From Spear to Flintlock: A History of War in Europe and the Middle East to the French Revolution

By Frederic J. Baumgartner | Go to book overview

15
The Rise of the Atlantic Fleets

When Vicente Sodré saw the enemy fleet, he ordered the caravels to come one astern of the other in a line and to run under all the sail they could carry, firing as many guns as they could....Each of the caravels carried thirty men, and four heavy guns below, and above six falconnets, and ten swivel-guns placed on the quarter deck and in the bows, and two of the falconnets fired astern. The ships of burden were much more equipped with artillery....When they had discharged their guns, they made such haste to load again that they loaded the guns with bags of powder which they had ready for this purpose so that they could load again very speedily....The Portuguese ships kept their steerage way, keeping aloof from the Moorish ships, passing amongst them all, doing wonders with their artillery, firing both broadsides and their poop and forecastle guns, as in all directions it was not possible to miss...but the Moorish ships were much ill-treated, they were shattered and stove in, and many had the masts and yards shattered, which was the greatest advantage our men obtained.

Gaspar Correa, The Three Voyages of Vasco Da Gama ( London, 1869), pp. 367-70. Correa was describing a sea battle with Arab dhows off the coast of India in 1502.

Even as the galley fleets were reaching the peak of their size and power in the late sixteenth century, major advances in the design of sailing ships were laying the foundation for the sudden displacement of Galleys as the dominant European naval force. The rapid improvement in sailing ships in the fifteenth century had nearly as profound an impact on European war as did contemporary advances in gunpowder weaponry.

Although the development of the sailing ship was more advantageous by far to the nations on the Atlantic coast, the process involved the contributions of both Atlantic and Mediterranean shipbuilders and sailors, with several key elements from the East. The dominant medieval vessel of northern waters, the cog and its successors, was a square-sailed, roundbottomed ship. Its most important innovation was the permanent sternpost rudder, which was in use by 1400. The rudder gave the helmsman

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From Spear to Flintlock: A History of War in Europe and the Middle East to the French Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Maps ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Greek Phalanx 7
  • 3 - The Roman Legion 25
  • 4 - The Fall of the Roman Empire 43
  • 5 - The Byzantine and the Arab Empires 55
  • 6 - The Early Middle Ages in Western Europe 67
  • 7 - Feudalism 79
  • 8 - Holy War in the Middle East 93
  • 9 - Castles and Siegecraft 111
  • 10 - War in the High Middle Ages 125
  • 11 - The End of the Medieval Military 141
  • 12 - The Fifteenth Century: Pikes and Guns 157
  • 13 - War in the Renaissance 171
  • 14 - Naval War in the Mediterranean 187
  • 15 - The Rise of the Atlantic Fleets 203
  • 16 - The Sixteenth Century 219
  • 17 - The Dutch Revolt 231
  • 18 - The Thirty Years War 245
  • 19 - The New Model Army and Navy 263
  • 20 - The Wars of Louis XIV 275
  • 21 - War in the Early Eighteenth Century 291
  • 22 - The Wars of Frederick the Great 307
  • 23 - The French Revolution 321
  • Suggested Readings 329
  • Index 337
  • About the Author *
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