Achievements Of The 19th Century:
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In all the long history of warfare, which is in reality the narrative of the world's progress from earliest time, there is no similar period in which changes so vast and far-reaching have taken place as during the latter half of the present century. There is much less difference between the naval and military methods of the Sixth Century be-fore Christ and those of the Eighteenth Century than there is between the latter and those of the present day.
Until the middle of the present Century the difference that existed between the ancient war galley and the modern battleship was so slight as to justify the remark common among naval constructors of the day, that "naval architecture, like history, repeats itself." Until the introduction of steam, which was first attempted in 1815, in the double-hulled vessel designed by Robert Fulton, but which did not become practical for naval purposes until 1846, our meno'-war were but a trifling improvement upon the galleys of Diodorus Siculus. The old galleys were queer looking craft. They were built with keels and frames, and contained a stem and stern post. Near the water line the stem curved outward, gradually taking the form of a ram —a weapon still used in modern warfare. They also had one or more masts, and were propelled by oars, or sails whenever the wind was favorable. Going into action was a gorgeous sight in the Middle Ages. Falcons and broad banners of gaudy hue were flung to the breeze, the sun-light flashing upon the breast-plates of the warriors drawn up in fighting order, and upon a sort of bridge or castle amidships stood a band of richly caparisoned musicians, playing with all their might. At the bow was the battery, consisting of manogels and great cross-bows, with winding-gear that shot showers of huge stones and arrows and red-hot iron and carts of Greek fire at the enemy. Fore and aft small towers were erected, from which archers shot arrows.
Gunpowder led to the abolition of the towers, and artillery was substituted. Gradually, with the perfection of the art of sailing, the tactics of warfare were changed. During the early part of the Sixteenth Century the low galley was replaced by the sailing war vessel, and the size of the guns, which were mounted in broadside on these ships, constantly increased. With this increase there came also an increase in the size of the vessels, until, during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, the warships be-came formidable affairs, with three decks and a hundred or so guns. The most deadly of these weapons was the carronade a light piece first constructed at Carron, in Scotland. This gun was of a large caliber, short length and light weight, and its destructive effect was supposed to exist not so much in its power of penetration as in its ability for splintering. With a reduced charge of powder, and slow initial velocity, the projectile from the carronade created havoc wherever it pierced the side of the enemy. With these developments came a gradual change in naval methods, and at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century warfare was well organized for the first time in history, the crew being divided into little companies, each of which had certain duties. Besides the crew, each frigate had thirty or forty marines, whose duty it was to police the ship and prevent mutiny, which was very common until fifty years ago, owing to the extreme cruelty practiced upon the sailors. These marines were kept carefully apart from the crew, and animosity between them encouraged.
At the time of battle they were placed in the tops, where it was their duty to pick off the enemy with their muskets. In case they were able to engage the enemy in close quarters, they were expected to board the ship of the combatant, assisted by two or three seamen from each gun, the latter being armed with pistols, cutlasses and boarding pikes. These were known as boarders, and when they were called for, just so many men, and no more, ran from each gun. When the boarders took possession of a ship a fearful carnage followed. When a battle was about to be fought the decks were sanded to make them less slippery when the blood should begin to flow, and ammunition, small arms, guns and pikes were stacked conveniently near the masts and out of reach of the rivers of gore with which, each bold sailor well knew, the good ship would soon be drenched. The sailors for the most part led hard lives, and were treated little better than their predecessors, the galley slaves. Flogging was common, and many men died under the lash. The crews were generally secured through impressment, and kidnaping was extremely common, as the romances of that period attest.
Such were the ships used and such the methods of war-fare generally in vogue when, less than a hundred years ago, Nelson fought and won Trafalgar, the greatest battle in British history, and the most famous of all battles fought between sailing vessels. Although neither so large nor so formidable as the frigates used by Nelson, sailing ships of the same type were used in the memorable naval engagements of our own glorious War of 1812.
The year 1840 saw the sailing ship at the very zenith of its glory. Naval authorities all agreed that further improvement in fighting craft was impossible, and all the great maritime powers of the world were constantly increasing their fleets. In 1841, however, the death-knell of the sail began to sound, when the Mississippi, a bark-rigged, steam-propelled frigate was launched and met the approval of the experts. Up to this time steam had been applied only to side-wheel vessels, though Stevens had advocated the screw as early as 1804. Ericsson, however, was the first to make a practical demonstration of its utility in 1837. The screw frigate Princeton was launched in 1844, and the advantages of the propeller became too obvious to be disregarded, however much sentiment might cling to the romance and glory that seemed to cluster around the old-time craft. It was not an easy task for the sailors to give up their graceful, shapely frigates for the modern "tea kettle," as the new craft were contemptuously called, and the fight between steam and sails was a long and bitter one.
