Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

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Wiggles
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Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

Postby Wiggles » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:21 pm

So, I'm running Trafalgar through Lanchester equations for a project.

Would it be true to say that while lighter ships (anything below a third rate) have their place, in a knock down drag out fight like Trafalgar what you really want is as many of the heavies as possible and the lighter ships really have little effect on the outcome?

I may have follow up questions.
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HistoricalGeorge
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Re: Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

Postby HistoricalGeorge » Wed Mar 02, 2016 8:28 pm

I would say so yes. Smaller ships were used mainly for scouting when the big guns were about.
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Re: Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

Postby Azzabat » Thu Mar 03, 2016 12:08 am

.
As Historical George points out they were mainly used for scouting, but 5th and 6th rate ships were much faster and more manoeuvrable than Ships of the Line and could get into positions where they could inflict heavy damage (for their gun size) by raking fire on the bow and stern. They were also used to deliver 'prize crews' to crippled enemy vessels and also to protect/assist friendly stricken vessels.
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Re: Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

Postby Kingpenguin » Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:15 am

For what it's worth, the tactics used at Trafalgar relied heavily on the large weight of broadside, at close range, deployable from a heavier ship. Nelson wanted a Pell mell engagement within pistol shot. This required not only a fearsome broadside, but the large complement (some 850 souls on HMS Victory), to maintain morale while fighting close quarter boarding engagements, sometimes with multiple opponents. On the other end if the scale, HMS Africa was in a rather precarious position at the opening stages of Trafalgar, and as a much lighter ship was forced to withdraw from a ranged battle with the northern portion of the Spanish/ French line. Another point of note us that the Spanish in particular had some larger ships, such as the Santisima Trinidad (forgive the spelling), with approximately 120 large caliber guns per broadside. There are many contributing factors such as training, morale and leadership which can account for the RN overcoming such deficits, but it may also point to an optimum broadside to sailability ratio, characterised by the average RN ship of the line at 75 guns. This is just my view, but I must say that there is far more to Nelson's victory than just having heavy ships. This may also be because I'm a serving RN Officer and it is sort of beaten into us. :P In addition, I freely admit that Trafalgar's battle plan was one of the only exceptions in an otherwise linear doctrine used by large fleets on the Napoleonic period.
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Re: Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

Postby Azzabat » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:57 pm

There was also a difference in the way the 2 sides fired their broadsides. The French/Spanish tended to fire on the up roll so they inflicted more damage to the masts and rigging, aiming to destroy the means of manoeuvering thus removing the target ship from the fight.

The British fired on the down roll into the enemy ships hull so that they killed the crew rendering them unable to shoot/fight, and taking them out of action that way. As an example the French/Spanish suffered twice as many wounded as the British, but 10x as many killed.

As Kingpenguin says there was also the fact that the British crews were better gunners, fired faster, and had better morale. Nelson also gave his Captains pretty much a free reign. Provided they stuck to the basic plan he outlined, how they achieved it didn't matter. The French/Spanish however would do very little without orders.
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Re: Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

Postby Wiggles » Tue Mar 08, 2016 8:48 pm

This is all very useful, thanks guys!
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Re: Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

Postby Wiggles » Thu Mar 10, 2016 3:02 pm

Anyone got a time for when the first gun was fired at Trafalgar? My key text has 1130 but it's not explicit.
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Re: Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

Postby Azzabat » Thu Mar 10, 2016 3:55 pm

.
That's a difficult one as none of the ships log's tally exactly with each other. It's generally accepted that Nelson sent his "England expects" message at 11:45 and it was another hour before the Victory cut the enemy line and was in a position to fire at 12:45.

Villeneuve gave the order to engage the enemy at 12:00 whereupon Fougueux was the first of the French/Spanish ships to open fire (on Royal Sovereign) within minutes of the order being given.

For the British Royal Sovereign was the fastest and therefore first ship to cut the French/Spanish line and fired her first shot at about 12:15.

But depending upon your sources these times could be up to half an hour out. If your trying to game real time events I'd go for brackets of 10 minute time periods. 12:00 ... 12:10 ... 12:20 ... 12:30 etc.
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Re: Questions about napoleonic naval engagements

Postby Wiggles » Thu Mar 10, 2016 4:19 pm

So 1200 is probably my best bet. Thanks.
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