Sunday, January 20, 2013

Homebody

The urge to spring clean has come a little early . . . but not too early.  We've got so much junk to sort through (and cull out) and what the heck, it's been t-shirt weather anyhow.  Might as well be spring.  A buddy of ours commented that at his house they've used both the heater and the AC in one week.

R and I thought we'd enjoy the clear skies this afternoon and drove out to the Live Oak preserve/park for a bit.  I hadn't been there since I was a kid.  The visitor center recalls the era when Live Oaks were the lumber of choice for naval vessels.  It's amazingly dense stuff, roughly 75 lbs per cubic foot (compared to about 25? lbs for an equal volume of white pine). One such ship was nicknamed "Old Ironsides" in part because its oak was impenetrable by some cannon balls.

We actually saw very few live oaks today.  But the water and setting sun was pretty.



Instagram makes stuff look so good. I feel like its cheating.




Right now I'm sorting through a small mountain of paper stuff, and really enjoying my Mumford & Sons Pandora station (aka Mumford & Sons, Trampled by Turtles -- a new favorite, the Chieftains, the Barn Owl Band, and some Florence and the Machine, which doesn't really match the bluegrass trend, but I like them all the same. Also, the Lumineers. Really liked everything I've heard of them so far).

We upgraded to Pandora One. It's the best bang for my four bucks a month. No regrets.


12 comments:

  1. Ugh, cleaning. But glad you enjoyed the sunshine. I had to get outside today too. It was just too beautiful to not be out.

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  2. Nice pictures! So how is it that you get on Instagram as soon as I lose my iPhone. :-( Anyway, I want to try out the bands you mentioned.

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  3. I'll fill in the important parts that were curiously omitted from this post. I'll attempt to be brief.

    Background: The United States Navy hailed from humble beginnings. The passage of the Naval Armament Act in 1794 authorized the construction of a combat-capable navy. Six frigates formed the nucleus of this modest fleet. Established sea powers of the day, predominantly England and France, showed little regard for these American frigates. However, ensuing naval action during the early nineteenth century vindicated the frigates’ design and construction with victories over both English and French vessels. The unconventional design and materials utilized in these ships gave birth to the USS Constitution’s famous nickname ‘Old Ironsides;’ so given as a result of her durability in naval combat.

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  4. The operations of the U.S. Navy’s six original heavy frigates proved their unconventional design to be superior to existing designs used in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; and therefore allowed the United States Navy to contend with those of European superpowers in small scale actions. The Armament Act provided for the construction and commissioning of six frigates; four rated for forty-four guns and two rated for thirty-six guns. The frigates designed by Humphreys’ comprised unconventional aspects that gained immediate criticisms. The outcome of numerous combat actions fought by Humphreys’ frigates later vindicated his concepts. Before considering his design, it is helpful to understand general classifications of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century warships.

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  5. Ships-of-the-line-of-battle, or battleships, represented the largest class of warship. Ships-of-the-line mounted a range of guns numbering from seventy-four to 125 on two or three gun decks and additional guns on the top, or ‘spar,’ decks. These massive ships weighed many tons and moved slowly. European sea powers regarded them to be the standard vessel to be used in fleet engagements. The thick sides and large scantlings allowed battleships to endure considerable punishment during engagements. The median class of fighting ships consisted of frigates. These vessels carried a single, covered gun deck housing between twenty-eight and fifty guns, with additional guns on their spar decks. Frigates most commonly carried twenty-eight to thirty-eight guns. Frigates operated both in support of battle fleets and individually. Due to their swiftness and formidable battery, frigates often deployed on solitary raiding expeditions or reconnaissance missions. The terms ‘corvette’ and ‘sloop-of-war’ often referred to the lighter class of tri-mast, unrated ships fitted out for war. Corvettes could be brigs, schooners or sloops and often mounted twenty or fewer guns; all on their uncovered top decks.

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  6. Joshua Humphreys, born 1751 in modern-day Haverford, Pennsylvania, followed many fellow Quakers in woodworking. Humphreys’ shipbuilding career began in Philadelphia at age fourteen, when he was apprenticed to Jonathan Penrose. Upon Penrose’s death, Humphreys inherited the shipyard and began building merchant ships and a sturdy reputation. During the American Revolution, Humphreys received commissions from the Committee of Safety and the Marine Committee to construct and fit out vessels of war for the Continental Navy. For this involvement in war effort, the Society of Friends ostracized Joshua Humphreys. Before the Naval Armament Act passed in 1794 and before Knox’s commission, Humphreys had already devised concepts and suggestions on the impending fleet. In a letter to Robert Morris, dated 1793, Humphreys outlined some of his unconventional concepts for the U.S. frigates.

