Hypothetical: Farragut's Squadron vs. Royal Navy squadron in the Gulf


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Mark F. Jenkins

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The will to fight seems to have been (apart from Palmerston and his supporters) an entirely US Cabinet thing. However if for example Farragut had beaten or driven off the RN Squadron of Mexico - not such a silly idea if you compare the two forces - The British Bulldog may well have woken up !
I have spent ages trying to find the composition of the RN Squadron and the Union Navy off of Mexico but I can't seem to find any information, I'm looking because its very rare to hear of the RN being driven off. I'm aware of the more well known defeats that the Royal Navy suffered but I had always assumed that any action between the RN and the US Navy, would have resulted in a RN victory. I guess that men like Farragut were excellent commanders and his courage and skill was evident when he was aboard USS Hartford, his skill as a commander would certainly have been a big factor in any naval engagement.
I appreciate that you have suggested a hypothetical 'what if' scenario on the RN Squadron getting chased off and it is an interesting proposition, I enjoy these what if scenarios, I would certainly like to know more, are there any links you could suggest please, I'm keen to look at the strength of the opposing forces.
Regards
Waterloo
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Seems to deserve its own thread, and I'll bet it'll be a good one. Suggested parameters: mid 1862 to mid 1863, when such a confrontation might have had a significant impact on contemporary operations in the Mississippi Valley, but after the fall of New Orleans.
 

rebelatsea

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Mark,

Why not give us a proposed order of battle.

Dave
Here we are Dave:

THE WEST GULF BLOCKADING SQUADRON: Admiral David Glasgow Farragut

JANUARY 1862


Paddle Frigate

Mississippi

1 – 9” sb, 10 – 8” sb, 1 -12pdr, 11 knots


Screw Sloops

Brooklyn

24 – 9” sb, 1 – 12pdr sb, 11.5 knots

Hartford : Flagship

16 -9” sb, 13.5 knots

Pensacola

22 – 9” sb, 1 – 42pdr mlr, 9.5 knots

Richmond

14 – 9” sb, 9.5 knots

Iroquois

2 – 11” sb, 4 – 32pdr sb, 11.5 knots

Oneida

2 – 11” sb, 4 – 32pdr sb, 11.5 knots


Screw Gunboats

Cayuga

1 – 11” sb, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots

Itasca

1 – 10” sb, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots

Katahdin

1 – 11” sb, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots

Kennebec

1 – 11” sb, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots

Kineo

1 – 11” sb, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots

Owasco

1 – 11” sb, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots

Pinola

1 – 11” sb, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots

Sciota

1 – 11” sb, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots

Winona

1 – 11” sb, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots

Wissahicon

1 – 150pdr mlr, 2 -24 pdr sb, 1 – 20pdr mlr, 10 knots


Paddle Gunboats

Miami

1 – 9” sb, 1 – 80pdr mlr, 4 -24pdr sb, 8 knots

De Soto

8 – 32pdr sb, 1 -30pdr mlr, 11 knots



Aquired Screw Ships

Huntsville – refitting

1 -64pdr mlr, 2 – 32pdr, 11 knots

South Carolina

4 -8” sb, 1 – 32pdr sb, 10.5 knots



Small Sidewheel Gunboats

Clifton

2 – 9” sb, 4 -32pdr mlr, 10 knots

John P Jackson

4 – 32pdr sb, 1 – 9” sb, 1 -6” mlr, 8 knots

Westfield

1 – 100pdr mlr, 1- 9”sb, 4 -8” sb, 10 knots


Survey Ships

Sachem

1 -20pdr mlr, 4 -32pdr sb, 10 knots

Uncas

1 -20pdr mlr, 2-32pdr sb, 10 knots


Sailing Sloops

Vincennes: Ship Island Guard-ship

4 -8” sb, 12 – 32pdr sb

Portsmouth

16 – 8” sb, 1- 12pdr sb


COMMODORE DUNLOP’S SQUADRON – MEXICO AND THE GULF.


