Chapter 18757201

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Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18757201
Full Date1871-09-14
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Word Count2741
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Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleThe Second Armada: A Chapter of Future History
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THE SECOND ARMADA

(A CHAPTER OF IÜTURE HISTOR* )

(ÍVom (he Times )

* Tis the sunset oí Ufe gives me mystical lore, * And coming events, cast their shadows before

Shortly after the close of the war between France and Germany in 1871, the English

alarmista seemed unreasonable to an extent that verged on f olishness Never was there a period when, to all outward seeming, an invasion of England was less probable or feasible France was stricken down and disabled We had amicably arranged our differences with the United States, and the greatest military nation of the Continent had apparently neither the disposition nor the power to become a formi dable assailant of our independence If ever there was a country whose interests and oon stitutton pointed to a pacifio policy, it was United Germany She required peace to con solídate her empire, and she could not make war without calling the mercantile man from his desk, the professional or literary man from hiB study, the shopkeeper from his counter, and the agriculturist from the plough Then, all powerful on land, she was powerless on the seas A contest between her and the maritime popu lation of an island must resemble a contest be

tween a dog and a fish, in which neither oould quit its proper element for aggressive purposes

without imminent risk of discomfiture or des traction Germany would no more think of sending an armament across the North Sea to invade England, then England would think of landing an army at Hamburg to advance on Berlin Nor was the navy of the United States sufficiently strong in sea 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 Eng land in 1871 They thought and aigued well

but wise men, however well they argue, will sometimes tain oat wrong, and they turned out substantially wrong in this instance-as wrong as the late lamented Cobden when he made tho tour of Europe to announce that, for all time to come, free trade had rendered war a moral im possibility Unluckily, mankind are more swayed by their passions, their prejudices, their caprices, and their vanity than by their well understood interests, and so it fell out that, in the year 1874, the greatest of the Continental Powers, having taken umbrage at the tone and attitude of Lngland in reference to sundry fresh parcellings out of territory, a League, including the most powerful States, was formed for the avowed purpose of reducing the British Isles to the condition of conquered provinces, to be divided among tho oonquerors The best mode of invading England bad been so often the snb ject of competitive examination at the military schools, that an eager desire to test theory by praotice was felt by every young officer of promise, and a 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 bo child s play (Kinderspiel) The time was opportune, for the long smouldering hostility of the United States to Great Britain, through a scries of nntoward accidents, was again kindling into flame Accordingly, all tho shipping of the Baltic, all the naval resources of the Leagno, were put under requisition, and a sufficient number of vessels was 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 had been run on shore A formidable force of ironclads was to precede the transports, and engage any opposing force while the landing was effected,-which, it was calculated, could be easily accomplished in six hours As the Army of Invasion wai oom putcd at from loO 000 to 200,000 men, the

allotted time seemed short to those who had witnessed the landing of the French and English army in the Crimea, which occupied two days, although that army did cot exceed 5o,000 men, and the landing was unopposed But the great Strategist had pronounced eix hours sufficient, and the great Strategist could not possibly have miscalculated such a problem

In recent histories, claiming to be as vera cious nnd trustworthy as this, it has been con fidently assumed that we thick skulled islanders would wait quietly to be knocked on the head like the buds called boobies, or caught, like

sparrows, by pjttm¿ salt upon our tails But although we arc constantly running into ex tremes, although we are by turns profuse from groundless alarm and niggardly from undue confidence although représentante institutions are by no mcauB favourable to the production of goodadniimstrators-we aro not altogether want log in an emergency and we had profited somewhat from the errors of our neighbours iu 1870 71 Our army bad been placed on a respectable footing in point of numbers , it was well-officered under the new system of selection, both Regulars and Irregulars had been supplied with the most improved pattern of breech- loaders , our artillery, as regards quality was (what Bugeaud said of our infantry) the bost in Europe, the coast had been carefully surveyed, earthworks thrown np in Borne places, rifle pits and trenches dug in others, and railway communication rendered so complete that a largo force might be concentrated at the shortest 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 together in any quarter of Europo with

out creating an alarm In point of fact, our Government were opportunely advised that the invasion was seriously meditated, and that tbey must be simultaneously on their guard against an American squadron whioh was to co operate u a Fenian msurreotion in ireland The bulk of the English navy was, as usual, scattered abroad, but the Channel fleet, complete in numbers and equipment, was in the Downs, and a number of gunboats and other vessels had been equipped and put to se? under orders similar to those issued by Nelson when Napoleon was meditating au invasion from Boulogne -

