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Model Details:
My model ships are assembled from kits. Each model is an original and unique
work of art. Each is individually constructed with 'plank on frame or
bulkhead' techniques using only the finest exotic hardwoods. All details,
including rigging, are fabricated from scratch. Each reproduction is
constructed according to strict specifications, based on the original
vessel's plans. Careful research is done to ensure the accuracy of every
detail. Depending on the size and level of complexity, it is not uncommon
for construction to require several hundred hours of painstaking effort. For
example to make leaders for a 44" sail ship which has three masts and lets
say first two masts have tree sails on each and the third has two sails will
take about 20 to 26 hours of hard work making knots. Then you have to
install these leaders on your ship. You have to make it look the same on
each side of the ship so the mast looks strait. But this is just a part of
work.

This is a job. But this is my hobby.
First, you take drawings which we call blue prints and study them. Sometimes
there is a missing information on the drawings and in order to find that
missing information you have to look in books. For example books about
rigging of a ship of that period of time, or planking of this ship.
Second, you have to putt a kill of the ship together. At this point you have
to be sure that you do this work on a strait piece of wood or a table. Kill
might consist of several pieces you have to glue together.

When a kill is ready you have to put ribs in a position shown on the
drawing. This makes you future ship look exactly like a skeleton. After that
you look on the drawing exact location where you apply you your first plank.
You do it one at a time on each side. Applying a plank is a very difficult
technique. You have to bend each plank individually. A bent should be as
close as possible to the shape of the ship. Then you glue a plank to the
skeleton of the ship. You do this one plank at a time on each side. On a big
ship which is about 4 feet long you would be able to apply only 4 to 6
planks on each side per day working 8-10 hours a day. This is a very slow
process. A lot of sanding is required after all planks are applied.
Painting of the ship is a very important part. For this part of work you
need brushes few sizes and paint thinner. You have to use drawings to see
which color of paint you have to use.
 

Sails. If you like sails you can put them on. The only thing is that sails
are going to close from view all the rigging which was so difficult for you
to put. So here you have to make a decision weather to use sails or not. If
you decided to go with sails, you will have to sew sails with you hands,
each sail individually and then putt it on a ship. Using (ropes) and wooden
blocks will make them look just like real. It might take a day for one or
two sails (depending on a size) to put on the ship.
Wappen Won Hamburg. 44" ship model. It took me 9 years to build this ship.
But, I was working on it only on weekend. Probably no less then two years
will be needed to build this ship if working seven days a week 8 hours a
day. All, including sails and rigging.
Ship's History:
She was built in Deich-tor shipyard in Hamburg during the period 1667-69.
From 1669-83 the ship saw service as an escort vessel on voyages to the
Spitzbergen and the West. On Oct 10, 1683 while on the Cadiz route, a fire
broke out in the bows and quickly spread to the entire ship. Despite valiant
efforts to extinguish the flames, the fire eventually reached the arsenal
and the ship exploded. The cause of the fire remains a mystery. Admiral
Karbfanger, along with 42 of the 170 sailors on board, and 22 of the 50
soldiers, lost their lives attempting to save the ship. The Admiral was
buried with great ceremony in the Foreigner's Cemetery on the sea front at
Puntales (Cadiz).
A brief history of the Wappen Von Hamburg...
The "Escutcheon of A" I which, according to Happel, was also named the
"Empress", was built in the Deich-Tor shipyard in Hamburg by the same
unknown Dutch shipbuilders who constructed the "Leopold 1". The blue prints
were started in 1663, but consultations and negotiations hampered the actual
construction work until the spring of 1667, when work on the hull actually
commenced. The wood work was finished in 1668, the armaments were then
installed, and the ship took up service in 1669. The sculpture work was done
under the guidance of Precht. From 1669 to 1683 the ship provided service as
an escort vessel on voyages to the Spitzbergen and the west: on the 10th
October 1683, whilst she was on the Cadiz route, a fire broke out in the
bows, quickly spreading throughout the entire ship. In spite of valiant
efforts to extinguish the flames, the fire eventually reached the arsenal
and the ship exploded. The cause of the fire remains unknown.
 

The San Mateo
32" ship model. Time required to build this model was about one year and
half total. All was done on weekends. For this model I decided no sails.
Because of this decision you can see all the rigging. Planking for this
model took about 3 to 4 month, sanding a day or two. Masts took a day or two
for each to complete.
The Galleon in use from the 16th to the early 18th centuries, was the most
important sailing ship of the time. Many Spanish Admirals owned entire
fleets of Galleons and hired them out to the Crown. Called the " Indies Run
Fleet", they protected treasure fleets brings riches from the West Indies.
 
