COMMAND OF THE
See also:term of
See also:naval warfare, which indicates a definite strategical
See also:condition . (For its difference from "
See also:sea-power," see the
See also:separate article on that subject.) The term has been substituted sometimes for the much older " Dominion of the sea " or " Sove- reignty of the sea," a legal term expressing a claim, if not a right . It has also been sometimes treated as though it were identical with the rhetorical expression, "
See also:Empire of the sea." Captain A . T .
See also:Mahan, instead of it, uses the term "
See also:Control of the sea," which has the merit of precision, and is not likely to be misunderstood or mixed up with a
See also:form of words meaning something different . The expression " Corn- mand of the sea," however, in its proper and strategic sense, is so firmly fixed in the language that it would be a hopeless task to try to expel it; and as, no doubt, writers will continue to use it, it must be explained and illustrated . Not only does it differ in meaning from " Dominion or
See also:Sovereignty of the Sea," it is not even truly derived therefrom, as can be briefly shown . " It has become an uncontested principle of
See also:law that the sea,' as a general
See also:rule, cannot be subjected to appropriation " (W . E .
See also:Treatise on International Law, 4th ed., 1895, p . 146) . This, however, is quite modern .
See also:Great Britain did not admit the principle till 18o5; the Russians did not admit it till 1824; and the Americans, and then only tacitly, not till 1894 . Most
See also:European nations at some
See also:time or other have claimed and have exercised rights over some
See also:part of the sea, though far outside the now well-recognized " three
See also:miles' limit." Venice claimed the Adriatic, and exacted a heavy
See also:toll from vessels navigating its
See also:waters . Genoa and France each claimed portions of the western Mediterranean . Denmark and Sweden claimed to
See also:share the Baltic between them . Spain claimed dominion over the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, and
See also:Portugal over the
See also:Indian Ocean and all the
See also:Atlantic south of
See also:Morocco (Hall, pp . 148-9) . The claim which has made the greatest
See also:noise in the
See also:world is that once maintained by the
See also:kings of England to the seas surrounding the
See also:British Isles . Like other institutions, the
See also:English sovereignty of the sea was, and was admitted to be, beneficent for a long
See also:period . Then came the time when it ought to have been abandoned as obsolete; but it was not, and so it led to war . The general conviction of the maritime nations was that the
See also:Lord of the Sea would provide for the
See also:police of the waters over which he exercised dominion . In
See also:rude ages when men, like the ancients, readily " turned them-selves to piracy," this was of immense importance to
See also:trade; and, far from the right of dominion being disputed by foreigners, it was insisted upon by them and declared to carry with it certain duties . In 1299, not only English merchants, but also " the maritime
See also:people of Genoa,
See also:Catalonia, Spain, Germany, Zealand,
See also:Holland, Frisia, Denmark, Norway and several other places of the empire " declared that the kings of England had from time immemorial been in " peaceable possession of the
See also:sovereign lordship of the seas of England," and had done what was " needful for the
See also:maintenance of peace, right and
See also:equity between people of all sorts, whether subjects of another
See also:kingdom or not, who pass through those seas " (J .
K . Laughton," Sovereignty of the Sea," FortnightlyReview,
See also:August 1866) . The English sovereignty was not exercised as giving authority to exact toll . All that was demanded in return for keeping the sea safe for peaceful
See also:traffic was a salute, enforced no doubt as a formal
See also:admission of the right which permitted the (on the whole, at any
See also:rate) effective police of the waters to be maintained . The Dutch in the 17th century objected to the demand for this salute . It was insisted upon . War ensued; but in the end the Dutch acknowledged by
See also:treaties their
See also:obligation to render the salute . The time for exacting it, however, was really past . S . R .
See also:Gardiner (" The First Dutch War,"
See also:Navy Records, vol. xiii., 1899) maintains that though the " question of the
See also:flag" was the occasion, it was not the cause of the war . There was not much, if any, piracy in the English Channel which the
See also:king of England was specially called upon to suppress, and if there had been the
See also:merchant vessels of the age were generally able to defend themselves, while if they were not their governments possessed force enough to give them the necessary
See also:protection .
Great Britain gave up her claim to exact the salute in 18o5 . The
See also:necessity of the foregoing
See also:short account of the " Sovereignty or Dominion of the Seas " will be apparent as soon as we come to the
See also:consideration of the first struggle, or rather series of struggles, for the command of the sea . Gaining this was the result of England's
See also:wars with the Dutch in the 17th century . At the time of the first Dutch war, 1652-54, and probably of the later wars also, many people, and especially
See also:seamen, believed that the conflict was due to a determination on her part to retain, and on that of the Dutch to put an end to, the English sovereignty or dominion . The obstinacy of the Different from sovereignty or dominion, &a Attempts , to gain command . Dutch in objecting to pay the old-established mark of respect to the English flag was quite reason enough in the eyes of most Englishmen, and probably of most Dutchmen also, to justify hostilities which other reasons may have rendered inevitable . The remarkable thing about the Dutch wars is that in reality what England gained was the possibility of securing an absolute command of the sea . She came out of the struggle a great, and in a
See also:fair way of becoming the greatest, naval power . It is this which prompted
See also:Admiral P . H .
