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"Cheasepeake bay battle length" Topic


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Action Log

21 Feb 2018 5:18 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Cheasepeake bay battle lenght" to "Cheasepeake bay battle length"


442 hits since 21 Feb 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

noigrim21 Feb 2018 12:28 p.m. PST

I need to know how many hours it lasted for an upcoming scenario

Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian21 Feb 2018 2:14 p.m. PST

About an hour.

They maneuvered for about six hours, engaged for about an hour, retired for the night, and then danced at a distance for a couple more days.

link

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2018 2:25 p.m. PST

I assume you mean the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781.

Simple answer: 5 days.

All the shooting was on the first day (September 5), lasting from about 1600 to darkness (prob. roughly 1930-2000), so about 3-4 hours. The shooting could have started earlier (1400-1500 maybe…?) if Graves had chosen to engage on opposite tacks, or to steer into the gap between the French van and center, or if he'd had fewer signalling problems, or ordered a pell-mell descent on the French without regard to order.

The shooting ended with the fall of darkness as the two fleets sort of drifted apart, but then they spent the next few days drifting around, trading the wind gauge back and forth, making repairs, and occasionally threatening attacks, so there could have been more shooting in subsequent days. De Grasse finally ended the engagement when he spotted de Barras, and used his position and weather advantage at the end of Sep 9 to sail back to Chesapeake Bay.

So the real question is: When do you consider the battle to have started, or ended?

Even before the shooting started, the fleets sighted each other's scouts around 0930 and the French cut cables and began to leave the Chesapeake around 1130; the fleets were passing each other on opposite tacks around 1300; Graves spent a few hours reassembling his line on the opposite tack to engage, giving up an opportunity to cut off the French van. To my mind, the interesting decision points start at 0930 on September 5 and end on September 9. Thus: 5 days.

Also, FWIW: de Grasse arrived back at Chesapeake Bay on September 12, so I suppose from the perspective of Cornwallis and Washington, the Battle of the Chesapeake was 8 days. Since Graves was unable/unwilling to pursue, the 3 days in transit don't count for much unless you're figuring out the timeline of reinforcements for the Virginia land campaign.

This kind of stretched timeline is actually perfectly typical of AoS battles, and poorly represented by AoS games. Most AoS battles were all-day or multi-day affairs, maneuvering for position after the initial spotting, punctuated with sporadic shooting events which might last minutes or hours or even whole days, and sometimes well into darkness (e.g. The Moonlight Battle in 1780). Individual ships might be engaged for only fractions of an hour at a time, with lots of time spent waiting to bear between broadsides or sets of broadsides; or they might spend hours shooting at long ranges with little effect.

Another problem with AoS fleet battles is that large parts of a fleet often failed to get into position to fire a single shot, or spent large parts of the battle maneuvering to get into (or out of) firing position. In a game where each player controls only a few ships and all the "fun" is shooting and recording damage (e.g., most AoS games), the unengaged part of the fleet would be boring, boring, boring to play.

- Ix

noigrim22 Feb 2018 2:29 a.m. PST

Allright, let's go with 10 hours including the opening movements, with half hour turns.
I plan on doing a deployment like below but outside cannon range link

Or should I deploy them in two straight lines more to the left?

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2018 7:44 a.m. PST

I think the best starting point is to have them at the 1300 start point: a bit out of range, on opposite tacks, with the French van separated from the center by a big gap, and the British van just barely overlapping the French van. The slowest ships would be in the rear of each line. This sets the stage with the same conundrum that Graves and de Grasse really faced on September 5.

This is at the apogee of French naval power, so the French crews should be competent and well trained; the British should have more veterans. The French ships should also be in generally better condition than the British ships, if you have any way to track that. The Ajax and Terrible in the British rear division were actually in really poor condition, and much of the British fleet was older and had seen more service than the relatively fresher and newer French fleet.

- Ix

advocate22 Feb 2018 8:35 a.m. PST

The British admiral should know that he risks being hanged if he loses…

noigrim22 Feb 2018 11:32 a.m. PST

Yellowadmiral, that deployment sounds ideal, the brits could have benefitted from the gap if they attacked sooner, 1300-2000, with 14 hlaf hour turns and the british in line. I believe that the british rear did not engage for the local admiral mistaking the close with the enemy signal

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Feb 2018 12:50 p.m. PST

Coincidentally, this is the scenario I've registered as my Saturday event for this year's Seven Years War Association convention.

I was thinking of starting just a bit before Ix's proposed 1300 mark, so that the player assuming the role of De Grasse must choose whether to hang back with the van to keep his fleet more cohesive, while risking having the British attack before he can clear Cape Henry with the bulk of his ships. That seems to be one of the more interesting decision points on that day.

Fortunately, the "Admirals" rules allow for plenty of maneuvering time, so the players should be able to get through the pre-battle maneuvering and still come to a resolution in the allotted time. By the time the cannons open up, most of the really fun decisions have already been made.

As for the crew quality/ship condition factors: the crew quality is lumped into the ships' strength factors and is thus pretty much invisible to the players, but the effect of ships straggling due to their poor condition will definitely be highlighted.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2018 1:36 p.m. PST

I believe that the british rear did not engage for the local admiral mistaking the close with the enemy signal

I don't think it was just a mistake.

