Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Back! Back, Ship! Back!

Square-rigged ships, like the USS Constitution, cannot sail wherever they choose.  They can only sail at an angle to the wind and never directly into the wind.  During a battle, the ship's Captain had to think about that and how to keep the guns pointed at the enemy at all times.  

On February 20, 1815, Captain Charles Stewart did MORE than accomplish this while attacking TWO enemy vessels at the same time!  He encountered the HMS Cyane and  Levant from the preferred windward side (that allows him to fill his sails with wind to improve maneuvering, while denying that wind to the opposing ship.)  After fifteen minutes, the bigger but faster Constitution ranged alongside the lead enemy ship.  Through skilled sail-handling, Stewart and his crew stopped Constitution's forward momentum and even moved backward! to avoid taking fire from the second enemy.

THEN he maneuvered to divide the two British warships and fight them one at a time!  

Whoa!  Think about THAT!  Make a ship the size of the Constitution stop dead in the water and then go in reverse?  All the while fighting a battle with roaring cannon and billows of smoke so thick one probably has no clue what ship was where.  Captain Stewart - and his awesome American sailors - were amazing!

It was fighting like that that caused the British Admiralty to order their commanders to engage an American frigate only when the British had a superior force.  Even then, as in this case, it made no difference.  America won the War of 1812 because of her magnificent sailors!  Anchors away!  Woo-hoo!

This is a photo180 years later - in 1992 - of the Constitution is in dry dock... and a photo of her crew - all hands on deck - in 2015.

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