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Old 17-02-2014, 15:19   #16
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

Uss constitution never entered British home waters. Nor would she have survived the might of the home waters navy.

That old price does the rounds on the net every so often

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Old 17-02-2014, 15:55   #17
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

This is the response from the USS Constitution Museum blog:
Log Lines: Capsizing the Grog Tub: Busting a Favorite Myth

Quote:
Where to begin? Even those unfamiliar with the capacity of a warship’s hold (or a sailor’s belly) should understand that the United States was not at war with Great Britain in 1798 or 1799. On the contrary, we were engaged in a “quasi-war” with the French Republic, a naval conflict with an epicenter in the Caribbean. To have “destroyed and harassed” English shipping at that time would have been a good way to end one’s career and might possibly have precipitated a war that no one in John Adams’ administration wanted.

The story is completely at odds with the ship’s operational history during this period. Constitution sailed from Boston on the evening of July 22, 1798, with orders to cruise between Cape Henry, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina. On October 6, the ship was at Hampton Roads, Virginia, very far away from Jamaica. (Jamaica, by the way, was the headquarters of the British West India squadron, a strange place to steer for if one were at war with them). By November 12, Constitution lay at anchor in Boston Harbor, having just returned from a largely uninteresting first cruise. She was still there on the 18th, but finally sailed again for the Caribbean on December 29. On January 26, 1799 she was heading for Prince Rupert’s Bay, Dominica to repair the injured foremast- not launching a foray into the Firth of Clyde. On February 20 Capt. Nicholson and his crew were patrolling the waters off Guadeloupe, not enjoying a happy homecoming.[1]

So much for the ship’s ramblings during this period. What of the volumes involved in the story?
In 1814 (when the United States was at war with Britain), a Court of Inquiry forced Captain Charles Stewart to explain why he had curtailed his late cruise. Helpfully, part of the testimony included a list of all the provisions taken on board Constitution for a six month cruise. These “load out” figures included 9,546 gallons of spirits and 47,265 gallons of water (this last number was the amount on board when the ship sailed, not the maximum amount that could be carried). In 1799, a Navy Department estimate of provisions for a 44-gun frigate included 8,650 gallons of rum (at a dollar per gallon).

The truth is, we don’t know if the ship had “evaporators”- or condensers, as they were known- on her stove. The British certainly carried them as part of their Brodie stoves, and since Constitution’s first galley stove came from England, it is entirely possible that it was outfitted with a condenser. Whatever the case, these apparatus could only make a relatively small amount of fresh water each day. Most water had to be obtained from rivers or wells on shore. In Boston there was even a pumping facility on the end of T Wharf for filling water casks.

So far, the 48,000 gallons of water mentioned in the story is not far off the mark, but the 79,400 gallons of rum on board at sailing is some eight times more than the ship ever carried! Besides the extreme expense of so much rum, there was simply not room in the ship’s hold for the barrels, puncheons, hogsheads, and butts needed to contain it all.


An unidentified Boatswain's Mate contemplates the grog tub in the 1930s. USS Constitution Museum collection.
For Constitution to have returned home with a hold emptied of alcohol, the crew would have had to consume at least 187,700 gallons of spirits (not counting the untallied rum from the captured merchant vessels) and 64,300 gallons of wine in about seven months (209 days to be exact). Let’s forget the wine for a moment. With 475 men on board (in fact, since the muster rolls for the first crew are missing, we don’t know the exact number of people the ship had on board when she sailed in 1798- according to the Naval Armament Act of 1797, a 44-gun frigate was authorized to carry 364 officers and men), each of them would have to have consumed 395 gallons during the cruise, or about 1.8 gallons each day. If you’ve ever tried consuming nearly two gallons of spirits in a day, you’d probably not be around to read this. When blood alcohol concentrations reach .30 percent, most people pass out. At .40 or .50 percent, it’s lethal. The Navy rum was purchased significantly over proof in those days, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that it was 80 proof (that is, 40 percent alcohol by volume). By the story’s reckoning, these men were consuming about 230 oz. of liquor or 184 oz. of ethyl alcohol per day (1.25 oz. of 80 proof liquor equals .50 oz. of ethyl alcohol). After about 5 oz. in one hour, a 140-pound man’s blood alcohol concentration reaches .25 percent. After 10 oz. he’d be dead. But who cares about operational efficiency.

The actual regulation Navy ration included pint of spirits each day, which works out to 8 oz. or 6.4 oz. of ethyl alcohol. This is more than enough to inebriate a man, but the ration was served as “grog,” rum mixed with one, two, or three parts water. In addition, the men received their ration in two portions, one at noon and another at about 4:30 in the afternoon. It made the men happy, but prevented them from falling down drunk.