See also:Colomb to hold that there are various kinds of command, such as " absolute or assured," " temporary," " with definite ulterior purpose," &c . An explanation that would make all these terms intelligible would be voluminous and is unnecessary here .
It will be enough to say that the absolute command—of which, as Colomb tells us, the Anglo-Dutch wars were the most
See also:complete example—is nothing but an attribute of the nation whose power on the sea is paramount . It exists and may be visible in time of peace . The command which, as said above, expresses a definite strategical condition is existent only in time of war . It can be easily seen that the former is essential to an empire like the British, the parts of which are bound together by maritime communications . Inability to keep these communications open can have only one result, viz. the loss of the parts with which communication cannot be maintained . Experience of war as well as reason will have made it evident that inability to keep open sea-communications cannot be limited to any single
See also:line, because the inability must be due either to incapacity in the direction of hostilities or insufficiency of force . If Great Britain has not force enough to keep open all the communications of her widely extended empire, or if—having force enough—she is too foolish to employ it properly, she does not hold the command of the sea, and the empire must fall if seriously attacked . The strategic command of the sea in a particular war of
See also:campaign has equal concern for all maritime belligerents . Before Strategic seeing what it is, it will be well to learn on high authority command, what it is not . Mahan says that command, or, to use his own term, " control of the sea, however real, does not imply that an enemy's single
See also:ships or small squadrons cannot steal out of
See also:port, cannot
See also:cross more or less frequented tracts of ocean, make harassing descents upon unprotected points of a long
See also:coast-line, or enter blockaded harbours . On the contrary,
See also:history has shown that such evasions are always possible, to some extent, to the weaker party, however great the inequality of naval strength " (Influence of Sea-Power on History,
See also:London, 18go, p . 14) .
The Anglo-French command of the sea in 1854-1856, complete as it was, did not enable the
See also:Allies to intercept the
See also:Russian ships in the
See also:north-western Pacific, nor did that held by the Federals in the
See also:Civil War put an early stop to the cruises of the Confederate vessels . What the term really does imply is the power possessed from the first, or gained during hostilities, by one belligerent of carrying out considerable over-sea expeditions at will . In the Russian war just mentioned the Allies had such overwhelmingly
See also:superior sea-power that the Russians abandoned to them without a struggle the command of the sea; and the landing in South Africa (1894-1902), more than six thousand miles away, of a large British army without even a
See also:threat of interruption on the voyage is another instance of unchallenged command . In wars between great
See also:powers and also between secondary powers, if nearly equally matched, this
See also:absence of
See also:challenge is rare . The rule is that the command of the sea has to be won after hostilities begin . To win it the enemy's naval force must be neutralized . It may be driven into his ports and there blockaded or " masked," and thus rendered virtually innocuous; or it must be defeated and destroyed . The latter is the preferable, because the more effective plan . As was perceptible in the
See also:Spanish-American War of 1898, as long as one belligerent's
See also:fleet is intact or at large the other is reluctant to carry out any considerable expedition over-sea . In fact, the command of the sea has not been secured whilst the enemy continues to have a " fleet in being " (see SEA-POWER) . In 1782 a greatly superior Franco-Spanish fleet was covering the
See also:siege of
See also:Gibraltar . Had this fleet succeeded in preventingthe revictualling of the fortress the garrison would have been starved into surrender .
A British fleet under Lord
See also:Howe, though much weaker in numbers, has not been de- feated and was still at large . Howe, in spite of the instances. odds against him, managed to get his supply-ships in to the anchorage and to fight a partial
See also:action, in which he did the allies as much damage as he received . There has never been a display of higher
See also:tactical skill than this operation of Howe's, though, curiously enough, he owes his fame much more to his less meritorious performance on the 1st of
See also:June . The revictualling of Gibraltar surpassed even Suffren's feat of the capture of
See also:Trincomalee in the same
See also:year . In 1798 the French, assuming that a temporary superiority in the Mediterranean had given them a
See also:hand on the
See also:water, sent a great expedition to
See also:Egypt . Though the army which was carried succeeded in landing there, the covering fleet was destroyed by Nelson at the Nile, and the army itself was eventually forced to surrender . The French had not perceived that, except for a short time and for minor operations, you cannot separate the command of the Mediterranean or of any particular
See also:area of water from that of the sea in general .
