Written and Edited by F. Carrington Weems II
Models Owned by F. Carrington Weems II
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Although no one knows exactly what a nao looked like, this model is an approximation based upon historical research.
Some mariners viewed the Santa Maria as an adequate vessel for her day, but Columbus was not so kind in his assessment: “a dull sailer and unfit for discovery.” Because of her deep draft, the vessel was not suited for sailing near reefs and shallow waters. In fact, the craft ran aground off the island of Hispaniola in December 1492 and had to be abandoned.
The terms square rig and lateen rig refer to the shape of the ship’s sails. The lateen sail is triangular in shape. Columbus chose to rig all three of his ships principally with square sails. He estimated that the winds blowing the vessels westward would be constant in their direction and this turned out to be the case. A lateen sail allows greater maneuverability in varying wind conditions.
“SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS”
The “Sovereign” also known later as the “Royal Sovereign” was a huge, awesome vessel built mainly to demonstrate the prestige of the reigning Stuart, King Charles the First. In 1634 the king first met with the great ship designer and builder, Phineas Pett, to discuss the construction of the ultimate “super ship.” Much to the dismay of Trinity House, experts in naval architecture, preparations for the vessel’s construction were begun in the winter of 1635.
Pett personally hand picked each timber from the trees of ChopwellForest near Durham. The trees were huge. One tree was so large, to be used for the keelson, that it took 28 oxen and four horses to drag it 20 miles to the nearest seaport. The amount of timber was so great that two small ships, the “Greyhound” (120 tons) and the “Roebuck” (90 tons) were built out of the chips or waste. Her keel was laid in December of 1635 and she was launched in October of 1637. She was in every statistic many years ahead of her time. Her gundeck was 167’ 9”. Her beam was 47’ 11”, and her draught was 23’ 6”. Greater than any other 17th Century British warship, she was more stable in the water than many later three deckers. She was originally fitted out with 104 cannon, drakes, demi-cannon drakes, culverin drakes, culverins, demi-culverins, and demi-culverin drakes, all brass.
- Her cost soared over the original estimate of £13,680. When ready for sea duty, the cost overruns brought the total to £40,000 plus another £25,000 for the armament. Remember the Dutch paid the Indians $15 for New York about this same time. To pay for The Sovereign, Charles I imposed the unpopular Ship Money Tax which ultimately brought about his downfall.A large part of this horrendous cost was the spectacular gold ornamentation (£6046) which later caused her to be nicknamed in battle the “Golden Devil.” With minor alterations, she would not have been out of place with the warships of 1800.
The Sovereign fought her first major battle at Kentish Knock in 1652. It sank a Dutch warship with one 50-gun broadside, a first. Charles I was beheaded in 1648. Under Charles II’s reign, the Sovereign (now called the “Royal Sovereign” after 1660) engaged the Dutch at the St. James Day Fight of 1666. In 1673, she was the Flagship of the British navy in the last two engagements of that year.
In the early 1680’s, she was virtually rebuilt at the huge cost of £16,000, by master shipwright, Robert Lee, at Chatham Dockyard. She saw further combat at the battles of Beachy Head and Barfleur in the early 1690’s. On this 27th of January 1696, a lighted candle was negligently left unattended. By the time help arrived, the great “Sovereign of the Seas” had been burned down to the water and was no longer a ship. Most of her survivors were saved. A new ship was built using some of her scorched timbers so the admiralty could officially say that she had been rebuilt. This new ship was launched in 1701 and survived until 1768.
This great, unique, huge ship, and the pride of Phineas Pett and Charles I was not as successful in battle as she could have been, but she was indeed the forerunner of and probably the first ship-of-the-line, first-rater (more than 100 guns) ever built. All British warships thereafter were patterned to some degree by this early innovative design of the “Sovereign of the Seas”, including Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship at Cape Trafalgar, The “Victory”, also in this exhibit.
The original model of the Sovereign was probably the first Admiralty model ever built, and was very valuable at the time. If it were auctioned today it would bring between five and ten million dollars, a fitting tribute to the most expensive ship ever built up to that time, and costing the head of Charles I.
Our model is a splendid plank on frame model, built in the Admiralty style, except for having guns. The model is circa 1978 and the model maker is unknown.
HMS PRINCE ROYAL “THE PRINCE”
The 100 gun “Prince” was the third first rate, ship of the line, triple gun decker to appear in 1670. She was built in Chatham, England under the direction of Sir Phineas Pett, great-nephew of the Phineas Pett who designed the “Sovereign of the Seas,” two generations earlier. The “Sovereign” was built with great passion by King Charles I, and was launched in 1637. Eleven years later, King Charles I was sentenced to death partly because of the cost associated with building the “Sovereign.” In 1670, Charles II with the same passion as his father built “The Prince.” She was the flagship of his battle fleet. The brother of Charles II, otherwise known as “The Duke of York,” was the Flag Admiral of the fleet and served aboard “The Prince.”