This model of the San Mateo is a typical representation of the Spanish
Galleon. This model is from a Constructor Kit. The model took approximately
1232 hours to complete and uses such fine woods as walnut and mahogany. It
has a high gloss wood finish to show off the natural beauty of the wood. She
sports a full set of hand sewn sails. The model dimensions are: 32" inches
long, 28" inches tall, and 12" inches wide. There is no display case being
offered with this model.
The typical fleet consisted of several types of ships. Heavily armed
galleons served as protection for the bulk of the fleet, merchant naos. The
only difference between the nao and the galleon was the amount of armament
carried. Several pataches, small reconnaissance vessels, also accompanied
the fleet, as well as resfuerzos, which were supply ships. The fleet was led
by the Capitana, or flagship, and the Almiranta, or vice-flagship.
The fleet would leave Spain loaded with manufactured goods needed by the
Spanish colonies in the new world, departing first from Seville and later
from Cadiz. They would sail down the coast of Africa until they reached the
Cape Verde Islands. From here they sailed west with the prevailing trade
winds until they entered the Caribbean. At that point the ships split into
two separate fleets, the Nueva Espana flota and the Tierra Firme flota
(after 1648 this was called Los Galeones). The first fleet sailed to Mexico
(Nueva Espana) where it dropped anchor at the port of Vera Cruz, while the
second fleet visited the South American mainland ports of Cartagena, Nombe
de Dios, and Porto Bello.
In these ports, the ships traded for the wealth of the Indies: gold, silver,
emeralds and other gemstones, hides, exotic woods, copper, tobacco, sugar,
cochineal, indigo, and many more valuables. In addition to these goods,
another Spanish fleet called the Manila Galleons crossed the Pacific and
sent treasures from the Orient to Acapulco and Panama. Then the cargoes were
escorted overland to the Caribbean flotas. These commodities included such
materials as ginger, cowrie shells, porcelains, silks, velvets, damasks,
drugs, pearls, and ivory.
After a month or so of trading with the colonies, the fleets prepared for
the return voyage. The two flotas rendezvoused at Havana for the voyage home
to Spain. The ships were refitted and replenished and then the combined
fleet departed Cuba, sailing north to the Straits of Florida. When they
reached the Gulf Stream, the ships were propelled past the Bahamas and
eventually would set a course for the Azores and Spain. These treasure
fleets returning to Spain regularly carried between five to ten million
"pieces of eight," or roughly 60 - 120 million U.S. dollars in today's
currency.
Spanish galleons were incredibly tough. The San Mateo, a Portuguese built
medium galleon of 750 tons and 34 guns, sailed as part of the Spanish
Armada. On board she carried 350 marines meant to be a part of the invasion
forces. When the Armada met the Elizabethan Navy in 1588, the San Martin
(1000 tons, 48 guns), flagship of the Duke of Medina, was badly damaged,
having taken 107 direct hits. The San Mateo, having survived the successive
broadsides of an entire English firing line and her sails and rigging
already in shreds, was taking on water but doggedly limped in to save the
San Martin. The San Mateo was immediately surrounded and pounded by
seventeen English ships of the line. The English, seeing the shambles on her
deck, attempted to board her. Even after suffering such a murderous hail of
shot, three successive times the San Mateo managed to repel the boarders
with withering musket fire from the surviving marines before finally being
forced to withdraw. Due to the San Mateo's valiant actions, the San Martin
was able to make a successful escape.

References

THE SPANISH GALLEON
1530-1690


The following series of three articles are extracts from the forthcoming
Osprey Book in the New Vanguard Series (Due out: March 2004  - ISBN:
1841766372)


· Armament
· Shipboard Organization
· Galleons as Warships

 


Note:
Slight minor changes were made in the text between this manuscript stage and
publication, but none influenced the general scope of the book.  Most were
corrections to Spanish spelling, and improvements to the clarity of the
information presented. It was thought that SF Sails! aficionados might enjoy
reading it as is.





Armament

The furnishing of ordnance for the galleons was the responsibility of the
Spanish Crown, which meant that royal administrators maintained meticulous
records of guns, ammunition and artillery equipment. Even the captains of
surviving ships from the Spanish Armada of 1588 were expected to produce
detailed returns explaining just how much powder and shot they used during
the campaign, and why. Legislation also laid down the regulation number and
size of guns to be carried on royal galleons, and from 1552 this also laid
down the manning ratios of ordnance, and their standard allocation of powder
and shot.

