The USN vs. the Royal Navy

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Byron Angel
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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by Byron Angel » Mon Dec 02, 2019 5:18 pm

wadinga wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 1:05 pm
Hello Byron,
It is true I somewhat condensed the account of President vs various other ships from the American Battlefield Site but the selection was solely to bring to light that the super/heavy frigates should be accepted as inherently superior to conventional frigates. Is that a point of contention? It should be noted that Guerriere and Java as captured French vessels were lighter in construction than the average British build.
All the best

wadinga
Hi Wadinga,
I'm addressing your post in segments, due to time limitations today -
It is an incontestable fact that the American 44 gun 24lbr heavy frigates were expressly designed to be individually superior to standard frigates of the 18lbr class. As such, it was an important factor in the tactical success enjoyed by these ships. However, other factors played an important role as well. Being so few in number, it was possible to amply man them with picked crews and officers for any given foray. The luxury of being able to choose one's moment also meant that time was normally available to intensively drill the crews beforehand - particularly in terms of gunnery, which was brought to a high standard (something that the RN had not faced since fighting the French and Dutch in the War of the American Revolution). As well, any American ship that left port on a war cruise did so in tip-top condition.

On the other hand, it is a fact that RN crew quality, particularly in gunnery skills, had become somewhat spotty in the decade after Trafalgar. I attribute this to the RN's massive expansion of the numbers of frigates and coastal cruisers in commission; the steady reductions in authorized crew strengths is telling as well. Even Great Britain's great manpower pool had its limit. A number of these lesser quality ships were sent to secondary theaters of war like the American coast. Just to be clear - I do not by any means argue that the RN was in comprehensive qualitative decline, only that it was definitely fraying at the edges as a result of its massive expansion

BRgds / Byron

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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by wadinga » Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:15 pm

Hello Byron,

Would it be fair to say that rather than
the American 44 gun 24lbr heavy frigates were expressly designed to be individually superior to standard frigates of the 18lbr class.
USS Constitution was actually deploying only 30 long barrel 24 pdrs because her other 22 guns were 32 pdr carronades, not to mention an additional 2/4 bow and chase guns making a total of 58/60 heavy weapons?

Although British ships like Guerriere also had carronades, the bombardment from 24pdrs at ranges where their 18pdrs were largely ineffective often led to disabling of masts and rigging early on allowing the super frigate to close in on bearings where most surviving armament would not bear.

As for "spotty gunnery skills" even Java with a large proportion of largely untrained landsmen aboard managed to shoot away Constitution's wheel and wound Bainbridge early on, but once again the British ship was dismasted and "Old Ironsides" closed in to rake her enemy into submission with her much heavier armament.

American Battlefield Trust describes the Shannon vs Chesapeake duel thus, and echoes something of your point:
The Royal Navy’s crew’s had suffered during the Napoleonic Wars, and were not of the same quality that they used to be, with this in mind Lawrence expected to overpower Shannon despite their equal size and armament. The Shannon’s crew and Captain, however, were not average British sailors. Broke was a superlative officer, and a master of naval gunnery, who drilled his crew into an excellent force. Lawrence, on the other hand, had some experienced crewmen, but many had not fought together or onboard Chesapeake before.
HMS Endymion, although an older vessel, was renowned in the RN for fast sailing and she deployed 24 pdrs too (Broadside weight 641 lb (291 kg) to President's 816 lb (370 kg) ) so she left her slower sisters behind, and took on the super frigate alone. It remains to be proved whether she defeated the larger vessel single-handed or merely disabled her so badly she could not escape the rest of the squadron.
Unfortunately for Macedonian, United States was a 44-gun heavy frigate, and her broadside was 864 pounds of metal, versus Macedonian's 528 pounds. USS United States hove round, turning downwind and making HMS Macedonian chase her. Within a few minutes of closing, fire from United States's 24-pounder cannons brought down all three of Macedonian's masts, and riddled the hull. United States then pulled away temporarily, leaving Carden and Hope time to contemplate their lack of options. Finally, with United States preparing to rake the British vessel again, Carden struck his colors, making Macedonian the second Royal Navy vessel to surrender to the Americans during the war
There is no doubt these victories were extremely popular at the time with the fledgling nation, made against the most powerful navy in the world, and remain a matter of deep national pride, but we must surely take a more rational view, and accept that larger, more robustly-built ships with superior armament are likely to win more often. Also the fuss made at the time had the advantage of downplaying unfortunate matters like having the White House burned down.