“The Prince” was commissioned in 1672 on the outbreak of the “Third Anglo-Dutch War.” Throughout this war “The Prince” served as flagship for high ranking admirals which made her a prime target for attacks. At the “Battle of the Texel” in 1673, she was under heavy fire by Dutch ships. Her heroic defense and ultimate survival became legendary in the Royal Navy.
In 1691-92 she underwent extensive repairs at Chatham which resulted in an increased beam to 47 feet, 10 inches. When she reappeared in the British fleet, she had been renamed “The Royal William” and fought with that name at “Barfleur.”
Finally, another major rebuild was performed on her in 1719, resulting in an entirely new ship. This vessel, having been built from the usable frames and planks of “The Prince,” were burnished with fire which made these members harder and tougher. She truly became “The Royal William” with a totally new identity. The “Old Billy,” as she came to be affectionately known, survived until 1813. Thus, “Prince” or parts of her lived and served the Royal Navy for 143 years, which was remarkable. Most wooden warships of that day became wormy and rotten after twenty-five or thirty years. It was said that her timbers were rough enough to turn the strongest nails.
My fascination with and strong desire to have a model of “The Prince” was born as I read about her in “Great Ships: The Battle Fleet of King Charles II” written by Frank Fox, and when I realized that “she” was probably the most elegant ship ever built at a time when all nations seemed to be trying to out do each other in terms of gilded carvings and decoration as a matter of national pride.
I spoke with numerous model builders, most of whom declared that the elegant carvings of “Prince” were beyond their level of expertise. Not so with Dr. Gilbert McArdle well known for his models in museums and his books and articles about model ship building. We spent a year or so talking about it, and he collected plans and other details of “Prince.” Finally, he set out with fierce intensity to build a ¼” scale admiralty style model of “Prince”. Dr. McArdle had already built a true admiralty style model of the “Grafton” and the “Sussex” with the typical exposed frames. He had also built another model of the “Sussex” with the same ¼” scale with a hollowed out hull and finished in a traditional white for this modified version of an admiralty-style model. I liked it as well, if not in some ways better than the true exposed frames version. We decided that this modified version would be even more beautiful contrasted with the elegant carvings above. Dr. McArdle’s workmanship on “our” model is truly remarkable as you can see from the pictures (Exhibits A-D). Also included below is the image of the cover of the “Nautical Research Journal,” Autumn 2008, Vol 53. No. 3, which pictures the bow and figurehead of “our” model of “Prince” (Exhibit E). Dr. McArdle has written an article about building “The Prince.” Part I appears in this issue. The Nautical Research Guild has published this journal for 60 years.
The original Admiralty or Navy Board model of “The Prince” may be seen at the British Science Museum in Kensington, London. It is probably the most famous and important admiralty model that the British possess. If ever it were brought to auction, which would be highly unlikely, in good economic times it would bring between $15 and $20 million. A picture of that model is also included below (Exhibit F).
“THE ROYAL WILLIAM”
FIRST RATE, SHIP OF THE LINE
In 1719, The Royal William was re-built again from the “old bones” (frames and planks) of The Prince. A partial refit had occurred earlier in 1691-1692 and The Prince was renamed and she fought in the famous battle with the French at Barfleur and LaHogue with her new name The Royal William. She then achieved her own fame for her remarkable longevity and became known affectionately as “Old Billy.”
After participating in the capture of the Great Canadian fortress of Louisburg in 1758, and the City of Quebec the following year, she was last in action at the Battle off Cape Spartel when Lord Howe defeated a large Franco-Spanish fleet on the 20th of October, 1782. She was hulked in 1790. Finally, she was broken up in 1813 at which time her ancient timbers were said to be “tough enough to turn the strongest nails.”
The bow of The Royal William shows the equestrian figurehead allegorically depicting King William III as riding roughshod over his enemies who are symbolized by a manacled figure. King William III, for whom the ship is named, died on February 8, 1702. The stern of The Royal William, on the original navy board model at the National Maritime Museum at Grenwich, has the finest detail and craftsmanship which is typical of the best quality models made in the first half of the 18th century. The upper quarter figure represents the Greek mythological goddess, Athene, who is accompanied with her attribute, a small owl, symbolizing wisdom.
