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A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed during the Age of Sail from the 17th century to the mid-19th century. The ship of the line was designed for the naval tactic known as the line of battle, which depended on the two columns of opposing warships maneuvering to volley fire with the cannons along their broadsides. In conflicts where opposing ships were both able to fire from their broadsides, the opponent with more cannons firing — and therefore more firepower — typically had an advantage. Since these engagements were almost invariably won by the heaviest ships carrying more of the most powerful guns, the natural progression was to build sailing vessels that were the largest and most powerful of their time.[ citation needed ]
From the end of the 1840s, the introduction of steam power brought less dependence on the wind in battle and led to the construction of screw-driven wooden-hulled ships of the line; a number of purely sail-powered ships were converted to this propulsion mechanism. However, the rise of the ironclad frigate, starting in 1859, made steam-assisted ships of the line obsolete. The ironclad warship became the ancestor of the 20th-century battleship, whose very designation is itself a contraction of the phrase "ship of the line of battle" or, more colloquially, "battleship of the line".
The term "ship of the line" has fallen into disuse except in historical contexts, after warships and naval tactics evolved and changed from the mid-19th century, at least in English (the Imperial German Navy called its battleships Linienschiffe through World War I).
The heavily armed carrack, first developed in Portugal for either trade or war in the Atlantic Ocean, was the precursor of the ship of the line. Other maritime European states quickly adopted it in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. These vessels were developed by fusing aspects of the cog of the North Sea and galley of the Mediterranean Sea. The cogs, which traded in the North Sea, in the Baltic Sea and along the Atlantic coasts, had an advantage over galleys in battle because they had raised platforms called "castles" at bow and stern that archers could occupy to fire down on enemy ships or even to drop heavy weights from. At the bow, for instance, the castle was called the forecastle (usually contracted as fo'c'sle or fo'c's'le, and pronounced FOHK-səl). Over time these castles became higher and larger, and eventually were built into the structure of the ship, increasing overall strength. This aspect of the cog remained in the newer-style carrack designs and proved its worth in battles like that at Diu in 1509.
The Mary Rose was an early 16th-century English carrack or "great ship". She was heavily armed with 78 guns and 91 after an upgrade in the 1530s. Built in Portsmouth in 1510–1512, she was one of the earliest purpose-built men-of-war in the English navy. She was over 500 tons burthen, had a keel of over 32 metres (105 ft), and a crew of over 200 sailors, composed of 185 soldiers and 30 gunners. Although the pride of the English fleet, she accidentally sank during the Battle of the Solent, 19 July 1545.
Henri Grâce à Dieu (English: "Henry Grace of God"), nicknamed "Great Harry", was another early English carrack. Contemporary with Mary Rose, Henri Grâce à Dieu was 50 metres (160 ft) long, weighing 1,000–1,500 tons and having a complement of 700–1,000. It is said[ by whom? ] that she was ordered by Henry VIII in response to the Scottish ship Michael, launched in 1511. She was originally built at Woolwich Dockyard from 1512 to 1514 and was one of the first vessels to feature gunports and had twenty of the new heavy bronze cannon, allowing for a broadside. In all, she mounted 43 heavy guns and 141 light guns. She was the first English two-decker, and when launched she was the largest and most powerful warship in Europe, but she saw little action. She was present at the Battle of the Solent against Francis I of France in 1545 (in which Mary Rose sank) but appears to have been more of a diplomatic vessel, sailing on occasion with sails of gold cloth. Indeed, the great ships were almost as well known for their ornamental design (some ships, like the Vasa, were gilded on their stern scrollwork) as they were for the power they possessed.
Carracks fitted for war carried large-calibre guns aboard. Because of their higher freeboard and greater load-bearing ability, this type of vessel was better suited than the galley to wield gunpowder weapons. Because of their development for conditions in the Atlantic, these ships were more weatherly than galleys and better suited to open waters. The lack of oars meant that large crews were unnecessary, making long journeys more feasible. Their disadvantage was that they were entirely reliant on the wind for mobility. Galleys could still overwhelm great ships, especially when there was little wind and they had a numerical advantage, but as great ships increased in size, galleys became less and less useful.
Another detriment was the high forecastle, which interfered with the sailing qualities of the ship; the bow would be forced low into the water while sailing before the wind. But as guns were introduced and gunfire replaced boarding as the primary means of naval combat during the 16th century, the medieval forecastle was no longer needed, and later ships such as the galleon had only a low, one-deck-high forecastle. By the time of the 1637 launching of England's Sovereign of the Seas, the forecastle had disappeared altogether.
