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  1. Hey Evan, 

    Thanks so much for liking my post. I have been greatly influenced by your Constitution build log. And I hope to see more of it. 

  2. Great to see all of this insight… I think the comment about NAM Rodgers suggesting that the more powerful frigate generally won is more telling than we realize. In fact, it goes to the core of what rocked the Royal Navy in the initial stanza of the naval war. They were used to WINNING single ship actions where the opponent was oftentimes more powerful. Their annals are full of French and Spanish frigates yielding to less powerful British opponents during the Napoleonic era. The Royal Navy fully expected to win when an American heavy frigate hove into view. Captain Dacres of the Guerriere admonished his crew that he would be very disappointed if Constitution did not surrender within 30 minutes. That didn’t turn out so well. The memo eventually issued to all RN captains that they were forbidden by admiralty directive to engage an American Constitution class frigate one on one was seismic. The harsh reality that James tried to address was that American crews were generally as good – and oftentimes better – than their British counterparts. He attributed that to the high percentage of seasoned Tars that had defected from the RN. Perhaps. But America already had a vast seafaring population of experienced professionals – officers included. Preble’s Boys were hitting their prime and had been battle tested. Mixing in seasoned hands that had trained in the RN made the USN a more powerful adversary to England in a way that the French and Spanish could not match. The social, economic, and political upheavals that had torn through Europe left the Continental navies at a distinct disadvantage when trying to muster officers and crews that could meet the level of battle efficiency needed to compete consistently with the RN on the high seas. Not so in the United States. And the Royal Navy didn’t acknowledge that reality and were not initially prepared for the investment in resources that would be needed to contain the American frigates. They never really did find a solution for the Wasp and other non-frigates. I see that Morgan has inadvertently tripped a wire to set me off on another tangent… I would not recommend any money be spent on Andrew Lambert and his ‘The Challenge: Britain Against America in the Naval War of 1812’ Gawd do I hate that book. I see it as an example of the very worst sort of manipulative history. Full of deep scholarship by a well credentialed professor that distorts everything to drive a preconceived alternative history. I don’t think Lambert is an idiot landsman who doesn’t understand his subject. On the contrary – I think he knew exactly what he was doing when he twisted reality to match the axe he had to grind. I think he saw an opportunity to insert himself into the War of 1812 bicentennial to give the “British Perspective” without regard to the wider historical perspective that legitimate modern historians had developed. Simply put, Lambert over-inflates the British victories (land and sea) and under-inflates the American ones. He over-inflates the American defeats and under-inflates the British ones. His conclusions are wrong and presented out of proper context. Broke and the Shannon rightly deserve recognition for their professional victory of arms – the best prepared crew won the fight. But the hagiography of Phillip Broke that lies at the heart of Lambert’s narrative creates a magnetic field that warps all sense of reality around everything else. The incredible fights highlighted by the privateers in this thread barely gain a mention. I think at some point Lambert literally says something like ‘In September the privateer General Armstrong was destroyed at Fayal…’ That’s it. No other context. This review by the well-regarded Piers Brendon in the Independent sums it up pretty well: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-challenge-britain-against-america-in-the-naval-war-of-1812-by-andrew-lambert-7827277.html
  3. Mark - Yes - the Royal Navy was feeling the pinch of economizing as war expenditures escalated across years of battling Bonoparte and Captains were restricted in using powder and ball for training. They exercised at the guns to a limited extent, but almost never used powder. Some were wealthy enough to spend their own money to cover the costs for live ammo training, but others had modest backgrounds and had to fudge things. I'm sure there was some creative accounting done with the books by the pursers to hide any powder expended in live training. The majority followed orders and hardly ever trained the crew in live gunnery (as William James was eager to point out). Commodore Phillip Broke was a clear exception to the "no live ammo training" rule and his diligence paid off later in the war. The result of the Constitution vs Guerriere battle caused ripples on both sides of the Atlantic... The victory itself was meaningless in strategic terms. Losing an overworked frigate in battle to the Americans was not even a flea bite to the Royal Navy in terms of their capability. The US Navy didn't even capture a prize to add to their small fleet - Guerriere was too wrecked to keep and was blown up at sea. We modern folks, however, need to understand the magnitude of the victory/defeat in contemporary terms. The American side was ecstatic beyond what we can comprehend - even the anti-war New England region was euphoric. It was a crucial jolt of good news following close on the heels of General Hull's ignominious defeat (ironic the the two Hull's in these battles were Nephew and uncle) and likely came at the exact right time to reinvigorate the cause and justify further naval expansion. The English were stunned... They had been primed to expect easy military victories over a bunch of inexperienced and undermanned Americans. The London press was harsh on the Royal Navy in reaction and worried that the victory gave confidence to the upstarts across the pond. It might inspire America, they reasoned, to put up a tougher fight than otherwise...