The Crown furnished its galleons with guns produced in royal foundries, and
in most cases with powder and shot produced in royal workshops. It was not
until 1633 that the Crown permitted the production of powder by private
Spanish contractors. Guns were allocated to a specific ship for the duration
of a voyage, then on her return the ordnance and its stores would be
unloaded, and returned to the royal warehouses. It was a cumbersome
procedure, but it managed to make the best possible use of the resources of
the crown, and it usually resulted in the galleons having the guns they
needed for a particular mission. Although there was a shortage of suitable
ordnance in the late 16th century, the Spanish managed to procure guns from
abroad, most notably from the foundries of Northern Italy, Flanders and
central Germany. During the early 17th century, a new Spanish gun foundry
was created in Seville (1611) which produced bronze guns, while the foundry
at Liérganes near Santander (1622) produced cast-iron pieces. By the 1630's,
most Spanish ordnance came from these two centers.

The Spanish used several families of guns; canõnes (cannons), culebrinas
(culverins), pedreros (stone-shotted guns), bombarettas (wrought-iron guns)
and versos (swivel guns). Of these, the canõnes were large, stubby, heavy
pieces, with a shorter ratio of calibre to length than the more commonly
used culebrinas. This latter group were sub-divided into culebrinas and
media culebrinas, both of which were longer and lighter than canõnes or the
even larger canõnes de batir. Pedreros were becoming increasingly rare
during the later 16th and early 17th centuries, as the cost of producing
specially-shaped stone shot was becoming increasingly expensive. Short range
weapons, these pedreros were short-barreled pieces, with a smaller powder
chamber than bore. They were primarily seen as close-range anti-personnel
weapons, and although still carried on galleons until the 1620's, they were
no longer considered modern weapons. Bombardettas were the wrought-iron,
breech-loading pieces which had first appeared on board Spanish vessels
around 1400. Their range was considerably less than a similar-sized bronze
gun, largely due to the leakage of gas (and therefore muzzle pressure) when
the weapon was fired. They remained in use until the last years of the 16th
century, but they last saw service on Spanish royal galleons in the 1570's.
Most inventories of the 1580's and later referred to them as "obsolete
weapons". The final group, versos were short range anti-personnel guns,
fired from swivel mounts attached to the ship's rail. These came in a range
of types and sizes, but in general terms the verso fired a 1-pound ball, the
longer and larger verso double a 1 ½-pound shot, and the largest of the
group, the esmeril fired a 2 ½-pound projectile. All weapons of the verso
family were breech-loading, meaning they could be reloaded extremely quickly
when required. They could also fire either solid shot or anti-personnel
grapeshot.

 
The following table shows the most common artillery pieces carried on board
Spanish galleons during the period from 1570-1640, with the approximately
corresponding English ordnance name in parenthesis. It must be noted that
these figures represent the mean in a wide range of weights, calibers and
gun sizes, as there was little attempt at standardization during the period.
Each piece of ordnance was somewhat unique, and was even listed in the
Spanish archives by its weight, as it was extremely rare for two pieces to
weigh exactly the same. To avoid confusion, while gun weight is given in
libras (Spanish pounds), all other figures are presented in their English
form.
 

Shipboard Organization  

For much of the period where galleons formed the mainstay of the Spanish
fleet, manpower was allocated to them according to an established quota. The
basic rule was that one man was allocated to a galleon for every tonelada of
burden, although this could be increased to 1 ½ men per tonelada in time of
war, or for a specific expedition. In practice, the manning of a galleon
varied considerably, and financial considerations played a major part in
reducing the size of the crew, often by over half the "one man per tonelada"
ratio. In 1550, galleons and merchant ships sailing to the Indies carried
only one gente de mar (mariner) per 5 ½ toneladas, although the seamen were
augmented by officers and soldiers. In 1629, a formula of one mariner per 6
¼ toneladas, and one soldier per 4 toneladas was applied. Obviously, these
numbers were increased in time of war, and often in addition to carrying
their assigned crews, galleons were used to transport troops, either across
the Ocean Sea (Atlantic), to the Spanish Netherlands, or when embarked for
an amphibious operation. Figures from the records of the Armada de la
Guardia in 1601 and 1613 show that on average, galleons carried crews of
approximately 90-100 men per vessel, excluding soldiers. While the
proportions of seamen to landsmen, gunners or
pages varied slightly between the two dates (with the number of pages
decreasing and trained seamen increasing), a broad notion of crew numbers
can be obtained.
A typical 500 tonelada galleon during the early 17th century carried
approximately 15 officers, 26 seamen, 19 apprentice seamen, 10 pages and 21
gunners: 91 men, or 5 ½ men per tonelada. Using the same formula, the same
galleon would have a company of approximately 125 soldiers on board, giving
a total complement of 216 men, not counting any supernumeraries, passengers
embarked troops in transit. These figures reflect the individual records of
Spanish galleon crews during this period, although it appears the number of
soldiers embarked on a ship of this size could vary by as much as 25%,
depending on need. However you look at it, the quantity of soldiers carried
on board a Spanish galleon is strikingly high.
 
