Chapter 13244325

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Chapter NumberA Chapter of Future History
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13244325
Full Date1871-09-05
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count2754
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Second Armada: A Chapter of Future History
article text

THE SECOND ARMADA.

-m

(A CiiAi-Tim ok Fiîtiwb HisTonv.)

*' 'Tis the sunset of life gives mc mystical lore,

" Anti coming events cast their shallows before.

Shortly after the close of the war between Trance lind Germany in 1871, the English alarmists seemed treasonable to an extent that verged on foolishness. Uever was there n penod when, to all outward Boom- ing, an invasion of England was less probable or feasible. France was stricken down and disabled. "We liod amicably arranged our differences with the "United States, and the greatest military nation of the Continent had apparently neither the disposi- tion nor the power to become a formidable assailant of our independence. If ever thcro was a country, .whose interests and constitution pointed to a pacific policy, it was United Germany. She required peace to consolidate her empire, and she could not make .war without calling the mercantile man from his desk, tho professional or literary man from his study, the shopkeeper from his counter, ? and the agriculturist from the plough. Then, all powerful on land, she ma powerless on the Boas. A contest between her and the maritime population of an island must re- semble a contest between a dog and a fish, in which neither could quit its proper element for aggressive purposes without imminent risk of discomfiture or, destruction. Germany would no more think of send- ing an armament across the North Sea to invade England, than England would think of landing nn army nt Hamburgh to advance on Berlin. Nor was the navy of the United States sufficiently strong in eea-going ironclads, like the Minotaur or Monarch to cross the Atlantic and encounter the English in

their own waters.

' So thought and argued the wise men of England in 1871. They thought and argued well, but wise men, however well they argue, will sometimes turn out wrong, and they turned out substantially wrong in this instance-as wrong as the late lamented Cobden ?when he made the tour of Europe to announce that, :fcr all time to come, free trade had rendered war a »oral impossibility. Unluckily, mankind arc more awayed by their passions, their prejudices, their «aprices, and their vanity than by their well under- wood interests ; mid so it fell out that, in the year 1874, the greatest of the Continental Powers, having taken umbrage at the tone and attitude of England in reference to sundry fresh parcellings out of terri- tory, a League, including the most powerful States, .waa formed for the avowed purpose of reducing the British Isles to the condition of conquered provinces ?to be divided among the conquerors. The best mode of invading England lind been so often the subject of competitive examination nt the military schools that an eager desire to test theory by practice was felt by every young officer of promise, and n saying of the greatest of modern strategists had got abroad to the effect that the capture of London, as compared with that of Paris, would be child's play {Kinderspiel). The time was opportune ; for the long-smouldering hostility of the United States to Great Britain, through a series of untoward accidents, was again kindling into flame. Accordingly, all the shipping of the Baltic, all the naval resources of the League, wero put »nder requisition, and a sufficient »umber of vessels nos built especially adapted for the landing of troops, including cavalry and artillery. In particular, a large provision was made of flat-bottomed boats carrying 100 or 150 men, the sides of which could be let down .when they were in shallow water or hud been run on «hore. A formidable force of ironclads was to pre- cede the transports, and engage any opposing force while the landing was effected, which, it was calcu- lated, could be cosily accomplished in six hours. As the Army of Invasion was computed atfrom 150,000 to 200,000 men, the allotted time seemed short to those .who had witnessed the landing of the Trench and English army in the Crimea, which occupied two days, Although that anny did not exceed 55,000 men, »nd tile landing waB unopposed, But the great Strategist had pronounced six hours sufficient ; and , the great Strategist could not possibly have mis

. calculated such a problem.

In recent histories, claiming to be as veracious and tnistworthy as this, it has been confidently assumed that we thick-skulled islanders would wait quietly to be knocked on the head like the birds called boobies, .r caught, like sparrows, by putting salt upon our tails. But although we are constantly ninning into extremes, although we aro by turns profuso from Sroundless alarm and niggardly from undue conti

ence, although representative institutions aro by no fcieaiiB favourable to the production of good adminis- trators, we are not altogether wanting in an emer- gency,' and we had profited somewhat from the errors ? of our neighbours in 1870-71. Our army had been placed on a respcctablo footing in point of numbers ; it was well-officered under the new system of selec- tion ¡ both Regulars and Irregulars had been sup Îilied with the most improved pattern of breech

oadcrs : our artillery, as regards quality, was (what Begenud said of our infantry) the best' in Europe ; the const had been carefully surveyed, earthworks thrown up in some places, rifle pits and trenches dug in others, and railway communication rendered so , eomplcte that a large force might be concentrated at