See also:Local command of the sea may enable a belligerent to make a hasty
See also:raid, seize a relatively insignificant
See also:post or cut out a vessel; but it will not ensure his being able to effect anything requiring considerable time for its execution, or, in other words, anything likely to have an important influence on the course of the war . If Great Britain has not naval force enough to retain command of the Mediterranean she will certainly not have force enough to retain command of the English Channel . It can be easily shown why it should be so . In war danger comes less from conditions of locality than from the enemy's power to hurt . Taking up a weak position when confronting an enemy may help him in the exercise of his power, but it does not constitute it .
A maritime enemy's power to hurt resides in his fleet . If that can be neutralized his power disappears . It is in the highest degree inprobable that Great Britain could attain this end by splitting up her fleet into fragments so as to have a part of it in nearly everyquarter in which the enemy may try to do her
See also:mischief . The most promising plan—as experience has often proved—is to meet the enemy when he shows himself with a force sufficiently strong to defeat him . The proper station of the British fleet in war should, accordingly, be the nearest possible point to the enemy's force . This was the fundamental principle of Nelson's
See also:strategy, and it is as valid now as ever it was . If Great Britain succeeds in getting into close proximity to the hostile fleet with an adequate seeking force of her own, her foe cannot obtain command the of the sea, or of any part of it, whether that part be enemy's the Mediterranean or the English Channel, at any rate
See also:sheet. until he has defeated her . If he is strong enough to defeat her fleet he obtains the command of the sea in general; and it is for him to decide whether he shall show the effectiveness of that command in the Mediterranean or in the English Channel . In the smaller operations of war temporary command of a particular area of water may suffice for the success of an expedition, or at least will permit the execution of the preliminary movements . When the
See also:main fleet of a
See also:country is at i°operations . smalier ~' a distance—which it ought not to be except with the
See also:object of nearing the opposing fleet—a small hostile expedition may slip across, say the English Channel, throw shells into a coast
See also:town or
See also:burn a
See also:village, and get home again unmolested . Its action would have no sort of influence on the course of the campaign, and would, therefore, be useless .
It would also most likelylead to reprisals; and, if this
See also:process were repeated, the war would probably degenerate into the antiquated
See also:system of " cross-raiding," discarded centuries ago, not at all for reasons of humanity, but because it became certain that war could be more effectually waged in other ways . The power in command of the sea may resort to raiding to expedite the formal submission of an already defeated enemy, as Russia did when at war with Sweden in 1719; but in such a case the other side cannot retaliate . Temporary command of local waters will also permit of operations rather more considerable than mere raiding attacks; but the duration of these operations must be adjusted to the time available . If the duration of the temporary command is in-sufficient the operation must fail . It must fail even if the earlier steps have been taken successfully . The command of the English Channel, which
See also:Napoleon wished to obtain when maturing his invasion project, was only temporary . It is possible that a reminiscence of what had happened in Egypt caused him to falter at the last; and that, quite independently of the proceedings of Villeneuve, he hesitated to
See also:risk a second
See also:battle of the Nile and the loss of a second army . It may have been this which justified his later statement that he did not really mean to invade England . In any case, the British practice of fixing the station of their fleet wherever that of the enemy was, would have seriously shortened the duration of his command of the English Channel, even if it had allowed it to be won at all . Moreover, attempts to carry out a great operation of war against time as well as against the efforts of the enemy to prevent it are in the highest degree perilous . In war the British navy has three prominent duties to
See also:discharge . It has to protect the maritime trade, to keep open the communications between the different parts of the empire and to prevent invasion .
If Great Britain commands the sea these duties will be discharged effectually . As long as she does that, the career of cruisers sent to
See also:prey on her commerce will be
See also:precarious, because command of the sea carries with it the necessity of possessing an ample cruiser force . As long. as the condition mentioned is satisfied her ocean communications will be kept open, because an inferior enemy, who cannot obtain the command required, will be too much occupied in seeing to his own safety to be able to interfere seriously with that of any part of the British empire . This being so, it is evident that the greater operation of invasion cannot be attempted, much less carried to a successful termination, by the side which cannot make
See also:head against the opposing fleet . Command of the sea is the indispensable preliminary condition of a successful military expedition sent across the water . It enables the nation which possesses it to attack its foes where it pleases and where they seem to be most vulnerable . At the same time it gives to its possessor security against serious
See also:counter-attacks, and affords to his maritime commerce the most efficient protection that can be devised . It is, in fact, the main object of naval warfare . Authorities for the above may be given as naval histories in general, placing in the first
See also:rank the well-known
See also:works of Captain A . T . Mahan, U.S.N . The
See also:book which must be specially referred to is Vice-Admiral P .
H . Colomb's Naval Warfare (3rd ed., London, 1900) . See also the article NAVY . (C . A . G .
SAMUEL SEABURY (1729-1796)
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