Our model of The Royal William is a superbly crafted true admiralty-style model built by a very experienced builder named Victor Lerner, from Florida. This was his “pièce de résistance.” Vic also made the table / case with antique style curved legs with claw feet. Vic has used eight woods: ebony, Swiss pear, German apple, boxwood, etc. The variety of wood provides the unique color contrast; no paint is used. The ship is fully-rigged with furled sails. The galleries are magnificent with ebony used for decoration in the carvings. Twenty-four carat gold leaf is used in these extensive decorations. The exposed frames are carefully displayed. The hull and deck planking are individual and the treenails are real. The hatches are very well-crafted and the rigging is superb and accurate. In short, she would rival any model of The Royal William except perhaps the original admiralty at Greenwich.
H.M.S. Victory was commissioned in 1778, a first-rater, ship of the line. She displaced 3,500 tons, measured 226 feet from figurehead to sternpost, and had a beam of 51 feet. Her keel was made of elm for length, but her frames and planks were solid oak. Double planking made her impervious to cannonade.
Her mainmast towered 205 feet above the waterline and she had five miles of standing rigging. Her yards could carry 39 sails, four acres of canvas, and, when fully rigged, she could make ten knots in a stiff breeze.
H.M.S. Victory was a mobile fortress city. Stocked with 35 tons of powder and 120 tons of shot, she carried 102 cast iron cannons, 12 to 31 pounders, and two short range carronades, capable of hurling 68 pound cannonballs. 850 officers and men lived for months at a time on patrol, manning the ultimate warship of the late 18th century.
The Battle of Trafalgar
H.M.S. Victory gained fame for her role as Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. The French and Spanish navies, allied under Napoleon, challenged British naval supremacy, and Nelson sought an opportunity to defeat the combined forces and eliminate the threat of invasion.
October 21, 1805
The French and Spanish ships had been in Cadiz for seven weeks when Vice Admiral Villeneuve, Supreme Commander of the combined fleet, finally emerged from the sheltered harbor. Nelson and the British Navy waited off Cape Trafalgar.
In the three weeks Nelson spent waiting for Villeneuve, he formulated an elegantly simple and ultimately successful strategy. As the enemy fleet approached, the British ships moved to execute Nelson’s plan. Villeneuve attempted to return to Cadiz, but it was too late. Two lines of British ships attack at right angles to the enemy line. English Vice Admiral Collingwood commanded the first British line, cutting off the rear third of the enemy’s array of ships. Nelson commanded the rest of the English vessels. He approached the enemy force north of center, faked a move toward the lead ships, then quickly turned toward the center of the line, plunging between the Bucentaure and Redoubtable. French marksmen aboard the Redoubtable had clear range of Victory’s deck. Warned by his men that he made an easy target, Nelson waited too long to remove his admiral’s jacket. He was hit by a bullet that lodged near his spine.
The Battle of Trafalgar was a complete victory for the British fleet. Within one and one-half hours the Victory’s column of ships had won. Within another hour, Collingwood captured or destroyed twelve of the sixteen ships he had attacked. The remaining French and Spanish vessels fled, taking with them any threat of Napoleonic invasion. British joy was subdued, however, as the immense cost of the battle became known.
Carried below decks after being wounded, Lord Admiral Nelson died later that afternoon, aware of his victory. H.M.S. Victory, heavily damaged, returned to England with Nelson’s body preserved in a cask of brandy.
The Nelson Touch
Much of Nelson’s success as a commander was due to the loyalty he inspired in his men. His career had been a string of bold and sweeping victories and those who served him knew him to be a brilliant strategist and tactician. “The Nelson Touch” was demonstrated in the private, casual dinners for his captains during which he outlined his plans for the Battle of Trafalgar. Victory’s signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty,” raises cheers among the English vessels that sailed against the enemy ships. Nelson then sent a signal well known among his captains: “Engage the enemy more closely.” When news of his death spread among the victorious fleet, there was shock, disbelief and heartfelt grieving.
Model maker, Gene McClure, spent 6,407 hours building this precisely accurate representation of H.M.S. Victory. Special care was taken in finishing details. The copper hull sheathing involved 60,000 operations on 3,000 individual plates. Note the deck work, double wheel, belfry, binnable, cabin paneling, gun carriages, rigging, and anchor mechanism. Even the ship’s water buckets have been faithfully reproduced.
MORE ABOUT THE BATTLE OFF CAPE TRAFALGAR
The long wait was over. On October 20, 1805, Vice Admiral Villeneuve, Supreme Commander of the combined fleet of the French and Spanish with 33 heavily gunned “Ships of the Line” was at last going to come out and fight. They had been for seven weeks lying at safe anchor in the Spanish port of Cadiz, north of the rocky headland of Cape Trafalgar. Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson aboard the Victory caught up with the British fleet of 26 ships thirty miles west of Cadiz on the 28th of September. Nelson took command from Vice Admiral Collingwood who had been providing loose surveillance of the combined fleet.
