that which
a citizen as towards the state does not do; namely, may voluntarily
assume a moral obligation to do, or to allow, wrong. And it must be
remembered, also, that many of the difficulties which arise among
states involve considerations distinctly beyond and higher than law as
international law now exists; whereas the advocated Permanent
Tribunal, to which the ultra-organizers look, to take cognizance of
all cases, must perforce be governed by law as it exists. It is not,
in fact, to be supposed that nations will submit themselves to a
tribunal, the general principles of which have not been crystallized
into a code of some sort.

A concrete instance, however, is always more comprehensible and
instructive than a general discussion. Let us therefore take the
incidents and conditions which preceded our recent war with Spain. The
facts, as seen by us, may, I apprehend, be fairly stated as follows:
In the island of Cuba, a powerful military force,--government it
scarcely could be called,--foreign to the island, was holding a small
portion of it in enforced subjection, and was endeavoring,
unsuccessfully, to reduce the remainder. In pursuance of this attempt,
measures were adopted that inflicted immense misery and death upon
great numbers of the population. Such suffering is indeed attendant
upon war; but it may be stated as a fundamental principle of
civilized warfare that useless suffering is condemned, and it had
become apparent to military eyes that Spain could not subdue the
island, nor restore orderly conditions. The suffering was terrible,
and was unavailing.

Under such circumstances, does any moral obligation lie upon a
powerful neighboring state? Or, more exactly, if there is borne in
upon the moral consciousness of a mighty people that such an afflicted
community as that of Cuba at their doors is like Lazarus at the gate
of the rich man, and that the duty of stopping the evil rests upon
them, what is to be done with such a case of conscience? Could the
decision of another, whether nation or court, excuse our nation from
the ultimate responsibility of its own decision? But, granting that it
might have proved expedient to call in other judges, when we had full
knowledge of the circumstances, what would have been our dilemma if,
conscience commanding one course, we had found ourselves antecedently
bound to abide by the conclusions of another arbiter? For let us not
deceive ourselves. Absolutely justifiable, nay, imperative, as most of
us believe our action to have been, when tried at the bar of
conscience, no arbitral court, acceptable to the two nations, would
have decided as our own conscience did. A European diplomatist of
distinguished reputation, of a small nation likeliest to be unbiassed,
so said to me personally, and it is known that more than one of our
own ablest international lawyers held that we were acting in defiance
of international law as it now exists; just as the men who resisted
the Fugitive Slave Law acted in defiance of the statute law of the
land. Decision must have gone against us, so these men think, on the
legal merits of the case. Of the moral question the arbiter could take
no account; it is not there, indeed, that moral questions must find
their solution, but in the court of conscience. Referred to
arbitration, doubtless the Spanish flag would still fly over Cuba.

There is unquestionably a higher law than Law, concerning obedience to
which no other than the man himself, or the state, can give account to
Him that shall judge. The freedom of the conscience may be fettered or
signed away by him who owes to it allegiance, yet its supremacy,
though thus disavowed, cannot be overthrown. The Conference at The
Hague has facilitated future recourse to arbitration, by providing
means through which, a case arising, a court is more easily
constituted, and rules governing its procedure are ready to hand; but
it has refrained from any engagements binding states to have recourse
to the tribunal thus created. The responsibility of the state to its
own conscience remains unimpeached and independent. The progress thus
made and thus limited is to a halting place, at which, whether well
chosen or not, the nations must perforce stop for a time; and it will
be wise to employ that time in considering the bearings, alike of that
which has been done, and of that which has been left undone.

Our own country has a special need thus carefully to consider the
possible consequences of arbitration, understood in the sense of an
antecedent pledge to resort to it; unless under limitations very
carefully hedged. There is an undoubted popular tendency in direction
of such arbitration, which would be "compulsory" in the highest moral
sense,--the compulsion of a promise. The world at large, and we
especially, stand at the opening of a new era, concerning whose
problems little can be foreseen. Among the peoples, there is
manifested intense interest in the maturing of our national
convictions, as being, through Asia, new-comers into active
international life, concerning whose course it is impossible to
predict; and in many quarters, probably in all except Great Britain,
the attitude toward us is watchful rather than sympathetic. The
experience of Crete and of Armenia does not suggest beneficent results
from the arbitration of many counsellors; especially if contrasted
with the more favorable issue when Russia, in 1877, acting on her own
single initiative, forced by the conscience of her people, herself
alone struck the fetters from Bulgaria; or when we ourselves last
year, rejecting intermediation, loosed the bonds from Cuba, and lifted
the yoke from the neck of the oppressed.

It was inevitable that thoughts like these should recur frequently to
one of the writer's habit of thought, when in constant touch with the
atmosphere that hung around the Conference, although the latter was by
it but little affected. The poet's words, "The Parliament of man, the
federation of the world," were much in men's mouths this past summer.
There is no denying the beauty of the ideal, but there was apparent
also a disposition, in contemplating it, to contemn the slow processes
of evolution by which Nature commonly attains her ends, and to impose
at once, by convention, the methods that commended themselves to the
sanguine. Fruit is not best ripened by premature plucking, nor can the
goal be reached by such short cuts. Step by step, in the past, man has
ascended by means of the sword, and his more recent gains, as well as
present conditions, show that the time has not yet come to kick down
the ladder which has so far served him. Three hundred years ago, the
people of the land in which the Conference was assembled wrenched with
the sword civil and religious peace and national independence from the
tyranny of Spain. Then began the disintegration of her empire, and the
deliverance of peoples from her oppression, but this was completed
only last year, and then again by the sword--of the United States.

In the centuries which have since intervened, what has not "justice,
with valor armed," when confronted by evil in high places, found
itself compelled to effect by resort to the sword? To it was due the
birth of our own nation, not least among the benefits of which was the
stern experience that has made Great Britain no longer the mistress,
but the mother, of her dependencies. The control, to good from evil,
of the devastating fire of the French Revolution and of Napoleon was
due to the sword. The long line of illustrious names and deeds, of
those who bore it not in vain, has in our times culminated--if indeed
the end is even yet nearly reached--in the new birth of the United
States by the extirpation of human slavery, and in the downfall, but
yesterday, of a colonial empire identified with tyranny. What the
sword, and it supremely, tempered only by the stern demands of justice
and of conscience, and the loving voice of charity, has done for India
and for Egypt, is a tale at once too long and too well known for
repetition here. Peace, indeed, is not adequate to all progress; there
are resistances that can be overcome only by explosion. What means
less violent than war would in a half-year have solved the Caribbean
problem, shattered national ideas deep rooted in the prepossessions of
a century, and planted the United States in Asia, face to face with
the great world problem of the immediate future? What but war rent the
veil which prevented the English-speaking communities from seeing eye
to eye, and revealed to each the face of a brother? Little wonder that
a war which, with comparatively little bloodshed, brought such
consequences, was followed by the call for a Peace Conference!

Power, force, is a faculty of national life; one of the talents
committed to nations by God. Like every other endowment of a complex
organization, it must be held under control of the enlightened
intellect and of the upright heart; but no more than any other can it
be carelessly or lightly abjured, without incurring the responsibility
of one who buries in the earth that which was intrusted to him for
use. And this obligation to maintain right, by force if need be, while
common to all states, rests peculiarly upon the greater, in proportion
to their means. Much is required of those to whom much is given. So
viewed, the ability speedily to put forth the nation's power, by
adequate organization and other necessary preparation, according to
the reasonable demands of the nation's intrinsic strength and of its
position in the world, is one of the clear duties involved in the
Christian word "watchfulness,"--readiness for the call that may come,
whether expectedly or not. Until it is demonstrable that no evil
exists, or threatens the world, which cannot be obviated without
recourse to force, the obligation to readiness must remain; and, where
evil is mighty and defiant, the obligation to use force--that is,
war--arises. Nor is it possible, antecedently, to bring these
conditions and obligations under the letter of precise and codified
law, to be administered by a tribunal; and in the spirit legalism is
marked by blemishes as real as those commonly attributed to
"militarism," and not more elevated. The considerations which
determine good and evil, right and wrong, in crises of national life,
or of the world's history, are questions of equity often too
complicated for decision upon mere rules, or even principles, of law,
international or other. The instances of Bulgaria, of Armenia, and of
Cuba, are entirely in point, and it is most probable that the
contentions about the future of China will afford further
illustration. Even in matters where the interest of nations is
concerned, the moral element enters; because each generation in its
day is the guardian of those which shall follow it. Like all
guardians, therefore, while it has the power to act according to its
best judgment, it has no right, for the mere sake of peace, to permit
known injustice to be done to its wards.

The present strong feeling, throughout the nations of the world, in
favor of arbitration, is in itself a subject for congratulation almost
unalloyed. It carries indeed a promise, to the certainty of which no
paper covenants can pretend; for it influences the conscience by
inward conviction, not by external fetter. But it must be remembered
that such sentiments, from their very universality and evident
laudableness, need correctives, for they bear in themselves a great
danger of excess or of precipitancy. Excess is seen in the
disposition, far too prevalent, to look upon war not only as an evil,
but as an evil unmixed, unnecessary, and therefore always
unjustifiable; while precipitancy, to reach results considered
desirable, is evidenced by the wish to _impose_ arbitration, to
prevent recourse to war, by a general pledge previously made. Both
frames of mind receive expression in the words of speakers, among whom
a leading characteristic is lack of measuredness and of proportion.
Thus an eminent citizen is reported to have said: "There is no more
occasion for two nations to go to war than for two men to settle their
difficulties with clubs." Singularly enough, this point of view
assumes to represent peculiarly Christian teaching, willingly ignorant
of the truth that Christianity, while it will not force the conscience
by other than spiritual weapons, as "compulsory" arbitration might,
distinctly recognizes the sword as the resister and remedier of evil
in the sphere "of this world."

