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J. Bedell




Location: Maryland, USA
Joined: 06 Jan 2006
Reading list: 7 books

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PostPosted: Sun 11 Jun, 2006 2:10 pm    Post subject: Early Naval Combat?         Reply with quote

Hello,

Were early naval forces useful for anything other than transportation? I am talking about naval forces in the 1000-1200 time period. At this time were ships only for transportation, or would sailors board enemy ships and/or fight while at sea using bows or crossbows against other ships? Anyone know of any good books about the early use of naval fleets?

thanks
-James

The pen may be mighter, but the sword is much more fun.
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Geoff Wood




Location: UK
Joined: 31 Aug 2003

Posts: 634

PostPosted: Sun 11 Jun, 2006 2:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Early Naval Combat?         Reply with quote

J. Bedell wrote:
Hello,

Were early naval forces useful for anything other than transportation? I am talking about naval forces in the 1000-1200 time period. At this time were ships only for transportation, or would sailors board enemy ships and/or fight while at sea using bows or crossbows against other ships? Anyone know of any good books about the early use of naval fleets?

thanks
-James


Yes, they were. For a wide ranging (time and space) discussion you could try 'Command of the sea' by Clark G Reynolds. It's a bit dated but there is a decent bibliography.
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Jun, 2006 5:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In some areas, like scandinavia or the mediteranian, naval warfare was widespread. Most of the decisive battles of the norwegian viking age, and the following civil wars, where fought on ships.

The action was primarily boarding, preceded by missile fire; A common practice was to tie the ships together, and clash head on. However, this was not always done, and large naval "melees" occurred.

the size of a ship was measured in seats or rooms. Each seat represented a pair of oars, and contained 6-8 men. A typical warship would have 20 seats (120-160 men), a large one 25 (150-200 men). Smaller ships and boats where common. The ship Håkon Håkonson sailed to scotland in 1263 was a 36-seater, containing some 280 men...

In the mediteranian, the moslems, venetians and byzantians all maintaned large fleets, and naval battles where common.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Jun, 2006 3:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a good book that covers early Medieval naval warfare through to 16th century.

GALLEONS AND GALLEYS, John F. Guilmartin, Jr. , Part of the Cassel History of Warfare series, Cassel & Co
Wellington House,125 Strand London WC2R OBB

ISBN 0-304-35263-2

The book covers 1300 to 1650 with a short introduction to earlier periods. ( A bit earlier than what you asked ! With Viking longships the main difference would be the absence of high fore and aft castle and the use of oars. )

Early tactics are mostly boarding as missile fire would rarely be decisive i.e. Sink a ship ! Fire arrows being just about the only way and I would guess only if the crew of the ship didn't do any damage control.

Greek fire was one effective weapon but only by the Byzantine before 1453 ( Date, if I remember correctly that the Turks conquered the city and may have gotten the secret to Greek fire ? Not sure about this last part. )

Galleys might still be able to use ramming as a weapon followed up by boarding.

Pre-canon use the Northern warships would have very tall castles and boarding supported by bow and crossbow would be about IT. Early canon use would not be able to sink the very heavily built Carracks type ships when small light canons were first put on board. These early canon armed ships would sometimes carry up to 150 canons, but most in the light railing pieces with a handful of heavier guns.
From around the early 15th century canon capable of sinking ship become more numerous.

Even in 1588 the Spanish ships used light guns in large numbers in their high castles and some heavy but short range guns in the hulls and boarding was still their tactic of choice. The English used lower built and more agile ships using lighter heavy ordinance but capable of longer range and avoided closing.

If I remember correctly the Spanish were defeated in part by the English and in large part by heavy weather.

Please fact check since I'm summarizing from memory here. Wink

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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