The brave men who manned and fought those ships were equal in most respects, sometimes even serving against their countrymen, British-born in American ships and 10 Americans in Guerriere. The excellence of US seamen and the unwarranted impressment of them into the RN was one of the Causus Belli.

Luckily we live in happier times. Just been watching a documentary with a US tanker RASing HMS Queen Elizabeth on the edge of a hurricane.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by Byron Angel » Tue Dec 03, 2019 1:18 pm

wadinga wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:15 pm
Hello Byron,

Would it be fair to say that rather than
the American 44 gun 24lbr heavy frigates were expressly designed to be individually superior to standard frigates of the 18lbr class.
USS Constitution was actually deploying only 30 long barrel 24 pdrs because her other 22 guns were 32 pdr carronades, not to mention an additional 2/4 bow and chase guns making a total of 58/60 heavy weapons?

Although British ships like Guerriere also had carronades, the bombardment from 24pdrs at ranges where their 18pdrs were largely ineffective often led to disabling of masts and rigging early on allowing the super frigate to close in on bearings where most surviving armament would not bear.
>>>>> While I will not dispute the fact that a 24lbr long gun was ballistically superior to an 18lbr, I would think that, at the relatively short ranges most actions were fought at (</= 300 yards?), gunlaying errors were much more important than any intrinsic difference in the accuracy of the respective guns. The massive aloft damage to rigging, masts and sails was IMO a function of the effects of dismantling shot (affective range about 400 yards according to Douglas IIRC). American frigates would often carry prodigious amount of dismantling shot - one source I have come across which detailed the stowage of USS Constitution for a particular cruise claimed that upwards of one-third of Constitution's ammunition outfit was dismantling shot. RN convention was (again IIRC) a stowage of three such rounds per gun, and, at one time during the War of 1812, dismantling shot had been withdrawn altogether. While not intuitively obvious, dismantling shot also materially contributed to the toppling of masts and spars; without intact standing rigging, a lower mast (or spar) alone was severely compromised in structural terms.

As far as the rate "44 gun frigate" goes, its validity was no more accurate than the rate "38 gun frigate"; both were little better than nominal descriptors of a basic design type. The true numbers of guns carried by these ships typically well exceeded their "official" rate. For example, compare the nominal rates of the ships present at the capture of the President to their true armaments:

President (44) - [32 x 24] + [1 x 18] + [22 x 42c] = 55 guns - data per Silverstone
Majestic (58) - [28 x 32] + [28 x 42c] + [1 x 12] = 57 guns - (razeed 64); data per Winfield
Endymion (40) - [26 x 24] + [2 x 9] + [20 x 32c] = 48 guns - data per Winfield
Pomone (38) - [28 x 18] + [2 x 9] + [16 x 32c] = 46 guns - (French prize) data per Winfield
Tenedos (38) - [28 x 18] + [10 x 9] + [8 x 32c] = 46 guns - data per Winfield

- - -
wadinga wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:15 pm
As for "spotty gunnery skills" even Java with a large proportion of largely untrained landsmen aboard managed to shoot away Constitution's wheel and wound Bainbridge early on, but once again the British ship was dismasted and "Old Ironsides" closed in to rake her enemy into submission with her much heavier armament.
>>>>> Java was tactically quite well handled by Captain Lambert, upon whom Bainbridge posthumously conferred high praise in that regard. But, at least according to Roosevelt's "Naval War of 1812", Java's gunnery was apparently not of a high order on the day of battle. In an approximately two hour action, Constitution reported own casualties of 12 killed and 22 wounded from a complement of 475 and had lost no masts, spars or yards. Java had been completely dismasted and her battery silenced; by at least one best effort calculation, she suffered 48 killed and 102 wounded from a complement of 426 (Java had aboard at the time a number of supernumeraries and passengers over and above her own crew)