Arbitration's great opportunity has come in the advancing moral
standards of states, whereby the disposition to deliberate wrong-doing
has diminished, and consequently the occasions for redressing wrong by
force the less frequent to arise. In view of recent events however,
and very especially of notorious, high-handed oppression, initiated
since the calling of the Peace Conference, and resolutely continued
during its sessions in defiance of the public opinion--the
conviction--of the world at large, it is premature to assume that such
occasions belong wholly to the past. Much less can it be assumed that
there will be no further instances of a community believing,
conscientiously and entirely, that honor and duty require of it a
certain course, which another community with equal integrity may hold
to be inconsistent with the rights and obligations of its own members.
It is quite possible, especially to one who has recently visited
Holland, to conceive that Great Britain and the Boers are alike
satisfied of the substantial justice of their respective claims. It is
permissible most earnestly to hope that, in disputes between sovereign
states, arbitration may find a way to reconcile peace with fidelity to
conscience, in the case of both; but if the conviction of conscience
remains unshaken, war is better than disobedience,--better than
acquiescence in recognized wrong. The great danger of undiscriminating
advocacy of arbitration, which threatens even the cause it seeks to
maintain, is that it may lead men to tamper with equity, to compromise
with unrighteousness, soothing their conscience with the belief that
war is so entirely wrong that beside it no other tolerated evil is
wrong. Witness Armenia, and witness Crete. War has been avoided; but
what of the national consciences that beheld such iniquity and
withheld the hand?

     NOTE.--This paper was the means of bringing into the author's
     hands a letter by the late General Sherman, which forcibly
     illustrates how easily, in quiet moments, men forget what
     they have owed, and still owe, to the sword. From the
     coincidence of its thought with that of the article itself,
     permission to print it here has been asked and received.

                                    NEW YORK, February 5th, 1890.

     DEAR GENERAL MEIGS,--I attended the Centennial Ceremonies in
     honor of the Supreme Court yesterday, four full hours in the
     morning at the Metropolitan Opera House, and about the same
     measure of time at the Grand Banquet of 850 lawyers in the
     evening at the Lenox Lyceum.

     The whole was superb in all its proportions, but it was no
     place for a soldier. I was bidden to the feast solely and
     exclusively because in 1858 for a few short months I was an
     attorney at Leavenworth, Kansas.

     The Bar Association of the United States has manifestly cast
     aside the Sword of Liberty. Justice and Law have ignored the
     significance of the Great Seal of the United States, with its
     emblematic olive branch and thirteen arrows, "all proper,"
     and now claim that, without force, Law and moral suasion have
     carried us through one hundred years of history. Of course,
     in your study you will read at leisure these speeches, and if
     in them you discover any sense of obligation to the Soldier
     element, you will be luckier than I, a listener.

     From 1861 to 1865 the Supreme Court was absolutely paralyzed;
     their decrees and writs were treated with contempt south of
     the Potomac and Ohio; they could not summon a witness or send
     a Deputy Marshal. War, and the armed Power of the Nation,
     alone removed the barrier and restored to the U.S. courts
     their lawful jurisdiction. Yet, from these honied words of
     flattery, a stranger would have inferred that at last the
     lawyers of America had discovered the sovereign panacea of a
     Government without force, either visible or in reserve.

     I was in hopes the Civil War had dispelled this dangerous
     illusion, but it seems not.

     You and I can fold our hands and truly say we have done a
     man's share, and leave the consequences to younger men who
     must buffet with the next storms; but a Government which
     ignores the great truths illuminated in heraldic language
     over its very Capitol is not yet at the end of its woes.

                                 With profound respect,
                                              W.T. SHERMAN.



In modern times there have been two principal colonizing nations,
which not merely have occupied and administered a great transmarine
domain, but have impressed upon it their own identity--the totality of
their political and racial characteristics--to a degree that is likely
to affect permanently the history of the world at large.

These two nations, it is needless to say, are Great Britain and Spain.
Russia, their one competitor, differs from them in that her sustained
advance over alien regions is as wholly by land as theirs has been by
sea. France and Holland have occupied and administered, and continue
to occupy and administer, large extents of territory; but it is
scarcely necessary to argue that in neither case has the race
possessed the land, nor have the national characteristics been
transmitted to the dwellers therein as a whole. They have realized,
rather, the idea recently formulated by Mr. Benjamin Kidd for the
development of tropical regions,--administration from without.

The unexpected appearance of the United States as in legal control of
transmarine territory, which as yet they have not had opportunity
either to occupy or to administer, coincides in time with the final
downfall of Spain's colonial empire, and with a stage in the upward
progress of that of Great Britain, so marked, in the contrast it
presents to the ruin of Spain, as to compel attention and comparison,
with an ultimate purpose to draw therefrom instruction for the United
States in the new career forced upon them. The larger colonies of
Great Britain are not indeed reaching their majority, for that they
did long ago; but the idea formulated in the phrase "imperial
federation" shows that they, and the mother country herself, have
passed through and left behind the epoch when the accepted thought in
both was that they should in the end separate, as sons leave the
father's roof, to set up, each for himself. To that transition phase
has succeeded the ideal of partnership, more complex indeed and
difficult of attainment, but trebly strong if realized. The terms of
partnership, the share of each member in the burdens and in the
profits, present difficulties which will delay, and may prevent, the
consummation; time alone can show. The noticeable factor in this
change of mind, however, is the affectionate desire manifested by both
parent and children to ensure the desired end. Between nations long
alien we have high warrant for saying that interest alone determines
action; but between communities of the same blood, and when the ties
of dependence on the one part are still recent, sentiments--love and
mutual pride--are powerful, provided there be good cause for them. And
good cause there is. Since she lost what is now the United States,
Great Britain has become benevolent and beneficent to her colonies.

It is not in colonies only, however, that Great Britain has been
beneficent to weaker communities; nor are benevolence and beneficence
the only qualities she has shown. She has been strong also,--strong in
her own interior life, whence all true strength issues; strong in the
quality of the men she has sent forth to colonize and to administer;
strong to protect by the arm of her power, by land, and, above all, by
sea. The advantage of the latter safeguard is common to all her
dependencies; but it is among subject and alien races, and not in
colonies properly so called, that her terrestrial energy chiefly
manifests itself, to control, to protect, and to elevate. Of these
functions, admirably discharged in the main, India and Egypt are the
conspicuous illustrations. In them she administers from without, and
cannot be said to colonize, for the land was already full.

Conspicuous result constitutes example: for imitation, if honorable;
for warning, if shameful. Experience is the great teacher, and is at
its best when personal; but in the opening of a career such experience
is wanting to the individual, and must be sought in the record of
other lives, or of other nations. The United States are just about to
enter on a task of government--of administration--over regions which,
in inhabitants, in climate, and in political tradition, differ
essentially from themselves. What are the conditions of success?

We have the two great examples. Great Britain has been, in the main,
and increasingly, beneficent and strong. Spain, from the very first,
as the records show, was inhumanly oppressive to the inferior races;
and, after her own descendants in the colonies became aliens in habit
to the home country, she to them also became tyrannically exacting.
But, still more, Spain became weaker and weaker as the years passed,
the tyranny of her extortions being partially due to exigencies of her
political weakness and to her economical declension. Let us, however,
not fail to observe that the beneficence, as well as the strength, of
Great Britain has been a matter of growth. She was not always what she
now is to the alien subject. There is, therefore, no reason to
despair, as some do, that the United States, who share her traditions,
can attain her success. The task is novel to us; we may make blunders;
but, guided by her experience, we should reach the goal more quickly.

And it is to our interest to do so. Enlightened self-interest demands
of us to recognize not merely, and in general, the imminence of the
great question of the farther East, which is rising so rapidly before
us, but also, specifically, the importance to us of a strong and
beneficent occupation of adjacent territory. In the domain of color,
black and white are contradictory; but it is not so with self-interest
and beneficence in the realm of ideas. This paradox is now too
generally accepted for insistence, although in the practical life of
states the proper order of the two is too often inverted. But, where
the relations are those of trustee to ward, as are those of any state
which rules over a weaker community not admitted to the full
privileges of home citizenship, the first test to which measures must
be brought is the good of the ward. It is the first interest of the
guardian, for it concerns his honor. Whatever the part of the United
States in the growing conflict of European interests around China and
the East, we deal there with equals, and may battle like men; but our
new possessions, with their yet minor races, are the objects only of

Ideas underlie action. If the paramount idea of beneficence becomes a
national conviction, we may stumble and err, we may at times sin, or
be betrayed by unworthy representatives; but we shall advance
unfailingly. I have been asked to contribute to the discussion of this
matter something from my own usual point of view; which is, of
course, the bearing of sea power upon the security and the progress of
nations. Well, one great element of sea power, which, it will be
remembered, is commercial before it is military, is that there be
territorial bases of action in the regions important to its commerce.
That is self-interest. But the history of Spain's decline, and the
history of Great Britain's advance,--in the latter of which the stern
lesson given by the revolt of the United States is certainly a
conspicuous factor, as also, perhaps, the other revolt known as the
Indian Mutiny, in 1857,--alike teach us that territories beyond the
sea can be securely held only when the advantage and interests of the
inhabitants are the primary object of the administration. The
inhabitants may not return love for their benefits,--comprehension or
gratitude may fail them; but the sense of duty achieved, and the
security of the tenure, are the reward of the ruler.

I have understood also that, through the pages of "The Engineering
Magazine," I should speak to the men who stand at the head of the
great mechanical industries of the country,--the great inventors and
the leaders in home development,--and that they would be willing to
hear me. But what can I say to them that they do not know? Their own
businesses are beyond my scope and comprehension. The opportunities
offered by the new acquisitions of the United States to the pursuits
with which they are identified they can understand better than I.
Neither is it necessary to say that adequate--nay, great--naval
development is a condition of success, although such an assertion is
more within my competence, as a student of navies and of history. That
form of national strength which is called sea power becomes now doubly
incumbent. It is needed not merely for national self-assertion, but
for beneficence; to ensure to the new subjects of the nation peace and
industry, uninterrupted by wars, the great protection against which is
preparation--to use that one counsel of Washington's which the
anti-imperialist considers to be out of date.

I have, therefore, but one thing which I have not already often said
to offer to such men, who affect these great issues through their own
aptitudes and through their far-reaching influence upon public
opinion, which they touch through many channels. Sea power, as a
national interest, commercial and military, rests not upon fleets
only, but also upon local territorial bases in distant commercial
regions. It rests upon them most securely when they are extensive, and
when they have a numerous population bound to the sovereign country by
those ties of interest which rest upon the beneficence of the ruler;
of which beneficence power to protect is not the least factor. Mere
just dealing and protection, however, do not exhaust the demands of
beneficence towards alien subjects, still in race-childhood. The firm
but judicious remedying of evils, the opportunities for fuller and
happier lives, which local industries and local development afford,
these also are a part of the duty of the sovereign power. Above all,
there must be constant recognition that self-interest and beneficence
alike demand that the local welfare be first taken into account. It is
possible, of course, that it may at times have to yield to the
necessities of the whole body; but it should be first considered.