In those three weeks of waiting, Nelson had two dinners aboard the Victory for his captains. The first was his 47th birthday. Both dinners were calculatedly informal, creating endearing loyalty to Nelson among his captains, most of whom had not met Nelson before. At these dinners, he outlined his battle plan for them. It was brilliant, unorthodox and a generation ahead of the old line-ahead tactics. His captains were awed with excitement. They knew it would work and, of course, it did work. It was simple, typical of Nelson, but worked out to the last detail.
Two lines of British ships would attack at right angles to the enemy’s line; the first, commanded by Collingwood aboard the 100-gun Royal Sovereign, would cut off the enemy’s rear one-third and destroy it. Collingwood would be on his own as would be his captains when the battle began. Nelson and the Victory would cut off the middle third, leaving the enemy’s van sailing off away from the action. As it happened, that van never got Villeneuve’s message to reverse and engage because of the smoke of battle.
On October 21st at 7 a.m., Villeneuve ordered a 180 degree change of course for the combined fleet back to Cadiz; Nelson gave the order, “Clear my cabins and roll in the guns.” Nelson ordered Lieutenant John Pasco, Victory’s signal officer to signal the fleet, “England expects that every man will do his duty.” Cheers could be heard from ship to ship. The enemy heard the cheers across the water and knew what it meant. Nelson then sent his well known favorite signal, No. 16, “Engage the enemy more closely.” The cheering grew even louder and the frenzy of death and destruction was about to begin.
“Clear my cabins and roll in the guns.”
Villeneuve said later, “How chilling was the sight of Nelson’s irresistible advance.” At 12:10 p.m., the first shots were fired at the Battle of Trafalgar from the French first rater Fougueux commanded by Captain Louis Baudoin. Collingwood sliced between the Fougueux and the Spanish 112-gun Santa Ana opening fire on both ships, literally destroying Santa Ana’s ornate stern and taking out 400 men, half her crew in one salvo.
Meanwhile, Nelson was approaching the combined fleet north of the center. He faked a move toward the lead ships in the enemy’s van, having already taken some hard hits, losing his mizzen-topmast, several sails, and Victory’s double wheel. Suddenly, Nelson turned the Victory 90 degrees east, forty men were on the tiller below, and plowed toward the center of the enemy’s line. This brief feint to the head of the van proved to be an extremely important and decisive tactic. My ancestor, Captain Edward Codrington aboard the Orion commented, “How beautifully the Admiral is carrying his design into effect.” It was the “Nelson touch.” The Victory plunged between the Bucentaure and Captain Lucas’ Redoubtable. The Victory fired one carronade consisting of a 68 pound ball, and a key of 500 musket balls fired through the stern of Villeneuve’s Bucentaure wreacking havoc. The two Supreme Commanders were at each others’ throats. The battle was raging.
Several French marksmen aboard the Redoubtable had the deck of the Victory in their sights. A rain of bullets sent everyone below except a tall hulking man, Captain Hardy, and a small wiry man with one arm and large medals on his coat making him recognizable and a perfect target. His aides had warned him. By then, it was too late to remove his coat. There wasn’t time. The battle had begun. Suddenly, the worst had happened. Nelson was mortally wounded with a bullet through his chest that lodged in his spine. He was taken below. There was little hope. John Pollard, a 19-year old midshipman, avenged his master’s wounding by picking off four French marksmen, one of who had fired the fatal shot.
The battle raged on with ships firing their cannons at point blank range. The two central battles formed according to plan. Within one-and-one-half hours, the Victory’s column of ships had won. Within one additional hour, Collingwood captured or destroyed 12 of the 16 ships he had attacked. Meanwhile, the enemy’s van of 7 ships commanded by Admiral Dumanoir aboard the Formidable had not engaged until too late. They fled to the west when they saw the victorious British fleet lying in wait.
Hearing his ship’s gunfiring above, Nelson in pain and probably in shock, cried out, “Victory, Victory how you distract my poor brain.” At 4 p.m. Captain Hardy reported to Nelson that he could count 14 to 15 surrendered enemy ships. Nelson replied, “That is well, but I had bargained for 20.” Nelson asked Hardy to take care of poor Lady Hamilton and Horatia. Hardy knelt down and kissed Nelson’s cheek. Nelson whispered, “Thank God, I have done my duty.” Hardy kissed his forehead. Nelson said, “God bless you, Hardy.” Nelson’s breathing became labored, and his voice drew to a whisper. Dr. Scott, Nelson’s secretary and chaplain, heard his last faint words as he said again, “Thank God, I have done my duty.” His breathing ceased. Britain’s greatest naval hero, Lord Nelson, was dead. Two great battles were over. The Victory with makeshift repairs and rigging returned to England with Nelson’s body preserved in a cask of brandy.
