The New Student's Reference Work/Coast-Defense

Coast-Defense. In 1885 the nation awoke to the fact that the fortifications that should protect our cities and prevent a foe from using our harbors as bases of warlike operations were absurdly weak—in many cases not strong enough to keep out a single line of battleships. Our navy had just been born, and we were without torpedo or other coast-defense vessels. In 1886 about 100 million dollars were appropriated to be spent in 10 years for coast defense; but for many years the matter was greatly neglected. To-day, however, it is believed that our principal ports and harbors are safe from any attack from the sea, even if our navy were driven from the ocean. The defences on the great lakes are comparatively weak, as our treaties with Great Britain prevent either country from maintaining more than a few small vessels upon these waters. The first plans for coast-defense relied largely on vessels of great gun-power and lying very low in the water, so as to offer a small target. These ships were expected to remain in the harbor to supplement the forts. But this type of harbor-defense is abandoned. The coast-defense forts are to all appearance nothing but grassy mounds of earth. The guns for the most part are of the disappearing type, presenting a target to the enemy only at the moment of firing. The latest form of coast-defense is the submarine ship of which we already have a few excellent examples.