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THE INFLUENCE OF
UPON MILITARY AND NAVAL SUPREMACY
BY GEORGE O. SQUIER, CAPT. SIGNAL CORPS, U. S. A.
HE accidental non-delivery of two cable messages from the Minister of Marine (Bermejo) to the Commander-in-Chief of the Spanish Squadron (Cervera) at Martinique, undoubtedly largely changed the whole history of the Spanish-American War.
One of these telegrams informed him of coal supply near at hand, and the other granted him permission to return at once, with his squadron, to Spain.
Admiral Cervera's firm stand against the despatch of the Spanish squadron from the coast of Spain to West Indian waters is heroically and almost pathetically shown in the recent publication, by permission of the Queen Regent, of the official despatches. At Cape Verde, and before and after, by cable and by letter, he points out the unpreparedness of his squadron, and predicts its certain destruction if it proceeds. Knowing his strong views, it is probable that he would have lost no time in coaling and starting back to Spain.
With Cervera's squadron returned to Spain there would have been no Santiago campaign, the Flying Squadron would
probably have been sent to the coast of Spain, and the land operations in Cuba directed against Havana.
Cervera's fleet not eliminated, who can say how long Spain may not have been able to resist, and what additional blood and treasure the struggle may have cost the United States.
The story of the Spanish-American War is largely a story of "coal and cables." That war for the first time demonstrated the dominating influence of submarine cable communications in the conduct of a naval war. As a result of it the principal maritime powers, with colonial possessions, are each at present elaborating their "cable policy," and have awakened to a realization of the fact that reliable submarine communications under exclusive control are not only absolutely necessary, but exercise a dominating influence upon the control of the seas, whether in commercial strategy or in military and naval strategy.
A modern war between two naval powers has reduced itself largely to a war of "coal and cables."
At present the submarine telegraph is
a powerful instrument of war, more powerful, indeed, than battleships. and cruisers, since by its wonderful and instantaneous, communications of thought, it brings distant countries and colonies together in sympathy, which is the only true and permanent tie.
ELÈCTRICITY THE IDEAL MEANS OF TRANSMITTING INTELLIGENCE.
The triumphs of science in the last half century have been nowhere more exemplified than in the enormous strides made in the facility of transmitting intelligence. The mails, the telegraph, and the telephone are civilizing the world. Perfect as is the mail system of to-day, a monument to organization, yet its swiftest messenger-steam is so far outstripped, either on land or sea, by the practically instantaneous electric current, that the tendency, year by year, is to put more of the world's business "upon the wire."
Time has an international money value in trade, and a paramount strategic value in war. The fastest mail express, or the swiftest ocean ship, are as naught compared with the velocity of the electrical impulse which practically annihilates any terrestrial dimension. As the distance increases, electricity surpasses steam in a continuously increasing ratio. A message is to be sent half way around the earth; the minutes required by the telegraph run into weeks and months by the slow process of the mails. Steam time is directly a function of the distance to be traversed, and from the nature of things is twice as long for two miles as for one. If, then, the cable saves six days between Europe and America, it will save more than twice this time between America and the East, and is, from this point of view, correspondingly important and necessary. Since electricity so far outstrips any other known vehicle for transmitting intelligence, it must eventually carry all the most important of the world's information.
Strategy has been defined as "the science of combining and employing the means which the different branches of the art of war afford, for the purpose of forming projects of operations and of directing great military or naval movements; the art of moving troops or ships so as to be enabled either to dispense with a battle or to deliver one with the greatest advantage and with the most decisive results."
It is believed that the more the foundations of successful strategy are analyzed, both as the science of conceiving military plans and as an art of executing the same, the more it will become clear that the strategist who is possessed of the most efficient and reliable means of obtaining and communicating information, both of the enemy and his own forces, will have a paramount and insuperable advantage.
Maritime nations are at present beginning to realize that it is not ships and coaling stations alone which measure maritime strength, but also reliable and efficient means of directing, concentrating, supplying, or withdrawing those ships upon the great chess-board of the
As a means of communication over great distances at sea nothing compares, at the present state of practical science, with the submarine cable. The nation with exclusively controlled submarine. communications, not possessed by an adversary, has an organized service of surveillance which is not only important during actual war, but which may and will prove a powerful weapon in the diplomatic and preparatory conflict which always precedes a declaration of war, and these communications are a means of securing a first real victory, even before war has been formally declared.