- - -
wadinga wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:15 pm
American Battlefield Trust describes the Shannon vs Chesapeake duel thus, and echoes something of your point:
The Royal Navy’s crew’s had suffered during the Napoleonic Wars, and were not of the same quality that they used to be, with this in mind Lawrence expected to overpower Shannon despite their equal size and armament. The Shannon’s crew and Captain, however, were not average British sailors. Broke was a superlative officer, and a master of naval gunnery, who drilled his crew into an excellent force. Lawrence, on the other hand, had some experienced crewmen, but many had not fought together or onboard Chesapeake before.
>>>>> Totally agree. Lawrence was IMO shamefully over-confident and paid a heavy price. Broke, on the other hand fought a nearly perfect action with a ship he had masterfully trained and fitted out. I often feel a bit embarrassed that this action is so enshrined in the lore of the USN, simply on the basis of Lawrence's dying admonition "Don't give up the ship." ..... which the survivors nevertheless did anyways shortly thereafter.

- - -
wadinga wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:15 pm
HMS Endymion, although an older vessel, was renowned in the RN for fast sailing and she deployed 24 pdrs too (Broadside weight 641 lb (291 kg) to President's 816 lb (370 kg) ) so she left her slower sisters behind, and took on the super frigate alone. It remains to be proved whether she defeated the larger vessel single-handed or merely disabled her so badly she could not escape the rest of the squadron.
>>>>> Endymion was considered the fastest frigate in the navy and remained so well into the first part of the 19th century. 14.4 knots was claimed for her when she was carrying 18lbrs on her gun deck and 14 knots when carrying 24lbrs. It is worthy of note that her design was based upon lines taken off a French frigate; the French had some very fine naval architects.

- - -

[quote=wadinga post_id=85144 time=1575317727 user_id=157
There is no doubt these victories were extremely popular at the time with the fledgling nation, made against the most powerful navy in the world, and remain a matter of deep national pride, but we must surely take a more rational view, and accept that larger, more robustly-built ships with superior armament are likely to win more often. Also the fuss made at the time had the advantage of downplaying unfortunate matters like having the White House burned down.

The brave men who manned and fought those ships were equal in most respects, sometimes even serving against their countrymen, British-born in American ships and 10 Americans in Guerriere. The excellence of US seamen and the unwarranted impressment of them into the RN was one of the Causus Belli.

Luckily we live in happier times. Just been watching a documentary with a US tanker RASing HMS Queen Elizabeth on the edge of a hurricane.
[/quote]

>>>>> The War of 1812, IMO, was a conflict that the US had no hope of winning and Great Britain no desire to fight. The swiftly negotiated Treaty of Ghent ending the conflict on status quo ante bellum terms is a hint that both sides were happy to bring it to an end.


BRgds / Byron

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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by wadinga » Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:45 pm

Hello Byron,
according to Roosevelt's "Naval War of 1812", Java's gunnery was apparently not of a high order on the day of battle. In an approximately two hour action, Constitution reported own casualties of 12 killed and 22 wounded from a complement of 475 and had lost no masts, spars or yards.
That would be Theodore Roosevelt's 1882 work, on his way to becoming the US politician requiring funds to hugely expand the US Navy in a campaign to become a global superpower? As a super patriot what better way to pave the way than to write emphasising the successes of 1812 whilst decrying the lack of adequate naval preparation. Spend bigger, win bigger. WSC is an interesting part-time historian but one must treat his writings with caution.
All below from Wikipedia
The near-immediate naval build-up in 1897 and early 1898 was due in large part to the bold actions of a capable Assistant Secretary of the Navy—Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt concludes that the Americans left the war with a deserved naval victory. However, he does note that this victory was largely moral; the small, singular battles did not have a major effect on England's naval arsenal. It did, he notes, give the American people confidence, while on land their army was consistently beaten, with some exceptions, such as the Battle of New Orleans.[3]
In detail:
Bainbridge ordered Constitution to sail for Boston on 5 January,[111] being far away from a friendly port and needing extensive repairs,
Bainbridge determined that Constitution required new spar deck planking and beams, masts, sails, and rigging, as well as replacement of her copper bottom. However, personnel and supplies were being diverted to the Great Lakes, causing shortages that kept her in Boston intermittently with her sister ships Chesapeake, Congress, and President for the majority of the year.[116]
These two elements in the USS Constitution entry on Wikipedia apparently originate with someone called Jennings, maybe you know something of his reliability. As for low crew losses that may not indicate poor gunnery, just that "Old Ironsides" protected her crew.