During the 16th century the galleon evolved from the carrack. It was a longer and more manoeuvrable type of ship with all the advantages of the carrack. The main ships of the English and Spanish fleets in the Battle of Gravelines of 1588 were galleons; all of the English and most of the Spanish galleons survived the battle and the following storm even though the Spanish galleons suffered the heaviest attacks from the English while regrouping their scattered fleet. By the 17th century every major European naval power was building ships like these.
With the growing importance of colonies and exploration and the need to maintain trade routes across stormy oceans, galleys and galleasses (a larger, higher type of galley with side-mounted guns, but lower than a galleon) were used less and less, and only in ever more restricted purposes and areas, so that by about 1750, with a few notable exceptions, they were of little use in naval battles.
King Erik XIV of Sweden initiated construction of the ship Mars in 1563; this might have been the first attempt of this battle tactic, roughly 50 years ahead of widespread adoption of the line of battle strategy.[ citation needed ]Mars was likely the largest ship in the world at the time of her build, equipped with 107 guns at a full-length of 96 metres (315 ft).[ citation needed ] Ironically it became the first ship to be sunk by gunfire from other ships in a naval battle.[ citation needed ]
In the early to mid-17th century, several navies, particularly those of the Netherlands and England, began to use new fighting techniques. Previously battles had usually been fought by great fleets of ships closing with each other and fighting in whatever arrangement they found themselves in, often boarding enemy vessels as opportunities presented themselves. As the use of broadsides (coordinated fire by the battery of cannon on one side of a warship) became increasingly dominant in battle, tactics changed. The evolving line-of-battle tactic, first used in an ad hoc way, required ships to form single-file lines and close with the enemy fleet on the same tack, battering the enemy fleet until one side had had enough and retreated. Any manoeuvres would be carried out with the ships remaining in line for mutual protection.
In order that this order of battle, this long thin line of guns, may not be injured or broken at some point weaker than the rest, there is at the same time felt the necessity of putting in it only ships which, if not of equal force, have at least equally strong sides. Logically it follows, at the same moment in which the line ahead became definitively the order for battle, there was established the distinction between the ships 'of the line', alone destined for a place therein, and the lighter ships meant for other uses.
The lighter ships were used for various functions, including acting as scouts, and relaying signals between the flagship and the rest of the fleet. This was necessary because from the flagship, only a small part of the line would be in clear sight.
The adoption of line-of-battle tactics had consequences for ship design. The height advantage given by the castles fore and aft was reduced, now that hand-to-hand combat was less essential. The need to manoeuvre in battle made the top weight of the castles more of a disadvantage. So they shrank, making the ship of the line lighter and more manoeuvrable than its forebears for the same combat power. As an added consequence, the hull itself grew larger, allowing the size and number of guns to increase as well.
In the 17th century fleets could consist of almost a hundred ships of various sizes, but by the middle of the 18th century, ship-of-the-line design had settled on a few standard types: older two-deckers (i.e., with two complete decks of guns firing through side ports) of 50 guns (which were too weak for the battle line but could be used to escort convoys), two-deckers of between 64 and 90 guns that formed the main part of the fleet, and larger three- or even four-deckers with 98 to 140 guns that served as admirals' command ships. Fleets consisting of perhaps 10 to 25 of these ships, with their attendant supply ships and scouting and messenger frigates, kept control of the sea lanes for major European naval powers whilst restricting the sea-borne trade of enemies.
The most common size of sail ship of the line was the "74" (named for its 74 guns), originally developed by France in the 1730s, and later adopted by all battleship navies. Until this time the British had 6 sizes of ship of the line, and they found that their smaller 50- and 60-gun ships were becoming too small for the battle line, while their 80s and over were three-deckers and therefore unwieldy and unstable in heavy seas. Their best were 70-gun three-deckers of about 46 metres (151 ft) long on the gundeck, while the new French 74s were around 52 metres (171 ft). In 1747 the British captured a few of these French ships during the War of Austrian Succession. In the next decade Thomas Slade (Surveyor of the Navy from 1755, along with co-Surveyor William Bately) broke away from the past and designed several new classes of 51-to-52-metre (167 to 171 ft) 74s to compete with these French designs, starting with the Dublin and Bellona classes. Their successors gradually improved handling and size through the 1780s. Other navies ended up building 74s also as they had the right balance between offensive power, cost, and manoeuvrability. Eventually around half of Britain's ships of the line were 74s. Larger vessels were still built, as command ships, but they were more useful only if they could definitely get close to an enemy, rather than in a battle involving chasing or manoeuvring. The 74 remained the favoured ship until 1811, when Seppings's method of construction enabled bigger ships to be built with more stability.
