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Encyclopedia > Naval tactics in the Age of Sail

Naval tactics in the Age of Sail were used from the early 1600s when sailing ships replaced oared galleys to the 1860s when steam-powered ironclad warships rendered sailing line of battle ships obsolete. Naval tactics is the collective name for methods of engaging and defeating an enemyship or fleet in battle at sea, the naval equivalent of military tactics on land. ... The age of sail is the period in which international trade and naval warfare were both dominated by sailing ships. ... November 5, 1605 â€” The Gunpowder Plot to blow up the British Parliament. ... Traditional wooden cutter under sail. ... A French galley and Dutch men-of-war off a port by Abraham Willaerts, painted 17th century. ... A steam engine is a heat engine that makes use of the potential energy that exists as pressure in steam, converting it to mechanical work. ... Ironclad warships, frequently shortened to just ironclads, were ships sheathed with thick iron plates for protection. ... Diagrams of first and third rate warships, England, 1728 Cyclopaedia. ... British and Danish ships in line of battle at the Battle of Copenhagen (1801). ...

Contents

Sailing tactics

Naval tactics in the Age of Sail were primarily determined by the sailing and fighting qualities of the sailing warships of the time. Three factors, in particular, constrained what a sailing admiral could order his fleet to do. The age of sail is the period in which international trade and naval warfare were both dominated by sailing ships. ... Traditional wooden cutter under sail. ... Traditional wooden cutter under sail. ... Diagrams of first and third rate warships, England, 1728 Cyclopaedia. ... Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. ...

  • The first constraint was that, like all sailing vessels, sailing warships cannot sail directly into the wind. Most could sail not much closer than 70 degrees off the wind. This limited the maneuverability of a fleet during battles at close quarters.
  • The second constraint was that the ships of the time carried their guns in two large batteries, one on each broadside, with only a few mounted to fire directly ahead or astern. The sailing warship was immensely powerful on its sides, but very weak on its bow and stern. The sides of the ship were built with strong timbers, but the stern, in particular, was fragile with a flimsy structure round the large windows of the officers’ cabins. The bows and, particularly, the sterns of the ship were vulnerable to raking fire. Raking another ship by firing the length of a ship from either the bow or stern caused tremendous damage, because a single shot would fly down the length of the decks, while the ship being raked could not return fire with her broadsides.
  • The third constraint was the difficulty of communicating at sea. Written communication was almost impossible in a moving fleet, while hailing was extremely difficult above the noise of wind and weather. So admirals were forced to rely on a pre-arranged set of signal flags hoisted aboard the admiral's flagship. In the smoke of battle, these were often hard or impossible to see.

The 15th century saw the development of the man-of-war, a truly ocean-going warship, carrying square-rigged sails that permitted tacking into the wind, and heavily armed with cannon. The man-of-war eventually rendered the galley obsolete except for operations close to shore in calm weather. With the development of the sailing man-of-war, and the beginning of the great sailing fleets capable of keeping the sea for long periods together, came the need for a new adaptation of old principles of naval tactics. Traditional wooden cutter under sail. ... Wind, tacuinum sanitatis casanatensis (XIV century) Wind is the rough horizontal movement of air (as opposed to an air current) caused by uneven heating of the Earths surface. ... USS Iowa Broadside (1984) A broadside is the side of a ship; the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their simultaneous (or near simultaneous) fire in naval warfare. ... French frigate Poursuivante firing raking fire on a British ship of line In naval warfare, raking fire is fire along the long axis of an enemy ship. ... The system of international maritime signal flags is a way of representing individual letters of the alphabet in signals to or from ships. ... A flagship is the ship used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships. ... (14th century - 15th century - 16th century - other centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 15th century was that century which lasted from 1401 to 1500. ... A man of war (also man-of-war, man-o-war or simply man) is an armed naval vessel. ... A small cannon on a carriage, Bucharest. ... A man of war (also man-of-war, man-o-war or simply man) is an armed naval vessel. ... Traditional wooden cutter under sail. ... Naval tactics is the collective name for methods of engaging and defeating an enemyship or fleet in battle at sea, the naval equivalent of military tactics on land. ...


