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Ships of War

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Ships of War
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Author(s): Edward J. Reed, Edward Simpson & J. D. Jerrold Kelley
Date Published: 2012/09
Page Count: 336
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-955-9
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-954-2

The dawn of the modern warship

This interesting, illustrated work concerns the considerable variety of ships of war that were designed and launched during the latter part of the nineteenth century. The author takes as his starting point the era of the American Civil War and the time of the emergence of Monitors, ironclads, early submersibles and, indeed, the coming of powered ships which would shortly consign the age of naval sail to history. In warfare there can be no room for sentiment since every nation must be able to bring armaments to bear equal at least to any potential enemy. So on the oceans, just as it was with land armies, the navies of the world raced into the industrial age and machine powered warfare. The new vessels adopted a host of innovations in construction, capability, function, weaponry and ordnance and quickly replaced famous fighting ships of sail and a mode of fighting that had endured for centuries. This overview, covers the period up to 1887 and examines the warships of the world’s navies. The expansive text is supported by many line drawings of the vessels described as well as technical and cross section drawings. A number of statistical charts are also included, making this an indispensable reference work for all those interested in naval warfare during the second half of the 19th century.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

The Sovereign of the Seas, built in 1637, in the reign of Charles I., was unequalled by any ship afloat in her time. She mounted on three gun-decks eighty-six guns. On the lower deck were thirty long 24-pounders and medium 32-pounders; on her middle deck, thirty 12-pounders and 9-pounders; on the upper gun-deck, “other lighter ordnance;” and on her quarter-deck and forecastle, “numbers of murdering pieces.”<br>
In the obstinately contested actions between Blake and Van Tromp in the Cromwellian time, the ships and batteries did not differ in any great degree from those contemporaneous in construction with the Sovereign of the Seas; and when we remember the inferior character of the powder used in those days we can account for the duration of some of the engagements between the English and Dutch ships which were sometimes protracted through three days.<br>
The brood of “murdering pieces” of small calibre and little energy was, after many years, dispersed by the introduction of carronades—a short cannon of large calibre, which was found to be a convenient substitute for the 8-pounders and 9-pounders on upper decks, and for the “lighter ordnance,” which was ineffective; but this change was brought about slowly, as is seen by referring to the batteries of some ships which fought at Trafalgar.<br>
The Spanish seventy-fours in that action had fifty-eight long 24-pounders on the gun-decks; on the spar-deck, ten iron 36-pounder carronades and four long 8-pounders; and on the poop, six iron 24-pounder carronades—total, seventy-eight guns.
The Victory, the English flag-ship, mounted on her three gun-decks ninety long 32, 24, and 12 pounders, and on the quarter-deck and forecastle, ten long 12-pounders and two 68-pounder carronades.<br>
The Santissima Trinidada mounted on the lower gun-deck thirty long 36-pounders; on the second deck, thirty-two long 18-pounders; on the third deck thirty-two long 12-pounders; and on the spar-deck, thirty-two 8-pounders. In the British accounts she is said to have had one hundred and forty guns, which number must have included swivels mounted for the occasion.<br>
At the end of the eighteenth century the 18-pounder was the preferred gun for the main-deck batteries of frigates, guns of larger calibre being found only on the lower decks of line-of-battle ships. The 18-pounder was the maximum calibre that was employed on board the ships of the United Colonies of North America in the war of the Revolution. The resources of the colonies did not admit of building ships to contend with vessels fit to take their place in line of battle, but such as were constructed were well adapted to resist the small British cruisers, and to capture transports and store-ships. The so-called frigates of that day were vessels varying from six hundred to a thousand tons, and, according to their capacity, carried 12-pounders or 18-pounders in the main-deck batteries. There was usually no spar-deck, but the forecastle and quarter-deck, which were connected by gangways with gratings over the intermediate space, were provided with an armament of light 6, 9, or 12 pounders. A few carronades came into use during this war.<br>
At the conclusion of this war the Colonial fleet disappeared, and it was not until the time of the depredations on the growing commerce of the United States by the Algerine corsairs that Congress felt justified in incurring the expense of establishing a national marine. The ships which were built under the law of 1794 were fully up to the most advanced ideas of the time, and some of these ships carried on their gun-decks a full battery of 24-pounders, thirty in number, while the others were armed with 18-pounders on the gun-deck, with spar-deck batteries of 9 and 12 pounders, the carronade not having been yet definitely adopted for spar-deck batteries.<br>
It is not until the war of 1812 that we find the carronade fully established as the spar-deck armament of frigates. The Constitution and the Guerrière carried 32-pounder carronades of very similar weight and power in the place of the long guns of smaller calibre on the spar-deck. The original name of this piece of ordnance was the “Smasher,” the leading purpose of the inventor. General Melville, of the British artillery, being to fire 68-pounder shot with a low charge, thus effecting a greater destruction in a ship’s timbers by the increased splintering which this practice was known to produce. Carronades of small calibre were subsequently cast, which were adopted for spar-deck batteries of frigates and line-of-battle ships, and, as they grew in favour, formed the entire battery of sloops-of-war and smaller vessels until about 1840, when the attention that had been given for some years to the subject of naval ordnance began to assume tangible shape, and the effort was made to proceed in this matter in accordance with an intelligent system.<br>
The advantage of large calibre was firmly impressed upon those who occupied themselves with the ordnance matters of the navy. As the fleet was developed, the 24-pounder gave way to the 32-pounder, and for the lower-deck battery of line-of-battle ships the 42-pounder was introduced. Some 42-pounder carronades were also introduced as spar-deck batteries for these larger ships. With the disappearance of this class of ship the 42-pounder was abandoned, and the 32-pounder was retained as the maximum calibre, different classes being assigned to different sizes of ships. These classes were divided into the gun proper, with 150 pounds of metal to one of shot; the double-fortified gun, with 200 pounds of metal to one of shot; and the medium gun, with 100 pounds of metal to one of shot. The carronade of the same calibre, mounted on a slide, had a proportional weight of 65 pounds of metal to one of shot.<br>
In the interval between 1840 and 1845 the double-fortified 32-pounder was replaced by a gun of the same calibre of 57 hundred-weight, called the long 32-pounder; and to suit the capacity of the different classes of ships then in the service, there were introduced the 32-pounders of 46 hundred-weight, 42 hundred-weight, and 27 hundred-weight, in addition to the regular medium gun of 32 hundred-weight. This period also marks the introduction of shell guns as part of the battery. <br>