Gun Type Average Shot Weight Average Calibre (Bore) Average Gun
Weight (Bronze) Average Gun Length
Canõn(Demi-Cannon) 24-pounder 6 -inches 5,400 libras 11
feet
Culebrina(Culverin) 16-pounder 5 ½-inches 4,300 libras 12
feet
Media Culebrina(Demi-Culverin) 11-pounder 4 ½-inches 3,000 libras
10 feet
Sacre(Saker) 7-pounder 3 ½ -inches 2,000 libras 8 feet
Medio Sacre(Minion) 3 ½-pounder 2 ½-inches 1,400 libras 7
feet

In most accounts of the Spanish Armada, the 22 galleons which participated
in the enterprise varied considerably in size and armament. Eight were
between 500-600 toneladas, and carried around 24 guns, eight more were
larger 700-850 tonelada galleons, carrying 30-40 guns, and three were
enormous 1,000 tonelada vessels, armed with approximately 50 guns apiece. In
addition three smaller galleons of 250-350 toneladas were armed with 20-24
guns each. Like all vessels of the period, the total armament included all
ordnance, from the largest canõnes to the verso dobles. It appears that in
most cases, versos were not counted, as they usually fired a ball smaller
than a falcon (or falconeta), the equivalent of an English "falconet); the
smallest listed artillery piece of its day, firing a 1 or 1 ¼-pound shot.
Discounting approximately a quarter of the pieces as being large swivel
guns, this meant that a typical Spanish Armada galleon of 500 toneldas
carried approximately 18 heavy guns, while a larger 750 tonelada galleon
would have carried about 24-30 large piece. These numbers are similar to the
detailed accounts of early 17th century galleons. The Nuestra Señora de
Atocha, a 500 tonelada galleon built in 1618 carried 20 heavy guns; two
canõnes, four culebrinas, ten medio culebrinas and four sacres.

The largest pieces were carried as stern chasers, while the remainder were
divided between the two broadsides, and carried on a single long gun deck.
The culebrinas were carried amidships, the sacres forward of the mainmast,
and the medio culebrinas towards the stern. All were mounted on two-wheeled
carriages. In addition 14 versos of various sizes were carried, although it
appears these were carried below decks or beneath the forecastle until
required, when they were remounted on the two castles.  Like almost all
other galleons, the vessel was therefore well-armed, but not overly so. As
they also had to carry specie, passengers, and a company of soldiers,
Spanish galleons of the late 16th and early 17th century were adequately
rather than generously provided with artillery, unlike the sailing warships
of the later 17th century, which were true ships-of-the-line.
Organization within a fleet, or in individual ships was clearly defined.
Whether it was destined for the Indies, formed an independent fighting
fleet, or was part of a larger armada, a galleon "fleet" was commanded by a
Capitán General, appointed by the King. Actually, the term "squadron" is
more appropriate", as most galleon "fleets" rarely consisted of more than a
dozen vessels, not counting escorted merchantmen. In his Itinerario (1575),
Juan Escalante describes the perfect Capitán General as; "a very good man,
of good family and well born, a native of Seville, a good Christian and
experienced on the sea... of a proper age, neither old, nor young".
Surprisingly, if not always met, most fleet commanders came close to this
ideal. Men such as Don Fadrique de Toledo y Osorio, Don Juan de Benevides
and Francisco de Mendoza were all products of the Spanish aristocracy, the
chivalric military orders and the Spanish military machine. Skilled
courtiers, diplomats, soldiers and mariners, these commanders held great
responsibilities, but usually rose to the challenge. They embarked on the
flagship of the squadron (known as the Capitana), along with a small staff,
which usually included royal officials as well as their own entourage. His
second-in-command was the Almirante (Admiral), an officer appointed by the
Capitán General. He was responsible for the seaworthiness of the squadron,
the maintenance of its sailing and battle formations, and all aspects of its
maintenance, readiness and efficiency. By necessity the Almirante was
usually more of a seaman than a soldier. Traditionally, his flagship (known
as the Almiranta) took up position at the rear of the squadron, or on the
opposite side of a formation from the Capitana.

