Jomini on Modern Maritime Expeditions (Amphibious Operations)

[Excerpted from Antoine-Henri Jomini, The Art of War. G. H. Mendell and W. P. Craighill, trs. (Philadelphia: Lippicott, 1892), pp. 376-390]

All the events we have described as taking place, up to this period, and including the capture of Constantinople, were before the invention of gunpowder; for if Henry V. had cannon at Agincourt, as is claimed by some writers, they were certainly not used in naval warfare. From that time all the combinations of naval armaments were entirely changed; and this revolution took place-if I may use that expression-at the time when the invention of the mariner's compass and the discovery of America and of the Cape of Good Hope were about to turn the maritime commerce of the world into new channels and to establish an entirely new system of colonial dependencies.

I shall not mention in detail the expeditions of the Spaniards to America, or those of the Portuguese, Dutch, and English to India by doubling the Cape of Good Hope. Notwithstanding their great influence upon the commerce of the world,-notwithstanding the genius of Gama, Albuquerque, and Cortez,-these expeditions, undertaken by small bodies of two or three thousand men against tribes who knew nothing of fire-arms, are of no interest in a military point of' view.

The Spanish navy, whose fame had been greatly increased by this discovery of a new world, was at the height of its splendor in the reign of Charles V. However, the glory of the expedition to Tunis, which was conquered by this prince at the head of thirty thousand fine soldiers transported in five hundred Genoese or Spanish vessels, was balanced by the disaster which befell a similar expedition against Algiers, (1541,) undertaken when the season was too far advanced and in opposition to the wise counsels of Admiral Doria. The expedition was scarcely under way when the emperor saw one hundred and sixty of his ships and eight thousand men swallowed up by the waves: the remainder was saved by the skill of Doria, and assembled at Cape Metafuz, where Charles V. himself arrived, after encountering great difficulties and peril.

While these events were transpiring, the successors of Mohammed were not neglecting the advantages given them by the possession of so many fine maritime provinces, which taught them at once the importance of the control of the sea and furnished means for obtaining it. At this period the Turks were quite as well informed with reference to artillery and the military art in general as the Europeans. They reached the apex of their greatness under Solyman I., who besieged and captured Rhodes (1552) with an army stated to have reached the number of one hundred and forty thousand men,-which was still formidable even upon the supposition of its strength being exaggerated by one-half.

In 1565, Mustapha and the celebrated Dragut made a descent upon Malta, where the Knights of Rhodes had made a new establishment; they carried over thirty-two thousand Janissaries, with one hundred and forty ships. John of Valetta, as is well known, gained an enduring fame by repulsing them.

A more formidable expedition, consisting of two hundred vessels and fifty-five thousand men, was sent in 152~~ to the isle of Cyprus, where Nicosia was taken and Famagosta besieged. The horrible cruelties practiced by Mustapha increased the alarm occasioned by his progress. Spain, Venice, Naples, and Malta united their naval forces to succor Cyprus; but Famagosta had already surrendered, notwithstanding the heroic defense of Bragadino, who was perfidiously flayed alive by Mustapha's order, to avenge the death of forty thousand Turks that had perished in the space of two years spent on the island.

The allied fleet, under the orders of two heroes, Don John of Austria, brother of Philip II., and Andrea Doria, attacked the Turkish fleet at the entrance of the Gulf of Lepanto, near the promontory of Actium, where Antony and Augustus once fought for the empire of the world. The Turkish fleet was almost entirely destroyed: more than two hundred vessels and thirty thousand Turks were captured or perished, (1571.) This victory did not put an end to the supremacy of the Turks, but was a great cheek in their career of greatness. However, they made such vigorous efforts that as large a fleet as the former one was sent to sea during the next year. Peace terminated this contest, in which such enormous losses were sustained.

The bad fortune of Charles V. in his expedition against Algiers did not deter Sebastian of Portugal from wishing to attempt the conquest of Morocco, where he was invited by a Moorish prince who had been deprived of his estates. Having disembarked upon the shores of Morocco at the head of twenty thousand men, this young prince was killed and his army cut to pieces at the battle of Alcazar by Muley Abdulmalek, in 1578.

