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"The Whaleboat Service?" Topic

15 Posts

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18th Century

573 hits since 10 Oct 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2018 4:10 p.m. PST

I should have my head examined for even asking, but is anyone doing anything with the use of whaleboats in the AWI?
I'd never heard of it until this year when I started researching individual Continental officers, but evidently there was full-scale "small war" around Long Island--amphibious landings I already knew about, but also commerce raiding with whaleboats armed with swivel guns, and the sort of "land and loot" you'd normally game with vikings and longboats. I find all kinds of stuff on ironclads in the ACW, but this was below my radar. Have I been missing a regular wargaming thing?

Cacique Caribe10 Oct 2018 5:09 p.m. PST

On whose side did the whales fight? :)

TMP link

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2018 7:17 p.m. PST

Dan, no one seems to include the whales' point of view in histories of the AWI. It's another example of history being written by the victors and ignoring oppressed minorities.

But ever since I followed your link I have this image of Gregory Peck firing a swivel gun. Probably in 28mm.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2018 8:01 p.m. PST

There was a lot of similar naval actions on the Chesapeake Bay up until 1783, IIRC. The Battle of Barges was one of the last major actions of the war and drew complaints from Washington to Carleton, who said he did not control the Loyalists.

nevinsrip10 Oct 2018 8:05 p.m. PST

The were running raids and battles across Long Island Sound between Connecticut and Long Island's North shore.

Cacique Caribe10 Oct 2018 9:09 p.m. PST

"Dan, no one seems to include the whales' point of view in histories of the AWI. It's another example of history being written by the victors and ignoring oppressed minorities."

Yeah, they were probably neutral. :)



Dennis10 Oct 2018 9:34 p.m. PST


Some years back the U.S. Government began a partial documentary naval history of the AWI and of the War of 1812 somewhat like the OR of the War of the Rebellion and the Naval OR. I say partial and somewhat because it was not intended to publish all documents, but only some of the documents relating to the two wars.

At present the 1812 version has 3 volumes, with a prospective 4th that I expect sometime in the sweet by and by.

The AWI naval history ran to a dozen volumes so far. Kindle versions of the AWI documentary history are available from Amazon, but pdfs are available for free here: link

It's possible the documentary history might have some useful information for you.

Excuse me if I'm telling you something you already know-from your postings you seem to be well informed about military history and sources, but even if you already know about the AWI Naval Documentary History, others may not and the info will be useful to them.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2018 3:50 a.m. PST

Thank you Dennis. That's very kind. No, I didn't know of the series, but even if I had, I'd much rather be told multiple times than remain in ignorance.

It's just been intriguing to me that a major and often-gamed war has this entire aspect which seems to have eluded miniatures gamers altogether. I'm considering how I'd put forces together and what the rules would look like while reminding myself what a bad idea it would be.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2018 7:13 a.m. PST

I'm suddenly craving rum.

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2018 8:38 a.m. PST

Robert- I grew up on LI. The incidents you refer to are known as the "Whaleboat War". CT was held by the Patriots, LI by the Brits. Many patriot families "refugeed out" from LI to CT (think Tallmadge and Brewster). Good raids would be Meigs Raid on Sag Harbor, the Battle of Setauket, and Tallmadge's raids on Forts Slongo, Franklin and St. George.
In most, their goal was to destroy both the forage (18th century gasoline) and the sites where the forage was gathered.
Good books:
"Sound Rising" by Richard Radone
"Lost British Forts of Long Island" by David Griffin
"Washington's Spies" by Alexander Rose (avoid the others, they're poor reahashes).
Gaming Meigs is on my list of to dos.

Steelkilt11 Oct 2018 10:23 a.m. PST

I've searched online for rules or examples that would let me game batteaux engagements during the FIW, but come up with nothing. Would love to know if you find/develop applicable rules.

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2018 11:09 a.m. PST

"Blood and Plunder" has rules for small vessels.

nevinsrip12 Oct 2018 4:19 a.m. PST

Someone who knows writes:

For those itching to find more uses for their 1768 Warrant British infantry, there were several whaleboat raids on the islands in Boston Harbour in 1775, including at least two against Brewster Island where the original lighthouse was situated. The old lighthouse was wood, and was burned to the ground (using its own oil from the lamp); the British then sent a party of workmen to repair it, guarded by 30+ Marines under a Lieutenant Colthurst, who were subsequently overwhelmed and captured by several hundred New England troops in whaleboats. (Some years ago, I was actually tasked with identifying a British Marine who had died of his wounds in captivity, and whose body was discovered in the garden of an old house in Cambridge in the early 2000s. Bizarrely, there were two Marines with unimaginably similar surnames AND the same forename, BOTH of whom had been mortally wounded and handed into the care of local civilians. Still more bizarrely, the two surnames had been merged into one by a clumsy local historian back in the 1940s, making the final identification almost impossible.) The article linked to below has more details, as well as descriptions of whaleboat raids on other islands to remove livestock and other supplies; it also explains why the British found the whaleboats so difficult to catch, which suggests several ideas and rules for scenarios.
Hope that helps.

Steelkilt12 Oct 2018 4:34 a.m. PST

Thanks, Pan!

dantheman Supporting Member of TMP12 Oct 2018 12:12 p.m. PST

Whale boats were also used off the Jersey shore. Some militia leaders from the town I now live attacked a small revenue brig this way at the start of the war.

As noted above, any rules for small actions would cover this.

There is a link to actions on NJ which note some of these actions under Naval.

PDF link

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