It may be said, therefore, that the very foundation of successful naval strategy is efficient and exclusively controlled communications, and the lack of them more serious than inferior ships.
THE IMPERIAL CABLE SYSTEM OF
As soon as the possibility of communicating at long distance, by means of submarine cables, was practically demonstrated, England saw what commercial and political preponderance the creation of a great network of cables, resting under her control, would give her. With out letting herself be discouraged by heavy losses in the beginning, with a perseverance worthy of admiration, she has succeeded in creating and developing, methodically and without delay, a network of submarine telegraphic cables, which to-day encircles a large part of the entire world.
The English cables, up to the present, have been laid principally by private companies, but Article 7 of the conditions which govern them provides that all official despatches shall have precedence over others; Article 3, that the companies can have no foreigners among their employees, nor can the wires pass into a foreign office, nor under the control of a foreign government; and Article 9, that in case of war the government can occupy the different stations and place its own employees therein.
During the past two years, however, there has been a great national protest in England and the colonies against the exorbitant rates imposed by the monopoly of the private cable corporations, until the principle of absolute state ownership has come to be a controlling one in England's future cable policy.
England's sea-power is not alone measured by the number, character, and tonnage of her war-ships. It is immensely increased by the system of exclusively controlled submarine cable network, which at present forms four-fifths of all the cables in the world, woven like a spider's web to include all her principal colonies, fortified ports, and coaling stations.
Submarine cable communication is
scarcely fifty years old, yet the British Empire is already bound together in one vast intelligence, transmission system, with London as its centre. Nothing important can happen in any quarter of the globe which does not find its way to this great world's news exchange-London. And this system is and has been a principal element of her strength and has largely made possible a government including subjects naturally widely differing in character, habits, and modes of thought.
This great cable system is the more important since no other country has such a system, and this fact has placed in the hands of the British Empire a powerful means of real dominion over the rest of the world. Nor is England satisfied with her present extensive telegraph system of world control; she has in projection for the very near future an extension of this system, which will be nothing less than a British imperial telegraph system encircling the entire globe.
It was early discovered by every country in Europe that so efficient and valuable a servant to trade and commerce, so important an aid to the state itself as the telegraph, should become a national institution. Great Britain, France, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium, each established a state telegraph system. Thirty years ago the English telegraph lines were transferred to the state, and experience has shown that this has been done with advantage to the state itself and to the benefit of the public. At the present moment the British Empire is advancing rapidly to the accomplishment of a state controlled cable system. Imperial penny-postage having been recently realized throughout the British Empire, the next great step in imperial development along this line is to connect the stateowned land telegraph systems of the Empire by a state-owned and controlled system of submarine cables.
An essential and necessary condition
which has guided in the conception and realization of this cable system has been that none of the lines shall touch foreign soil. So important has been this principle in the proposed British-Pacific cable that we find Great Britain, for some years past, anxiously negotiating for sovereignty over an insignificant island in the Hawaiian group upon which to land her proposed cable to Australasia; and, failing in this, we find her boldly ready to lay a single span of cable of over 3,500 nautical miles in length from Vancouver to Fanning Island, for the sole imperial reason that the cable shall touch only soil exclusively owned and controlled by Great Britain. This principle will be bought in this case at the price of permanently placing at a disadvantage British cable traffic in the Pacific; since, as will be pointed out later, the United States, by the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands, can reach the East across the mid-Pacific by cables having no single span longer than the present Atlantic cables, and yet adhere to the same principle of landing only on territory belonging to the United States.
England at present has direct telegraphic connection with Vancouver with wires independent of any foreign power. Practically all of the Atlantic cables landing at Newfoundland or Nova Scotia from the coast of Ireland are under British control, and, in connection with the Canadian Pacific telegraphic lines, therefore furnish England with direct communication to the west coast of North America.
The proposed British-Pacific cable has been prominently before the British Government as an imperial measure for a number of years. It has been the subject of colonial conferences and of exhaustive research by a Pacific Cable Commission. Its construction is now assured beyond a reasonable doubt. The route from Vancouver is to Fanning Island, thence
to Fiji Island, thence to Norfolk Island, and from thence by two branches to New Zealand, and the eastern coast of Australia. The land lines of Australia would then complete telegraph connection with the western coast.
