Ships of the 1500s

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,188
Brassicaland
#11
If you're interested here's a pretty good series of posts on reddit which discuss the development of the caravel, carrack, and galleon during this period.

Part of the problem with trying to create a list like this for a video game is that none of these terms actually refers to a standardized "model" like a model of car. Rather there were a bunch of different ways you could divide ships into categories whether based on size, shape, construction, number of guns, rigging, etc. where there could potentially be a lot of overlaps or odd exceptions that don't quite fit either category. For instance you could have a really big galleon much larger than anything else around or you could have a very small galleon with few guns but they would both still be called galleons due to specific elements of their construction.

For an interesting snapshot from the middle of the century you might be interested in looking through the anthony rolls on wikisource: Anthony Roll - Wikisource, the free online library

(As a note, when looking at the second roll, the ships that Anthony labels "galleasses" are instead what we would call "galleons" or perhaps "race-built galleons" as identified by the sails and the iconic "beak" in front. They were not related to the famous Venetian "galleasses" which were first introduced much later.)
Didn't galleasses use oars rather than wind power? How did sailing ships replace galleys?
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,319
Portugal
#12
Didn't galleasses use oars rather than wind power? How did sailing ships replace galleys?
We must understand that for the period the ship designations were pretty generic and often could refer to significant different types of ships, especially with the translations. A Portuguese Galleon was different from a Spanish one.

The words galleasses and galleons came from the same type of ships, the galley, a Mediterranean ship with oars. The oars were important for military purposes but were a height for commercial ones – the oarsmen had to be paid, or bough and feed if they were slaves, the ship had to travel near shore to refill with food and water.

In the Atlantic, in longer voyages, far from shore, the ships with oars were not so useful, and their navigability was lower. But they were useful again in the Indian Ocean to the Portuguese and so galley type of ships were transported there or build there (the galeasses and mostly the fustas).
 
Jan 2015
2,761
MD, USA
#13
Didn't galleasses use oars rather than wind power? How did sailing ships replace galleys?
The definition that I read long ago was that the galleas was an attempt to combine a galley and a galleon, with better sailing qualities and more firepower than a galley but still having oars for maneuverability. Pretty sure the results were not stellar, since it seems to have been a brief experiment.

The problem with galleys, as has been stated, was that they were very lightly built, carried only a few guns (mostly in the bow), could not handle heavy weather or typical Atlantic swells, required huge crews, but very little space for stores and supplies and none for extra cargo. They were strictly fast warships, short-ranged and expensive. Sailing ships required far fewer men for handling sails and could be quite roomy inside, as well as built to withstand much heavier weather. They could sail for weeks or months with the stores they carried, and warships could mount dozens of heavy guns. So a galley is useless as a cargo ship, and once sailing ships carried enough guns they could fight off large numbers of galleys even in a calm.

There were a few later ships that could use sweeps or oars in calm weather or for maneuvering in port. I suspect many were smaller ones, and more likely to be warships since they had larger crews in the first place, but Captain Kidd's Adventure Galley was basically a light frigate with ports for using sweeps when necessary. (I won't even bring up the Black Pearl, ha!)

Matthew
 
Apr 2018
260
USA
#14
Didn't galleasses use oars rather than wind power? How did sailing ships replace galleys?
The Venetian "galleasses" introduced before the battle of Lepanto in 1571 were, but back in 1546 the term was apparently just being used as another word for "galleon."

Regarding galleys, the growing use of artillery in naval warfare actually brought about sort of a renaissance in the popularity of dedicated war galleys during the late 15th-early 16th centuries. Particularly in the Mediterranean, but even in northern waters nations like France and england started adding small numbers of war galleys to their fleets. Though war galleys required rather large, well-trained crews of rowers, the ships themselves tended to be relatively cheap, they were very quick and maneuverable, and you could mount really, big, heavy artillery on the front of the galley where it would be easy to reload and could be easily aimed by maneuvering the ship. Especially when large, bronze guns were really expensive this was a much more efficient way of getting use out of them than taking a huge, clumsy, round carrack and trying to cover it with guns pointing in every direction.

You can sort of see this with the description of the Subtle Galley from the Anthony Rolls in that it's armed with a much heavier gun than any of the other ships of its tonnage, a full "cannon" typically referred to a gun large enough to fire a 40-60 lb cannonball. The Subtle Galley took part in the 1547 battle of Pinkie Cleugh where flanking fire from English naval artillery played a major role. William Patten especially noted the effect of the English Galley in routing the Scottish light infantry after one cannonball managed to kill a whole 25 soldiers including the Master of Graham.