Philip II., whose pride had increased since the naval battle of Lepanto on account of the success he had gained in France by his diplomacy and by the folly of the adherents of the Leagues deemed his arms irresistible. He thought to bring England to his feet. The invincible Armada intended to produce this effect, which has been so famous, was composed of an expeditionary force proceeding from Cadiz, including, according to Hume's narrative, one hundred and thirty-seven vessels, armed with two thousand six hundred and thirty bronze cannon, and carrying twenty thousand soldiers, in addition to eleven thousand sailors. To these forces was to be added an army of twenty-five thousand men which the Duke of Parma was to bring up from the Netherlands by way of Ostend. A tempest and the efforts of the English caused the failure of this expedition, which, although of considerable magnitude for the period when it appeared, was by no means entitled to the high-sounding name it received: it lost thirteen thousand men and half the vessels before it even came near the English coast.

After this expedition comes in chronological order that of Gustavus Adolphus to Germany, (1630.) The army contained only from fifteen to eighteen thousand men: the fleet was quite large, and was manned by nine thousand sailors; M. Ancillon must, however, be mistaken in stating that it carried eight thousand cannon. The debarkation in Pomerania received little opposition from the Imperial troops, and the King of Sweden had a strong party among the German people. His successor was the leader of a very extraordinary expedition, which is resembled by only one other example mentioned in history: I refer to the march of Charles X. of Sweden across the Belt upon the ice, with a view of moving from Sleswick upon Copenhagen by way of the island of Funen, (1658.) He had twenty-five thousand men, of whom nine thousand were cavalry, and artillery in proportion. This undertaking was so much the more rash because the ice was unsafe, several pieces of artillery and even the king's own carriage having broken through and been lost.

After seventy-five years of peace, the war between Venice and the Turks recommenced in 1645. The latter transported t an army of fifty-five thousand men, in three hundred and fifty vessels, to Candia, and gained possession of the important. post of Canea before the republic thought of sending succor. Although the people of Venice began to lose the spirit which made her great, she still numbered among her citizens some noble souls: Morosini, Grimani, and Mocenigo struggled several years against the Turks, who derived great advantages from their numerical superiority and the possession of Canea. The Venetian fleet had, nevertheless, gained a marked ascendency under the orders of Grimani, when a third of it was destroyed by a frightful tempest, in which the admiral himself perished .

In 1648, the siege of Candia began. Jussuf attacked the city furiously at the head of thirty thousand men: after being repulsed in two assaults, he was encouraged to attempt a third by a large breach being made. The Turks entered the place: Mocenigo rushed to meet them, expecting to die in their midst. A brilliant victory was the reward of his heroic conduct: the enemy were repulsed and the ditches filled with their dead bodies.

Venice might have driven of f the Turks by sending twenty thousand men to Candia; but Europe rendered her but feeble support, and she had already called into active service all the men fit for war she could produce.

The siege, resumed some time after, lasted longer than that of Troy, and each campaign was marked by fresh attempts on the part of the Turks to carry succor to their army and by naval victories gained by the Venetians. The latter people had kept up with the advance of naval tactics in Europe, and thus were plainly superior to the Mussulmans, who adhered to the old customs, and were made to pay dearly for every attempt to issue from the Dardanelles. Three persons of the name of Morosini, and several Mocenigos, made themselves famous in this protracted struggle.

Finally, the celebrated Coprougli, placed by his merits at the head of the Ottoman ministry, resolved to take the personal direction of this war which had lasted so long: he accordingly proceeded to the island, where transports had landed fifty thousand men, at whose head he conducted the attack in a vigorous manner. (1667.)

In this memorable siege the Turks exhibited more skill than previously: their artillery, of very heavy caliber, was well served and, for the first time, they made use of trenches, which were the invention of an Italian engineer.