" Do not throw away your lives uselessly re treat towards your own shores before an over whelming force but if the enemy attempt to land, dash among them at all hazards, and fight on until you siuk thom or are sunk

It waa on the evening of the 17th of Jnne> 1874, that tho Admiralty rcoeived intelligence that an American squadron had been sighted off Milford Haven on its way to the Irish Sea, and my lords immediately teleprnphed to the Cou., maodcr of the Channel Fleet, Admiral Sir Henry Keppel, to bo on the look out Three hours afterwards a-rived the news that the Armada had been descried, and subsequent re ports coming in rapidly left little doubt that the Suffolk coast hod been chosen for the land ing The very locality might be infe-red with tolerable certainty from the almost exclusive adaptation to the purpose, and from the ascer tamed faot that foreign officers dugutsed as artists had been seen sketching it Wc also, with all our talk about unJSnghsh praotices, had not disdained to empl >y spies Fouchê cor taiuly sent the Duke of Wellington Napoleon s plan of the Waterloo campaign though it c me too late, and it was shrewdly Buspeoterl, from the unusual foresight shown by the English Government, that there was a Fouche in the military Cabinet of the League

So soon as the course of the headmost ships loft no doubt of the precise destination of tho ex pedition, the telegraphs were set to work, und all the availablo troops were brought down without delay His Royal Highness tho Com mander in Chief was present in person, hut the arrangements were left to Lord Strathnairn and Lord Sandhurst, assisted by General Wolseley and a well appointed staff A couple of hours sulhced to dig in the «and suoh rifle pits and trenches as were still wanting, and these were manned with the Guards, the Rifles, abat tallon of Marines, and the lons oí Court Yoluu teers The rocky and uneven ground bebind tbe beach was occupied by a strong body of Volunteers, under tbe direction of Lord Elcho, whose dispositions were an improvement on thoso

of Roderick Dhu -

--he waved bis haad

Down Bane, tbe disappearing band,

¿.ach warricr vanished whtre h* stood in broom or bracken heath or wood

Taking advantage of every inequality of the ground, he placed his men so as to be within easy range of the boats when they should near the shore, but under shelter from the covering fire of the ships A brigade, consisting of three regiments of the Line, the Sherwood Rangers, and two batteries of horse artillery, was kept in reserve under Sir Richard Airey The rest of the artillery, with the exception of one masked battery, was placed ou a mound or eminence commaodiog a large portion of the beaoh , and the cavalry, including the Blues and 2nd Life Guards, nnder Lieutenant-General Sir James Scarlett, were placed behind the heights on the extreme left, where they could easily reach the shore In the contingency of the enemy effect ing a landing in forco, the cavalry were to charge along the beach, and roll them up be- fore they had time to form With tnem, at the head of his Hussar regimont, was the heir apparent to the Throno, irresistibly impelled by tho hereditary courage of bis race to disobey a Royal order (issued from Balmoral) not to leave the capital Torp"does were loid down by a flotilla of gunboats, under Rear Admiral Sher- ard Osborne, which withdrew when this duty was performed, prepared to operate on the flank of th» Armada when the landing should

