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Author Topic: USS Constitution  (Read 1051 times)

oldiron

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USS Constitution
« on: April 09, 2009, 01:49:39 am »

I watched a show on the TV the other night called "Hero Ships". Its been an interesting series to this point, however, the last one on the USS Consitution had me asking some questions against what I thought I knew. Maybe someone can set my mind straight.
  One of the crew members stated the Constitution could out do Royal Navy vessels of the period because it had a faster firing capability, 90 seconds per repeat shot for the USS "C" versus 3 minutes for the RN.  I was under the impression the RN had the fastest firing crews of the period. Who's correct?
  Also the crew member pointed out it required 15 crew members to load, run out and fire a USS "C" gun. I thought a typical gun crew of the period was in the order of 5 to 6 men. What am I missing?

John
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Martin [Admin]

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Re: USS Constitution
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2009, 10:07:48 am »


...it seems it depends who or which country you ask!!  {:-{

Ships and Tactics - http://www.nelsonsnavy.co.uk/broadside4.html
When the USS Constitution with a crew of 456 defeated HMS Guerrierre, crew 302, The Constitution suffered 14 casualties to the Guerrierre's 78. The American Frigates fired faster and more accurately than the British thanks to training, the use of a new powder charge encased in lead not cloth, (no need to swab out the gun), and gunsights, an innovation not utilised by the British. Till this point the British captains had relied on getting their ships close to the enemies, a tactic that meant rate of fire was more important than accuracy at longer ranges.
The odds were in favour of the larger Amercan ships in the ship to ship engagements that happened during the War of 1812, but the British were used to taking on larger opponents and it must have been a shock to the Admiralty to start losing such engagements so comprehensively.

SUPER FRIGATES - AMERICA'S HIGH TECH WEAPONS OF THE 1790's - http://www.geocities.com/mchirnside/supfrig.htm
 This was offset at least somewhat by two advantages that U.S. gun crews had over their English counterparts. The guns on U.S. ships were equipped with sights while the British had declined the use of them in order to encourage both speed of fire and their use at closer range. The second advantage came out of the use by the United States of a new powder cartridge made out of thin sheets of lead. Unlike the British who used flannel bags of powder, the U.S. gun crews were not required to swab out their guns after each use to extinguish any embers left in the gun. Obviously this allowed U.S. guns to shoot at a higher rate of fire.

Constitution vs Guerrière, 19 August 1812 - http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_constitution_guerriere.html
While cruising off the St. Lawrence, the Constitution sighted the Guerrière at long distance at around 2.00pm on 19 August. When Dacres identified the distant ship as an American frigate he began to prepare for battle. The British frigate opened fire at long range at just after 5.00pm, zigzagging so that she could fire both broadsides, but without any success. The two ships finally came together in a battle of broadsides just after 6.00pm. The British maintained a higher rate of fire than the Americans, firing three broadside for every two fired by the Constitution, but the American fire was both more accurate and more damaging.

The Constitution Gun Deck - http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/consitutiongundeck.htm
Cover Illustration: Constitution's 1812 quarter bill assigned a midshipman to command fourteen of her fifteen gun-deck 24-pounders with a typical gun crew of twelve men and a powder boy. The 1st Captain primed and aimed the gun while the 2nd Captain tended the firing lock and slowmatch and fired. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Spongers and Rammers relieved one another at those strenuous tasks to keep up the rate of fire. One man brought shot from the racks; another tended the train tackle to hold the gun in place while loading. If needed, some men were designated to take stations as boarders ("B, Br"), to man the pumps, or to fight fire. Guns were normally manned on the engaged side only; if a ship engaged two opponents, gun crews had to be divided.

http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/showthread.php?t=39990&page=3

http://smmlonline.com/archives/VOL2375.txt

http://www.wackbag.com/archive/index.php/t-57759.html
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oldiron

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Re: USS Constitution
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2009, 10:55:54 am »

Thanks for going to the effort Martin, very interesting.

John
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