The Venetians, on their side, greatly improved the methods of defense by mines. Never had there been seen such furious zeal exhibited in mutual destruction by combats, mines, and assaults. Their heroic resistance enabled the garrison to hold out during winter: in the spring, Venice sent reinforcements and the Duke of Feuillade brought a few hundreds of French volunteers.

The Turks had also received strong reinforcements, and redoubled their efforts. The siege was drawing to a close, when six thousand Frenchmen came to the assistance of the garrison under the leadership of the Duke of Beaufort and Navailles, (1669.) A badly-conducted sortie discouraged these presumptuous young men, and Navailles, disgusted with the sufferings endured in the siege, assumed the responsibility, at the end of two months, of carrying the remnant of his t Loops back to France. Morosini, having then but three thousand exhausted men to defend a place which was open on all sides, finally consented to evacuate it, and a truce was agreed upon, which led to a formal treaty of peace. Candia had cost the Turks twenty-five years of efforts and more than one hundred thousand men killed in eighteen assaults and several hundred sorties. It is estimated that thirty-five thousand Christians of different nations Perished in the glorious defense of the place.

The struggle between Louis XIV., Holland, and England gives examples of' great maritime operations, but no remarkable descents. That of James II. in Ireland (1690) was composed of only six thousand Frenchmen, although De Tourville's fleet contained seventy-three ships of the line, carrying five thousand eight hundred cannon and twenty-nine thousand sailors. A grave fault was committed in not throwing at least twenty thousand men into Ireland with such means as were disposable. Two years later, De Tourville had been conquered in the famous day of La Hogue, and the remains of the troops which had landed were enabled to return through the instrumentality of a treaty which required their evacuation of the island.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Swedes and Russians undertook two expeditions very different in character. Charles XII., wishing to aid the Duke of Holstein, made a descent upon Denmark at the head of twenty thousand men, transported by two hundred vessels and protected by a strong squadron. He was really assisted by the English and Dutch navies, but the expedition was not for that reason the less remarkable in the details of the disembarkation. The same prince effected a descent into Livonia to aid Narva, but lie landed his troops at a Swedish port.

Peter the Great, having some cause of complaint against the Persians, and wishing to take advantage of their dissensions, embarked (in 1722) upon the Volga: he entered the Caspian Sea with two hundred and seventy vessels, carrying twenty thousand foot-soldiers, and descended to Agrakhan, at the mouths of the Koisou, where he expected to meet his cavalry. This force, numbering nine thousand dragoons and five thousand Cossacks, joined Whim after a land-march by way of the Caucasus. The czar then seized Derbent, besieged Bakou, and finally made a treaty with one of the parties whose dissensions at that time filled with discord the empire of the Soofees: he procured the cession of Astrabad, the key of the Caspian Sea and, in some measure, of the whole Persian empire.

The time of Louis XIV. furnished examples of none but secondary expeditions, unless we except that of Richelieu against Minorca, which was very glorious as an escalade, but less extraordinary as a descent.

[In 1762, an English fleet sailed from Portsmouth: this was joined by a portion of the squadron from Martinico. The whole amounted to nineteen ships of the line, eighteen smaller vessels of war, and one hundred and fifty transports, carrying ten thousand men. The expedition besieged and captured Havana.-Trs.]

The Spaniards, however, in 1775, made a descent with fifteen or sixteen thousand men upon Algiers, with a view of punishing those rovers of the sea for their bold piracies; but the expedition, for want of harmonious action between the squadron and the land-forces, was unsuccessful, on account of the murderous fire which the troops received from the Turkish and Arab musketeers dispersed among the undergrowth surrounding the city. The troops returned to their vessels after having two thousand men placed hors de combat

The American war (1779) was the epoch of the greatest maritime efforts upon the part of the French. Europe was astonished to see this power send Count d'Estaing to America with twenty-five ships of the line, while at the same time M. Orvilliers, with a Franco-Spanish fleet of sixty-five ships of the line, was to cover a descent to be effected with three hundred transports and forty thousand men, assembled at Havre and St. Malo.

This new armada moved back and forth for several months, but accomplished nothing: the winds finally drove it back to port.