A ship which depended on the wind for its motive power could not hope to ram. A sailing vessel could not ram unless she were running before a good breeze. In a light wind her charge would be ineffective, and it could not be made at all from leeward. It could still board, and the Spanish did for long make it their main object to run their bow over an enemy’s sides, and invade his deck. In order to carry out this kind of attack they would naturally try to get to windward and then bear down before the wind in line abreast ship upon ship. But an opponent to leeward could always baffle this attack by edging away, and in the meantime fire with his broadside to cripple his opponent’s spars.

A Spanish Galleon. ... A Spanish Galleon. ... (15th century - 16th century - 17th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 16th century was that century which lasted from 1501 to 1600. ... A Spanish galleon A galleon was a large, multi-decked sailing ship used primarily by the nations of Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries. ...

Line of battle

Main article: Line of battle British and Danish ships in line of battle at the Battle of Copenhagen (1801). ...

A French galley and Dutch man-of-war off a port by Abraham Willaerts, painted 17th century.

The evolution of broadside cannon during the first half of the 17th century soon led to the conclusion that the fleet had to fight in a single line to make the maximum use of its firepower without one ship getting in the way of another. Image File history File links Abraham_Willaerts,_Galley_and_men_of_war. ... Image File history File links Abraham_Willaerts,_Galley_and_men_of_war. ... A French galley and Dutch men-of-war off a port by Abraham Willaerts, painted 17th century. ... A French galley and Dutch men-of-war off a port by Abraham Willaerts, painted 17th century. ... (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ... A small cannon on a carriage, Bucharest. ... (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ...


The line of battle is traditionally attributed to the navy of the Commonwealth of England and especially to General at Sea Robert Blake who wrote the Sailing and Fighting Instructions of 1653. The first documented deliberate use seems to be somewhat earlier in the Action of 18 September 1639 by Dutch Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp against the Spanish. The tactic was used by both sides in the Anglo-Dutch Wars, and was codified in written 'fighting instructions'. These formed the basis of the whole tactical system of the 17th and 18th centuries in naval warfare. British and Danish ships in line of battle at the Battle of Copenhagen (1801). ... The multinational Combined Task Force One Five Zero (CTF-150) The British Grand Fleet, the supreme naval force of World War I A rare occurrence of a 5-country multinational fleet, during Operation Enduring Freedom in the Oman Sea. ... Motto: PAX QUÆRITUR BELLO ( English: Peace is sought through war) Anthem: Multiple unofficial anthems Capital London Largest city London Official language(s) English Government Republic  - Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell [of Commonwealth]    - by Rump_Parliament AD May 19, 1649  Area    - Total 130,395 km²   50,346 sq mi  Currency Pound sterling... There have been several notable individuals with the name Robert Blake: Robert Blake (admiral) (1599 - 1657) Robert Blake, Baron Blake (1916-2003), British historian Robert Blake (actor), (born 1933), of TVs Baretta Robert Blake (management), developed the Managerial Grid Model. ... This battle took place between 17 and 19 September 1639 when a Dutch squadron under Maarten Tromp and Witte Corneliszoon de With met with a much larger but poorly led Spanish fleet under Antonio DOquendo consisting of 40 to 45 men-of-war and 40 to 50 transport vessels... Image:Marten Harpertszoon Tromp. ... The painting Dutch attack on the Medway, June 1667 by Pieter Cornelisz van Soest, painted c. ...


One consequence of the line of battle was that a ship had to be strong enough to stand in it. In the old type of mêlée battle a small ship could seek out an opponent of her own size, or combine with others to attack a larger one. As the line of battle was adopted, navies began to distinguish between vessels that were fit to form parts of the line in action, and the smaller ships that were not. By the time the line of battle was firmly established as the standard tactical formation during the 1660s, merchant ships and lightly armed warships became less able to sustain their place in a pitched battle. In the line of battle, each ship had to stand and fight the opposing ship in the enemy line, however powerful she might be. The purpose-built ships powerful enough to stand in the line of battle came to be known as a ship of the line. British and Danish ships in line of battle at the Battle of Copenhagen (1801). ... Cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship that carries goods and materials from one port to another. ... Ships of the line were 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-rated ships in the rating system of the Royal Navy. ...


