Posts tagged ‘Navy’

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (December 14-December 20, 1814)

Prelude to New Orleans.

U.S. Navy gunboats battle scores of oar-powered Royal Navy barges on Lake Borgne, Louisiana. Painting by  Thomas Horbrook courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy via Wikipedia.

U.S. Navy gunboats battle scores of oar-powered Royal Navy barges on Lake Borgne, Louisiana.
Painting by Thomas Horbrook courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy via Wikipedia.

Most Americans know little about the War of 1812, except, maybe for the Battle of New Orleans – thanks to two movies (in the 1930s and the 1950s) and the popular song recorded by Johnny Horton in 1959.

“The Battle of New Orleans” was written by Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas high school history teacher in 1936, to make learning history more palatable for his students. But at 4GWAR we’ve come to learn that there was no single battle of New Orleans but a series of engagements on land and water between mid-December 1814 and early January 1815.

This week’s post marks the bicentennial of the first engagement, on the swampy waters of Louisiana’s Lake Borgne (thanks to years of erosion, a lagoon now instead of a lake).

December 14

The Americans spot British warships just outside Lake Borgne southeast of New Orleans on December 13. Entry to the lake is guarded by five small U.S. Navy ships — gunboats really — with the awe-inspiring names of Number 5, Number 23, Number 65, Number 162 and Number 163. They are manned by less than 200 sailors under the command of Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones. The lake waters are too shallow to accommodate the 50 warships of the British fleet which arrived a few days previously from Jamaica. So the British pile 1,200 sailors and Royal Marines into 45 longboats and barges, most armed with a cannon in the bow, and row furiously at Catesby Jones’ flotilla.

The lieutenant orders his tiny fleet to withdraw to the Western side of the lake to block a channel into Lake Pontchartrain and lure the British boats under the guns of a small U.S. strongpoint, Fort Petites Coquilles. But in the early hours of December 14, the wind dies and the ebb tide pushes the Americans the wrong way, leaving them becalmed as the faster moving longboats and barges approach.

Map of Battle of Lake Borgne (Courtesy of National Park Service)

Map of Battle of Lake Borgne
(Courtesy of National Park Service)

Beyond the protective range of the Fort Petite Coquilles’ guns, Catesby Jones decides to fight anyway. His U.S. ships open fire around 11 a.m., taking a heavy toll on the open boats, which are firing back. Eventually the British swarm the American ships, clamber aboard and after fierce hand-to-hand fighting, capture all five ships. The Americans suffer six killed and 35 wounded (including Catesby Jones). The toll is even greater for the British: 94 killed and wounded.

The British are now even closer to New Orleans, although the 8,000-man attack force will have to be ferried by rowboats from the entrance of Lake Borgne some 36 miles to the far Western shore where a makeshift British base is set up in an unhealthy, marshy area for the big push against New Orleans about 15 miles away.

*** *** ***

With the loss of the Lake Borgne flotilla, Major General Andrew Jackson has lost his “eyes” on the lake approaches to New Orleans. But that same day, he receives word from Major General William Carroll that he is in Natchez (Mississippi Territory) heading for New Orleans with about 3,000 Tennessee militia and 1,400 muskets and ammunition. He is accompanied by more than 100 Mississippi dragoons under Major Thomas Hinds. On December 20, Brigadier John Coffee arrives from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with some 1,200 mounted infantry. Carroll’s troops arrive the next day. It’s beginning to look like Jackson will have enough troops to hold off the British after all.

Please click on the photos to see a larger image.

December 14, 2014 at 10:59 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 12, 2014)

Big Boat, Big Mission.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen)

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen)

An MH60-S Sea Hawk helicopter takes off from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) as part of at-sea training. Anchorage participated in the first Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) for the NASA Orion program. As you can see from the photo below, the training paid off.

EFT-1 is the fifth at-sea testing of the Orion crew module using a Navy ship’s well deck (the garage-like opening in the Anchorage’s stern) for recovery of the spacecraft that someday will take humans to Mars. The Sea Hawk is assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8.

Navy divers attach recovery lines to the Orion spacecraft crew module in the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 5, 2014. The lines were used to guide the capsule into the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage.  (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Seeber )

Navy divers attach recovery lines to the Orion spacecraft crew module in the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 5, 2014. The lines were used to guide the capsule into the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Seeber )

Please click on the photos to enlarge the image. And before we start getting mail from all the Navy types out there: Yes, we know the Anchorage is a “ship” not a “boat.” Your 4GWAR editor was just exercising a little “alliterative license” in this post’s headline.

December 12, 2014 at 12:53 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 28, 2014)

Underwater Exercise.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Devon Tindle

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Devon Tindle

U.S. Marines retrieve their fins and weight belts from the bottom of a 13-foot pool during a diver course on Camp Schwab in Japan, Nov. 18, 2014. This training prepares Marines for the Marine Corps Combatant Diver Course. an incredibly demanding program based at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida.

These Marines are assigned to the 3rd Marine Division’s 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.

November 28, 2014 at 1:56 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (November 23-November 29, 1814)

A World In Motion.

