Cherbourg (anc. Cori-allum or Cortallum, afterward Carusbur), one of the principal seaports and naval stations of France, in the department of La Manche, 185 m. W. N. W. of Paris, with which it is connected by railway; pop. in 1872, 37,357. It is situated on the N. shore of the peninsula of Cotentin, at the mouth of the Divette, in the centre of a bay, the extremities of which are formed by Cape Levi on the east and Cape La Hague on the west. The roadstead, in a bay at the N. extremity of a narrow promontory, has been formed by the construction of an immense breakwater upward of 2 m. long, running E. and W., partly across its mouth, and composed of two unequal arms, joined at an angle of 170°, with the opening toward the land. This stupendous work, commenced in 1784, was completed in 1854, at a cost of 67,300,000 francs. (See Breakwater.) The roadstead which it serves to defend has anchorage for 400 large vessels. At each end of the breakwater is an entrance to the harbor 1,000 yards wide. The commercial harbor is at the head of an inner bay at the S. end of the roads, near the mouth of the Divette, and consists of an outer basin communicating with the sea by a channel 656 yards long and 55 yards wide, bordered with long quays, and with an inner floating dock, closed by flood gates.
The military port is distinct from this, and lies on the W. shore of the same recess, facing N. E. It comprises three large docks, viz.: an outer one, 984 ft. long and 754 ft. wide; another on the north, communicating with the former, and closed by lock gates; and a third on the west, larger than either of the others, through which it must be entered. All these have been excavated from the solid rock. The first, the construction of which is due to Napoleon I., was inaugurated by the empress Maria Louisa in 1813; the second was commenced the same year; and the third, called the dock of Napoleon III., built of granite masonry, 1,377 ft. long and GOO ft. wide, was begun in 1830, and opened in the presence of the French emperor and empress, Aug. 7,1858. Its cost was 16,000,000 francs. Brilliant fetes and rejoicings preceded and followed the ceremony, and the occasion was selected for a visit to the works by the queen of England, for the inauguration of an equestrian statue of Napoleon I., and for the opening of the railway from Cherbourg to Paris. There are six smaller docks or building slips connected with the principal basins, and the dock of Napoleon III. has three of its sides grooved with slips for repairing vessels.
These slips, seven in all, are furnished with flood gates, and may be used as dry docks. Surrounding the basins are workshops, smithies, timber yards, a ropery, furnaces, barracks, a powder magazine, and all the establishments necessary for a naval arsenal, the whole shut in by a strong line of fortifications extending from shore to shore. The town and harbor are defended by a series of formidable works commanding every avenue of approach. On the centre of the breakwater is a strong fort, and on each of its extremities is a battery crossing fire with similar works on the opposite points of land, or intervening islands. The shores of the bay and several rocky islands bristle with the guns of numerous forts, so placed as to sweep every part of the roadstead and harbor; while on the land side the town is surrounded by a double line of 14 star forts and redoubts; making a total of 24 regular works of defence, mounting over 3,000 guns of heavy calibre, which have been erected in different parts of this apparently impregnable position.
Cherbourg is ill built, but has fine promenades and a handsome theatre, and on the Place d'Armes is a monument commemorating the landing of the duke of Berry in 1814. It is the seat of many foreign consuls, of a maritime prefecture, of civil and marine courts; has a communal college, a public library, and a library connected with the navy. The chief exports are eggs, butter, and cattle. There are some sugar and salt refineries, and manufactures of chemicals, leather, lace, and hosiery. It is estimated that about one half of the population are employed in the navy yard. - As early as the 10th century Cherbourg was very much frequented as a port. When Edward III. of England landed at La Hogue in 1340, Cherbourg was among the first cities of Normandy conquered by the English. It changed hands several times, until it was finally secured to the French by Dunois in 1450. During the seven years' war the English effected a descent on the coast, took the town, and destroyed all the naval and military works, docks, and arsenals, blowing them up, and burning the lock gates of the harbor with all the vessels in it.
The project of creating at Cherbourg a harbor of refuge for war vessels was entertained by Louis XIV. as early as 1665, and Vauban was commissioned to draft the plans of a series of improvements and defences; but nothing was done till 1739, when quays and two moles were constructed. From that time the works were continued, with occasional interruptions, until their completion in 1865. Nearly $100,000,-000 are supposed to have been expended upon them. Violent storms have more than once destroyed the labor of years. - On June 19, 1804, the engagement between the Kear-sarge and the confederate steamer Alabama took place off Cherbourg, 9 m. from the harbor, which resulted in the destruction of the Alabama. On Jan. 11, 1866, a violent storm stranded 22 vessels in the road, but caused no injury to the breakwater.
Town and Harbor.