USS Constitution & USS United States vs HMS Victory

Discussion in 'The War Room' started by Desert Fox, Jul 30, 2011.

  1. Desert Fox

    Desert Fox Vulpes zerda

    Based on the previous thread but trying for something that might be a bit more balanced.

    The USS Constitution and USS United States (both 44 gun frigates) encounter HMS Victory without escorts.

    Can the two 44's take her? Would they try or would they run?
  2. Well they don't have an over whelming advantage in guns so it's a fairly equal match which is something you don't want (If it's a fair fight you are doing it wrong)
    So unless they have a great plan they run.
  3. An Ancient

    An Ancient God of Zeppelins Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    Unlikely, their total number of guns is about equal to the Victory, but their firepower is still less, the Victory carries more of the smaller long guns than the frigates do, and in the larger calibres the Victory's long guns have a lot more power compared to the frigates carronades.

    Against a true 1st rate like the Victory that difference in power will be important even at close range, whilst at longer ranges it gives the Victory a significant firepower advantage.

    The Victory is of marginally slower in calm weather and signficantly faster in heavier weather so can either maintain or dictate range.

    As the ships action against the Bucentaur showed, a single full broadside from the Victory can easily kill one of the frigates. The Victory has two such broadsides. Granted assuming a two-broadside win is wishful thinking but the fact remains that at range the Victory holds all the cards for long range firepower, whilst at short range the Victory still possess's the ability (in the form of its 68lb carronades and guns crews), to overpower one of its opponents almost immediately, leaving us back at a 1vs1.

    I must point out that British ships of the line, some of them not even First Rates, found themselves doubled up in a similar manner by enemy ships of the line (ie 74 guns or more). In most all the cases, they still outfought these much heavier opponents.

    Frigates just aren't the right kind of ships to fight 1st rates, they have significantly smaller crews, suffer in adverse weather, are far less massive (and thus can absorb less damage) and their firepower suffers even if they can field similar gun sizes. (Bear in mind that for a give lb of gun there were several types of that gun, with frigates generally taking lighter weapons).

    If you wanted a fight which could go either way, it's better to pitch the Victory against the Pennsylvania, in which case the British ship is by far the better sailer and has more effective firepower, but aboslute weight of shot and number of guns goes to the American ship.
  4. Yeah this still isn't a fair match at all. There is a reason that frigates, even ones such as the US heavy frigates, were simply disregarded when it came to fleet battles. The USS President was captured in circumstances where a 1st rate would simply have killed the entire enemy squadron and shoved off.

    HMS Orion at the Battle of the Nile, killed the French 32-gun frigate Serieuse in a single broadside...pretty much for the insult of daring to fire on them. By comparison the various heavy frigates the US built could be successfully engaged by a handful of opposing frigates. The difference is just huge when it comes to the raw combat power of a 1st rate compared to any frigate.
  5. It is a better situation. Ships of that era rarely had the crew to fight both broadsides effectively so engaging from two sides would be somewhat difficult, but Victory can still win even with one arm tied behind her back. For the US ships to win they need to let one ship keep Victory busy while the other gets into a raking position and try to disable the SOL otherwise it is the same outcome as in the single ship engagement, it will just take a bit longer.
  6. DonBosco

    DonBosco 11th century refugee

    Sixteen inch guns and atom bomb carrying airplanes? No contest.

    NAVY SEALS Enforcer of the Sentai

    You know why don't we just time travel this ship here to that time period to sink the HMS Victory and be done with it.:p

  8. Desert Fox

    Desert Fox Vulpes zerda

    I am not going to argue the firepower issue. Some of the arguments are at least persuasive.

    Being that the USS Pennsylvania sailed all of once, suggesting that HMS Victory was a better sailer seems to be a very strong comment. It also is a much later vessel and while developments seem to have been "modest", they probably will have a marginal effect. The HMS Victory website uses the term "Of her time"

    I am also strongly suspicious of the comment about HMS Victory being a better sailer than USS Constitution. Have you ever heard of "Razee", Ships of the Line that are cut down to reduce the number of decks. A ship like Victory has a lot of top weight and cutting down by a deck reduces that top weight, making them better sailers and faster boats.