At the other end of the spectrum in the early 16th century was generally the carracks, which had their own unique advantages. They tended to be primarily designed for to hold a lot of cargo and for long-distance, ocean-going trade and were thus usually designed to be pretty wide and tall relative to their length rather than for speed and maneuverability. Their major advantage in combat, however, was that even with artillery it still wasn't very easy to actually sink a wooden ship. It was difficult to actually score a bit below the waterline, and even when there was a lucky hit crews seem to have been getting pretty good at plugging up the leak before it caused much flooding. If the battle couldn't be decided at a distance, then as the ships drew near or came to board the tallest carrack, complete with towering "castles" built at the front and rear, would have a massive advantage due to how easily it's crew could shoot downwards at the exposed decks of the enemy ships with muskets, swivel guns, and hailshot, or toss down grenades, firebombs, darts, or even things like scalding oil. The Venitian galleasses used at Lepanto were sort of a compromise between Mediterranean and atlantic warship designs at the time. They were very long with banks of oars so that would be fairly maneuverable in Mediterranean waters while also being absolutely gigantic with large towers and covered with guns so that they could basically sail straight into the middle of the Ottoman galley fleet while being almost impossible to board and blasting apart anything that got too close.

The gradual shift towards sailing ships focused primarily on artillery rather than overall size towards the end of the 16th century was influenced by a number of factors. You had improving gunnery technology resulting in guns that could be made lighter and more powerful, new gun carriages were being introduced making heavy guns easier to reload in a confined space, you had ship designers starting to better understand the concept of designing a ship around the artillery you want to put in it rather than just making a really big ship and trying to figure out where you can fit artillery later, and you had heavy artillery getting less expensive, particularly in england and the Netherlands at the end of the century ship cannons made out of cast iron seem to have been getting much cheaper. Galleons for example tended to be more focused on artillery to some extent, they tended to be narrower relative to their length than most carracks were and the size of the ship's castles tended to be greatly reduced (or in the case of many English galleons the castles were removed entirely in favor of a flat deck) to improve speed, and they tended to be of a sturdier construction to support more heavy artillery, particularly broadside artillery. Probably the most extreme example of this kind of thinking would end up being the Dutch "frigate" developed at the end of the century, which was extremely long, narrow, and had only a single gun deck lined only with broadside artillery, no fore or stern guns, allowing it to direct a huge amount of firepower in one direction while still being able literally run circles around the old carracks and galleons.
 
Likes: Matthew Amt

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
6,866
#15
The advantage of sailing ships over rowed ships is that as ships became bigger, using oars to propel them became rather impractal unless you wanted a very long ship, which with wooden construction became somewhat impractical. The British tried constructed warships longer than 100 m (300 ft), but they were not very successful. Also, the oar ports it seems to me would be difficult to seal up unlike gun ports, making them less seaworthy in rough weather.

The crews needed to man the oars would have place greater limitations on the range of large oared ships, so large oared ships would likely be used for comparatively short ranges like the Mediterranean Sea and local.waters rather than sailing f around the world.

Also, as sailing properties improved, with better handingin various wind directions, the advantage of using oars would be diminished. But mostly I think it was the increased in size and range the ships had to travel. It is hard to see a ship the size of HMS Victory using oars for any great tactical advantage, or travelling long distances to places like India or North America. In a combat sistuation, the amount of rowers needed to give the extra speed and manueverability would likely be better employed either ha doing more guns or as fighting Marines on the ship's deck.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
4,709
#16
You had improving gunnery technology resulting in guns that could be made lighter and more powerful, new gun carriages were being introduced making heavy guns easier to reload in a confined space, you had ship designers starting to better understand the concept of designing a ship around the artillery you want to put in it rather than just making a really big ship and trying to figure out where you can fit artillery later, and you had heavy artillery getting less expensive, particularly in england and the Netherlands at the end of the century ship cannons made out of cast iron seem to have been getting much cheaper.
The cast iron cannons were in fact often of Swedish make. Sweden ended up at the world's largest artillery exporter, selling 80% of its products abroad. By the late 17th c. something like half the world's floating artillery had been cast in Sweden (cast iron pieces were favoured for ship borne artillery), and sold abroad. In total Sweden by 1650 was producing a third of all artillery pieces made in Europe.

