The Frigates: An account of the lighter Warships of the Napoleonic Wars

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First of all, Mr. Henderson is an experienced "canvas" sailor. He shows this in every word, and even provides some examples of seamanship from his own background to bolster his tales. Each chapter illustrates some aspect of the character of these independent world cruising hunter-killers. The frigate captains were the functional equivalent of the submarine or surface commerce-raiding helions of the First and Second World Wars. Frigates were not quite powerful enough...in weight of shot per broadside...to join in with the "line of battle ships" in the great fleet-to-fleet contests. Nonetheless their firepower and speed made them superior to most of the vessels they might encounter along the far-flung mercantile trade routes. Because of the poor communications with the commodore to whom they were nominally responsible, let alone the Admiralty, the British frigate captains were pretty much on their own, sailing under general orders they might interpret as circumstances permitted. Just like Francis Drake and the raiders of Elizabeth I's time, these men took their vessels into the midst of formidabbly escorted convoys, fortified and heavily gunned harbors, and even chanced encounters with lone warships carrying almost double their cannon. There are a few negative examples of frigates commanded by spoiled heirs promoted solely due to social connections and those commanded by men who despised their crews, often comprised of desperate gamblers and paroled debtors. However these examples stand out as lonely exceptions. It is hard to realize that many of the shrewd adventurers populating these lively pages are barely into their twenties. One clearly sees the apprenticeship and development of future Nelsons and Cochranes. The chapters are short and to the point. The actions are supported by maps, some at tactical level, as well as contemporary woodcuts and paintings illustrating a number of the actions.