||Mark Lardas, Tony Bryan
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The modern image of the sailing-era frigate is of a 44-gun frigate with a main battery of 24-pound guns. In nautical fiction authors love pitting the hero against a 44-gun French or American frigate. Fiction is only part of the reason. The last surviving American frigate of that era, USS Constitution, belongs lo this class. The most famous Royal Navy frigate of the Napoleonic Era, HMS Indefatigable, was one of Britain's rare 24-pound frigates. Yet 200 years ago the 44-gun frigate was a freak. The world's navies built only a handful of these monsters. By 1802 the 24-pound frigate was considered a failed experiment. The Royal Navy decided that the smaller 38-gun frigate was a handier choice. The American Navy built 13 frigates between 1794 and 1801. but only three 24-pound frigates. No others were built or planned. Ten years later these three American 44s redefined the frigate. Their victories led to a new generation of large frigates. Navies now built and maintained frigates of a si/e formerly associated with ships-of-the-lint, and large frigates dominated the last three decades of the era of the sailing warship.