In a few ships the design was altered long after the ship was launched and in service. In the Royal Navy, smaller two-deck 74- or 64-gun ships of the line that could not be used safely in fleet actions had their upper decks removed (or razeed), resulting in a very stout, single-gun-deck warship called a razee . The resulting razeed ship could be classed as a frigate and was still much stronger. The most successful razeed ship in the Royal Navy was HMS Indefatigable, commanded by Sir Edward Pellew.
The Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad, was a Spanish first-rate ship of the line with 112 guns. This was increased in 1795–96 to 130 guns by closing in the spar deck between the quarterdeck and forecastle, and around 1802 to 140 guns, thus creating what was in effect a continuous fourth gundeck although the extra guns added were actually relatively small. She was the heaviest-armed ship in the world when rebuilt, and bore the most guns of any ship of the line outfitted in the Age of Sail.
Mahmudiye (1829), ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II and built by the Imperial Naval Arsenal on the Golden Horn in Istanbul, was for many years the largest warship in the world. The 76.15 m × 21.22 m (249.8 ft × 69.6 ft) ship of the line was armed with 128 cannons on three decks and was manned by 1,280 sailors. She participated in the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855) during the Crimean War (1854–1856). She was decommissioned in 1874.
The second largest sailing three-decker ship of the line ever built in the West and the biggest French ship of the line was the Valmy, launched in 1847. She had vertical sides, which increased significantly the space available for upper batteries, but reduced the stability of the ship; wooden stabilisers were added under the waterline to address the issue. Valmy was thought to be the largest sort of sailing ship possible, as larger dimensions made the manoeuvre of riggings impractical with mere manpower. She participated in the Crimean War, and after her return to France later housed the French Naval Academy under the name Borda from 1864 to 1890.
The first major change to the ship-of-the-line concept was the introduction of steam power as an auxiliary propulsion system. The first military uses of steamships came in the 1810s, and in the 1820s a number of navies experimented with paddle steamer warships. Their use spread in the 1830s, with paddle-steamer warships participating in conflicts like the First Opium War alongside ships of the line and frigates.
Paddle steamers, however, had major disadvantages. The paddle wheel above the waterline was exposed to enemy fire, while itself preventing the ship from firing broadsides effectively. During the 1840s, the screw propeller emerged as the most likely method of steam propulsion, with both Britain and the US launching screw-propelled warships in 1843. Through the 1840s, the British and French navies launched ever larger and more powerful screw ships, alongside sail-powered ships of the line. In 1845, Viscount Palmerston gave an indication of the role of the new steamships in tense Anglo-French relations, describing the English Channel as a "steam bridge", rather than a barrier to French invasion. It was partly because of the fear of war with France that the Royal Navy converted several old 74-gun ships of the line into 60-gun steam-powered blockships (following the model of Fulton's Demologos), starting in 1845.The blockships were "originally conceived as steam batteries solely for harbour defence, but in September 1845 they were given a reduced [sailing] rig rather than none at all, to make them sea-going ships.… The blockships were to be a cost-effective experiment of great value." They subsequently gave good service in the Crimean War.
The French Navy, however, developed the first purpose-built steam battleship with the 90-gun Napoléon in 1850. 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), regardless of the wind conditions—a potentially decisive advantage in a naval engagement.She is also considered the first true steam battleship, and the first screw battleship ever. Napoléon was armed as a conventional ship of the line, but her steam engines could give her a speed of
Eight sister ships to Napoléon were built in France over a period of ten years, but the United Kingdom soon took the lead in production, in number of both purpose-built and converted units. Altogether, France built 10 new wooden steam battleships and converted 28 from older battleship units, while the United Kingdom built 18 and converted 41.
In the end, France and Britain were the only two countries to develop fleets of wooden steam screw battleships, although several other navies made some use of a mixture of screw battleships and paddle-steamer frigates. These included Russia, Turkey, Sweden, Naples, Prussia, Denmark, and Austria.
In the Crimean War, six line-of-battle ships and two frigates of the Russian Black Sea Fleet destroyed seven Ottoman frigates and three corvettes with explosive shells at the Battle of Sinop in 1853.