Importance of the weather gage

Holding the weather, or windward, gage conferred several important tactical advantages. The admiral holding the weather gage held the tactical initiative, able to accept battle by bearing down on his opponent or to refuse it, by remaining upwind. The fleet with the lee gage could avoid battle by withdrawing to leeward, but could not force action. Even retreating downwind could be difficult once two fleets were at close quarters because the ships risked being raked as they turned downwind. A second disadvantage of the leeward gage was that in anything more than a light wind, a sailing ship that is sailing close hauled (or beating) will heel to leeward under the pressure of the wind on its sails. The ships of a fleet on the leeward gage heel away from their opponents, exposing part of their bottoms to shot. If a ship is penetrated in an area of the hull that is normally under water, she is then in danger of taking on water or even sinking when on the other tack. This is known as "hulled between wind and water". Finally, smoke from the gunfire of the ships to windward would blow down on the fleet on the leeward gage. So it was common for battles to involve days of manoeuvring as one admiral strove to take the weather gage from his opponent in order to force him to action, as at the battles of Ushant (1778), St Lucia Channel (1780) and the First of June (1794). The Battle of Ushant (or First Battle of Ushant) took place on 27 July 1778 during the American War of Independence, fought between French and British fleets 100 miles west of Ushant, a French island at the mouth of the English Channel off the north-westernmost point of France. ... The Glorious First of June (also known as the Third Battle of Ushant and in French as the Bataille du 13 prairial an 2) was a naval battle fought in the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 1794 between the Royal Navy and the navy of Revolutionary France. ...


Only in heavy weather could the windward gage become a disadvantage, because the lower gun ports on the leeward side of a ship would be awash, preventing her from opening her lower-deck ports to use the guns – or risking being swamped if she did. So, in strong winds, a ship attacking from windward would not be able to bring her heavy lower-deck guns into action, while the enemy ship to leeward would have no such problem as the guns on her windward side would be raised by the heel. For this reason, Admiral Rodney ordered his ships to attack the Spanish from leeward in the stormy weather at the Cape St. Vincent in 1780. For the battle of the Nine Years War, see Battle of Cape St. ...


Development of tactics in the French Navy

In the French Navy, sailing tactics were developed by the treatises of the French tacticians Paul Hoste, Bigot de Morogues and Bourde de Villehuet, which developed the traditional code of practice and were all translated into other languages. During the 18th Century, French governments developed the strategic doctrine of focusing on the mission, rather than fighting for command of the sea. The French government was often reluctant to take tactical risks to achieve its strategic objectives. The navy was hampered by the timidity of its orders. French fleets and squadrons typically sought to avoid battle rather than risk a contest with a British force, as De Ternay did in June 1780 on meeting a smaller British squadron under Cornwallis off Bermuda. This strategy had important tactical ramifications. French ships tended to fire at the rigging of their opponents to disable them and allow the French ships to escape and continue with their mission. French ships typically fired their broadsides on the upward roll of the ship, disabling their opponents but doing little damage to the enemy ships or their crews. This was compounded by the French tendency to fight from the leeward gage, causing the guns to point high as the ships heeled with the wind. British and Dutch ships, by contrast, tended to use the opposite tactic of firing on the downward roll into the enemy hulls, causing a storm of flying splinters that killed and maimed the enemy gun crews. This difference in tactics goes some way to explaining the difference in casualty figures between British and French crews, with French fleets tending to suffer not only more casualties but also a higher proportion of killed than wounded. The French Navy, officially called the National Navy (French: Marine Nationale) is the maritime arm of the French military. ... 1780 was a leap year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... This article needs to be wikified. ...


Tactical stagnation in the mid-18th century

When therefore the conflict came to be between the British and the French in the 18th century, battles between equal or approximately equal forces were for long inconclusive. The French, who had fewer ships than the British throughout the century, were anxious to fight at the least possible cost, lest their fleet should be worn out by severe action, leaving Britain with an untouched balance. Therefore, they preferred to engage to leeward, a position which left them free to retreat before the wind. They allowed the British fleet to get to windward, and, when it was parallel with them and bore up before the wind to attack, they moved onwards. The attacking fleet had then to advance, not directly before the wind with its ships moving along lines perpendicular to the line attacked, but in slanting or curving lines. The assailants would be thrown into "a bow and quarter line" – with the bow of the second level with the after part of the first and so on from end to end. In the case of a number of ships of various powers of sailing, it was a difficult formation to maintain. (17th century - 18th century - 19th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 18th century refers to the century that lasted from 1701 through 1800. ...