Thanks for bringing interesting points forward.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by Byron Angel » Tue Dec 03, 2019 10:46 pm

Hi Wadinga,
I avoid getting involved with Wikipaedia ..... too much in the way of politics and big egos for me. I tend to approach Wikipaedia material with caution. That is not however to say that I do not find a good deal of value therein, particularly with respect to finding good reference sources previously unknown to me.

As for Roosevelt, I believe he was in his early/mid 20's when he wrote "The Naval War of 1812". I consider this book a very considerable achievement for someone so young. While arguments might be made about underlying motives and biases, Roosevelt was very punctilious in his research. I myself still consider the book worth the space it occupies on my bookshelf. If you have not read it, you might wish to take a peek; it is more than likely available somewhere on the web (perhaps archive.org) for free D/L.

On the subject of Constitution versus Java, I was able to extract some useful material from my library.


[ 1 ] As regards the cruise upon which Java was taken: Constitution had departed from her home port of Boston on 27 Oct 1812; she encountered Java off the coast of Brazil on 29 Dec 1812; she returned to Boston on 28 Feb 1812 where she underwent an overhaul after four months at sea. The length of time between the battle and Constitution's return to Boston was pretty much identical to the time that had passed from her departure from Boston to her encounter with Java. FWIW.


[ 2 ] Account of the action, penned immediately after the action by the senior surviving officer of Java, First-Lt Chads while aboard Constitution reporting the loss of Java to the Admiralty (edited for brevity) -

"We soon found we had the advantage of her in sailing, and came up with her fast ... Both ships now maneuver to obtain advantageous positions, our opponent evidently avoiding close action, and firing high to disable our masts, in which he succeeded all to well. Having shot away the head of our bowsprit with the jib-boom, and our running rigging so much cut as to prevent our preserving the weather gauge.
At five minutes past three, finding the enemy's raking fire extremely heavy Captain Lambert ordered the ship to be laid on board {the intention was to board USS Constitution at that instant] in which we should have succeeded, had not our fore-mast been shot away at this moment, the remains of our bowsprit passing over his taffrail shortly after this the main top-mast went, leaving the ship totally unmanageable, with most of our starboard guns rendered useless from the wreck lying over them.
At half passed (sic) three our gallant Captain received a dangerous wound in the breast and was carried below; from this time we could not fire more than two or three guns until a quarter past four when our mizzen mast was shot away; the ship then fell off a little, and brought many of our starboard guns to bear; the enemy's rigging was so much cut that he could not now avoid shooting ahead which brought us barely broadside.. Our main-yard now went in the slings both ships engaged in this manner till 35 minutes past four, we were frequently on fire in consequence of the wreck lying on the side engaged. Our opponent now made sail ahead out of gunshot where he remained an hour repairing his damages, leaving us an unmanageable wreck, with only the mainmast left, and that tottering. Every exertion was made by us during this interval to place the ship in a state to renew the action. We succeeded in clearing the wreck of our masts from our guns, as sail was set on the stump of the fore-mast and bow sprit, the weather half of main-yard remaining aloft, the main-tack was got forward in the hope of getting the ship before the wind, our helm still being perfect. The effort unfortunately proved ineffectual from the main-mast falling over the side, from heavy rolling of the ship, which covered the whole of our starboard guns. We still waited the attack of the enemy, he now standing towards for that purpose. On his coming nearly within bail of us, and from his maneuver perceiving he intended a position ahead, where he could rake us without a possibility of us returning a shot, I then consulted the officers, who agreed with myself that our having a great part of our crew killed and wounded, our bow-sprit and three masts gone, several guns useless, we should not be justified wasting the lives of more of those remaining, who I hope their Lordships and the country will think have bravely defended his Majesty's ship.