    In addition, USS Constitution is almost as long as HMS Victory although narrower so having a sleeker hull. USS Constitution also carries 1.8 square meters per ton of vessel while HMS Victory carries about 1.56 square meters per ton (about 15% greater sail compared to mass.) HMS Victory is credited with about 8 or 9 knots (HMS Victory.) I remember reading that USS Constitution sailed at 13 knots late in her life. She is credited with 13+ (US Navy website)
  9. EricD

    EricD The Bee-Wolf

    Constitution is undoubtably the faster ship in calm weather, being a frigate and not a ship of the line. However, Victory will be able to maintain speed better in a heavier sea state, due to her more solid construction, stouter masts, greater area of sail, et cetera.
  10. JC - Interrupted

    JC - Interrupted We Are Caltech of Borg

    This is true when compared to most frigates, but the American "super" frigates were in many respects built more like a miniature ship of the line than a frigate. The museum exhibits at the USS Constitution go into great detail about this; the frigates were built with ship of the line grade masts and hull bracings, as they were designed with the same logic as battlecruisers would be far into the future: "Outrun anything they can't outgun." Using ship of the line grade masts and bracings on the sleek hull of a frigate meant that they had the highest sail area to weight ratio of any warship, and they had the structural integrity to maintain that speed in bad weather instead of being forced to shorten sail for fear of losing a mast. In terms of sailing qualities, they really did combine the best aspects of a frigate and a ship of the line.

    The downside to them proved to be the same as that of battlecruisers: they were HORRENDOUSLY expensive. You ended up with a ship that cost nearly as much as a 74 of the line but had only half to two-thirds the armament and a lot less staying power.
  11. JC - Interrupted

    JC - Interrupted We Are Caltech of Borg

    In any case, this is a very silly debate. The two American frigates see HMS Victory and do exactly what they were designed to do: show a clean pair of heels to anything bigger and badder than they were.
  12. Best chance for the frigates is if the battle happens in 1799. This is only 2 years after the frigates we launched but a year before the Victory has her rebuild which turned out to be a very long process as they found lots of problems with her.

    Even then the smart move is for the frigates to withdraw.
  13. I do wonder if they, combined, could pull an HMS Penelope on the Victory, though. The difficulty is that they aren't expecting reinforcements, and Victory is going to be trained up to much higher standards than Guillame Tell. On the other hand, they're much, much better armed and built than a British fifth-rate of years earlier. On the gripping hand, there aren't many frigate commanders that can pull off what Blackwood did - the kind of thing that would make even Cochrane jealous.

    The commanders of the respective vessels would matter greatly.

  14. Minohtar

    Minohtar Advocatus Diaboli

    Didn't we have this debate before, but with all four "superfrigates" against the Victory? I believe the conclusion was that even then it'd be a dicey thing, that even if the frigates some would likely be badly shot up. Obviously a two-on-one scenario would be even worse: I'd still be pulling for the Victory here.
  15. It takes one good Salvo at any sort of medium distance for the Victory to cripple either frigate.

    The frigates have to get fairly close to really have a good hope of damaging Victory in any major way.

    I simply can't see them coming away from this with a win.
  16. Flamingflamingo

    Flamingflamingo Drink cactus juice, it's the quenchiest!

    could easily take this
  17. Necro

    Necro Zombie mode!

  18. Desert Fox

    Desert Fox Vulpes zerda

    Can get you on a technicality. . . .It is "USS" Victory not "HMS" Victory
  19. GoC


    There's bound to be an Honorverse ship called HMS Victory though.:p
  20. An Ancient

    An Ancient God of Zeppelins Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    The Victory was pretty much the best 1st rate design prior to the Seppings developments, exceptionally fast and handy for its size. Whilst the American ship only sailed once it was noted as being poor to average even then, and its design supports this idea.

    It shows in that despite later 1st rates being built, when the time came for classes of 1st rates, the British used the Victory as a basis.
    In lighter seas and calmer winds this is true. In heavier winds and seas the greater mass and strength of the rigging and masts gives the larger ship the advantage.
    The Victory is generally credited with 11 to 13 knots by a great many reliable sources. But my point is that Constitution will lose speed in heavy seas compared to the Victory, much like WW1/2 destoyers vs battleships.

    Not really, several were noted as being poor sailers and evaluation of the captured ships showed a lot more could be done with their designs than was actually accomplished.

