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America Fallen!/Chapter 16

 
 

XVI


REAPING THE WHIRLWIND


The plan of campaign for the invasion of the United States, as formulated by the Great General Staff at Berlin, comprised three major operations:

I. To make a surprise attack upon the coast by a raiding force, and capture Washington and the principal seaboard cities, harbors, and naval bases.

II. To destroy the enemy fleet and obtain command of the sea.

III. By the instant seizure of all the arsenals, gun factories, and powder works, to prevent the development of the great potential strength of the United States in men capable of bearing arms.

So perfect was the preparation of Germany; so complete the unpreparedness of the great country against which she launched her attack, that within a week of the declaration of war her fleet had sunk the enemy and was in undisputed command of the sea, and her army had captured the National Capital and the two leading seaports of the country.

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At the very hour when the Mayor of New York received the ultimatum of Admiral Buchner, there dropped anchor in the Narrows the new 54,000-ton liner Bismarck. It was her maiden voyage (duly advertised), and she had on board 10,000 German troops with their full equipment. The next day she was joined by the Imperator and the Valerland, and as soon as the signal "cease firing" had been made from the Koenig, the three great ships, carrying 30,000 troops, or as many as the total regular mobile army in the United States at that hour, steamed to the Hoboken and Chelsea docks and began the work of debarkation. Before night on April 2d, the German forces in New York, including the garrisons at the forts, numbered 35,000 men.

To Boston came the Cecilie, the Kaiser Wilhelm II, and many another well-remembered liner, crowded with men and equipment. Night and day the soldiers of the Kaiser poured down the gangways of the ships, formed in column, marched from the docks to the armories, and were billeted throughout the cities.

And now, the need for secrecy being removed, transports steamed boldly up the Chesapeake, and Washington received its quota of the first reinforcements from Germany. Here, the guns, horses, transport wagons, etc., were placed on pontoons for transport from ship to landing beach.

So excellent were the facilities for debarkation afforded by the possession of New York and Boston, that by April 5th, including the raiding force, two army corps, or 80,000 troops, fully equipped and ready for service in the field, had been landed in America.

And thereafter during the next five days, the faster ships of the transports which sailed from Germany on April 1st began to arrive, warping into the piers at New York and Boston, which had been vacated by the earlier transports; so that by April 10th the German forces in the United States had been raised to 100,000 men.

Bold, indeed, was the strategy which dared to send this army to sea in unarmed transports, while the main fleet of the enemy was still "in being," or intact upon the high seas. Had not the great Mahan and many another authority before him laid it down, that before troops were embarked the enemy fleet must be either sunk or securely blockaded in its own ports? True; but, "Other times, other customs." The advent of the seagoing submarine and of the wireless had introduced factors which had upset the old formulas of war.

The possession by the enemy of a force of seagoing submarines enabled them, at one stroke, to clear the coasts of every hostile ship from Canada to the Panama Canal; and the capture of the radio plants and the possession by Germany of the U. S. Navy Secret Code made it possible to lure its main fleet into a position where it could be overwhelmed by superior numbers.

Finally, on April 11th there appeared off the American coast a great fleet of 45 transports, having on board 100,000 troops, and convoyed by the pre-dreadnought ships of the Deutschland and Witllesbach classes. It divided, the five Deutschlands convoying half of the force to New York and the five Wittlesbachs proceeding with the other half to the Delaware. The defences of the Delaware having been already taken from the land side, the fleet steamed up to Philadelphia.

By the 14th of April, or just two weeks after the declaration of war, an army of 200,000 of the picked veterans of the recent European conflict had been landed on American shores and was prepared to move into the interior for the subjugation of the country.

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And that was how it came about that the United States—the wealthiest and, potentially in its undeveloped wealth of men and natural resources, the most powerful country on earth—found itself, in the space of two eventful weeks, held fast in the "mailed fist" of a foreign foe.

Having, lo! these many years, "sown to the wind" the seeds of pacificist delusion, of political self-seeking, of amazing self-sufficiency, and of fatuous neglect, she was now to "reap the whirlwind" of disillusionment and humiliation in a profound national disaster!

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To describe in any detail the sequence of the operations by which the German Commander-in-Chief, within two weeks of the opening of hostilities had captured all the arsenals, and arms and powder works lying between the coast and the Alleghanies, would take a volume in itself. That must be the work of the future historian. It will suffice for the present purpose to sketch the mere outline of those tragic events which came to be known thereafter as The Great American Débacle!