The result was often that the ships of the attacking line which were steering to attack the enemy’s centre came into action first and were liable to be crippled in the rigging. If the same formation was to be maintained, the others were now limited to the speed of the injured vessels, and the enemy to leeward slipped away. At all times a fleet advancing from windward was liable to injury in spars, even if the leeward fleet did not deliberately aim at them. The leeward ships would be leaning away from the wind, and their shot would always have a tendency to fly high. So long as the assailant remained to windward, the ships to leeward could always slip off.


The wars of the 18th century produced a series of tactically indecisive naval battles between evenly matched fleets in line ahead, such as Malaga (1704), Rügen Island (1715), Toulon (1744), Minorca (1756), Negapatam (1758), Cuddalore (1758), Pondicherry (1759), Ushant (1778), Dogger Bank (1781), the Chesapeake (1781), Hogland (1788) and Öland (1789). Although a few of these battles had important strategic consequences, like the Chesapeake which the British needed to win, all were tactically indecisive. Many admirals began to believe that a contest between two equally matched fleets could not produce a decisive result. The tactically decisive actions of the 18th century were all chase actions, where one fleet was clearly superior to the other, such as the two battles of Finisterre (1747), Lagos (1759), Quiberon Bay (1759) and Cape St. Vincent (1780). Combatants France Spain England United Provinces Commanders Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, Comte de Toulouse George Rooke Strength 32 warships 6 frigates (3,577 guns) 53 ships of the line 6 frigates 7 fireships (3,614 guns) Casualties Unknown Unknown The Battle of Málaga (or Velez-Málaga) took place... The naval Battle of Toulon or Battle of Cape Sicié took place on 22 and 23 February 1744 (New Style) between 1:30 pm and 5:00 pm in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Toulon, France. ... The naval Battle of Minorca took place on May 20, 1756, at the opening of the Seven Years War in the European theatre, shortly after the Kingdom of Great Britain had declared war on the House of Bourbon, off the Mediterranean island of Minorca between British and French squadrons. ... The Battle of Negapatam was an indecisive battle between a British squadron under Vice-Admiral George Pocock and French squadron under Comte dAché off the Carnatic coast of India near Negapatam during the Seven Years War. ... The naval Battle of Cuddalore took place on 29 April 1758 during the Seven Years War near Cuddalore off the Carnatic coast of India and was an indecisive battle between a British squadron under Vice-Admiral George Pocock and French squadron under Comte dAché. British casualties were 29 killed... The Battle of Pondicherry was an indecisive battle between a British squadron under Vice-Admiral George Pocock and French squadron under Comte dAché off the Carnatic coast of India near Pondicherry during the Seven Years War. ... The Battle of Ushant (or First Battle of Ushant) took place on 27 July 1778 during the American War of Independence, fought between French and British fleets 100 miles west of Ushant, a French island at the mouth of the English Channel off the north-westernmost point of France. ... The naval Battle of the Dogger Bank took place on 5 August 1781 during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, part of the American War of Independence, in the North Sea. ... Combatants France Britain Commanders Comte de Grasse Thomas Graves Strength 24 ships 19 ships Casualties none some ships damaged The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as Battle of the Virginia Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American Revolutionary War which took place near the mouth of Chesapeake... Combatants Sweden Russia Commanders Prince Karl, Duke of Södermanland Samuel Greig Strength 15 ships of the line 17 ships of the line Casualties {{{notes}}} The naval Battle of Hogland took place on 17 July (July 6 OS) 1788 during the Russo-Swedish War (1788-1790). ... The naval Battle of Öland occurred on 1 June 1676 south off the island of Öland in the Baltic Sea. ... Combatants France Britain Commanders Comte de Grasse Thomas Graves Strength 24 ships 19 ships Casualties none some ships damaged The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as Battle of the Virginia Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American Revolutionary War which took place near the mouth of Chesapeake... The naval Battle of Lagos took place on 19 August 1759 during the Seven Years War off the coasts of Spain and Portugal, and is named after Lagos, Portugal. ... The naval Battle of Quiberon Bay took place on 20 November 1759 during the Seven Years War in Quiberon Bay, off the coast of France near St. ... For the battle of the Nine Years War, see Battle of Cape St. ...


