Conditions of the Fleets
the start of the Revolutionary
Wars the Royal Navy was not in top shape and it
took several years before the cobwebs were shaken
out of the ships
of the leading admirals were too old and the young
commanders who would rise to greatness had yet
to be given their opportunity.
problems were nothing to those suffered by the French
navy, which by the 1790s was but a shadow of a force
that had, on occasion, looked like threatening the
maritime power of the Royal Navy.
strapped, the French treasury in the late 18th Century
was even more penny-pinching than its British equivalent.
top of that, the best French sailors had fled the
Revolution and their replacements were hamstrung by
poor quality crews and their own inexperience.
the French ships were - vessel for vessel - of a better
quality than the Royal Navy's and were very manouevreable
the wars progressed the largely harbour-bound French,
having been bottled up by British blockades, were
no match for their enemy in a fight at sea.
gun practice while under sail gave the Royal Navy's
gunners a huge advantage, as did the new flintlock
firing mechanisms that allowed for more accurate sighting
on the cannon.
In an even more desperate state than the French, however,
were the Spanish.
a naval power, a lack of funds left Spain's massive
vessels rotting and its poorly treated sailors were
officers were proud of their nation's maritime history
but, in terms of ability, did little study to keep
up with rival modern navies.
and Sweden had powerful fleets, but these were limited
to local waters in the Baltic.
had a fine, efficient navy but, again, a tight government
purse limited it to small numbers and it could not
match its across-the-North Sea neighbour.
were two navies, however, that were on the rise -
those of Russia and America. Russia kept its maritime
interests to the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea and,
for the main part, was anti-French in its stance.
small navy rivaled the British for ability and while
it was never strong enough to end a Royal Navy blockade
of its east coast, in one-on-one
duels performed very well indeed.