Ships of the Line

Donegal : Flagship,

52 – 8”sb, 48 – 32pdr sb, 1 -68pdr sb chase guns, 12 knots

Sans Pareil,

40 – 8” sb, 40 – 32pdr sb, 1 -68pdr chase guns, 9.3 knots

Caeser,

46 – 8” sb, 42 – 32pdr sb, 2 -68pdr sb, 10.27 knots


Screw Frigates

Mersey,

4 -110pdr blr,16 – 10” sb, 4 -70pdr blr, 12 -68pdr sb guns, 13 knots

Phaeton,

30 -8”sb, 20 – 32pdr sb, guns, 10.5 knots

Ariadne,

24 -10” sb, 2 – 68pdr sb pivot guns, 13 knots


Screw Corvettes

Challenger,

20 – 8” sb, 1 -110pdr blr guns, guns, 10.7 knots

Tartar,

20 – 8” sb guns, 9.4 knots

Jason,

20 – 8” sb, 1 -110pdr blr guns, 12.25 knots

Greyhound,

16 – 8” sb 1 -110pdr blr guns, 10 knots


Screw Sloops

Desperate,

4 – 32pdr sb, 4- 20pdr blr guns, 9.4 knots


Paddle Steam Sloops

Barracouta,

4 – 32pdr sb, 1 – 110pdr blr pivot, 1 – 10”sb pivot guns, 10.5 knots


Screw gunboat

Plover, 1- 110pdr blr, 2 -24pdr how, 2-20pdr blr guns, 11 knots
 

Waterloo50

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To my mind, the incident between San Jacinto and the Trent would have probably been the starting point for a conflict. Would I be right in assuming that the British had reduced its Naval strength in the area following the Trent incident. Does the list posted by rebelatsea reflect the reduced strength of the British or is the list the number of ships the British had prior to the incident? Sorry for any confusion.
 

Talos

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January 1862, so right at the end of the affair. The British sent a lot of reinforcements in terms of ships and manpower until that point so it would take time to move them back. Warrior, for instance, was forward-deployed to Gibraltar.

I've seen this list elsewhere for the whole UK fleet in North America, not just the western gulf squadron rebelatsea posted:

North America and West Indies Station as of January 1862:

Conqueror (Two-decker (Conqueror class), 101)
Donegal (Two-decker (Conqueror class), 99)
Nile (Two-decker (Rodney class), 91)
Agamemnon (Two-decker (Agamemnon class), 91)
Aboukir (Two-decker (Albion class), 91)
Hero (Two-decker, 91)
St George (Two-decker (Caledonia class), 89)
Sans Pareil (Two-decker, 70)
Immortalité (Frigate (Emerald class),51)
Melpomene (Frigate (Emerald class), 51)
Liffey (Frigate (Liffey class), 51)
Phaeton (Frigate, 50)
Orlando (Frigate (Orlando class), 40)
Mersey (Frigate (Mersey class), 40)
Diadem (Frigate (Diadem class), 32)
Ariadne (Frigate (Ariadne class), 26)
Challenger (Corvette (Pearl class), 22)
Cadmus (Corvette (Pearl class), 21)
Jason (Corvette (Jason class), 21)
Orpheus (Corvette (Jason class), 21)
Rinaldo (Sloop (Camelion class), 17)
Greyhound (Sloop (Greyhound class), 17)
Racer (Sloop (Racer class), 11)
Desperate (Sloop (Conflict class), 8)

Vessel under orders for North America and West Indies Station (reinforcements)

Edgar (Two-decker (Agamemnon class), 91)
Meeanee (Two-decker (Majestic class), 80)
Shannon (Frigate (Liffey class), 51)
Leander (Frigate, 51)
Severn (Frigate, 51)
Warrior (Armoured Frigates, 40)
Black Prince (Armoured Frigates, 40)
Defence (Armoured Frigate, 22)
Resistance (Armoured Frigate, 22)
Satellite (Corvette (Pearl class), 21)
Pylades (Corvette, 21)
Rattlesnake (Corvette (Jason class), 21)
Chanticleer (Sloop (Camelion class), 17)
Zebra (Sloop (Camelion class), 17)
Rapid (Sloop (Rosario class), 11)
Rosario (Sloop (Rosario class), 11)

There was also a bunch of troop transports: "Over all, 18 ships made the journey to British North America before the crisis was settled, conveying “16 Artillery Batteries, 11 Infantry Battalions, 4 Engineer Companies, 2 Logistics Regiments, and all the necessary staff, hospitals, commissariats etc. ... along with training cadres for the Militia and over 50,000 modern rifles for them.”"
 

Waterloo50

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Now we are talking, that's a very formidable force, I can see that British reinforcements would have taken a considerable amount of time to arrive in the area.
 

DaveBrt

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John,

Thanks for the OB to work from.