D'Estaing was more fortunate, as he succeeded in getting the superiority in the Antilles and in landing in the United States six thousand Frenchmen under Rochambeau, who were followed, at a later date, by another division, and assisted in investing the English army tender Cornwallis at Yorktown, (1781:) the independence of America was thus secured. France would perhaps have gained a triumph over her implacable rival more lasting in its effects, had she, in addition to the display made in the English Channel, sent ten ships and seven or eight thousand men more to India with Admiral Suffren.

During the French Revolution, there were few examples of descents: the fire at Toulon, emigration, and the battle of Ushant had greatly injured the French navy.

Hoche's expedition against Ireland with twenty-five thousand men was scattered by the winds, and no further attempts in that quarter were made. (1796.)

At a later date, Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt, consisting of twenty-three thousand men, thirteen ships, seventeen frigates, and four hundred transports, obtained great successes at first, which were followed by sad reverses. The Turks, in hopes of expelling him, landed fifteen thousand men at Aboukir, but were all captured or driven into the sea, notwithstanding the advantages this peninsula gave them of intrenching themselves and waiting for reinforcements. This is an excellent example for imitation by the party on the defensive under similar circumstances.

The expedition of considerable magnitude which was sent out in 1802 to St. Domingo was remarkable as a descent, but failed on account of the ravages of yellow fever.

Since their success against Louis XIV., the English have given their attention more to the destruction of rival fleets and the subjugation of colonies than to great descents. The attempts made in the eighteenth century against Brest and Cherbourg with bodies of ten or twelve thousand men amounted to nothing in the heart of a powerful state like France. The remarkable conquests which procured them their Indian empire occurred in succession. Having obtained possession of Calcutta, and then of Bengal, they strengthened themselves gradually by the arrival of troops in small bodies and by using the Sepoys, whom they disciplined to the number of one hundred and fifty thousand.

The Anglo-Russian expedition to Holland in 1799 was composed of forty thousand men, but they were not all landed at once: the study of the details of the operations is, however, quite interesting.

In 1801, Abercrombie, after threatening Ferrol and Cadiz, effected a descent into Egypt with twenty thousand Englishmen. The results of this expedition are well known.

General Stuart's expedition to Calabria, (1806,) after some successes at Maida, seas for the purpose of regaining possession of Sicily. That against Buenos Ayres was more unfortunate in its results, and was terminated by a capitulation.

In 1807, Lord Cathcart attacked Copenhagen with twenty-five thousand men, besieged and bombarded the city, and gained possession of the Danish fleet, which was his object.

In 1808, Wellington appeared in Portugal with fifteen thousand men. After gaining the victory of Vimeira, and assisted by the general rising of the Portuguese, he forced Junot to evacuate the kingdom. The same army, increased in numbers to twenty-five thousand and placed under Moore's command, while making an effort to penetrate into Spain with a view of relieving Madrid, was forced to retreat to Corunna and there re-embark, after suffering severe losses. Wellington, having effected another landing in Portugal with reinforcements, collected an army of thirty thousand Englishmen and as many Portuguese, with which he avenged Moore's misfortunes by surprising Soult at Oporto, (May, 1809,) and then beating Joseph at Talavera, under the very gates of his capital .

The expedition to Antwerp in the same year was one of the largest England has undertaken since the time of Henry V. It was composed of not less than seventy thousand men in all,-forty thousand land-forces and thirty thousand sailors. It did not succeed, on account of the incapacity of the leader.

A descent entirely similar in character to that of Charles X. of Sweden was effected by thirty Russian battalions passing the Gulf of Bothnia on the ice in five columns, with their artillery. Their object was to take possession of the islands of Aland and spread a feeling of apprehension to the very gates of Stockholm. Another division passed the gulf to Umeå, (March, 1809.)

General Murky succeeded in effecting a well-planned descent in the neighborhood of Tarragona in 1813, with the intention of cutting Suchet off from Valencia: however, after some successful operations, he thought best to re-embark.

