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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Napoleonic Era

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Napoleonic Era Discuss the many wars fought around the globe around the time of Napoleon. This forum is dedicated to the memory of Ben Weider and our late friend and long time ACG Staff member, Michael Brown, better known here as Post Captain.

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  #1  
Old 29 Jul 17, 16:30
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British frigates 1793 - 1815

The Mariner's Mirror has a free article titled The Frigate Situation of the Royal Navy 1793-1815. It's free for a few more days so get it now if you want it.

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Frigates were the eyes of the fleet, and Nelson was not alone in lamenting his ‘want of frigates’. The author provides a detailed study of the number of frigates available to the Royal Navy, where they were obtained, and the costs of their construction and repair, during the period of the study. He concludes that the Royal Navy managed an impressive accomplishment in maintaining a large number of frigates in service despite limited resources.
The Frigate Situation of the Royal Navy 1793-1815
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Old 29 Jul 17, 19:17
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Frigates then were the cruisers of WW1 and WW2
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Old 30 Jul 17, 07:24
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I thought that was common knowledge?

It most certainly has been in print for decades.
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Old 25 Aug 17, 21:10
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During the war of 1812 after a number of defeats at the hands of American frigates the Admiralty issues orders to their frigates not engage American frigates 1 vs 1.
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Old 26 Aug 17, 03:31
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Question

What was the reason for the RN's defeats at the hands of the Yanks?

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Old 26 Aug 17, 03:52
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I would offer that a lack of live gun target firing was a factor. The Admiralty as trying to save money by only giving a small amount of practice powder. It wasn't the same training without hearing the big guns go off. The captains ended up buying their own practice powder if they wanted to do live fire exercises.

That being said, the new American Frigates were larger and better armed. The wooden sides were also thicker. Some British broadsides bounced off the American Frigates. The British preferred a large Frigate to be armed with about 38 guns of up to 18 pounders. The American Frigates were carrying over 44 guns, many of them 24 pounders and some heavier Carronades.

Because of poor gunnery, the Royal Navy got to where they preferred to close range where they could not miss. If the Americans damaged enough of a British Frigates rigging, they could stand off and blow the British Frigate to pieces.

You should have heard of these issues Von.

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Old 26 Aug 17, 05:24
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The American victories where when they had bigger, better armed ships with bigger crews. However the Americans only had a few of these super frigates. The standard size US frigates fared less well against similar size British ships e.g. HMS Shannon easily defeated USS Chesapeake in 15 minutes.

The British did start building super frigates to match the Americans but I don't think there was ever a one on one match. The closest was when USS President was captured. There was an extended engagement between HMS Endymion, a 24 PDr armed frigate and President. President was crippled by Endymion allowing the rest of the squadron to catch up and force President's surrender.
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Old 26 Aug 17, 05:46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surrey View Post
The American victories where when they had bigger, better armed ships with bigger crews. However the Americans only had a few of these super frigates. The standard size US frigates fared less well against similar size British ships e.g. HMS Shannon easily defeated USS Chesapeake in 15 minutes.

The British did start building super frigates to match the Americans but I don't think there was ever a one on one match.
Those big American frigates were originally intended to be two decker ships of the line but for economic reasons were completed as single deck frigates. However they retained much of the two decker rig and the larger guns. Some of the British frigates they came up against were some of the smaller ones with an over reliance on short range carronades. When fighting the French and Spanish they had been able to close with the enemy and fight at close quarters where the greater weight of shot from the carronades was telling but the American ships with their greater area of sail and bigger longer range guns could avoid closing and hit the British Frigates. masts and spars, effectively disabling them.
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Old 27 Aug 17, 08:15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Those big American frigates were originally intended to be two decker ships of the line but for economic reasons were completed as single deck frigates. However they retained much of the two decker rig and the larger guns. Some of the British frigates they came up against were some of the smaller ones with an over reliance on short range carronades. When fighting the French and Spanish they had been able to close with the enemy and fight at close quarters where the greater weight of shot from the carronades was telling but the American ships with their greater area of sail and bigger longer range guns could avoid closing and hit the British Frigates. masts and spars, effectively disabling them.
The three big American frigates, Constitution, President, and United States, were all designed as frigates, not two-deckers, from the keel up. They were designed to be able to defeat any other frigate and be fast enough to get away from anything bigger.

Their designer was probably Joshua Humphreys and they were built in two yards, Philadelphia and Boston. They were designed and constructed as 44-gun frigates. What may add to the confusion of their design and construction is that ship captains would change the rigging to their own needs and experience and would also add guns to the ships if they chose to.

But the idea that the three large American frigates were designed as two-deckers is incorrect.

See The History of the American Sailing Navy by Howard Chapelle. It is a definitive volume and has many reproductions of the design drawings in the book, the building draft for the three large frigates in on pages 122-123. The building draft for the Constellation and Congress is on pages 124 -125.

This volume is a definitive one on the US sailing navy.