the shertest notice on a -point. It need hardly be added that our diplomatic agents were on the alert, so that an enormous armament could not be got to " gcther in any quarter of Europe without creating an

alarm. In point of fact, our Government were oppor- tunely advised that the invasion waa seriously medi- tated, and that they must be simultaneously on their guard against an American squadron which was to co-operate in a Fenian insurrection of Ireland. The hulk of tile English navy was, as usual, scattered abroad, but the Channel fleet, complete in numbers and equipment, was in the Downs, and a number of gunboat« and other vessels had been equipped and put to sea under orders similar to those issued by Nelson when Napoleon was meditating an invasion from Boulogne :- '

" Do not throw away your lives uselessly ; retreat towards your own shores before an overwhelming force ¡.but if the enemy attempt to land, dash among them at all ha/aïds, and fight on until you sink them

jOX arc, sunk."

It, waa on the evening of tho 17th of .Tune, 1871, that the Admiralty received intelligence that an American squadron had been sighted off Milford Haven on its way to the Irish Sea, and my lords -? immediately telegraphed to the Commander of

the Channel Fleet, Admiral Sir Henry Keppel, to be on the look out. Three hours nfterwards arrived the news that the Armada had been de- scried, and subsequent reports coming in rapidly - left little doubt that the Suffolk coast had

"been chosen for the landing. The very locality might bo inferred with tolerable certainty from the almost exclusive adaptation to the purpose, and from the ascertained fact that foreign officers disguised as artists had been seen eketclung it. We also, with all cur talk about un-English practices, had not dis- dained to employ, Bpies. Fouclui certainly sent the Duke of Wellington Napoleon's plan of the Waterloo .campaign, though it came too late ; and it wog »hrewdly suspected, from the unusual foresight shown hy the English Government, that there was a Fouohe in the military Cabinet of the league.

So soon as the course of the headmost ships left no doubt of the precise destination of the ex , pedition, the telegraphs were set to work, and all the

available troops were brought down without delay.

His Royal Highness the Conimandcr-in-Chief was present in person, but the detailed arrange- ments'! were left to Lord Strathnairn and Lord Sandhurst, assisted by General Woteeley and a well appointed staff. A couplo of hours sufficed to dig in the sand such rifle pits and trenches as were still .wanting ; and these were manned with the Guards, the Rifles, a battalion of Marines, and the Inns of Court Volunteers. The rocky and uneven ground behind the beach was occupied by a btrong body of \ olunteurs, under the direction of J^ird Elcho, whose dispositions were an improvement on those of

Roderick Dhu :

_ " --he waved his hand, Down samk to« disappearing bund.

li««h. warrior vanished »hero he stood, in broom or hr*ckcn, heath or wood."

Taking advantage of every inequality of the ground, he placed his men so as to be within easy range of tho boats when they should neatlithe shore, and under shelter from the covering fire of the ship«. A brigade consisting of three regiments of the Line, the Sher- wood Rangera, and two batteries of horse artillory -ros kept in reserve under Sir Richard Airey. The rest of the artillery, with the exception or one masked nattery, was placed on a mound or eminence com- manding a large portion of the beach, and the cavalry including the Blues and 2nd Lifo Guards, und'r Lieutenant-General Sir Jatne8 Scarlett, were placed behind the heights on the extreme left, where they could easily reach tile shore. lu the contingency of the enemy effecting a landing in force, the cavalry were to charge along the beach, and roll them up before they had time to form. With them, tit the head of hw Husfar regiment, waa the heir apparent to the Ilirone, irresistibly impelled by the hereditary SZTi uT* t0 difiobe>' a H°y»» order (issued from »almora!) not to leave the capital. Torpedoes Ad«iTi eí°Wníí»\1,otilla of g^'boats, under Rear t,Z ¿ Shorard Osborne, which withdrew when this ¿1 "?*., PeArforn\e(1' Prepared to operate on the menee Armaua "-hen the landing should corn

