In the 18th century and most of the 19th, a sloop-of-war in the Royal Navy was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. The rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above; thus, the term sloop-of-war encompassed all the unrated combat vessels, including the very small gun-brigs and cutters. In technical terms, even the more specialised bomb vessels and fireships were classed as sloops-of-war, and in practice these were employed in the sloop role when not carrying out their specialised functions.
In World War I and World War II, the Royal Navy reused the term "sloop" for specialised convoy-defence vessels, including the Flowerclass of World War I and the highly successful Black Swanclass of World War II, with anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capability. They performed similar duties to the American destroyer escort class ships, and also performed similar duties to the smaller corvettes of the Royal Navy.
A sloop-of-war was quite different from a civilian or mercantile sloop, which was a general term for a single-masted vessel rigged in a way that would today be called a gaff cutter (but usually without the square topsails then carried by cutter-rigged vessels), though some sloops of that type did serve in the 18th century British Royal Navy, particularly on the Great Lakes of North America.
In the first half of the 18th century, most naval sloops were two-masted vessels, usually carrying a ketch or a snow rig. A ketch had main and mizzen masts but no foremast. A snow had a foremast and a main mast immediately abaft which a small subsidiary mast was fastened on which the spanker was set.
The first three-masted, i.e., "ship rigged", sloops appeared during the 1740s, and from the mid-1750s most new sloops were built with a three-masted (ship) rig. The third mast afforded the sloop greater mobility and the ability to back sail.
In the 1770s, the two-masted sloop re-appeared in a new guise as the brig sloop, the successor to the former snow sloops. Brig sloops had two masts, while ship sloops continued to have three (since a brig is a two-masted, square-rigged vessel, and a ship is a square-rigger with three or more masts, though never more than three in that period).
In the Napoleonic period, Britain built huge numbers of brig sloops of the Cruizerclass (18 guns) and the Cherokeeclass (10 guns). The brig rig was economical of manpower (important given Britain's chronic shortfall in trained seamen relative to the demands of the wartime fleet) and, when armed with carronades (32-pounders in the Cruizers, 18-pounders in the Cherokees), they had the highest ratio of firepower to tonnage of any ships in the Royal Navy (albeit within the short range of the carronade). The carronades also used much less manpower than the long guns normally used to arm frigates. Consequently, the Cruizer class were often used as cheaper and more economical substitutes for frigates, in situations where the frigates' high cruising endurance was not essential. A carronade-armed brig, however, would be at the mercy of a frigate armed with long guns, so long as the frigate manoeuvred to exploit its superiority of range. The other limitation of brig sloops as opposed to post ships and frigates was their relatively restricted stowage for water and provisions, which made them less suitable for long-range cruising. However, their shallower draught made them excellent raiders against coastal shipping and shore installations.
The Royal Navy also made extensive use of the Bermuda sloop, both as a cruiser against French privateers, slavers, and smugglers, and also as its standard advice vessels, carrying communications, vital persons and materials, and performing reconnaissance duties for the fleets.
Bermuda sloops were found with gaff rig, mixtures of gaff and square rig, or a Bermuda rig. They were built with up to three masts. The single masted ships had huge sails and harnessed tremendous wind energy, which made them demanding to sail and required large, experienced crews. The Royal Navy favoured multi-masted versions, as it was perennially short of sailors at the end of the 18th century, and its personnel received insufficient training (particularly in the Western Atlantic, priority being given to the continuing wars with France for control of Europe). The longer decks of the multi-masted vessels also had the advantage of allowing more guns to be carried.
Originally a sloop-of-war was smaller than a sailing frigate and was (by virtue of having too few guns) outside the rating system. In general, a sloop-of-war would be under the command of a master and commander rather than a post captain, although in day-to-day use at sea the commanding officer of any naval vessels would be addressed as "captain".
A ship sloop was generally the equivalent of the smaller corvette of the French Navy (although the French term also covered ships up to 24 guns, which were classed as post ships within the sixth rate of the British Navy). The name corvette was subsequently also applied to British vessels, but not until the 1830s.
American usage, while similar to British terminology into the beginning of the 19th century, gradually diverged. By about 1825 the United States Navy used "sloop-of-war" to designate a flush-deck ship-rigged warship with all armament on the gun deck; these could be rated as high as 26 guns and thus overlapped "third-class frigates," the equivalent of British post-ships. The Americans also occasionally used the French term corvette.