The task is great; who is sufficient for it? The writer believes
firmly in the ultimate power of ideas. Napoleon is reported to have
said: "Imagination rules the world." If this be generally so, how
much more the true imaginations which are worthy to be called ideas!
There is a nobility in man which welcomes the appeal to beneficence.
May it find its way quickly now to the heads and hearts of the
American people, before less worthy ambitions fill them; and, above
all, to the kings of men, in thought and in action, under whose
leadership our land makes its giant strides. There is in this no
Quixotism. Materially, the interest of the nation is one with its
beneficence; but if the ideas get inverted, and the nation sees in its
new responsibilities, first of all, markets and profits, with
incidental resultant benefit to the natives, it will go wrong. Through
such mistakes Great Britain passed. She lost the United States; she
suffered bitter anguish in India; but India and Egypt testify to-day
to the nobility of her repentance. Spain repented not. The examples
are before us. Which shall we follow?

And is there not a stimulus to our imagination, and to high ambition,
to read, as we easily may, how the oppressed have been freed, and the
degraded lifted, in India and in Egypt, not only by political
sagacity and courage, but by administrative capacity directing the
great engineering enterprises, which change the face of a land and
increase a hundredfold the opportunities for life and happiness? The
profession of the writer, and the subject consequently of most of his
writing, stands for organized force, which, if duly developed, is the
concrete expression of the nation's strength. But while he has never
concealed his opinion that the endurance of civilization, during a
future far beyond our present foresight, depends ultimately upon due
organization of force, he has ever held, and striven to say, that such
force is but the means to an end, which end is durable peace and
progress, and therefore beneficence. The triumphs and the sufferings
of the past months have drawn men's eyes to the necessity for increase
of force, not merely to sustain over-sea dominion, but also to ensure
timely use, in action, of the latent military and naval strength which
the nation possesses. The speedy and inevitable submission of Spain
has demonstrated beyond contradiction the primacy of navies in
determining the issue of transmarine wars; for after Cavité and
Santiago had crippled hopelessly the enemy's navy, the end could not
be averted, though it might have been postponed. On the other hand,
the numerical inadequacy of the troops sent to Santiago, and their
apparently inadequate equipment, have shown the necessity for greater
and more skilfully organized land forces. The deficiency of the United
States in this respect would have permitted a prolonged resistance by
the enemy's army in Cuba,--a course which, though sure ultimately to
fail, appealed strongly to military punctilio.

These lessons are so obvious that it is not supposable that the
national intelligence, which has determined the American demand for
the Philippines, can overlook them; certainly not readers of the
character of those to whom this paper is primarily addressed. But when
all this has been admitted and provided for, it still remains that
force is but the minister, under whose guardianship industry does its
work and enjoys peaceably the fruits of its labor. To the mechanical
industries of the country, in their multifold forms, our new
responsibilities propound the questions, not merely of naval and
military protection, but of material development, which, first
beneficent to the inhabitants and to the land, gives also, and
thereby, those firm foundations of a numerous and contented
population, and of ample local resources, upon which alone military
power can securely rest.



From the descriptions of warships usually published, it would
naturally be inferred that the determination of their various
qualities concern primarily the naval architect and the marine
engineer. This is an error. Warships exist for war. Their powers,
being for the operations of war, are military necessities, the
appreciation of which, and the consequent qualities demanded, are
military questions. Only when these have been decided, upon military
reasons, begins the office of the technologist; namely, to produce the
qualities prescribed by the sea officer. An eminent British naval
architect used to say, "I hold that it is the part of the naval
officers to tell us just what qualities--speed, gun-power, armor, coal
endurance, etc.--are required in a ship to be built, and then leave it
to us to produce the ship." These words distinguish accurately and
summarily the functions of the military and the technical experts in
the development of navies. It is from the military standpoint, solely,
that this article is written.

The military function of a navy is to control the sea, so far as the
sea contributes to the maintenance of the war. The sea is the theatre
of naval war; it is the field in which the naval campaign is waged;
and, like other fields of military operations, it does not resemble a
blank sheet of paper, every point of which is equally important with
every other point. Like the land, the sea, as a military field, has
its important centres, and it is not controlled by spreading your
force, whatever its composition, evenly over an entire field of
operations, like butter over bread, but by occupying the centres with
aggregated forces--fleets or armies--ready to act in masses, in
various directions from the centres. This commonplace of warfare is
its first principle. It is called concentration, because the forces
are not spread out, but drawn together at the centres which for the
moment are most important.

Concentrated forces, therefore, are those upon which warfare depends
for efficient control, and for efficient energy in the operations of
war. They have two chief essential characteristics: force, which is
gained by concentration of numbers; and mobility, which is the ability
to carry the force rapidly, as well as effectively, from the centre to
any point of the outlying field where action, offensive or defensive,
becomes necessary. It is essential to keep in mind both these factors,
and to study them in their true mutual relations of priority, in order
and in importance,--force first, mobility second; for the force does
not exist for the mobility, but the mobility for the force, which it
subserves. Force without mobility is useful; even though limited, as
in coast fortifications; mobility without force is almost useless for
the greater purposes of war. Consequently, when it is found, as is
frequently the case, that one must yield somewhat, in order to the
full development of the other, it is extreme mobility, extreme speed,
which must give way to greater force.

This caution may seem superfluous, but it is not so; for in the
popular fancy, and in the appreciation of the technical expert, and
to some extent also in the official mind as well,--owing to that
peculiar fad of the day which lays all stress on machinery,--mobility,
speed, is considered the most important characteristic in every kind
of ship of war. Let the reader ask himself what is the most pronounced
impression left upon his mind by newspaper accounts of a new ship. Is
it not that she is expected to make so many knots? Compared with that,
what does the average man know of the fighting she can do, when she
has reached the end of that preposterously misleading performance
called her trial trip? The error is of the nature of a half-truth, the
most dangerous of errors; for it is true that, as compared with land
forces, the great characteristic of navies is mobility; but it is not
true that, between different classes of naval vessels, the swiftest
are the most efficient for control of the sea. Force is for that the
determining element.

Keeping these relations of force and mobility constantly in mind,
there is a further consideration, easily evident, but which needs to
be distinctly stated and remembered. When a ship is once built, she
cannot be divided. If you have on land concentrated ten thousand men,
you can detach any fraction of them you wish for a particular purpose;
you can send one man or ten, or a company, or a regiment. You can, in
short, make of them any fresh combination you choose. With ships, the
least you can send is one ship, and the smallest you have may be more
than you wish to spare. From this (as well as for other reasons)
arises a necessity for ships of different classes and sizes, which
must be determined beforehand. The determination must be reached not
merely by _a priori_ reasoning, as though the problem were wholly new;
but regard must be had to the experience of the past,--to the teaching
of history. History is experience, and as such underlies progress,
just as the cognate idea, experiment, underlies scientific advance.

Both history and reasoning, of the character already outlined in these
papers, concur in telling us that control of the sea is exercised by
vessels individually very large for their day, concentrated into
bodies called fleets, stationed at such central points as the
emergency demands. Our predecessors of the past two centuries called
these vessels "ships of the line of battle," from which probably
derives our briefer modern name "battleship," which is appropriate
only if the word "battle" be confined to fleet actions.

Among the naval entities, fleets are at once the most powerful and the
least mobile; yet they are the only really determining elements in
naval war. They are the most powerful, because in them are
concentrated many ships, each of which is extremely strong for
fighting. They are the least mobile, because many ships, which must
keep together, can proceed only at the rate of the slowest among them.
It is natural to ask why not build them all equally fast? The reply
is, it is possible to do so within very narrow limits, but it is not
possible to keep them so. Every deterioration, accident, or adverse
incident, which affects one involves all, as regards speed, though not
as regards fighting force. In our recent war, when an extensive
operation was contemplated, the speed of one battleship reduced the
calculated speed of the fleet by one knot,--one sea mile per hour.
But, it may be urged, will not your slowest speed be much increased,
if every vessel be originally faster? Doubtless; but speed means
tonnage,--part of the ship's weight devoted to engines; and weight, if
given to speed, is taken from other qualities; and if, to increase
speed, you reduce fighting power, you increase something you cannot
certainly hold, at the expense of something at once much more
important and more constant--less liable to impairment. In the
operation just cited the loss of speed was comparatively of little
account; but the question of fighting force upon arrival was serious.

An escape from this dilemma is sought by the advocates of very high
speed for battleships by increasing the size of the individual ship.
If this increase of size is accompanied by increase of speed, but not
proportionately of fighting power, the measure, in the opinion of the
writer, stands self-condemned. But, granting that force gains equally
with speed, there is a further objection already mentioned. The
exigencies of war demand at times division, as well as concentration;
and, in fact, concentration, properly understood, does not mean
keeping ships necessarily within sight of one another, but so disposed
that they can unite readily at will,--a consideration which space
forbids me more than to state. Now, a big ship cannot be divided into
two; or, more pertinently, eight ships cannot be made into ten when
you want two bodies of five each. The necessity, or supposed
necessity, of maintaining the Flying Squadron at Hampton Roads during
the late hostilities exactly illustrates this idea. Under all the
conditions, this disposition was not wholly false to concentration,
rightly considered; but had the ships been fewer and bigger, it could
not have been made.

The net result, therefore, of the argument, supported, as the writer
believes, by the testimony of history, is: (1) that a navy which
wishes to affect decisively the issues of a maritime war must be
composed of heavy ships--"battleships"--possessing a maximum of
fighting power, and so similar in type as to facilitate that
uniformity of movement and of evolution upon which concentration, once
effected, must depend for its maintenance, whether during a passage or
in actual engagement; (2) that in such ships, regarded as fighting
factors, which is their primary function, size is limited, as to the
minimum, by the advisability of concentrating as much fighting power
as possible under the hand of a single captain; but, on the other
hand, size is also limited, as to its maximum, by the need of
retaining ability to subdivide the whole fleet, according to
particular exigencies; (3) as regards that particular form of mobility
called speed, the writer regards it as distinctly secondary for the
battleship; that, to say the least, the present proportions of weight
assigned to fighting force should not be sacrificed to obtain increase
of speed. Neither should the size of the individual ships be increased
merely to obtain rates of speed higher than that already shown by some
of our present battleships.

