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Interesting tidbit.

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#1 Brian Weathersby

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 04:56 PM

I was doing some research on the Barbary Wars the other day, and ran across an interesting comment in the Naval Documents series put out in the 1930s.  It's a letter to the Secretary of State from James Cathcart, from the port of Leghorn and dated July 4 1802.  Talking about that port, Cathcart says:


"I have seen twenty-four sail of American vessels in this port at once last year, two-thirds of whom were unarmed."


So, out of 24 US merchantmen in Leghorn, 16 were unarmed!  I know this is one time, one place observation, but it would be interesting to see how that compares to British merchantmen of the same period.

#2 Phil Callcott

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Posted 31 July 2018 - 09:19 AM

Leghorn AKA Livorno, Tuscany, 1802. four years after the Nile.


The Continental System in effect, the Royal Navy ascendant in the Med.


Economic shipping blockade being enforced.


Just where would those ships be bound?


If trapped in port they would have no need of guns.


Just a thought.





#3 Cpt M

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Posted 31 July 2018 - 06:22 PM

Well, the Continental System (a response to the British blockade of French territories) didn't go into effect until late 1806.  So for 1802, it wouldn't have been unusual to see ships of all flags in a port such as Livorno.


As for being armed, most merchants of this period would be unarmed.  Only those sailing into known trouble areas (parts of the Caribbean, around the Malacca Straits, etc) would be armed.  And only with very light anti-personnel armaments.  Only the very large ships of the East India Company would carry any substantial armament (understandable, given the extreme high value of their cargoes).  

#4 Brian Weathersby

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Posted 31 July 2018 - 11:57 PM

Unfortunately, Cathcart doesn't give any more specific information on the ships than that.  The biggest part of the letter is Cathcart complaining about US merchants running around the Med unarmed.  After all, at the time of this letter the US and Tripoli had been at war for a year. 


I do agree with Cpt. M though; another report from a convoy captain during the Quasi-War very specifically mentioned the number of guns on the merchants he was escorting.  I've attached the scan of Cathcart's letter so that other people can judge whether or not I'm misreading his tone.


Attached File  page 191.JPG   191.24KB   0 downloads

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