  4. Great to see the entirety of James’ overview laid out here… I’ve always been a bit confused with William James and his perspective on the Guerriere battle. He seems to be at odds with Captain Brenton as well as the exultant and often distorted versions of the battle provided in the American press. To counter these views, he throws in everything he can to reshape the narrative and bring some honor to Dacres and his crew. But he does seem contradictory as he goes along… He points out, for example, that the Americans had the advantage of hand picked crews (including British citizens that were lured to the other side) and were trained more diligently at gunnery (including using live rounds), while the British crews were a motley bunch that neglected their gunnery… Yet somehow he implies that they would hold their own if the ships were of equal force. There is no doubt that the Constitution was a far more powerful ship than the Guerriere (or any of the frontline British 38 “Heavy” frigates) and would’ve won the battle under almost any circumstance. The listing of disadvantages for the Guerriere include her reduced crew size (even for her rate), the deteriorated condition of her masts, etc., and her lower weight in broadside. James certainly belabors those deficiencies. Yet none of these factors provided a moment of hesitation for Captain Dacres when Constitution hove into view. Based on what we now know, you’d think he’d have uttered “Holy Crap Lads!”, turned tail, and set all sail to head in the other direction… He did quite the opposite. He backed a topsail and waited for Constitution to bear down. He also admonished the crew that he’d be very disappointed if the enemy ship did not surrender within minutes. Dacres further had a barrel of molasses hoisted into the fore rigging as a taunt to the Yankees who enjoyed a concoction called “switchel” that included water, rum, and molasses (of course the barrel was blasted apart and covered the foredeck and crew with a gooey glop during the heat of the fight). All of this suggests that he went into the battle confident that he had a well trained crew and a serviceable battle platform under his feet that was ready for the task at hand. When the rude awakening had settled the issue and Dacres found himself in a court-martial, he and the court whitewashed the reality facing the Royal Navy. It wasn’t the superiority of the Constitution and her crew that caused defeat. It was the “accident” of Guerriere losing her rotted mizzen at a critical juncture that decided the outcome. (No doubt the double-shotted carronades and long guns of the Constitution had much to do with the accident of losing the mizzen.) James suggests that the Guerriere had not suffered any appreciable damage to that point. Hogwash. Dacres testified that he had upwards of 30 shot holes below the waterline in line with the fifth row of copper. Water was pouring into the ship. This was almost certainly the result of the first coordinated broadside delivered at point blank range by Captain Hull. The captive master William Orne’s account tells us of bucketsful of blood flowing down the hatches after the initial broadsides. Chaos likely ruled on the upper decks within minutes of the commencement of the close action. Simply stated, the Guerriere did not belong on the same ocean with an American 44 and was annihilated within 30 or so minutes of very intense close range combat. Constitution suffered hardly at all. Even William James had trouble reporting any significant damage to Constitution. He tries to stretch the casualties inflicted on the American crew, but there has never been anything to corroborate his (slightly) inflated total. And he made no mention that the American officers were certain that Guerriere had many more unaccounted for dead that were likely thrown overboard during and shortly after the fighting. The crew manifest was chucked overboard along with all other important documents prior to surrender and no cross reference could be made. James (and Andrew Lambert et al) argued that it wasn’t a fair fight. It wasn’t. Point conceded. In fact, Captain Dacres and the Guerriere lost the battle before the Constitution ever left Boston. The battle was lost years before when Joshua Humphries put pen to paper and convinced the Secretary of War to invest in a more powerful class of frigate to overmatch the common heavy frigates of the European powers – specifically the British 38s. The designer(s) drew it up so that there wouldn’t be a fair fight. Of course, the development of a professional American officer corps combined with competent crews and high levels of training provided a critical difference to what the British had come to expect when combating equal or more powerful European opponents. As noted, William James also tosses in other elements to help absolve Captain Dacres and his crew… The Americans, he insists, used sheet lead cartridges to eliminate the need to sponge out the gun and enhance their rate of fire. I’m not a