Smaller American Ships Outmaneuver British Warships

The American privateers were wildly successful, and they had a profound impact on the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Their ingenuity and courage resulted in an astounding capture rate. The colonial government commissioned as privateers 449 vessels, and these ships captured a little over 1,300 vessels, and sank almost 200 more. The British were shocked by the prowess exhibited by American seamen. For years Great Britain had reigned supreme on the seas, and a band of profiteering rebels was not only destroying their trade, but humiliating their Royal Navy. In the early stages of the war, the continental congress put bounties on the heads of English servicemen, and this gave privateers additional sources of income. If they came across a vessel not laden with supplies, but rather troops, privateers profited nonetheless. This made troop transports a suitable prize for privateers who could often outmaneuver the larger military ships. A common tactic was to load their cannons with grape shot and aim high for the British sails. If a privateer could disable the man-o-war’s maneuvering capability, he would gain a great advantage. Positioning himself perpendicular to the British stern, the British would be forced to surrender, being unable to return fire or quickly reposition to do so. Britain’s loss of maritime and naval supremacy had a tremendous impact on the war.