In 1857 came the era of iron ships, and the only thing now in common between the wooden vessels of Trafalgar and the modern battle ship of the Spanish-American war is that each is a water-borne structure, armed with guns and propelled in some manner from point to point. The application of armor to ships and its great value was understood by Admiral Mackau, Louis Phillippe's minister of marine, as early as 1840, but was kept by him a profound secret, he intending to employ it against England should occasion arise. Ericsson, about the same date, conceived the general idea of the Monitor. In 1842 Stevens had commenced in the United States a ship plated with four and one-half inches of iron, though the ship was never launched. In the Crimean war both England and France built armored batteries of indifferent seaworthiness. These early European iron-clads were simply line of battle ships cut down, with one tier of guns, and armored on the water line and over the battery. They were no radical departure from the established type. In 1857 Dupuy de Lome completed his famous La Gloire, the first sea-going iron-clad. But the first really effective vessel of this kind was the Confederate cruiser Merrimac, and her famous conflict with the Monitor has been called the most important naval battle in the world. The Merrimac was a cruiser that had burned to the water's edge and sunk. The Confederates raised and rebuilt her, enclosing her vitals with iron plates two inches thick. A bulwark was built, and similarly covered, and a cast-iron ram was attached to the bow about two feet under water. On March 8, 1862, the Merrimac steamed out of Norfolk harbor and encountered the wooden ship, Cumberland. The huge projectiles from the Union vessel glanced harmlessly into the water, not so much as denting the stout iron sides of the Confederate ship. The Merrimac meanwhile sent four shots into the wooden ship, and, moving right under the muzzles of her thirty guns, struck the Cumberland a terrific blow with her iron prow. The Cumberland began to sink, while the guns of the Merrimac did frightful havoc. More than one hundred of the crew were quickly killed. The water drove the men from the lower guns, but they rushed to the upper and desperately fired their harmless shots at the great mass of iron. At last, with colors flying, the Cumberland sank. Having ended one adversary, the Merrimac turned upon the Congress, which had been peppering at her, and, although the crew of the latter fought desperately, they were soon forced to surrender. The whole world was electrified by the news that flashed over the wires that night, and the North was in a panic. The next day a great surprise was in store for the Merrimac. A strange looking craft that had been derisively called the "Yankee cheesebox," steamed forth and challenged the jubilant Confederate. The Monitor had been built after a design of John Ericsson, who for twenty years had been endeavoring to secure its adoption. It was an iron-plated raft, 172 feet over all, 41 feet beam and 111-3 feet depth, and with a revolving iron turret containing two guns. The target surface was reduced to a minimum, the hull being less than two feet high and plated with five inches of iron. The turret was nine inches high, and covered with eight inches of iron. It was a floating fortress.
It seemed at the time impracticable, but in desperation the United States was willing to try the experiment. Naval experts believed that the first shot fired by her own guns would send her to the bottom. The Merrimac had ten guns to the Monitor's two, and her crew was six times as numerous, so the people who watched the battle from the shore expected the Confederate cruiser to sink the audacious little craft with one volley from her big guns. The advantage was with the Monitor, however, throughout the entire fight, for the Merrimac could not easily reach her enemy through the narrow port holes, but the Monitor with her revolving turret could fire in any direction. The Monitor's size prevented her from being struck by many balls, and most of those which did hit her turret glanced harmlessly into the water. Though the Merrimac fired twice as many shots, those of the Monitor did the greatest execution. When the Merrimac tried to ram the Monitor she did no damage to the enemy, but opened her own bow and made an alarming leak. Not until the Merrimac's shots were directed against the Monitor's pilot house did the latter ship withdraw, and the Merrimac, leaking badly, and supposing the fight was over, also with-drew. Although the fight was undecided, the purpose of the Merrimac was defeated. The most important effect of the battle, aside from its being a virtual victory for the Union, was the establishment of the value of the iron-clad. Ericsson's despised plan was received with enthusiasm, and a dozen monitors were quickly constructed, which were of great assistance to the Federal forces. A revolution instantly took place, not only in the navy of the United States, but in those of all the foreign powers. The building of iron-clads became imperative, and the great wooden men-o'-war, once the boast and pride of maritime nations, were now consigned to the past, along with the galley and the sailing vessel.
