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"In case signals cannot be seen or clearly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy."-NELSON.
FLEET TACTICS UNDER STEAM.
An assembly of twelve or more vessels takes the name of fleet, and is separated into three divisions, of one, two, or three squadrons each; each squadron comprising not less than four vessels. Thus, a fleet of twelve vessels would be composed of three divisions of one squadron each, and the commanding officers of squadrons would also be the commanding officers of divisions; and so with a fleet of any number of vessels up to twenty-four. In a fleet of this or larger size, the divisions would consist of two or more squadrons each, with the commands thus distributed.
When the centre division has in it an uneven number of squadrons, there will be of course but one centre squadron, commanded by the 7th in command. The 8th in command then taking the next to van squadron. The 9th the next to rear, etc., etc., etc.
The commander-in-chief of a fleet and the commanding officers of divisions, consisting of two or more squadrons each, should have no fixed position, either in line or in column, but be at liberty to move about, from point to point, as the exigencies of service or battle may require. They should ordinarily be found, however, near the centre of their commands.
Commanders of squadrons are on the right of their squadrons, in line, and in the advance, in column, in a fleet in natural order, with the
exception of the commander of the rear squadron, who is on the left, in line, and in column brings up the rear, so that in order reversed, that is with the left (or rear) in front, he leads.
In time of war, each division should be accompanied by a few light-armed vessels of great speed, to be employed as look-out and despatch vessels; and two such vessels should always accompany the vessel bearing the flag of the commander-in-chief.
In order of battle, the reserve-division should, as a general rule, be about one-fourth of the strength of the whole fleet, and be composed of vessels taken equally from the van, rear, and centre divisions. Then, upon a signal being made to the reserve to reinforce the fleet, the vessels of it repair to their respective divisions, and when a particular squadron or division is to be strengthened, the commander-in-chief will signal accordingly.
There are but three formations for a fleet, any. one of which, according to circumstances, and the vessels of which it is composed, may constitute an order of battle, viz. :—
Line (Fig. 1), Column (Fig. 2), Echelon (Fig. 3).