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T2, R2, Prng 72: Dutch East Indiaman vs French Corvette & Brig

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  • T2, R2, Prng 72: Dutch East Indiaman vs French Corvette & Brig


    In your opinion, which of these two warship types was most significant, influential and/or effective?
    Feel free to apply those criteria as you please, along with any others you think appropriate.
    Note: Suggestions for some additional criteria are at the foot of this post.

    According to the criteria as you see and apply them, please vote for your preferred candidate in the attached poll.
    If your chosen criteria are significantly different from those suggested, telling us what they are and why you used them would be helpful.






    52: Dutch East Indiaman 1601-1800



    An "East Indiaman" was essentially a ship built for trade and commerce mainly in the region of the East Indies, usually including certain parts of the Indian sub-continent. The Portuguese, English and Dutch were among the first of the European powers to employ such ships in a consistently organized manner. Of the three, it wasn't all that long before the Dutch - with their exceptional business acumen - arguably became the preeminent traders on this route. In March 1602, after a substantial amount of earlier experience, Dutch merchants got together and set up the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC. We generally see this referred to in English as the Dutch East India Company.
    The VOC became an early multinational corporation in the modern sense and issued bonds and shares to the general public. It became the World's first formally listed public company as well as the first to be listed on an official stock exchange and is regarded as having played a powerful role in World history.
    The VOC as a company lasted until December 1799, after which it was dissolved and its assets taken over by the government; the overseas territories becoming Dutch colonies.

    The arming of Indiamen has been covered elsewhere but briefly, it was found to be necessary to provide them with a heavy enough armament to defend themselves against most likely attackers or commerce raiders. Typically, these could be Barbary Corsairs (perhaps mainly when passing Spain and rounding the north western part of Africa); and a variety of pirates or other miscreants for much of the route. The required level of armament therefore ended up being quite substantial from sheer necessity. It also meant that the more heavily armed Indiamen could be used as "de-facto warships" in a pinch as sometimes happened. A few ended their careers in this role.

    Our first subject is Batavia, launched in 1628. For her time, she was somewhat heavier than average for an Indiaman; displacing about 1200 tons and carrying 24 cast-iron cannon plus a number of smaller bronze guns. She did not get the opportunity for positive fame as such; being shipwrecked on her maiden voyage.
    Infamy, if anything, was to be her legacy. She set out with a substantial amount of gold and silver for trading purposes. On board, senior merchant Francisco Pelsaert and the captain, Ariaen Jacobsz had previously shared some animosity towards each other. Also aboard was Jeronimus Cornelisz, a bankrupt pharmacist who was fleeing the Netherlands. Jacobsz and Cornelisz planned to take over the ship and start a new life somewhere, using the gold and silver she was carrying. After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, Jacobsz deliberately steered the ship off course to separate Batavia from the rest of the fleet. An attempt was made to start a mutiny but it didn't eventuate. After all of this, on 4 June 1629 Batavia struck a reef not far from the coast of Western Australia. Using the ship's boats, many of the passengers and crew survived to reach land.
    However, although the details of her story - which I have touched on here - are not really important for your deliberations as such, they may nevertheless be found interesting. What followed is not only one of the most impressive feats of navigation and survival but also a dark tale of bloody mutiny.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batavia_(ship)


    A nice photo of the Batavia replica

    image_79141.jpg



    Here we see a view of the gun deck on the Batavia replica. The small child in the background gives an impression of scale.

    image_79142.jpg



    Our other Dutch example is Merkurius, a full 2-decker dating from 1747 and rated for 58 guns. As such, she could be seen to represent the larger East Indiamen of the mid 1700's.
    Compared to most other Dutch ships of this time, further precise data for Merkurius are scant; to the point where it seems almost as if she never existed as a real ship. The model, however, is among those in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the specific year mentioned above is given. It is possible that this model may have been constructed as no more than a classic example of her class and could therefore be "generic" in that sense. Either way, I think it is a reasonable representation of a standard variant for this type.


