Frigates are the oldest ships you will read about in this packet. They formed the backbone of the early American Navy.
These wooden warships sailed quickly across the seas to protect merchant shipping, capture enemy cargo, and fight battles with enemy ships.
A typical American frigate was a square-rigged, three-masted ship. Frigates were built with oak, pine, and elm wood. A frigate had many levels, or decks, that were used for different reasons.
- The open upper deck, called the spar deck, carried short-barreled guns called carronades used at close range.
- The gun deck, the next one down, was lined with heavy guns on each side of the ship.
- Below that was the berthing deck where the ship's crew slept in hammocks and ate their meals. The orlop was a small storage deck that doubled as the ship's hospital during battle.
- All supplies were stowed in the hold, the lowest deck on any ship.
The oldest American frigate is USS Constitution, which you may visit in Boston, Massachusetts or at their web site: www.ussconstitution.navy.mil.