First thoughts:
If the US does not have decent warning of a possible fleet action in the Gulf, it will have only the most basic of tactics available, since it did not operate as a blue water fleet. ADVANTAGE: England

1 and 2-gun ships are meaningless in a fleet action with big ships of war (the destroyer of WW1 only mattered because of eyes and torpedoes). Therefore:
US 5 ships that matter, fleet speed 9 kts, 87 meaningful guns
UK 10 ships that matter, 2 squadrons -- speed of one is 9 kts and 12 for the other; 438 meaningful guns, 274 in the slower and 164 in the faster squadron. ADVANTAGE ON ALL POINTS: England

Other points:
US has no base in the area, so it is susceptible to being cut off from coal. Pensacola can provide safe harbor only; New Orleans will be useful if US Navy HQ gets its act together. British have their usual base structure in the area, plus limited support in any CS Gulf port.
British threat to Atlantic ships and ports will prevent reinforcement or support for Gulf squadron.

Conclusion:
British fleet can wipe out the US force. Remains of US force can be hunted down by superior warships and destroyed.

OK, at Condition Zebra, ready for incoming.

Dave
 

Talos

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Had the conflict continued and escalated, they were bringing over additional frigates as convoy escorts, gunboats, even the four converted mortar frigates (including Horatio, sister ship to the original Macedonian that was converted to steam), sail and steam ships, etc, etc. If it escalated enough, they had more ships in mothballs than the entire US Navy. The gulf is easier for them to operate in than the East Coast. They didn't have any coaling stations between Bermuda and Halifax.
 

Waterloo50

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Take any one of those British ships and look at the quality and experience of the commanding officers, St George for example was commanded by Joseph Nias, he had seen action during the Napoleonic wars, the battle of Navarino and he has seen action during the Chinese wars. The British Navy had the experience to annihilate the US Navy.
 

Yankeedave

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Would not Canada/England ties make a fight in New England be more likely?? apparently not!! ahh..., climbing the the crow nest sirs. Is there possible French re-enforcements to the UK as that frog Maximillian is invested in Mexico?
 

Talos

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Most of those ships are also indiviually more powerful than their American counterparts. Take Conquerer, 101-gun steam battleship. Big enough to absorb damage from most heavy ordnance. She's in a similar size class as the Austro-Hungarian SMS Kaiser, which took part in the only battle between ironclads and wodden battleships, the Battle of Lissa. The enemy ships had iron armor, rifled and breechloading guns, and she survived it just fine, including a 300-pounder Armstrong mounted on one of the ironclads. She even rammed one of the ironclads.

They get overshadowed by the rapid switch to ironclads, but those last generation wooden steam battleships were fantastically powerful for their time and Milne had eight of them against the US zero.
 

Waterloo50

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Would not Canada/England ties make a fight in New England be more likely?? apparently not!! ahh..., climbing the the crow nest sirs. Is there possible French re-enforcements to the UK as that frog Maximillian is invested in Mexico?
The British began preparing for war, banning exports of war materials to America and sending troops to Canada. Plans were made to attack the American fleet that was blockading the South. The British also planned a blockade of Northern ports. At the same time, France announced it would back Britain in a conflict with America.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Okay... but a significant consideration, depending on how far from the coast we're assuming... we need stats on the draughts of all the vessels. Keep in mind that Farragut's force was optimized for shallow-draft work, since he was expected to ascend the Mississippi; and we can expect that he would use that to his advantage if he could.

This is not a small consideration... here's the relative depths in the Gulf, and the deep channels we're familiar with nowadays didn't exist yet...

Fixed_gulf_map.png



ETA: This was one of my beefs with Harry Harrison's Stars and Stripes Forever (though hardly the only objection I had). His Warrior vs. Monitor battle was fought in water that in reality was far too shallow for Warrior.
 
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Waterloo50

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The French Navy joins in support of the Royal Navy perhaps sending their own Iron clads, they had 6 Iron Clads in the Alma Class. Its not looking good for the US.
 

Yankeedave

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Advantage us on the Mississippi. We have closed both ends. The New Orleans fleet/forts protect us from I guess Port Hudson. Attack Cuba.
 

Talos

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The British response was intended to be focused more in the northeast, with attacks on Boston, New York, and Philly, where the deep draft ships were fine. Even their sloops tended to be deeper draft than the American ones, the 21-gun Jason-class sloops drawing 20 feet as an example.

Ultimately it would probably end up being a standoff in the littorals, with the heavy RN ships unwilling to risk coming in too closely and the shallow-draft US ships unwilling to sally forth. On the high sea it isn't a question of which was going to win.

EDIT: I have Winfield and other books on the subject, Mark, if you need any specific specs for the various ships.
 

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