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Sir James Graham, The Baltic Campaign and War-Planning at the Admiralty in 1854

  • C. I. Hamilton (a1)

The majority of men who held the post of first lord of the Admiralty in the middle nineteenth century were usually of mediocre standard, and in the 1840s, significantly or not, were generally ex-governor generals of India. Sir James Graham was an exception; he had a first class mind and only narrowly missed being prime minister. He was also never governor general, although he must have been offered the post more frequently than any other man of his time! Given the dangerous international situation at the beginning of Lord Aberdeen's ministry, and the importance of naval preparedness and planning, it was plain that an experienced man was needed to head the Admiralty. Sir James was the natural choice. He had, after all, been first lord before, from 1830 to 1834, and while there he had been responsible for radical changes in naval administration. It so happened that his reforms were not subjected to the stresses of a large-scale European war until after their originator had returned to the post of his youth, and it will be the main aim of this paper to study how the reformed Admiralty tackled some of the problems of major warfare, and the way in which Sir James interpreted his powers and duties.

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1 I would like to express my gratitude to Professor F. H. Hinsley and to the members of Dr Kitson Clark and Dr Henry Pelling&s seminar on modern history for their criticism on various earlv stages of this paper. I must also thank Sir Fergus Graham for his gracious permission for me to read part of the Graham Papers at Netherbv. and to quote from them and from the Graham microfilm stored at the University Library, Cambridge. Furthermore, I appreciated the kindness of the earl of Clarendon in allowing me to quote from his family papers.

2 Hansard, Series 3, vol. CXXXVII, col. 263.

3 Graham Papers, held at Netherbv Hall, Cumberland, Seymour to Graham of 12 June 1854, Box in, bundle 14 c.w.

4 Napier Papers, National Maritime Museum, NAP/2, 5 Apr.

5 Warships were at this time still built of wood - even though they were steamers - and protective armour plating had not yet been introduced.

6 Papers, Napier, British Museum, B. M. Add. MS 40024, fos. 159–162. See also Napier, E. H. D.The Life and Correspondence of Admiral Sir Charles Napier.. (2vols., London, 1862), 11, 239. The screw line-of-battle ships, as the name implies, were s rew-driven battleships, that is, thev were steamers.

7 Napier appears to have thought at first of refusing the command because of this. Martin Papers, Add, B.M.. MS 41370, fos. 276–283, report of conversation with Napier of 5 03. 854.

8 Papers, NapierAdd, B.M.. MS 40025, fos. 124–1255, letter of 31 07.

9 Napier had, for example, in a dispatch of the previous month, excused his inaction by citing a letter from their Lordships which stated that he was on no account to attack Sweaborg if it appeared to be a desperate undertaking, B.M. Add. MS 40026, fos. 218–224, dispatch dated 26 Oct.

10 Berkeley to Napier of 5 Nov., Ibid., fos. 237–238. Napier to Graham of 6 Nov., Napier Papers held in the Public Record Office, PRO. 30.16.14, fos. 23–24.

11 Berkeley to Napier of 25 and 27 Dec, B.M. Add. MS 40026, fos. 285–287 and 292a-b. Napier to Berkeley of 28 Dec, PRO. 30.16.14, fos. 95–6.

12 Hansard, Series 3, vol. CXXXVII, cols. 292–3.

13 Niel&s, and Jones&s, plans given in Bonner-Smith, D. and Dewar, A. C. (eds.), Russian War, 1854 (Navy Records Society, vol. LXXXIII, London, 1943), pp. 113–18. Jones&s plan differed in that it contemplated a landing by troops as well as a naval attack.

14 See the Duke of Newcastle to Graham of 30 Aug., Graham Papers on microfilm in the University Library, Cambridge.

15 The French had also sent a fleet to the Baltic - mostly sailing ships of the line. It took little part in the campaign but, in the interests of allied solidarity, a naval attack on Sweaborg at this time needed to be a combined effort.

16 Graham to Clarendon, 30 Sept., Graham Papers, Cambridge.

17 Napier Papers, N.M.M., NAP/2.

18 The most important part of Napier&s printed polemic was Earp, G. ButlerThe History of the Baltic Campaign of 1854… (London, 1857). Earp wrote and edited this under Napier&s occasional supervision.

19 See Lyons to Graham of 18 Oct. and Graham to Lyons of 9 Nov. Graham Papers, Cambridge.

20 PRO. 30.16.13, fos. 310–311.

21 PRO. 30.16.12, fos. 20–23.

22 Graham to Napier, 24 Feb. 1854, B.M. Add. MS 40024, fos. 3a-b.

23 9 Mar., B.M. Add. MS 40024.

24 Memorandum dated 11 June (probably 1853), B.M. Add. MS 41570, fos. 210–239b.

25 Foreign Office to Admiralty, 23 Jan. 1854, forwarding a report from Bloomfield at Berlin dated 12 Jan., ADM. 1 5634.

26 Report contained in PRO. 30.16.12, fos. 95–7.

27 No ire had been seen since leaving Kiöge. Details of conditions taken from ships& logs, ADM. 53. 5371, 5585 and 5195.

28 Bonner-Smith and Dewar, op. cit., p. 50.

29 Dated 2 May, Ibid., p. 51. Graham, one may note, approved Napier&s action (letter of 1 May, Add. MS 40024, fo. 162). But the first lord was then still in a cautious mood, fearing Napier&s rashness more than his timidity, and his private approval, and the official approval which followed it, would have made it difficult to have raised the question after the return of the fleet. Thus it was scarcely touched upon in the quarrel.

