Napoleonic Wars navies....

Discussion in '1800-1914' started by Lucky13, Sep 30, 2007.

  1. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Who would you say had the best one? Thinking of ships, weapons, sailors...
     
  2. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    Didn't the RN still rule the waves hands down???
     
  3. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Lucky,

    >Who would you say had the best one? Thinking of ships, weapons, sailors...

    From what I've read, the Royal Navy had the highest level of proficiency, but the French ships were often of high quality as they pioneered scientific approaches to design (opposed to purely artisanal shipbuilding).

    In the old boardgame "Wooden Ships Iron Men", the Royal Navy certainly was depicted as more capable ship-per-ship. However, I remember one game where I discovered that the numerical strength of the French could be used to overwhelm the British in a boarding battle :)

    I assume this was a fluke, or an artifact of the game, but the analogy to the Roman vs. Carthaginian battles with the Romans employing Corvi to fight a boarding battle and thus overcome superior Carthaginian seamanship still gave me food for thought ...

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  4. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    It was the British due to training and weaponry. It was considered that the French built the best ships but the equipment and training was below RN standards.
     
  5. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    actually the Danish fleet was marked pretty high up the ranks with the French, ah but whom could beat Brittania ?
     
  6. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    Nothing could compare to the Royal Navy. The major opposing fleets to the RN were the French, Spanish, Russian, Dutch and arguably the Danish.

    The French were ill-equipped and poorly trained and in general could not compete with the British in single ship engagements. The French tried there best to avoid conflict with British ships. The British blokaded their fleet in ports anyway so they couldnt access the open sea.

    The Spanish were similar to the French but to a worst extent. While like the French they held numerical superiority over the British their ships were old, poorly maintained and their crews quite poor.

    The Russian probably offered the best opposition to the British, but although strains in diplomatic relations were allies with the British for the most part. Britain needed Russia as a trading partner as it supplied Britain with important flax and timber resources.

    The Netherlands and Danish were fairly similar, both were well organised, equipped and well trained navies. However they featured to few a numbers to make a serious challenge to Britains absolute dominance of the sea.

    Nothing could compare to Britains dominance and I think after a while the French realised this and focused almost entirely on its land armies. Britain relied on its navy for almost everything and was a large part of British society.
     
  7. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    An interesting fact about the navies of the Napoleonic Wars is that the RN had one big advantage over the French and Spanish which has not been pointed out yet in otherwise accurate and informed posts. That big advantage was that the RN spent a great deal more time and money looking after the medical and nutritional needs of the crews of their ships unlike the Frogs and the Dons. Consequently their ships were more likely to be manned fully with healthier sailors than their adversaries. As far as naval architecture was concerned the French had a well deserved reputation although the fledgling US Navy surpassed everyone in the design of their frigates of the Constitution type. They could outfight anything they could not outrun and outrun anything they could not outfight.
     
  8. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    Very good post Renrich and spot on. A crew in good health and morale was a very important factor and the British created a spirit that none of the other navies could.

    The US were the only Navy which could really match it with the British, there smaller ships i.e Frigates and Sloops were very well built and the crew fought well. The US were obviously no challenge to British naval superiority and didnt really pose a threat worthy of concern, but they did win a few famous 1v1 battles with British ships, something the European powers could only dream of.
     
  9. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    Renrich as i stated in my previous post the British placed a massive emphasis on their Navy, which helped ensure it was well crewed and equipped. While I dont have the figures atm (ill try get them later if people are interested) the British spent a huge proportion of their budget on the Navy compared to the French and Spanish. The Navy was an important part of british society.:D
     
  10. genkideskan

    genkideskan Member

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    A reenacted broadside showes the effect at an battery deck and the lethalety of the wooden fragments.
    I have manuals which stated that full load 36 pdr. cast iron ball shots penetrate 1,00 meter of oak wood easiely and stuck 6 meter deep in an earth wall.

    Please download the file to your desktop and then open it- directly choose "open" might cause trouble with the media player.
     

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  11. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Thank you Watanbe. I read a book some years ago about the age of fighting sail and it went into great detail about the British efforts at improving the health of their sailors. I believe it was stated that the nutritional and health benefits of the RN even made it easier to furnish crews for the ships as many men did not lead as healthy a life ashore. Also, sometimes the French and Spanish were unable to man all their ships because of a shortage of crew.
     
