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Thread: Good book on frigate tactics

  1. #1
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    Default Good book on frigate tactics

    I own Fighting Sail, Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail (Tunstall), Seamanship in the Age of Sail (incredible book), the Sheet Anchor, and biographies of famous frigate captains like Cochrane and Pellew. The biographies are a great source, but the former books are much more focused on fleet actions then frigate tactics. Does anyone have a good book that actually details the tactical handling and maneuvering of frigates during small engagements?

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    There won't be any, as everyone follows the trope of 'pistol shot = duelling distance', rather than that of the range at which pistol shot with "some elevation" ~5 degrees (by my own calculation) would strike the water. (~400yds, as indicated by Lord Rodney in his annotations to John Clerk's work on naval tactics).

    They also *all* assume that carronades have a short range (<<400yds) - while the actual carronade range by line of metal is closer to 750yds (and 400yds is the range at the apex of this trajectory, over 30ft above the line of sight), with intermediate ranges usable by a stepped slot on the dispart sight - which would give ~ 550/280 yds by direct pointing (compared to the flatter firing guns, with a much shallower line of metal (and lower apex), but only reaching to ~600yds by line of metal/direct pointing.

    All of the descriptions of range/angles and manoeuvring & gunnery which follow from that will also be distorted.

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    Was this intended to be a reply on this thread?

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    I don't quite follow either Joe? I was looking through my books for you today, and apart from the ones you already mention, even "Six Frigates" does not really get to grips with the nitty gritty of Frigate actions. Maybe Dave Manley can come up with something along those lines.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Ah a shame. Guess it’s back to reading biographies of great frigate captains and extracting what best I can from each

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    There are a couple of descriptions of single ship actions in Douglas - but written in 1855 he does have a bias against carronades (32pdr) in the context of being the weakest of the current ordnance (all 32pdr, from 9.5ft full guns, through a bewildering selection of full guns of 7.5ft and up, and medium guns from 9ft and down (a mix of lighter pattern ordnance new cast and re-bored from older pattern guns), as well as light guns which can be used directly as replacements for carronades with higher performance.

    This is not the historical context for frigate actions when they were smaller vessels, armed with 9, 12 or 18pdr guns (the latter being comparable in penetration performance at range to the 32pdr carronade), and with secondary batteries of 4, 6 and 9pdr, alongside carronades of 18, 24 and 32pdr respectively.

    The diagrams are drawn without clear scale, and with a bias in understanding of how ranges were described e.g. taking a "modern" 'carronades are *only* short ranged weapons - as is seen in description of the Essex capture - and 'heroic' paintings of collision range duels - rather than 'by line of metal' range actions also add to the distortion.

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    I've not found one yet. Reading action reports seems to be the best bet -

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    That's what I have based my story lines on Dave.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare by Sam Willis might be worth a look, I got it from my local library. It's perhaps more of an overview and covers quite a lot of ground but is quite thought provoking.

    His research is from Ships log books and Court Martial enquiries. One thing I found interesting was a discussion on how 2 British ships came to fire on each other based on the way they were being sailed, neither was certain if the other was actually British even though they were very close. I believe both Captains were exonerated because their assesment of the situation meant they made the right decission in firing on a friendly ship based upon the others sailing actions.

    I didn't buy it because it wasn't specific enough for what I was looking for but was a good read.

    Has anyone else read it?

  10. #10
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    I had not read this John, but it looks like one that I should have on my shelf.A similar book which I do have is Brian Tunstall's "Naval warfare in the age of sail." The Evolution of Fighting Tactics 1650-1815.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vagabond View Post
    Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare by Sam Willis might be worth a look.........Has anyone else read it?
    Yes, its an excellent book and is, I think, essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how naval battles of the period developed as they did.

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    I have just ordered one from Amazon, arriving tomorrow acording to them.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Have you read John Clerk, Naval Tactics?

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    Not read that one David.
    They have it on Amazon, but only available in Paperback at present.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    You can also get it on google books as a free e-book. The paperback is very likely this printed out.