British naval innovation was retarded by an unseemly dispute between two Admirals in the aftermath of the Battle of Toulon. The British fleet under Admiral Thomas Mathews had been unable to draw level with the French fleet, and Mathews ordered an attack anyway, intending all the British ships to attack the French rear. He had no signals by which he could communicate his intentions, and the rear squadron under Vice Admiral Lestock, his rival and second-in-command, obtusely remained at the prescribed intervals in line ahead, far to the rear of the action. The naval Battle of Toulon or Battle of Cape Sicié took place on 22 and 23 February 1744 (New Style) between 1:30 pm and 5:00 pm in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Toulon, France. ... Thomas Mathews (1676-1751), British admiral, son of Colonel Edward Mathews (d. ...


Unfortunately, a subsequent series of courts martial punished Mathews and those captains who had supported him in the battle, and vindicated Lestock. In several future actions, Admirals who were tempted to deviate from the Admiralty's fighting instructions were reminded of Mathews's fate. A court-martial (plural courts-martial) is a military court that determines punishments for members of the military subject to military law. ...


Developments during the American war of independence

The unsatisfactory character of the accepted method of fighting battles at sea had begun to be obvious to naval officers, both French and British, by the later 18th century and began to be addressed during the numerous battles of the American War of Independence. It was clear that the only way to produce decisive results was to concentrate the attack on part of the enemy’s line, preferably the rear since the centre would have to turn to its support. (17th century - 18th century - 19th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 18th century refers to the century that lasted from 1701 through 1800. ... The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war fought primarily between Great Britain and revolutionaries within thirteen of her North American colonies. ...


The great French admiral Suffren condemned naval tactics as being little better than so many excuses for avoiding a real fight. He endeavoured to find a better method, by concentrating superior forces on parts of his opponent’s line in some of his actions with the British fleet in the East Indies in 1782 and 1783, such as the Battle of Sadras where Suffren tried to double the rear of the British line. But his orders were ill obeyed, his opponent Sir Edward Hughes was competent, and the quality of his fleet was not superior to the British. Pierre André de Suffren de Saint Tropez (July 17, 1729 - December 8, 1788), French admiral, was the third son of the marquis de Saint Tropez, head of a family of nobles of Provence which claimed to have emigrated from Lucca in the 14th century. ... The Battle of Sadras was the first of five indecisive naval battles fought between a British fleet under Admiral Sir Edward Hughes and French fleet under the Bailli de Suffren off the coast of India during the American War of Independence. ... Sir Edward Hughes (c. ...


Similarly, the British admiral Rodney, in the Battle of Martinique in the West Indies in 1780, tried to concentrate a superior force on part of his enemy’s line by throwing a greater number of British ships on the rear of the French line. But his directions were misunderstood and not properly executed. Moreover he did not then go beyond trying to place a larger number of ships in action to windward against a smaller number to leeward by arranging them at a less distance than two-cables length. An enemy who took the simple and obvious course of closing his line could baffle the attack, and while the retreat to leeward remained open could still slip away. Like Suffren, Rodney was a great tactician, but a difficult man to work with who failed to explain his intentions to his subordinates. Admiral Lord George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, 1719–1792 by Jean-Laurent Mosnier, painted 1791, George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney (February 1718 – May 24, 1792), was a British naval officer. ... Combatants Britain France Commanders Sir George Rodney Comte de Guichen Strength 20 ships of the line 23 ships of the line Casualties The Battle of Martinique took place on April 17, 1780 during the American War of Independence in the West Indies on between the British Royal Navy and the... 1780 was a leap year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ...

