Busk’s Navies of the World – 1859 – Southern Europe

Hans Busk wrote a book entitled “Navies of the World” in 1859. This book was reprinted twice, in the 1950’s and as a facsimile of the original in 1974. It provides possibly one of the best discussions and descriptions of early modern navies, covering as it does the navies in transition from the wooden wall, the ship of the line with a number of broadside cannons to the turreted vessels of the 20th Century. Angus McLellan has provided a summary of the contents of the book and this summary is presented across a number of parts. Note that the Downloads Section of Thomo’s Hole has ALL the parts combined into two PDF files.

This second part then deals with the Navies of Southern Europe circa 1859.

Hans Busk’s “Navies of the World” was based on the world naval situation in 1859, or on those parts of it that Busk thought would help his case for an even bigger Royal Navy, official support for the volunteer movement and an enlarged Militia. The first two did happen, but it’s unlikely that Busk deserves blame or credit for this turn of events.

If there are any obvious errors, or things that don’t make any sense, please don’t hesitate to ask or to let me know and I’ll pass your comments and questions on to Angus.


Busk lists the Spanish Navy as follows.

Sailing ships

2 ships of the line, each 86 guns
4 frigates, 32-42 guns
4 corvettes 16-30 guns
9 brigs 10-20 guns
1 brigantine 6 guns
10 schooners 1 gun
5 luggers 1 gun
10 transports 2-4 guns

This was a total of 45 sailing ships.


8 screw steamers

3 frigates 37-50 guns 360 horsepower
5 schooners 2-8 guns 130 horsepower

29 paddle steamers

3 frigates 16 guns 500 horsepower
8 brigs 6 guns 350 horsepower
18 schooners 2-5 guns 100-300 horsepower

This gave a total of 37 steamers.

Altogether, this gave a total of 82 vessels, carrying 887 guns, and with engines of the aggregate power of 8160 horses.

Besides the above, there are building:

    2 steam frigates, 37 guns, 360 horsepower
    2 schooners, 200 horse power
    4 ditto, 80 horse power

There is lots of information on Isabella II’s navy on the web and in print. The following sites might be helpful: –

http://www.armada15001900.net/ (English translation available)


You can download a PDF history of the Spanish Navy (in Spanish) here:


Lledo-Calabuig’s “Buques de Vapor de la Armada Espanola“, which I haven’t seen, looks to cover Spanish steam ships from the earliest to the 1880s.

Spanish ships were built mainly using imported engines and guns apparently followed British and French designs. Spanish pounds were almost identical to English ones but after 1859 guns were designated by their calibre in centimetres. Starting in 1858, the Spanish began to produce rifled muzzle loading guns using the French studded shell system and later the Armstrong polygroove system. Guns were cast in iron at Trubia and in bronze at Seville. The Spanish navy had major shipyards at Ferrol, Cartagena and La Carraca (Cadiz) as well as the important shipyard at Havana and smaller facilities in the Philippines. The Spanish merchant marine was probably around half a million tons.

There may have been four screw frigates in early 1859 rather than three. Princesa de Asturias converted to steam while under construction. She was of 3570 tons, 500 NHP and 50 guns. The Berenguela, Blanca and Petronila were 3150 tons, 360 NHP and 37 guns and were about 70m long. The armament of the smaller ships was probably 20 British 8-inch shell guns of 65cwt, 14 30- or 32-prs, 2 24-pr boat howitzers and a French 80-pr shell gun on a pivot mount. The frigates under construction were the Lealtad and Concepcion, the first of 3575 tons, 41 guns and 500 NHP, the second of 3210 tons, 37 guns and 600 NHP. The two large “schooners” under construction were the small corvettes Narvaez and Consuelo, the first of seven unrelated ships of about 700 tons, 54m long and 3 guns, a mix of 8-inch and 30-/32-prs, all on pivots, speed was about 8 knots.

The 16 gun paddle frigates were the Isabel II, Francisco de Asis and Isabel la Catolica. These displaced 2880 tons and were 66m long. They had 500 NHP engines and a best speed of about 12 knots. They were armed with 16 8-inch shell guns, 14 broadside and 2 pivots. The next most important paddle steamers were the Vasco Nunez de Balboa and Hernan Cortes. These displaced 1220 tons, were 56m long, had 350 NHP engines, a best speed of about 9 knots and were armed with 2 8-inch and 4 30-/32-prs. Many of the other paddle steamers were merchantmen that had been bought in for service as despatch boats, armed transports and the like.

