What is going on in this painting of "anti-ship spikes"(?)

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Squidly-Diddly, Nov 1, 2020.

  1. Squidly-Diddly
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    can anyone explain why they are angled as they are?

    looks like it might work against cavalry charge, if the horses were about 150' tall and coming from the sea. If it was just to keep ships from docking why the tall spikes? To mess with the ship's rigging?

  2. Barry
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    Barry Senior Member

    The cheval de frise (plural: chevaux de frise [ʃə.vo də fʁiz], "Frisian horses") was an anti-cavalry measure consisting of a portable frame (sometimes just a simple log) covered with many projecting long iron or wooden spikes or spears.[1]

    The cheval de frise was adopted in New York and Pennsylvania during the American Revolutionary War as a defensive measure installed on rivers to prevent upriver movement by enemy ships.

    Hessian map showing the placement of chevaux de frise in the Delaware River in 1777.
    During the American Revolutionary War, Robert Erskine designed an anti-ship version of the cheval-de-frise to prevent British warships from proceeding up the Hudson River. A cheval de frise was placed between Fort Washington at northern Manhattan and Fort Lee in New Jersey in 1776. The following year construction began on another one to the north of West Point at Pollepel Island, but it was overshadowed by the completion of the Hudson River Chain across the Hudson in 1778, which was used through 1782.

    Similar devices planned by Ben Franklin and designed by Robert Smith[10] were used in the Delaware River near Philadelphia, between Fort Mifflin and Fort Mercer.[11] Two other lines of chevaux-de-frise were also placed across the Delaware River at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania and Fort Billingsport, New Jersey as a first line of defense for Philadelphia against the British naval forces.[12]

    A cheval de frise was retrieved from the Delaware River in Philadelphia on November 13, 2007, in excellent condition, after more than two centuries in the river.[13] In November 2012, a 29-foot (9 m) spike from a cheval-de-frise was recovered from Delaware off Bristol Township; it was also believed to be from the Revolutionary era installation at Philadelphia and freed up by Hurricane Sandy earlier that fall.[14]

    An interesting excerpt from Wiki, but as it appears that the fellow is standing on firm ground, I wonder how effective that these spikes were unless the purpose was to keep the boat from docking and unloading people. Maybe the
    artist took a little license here on the interpretation
    Tiny Turnip likes this.
  3. Tiny Turnip
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    Tiny Turnip Senior Member

    The painting is the siege of La Rochelle, by Henri-Paul Motte, painted in 1881. The siege itself took place in 1627-1628, so there may well be some artistic licence, and interpretation going on, although it is often a surprise how accurate and detailed such painted documents can be. The defences were built by the French Catholics as part of a complete siege ring around the Hugenot stronghold of La Rochelle. The sea defences were designed to keep the English allies from supplying the Hugenots. After the collapse of the initial sea defence, the second construction was totally successful. The English got their butts kicked, and the Hugenots surrendered to the Catholics in 1628. It is interesting to note that the French Catholics rented Protestant ships from the Protestant city of Amsterdam. I suspect at that time, there may well have been tensions building between England and the Dutch, but my history is *very poor, and its a complicated time!
  4. Tiny Turnip
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    Tiny Turnip Senior Member

    The references to chevaux de frise (thanks Barry!) seem to be a bit later - later half of the 18th century, and in the states. They are also deployed under water, which would seem likely to be more effective!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
  5. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    These historical accounts are most pleasing and enlightening. Thank you both.
  6. Squidly-Diddly
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    I think I figured it out. The painting shows the moment the spike-boxes are being flooded and deployed. The water has just covered the box part and they are sinking. That explains why a Cardinal and other clergy are there, blessing or whatever the event. Also explains the group of row boats in the back ground and the one guy in the row boat closer. The groups of boats had towed them into place, and single boat guy had just pulled the plugs.

  7. Rumars
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    Rumars Senior Member

    The painting depicts Cardinal Richelieu, commander-in-chief of the royal french army, standing on the 1400m long seawall that blocked the entrance channel to La Rochelle in september 1628 during the battle with the english relieve fleet. The chevaux de frise are an artistic license to illustrate the defensive nature of the works while still allowing the attacking fleet to be seen. As far as we know the actual seawall had conventional parapets on both sides and horizontal spikes just under the surface.
    You can see a contemporary depiction of the works here: Clément II Métezeau - Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clément_II_Métezeau
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