researcher, but I’ve never seen any independent corroboration of this. No historical accounting records seem to show such expensive purchases on the books. We see Spongers listed for each gun crew assigned during William Bainbridge’s command, so that would run counter... Constitution's log after the Guerriere battle notes the death of Robert Brice "through want of precaution in not sponging his gun being blown from the muzzle piece..." If lead sheet cartridges were in use, it didn't help Bob. In any case, the math based on Constitution’s ammunition expenditure suggests that her rate of fire was @one discharge every 3 minutes or so. Not particularly rapid. The court-martial of Dacres included testimony that Guerriere outshot Constitution by a 3-2 margin. No one ever disputed that. The question of the national origins of the American crews during the War of 1812 is a common focal point in any historical study. William James attributes much of the American successes to the large component of natural born Englishmen in the makeup of the crew of the Constitution and other ships. This may be generally true – I don’t know. But it usually boils down to the question of naturalization. The United States has always been a nation of immigrants. Not only the crews of American ships, but many shop keepers, farmers, and members of the professional class were one generation or less removed from the British empire. These were largely Irish and Scots who had no love for the Crown and Great Britain. Irrespective of the legitimacy of any papers carried by American crew to prove citizenship or naturalization, the Royal Navy regarded any native born Englishmen as once and always fair game for impressment. Seamen with common British surnames were also fair game regardless of the fact that they may have been born in America. William James seems to agree. This was obviously a source of contention with the United States and a key trigger of the war. Many in the Constitution’s crew had served in the Royal Navy under various circumstances – including impressment. These men generally fought well against their former compatriots. Indeed, the “plucky” Irishman Dan Hogan clambered up the rigging during the most intense part of the combat with Guerriere to nail the ensign to the foremast after it was cut loose and threatened to flutter free to the deck. After the battle, Captain Hull called out his act to the Secretary of the Navy and procured for him an extra months’ pay. (Dan was later seriously wounded in the Java battle). James points out that Captain Dacres allowed 7 Americans pressed aboard Guerriere to go below during the battle and assist with the wounded rather than fight their countrymen. He neglects to highlight that this was after they had sent a delegation to the quarterdeck to request this consideration. Interestingly, there is no record of a similar delegation approaching Captain Hull. Bottom line, I don’t think England gets to take credit for providing trained crews to the American navy. James implies that many were trained in gunnery by the RN and coerced or otherwise paid to join the Constitution. I'd say that James should've conceded that their skill in gunnery was largely acquired through repetition on the American ships and they were not loyal Englishmen. Most of these seaman had willingly moved to the American side out of hatred for the Crown and very willingly fought like tigers (Dacres' words) against the Royal Navy. A few may have been induced to switch sides with financial lures, but that practice was not limited to just one side. There are likewise accounts of American crews being offered financial inducements to join the Royal Navy after their capture. Tit for tat. William James’ main motive here was to debunk the idea perpetuated by the victors that Constitution defeated an equal opponent. I think he succeeded in his main thrust. I will, however, give a pass to Hull and his crew for allowing the disparity in relative size and strength to go unheeded. There was a bunch of prize money to be gained by implying that the Guerriere was of nearly equal force. A lesser opponent warranted a lesser payout. Having this idea of a comparable opponent perpetuated in the press (and with his commissioned paintings) allowed Hull and his crew to benefit significantly when the checks were doled out… Ultimately the Royal Navy did not focus on the key learning from the loss of the Guerriere. If all that William James contends held true, then he should have argued that Captain Dacres deserved censure by the court for knowingly engaging a superior force with an undermanned ship in very poor condition. Guerriere should have broken off contact and proceeded immediately to Halifax for her refit. Instead, they absolved the captain and crew and put into the official record James Dacres’ absurd declaration that he would be eager to refight the exact same battle with his ship in peak condition and the same crew. James seems to do the same. Despite his admonitions about the arrogance