The expedition set on foot by England against Napoleon after his return from Elba in 1815 was remarkable on account of the great mass of materiel landed at Ostend and Antwerp. The Anglo-Hanoverian army contained sixty thousand men, but some came by land and others were disembarked at a friendly port.

The English engaged in an undertaking in the same year which may be regarded as very extraordinary: I refer to the attack on the capital of the United States. The world was astonished to see a handful of seven or eight thousand Englishmen making their appearance in the midst of a state embracing ten millions of people, taking possession of its capital, and destroying all the public buildings,-results unparalleled in history. We would be tempted to despise the republican and unmilitary spirit of the inhabitants of those states if the same militia had not risen, like those of Greece, Rome, and Switzerland, to defend their homes against still more powerful attacks, and if, in the same year, an English expedition more extensive than the other had not been entirely defeated by the militia of Louisiana and other states under the orders of General Jackson.

If the somewhat fabulous numbers engaged in the irruption of Xerxes and the Crusades be excepted, no undertaking of this kind which has been actually carried out, especially since fleets have been armed with powerful artillery, can at all be compared with the gigantic project and proportionate preparations made by Napoleon for throwing one hundred and fifty thousand veterans upon the shores of England by the use of three thousand launches or large gun-boats, protected by sixty ships of the line.1

From the preceding narrative the reader will perceive what a difference there is in point of difficulty and probability of success between descents attempted across a narrow arm of the sea, a few miles only in width, and those in which the troops and materiel are to be transported long distances over the open sea. This fact gives the reason why so many operations of this kind have been executed by way of the Bosporus.

[The following paragraphs have been compiled from authentic data:-

In 1830, the French government sent an expedition to Algiers, composed of an army of thirty-seven thousand five hundred men and one hundred and eighty pieces of artillery. More than five hundred vessels of war and transports were employed. The beet sailed from Toulon.

In 1838, France sent a fleet of twenty-two vessels to Vera Cruz. The castle of San Juan d'Ulloa fell into their hands after a short bombardment. A small force of about one thousand men, in three columns, took the city of Vera Cruz by assault: the resistance was slight.

In 184,, the United States caused a descent to be made upon the coast of Mexico, at Vera Cruz, with an army of thirteen thousand men, under the command of General Scott. One hundred and fifty vessels were employed, including men-of-war and transports. The city of Vera Cruz and the castle of San Juan d'Ulloa speedily fell into the possession of the forces of the United States. This important post became the secondary base of operations for the brilliant campaign which terminated with the capture of the city of Mexico.

In 1854 commenced the memorable and gigantic contest between Russia on the one side and England, France, Sardinia, and Turkey on the other. Several descents were made by the allied forces at different points of the Russian coast: of these the first was in the Baltic Sea. An English fleet sailed from Spithead, under the command of Sir Charles Napier, on the 12th of March, and a French fleet from Brest, under the command of Vice Admiral Parseval Deschenes, on the 19th of April. They effected a junction in the Bay of Barosund on the 11th of June. The allied fleet numbered thirty ships and fifty frigates, corvettes, and other vessels. The naval commanders wished to attack the defenses of Bomarsund, on one of the Aland Isles, but, after a reconnoissance, they came to the conclusion that it was necessary to have land-forces. A French corps of ten thousand men was at once dispatched to Bomarsund under General Baraguay. d'Hilliers, and the place was speedily reduced.

Later in the same year, the great expedition to the Crimea was executed; and with reference to it the following facts are mentioned, in order to give an idea of its magnitude:-

September 14, 1854, an army of fifty-eight thousand five hundred men and two hundred pieces of artillery was landed near Eupatoria, composed of thirty thousand French, twenty-one thousand five hundred English, and seven thousand Turks. They were transported from Varna to the place of landing by three hundred and eighty-nine ships, steamers, and transports This force fought and gained the battle of the Alma. (September 20,) and thence proceeded to Sebastopol. The English took possession of the harbor of Balaklava and the French of Kamiesch: these were the points to which subsequent reinforcements and supplies for the army in the Crimea were sent.

