Brown-, Green-, and Blue-Water Fleets: The Influence of Geography on Naval Warfare, 1861 to the Present

By Michael Lindberg; Daniel Todd | Go to book overview

7
Riverine Warfare

THE ANTECEDENTS

Riverine warfare and gunboats go together like two peas in a pod and have been so perceived in the public mind since Victorian times. Many trouble spots, occupying the media front and center, have blended images of military intervention “upcountry” with fire support from attendant river gunboats the two coming to epitomize foreign adventurism. Geography comes to bear on riverine warfare with an immediacy not evident in other forms of naval warfare, not excepting coastal operations. While the river may dominate its landscape, especially if it is of Nile or Mississippi proportions, the landscape—the flat alluvial plain, succession of gorges, or marshy delta of a myriad channels—sets the tone for naval activities. The naval presence, in other words, is intrusive, scarcely within its element, hesitant to penetrate channels of limited breadth prone to blockage. Adding to the reluctance of naval commanders to venture far inland is the uncertainty attaching to depths of water upon which their vessels float, for shallow waters, endemic to rivers, threaten to compound the difficulties of maneuver and so severely circumscribe freedom of action. Most naval vessels, designed as a matter of course for offshore operations, draw too much water for unfettered usage in riverine campaigns. Operations of that nature are most effectively prosecuted by vessels expressly developed to counter the shallows, uneven bottoms, and meanders characteristic of rivers. Singularly unsuited for operations in any seaway, such vessels evolved into the distinct river gunboat type. Such river warships, as we shall see, have often consisted of makeshift or improvised vessels. In other instances, a more conscious effort to meet the unique requirements of this operational environment resulted in the development of a wide range of specially designed river gunboats and other types of riverine craft.

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Brown-, Green-, and Blue-Water Fleets: The Influence of Geography on Naval Warfare, 1861 to the Present
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Prelude- Land versus Sea Warfare 13
  • 3 - Theoretical Background- Classicaland Modern Geostrategy 23
  • 4 - The Naval Warfare Environment 59
  • 5 - Naval Warfare on the High Seas 71
  • 6 - Naval Warfare in the Littorals 145
  • 7 - Riverine Warfare 169
  • 8 - The Influence Ofgeography on Navies 195
  • 9 - Conclusion 223
  • Selected Bibliography 229
  • Index 237
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