  12. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    How good were the USN in this period?
     
  13. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The USN was very small during the Napoleonic Wars. It really did not achieve much growth until the Civil War and was not a world power, naval wise until Teddy Roosevelt's presidency about the turn of the century. In the early 1800s our navy was small but with very high quality frigates and sloops of war.
     
  14. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Renrich,

    >As far as naval architecture was concerned the French had a well deserved reputation although the fledgling US Navy surpassed everyone in the design of their frigates of the Constitution type.

    Good point, I forgot US Navy in my post. While the US were quantatively not in a position to take on the British ships-of-the-line in equal strength, qualitatively their frigates (and their frigate crews) were superlative.

    By the way, does anyone remember the old C-64 game "Broadsides"? It was a real-time one-vs.-one simulation of Napoleonic era naval combat.

    An outstanding game, considering the limitations of the medium!

    Lemon - Commodore 64, C64 Games, Reviews Music!.

    Click on the screenshot with the overhead view to get an enlarged picture ... the battery configuration and status of both broadsides was displayed on the right, with the HMS Victory in the example having already lost a 42-pounder on the starboard side due to taking fire. You can also see the status of the rigging ... a couple of holes in the sails so far, but as the battle went on, you'd see yards and masts come down, with the ship losing speed and manoeuvrability as a result. Cannon and carronades, ball shot, chain shot, double shot, grape shot, fire at hull, rigging or crew, critical hits to masts or steering, visible splashes and hits when a broadside was fired, partial and complete dismasting, design-your-own-ship mode, a variety of ships for historical duels ... I loved that game. Victory vs. Constitution was actually a very well-balanced battle, with the frigate's manoeuvrability and speed making up for its lighter battery ...

    Only the boarding mode sucked!

    TheLegacy: Game :: BroadSides

    Note the fencers locked in a deadly ... game of paper, scissors, stone :(

    No matter what the odds were, the player who inadvertantly invoked the boarding mode by ramming the opponent would get chewed out thoroughly for as long as the boarding scene lasted - the game couldn't be aborted or continued when a boarding battle had begun!

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  15. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    As Renrich said, the US Navy had excellent ships and performed very well in small ship vs ship action. They never had the amount of vessels to offer any challenge to the RN. American frigates and sloops achieve a number of excellent victories against the British.

    Another thing the USN didnt have at the time was ships of the line. While largely useless are rarely engagned in fighting these were important in dominating the sea. A powerful fleet led by ships of the line would ensure superiority. The British victory at Trafalgar assured Britain dominance of the sea for a long time.


    Ive got some stats for Britains naval spending from Hornblowers Navy...Life at Sea in the Age of Nelson by Steve Pope...very good book

    "Britain spent an average of 30 million pounds per annum on the Navy in the 22 years of war after 1793. This ammounted to 15% of British governments anuual expenditure by 1814. The prussian government only spent a total of some 6 million pounds each year."
     
  16. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    from the same source as above

    This about naval conflict in war of 1812

    "the one really interesting aspect of thie struggle was the battle for local supremacy between British and US Navy light forces- a contest which, intriguingly, the Americans won hands down. Powerful American frigates didnt have it all their own way on the high seas, but light forces on the Great Lakes consistently got the better of comparable British flotillas. Perry's victory on Lake Erie in 1813 was the most comprehensive and famous of several successes, and has was won with a combination of good seamanship and tactical orginality that would mark the US Navy's eventual ascent to World Power status."

    Oh god gotta rest my fingers now, enjoy people!! its a good read
     
  17. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    As it would happen they are stating to prepare for the bicentenary of the war of 1812 and this is a piece out of the local paper about the battle of Lake Erie
    "Throughout the War of 1812, naval superiority was of the utmost importance to the maintenance of supply routes and to the ease of movement of troops and equipment. Not only were the British and the Americans jostling for superiority of shipping on the “high seas” of the Atlantic Ocean but the control of the Great Lakes – most specifically Lake Ontario and Lake Erie – was also of high priority.

    The two Naval Commanders who would face off in the Battle of Lake Erie were Captain Robert Barclay for the British and Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry for the U.S.