In the Indian Ocean it is proposed to connect West Australia to Cocos Island, and thence to Mauritius, and from thence to Natal and Cape Town. Cocos Island is further to be connected with Singapore by a branch cable. Singapore is already in connection with Hong Kong by an allBritish cable. Another branch is also proposed from Cocos Island to Ceylon. At Mauritius a connection would be formed with the existing cable at Seychelles, Aden, and Bombay. In the Atlantic Ocean, in order to avoid the shallow seas along the west coast of Africa, Spain, Portugal, and France, a cable from Cape Town, touching at St. Helena, Ascension, and mid-ocean stations, and extending to Bathurst, which is already connected by existing cables to Gibraltar, has been laid within the last few months. Its construction was hastened after the outbreak of the Boer war to furnish an alternate British route to South Africa by the West Coast. It is further proposed to extend the cable from Ascension to the British Island of Bermuda, perhaps touching at Barbados as a midocean station. At Bermuda a connection would be formed with the cable already existing at Halifax, and that point with the Canadian and trans-Atlantic lines. The extension of the above cables in the Pacific, the Indian, and the Atlantic oceans would involve the expenditure of something like £6,000,000 sterling and the laying of about 23,000 knots of new cable. With the equipment and experience which Great Britain has had in cable-laying, these new cables can be manufactured and laid by England in an incredibly short time, and there can be little doubt but that this extension of British cables, if not along the exact line above specified, yet with slight variations
will be an accomplishment of the near future.
With this extension of imperial cable added to her already extensive stateowned land-line system, England will have the most complete telegraphic system in existence, placing the following fortified and garrisoned coaling stations. in direct connection each with any other, viz.: Hong Kong, Singapore, Trincomalee, Colombo, Aden, Cape Town, Simons Bay, St. Helena, Ascension, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Bermuda, Halifax, Esquimalt, King George's Sound, and Thursday Island. The following "defended ports would likewise be connected, viz.: Durban, Karachi, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Rangoon, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Townsville, Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton, and Dunedin.
With the completion of the cable across the Pacific the last telegraphic gap will be completed around the earth. Great Britain will then have the great advantage of duplicate routes, since from any point there will be two routes—one east and one west-to any other station. PROPOSED COLONIAL TELEGRAPH SYSTEM FOR THE UNITED STATES
Since the events of the SpanishAmerican War the supreme importance of exclusively controlled communications, as a means of military and naval warfare, has been recognized as never before. All the principal nations are studying this subject in its various aspects, and already a distinct cable policy is entering into the politics of the principal countries possessing colonies and seeking for commercial, military, and naval supremacy.
In this connection it may be of interest to note briefly what has been the telegraph policy of the United States in dealing with the territory of our new possessions. In Cuba and Porto Rico, and in the Philippine Archipelago, every effort has been made by the Signal Corps
of the Army to cover the islands with a network of wires, so complete and reliable that intercommunication is insured at all times. In the pacification of Cuba and Porto Rico, in the suppression of the Philippine uprising, it is believed that there has been no more potent agent than the military telegraph.
For years Spain had been trying to pacify the Island of Cuba, and yet her telegraph system was incomplete, obsolete, and unreliable in the extreme. It was possible for bands of insurgents to move about much at their pleasure, appearing here and there, with no means of locating or concentrating for their destruction. It was not that the number of troops was not sufficient, so much as that there were no efficient means of directing the troops in such a way as to make results decisive.
TELEGRAPH SYSTEM IN CUBA AND PORTO RICO.
Since the evacuation of Cuba by Spanish troops the land telegraph system has been entirely reconstructed by the United States Signal Corps, and now aggregates about 2,500 miles, including a central trunk line the entire length of the island, which is duplicated from Havana to Sancti Spiritus. In addition to this trunk line there are thirteen lines across the island, which divide it up into comparatively small sections. Every mile of these lines has been reconstructed, under great difficulties, yet their reliability is evidenced by the fact that the entire Porto Rican Government business, which is now transmitted over the new land lines from Havana to Santiago, was conducted during the month of June, 1900, without a single interruption.
In the Island of Porto Rico every important commercial or military point is in telegraph connection by a system of lines, which have also been entirely reconstructed and the routes improved since the disastrous hurricane of August, 1899.