[ 3 ] Extract from journal of Commodore Bainbridge, as published in the London Times, April 15, 1813 (edited for brevity) -

Wednesday Dec 30 (nautical time). In latitude 13.6 longitude 33.W, ten leagues from the coast of Brazil, commences with clear weather and moderate breezes from East N.E. hoisted our ensign and pendant. At 15 minutes past meridian, the ship hoisted her colors, an English Ensign having a signal flying at her main.
At 1:26 PM being sufficiently from the land and finding the ship to be an English frigate, took in the main sail and royals, tacked ship, and stood for the enemy. At 1:50 the enemy bore down with an intention of raking us, which we avoided by wearing.
At 2 PM the enemy being within half a mile of us, and to windward, and having hauled down his colors, except the Union Jack at the mizzen-mast head, induced me to give orders to the officer of the Sd (presume "starboard") division to fire a gun ahead of the enemy, to make him show his colors, which being done brought on a fire from us of the whole broadside. On which the enemy hoisted his colors, and immediately returned our fire. A general action with round and grape then commenced, the enemy keeping at a much greater distance than I wished; but could not bring him to a closer action, without exposing ourselves to several rakes. Considerable maneuvers were made by both vessels, to rake and avoid being rak'd. The following minutes were taken during the action;
At 2:10 PM commenced the action a good grape and canister distance, the enemy to windward (but much further than I wished).
2:30, our wheel was shot entirely away, at 2:40, determined to close with the enemy, notwithstanding his raking; set the fore and main sail, and luffed up close to him. [the intention of the American was to board the Englishman. The Captain of the Java had the same plan at that time. Cannonade (perhaps meaning "carronade"?) fire was directed into the helpless Java, whose nose was hung up, three-quarters of the way down the hull of the Constitution. The 32-pound solid shot, fired from the forecastle and quarterdeck, shattered the rails and chopped down masts on the Java. A hail of splinters, stripped from oak planks, saturated the air. Boarding parties were formed of marines and sailors armed with bayoneted rifles, pike, and cutlasses on both vessels. Firearms were of little use after the first shot. Long rifles could not be reloaded in the middle of a melee. The parties huddled in two groups, while marines on both ships fired their rifles down into the cluttered decks below. Smoke rose in acrid clouds and obscured the accuracy of the men in the tops. The captain of the Java was fatally wounded by an American marine in the tops.]
At 2:50, the enemy's jib-boom got foul of our mizzen-rigging.
At 3 PM the head of the enemy's bowsprit and jib-boom shot away by us.
At 3:05 shot away the enemy's fore-mast by the board.
At 3:15 shot away his main topmast just above the cap.
At 3:40 shot away the gaff and spanker boom.
At 3:55 shot away his mizzen mast nearly by the board.
At 4:05, having silenced the fire of the enemy completely and his colors in main rigging down, supposed he had struck, and then hauled down the course to shoot ahead to repair our rigging., which was extremely cut, leaving the enemy a complete wreck.; soon after discovered that the enemy's flag was still flying, hove-to to repair some of our damage.
At 20 minutes past 4, the enemy's main-mast went nearly by the board. At 50 minutes past 4, wore ship, and stood for the enemy. At 25 minutes past 5, got very close to the enemy, in a very effectual raking position, athwart his bows, and was at the very instant of raking him, when he most prudently struck his flag; for had he suffered the broadside to have raked him, his additional loss must have been extremely great, as he lay an unmanageable wreck upon the water.
<snip>
The action continued from commencement to the end of the fire, one hour and 55 minutes. The Constitution had 9 killed and 25 wounded. The enemy had 60 killed and 101 certainly wounded; but by a letter written on board the Constitution, by one of the officers of the Java, and accidently found, it is evident the enemy's wounded have been considerably greater than stated above, and who must have died of their wounds previously to being removed. The letter states 60 killed, and 170 wounded.
The Java had her own complement of men complete and upwards of 100 supernumeraries, going to join the British ships of war in the East Indies, also several officer passengers going out on promotion.
The force of the enemy in the number of men, at the commencement of the action, was no doubt considerably greater than we have been able to ascertain, which is upward of 400 men.
The officer were extremely cautious in discovering the number. By her quarter bill, she had one more man stationed to each gun than we had.
The Constitution was very much cut in her sail, rigging, and many of her spars injured.