In the 1860s unarmoured steam line-of-battle ships were replaced by ironclad warships. In the US civil war, on March 8, 1862, during the first day of the Battle of Hampton Roads, two unarmoured US wooden frigates were sunk and destroyed by the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia.
However, the power implied by the ship of the line would find its way into the ironclad, which would develop during the next few decades into the concept of the battleship.
Several navies still use terms equivalent to the "ship of the line" for battleships, such as German Navy (Linienschiff) and Russian Navy (lineyniy korabl` (лине́йный кора́бль) or linkor (линкор) in short).
In the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the fleets of the Royal Navy, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Portugal fought numerous battles. In the Baltic, the Scandinavian kingdoms and Russia did likewise, while in the Mediterranean Sea, the Ottoman Empire, Spain, France, Britain and the various Barbary pirates battled.
By the eighteenth century, the UK had established itself as the world's preeminent naval power. Attempts by Napoleon to challenge the Royal Navy's dominance at sea proved a colossal failure. During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain defeated French and allied fleets decisively all over the world including in the Caribbean at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, the Bay of Aboukir off the Egyptian coast at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, near Spain at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and in the second Battle of Copenhagen (1807). The UK emerged from the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 with the largest and most professional navy in the world, composed of hundreds of wooden, sail-powered ships of all sizes and classes.
Overwhelming firepower was of no use if it could not be brought to bear which was not always possible against the smaller leaner ships used by Napoleon's privateers, operating from French New World territories. The Royal Navy compensated by deploying numerous Bermuda sloops. Similarly, many of the East India Company's merchant vessels became lightly armed and quite competent in combat during this period, operating a convoy system under an armed merchantman, instead of depending on small numbers of more heavily armed ships which while effective, slowed the flow of commerce.
The only original ship of the line remaining today is HMS Victory, preserved as a museum in Portsmouth to appear as she was while under Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Although Victory is in drydock, she is still a fully commissioned warship in the Royal Navy and is the oldest commissioned warship in any navy worldwide.
Regalskeppet Vasa sank in lake Mälaren in 1628 and was lost until 1956. She was then raised intact, in remarkably good condition, in 1961 and is presently on display at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. At the time she was the largest Swedish warship ever built.[ citation needed ] Today the Vasa Museum is the most visited museum in Sweden.[ citation needed ]
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. It dominated naval warfare in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
A frigate is a type of warship. In different eras, the roles and capabilities of ships classified as frigates have varied greatly.
Galleons were large, multi-decked sailing ships first used as armed cargo carriers by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries during the age of sail and were the principal vessels drafted for use as warships until the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the mid-1600s. Galleons generally carried three or more masts with a lateen fore-and-aft rig on the rear masts, were carvel built with a prominent squared off raised stern, and used square-rigged sail plans on their fore-mast and main-masts.
An ironclad is a steam-propelled warship protected by iron or steel armor plates, constructed from 1859 to the early 1890s. The ironclad was developed as a result of the vulnerability of wooden warships to explosive or incendiary shells. The first ironclad battleship, Gloire, was launched by the French Navy in November 1859 - narrowly pre-empting the British Royal Navy. After the first clashes of ironclads took place in 1862 during the American Civil War, it became clear that the ironclad had replaced the unarmored ship of the line as the most powerful warship afloat. This type of ship came to be very successful in the American Civil War.
A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuverable than merchant ships. Unlike a merchant ship, which carries cargo, a warship typically carries only weapons, ammunition and supplies for its crew. Warships usually belong to a navy, though they have also been operated by individuals, cooperatives and corporations.
Steam frigates, the larger steam ships of the line and the smaller steam corvettes, steam sloops, steam gunboats and steam schooners, were steam-powered warships that were not meant to stand in the line of battle. The first such ships were paddle steamers. Later on the invention of screw propulsion enabled construction of steam-powered versions of the traditional ships of the line, frigates, corvettes, sloops and gunboats.
In naval warfare, the line of battle is a tactic in which a naval fleet of ships forms a line end to end. Its first use is disputed, variously claimed for dates ranging from 1502 to 1652, with line-of-battle tactics in widespread use by 1675.
The French ironclad Gloire was the first ocean-going ironclad, launched in 1859. It was developed after the Crimean War, in response to new developments of naval gun technology, especially the Paixhans guns and rifled guns, which used explosive shells with increased destructive power against wooden ships, and after the development of the ironclad floating batteries built by the British and French for the bombardment of Russian forts during the Crimean War.