On board individual galleons, the senior officer was the Capitán (Captain).
During the 16th and 17th centuries, there were two different types of ship
commander. The Capitán de Mar (Naval Captain) was usually a professional
seaman, but had no jurisdiction over the troops embarked on his ship. These
men were rare, and usually the Capitán was a soldier, not a sailor, who
relied on the Maestre (Master) to operate the ship on his behalf. While
other maritime powers favored a sole commander on their vessels, the
Spanish continued to rely on joint-command well into the 17th century.
Usually, the Capitán de Mar y Guerra was appointed to command, who in theory
had jurisdiction over everyone on board his galleon, but usually had little
or no experience in maritime affairs. While officers with suitable
experience on both land and sea existed, the majority tended to be primarily
infantry commanders, and their involvement in the maritime operation of
their own ships was limited to bureaucratic rather than practical matters. 

 



The Mastre (Master) was effectively the principal seaman on board, and while
the duties of the Capitán were largely administrative, his were practical.
In effect, he commanded the ship, while his superior the Capitán commanded
the infantry. Juan Escalante described the ideal Mastre as being; "a
skillful mariner...(worthy) of credit and confidence". He went on to liken
the Master with a queen bee in its hive. Unlike other officers appointed for
the duration of a voyage, the Master usually remained with a particular ship
for the duration of its active service. He was responsible for sailing his
galleon, the supervision of its provisioning, and the maintenance of its
timbers. As his role became increasingly administrative during the 17th
century, many of his operational duties were taken over by an Alférez de Mar
(Naval First Lieutenant). Next in the chain of command was the Piloto
(Pilot), responsible for the safe navigation of the galleon. In a squadron,
the Piloto Mayor (Chief Pilot) determined the course the squadron would set,
while the individuals on each ship followed his lead. These men should not
be confused with Harbor or Bar Pilots, who were embarked in coastal or
riverine waters, such as when transiting the Guadalquivir River between
Seville and the sea. After the Piloto, the next maritime officer in rank was
the Contramestre (roughly equivalent to Boatswain). As the principal
assistant to the Maestre, his duties involved the loading of the ship,
operation and maintenance of the sails and rigging, and the smooth running
of the ship. He was assisted by a Guardián (Boatswain's Mate), who had the
extra duty of supervising fire safety on board, such as the use of galley
fires, candles or lanterns. Another assistant was the Despensero (which
roughly equates to Chief Steward). His responsibilities were the
preservation and dispensing of the ship's provisions; food, wine and water,
and their rationing in time of shortage. For the latter, a seaman was
appointed as the Alguacil de Agua (Water Dispenser) to assist the Despensero
in his duties. The duties of the Codestable (Master Gunner) are described
elsewhere.
 
In addition to these officers, a typical galleon also carried a number of
supernumerary officials, who played no part in the running of the ship. In
Galeones de la Plata (Silver, or Treasure Galleons) in the Indies flotas,
chief of these was the Mestre de Plata (Silver Master), appointed by the
Casa de Contratación, the organization which oversaw taxation and tribute in
the Indies. He registered all specie carried on board, both privately or
government owned, and ensured that the appropriate taxes had been paid. He
was assisted by a handful of Fiadores (Clerks), and while the Mestre de
Plata himself embarked on the Capitana, his assistants were dispersed
throughout the flota as required. Another bureaucrat attached to the staff
of the Capitan-General was the Veedor (Inspector), who represented all
aspects of the King's financial interests in the squadron, whether specie
was carried or not. On each galleon, another crown appointment was the
Escribano (Notary) who recorded all movement of cargo on board. The
remaining supernumeraries on a galleon were the Capellán (Chaplain),
appointed by the Capitan-General, and the Cirjano (Ship's Surgeon),
appointed by individual ship captains.
 

As for the crew, apart from a handful of specialists, the gente de mar
(mariners) were divided into four groups; marineros (able seamen), grumetes
(apprentice seamen or "landsmen"), pajes (pages, or ship's boys) and
artilleros (gunners). The specialists comprised the non-commissioned
officers on board; collectively known as the maestranza (artificers), and
usually included the ship's carpenter, a diver, a cooper, a caulker and one
or more trumpeters. The artilleros regarded themselves superior to other
gente de mar, and under the watchful eye of the Codestable they maintained
the guns, and operated the pieces in battle, each supervising a crew
comprising non-specialist gente de mar. Marineros were usually skilled
seamen, as opposed to the grumetes, who were usually teenage apprentice
seamen, who learned their craft while at sea. The same division of skills
can be found in most ships during the age of sail. At the bottom of the
maritime hierarchy were the pajes, sometimes the relatives of serving
officers or their friends, but more usually orphans or runaways. Aged from
12 to 16, these youths performed all the menial duties, such as scrubbing
decks, preparing meals or helping the seamen. The gente de mar were divided
into two or sometimes three "watches", set by the Maestre, ensuring the ship
could be sailed throughout the night. During daylight hours, mariners who
were not on duty could be called upon to assist the watch on deck.
 
