Archive for the 'Age of Sail' Category

Apr 24

John Paul Jones and the North Channel Naval Duel

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 12:01 AM

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The USS Ranger and HMS Drake engaged in battle in the North Channel.

Dear reader, have you heard of John Paul Jones? Prior to working at the Naval Institute, I would have an easier time discussing Davey Jones than John Paul Jones. The first time he came up in conversation I could only nod my head and feign understanding, making a mental note to trawl the internet for information later. Thinking back on all the American History I’ve absorbed in every level of schooling, I cannot recall a single mention of John Paul Jones and that is a detriment to education. Jones is a fascinating character in history. Today, April 24, is the… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Mar 27

The Naval Act of 1794: Piracy and the U.S. Navy’s Re-Birth

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 3:00 PM

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Painting of the USS Constitution, the first ship completed after the re-establishment of the Navy.

I learned something today, dear reader. For nine long years, the United States didn’t have a Navy. Nine years! Between August 1785 and 27 March 1794, there were no Naval officers, nor sailors, not even a single ship to the Navy’s name. Yes, today is the anniversary of the rebirth of the United States Navy, and it is all thanks to pirates. At the end of the Revolutionary War in August 1785, Congress sold the last Continental Navy ship, the Alliance. There just simply wasn’t enough money available to maintain a ship or support a naval force. Moreover, the United… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Oct 7

American Independence and the Naval Factor

Friday, October 7, 2016 4:08 PM

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A Royal Navy fleet bombards Fort Sullivan, near Charleston, South Carolina, on 28 June 1776. (Alamy)

It is now no longer necessary to bemoan a lack of maritime perspective on the American Revolution, and yet the naval war still does not receive the recognition that is its due. It is, without question, the largest and most significant naval war of the 18th century; a war that is crucial in helping us to understand the path of the 18th century and the nature of revolutions; and a war that enables us to question—and in many cases answer in some detail—the very nature of sea power and its relationship with history. Indeed, no other war in the entire… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jun 14

Salty Talk: The Blazer

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 9:57 PM

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HMS Blazer by Eric Smith

Uniforms for naval officers-their cut, color, and adornments specified by regulation-began appearing in the 18th century. Ordinary crew members had to wait about another century before they were similarly provided for, although navies were making available clothing of a simple, common pattern well before that. In every ship, one boat provided a captain’s personal means of transport. It was called a gig. Over time, captains-especially successful or rich ones-took to decorating their gigs to suit their personal tastes and to make them unique (rather like people today customizing their cars). They also took to outfitting their gigs’ crews with special… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 21

‘Subdue, Seize, and Take . . .’

Thursday, April 21, 2016 2:59 PM

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NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
Captain Thomas Truxtun set the precedent for a young U.S. Navy by capturing the French frigate L’INSURGENTE during the Quasi-War with France.

On 9 February 1799, the U.S. frigate CONSTELLATION was cruising in Caribbean waters when a lookout reported an unidentified ship just over the horizon. Captain Thomas Truxtun ordered his ship to come about, then went below to record in his log: “At noon saw a sail standing to westward, gave chase. I take her for a ship of war.” The pursuit continued for about an hour with the CONSTELLATION gradually gaining. Drawing closer, it became apparent that the other ship was a heavily armed frigate. A lesser captain with a lesser crew might have decided to look for an easier… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 20

Salty Talk: “Over a Barrel”

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 12:01 AM

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"Kissing the Gunner's Daughter."

In previous “talks” we have mentioned the seagoing practice of flogging as the principal form of punishment, and how the recipients of such punishment usually were triced up in a spread-eagle position to receive it. Occasionally, some skippers of men-of-war preferred to have the men bent over a cannon to receive their lashes. This position was more commonly used, however, for the ships’ boys and young student officers (midshipmen) when they required discipline. Sometimes, they got the “cat,” but, at least in the U.S. Navy by the mid-19th century, a “boy’s cat” or “colt” — a somewhat less lethal device… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 8

Survey Results: What is The Greatest Warship of All Time?

Friday, April 8, 2016 12:01 AM

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USS Constitution is shown in a 1931 photograph shortly after her recommissioning in July of that year after an extensive restoration. Naval Institute Photo Archive.

This is cross-posted from USNI News. USNI News asked its readers, “What is the greatest warship of all time and why?” Though what makes a warship great is highly subjective, our readers offered their education and expertise to put forth their ideas as to what the answer to that question should be. And with nearly 900 reader-generated answers and more than 26,000 votes, the results are in.

 
Mar 25

Salty Talk: “Turning a Blind Eye”

Friday, March 25, 2016 12:01 AM

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"Turning a blind eye." Naval Institute Archives.

It is a rare occasion when the appearance of a word or phrase in a language can be dated with precision, but such is the case with one, which originated nearly 200 years ago. By the end of the 18th Century, one of England’s main sources of naval stores – mast timbers, pitch, hemp – were the Baltic states. With the resumption of war between Napoleonic France and England following the Peace of Amiens, the French dictator gained control of Denmark and, thereby, one side of the narrow Danish Straits, gateway to the Baltic. Endangering the future of her first line… Read the rest of this entry »

 
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