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T2, R3, Prng 81: American Armed Schooner vs Spanish Xebec

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  • T2, R3, Prng 81: American Armed Schooner vs Spanish Xebec

    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.

    36: American Armed Schooner 1775-1815

    A schooner is a sailing vessel with two or more masts and its sails rigged fore-and-aft, rather than being square-rigged ("sideways"). However, larger schooners with multiple sails on each mast sometimes had square-rigged sails above the main (lower) fore-and-aft sails. These could be referred to as "square topsail schooners". Here for more information:

    As with most other types of sailing ship, schooners - even small ones - could be and at times were used for warfare. Our first example is Hannah, hired into service of the Continental Army at the beginning of September in 1775. In her short career, Hannah did not achieve a great deal but her main significance is that she was the first armed American naval vessel of the Revolutionary War. As such, she has been claimed to be (in spirit at least) the founding vessel of what was to become the United States Navy.

    Hannah was indeed a small schooner, displacing a mere 78 tons and armed with 4 x 4pdr guns. Her commander, Nicholson Broughton, was ordered to (quote):
    "Cruise against such vessels as may be found ... bound inward and outward to and from Boston, in the service of the British army, and to take and seize all such vessels, laden with soldiers, arms, ammunition or provisions ... which you shall have good reason to suspect are in such service."
    In accordance with her orders, Hannah set sail from Beverley, Massachusetts early in the same month but within a couple of days, had to flee to the harbour in Gloucester to escape from two British warships on patrol in the area, one of which was the sloop HMS Lively.

    A couple of days later once this threat had cleared, she resumed her patrol and was soon able to capture HMS Unity, a British cargo ship.
    Hannah's brief active career ended in October 1775, during an action involving the British sloop Nautilus, near Beverley. There was a confrontation lasting about four hours, during which Nautilus mainly engaged American forces on the nearby shore. Hannah was not destroyed but she did run aground. Not long after this, she was decommissioned.

    Schooner Hannah 1775, evading British sloop HMS Lively (20 guns)

    Schooner Hannah 1775 evading HMS Lively 20guns Boston Bay Sep 5 1775.jpg

    Model of Hannah showing some details of the deck and the positioning of her four guns. She was very much at the smaller end of the size range for an armed schooner.

    Schooner Hannah 1775 model 1.jpg

    Our second subject is the American schooner-brig* Nautilus. (Not to be confused with the British sloop of the same name mentioned above. *The designation "schooner brig" arises from the fact that she started out as a schooner when launched in 1799 but was re-rigged as a brig in 1810. The name Nautilus had been applied at the time of her purchase by the Navy in May 1803.)

    Nautilus displaced 213 tons and initially carried 12 x 6pdr long guns.
    From 1811 this was upgraded to 12 x 18pdr carronades + 2 x 6pdr long guns.
    Her crew was 103 officers and enlisted men.
    Nautilus served in the First Barbary War, 1801-1805. She was involved in a number of engagements, among the most significant of which were:
    • Aug-Sep 1804, particpated in the siege of Tripoli, seeing action in five general attacks.
    • April 1805, participated in the attack, capture and occupation of Derna, Libya. She remained until the following month, providing cover for friendly forces there.
    Following her conversion to a brig in 1810, she was re-commissioned in 1811 and subsequently joined Stephen Decatur's squadron in the war of 1812 but was captured by the British in July of that year.

    Schooner-Brig Nautilus, near Gibraltar

    Schooner - Brig Nautilus 1803 Gibraltar in foreground served in first barbary war.jpeg

    88: Spanish Xebec 1701-1860

    Xebecs have been mentioned already as a highly effective and widely used small warship type in the Mediterranean region. They were fast, extremely maneuverable and very difficult if not impossible for most larger warships - and many smaller ones - to catch.

    Here we have a "generic" CGI image showing the general appearance of a typical xebec of the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries.


    Don Antonio Barcelo (1717-1797) was a Spanish sailor who became famous for his actions against the Barbary Corsairs and in particular, those of Algeria. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that he acquired legendary status in the eyes of his countrymen. His naval career began at the age of 18, taking over the family-owned xebec when his father died prematurely. By the time he had turned 19, he and his crew were already fighting against the Barbary pirates who were causing so much damage to Spanish commerce in the Mediterranean area. Within two years, at the age of 21, his fame became established at a time when he was already being trusted enough to carry important mail.
    The action that cemented his reputation was an epic fight in 1738, between his lone xebec and two powerful Algerian Barbary galliots. Barcelo's vessel carried 12 cannon and a few swivel guns.
    The corsairs must have thought they had the upper hand against the lone Spanish ship. However, Barcelo and his crew handled and fought their ship with such speed, skillful maneuver and sheer aggression that the two Barbary vessels were defeated.
    Barcelo's career was given a substantial boost when word of his exploits reached the ears of the Spanish Royal Court. From that time onwards, he steadily rose through the ranks and was involved in numerous successful larger-scale actions against the Barbary Corsairs.
    (Use the "Translate" option - Spanish to English)

    Image from a painting showing Antonio Barcelo's lone xebec, aggressively maneuvering to engage the two Barbary galliots, 1738


    Our third picture for this candidate is a fine drawing of a 10-gun Spanish xebec; probably around the mid 18th century.


    OK folks, decision time:
    Is it going to be the American schooners or the Spanish xebecs?

    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).
    36 - American Armed Schooner
    88 - Spanish Xebec
    Last edited by panther3485; 04 Nov 18, 09:47.
    "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
    Vice Admiral Beatty to Flag Captain Chatfield; Battle of Jutland, 31 May - 1 June, 1916.

  • #2
    The American armed schooners were certainly very important in their time but I think the Spanish xebecs were at least of equal if not greater importance back in their particular time and area of influence; as well as being so for a considerably longer period.
    I must confess I also like the look of them rather more.
    "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
    Vice Admiral Beatty to Flag Captain Chatfield; Battle of Jutland, 31 May - 1 June, 1916.


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