As soon as the iron-clad became an assured success, the nations began to look for a more formidable weapon than the ordinary cannon. This has been found in the torpedo, the most terrible engine of destruction that the mind of man has conceived for the purpose of warfare. From the floating kegs loaded with charges of gunpowder, which Captain David Bushnell set adrift in New York harbor to the consternation of the British during the Revolution, the torpedo has advanced by rapid stages to the dignity of a machine capable of demolishing in an instant the largest and most powerful battle ship afloat. The torpedo properly dates back to 1846, when Professor Schoenbein, of Basel, Switzerland, produced the powerful explosive known as gun cotton, by subjecting common cotton to the action of nitric acid. For a long time, however, this terrible explosive was impractical for military purposes, owing to the peril attendant on its transportation, but at last F. A. Abel devised a process for its manufacture in compressed solid cylinders, which can be stored and transmitted with safety, and which explode with great power when ignited under the confinement of a detonating powder. The torpedoes of modern warfare are of two kinds : They are either contrivances propelled through the water so as to strike the enemy's vessels, or are more or less stationary, submerged mines, so arranged as to explode when a ship passes over them. During the last two years of the Civil War, the torpedo service of both forces was responsible for tremendous destruction. Seven United States iron-clads, thirteen wooden war vessels, and several army transports were destroyed by torpedoes, and eight more vessels were badly injured. Four of the Confederate vessels were destroyed by their own mines. In the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 the torpedo played a great part. Through their agency the armored fleet on the Danube was held in check without the aid of a single Russian war ship. At Batoum a steamer was blown up and sunk by a Whitehead torpedo, which is the first recorded triumph of that now celebrated weapon. In the Chilian revolution of 1891 the battleship Blanco Encalada was sunk with a crew of 150 by a Whitehead torpedo. The right to use this torpedo has been purchased by the leading maritime nations of the world. The torpedo consists of a cigar-shaped case of phosphor bronze. The dimensions vary in different countries, but the average length is 14 feet and the average diameter 14 inches. The destructive effect is accomplished entirely by a head, wherein lies all the way from sixty or seventy to 250 pounds of gun cotton. There are many types of the offensive torpedo similar to the Whitehead, but the complexity of their construction, and the large percentage of failures in their attempted runs, as conspicuously demonstrated in our late Spanish-American war, do not justify their being considered so much a destructive as a demoralizing power.
During the progress of hostilities between the United States and Spain, the whole naval world looked forward with breathless anxiety to see a practical test of the terror-inspiring torpedo boats. But opportunity for a demonstration of their destructiveness did not come. The Spanish craft that sped out on their death-dealing missions at the battles of Manila and Santiago were not alert enough to escape the vigilance of the expert American gunners, who hammered them with shot and shell before they approached near enough to discharge their doom-sealing weapons. The torpedo boat has been likened to the race horse of the steamer world, built for short dashes at high speed. The first qualification is that it shall be built as small and light as possible, and that it shall be painted a color that will blend with sea and sky at night. Five-sevenths of the boat is taken up by machinery and coal, and in the other two-sevenths, the extreme ends, the boat's crew are huddled like sheep in a pen officers forward, men aft. The hardships that are undergone by the crew of a torpedo boat during an engagement are inconceivable to anyone not in the service. The heat from the engines is terrific, and when the weary sailor is overcome by the fatigue and excitement of the battle, there is no place for him to lay his head except the narrow space between two boilers or torpedo tubes.
The defensive torpedo, however, has become the essential auxiliary of the land gun for the defense of harbors. The modern submarine mine has reached a stage of perfection that guarantees the safety of almost any city that is under its protection, notwithstanding the fact that Admiral Dewey sailed into Manila Bay over a veritable nest of deadly torpedoes. The mines are usually arranged to be fired at will or automatically at touch of the vessel. The blowing up of the United States battle ship Maine in Havana harbor on the night of February 15, 1898, and the killing of 268 brave American sailors, is the most notable example of the destructiveness of the submarine mine.