In the Royal Navy, the sloop evolved into an unrated vessel with a single gun deck and three masts, two square rigged and the aft-most fore-and-aft rigged (corvettes had three masts, all of which were square-rigged). Steam sloops had a transverse division of their lateral coal bunkersin order that the lower division could be emptied first, to maintain a level of protection afforded by the coal in the upper bunker division along the waterline.
During the War of 1812 sloops of war in the service of the United States Navy performed well against their Royal Navy equivalents. The American ships had the advantage of being ship-rigged rather than brig-rigged, a distinction that increased their manoeuvrability. They were also larger and better armed. Cruizer-class brig-sloops in particular were vulnerable in one-on-one engagements with American sloops-of-war.
In the second half of the 19th century, successive generations of naval guns became larger and with the advent of steam-powered sloops, both paddle and screw, by the 1880s even the most powerful warships had fewer than a dozen large calibre guns, and were therefore technically sloops. Since the rating system was no longer a reliable indicator of a ship's combat power, it was abolished together and with it the classifications of sloops, corvettes and frigates. Instead a classification based on the intended role of the ship became common, such as cruiser and battleship.
During the First World War, the sloop rating was revived by the British Royal Navy for small warships not intended for fleet deployments. Examples include the Flower classes of "convoy sloops", those designed for convoy escort, and the Huntclass of "minesweeping sloops", those intended for minesweeping duty.
The Royal Navy continued to build vessels rated as sloops during the interwar years. These sloops were small warships intended for colonial "gunboat diplomacy" deployments, surveying duties, and acting during wartime as convoy escorts. As they were not intended to deploy with the fleet, sloops had a maximum speed of less than 20 knots (37 km/h). A number of such sloops, for example the Grimsby and Kingfisher classes, were built in the interwar years. Fleet minesweepers such as the Algerineclass were rated as "minesweeping sloops". The Royal Navy officially dropped the term "sloop" in 1937, although the term remained in widespread and general use.
During World War II, 37 ships of the Black Swanclass were built for convoy escort duties. However, the warship-standards construction and sophisticated armaments of the sloop of that time did not lend themselves to mass production, and the sloop was supplanted by the corvette, and later the frigate, as the primary escort vessel of the Royal Navy. Built to mercantile standards and with (initially) simple armaments, these vessels, notably the Flower and River classes, were produced in large numbers for the Battle of the Atlantic. In 1948 the Royal Navy reclassified its remaining sloops and corvettes as frigates, even though the term sloop had been officially defunct for nine years.
The Royal Navy has proposed a concept, known as the " Future Black Swan-class Sloop-of-war ",as an alternative to the Global Corvette of the Global Combat Ship programme.
A frigate is a type of warship. In different eras, ships classified as frigates have had very varied roles and capabilities.
A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Brigs fell out of use with the arrival of the steam ship because they required a relatively large crew for their small size and were difficult to sail into the wind. Their rigging differs from that of a brigantine which has a gaff-rigged mainsail, while a brig has a square mainsail with an additional gaff-rigged spanker behind the mainsail.
In the rating system of the Royal Navy used to categorize sailing warships in the 18th century, a fourth-rate was a ship of the line with 46 to 60 guns mounted. They were phased out of ship of the line service during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, as their usefulness was declining; though they were still in service, especially on distant stations such as the East Indies. Fourth-rates took many forms, initially as small two decked warships, later as large frigates razéed from the initial two deck warships, and occasionally even heavily armed merchant ships such as HMS Calcutta.
Steam frigates, also known as screw frigates and the smaller steam corvettes, steam sloops 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 frigates, corvettes, and sloops.
In the rating system of the Royal Navy used to categorise sailing warships, a sixth-rate was the designation for small warships mounting between 20 and 28 carriage-mounted guns on a single deck, sometimes with smaller guns on the upper works and sometimes without. It thus encompassed ships with up to 30 guns in all. In the first half of the 18th century the main battery guns were 6-pounders, but by mid-century these were supplanted by 9-pounders. 28-gun sixth rates were classed as frigates, those smaller as 'post ships', indicating that they were still commanded by a full ('post') captain, as opposed to sloops of 18 guns and less under commanders.