Immediately upon the capture of Boston, New York, and Washington, detachments were told off to seize the railway yards and terminals, and to commandeer such automobiles and motor trucks as were best adapted to army transport. This was done in each case on April 1st, and early on the same day strong flying detachments, with numerous batteries of machine-guns, were rushed out by rail and by automobile to seize the bridges and tunnels on the main lines of the New Haven, the New York Central, and the Pennsylvania systems. Every few hours additional reinforcements were pushed forward to strengthen and hold these strategic points, until the several armies of occupation could be brought up from the coast by rail.

And on April 6th, the railroads being securely held, the main advance began.

From Boston a force of 5,000 men was thrown into Portsmouth, and three regiments, comprising about 10,000 men, moved down the coast, capturing the Fore River Shipbuilding plant at Quincy, Mass., where most of the United States submarines are built, and seizing the Torpedo Station at Newport, R. I., the submarine engine works at Groton, and the port of New London.

By way of the New Haven four-track road, 15,000 troops moved from New York into Connecticut, capturing, in succession, Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, Mass. This placed in possession of the enemy such important works as those of the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, the American & British Mfg. Co. for making field-guns, the Winchester and Marlin works, the Colt works, and, greatest disaster of all, the United States Aresnal, where the rifles for the Regular Army and the Organized Militia are made.

The army of invasion by way of the Hudson River, 15,000 strong, moving by the four-track road of the New York Central, captured Iona Island, an important shell and powder depot of the U. S. Navy, and at Troy, N. Y., took possession of the Government works for the manufacture of heavy coast-defence guns and mortars. Pushing on they soon had possession, at Utica and Ilion, of the Remington and of the Savage Small Arms works.

The invasion of New Jersey was effected by a division (20,000 men). Strong detachments of this force seized the United States Army Arsenal and Powder works near Dover, and the Powder works of the Du Pont Powder Company at Parlin, Pompton Lakes, and other New Jersey points. Another detachment moved through Easton and took possession of the Bethlehem Steel Works, one of the most important gun and armor plants in the world. The balance of the force, comprising some 15,000 men, seized Philadelphia, and took over the great shipbuilding yards of the Cramps at Philadelphia and of the New York Shipbuilding Company at Camden, N. J. Following this, the Germans moved down on both sides of the Delaware and captured, from the land side, the fortifications on the river guarding the approaches to Philadelphia.

From Washington 7,000 troops moved on Baltimore, and pushing on, occupied Wilmington and the great powder works of the Du Pont Powder Company at Carney Point. Fort Monroe was reduced by bombardment, from a point beyond the range of its guns, by the battleship fleet which convoyed the second half of the German Army; and when this had been accomplished, the Norfolk Navy Yard and the Newport News Shipyard were captured by a force of 3,000 men from Washington.

And thus, by April 10th, the major naval and military operations of the German plan of invasion had been completed. The United States main fleet was sunk, Washington and the principal seacoast cities were captured, and the arsenals and gun factories (with the exception of that at Rock Island) for arming and supplying any new armies which might be raised were in German hands.

Eight billions of the twenty billions which was the ultimate object of the invasion had been pledged. It now remained to secure from the Federal Government the twelve billion dollars, which had been demanded as the price of peace and the evacuation of United States territory.

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Let it not be for one moment supposed that while its territory was thus being outraged and overrun, the United States was tamely submissive. The regular army, alas! except for the slender garrisons, was concentrated thousands of miles away on the Mexican border; but the moment the news of the invasion was flashed inland, orders were given for the mobilization of the militia and every emergency measure was taken to meet the invader.

But so quickly did he strike inland that it was at once evident that any concentration of troops in the East, in sufficient strength for effectual resistance, was impossible. Therefore, acting on the advice of his Chief of Staff, the President sent out an order for the retirement of all forces, regular and militia, behind the general line of the Alleghanies, and their concentration at Pittsburg, the temporary seat of Government.

And so, with smothered rage, the descendants of the men who fought at Lexington, Bunker Hill, and Yorktown saw the richest and most populous section of their country handed over for occupation by a foreign army; and the bitterness of that hour was not assuaged by the thought that this evacuation by the scattered American troops was the only alternative to their capture or absolute annihilation by the perfectly organized army of occupation, back of which, thanks to the absolute command of the sea, lay the millions of the Kaiser's army.

Bitter as gall, too, was the thought that, if the country had listened to the oft-repeated warnings of its military advisers, the enemy could never have landed on American soil, or, having done so, would have been met by a quick concentration in such superior strength as to drive him back to his ships.