Concerning that particular function of mobility which is called coal
endurance,--that is, the ability to steam a certain distance without
stopping to recoal,--the convenience to military operations of such a
quality is evident; but it is obvious that it cannot, with the fuels
now available, be possessed beyond very narrow limits. A battleship
that can steam the greatest distance that separates two fortified
coaling stations of her nation, with a reasonable margin above that to
meet emergencies, will evidently be able to remain for a long while
with the fleet, when this is concentrated to remain under reduced
steam at a particular point. The recoaling of ships is a difficulty
which must be met by improving the methods of that operation, not by
sacrificing the military considerations which should control the size
and other qualities of the vessel.

It is the belief of the writer that ten thousand tons represent very
nearly the minimum, and twelve thousand the maximum, of size for the
battleship. Our present battleships fall within those limits, and,
although less uniform in their qualities than might be desired, they
give perfectly satisfactory indications that the requisite qualities
can all be had without increase of size. When more is wanted--and we
should always be striving for perfection--it should be sought in the
improvement of processes, and not in the adding of ton to ton, like a
man running up a bill. It is the difference between economy and
extravagance. Into battleships such as these should go the greater
proportion of the tonnage a nation gives to its navy. Ships so
designed may reach the ground of action later than those which have
more speed; but when they arrive, the enemy, if of weaker fighting
power, must go, and what then has been the good of their speed? War
is won by holding on, or driving off; not by successful running away.

An important consideration in determining the necessary composition of
a navy is the subdivision of fighting power into offensive and
defensive. The latter is represented chiefly by armor, the former by
guns; although other factors contribute to both. The relative
importance of the two depends upon no mere opinion of the writer, but
upon a consensus of authority practically unanimous, and which,
therefore, demands no argument, but simple statement. Offensive
action--not defensive--determines the issues of war. "The best defence
against the enemy's fire is a rapid fire from our own guns," was a
pithy phrase of our Admiral Farragut; and in no mere punning sense it
may be added that it is for this reason that the rapid-fire gun of the
present day made such big strides in professional favor, the instant
it was brought to the test of battle. The rapid-fire gun is smaller
than the great cannon mounted in the turrets; but, while the latter
have their proper usefulness, the immensely larger number of
projectiles fired in a given time, and valid against the target
presented to them, makes the rapid-fire battery a much stronger
weapon, offensively, than the slow-acting giants. Here is the great
defect of the monitor, properly so-called; that is, the low-freeboard
monitor. Defensively, the monitor is very strong; offensively, judged
by present-day standards, it is weak, possessing the heavy cannon, but
deficient in rapid fire. Consequently, its usefulness is limited
chiefly to work against fortifications,--a target exceptional in
resistance, and rarely a proper object for naval attack. It is the
opinion of the writer that no more monitors should be built, except as
accessory to the defence of those harbors where submarine mines cannot
be depended upon,--as at San Francisco and Puget Sound. It should be
added that the monitor at sea rolls twice as rapidly as the
battleship, which injuriously affects accuracy of aim; that is,
offensive power.

The general principle of the decisive superiority of offensive power
over defensive is applicable throughout,--to the operations of a war,
to the design of a battleship, to the scheme of building a whole navy.
It is to the erroneous belief in mere defence that we owe much of the
faith in the monitor, and some of the insistence upon armor; while the
cry that went up for local naval defence along our coast, when war
threatened in the spring of 1898, showed an ignorance of the first
principles of warfare, which, if not resisted, would have left us
impotent even before Spain.

Brief mention only can be given to the other classes of vessels needed
by the navy. Concerning them, one general remark must be made. They
are subsidiary to the fighting fleet, and represent rather that
subdivision of a whole navy which is opposed to the idea of
concentration, upon which the battleship rests. As already noted, a
built ship cannot be divided; therefore, battleships must be
supplemented by weaker or smaller vessels, to perform numerous
detached and often petty services.

From this characteristic of detachment--often singly--important
engagements will rarely be fought by these smaller vessels. Therefore,
in them fighting power declines in relative importance, and speed, to
perform their missions, increases in proportion. As their essential
use is not to remain at the centres, but to move about, they are
called generically cruisers, from the French word _croiser_,--to
cross. They cross back and forth, they rove the sea,--despatch boats,
lookouts, scouts, or raiders. They are the cavalry of the fleet.

Prominent among these in modern navies is the so-called "armored"
cruiser,--a type to which belonged the four principal vessels of
Cervera's squadron. The name itself is interesting, as indicating the
inveterate tendency of mankind to straddle,--the reluctance to choose
one of two opposite things, and frankly to give up the other. Armor,
being an element of fighting power, belongs properly to the battleship
rather than the cruiser; and in the latter, if the weight spent in
armor detracts from speed or coal endurance, it contravenes the
leading idea of a cruiser,--mobility. But, while the name is
incongruous, the type has its place as an armored vessel, though not
as a cruiser. In our service at least--where it is represented by the
_New York_ and the _Brooklyn_--it is practically a second-class
battleship, in which weight taken from fighting power is given to
enginery and to speed. The advantage arising from this is purely
tactical; that is, it comes into play only when in touch with the
enemy. The armored cruiser belongs with the fleet, therefore her
superior speed does not tell in making passages; but when fleets are
in presence, or in the relative conditions of chase and pursuit, there
is an advantage in being able to throw to the front, rear, or flanks,
vessels which on a pinch can either fight or fly. This, be it noted in
passing, is no new thing, but as old as naval history. A squadron of
fast battleships of the day, thrown to the front of a fleet to harass
the flanks of the enemy, is a commonplace of naval tactics, alike of
galleys and sailing ships. Off Santiago, the _New York_ and _Brooklyn_
were, by Admiral Sampson, placed on the flanks of his squadron.
Whichever way Cervera turned he would find a vessel of speed and
fighting power equal to those of his own ships. Though unequal in
fighting power to a first-class battleship, many circumstances may
arise which would justify the armored cruiser in engaging one,
provided her own fleet was in supporting distance. From their hybrid
type, and from the exceptional circumstances under which they can be
used, the tonnage put into these vessels should be but a small
percentage of that given to the battle fleet, to which, and not to the
cruisers, they really belong.

Concerning all other cruisers, mobility, represented in speed and coal
endurance, is the chief requisite. Notwithstanding occasional
aberrations in the past, the development of the cruiser classes may be
safely entrusted by the public to the technical experts; provided it
be left to naval officers, military men, to say what qualities should
predominate. Moreover, as such vessels generally act singly, it is of
less importance that they vary much in type, and the need of
subdivision carries with it that of numerous sizes; but battleships,
including armored cruisers, are meant to work together, and insistence
should be made upon homogeneousness, especially in manoeuvring

To sum up: the attention of the public should be centred upon the
armored fleet, to which the bulk of expenditure should be devoted; the
monitor, pure and simple,--save for very exceptional uses,--should be
eliminated; the development of the true cruiser,--not armored,--both
in type and in numbers, does not require great interest of the
public; much of the duties of this class, also, can be discharged
fairly well by purchased vessels, although such will never have the
proportion of fighting power which every type of ship of war should
possess. As a rule, it is undesirable that a military force, land or
sea, should have to retreat before one of equal size, as auxiliary
cruisers often would.



All matters connected with the sea tend to have, in a greater or less
degree, a distinctly specialized character, due to the unfamiliarity
which the sea, as a scene of _action_, has for the mass of mankind.
Nothing is more trite than the remark continually made to naval
officers, that life at sea must give them a great deal of leisure for
reading and other forms of personal culture. Without going so far as
to say that there is no more leisure in a naval officer's life than in
some other pursuits--social engagements, for instance, are largely
eliminated when at sea--there is very much less than persons imagine;
and what there is is broken up by numerous petty duties and incidents,
of which people living on shore have no conception, because they have
no experience. It is evident that the remark proceeds in most cases
from the speaker's own consciousness of the unoccupied monotony of an
ocean passage, in which, unless exceptionally observant, he has not
even detected the many small but essential functions discharged by the
officers of the ship, whom he sees moving about, but the aim of whose
movements he does not understand. The passenger, as regards the
economy of the vessel, is passive; he fails to comprehend, often even
to perceive, the intense functional activity of brain and body which
goes on around him--the real life of the organism.

In the progress of the world, nautical matters of every kind are to
most men what the transactions of a single ship are to the passenger.
They receive impressions, which they mistake for opinions--a most
common form of error. These impressions are repeated from mouth to
mouth, and having the common note of superficial observation, they are
found to possess a certain resemblance. So they serve mutually to
fortify one another, and to constitute a _quasi_ public opinion. The
repetition and stereotyping of impressions are greatly forwarded by
the system of organized gossip which we call the press.

It is in consequence of this, quite as much as of the extravagances
in a certain far from reputable form of journalism, that the power of
the press, great as it unquestionably still is, is not what it should
be. It intensifies the feeling of its own constituents, who usually
take the paper because they agree with it; but if candid
representation of all sides constitutes a fair attempt to instruct the
public, no man expects a matter to be fairly put forward. So far does
this go, in the experience of the present writer, that one of the most
reputable journals in the country, in order to establish a certain
extreme position, quoted his opinion in one paragraph, while omitting
to give the carefully guarded qualification expressed in the very
succeeding paragraph; whereby was conveyed, by implication, the
endorsement of the extreme opinion advocated, which the writer
certainly never held.

Direct misrepresentation, however, whether by commission or by
omission, careless or wilful, is probably less harmful than the
indirect injury produced by continual repetition of unintentional
misconceptions. The former occurs generally in the case of living,
present-moment questions; it reaches chiefly those already convinced;
and it has its counteraction in the arguments of the other party,
which are read by the appropriate constituency. The real work of those
questions of the day goes on behind the scenes; and the press affects
them, not because of its intrinsic power, but only in so far as it is
thought to represent the trend of thought in a body of voters. On
subjects of less immediate moment, as military and naval matters
are--except when war looms near, and preparation is too late--men's
brains, already full enough of pressing cares, refuse to work, and
submit passively to impressions, as the eye, without conscious action,
takes note of and records external incidents. Unfortunately these
impressions, uncorrected by reflection, exaggerated in narration, and
intensified by the repetition of a number of writers, come to
constitute a body of public belief, not strictly rational in its birth
or subsequent growth, but as impassive in its resistance to argument
as it was innocent of mental process during its formation.

The intention of the present paper is to meet, and as far as possible
to remove, some such current errors of the day on naval
matters--popular misconceptions, continually encountered in
conversation and in the newspapers.