November 5, at the battle of Inkermann, the allied army numbered seventy-one thousand men.

At the end of January, 1855, the French force was seventy-five thousand men and ten thousand horses. Up to the same time, the English had sent fifty-four thousand men to the Crimea, but only fifteen thousand were alive, present, and fit for duty.

February 4, the French numbered eighty-five thousand; the English, twenty-five thousand fit for duty; the Turks, twenty-five thousand.

May 8, 1855, General La Marmora arrived at Balaklava with fifteen thousand Sardinians.

In the latter part of May, an expedition of sixteen thousand men was sent to Kertch.

In August, the French force at Sebastopol had risen to one hundred and twenty thousand men.

September 8, the final assault took place, which resulted in the evacuation of the place by the Russians. The allies had then in battery more than eight hundred pieces of artillery.

The fleet which cooperated with the land-forces in the artillery attack of October 17, 1854, consisted of twenty-five ships. There were present and prepared to attack in September, 1855, thirty-four ships.

October, 1855, an expeditionary force of nine thousand men was sent to Kinburn, which place eras captured.

Marshal Vaillant, in his report, as Minister of War, to the French emperor, says there were sent from France and Algeria three hundred and ten thousand men and forty thousand horses, of which two hundred and twenty-seven thousand men returned to France and Algeria.

The marshal's report gives the following striking facts, (be refers only to French operations:-)

The artillery materiel at the disposal of the Army of the East comprised one thousand seven hundred guns, two thousand gun-carriages, two thousand seven hundred wagons, two millions of projectiles, and nine million pounds of powder. There were sent to the army three thousand tons of powder, seventy millions of infantry-cartridges, two hundred and seventy thousand rounds of fixed ammunition, and eight thousand war-rockets.

On the day of the final assault there were one hundred and eighteen batteries, which during the siege had consumed seven million pounds of powder. They required one million sand-bags and fifty thousand gabions.

Of engineer materials, fourteen thousand tons were sent. The engineers executed fifty miles of trenches, using eighty thousand gabions, sixty thousand fascines, and one million sand-bags.

Of subsistence, fuel, and forage, five hundred thousand tons were sent.

Of clothing, camp-equipage, and harness, twelve thousand tons.

Hospital stores, six thousand five hundred tons.

Provision-wagons, ambulances, carts, forges, Ac., eight thousand tons.

In all, about six hundred thousand tons.

It is not thought necessary to add similar facts for the English, Sardinian, and Turkish armies.

In 1859, the Spaniards made a descent upon Morocco with a force of forty thousand infantry, eleven squadrons of cavalry, and eighty pieces of artillery, using twenty-one vessels of war with three hundred and twenty-seven guns, besides twenty-four gunboats and numerous transports.

In 1860, a force of English and French was landed on the coast of China, whence they marched to Pekin and dictated terms of peace. This expedition is remarkable for the smallness of the numbers which ventured, at such a great distance from their sources of supply and succor, to land upon a hostile shore and penetrate into the midst of the most populous empire in the world.

The French expedition to Syria in 1860 was small in numbers, and presented no remarkable features.

Toward the close of the year 1861, the government of the United States sent an expedition of thirteen thousand men to Port Royal, on the coast of South Carolina, one of the seceding States. The fleet of war-vessels and transports sailed from Hampton Roads, under command of Captain Dupont, and was dispersed by a violent gale: the losses of men and materiel were small, however, and the fleet finally reached the rendezvous. The defenses of the harbor having been silenced by the naval forces, the disembarkation of the land-troops took place, General Sherman being in command.

England, France, and Spain are now (January 16, 1862) engaged in an expedition directed against Mexico. The first operations were the capture, by the Spanish forces, of Vera Cruz and its defenses: the Mexicans offered no resistance at that point. The future will develop the plans of the allies; but the ultimate result of a struggle (if, indeed, one be attempted by the Mexicans) cannot be doubted, when three of the most powerful states of Europe are arrayed against the feeble and tottering republic of Mexico.]

1. [See the account of the expedition to the Crimea.-Translators.]