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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
TOULON: A WAR PORT.
"L'EMPIRE c'est la paix," Louis Napoleon said, solemnly, to his nation, on his election as emperor; but that did not prevent him beginning the Eastern war. "L'empire c'est la paix," he repeated, when the treaty of Paris restored peace to Europe. With the same remark, he has accounted for the enormous extension he has given to his land and sea forces since his accession to the throne, as well as the colossal fortresses and ports, which reached their culminating point in Cherbourg. August, 1858, will be remembered in history as the epoch when the first rent was made in the Anglo-French alliance.
But, although Cherbourg is a marine fortress of the first class, protecting with its mighty works the entire northern coast of France, and menacing England's shores, it did not suffice for the hundreds of miles of littoral, and hence the emperor considered it necessary to create a similar place d'armes in the south, adapted to secure French supremacy in the Mediterranean, and offer the southern fleet a safe haven.
There was, probably, another motive at work, which the emperor certainly did not make known, but which is now generally recognised by naval authorities. In spite of its thousands of guns, Cherbourg is not impregnable, as we have been led to believe. Great errors have been committed in the construction of this mighty fortress, principally in the armament of the mole, and the three forts erected upon it. This mole forms the principal line of defence to the roads and harbour. It commands both these inside and outside, as well as nearly all the land forts. But this isolation in the sea, which seems to give the mole its greatest strength, can easily produce its destruction.The mole is armed with 250 guns, but the breadth of the platform is only 30 feet, and there is no space for any other troops than those serving the batteries. Two thousand men are the outside strength it can receive. In addition to this, at high water, men-of-war can lie close alongside. If, then, the attacking force is divided into three squadrons, two trying to force the entrances into the port, while the third, composed of invulnerable block-ships and gun-boats, steers straight for the mole, and boards it, with 8000 or 10,000 men, it is probable that it would fall into their hands. In that case, most of the land forts and the harbour would be exposed. The attacking ships having their rear covered, would, in union with the 250 guns of the mole, speedily annihilate all the enemy's works. As night would in all probability be selected for such an operation, it might be effected with proportionately small loss. Of course, we assume that the French fleet has been previously beaten, and cannot attack our ships in reverse. This May-VOL. CXIX. NO. CCCCLXXIII.
is the true reason, in our opinion, why Louis Napoleon is building such an enormous fleet and concentrating it at Cherbourg, for the fortress can alone be saved by the presence of an Invincible Armada. Whether the French fleet is so, time alone can tell, and, perhaps, sooner than is generally expected.
The Emperor of the French, far too acute to risk all on one throw, selected Toulon as his second war harbour, and it is admirably situated for the purpose. With less bravado, but with equal energy, this renowned port has, during the last few years, been converted into a second Cherbourg, although not possessing any great likeness to that fortress.
Toulon, at present the chief town of an arrondissement of the department of the Var, is situated on the northern shore of a bay, which runs for some distance in a north-westerly direction into the French mainland. To the north, a high chain of hills runs half round the bay; at the south, the entrance to the harbour is protected by lofty promontories from easterly or westerly winds. It is guarded from the south wind by a peninsula running across the entrance, to the north of which are the great roads. Close to the town are two large basins formed by magnificent quays and moles, called the old and new port: the eastern one for vessels of war and merchantmen, the other kept exclusively for the navy, having been greatly enlarged in 1856. The depth of the outer roads is 60 feet, that of the inner roads and basins 30 feet, so that a fully equipped vessel of the line can float at ease in them.
THE HISTORY OF THE TOWN.
Toulon, called by the Romans Telo-Martius, suffered severely from the inroads of the Saracens, and hence its progress, in spite of its excellent situation, was considerably impeded in the middle ages. The old Counts of Provence fortified it, and in the thirteenth century Saint-Louis extended the works. By the sixteenth century the seafaring population had so largely increased that large faubourgs were formed outside the wall. In the reign of Francis I. the population amounted to about 15,000. The landing of the Turks, whom Francis summoned to his aid in 1543 against the emperor and Henri VIII., and who passed the winter at Toulon under the notorious Barbarossa, greatly checked the improvements of the town, but they commenced again under Henri Quatre, who, in gratitude for the fidelity of the population, pulled down the old works, and united the town with the suburbs, which he again surrounded with bastion works. The first stone of this line was laid in 1589, and in 1594 the moles were begun, intended to provide the town with a spacious and secure harbour. A portion of the latter was reserved by Henri IV. as a war port, and he also built an arsenal. With the rapid growth of the French navy, this harbour soon proved insufficient; but though the want was recognised during the reign of Louis XIII., it was only remedied by his successor, or rather by Colbert, who drew up the plan for an extensive naval establishment. Vauban, to whom the task was entrusted, commenced it in 1669, and completed it in his own masterly way.
The progressively increasing population made it from that date most desirable to enlarge the town and the old harbour. Since 1784, the plan has been frequently discussed, but it was not really undertaken till 1836,
being at that time highly unnecessary, for the flourishing town of Marseilles was attracting all the trade, and Toulon gradually sinking as a commercial port. The enlargement of the town, however, was not set about till 1856, and that through the extension of the war harbour, which was disproportionate to Louis Napoleon's rapidly created fleet. While the war harbour formerly could only hold 30 ships of the line, it is now spacious enough for 100. The surrounding works have been pulled down and carried farther out, by which process considerable space has been acquired for the new town.