and complacency of the Royal Navy with regard to the threat of the American frigates, William James ultimately helped to obscure the true reality of the British situation in 1812… The Americans had taken a very intelligent and measured approach to their naval resources and the RN could not match the overall quality of ships and men on the American side. Certainly on paper the RN had advantage in numbers and could eventually overwhelm the opposition and bottle up their bigger ships, but this would come at great expense and some sacrifice across other stations. England was stretched nearly beyond capacity to defend her far reaching empire in time of war. In truth, they had not enough resources in manpower and materiel to match their needs across multiple fronts. The merchant class was already under an incredible tax strain and the national debt had reached epic proportions in relation to Great Britain’s GDP. Further expansion of a war that was not being fought for survival was not particulalrly welcomed on the homefront. The Constitution’s victory over Guerriere portended rough seas ahead for British arms and it took a few more hard lessons before the reality compelled tougher measures and renewed commitment (and additional expenditures) to stabilize the situation.
  5. Hello Mark! The timing of your note is impeccable... I've just now started to pull everything out to assess how to restart my project. I've left off exactly where you last saw an update, so there is much yet to do. Apologies to yourself and others who've been looking for new updates... My health has been fine and the family is good (thanks to those who've asked in the background) - it is the other culprit to blame for the project downtime - Work. The company I work for was acquired almost exactly a year ago in a very public transaction involving gazillions of dollars... The new leadership offered me an expanded role with a bunch more money, but it required that I relocate my family to the east coast to be near the corporate headquarters. My kids are early in their high school tenures and are absolutely thriving - great academically, great extracurricular activities, and great social circles. It seemed like a tough time to rock their world, so I had to respectfully decline the opportunity - but I had the luxury of a very generous severance package. In the intervening period, however, there was much travelling back to the corporate office and other locations and a concerted effort to help map out the necessary steps to combine various systems/platforms and define the future roadmap before I finally "off boarded" (the polite euphemism for such exits). I'm only a few weeks into my freedom and have finally decompressed enough to reorganize my workshop and start to get Old Ironsides back on track. (I also had a jury duty stint in there somewhere!) I'll be starting in again on the cannon and I have yet to finish the chains, but I hope to have some progress to share in the next few weeks. Hopefully the ideas will begin to flow again and more of the "first rate adjunct research" from the other forum members will resurface. Many thanks for the patience from you and others and I'm looking forward to setting sail again. Regards, Evan
  6. The Trafalgar Companion by Mark Adkin will fit your requirement. Look no further! Evan
  7. Frolic - I think you well know my own opinion regarding Tyrone Martin's revisionist version of the battle. Stated plainly, I have serious doubts about his use of facts and interpretation. Regarding the overview provided by sailor Moses...The prodigious amounts of ammunition used would rightly raise eyebrows. But Tyrone Martin seems to have overlooked the simplest and most obvious explanation for this remarkable output of iron and lead. The truth is that the Constitution fired every broadside - every discharge – with two round shot. Every. One. I think your own valuable research regarding the use of TWO round shot in each discharge explains the ammunition expenditure across the relatively short duration of the close action. Here is a snippet of my long-winded rebuttal of Martin's version of the battle that is focused on the ammunition (Full version here: http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/270-uss-constitution-by-force9-revell-plastic-revisiting-the-classic-196-kit/?p=205092 ): Tyrone Martin seems to have never considered this explanation to the dilemma of the ammunition expenditure. If we isolate and examine the 32 pounder carronade round shot - which would only be used during the close engagement - the math works out quite nicely (even for those of us without advanced math degrees). I agree with Martin that the grape and canister would've been thrown in on top of the round shot for good measure and can be omitted from our calculation: 236 32 pdr round shot expended in 35 minutes. (Let's round up to 240 for us math-challenged types) Double-shotted , so divide by two and get 120 discharges in 35 minutes. 12 carronades on a broadside... 