The use of solid shot in warfare has been practically given up. The projectile of to-day is a conical shell of steel, hollow, and sometimes loaded with powder, so as to explode on striking, or by a time fuse. It is wonderfully different from the shell of twenty-five years ago. In those clays one could watch the shell as it sailed through the air in a graceful curve, and there was time, under favorable circumstances, to get out of the way before it bursted. But the new style of shell moves at the rate of a mile a second, and when it strikes a metal target, its energy being transformed instantaneously into heat, it becomes red hot, and a flame bursts forth from the point struck. The projectile of to-day moves almost in a straight line, and its impact at a distance of a mile seems almost simultaneous with the discharge of the gun. When such a shell passes near a man it will tear his clothes off, merely from the windage, and if it conies too near him, though not hitting him, it will kill him. He drops dead without the sign of a wound. The concussions from their own shots destroyed the aural membranes of a number of gunners in our late war, who had not properly protected their ears against such danger.
The first real and complete test of the ordnance developed by modern naval science since the Rebellion was given during the war between the United States and Spain. Each of the contending nations had navies that included some of the best battle ships in the world, and each was splendidly equipped with all the latest improvements in ammunition and armament. The only fault with the test is that the Americans were so much superior to the Spanish in the skill with which they manoeuvred their ships and handled their weapons of destruction, that it cannot after all be taken as a wholly fair test. One thing sufficiently established, however, was the effectiveness of the modern war vessel and its death-dealing power.
Improvement in modern warfare is not confined solely to naval methods and equipment. There has been a vast change in army ordnance within the past Century. Napoleon, greatest of modern warriors, would be no more astonished than Admiral Nelson were he to return to earth and see with what strides the science of war has advanced during his absence. He would find that his heavy columns could not be launched in all their imposing pageantry; and that Murat, his daring cavalry leader, could not ride over an army with his horsemen. The grand and picturesque bayonet charge is a thing of the past. We have in its place the thin skirmish lines, seeking to crush the enemy with their fire alone, and it is probable that cavalry will never again charge on the battlefield. The simple artillery pieces that were used at the battle of Waterloo were mere toys as compared to the rapid fire machine guns of the present day. The modern machine gun is the outcome of a series of evolutions in armament. The "mitrailleuse" came first, and soon showed its capabilities. Then the Hotchkiss showed the possibility of using heavier and larger projectiles. The modern rapid-fire gun was merely a product evolved from the "mitrailleuse" and the Hotchkiss, and the rapid-fire guns differ from each other in detail rather than in results. All carry heavy projectiles and discharge such shot with a rapidity that depends largely upon the caliber of the barrels, the larger the caliber and the longer the barrels, the slower the discharge. In this country the multi-barrel has been the most familiar type, owing to the use of the Gatling gun in the army. Besides the Gatling, there are the Gardner, the Maxim-Nordenfeldt, the Accles and the Robinson, among the leading multi-barrels, while the best known single-barrels are the Maxim and the Skode. Tests with the Maxim gun have scored records of 775 shots to the minute.
The practical test to which "smokeless powder" was put in the Spanish-American war demonstrated so obvious a superiority for it over the best of the old style composition, that it will doubtless hereafter serve all branches of military service, including vessels of war. The party using the ordinary powder could not discern the attacking foe, using the new explosive, with any certainty, till it had advanced within 200 yards of the defending line. With rifles that kill at two miles, as an Austrian improved rifle is said to have done recently, and smokeless powder in cartridges for "magazine" or "rapid-fire" rifles, with Gat-ling machine guns, and revolving cannon, the land forces are certainly as well equipped for war as are the marines.
Gun cotton, which made the torpedo effective, was first used for artillery purposes by the Austrian army, and is now an indispensible agent in the conduct of military and naval operations among all nations. In 1847 another and more terrible explosive than gun cotton was discovered by Sombrero. This was nitro-glycerine, and was produced by subjecting common glycerine to a treatment of concentrated sulphuric and nitric acid. The clear, oily, colorless, sweetish liquid thus obtained would burn without detonation, but when an infinitesimal quantity was exposed to the open air a jar or shock was sufficient to produce an explosion of such terrific force as to blow to atoms everything in the vicinity. In the same year Alfred Nobel, a Swedish resident of Hamburg, became greatly interested in the perilous discovery, and, assisted by his brother, began its manufacture on a large scale. Although the life of the brother was sacrificed in one of the earliest experiments, Nobel persevered until he had devised a process whereby nitro-glycerine could be manufactured with comparative safety. In 1863 he introduced the practice of soaking common gunpowder in it for blasting, and in 1867 he conceived the idea of mixing it with some solid, inert substance, such as silicious ashes or infusorial earth. The product resulting from the latter process was called dynamite, now regarded to be the safest of all explosives, as neither electricity, light nor ordinary shocks causes it to explode.
