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"17th vs 18th & 19th century naval tactics" Topic

6 Posts

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18th Century
19th Century

448 hits since 26 May 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Prince Alberts Revenge26 May 2018 8:05 p.m. PST

Looking at naval battles from the anglo dutch wars versus those from the SYW and later…the earlier battles seem to be more of a scrum as opposed to the more linear battles of later. What were the major reasons for the change in tactics, since ships from both periods have the majority of their ordinance on their broadsides? Ship design, evolution of tactics, etc?

I ask because I have a good, simple set of SYW-Napoleonic naval rules (hex-based) and would like to convert them for earlier periods, or encourage period-era tactics. Thanks!

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP26 May 2018 9:30 p.m. PST

The difference lies in the evolution of command and control techniques, not in technological or design issues.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP27 May 2018 3:30 a.m. PST

+1 War Artisan

I think there was also a strong cultural component. The development and ascendency of linear tactics kept pace with the rise of professional militaries in the 17th C.

Much of the apparent stagnation of tactical innovation through the middle of the 18th C. can be blamed on internal political conflicts and social influences on the Royal Navy during it's era of naval primacy. The courts martial of Matthews and Lestock in 1746 were heavily politicized, setting precedents which lead to the absurdly Kafkaesque execution of Byng a decade later, which in turn helped ossify naval tactics for a few generations.

A lot of the innovations in AoS tactics came from nations during periods of social fluidity. The Dutch of their Golden Age and English officers who rose to power with Cromwell introduced a lot of the methodologies that later cemented into unquestioning adherence to The Line.

- Ix

StarCruiser27 May 2018 7:31 a.m. PST

Then again, most battles still devolved into a "scrum" anyway…

Blutarski27 May 2018 9:23 a.m. PST

An older, but very good reference on the evolution of tactics in the Age of Sail -

"History of Naval Tactics"
RAdm S S Robison


Ferreo Cuore Inactive Member28 May 2018 6:30 p.m. PST

Robison is hard to find and expensive [unless you've a UK library?]

I would try Wiki and then see if there are more modern sources to answer question.

FWIW I concur with above comments, it was less technology difference and more culture and command. Ships are very expensive and navies tend to develop very conservative cultures, which is why so often established powers fall to aggressive up-and-comer.

It also helps if the nation and navy believe that the national interest is critical at stake and therefore worth fighting a major action that risks loss of fleet.

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