Finally, there were the soldiers, who formed their own organisation within
the ship. All embarked troops in the squadron were commanded by the
Capitan-General, although he was assisted by a Gobernador (Military
Governor), who was usually a Capitán of one of the non-flagship galleons
(which was duly called the Gobierno). On each galleon, the infantry were
commended either by their own Capitán or by the ship's Capitán de Mar y
Guerra. In effect, each galleon carried a company of troops on board, and
its organization reflected contemporary Spanish practice on land. The
Capitán was assisted by an Alferéz de Guerra (Military Lieutenant), who
supervised discipline amongst the troops, and saw to their accommodation on
board. As in almost any army, the lieutenant relied on the Sargento
(Sergeant) to supervise the day-to-day supervision of the men. The embarked
company was divided into "squadrons" of 25 men, equating to a modern
infantry platoon. Each was commanded by a non-commissioned Cabo de Escuadra
(Squadron Chief, or Platoon Commander). Like the seamen, the soldiers were
divided according to experience, with soldados aventanjados (experienced
soldiers) receiving greater pay. These included the Abanderado (standard
bearer) two Tambores (drummers) and one Pífano (fifer). In addition,
mosqueteros (musketeers) and arcubuceros (arquebusiers) were paid more than
other soldados. An examination of contemporary rolls has shown that 50% of a
typical were  soldados armed with half-pikes or halberds), while the
remainder were divided equally between mosqueteros and arcubuceros.
 
Galleons as Warships    

Throughout the age of the galleon, the Spanish never realized the full
potential of their naval artillery. For most of the 16th century, ship-borne
ordnance was regarded as a bombardment weapon, used to soften up the enemy
prior to a boarding action. After the experience of the Spanish Armada
campaign of 1588, Spanish naval commanders came to view their artillery as a
more versatile weapon, and trained their crews to conduct stand-off
artillery duels as well as boarding actions. Indeed, this practice had begun
as early as the 1520's, but it was never fully adopted by the Spanish apart
from when engaging targets on the shore. During the 16th and early 17th
centuries, Spanish naval ordnance was invariably mounted on single-trailed,
two-wheeled carriages, more akin to those found on land than associated with
use at sea. This changed during the first half of the 17th century, as the
Spanish gradually adopted the form of carriage which by this stage was
widely used by all other maritime powers. Therefore by 1630 at the latest,
the heavy ordnance carried on board galleons was exclusively mounted on
practical four-wheeled carriages using trucks rather than large wheels; like
primitive versions of the carriages used by all Atlantic naval powers
throughout the 18th century. In addition, the obsolete wrought-iron
breech-loading guns, which were carried for much of the 16th century, were
gradually phased out, replaced by more reliable bronze muzzle-loading
pieces.
 

These earlier pieces were adequate when used a point-blank weapon, but
lacked the range to participate in longer-range bombardments or artillery
duels. Although some of these old guns were still carried on the ships of
the Spanish Armada of 1588, they had been relegated to the protection of
hulks and supply ships, not the galleons which made up the main striking
force of the Spanish fleet. 
By the time of the Spanish Armada, Spanish galleons carried modern bronze
ordnance (albeit mounted on inefficient two-wheeled carriages), but their
commanders had still not worked out the best way to use them. A detailed
analysis of ammunition expenditure during the campaign (published in Martin
& Palmer, 1988) shows that even as late as 1588, the Spanish still clung to
the notion of fighting boarding actions at sea rather than artillery
engagements. The larger guns of the fleet were rarely fired, while the
expenditure of shot by smaller versos (swivel guns) was prodigious. This is
explained by the Spanish method of using naval ordnance during this period.
Each Spanish gun was placed under the command of a ship's gunner, assisted
by a crew of sailors and soldiers. Once the piece was loaded, the crew
dispersed to their other action stations, leaving the gunner alone,
clutching his burning matchcord, waiting for the order to give fire. Spanish
naval doctrine emphasized the collective firing of the ship's broadside guns
immediately before boarding an enemy vessel. The superbly trained Spanish
infantry would then board the enemy vessel "in the smoke". Given this
tactic, there was simply no need to reload the gun until the action was
over.
 

