War of Independence (detail of Boston massacre print)

British Seamen

In 1775, 15,000 men sailed aboard a royal fleet of 340 ships. By war’s end, more than 100,000 men were at sea on 617 ships worldwide. Crews aboard British warships were often impressed into service against their will. They endured conditions that ranged from squalid to terrifying. In broadside engagements, they faced thundering cannon, sharpshooters firing from the rigging, and boarding parties wielding axes, cutlasses, pistols, pikes, and scattershot weapons.


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