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THE CHIEF OF ENGINEERS,
UNITED STATES ARMY.
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF ENGINEERS,
UNITED STATES ARMY, Washington, D. C., October 19, 1882.
SIR: I have the honor to present for your information the following report upon the duties and operations of the Engineer Department for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1882:
OFFICERS OF THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS.
The number of officers holding commissions in the Corps of Engineers, United States Army, at the end of the fiscal year was 104 on the active list and 9 on the retired list; the latter, however, under the law of January 21, 1870, not being available for duty.
Since the last annual report the Corps has lost, by death and retirement, six of its officers: Lieut. Col. Nathaniel Michler, who died at Saratoga Springs, N. Y., July 17, 1881; Maj. Charles W. Howell, who died at New Orleans, La., April 5, 1882; Maj. William J. Twining, who died at Washington, D. C., May 5, 1882; Lieut. Col. Robert S. Williamson, who was retired June 23, 1882, in conformity with provisions of Rection 1251, Revised Statutes; and Cols. Henry W. Benham and John N. Macomb, who were retired' June 30, 1882, under the provisions of section 1 of the act of Congress approved June 30, 1882.
There have been added to the Corps, by promotion of graduates of the Military Academy, one second lieutenant and two additional second lieutenants, whose commissions date from June 13, 1882, but who did not become available for duty until after the close of the year, and are, therefore, not included in the strength of the Corps.
On duty, Office Chief of Engineers, including the Chief..
On duty, fortifications and light-house duty.
in duty, fortifications and river and harbor works.
On duty, fortifications, river and harbor works, and "The Mississippi River Com
On duty, Board of Engineers
On duty, Board of Engineers and river and harbor works.
On duty, Board of Engineers, fortifications, and river and harbor works..
On duty, river and harbor works
On duty, river and harbor works, light-house duty, and "The Mississippi River
On duty, river and harbor works and light-house duty.
On duty, survey of northern and northwestern lakes and "The Mississippi River Commission
On duty, jetties at mouth of Mississippi River, fortifications, and light-honse duty..
On duty with Battalion of Engineers..
On staff of General commanding Department, and on river and harbor works...
On duty, fortifications, river and harbor works, and construction of Yorktown
Detached, on duty with the General of the Army, Generals commanding Divisions
The officers detached were on duty as follows:
Col. William F. Raynolds, engineer fourth light-house district
Maj. O. E. Babcock, engineer fifth light-house district.
Maj. P. C. Hains, engineer sixth light-house district...
Maj. F. U. Farquhar, engineer secretary to Light-House Board
Maj. G. J. Lydecker, Engineer Commissioner District of Columbia
Maj. W. A. Jones, on staff of Major-General commanding Division of the Pacific..
Capt. W. R. Livermore, on staff of Commanding General Department of Texas
Capt. G. M. Wheeler, in connection with Third International Exhibition of Geog-
Capts. J. G. D. Knight and W. L. Marshall, in charge and disbursing officers of works under "The Mississippi River Commission".
Capt. W. S. Stanton and Lieut. H. S. Taber, on duty with Company E, Battalion of Engineers, and at Military Academy
Lieuts. Eric Bergland, Willard Young, S. W. Roessler, and J. L. Lusk, on duty at the Military Academy..
Capt. R. L. Hoxie and Lieut. F. V. Greene, assistants to Engineer Commissioner of the District of Columbia.
Lieut. G. J. Fiebeger, on staff of Commanding General, Department of Arizona..
Capt. C. B. Sears, executive officer of "The Mississippi River Commission," assist-
Lieut. S. S. Leach, secretary and disbursing officer of " The Mississippi River
SEA-COAST AND LAKE-FRONTIER DEFENSES.
No appropriations for new works or for the modification of our existing sea-coast defenses have been made for many years. These latter consist of two classes-casemate defenses and earthen defenses. Our casemate defenses, than which there were none stronger in the world in their time, were built in the days of smooth-bore guns, and when wooden walls were the only protection of guns afloat; but the masonry scarps of these defenses, long since out of date, would not adequately resist the fire of the powerful rifled guns with which the powers of Europe have armed their ships of war, and the casemates or gun-rooms are
too small in all their dimensions for the use of modern sea-coast artillery. The fronts of modern casemated works are either constructed entirely of iron, or have massive shields of iron for the protection of guns and gunners. We have not a single work of either kind.
