I was considering building Caldercraft's Cruizer, did a little basic research on her on Wikipedia and found that there were 106 of these brig-rigged sloops built. I quickly realized a modeler could build any one of these vessels with only very slight modifications to the kit.
Many of these large Cruizer-class brig-sloops had very mundane, unremarkable careers. Others came to tragic ends through shipwreck on uncharted or incorrectly charted rocks and shoals or departed for a destination, never arrived and were presumed to be lost at sea. Several had very distinguished and brilliant careers and a few had engaged in historically significant ship-to-ship duels during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. I'm going to focus on eight1 of them that intrigued me as subjects for a model: seven1 that engaged US Navy sloops of war in the War of 1812 and one that had been modified with an innovative experimental arrangement of her armament.
HMS Raven - Launched 25 July, 1804
Raven was commissioned in August with Commander William Layman in command. Layman was a protege of Lord Nelson with whom he had served on three previous assignments. With Nelson's support he changed Raven's armament by planking over the two forward gun ports and the two transom gun ports, removed two 6 pounder chase guns and built platforms at those two locations where he mounted 68 pounder carronades on transverse (pivoting) mounts on the ship center line which gave each a field of fire of as much as 180 degrees or more. I have not been able to find the use of pivoting mounts on another vessel larger than coastal and fresh water gunboats prior to Raven in 1804. Otherwise Raven was typical of her class.
Length: 100 ft 2 in (gundeck), 77 ft 6 in (keel)
Beam: 30 ft 6 in
Tonnage: 384 (burthen)
Armament: 16 x 32 pounder carronades + 2 x 6 pounder chase guns (before modification)
16 x 32 pounder carronades + 2 x 68 pounder carronades on transverse mounts (after modification)
Raven arrived near Cadiz to join Nelson's squadron with dispatches on the evening of 29 January 1805. Layman ordered Raven hove to, took a sounding (no bottom with an 80 fathom lead), left orders with the officer of the watch that the lead be cast every half hour and went below.
At about midnight the officer of the watch woke Layman and reported the lights of the squadron, then returned in minutes with the news that the lights were Cadiz. Layman started the lead finding 18 fathoms shoaling to 5 fathoms as he turned Raven about.
Daylight found Raven close inshore with the Spanish fleet at anchor on one side and the shore batteries on Santa Catalina on the other. Layman worked Raven over the shoals but was forced to anchor after increasing winds caused the main yard to break in the slings. The winds further increased to gale force, dragging the anchors, and drove Raven onto the beach at Santa Catalina. Raven was unsalvageable and her crew was taken into custody by the Spanish.
While in custody, Layman made inquiries among the crew and learned that his orders for soundings to be made every bell were ignored. He also learned that the officer of the watch was in his quarters, drunk, when the lights of Cadiz were reported by the look-outs.
After an officer exchange, Lieutenant Layman reported his findings to Lord Nelson in Gibraltar who advised him not to blame his officers for the loss of Raven. Nelson feared that the officer of the watch would be executed for his conduct and assured Layman "You will not be censured."
Nelson had misjudged the situation. On 9 March 1805 Layman was severely reprimanded and lost all his seniority. He appealed his court martial but the Admiralty was not willing to overturn the court's verdict. Nelson was killed at Trafalgar before further action could be taken. Layman's only powerful friend could no longer help him. It appears that Layman had annoyed many senior officers with his outspoken advocacy for improvements to the Navy and its ships and his career was destroyed in consequence.
Subsequent courts martial found Layman's master negligent in not monitoring Raven's movements and in not taking regular soundings. Layman's second lieutenant, the officer of the watch, was dismissed from the service.
Layman remained in the service but never received promotion to captain. He committed suicide on 22 May 1826.
[Sources: "HMS Raven (1804)" - Wikipedia and the bibliography for that article; Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900; http://aboutnelson.yuku.com/topic/808/Captain-Layman-new-thread ]
I find HMS Raven an interesting subject for a model as much for the injustice done to an energetic and intelligent young officer as for the innovation in the arrangement of her armament. Raven is also interesting for having the shortest life of any of the Cruizer class brig-sloops.2
I'll continue with one or more of the Cruiser-class engagements of the War of 1812 in a day or two.
Edits: 1 Increased the number by one when I realized I had overlooked one engagement that occurred after the Treaty of Ghent had been ratified 17 February 1815 in which neither combatant knew of the end of the war.
2 Added information
Edited by DFellingham, 28 May 2013 - 04:30 AM.