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LIGHT SQUADRONS AND SINGLE SHIPS,
As we are now entering upon the first exploit of 1811. one of the far-famed american 44-gun frigates, we wo conceive it will be useful to examine, a little more minutely than we have done, the force and qua- Amelifications of a class of ship, little known in Europe, rita until the President brought herself into notice in the gates. manner we shall presently have to relate.
In our account of the action between the Constel- Order lation and Insurgente, we mentioned that, in March, their 1794, when a rupture was expected with the regency serca of Algiers, the government of the United States tion. ordered the construction of four frigates of 44, and two of 36 guns; and we stated that one class was to mount 56 guns, including 30 long 24-pounders on the main deck, and the other 48 guns, including 28 long 18-pounders.* But we are inclined to think that this was not the armament originally intended for these ships; and our opinion is founded on the following facts. Soon after the passing of the act of congress of the 27th of March, 1794, the differences with Algiers were amicably settled; but in the course of the same year, feeling an interest in the success of republican France, the United
1811. States pushed their complaints against England to
an extremity bordering on war. Now the Algerines 74s and possessed no stronger vessels than frigates, and those one 44 not of the first class; but England could send to
sea a fleet of line-of-battle ships. It was this, we believe, that occasioned the american president to direct, as by a clause in the act he was empowered to do, that, instead of the four 44 and two 36 gun frigates, two 74-gun ships, and one frigate of 44 guns, should be constructed.
An english shipwright, Mr. Joshua Humphreys, of the resident at Philadelphia, was required to give in an ships. estimate of the cost of building a 74-gun ship, to
measure 1620 tons american, which, as we shall by and by show, is about 1750 tons english. He did so, and computed the expense, without reckoning the guns, at" 342000 dollars. Upon this estimate, as it appears, the timbers were prepared for two 74s; one to be built at Philadelphia and named United States, the other at Boston and named Constitution. The 44-gun frigate was to be built at Baltimore, and to be named Constellation. Scarcely, however, had the keels of any of these ships been laid down, ere Mr. Jay's treaty restored the amicable relations between England and America, and occasioned a stop to be put to their construction.
As the most eligible mode of converting the
timbers prepared for the two 745, it was resolved to fri- that, although begun as line-of-battle ships, they
should be finished as frigates. This was to be done by contracting the breadth of the frame about three feet and a half, and discontinuing the topside at the clamps of the quarterdeck and forecastle. As these enormous " frigates," although intended to mount 62
guns, were to rate only of 44, it was decided that Launch- the frigate originally intended to class as a 44 should ing to bear the designation of a 36. The United-States was
launched on the 10th of May, 1797, and cost, exclu
sive of her ordnance, 299336 dollars; and the Constitution, tution was launched on the 21st of October, in the
The 74s converted
States and Consti
same year, and cost 302718 dollars. This, in either 1811. case, was not much below the original estimate, even had the ships been completed as 74s, and shows what a slight change had been effected in their construction. The Constellation was built under the personal Condirection of commodore Truxton, who first commis- stellasioned her, and was launched on the 7th of Sep. tember, 1797. Owing partly to the dearness of materials, and partly, we believe, to some expensive alterations in her construction, the Constellation cost the enormous sum of 314000 dollars.
When, in the spring of the year 1798, the expense Report of building these frigates, two of “ 44," and one of of the “36 guns,” came to be submitted to congress, some can seexplanation was required; and on the 1st of April Creware the secretary at war delivered in a report, of which on the
subject the following is an extract: “It appears, that the first estimate rendered to congress was for frigates frigates of the common size and dimensions, rated at 36 and 44
guns, and that the appropriations for the arma: ment were founded upon this estimate. It also appears, that, when their size and dimensions came to be maturely considered, due reference being had to the ships they might have to contend with, it was deemed proper, so to alter their dimensions, without changing their rates, as to extend their sphere of utility as much as possible. It was expected, from this alteration, that they would possess, in an eminent degree, the advantage of sailing; that, separately, they would be superior to any single european frigate of the usual dimensions; that, if assailed by numbers, they would be always able to lead ahead; that they could never be obliged to go into action but on their own terms, except in a calm; and that in heavy weather, they would be capable of engaging double-decked ships. These are the principal advantages contemplated from the change made in their dimensions. Should they be realized, they will more than compensate for having materially swelled the body of expenditures.”
1911. In the course of the year 1798, two more 44-gun
frigates were built; one, the President, at Newing of York, the other, the Philadelphia, at Philadelphia.
Of the latter we know very little, on account of her
loss already mentioned ;* but of the former we are Phila- enabled to furnish some far from unimportant particudelphia
lars. Being constructed of timbers prepared for them
were constructed and the pains taken in building ner in them, we can but repeat our former remarks on the
same subject. Every thing that was new in the navies ameri: of England and France was tried, and, if approved, gates adopted, no matter, it falling so light from the were paucity of individuals, at what expense.
There were no contractors, to make a hard bargain pay, by deieriorating the quality of the article; no deputies, ten deep, each to get a picking out of the job. The executive government agreed directly with the artisan; and not a plank was shifted, nor a longbolt driven, without the scrutinizing eye of one of the captains or commodores; of him, perhaps, who expected, at no distant day, to risk his life and honour on board the very ship whose equipment he was superintending.
As the number and nature of a ship's guns depend,
in a very great degree, upon her size and scantling, of 44- we must endeavour to convey an idea of the dimenfrigate
. sions of the american 44-gun frigate, before we enter
* See vol. iii. p. 424.
upon the subject of her armament. The United-. 1811, States, Constitution, and President measure within a few fractions of a ton the same; namely, from 1444 to 1445 tons american. We say “tons american,” because, although the american standard of weights and measures, the pound and the foot, for instance, is the same as the english, the mode of casting the tonnage of a ship is widely different. This will appear evident when it is known, that the size of american frigate President, according to the official Presiregister in the office at Washington, measured 1444 tons and a fraction ;* whereas, when subsequently measured at Portsmouth dock-yard, she was found to be 1533 tons and a fraction.
The President's “ keel for tonnage,” as given in Differa an american publication, is 145 feet; but the english the mode of casting the tonnage makes it 146 feet, 73 british inches, In both cases, it is a mere calculation, ameintended to allow for the rake or inclination of the rican ship’s stem and stern. The first multiplicator of the ofcastAmericans is the breadth across the frame, or moulded breadth, by them usually called the breadth någe of beam, but the first multiplicator of the British In
plained is the extreme breadth, or that produced by adding to the moulded breadth double the assumed thickness (in ships of the higher classes five inches) of the plank on the bottom. The second multiplicator of each is the respective half-breadths. The american divisor is 95; the british 94. Thus :
Tons. 137198-95 = 1444 ysths.
143044_94 =1533 Faths. As it is not generally known, even among the The most experienced naval officers of either nation, tion it that difference exists in the mode of measuring occabritish and american ships of war, the reduction in the alleged tonnage of the latter greatly facilitates the deception, eulogized for its “ advantages” by the american government, and to the influence of which
* Clark's Naval History of the United States, vol. ii. p. 240,
Ft. in. Ft. in. Ft. in. Am. method. 145 0 x 43 6=6308 x 21 9 Brit. ditto .. 146 74 x 44 4=6502 x 22 2