“Thank God, I have done my duty.”
History records that the Battle of Trafalgar destroyed any hope that Napoleon had of invading England. His convoys of infantry would have been no match for the strengthened British fleet of warships. Napolean’s navy had been destroyed or captured. Nelson had saved England at Trafalgar and will be so revered forever. The proud Victory may still be seen today, fully restored in all her splendor in her final berth, a drydock in Portsmouth, England.
THE AMERICAN FRIGATE “BOSTON”
The “Boston” was built at Boston, Massachusetts for the U.S. Government by the citizens of Boston under an Act of Congress, June 30, 1798 at a cost of $119,570. She was designed and built by Edmund Hartt and was launched May 20, 1799. She was commissioned on July 21, 1799. Her principal dimensions were: Length on deck- 133’; Breadth-35’ 6”; Depth- 17’ 11”; Compliment- 220; Battery (1801) 26- 12 pounders, 6- 9 pounders, 12-0 32 pound Carronades. She was rated in 1812 along with the Essex as a 32. At this time, the “Constitution,” also known as “Old Ironsides” was rated as a 44.
In 1803, Commodore Edward Preble, realizing that Morocco and the Barbary Pirates had to be dealt with, ordered the frigate “Philadelphia” to re-establish the blockage off Tripoli. He then moved the Constitution over to the shores of Tangier, increasing this display of naval strength by including the veteran, and then home-bound frigates, “New York”, “John Adams” and “Boston”. This conflict was soon over. The “Boston” served valiantly in the war of 1812 and was burned in Washington Navy Yard by the British in August of 1814.
The model was purchased at auction in Boston circa 1989. The model maker is unknown. We cannot account for why she is flying a British flag. Perhaps she made a sneak attack or carried the flag after being captured by the British.
THE AMERICAN FRIGATE “ESSEX”
The 32 gun American frigate Essex was built at Salem, Massachusetts for the U.S. Government by the citizens of Salem under an Act of Congress, June 30, 1798. The cost was $139,362. She was designed by William Hacket. Her agent was Joseph Waters. Her builder was Enos Briggs. She was launched September 30, 1799. She was commissioned on December 17, 1799.
Her principal dimensions were: length on gun deck- 141’ 5”; breadth- 37’ 8”; depth- 12’ 3”; tonnage- 850; complement- 228; battery (1799) 26- 12 pounders, 10- 6 pounders.
In the company of the U.S. frigate, the Philadelphia, the Essex exchanged fire with two gun boats near the town of Tripoli on September 29, 1801. On February 6, 1802, Congress recognized a state of war with Tripoli. On February 20th, and for several months thereafter, the Essex was anchored at the Bay of Algeriras and did blockade duty. A peace treaty was signed with Tripoli, possibly aboard the Essex on June 3, 1804.
Relations between the U.S. and Great Britain began to deteriorate in November of 1810. On June 18, 1812, war was declared with Great Britain. On July 11, 1812, the Essex captured the brig “Leander” off Newfoundland. On August 2nd, she captured the ship “Nancy” and the brig “Hero”. She captured and burned the brig “Brothers” on August 3rd. On August 7th, the Essex captured the brig “King George”. August 9th, she captured the brig “Mary”. On August 13th, the Essex’s most famous capture was the “H.M.S. Alert” (16 guns).
On December 12, 1812, the Essex captured the British packet “Noctor” with $55,000 aboard. On December 29th, she captured and burned merchant schooner “Elizabeth” of Rio de Janeiro. On February 14, 1813, the Essex rounded Cape Horn and was the first American warship to enter the Pacific Ocean. On March 25th, she captured the Peruvian schooner “Nereyda”, disarmed her and sent her on her way with a letter of explanation to the Spanish Viceroy. On April 5th, she recaptured the American whaler “Barclay” which had been taken by the “Nereyda”. On April 29, 1813, the Essex captured the “Montezuma”, the “Policy”, and the “Georigina”. On May 29th, the Essex and her prize “Georigina” captured the whalers: “Atlantic”, “Greenwich”, “Rose”, “Hector”, and “Catherine”. On June 13th, the Essex captured the whalers “Charlton”, “Seingapatam”, and “New Zealander”. On August 13th, she captured the whaler “Sir Andrew Hammond” off Galapagos Island. On October 19, 1813, the Essex claimed the Marquesas Islands for the U.S., built a ford and overcame the inhabitants. On March 28, 1814, the Essex was captured by the British frigate “Phoebe” and the sloop “Cherub” in Valparaiso Harbor, thus ending a brilliant career of engaging and capturing the 26 British ships listed above.
The model was built by Gene McClure in the late seventies. He also built the Victory, also in this collection.