commeuoc

It waa a time of agitatiug suspenso to the bravest while the ships of war were taking up their positions to cover the landtn**, and the transportswere tranferring tbeirarmed cargoes to the boats After ascertainingbycarefulsoundmg that they could approach no nearer, they opened their fire at about the distance of a mile The rocks were shelled, and the strand was swept with round shot, causing little orno loss to the English, who never showed a finger above rifle pit or trench, till the landing boats inter vened and the iron hail necessarily ceased Then a signal gun was heard, the battery m the oentre of their position was unmasked, shells and plunging shot from the mound fell thick and fast among the boats, a line of fire ran along the beach, the rocks and heights were all in a blaze with musketry The effect was withering when volley after volley by praotised marksmen, each taking an individual aim, poured into boatB crowded with men, whose oruers were to land and rush to close quarters without returning a shot And gallantly did they struggle to carry out the programme Half of one boat s erew and a third of another, some 150 men at the most, did actually reach dry land and make a rush at the trench held by the Guards, who Bhot down most of them as they approached, then sprang up and drove the remainder back into the waters with the bayonet Here occurred one of those mci dents which show that modern warfare, with all its meobamcal contrivances for wholesale and oold blooded butohery, still affords scope for chivalry and romance An officer of dis- tinguished mien, the scion of a princely house, was pushed to the water s "dgo, overpowered and exhausted although still fighting despe rately, when his situation was seen by a young lieutenant of the invading navy, from a ship's launch in which he had been carrying orders Without a moment's hesitation he commanded the crew to pull baok, and they obeyed with suoh a will that within a few seconds the boat was run aground not many yards from their gallant countryman, and they were springing to the rescue, when a ball struck the lieutenant and he fell He sacrificed his life to his chivalry, and not a man of the hcroio boat's

orew got away

Among the many casualties which added to the confusion, a shell exploded id tho boat which oarried the leader of the headmost division and his staff, killing and wounding most of them , and two transports, oarrying artillery, ran upon torpedoes and were blown up Things began to look very unlike Amderspicl But large sacrifices had 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 the transports, when, hark ' a low rumbling sonnd, like intermitting thunder, is beard from far off, across the sea It is the sound of cannon on the extreme left of the Armada It can be nothing but the English Channel Weet A fast steamer had, in fact, overtaken the Admiral, and dispatching two of his ships to watch the Americans, he bad oome back (like Dessaix at Marengo) to give a decisive turn to the wavering fortunes of the day-the day big with the fate of England, of Europe, of the world He brought with him seven first-class ironolads, with more than twice as many others of heavy metal, and it was a grand and fearful speo taele, tbeapproaehof those magnificent machines, instinct with life and motion, cleaving their way right on*vard through the thiok of the bos tile armament without stopping to engage the ships of war, and running down transport after transport, while almost nearly every shot from their enormous guns sent a ship to the bottom, or left a boatload of gallant men struggling for life m the waves If such a f<ite is appalling to think of or cootemplate at a safe distance, what must it have been to those who saw and felt that their own turn was coming -who watched with fixed and fascinated gaze the rush of the iron monster that was to pass orasbmg over

them

TLo military organisation of tho invading I army was beyond all praise an order emanating from head quarters might be said to live along the line, and the skill to restore a losing battle or eflcüt a re ti cat wis never wanting, any mort than the strategy which wins or improves a victory Bot what did suth skill avail here, on an untried clement, * whore soldiers and generals were equally helpless, where stra tegy was useless and bravery thrown away ' All hope of car, ymg out any pre-orgamsed plan was at an end Sauve jui peut became the words among the hired or pressed masters of transports, who, such of them as escaped being run down, made off without waiting to take in their original freights The wind rose, and soon freshened to a gale The gunboats, whioh bad fallen back before the advancing armament, now assailed it on every side The fire of shells was continued from the heights A desperat" sea fight was prolonged till dark, and partly continued through the night When morning broke the catastrophe was made olear in all its horrors The second Armada bad shared the fate of the first Most of the hostile ironclads were missing That which carried Cosar and his fortunes-in other words, the Admiral Generalissimo and his suite-bad re ceived a six hundred pound steel headed shot between wind aod water, and had no alter native but to strike Princes, archduke», and dunes were made prisoners by the soore The renowned chief of a brilliant staff was picked up in an exhausted state while endeavouring to re gain his ship by swimming, after the boat in whioh he was trying to remedy the confusion had bean swamped by the surge , and a Serene Highness, who had made his way to the shore at the head of bis contingent, was with diffi culty persuaded to give up his sword to Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar, who enacted the part of Bayard to Franois I at Pavía But wo reserve for another ohapter the various episodes of this ever memorable triumph and its results