Following on from our discussion yesterday about a shipwreck discovered deep beneath the Baltic Sea, and comparing its size to Columbus' three ships that he used to cross the Atlantic, I was taken with the story of USS Providence in the Revolutionary War. She was a sloop-of-war, approximately 65 feet in length, with a crew of 54 and carrying 12 four-pounder cannon (just about the smallest naval cannon of their day). Since each cannon usually required a crew of six or more gunners, a crew that small meant that she could fire only one broadside (i.e. the guns on a single side of the ship) at a time, but not both, because the gun crews would have to move from one side to the other to man the cannons there.
To begin with, let's mention that a replica was launched in 1976, and used for sail training. The replica was severely damaged when it was toppled from its drydock stands during a winter storm. The video below shows its restoration, and return to the sea. (I hate the cheesy soundtrack, but all I can do is suggest watching it with the sound turned off. Why people can't just let the footage speak for itself, without adding muzak, I just don't know!)
Bear in mind that the replica is shown without cannon on deck. In reality, the presence of those cannon would have taken up more than half the deck space, making it awkward and potentially dangerous (particularly in a storm) to move around the ship.
Tiny as she is, that little ship had a pretty impressive war record. She captured, or assisted in the capture of, no less than two dozen other vessels, and was for a time the first combat command of the legendary John Paul Jones, then a Lieutenant. I can't help looking at images of the ship and shaking my head in disbelief. More than 50 men shared that tiny hull with a dozen cannon, supplies for several weeks, spare sails and other ship's stores, etc. Despite her tiny size and gross overcrowding, she did an immense amount of damage, all while avoiding the much more powerful warships of the Royal Navy. It's mind-boggling to us in this day and age, when the smallest seagoing warship in the US Navy is the Cyclone class patrol craft, 178 feet in length (almost three times longer than the Providence), crewed by 28 people.
I guess our maritime seagoing ancestors were a lot tougher men than most of us today!