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  7. Humphreys cited that the U.S. fleet’s obvious disadvantage in number and rates to that of England and proposed the construction of very heavy frigates mounting larger guns. Though the immediate purpose of the fleet concerned the North African Corsairs, Mr. Humphreys held a forward thinking mindset that considered other naval powers of the day, notably England. He asserted that the U.S. build large frigates ought to be able to contend with superior adversaries if possible, yet be swift enough to evade a superior force. Humphreys also contested that the frigates employ scantlings comparable to those used in seventy-four gun battleships and that they be constructed of the “best materials that could possibly be procured.” For his ‘best materials,’ Humphreys recommended the critical elements of the ship use live oak.

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  8. Humphreys’ vision of a small, formidable navy took American needs into consideration as well. The North American coastline contained numerous deep water harbors from which large frigates could sally out, or take refuge in. Other insightful aspects of Humphreys’ design included mounting a main battery of larger twenty-four, or even thirty-two pounder guns as ships-of-the-line did. The standard frigate battery called for eighteen-pound guns. The eventual decision to use twenty-four pounder guns allowed U.S. frigates to overpower English and French frigates during engagements. Additionally, Humphreys implemented a longer keel and deeper draft than traditional English frigates. The beam, or width of the vessel, remained proportionately narrow to the unconventional length to provide faster movement through the water. Many of Mr. Humphreys’ peers criticized a frigate of this size, previously nonexistent, citing that the size and weight would render it both unstable and weak. Humphreys’ remained confident in the strong live oak he intended to use.

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  9. Selected engagements: What astonished the captains and crews of the opposing vessels most was the seemingly disproportionate amount of damage suffered by their own vessels with regards to the big American frigates.
    During the summer of 1804 the USS Constitution lay off the northern coast of Algiers. She sailed to the Mediterranean to carry out the mission for which the original six frigates had been built. Repeated failures in negotiating with the Bashaw of Tripoli resulted in the expiration of American patience. Constitution and her squadron under Commodore Preeble had remained on station, blockading Tripoli’s harbor, for nearly a month when, on August twenty-seventh, Humphreys’ frigate performed as he’d designed her to. On this day, American gunboats serving with the squadron bombarded Tripoli under orders from Preeble. As danger presented itself to the gunboats, Preeble’s flagship, USS Constitution, stood in toward the harbor and provided covering fire in the form of nine consecutive broadsides against the Bashaw’s fortress. Preeble sailed Constitution directly under seventy-two fortress guns in order to provide the gunboats with much needed support. After the action the crew discovered Constitution’s hull received nineteen shot impacts, none of which did the Constitution, or her crew, any notable damage. Humphreys’ design again proved itself, as Ian Toll asserts: “Constitution’s like oak scantling was doing her justice.”

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  10. USS Constitution’s strength served her well yet again at the outset of the War of 1812. In mid-August 1812, Constitution engaged British frigate HMS Guerrière in a single ship action. This engagement ended with the U.S. capture of its first British frigate. Guerrière offered no prize for Captain Hull and the crew of Constitution, as she sustained great damage and was allowed to sink. For his opening action, Captain Hull ordered fire withheld until all Constitution’s guns could be brought against her opponent. Constitution’s gun crews loaded double shot for her opening broadside; Guerrière felt Constitution’s force. Hull’s initial broadside knocked out Guerrière mizzenmast and brought down a great deal of rigging; as well as demolished Guerrière’s hull. During the course of the engagement, Constitution’s live oak repelled an eighteen pound shot. A sailor who happened to witness it bounce into the sea declared of the USS Constitution: ‘Her sides are made of iron!” The nickname ‘Old Ironsides’ grew amongst the crew and public; this perhaps was the ultimate testament to Joshua Humphreys and his frigate design.

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  11. The battle between the USS United States and HMS Macedonian became one of the best known engagements between a British and an American frigate. The outcome resulted in the American capture of a British ship intact enough to return to port as a prize from the Royal Navy. The ship’s captains, their tactics and maneuvering heavily influenced the outcome of this particular battle. Once engaged at close range, the United States twenty-four pound broadsides decimated the Macedonian. The British frigate became a scene of destruction and death. Captain Decatur of the United States broke off his pummeling attack and sailed to a position out of Macedonian’s range. The crew conducted the minor repairs needed and returned to the Macedonian; by now a floating wreck. All her topmasts had been shot away, as well as the mainmast, and she retained no ability to maneuver. Carden, in disbelief, accepted that he had no option but to strike the colors. For its part, the United States, barely suffered a scratch compared to the damage received by the Macedonian. Casualties again represented the ratios of damage on both sides. According to Carden, British casualties totaled 104, thirty-six of which were killed in action. For the men of the United States, behind Humphreys’ live oak scantlings, casualties amounted to five dead and seven wounded. Humphreys’ design afforded its crew unrivaled protection in comparison to their adversaries yet again.

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  12. So much left out, but these are some brief points.

    -RCT

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