THE AMERICAN FRIGATE
On May 14, 1801, our flagpole at the U.S. Consulate in Tripoli was chopped down by a gang of axe wielding Tripoli citizens. By such an act, Yusef Karamanli, Pahsa of Tripoli, declared war on the United States of America. President Thomas Jefferson responded to this act of war by dispatching a Naval squadron on June 2, 1801 from the Virginia Capes, bound for the Barbary Coast. The squadron consisted of the frigates; the “President” armed with 44 guns, the “Philadelphia” with 36 guns, and the “Essex” with 32 guns. This action was meant to show the “Pasha”, U.S. determination in not being denied the Mediterranean.
With the arrival of this squadron at Tripoli, Commodore Edward Preble assigned the “Philadelphia” with 36 guns and the schooner “Vixen” with 12 guns, to maintain a blockage of Tripoli. The frigate was assigned for its’ superior fire power, and the schooner for its’ shallow draft and abilities to survey the various aspects of the harbor.
On September 12, 1803, the “Constitution” rendezvoused with the “Philadelphia” commanded by Captain Williams Bainbridge, at Gibraltar. Bainbridge had welcome news for Commodore Preble, the “Philadelphia” had seized the Moroccan ship “Mirboca”, (armed with 22 guns), while the “Mirboca” was towing the captured U.S. brig “Celia”.
Unfortunately, the welcome news was short lived. While chasing two Tripoli ships on October 31, 1803, the “Philadelphia” ran hard aground on an uncharted reef. She wedged up on the reef and careened over at an angle that rendered her guns useless. Tripoli ships swarmed to the scene of the wreck and forced Bainbridge and his crew of 300 men to surrender. The captain and his crew were taken prisoner and held for ransom. The captured frigate was hauled off the reef and moored just inside the harbor of Tripoli where her broadside of 18 guns were double shotted, this nearly doubled the “Pasha’s” defense of the harbor.
Commodore Preble concluded that it would be impossible to recapture the valiant frigate and decided to employ a daring plan to destroy her. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur along with four officers and 62 volunteers under the cover of darkness aboard the Ketch “Intrepid” sailed into the Tripoli harbor. Silently they boarded the “Philadelphia”, fought a quick and valiant battle ending with most of the Tripoli crew jumping overboard. Decatur and his men quickly rigged explosives and scuttled the ship.
“I gather that simply sailing her out of the harbor was not an option. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was too dangerous when shore gun batteries became aware. Also, there wasn’t much wind that night – barely enough for Decatur and the “Intrepid” to rejoin the back-up U.S. brig “Siren” and sail away into the night undamaged by the Tripolitan shore guns. In the distance they could all see the flaming and exploding “Philadelphia”, truly a desperate moment to remember for the fledgling U.S. Navy.”
— F. Carrington Weems
The model is plank on solid wood hull, blonde wood, built circa 1979. The model maker is unknown. Purchased in Boston, Massachusetts.
THE CONFEDERATE RAIDER “C.S.S. ALABAMA”
The “Alabama” was specially designed by Confederate Naval Agent James Dunwoody Bulloch, a very clever and effective man in getting ships built in England for the Confederate Navy. This new Raider was to be built at Merseyside in the Laird shipyard under strict secrecy, known only as hull 290. She was christened Henrica when she was launched on May 15, 1862. The Yankee consular officials in England suspected the truth about her future and brought pressure to bear on the British not to let her put out to sea. On July 26th of the same year, Bulloch dressed the ship with flags and staged a gala excursion down the river. When they reached open water, Bulloch brought the guests back to Liverpool on a steam tug. The rest of the crew arrived the next morning and the British captain sailed the disguised “Alabama” to the island of Terceira in the Azores where it would rendezvous with the Bark Agrippina and take on arms, ammunition, and coal. This occurred on August 20, when Captain Raphael (Old Beeswax) Semmes arrived. Only when she was fully armed and ready to steam and sail away did she officially become the C.S.S. Alabama. Her principal mission was to seek out, capture and destroy Northern U.S. cargo ships anywhere she found them.
Captain Semmes described the Alabama in his own words:
“She was of about 900 tons burdened, 230 feet in length, 32 feet in breadth, 20 feet in depth, and drew, when provisioned and coaled for a cruise, 15 feet of water. Her model was of the most perfect symmetry, and she sat upon the water with the lightness and grace of a Swan. She was Barkentine – rigged, with long lower masts, which enabled her to carry large fore and aft sails, as Jibs and Try – sails… Her sticks were of the best yellow pine that would bend in a gale like a willow wand without breaking, and her rigging was of the best Swedish iron wire… Her engine was of three hundred horsepower, and she attached an apparatus for condensing from the vapor of seawater all the fresh water that her crew might require. She was a perfect steamer and a perfect sailing ship at the same time, neither of her two modes of locomotion being at all dependant upon the other… The Alabama was so constructed that in fifteen minutes her propeller could be detached from the shaft and lifted sufficiently high out of the water not to be an impediment to her speed… Her armament consisted of eight guns; six 32 pounders, in broadside, and two pivot guns amidships; one on the forecastle, and the other abaft the mainmast – the former a 100 pound rifled Blakeley and the latter a smooth-bore eight-inch… The average crew of the Alabama before the mast was about 120 men and 24 officers… The cost of the ship with everything complete was $250,000.”
