A Brief History of Fighting Ships

Overview of navel technology, battles, and strategy during the Napoleonic wars. Interesting throughout. I had no clear preconception of naval battles in that era, but I was surprised that manoeuvring before battles could take days and the actual shooting could last a day. Another interesting tidbit is that Ships of the Lines were honour-bound not to shoot at enemy frigates (which were used for scouting) unless shot at first.

The revolutionary aspect of the battles were interesting. French commanders during battles would often have political commisioners to oversee them, a practice I associated more with the Soviets, though I guess it should be unsurprising that the French Revolution presaged that. In the earlier era of wars the British would try and kill certain commanders who performed particularly badly, but felt no need to supervise them during the fact (but that practice seemed to end by this time period). Another interesting aspect from the totalaterian angle is the author finds it curious that the British didn't adopt total war tactics. They didn't prioritize naval grain convoys for instance, and he thinks famine could have ended the French Revolution if they had done so.

Nelson comes off as an interesting character, flamboyant, self-promoting and willing to throw others under the bus to make himself look good. His main military innovation was decentralizing command to other captains. He'd spend large amounts of time during campaigns explaining the general rationale behind how they should act in certain situations. Standard practice at the time was for sea command to be very despotic from the commander in charge who would issue commands via flags. This was problematic because during battle often those flags could be hard to spot.