Mr. Colebatch has indeed caught me in a distressing solecism. On this side of the Atlantic (and Pacific) we use an article with our ships, and this was the rhythm I heard as I wrote. No longer.

“Capital ship,” however, is variably definable. In the modern sense it tends to battleships—i.e., ships of the line—or aircraft carriers, but it used to refer to all important ships, which in the Georgian Navy means rated ships. Frigates were rated. We’ll have to agree to disagree, particularly as the keels of the American “super-frigates” were built on a hull the size of a British second-rate ship of the line.

As to the early naval encounters of the War of 1812, they matched single ships and are characterized by the British captain’s zeal to meet an enemy he was certain he would defeat. Mr. Colebatch is accurate in much of what he writes, but he is essentially trying to explain away the British defeats. The Naval Chronicle...


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