In other words, the Spanish viewed their ordnance as weapons designed to
support their infantry rather than the primary offensive weapon of the ship.
Throughout the era of the galleons, it was the ship-borne Spanish infantry
who formed the most potent weapon in the Spanish naval arsenal. Other
maritime powers were unable to match these Spanish infantry in close-combat
at sea, which meant that if a Spanish galleon managed to grapple and board
an enemy ship, the enemy vessel was as good as lost. During the Battle of
the Azores (1585) the effectiveness of this doctrine was demonstrated when
Spanish boarding parties captured the core of the opposing French fleet in a
brief but hard-fought action. In 1588, the Spanish simply planned to use the
same tactic.
 
The 1588 campaign demonstrated that in terms of tactical thinking the
Spanish had been overtaken by their rival maritime powers. During the
campaign the English commanders consistently refused to let the Spanish
board their ships, preferring to remain outside "caliver range" and fight an
artillery duel. This forced the Spanish to re-evaluate their tactics, and
come up with a way to use their ordnance in a more versatile way. The first
remedy was to detach the soldiers from artillery duty, leaving it up to the
sailors to handle the guns. After all, they were more skilled in the
mechanical tasks involved. Next, a review of carriages was made, and
although it took four decades, the Spanish introduced more suitable
carriages. Finally they turned their back on large prestigious (and
therefore cumbersome) warships, favouring smaller galleons, such as those
built for the Indies trade rather than service in the fleet in European
waters. All this took time. To be fair, other maritime powers were also
trying to come to terms with the notion of warships as floating batteries,
and it was not until the mid-17th century that the English and Dutch
developed the concept of the line-of-battle. The Spanish Armada of 1588 had
also managed to fulfill its task of maintaining a tight formation as it
progressed up the channel. Only two ships were lost during this period from
a fleet of 120 vessels, and those losses occurred through accidental damage
rather that from enemy fire. The Spanish may have re-evaluated their
tactical doctrines, but little change was made to the way a fleet was
handled. If anything the 1588 campaign vindicated Spanish fleet handling.
 

By the early 17th century, Spanish combat instructions were issued to
individual ship repaired themselves for battle. Although produced after the
1588 debacle, we can infer that at least some of these doctrines were first
developed during the 16th century. Detailed instructions were provided
concerning the use of naval artillery. In theory guns were kept ready for
use at all times, although the time needed to prepare a ship for action was
increased on galleons of the Indies flotas, as the gun deck was usually
filled with stores and cargo as well as the crew and their belongings. Also,
most galleons were armed with guns of several calibres, Shot of each calibre
was stored separately from each other, and to avoid errors during a battle,
the calibre of each gun was painted on a notice pinned on the beams over
each gun. Normally, one gunner supervised each gun, and the remainder of his
crew (normally six to eight men) was formed from the ranks of the remaining
gente de mar, with each piece (or being allocated a certain number of able
seamen, apprentices and pages. The pages also were used to maintain the
supply of ammunition, running between the pañol de pólvora (powder magazine)
and the guns with bags of powder carried in leather containers.
Occasionally, soldiers would be drafted to assist in the operation of the
guns. The Master Gunner took his orders from the Infantry Commander during
an action rather than the Maestre, and he controlled the operation of all
heavy guns and versos. In effect, this meant that e Infantry Commander took
charge of the ship during an action, whether he was a Capitán del Mar y
Guerra or simply a Capitán de Guerra.
 



During a battle the infantry were stationed throughout the ship. According
to operational orders, a squadron containing the most experienced men should
be stationed in the forecastle, under the command of its Cabo. Other
squadrons were grouped in the waist, on the quarterdeck and on the poop
deck. Ideally if sufficient men were available, a reserve would be kept
below decks, for use as a boarding party, or to repel any attack. As
approximately half of the soldiers on board were armed with small-arms,
infantry firepower played a major part in any close-range battle. Each
squadron (whether in the forecastle, waist, quarterdeck or poop) relied on
its musketeers and arquebusiers to open the battle, firing in two makeshift
ranks, allowing one to fire from the gunwale while the other retired to the
centreline to reload. Soldiers armed with close-combat weapons mustered on
the opposite side of the deck, keeping out of the way until called into
action. If an attack was ordered, the boarding party would usually muster in
the forecastle. According to the guidelines issued to the Armada de la
Guardia in the late 16th century, these boarders should consist of men with
sword and buckler, chuzos (half-pikes) and arquebus in equal proportions.
Any assault would be accompanied by the throwing of incendiaries and
grenades, while the men in the waist remained ready to extinguish similar
projectiles thrown by the enemy. Similar instructions issued in 1630 prove
that a similar mixture of troops was used during the early 17th century.
 