[ 4 ] A comment related to the court martial of the most senior surviving officer of Java, First-Lt Chads -
"Lieutenant Henry Ducie Chads, the son of a naval captain, at his court martial in May of 1813 at Spithead said that "the crew was exceptionally bad, a large portion had never been to sea and drafted from prison. Crew drill was neglected, since the ship was overcrowded." By June, Chads had been promoted to captain and was serving as captain of the sloop Columbia."


BRgds / Byron

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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by wadinga » Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:53 pm

Hello Byron,

Thanks for all this splendid detail and especially the interesting material on "dismantling shot".

I imagine that chain, bar and double headed shot through higher initial mass, air drag and dissipation of energy must have been relatively short range weapons in comparison with conventional round shot. Range tables in "The Line of Battle" Ed. Gardiner/Lavery suggest absolute maximum ranges (ie far more than useable) of c.2000 yds for conventional ball, and only 800 for dismantling shot seem to confirm this. It seems to me that as commerce raiders the "Super-Frigates" would find the long barrel 24pdrs good for long range bombardment and dismantling shot good to slow down any armed pursuers. Whatever accuracy effects there were on the 18pdr ball at longer ranges, the American 24pdr one surely had greater impact mass and therefore damage potential at all ranges.

Certainly, from the description above, Java's armament was disabled for lengthy periods by rigging and sails covering them, with the added disadvantage of the debris catching fire, if they were able to shoot. Bainbridge particularly notes the effect at short range of his 32pdr carronades.

Compared with what we have been discussing on the Bismarck thread it is interesting to see wellbeing of the surviving crew, once their vessel has been robbed of most of its offensive or even defensive power, being the first concern of the surviving commander and subsequent Lordships' approval at his mandatory Court Martial.

Bainbridge's account seems to confirm that Constitution's sails, spars and rigging were much cut about and the decision to head for home shortly after the action, even if the trip took well over a month, surely meant his mission was somewhat cut short.

The war of 1812 seems to have been the result of British arrogance in hobbling a neutral's trade with the real enemy, France, without any compensation, and American hawkish eyes on opportunist expansion into Canada, whilst the Empire was busy elsewhere. I believe some of the most objectionable constraints on American trade were actually repealed before the conflict even got going, but it was too late to stop the momentum.

Moving to a later conflict, tacit (but not recognised) British approval for the Secession of the Confederate states, and later more active support via blockade runners, happily did not lead to an escalation into a more serious matter, despite tensions over the boarding of the British mail ship ship Trent carrying Confederate diplomats who were taken off as prisoners. We British apparently saw nothing duplicitous in wanting to stop the neutral US trading with Napoleon, whilst later maintaining our right to trade with both sides in the Civil War. :?

In the end Lincoln released the captives saying they were not "dispatches" which could rightly have been confiscated, which satisfied Britain and reduced tension, although after the end of the war, the US govt demanded and eventually received compensation from the UK govt for the depredations of the CSA's British-built commerce raiders.