Of the numerous explosive bodies that have been discovered during the present Century, the only one that can be considered a rival of gunpowder is the substance known as cordite. This is a smokeless powder, and consists of a mixture of gun cotton, nitro-glycerine and vaseline. In the manufacture of old-fashioned gunpowder many changes have taken place within the past forty years, both in process and general composition. By increasing the density of the grains, thus closing more tightly the pores through which ignition penetrates their mass, the energy of gunpowder has been increased and the velocity of the projectile propelled thereby is proportionately increased. Another improvement of great advantage consists of molding the grains into definite geometrical forms. Instead of the more or less coarsely pulverized substance of a half century ago the gunpowder of to-day is made into prismatic, lenticular, pellet and hexagonal forms. One of the most popular varieties of these forms is the hexagonal prism. It was chosen for the same reason that the honey bee chooses to build hexagon cells in its comb to economize space. In building cartridges for big guns out of this powder the pieces fit snugly together, every possible ounce of force being put into the prism by compression. There is accordingly no loss of space in the load chamber of the gun. The concentration of power by means of the hydraulic press used .in the manufacture of these prisms is so great that solid prisms of this powder loaded into a gun would burst it. To obviate this each prism is perforated with a number of small holes running parallel to its axis, thereby securing expansion equally in all directions and insuring the combustion of all the explosive.
One of the most marvelous institutions of modern war-fare is the transmitting of intelligence by means of sunlight signals, or heliographing. The system of the heliograph is extremely simple. It employs a mirror much more carefully prepared, but not much bigger than the bit of looking-glass wherewith the mischievous schoolboy throws flashes of sunlight into other people's faces, and it works on the same general principle. A great deal has been done in late years to adapt the telephone and telegraph to troops in the field, but time and opportunity for constructing even a temporary line across a stretch of hostile country or regions exposed to the fire of the enemy is often lacking. It was formerly customary to resort to the flag by day and the torch by night, a certain signal code being brought into requisition. But the torch and flag were unavailable for greater distances than ten to fifteen miles, and in rainy or dark weather their use is limited to five miles or less. Sometimes two mirrors are necessary in order to work a heliograph. This is called the duplex system. When the sun is behind the signaller, a second mirror is placed at such an angle that the reflections are thrown on the first, or working mirror. At night the instrument is rendered equally effective by adjusting the mirrors so that they reflect the light produced by a powerful electric arc. The heliograph first demonstrated its efficiency and utility for field intercommunication in the Indian wars of the Western frontier, beginning in 1886. Three years later Major W. J. Volkman, U. S. A., demonstrated in Arizona and New Mexico the possibility of carrying on communication by heliograph over a range of 200 miles. He was assisted by 33 officers and 129 operators, and 3,787 messages were exchanged, comprising 92,406 words. The network of communication begun by General Miles in 1886 and continued by Lieutenant W. A. Glassford was perfected in 1889 at ranges of 85, 88, 95 and 125 miles, over a country inconceivably rugged and broken, the stronghold of the Apache and other hostile Indian tribes.
The use of the balloon in warfare is another distinctly Nineteenth Century institution, its first recorded application to such purpose taking place during the Civil War. In 1862 General McClellan organized a balloon corps, with Thaddeus S. C. Lowe at its head. The innovation soon became a component part of the Army of the Potomac, as it dici good service in disclosing the military operations of the Confederates. Now all the leading military nations of the world have their balloon corps, specially trained and equipped for reconnoitering purposes. At the battle of Santiago on July 1, 1898, the movements of the enemy were observed from . balloon by Sergeant Thomas Carroll Boone. A telegraph wire connected the basket of the balloon with the ground, and observations, transmitted in that manner to the officers below.
The bicycle has also been brought into requisition as a piece of army equipment in recent years, and a number of the leading military powers of the world have fully equipped bicycle corps attached to their regular armies.