Semmes captured and burned the “Ocmulgee”, a whaling ship out of Edgartown, Massachusetts. He captured and burned 10 or more whaling ships on his way westward, passed through the center of a violent hurricane, and survived. He met his tender “Agrippina” in Martinique, took on much needed coal, avoided a battle with the much larger federal warship “San Jacinto of Trent”, and steamed northwest towards Galveston. He arrived there in the afternoon of January 11, surveyed the federal ships in the vicinity, and under cover of darkness, engaged an unknown federal warship, the battle lasting 13 minutes. It turned out that Semmes had sunk a 210 foot side-wheel steamer armed with five guns. The Alabama took 108 crewmen and 18 officers prisoner. He put them ashore at Port Royal, Jamaica on January 20. This was the first and only federal warship sunk by the Confederates at sea during the entire war. On January 26, Semmes captured and burned the “Golden Rule”. On April 10, he reached the island of Fernando de Noronna, off the coast of Brazil. He captured the Bark “Conrad” on June 20th, arming the ship and commissioning her the Confederate Cruiser “Tuscaloosa”.
Semmes entered Saldanna Bay on July 26th, some 75 miles north of Cape Town. On August 5th, he captured the American Bark “Sea Bride”. Semmes left Cape Town on September 24th. He sailed east 3,000 miles through empty seas passing the island of St. Paul on October 12th. In the Sundra Strait, he captured and burned several American merchant ships near Sumatra. He spent three days in Singapore Harbor, then sailed west taking additional vessels along the way to the Comoro Islands near Africa. On February 12th of the following year, Semmes headed for Cape Town.
The Alabama left Table Bay on March 25th. In April, Semmes captured and burned the “Rockingham” and the “Tycoon”, these were his last. Semmes discovered that his gunpowder had deteriorated and needed to be replaced. In May, Semmes crossed the Equator, where the Alabama tired out. Semmes said, “She was like the wearied foxhound, limping back after a long chase, footsore, and longing for quiet and repose.” Her commander too, was well-nigh worn down. The shadows of a sorrowful future also began to rest upon his spirit.
The Alabama had sailed through storms, drenching rain, extreme changes of temperature, ever northward, passing the Azores, along the coasts of Portugal and Spain, and then on June 11th, entered the harbor of Cherbourg. Semmes had burned $4,613,914.00 worth of Yankee ships and had bonded others valued at $562,250.00. In all, 62 ships in two and a half years, and he had traveled 75,000 miles.
After all of those ships and miles sailed, Captain Raphael Semmes was now going to have to face the biggest challenge of his life. On Sunday, June 19, 1864, at 10 (am or pm?), Semmes issued the challenge and steamed out to meet a third-rate armed federal screw steamer, the “U.S.S. Kearsarge”, commanded by his former shipmate Captain John A. Winslow. The ships were not evenly matched, the Alabama was travel-worn and her fouled bottom slowed her down, and while their armament was more or less equal, the Alabama’s gunpowder was stale. In addition, the Kearsarge had heavy iron chains draped along her sides, cleverly boxed with boards painted the same color as the rest of her hull.
The battle began with Semmes firing the first shot. Semmes concentrated his fire from the starboard broadside. He shifted his 32 pounder to that side causing his ship to list about two feet, reducing speed and maneuverability, but exposing a smaller target to enemy guns. In the first 15 minutes, the Alabama crew lodged a 100 pounder in the wooden stempost of the Kearsarge, but the fuse was defective and it did not explode. This, as it turns out, was the Alabama’s only chance to have won the battle. For three more minutes, the Alabama pressed for an advantage with Semmes actually wanting to board the Kearsarge and overcome her with hand to hand fighting, but Winslow was wary and having the faster ship, sailed out of reach. Semmes now could only watch as his shots bounced off the virtually “iron clad” Kearsarge. Winslow now brought his 11 inch Dalgrens to bear on the Alabama. Winslow began a constant, relentless salvo onto the vulnerable hull of the Alabama pressing his advantage, ripping boards, planking, metal and human flesh apart until the Alabama was clearly going to sink. Semmes ordered the colors to be struck, raised a white flag, and sent a dingy to tell Winslow he was ready to surrender. Both commanders accused the other of continuing to fire even after colors had been lowered.