Toulon has endured repeated sieges, which nearly all resulted unfortunately for the town. In 599 it was captured by the Goths; in 789 torn from the Saracens by Charles Martel, but thrice besieged and desolated by them in 1178, 1196, and 1211. In 1524 it was occupied by the troops of Charles V., under the Connétable de Bourbon. In the Spanish War of Succession it gloriously withstood the siege of Prince Eugène, who, after twenty-four days of heavy fighting with 30,000 men, one-fourth of whom he left beneath the walls, was compelled to retreat. The last tragic event of this nature was the siege and recapture of the city in 1793 by the Republicans, for the Convention behaved with even unusual ferocity. When Toulon surrendered to the English it had 28,000 inhabitants; a short time after our departure the number was reduced to 7000. It has been calculated that about 6000 perished either by the sword or by the wholesale executions of the republicans.
But Toulon has also suffered equally by pestilences, which raged here with unparalleled fury. Since the commencement of the fifteenth century the town has been visited no less than nine times by the plague, the worst being in 1721, the last time it made its appearance. Upwards of 13,000 persons died in Toulon alone, while sixty-three other districts of Provence also suffered from the disease.
The arsenal of Toulon is one of the largest in the world, for it covers about one-fourth the superficies of the entire town, and is so admirably arranged that in five years 21 screw ships of the line have been turned out from it. But this activity has always been perceptible at Toulon. In 1645, the arsenal, which had been considerably enlarged by Richelieu, equipped a fleet of 36 ships of the line, and twenty-five years later another of 42, among them being several three-deckers, and the Magnifique of 104 guns, the largest and finest vessel of her time. In 1856, the arsenal (by which term we mean all the buildings and apparatus required for a war harbour) was very largely increased. The buildings were almost
entirely re-erected, and two new docks formed.
A regular allée runs through the entire length of the arsenal, and the various establishments are built on either side. The eye is first caught by the Pavillon de l'Horloge, in which is the central bureau of the marine telegraph for the arrondissement of Toulon. Through this telegraph the marine prefect is at once informed of everything going on along the whole French coast, and if any vessels of war come in sight. The tower also serves for signalling the vessels in the roads, and to regulate the chronometers, indicating daily the mean time at Greenwich and Paris. From this
tower the best prospect of the arsenal can be obtained, as well as of the basin, which has now a circumference of 42,000 metres, while that of the arsenal is 4000 metres.
To the right of the allée we next notice the rope-walk, which supplies all the tackle of the ships of war. It is 1000 feet long, and covered over, while at the other end a small steam-engine is employed to twist the cordage. In front of these buildings are all the anchor chains of the ships laid up in ordinary, while behind them is the Champ de Bataille, on which stands the Marine Prefecture, and which is employed to exercise all the troops attached to the fleet.
Between the chain-ground and the rope-walk, on the square where the Ecole des Gardes-Marines, established by Louis XIV., formerly stood, a school for warrant-officers and masters (l'Ecole de la Maistrance) has lately been built, in which this important class of sailors receives a theoretical education, more extensive than in any other navy. On the second floor of this building is the library, containing more than 8000 volumes, relating to marine affairs. In a shed attached to the building is a steamengine, employed to raise the water flowing from the town through subterranean canals, and used to fill the reservoir.
To the left of the rope-walk is the great foundry, in which all modern appliances have been introduced. Passing this we reach the mast-yards, large sheds in which the masts, yards, &c., and all the woodwork of the vessels, are prepared. As it is impossible to form the masts of one piece, they are composed of several parts (usually six), fastened together by means of iron rings. The length of the mainmast of a three-decker is 120 feet, and its greatest thickness 4 feet. The length of the mainyard is 112 feet, its extreme thickness 2 feet. The mast-shed was burned by the English in 1793, and has since been rebuilt. In the second floor is the sailmakers' room, where, if you are fortunate, you may see a mainsail being made. It will, possibly, astonish you to hear 1800 yards of canvas are required for this one sail, which is 100 feet broad, 46 feet deep, and weighs 2210 lbs. The flag of a three-decker takes 1100 yards of stuff. Over these rooms are the modelling establishments, where every article employed in the construction of a vessel is previously designed and modelled.
The next object of our visit is the building-yards, of which Toulon now has four. Close to them is the old dock for the repair of vessels. As the Mediterranean is a tideless sea, all the water has to be pumped out of the dock, and this was formerly done by the galley-slaves, but now by steampumps. Behind the building-slips are two pavilions: in one being the bureau of the Direction of the Hydraulic Works; in the other, the shops for regulating the compasses.
Proceeding from the basin to the right of the allée, we pass the ballastground. The ballast is piled up in separate heaps, and is generally made of prismatic pieces of iron, weighing from 100 to 200 lbs Close by is the ground for the water-tanks, which are now always made of iron, as wood was found to occupy too much space. Each tank, according to the size of the vessel, contains from 500 to 2000 quarts of water.
The large, handsome building we next arrive at is the general magazine, or depôt for all the smaller articles of equipment, clothing, &c. This building is admirably arranged, and the greatest cleanliness and order