The parapets and traverses of earthen batteries, when constructed of thicknesses now deemed sufficient by military engineers, require great development of space, many times greater than formerly, and the sites at the headlands and within many of our harbors suitable for the defense of our cities, navy-yards, and arsenals of supply by means of such batteries are comparatively few. Most of these sites are now occupied by earthworks, some of which were constructed many years ago. Their parapets are thin, their traverses are not high enough or thick enough to meet the requirements of a good defense, and some are without any traverses whatever, and are antiquated and inefficient. While the remaining number of our earthen batteries are comparatively modern and have thick parapets, high and thick bonneted traverses, well-protected magazine and shell rooms, and platforms adapted for modern cannon, they were but partially finished when Congress ceased to make appropriations for fortifications, and they are fast being destroyed by the elements by reason of their incompletion.
In respect of submarine mines or torpedoes we are better prepared, although much remains to be done to make this part of our system complete, as will be seen further on. Although torpedoes cannot be relied upon alone to exclude the war ships of an enemy, for the reason that if he is not exposed to the fire of fortifiations on shore he can by means of his boats grapple for and remove the torpedoes at his leisure, they are an indispensable adjunct to fortifications in modern harbor de fense. As many torpedoes as the appropriations for the purpose have allowed have been purchased and stored in the fortifications of some of our principal harbors, ready to be planted in their channels and fairways and considerable numbers of electrical instruments for firing them from the shore have also been acquired. While this has been done, and the plans of the torpedo lines and groups have been prepared for some of the most important of our harbors, they could not successfully be utilized in the event of war for the want of the subterranean masonry galleries leading from the fortifications to low-water which are necessary for carrying the wires connecting the torpedo lines with the electrical instruments on shore. These instruments must be placed in chambers within the fortifications, hidden from the enemy's view and protected from his shot and shell. Nor have the chambers themselves been constructed, except in a very few instances, for the reason that appropriations have not been made for them, although this department has for some years past, in its annual reports, presented the impolicy of delaying these important constructions until the breaking out of foreign war.
In former elaborate reports from this department, especially the reports for the years 1880 and 1881, it has been endeavored to invoke the attention to our unpreparedness for war, and to show that modern fortifications require many years for their construction, and that we are icmost utterly lacking in such fortifications; that neither our geographalal position, nor our forbearance, nor the equity of our policy, can avail to prevent our being engaged, sooner or later, in foreign war; that when war comes in these days, it often comes suddenly; that to be prepared for war is often to prevent it; that some of the richest of our cities and the most important of our navy-yards and arsenals of supply for our armies are within easy reach of the naval depots of some of the most powerful of maritime nations, and that in a few days after the declara
tion of war it is possible for the enemy's fleets to run into our harbors and in a few hours destroy immense amounts of the property, which, under present conditions would be exposed to his shot and shell, and which has been estimated at $2,000,000,000; that, however powerful in numbers and valor our armies may be, without the aid of fortifications and their accessories they cannot prevent the destruction of our seaboard cities by the ships of a maritime foe, and that, while reliance can be had in no other mode of defense, a defense by fortifications and torpedoes is the most efficient, the most enduring, and the least expensive.