    It was the book which at the end of a century of failures showed a new mode of action which led to the major victories in the later part of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

  16. #16
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    Thanks Dave, but if I am going to use a book frequently for reference purposes I really neeed the hardcover version.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

  17. #17
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    https://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/S...20systematical

    Two volumes, Part I and Parts II, III, IV

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    Good find David.
    That is a couple of books for my Christmas list then.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Just to be clear the book linked is a treatise on the tactics of fleet actions during the 1730s to 1790s, the period of British failures on a strategic level, as well as some inconclusive or marginal fleet actions - with a manuscript of volume one sent to and read by Admiral Rodney used to form the orders for one of his fleet actions and shared around other officers in the fleet afterwards.
    The second volume was written after the first of the 'new' actions with dramatically more success had been performed, but published before Trafalgar.

    I don't think it touches much on single ship/squadron action, though the principles of manoeuvre would still apply in a simpler form. Important for the context of the thread.
    Last edited by Lieste; 11-17-2021 at 11:49.

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    Looks like the second volume will be more up my street then David.
    Thanks for your clarification.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bligh View Post
    Looks like the second volume will be more up my street then David.
    Thanks for your clarification.
    Rob.
    The first volume was the analysis of the cause of the ineffectiveness of the English Naval Tactics, despite clear evidence of the individual success in single ship actions. As well as a suggestion of a new scheme of tactics which might provide better results.

    The later volumes provide more analysed actions, tactics for the approach from different points of sail etc, I'd suggest that they work together as a whole, and the 'core' might even be the first text. Without checking my printout (I'd have to dig for it) I think much of the discussion of the fleet in action comes in the first volume, as well as a commentary by Lord Rodney. Though there are more comments alongside the later analyses as well.

    Especially from the point of view of a documented 'evolution and development of military theory' the first volume is an important publication... and it has a framework for the progress of the naval battle which calls into question some of the more modern assumptions, which is not repeated in full.

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    Well true to their promise, this book arrived late yesterday evening.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    I've re-checked the John Clerk print I have, and you will need both to get the full work - the first volume has the single ship action, and the attack of a great fleet from windward, with consequences from the nature of ships and their gunnery. The second covers the attack from leeward, more analysis of the attack in changing wind, and the nature of the ship as a manoeuvring vehicle, as well as ways to ensure closing for a decisive action, and the tactics of 'taking' a few ships from the line, rather than trying to defeat the whole line.

    The last action listed in one from 1790, with the first volume used in manuscript form by some officers in the fleet from 1782 - and linked to a change in the plan of attack in 1783

    Lots of diagrams of the fleets in action to illustrate the text, as well as narrative descriptions of actions, with an analysis (and criticism of the analysis) of the described action.

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    Thanks very much for that David.
    I will put both books on my most wanted list.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Rob,

    Would love to hear your thoughts on Willis’ book. I was under the impressions that Tunstalls work was superior, but if you find Willis tackles different points well I definitely need to add this to my collection

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    I will let you know once I get time to tackle it Joseph.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    The below site contains logs from the USS Constitution as well as journals from crew members that give you an individual perspective of engagements. As David M said these type of documents are where you might find the details of individual engagements.

    https://thecaptainsclerk.com/

    There are links to archival material from the museum collection as well.

    https://archive.org/details/ussconst...t=-week&page=2

    Lots of stuff if you really want to get into the weeds of the War of 1812!

    I found a nice volume on privateers and privateering in the archives that does have some descriptions of engagements. (can't find the link atm).

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeRuyter View Post
    The below site contains logs from the USS Constitution as well as journals from crew members that give you an individual perspective of engagements. As David M said these type of documents are where you might find the details of individual engagements.

    https://thecaptainsclerk.com/

    There are links to archival material from the museum collection as well.

    https://archive.org/details/ussconst...t=-week&page=2

    Lots of stuff if you really want to get into the weeds of the War of 1812!

    I found a nice volume on privateers and privateering in the archives that does have some descriptions of engagements. (can't find the link atm).
    Thanks for the heads up Eric.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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