We can determine something of the effectiveness of this ship-borne
organization by the effectiveness of the Spanish during engagements fought
during the early 17th century. Like several of the engagements fought
against the Dutch during the first three decades of the century, the defeat
of the Indies flota of 1628 at Matanzas Bay in Cuba was the result of
mismanagement. The flota commander, Don Juan de Benavides accidentally ran
his four galleons and accompanying merchantmen aground, allowing them to be
captured by the Dutch squadron of Piet Heyn. Heyn recorded that the Spanish
guns carried on the galleons were mounted on four-truck carriages. The
following year Don Fadrique de Toledo made good use of these mountings when
he successfully engaged a Dutch squadron off the Azores. His squadron then
went on to land its ship-borne troops in the West Indies, who captured the
islands of San Cristóbal (St. Christopher) and Nieves (Nevis) under cover of
supporting naval gunfire from the galleons. This mirrored a similar use of
naval bombardment at the recapture of Bahia in Brazil (1625). The Spanish
were clearly learning the value of powerful long-range broadsides.

Although the Dutch threat to Spanish interests in the Americas, the real
threat lay in European waters. For much of the Thirty Years War (1618-48),
the Spanish fleet achieved little apart from the regular operation of
convoys between Spain and Flanders. The naval conflict escalated in 1635,
when France entered the war against Spain. During a series of running
engagements fought in the English Channel in 1637, a Spanish armada engaged
and defeated Dutch and French squadron using long-range artillery fire.

The following year all but one vessel from a heavily outnumbered Spanish
squadron of twelve galleons was lost despite the sound tactical skills
displayed by its commander, Don Lope de Hoces. During the engagement the
Spanish anchored their ships up in line astern across a harbour mouth, and
relied on artillery to keep the French at bay. Ten French ships were damaged
and captured before the Spanish squadron was destroyed by a combination of
fireships and  scuttling.

A more dramatic display of the new-found Spanish enthusiasm for artillery is
found in accounts of the Battle of the Downs (1639), fought between a
Spanish armada of 67 ships (most of them galleons) and a slightly smaller
Dutch squadron. During the first encounter fought from 16th-18th September,
the Spanish were battered but undefeated following a three day-long running
artillery duel. Spanish commander, Don Antonio de Oquendo led his fleets
over to the neutral English side of the channel, where his ships replenished
their supplies of powder off the Downs. Soon a larger Dutch fleet under
Maarten Tromp arrived, and the battle recommenced when Olivares put to sea
in an attempt to run through the Dutch fleet and escape. Although most of
the fleet succeeded in getting away, nine galleons were captured or
destroyed. The Dutch fleet included fireships, which destroyed the galleon
San Teresa, the flagship of Don Lope de Hokes while the Spanish commander
was fighting eight Dutch ships simultaneously. Almirante Feijóo put up an
equally impressive fight when his galleon held off a whole Dutch squadron
for 18 hours before surrendering. Of the remaining seven Dutch prizes, six
sank before they could be towed to Holland, as they had been so badly
battered during the fighting. On board his Capitana Nuestra Señora de la
Concepción y Santiago, Oquendo ordered his crew to furl their sails,
planning to buy time for the rest of his armada to escape. After holding off
the Dutch until nightfall, Ocquendo's galleon was rescued by the galleons of
the Squadron of Flanders, who fought their way through the Dutch at dusk,
then escaped during the night with the Capitana safely in their midst.
Although this engagement resulted in a Spanish defeat, the action
demonstrated that when commanded by veteran captains, the Spanish galleons
of the period could hold their own in artillery duels against their
enemies. 


 

   

Incidentally it also demonstrated another Spanish trait, where for much of
the period, Spanish naval commanders were often given insufficient resources
to perform a task, but through their professionalism and resourcefulness
they managed to either succeed, or at least hold their own against a more
powerful adversary. The Battle of the Downs was the last hurrah of the
galleon. Within a few years the adoption of new line-of-battle tactics would
lead to a new breed of heavily-armed ships-of-the-line. While galleons
remained in service in the Indies for another two decades, their heyday had
passed, and never again would they form part of a Spanish fleet. A ship type
which had defined the age of Spanish achievement in the New World finally
passed into the real of history and legend.
 

 

 

 

 

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