November 25

Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane (National Galleries, Scotland)

Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane
(National Galleries, Scotland)

The British invasion fleet that has been building up in the Caribbean since early fall sets sail from Negril Bay, Jamaica for Louisiana.

The Royal Navy’s Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane commands a small armada of more than 60 warships, ranging from frigates and bomb ships to sloops, gunboats and troop transports. Some 4,000 soldiers, many of them veterans of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe under the Duke of Wellington, form the land force of this invasion. Cochrane, who oversaw the failed attack on Fort McHenry outside Baltimore in September,  is the overall commander. The ground troops were to be commanded by Major General  Robert Ross, but he was killed at the battle of North Point outside of Baltimore. The new commander, Lieutenant General Sir Edward Pakenham, Wellington’s brother-in-law, is still in Europe and will take weeks to catch up to Cochrane’s fleet.

Meanwhile Major General Andrew Jackson is making his way with an “army” of less than 2,000 regulars and militia from Mobile to New Orleans. Jackson has sent word to President Madison and the governors of Kentucky and Tennessee to send more troops to help him defend New Orleans.

*** *** ***

November 27

The chief negotiators at Ghent, Britain's Fleet Admiral Lord James Gambier (left) and the United States' John Quincy Adams (right). Detail from a painting in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The chief negotiators at Ghent, Britain’s Fleet Admiral Lord James Gambier (left) and the United States’ John Quincy Adams (right).
Detail from a painting in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

In the Flemish city of Ghent, where U.S. and British officials are trying to negotiate a peace treaty to end the war, the British change course.

Flush with the news of the routing of U.S. troops at Bladensburg, Maryland and the subsequent burning of most public buildings in Washington in August, the British thought victory was at hand and offered to end hostilities with both sides keeping the territory seized during the war. That would leave the British in control of a big chunk of Maine and most of the Upper Mississippi Valley — as well as a key fort (Mackinac) where lakes Michigan and Superior meet. Since the Americans have abandoned their footholds on Canadian soil opposite Detroit in the West and across from Buffalo, New York in the East, they have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Not surprisingly, they rejected the British offer in October.

But now word has reached London — and Ghent — of the simultaneous British failures to take Plattsburgh — and strategic Lake Champlain — in northern New York and Baltimore, Maryland on the Atlantic Coast. In just two days in September, British arms suffered two strategic setbacks — although the third part of the three-pronged assault on America in late 1814 (through Louisiana) has just begun.

No longer holding the winning hand they thought they had, the British government shifts its treaty demands from “we keep captured territory that we hold now” (the concept know as “utis posseditis”) to “let’s go back to the way things were before the shooting started in June 1812.” It’s a diplomatic/legal concept known as  “status quo ante bellum.” The stalled negotiations pick up again with this development.

November 23, 2014 at 10:09 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Armed Services Describe Their Needs and Funding Limitations

What They Want and Can Afford

VIPs watch a convoy of driverless trucks at the Autonomous Mobility Applique System demonstration from roof at the Urban Terrain training site at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo)

VIPs watch a convoy of driverless trucks at the Autonomous Mobility Applique System demonstration from roof at the Urban Terrain training site at Fort Hood, Texas.
(U.S. Army photo)

TYSON’S CORNER, Virginia – Money is tight while national security threats keep evolving, so the Defense Department plans to be careful about what robots, droids and drones it can buy in the future.

That was the overall message from Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps leaders over three days this month at the Unmanned Systems 2014 Program Review, a government robotics conference hosted by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

Even though they expect funds for robots and drones to be limited, they say demand will grow for unmanned vehicles – especially ones that can get into small or unsafe spaces like tunnels or denied airspace — to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information for troops in the field.

All of the services are looking for unmanned systems that share common controllers and other hardware/software. And they want them interoperable so troops on the ground, in the air or at sea – no matter which service – will be able to communicate with all unmanned systems and coordinate their activities.

So here’s a look at some of the capabilities the armed services are looking for.

The Defense Department’s Joint Staff is developing a Joint Concept for Robotic and Autonomous Systems, expected in the summer of 2018, according to Army Col. Charles Bowery of the Joint Staff Robotic and Autonomous Systems Team (JRAST). He said the concept report targets the 2025-2030 time frame and will reflect improved ways for “developing, deploying and acquiring those technologies.” Chartered in 2014, the JRAST seeks to synchronize Robotic and Autonomous Systems development, acquisition, and employment across the Defense Department.


The Army is not buying any new UAS in the near future but it isn’t getting rid of any either. Army plans call for pairing the MQ- 1 Gray Eagle and smaller RQ-7 Shadow UAS with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to perform the scouting mission once performed by the OH-58 Kiowa manned scout helicopter, which is being retired.

“All of my portfolios are essentially looking at what is the amount of financing or money that is available to meet the requirements,” said Army Major General Robert Dyess, director of Force Development in the financial management (G-8) section of the Army Staff.