Accepting the existence of the navy, and the necessity for its
continuance--for some starting-point must be assumed--the errors to be
touched upon are:

1. That the United States needs a navy "for defence only."

2. That a navy "for defence only" means for the immediate defence of
our seaports and coast-line; an allowance also being made for
scattered cruisers to prey upon an enemy's commerce.

3. That if we go beyond this, by acquiring any territory overseas,
either by negotiation or conquest, we step at once to the need of
having a navy larger than the largest, which is that of Great Britain,
now the largest in the world.

4. That the difficulty of doing this, and the expense involved, are
the greater because of the rapid advances in naval improvement, which
it is gravely said make a ship obsolete in a very few years; or, to
use a very favorite hyperbole, she becomes obsolete before she can be
launched. The assertion of the rapid obsolescence of ships of war
will be dwelt upon, in the hopes of contravening it.

5. After this paper had been written, the calamity to the United
States ship _Maine_, in the harbor of Havana, elicited, from the
mourning and consternation of the country, the evident tokens of other
unreasoning apprehensions--springing from imperfect knowledge and
vague impressions--which at least should be noticed cursorily, and if
possible appeased.

_First_, the view that the United States should plan its navy--in
numbers and in sizes of ships--for defence only, rests upon a
confusion of ideas--a political idea and a military idea--under the
one term of "defence." Politically, it has always been assumed in the
United States, and very properly, that our policy should never be
wantonly aggressive; that we should never seek our own advantage,
however evident, by an unjust pressure upon another nation, much less
by open war. This, it will be seen, is a political idea, one which
serves for the guidance of the people and of the statesmen of the
country in determining--not _how_ war is to be carried on, which is a
military question, but--under what circumstances war is permissible,
or unjust. This is a question of civil policy, pure and simple, and by
no means a military question. As a nation, we have always vehemently
avowed that we will, and do, act justly; in practice, like other
states, and like mankind generally, when we have wanted anything very
badly, we have--at least at times--managed to see that it was just
that we should have it. In the matter of general policy our hands are
by no means clean from aggression. General Grant, after retiring from
public life, maintained that the war with Mexico was an unjust war; a
stigma which, if true, stains our possession of California and much
other territory. The acquisition of Louisiana was as great an outrage
upon the technical rights of Spain as the acquisition of Hawaii would
be upon the technical rights of the fast-disappearing aborigines; and
there can be little doubt that, although we did not go to war with
Spain to get Florida, we made things so uncomfortable for her that she
was practically forced at last to get out. It does not follow
necessarily that any of these actions were wrong, even if we consider
that the so-called _legal_ rights of Mexico and Spain were set aside
by the strong hand; for law is simply an invention of mankind to
secure justice, and when justice, the natural rights of the greater
number, is prevented by the legal, not the natural, rights of a few,
the latter may be set aside, as it is at every election, where large
minorities of people are forced to submit to what they consider
grievous wrong. The danger incurred by overleaping law to secure what
is right may be freely admitted; but no great responsibility, such as
the use of power always is, can be exercised at all without some
danger of abuse. However, be that as it may, there can be no question
that in times past we have aggressed upon the legal rights of other
states; and in the annexation of Louisiana we infringed the letter of
our own Constitution. We broke the law in order to reach an end
eminently beneficial to the majority of those concerned. Nevertheless,
while thus aggressive on occasion, warring for offence and not for
defence only, it is distinctly a good thing that we hold up the ideal,
and persuade ourselves that we cherish it; that we prepare means of
war only for defence. It is better honestly to profess a high
standard, even if we fall from it at times, than wilfully to adopt a
lower ideal of conduct.

The phrase "War for defence only" conveys, therefore, a political
idea, and, as such, a proper and noble idea. Unfortunately, in our
country, where almost all activities fall under two chief
heads--politics and business--politics, the less sensitively organized
but more forceful of the two, intrudes everywhere and masters
everything. We dread standing armies. Why? Because standing armies,
being organized masses of men, trained to obey capable leaders, may
overcome the resistance of a people which is far greater in numbers,
but unorganized. What are our politics now but organized masses of
men, habituated to obey their leaders, among whom to change their vote
is stigmatized as the treason of an Arnold, and between which the
popular will is driven helplessly from side to side, like a
shuttlecock between two battledores? Politics cleans our streets,
regulates our education, and so on; it is not to be wondered at that
it intrudes into the military sphere, with confidence all the greater
because it is there especially ignorant. Let there be no
misunderstanding, however. It is perfectly right that the policy of
the country should dictate the character and strength of the military
establishment; the evil is when policy is controlled by ignorance,
summed up in a mistaken but captivating catchword--"for defence only."

Among all masters of military art--including therein naval art--it is
a thoroughly accepted principle that mere defensive war means military
ruin, and therefore national disaster. It is vain to maintain a
military or naval force whose power is not equal to assuming the
offensive soon or late; which cannot, first or last, go out, assail
the enemy, and hurt him in his vital interests. A navy for defence
only, in the _political_ sense, means a navy that will only be used in
case we are forced into war; a navy for defence only, in the
_military_ sense, means a navy that can only await attack and defend
its own, leaving the enemy at ease as regards his own interests, and
at liberty to choose his own time and manner of fighting.

It is to be observed also that the most beneficial use of a military
force is not to _wage_ war, however successfully, but to _prevent_
war, with all its suffering, expense, and complication of
embarrassments. Of course, therefore, a navy for defence only, from
which an enemy need fear no harm, is of small account in diplomatic
relations, for it is nearly useless as a deterrent from war. Whatever
there may be in our conditions otherwise to prevent states from
attacking us, a navy "for defence only" will not add to them. For mere
harbor defence, fortifications are decisively superior to ships,
except where peculiar local conditions are found. All our greatest
cities on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts can be locally defended better
by forts than by ships; but if, instead of a navy "for defence only,"
there be one so large that the enemy must send a great many ships
across the Atlantic, if he sends any, then the question whether he can
spare so great a number is very serious, considering the ever-critical
condition of European politics. Suppose, for instance, we could put
twenty battleships in commission for war in thirty days, and that we
had threatening trouble with either Germany, France, Great Britain, or
Russia. There is not one of these, except Great Britain, that could
afford to send over here twenty-five battleships, which would be the
very fewest needed, seeing the distance of their operations from
home; while Great Britain, relying wholly on her navy for the
integrity of her empire, equally cannot afford the hostility of a
nation having twenty battleships, and with whom her points of
difference are as inconsequential to her as they are with us.

It should be remembered, too, that any war which may arise with the
naval nations of Europe--or with Japan, which will soon rank with
them--will not be with reference to our own territories, but to our
external relations. In the Monroe doctrine, as now understood and
viewed in the light of the Venezuela incident, with the utterances
then made by our statesmen of all parties, we have on hand one of the
biggest contracts any modern state has undertaken. Nor may we
anticipate from other nations the easy acquiescence of Great Britain.
The way the latter sticks by Canada should warn us that we prevailed
in Venezuela because the matter to her was not worth war. Great
Britain is gorged with land. Her statesmen are weary of looking after
it, and of the persistence with which one advance compels another. It
is not so with Germany and France. The latter is traditionally our
friend, however, and her ambitions, even when she held Canada, have
ever pointed east rather than west. But how about Germany? It is the
fashion here to proclaim the Emperor a fool, for his shibboleth is
imperialistic and not republican; but if he be, it is with the folly
of the age on the European Continent--the hunger for ships, colonies,
and commerce, after which the great Napoleon so hankered, and upon
which the prosperity of Great Britain has been built.

Ships, colonies, commerce, mean to a European nation of to-day just
what our vast, half-improved, heavily tariffed territory means to us.
They mean to those nations room to expand, land wherewith to portion
off the sons and daughters that cannot find living space at home,
widespread political and international influence, through blood
affiliation with prosperous colonies, the power of which, in the
sentiment of brotherhood, received such illustration in the Queen's
Jubilee--one of the most majestic sights of the ages; for no Roman
triumph ever equalled for variety of interest the Jubilee, in which
not victorious force, but love, the all-powerful, was the tie that
knit the diversities of the great pageant into one coherent, living
whole. What political power is stable save that which holds men's
hearts? And what holds men's hearts like blood-relationship, permitted
free course and given occasional manifestation and exchange? German
colonies, like unto those of Great Britain--such is the foolish
day-dream of the German Emperor, if folly it be; but if he be a fool,
he knows at least that reciprocal advantage, reciprocal interests,
promote the exchange of kindly offices, by which has been kept alive
the love between Englishmen at home and Englishmen in the colonies. He
knows, also, that such advantages derive from power, from force--not
force exerted necessarily but force possessed--and that force, power,
depends not upon fleets and armies only, but upon positions also--war
being, as Napoleon used to say, "a business of positions"--one of
those pregnant phrases of the great captain upon which a man may
meditate many hours without exhausting it. A state that aims at
maritime power and at colonial empire, as Germany unquestionably--nay,
avowedly--now does, needs not only large and widely dispersed
colonies; she further needs influence upon those routes of commerce
which connect together countries and colonies, and for that she wants
possession of minor points, whose value is rather military than
commercial, but which essentially affect the control of the sea and of
the communications.

Now the secrets of the Emperor and of his more confidential advisers
are not all worn upon the sleeve, as might be inferred from the
audacity and apparent imprudence of occasional utterances. It is
known, however, not only from his words, which might be discounted,
but from his acts, that he wants a big navy, that he has meddled in
South Africa, and that he has on a slight pretext, but not, it may
well be believed, in any frivolous spirit, seized Kiao-chou, in China.
What all this means to himself can be only a matter of inference. The
present writer, after inquiring in quarters likely to be well
informed, has been able to obtain nothing more positive than
deductions, reasonably made, by men whose business it is to watch
current events in Europe; but the idea has long been forming in the
minds of political thinkers, looking not only upon the moves of the
political chess-board as they superficially appear in each day's news,
and are dictated largely by momentary emergencies, but seeking also to
detect the purpose and temperament of the players--be they men in
power or national tendencies--that the German Emperor is but
continuing and expanding a scheme of policy inherited from his
predecessors in the government of the state. Nay, more; it is thought
that this policy represents a tendency and a need of the German people
itself, in the movement towards national unity between its racial
constituents, in which so great an advance has already been
accomplished in the last thirty years. Elements long estranged, but of
the same blood, can in no way more surely attain to community of
interest and of view than by the development of an external policy, of
which the benefits and the pride may be common to all. True unity
requires some common object, around which diverse interests may cling
and crystallize. Nations, like families, need to look outside
themselves, if they would escape, on the one hand, narrow
self-satisfaction, or, on the other, pitiful internal dissensions.
The far-reaching external activities fostered in Great Britain by her
insular position have not only intensified patriotism, but have given
also a certain nobility of breadth to her statesmanship up to the
middle of this century.

