Please remember that this is a work in progress – To date the Years 1776-1792 relating to the entirety of the American War of Revolution and the years of peace before the French Revolutionary War have been completed. Please view the Blog and Contacts page for the latest update on the work.
This will eventually consist of approximately 500 articles on operations and events for the years 1776-1815. Each year will begin with an historical overview of the year, followed by the events in chronological order with lists of participating ships, senior officers and casualty figures where appropriate.
Hover over the drop-down bar above and click on the year you require to view.
A bit about the five periods that will eventually be covered by the Chronicle……
American Revolutionary War 1776-83
As the American colonies turned from disobedience to outright rebellion a Navy ridden with political dissent found itself back at war. Soon a resurgent France joined the fray, and although discord was temporarily put aside in order to fight the old enemy it soon re-surfaced in the dramatic fall-out from the Battle of Ushant. Then Spain and the Netherlands decided to get in on the action, and with its most capable senior officers refusing to serve the unpopular government the Navy had its back to the wall. The only thing to do was to come out fighting…….
Peace of 1784-92
Hostilities may have ceased but the Navy remained active, undertaking voyages of exploration, settling New South Wales, dealing with flash-points in India, and recommissioning the fleet to meet separate threats from the Netherlands, Spain and Russia. Meanwhile Captain William Bligh had a little local difficulty to deal with…….
French Revolutionary War 1793-1802
War at last! After a decade on the beach a new French threat in the form of their rampaging revolutionary armies brought the Navy out of hibernation. Soon port admirals at the major bases were as busy as guillotine operators in Paris as ships were commissioned and sent out to old cruising grounds. But whilst a string of single-ship actions brought glory for their dashing young commanders, the more experienced officers and their out-dated methods failed to ensure the required security for the country. A seditious fleet influenced by French and Irish revolutionaries only made matters worse, and with other powers throwing in their lot against Britain it soon became evident that strong leadership was required. Step forward a no-nonsense, resolute iron-willed dictator of the Mediterranean fleet and his side-kick, a slight, one-eyed, one-armed scrap of a man with a high nasal voice and a curious rural accent……
Napoleonic War 1803-15
After a brief respite Mr Buonaparte was soon up to his old tricks, and in no time the status quo was restored – i.e the irresistible force (French Army) against the immovable object (British Navy). The incomplete little admiral with the dodgy voice won the battle of all battles but lost his life, and with the passing of the threat of invasion his successors were unleashed to take the war to the enemy across the world. That enemy would be an ever evolving entity – at different times Britain found itself sparring with Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Naples et al. But were the naval heroes bothered? What, with all those opportunities for glory, advancement, prizes, adventure, fame, honour? Not a bit of it!
War of 1812
As if the Navy didn’t have enough to contend with in meeting the Napoleonic threat, it suddenly found itself embroiled in a senseless war with its old colony, America. Whereas it was accepted that any British ship should defeat any French ship of a similar force these Americans were a different proposition – they had powerful new frigates that took ship design to a different level. Some stunning engagements ensued, and these were intertwined with a British thirst to pay the Americans back for their perceived disloyalty. A new breed of British officer would be required – and so would a lot of white paint in Washington!