Large sailing ships included two quite new but old-fashioned line of battle ships of 86 guns, the Reina Dona Isabel II and the Rey Don Francisco de Asis. These displaced 3500 tons, were 86m long and were armed with 34 36-pr guns on the gun deck, 34 24-prs on the main deck and 16 18-prs on the upper deck. The four frigates were probably the Esperanza of 42 guns, the Cortes and Isabel II of 40 guns and the Perla of 34 guns. The four serviceable corvettes were the Ferrolana and the razee Villa de Bilbao of 30 guns and the Colon, built in Malta, and Mazarredo of 16 guns.

States of Italy

The Navy of the Two Sicilies [i.e. Naples] (June, 1858)

Sailing vessels

    2 Ships of the line, 1 of 90, 1 of 80 guns
    5 Frigates, 2 of 64, 1 of 48 and 2 of 41 guns
    2 Corvettes, 1 of 22 guns, 1 mortar vessel of 14 guns
    5 Brigantines of 20 guns
    2 Schooners of 14 guns

Total 16 ships with 598 guns.


    2 Frigates of 450 NHP, total 900 NHP and 24 guns
    12 Frigates of 300 NHP, total 3600 NHP and 72 guns
    4 Corvettes of 240 NHP, total 960 NHP and 24 guns
    4 Smaller vessels of 200 NHP, total 800 NHP and 16 guns
    1 Ditto of 120 NHP and 4 guns
    6 ditto of 40-50 NHP, total 270 NHP and 24 guns
    3 Transports
    10 Mortar vessels, total 10 guns (mortars)
    10 Gun boats, each 2 guns, total 20 guns
    30 Gun boats with Paixhans shell guns, total 40 guns

Total 98 vessels, aggregate NHP 6650 and 832 guns.

The Neapolitan Navy had set up a first class infrastructure to support their fleet, and built some fine ships, but Naples had very serious governmental problems and collapsed very quickly when the Sardinians and Garibaldi moved to incorporate Naples into the new Kingdom of Italy.

The Sardinian Navy

    6 Steam frigates
    4 Sailing frigates
    3 Steam corvettes
    4 Sailing corvettes
    3 Steam avisos or despatch vessels
    4 Brigantines
    3 Steam transports
    1 Tug

Altogether, 29 vessels with 436 guns.

The Italian equivalent of the DANFS is fairly complete on the web. For ships bigger than gunboats, all of the steam ships of the Sardinian and Sicilian Navies and many of the sailing ships are listed so it seems a waste of time to repeat the information.


Austrian Navy

1 Screw ship of the line 800 NHP, 91 guns, 900 men
3 Screw frigates 300 NHP each, total 93 guns, 1125 men
4 Sailing frigates total 171 guns, 1618 men
2 Screw corvettes 230 NHP each, total 44 guns, 520 men
5 Sailing corvettes total 82 guns, 757 men
5 Brigs total 72 guns, 527 men
3 Steamers 300-350 NHP ea., tot. 18 guns, 423 men
10 Smaller steamers 40-180 NHP ea., total 35 guns, 608 men
4 Brigantines (transports) total 26 guns, 220 men
12 Gun sloops total 40 guns, 92 men
12 Pinnaces total 36 guns, 324 men
4 Row gun boats total 8 guns, 312 men
11 Row yawls total 11 guns, 160 men
2 Pontoons total 20 guns, 330 men
1 Prahm – 1 Mortar boat total 12 guns, 120 men
43 Pirogues for lagoons total 43 guns, 90 men
7 Transports total 430 men

Total 135 ships, 852 guns, and 8707 men.

All of the steamers survived to be listed in Conway’s and most or all were still in service in 1866. Not all of the sailing ships are listed.

The Ottoman Empire

    7 Line of battle ships
    6 Frigates
    4 Corvettes
    7 Brigs
    2 Mail packets
    22 Transports

49 ships in all

Four line of battle ships had been converted to steam: Kosovo, 110 guns, was launched 1826 and converted in 1858; Peik-i-Zafer, 90 guns, was built in 1850 and converted in 1857; and Fetiye and Sadiye, 94 guns, were converted on the stocks and completed in 1856 or 1857. In 1853, the Ottomans had six armed paddle steamers, including at least two frigates, one of which was taken by the Russians during the Crimean War. The Selimiye, possibly a sister ship of Fetiye, was completed as a large screw frigate and is listed in Conway’s. “The Ottoman Steam Navy” presumably has much more information on steamers. In general the Ottomans shared the same problems as the Russians – little industry, endemic graft and weak government – only more so, but they did have a large pool of seafarers to recruit sailors from. British officers often served with the Ottoman Navy.

The Portuguese and Greek navies were mainly sailing navies, both small. The Greek War of Independence had seen the first use of steamers to fight other ships, but the Greeks had only one 6-gun paddle corvette in 1859. The Portuguese had five very small steamers with an average of 50 men on each. The Greek merchant marine was made up of 260,000 tons of sailing ships.

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