    In 1813, both sides were suffering from a shortage of men and ships on Lake Erie. The Americans were building two new brigs at Presque Isle and successfully launched them onto the lake on August 2-4. This gave the U.S. forces naval superiority over the British. This necessitated Captain Barclay’s return to port at Amherstburg to complete his own new brig: the Detroit.

    The supply situation in Upper Canada had reached a breaking point and Barclay was being pressured to engage the U.S. naval forces on Lake Erie in order to relieve the pressure. In consequence of this, and fully aware of his shortage of men, he decided on September 9, 1813 that the…

    “weather conditions would be in his favour so he gamely left Amherstburg in the recently completed Detroit, accompanied by the smaller Queen Charlotte and Lady Prevost and by three armed schooners. The armaments for the Detroit had been lost at York, and in desperation she had been armed with a variety of guns from the ramparts of Fort Malden. Since 17 of these were long guns, they gave her the advantage of being able to fight at a greater range than the American brigs, which only had carronades. Otherwise each of Perry’s brigs possessed a greater armament and he had six schooners to Barclay’s three…Unfortunately for Barclay’s gamble, the wind shifted completely to give the Americans the windward position, or weather guage, and this enabled them to close with their opponents. Barclay opened fire first, around noon, with his long guns…but Perry was able to close with the wind until his carronades could be effective against Detroit. By two o’clock in the afternoon both flagships were badly battered and a seriously wounded Barclay had to be carried below….The remaining British vessels continued an unequal contest for as long as possible, but finally Lady Prevost and the three schooners also surrendered.

    The long guns of the American schooners had been engaged throughout, but Perry’s decisive victory was a result of his larger vessels having closed so boldly so that their heavy carronades could inflict the most damage. British and Canadian casualties were 41 killed and 96 wounded…American losses were 27 killed and 96 wounded.”(Hitsman, p.173)

    The significance of the Battle of Lake Erie was far reaching for such a small action. This battle effectively ensured American control of Lake Erie for the rest of the War of 1812. The control of Lake Erie during the War was important in that is allowed the U.S. forces to retake Detroit and from there to launch an attack on the British near Chatham, Ontario. This action, know as the Battle of the Thames, which occurred on October 5th, 1813, resulted in the death of the Native Chief Tecumseh.

    Tecumseh’s death would break the Native confederacy and have repercussions for the future inclusion of native issues in the peace Treaty of Ghent. "
     
  18. trackend

    trackend Active Member

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    In 1895 the power of naval vessels was demonstrated in the worlds shortest war, The Sultan of Zanzibar declared war on the British. 45 minutes later he surrendered after his armed yacht (The Glasgow) was sunk and his palace had been shot to **** around him.
    In the period of the late 18th 19th century the RN had reached its most effectiveness however the arms race became hugely expensive and by 1900 the requisite that the RN should be able to take on any two combined navies in the world was to eventual prove overly costly and although by 1939 it was still the largest navy in the world it had began an inevitable decline.
     
  19. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    It's difficult to overstate the importance of the USS Constitution to US history. In the early 19th century, the Brits ruled the waves. It was a tremendous boost in American moral and stature to throttle British ships. The Yanks didn't do too well in land battles of the War of 1812 aside from the Battle of New Orleans, the only bright spot for the good guys were sending the Kings Navy to the murky deep.

    Seeing images like this for the Brits must have been tantamount to Americans watching the Space Shuttle explode.

    It was very inspiring to walk her decks in Boston!

    Britannica Online Encyclopedia
    USS Constitution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     

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  20. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Comis, I envy you having been aboard USS Constitution. That is on my list to do along with Gettysburg, Sharpsburg and Manassas. Interestingly the Constitution, since the British had nothing to match her, brought about a ship called a razee where the Brits took a ship of the line, removed the upper deck, making the first gun deck a weather deck and the lower gundeck staying approximated the Constitution. The Constitution was ostensibly a 44 gun frigate but actually usually carried around 50 guns. A two gundeck ship of the line usually carried 74 guns so the Constitution was close in gun power. I don't believe "Old Ironsides" ever fought a ship of the line although she came close to being overhauled one time by several of them during very calm winds.
     
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