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Steam warship classification

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Title: Steam warship classification  
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Subject: List of steam frigates of the United States Navy, Sailing frigate classification, Steamships
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Steam warship classification

The Steam warship classification system used during the 19th century was a classification scheme for the comparison of steam warships, including steam frigates and steam sloops. The system originally classified steam warships according to the thrown weight of their broadsides, then rated them by tonnage, using separate standards for ironclad and non-ironclad ships, with allowances for sailing ships still in commission. [1] [2] It was used in the United States and United Kingdom, officially and unofficially. [3] The United States Navy adopted the system by 1875. [4]


First system (Civil War-at least 1870) [1]

(Weights given are representative) [5]

Type Shot weight (lbs)
First Rate 2,606 [5]
Second Rate 1,220 [5]
Third Rate 434 [5]
Fourth Rate 210 / 294 [5]

Second system (by 1875) [4]

Type Tonnage (non-ironclad) Tonnage (ironclad)
First Rate
(also sailing ships-of-the-line) [2]
4000 + [2] 8000 + [2]
Second Rate
(also sailing frigates) [2]
2000 - 4000 [2] 2000 - 8000 [2]
Third Rate
(also sailing sloops of war) [2]
900 - 2000 [2] 1200 - 2000 [2]
Fourth Rate
(also dispatch vessels and store ships) [2]
0 - 800 [2] 0 - 800 [2]


  1. ^ a b  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m A Naval Encyclopædia: Comprising A Dictionary of Nautical Words and Phrases; Biographical Notices, and Records of Naval Officers; Special Articles of Naval Art and Science. L. R. Hamersly & co. 1881. 
  3. ^  
  4. ^ a b Annual Report of the Chief of the Bureau of Steam-Engineering 1875. United States Government Printing Office. 1876. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Message From the President of the United States To the Two Houses of Congress At the Commencement of the Second Session of the Thirty-Eighth Congress; With the Reports of the Heads of Departments and Selections From Accompanying Documents. United States Government Printing Office. 1864. 
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