Pre-dreadnought battleships were sea-going battleships built between the mid- to late- 1880s and 1905, before the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906. The pre-dreadnought ships replaced the ironclad battleships of the 1870s and 1880s. Built from steel, protected by case-hardened steel armour, and powered by coal-fired triple-expansion steam engines, pre-dreadnought battleships carried a main battery of very heavy guns in fully-enclosed rotating turrets supported by one or more secondary batteries of lighter weapons.
HMS Prince of Wales was one of six 121-gun screw-propelled first-rate three-decker line-of-battle ships of the Royal Navy. She was launched on 25 January 1860.
Napoléon was a 90-gun ship of the line of the French Navy, and the first purpose-built steam battleship in the world. She is also considered the first true steam battleship, and the first screw battleship ever.
Mesudiye was a central-battery ironclad of the Ottoman Navy, one of the largest ships of that type ever built. She was built at the Thames Iron Works in Britain between 1871 and 1875. Mesudiye had one sister ship, though she was purchased by the Royal Navy and commissioned as HMS Superb. Her primary armament consisted of twelve 10-inch (250 mm) guns in a central armored battery.
The French ironclad Couronne ("Crown") was the first iron-hulled ironclad warship built for the French Navy in 1859–1862. She was the first such ship to be laid down, although the British armoured frigate HMS Warrior was completed first. The ship participated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, but saw no combat. She was served as a gunnery training ship from 1885 to 1908 before she was hulked the following year and became a barracks ship in Toulon. Couronne was scrapped in 1934, over 70 years after she was completed.
The Bulwark class were the final class of wooden line-of-battle ships laid down for the Royal Navy. They were laid down after HMS Warrior. In March 1861 their construction was suspended, and seven were later converted to iron-clads. HMS Bulwark and HMS Robust were kept on the stocks almost complete, in case of need, until they were scrapped in 1873 and 1872.
A gunport is an opening in the side of the hull of a ship, above the waterline, which allows the muzzle of artillery pieces mounted on the gun deck to fire outside. The origin of this technology is not precisely known, but can be traced back to the late 15th century, with the appearance of artillery in naval warfare. Ships featuring gunports were said to be pierced, since the ports were cut through the hull after the construction.
SMS Kaiser was a 92-gun wooden ship of the line of the Austrian Navy, the last vessel of the type, and the only screw-driven example, to be built by the Austrians. She was built by the naval shipyard in Pola; she was laid down in March 1855, was launched in October 1858, and was completed the following year. The ship took part in the Second Schleswig War of 1864, but saw no action during her deployment to the North Sea. Kaiser did see action during the Seven Weeks' War two years later, during which she took part in the Battle of Lissa as the flagship of Anton von Petz, commander of the Austrian 2nd Division. Kaiser engaged several Italian ironclads simultaneously, rammed one—Re di Portogallo—and damaged another—Affondatore—with gunfire. In doing so, she became the only wooden ship of the line to engage an ironclad warship in battle.
Milan was a late-19th-century unprotected cruiser in the French Navy. At the time of her completion, Milan was considered by several publications to be the fastest warship in the world. The warship was the last unprotected cruiser in French naval service, and Milan's design influenced the construction of later protected cruisers.
The Royal Sardinian Navy was the naval force of the Kingdom of Sardinia. The fleet was created in 1720 when the Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II, became the King of Sardinia. Victor Amadeus had acquired the vessels be used to establish the fleet while he was still the King of Sicily in 1713. The Sardinian Navy saw action in a number of conflicts, including the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars from the 1790s to 1810s, limited actions against the Barbary Coast such as the Battle of Tripoli in 1825, and the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859. The last war was a major step toward Italian unification, which led to the creation of a united Italian state in 1861. During the fighting in 1860, the Royal Neapolitan Navy defected to Sardinia and placed itself under Sardinian control; in 1861, the navy also absorbed the Royal Sicilian Navy, resulting in the creation of the Regia Marina, which itself became the Marina Militare, the modern Italian navy, in 1946.
This glossary defines the various types of ships and accessory watercraft that have been used in service of the United States. Such service is mainly defined as military vessels used in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, as well as the defunct, incorporated, or renamed institutions such as the United States Revenue Cutter Service. Service of the United States can also be defined in this context as special government missions in the form of expeditions, such as the Wilkes Expedition or the North Pacific Exploring and Surveying Expedition. The scope of the glossary encompasses both the "Old Navy" of the United States, from its beginnings as the "Continental Navy", through the "New Navy" and up to modern day. The watercraft included in the glossary are derived from United States ships with logbooks published by the National Archives and Records Administration.
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