BATTLE OF SLUYS 1340

“Battle of Sluys – 24 June, 1340. Naval battle between an English fleet, under King Edward lll and a French fleet under Hugues Quieret, Admiral of France” – Medieval naval battle – ship to ship conflict was acted upon by boarding the enemy vessel and going into melee by Peter Dennis

The first stages of the Hundred Years’ War were marked by an ongoing battle at sea between French and English privateers, pirates and merchants, each side hoping to profit and deny valuable supplies to the enemy. But already in 1338 Philip VI made use of a larger royal navy, mostly composed of galleys hired from Genoa. He launched several devastating raids against southern English ports, partly destroying several towns including Portsmouth, Southampton and Hastings. These raids effectively cut King Edward III’s lines of communication, including supplies, between his continental possessions and England, and also destroying and capturing a number of ships, including Edward III’s own great ships Cog Edward and Christopher: Philip and his advisors went on from there to organize a major invasion of England in 1339, only to have a storm scatter his fleet and spoil their plans.

From that point, France’s naval position rapidly went downhill. The Genoese mercenaries enjoyed a series of impressive successes, but started fighting among themselves after their own admiral, Ayton Doria, tried to cheat them out of their pay. The oarsmen mutinied, seized several of the galleys and headed for home, losing Philip VI two thirds of his battle fleet at one blow. By the end of 1339 the rest of the Italian oarsmen had been sent home. That left France with 22 royal galleys of its own, but an English raid on Boulogne early in 1340 burned 18 of these where they had been laid up for the winter.

Without this elite fighting force, the French seem to have lost confidence and in early 1340 decided on a defensive policy, blocking the English invasion fleet’s access to the Flemish coast where they intended to land safely, since Flanders was England’s ally. The French task could be accomplished with armed merchantmen, the ‘Great Army of the Sea’, as it was grandiosely named. It consisted of up to 200 ships, the largest grouping that could be found and therefore probably mostly cogs. The cost to equip them and hire crews was paid for with a heavy tax on Normandy.

In the meantime, an English invasion fleet was gathered. Made up of about 160 ships, most of them were privately owned and pressed into service to the crown. This fleet, commanded by Edward III in person, sailed for Flanders on 22 June 1340. They apparently did not expect to encounter the French fleet at the mouth of the River Zwyn two days later, the French determined to keep the English from landing upriver. At this stage, Edward had no choice but to go forwards. A retreat could easily have turned into a massacre, French ships able to cut off the English one by one as they spread out on the open sea, not to mention what a crushing blow a retreat would have been to King Edward’s honour.

Battle of Sluys, 1340

The Battle of Sluys began on 24 June 1340. The French decided on a battle strategy that suggests the French admirals, Hugh Quieret and Nicholas Behuchat, did not trust their ships’ fighting capabilities and above all feared the English slipping by and landing their army. So the French blocked the mouth of the river completely, chaining the ships together in three long lines across the shallow estuary, about 5km (3 miles) wide at its entrance.

Apparently the most experienced of the French ship commanders advised against remaining in such a confined space, without room to manoeuvre and with the wind blowing into the mouth of the river, but the admirals did not listen. The chronicler Froissart tells that the ships, fortified with wooden fighting platforms, looked like a row of castles. The French strategy suggests either extremely poor seamanship, lack of information about the English fleet coming against them or reckless over-confidence. Some historians have questioned whether the French could really have chained their ships together; this practice of ‘bridling’ was described by the historian Livy and maybe medieval chroniclers were again borrowing from the past instead of observing the present. For sailing ships in a confined space affected by the tide, such a tactic was insane. Indeed, the French ships soon found themselves in difficulty, drifting east and fouling each other. The ships appear to have been cast loose at this point, but the French found themselves in serious disorder just as the English began to attack, taking advantage of wind and tide and not starting their final approach until early afternoon when the sun would no longer be in their eyes. The French were trying to edge west again when the battle began, adding to the confusion.

The English approached in three lines, with the largest ships to the front, including Edward III’s own flagship, the cog Thomas. Height was once again an advantage, and the English had the manpower to exploit it to its fullest – a large army of men-at-arms and archers intended for the land army. Although often forgotten by chivalry enthusiasts, it was this Battle at Sluys, rather than the more famous Crecy and Poitiers, that showed for the first time the devastating effectiveness of the English longbow. The French marines were for the most part crossbowmen. They were much slower than their English equivalents in those crucial moments as the ships closed, and besides were probably under strength, since the French had lost most of their Italian mercenary crossbowmen. The French did what they could to compensate, including lashing boats full of stones to their masts and posting men at the masthead to hurl the rocks on enemy heads. By that time, however, many crews would have been too thinned to fight effectively.

The fighting was hot. Edward III himself was shot through the thigh with a crossbow bolt, and fighting raged from about 3.00 PM until nearly 10.00 PM (with two ships continuing to fight until the next dawn). But the English seem to have massacred the first French line in fairly quick order, gradually working to the second line, which was so tightly clustered together that the ships could not manoeuvre. A large force of Flemings, mustered on the west bank, then fell on the third line from behind, besides killing any Frenchmen who managed to struggle to the shore. The result was a great English victory. No quarter was given, the English slaughtering the crews of captured ships. Between 16,000 and 18,000 French fighting men died that day. Among the dead were both admirals. Behuchat was killed in the fighting; Quieret was captured to be ransomed, but when it was discovered that he had commanded the French attacks against the southern English ports, Edward III ordered him hanged from the mast of his own ship. Not long after the victory, King Edward had his gold coinage redesigned to show himself enthroned on a ship.

Power struggles around the Baltic Sea

Excavations in the major Nordic Viking towns of Hedeby, also known as Haithabu (in Schleswig), and Birka (near Stockholm), and at other sites have revealed an extensive trade in the Viking Age from the Baltic region and further down towards the Black Sea along the many river systems. Novgorod in Russia occupied a central place in the Vikings’ trading network. From 1157, Finland was under the Swedish crown.

Cape Arkona was conquered in 1168 from the local Wendic tribes and the whole island of Rügen became a Danish fiefdom which was included in the dioceseofRoskildeuntil1325. During the reign of Valdemar the Conqueror in the thirteenth century, parts of current Estonia were subjected to the Danish crown. The capital was called Tallinn, which is derived from the Estonian words Taani Linn, meaning `Danish town’. The conquest was encouraged by the Catholic Church, which at the time was seeking to increase its power and influence eastwards. From the opposite side, the Slavic population was spreading the Greek/Russian Orthodox faith and for centuries the River Narva was the border between these two faiths. The River Narva runs from Lake Peipus northwards and flows into the Gulf of Finland. It was on the west bank of Lake Peipus in 1242 that the canonised Russian national hero Alexander Nevsky defeated the German knights.

