Selected Extracts from the "Naval Sketch Book" Vol I

Twenty-eight Gun Ships


Ten-gun Brigs 1

THE great exertions which both France and America are at present making in the formation of their respective navies, should not be over looked by our own Government, which cannot, in this respect be too much on the alert: France is trying every experiment, not only in the

1 This paper was originally published in the " United Service Journal," in the year 1829.


instruction and constant practice of exercising a large body of men as seamen, but in a new system of artillery, which, in the event of a war, will, to say the least of it, give us more trouble than we have ever experienced in either single or general engagements with the French afloat. A reference to the work of M. Paixhams, entitled "Nouvelle Force Maritime," published six years ago, will give our readers some idea of the preparations which France has made, and doubtless continues to make, against the event of a new maritime struggle.

The naval measures of America are not so extensive as those of the French, but we know from experience that their system of naval architecture has already been successful ; and, as the inference seems inevitable that they will pursue their plans to a more complete developement, we ought no longer to hesitate about taking steps to meet them on equal terms. - It is well known that the chief features of what may be called their Naval Reform, consisted in building vessels of a


much larger size than is usual in the class from which they derive their denominations. Their frigates are larger, and of heavier metal than ours; and their sloops have had the same mechanical superiority over our sloops. To meet them fairly in action we should meet them in ship-building; and having built as they build, we should make experimental cruizes with the vessels thus newly constructed, in order to ascertain the rate of sailing and other qualities as ‘men of war.' But instead of this, we are not only perpetuating our old scantling of vessels, but even creating other ships inferior in size and force to those which constitute their respective classes. We are building, and employing small frigates, and increasing the number of ten-gun brigs 1, instead of those of eighteen, although we know that other powers have no vessels which are not more than a match in size and metal for the former. - Our

1 we are happy to see that this practice has been abandoned.


frigates must either ingloriously engage sloops, such as the Wasp of the United States, or be beaten by other frigates, as in the instance of the Macedonian, Guerriere, and Java. But the case of the ten-gun brigs is even worse; they can neither fight nor fly - prevent a convoy in war, or prevent smuggling in peace.

Captain Pettman, a post-captain in the navy, "challenges 1 any officer who has ever sailed in this class of vessels to dispute, under his own signature, the correctness of his assertion, that they are perfectly safe and very superior seaboats, and exceedingly well calculated for packets."

What! attach a signature to a professional ‘opinion' without a fee ? - Is there a full-wigged barrister in the land, who, on so serious a subkect, would even ‘ship his spectacles' to open Blackstone, or consult Coke, under at least a

1 In a letter which appeared in the Courier.


twenty-four pounder? - Why, then, should any ‘sea-lawyer' so commit himself as even to make his mark to an opinion in opposition to the recorded testimony of the ‘signing-officer' in the Courier; and who, by the by, in thus coming forward to espouse the cause of the 'Charity Brig,' appears to have acted strictly in accordance with the proverb, that "charity begins at home;" for, as a post-captain, he is happily excluded from the command of such a vessel - his rank rescues him from such a miserable doom.

Captain P. congratulates himself that the ‘reports' of officers who have commanded these vessels corroborate his testimony as to their ‘superior qualities as sea-boats.'

It is true, that favourable ‘reports' are made by commanders of these vessels; but, to say nothing of the official form in which these reports are embodied, neither Captain Pettman, nor any other defender of this defenceless class can deny, that the officers in question may be induced to forego any manifestation of their opinion out of


an ill-grounded apprehension, that ally unfavourable account of these brigs might induce the Admiralty to supersede whoever should so report, instead of relying, as they ought to do, on the justice of the board, which would duly appreciate their candour.

No professional man will deny, that a vessel of war ought to possess other qualities besides those upon which so much stress has been laid by Captain Pettman ; because, were the grand desiderata in naval architecture merely to consist in being a ‘safe vessel, and a good sea-boat,' - the Dutch dogger, with its broad bow, high stern, flat floor, and large lee board, may be considered as the safest vessel that swims the sea. But there are many properties which a vessel of war should possess, to which it will be presently shown, the ‘Charity Brig,' can lay no possible claim. A ship of war is required to be a good sea-boat - to sail fast - to stow, at least, two months' water, and three months' provisions under hatches,-to carry her guns well out of the


water, and more especially, to have room to fight them,- to ‘berth her men,' or rather to afford proper and healthy accommodation for her crew, - to ‘stand well up under her canvass' - to stay in a head-sea – ‘claw-off’ a lee-shore - and, above all, to scud out of as well as to lie to, in a hurricane. Out of these ten qualities, with not one of which will any naval officer think it possible to dispense, let us see how many the ten-gun brig pretends to possess.