    Model of Merkurius, 1747

    image_79139.jpg





    70: French Corvette and Brig 1701-1860



    The first known reference to "corvettes" is in the Marine Nationale (French Navy) during the 1670's. Sailing corvettes of this period were quite similar to sloops, being warships with a single deck of guns and smaller than a frigate. Corvettes usually had three masts; the larger ones being generally somewhat bigger and having a greater displacement than the largest sloops, with up to about 28 guns. Nevertheless, either way across the leading navies of this time, they shared the general position of the sloop in representing a warship being "next size down" from a frigate. As with the sloops, sailing corvettes were fast and agile warships that proved extremely useful and could fulfill a considerable variety of tasks.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvette

    Our first example is Bayonnaise, launched in 1793. Her displacement was about 580 tons. She was rated for 24 guns as her "nominal" main armament; beginning her career armed with 28 (24 x 8pdr & 4 x 4pdr).
    Later, this was changed to 24 x 8pdr, 2 x 32pdr carronades and the option for an additional 6 x 8pdr guns. With both arrangements, provision was also made for a number of swivel guns. Her complement varied from time to time but would usually not have been less than 220 officers and men.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French...onnaise_(1793)

    Her first major action was in the Croisiere du grand Hiver (Campaign of the Great Winter) in December 1794; an unsuccessful operation but for reasons that were no fault of Bayonnaise and her crew, who presumably did their duty.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croisi...du_Grand_Hiver


    Coppering of a Ship's Hull

    In 1795, Bayonnaise was kept in dock for a time to have her bottom "coppered"; a process that began to be favored in a number navies during this period. The British had been the first to introduce the method. It consisted of a coating of many small thin copper plates, being fixed to the portion of the hull below the waterline. The purpose was to inhibit salt-water corrosion and the growth and destructive effects of various forms of marine life that invariably attached themselves to the hulls of ships. Given sufficient time, these could not only gradually weaken a wooden hull (some creatures, notably a type of marine worm, could bore into the timber); but the encrustations of general marine growth would also gradually make the ship slower and slower in the water, due to the "drag" they created when the ship was under way.

    Recognition of this problem and efforts to deal with it were far from new. Prior to the advent of coppering, some navies - and a few going back to ancient times - experimented with other solutions such as an extra layer of outer planking (that could be removed and replaced); and covering with thin lead sheets. However, in particular the excessive weight of lead was a performance killer. Other solutions included regular in-dock maintenance cleaning - if and when the opportunity arose - combined with re-coatings of various inhibitive substances and paints.
    However, it was discovered that copper plating worked far better and for substantially longer. Not only did it effectively prevent creatures boring into the hull but also, it had a considerable inhibiting effect on most forms of life attaching themselves to the hull to begin with. Therefore, the build-up of encrustation in itself was much slower. Although coppering was unquestionably expensive, in the long run it not only saved maintenance costs but also helped to preserve performance in the water for much longer than previous treatments. As little as one or two extra knots could mean the difference between defeat and victory in a moving engagement and the advantage could sometimes be considerably more than that; depending on factors such as the state of one's opponent's hull.

    Of course, there is far more to all of this than the very cursory coverage I've given here. For those starting out as I recently did (i.e. knowing almost nothing) and looking for a bit more detail, the wiki article is one possible starting point:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper_sheathing


    Bayonnaise's most famous action

    This French corvette became famous when she reluctantly engaged and captured the larger and much more heavily armed 32-gun British frigate Ambuscade, off the West coast of France near the Gironde estuary. The British frigate, commanded by Captain Henry Higgins, was commencing blockade duty at the time. Initially the French captain, Jean-Baptiste-Édmond Richer, felt that discretion was the best option and began to withdraw from the area. However, as soon as this became apparent Ambuscade gave chase and eventually came within cannon range.
    After an exchange of fire lasting almost an hour, Bayonnaise had gotten the worst of it and was looking as if she would go down. However, while Ambuscade was maneuvering to Bayonnaise's stern in order to rake her, one of the British ship's guns burst. In the ensuing confusion, Bayonnaise attempted to make good her escape. However, Ambuscade soon resumed the chase and caught Bayonnaise a second time. With the British ship drawing alongside to port, to resume the exchange of gunfire, Richer finally decided that a desperate situation called for desperate measures. He ordered his ship to "back sail" and to turn towards the British and ram them. Bayonnaise's bowsprit broke the British ship's mizzen and the two vessels became locked together. Both ships then fired their last broadside and prepared for close-quarter combat!
    Under fire of some of the smaller guns and the exchange of musketry, grapples were used to bring the two ships closer together and an intense exchange of fire and melee lasting about 30 minutes, ensued. The French managed to gain the upper hand and eventually, the only British officer left standing - William Beaumont Murray - surrendered his ship.
    Both ships had been severely damaged but of the two, the captured Ambuscade was the more seaworthy so she was used to tow Bayonnaise back to a French port. Both ships were repaired and Ambuscade became Embuscade in French service.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action..._December_1798