They were sold not least to the Dutch. Sweden was its main supplier of arms. The Dutch were otoh also the main suppliers of capital to invest in developing the Swedish cannon foundries (It's a matter of the extreme purity of the Swedish iron ore, allowing quality cast iron artillery pieces. India had similar deposits, and so has Brazil, though only discovered in the 20th c., since Brazil produced no iron before the 19th c, and then only in extremely limited amounts.)

It's still a feature that when wrecks of 17 and 18th c. vessels armed with cannon are discovered, there typically is a call to Sweden to try to get info about the pieces, since odds are very high they were Swedish-made. "Åker's Styckebruk" (the Åker [Artillery]Piece Foundry) was the main national manufacturer since the late 16th c., and 75% of the cannons were manufactured in a single province, Sörmland.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,195
Sydney
#17
unless I'm mistaken the Danes used Galleys up to the early 19th century , some of the probable reasons was their shallow draft and their use for home waters
Louis XIV used galleys in the Atlantic and Mediteranean often crewed by protestants condemned for their faith

was there some technical impediment preventing the making of large , fast warships ?
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
4,709
#18
unless I'm mistaken the Danes used Galleys up to the early 19th century , some of the probable reasons was their shallow draft and their use for home waters
Louis XIV used galleys in the Atlantic and Mediteranean often crewed by protestants condemned for their faith

was there some technical impediment preventing the making of large , fast warships ?
Both Swedes and Russians built substantial fleets of galleys in the 18th c. Low draft and easy to manouver around the archipelagos of the Baltic. The Swedish one was specifically named "Skärdgårdsflottan", i.e. the Archipelago Fleet. These complemented the standard navies of frigates, ships-of-the-line etc. It started as a navy initiative, but from 1756 the Archipelago Fleet was specifically made part of the army, effectively becoming the navy of the Swedish army. ;)

Swedish late 18th c. example of the type of ship:
1546787566820.png

The Russian ships were similar, and it was the Russians who pioneered the types. It was another of Peter the Great's initiatives. And he brought in Venetian ship-wrights to design a build a galley fleet specialising in fighting in the cramped conditions of the archipelagos. Sweden built its to counter the new Russian threat, in particular after the 1719-1721 raids of the Russian galley fleet along a large part of the central Swedish coastline. The raids were destructive enough to make sure virtually no fixed structures dating to before 1719 any longer exists along the coast. (The named coastal towns north of the indicated route are the ones burned to the ground in independent actions as well. Stockholm was also directly attacked eventually, but the landing was defeated at the Battle of Stäket 1719):
1546788259283.png
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
6,866
#19
unless I'm mistaken the Danes used Galleys up to the early 19th century , some of the probable reasons was their shallow draft and their use for home waters
Louis XIV used galleys in the Atlantic and Mediteranean often crewed by protestants condemned for their faith

was there some technical impediment preventing the making of large , fast warships ? thank
A.large.fast rowed ship requires a lot of rowers that need to be fed, which makes the. Less practical for long distances travel compare to sailing ships. Wooden ships were limited in length due to the strength of wooden hulls, you had integrity issues if you make a wooden ship too long. But for large ships, you need longer length to get enough rowers in to make the ship move fast, so you probably reach a limig on length and size. And row of oarsmen will rob space that you could have put .a row of cannons.

A rowed ship might make 8 knots, perhaps 12, but could not sustain that speed for long. The speed of a ship like the HMS Victory might reach 11 knots under ideal conditions, and could sustain the speed longer under good conditions than a ship which was rowed. The galley might still be more manueverability, but not really any faster when winds were good. The Wikepedia on the replica Trireme Olymlipia said it's top speed was only 9 knots when rowed, and I doubt galleys would be much faster.

In restricted waters where distances traveled were short, and you were not expected to go up against lol arge ships of the line, galleys may have made sense. But the number one naval power in the world, Britain, largely did not use galleys after the early modern period, showing that galleys had only limited usefulness.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,319
Portugal
#20
In restricted waters where distances traveled were short, and you were not expected to go up against lol arge ships of the line, galleys may have made sense. But the number one naval power in the world, Britain, largely did not use galleys after the early modern period, showing that galleys had only limited usefulness.
In the 16th century the Portuguese packed galley types in ships to the Indian Ocean where they filled them with local oarsmen. They also build them in the East, because like you say it made sense for short distances. In those cases sometimes the only Portuguese on board would be the Captain or the Pilot.

Even so I recall at least a case of a “fusta” (galley type) that operated in the Indian Ocean and returned to Portugal travelling around Africa.