Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century
Until now the history of warfare between sailing warships has long been divorced from the practicalities of seamanship and the harsh reality of battle. The skills required to fight have, for generations, been poorly understood. Based upon original research, this book explains how and why sea fights were won and lost in the Age of Sail in greater detail than ever before.
Our understanding of naval warfare in the eighteenth century has always been divorced from the practicalities of fighting under sail; our knowledge of tactics has been based largely on the ideas of contemporary theorists who knew little of the realities of sailing warfare; our appreciation of the system of command is similarly flawed. This book presents fresh evidence from contemporary sources, overturns many old assumptions, and introduces a host of new ideas.
In a series of thematic chapters we follow the unfolding of a sea fight from initial contact through to damage repair; we are given detailed explanations of how two ships or fleets identified each other as enemies; how and why they manoeuvred for battle; how a commander communicated his ideas, and why his subordinates acted as they did. The difficulties of station keeping, the subtle tactics of chase, the brutal realities of fleet engagement, the mysteries of the weather gage – all these topics and many more are explored in this clear and approachable account.