It «os a time of agitating suspense to the bravest

while the ships of war were taking up their positions to coi cr the landing, and tho transports were trans

femng their armed cargoes to the boats After ascer- taining by careful sounding that they could approach no nearer, they opened their fire at about the distance of a mile lho rocks were shelled, and the strand wiiB swept with round shot, causing little or no loss to the English who never showed a finger above rifle pit or trench, till the landing boats intervened and the iron hail necessarily ceased Then a signal gun was heard , the batter) m tho centre of their position was unmasked , shells and plunging Bhot from the mound fell thick and fast among the boats , a 1 ne of fire ran along the beach , the rocltB and heights were all m a bla/c viitb musketry lhe effect was withering when colley after volley by practised marksmen, each taking an i dividual aim, poured into boats crowded with men whose orders were to land and rush to close quarters without returning a shot And gallantly did thej Btrugglc to carrj out the pfogrammc Half of one boat s crew and a third of another, some 150 men at the most, did actually reach drj land and make a rush at the trench held by the Guards, who shot down most of them as they ap- proached, then sprang up and drove the remainder

back into the water with the bayonet Hero occurred one of those incidents which show that modern war- fare, with all its mechanical contrivances for whole

s-ik and cold blooded butcher), still affords scope for chivalry ind romance An officer of distinguished mien, the scion of a princely house, was pushed to the waters edge, overpowered and exhausted although 6till fighting desperately, when his situation was seen byajoung lieutenant of the invading navy from a ship a launch m which ho had been carrying orders Vv ithout a momcnt'B hesitation he commanded the crow to pull back, and they ohejed with such a will that within a few seconds the boat was run aground not man) yards from their gallant countrj man, and the) were springing to the rescue, when a ball «truck the lieutenant and he fell He sacrificed his life to hiB chivalry, and not u man of the hiroie boa* s crtvv got aw ay

Among the man) casualties which added to the confusion a shell exploded in the boat which carried the leader of the headmost dn lsion and his staff, killing and wounding most of them and two trans

ports, conning artiller), ron upon torpedoes and were blown up lhtng8 began to look very unlike Kinder spiel But large sacrifices 1 ud been counted on , it was known and felt that a first landing on the British coast must be effected in the spirit of a forlorn hope and fresh boats were hurrying in or loading from tho transports, when, bark ' a low rumbling sound, like intermitting thunder, is heard from far off, across the sea It is sound of cannon on the extreme left of the \rmada It can be nothing but the 1 nghsli Channel Fleet A fast steamer had in fact, overtaken the Admiral, and dispatching two of his ships to watch the Americans, ho had come back (like Dcssaiv at Marengo) to give a decisive turn to the wavering fortunes of the da)-the day big with the fate of 1 noland, of Europe, of the world He brought with lum seven first class iron clods, with moro thon twice ns many others of heavy metal and it was a grind and tearful spec tacle, the approach of those magnificent machines instinct with

lfe ind motion cleaving their way right onward through the thick of the hoBtilc armament without stopping to engage the ships of war, and running down transport after transport, while almost every shot from their enormous guns sent a ship to the bottom, or kit i boatload of gallant men struggling for life in the waves If such i fate is appalling to think of or contemplate at a safe distance, what must

it have been to those who saw and felt tha* their own turn was coming-who watched with fixed and fas

cmated gaze the rush of the iron monster tint was to pn^s infihing over them

The military organisation of the invading army was bev ond all praise an order emanating from head- quarters inijjht be said to live a'ong the line, and the skill to restore a kiBing battle or effect a retreat vu s never wanting, an) more than the strategy which vviiiBor improves a victor) But what did such Bkill avail here, on an untried element, where soldiers and generals were equall) helpless, where strategy was useless and braver) thrown away All hope of carr)ing out any pre orginised plan was at an end Satire jut petit became the word among the hired or 1 pressed masters of transports, wh», such of them as

escaped being run down, made off without waiting to take in their original freights lhe wind rose, and soon freshened to a gale lhe gunboats, which had fallen bock before the advancing armament, now nsíailed it on every Bide The fire of shells was con- tinued from tile heights A desperate sea fight was prolonged till dark anti parti) continued through the night When moniine, broke the catastrophe wos mode clear in all its horrors Tho second Armada had shared the fate of the first Most of the hostile ironclads were missing lhat which tarried C tsar and his fortunes-m other words, the Admiral Generalissimo and his Buue-had received a six hundred pound Bteel headed shot between wind mid water, and had no alternative but to strike Princes, archdukes, and dukes wore mide prisoners by the score The renovv ned chief of a brilliant staff was picked up in an exhausted state while en dcaimmng to regain his ship b) swimming after the boat in winch he was trying to remedy the confusion had beai swamped by die surge and a berene High- ness, who had made his wa) to the shore at the head of his lontmgcnt, was with difliculty persuaded to give up his sword to Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar, who enacted the part of Bavard to Francis I at l'avia But we reserve for another chapter the various episodes of tins ever-memorable triumph and its re

suits - Cunts