120/12 gives 10 discharges for each gun. 35 minutes/10 discharges gives us one discharge every 3.5 minutes. (BTW - the math works out exactly the same for the 300 24-pdr shot) According to Mark Adkin in his excellent Trafalgar Companion, a well drilled British gun crew would be expected to fire three rounds in five minutes. Does anyone think a new American crew drilled constantly for six weeks by professional American naval officers can fire one double-shotted round every 3.5 minutes? Me too. I've used 35 minutes because Martin mentions that length of time in the same context as the ammunition breakdown. Using Hull’s estimate of 30 minutes we have a discharge on average every 3.0 minutes - I'm good with that too. It seems likely that the American gun crews loaded full charges with two round shot with the remainder of the tube loaded with whatever grape/canister would fit and then let ‘er rip. It certainly explains the gruesome damage inflicted on the Guerriere - all the accounts of washtubs of blood flowing down hatches and bits of brain and skull scattered across the smoldering decks when the prize crew got on board. Not to mention the water filling her hold that eventually sealed her doom. My view is that Captain Dacres' testimony regarding the thirty shot holes on the larboard side was not meant to suggest a complete accounting of the hits Guerriere absorbed. It was likely meant to highlight the damage inflicted by Constitution's initial broadside (15 long guns double round shot= 30 holes). Other accounts state that two of the gun ports on the larboard side were blown into a single gaping hole. The detained ship master William Orne noted that the first broadside from Constitution fairly rocked the Guerriere and "washtubs" of blood poured down the hatchways. The prize crew after the battle were stunned by the blood and gore distributed throughout the upper decks. The ship was completely disabled and in a sinking state. On the contrary, I think Constitution hardly missed across the 30-40 minutes of punishment meted out to Guerriere during the decisive close action. Certainly some of the American shot went high and caused little damage, but the mizzen and foremasts seem to have been cut down by shot that struck fairly low down - indicating more fire concentrated against the hull. I think the American gun crews were well trained to fire on the down roll and maximize her advantage in broadside weight. The British, in contrast, likely fired more rapidly, but with little regard to high or low... RN practice would probably have reduced the powder charges at such a close range (to avoid having round shot punch neat holes in one side and out the other without inflicting showers of splinters and collateral damage within) which contributed to the "Old Ironsides" moniker.
  8. Mark - Guerriere was actually en route to Halifax for refit. She was detached from Broke's squadron as part of a regular rotation for each ship. She was certainly worn down, but that was the typical status of so many ships in the RN that were under manned and overused. I think you're right that her condition was not considered an issue for her captain and crew until after they lost the battle. Likewise it was a convenient defense to imply that the American ships were well crewed because they were largely manned by RN deserters. There is some truth to the assertion - many Americans had been impressed in the RN and had served in the fleet for years (some even at Trafalgar). It was also interesting that American crew members on the Guerriere were allowed to go below during the battle while onetime citizens of the British empire (who claimed American naturalization) helped man the Constitution and fought like tigers. These were largely Irish (and in some cases Scottish) who felt no loyalty/love for King and country. The plucky Irishman Dan Hogan clambered up the rigging in the heat of the fight to secure an ensign that had been flapping loose on the foremast. Hull called attention to his courage to the Navy secretary and approved an extra month's pay. Hogan was later wounded in both hands during the Java battle. A pre-war Destroyer was named after him. The court martial failed to fully reveal the true underlying reasons for the defeat that could be quickly socialized within the fleet to alter future outcomes. Dacres gamely suggested to the court that he would gladly refight a similar opponent with the same ship and crew. The facts strongly suggest that he was spewing unrealistic bluster and he would've lost that battle under any circumstances. Nothing about the result would indicate any chance of success. It took a few more kicks in the gut before the RN acknowledged that the big American frigates were an overmatch for any standard 38 and orders were issued prohibiting single frigate actions with the American 44s. We modern folk would've reprimanded Captain Dacres for engaging a clearly superior force with a ship in impaired condition with less than a full complement of able bodied crew.
