The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 351 pages of information about The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence.

[Footnote 50:  The Order of Battle was constituted by the ships “of the line” ranging themselves one behind the other in a prescribed succession; the position of each and the intervals between being taken from the ship next ahead.  This made the leading vessel the pivot of the order and of manoeuvring, unless specially otherwise directed; which in an emergency could not always be easily done.  Strictly, if circumstances favoured, the line on which the ships thus formed was one of the two close-hauled lines; “close-hauled” meaning to bring the vessel’s head as “near” the direction of the wind as possible, usually to about 70 degrees.  The advantage of the close-hauled line was that the vessels were more manageable than when “off” the wind.]

[Footnote 51:  Evidence of Captain John Laforey, of the Ocean.]

[Footnote 52:  “I do not recollect how many points I went from the wind; I must have bore down a pretty large course.”  Testimony of Captain J. Laforey, of the Ocean, on this point.]

[Footnote 53:  “During the night (of the 27th) Admiral Keppel kept away (fit route) for Portsmouth.”  Chevalier, “Marine Francaise,” p. 90.  Paris, 1877.  Oddly enough, he adds that “on the evening of the 28th the French squadron, carried eastward by the currents, sighted Ushant.”]



Conditions of season exerted great influence upon the time and place of hostilities during the maritime war of 1778; the opening scenes of which, in Europe and in North America, have just been narrated.  In European seas it was realised that naval enterprises by fleets, requiring evolutions by masses of large vessels, were possible only in summer.  Winter gales scattered ships, impeded manoeuvres, and made gun-fire ineffective.  The same consideration prevailed to limit activity in North American waters to the summer; and complementary to this was the fact that in the West Indies hurricanes of excessive violence occurred from July to October.  The practice therefore was to transfer effort from one quarter to the other in the Western Hemisphere, according to the season.

In the recent treaty with the United States, the King of France had formally renounced all claim to acquire for himself any part of the American continent then in possession of Great Britain.  On the other hand, he had reserved the express right to conquer any of her islands south of Bermuda.  The West Indies were then the richest commercial region on the globe in the value of their products; and France wished not only to increase her already large possessions there, but also to establish more solidly her political and military tenure.


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