Sloop Of War – The Complete Guide

Key Point: A Sloop of War was a small, single-masted warship that carried between 10 and 28 guns. It was used for escort duty, reconnaissance, and raiding.

In this article, we will be discussing the speedy warship used by the Royal Navy in the Age of Sail. Of course, we will be talking about the Sloop of War. You will see what the Sloop of War was, and how it was used. And exactly what made it so effective that the Royal Navy kept it around for years.

So, let’s start this article slowly, with an introduction. What is a Sloop of War?

A Sloop of War was a small, single-masted warship used primarily by the British Royal Navy during the Age of Sail. It was designed to be fast and agile, with a shallow draft that allowed it to operate in shallow coastal waters. They usually carried between 10 and 18 guns, while some larger sloops could carry up to 28 guns. They were used for a variety of tasks. Including escort duty, reconnaissance, and raiding enemy shipping.

That was the short introduction to the topic of this article. Now, let’s go into more detail and discover the history and uses of the Sloop of War.

The Origin Of The Sloop Of War

The origins of the Sloop of War can be traced back to the late 17th century. This is when the Royal Navy began to experiment with smaller, more agile warships that could be used for reconnaissance, raiding, and escort duties.

These early sloops were often armed with just a small number of guns and carried a crew of just 60 to 80 men. Over time, the design of the Sloop of War evolved to include a greater number of guns and a larger crew complement. This made it a more effective warship considering it packed a bigger punch and was still fast enough to run away.

Due to its effectiveness by the mid-18th century, the Sloop of War had become a common sight in naval fleets around the world.

Now, it’s time we take a look at its dimensions.

How Big Were They?

Below you can see the average size of a Sloop of War:

Length: 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 meters), Width: 20 to 25 feet (6 to 8 meters)

Ship’s draft: 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.5 meters) – such a low draft allowed it to operate in shallow coastal waters.

Crew Size

The average crew size of a Sloop of War was around 120 to 140 men, although some larger sloops could carry up to 200 men.

Number Of Guns Onboard

Sloop of War typically carried between 10 to 18 guns. While some larger sloops could carry up to 28 guns. These guns would be a mix of long guns, which had a longer range and were used for attacking enemy ships, and carronades, which had a shorter range and were used for close-range combat.

They also carried Swivel guns as an anti-boarding weapon.

How Was a Sloop Of War Used?

Due to its small size and shallow draft, a Sloop of War was ideally suited for missions such as:

  • coastal and convoy protection duties,
  • raiding enemy shipping
  • conducting reconnaissance

When used in combat, a Sloop of War would typically engage enemy ships at close range. Relying on its speed and maneuverability to outmaneuver larger, more heavily armed opponents.

The cannons I mentioned in the previous segment allowed it to deliver a powerful broadside at close range. In some cases, Sloops of War were also used to carry out amphibious operations, such as raids on enemy shore installations or the transport of troops and supplies to shore.

Despite its smaller size and a relatively light armament, the Sloop of War was a highly effective warship that played an important role in naval warfare during the Age of Sail.

Why Did It Fall Out Of Use?

This one is easy. The Sloop of War fell out of use because technology moved on. In the 19th century technology move away from sail-powered ships and towards steam-powered ships.

This meant ships could carry much more weight in the form of bigger and better guns and iron armor. Which means small and quick wooden ships just couldn’t compete. What good is your speed and maneuverability if a ship could take you out with its guns before you even come close? Hence why the Sloop of War fell out of use.

The Sloop of Wars fall from grace closely mimics why the Schooner also stopped being used.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two. And I will see you at the next one. I suggest taking a look at my article on the differences between a fluyt and a galleon, right here.

Take care!

Source: Lavery, Brian. The Ship of the Line: The Development of the Battlefleet