  9. It is so interesting to see all of this testimony laid out end to end... Thanks Frolic for sharing this. I know folks find it bizarre that I could call out the discrepancy in Dacres' testimony, but it goes to the heart of how accounts of this battle have been dissected and/or manipulated over the years. Notice how the witnesses differ on the commencement of the close action in each account: Lt. Kent: "At 5 she closed within half pistol shot, on our larboard beam, both keeping up a heavy fire and steering free, his intention, evidently, being to cross our bows. At 5.20 the mizenmast fell and exposed the ship to a heavy raking fire from the enemy, who placed himself on our larboard bow..." Master Scott: "At 5 our opponent closed with in half pistol shot on our starboard beam, both steering free and keeping up a [illegible] fire.. At 5.20 the mizen mast went over the starboard quarter, which brought the ship up in the wind against her helm which exposed us to a heavy raking fire from the enemy. In his post-battle report, Captain Dacres stated: "At 5 She clos'd on our Starboard Beam, both keeping up a heavy fire and steering free, his intention being evidently to cross our bow. At 5.20, our Mizen Mast went over the starboard quarter and brought the Ship up in the Wind. The Enemy then plac'd himself on our larboard Bow, raking us..." Captain Hull and 1st Lt. Morris both maintain that Constitution commenced the close action on the Larboard beam of Guerriere. This would seem to be corroborated by Dacres' assertion that the larboard side had thirty shots below the waterline in line with the 5th row of copper. This would imply a well coordinated broadside instead of random shots during the course of a running battle. Very likely the result of the initial broadside that Captain Hull withheld until directly alongside Guerriere within "can't miss" range. Both Alfred Mahan and Theodore Roosevelt assumed that Dacres erred in his initial report and the master's testimony was mistakenly captured by a clerk or otherwise mis-remembered by Scott. All seem to agree, however, that Constitution ended up on the larboard bow at some point. ​Tyrone Martin capitalized on these discrepancies and created an entirely new version of the battle with Constitution engaging initially on the Starboard side. He inserts an entirely new set of maneuvering with Constitution crossing the bow of her adversary before wearing around for another bow crossing where the final entanglement and dismasting takes place. None of this ties back to any testimony or eyewitness account. Fun stuff Evan
  10. Frolic - Can you verify the statement from Captain Dacres: "On the starboard side there were about thirty shots, which had taken effect about five sheets of copper down..." Alfred Mahan cites that Dacres testimony as "On the LARBOARD side there were about thirty shots.." Curious Evan
  11. Jud Careful about signing on to sail into battle with Commodore Bainbridge... Put delicately, hè was not Well liked by his crew. In fact, there was à naar mutiny when Isaac Hull resigned And Bainbridge assumed command of Constitution. Bainbridge didnt hide his disdain of common sailors And treated them with almost no respect. Hè cut à deal with THE crew - if they would give HIM à chance, hè would ease Up on harsh discipline. it worked out in THE end!
  12. I think as far as Constitution keeping away for quite some time before engaging... Bainbridge claimed that he wanted to draw his opponent farther off shore before turning on her. There seemed to be some indication, however, that Bainbridge mistakenly thought Java was a heavier ship at first - perhaps a small ship of the line...
  13. We should also remember that Java was in position to stern rake Constitution TWICE during that fight. The American 44s were generally handled very well during their engagements, but the reality was that they were not nearly as nimble as their smaller opponents. The Java, in particular, was very well handled (helped in part by extra hands on board for transit to a far off station) and leveraged her maneuverability to give the Constitution everything she could handle. The loss of Java's headgear was clearly the turning point of the battle and the Constitution took every advantage. Likely that Old Ironsides would've won under any circumstance, but it certainly shortened the battle with less lives lost. Evan
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