Winning a sea fight is more to the skill of the ship's captain and the training of the crew than to size. The Guerriere, Java, and Macedonian were outfought as well as being outgunned. The Shannon was probably the best of her class in the Royal Navy with a superb captain who trained his crew to a very high standard. The same cannot be said for Lawrence's crew on the Chesapeake. HMS Endymion defeated USS President for two reasons: the President was damaged in the hull leaving harbor and the Endymion had a squadron with her.

I don't believe that Guerriere, Java, and Macedonian were mainly armed with carronades. The main batteries of the Guerriere and Java consisted of thirty 18-pounders and twenty-eight 18 pounders, respectively. Guerriere had sixteen 32-pounder carronades and Java the same.

Constitution in those two fights was armed thirty 24-pounders and twenty-four 32-pounder carronades against Guerriere and thirty-two 24-pounder long guns and twenty-two 32-pounder carronades. The issue in naval artillery was that the Constitution was armed in the main battery with 24-pounder long guns and the British frigates with 18-pounders. All three ships had a significant number of carronades in their armament, the Constitution having more than the British frigates.

The American captains did close with the British frigates during the actions, the Constitution being close enough to the Guerriere for the possibility of a boarding action, but that didn't happen probably because of the captain's choice. The Marine detachment commander asked the captain if he wanted to board and then was shot in the head.
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Old 27 Aug 17, 10:21
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Kevin,

I like Chapelle's book and the confusion over the two-decks may be explained by Chapelle's comment at the top of page 134:

Quote:
Nevertheless, it will be seen that the Americans had introduced one innovation—the two-decked (or, as they came to be called later, "double-banked") frigates capable, at least, of carrying two almost fully armed decks (rather than one and a fraction, as had been the case in the standard frigates of that time). This eventually brought about a change in the large frigates of all the great powers, who finally adopted double-banked ships.
As Chapelle, and other historians, have pointed out the authorization of the construction of the six frigates ( four 44s and 36s) was in the Naval Act of 1794. The armament was changed on three of the ships during construction. That act was a reaction to the North African Barbary states and at that time specifically to Algiers. Section 9 of that act:
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...That if a peace shall take place between the United States and the Regency of Algiers, that no farther proceeding be had under this act.
I mention this as the United States did not need ships-of-the-line for that task, and that's why frigates were authorized built.
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Old 27 Aug 17, 12:09
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Yes, the spar deck, which was a full deck, undoubtedly caused comment. It was a new design, somewhat, and the confusion is understandable.

There were also six ships of the line authorized and laid down during the Adams administration. Unfortunately, Jefferson and his administration stopped the construction. Those ships would have been more than useful in 1812.

Well done.
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Old 18 Oct 17, 17:46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merkava188 View Post
During the war of 1812 after a number of defeats at the hands of American frigates the Admiralty issues orders to their frigates not engage American frigates 1 vs 1.
Only for the big 44's anything else was fair game.
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Old 18 Oct 17, 17:52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Massena View Post
The three big American frigates, Constitution, President, and United States, were all designed as frigates, not two-deckers, from the keel up. They were designed to be able to defeat any other frigate and be fast enough to get away from anything bigger.

Their designer was probably Joshua Humphreys and they were built in two yards, Philadelphia and Boston. They were designed and constructed as 44-gun frigates. What may add to the confusion of their design and construction is that ship captains would change the rigging to their own needs and experience and would also add guns to the ships if they chose to.

But the idea that the three large American frigates were designed as two-deckers is incorrect.

See The History of the American Sailing Navy by Howard Chapelle. It is a definitive volume and has many reproductions of the design drawings in the book, the building draft for the three large frigates in on pages 122-123. The building draft for the Constellation and Congress is on pages 124 -125.

This volume is a definitive one on the US sailing navy.

Winning a sea fight is more to the skill of the ship's captain and the training of the crew than to size. The Guerriere, Java, and Macedonian were outfought as well as being outgunned. The Shannon was probably the best of her class in the Royal Navy with a superb captain who trained his crew to a very high standard. The same cannot be said for Lawrence's crew on the Chesapeake. HMS Endymion defeated USS President for two reasons: the President was damaged in the hull leaving harbor and the Endymion had a squadron with her.

I don't believe that Guerriere, Java, and Macedonian were mainly armed with carronades. The main batteries of the Guerriere and Java consisted of thirty 18-pounders and twenty-eight 18 pounders, respectively. Guerriere had sixteen 32-pounder carronades and Java the same.

Constitution in those two fights was armed thirty 24-pounders and twenty-four 32-pounder carronades against Guerriere and thirty-two 24-pounder long guns and twenty-two 32-pounder carronades. The issue in naval artillery was that the Constitution was armed in the main battery with 24-pounder long guns and the British frigates with 18-pounders. All three ships had a significant number of carronades in their armament, the Constitution having more than the British frigates.

The American captains did close with the British frigates during the actions, the Constitution being close enough to the Guerriere for the possibility of a boarding action, but that didn't happen probably because of the captain's choice. The Marine detachment commander asked the captain if he wanted to board and then was shot in the head.
I agree on The History of the American Sailing Navy. I'd add that it's got some spectacular drawings and hull profiles on the pull out sections. Well worth investing in a copy for them alone.
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