The battle had lasted one hour. Winslow had fired 173 shots, the Alabama twice that amount. The battle was observed by some 15,000 French spectators on shore.
When the Alabama was about to go down, Semmes gave the order, “Save yourselves!” A steam yacht, the “Deerhound”, which had come out to watch the battle was now alongside the sinking Alabama. The yacht had come out that day because a nine year old member of the “Lancaster” family had cast the deciding ballot. The yacht picked up 42 men including Semmes and his executive officer, Lieutenant John McIntosh Kell. 21 men aboard the Alabama were wounded and saved. Semmes estimated that nine men had been killed by gunfire, and ten men had drowned including Dr. David H. Llewellyn whose makeshift life preserver had failed just before being rescued.
Aboard the yacht, Lancaster asked Semmes where he wanted to be put ashore and Semmes answered, “I am under English colors; the sooner you land me on English soil, the better.” Lancaster steamed the fast yacht into Southampton and put his passengers ashore, much to the outrage of Captain Winslow who wanted to take Semmes and his crew prisoner. England lionized Semmes as did the Confederacy. England would later pay a price for her role in creating the Alabama and supporting her efforts to destroy the U.S. cargo and whaling fleet. Captain Raphael Semmes had done his job well, was promoted to the rank of Admiral, greatly decorated, admired and appreciated. Thus, the saga of the Confederate Raider “C.S.S. Alabama” ended.
“I am under English colors; the sooner you land me on English soil, the better, ” said Semmes.
After the war, Admiral Semmes returned to Mobile, Alabama to practice law and write his memoirs. The Alabama and its’ exploits have become one of the most famous events in all maritime history. Scholars still study the daring details of Admiral Semmes two and a half year escapade.
THE BATTLESHIP “U.S.S. TEXAS (BB-35)”
THE “MIGHTY T”
“OUR MOST FAMOUS TEXAN”
By 1941, the oldest ship in the U.S. Navy, but still one of the most powerful, she did vital convoy duty until November, 1942. She fired her guns at the enemy for the first time at the invasion of North Africa in 1943. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, she played an active role in the Allied landing at Normandy. She steamed to the Pacific in December of 1944 to bombard Iwo Jima and Okinawa prior to these invasions and difficult battles. When the war ended, she transported 4,000 war-weary troops home from the Pacific. She had only one fatal casualty, a helmsman, in all her years as a warship engaged in battles in many theaters of war.
The Texas is 573 feet long with a maximum beam of 95 feet, displacing 27,000 tons and capable of steaming up to 21 knots. She had a teak deck. She has ten twin mounted 14-inch guns, 21 five-inch guns and four 21-inch torpedo tubes. She has armor plate up to 14 inches thick on her gun turrets. Her engines were coal fired, four cylinder, triple expansion, reciprocating steam engines which have been designated as National Mechanical Engineering Landmarks.
We believe the model was built in 1934. The model maker is unknown. The model is a very accurate representation of the vessel in 1/16” = 1’ scale, which is the same scale as a set of the actual ship plans that we have which are dated 1935. We believe that the model came out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Naval Museum at Hyde Park, bought at auction in 1972, sold in Houston, Texas, at the Theta Antique Show to Lieutenant Commander Vincent Hurley, U.S.N. Retired in 1974, and subsequently sold to us in 1976.
THE BATTLESHIP “U.S.S. ARIZONA”
THE “U.S.S. CONSTITUTION”
She is best known for her success during the War of 1812, when her 21-inch thick hull was never penetrated by a single British cannonball.
Constitution made its last combat tour in 1814-1815. The ship was scheduled to be scrapped in 1830, but Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem “Old Ironsides” inspired a public movement to save it. Restored in 1925, Constitution is now the oldest commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy. She is presently serving as a museum ship at the Charleston Navy Yard in Boston, Massachusetts.
American 44-gun Frigate
Length: 175 feet
Beam: 43 feet 6 inches
Draft: 16 feet 7 inches
“TEXAS NAVY BRIG”
THE DUTCH MASTERS
This is a model of the Friesland, a second rank man-of-war with 80 guns, built about 1663. She was part of the Great Fleet of the United Provinces of Holland, which comprised 1700 vessels, In 1672, she and 77 other vessels under the command of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter (born Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter), took part in the battle of Solebay with the allied Anglo-French forces.
Model executed by Allen R. LeCornu from reliable Dutch documentation. She is scratch built, plank on frame, T-nailed, with handcarved decorations gilded with 24K gold leaf. Professor LeCornu is one of America’s very few professional museum model shipwrights.