30 However the flagship&s logbook shows that there was moderately fine weather from April until the severe fog of May (ADM. 53. 5585).

31 See Sulivan, H. N.Life and Letters of…Admiral Sir Bartholemew James Sulivan… (London, 1896). chs. VI–XI; also the letter of Sir Francis Beaufort (the Hydrographer) to Graham of 23 Feb. 1854, Walker Papers, N.M.M., W.W.L./I.

32 Codrington Papers, N.M.M., COD/113/1.

33 Keppel Papers, N.M.M., letters from the Baltic, H.T.N. 52a. See for example his letter of 17 Oct.; amongst other things he suggested that Napier had been drinking too much. Other, generally similar judgments on Napier and his actions in the Baltic may be found in in Sir Clowes, W. I.The Royal Nary, A History… (vol. VI, London, 1903), pp. 415–18, Lewis., MichaelThe Navy in Transition, 1814–1864, A Social History (London, 1965), p. 116. and Treue, WilhelmDer Krimkrieg und die Entstehung der modenien Flatten (Göttingen, 1954), pp. 110–11. But of these three works, only the first and last deal with the Baltic Campaign in any &. detail, and Clowes&s compendium tends to the descriptive rather than the analytical, whilst, Treue depends very heavily on secondary sources.

34 Bonner-Smith and Dewar, op. cit., 4 Oct. 1854, p. 143. The Lancaster gun was an early form of rifled ordnance; it was ultimately to prove a failure, but much was expected from it at this stage.

35 Also due in part form Napier not inspected Sweaborg properly until September, a delay for which he was correctly criticized,

36 Preston, Antony and Major, JohnSend a Gun Boat (London, 1967), p. 13.

37 gee sir Richmond&s, HerbertNational Policy and Naval Strength (London, 1928), pp. 231–54, for a treatment of some of these reforms.

38 Hansard, Series 3, vol. x, cols. 800–1, debate of 7–8 Feb. 1832.

39 Hamilton, R. Vesey (ed.). Letters and Papers of Sir Thomas Byam Martin… (N.R.S. vols. XXIV, XII, XIX, London, 1901), XIX, 39 12.

40 Hansard, Series 3, vol. CXXVI, cols. 105–6.

41 Graham to Berkeley, Graham Papers, Netherby, Box in, 191.W. Berkeley to Napier, in f PRO. 30.16.14, p. 52.

42 Sir Briggs, JohnNaval Administratiotis… (London, 1897), pp. 36, 42–3.

43 Parliamentary Papers 1861, v, p. 138, evidence of Sir James Graham given before the Is. Select Committee on the Constitution of the Board of Admiralty.

44 See, for example, one of a series of articles by Sir Oswyn Murray on the Admiralty, Mariner&s Mirror, XXIV (1938), 464–5.

45 Hansard, Series 3, vol. X, col. 365.

46 See ADM. 1 5709, Berkeley to the Admiralty of 12 Oct. 1859.

47 9 May 1854, B.M. Add. MS 40024, fos. 183–185b.

48 This paper of course raises the whole question of Treasury control over military expenditure. This cannot be tackled here, but perhaps one might quote Lord Salisbury on; the subject: The Treasury has obtained a position in regard to the rest of the departments of the Government that the House of Commons obtained in the time of the Stuart dynasty. It has the power of the purse, and by exercising the power of the purse it claims a voice in all decisions of administrative authority and policy. I think that much delay and many doubtful resolutions have been the result of the peculiar position which, through many generations, the Treasury has occupied& (Hansard, Series 4, vol. LXXVIII, col. 32).

49 yet this flotillna was not steam powered, and was thus not up to the standards set by the Crimean War. Besides, by late May it appeared to the Cabinet that Sweden would remain neutral, and thus the prospect of Swedish help did not help delay the British programme by much, if at all (Conacher., J. B.The Aberdeen Coalition 1852–1855… (Cambridge University Press, 1968), pp. 423–8).

50 Clarendon to Palmerston, 19 Feb. 1855, Clarendon Deposit, Bodleian Library, C. 131.

51 Gladstone to Graham, 3 Oct. 1854, and the latter&s reply of the 6th, Graham Papers, Cambridge.

52 Richmond was savage about this proclivity, op. cit., pp. 251–2.

53 ADM. 1 5632. Paper of estimated costs submitted by the Surveyor in Sept. 1854.

54 They suffered casualties even though they were not engaged at anything like the ranges their designers had anticipated.

55 Wood to Dundas, 3 July, Melville Papers, Scottish Records Office, GD 51/2/1088/2.

56 Graham to Aberdeen, 27 Dec. 1854, Graham Papers, Cambridge.

57 Marder, A. J.From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow… (5 vols., Oxford University Press, 19641970), I, 402–3.

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