The practical abolishment of privateering constitutes one of the most wholesome and radical changes that has taken place in modern warfare during the present Century. This marked a long step in progress, for as a matter of course privateering is but a legalized form of piracy. Although privateering in some form or other goes back to ancient times, the "sea beggars" have flourished especially as a recognized institution of civilized nations from the middle of the Sixteenth Century to the close of the Rebellion. The privateer was an armed vessel belonging to a private owner, the subject of a belligerent power, and bearing a commission from that power to "sink, burn or destroy" the commerce of an enemy. With its abolishment by the Treaty of Paris in 1856, the last vestige of poetry and romance has departed from modern warfare. The day of smart manoeuvres under sail, of yard-arm to yard-arm conflicts, of the carronade, swivel and boarding pike, is now a thing forgotten. The dare-devil style of climbing over a stranger's bulwarks, clearing his decks with naked cutlass and spitting pistols, and then asking his nationality and destination, is also forgotten, although it is but comparatively few years since such practices were extremely common. The Eighteenth Century and the early years of the present were halcyon times for the privateer. The New York newspapers of the Colonial period abound in advertisements inviting "gentlemen and others" to enlist with this or that vessel fitting out under the commission of "His Majesty." England encouraged privateering by ordering that prizes taken should be divided between the owners and the captors, the rights of the crown being especially excluded in numerous prize acts. The United States, as a nation, also greatly encouraged privateering up to and during the War of 1812. Not less than 1,367 public and private armed vessels were commissioned by the colonies to prey upon British commerce during the Revolution. In spite of its prevalence and immeasurable advantage to the United States during the War of 1812, privateering soon fell into disfavor, as shown by the fact that Congress in 1818 passed a law for-bidding the enlistment in this country of men for foreign privateering. Great Britain was more than fifty years behind us in passing such a law. In 1824 the United States vainly urged Great Britain to assist us in the abolition of legalized sea robbery. Thirty years later Lord Clarendon advised that it be abolished by international agreement, but James Buchanan, then United States minister to England, was instructed to reply that his country could not assent to the proposal unless all the naval powers should declare that war should never be waged upon private property on the high seas. In April, 1856, at the termination of the Crimean War, Great Britain, France, Austria, Russia and Turkey held a congress at Paris, at which it was decided to abolish privateering under the agreement known as the Declaration of Paris. This notable congress was brought about by Great Britain because it was feared that Russia would issue letters of marque to the fleets of the United States 'merchant ships, commissioning them to prey upon English and French commerce. All the important European powers save Spain signed this treaty, and all the American powers except the United States and Mexico. This country, through William L. Marcy, offered to sign the agreement if the clause as to privateering should be amended by the declaration that the private property of subjects or citizens should be exempt from seizure on the high seas by the public armed vessels of other belligerents. The great powers refused assent to the proposed amendment, and the United States did not become a party to the treaty. When the Civil War broke out in 1861 Mr. Seward, then Secretary of State, offered to sign the treaty of 1856 without insisting upon the amendment, but Great Britain and France replied that the signature could not be accepted if it was to be coupled with the condition that the provisions of this treaty were to be made applicable to the use of privateers by the Southern Confederacy. As that was the wish of the administration Mr. Seward did not sign the treaty. The story of Confederate privateering, and especially the damage done to commerce by Confederate cruisers, was still fresh in the memory of the world when the American-Spanish war broke out. The fact that neither of the contending nations had signed the Declaration of Paris, and were therefore at perfect liberty to issue letters of marque and reprisal to privateers was looked upon with grave for-boding by all the great maritime powers of the world. Although Spain threatened at the outbreak of hostilities to resort to such method of warfare, it was never carried into execution. Civilized opinion was too strong against such barbarous and illicit practice to warrant its being carried on with any success, and the opportunity for disposing of prizes would have been greatly restricted by the almost undoubted refusal of neutral nations to permit such spoils of war to be sold in their ports. Trade relations have become so much more important than they were in the days of active privateering that the day has long gone past when the world would stand by and see two belligerent nations preying upon each other's commerce to the annoyance and inconvenience of all their neighbors.
