Another war anniversary, another war technology post.
This weekend marks the formal declaration of war between the U.S. and Britain (including then British Canada) for the War of 1812. As you might suspect, the ceremonies in the respective countries take on different tones. In the U.S., in part because of its relative success on the sea compared to land, is marking the occasion with some tall ships.
It’s interesting to note how many navies (and other seagoing forces like the U.S. Coast Guard) still train their sailors on masted vessels. While I suppose you would train new pilots in an air force on less sophisticated airplanes before putting them into jets, the difference in technology doesn’t seem nearly as significant. Yet none of the latest coverage on this phenomena suggests that sailing the ‘old-fashioned’ way instills technical skills needed in the modern navy or coast guard. I’m at a loss.
It’s worth noting that at least part of the American naval successes in the War of 1812 were due to advances in the U.S. Navy. Frigates designed by Joshua Humphries were able to produce vessels that could handle more guns and also sail faster than the British ships in service at the time. In short, they could fight what they couldn’t sail away from and sail away from what they couldn’t fight. The British Navy had to adjust its rules of engagement to better address the threat posed by the new ships. Here’s some video on Humphries and his vessels.
Arguably this is the way in which the U.S. emerged as, if not a naval power, than at least one that had to be taken seriously on the seas.