Our present system of sea-coast defense is the same as that which has been steadily pursued by this department from the first, excepting the changes which have been brought about by the introduction of torpedoes into modern warfare (and these have added much more to the defense than to the attack), but our fortifications must be made very much stronger than formerly. The conditions which must be filled by this system may be stated as follows:
Efficient fortifications must command from the shores exterior to our harbors all the waters from which the enemy can reach our cities and navy-yards with his shot and shell; the harbor mouths and all the narrow passes within them must also be occupied, and if nature has not afforded all the positions deemed requisite, others must, if practicable, be formed artificially, so that the enemy may nowhere find shelter from our fire while lying within our harbors, should he succeed in passing the outer lines of works. The harbor mouths and channels must be obstructed by lines of electrical torpedoes for holding the enemy's vessels under fire of the fortifications. These must be previously constructed and stored in the latter, and laid, on the advent of war, in systems, the plans of which have been carefully elaborated in time of peace by studies of the local charts and tidal currents, each harbor having its own system recorded in this department. The wires for conducting the current from the electric apparatus on shore must at the same time be laid securely in subterranean galleries, carried out to low-water, and the electric machines themselves must be placed in chambers within the fortifications, hidden from the enemy, and secured beyond all peradventure from his direct and curved fire. These galleries and chambers must be covered with heavy masonry arches and great masses of earth, and the former, to be efficient, must be indurated, and the latter compacted by time. The torpedo lines must be served by officers selected from the Engineers and Artillery, assisted by detachments from a torpedo corps of intelligent and skilled Engineer soldiers, and both officers and men must be thoroughly instructed in the theory and practice of electricity and torpedo obstructions, for they must know how to render the torpedoes instantly harmless for our own vessels or active against an enemy's. Heavy mortars must be placed in large numbers to command all those positions where an enemy is likely to anchor within their range, either for the purpose of tampering with or destroying our torpedo lines, or shelling our cities and public depots of military and naval supplies. The efficiency of mortar batteries against shipping is acknowledged by all military engineers; it is fully appreciated by the navies of all nations, and they are comparatively inexpensive. Our guns and mortars must be capable of piercing the sides of his iron-clads and of breaking in his decks, and they must be mounted in numbers sufficient to make it impossible for any of his fastrunning war steamers to get past our works.
That our actual sea-coast defenses are far from filling these conditions is evident from what has preceded, and to this it may be added that our
fortifications, such as they are, are but partially armed, even with the old ordnance; many of our gun batteries are without guns, and our mortar batteries are without mortars; we have no carriages for barbette guns of large size, except those which require the cannoneers to mount the parapet to load, thus exposing them to be picked off in detail by an enemy's sharpshooters; and we have less than two hundred Engineer soldiers for torpedo and all other engineer service, while five hundred and twenty is the least number which should be available to supply the detachments required for torpedo duty alone in our fortified harbors. It is believed that there is hardly any civilized nation so illy prepared for war, as far as maritime defenses are concerned, as the United States. The European powers have not neglected to avail themselves of the results of their extended experiments and of the experience gained in modern wars, and they have expended large sums of money in the use of iron for their coast defenses, both in the form of turrets and of straight scarps, and to a limited degree in the construction of earthworks of great strength.
It may be that we are wiser than they in leaving the question of coast defense in abeyance; but the concurrent judgment and actions of nearly all other civilized countries respecting their own dangers does not warrant this opinion.
In this connection attention is invited to a preliminary report, which is appended hereto, by Lieutenant Bixby, Corps of Engineers, who, by your direction, has visited most of the maritime countries of Europe for the purpose of procuring certain information respecting their use of iron in sea-coast defenses. (See appendix 3, page 435.)
The estimates submitted, based on the several estimates of the officers in charge, exhibit the amounts which are deemed necessary for the commencement, the continuance, and the completion of the several works of defense during the next fiscal year.
Attention is invited to the estimate of $100,000 for continuing the purchase of torpedoes, to be stored in our fortifications, and planted, on the advent of war, in the channels and fairways of our harbors, and for providing such portions of the electric apparatus by which the torpedo lines are to be fired as cannot readily be obtained in the event of sudden hostilities. The material is not liable to deteriorate, and in the judgment of the Board of Engineers for Fortifications not less than $100,000 should be expended annually for several years to come in providing these most necessary supplies.
Attention is also invited to the item of $200,000 for preparing our most important fortifications for operating torpedo lines, by providing bombproof chambers for the electrical apparatus, and the bomb-proof subterranean galleries through which the electric wires are to be carried to deep water; all these being essential to the operation of the torpedo system of defense in connection with the fortifications themselves. The Board of Engineers for Fortifications, whose suggestive and valuable report will be found on page 411, urges its views on this important matter as follows:
The debate in Congress upon the bill making provision for the current year renders it evident that the vast importance of preparing our forts for successfully operating and defending the torpedoes was not understood. Without such preparation it would be of little use to have them in readiness. They are all controlled by electricity. To convey the electrical current insulated wires must extend from a secure bomb-proof to each torpedo. If these wires are not buried so deeply in the earth as to be out of the reach of hostile artillery fire, a single lucky shot may destroy the power of exploding all the mines, and hence may open the channel to the enemy. Very few of our forts are provided with these bomb-proof operating-rooms and cable-shafts and