From 1241, the Hanseatic League, and above all Lübeck, started to be an economic power in the region. It lasted for the next three hundred years. Visby on Gotland played a special role as a natural centre for the Baltic trade – Gotland was Danish from 1361 to 1645. Danzig (now the Polish town of Gdansk) later evolved into the centre for all trade in cereals in northern Europe, and the German knightly orders and the Hanseatic League were firmly in the driving seat in this part of the economy. The power of the orders of knights began to wane in the 1550s as a result of the Reformation.

The Danish King Frederik II restored the Danish presence in Estonia in 1559 when he bought the diocese, which included Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. Near the mouth of the River Narva lie two towns: Estonian Narva on the west side and Russian Ivangorod on the east. There is a fort belonging to each settlement. Danes, Swedes, Poles and Russians have fought in this area throughout the centuries for land, trade and ports. Narva was founded in 1222 by Valdemar the Conqueror and remained in Danish hands until Valdemar IV Atterdag’s sale of Estonia to the Teutonic Order in 1346. Among the Estonian regions, the island of Saaremaa remained in Danish hands the longest – right up to the Peace of Brömsebro in 1645.

Sound dues and power relationships in the Baltic Sea

From 1429, the Danish king extracted `Sound dues’ from ships that passed Kronborgat Elsinore (Helsingor).Almost all transportation of large amounts of goods over longer distances took place by ship. As maritime and trading nations, the Netherlands and England were very interested in the significant trade in the area. This gave rise to the classic problems of power and rights. Those coastal states which were strong enough wanted to enforce a principle of mare clausum, ie a closed sea, where only the coastal states were involved in the trading. The weaker powers and the intruders wanted a mare liberum, a free sea where trading was open to all. This battle for dominance of the Baltic Sea affected Danish and Swedish foreign policy and the Latin name was often used: Dominum Maris Baltici. It led to wars for hundreds of years and the Netherlands and England, in particular, used their naval power to support a policy in favour of the weak powers in the Baltic Sea. The aim was to ensure that no single nation got total dominion over the coastal reaches in the straits. The wars between Sweden and Denmark were mainly about trading rights in the Baltic Sea and all rights were based on the power that each state could put behind its demands.

Poland and Lithuania

From 1386 right up to Poland’s dissolution in 1795, Poland and Lithuania were united and at times the two countries formed a strong polity. Formally, it was the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a union in which Poland was the dominant partner. The Teutonic knightly orders were kept in check by the Polish king, who defeated them at Tannenberg in 1410; Moscow was captured and was under the domination of the union from 1610 to 1612 – the nation stretched all the way to the shores of the Black Sea at certain periods.

The Swedish wars

From about 1560 until 1660, Sweden carried out a dramatic expansion of its territories and consolidated its power in what are now Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark and Norway. A large part of the Baltic coast thus fell into Swedish hands. The Swedish army was partly financed by export earnings from iron and arms. Generally speaking, the Swedish armies were very strong, but the Swedish navy was sometimes poorly led and in a worse shape than the Danish. In 1644, the Danish navy was almost wiped out by a Swedish-Dutch fleet and the subsequent Peace of Brömsebro was the beginning of the collapse of Denmark’s foreign policy. When the next war broke out, the King of Sweden came from Torun, in what is now Poland. He gathered together some scattered Swedish forces and immediately marched west. A strong Danish-Norwegian fleet could usually maintain the security of the Danish islands, but not Jutland and Scania, and when in 1658 Danish territorial waters became ice-bound, the Swedish army crossed the ice and thereby won the war. In this way, Denmark lost the provinces of Scania, Halland and Blekinge in southern Sweden, all of which had constituted an integral part of Denmark since the Viking age. The Swedish wars were very much about the right to maritime trade. Shipping paid Sound dues to the Danish king. During the Scanian War of 1675-1679, the Danish-Norwegian navy transported a large army over to Scania, but it was defeated.

Russia becomes a Baltic power

In 1558, Russia fought her way out to Narva and started trading from there. The Swedes captured Narva in 1581 and forced the Russians back from the Baltic Sea again. One of the reasons for the Great Northern War from 1700 to 1720 was a Russian desire to regain access to the Baltic Sea and thereby to the extensive trade in the area. During this war, Sweden was crushed as a great power. Because of the intervention of the great powers, Denmark did not get its lost lands back, despite a renewed attempt at reconquering Scania. Russia captured the River Neva estuary in 1703. The Baltic states were incorporated into the Tsarist Empire in 1721 and from this year, Russia became a significant power in the Baltic Sea.

The Napoleonic wars

The Napoleonic wars also reached the Baltic region. In 1801, Britain had prepared a punitive action against the second League of Armed Neutrality. This consisted of the three naval powers of Russia, Sweden and Denmark, which, thanks to a joint convoy system, were earning enormous sums trading with everyone, including the warring parties. The action against Sweden and Russia was called off after the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, when it became known that the Russian Tsar Paul I had just been murdered.

The siege of Copenhagen and the subsequent bombardment in 1807 was due to British demands for the surrender of the Danish-Norwegian fleet, together with the merchant fleet, both of which Britain did not want to fall into Napoleon’s hands, as this would pose a significant threat to Britain, particularly of French invasion across the English Channel. The subsequent gunboat war in Danish and Norwegian waters was a series of pinprick operations directed against Royal Navy and commercial ships. Britain had to obtain imports of hemp, mast poles, timber and much more from the Baltic ports to maintain the Royal Navy, as well as her merchant ships, and it was too expensive and too dangerous to sail around the North Cape and obtain the goods in Arkhangelsk. But the Danish-Norwegian resistance did not have any significant impact on Britain, whose fleet sailed in and out of the Baltic Sea with large convoys. The Royal Navy was simply too strong.

In 1809, Sweden had to cede Finland, which then became a Grand Duchy with the Russian tsar as Grand Duke. At the conclusion of peace in 1814, Sweden got Norway as compensation for the loss of Finland.

The Schleswig Wars and the Crimean War

Prussia and Denmark fought two wars over the duchy of Schleswig-Holstein (Slesvig-Holsten). The end of the First Schleswig War from 1848 to 1850 was not brought about by the action of the Danish army and navy – Russian diplomatic pressure, supported by a strong Russian Baltic Fleet, persuaded Prussia to end the war.