If it be required of a ten-gun brig to perform a voyage of any distance, or probable duration, she must, of necessity, carry above hatches, an' extra quantity of provisions and water, both of which will so much encumber the decks, and deepen the vessel beyond her ‘proper bearings,' as to render her any thing but a safe vessel, and superior sea-boat.' - As to carrying her guns well out of the water, or having room to fight them, the probability is, that the brig's battery will become totally useless (not so much on account of the constant succession of seas likely to


be shipped upon opening the ports in an ordinary double-reef-topsail breeze), as from the equally probable circumstance of a butt 1, or at least, a puncheon of water being lashed between every two guns on her upper and only fighting deck - comfortable and healthy accommodation for the crews of these vessels is quite out of the question. - The lower gun-deck of a ten-gun brig is hardly five feet high, and from her 'tween decks, during a ‘stiff breeze,' a free circulation of air is totally excluded, from the circumstance of the fore and main hatches being battened down, in order to prevent the lower-deck being flooded fore-and-aft. - So that for five out of six weeks of a winter's cruize, the ‘watch below' is doomed by day to suffer nearly suffocation from the smoke of the galley-fire 2, and by night to inhale the most noxious vapours, not only

1 As in the case of the Delight, Captain R. Hay, when sailing from Spithead for the ‘Cape station' in 1822, and which vessel has never been heard of since. It is supposed she foundered off the Isle of France.

2 The galley of flush-deck vessels stands on the lower-deck.


occasioned by the cribbed and bunged-up condition of the brig below, but from the foul effluvia of the bilge-water, which, despite of every precaution, will issue from the pump-well of these contemptible craft.

In support of the foregoing assertions, an extract is here cited from the log of one of these ‘superior sea-boats,' whilst making a voyage from Spithead to Newfoundland, in company with the Tamar (28).

Extract from the Log of His Majesty's Sloop,

Drake 1.

"A.M.- At six strong breezes and cloudy; wind S.E. Tamar bearing N.W. by W. 4 miles. At 8, wind increased to a strong gale: handed the fore-topsail, reefed the fore-sail, scudding with a heavy sea running ; not having seen the Tamar since 6 o'clock. - At midnight strong gales.

1 Subsequently lost on the coast of Newfoundland.


"April 27th, A. M.-Wind S.E.-

At 2, blowing a tremendous gale of wind; took in the main-topsail - scudding until day-light. Finding it dangerous scudding any longer, took in the fore-sail, and brought-to with her head to the southward, and lightened ship of her top" (a strange phrase, by the by,) "as much as possible.-

At noon, hard gales, with a high sea running

P.M. 1 h. 30 m. - Wind hauled to the N.E.

At midnight gale increased to a very high pitch, and several heavy seas struck the ship (brig).

"April 28th, A.M.- A very heavy sea struck the ship, and carried away the weather-hammock-rails and stanchions, stove in the weather ports and part of the bulwark,-It was found absolutely necessary to lighten her, which we commenced by throwing overboard the lee-bower anchor and the six pound long gun, also a quantity of stores we were taking to Newfoundland, and part of the ship's stores and provisions, which were on THE LOWER DECK.

At noon strong gales."

Now, by the foregoing extract it will be seen


that this safe and efficient man-of-war was compelled to carry ‘above hatches' a proportion of the provisions necessary to victual a ship for the voyage, which, under ordinary circumstances, calculating for adverse winds, &c., seldom exceeds three weeks, or a month at most. Consequently, for want of room in her hold, her lower-deck, already too low and confined, was lumbered fore-and-aft with cumbrous casks, which, to ‘lighten' the brig, and save her from foundering in the first gale of wind she encountered in crossing the Atlantic, was, together with the ‘lee-bower anchor and long six-pounder' all hove overboard, and in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.'