On ground vehicles, he told conference attendees, the Amy had just completed joint testing of the Autonomous Mobility Applique System which showed the ability to “essentially, I believe, turn any vehicle in the motor pool – at the commander’s assessment – into a vehicle that has either a semi-autonomous or autonomous type of capability.”


The Navy has only one program of record for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), the Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS), a family of robotic systems ranging from a 35-pound robot that can be carried in a backpack to a vehicle-towed unit weighing about 750 pounds.

Tom Dee, deputy assistant of the Navy for Expeditionary Program and Logistics Management, said the Navy is looking for UGVs that not only replace humans in dangerous situations, but can be force enablers.

“We want to make them team mates with our squads, to be able to assist us, not just to replace us doing things that we’re concerned about doing” like bomb disposal, Dee said. .” He added that AEODRS would be built using open architecture and modular design that would allow the Navy to “plug and play” new developments in sensors, cameras or robotic arms onto a common platform.

Daniel Sternlicht, head of the Sensing Sciences Division at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, said the Navy is looking to improve sensor capabilities as it transitions from a time and manpower intensive method for detecting, identifying and neutralizing explosive mines in the shallows near shore to an unmanned, sensor-driven one.

Among the capabilities sought in this eventual shift is the ability to neutralize a target mine in a single pass or sortie by an unmanned underwater vehicle rather than multiple passes by manned aircraft or surface vessels, said Sternlicht.

The Office of Naval Research is developing a compact modular sensor package that can be mounted on an MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and detect and classify targets in real time. The Compact Modular Sensor Suite could also speed up the process by eliminating the need for post-mission analysis by a manned aircraft.

November 14, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 31, 2014)

Autumn at Sea.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt

It’s Halloween, but instead of some scary ghosts or skeletons we thought we’d show you a beautiful pumpkin-colored sky at sea.

This Navy photo shows the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN77) as it transits the Gulf Aden. The Bush Carrier Strike Group is heading back to Naval Station Norfolk after supporting maritime security operations and carrier-based airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against the ultra radical Islamist extremist group known alternately as the Islamic State, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Pentagon Calls it Operation Inherent Resolve.

October 31, 2014 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Russia Moving on Arctic Bases; Swedes Hunt Russian Sub; U.S. Focusing on Climate Change

Russian Bases.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shogiu says Russia will complete the deployment of military units Russian territory along the Arctic circle by the end of 2014, according to RIA-Novosti.

“We have been very active in the Arctic region lately, and this year we will have a large number of units deployed along the Arctic Circle, from Murmansk to Chukotka,” Shoigu announced at a meeting Tuesday (October 21) with top military brass in Moscow.

Over the past few years, Russia has been pressing ahead with efforts aimed at the development of its Arctic territories, including hydrocarbon production and development of the Northern Sea Route, which is growing importance as Arctic sea ice recedes as an alternative to traditional routes from Europe to Asia.

Attention has been focused on the Arctic by several nations including the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark since the region is believed to have large reserves of oil and gas.

On October 20, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a NATO presence in the Arctic isn’t necessary, because, he said, there are no problems in the region requiring the alliance’s participation.

Norway, the NATO member closest to Russia in the Arctic, announced two years ago that it wants more soldiers in the north. “Our ambition is a clear NATO footprint in the north,” said State Secretary Roger Ingebrigtsen of Norway’s Defense Ministry, according to the Barents Observer via Alaska Dispatch News

*** *** ***

Russian Sub?

Meanwhile, Swedish naval forces have been scouring their territorial waters since last week for what they think may be a Russian submarine.

Since October 17, surface vessels and helicopters 200 service personnel were mobilized along with helicopters, minesweepers and an anti-submarine corvette fitted with stealth-type anti-radar masking, according to The Guardian.

The operation began late on Friday following what Sweden’s armed forces said was a reliable tipoff about something in the Stockholm archipelago, which has 30,000 islands and rocky outcrops around which a submarine could lurk. The officer leading the operation declined to give more details, saying only that there had been no armed contact, according to the British newspaper.

Although officially neutral and not a NATO member, Sweden is no stranger to Russian provocations. Besides the possible submarine, Russian planes have violated Swedish and Finnish airspace in recent months. Against the backdrop of Russian military intervention in Ukraine, Sweden, like other countries, is growing increasingly nervous about what Moscow might do next, according to The Economist.

*** *** ***

Papp-Arctic Council

Admiral Robert Papp Jr., the special U.S. representative to the Arctic, says climate change will be a main priority for the U.S. when it takes over chairmanship of the Arctic Council next year.

During one of his first speeches as the nation’s first Arctic envoy, Papp said the U.S. will be “more active and more forward leaning” when it comes to addressing the impact of climate change in the region, according to The Hill.

“It is imperative to address the effects of climate change before it’s too late,” Papp said during a September 30 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

If it weren’t for the “warming of the Arctic,” said Papp, the former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard,  no one would be up there exploring, shipping cargo or drilling for oil and gas, which is why the council will need to set more “actionable items and goals.” The U.S. is slated to take over chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Canada next year.

Defense Dept. photo

Defense Dept. photo


ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Arctic. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”








October 23, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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