The Crimean War (1853-1856) took a small detour to the Baltic Sea, when British and French naval forces bombarded the Russian forts at Bomarsund on Åland and in Helsinki. This event revealed Denmark’s impotence: two major naval powers just sailed through the Danish straits and did what they pleased. It was the direct reason for the United States demanding the abolition of the Sound dues. They were lifted in 1857 after an international conference.

During the Second Schleswig War in 1864, Prussia only had a modest fleet, and therefore the Austrian fleet in the Adriatic was called in to provide assistance. At the Battle of Heligoland on 9 May 1864, the force was turned back by a Danish squadron under Orlogskaptajn Edouard Suensson before it came into the Baltic Sea, but this war was lost on the ground to an army against which the Danish forces were powerless. From the Danish point of view, the naval victory was the only bright spot of the war, but irrelevant when peace terms were dictated.

Germany rearms at sea

In the late nineteenth century, Germany began a naval rearmament which was primarily directed against Britain and France. It was also intended to support Germany’s ambitions for empire and its growing number of colonies in China, the Pacific Islands and Africa.

Russia and its fleets

In relation to Russia, the Baltic Sea should not be seen in isolation, but also considered in conjunction with the country’s ambitions in other maritime areas. The Russian tsars sought for years to get access to the oceans. Russia started as a small city-state around the city of Moscow and was expanded gradually and very slowly during centuries of struggle against diverse invading forces, such as the Mongols, the Teutonic orders of knighthood, Swedes, Turks, Lithuanians and Poles. From 1555, it was possible to establish maritime trade with English merchants from Arkhangelsk via the tsar’s newly established Muscovy Company, but the area was not inviting for either industry or traffic on a large scale. Peter the Great’s victories over Sweden gave Russia access to the sea in the Baltic. In 1703, Peter founded the new city of St Petersburg on the estuary of the River Neva, which became the country’s capital as early as 1712. From here, Russia had access to conduct maritime trade in the ice-free periods from May to December. English merchants could now buy their Russian goods via St Petersburg and avoid the expensive and dangerous voyage up to the Barents Sea.

The two oldest Russian fleets are the Baltic Fleet and the Black Sea Fleet, which originated during Peter the Great’s reign. The Pacific Fleet was established in 1860, but after the defeat by the Japanese in 1905, it was not re- established until 1932. In the northern area, a naval force was established in 1916 that could co-operate with the Allied transports. In 1933, it received the status of a flotilla and in 1937 of an independent fleet, the Northern Fleet. At the outbreak of war in 1941, a modest number of submarines and destroyers were based here.

The outcome of the Russo-Japanese War 1904/1905 was a disaster for Russia and its population and it contributed to both the February and the October revolutions in St Petersburg in 1917. 3 The human sacrifices and the economic consequences were both enormous. When the Pacific Fleet was defeated by the Japanese fleet, the entire Baltic Fleet was sent to Vladivostok and Port Arthur. It was a relocation which took more than seven months, as most units had to sail south of Africa. In the end, the naval force was destroyed by an inferior, but ably-led, Japanese naval force in the Battle of Tsushima Strait in May 1905. After 1905, Russia thus had no Baltic Fleet, and there were therefore no forces available to protect St Petersburg.

Russian analyses in 1909 concluded that an attack on the capital would naturally come by sea. Following a major commission, work was begun in 1914 on the Peter the Great naval fortress in what is now Finland and Estonia. The plans also included sketches for a small fleet. In this way, according to the plan, it would be possible – with limited use of warships – to hold an invading enemy at a distance from St Petersburg simply by fortifying the entire entrance to the Gulf of Finland. Twenty-five forts were built on the Finnish side and seventeen on the Estonian side, where the artillery had a calibre of between 2in/57mm and 14in/355mm. In 1912, the Russian State Duma adopted a long- term building programme which should have lasted over eighteen years. Twenty-four battleships, twelve battlecruisers, twenty-four light cruisers, 108 destroyers and thirty-six large submarines were to be built.

The Baltic Sea during and after the First World War

When the First World War broke out, the German navy got its best ships ready for the battle against the Royal Navy, while they could make do with the older and outdated vessels against the Russians. To relieve the Russians, but also to put maximum pressure on the German economy, industry and fleet, the Royal Navy from 1915 onwards sent a number of submarines in through the Sound to the Baltic Sea. These submarines were supported at Russian bases.

Russian military participation slowly ground to a standstill because of domestic social upheavals near the end of the war. The Germans made a very large and successful landing in October 1917, when a landing force of 23,000men captured Saaremaa and the nearby island of Muhu. The Germans actually won the war on the Eastern Front, partly because of Lenin’s seizure of power in Russia one month later, but the outcome of the war was decided on the Western Front where the Germans lost during 1918. With the end of the war and the Russian Revolution, a special situation arose in the Baltic region. Two of the losers from the First World War were no longer strong naval powers. As losers, they came together in co-operation during the following decade.

In Sweden, German naval rearmament leading up to the First World War had been followed with some concern, because this development had reduced Sweden to a secondary power. Russia had been Sweden’s natural enemy for centuries and, with the revolution and Russia in chaos, this threat was suddenly eliminated. Sweden could therefore save on military spending after the First World War and went towards apparently problem-free times in the 1920s and 1930s.

Japanese adoption of Portuguese muskets

Busanjinsunjeoldo

The Japanese landing on Busan

 EdoJapaneseArquebuse

Japanese arquebuses of the Edo era. These types of firearms were used by Japanese soldiers during Hideyoshi’s invasions

The advances in guns there with the Japanese adoption of Portuguese muskets through Hideyoshi’s invasions of Korea in the 1590s. Although guns were widely available in the struggle for supremacy in China during the mid-fourteenth century, they became a cornerstone of the Ming army only after the Ming conquest of China. Before the end of the fourteenth century, almost 10 percent of the army’s 1.2–1.8 million soldiers were armed with guns. The capital’s arsenals produced 3,000 cannon and 3,000 handguns annually from 1380 to 1488. These weapons were widely deployed and initially gave Ming armies an advantage over neighboring states that were not so armed. European advances in gun technology were quickly adopted in China, and the cannon it brought into the field owed as much to the West as did the Japanese army’s muskets.