Rodney's success in breaking the French line brought on a decisive engagement at the Battle of the Saintes

At the Battle of the Saintes on the 12th of April 1782, Rodney was induced, by a change in the wind and the resulting disorder in the French line, to break his own line and pass through the enemy line. The effect was decisive. The guns of the British ships were concentrated on a handful of French ships as the British broke through the French line in three places, and the tactical cohesion of the French fleet was destroyed. By the end of the battle, Rodney had taken the French flagship and four other ships. The successful result of this departure from the old practice of keeping the line intact throughout the battle ruined the moral authority of the orthodox system of tactics. The Battle of the Saints, 12 April 1782: surrender of the Ville de Paris by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1783 The two-dimensional work of art depicted in this image is in the public domain in the United States and in those countries with a copyright term of life of the... The Battle of the Saints, 12 April 1782: surrender of the Ville de Paris by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1783 The two-dimensional work of art depicted in this image is in the public domain in the United States and in those countries with a copyright term of life of the... The Battle of the Saintes, 12 April 1782: surrender of the Ville de Paris by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1783, shows Hoods Barfleur, centre, attacking the French flagship Ville de Paris, right. ... The Battle of the Saintes, 12 April 1782: surrender of the Ville de Paris by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1783, shows Hoods Barfleur, centre, attacking the French flagship Ville de Paris, right. ... 1782 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... Admiral Lord George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, 1719–1792 by Jean-Laurent Mosnier, painted 1791, George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney (February 1718 – May 24, 1792), was a British naval officer. ... A flagship is the ship used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships. ...


Sir John Clerk of Eldin

The inconclusive results of so many battles at sea interested Sir John Clerk of Eldin (1728-1812), a gentleman of the Scottish Enlightenment, illustrator of geologist James Hutton's Theory of the Earth, and great-uncle of James Clerk Maxwell. He began developing a series of speculations and calculations which he intially published in pamphlets, distributing them among naval officers, and published in book form as An Essay on Naval Tactics in 1790, 1797 and 1804. John Clerk can refer to several notable people, including: John Clerk, former bishop of Bath and Wells. ... The Scottish Enlightenment was a period of intellectual ferment in Scotland, running from approximately 1740 to 1800. ... James Hutton, painted by Abner Lowe. ... James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was an important mathematician and theoretical physicist. ...


The hypothesis which governs all Clerk’s demonstrations was that as the British navy was superior in gunnery and seamanship to their enemy, it was in their interest to produce a mêlée. He advanced various ingenious suggestions for concentrating superior forces on parts of the enemy’s line – by preference on the rear, since the centre must lose time in turning to its support.


They are all open to the criticism that an expert opponent could find an answer to each of them. But that must be always the case, and victory is never the fruit of a skilful movement alone, but of that superiority of skill or of moral strength which enables one combatant to forestall or to crush another by more rapid movement or greater force of blow. Clerk’s theories had at least this merit that they must infallibly tend to make battles decisive by throwing the combatants into a furious mingled strife.


Technical innovations in the late 18th Century

By the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, a series of technical innovations first introduced during the American War of Independence had combined to give the British fleet a distinct superiority over the ships of the French and Spanish navies. These innovations were: Combatants Great Britain Austria Prussia Spain Russian Empire Sardinia France The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, beginning in 1792 and lasting until the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states. ... 1793 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war fought primarily between Great Britain and revolutionaries within thirteen of her North American colonies. ...

  • 1) The carronade. The carronade was a short-barrelled gun which threw a heavy ball developed by the Carron Company, a Scottish ironworks, in 1778. Because of irregularities in the size of cannon balls and the difficulty of boring out gun barrels there was usually a considerable gap between the ball and the bore - often as much as a quarter of an inch - with a consequent loss of efficiency. This gap was known as the "windage". The manufacturing practices introduced by the Carron Company reduced the windage considerably, enabling the ball to be fired with less powder and hence a smaller and lighter gun. The carronade was half the weight of an equivalent long gun, but could throw a heavy ball over a limited distance. The light weight of the carronade meant that the guns could be added to the forecastle and quarterdeck of frigates and ships of the line, increasing firepower without affecting the ship’s sailing qualities. Its high velocity at close range gave the carronade exceptional penetrating power. It became known as the “Smasher” and gave ships armed with carronades a great advantage at short range.
  • 2) The flintlock. Flintlock firing mechanisms for cannon were suggested by Captain Sir Charles Douglas and introduced during the American War of Independence in place of the traditional matches. Flintlocks enabled a higher rate of fire and greater accuracy as the gun captain could choose the exact moment of firing.
  • 3) A wider field of fire. By the simple expedient of attaching the gun ropes at a greater distance from the gunports, the British gunnery innovator Captain Sir Charles Douglas increased the range through which each cannon could be traversed, increasing the ship’s field of fire. The new system was first tested at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782, where the Duke, Formidable and Arrogant, and perhaps other British ships, had adopted Douglas’s new system.
  • 4) Copper sheathing. After many trials, copper was found to be a practicable means of protecting the hulls of ships from marine growth and fouling. Copper sheathing delayed the growth of weeds on the hull, improving the sailing performance of ships that had been long out of dock. This had significant strategic as well as tactical implications. Up to 1780, the British, who kept their ships at sea for longer periods had almost always found that the clean French ships were faster and could therefore avoid battle if they wished. The introduction of copper sheathing meant that ships that had spent months on blockade were not necessarily at an immediate speed disadvantage to enemy ships coming freshly out of port.