It may be said that a vessel of a larger size might have been similarly situated; granted, but this argument will tell against the ‘Tenny.' The Tamar (28), a vessel, though herself comparatively a wretched man-of-war, apprehended nothing of that imminent peril which we are led to infer by the brig's log-book, the Drake


experienced. Though the Tamar, in proportion to the size of the vessel, carried out a much greater quantity of stores than the Drake, yet the frigate's log-book is silent on the subject of being reduced to the alternative of cutting away anchors, or throwing overboard guns, stores, and provisions.' - And here it may be necessary to advert to the circumstance of the lumbered condition of the Drake's lower-deck, because, had the brig not shipped at Spithead, ‘supernumerary stores' for Newfoundland, her 'tween-decks would have been equally encumbered with the extra quantity of provision-casks which she was compelled to carry ‘above hatches' for the voyage.

It may be urged that these vessels have distinguished themselves in battle. With the exception of the capture of the Manly Dutch gunbrig by the Onyx, which gallant achievement was chiefly attributable to the dexterous skill evinced on that occasion by the British commander, in manoeuvering his vessel, the writer


is not aware of any instance in which a ten-gun-brig has captured her opponent in single combat. - It is true that the ‘Tennys' participated in the ‘untoward event’ of Navarino. In that affair, one of those vessels, commanded by a young nobleman, is represented as having sunk her adversary on the first broadside! But of what description was her adversary ? - If we are correctly informed, a "miserable craft" fitted out as a fire-vessel, being in fact fit for nothing else, and which a line-of-battle-ship's launch might have sunk with equal facility.

With respect to the opinion advanced by Captain Pettman, that ten-gun brigs are ‘very superior sea boats,’ and ‘exceedingly well calculated for packets,' it is only necessary to observe, that two of them, which in 1827 sailed in that capacity for Falmouth, have never since been heard of. One of them was commanded by Lieutenant Jewry, of the Navy, an excellent seaman, and an officer who had been long accustomed to the management of that class of vessels.


Since the foregoing remarks originally appeared, much controversy has taken place on the subject of naval architecture. The soundest views of the matter seem to have been entertained by Mr. Henry Chatfield, of his Majesty's Dock yard, Plymouth; who says

"The proceedings of the last few years have evinced a great desire, on the part of Government, to improve the system of naval construction in this country; and if we may judge from circumstances, it is not too much to assume that a similar feeling still continues in the higher departments. In other words, the imperfect state of the theory of English naval architecture has, for some time, been plainly seen and openly avowed."

If it were not so, how is it that so many projectors in naval science have been permitted to construct ships for the Royal Navy ? Had it been with a view to settle some disputed points, or to discover some new facts, as a means of supplying additional data to principles already established, we might be wrong in assuming that


there has been a want of confidence in our theoretical resources; but the experiments that have been gone into, had nothing of this character about them. If particular objects had been sought after, there would have been a close conference, and an unreserved communication, between the whole of the constructors; first principles would have been acquiesced in, and consecutive deductions admitted, and all would have given their attention to the accomplishment of the same object - the extension of naval science. But how different was the fact! There was a competition of entire systems, and, consequently, a division of interests; and the termination, as might naturally be imagined, has ended in a very inconclusive triumph of individual merit, (on which opinions are very various) without developing a single novel truth.

Without venturing an opinion, or intending to offer the most remote insinuation, as to the relative merits of the constructions which have been put forth by modern competitors in


ship-building, it will be our endeavour to show that the present habits of construction are a sufficient reason why those productions could not be made extensively useful; and it is from a belief that this opinion may be fully substantiated - that the remedy is perfectly practicable - and that it will be found in the following remarks, that the discussion of the subject is now engaged in.

It is not necessary to the argument which it is proposed to adopt, to know whether Captain Hayes can build better ships than Captain Symonds, or whether Mr. Sante (the late eminent yacht-builder) has proved himself to be a superior constructor to either, or both of them: nor is it at all material to the question, whether the above projectors have, or have not, planned better vessels than those designed by the surveyors of the navy, and by Professor Inman. We will not, therefore, anxiously ask, how the ships have respectively behaved - for it would only operate to embarrass us in our decisions upon the general question. The more simple


way of proceeding will be to put a few direct interrogatories, like the following: viz.- What has Science been doing all this time ? - Can we, with our present means, take the drawings of several ships, and point out, with any degree of confidence, their comparative excellencies or inferiorities ? - Are we habituated to do so ? - or, are we too conscious of the poverty of our own resources, to attempt it ?