Hideyoshi’s invasions of Korea brought about a direct clash between three different gun-armed forces, the Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans. Japanese forces were armed with muskets and trained in volley fire; Chinese forces relied upon cannon; and Korean forces used cannon on armored warships to interdict Japanese maritime supply lines. On the strategic level, the Japanese were completely defeated, achieving none of their political or military goals at a tremendous loss of life. Tactically, the results were more mixed. Chinese armies succeeded when they brought their cannon up to the battlefield, and lost when they did not. The Korean navy defeated the Japanese navy using cannon to oppose their boarding tactics, but was ineffective when poorly commanded. Overall, the conflict demonstrated that guns, whether muskets or cannon, were now critical in East Asian warfare.

After the first Japanese campaign (1592–3) was driven back to the southern tip of Korea, the Ming attempted to improve the Korean army by training its soldiers to use firearms. The course of the war surprised all sides, revealing deep-seated weaknesses within everyone’s armed forces. By campaigning outside of Japan, Hideyoshi subjected the Japanese army to new military problems that it struggled to overcome. The Korean and Chinese forces suffered similar difficulties in dealing with new modes of warfare. For example, the Ming army, which possessed several different kinds of troops based upon their regional origins, had to bring southern Chinese troops, who had previously fought against ‘‘Japanese’’ pirates, to the battlefield in order to engage the Japanese in close combat. Northern Chinese troops, who emphasized cavalry and had no experience of the Japanese, were generally regarded as ineffective.

It is impossible to draw conclusions about which mode of warfare was superior without taking into account the specific conditions and commanders of a given battle. Japanese superiority in close combat, and in medium-range missile firing through their use of muskets, was negated when Chinese cannon were present on the battlefield. At the same time, the test of combat could be rendered moot by larger strategic issues. Japanese attempts to hold and control Korean territory, combined with a desire to avoid large-scale battles with the Chinese and their cannons, induced them to disperse their troops and focus on ambushes and placing small garrisons in key locations. These tactics then exposed them to even greater risk, as Korean partisans were able to ambush small Japanese units, or harass their supply lines.

Hideyoshi’s invasions, like the construction of the Great Wall, demonstrated once again the close connection between siege warfare, naval warfare, and guns. While troops in the field could maneuver to take advantage of their own strengths and avoid those of their opponents, sometimes to the extent of refusing battle entirely, siege and naval warfare quite often did not allow that possibility. Strong points had to be taken if territory was to be controlled, certain sailing routes had to be used at certain times if ships were to reach their destination. One of the greatest weaknesses of the Japanese war effort was the Japanese navy, a rather surprising circumstance given the competence of Japanese sea lords earlier in the sixteenth century.

China remained connected to the maritime world on its coast. Guns were part of the Ming response to the wokou pirates in the mid-sixteenth century, and in some ways prepared at least part of the Ming army to fight the Japanese at the end of that century. Yet larger issues of morale, training, command, and supply far exceeded the importance of guns by themselves. Better guns were not decisive on their own, though Jesuit-supplied military technology would play a significant role on all sides during the invasion of Korea.

BEFORE LEPANTO I

A galley which Ottoman Sultans used at inshore waters. Built at the end of the 16th century. Length: 40 m; Width: 5.70 m. It is reportedly the only original galley in the world. (Maritime Museum, Istanbul).

On August 14, 1571, a gigantic ship’s pennant of silk damask passed through the congested streets of Naples. Embroidered to the pope’s commission, it was the standard of Christendom, to fly from the tallest mast in the fleet of the Holy League as it sailed into battle. The pope’s banner with a huge golden figure of Christ nailed to the cross loomed over the stocky Spanish soldiers who carried it in procession from the steps of the Church of Santa Clara. As the blue flag moved through the Neapolitan crowds, an unnatural stillness gripped all who watched it go by. An hour before, inside the church, the assembled nobles, officers, monks, and priests had stood silent and unmoving, all their eyes on the admiral of the Holy League, Don John of Austria. Arrayed in cloth of gold, scarlet satin, and white velvet, the young admiral knelt before the altar as the pope’s representative, Cardinal Granvelle, handed him his staff of office and pointed to the great banner behind him. “Take these emblems,” the cardinal exhorted, “of the Word made flesh, these symbols of the true faith, and may they give thee a glorious victory over our impious enemy and by thy hand may his pride be laid low.”

Below the cross of Christ were the emblems of the king of Spain and of the Holy Father, Pope Pius V, with the badge of the Republic of Venice, all linked by a great golden chain, symbolizing the power of faith that bound them together. From that chain, in slightly smaller scale, hung the pendant crest of Don John. The emblems marked a brief moment of unity. For the first time in more than a century, Christendom had combined in force to do battle with the power of “Islam.” The war was sanctified, waged under the protection of the golden figure of Christ. The pope had declared that those who fought in this struggle were to be granted the same plenary indulgences as earlier Crusaders fighting to secure the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. All who died in the shadow of this battle flag would be spared the worst rigors of purgatory.

Eight hundred miles to the east a similar, if less public, ceremony had already taken place. From the treasury of the imperial palace in Constantinople, a bulky bundle wrapped in silk had been brought from Sultan Selim II to Ali Pasha, admiral of the Ottoman fleet. It also contained a flag, but one colored a vivid green instead of the lambent Christian blue. Even larger than the banner that Pope Pius V had entrusted to his commander, this was one of the most potent emblems of Islam. Upon its surface the ninety-nine names and attributes of God had been embroidered in gold. It was reputed that these were repeated no less than 28,900 times. The giant Kufic characters were surrounded and interlaced with endless reiteration of those same names, in a smaller script, so that from a distance the whole surface of the pennant appeared a shimmering network of golden filigree.

The two commanders were opposites—in rank, status, and experience of life. Don John was the acknowledged natural brother of the king of Spain, Philip II, and the by-blow from a few months Emperor Charles V had spent with a young widow called Barbara Blomberg in the imperial city of Regensburg. Don John had come to Naples from fighting a savage war in the mountains of southern Spain, to command the largest fleet ever assembled by Christian Europe. He had never fought at sea before. By contrast, Ali, the Kapudan Pasha of the Ottoman fleet, was a veteran of galley warfare, feared throughout the Aegean and into the far west of the Mediterranean. His origins were more humble, as the son of a muezzin, a mosque servant who called the faithful to prayer. But the two leaders, for all their differences, had much in common. They were like twin paladins from an epic poem: yearning for battle, chivalrous, and honorable. Fate decreed divergent destinies for them. One would die with a musket ball through the skull, his head then hacked off and stuck on the point of a pike. The other would return in triumph, honored and feted, his victory celebrated with paintings, engravings, poems, coins and medals, essays and learned disquisitions through more than four centuries.