The carronade was a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, similar to a mortar, developed for the Royal Navy by the Carron Company, an ironworks in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland. ... The Carron Company was an ironworks established in 1759 on the banks of the River Carron near Falkirk, in Stirlingshire, Scotland. ... 1778 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... Two flintlock pistols Flintlock is the general term for any firearm based on the flintlock mechanism. ... Charles Douglas is an indie-rock musician from Dayton, Ohio, born in 1977. ... The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war fought primarily between Great Britain and revolutionaries within thirteen of her North American colonies. ... Charles Douglas is an indie-rock musician from Dayton, Ohio, born in 1977. ... The Battle of the Saintes, 12 April 1782: surrender of the Ville de Paris by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1783, shows Hoods Barfleur, centre, attacking the French flagship Ville de Paris, right. ... 1782 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... General Name, Symbol, Number copper, Cu, 29 Chemical series transition metals Group, Period, Block 11, 4, d Appearance metallic pinkish red Atomic mass 63. ... 1780 was a leap year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ...

Developments during the French Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars

By the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, technical innovations and the disorganization of the French Navy wrought by the revolution had combined to give British ships a distinct superiority over the ships of the French and Spanish navies. Britain had a far larger ocean trade than any of her principal enemies, and a much bigger reserve of professional seamen from which to man her warships. Throughout the 18th Century the French and, particularly, the Spanish navy suffered from serious manning difficulties and were often forced to complete the ships’ crews with soldiers or landsmen. Combatants Great Britain Austria Prussia Spain Russian Empire Sardinia France The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, beginning in 1792 and lasting until the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states. ... 1793 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... A fruit stand at a market. ... (17th century - 18th century - 19th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 18th century refers to the century that lasted from 1701 through 1800. ...


British ships not only had a higher proportion of seamen in the first place, but the long months at sea on blockade or convoy escort gave British captains plenty of opportunities to train their crews. British gun crews seem to have achieved a much higher rate of fire than French or Spanish gun crews, contributing to the much higher casualties suffered by ships from those fleets. The better seamanship, faster gunnery and higher morale of British crews was a decisive advantage that could not be compensated for by any amount of bravery on the part of their opponents. A blockade is any effort to prevent supplies, troops, information or aid from reaching an opposing force. ... A convoy is a group of vehicles traveling together for mutual support. ...


The leading British admirals like Howe devoted their thoughts to how to break the enemy’s line in order to bring on the kind of pell mell battle that would bring decisive results. At the Battle of the First of June in 1794, Lord Howe ordered his fleet to steer through the enemy, and then to engage the French ships from the leeward, so as to cut off their usual retreat. This had the effect of bringing his fleet into a melee in which the individual superiority of his ships would have free play. Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe (March 8, 1726 – August 5, 1799) was a British admiral. ... The Glorious First of June (also known as the Third Battle of Ushant and in French as the Bataille du 13 prairial an 2) was a naval battle fought in the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 1794 between the Royal Navy and the navy of Revolutionary France. ... Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe (March 8, 1726 – August 5, 1799) was a British admiral. ...

