As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.
The romance of warships ended when steam replaced sails, for in sailing warships, there was the true mastery of the seas in the art of war, because the entire process was to obtain the "WEATHER" or the wind on the windward side of an enemy ship or flotilla. There was so much tactical deployment as in single combat there was a unique attack structure and in convoy there was an even more complex attack structure.
In this, you will read the following of weather in how the English sought to attack windward, and to send in raking shots as their guns drove shot into the waterline of the enemy ship, as the ship was tilted due to the wind.
That is what is lost in all of these modern depictions, in these ships are never in a real wind.
The French chose leeward, so be able to move away from the British and they preferred shooting on the upward wave lifting the ship to tear out the rigging, so they could continue on with their mission. The British were focused upon battle as they had an immense navy, while the French chose mission to protect their ships.
Holding the weather, or windward, gage conferred several important tactical advantages. The admiral holding the weather gage held the tactical initiative, able to accept battle by bearing down on his opponent or to refuse it, by remaining upwind. The fleet with the lee gage could avoid battle by withdrawing to leeward, but could not force action. Even retreating downwind could be difficult once two fleets were at close quarters because the ships risked being raked as they turned downwind. A second disadvantage of the leeward gage was that in anything more than a light wind, a sailing ship that is sailing close hauled (or beating) will heel to leeward under the pressure of the wind on its sails. The ships of a fleet on the leeward gage heel away from their opponents, exposing part of their bottoms to shot. If a ship is penetrated in an area of the hull that is normally under water, she is then in danger of taking on water or even sinking when on the other tack. This is known as "hulled between wind and water". Finally, smoke from the gunfire of the ships to windward would blow down on the fleet on the leeward gage. So it was common for battles to involve days of manoeuvring as one admiral strove to take the weather gage from his opponent in order to force him to action, as at the battles of Ushant (1778), St Lucia Channel (1780) and the First of June (1794).
Only in heavy weather could the windward gage become a disadvantage, because the lower gun ports on the leeward side of a ship would be awash, preventing her from opening her lower-deck ports to use the guns – or risking being swamped if she did. So, in strong winds, a ship attacking from windward would not be able to bring her heavy lower-deck guns into action, while the enemy ship to leeward would have no such problem as the guns on her windward side would be raised by the heel. For this reason, Admiral Rodney ordered his ships to attack the Spanish from leeward in the stormy weather at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1780.
The following is the British and American view of battle. An Anglo ship would approach from windward to get the weather and maneuver for hours or days to achieve it. The tactic was raking shots from the rear in the weakest part of the ship and the rudder. As the angle continued, the Anglo would continue to rake the enemy ship, to so disquiet them, that they would not be able to turn to flee, presenting only the aft target which was small, or to receive a full broadside from the enemy.
The Americans were almost always well regulated. They loaded and shot faster, and were more accurate, than even the British. That is why the Americans won battles.
In this, there was always the danger of engaging in stormy seas, as the lower gun ports would be open, and water would rush in and the ship would sink.
King Henry VIII, the Mary Rose, sunk with her heavy gun ports open in a horrid disaster that sank the English flag ship.
It was an amazing thing in warfare of that era, that no one ever engaged a ship with more cannon than the enemy ship. Bringing guns to bear was what it was all about. The line ships were 72 and 66 guns, with exceptions of course as some numbered more.
The American frigates made famous were 44 guns. The British had 38's. It was not the 6 guns, but the fact that Americans were always shooting in practice, the well regulated part, and their snipers were superb, and Americans were fierce in hand to hand in ship boarding.
It was the perfect romantic era of skill and the fight.
All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by..........