Stories of their encounter abound, some closely following facts, others embellished to make a better tale. Quite where history ends and legends begin is still unsure. The battle they fought in the Gulf of Lepanto has a double character: the event itself and its burgeoning afterlife. This afterlife, the mythic Lepanto, came to stand as a synecdoche for the contest between the Islamic and the Christian worlds. In deciphering the meaning of Lepanto, we may find a point of entry into those deeper mysteries. The greater struggle had deep roots. For almost a thousand years the Christian world had felt threatened by the power in the East. Sometimes, with the Crusades in the Levant, for example, in Sicily and in Spain, Christian Europe had taken war to the enemy. Over the centuries a brooding sense of Muslim threat came to mesmerize Christendom. By the sixteenth century conflict was accepted as the natural and inevitable relationship between East and West. Like a child’s seesaw, the rise of the East required the fall of the West. In 1571, the two adversaries sat roughly in balance.

Scholars reinforced a common belief in the danger and evil of “Islam.” The Muslims, according to the Venerable Bede, who wrote in the eighth century, were descended from Hagar, the prophet Abraham’s concubine. Many Muslims believed that she and her son, Ishmael, lay buried under the Kaaba, the great black stone in Mecca, which was the focal point of the Islamic faith. Christians, however, were descended from Abraham’s lawful offspring, Isaac. Worse still than the stain of bastardy, an even darker curse hung over the people of the East. Christians inferred that while all men traced their line back to Adam and Eve, the Muslims were the lineal descendants of Cain, thrust from the presence of God for murdering his brother Abel. For his crime, Cain bemoaned that he would “be a fugitive and a wanderer upon earth … and everyone who finds me will slay me.” They had been forced to dwell “east of Eden.” Between the children of Cain and the other descendants of Adam, there could be only mutual slaughter and revenge for the primordial crime of fratricide. So this struggle grew from a long tradition of atavistic hatred between the peoples of the West and East.

What this meant in practice it is hard to say. Naturally, Christians in battle routinely insulted their enemies as the “sons of Cain,” as “misbegotten,” or “Antichrist.” Muslims decried their enemies with equal vehemence. Conflict between East and West seemed permanent, inevitable, preordained, as much for the Christians as for the Muslims. Yet it did not destroy the skein of mutual economic and political interests that dominated the Mediterranean and the Balkans, the border and boundary between the two worlds. Trade and commercial interests were constantly in play, especially in the case of Venice and the other city-states of the Adriatic, which preferred to negotiate with Muslim power rather than fight it.

The Christian powers in the Mediterranean had much to fear from an Ottoman Empire intent on expansion. The desire for a great victory went beyond political calculations, and not only for the pope, the architect of the grand alliance. After the capture of Constantinople in 1453, many Christians were convinced that the triumphant advance of Islam could only be part of God’s plan. The Islamic scourge was a means to chasten mankind to a better sense of its faults and flaws. Were Christians being punished for the sins of declining faith and, latterly, schism? For more than a century Christian Europe had resisted the Islamic onslaught, but had won few decisive victories. What better sign of renewed divine favor could there be than a great and annihilating victory over the forces of darkness?

Victory was also much in the minds of Sultan Selim II and his advisers in Constantinople. Although the armies of “Islam” had continued to press forward against the infidel, the pace of advance had slowed. Selim’s grandfather and namesake had brought vast territories in Egypt, Arabia, and the Levant into the Ottoman domain. His father, Suleiman the Lawgiver, had captured the fortress island of Rhodes, Belgrade, and Budapest, and held the Hungarian plain almost to the walls of Vienna. Suleiman had destroyed the Kingdom of Hungary in a single day on the battlefield of Mohacs in 1526. Yet Suleiman too had his setbacks. He twice failed to capture Vienna—in 1529 and 1566—and the island of Malta had withstood all the Turkish efforts at storm and siege. In the Mediterranean, the great naval battle in 1538 at Prevesa, just off the Greek mainland north of the Gulf of Lepanto, produced no decisive result.

The Ottoman state was built upon a theory of infinite expansion, and annual war to advance its frontiers. Without conquest it would decay. Moreover, all good Muslims were duty bound to extend the Domain of Peace, and that burden weighed heaviest upon the sultan. Selim II had committed himself to advance the boundaries of righteousness by seizing the island of Cyprus, which was under the rule of Venice. He used the pretext that privateers had sailed from the island to harry his shipping and the coastal towns of Anatolia. By late 1570, it seemed likely that the island would fall to his armies. Even so, he desired much more than the capture of an island. The sultan demanded a dramatic victory from his commanders, another Mohacs. Thus, his admiral, Ali Pasha, knew that he had to achieve the complete destruction of the Christian fleet, and return laden with trophies, slaves, and booty.

The two adversaries gathered their forces from far distant points in the Mediterranean. Throughout the summer of 1571, little clusters of ships moved toward the designated meeting points: Messina for the Christians commanded by Don John, the Aegean for the sultan’s war fleet under Ali Pasha. They were galleys, a type of ship built for the specific conditions of the Mediterranean. Galley warfare occupied its own universe, utterly different from battles fought between the sailing ships of the Atlantic. Long, sitting low on the water, frail by comparison with their solid northern counterparts, war galleys appeared to be able to move regardless of the force or direction of the wind. Although these slender craft carried two or three large triangular sails, their main motive power was banks of oars that extended out forty feet or more from either side of the ship, both banks pulling in unison so that the boat moved forward swiftly in what seemed a series of rhythmic spasms. In their element, with a calm sea and a following wind, they resembled gigantic water beetles skittering on their long legs over the surface of the water. Although the galleys were faster under sail than when they depended on their oars alone, their power of maneuver came from the rowers. It meant that a galley never risked being blown ashore onto a rocky coast, which was a constant danger for the clumsy deep-hulled merchant sailing ships. A galley could move almost as fast backward as it did forward and, with its shallow draft, could negotiate shoals that would strand other sailing vessels.

