On the invasion of Mexico by the United States, the former republic had a large army of tolerably good troops, though badly officered, still worse equipped, and almost destitute of proper military stores; but she was entirely wanting in two important elements of national defence—fortifications and a navy. Her weakness was shown by the rapid and easy conquest of almost the entire country.
We have already remarked that the fortifications of Russia confined the theatre of war to a single point of the Crimea, and limited the military operations of the allies to the prolonged and only partially successful siege of Sebastopol.
Allusion has already been made to the weakness of Mexico, resulting from her want of sea-coast defences, as shown by the war between that republic and the United States. This would have been still more manifest had she possessed any thing like a commercial marine, exposed to capture by our naval forces. As it was, the Mexican war afforded not a single contest between ships and forts, no opposition being made to the occupation of Mexican ports by our naval force. The only coast defence, the castle of San Juan d’Ulica was not attacked, but after the bombardment and capture of Vera Cruz, it surrendered without a blow.
The Crimean war, on the contrary, exhibited in a most marked degree the importance of a well-fortified sea-coast. Notwithstanding the immense force of the combined fleets of England and France, no naval attack was made upon either Cronstadt or Sebastopol, and the large naval force of Russia proved utterly useless as a defence against a maritime descent. There was, indeed, a simulachre of a “naval cannonade” on the latter place on the 17th of October, 1854, intended as a diversion of the attention and strength of the garrison from the land side, where the real struggle for predominance was going on between the besieged and the besiegers. The inutility of this attempt was so manifest that no serious naval attack was undertaken, notwithstanding that the allies were ready to bring to bear upon the antiquated and ill-armed Russian works the most powerful naval armaments the world had ever seen.