Osprey - New Vanguard 161 - Ships of the American Revolutionary Navy


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Story Transcript

ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR MARK LARDAS holds a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering,

but spent his early career at the Johnson Space Center doing Space Shuttle structural analysis, and space navigation. An amateur historian and a longtime ship modeler, Mark Lardas is currently working in League City, Texas. He has written extensively about modeling as well as naval, maritime, and military history.

TONY BRYAN is a freelance illustrator of many years' experience who lives and works in Dorset. He initially qualified in Engineering and worked for a number of years in Military Research and Development, and has a keen interest in military hardware - armor, small arms, aircraft and ships. Tony has produced many illustrations for partworks, magazines and books, including a number of titles in the New Vanguard series.





First publish d In Great Britain In 2009 by Osprey Publishing,


Midland House, W st Way, Botl y, Oxford, OX2 OPH, UK

I would like to thank John F. Millar and F. Carrington Weems for their generosity with illustrations used in this book. A special thanks also goes to Michelle M. Frauenberger of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library who. as with two previous books, has helped guide me through the resources of that collection.

44 P rk Av nu South, N w York, NY 10016, USA m II Info ' 0 pr ypubllshlng.com

() 2009 Osprey Publishing Ltd.





AUTHOR'S NOTE All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrical, chemical, mechanical, optical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Inquiries should be addressed to the Publishers.

A CIP catalog record for this book is available from the British Library

The following abbreviations indicate the sources of the illustrations used in this volume: AC - Author's Collection

Shipbuilding in America

FDRL - Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library Collection, New York

Foreign trends

LOC - Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Purchased ships

NH&HC - United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC

The 13 Frigates

USNA - United States Naval Academy Collections

Ships authorized in 1776 and 1777

Other sources are listed in full


ISBN: 978 1 84603 44S 9 E-book ISBN: 978 1 84908 132 0


Page layout by: Melissa Orrom Swan, Oxford

This book is dedicated to my brother Peter, who gave us shelter from Ike, and in whose house work started on this manuscript

Originated by PDQ Digital Media Solutions Printed in China through World Print Ltd.

EDITOR'S NOTE For ease of comparison between types, imperial measurements are used almost exclusively throughout this book. The following details will help in converting the imperial measurements into metric: 1 mile; 1.6km

09 10 11 12 13

109876 S 432 1

Early years Aftermath




lib; OASkg 1 yard;0.9m



Osprey Direct, c/o Random House Distribution Center, 400 Hahn Road, Westminster, MD 211 S7 Email: [email protected]

1 gal; 4.5 liters

Frigates Ships-of-the-I i ne

1in; 2.54cm/2SAmm







1 ton (US) ; 0.9 tonnes

Osprey Direct, The Book Service Ltd, Distribution Centre, Colchester Road, Frating Green, Colchester, Essex, C07 7DW E-mail: [email protected] www.ospreypublishing.com

Building a navy The French alliance

Index by Peter Finn Typeset in Sabon and Myriad Pro


Osprey Publishing is supporting the Woodland Trust, the UK's leading woodland conservation charity, by funding the dedication of trees.

The ships that were built had spotty records. Most were quickly captured, while some were burned to avoid that fate, and by war's end only four ships remained. Yet in that brief period the Continental Navy gave the world several memorable fights. It established the principles that guide the United States Navy to this day. This is the story of those ships.


John Paul Jones was the greatest American naval hero to emerge from the Wars of American Independence. This period illustration is one of the few contemporary images drawn from life. (AC)


When a country is born, the process is messy. It is the victors who write history. If an independence movement succeeds, it is a glorious revolution, and those that participated in it are heroes. If it fails, it was an ignominious rebellion, the fomenters traitors and scoundrels. So it was in the American Revolution. It began in an ad hoc manner, almost spontaneously. At first it was simply a way for Britons to demand redress for grievances, an attempt to regain traditional rights. Few started with independence as a goal. But as 1775 dragged into 1776, it became apparent to those in opposition to the established British order that only independence would gain them the autonomy they desired. Thirteen of Britain's colonies on the North American seaboard - from Georgia in the south to Massachusetts in the north (Maine was then part of Massachusetts) - banded together and declared their independence. They declared themselves a new nation, one radically different than any then in existence. Nations demand navies. Armed ships were already fighting for the American cause. There were privateers - privately owned warships chartered by individual states. There were ad hoc collections of warships assembled by soldiers to support their operations, such as George Washington's "Pine Tree Flag" fleet of schooners and cutters. There were state navies, commissioned by individual colonies. None satisfied the dignity owing to a nation: that required a national fleet. In due course, such a fleet was indeed established. At first it consisted of purchased merchant vessels converted into warships, but these were too weak or too slow to match the Royal Navy at sea. However, by the 1770s the Atlantic colonies were shipbuilding regions, capable of building major warships. The Continental Congress sought to capitalize on that strength, authorizing the construction of true warshipsfrigates, sloops-of-war, and ultimately, ships-of-the-line. Much of the authorized construction was never finished, and some projects were never started. The impulse towards having a navy - an expensive option - was transformed from a necessity to a luxury once the United States gained a European continental ally. France had a powerful navy, and following the alliance the United States concentrated its efforts on its army.

DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT Shipbuilding in America By 1775 shipbuilding was a major industry in the British colonies along the North American seaboard. It had to be. The coasts, rivers, and tidal estuaries of the Atlantic seaboard provided the only real means of quickly transporting large quantities of goods or numbers of people. Wagons drawn by draft animals were inefficient at any distance greater than 30 miles. Consequently, as the American colonies grew, so did their shipyards. At first, American shipyards turned out small craft - fishing boats, water ferries and coastal vessels. But even as early as the 1690s they were capable of building large merchantmen and warships, including ships built for the Royal Navy. For example, in 1790 the Holland shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, built HMS Falkland, a 44-gun two-decker. Falkland was a major warship. It was too small to stand in the line-ofbattle in a sea fight, but only just. Throughout the first two-thirds of the 18th century 44s would occasionally take a place in the line-of-battle, when necessity dictated. These vessels served as flagships on small, overseas stations, or as convoy escorts. They were the sailing era's equivalent of the armored cruiser. By the 1770s American shipyards had turned out other major warships. These included Bedford Galley, a 34-gun warship built in 1697, and HMS America, another 44-gun ship, built in 1748. Both were constructed at Portsmouth. Also in 1748, Boston, Massachusetts, turned out the 24-gun HMS Boston - a small frigate, a class of warship then entering service. New York built HMS Thornton around 1756, a frigate subsequently used as a troop transport in the 1759 invasion of Quebec. Philadelphia, Baltimore and Charleston were also major shipbuilding centers by the start of the 18th century. They regularly built both large merchantmen and privateers through the start of the American Revolution. Even by 1700 American ships showed different characteristics than Old World ships. They tended to be larger than their European counterparts. Boston of 1748 was rated at 24 guns, had a 118-foot gun deck. Fox, a 28-

The 44-gun Falkland was one of the first large ships built in the American colonies. Launched in 1695, it served in the Royal Navy for more than half a century. (John F. Millar)



The Continental Navy sloop Providence began life as Katy, a vessel typical of the numerous merchant and commercial ships built in the American colonies prior to the Revolution. (NH&HC) BELOW RIGHT The ship-of-the-line was the ultimate expression of naval power in the 18th century. No nation was considered a serious seagoing power unless they could field numerous ships-of-theline. (Weems Collection)


gun rri' te built a quarter-century later in Britain, had a gun deck that was 120 Fe t, ix inches. American hulls were also optimized for speed. There were reasons for American preference f...

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