Over the centuries galleys had developed many forms, some designed to carry cargo, but by the mid–sixteenth century they were evolving for a single purpose: war. The Mediterranean war galley had been adapted over many generations, from the Greek triremes that destroyed the Persian fleet at the battle of Salamis, almost two thousand years before. After 1500, some galleys acquired superstructures at bow and stern, to house guns and fighting men. But the essence of the galley remained the same. As in classical times, galleys were merely a floating platform from which men could board and overcome the crews of other ships, an insubstantial shell for carrying the oarsmen and men-at-arms. Originally, as in the rowing skiffs and caïques to be found in every Mediterranean port, each man had pulled his own oar, but this became a costly option since oars had to be made from expensive well-seasoned timber, much of it imported from northern Europe. From the mid–sixteenth century a new style of rowing appeared that reduced the number of oars. Three or four men, sometimes as many as five, would sit side by side on benches, all pulling in unison on a single massive sweep. It was easy thereafter to add more men to increase the force behind the oars.

The power of a war galley lay in its personnel. Aboard each one would be a number of well-equipped professional fighting men, a battle crew. On Muslim and Venetian ships, many among the rowing crew were also armed and would join the melee. Of the Venetian oarsmen, who were volunteers, those on the end of each bench had a sword and short pike close at hand, while the second man had a bow and a quiver of arrows. As the ships closed, they would leave their oars to the third man and gather, ready to swarm across onto the deck of their victim. No merchant vessel loaded with cargo could hope to outrun a galley pursuing at full speed. Most tried, because the alternative was dire. The galley attack resembled that of a hawk swooping to snatch its prey. The sharp beak of the galley would come closer and closer to the fleeing ship, so close that the crew of the doomed vessel could see its nemesis preparing to board. At that point, many ships yielded; any that continued to run would be showered with arrows or musket fire and the crew killed. For reasons of economy the great bow guns of the attacking galley were rarely used.

Galleys were raptors, living off weaker and less well armed vessels.

Like the carnivorous dinosaur the war galley dominated its environment. But like the dinosaur, it grew progressively larger and more powerful to compete with its own kind until, like the dinosaur, it became increasingly immobile. The tactical power of the Mediterranean war galley, with the teeth and jaws of Tyrannosaurus Rex, depended on a continuous supply of flesh and blood.

Unless a galley could keep its rowing benches filled it could not survive. Much of the ceaseless raiding and predation was to seize not cargo but manpower. When a Muslim vessel took a Christian ship, all non-Muslims aboard would be immediately enslaved. Often the crew and any passengers would be the most valued prize. Some could be ransomed, and others sold for a good profit in the markets of North Africa or Constantinople.

If a Christian galley intercepted a Muslim ship, exactly the same transactions would take place. All non-Christians would be made prisoner and put to work at the oars. But Spanish, French, and Venetian ships preyed as frequently on the ships of other Christian nations. There were many excuses that would permit a war galley to seize a merchant vessel. They might search a Christian ship for “contraband,” claiming that the crew was trading with an enemy. The Knights of St. John, sailing from their fortress island of Malta, were feared by all, Christian and Muslim alike. If they stopped a Christian ship in eastern waters, they would examine the cargo minutely for anything that could be termed illicit. When lacking anything more obvious, they were in the habit of uncovering “Jewish clothing” during a search, indicating that the ship was trading with the Jewish population of Muslim ports. This justified the expropriation of the whole cargo, and the enslavement of the crew.

The Last Majestic Sailing in Company

A second group of warships followed some 12km behind the vanguard with the battleship Kongo at its heart. She was surrounded by an inner ring of heavy ships – the battleship Haruna and the heavy cruisers Chikuma, Kumano, Suzuya and Tone, with the light cruiser Yahagi fulfilling the same role as the Noshiro did in the first group. An outer circle of six destroyers completed this rear group.

Admiral Halsey, commanding US 3rd Fleet, had decided that the time had come to give Kurita’s Centre Force a searching examination and had sent scout planes out at dawn on 24 October to try to find its whereabouts. It was not certain at this stage that Kurita was intent on reaching the invasion site and doing battle with the US 3rd Fleet. It was just as conceivable that he might be intent on making for Manila Bay to bring reinforcements for the IJA troops on the ground in southern Luzon. Despite the advantages of signals intelligence, the Americans didn’t know for certain where Kurita was headed but the mystery was soon solved when a lone scout plane from the carrier Intrepid made radar contact with these enemy ships at 0746 hours on 24 October. It located them a few minutes later and reported the find at 0810 hours as they were passing south of Mindoro and moving eastwards in the direction of the Sibuyan Sea. Such a route meant only one thing to Halsey. Manila was out of the reckoning and Leyte Gulf was the obvious intended destination. This would be reached by going through the San Bernardino Strait. He ordered all his three task groups to close up and signalled McCain to abandon his trip to Ulithi and rejoin the rest of the task groups in the Philippines. It would take a couple of days to do just that since by this stage McCain and his ships were already roughly 600nm (1111km) east of the Philippines. In their absence, Halsey ordered an all-out attack on the Centre Force. In all a total of 251 planes flew off from his carriers to the Sibuyan Sea in four waves to attack Kurita’s ships. A mix of forty-five Avengers, Hellcats and Helldivers were the first ones to leave the Cabot and the Intrepid at about 0910 hours and they were followed by another forty-two from the same carriers at 1045 hours. A third wave of sixty-eight planes left the Essex and the Lexington within minutes of the second wave getting airborne, while a final group of ninety-six planes from the Cabot, Enterprise, Franklin and Intrepid began their sortie at 1313 hours.

Locating Kurita’s fleet at 1026 hours, the first wave of American planes found the enemy ships sailing in a battle formation notable for the fact that they were divided into two quite separate groups some distance apart. Each of these groups operated on the basis of an inner and outer set of concentric circles. Kurita’s new flagship, the Yamato, lay at the heart of the leading group. She was surrounded by a circle of heavy ships consisting of the super-battleship Musashi, the battleship Nagato, along with the heavy cruisers Chokai, Haguro and Myoko – all of which were spearheaded by the light cruiser Noshiro. Each of these ships maintained a distance of 2km from the Yamato at all times. Beyond this ‘inner’ 2km diameter circle was an outer ring of seven destroyers which maintained their positions a further 1.5km away from the inner core. A second group of warships followed some 12km behind the vanguard with the battleship Kongo at its heart. She was surrounded by an inner ring of heavy ships – the battleship Haruna and the heavy cruisers Chikuma, Kumano, Suzuya and Tone, with the light cruiser Yahagi fulfilling the same role as the Noshiro did in the first group. An outer circle of six destroyers completed this rear group. Kurita had devised this battle formation because he felt he needed better cover against the possibility of any heavy air attack launched by the Americans and trusted that the Japanese A.A. potential was as good in practice as it might be judged on paper. It wasn’t.