Then there is the question of powder and shot. Constitution defeated five British warships during the War of 1812 (though one of them, HM schooner Pictou, was hardly worthy of the name). Thanks to a helpful note from Seaman Richard Dunn, we know that in her first battle (against HMS Guerriere) she used 2,379 pounds of gunpowder to fire 953 shot at the enemy. The guns were fired double-shotted for some of the action, but nevertheless, this represents a small portion of what she probably had on board. The 11,600 pounds of powder mentioned in the story represents slightly less than a third of what she actually carried in wartime. The “7,400 cannon shot,” on the other hand, overestimates. Constitution probably carried about 6,190 shot (including round, canister, grape and double-headed shot) in wartime. [2]

So much for the accuracy of this “remarkable tidbit of American History.” Incidentally, about seven years ago one of our interpreters did his best to track down the origins of this fable. The farthest back he could trace it was to National Park curator and author Harold Peterson in the 1950s. And yet, given Peterson’s impeccable reputation as a careful scholar, it seems improbable that he invented the story. While we’ll probably never discover where this all started, we hope this post will work like a “best bower anchor” and keep it from sailing on and on and on.


[1] The ship’s operational history may be traced in the ship’s logs and officers’ journals, including the Journal of Midshipman James Pity, 23 July 1798 to 11 May 1799, in “Logbooks and Journals of the USS Constitution 1798-1844” (M1030, Roll 16, NARA).


[2] These numbers come from estimates made by CDR Tyrone Martin, based on comments from Captain Thomas Tingey to the Secretary of the Navy in 1813, ratios in the 1809 American Artillerist’s Companion, and an 1837 gunner’s notebook.
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Old 23-02-2014, 21:00   #18
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

It is my understanding the the English nave originally issued a daily ration of one pint of undiluted rum, enough to knock me off my feet. Then in 1740 Admiral Vernon ordered the rum be diluted 50% with water because he felt there was too much drunkeness in th navy. Since Vernon often wore a coat of "grogram" cloth he was nicknamed Old Grog and watered down rum came to be called Grog.
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Old 23-02-2014, 23:00   #19
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
Uss constitution never entered British home waters. Nor would she have survived the might of the home waters navy.
Well, of course. The commanders of the U.S. Navy in those days were not idiots. Sending the U.S.S. Constitution alone into British home waters in those days would be like the Mexican Navy attacking San Diego today. Constitution is just a 40-gun, 1,000 ton frigate; equivalent to a British Navy fifth-rater of the day. She would have been obliterated in an encounter with British ships-of-the-line like HMS Victory, a three-deck 100-gunner of more than 2000 tons.


Nevertheless, the operational history of the ship is remarkable. The Americans had a huge advantage in the availability of fabulous timber which British shipbuilders could only dream about -- centuries-old Eastern White Pines (pinus strobus) for masts; oak from millenia-old groves for scantlings and stringers. But not only the materials, but the design of the ship, and the seamanship of the colonial crews, was remarkable, and the Constitution demolished all of its opposition, notably Guerriere and Java. Not bad for the Mexican Navy of its day.

What's especially cool about the Constitution is that she is in sailing condition! She crossed the Atlantic in 1878 carrying American exhibits to the Paris Exhibition of that year. Since the late 1990's, she has been once again provided with an inventory of sails and running rigging, and has been venturing out again from time to time under her own power. I wish they would sail her across the Atlantic again.

See: USS Constitution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 24-02-2014, 03:07   #20
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Importance of Rum in Naval battles

Yes the nascent US navy did very well, a combination of good tactical skill and of course a set of very big ships for a " frigate ". The book five frigates gives a good overview.

In reality with the exception of a couple of encounters, the US by nature of its size kinda rang a guerrilla naval operation. An effective one too.

I would suggest that materials were not such an issue for the Royal Navy. Materials from Scandinavia and Canada etc.

Also what the Royal Navy was unequalled at was the logistics of supporting a Navy at sea for long periods. Victualling arguably defeated the French at sea ( helped by Bonapartes lack of interest in the Navy )

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Old 02-03-2014, 15:42   #21
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

...and after the battle(s), when the repairs were underway and there was need, thanks to some accurate opposition gunner(s), to repair the critical mainbrace, the very best of the hands on board were required. The mainbrace was the heaviest of all the rigging -- The mainbrace on HMS Victory was 13cm diameter -- and gunners commonly aimed for the mainbrace during naval battles. If the mainbrace was shot away, the ship was un-maneuverable. The mainbrace ran through blocks so it could not be repaired with a short splice or a knot. Splicing in a large run of hemp was strenuous work so the crew involved were rewarded with drink. Eventually the order "Splice the Mainbrace" came to mean that all the crew would receive an extra ration of rum, and the order was issued on special occasions, e.g. after victory in battle, a new monarch, a royal birth or wedding, or an inspection of the fleet. Where the order was for the whole fleet, it would be signaled with flags.

So all you cruisers out there who enjoy naval history and also enjoy indulging in a bit of a tipple, add both some naval history to your vessel and a new twist on your sundowners by raising your own Splice The Mainbrace flags...

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Easily shipped anywhere!

Splice The Mainbrace Flags, Floating Impressions

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