Nelson's unorthodox head-on attack at the Battle of Trafalgar produced a mêlée that destroyed the Franco-Spanish fleet
Nelson's unorthodox head-on attack at the Battle of Trafalgar produced a mêlée that destroyed the Franco-Spanish fleet

Throughout the wars, which lasted, with a brief interval of peace, from 1793 to 1815, British admirals like Jervis, Duncan and particularly Nelson grew constantly bolder in the method they adopted for producing the desired mêlée or pell-mell action at the battles of Cape St. Vincent, Camperdown and Trafalgar. The most radical tactic was the head-on approach in column used by Nelson at Trafalgar, which invited a raking fire to which his own ships could not reply as they approached, but then produced a devastating raking fire as the British ships passed through the Franco-Spanish line. Download high resolution version (1200x645, 119 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Download high resolution version (1200x645, 119 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Combatants United Kingdom First French Empire, Spain Commanders The Viscount Nelson † Pierre Charles Silvestre de Villeneuve Strength 27 ships of the line 33 ships of the line Casualties 449 dead 1,214 wounded 4,480 dead 2,250 wounded 7,000 captured 21 ships captured 1 ship blown up The... John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent (9 January 1735-14 March 1823) was an admiral in the British Royal Navy. ... Admiral Adam Duncan Adam Duncan, Viscount Duncan of Camperdown (1 July 1731 - 4 August 1804), born in Lundie, Angus, Scotland, and receiving his education in Dundee - defeated the Dutch fleet off Camperdown (north of Haarlem) on 11 October 1797. ... Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, KB (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805) was an English admiral famous for his participation in the Napoleonic Wars, most notably in the Battle of Trafalgar, where he lost his life. ... Combatants Great Britain Spain Commanders John Jervis José de Córdoba Strength 15 ships of the line 24 ships of the line Casualties 73 dead 327 wounded Four ships captured 250 dead 550 wounded The naval Battle of Cape St Vincent took place on 14 February 1797, near Cape St. ... The Battle of Camperdown, 11 October 1797 by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1798, showing the British flagship Venerable engaged with the Dutch flagship Vrijheid The naval Battle of Camperdown took place on 11 October 1797 during the French Revolutionary Wars, and was a victory for a British fleet under Admiral Adam... Combatants United Kingdom First French Empire, Spain Commanders The Viscount Nelson † Pierre Charles Silvestre de Villeneuve Strength 27 ships of the line 33 ships of the line Casualties 449 dead 1,214 wounded 4,480 dead 2,250 wounded 7,000 captured 21 ships captured 1 ship blown up The... French frigate Poursuivante firing raking fire on a British ship of line In naval warfare, raking fire is fire along the long axis of an enemy ship. ... French frigate Poursuivante firing raking fire on a British ship of line In naval warfare, raking fire is fire along the long axis of an enemy ship. ...


It has sometimes been argued that the tactics of these British admirals were rash and would have proved disastrous if tried against more skilful opponents. But this is one of those criticisms which are of value only against those who think that there can be a magic efficacy in any particular attack, which makes its success infallible. That the tactics of British admirals of the great wars of 1793–1815 had in themselves no such virtue was amply demonstrated at the Battle of Lissa in 1811. They were justified because the reliance of admirals on the quality of their fleets was well founded. It should be borne in mind that a vessel while bearing down on an enemy’s line could not be exposed to the fire of three enemies at once when at a less distance than 950 yards, because the guns could not be trained to converge on a nearer point. The whole range of effective fire was only a thousand yards or a very little over. The chance that a ship would be dismasted and stopped before reaching the enemy’s line was small. The naval Battle of Lissa was fought on 13 March 1811 just north of the Adriatic island of Lissa (now Vis) between a Franco-Venetian squadron under French commodore Bernard Dubourdieu, and a small British force under Captain (afterwards Sir) William Hoste. ...


See also

Naval tactics is the collective name for methods of engaging and defeating an enemyship or fleet in battle at sea, the naval equivalent of military tactics on land. ... Naval strategy is the planning and conduct of warfare at sea, the naval equivalent of military strategy on land. ... Ships of the line were 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-rated ships in the rating system of the Royal Navy. ... It has been suggested that West Indies and Gulf Coast campaigns be merged into this article or section. ...

Sources and references

  • Tunstall, Brian and Tracy, Nicholas (ed.). Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail. The Evolution of Fighting Tactics, 1650-1815. (London, 1990).

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain. Encyclopædia Britannica, the 11th edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...


 
 

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