Relationships, despite wargame "what ifs" have stayed pretty cordial since then, I'm pleased to say.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by OpanaPointer » Sat Dec 07, 2019 12:14 pm

Oh, Plan Red would have taken you all down!!!! :lol:

For those not familiar, Plan Red was a War College exercise examining a theoretical war with Canada. Why Canada? Because there is a quite interesting border there. Very long, with all kinds of terrain. Waterways, lakes, plains, mountains, no deserts (except North Dakota) and no jungles. (Well, Detroit, but otherwise...) :wink:

War Colleges create plans to study possible scenarios. "It's better to have a plan and not use it than to need a plan and not have it."

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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by wadinga » Sun Dec 08, 2019 5:16 pm

Hello OpanaPointer,

Talk about refighting the next war based on the plans of one fought over a hundred years previously! 1812-1934 as Plan Red was still being updated in the NineteenThirties!

Far more likely would be an Oran-type quandary- if Nazi Germany had overrun the UK and an RN fleet could have been sat in Jamaica or Halifax waiting to be traded away as a bargaining chip by Lord Halifax negotiating a peace deal after the execution of Winston Churchill. Would the USA stay isolationist in peaceful co-existence with Nazi Greater Europa, which would have the world's largest amalgamated fleet, or act to grab some assets before the Tripartite Pact turns against it after subduing both the USSR and China? This should be in the hypothetical thread methinks.

To return to the thread subject. But for the French naval victory over the RN at Chesapeake Capes in 1781, there would likely not have even have been a USA, let alone a USN. This was a proper strategically significant fleet action, not an over-publicised minor dust up between individual ships, or even a squabble on a pond, blown up out of all proportion for propaganda purposes. The subsequent slaughter or removal of competent French Naval Officers by the Revolutionaries was later mirrored by Stalin's purges of the Red Army officer class in 1938-39 and the results of such decapitation set back the abilities of the whole force in both cases. Napoleon's regime built many fine ships, designed on scientific principles, (and thus admired, copied and even purloined by the RN), but making effective officers and crews under Revolutionary dogma and constrained by close blockade, was much harder.

The RN and the USN had effectively been on the same side at the very end of the 18th century, as Napoleon's France and the latter fought a short undeclared war called the "Quasi-War" as a result of a French guerre de course against American merchant ships. Yes. those Super Frigates first fought against French ships, not British ones. The Treaty of Mortefontaine of 1800 ended the Quasi-War and also America's 1778 Treaty of Alliance with their former Revolutionary comrades, the French.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by OpanaPointer » Mon Dec 09, 2019 12:22 pm

You can have more than one plan.

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Re: The USN vs. the Royal Navy

Post by Byron Angel » Tue Dec 10, 2019 2:24 am

wadinga wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:53 pm
Thanks for all this splendid detail and especially the interesting material on "dismantling shot".
I imagine that chain, bar and double headed shot through higher initial mass, air drag and dissipation of energy must have been relatively short range weapons in comparison with conventional round shot. Range tables in "The Line of Battle" Ed. Gardiner/Lavery suggest absolute maximum ranges (ie far more than useable) of c.2000 yds for conventional ball, and only 800 for dismantling shot seem to confirm this. It seems to me that as commerce raiders the "Super-Frigates" would find the long barrel 24pdrs good for long range bombardment and dismantling shot good to slow down any armed pursuers. Whatever accuracy effects there were on the 18pdr ball at longer ranges, the American 24pdr one surely had greater impact mass and therefore damage potential at all ranges.
>>>>> True indeed re ballistic ranges. For round shot, according to terminology of that era, fire at any distance much beyond 900-1,000 yards was deemed as "random" shot". That having been said, I have run across at least one account of chasing fire having been attempted at an estimated range of 2,500 yards although ultimately with zero material effect.

Comments I have read with respect to dismantling shot emphasized very poor accuracy at long distances due to the abysmally poor ballistics of the various types of dismantling shot. On the other hand, dismantling shot at close range was described as extremely effective, with "several" (three?) broadsides adequate to effectively render an opponent unmanageable aloft.

