Let me preface this question. As an amateur historian, I make a great hat rack. Actually, I’m just a guy who gets interested in a subject, reads a lot of stuff about it, and then gets sidetracked into something else. I could probably research this for myself, but I figured I’d just ask the smartest people on the web.
I’ve been interested lately in the Georgian-era Royal Navy and its influences on the fledgling U.S. Navy of the 1890’s.
My focus was mostly on ship design (6th rate, frigate types) and crewing methods, and I haven’t gotten into tactics or strategy much.
I keep seeing references in passing to something called the “Fighting Instructions.” From context, this seems to be some sort of tactical manual, as opposed to “sailing instructions,” which appear to have been navigational data.
Following the Fighting Instructions also appears to have been mandatory, and officers were evidently disciplined for failing to do so.
This leads me to my multi-part question:
[ul]a) How detailed were these things? General suggestions, play-by-play required tactics, or something in between?
b) Was it fleet-level ship-of-the-wall type stuff only, or did it get right down to single ship actions between frigates and such?
c) What sort of “discipline” could officers expect to face for failure to follow the Instructions to the letter? Court martial?
d) Granted that Age of Sail combat didn’t allow for much fluidity in tactics, these things must have been updated from time to time. What was the procedure for revision, and how would it come about if officers were required to follow the instructions and not try anything new?
e) I can’t believe that what Nelson did at Trafalgar would have been sanctioned in this context. If he had lived, would he have been subject to discipline?
f) Do they still exist? If not, when were they withdrawn?[/ul]
This is just for my own amusement, so it’s not terribly urgent, but any help would be appreciated.