Ship of the line

The late Elizabethan galleon that began the true fighting ship of the line reached its culmination in England’s Prince Royal of 1610 và the larger Sovereign of the Seas of 1637, along with similar great ships in other European navies. These two English ships mounted broadside guns on three decks; the Sovereign of the Seas, the most formidable ship afloat of its time, carried 100 guns. In this di động fortress displacing approximately 1,500 tons, there was some reduction of height; the bonaventure mizzen disappeared, leaving the standard three masts that capital ships thereafter carried.

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HMS Victory
HMS Victory, detail of an oil painting attributed lớn Monamy Swaine, c. 1792.
Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Eng.

Warships gradually improved in design through the 17th and 18th centuries. New types of sails, providing more canvas and more versatile combinations for varying weather conditions, such as staysails và the jib sail, came into lớn use in the 17th century. Soon thereafter the steering wheel replaced the old whip staff, or tiller.

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Frigates and smaller vessels

Ships of the line, first khổng lồ fourth rates, had svào, fast frigates as consorts. This ancestor of the modern cruiser evolved during the mid-18th century for scouting, patrol, & escort, as well as for attacking enemy merchantmen. The frigate carried its main battery on a single gun deck, with other guns on forecastle & quarterdechồng. Like ships of the line, they varied in kích thước và armament, ranging from about 24 guns in early small frigates to as many as 56 in some of the last. Two classic examples, still preserved, are the U.S. Navy’s Constitution, with 44 guns, và Constellation, with 38.


The U.S. frigate Chesapeake (left) receiving a broadside from the British frigate Shannon (right) off Boston Harbor, June 1, 1813, during the War of 1812.

Smaller vessels aided frigates in their blockade, escort, commerce raiding, & other duties. The single-masted cutter served as scout & coastal patrol craft. Brig and schooner-rigged types, generally called sloops of war, by the time of the American Revolution grew into lớn the three-masted, square-rigged “ship sloop.” Called a corvette on the Continent, the fast ship sloop complemented frigates on the fringes of the fleet. Smaller sloops, schooners, brigs, and luggers were widely used for special service. Fleets also needed ordnance and supply ships & other auxiliaries; these were usually merchantmen taken inlớn service in war emergency. Converted merchantmen, such as John Paul Jones’s Bonhomme Richard, often played combat roles. Fleets also had various special types, such as fire ships và bomb ketches. The latter, with two large mortars hurling bombs of about 200 pounds (91 kg), were developed by France in the late 1600s và were used with devastating effect against Barbary pirate ports.

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The British 74-gun ship of the line Cornwallis (left background) chasing the U.S. ship sloop Hornet (right foreground) in the South Atlantic Ocean, April 1815. The Treaty of Ghent had ended the War of 1812 several months earlier, but news of the peace had not yet reached all ships on the high seas.