Why, then, should not Germany, whose political unity was effected near
two centuries after that of Great Britain, do wisely in imitating a
policy whereby the older state has become an empire, that still
travels onward to a further and greater unity, which, if realized,
shall embrace in one fold remote quarters of the world? Where is the
folly of the one conception or of the other? The folly, if it prove
such, has as yet no demonstrable existence, save in the imaginations
of a portion of the people of the United States, who, clinging to
certain maxims of a century ago--when they were quite applicable--or
violently opposed to any active interest in matters outside our family
of States, find that those who differ from themselves are, if
Americans, jingoes, and if foreigners, like the present Emperor
William and Mr. Chamberlain, fools. The virtues and the powers of the
British and German peoples may prove unequal to their ambitions--time
alone can show; but it is a noble aim in their rulers to seek to
extend their influence, to establish their positions, and to knit them
together, in such wise that as races they may play a mighty part in
the world's history. The ambition is noble, even if it fail; if it
succeed, our posterity may take a different view of its folly, and of
our own wisdom in this generation.

For there are at least two steps, in other directions than those as
yet taken, by which the Emperor, when he feels strong enough at
sea--he is yet scarcely in middle life--might greatly and suddenly
increase the maritime empire of Germany, using means which are by no
means unprecedented, historically, but which would certainly arouse
vehement wrath in the United States, and subject to a severe test our
maxim of a navy for defence only. There is a large and growing German
colony in southern Brazil, and I am credibly informed that there is a
distinct effort to divert thither, by means direct and indirect, a
considerable part of the emigration which now comes to the United
States, and therefore is lost politically to Germany--for she has, of
course, no prospect of colonization here. The inference is that the
Emperor hopes at a future day, for which he is young enough to wait,
to find in southern Brazil a strong German population, which in due
time may seek to detach itself from the Brazilian Republic, as Texas
once detached itself from Mexico; and which may then seek political
union with Germany, as Texas sought political union with the United
States, to obtain support against her former owners and masters.
Without advancing any particular opinion as to the advisable
geographical limits of the Monroe doctrine, we may be pretty sure that
the American people would wordily resent an act which in our press
would be called "the aggression of a European military monarchy upon
the political or territorial rights of an American republic." This
also could be accompanied with the liberal denunciation of William II.
which now ornaments our editorial columns; but hard words break no
bones, and the practical question would remain, "What are you going to
do about it?" with a navy "for defence only." If you cannot offend
Germany, in the military sense of "offend"--that is, if you cannot
seek her out and _hurt_ her--how are you going to control her? In
contemplation of the future contingencies of our national policy, let
us contrast our own projected naval force with that now recommended to
the German Reichstag by the Budget Committee, despite the many
prophecies that the Emperor could not obtain his desired navy. "The
Budget Committee of the Reichstag to-day adopted, in accordance with
the government proposals, parts of the naval bill, fixing the number
of ships to be held in readiness for service as follows: 1 flagship,
18 battleships, 12 large cruisers, 30 small cruisers, 8 coast-defence
ironclads, and 13 gunboats, besides torpedo-boats, schoolships, and
small gunboats."[5] That these numbers were fixed with reference to
the United States is indeed improbable; but the United States should
take note.

A second means of expanding Germany as a colonial power would be to
induce the Dutch--who are the Germans of the lower Rhine and the North
Sea--to seek union with the German Empire, the empire of the Germans
of the upper Rhine, of the Elbe, and of the Baltic. This, it may be
said, would be far less difficult in consummation than the scheme last
suggested; for in Brazil, as in the United States and elsewhere, the
German emigrant tends to identify himself with the institutions he
finds around him, and shows little disposition to political
independence--a fact which emphasizes the necessity of strictly German
colonies, if the race, outside of Europe, is not to undergo political
absorption. The difficulties or the advantages which the annexation of
Holland might involve, as regards the political balance of power in
Europe, and the vast Asiatic colonies of the Dutch--Sumatra, Java, New
Guinea, etc.--are a consideration outside the present scope of
American policy; but the transaction would involve one little incident
as to which, unlike southern Brazil, a decided opinion may be
expressed, and that incident would be the transference of the island
of Curaçao, in the West Indies, to Germany. If Curaçao and its
political tenure do not fall within the purview of the Monroe
doctrine, the Monroe doctrine has no existence; for the island, though
small, has a wellnigh impregnable harbor, and lies close beside the
routes to the Central American Isthmus, which is to us what Egypt and
Suez are to England. But what objection can we urge, or what can we
do, with a navy "for defence only," in the military sense of the word

The way out of this confusion of thought, the logical method of
reconciling the political principle of non-aggression with a naval
power capable of taking the offensive, if necessary, is to recognize,
and to say, that defence means not merely defence of our territory,
but defence of our just national interests, whatever they be and
wherever they are. For example, the exclusion of direct European
political control from the Isthmus of Panama is as really a matter of
national defence as is the protection of New York Harbor. Take this as
the political meaning of the phrase "a navy for defence only," and
naval men, I think, must admit that it is no longer inapplicable as a
military phrase, but expresses adequately the naval needs of the
nation. But no military student can consider efficient a force so
limited, in quantity or in quality, that it must await attack before
it can act.

Now admitting this view as to the scope of the word "defence," what is
the best method of defending your interests when you know that
another intends to attack them? Is it to busy yourself with
precautions here, and precautions there, in every direction, to head
him off when he comes? Or is it to take the simpler means of so
preparing that you have the power to hurt him, and to make him afraid
that, if he moves, he will be the worse hurt of the two? In life
generally a man who means mischief is kept in check best by fear of
being hurt; if he has no more to dread than failure to do harm, no
reason to apprehend receiving harm, he will make his attempt. But
while this is probably true of life in general, it is notably true of
warfare. The state which in war relies simply upon defending itself,
instead of upon hurting the enemy, is bound to incur disaster, and for
the very simple reason that the party which proposes to strike a blow
has but one thing to do; whereas he who proposes only to ward off
blows has a dozen things, for he cannot know upon which interest, of a
dozen that he may have, the coming blow may fall. For this reason,
again, a "navy for defence only" is a wholly misleading phrase, unless
defence be construed to include _all_ national interests, and not only
the national territory; and further, unless it be understood that the
best defence of one's own interests is power to injure those of the

In the summary of points to be dealt with has been included the
opinion that offensive action by a navy may be limited to merely
preying upon the enemy's commerce--that being considered not only a
real injury, but one great enough to bring him to peace. Concerning
this, it will suffice here to say that national maritime commerce does
not consist in a number of ships sprinkled, as by a pepper-pot, over
the surface of the ocean. Rightly viewed, it constitutes a great
system, with the strength and weakness of such. Its strength is that
possessed by all organized power, namely, that it can undergo a good
deal of local injury, such as scattered cruisers may inflict, causing
inconvenience and suffering, without receiving vital harm. A strong
man cannot be made to quit his work by sticking pins in him, or by
bruising his shins or blacking his eyes; he must be hit in a vital
part, or have a bone broken, to be laid up. The weaknesses of
commerce--the fatally vulnerable parts of its system--are the
commercial routes over which ships pass. They are the bones, the
skeleton, the framework of the organism. Hold them, break them, and
commerce falls with a crash, even though no ship is taken, but all
locked up in safe ports. But to effect this is not the work of
dispersed cruisers picking up ships here and there, as birds pick up
crumbs, but of vessels massed into powerful fleets, holding the sea,
or at the least making the highways too dangerous for use. A navy so
planned is for defence indeed, in the true sense that the best defence
is to crush your enemy by depriving him of the use of the sea.

We now come to the assertion that if the United States takes to itself
interests beyond the sea--of which Hawaii is an instance--it not only
adds to its liabilities, which is true, but incurs an unnecessary
exposure, to guard against which we need no less than the greatest
navy in the world.

It might be retorted that, willy-nilly, we already, by general
national consent, have accepted numerous external interests--embraced
under the Monroe doctrine; and that, as regards Hawaii, many even who
reject annexation admit that our interests will not tolerate any other
nation taking those islands. But how shall we enforce even that
limited amount of interest if any other power--Great Britain, Germany,
or Japan--decide to take, and the islanders acquiesce? In such cases
we should even be worse off, militarily, than with annexation
completed. Let us, however, put aside this argument--of the many
already existing external interests--and combat this allegation, that
an immense navy would be needed, by recurring to the true military
conception of defence already developed. The subject will thus tend to
unity of treatment, centring round that word "defence." Effective
defence does not consist primarily in power to protect, but in power
to injure. A man's defence against a snake, if cornered--if he must
have to do with it--is not to protect himself, but to kill the snake.
If a snake got into the room, as often happens in India, the position
should not be estimated by ability to get out of the room one's self,
but by power to get rid of the snake. In fact, a very interesting
illustration of the true theory of defence is found in a casual remark
in a natural history about snakes--that comparatively few are
dangerous to man, but that the whole family is protected by the fear
those few inspire. If attacked by a dog, safety is not sought chiefly
in the means of warding him off, but by showing him the means
possessed of hurting him, as by picking up a stone; and with a man,
where an appeal lies to the intelligence, the argument from power to
injure is peculiarly strong. If a burglar, thinking to enter a room,
knows that he may--or will--kill the occupant, but that the latter may
break his leg, he will not enter. The game would not be worth the