    Their hulls used the same design considerations, but their mass was still much less, which reduces their ability to hold against heavy seas. Their masts and rigging were again not as heavy and strong as true ship of the line items. They used the same system, which involved a more complicated and redundent rigging system as used in ships of the line. This was as opposed to the less complicated and more fragile rigs of frigates. However, the actual materials used were still of frigate grade when it came to mast strength and rigging ropes. So in heavy weather they still run a severe risk of losing masts and stays although it might be a bit less than a French lightly built frigate.

    There is a very good reason they didn't life the rigging and masts straight from a ship of the line (although the American ships of the line would indicate that even if they did it wouldn't have been spectacular), which is that if your masts and rigging are to strong you actually massively increase the chances of sinking in heavy weather, it is what ultimately sunk the HMS Captain. The frigate is a smaller (height wise) and lighter vessel. Extremely heavy and strong rigging and masts of a ship of that size and mass would roll it over in heavy weather. A ship of the line has the sheer mass and size to resist the same forces.

    As I said, actual evaluations of the ships showed that they were superior, but they were not nearly as superior as they could've been given their size, build and potential.

    If you want to take battlecruisers, they're similar to the Invincible class, superior to their designed opponents, but quite inferior compared to what they could've been on the same technology base and also inferior in many aspects to the equivilant foreign competition.
  21. Desert Fox

    Desert Fox Vulpes zerda

    I am quite skeptical that you have the evidence to back this up. On the DANFS entry on the Pennsylvania, she was only partially manned.

    For argument sake however, what are you going to use as your yard stick.
    US Crews experience mainly with frigates, which according to what I read handled better than smaller British frigates? (I will edit in source when I get home) Of course a ship of the line will handle like a pig.

    Also, from what I read, the USS Independence might be a good choice. She appears to be armed with a solid wall of 45 per side of 32's (other US ships of the Line had mostly 32 long / medium not carronades) compared to a mixed battery of about 15 32s, 14 24s, 22 12s. . . .The position of the 64 carronades likely are bow / stern chase but even if we add them to the broadside, will not make much difference. Independence throw ~1,440 broadside and Victory throw ~1,080.

    The thing is. . . .and I think it is a brain bug with you. . . You claim greater strength of rigging without supporting your argument.

    Boy you suck at math. . . .Going to use US vessels here. . . .
    A Gearing class destroyer, pretty good sized destroyer at the time, displaced 3,460 tons. A South Dakota class battleship displaced 44,519 tons full load. That is over 12 times the displacement. I am sure British Battleships vs
    destroyers were also in this ballpark for comparison.

    The Constitution however was about 2/3 the displacement of Victory and has less top weight. A better comparison would be World War II Cruisers compared to World War II Battleships. What I remember reading indicates that even in pretty bad weather conditions, cruisers can keep up far better than destroyers even though these cruisers usually only displace about 1/3 to 1/4 that of the battleship.

    As far as sail speed, I have seen sources that credit the USS Constitution with 14 or even 15 knots. I went with what are well accepted figures in the mainstream. Mainstream figures are 13+ knots for USS Constitution and 9 knots for Victory.
  22. Desert Fox

    Desert Fox Vulpes zerda

    A few additional notes, HMS Warrior's Victory's Masts were composite, not solid. You can see it here. . . .The HMS Warrior website agrees with this. This means that they will most likely be weaker than a solid mast. (One problem we have today is that her masts were replaced by metal masts)


    In addition, when you compare the basic width of the masts from pictures and drawings, there does not appear to be any great difference in the thickness of the Victory and Constitution's masts
  23. An Ancient

    An Ancient God of Zeppelins Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    Actually there is plenty, a bunch of which I've cited down to page number on the other ongoing threads.

    Again, not so. Some ships of the line handled badly, things like how long they'd been out of port had a huge effect even on the best sailers. Other ships of the line were extremely nimble, even against frigates.
    The Victory's carronades could be fired port and starboard.

    The thing with US ships and their solid 32lb broadside is that whilst it's impressive on paper, they did it by using progressively thinner walled and shorted barrelled 32lb guns the high up you went.

    As such, their overall broadside weight is impressive, but the range and power of the upper guns is significantly inferior to the lower guns.

    Actually, there is vast amounts of supporting evidence, starting with the sheer number of French frigates run down and captured by 74 gun ships of the line in poor weather.


