Like my preceding volume, Greek and Roman Naval Warfare, this is a study of fleet naval tactics in the days of rowing ships, but during the Christian era. Incidentally, it gives a brief sketch of the political and economic conditions underlying military and naval efforts. Also, as in the earlier work, I have attempted to reconstruct some of the earlier types of men-of-war, for which direct and positive evidence is lacking. Naturally, the worth of such attempts will be better evaluated by, and have more appeal to, seamen and naval architects who know the sea and the traditions and principles of naval architecture, than they will to historical students whose knowledge of past maritime affairs is chiefly confined to casual mention of them by writers who were concerned more with government and sociology. As for the general objectives of naval warfare in all ages, I refer to the first chapter of my previous volume on Greek and Roman Naval Warfare.
Yet it seems worth while to repeat here what was said in the earlier volume, that the duties of navies are primarily concerned with traffic on the seas. They protect the commerce of their own nation; they escort their armies over seas and supply them there; and they check or stop hostile commerce. The enemy may be subdued either by bloodshed or by reduction of supplies and the chief task of navies is to strike at the enemy's property in transit on the water. A great fleet battle is only a means to the end of enabling the navy to control maritime commerce in its own favor. A commander in chief who does not expect a victory to aid the movements of his own merchantmen would have little reason to fight a general action.
About the author
William Ledyard Rodgers (February 4, 1860-May 7, 1944) was a vice admiral of the United States Navy. His career included service in the Spanish-American War and World War I, and a tour as President of the Naval War College. Rodgers was also a noted historian on military and naval topics, particularly relating to ancient naval warfare.
He was the third generation in a well-known family of able naval officers. He was the son of Rear Admiral John Rodgers (1812-1882), who fought in the Second Seminole War (1839-1842) and the American Civil War (1861-1865), and the grandson of Commodore John Rodgers (1772-1838), who fought in the War of 1812 (1812-1814). Rodgers?'?s own son, John Rodgers, born in 1881, also served as a U.S. Navy officer and was an early aviator, reaching the rank of commander before dying in a plane crash in 1926.