Apply this thought now to the United States and its naval needs. As
Great Britain is by very far the greatest naval power, let us take her
to be the supposed enemy. If we possessed the Hawaiian Islands, and
war unhappily broke out with Great Britain, she could now, if she
desired, take them without trouble, so far as our navy is concerned;
so could France; so possibly, five years hence, could Japan. That is,
under our present conditions of naval weakness, either France or Great
Britain could spare ships enough to overcome our force, without
fatally crippling her European fleet; whereas, were our navy half the
size of the British, she could not afford to send half her fleet so
far away from home; nor, if we had half ours in the Pacific and half
in the Atlantic, could she afford to send one-third or one-fourth of
her entire navy so far from her greater interests, independent of the
fact that, even if victorious, it would be very badly used before our
force was defeated. Hawaii is not worth that to Great Britain; whereas
it is of so much consequence to us that, even if lost, it would
probably be returned at a peace, as Martinique and Guadeloupe
invariably have been to France. Great Britain would not find its value
equivalent to our resentment at her holding it. Now the argument as to
the British fleet is still stronger as to France, for she is as
distant as Great Britain and has a smaller navy. The argument is
different as regards Japan, for she is nearer by far than they, only
half as far again as we, and that power has recently given us an
intimation which, if we disregard, we do so in face of the facts. Her
remonstrance about the annexation of Hawaii, however far it went, gave
us fair warning that a great naval state was about to come into being
in the Pacific, prepared to watch, and perhaps to contest, our action
in what we thought our interests demanded. From that instant the navy
of Japan becomes a standard, showing, whether we annex the islands or
not, a minimum beneath which our Pacific fleet cannot be allowed to
fall, without becoming a "navy for defence only," in the very worst

This brief train of reasoning will suggest why it is not necessary to
have a navy equal to the greatest, in order to insure that sense of
fear which deters a rival from war, or handicaps his action in war.
The biggest navy that ever existed cannot all be sent on one mission,
in any probable state of the political world. A much smaller force,
favorably placed, produces an effect far beyond its proportionate
numbers; for, to quote again Napoleon's phrase, "War is a business of
positions." This idea is by no means new, even to unprofessional men;
on the contrary, it is so old that it is deplorable to see such
fatuous arguments as the necessity of equalling Great Britain's navy
adduced against any scheme of external policy. The annexation of
Hawaii, to recur to that, may be bad policy for many reasons, of which
I am no good judge; but, as a naval student, I hesitate not to say
that, while annexation _may_ entail a bigger navy than is demanded
for the mere exclusion of other states from the islands--though I
personally do not think so--it is absurd to say that we should need a
navy equal to that of Great Britain. In 1794 Gouverneur Morris wrote
that if the United States had twenty ships of the line in commission,
no other state would provoke her enmity. At that time Great Britain's
navy was relatively more powerful than it is now, while she and France
were rivalling each other in testing the capacity of our country to
stand kicking; but Morris's estimate was perfectly correct, and shows
how readily a sagacious layman can understand a military question, if
only he will put his mind to it, and not merely echo the press. Great
Britain then could not--and much more France could not--afford to have
twenty ships of the line operating against her interests on the other
side of the Atlantic. They could not afford it in actual war; they
could not afford it even in peace, because not only might war arise at
any time, but it would be much more likely to happen if either party
provoked the United States to hostility. The mere menace of such a
force, its mere existence, would have insured decent treatment
without war; and Morris, who was an able financier, conjectured that
to support a navy of such size for twenty years would cost the public
treasury less than five years of war would,--not to mention the
private losses of individuals in war.

All policy that involves external action is sought to be discredited
by this assertion, that it entails the expense of a navy equal to the
greatest now existing on the sea, no heed being given to the fact that
we already have assumed such external responsibilities, if any weight
is to be attached to the evident existence of a strong popular feeling
in favor of the Monroe doctrine, or to Presidential or Congressional
utterances in the Venezuela business, or in that of Hawaii. The
assertion is as old as the century; as is also the complementary
ignorance of the real influence of an inferior military or naval force
in contemporary policy, when such force either is favored by position,
or can incline decisively, to one side or the other, the scales in a
doubtful balance. To such misapprehensions we owed, in the early part
of this century, the impressment of hundreds of American seamen, and
the despotic control of our commerce by foreign governments; to this,
the blockading of our coasts, the harrying of the shores of Chesapeake
Bay, the burning of Washington, and a host of less remembered
attendant evils. All these things might have been prevented by the
timely maintenance of a navy of tolerable strength, deterring the
warring powers from wanton outrage.

In the present day the argument that none but the greatest navy is of
any avail, and that such is too expensive for us to contemplate--as it
probably is--is re-enforced by the common statement that the ship
built to-day becomes obsolete in an extremely short time, the period
stated being generally a rhetorical figure rather than an exact
estimate. The word "obsolete" itself is used here vaguely. Strictly,
it means no more than "gone out of use;" but it is understood,
correctly, I think, to mean "become useless." A lady's bonnet may
become obsolete, being gone out of use because no longer in fashion,
though it may still be an adequate head-covering; but an obsolete ship
of war can only be one that is put out of use because it is useless. A
ship momentarily out of use, because not needed, is no more obsolete
than a hat hung up when the owner comes in. When a ship is called
obsolete, therefore, it is meant that she is out of use for the same
reason that many old English words are--because they are no longer
good for their purpose; their meaning being lost to mankind in
general, they no longer serve for the exchange of thought.

In this sense the obsolescence of modern ships of war is just one of
those half-truths which, as Tennyson has it, are ever the worst of
lies; it is harder to meet and fight outright than an unqualified
untruth. It is true that improvement is continually going on in the
various parts of the complex mechanism which constitutes a modern ship
of war; although it is also true that many changes are made which are
not improvements, and that reversion to an earlier type, the
abandonment of a once fancied improvement, is no unprecedented
incident in recent naval architecture and naval ordnance. The
revulsion from the monitor, the turreted ship pure and simple, to the
broadside battery analogous to that carried by the old ships of
Farragut and Nelson, is one of the most singular and interesting
changes in men's thoughts that the writer has met, either in his
experience or in his professional reading. The day can be recalled
when the broadside battleship was considered as dead as
Cock-Robin--her knell was rung, and herself buried without honors;
yet, not only has she revived, but I imagine that I should have a very
respectable following among naval officers now in believing, as I do,
that the broadside guns, and not those in the turrets, are the primary
battery of the ship--primary, I mean, in fighting value. Whatever the
worth of this opinion,--which is immaterial to the present
contention,--a change so radical as from broadside battery to turreted
ships, and from the latter back to broadside, though without entirely
giving up turrets, should cause some reasonable hesitancy in imputing
obsoleteness to any armored steamship. The present battleship
reproduces, in essential principles, the ships that preceded the
epoch-making monitor--the pivot guns of the earlier vessels being
represented by the present turrets, and their broadsides by the
present broadside. The prevalence of the monitor type was an
interlude, powerfully affecting the development of navies, but making
nothing obsolete. It did not effect a revolution, but a
modification--much as homoeopathy did in the "regular practice."

There is, of course, a line on one side of which the term "obsolete"
applies, but it may be said that no ship is obsolete for which
fighting-work can be found, with a tolerable chance--a fighting
chance--of her being successful; because, though unequal to this or
that position of exposure, she, by occupying an inferior one, releases
a better ship. And here again we must guard ourselves from thinking
that inferior force--inferior in number or inferior in quality--has
_no_ chance against a superior. The idea is simply another phase of "a
navy equal to the greatest," another military heresy. A ship under the
guns of one thrice her force, from which her speed cannot carry her,
is doubtless a lost ship. She may be called even obsolete, though she
be the last product of naval science, just from a dock-yard. Before
such extreme conditions are reached, however, by a ship or a fleet,
many other factors than merely relative force come into play;
primarily, man, with all that his personality implies--skill,
courage, discipline,--after that, chance, opportunity, accidents of
time, accidents of place, accidents of ground,--the whole
unforeseeable chapter of incidents which go to form military history.
A military situation is made up of many factors, and before a ship can
be called obsolete, useless to the great general result, it must be
determined that she can contribute no more than zero to either side of
the equation--or of the inequality. From the time she left the hands
of the designers, a unit of maximum value, throughout the period of
her gradual declension, many years will elapse during which a ship
once first-rate will be an object of consideration to friend and foe.
She will wear out like a garment, but she does not necessarily become
obsolete till worn out. It may be added that the indications now are
that radical changes of design are not to be expected shortly, and
that we have reached a type likely to endure. A ship built five years
hence may have various advantages of detail over one now about to be
launched, but the chances are they will not be of a kind that reverse
the odds of battle. This, of course, is only a forecast, not an
assertion; a man who has witnessed the coming and going of the monitor
type will forbear prophecy.

Now, as always, the best ships in the greatest number, as on shore the
best troops in the greatest masses, will be carried as speedily as
possible, and maintained as efficiently as possible, on the front of
operations. But in various directions and at various points behind
that front there are other interests to be subserved, by vessels of
inferior class, as garrisons may be made up wholly or in part of
troops no longer well fitted for the field. But should disaster occur,
or the foe prove unexpectedly strong, the first line of reserved ships
will move forward to fill the gaps, analogous in this to the various
corps of reserved troops who have passed their first youth, with which
the Continental organizations of military service have made us
familiar. This possibility has been recognized so well by modern naval
men that some even have looked for decisive results, not at the hands
of the first and most powerful ships, but from the readiness and
number of those which have passed into the reserve, and will come into
play after the first shock of war. That a reserve force should decide
a doubtful battle or campaign is a frequent military experience--an
instance of superior staying power.

There is no reason, therefore, to worry about a ship becoming
obsolete, any more than there is over the fact that the best suit of
to-day may be that for the office next year, and may finally descend
to a dependent, or be cut down for a child. Whatever money a nation is
willing to spend on maintaining its first line of ships, it is not
weaker, but stronger, when one of these drops into the reserve and is
replaced by a newer ship. The great anxiety, in truth, is not lest the
ships should not continue valid, but lest there be not trained men
enough to man both the first line and the reserve.

Here the present article, as at first contemplated, would have closed;
but the recent disaster to the _Maine_ has produced its own crop of
sudden and magnified apprehensions. These, to the professional mind,
are necessarily a matter of concern, but chiefly because they have
showed the seeds of a popular distrust before sown in men's minds. As
evinced, however, they too are fallacies born of imperfect knowledge.
The magnitude of the calamity was indisputable; but the calm
self-possession of the nation and of the better portion of the press,
face to face with the possible international troubles that might
ensue, contrasted singularly with the unreasoned imaginations that
immediately found voice concerning the nature and dangers of
battleships. The political self-possession and dignity reposed upon
knowledge--not, indeed, of the eventual effect upon our international
relations--but knowledge, bred of long acquaintance with public
affairs, that, before further action, there must be investigation; and
that after investigation, action, if it must follow, would be taken
with due deliberation. So men were content to wait for justice to
pursue its even course.

