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A ship of the line, line-of-battle ship or lineship was a type of naval warship man-of-war constructed from the 17th century through the mid-19th century, and mounting 50-130 cannons. They had two, three, or the rare four gundecks, not counting forcastle and quarterdeck. Ships of the Line were usually square rigged.
Ships of the Line fought in the naval tactic known as the line-of-battle (hence their name), in which one or two columns of opposing warships would sail at each other each firing broadsides in succession at the enemy ship leading the enemy line. The reason for this was the slow reload of muzzle-loading cannons. With the line-of-battle tactic, more shot is fired at the lead enemy ship than if the ships remained stationary, reloading over periods of 2-5 minutes. Since these engagements were almost invariably won by the heaviest ships carrying the most powerful guns, the natural state of progression was to build the largest, most powerful sailing vessels at the time. If a vessel in the line was to sink or blow up, the line breaks.
Ship of the Line ratings
Ships of the Line were classified into four rates. First rates, like the HMS Dauntless and the HMS Endeavour, had 100 or more cannons, with 3-4 gundecks. Second rates carried 90-98 cannons, spread over three gundecks. Third rates carried 64-80 cannons, over two gundecks. Third rates were very common ships of the line, especially the heavy, yet agile 74 gunner. Fourth rates carried 50-60 cannons, and could only be considered ships of the line if they had a minimum of two gundecks. If they had less than two gundecks, they would be considered frigates.
Notable Ships of the line
- HMS Dauntless
- HMS Endeavour
- HMS Success
- HMS Diamond
- HMS Phoenix
- HMS Invincible
- HMS Newcastle
- HMS Victory
- HMS Belette (aka Manowar)
- HMS Belette (third rate, French version)
- HMS Goliath
- La Fleur de la Mort
- Grand Barnacle