Although confusion reigns to this day about just what happened in these air strikes and who did what to whom, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the first strike succeeded initially in both torpedoing Myoko and knocking her out of the line and even more significantly obtaining both a bomb hit and torpedo strike against Musashi, one of the two behemoths in the Centre Force. Each wave thereafter targeted the super-battleship and more bombs and torpedoes struck home with devastating effect over the next few hours. At least thirty-two hits were recorded against her and she received eighteen near-misses before she finally sank at 1935 hours later that same day with the loss of 1,023 officers and crew. All the other battleships, including the Yamato, were bombed as well, but none of them received the treatment accorded to the Musashi, or were disabled even if they were hit. Four hours before Musashi sank, seeing his fleet worn away first by enemy submarines and then by Mitscher’s aircraft, Kurita had decided not to tempt fate any longer and to reverse course temporarily so as not to sail in daylight into the narrow confines of the San Bernardino Strait where his remaining warships could be subject to yet another deadly series of attacks. About an hour after Kurita turned round again and resumed his original course, he received an emphatic signal from Toyoda at 1815 hours that made it very clear where the Vice-Admiral’s duty lay. Attack was the only option and he was instructed to put his faith in divine assistance. Kurita knew what that meant. His presence in Leyte Gulf was essential regardless of what losses his Centre Force sustained in getting there. Abandoning his concentric circle formation, Kurita gathered his remaining ships into what Ugaki would later describe as a ‘compound column’ and pressed on towards his original destination.

Corsairing [English] Operations in the Mediterranean

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In addition to traditional corsairing operations in the Mediterranean, several new ones were sponsored in the late sixteenth and the early seventeenth century by Christian states such as Spain, Tuscany, Sicily and Monaco. These states also licensed additional vessels to sail as temporary corsairs under their protection, usually as wartime auxiliaries, but sometimes independently. Among the permanent new enclaves, two were developed as the great period of the sixteenth-century war wound down. In northwest Italy the Grand Dukes of Tuscany operated a fleet against the Muslims in the sixteenth century, but they gave it up in 1574 and sold some of their galleys to the Knights of St Stephen, a crusading order founded by Cosimo II di Medici (1537–74). Though these knights never had the discipline or the prestige of the Knights of Malta, with whom they sometimes collaborated, they styled themselves Christian crusaders and were authorized ‘to seize the ships and goods of any states which were not Roman Catholic’. With their base in Livorno (known as Leghorn to the English), they launched their first assault on Muslim trade and ports in 1564. The sales of booty in Livorno enriched the city and its ducal patrons, just as similar sales enriched the Knights of Malta and the beys of Barbary. Merchants and corsairs from northern Europe, especially England and Holland, streamed into Livorno in the late sixteenth century, swelling the population to about 5,000 by 1601.

Nearby Savoy had an official galley fleet that sailed against Muslim shipping. In addition, for a share of the loot, the Dukes of Savoy licensed pirates who settled in Villefranche. The port was very active in the early seventeenth century, because Spain had resumed attacks on the corsairing ports of Barbary and Morocco. With the activities of the Barbary corsairs restricted, the Christian pirates of Livorno and Villefranche sailed in to fill a niche in the market for stolen goods. Like Livorno, Villefranche attracted an international mix of adventurers, including many English pirates and merchants, who made enormous profits from the seizure and sale of booty. Marseilles was another favored port for northerners, where the notorious pirate Danziker held a commission from King Henry IV of France.

Sizeable numbers of English pirates settled in North Africa as well as Italy after 1604, when an Anglo-Spanish peace treaty put privateers out of work. In response, they simply changed venue and continued preying on Spanish shipping. English pirates had few ships in the Mediterranean at that point, but they were able to seize prizes with swift and heavily armed sailing ships. Once established in Barbary, English pirates could easily find ships and crews for corsairing expeditions. Northern European pirates tended to sail from fall to spring, Barbary pirates favored the summer; combined, they presented a year-round scourge to the shipping of Venice and Spain, in particular. In the summer of 1608 alone Algerian pirates captured 50 vessels off the Valencian coast. The reintroduction of the armed sailing ship to the Mediterranean was one of the most lasting developments of the seventeenth century. After a century of development in the Atlantic and beyond, the most agile of these vessels were well suited to Mediterranean piracy and cheaper to operate. The Grand Dukes of Tuscany bought sailing ships in 1602, and there are reports of numerous raids by sailing ships in the eastern Mediterranean in the early seventeenth century. Galleys were still in use, of course, but they faced increasing problems of maneuverability as artillery became heavier.

To Leyte Gulf

 
Sailing towards Leyte Gulf from left to right CA Chikuma, BB Nagato, BC Haruna, BC Kongo and CA Tone.
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Toyoda readied his various forces on 20 October for the decisive action to come. Setting dawn of 25 October 1944 as ‘X-Day’, he ordered Kurita and Vice- Admiral Shoji Nishimura’s forces to leave Brunei Bay on 22 October and instructed the three other components of the plan: the transport unit of Vice- Admiral Naomasa Sakonju from Manila, the 2nd Striking Force of Vice- Admiral Kiyohide Shima from the islands of the Pescadores in the waters off Formosa, and the diversionary force of Jisaburo Ozawa from the Inland Sea to set out on their travels so that they could meet the requirements of the plan. Despite their major setbacks in the recent past, the Japanese were still able to put a formidable naval force together for this latest and most decisive battle with the Americans. Apart from Musashi and Yamato, the two super-battleships that formed the apex of his designated Centre Force, Kurita could rely upon the substantial battleship Nagato, the two fast ex-battlecruisers that had been reclassified as battleships Haruna and Kongo, ten heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and fifteen destroyers. Shoji Nishimura’s warships, which were expected to form the southern part of the pincer movement against the invasion fleet in Leyte Gulf, were much less impressive both in quantitative and qualitative terms than Kurita’s Centre Force. Although the southern force contained two battleships (Fuso and Yamashiro), the heavy cruiser Mogami and four destroyers, both of the battleships were relatively old, slow and ponderous. Because their route to Leyte Gulf by way of the Surigao Strait was more direct than that to be taken by Kurita, Nishimura left Brunei Bay seven hours after the cutting edge of Shō–Gō- 1 had left port at 0805 hours on 22 October for its longer, more circuitous voyage through the Philippines to Leyte Gulf via the Sibuyan Sea, the San Bernardino Strait and along the east coast of Samar – a distance of some 1400nm (2,593km). Shima’s group was meant to join it in the Sulu Sea west of Leyte and bring a further mix of two cruisers and seven destroyers to bear when the southern part of the pincer snapped shut. That at least was the theory, but would it work out in practice? Much hung on theory and speculation at this time. Ozawa’s appearance with the 1st Mobile Fleet was a case in point. It was to be a decoy force meant to lure Admiral Halsey 3rd Fleet away from Leyte to the north and enable Kurita, Nishimura and Shima to execute a brilliant pincer movement trapping and eliminating Vice-Admiral Thomas Kinkaid’s 7th Fleet off the invasion beaches in Leyte Gulf. Despite losing so many planes and, even more importantly, experienced pilots in the Pacific campaign, Ozawa could muster more than 100 aircraft for the fleet carrier Zuikaku and the light carriers Chitose, Chiyoda and Zuiho to use. Along with him, Ozawa brought two old battleships (Hyuga and Ise) which, despite having been converted into seaplane carriers, were carrying only guns – a battery of over a hundred light A.A. guns and six rocket launchers – and no aircraft for this operation. Their main purpose was to be the initial magnet for Halsey’s carrier fleet and then subsequently to defend the rest of Ozawa’s carriers with their A.A. armament. Rounding off his force were three light cruisers, eight destroyers and a supply force that brought together a further destroyer, two tankers and six corvettes. Commanding a decoy force with few aircraft at his disposal was no easy undertaking, but if any Japanese naval officer could pull off this risky manoeuvre Ozawa had the fearless qualities to do so.