First, the sour examples of Matthews and Byng were still living memories for these men, and the spectre of court martial haunted every Royal Navy commander while the signal for the line of battle was flying. This was not Nelson's navy. Hood's interpretation of the order was well-supported by his peers and Admiralty precedent.

Second, social connections ashore had as much to do with career trajectory and the outcome of courts martial as performance in battle. Graves' career was punctuated with numerous mediocre results, and he did more than any other man to lose the American colonies (in this very battle), but he nonetheless continued receiving important commands and ended as a full admiral and a peer of the realm. He must have been well regarded by the Admiralty and King George. Hood probably knew this, and his behavior might have been nothing more than dodging blame for the debacle he foresaw from this encounter. In other contexts Hood was bold and audacious, but also always judicious, and I think it's this last quality which he demonstrated off the Virginia Capes. Hood was coincidentally also a patron, mentor and promotor for Nelson himself, which I think says a lot about what qualities he valued.

Third, every maneuver of a long line of battle takes a _ v e r y _ l o n g _ t i m e _ and the vans are frequently beaten to a pulp by the time the rear gets into position. I've seen this happen multiple times in my own fleet battle games, and it seems to have been the case in this battle historically.

Fourth, taking down the signal for the line of battle is just plain risky. A fleet let off the leash achieved disorder in an hour and chaos in two, and often took at least a day to put back together. Order is necessary for the admiral to have any influence over the proceedings, and if things start to go badly (likely with 19 worn out ships against 24 fresh ones), orderly reinforcement or withdrawal may be the only things stemming a general defeat. I've also seen this borne out on the table.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2018 1:47 p.m. PST

Coincidentally, this is the scenario I've registered as my Saturday event for this year's Seven Years War Association convention.
I'm in!

Does this mean you're going to have 43 ships of the line (and sundry frigates) done by the end of March? I can't wait to see that.

(And I'm really sorry Elliot won't be there.)

I was thinking of starting just a bit before Ix's proposed 1300 mark, so that the player assuming the role of De Grasse must choose whether to hang back with the van to keep his fleet more cohesive, while risking having the British attack before he can clear Cape Henry with the bulk of his ships. That seems to be one of the more interesting decision points on that day.
Interesting idea. If Graves can cross the mouth of the bay just right, he may be able to bunch up the French fleet without maneuver room, battering successive heads of the line with multiple ships of his own line. That would also keep the boldest British admiral (Hood) leading the action with the best ships. Assuming the French have to turn back, de Grasse is bottled up, the British can attack at will (with fireships, cutting out expeditions, etc.), and de Barras is barred from supporting the siege.

- Ix

Blutarski22 Feb 2018 2:24 p.m. PST

A couple of comments, thoughts, etc -

Once action was well and truly joined, the record suggests that a battle would typically peter out and end after 3.5 to 4 hours of continuous gunnery. Gun crews would reach the point of physical exhaustion by this point. The record also indicates that, generally speaking, 80 percent of casualties would typically be borne by 20 percent of the ships.

I do not entirely agree with the notion that the British should have more veteran crews than the French at the Chesapeake. Exactly how much more? I cannot summon up the exact citation, but consider that Admiral Hood commented after this battle that, in his opinion, the average quality of the French gunnery was as good as the best British gunnery. Apart from the French ships taken at The Saintes, all cut off and overpowered by superior numbers due to a fluke of the wind taking the French center aback, I can think of no other French line-of-battleship taken by the British in a fleet or squadron engagement over the entire war.

The one clear advantage I would confer upon the British is that their entire line of battle was quite probably coppered, compared to only about half of De Grasse's fleet.

Strictly my opinion, of course.

B

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2018 3:34 p.m. PST

I do not entirely agree with the notion that the British should have more veteran crews than the French at the Chesapeake. Exactly how much more?
I meant that as a general guideline, not a strictly quantifiable historical fact. There might well have been plenty of captains or crews among the French at the Chesapeake who could count as veterans (they'd been fighting in the Americas for 3 years by this point), but I would still expect the British to have more, just from more time at sea and more experience in previous wars. I would personally leave the exact numbers as a tool for balancing the scenario design (unless playing a campaign).

The one clear advantage I would confer upon the British is that their entire line of battle was quite probably coppered, compared to only about half of De Grasse's fleet.
If you're right, it didn't seem to do them a bit of good, did it?

I would be interested to know how many ships at the Chesapeake were coppered. I guess I should see if all those Rif Winfield books I've collected have any more information about this. And maybe re-read Decision at the Chesapeake.

- Ix

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Feb 2018 5:36 p.m. PST

Does this mean you're going to have 43 ships of the line (and sundry frigates) done by the end of March?

Yes, it does.

I currently have 36 18th century ships of the line in 1:900 (some of which will need to be re-flagged for this battle since they were most recently used for a Spanish vs British action from the War of Jenkins Ear) and 8 frigates. Seven more ships of the line in six weeks will be a piece of cake. That'll put over 50 ships on the table for this event.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2018 6:16 p.m. PST

That. Will. Be. AWESOME!!!!

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