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Ancient Naval Wars & Weapons Essay

3338 words - 14 pages

Ancient Tactics and Weapons.By about the 7th century BC specialized warships were being used in the Mediterranean. These oared galley-type vessels, with considerable operational and tactical mobility, would be the major warship type in this region for the next millennium. Galley warfare was essentially about boarding and entering, а land battle at sea in which enemy ships were taken in hand-to-hand combat. Other weapons could be mounted in the bows, such as projectors or Greek fire and, later, guns. The ship itself could be used as а weapon, although ramming was better directed at the oars of hostile ships to deny mobility rather than sinking the enemy outright. Galley battles ...view middle of the document...

During this early period naval battles took place in coastal waters and were parts of maritime campaigns in which the movement of troops and their supplies were the dominant objectives. Piracy on seaborne commerce was always endemic in а situation where state power at sea was limited. Rulers had to work with the pirates rather than against them, encouraging them to direct their activities against the political opponents of the day.The Ship of the Line.The 16th century saw the development of the ocean-going sailing ship armed with guns. Though guns were added to the castles of ships, and later through gunports in the sides, naval tactics remained dominated by galley thinking. Engagements were still bow to bow with the side-mounted guns trained as far fore and aft as possible, and well-handled gun-armed galleys and larger galleasses still had advantages. They were necessary complements to the sailing ships. Only with the development of the galleon, combining а galley's prow with а sailing ship's range and flexibility, did the oared fighting ship face obsolescence. The gun-armed sailing ship also gave Europeans the military superiority to spread over the world. Still, however, the expense of naval operations forced states, notably England, to attempt to utilize private enterprise both as an aid in waging naval war and as а way of raising additional income. Although large fleets could be mobilized for specific operations, naval power was still episodic and uncertain; the weather played а greater part in the defeat of the repeated Spanish attempts to invade England, including the Spanish Armada of 1588, than the English fleet.During the 17th century recognizably modern navies came into being, permanent national maritime fighting forces maintained by funds raised by increasingly powerful states. The pressure to put more and more guns on ships-originally as much for prestige as to increase fighting capability-led to the main power of warships being in their broadsides. The line of battle replaced the line abreast and fighting instructions were introduced to organize these long and unwieldy formations. Gunnery power was still limited, and taking rather than sinking the enemy remained the primary aim. It was not easy to achieve decisive results, and in the mid-17th century battles often lasted for days. Success, however, might lead to the blockade of an enemy's coast. Maritime commerce also continued to be attacked but in а more organized manner. The system of privateers, authorized commerce raiders who often employed the stinkpot as а weapon, was regularized. The French guerre de course against commerce did much to neutralize the effects of English victories in fleet actions in the war of 1689-97.The dynamics of war at sea created in the 17th century reached maturity in the 18th. The line of battle continued to hold sway. Only ships of 50 guns or more that could hold their own against the largest enemy warships...

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