Link: Copy link
According to Chapelle's The History of the American Sailing Navy, while rated as a 44; Constitution actually was designed to carry 30 24 pounders on her main deck and 22 32 pound carronades on her spar deck, that's 52 guns firing a broadside weight of 712 pounds versus 56 guns firing a 1036 pound broadside for the razee. President and United States carried 42 pound carronades so they'd be almost a even match for a razee especially since the American ships were far more heavily crewed and the quality of the crews were usually higher. Most RN ships had just enough crewmen to man one broadside and man the sails, American ships usually carried enough crew to man both sides. American crews usually had a large core of professional seamen, where RN ships had a small core of professionals stiffening a large number of semi-skilled conscripts. In at least one of the frigate battles the American ship almost had double the rate of fire of the English one. The French 44s were a whole different animal than the Humphries designed 44s. They were much slower and far more lightly built. Both French and British frigates tended to be slower than American frigates because by the standards of the European navies, the American ships were over sparred and over canvassed to a dangerous degree.Getz wrote:Well, no.., because USS Constitution never ran into a 44 gun Razee - and if she had she would have been well advised to run. Commerce raiders do not make a living by picking fair fights.CA railwhale wrote:Actually the shoe was on the other foot. British frigates were forbidden to engage any of the American "unfair frigates" after the string of victories run up by the Humphries designed 44s. The Royal Navy modified several ship of the line by cutting off the upper decks in the hope of having SOMETHING that could equal an American 44 in battle. They never managed that feat.Getz wrote: Perhaps, but only little ones. She'd run from anything close to her size...
Also, your chronology is slightly off. All three of RN's razee 44 gun Frigates from the war of 1812 were cut down in 1794, so it could hardly have been in response the the success of the USNs 44's. The RN did razee three third rates down to 58 gun fourth rate frigates in 1813 and had one of them present at the blockade of New York. A with twenty eight 32 pounder long guns and another twenty eight 42 pounder carronades, a 58 gun razee would have had a significant fire power advantage over any 44 gun frigate afloat so it's probably just as well no US frigate encountered one - she would have been flattened in short order. HMS Majestic certainly had no difficulty taking the French 44 Terpsichore.
The RN did additionally razee a bunch of 74's into 50 gun frigates in the 1820's and 30's, but they're rather outside the scope of the war of 1812.
To be fair, the Imperial French Navy was a shadow of what it was before the revolution when it was usually a match for the RN in quality. The USN at the time was usually very good indeed, often better than comparable RN ships. I'd bet on Constitution against an equal opponent - but it's not likely to be an easy or guaranteed victory. As you say though, fair fights are not in a commerce raiders interest and a USN ship would be best advised to avoid battle on those terms.Getz wrote: HMS Majestic certainly had no difficulty taking the French 44 Terpsichore.
Yes, they weren't really frigates in the sense of an RN frigate. Bigger, heavier, more crew, more sail, more guns, much heavier broadside . . . not built for the same purposes as the frigates of other navies.CA railwhale wrote:It was a combination of the Southern Live Oak that the Humphries designed frigates were built with and the thickness of the planking and framing as well as the close spacing of the framing. Construction wise, the American 44s were more like 74 gun ships of the line than frigates.seasick.warships1discussionboards wrote: The old growth wood she was built with repelled cannon balls.
Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-J327A using Tapatalk
To be accurate, Shannon wasn't inferior to Chesapeake. They were both 38 gun frigates and the US 38s were a totally different animal than the Humphries designed 44s. They were very similar to British and French 38s. In fact Chesapeake and Shannon were almost identical in specifications with Shannon being slightly better armed. Shannon was also a crack ship with a excellent crew and a captain that insisted on excellent gunnery. Chesapeake, on the other hand had a green crew that had only had two gunnery exercises in port and hadn't had a chance to "gell" as a crew. President was badly damaged even before the battle and was battered to pieces by the undamaged Endymion who could maneuver to avoid President's broadsides. It's not surprising that the United States lost the naval war since it didn't have a single line of battle ship and only six frigates. The USN was outnumbered by the RN by over 50 to 1. At the time the RN was the pre-eminent navy in the world and being beaten by Yankees in "fir-built frigates" came as a unpleasant surprise when the RN was used to defeating French ships of much greater force.Bledlow wrote:Yes, they weren't really frigates in the sense of an RN frigate. Bigger, heavier, more crew, more sail, more guns, much heavier broadside . . . not built for the same purposes as the frigates of other navies.CA railwhale wrote:It was a combination of the Southern Live Oak that the Humphries designed frigates were built with and the thickness of the planking and framing as well as the close spacing of the framing. Construction wise, the American 44s were more like 74 gun ships of the line than frigates.seasick.warships1discussionboards wrote: The old growth wood she was built with repelled cannon balls.
Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-J327A using Tapatalk
They were more like small, fast ships of the line. They were a bit like the later German panzerschiffe were equivalents: meant to be able to outrun anything that could beat 'em, & beat anything that could outrun 'em. Special purpose ships, built for asymmetric warfare, by a navy that was aware that it couldn't contend for control of the sea.
They lost in the end, of course. Some flashy wins, then mostly hounded from the sea. Chesapeake was taken by Shannon, & President by Endymion (in both cases losing to smaller ships). Constitution & United States spent the second half of the war hiding in port, & Congress was laid up in 1813 as not worth repairing. One out of the six managed to keep operating.