The best reply to these questions is the plain truth - that the ships belonging to the experimental squadrons did not undergo any kind of analysis, or comparison, of their peculiar properties ; and the tendencies of their characteristic features were never scientifically discussed, after the same mode of reasoning that is invariably followed in matters of science generally. This is a tacit acknowledgment of our incompetency to make a critical comparison of ships' properties, upon understood principles ; and the reason is, that we have not been accustomed to take up naval architecture as a branch of


philosophy, but have regarded it as an art involved in greater obscurity, and accompanied with more difficulties, than really belonged to it ; and having thus neglected to analyze its principles, in a manner commensurate with the extent of the subject, we now find ourselves but imperfectly acquainted with a science, above all others important to the true interests of this country.

If the theory of construction be at all dependent on the principles of science, it is obvious that it never can be properly understood, unless it be taken up as a study to the extent to which science may be applied with advantage, to the purposes of ship-building. Individuals of talent and observation, untutored in first principles, may furnish valuable suggestions, and offer correct opinions, on certain points; but a few detached hints, however judicious those hints may be, cannot, we apprehend, be allowed, on reflection, to pass for a general knowledge of naval architecture ; for it must be evident that the moment we lose sight of first principles, to trust


to isolated facts, we place naval architecture on a very speculative, and therefore on a very perilous, basis.

It was remarked in the third report of the commissioners of naval revision – ‘where we have built exactly after the form of the best of the French ships that we have taken, thus adding our dexterity in building to their knowledge, in theory, the ships, it is generally allowed, have proved to be the best in our navy: but, whenever, our builders have been so far misled by their little attainments in the science of naval architecture, as to depart from the model before them in any material degree, and attempt improvements, the true principles on which ships ought to be constructed being imperfectly known to them, have been mistaken or counteracted, and the alterations, according to the information given to us, have in many cases done harm.'

Occasional - nay, brilliant success, may, for a time, attend an incomplete method of design, but the partial application of principles will ever


be subject to disastrous consequences; and practices which are not founded on a sure and perfect method, must eventually be remodelled, as a case of expediency, and therefore as a thing of course : and, any observations which tend to show that, without a well-digested system, we shall always incur the risk of ‘doing harm,’ when we deviate largely from known good models, are borne out by experience and by reason.

Experience, undoubtedly, teaches many things which may never have been communicated in a tangible form to the fountain-head of construction; or which, having been communicated, have not been rightly taken advantage of. This only points out (without absolving) the necessity of putting all experimental knowledge in an available form, so that communications between the experimentalist and the theorist may be as perfect as possible.

But, to whom should we look for a definition of the kind of communication which it may be proper to establish between those who design


ships, and those who navigate them? - Shall it be to him who makes use of the information, or to him who affords it? We do not, for a moment, apprehend that any one will insist that no communication is necessary. If those who have devoted themselves to first principles were to reject the suggestions of the experimentalist, they would betray their ignorance in disavowing that naval philosophy is a mixed science: and it would be equally incorrect on the part of a practical seaman, to say - I am master of many inductive principles ; I have seen ships of a vast variety of forms, and having habituated myself to notice, with particular attention, the peculiarities of their bodies - their mode of masting - their behaviour under canvass, &c., I have learnt so many useful facts, that I desire no other knowledge for the purposes of construction, than experimental philosophy.

Now the accidental circumstances which attend naval construction, are so very numerous, and of such a nature, that their effects are very


apt to mislead; and it is to be feared that much injury has accrued to the theory of ship-building, when the subject has been under discussion, from not having rejected those considerations which have nothing to do with the permanent properties of a ship's body. The quantity of sail a vessel carries - the proportions of the masts and yards, among themselves - the position and rake of the masts - a ship well or badly rigged the cut of the sails - their trim - bad stowage - bad management, &c., severally affect a ship's behaviour, in no inconsiderable degree ; consequently, nautical experiments, accompanied with all these intricacies, may just as well be said to decide the comparative effect of differences in any of these points, selected at pleasure, as to determine exclusively the relative merits of ships' bottoms !

Hence, it is so easy a thing for a good ship to behave badly, without our being able to assign the exact reasons, that when we make a comparison of the effects that arise from the complex


causes which affect a ship's behaviour at sea, it is often purely hypothetical to say to which of the causes the result is attributable.