As part of the plan to shore up resistance on Leyte to assist the 20,000 Japanese troops already there, Naomasa Sakonju was made responsible for bringing in troop reinforcements in the shape of the 30th and 102nd Infantry Divisions to Ormoc, a port on the northwest coast of the island. His force, consisting of the heavy cruiser Aoba and the old light cruiser Kinu, a destroyer and four fast transports, stayed well clear of the invasion sites in Leyte Gulf, but was still found a few miles south of Cape Calavite off the northeast coast of the island of Mindoro at 0325 hours on 23 October by the US submarine Bream which managed to torpedo the Aoba before making good her escape. That hadn’t been in the script and neither were the activities of two other American submarines, Dace and Darter, which were to strike with even more telling effect a few hours after Bream’s moment of partial success. Cruising off the west coast of the island of Palawan, the two submarines picked up Kurita’s Centre Force on their radar screens at 0116 hours on 23 October. They reported the contact to Halsey and closed in on the warships which were intent on conserving fuel and only making about 15 knots during the hours of darkness. Manoeuvring their way into position before dawn broke, the two submarines waited for the Centre Force to pass before Darter fired a spread of six torpedoes at Kurita’s flagship Atago at 980 yards (274m) distance at 0632 hours. Four of them hit home with deadly effect a minute later. Atago took on an almost immediate 25* list and sank within twenty minutes. Darter was far from finished. She also managed to hit the Takao twice two minutes later on her starboard side totally destroying her rudder, carving two sizable holes in her hull, smashing two of her four propellers and flooding three of her boiler rooms. Not surprisingly, she took on a 10* list to starboard. Her day was done. She was forced to limp back to port in Brunei Bay in the company of the two destroyers Asashimo and the Naganami. Well before arrangements could be carried out to save the Takao, however, Dace announced her entrance onto the scene by firing four torpedoes at the heavy cruiser Maya – all of which hit her port side at 0657 hours and literally blew her apart. She took a few minutes to join her flagship in sinking. Rescued from the wreck of the Atago before she foundered, Kurita quickly transferred his flag to the Yamato (much to Ugaki’s chagrin) and forged on ahead determined that he would fulfil his part of the Shō–Gō- 1 plan even if the element of surprise had been lost, which it obviously had been!

French Navy in America

The French fleet of 1757 as depicted by Captain Pierre Bouchard de la Broquerie. The ships are (from left to right) La Marquise de Vaudreuil, La Hurault, La Louise and Le Victor.

In 1685, La Barre, Frontenac’s successor, had a barque built at Cataraqui, which was named Le General Little is known of her, other than she plied Lake Ontario for several years and made three trips to Niagara in 1688. There is some doubt as to whether Le General was a new vessel or one of La Salle’s four earlier ships that had been rebuilt. Later, a fleet of flat-bottomed transports were added. Although these were hardly sailing ships, they did carry four-cornered lugsails. In 1687, the French launched a major attack against the Iroquois using the ships already mentioned and 198 such transports.

The French abandoned Fort Frontenac in 1688, and burned two of their ships at that time to prevent others from using them. No record has been found of what happened to the third, though in 1694, when the French re-occupied the fort, they raised one vessel from the harbour bottom, rebuilt her and put her into service.

The next shipbuilding, of which any record exists, was in 1726 when two schooners were built at Fort Frontenac by Intendant Begin. In 1743 and 1745, Chevalier de Chalet added two more, the St. Charles and the St. Frangois. Both were about 50 tons burthen. In 1734, Louis Denis, Sieur de la Ronde was sent by the governor of New France, to explore and report on the copper deposits at Chequamegon in 1727. He built a barque at Point aux Pins on Lake Superior for the copper mines at Chaguamagon, now part of Wisconsin. She was the second sailing vessel on the Upper Lakes and the first vessel to be described as sloop-rigged. It is not known what happened to her. The next mention of sail on Lake Superior concerns the English trader, Alexander Henry, in 1770. He could possibly have been using the same vessel, though this is unlikely.

About this time the “goelette” (an early version of the schooner) and the schooner started to come into use on the lakes but there are not sufficient records of early ships to indicate the exact date of their arrival.

Several vessels were built at Cataraqui (now known as Kingston, Ontario) in the period from 1743 to 1756:

Le Victor: 1749, 40-ton, schooner rig but later changed to sloop, 4 guns.

La Louise (or Lionne): 1750, 50-ton schooner, 6 guns.

La Hurault: 1755, 90-ton schooner, 14 guns.

La Marquise de Vaudreuil: 1756, 120-ton schooner, 20 guns.

Three lateen-rigged gunboats, names unknown, and two schooners, one large and one small, were built at Niagara but were not launched before they were captured by the British in July 1759. Records indicate that four vessels were built by the French at Navy Island, but it has not been possible to discover their names nor what happened to them.