Up to the present Century the most inhuman methods of punishment for breaches of discipline were in vogue both in the army and the navy. The military punishments in the English army were of infamous severity. Instances were numerous where a thousand lashes were given to offenders, while riding the wooden horse, being strung up by the thumbs and other equally cruel punishments were very common. All these brutal chastisements have been done away with, and only in very rare cases is any, physical punishment administered to the modern soldier or sailor. In the year 1850 flogging was abolished by act of Congress in the navy of the United States. Up to that time the captain of any of our national vessels had the authority, at his discretion, to order any man in his command to be stripped and lashed with the cat-o-nine-tails. This instrument of torture, once so familiar to all sea-faring men, is now only known to them by tradition. Old officers thought the navy itself as good as abolished with the cat-o-nine-tails. But subsequent events proved how utterly mistaken they were. The record made by the naval forces under Farragut in the Civil War and under Dewey at Manila are proof positive that the fighting qualities of the American Jack Tar have not been spoiled in the least by the sparing of the cruel and barbarous weapon.
Since the introduction of more humane methods of treatment, statistics show that both the sailors and the soldiers of the world are gradually growing better, and that there is a gradual decrease in the number of court-martials. The last report of the Judge Advocate of the United States Army shows a marked decrease in the number of court-martial trials since 1893. With the improvement of the morale of the army it is interesting to note that the desertions have fallen off wonderfully. In 1894 there were 518 deserters ; in 1895 the number fell to 255 ; in 1897 it dropped to 244; and in 1898, when there was real fighting to be done, it fell to 176 and that out of an army that was nearly twice as large as it had been in 1894.
However paradoxical it may appear, it is nevertheless a fact that the improved destructiveness of weapons of war has made a less destruction. The modern conception of war with the more advanced nations includes the factor of fighting with the least possible suffering, and to meet the demands of the accepted standard of humanity has been the purpose of the newer engines of destruction. It was with this humane intent that the Mauser bullet was invented. The old-fashioned bullet usually whirled round and round, tearing the tissues, arteries, muscles and flesh, and on coming in contact with a bone shattered it to splinters. The wound of exit left a hole large enough to insert a man's fist. Whenever a man was hit in the arm or leg with one of these bullets it was almost always necessary to perform amputation, if the victim did not die beforehand from hemorrhage. With the Mauser bullet all this is different. Experience in the Cuban war has demonstrated that only very infrequently does a wound caused by a Mauser bullet result in a hemorrhage which might be fatal. Men struck by the Mauser bullets have been known to continue fighting to the end of the battle after receiving what is generally supposed to be a mortal wound. In almost every case this bullet passes clear through the victim's body, and the wound of exit is no larger than that of entrance, and there is no splintering of bone or tearing up of tissues.
All the changes that might be supposed to make war more cruel and bloody have really operated in the interest of humanity. The old-fashioned arms, because they were fired at close quarters, killed and wounded sixty per cent of the combatants. The improved arms of modern warfare, in the bloodiest battle noted in history, killed and wounded but little more than 25 per cent. The "laws of war" show a magnanimous consideration for the enemy and a humane regard for the weak and the defenseless. According to the code at present formulated by civilized nations these laws forbid the use of poison against the enemy; murder by treachery, as for example, assuming the uniform or flag of the foe; the murder of those who have surrendered; the use of such weapons as will cause unnecessary pain to an enemy; the abuse of a flag of truce; all unnecessary destruction of property, whether public or private; that only fortified places shall be besieged; that women and children and non-combatants be allowed to depart before the bombardment of a city begins ; that plundering by private soldiers or officers shall be considered inadmissible; that prisoners shall be treated with common humanity; that personal and family honor and the religious convictions of an invaded people must be respected by the invaders, and all pillage by regular troops or their followers be strictly forbidden.
Considering the marvelous strides which modern warfare has made in the Century, it may appear to some that the universal brotherhood of man is but an empty dream, and that the day is yet far distant when the nations of the earth shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Paradoxical as it looks, we are rapidly tending towards a practical millennium. On account of the enormous expense necessary to conduct campaigns in these advanced stages of equipment, wars are much shorter in duration and more infrequent of occurrence than they have ever been in the history of the world. In fact war has come to be regarded as such a terrible ordeal that it is only resorted to after every avail-able effort has been expended to settle the dispute by arbitration. This method has been gradually growing in favor among all nations, and as a result more than eighty international disputes have been settled by arbitration during the Nineteenth Century. The people of the world have risen up in revolt against the tyranny of needless conflicts, and war is now compelled to give a strict account of itself and to answer a thoughtful and stern challenge for its reason for being.