The simplest experiments that can be made require that some conditions should be given, otherwise it is no experiment at all, in a scientific sense; but in the experimental ships, to which allusion has been here made, both the moving forces and the bodies moved were so extremely dissimilar, that it would be the very spirit of speculation to draw any specific inference, from what we know of their performance, as an accession to our knowledge of naval construction.

To lay the ground-work of an improved system of naval architecture, would be an elaborate undertaking, but it would also be a very important one; and the only way in which it could be accomplished, would be to take the task in hand with a determination to do that (with proper assistance) which it would be impossible to perform with our present resources, and which it


would be in vain for any one individual to attempt.

Our means are, at present, insufficient, for we have not an office of construction - that is, a public department in which provision is made for attending exclusively to scientific preliminaries; if we had, its immediate objects would be very nearly as follow:-

1. The first thing would be to obtain the calculated properties of the whole of our ships, commencing with those in actual service, so that we might turn to any ship on the list of the navy, and find her qualities properly described.

2. The position of the centre of gravity, of at least one ship of every class, should be determined by experiment, whenever it can be done without inconvenience to the service.

3. We should have tables of the weights of masts and yards, sails, cordage, guns, anchors, cables, ammunition, and every other article included in the equipment, so that their general effect, as


well as the effect of any proposed alterations, may be properly investigated.

4. Descriptive drawings of the stowage of ships are also necessary, to show the capacities of the holds, store-rooms, &c., and to estimate the effects of great weights by their known dispositions.

5. We ought to have accurate plans of sails (or rigging draughts,) to show the comparative powers of canvass, and to demonstrate the effect of any proposed alteration of spars.

6. The height of the centre of effort of the sails should be shown, also its position longitudinally.

These are the outlines of the leading objects of an office of construction; and tasks of such magnitude could only be achieved by the exclusive energies and attention of a plurality of persons.

7. To assist them in their labours, it would be desirable to form a professional library, and to take in such periodical works, English and


foreign, as immediately relate to naval affairs; for it is indispensable that individuals engaged in the advancement of naval science should prosecute the study of mathematics, have opportunities of research, and watch the progress of professional improvements.

8. The benefit of such a library might be extended to naval officers, and others, under the sanction of the Admiralty.

9. The instruction now given in nautical science, at the school of naval architecture, might be continued as heretofore; and the professor could be assisted in his lectures by members of the office of construction.

10. The instruction in the scientific branches of naval architecture hitherto given to the students during their course of study, might in future be afforded with increased advantages.

11. The transactions of an office so constituted would be carefully recorded, and its journalized proceedings regarded as public property; and all its documents should be so preserved,


that they could at any time be submitted to investigation.

12. A limited correspondence might be kept up with the whole of the naval establishments, with a view to collect, and ultimately to make a good arrangement of, every species of useful information.

13. The members of such an office might be called upon occasionally, to join in reports on any new plans, or improvements, which may be under consideration, and which may come within the character of their pursuits.

14. When the operations of the office become organized, part of its attention might be directed, with advantage perhaps, to the state of naval science and nautical economy in other countries 1.

1 It will be recollected that M. Dupin, whose writings have produced a great sensation, not only in this, but in almost every other country, devoted himself for no less a period than five years to the three great sources of our national means - the Commercial, Military, and Naval Force of Great Britain. It has been remarked that "it was not his object to instruct us, but, from us, to instruct his country ; to describe our institutions and practices, and to point out to France what to follow." This was a very natural wish on the part of M. Dupin, in which he certainly succeeded; for, in an address to the Academy of Sciences, at Paris, (1820) he acknowledges having gleaned many valuable hints from our dock-yards. Speaking of the School of Naval Architecture, Dupin expresses some surprise at an order which emanated from a Committee of the House of Commons, (1819) forbidding further instruction in French to the members of that establishment, to prevent them transferring their services to foreign powers ; and then he observes, " Ce passage qui contraste si fort avec les vues généralement saines et genereuses des comites du parlement, merite d'etre cité et medité." The knowledge of a foreign tongue appears to have been of great service to M. Dupin, and it is not quite obvious why the French language may not some day be similarly instrumental in rendering useful services to this country ; besides, the French abound in scientific works, and nothing would be so effective a check to improvement in naval science as not to be able to read them.


15. Experimental science, to which we owe so much, and from which there is yet much to expect, would claim the attentive consideration of an office of construction ; it would, therefore, be an object of great importance to revise the reports on ships' sailing qualities, so that they may be made available to scientific views."

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