The era of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars contained hundreds of highly dedicated naval officers whose names have been largely forgotten and appear as obscure footnotes in equally obscure books. Indeed, when one advances outside the circle of Howe, Jervis, Cornwallis, Nelson, and Parker few of the names of even the brightest lights of the era are recognizable to the modern eye. One of those is Admiral Sir Edward Codrington. Continue reading
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A method of warfare that extended in prehistory came to an end around 3pm on October 20, 1827 at Navarino Bay on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula. It was a one-sided fight, much more in the tradition of Ulundi and Omdurman than Trafalgar or Camperdown, with a fairly modern fleet of British, French, and Russian ships (10 ships of the line, 10 frigates, and 6 below rates) taking on an obsolescent fleet of the Ottoman Empire (2 ships of the line, 17 frigates, and 39 below rates). Continue reading
This photo shows the coastal road at Villasar de Mar, a bit north of Barcelona, where the squadron operating under the command of Captain Edward Codrington caught and mauled a French infantry division on the march, a story told below.
“Port a point. Steady!”
The ship crept through the water; not a sound from the crew, standing tense at their guns — only the faint sweet music of the breeze in the rigging, and the lapping of the water overside. Now they were level with the infantry column, a long dense mass of blue-coated and white-breeched soldiers, stepping out manfully, a little unreal in the haze of dust. Above the blue coats could be seen the white lines of their faces — every face was turned towards the pretty white-sailed ship creeping over the blue-enamel water. It was a welcome diversion in a weary march, during a war when every day demanded its march. Gerard was giving no orders for a change of elevation at the moment — here the road ran level for a half a mile, fifty feet above the sea. Hornblower put his silver whistle to his lips. Gerard had seen the gesture. Before Hornblower could blow, the centre main-deck gun had exploded, and a moment later the whole broadside followed with a hideous crash. The Sutherland heeled to the recoil, and the white, bitter-tasting smoke came billowing up.
“God, look at that!” exclaimed Bush.
The forty-one balls from the Sutherland’s broadside and cannonades had swept the road from side to side. Fifty yards of the column had been cut to fragments. Whole files had been swept away; the survivors stood dazed and stupid. The gun trucks roared as the guns were run out again, and the Sutherland lurched once more at the second broadside. There was another gap in the column now, just behind the first.
This, of course, is from C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower novel, Ship of the Line, and is a graphic depiction of what a ship of the line could do to ground troops under the right combination of circumstances. Hornblower’s actions are fiction, could this happen in real life? Continue reading