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"No Task too Small: the importance of frigates in the ..." Topic

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Tango0123 Aug 2017 11:36 a.m. PST

…British Navy.

"The claim that the late eighteenth century was the "Age of the Ships of the Line" diminishes the importance of the frigate, the other major category of warship in in service during the "Age of Sail." Because the frigates were much smaller, they could not serve in the line of battle that formed the major tactic of large scale naval combat; therefore, they are not featured in the major battles of the era. Despite their relative lack of firepower, frigates should not be discounted. They served an exceptionally important part in both the British Navy and other navies of the era. While the frigates and the ships of the line maintained very different roles, both classes of vessel where indispensable to the British Navy. A multifaceted comparison of the categories will facilitate an appreciation for both groups of vessels without diminishing either the glorious ships of the line or the courageous little frigate"
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mwindsorfw Supporting Member of TMP23 Aug 2017 12:37 p.m. PST

I've read all of Aubrey and Hornblower books. The adventures are always better on the frigates. The ship of the line books tend to start, "We were keeping station in rough seas in the Bay of Biscay…." You don't have to sell me on the idea that frigates were important (and made for better stories).

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP23 Aug 2017 1:02 p.m. PST

The equivalent of destroyers in modern navies – a buddy of mine commented you have to respect Captains who get promoted from destroyers – they do the most thankless, unappreciated work there is

Tango0124 Aug 2017 9:37 a.m. PST



goragrad24 Aug 2017 1:39 p.m. PST

Recently read 'The Frigates' by James Henderson, CBE.

He recounts a number of the more interesting engagements occurring during the Napoleonic Era involving British frigates. As a friend noted it was easy to see where Forester and other authors obtained the exploits of their heroes from.

As to little frigates, the larger frigates were longer than many 74 gun liners and the Constitution and United States were actually originally laid down as 74s. Some British frigates were converted from liners by cutting away the upper gun deck as an interim solution after the Royal Navy ran into these super frigates. Without an upper gun deck they displaced less, but until seen at closer range could be mistaken for ships of the line.

Charlie 1225 Aug 2017 3:49 p.m. PST

…Constitution and United States were actually originally laid down as 74s.

Sorry, but not true. The US 44s were designed as frigates from the start. The myth that they were cut down 74s has been around for too long.

StarCruiser26 Aug 2017 6:27 a.m. PST

They were Humphreys and Fox designs and were designed as large Frigates from conception. Constitution, United States and President were built more or less as the same design (slight differences due to different builders) while the other three – Chesapeake, Constellation and Congress were reduced in size, though still fairly well built.

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2017 12:25 p.m. PST

I think the confusion stems from the two facts that I know:

They were designed and laid down as large frigates

Their designs and workmanship were so good that they could hold their own, if not actually win, in a one on one "Ragwagon" duel with a "home built, well built" British 74.

(Though, hold their own and winning are two different matters altogether).

I think this is where the confusion stems from.

StarCruiser26 Aug 2017 12:46 p.m. PST

I'm not sure about taking on a 74 – those usually have 32 pounders on the lower deck (French, 36's) and more men as well.

Now, if you compare the firepower of the Constitution to say, a classic 64 gunner, that's more even.

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2017 1:36 p.m. PST

Well, my understanding is if one of the large frigates could not avoid combat with a 74, not actually looking to take one on.

StarCruiser26 Aug 2017 4:17 p.m. PST

The only incident I'm aware that comes close to that was the capture of the USF President. She ran aground on an uncharted sand bar and damaged her false keel while trying to run a blockade.

Engaged and defeated one British Frigate and then had another engage her and several more ships approaching, including a 74. Hauled down her colors for very good reason at that point…

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