History, Department of


Date of this Version



Beehler, Scott J. "Close on the Wind: An Environmental Military History Examining Wind's Influence on the Early United States Navy." M.A. thesis, University of Nebraska, 2014.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: History, Under the Supervision of Professor Lloyd Ambrosius. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Scott J. Beehler


Utilizing General Carl von Clausewitz’s theory of friction in combat, Close on the Wind examines wind’s historical influence on early United States naval warfare, specifically small scale engagements fought during the Quasi War, First Barbary War, and the War of 1812. To accomplish this, the thesis first engages in a scientific discussion of wind, concentrating on how it occurs and what forces dictate its velocity and direction. The examination goes on to also present the types of wind that period sailing vessels encountered, including global, regional, and local patterns, as well as how wind influenced the practice of sailing and what period naval captains understood about its origins. Employing this scientific understanding, Close on a Wind next investigates wind’s impact on a collection of American naval engagements, applying von Clausewitz’s concept of friction as a guide. The first examples focus on wind as a force of friction that through changes in direction and intensity altered battle dynamics leading to delays, hindering movement, allowing escapes, and even inflicting damage upon vessels. The second group of examples center on the tactics that American naval captains utilized to combat wind friction in battle, concentrating particularly on the weather gage and how captains attempted to exploit or negate its advantage. Together, these clashes all testify to the power and unpredictability that wind brought to naval engagements revealing its importance in shaping the early United States Navy’s battle tactics.

Adviser: Lloyd Ambrosius