    The exact size differential is not the important part, its the general principle, smaller ships handle rough seas worse than larger ships. Sail and rigging only magnifies that problem.

    Cruisers still lose vast amounts of speed and are subject to structural damage in bad weather, and have to struggle to keep up with battleships. Destroyers simply cannot.

    Unless they are numerous and well-documented it means nothing.
    No, you didn't. Mainstream is 13knts for the Constitution, but it is not 9knots for the Victory.

    11 knots

    11 knots

    The Naval War of 1812 on page 163 points out that ships of the line can carry more sail in heavy weather, pointing out that in the initial heavy heavy the Majestic was catching the President until the wind fell off, at which point Endymion overhauled.

    EDIT: That Victory's maximum speed was 11 knots is testified in Admiralty documents (PRO. Adm. 95/37) as a matter of historical fact.

    EDIT 2: HMS Victory carries a maximum of 6,510 square yards of sail, the Constitution only carries 4,745 yards. Thus, the British ship carries 37% more sail area than the US ship, on a hull whose cross sectional area in the water is a lot less that 37% greater. With heavy weather giving the sails full power and the attendent rigging issues, its fairly clear why a ship of the line could run down a frigate in heavy weather (as many did).
  24. Desert Fox

    Desert Fox Vulpes zerda

    If you look here:


    and here:


    You can see that Victory is much flatter bottomed than Constitution so trying to just use foot print is silliness. The Constitution has much finer lines. Displacement compared to sail area is much more likely to get accurate calculations.

    The thing is that 11 knots. . . .Not 12 either which you claimed. . . .is the best she ever did. . . .
    On the other hand, 13+ knots is a more normal "good" with this having been done late in life (looking for the reference) when her copper likely not in the best shape and likely her rigging not in perfect shape either.

    If we were comparing a small sloop and a ship of the line as far as speed in heavy weather, you may have a point. What my argument is that when you get closer to the same size, this will become less important. In this, not even heavy cruiser vs battleship is a good comparison. . .Most like comparing USS Alaska to USS Iowa. Also, because Constitution has more of a "keel" than Victory, she will dig into the water and be more stable. Victory is most likely top heavy (Guns high in the ship) as well which will also affect her stability. This stability issue is something you keep trying to duck and dodge but the two drawings above clearly show how much of the ship's hull are high up.

    It is kind of moot anyway because any really heavy weather, the two sides probably will not be fighting each other but fighting the weather. The weather will probably scatter them so much that they will not be fighting afterwards either.

    Now, you make the claim that you have posted link to where the USS Pennsylvania was a bad sailer. . . .I have heard similar claims before without actually an links. I am not the only person who has called you on it. If you really have the links, you should be able to provide them again.

    You also claim that the US cannons went with thinner walls when they went higher. Nice claim, now where is the proof. . . .

    I will say that if you cannot remember where you read it, that is fine. . . It is better that you admit it and maybe give where you think you read it.

    As far as the Constitutions masts, I have a couple from my personal collection (these are big images, especially the second)

    If you compare them to masts on the Victory, they are just as massive.
  25. An Ancient

    An Ancient God of Zeppelins Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    Footprint is important as area in contact with water gives drag due to friction.

    Constitution does not have more 'keel', the Victory has a slightly deeper draught and more volume under water, rendering it the more stable of the two.

    Likewise for the above reasons, Victory is not top-heavy, most of her mass is low down in the hull. I've already addressed stability, and Victory is the more stable of the two.

    Moreover, your wishful thinking about what ships are adversely affected by heavy weather is destroyed by reality, numerous examples exist of ships of the line chasing down large frigates that they could not normally catch in calmer seas.

    Heavy weather is not an impediment to combat, it favours the larger and more stable Victory, and that combat could take place is quite easily shown by multiple actions where the chase and combat happened in heavy weather. Indeed, the Indefatigable showed chase and combat is possible even in the midst of a gale.

    As for the Pennsylvania's sailing and armament, both of those are sourced in current threads which you are participating in, so don't try to weasel out of it. The facts are already established.

    As for your pictures, they establish quite evidently the lesser rigging of the American ship and also show your mast claim to be utterly fallacious.

    Link shows Constitutions mast widths, with only the main mast being 3ft across at the base.

    This, and This prove that the Victory's masts are by contrast significantly taller, and that all three masts are 3ft at the base, showing quite clearly a far stronger mast set-up.