Thursday, September 23, 2021

Headed for the Future

 First of all, let me say that I admire those of you who can keep their momentum up on projects, especially when there isn't much opportunity to do any gaming.  With the explosion of the Delta variant of Coronavirus in Texas I have been very hesitant to do any gaming, whether here at home or out in public.  While everyone in our home has been vaccinated, we've discovered that an amazing number of people we know are not.  This tends to make me a bit more circumspect about who comes by these days.  Now, I don't want this to be a political issue, so any partisan comments about what the Coronavirus "is" or "isn't" will be quickly deleted.  If I want endless ranting about politics, I can visit any number of other websites, or turn on my television.

OK, enough of that.  As you may remember, in my last post I showed you the next ship being worked on:

As a recap, she is the USS Franklin.  Launched in August of 1815, she was the first ship built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  She was in the Mediterranean from 1817-1820, and was Pacific Squadron flagship from 1821-1824.  She was then in ordinary until 1838, and served as a receiving ship in Boston from 1838-1852 when she was broken up.  Overall, nothing particularly noteworthy about her or her service.  So, what's the big deal?

Franklin was a member of the Independence class of ships of the line.  The class ship, USS Independence was launched in Boston in June of 1814.  In theory, she could have broken the blockade with USS Constitution, but never did because of the large British squadron outside the port.  Her first voyage was under Commodore William Bainbridge to the Barbary Coast in July of 1815 as part of the squadron sent to suppress piratical activities there.  After being razeed to a 54-gun frigate in 1836, she served in the Mexican War and other various roles before being a receiving ship at Mare Island Navy Yard in California.  She served in that role from 1857 to 1912 (!), when she was decommissioned.  She was sold, and left the navy yard in 1914 and lasted until 1919, when she was intentionally burned to recover her metal fittings.

USS Independence at Mare Island in the 1890s.

The Independence class was an interesting, and apparently flawed design.  The ships carried their lower gunports too close to the water once they were fully loaded.  In fact, Independence had only 3 foot, 10 inches of freeboard for her lower midships guns.  That's less than HMS Victory, which carried her lower ports about 4.5 feet above water.  Part of Independence's problem was due to her armament; rated a 74, she normally carried 87 guns, all of them 32 pounders.  Chapelle gives a breakdown of: 30 long 32 pounders, 33 medium 32 pounders, and 24 32 pound carronades.  In theory, that gives a broadside of 1,372 pounds.  For comparison, HMS Victory had a broadside weight of 1,148 pounds!  But, Independence would find it very difficult to fire her lower tier guns in most weather.  In fact, when she went to the Barbary Coast in 1815, "Her lower deck ports were caulked in to overcome the problem of her deep draft in crossing the Atlantic." (Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships)

So, a more realistic broadside weight (that is, not counting the lower guns) is 896 pounds.  That sounds impressive, but even a British 74 Common without carronades has a 781 pound broadside.  Replace some of the 9 pounders on that 74 Common with carronades, and now you can get up to around 950 pounds of broadside.  Naval Constructor William Doughty certainly thought that, "in blowing weather, she could not fight her lower lee guns and would therefore be liable to be captured by a ship of inferior force . . ."  Naval officers disagreed with his conclusion, and this was part of a political fight that I won't get into here. (Ibid.)  So, were these first generation American ships of the line unstoppable, or were they flawed and liable to be captured by lesser ships?  Well, I guess that's why we play naval wargames, isn't it?

That's enough history for the moment.  Now, on to some pretty pictures.

As I've said before, she will probably spend her life fighting under other flags, but was still a fun unicorn to get out of the way.

So, about the post title.  Yes, it's still a song title but it also fits this post extremely well.  As the first generation of completed US ships of the line, the Independence clearly points toward the future of these ships in several ways.  Firstly, the lineage seems pretty apparent when you look at Franklin, and my previous build USS North Carolina.

USS Franklin

USS North Carolina. Apparently both my US SOL are in a 
bit of a hurry!

The paint jobs also point towards the future of the very severe black/white schemes that we see in paintings of the transitional ships from, say, the Crimean War.  Take a look at these transitional ships from Red Eagle (formerly Skytrex).  Clearly you can't tell the players without a scorecard!

HMS Victoria


Like I said earlier, it is a song title.  "Headed for the Future" is the title song from Neil Diamond's 1985 album.  Now, my spouse is a huge Neil Diamond fan.  Be warned, then, that any comments disparaging him or his songs (except for "Heartlight") will be deleted as quickly as the COVID ones! 😁  Finally, here's a shot or two of the probable stars of the next post:

Another French 80 for Trafalgar

Some Spithead ACW ships that have been 
sitting around for a while.