Warfare in the Atlantic

THE sea term blockade can claim as its progenitor an older military term, the word siege. Siege itself is a form of warfare limited both in conception and application. A general campaign which is being conducted along a broad front often passes beyond some strong and obstinately held position or place. An encircling force is left behind to capture the position in question, either by direct assault or, more probably, by preventing all succor in the shape of weapons or supplies from reaching the beleaguered occupants. Hence, unless the place has been evacuated of its civil population, the hardships of siege fall alike upon them and the fighting forces. Previous to the appearance of the concept of total war, the civil population were usually classed as non-combatants. However, siege was not considered an inhumane practice, even though it entailed general starvation. The besieged always had the choice whether to hold out or surrender.

In its first concept blockade was, like siege, a limited form of warfare. Only those ports were considered blockaded which had to seaward of them a sufficient naval force to prevent safe ingress and egress. A ship attempting to run the blockade was a legal capture irrespective of the character of the cargo carried. But even such a ship was not destroyed unless she first refused to stop. Beyond the limits of the immediate blockaded zone, international law prescribed certain definite rules of procedure covering search on the high seas, to determine the character of the cargo carried, its ultimate destination, and whether it consisted in whole or in part of contraband. The ship was never endangered and the lives of those on board were not jeopardized unless she resisted the legal right of search. A ship was not permitted to be destroyed on the high seas unless it was impossible to bring her into port for legal adjudication. In all cases where a ship was destroyed, every provision had to be taken to assure the safety of

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.