But the fact that such an appalling catastrophe had befallen one
battleship fell upon the minds imperfectly informed in naval matters,
and already possessed by various exaggerated impressions, loosely
picked up from time to time. Men knew not what to think, and so
thought the worst--as we are all apt to do when in the dark. It is
possible that naval officers, being accustomed to live over a
magazine, and ordinarily to eat their meals within a dozen yards of
the powder, may have a too great, though inevitable, familiarity with
the conditions. There is, however, no contempt for them among us; and
the precautions taken are so well known, the remoteness of danger so
well understood, that it is difficult to comprehend the panic terror
that found utterance in the remarks of some men, presumably well
informed on general matters. It is evidently a very long and quite
illogical step to infer that, because the results of an accident may
be dreadful, therefore the danger of the accident occurring at all is
very great. On land, a slight derangement of a rail, a slight obstacle
on a track, the breaking of a wheel or of an axle, may plunge a
railroad train to frightful disaster; but we know from annual
experience that while such accidents do happen, and sometimes with
appalling consequences, the chance of their happening in a particular
case is so remote that we disregard it. At sea, every day of every
year for centuries back, a couple of hundred warships--to speak
moderately--have been traversing the ocean or lying in port, like the
_Maine_, with abundance of powder on board; and for the last quarter
of a century very many of these have been, and now are, essentially of
the type of that unfortunate vessel. The accident that befell her, if
its origin be precisely determined, may possibly impose some further
precaution not hitherto taken; but whatever the cause may prove to
have been, it is clear that the danger of such an event happening is
at no time great, because it is almost, if not quite, unprecedented
among the great number of warships now continuously in service.
Similarly, on the seas, the disasters to the _Ville du Havre_, to the
_Oregon_, and, only three years ago, to the _Elbe_, show the terrific
results of collision, to which every ship crossing the ocean is
liable. Collisions between vessels less known than those named are of
weekly occurrence. Yet no general outcry is raised against the general
safety of the transatlantic liners. People unconsciously realize that,
where accidents are so infrequent, the risk to themselves in the
individual case is slight, though the results, when they happen, are
dreadful. Men know instinctively that the precautions taken must be
practically adequate, or safety would not be the almost universal rule
which it is.

It should be remembered, too, that the present battleship is not a
sudden invention, springing up in a night, like Jonah's gourd, or
newly contrived by a council sitting for the purpose, like a brand-new
Constitution of the French Revolution. The battleship of to-day is the
outcome of a gradual evolution extending over forty years. Its
development has been governed by experience, showing defects or
suggesting improvements; and the entire process has been superintended
by men of the highest practical and scientific intelligence, naval
architects and seamen, constantly exchanging ideas, not only with
their own countrymen, but, through the scientific publications of the
day, with the whole world. What Ruskin said of the old ship of the
line is still more true of the modern battleship: no higher exhibition
of man's creative faculties is probably anywhere to be found. In view,
therefore, of its genesis, and of the practical results of yearly
cruisings, the battleship in its service of peace is entitled to the
confidence we give to the work of competent men in all departments;
nor should that confidence be withdrawn because of a single
occurrence, if the _Maine_ prove to have fallen victim to internal
accident. If, on the other hand, her destruction proceeded from an
external cause,--that is, if she fell as ships fall in war,--it may
safely be said that, in actions between ships, no means of injury now
in use on shipboard could effect the instantaneous and widespread
destruction manifested in her case, unless by a shell finding its way
to her magazine. This is a remote possibility, though it exists; but
when it comes to fighting, men must remember that it is not possible
to make war without running risks, and that it is highly improbable
that one-tenth as many seamen will die from the explosion of their own
magazines, so occasioned, as from the direct blow of the enemy's

     NOTE.--Since this article was written, in January, 1898, it
     has become known that the attitude of Japan towards the
     United States, regarded as a power of the Pacific, has been
     reversed, and that--as already remarked in the preface to
     this volume--her leading statesmen, instead of resenting the
     annexation of Hawaii, now welcome cordially the advance of
     the United States to the Philippines. This change, occurring
     as it has within four years, affords a striking indication
     of the degree to which the attention of mankind has been
     aroused by the character of Russia's progress in northeastern
     Asia, and upon the Pacific, as well as of the influence
     thereby exerted upon the currents of men's thoughts, and upon
     international relations.


[5] From a telegram from Berlin of March 2, 1898.


_Uniform with "Lessons of the War with Spain and Other Articles."_

By CAPT. A.T. MAHAN. With two maps showing strategic points.
Crown 8vo. Cloth, gilt top. $2.00.


   I. The United States Looking Outward.
  II. Hawaii and our Sea Power.
 III. The Isthmus and our Sea Power.
  IV. Anglo-American Alliance.
   V. The Future in Relation to American Naval Power.
  VI. Preparedness for Naval War.
 VII. A Twentieth Century Outlook.
VIII. Strategic Features of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

All the civilized world knows Captain Mahan is an expert on naval
matters. His present position on the Board of Strategy, directing the
American fleets, has made him even more conspicuous than usual. These
papers, in the light of the present war, prove Captain Mahan a most
sane and sure prophet. It seems hard to imagine any topics more
fascinating at the present time. No romance, no novel, could possibly
equal such essays as these, by such an author, in present public
interest. So many of his theories have come to reality as to be
positively remarkable.--_The Criterion._

The last paper, "Strategic Features of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf
of Mexico," written only last year, deals with problems that now
confront the people of the United States in the shape of practical
questions that will have to be decided for the present and the future.
It is well within the bounds of truth to say that an intelligent
comprehension of these questions is not possible without a reading of
the present volume.--_Philadelphia Inquirer._

His paper on Hawaii is timely at this moment, as it treats of the
annexation of the Sandwich Islands from the point of view which our
statesmen might well take, rather than from the professional view
which a naval officer might be expected to hold.--_Philadelphia

The substance of all these essays concerns every intelligent voter in
this country.--_Boston Herald._

254 Washington Street, Boston.

By CAPT. A.T. MAHAN. With 25 charts illustrative of great naval
battles. 8vo. Cloth, gilt top. $4.00.

Captain Mahan has been recognized by all competent judges, not merely
as the most distinguished living writer on naval strategy, but as the
originator and first exponent of what may be called the philosophy of
naval history.--_London Times._

No book of recent publication has been received with such enthusiasm
of grateful admiration as that written by an officer of the American
Navy, Captain Mahan, upon Sea Power and Naval Achievements. It simply
supplants all other books on the subject, and takes its place in our
libraries as the standard work.--DEAN HOLE, in "_More Memories_."

An altogether exceptional work; there is nothing like it in the whole
range of naval literature.... The work is entirely original in
conception, masterful in construction, and scholarly in
execution.--_The Critic._

Captain Mahan, whose name is famous all the world over as that of the
author of "The Influence of Sea Power upon History," a work, or rather
a series of works, which may fairly be said to have codified the laws
of naval strategy.--_The Westminster Gazette._

An instructive work of the highest value and interest to students and
to the reading public, and should find its way into all the libraries
and homes of the land.--_Magazine of American History._

A book that must be read. _First_, it must be read by all
schoolmasters, from the head-master of Eton to the head of the
humblest board-school in the country. No man is fit to train English
boys to fulfil their duties as Englishmen who has not marked, learned,
and inwardly digested it. _Secondly_, it must be read by every
Englishman and Englishwoman who wishes to be worthy of that name. It
is no hard or irksome task to which I call them. The writing is
throughout clear, vigorous, and incisive.... The book deserves and
must attain a world-wide reputation.--COLONEL MAURICE, _of the British
Army, in the "United Service Magazine_."

254 Washington Street, Boston

THE INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER upon the French Revolution and Empire.
With 13 maps and battle plans, 2 vols. 8vo. Cloth, gilt top. $6.00.

A highly interesting and an important work, having lessons and
suggestions which are calculated to be of high value to the people of
the United States. His pages abound with spirited and careful accounts
of the great naval battles and manoeuvres which occurred during the
period treated.--_New York Tribune._

Captain Mahan has done more than to write a new book upon naval
history. He has even done more than to write the best book that has
ever been written upon naval history, though he has done this
likewise; for he has written a book which may be regarded as founding
a new school of naval historical writing. Captain Mahan's volumes are
already accepted as the standard authorities of their kind, not only
here, but in England and in Europe generally. It should be a matter of
pride to all Americans that an officer of our own navy should have
written such books.--THEODORE ROOSEVELT, in "_Political Science

THE LIFE OF NELSON: The Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain.
By CAPT. A.T. MAHAN. With 19 portraits and plates in photogravure and
21 maps and battle plans. 2 vols. 8vo. Cloth, gilt top. $8.00.

Captain Mahan's work will become one of the greatest naval
classics.--_London Times._

The greatest literary achievement of the author of "The Influence of
Sea Power upon History." Never before have charm of style, perfect
professional knowledge, the insight and balanced judgment of a great
historian, and deep admiration for the hero been blended in any
biography of Nelson.--_London Standard._

254 Washington Street, Boston



THE LIFE OF NELSON. The Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain.
By CAPT. A.T. MAHAN. With 12 portraits and plates in half-tone and a
photogravure frontispiece. Crown 8vo. Cloth. 750 pages, $3.00.

It is not astonishing that this standard life is already passing into
a new edition. It has simply displaced all its predecessors except
one, that of Southey, which is the vade-mecum of British patriotism, a
stimulant of British loyalty, literature of high quality, but in no
sense a serious historical or psychological study.... The reader will
find in this book three things; an unbroken series of verified
historical facts related in minute detail; a complete picture of the
hero, with every virtue justly estimated but with no palliation of
weakness or fault; and lastly a triumphant vindication of a theses
novel and startling to most, that the earth's barriers are
continental, its easy ad defensible highways those of the trackless
ocean.... Captain Mahan has revealed the modern world to
itself.--_American Historical Review, July, 1899._

Captain Mahan's masterly life of Nelson has already taken its place as
the final book on the subject.--_Mail and Express_, New York.

One never tires of reading or reflecting upon the marvellous career of
Horatio Nelson, the greatest sea captain the world has known. Captain
Mahan has written the best biography of Lord Nelson that has yet been
given to the world.--_Chicago Evening Post._

His biography is not merely the best life of Nelson that has ever been
written, but it is also perfect, and a model among all the biographies
of the world.--_Pall Mall Gazette._

254, Washington Street, Boston

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