    French corvette Bayonnaise ramming British frigate Ambuscade, December 1798

    Corvette Bayonnaise 1793 vs Ambuscade Dec 1798.jpg



    My chosen example of a French brig is Cygne of the Abeille class, launched in 1806. She displaced about 350 tons and was armed with 16 guns; 14 x 24pdr carronades and 2 x 6pdr chasers, having a crew of 84.


    Model of brig Cygne 1806

    Brig-Corvette Cygne 1806 model.jpg



    Cygne had a short career with a few successful engagements, under the command of her captain Menouvrier Defresne. Her final battle was a "last stand" against a British squadron in the Caribbean, in December 1808. The action took place over a couple of days, with repeated attempts to capture Cygne being repulsed and some British prisoners being taken. A brief opportunity for Cygne to escape came to nothing when she ran aground. With the British ships closing in, Defresne ordered her to be abandoned and destroyed by fire.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_brig_Cygne_(1806)


    Painting illustrating a moment during the 1808 battle. Cygne is to the left, with assault boats from the British ships attempting to capture her intact.

    Brig-Corvette Cygne 1806 vs Brit ships 1808 by Mayer.jpg








    OK, time to make up you mind:
    Should the Dutch east Indiamen win this one ...
    ... or should it go to the French corvettes & brigs?


    Suggested additional criteria you might wish to consider, along with any others you deem appropriate.
    (Note: Some of these could be considered already covered by Significant, Influential and Effective)

    Which warship type ...
    • was the best?
    • was the greatest?
    • was the most widely used?
    • had the greatest longevity in service?
    • was the most versatile?
    • represented the best value for the cost/effort invested ("bang for the buck" in today's language)?
    • was the easiest to operate?
    Any other criteria you have applied (please tell us what they were).
    15
    52 - Dutch East Indiaman
    33.33%
    5
    70 - French Corvette & Brig
    66.67%
    10
    Last edited by panther3485; 21 Oct 18, 03:27.
    "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

  • #2
    Despite the fact that CYGNE had an ignominious end, the sheer maneuverability of the French corvettes and brigs over the heavy Dutch east indiamen ..make them the better choice. We know they were lightly armed but speed and ability win the day.
    ARRRR! International Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19th
    IN MARE IN COELO

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    • #3
      Voted chauvinistic again for the Dutch Indiaman as these laid the bottom of Dutch fabulous wealth. A strategic ship being able to do everything over a long time and a long distance. They remained in service for a century and a half so quite a longevity
      Re the poll's other points, they were the most versatile: trader able to sail half of the world and at all time able to give a good account of itself, successfully fighting off pirates and the competition even when fully loaded.
      BoRG

      You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Jose50 View Post
        Despite the fact that CYGNE had an ignominious end, the sheer maneuverability of the French corvettes and brigs over the heavy Dutch east indiamen ..make them the better choice. We know they were lightly armed but speed and ability win the day.
        Ingominious perhaps; but I think Cygne put up a terrific fight against massive odds, before she was overwhelmed.
        "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Colonel Sennef View Post
          Voted chauvinistic again for the Dutch Indiaman as these laid the bottom of Dutch fabulous wealth. A strategic ship being able to do everything over a long time and a long distance. They remained in service for a century and a half so quite a longevity
          Re the poll's other points, they were the most versatile: trader able to sail half of the world and at all time able to give a good account of itself, successfully fighting off pirates and the competition even when fully loaded.
          I think you have made some good points and a cogent argument.
          I can see much merit in both types here.
          Based on the overall importance of each type, still I will not find this an easy decision.
          "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

          Comment


          • #6
            For me, this was the most difficult choice in Round 2 so far, as both types IMO have a great deal to commend them.
            In the end, I went with the French corvettes & brigs as they were dedicated warships.
            "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

            Comment

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