When comparing American and British guns of this period, two points should arguably be kept in mind: American round shot was generally considered to be about 8 per cent underweight compared to a British of same nominal caliber (i.e., an American 24-lbr round shot actually scaled at 22 pounds). This was attributed to poor American iron smelting skills during that period; secondly, certain British ships (usually those old and "tired") credited as carrying "long guns" actually carried medium versions of lighter weight and somewhat lower initial velocity. There were several designs of these light weight long guns - Blomefield, Gover and Congreve come to mind as the manufacturers of such weapons. These guns were, in practice, only slightly less efficient that the conventional long guns and, by respectably reducing the overall weight of a ship's gun battery made it possible to extend the useful life of some older ships. Once again, the devil always lurks in the details.

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wadinga wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:53 pm
Certainly, from the description above, Java's armament was disabled for lengthy periods by rigging and sails covering them, with the added disadvantage of the debris catching fire, if they were able to shoot. Bainbridge particularly notes the effect at short range of his 32pdr carronades.
>>>>> Java's guns were undeniably severely discomfited by the overhanging wreckage of her masts and sails, which also implies that she was so unmanageable as to face difficulty in effectively bringing her guns to bear (especially after having fouled her bow on Constitution's quarter. Yet, to my mind, her severe crew casualties (~40pct?) was the principal cause of her reduction of fire.

No question, about the effectiveness of heavy carronades at such short range, which was the perfect tactical environment for them. And they were very accurate at such distance (much less bore windage compared to the long gun).

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wadinga wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:53 pm
Compared with what we have been discussing on the Bismarck thread it is interesting to see wellbeing of the surviving crew, once their vessel has been robbed of most of its offensive or even defensive power, being the first concern of the surviving commander and subsequent Lordships' approval at his mandatory Court Martial.
>>>>> True. What with the practices of parole and prisoner exchanges in the era, it made practical as well as humanitarian sense.

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wadinga wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:53 pm
Bainbridge's account seems to confirm that Constitution's sails, spars and rigging were much cut about and the decision to head for home shortly after the action, even if the trip took well over a month, surely meant his mission was somewhat cut short.
>>>>> Depends upon how one wishes to view the circumstances. Constitution certainly received damage aloft, but did not lose a single mast, spar or yard in the action. Did Bainbridge decide to return to Boston because the damage suffered was in any way dire? I don't think so. My suspicion is that he decided to head for home because there was no safe port in the operational area where he could put in to repair her damages, which I suspect were fairly minor. Of course, if Constitution had suffered three 18-lbr shot through her foremast and had to "fish" it in order to carry any sail upon it, that would be another story. The true answer will likely only be found in the surveyor's report of damage, if it still exists.

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wadinga wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:53 pm
The war of 1812 seems to have been the result of British arrogance in hobbling a neutral's trade with the real enemy, France, without any compensation, and American hawkish eyes on opportunist expansion into Canada, whilst the Empire was busy elsewhere. I believe some of the most objectionable constraints on American trade were actually repealed before the conflict even got going, but it was too late to stop the momentum.

Moving to a later conflict, tacit (but not recognised) British approval for the Secession of the Confederate states, and later more active support via blockade runners, happily did not lead to an escalation into a more serious matter, despite tensions over the boarding of the British mail ship ship Trent carrying Confederate diplomats who were taken off as prisoners. We British apparently saw nothing duplicitous in wanting to stop the neutral US trading with Napoleon, whilst later maintaining our right to trade with both sides in the Civil War. :?
>>>>> I've always been fond of the wisdom contained in that cheeky old saying - "Britannia rules the waves and waives the rules." No idea who coined it, but it was spot on ;-)

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wadinga wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:53 pm
In the end Lincoln released the captives saying they were not "dispatches" which could rightly have been confiscated, which satisfied Britain and reduced tension, although after the end of the war, the US govt demanded and eventually received compensation from the UK govt for the depredations of the CSA's British-built commerce raiders.

Relationships, despite wargame "what ifs" have stayed pretty cordial since then, I'm pleased to say.
>>>>> And may it remain so.


Happy Xmas to you and yours.

Byron

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