The rating system of the Royal Navy and its predecessors was used by the Royal Navy between the beginning of the 17th century and the middle of the 19th century to categorise sailing warships, initially classing them according to their assigned complement of men, and later according to the number of their carriage-mounted guns. The rating system of the Royal Navy formally came to an end in the late 19th century by declaration of the Admiralty. The main cause behind this declaration focused on new types of gun, the introduction of steam propulsion and the use of iron and steel armour which made rating ships by the number of guns obsolete.
The Gunboat War was a naval conflict between Denmark–Norway and the British during the Napoleonic Wars. The war's name is derived from the Danish tactic of employing small gunboats against the materially superior Royal Navy. In Scandinavia it is seen as the later stage of the English Wars, whose commencement is accounted as the First Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.
The capture of HMS Frolic was a naval action fought in the Atlantic on 18 October 1812, between the sloop-of-war USS Wasp, commanded by Master Commandant Jacob Jones, and the Cruizer-class brig-sloopHM Brig Frolic, under Commander Thomas Whinyates. The Americans captured the British vessel, but both vessels shortly thereafter captured by a British ship of the line which happened upon the scene of the battle.
The capture of HMS Epervier was a naval action fought off the coast of Florida near Cape Canaveral on 28 April 1814, between the United States ship-rigged sloop-of-war USS Peacock, commanded by Master Commandant Lewis Warrington, and the British Cruizer-class brig-sloop Epervier under Commander Richard Wales. The Americans captured the British vessel after a one-sided cannonade, but the British merchant convoy escaped.
On 23 March 1815 USS Hornet captured HMS Penguin in a short battle off Tristan da Cunha. It was one of several engagements that took place after the War of 1812 had ended, and was the final action between British and American forces. The American gunnery was far more effective than the British, despite the two vessels being virtually identical in strength. After exchanges of broadsides and musket fire, the British commander was killed. The British brig rammed the American ship in an attempt to board, but the two were separated and Penguin was disabled shortly afterwards when the foremast fell, forcing the British to surrender. The British brig was too badly damaged to be salvaged and was set ablaze by the victors after its stores and surviving crew were removed.
Pomone was a 40-gun frigate of the French Navy, launched in 1785. The British captured her off the Île de Batz in April 1794 and incorporated her into the Royal Navy. Pomone subsequently had a relatively brief but active career in the British Navy off the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of France before suffering sufficient damage from hitting a rock to warrant being taken out of service and then broken up in 1803.
The Cruizer class was an 18-gun class of brig-sloops of the Royal Navy. Brig-sloops were the same as ship-sloops except for their rigging. A ship-sloop was rigged with three masts whereas a brig-sloop was rigged as a brig with only a fore mast and a main mast.
The sinking of HMS Reindeer was one of the hardest-fought naval actions in the Anglo-American War of 1812. It took place on 28 June 1814. The ship-rigged sloop of war USS Wasp forced the Cruizer-class brig-sloop HMS Reindeer to surrender after far more than half the brig's crew, including the Captain, were killed or wounded. Reindeer was too badly damaged in the action to be salvaged so the Americans set her on fire.
The Sinking of HMS Avon was a single ship action fought during the War of 1812, and took place on 1 September 1814. In the battle, the ship-rigged sloop of war USS Wasp forced the Cruizer-class brig-sloop HMS Avon to surrender. The Americans could not take possession of the prize as other British brig-sloops appeared and prepared to engage. Avon sank shortly after the battle.
Post ship was a designation used in the Royal Navy during the second half of the 18th century and the Napoleonic Wars to describe a ship of the sixth rate that was smaller than a frigate, but by virtue of being a rated ship, had to have as its captain a post captain rather than a lieutenant or commander. Thus ships with 20 to 26 guns were post ships, though this situation changed after 1817.
The Snake-class ship-sloops were a class of four Royal Navy sloops-of-war built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Though ships of the class were designed with the hull of a brig, their defining feature of a ship-rig changed their classification to that of a ship-sloop rather than that of a brig-sloop.
HMS Sylph was a 16-gun Albatross-class brig-sloop of the Royal Navy designed by William Rule and launched in 1795 at Deptford Dockyard. Her namesake was the air spirit sylph. She commissioned in August 1795 under Commander John Chambers White, who would have her until the end of 1799. She was later commanded by Charles Dashwood.
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