Row galley

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Watercolor of United States ships at the battle of Valcour Island, depicting several row galleys

A row galley was a term used by the early United States Navy for an armed watercraft that used oars rather than sail as a means of propulsion . During the age of sail row galleys had the advantage of propulsion while ships of sail might be stopped or running at slow speed because of lack of wind for their sails. While called galleys, they were based on different hull type than the Mediterranean galley, the term being used mainly due to the employment of oars.[1]

Row galleys were often fitted with sails in addition to the oars.[2]

During the American Revolution, row galleys, such as the USS Spitfire and the Washington, with crews of up to 60 oarsmen, were employed successfully in battle against larger warships.[citation needed]

During the American Civil War, Union Navy and Confederate Navy ships operating in rivers and other interior waterways, would send row galleys to surprise and capture enemy ships anchored for the night.[citation needed]


  1. ^ All Canada in the Hands of the British: General Jeffery Amherst and the 1760, Douglas R. Cubbison, page 106
  2. ^ Winfield, Rif. British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1714-1792. 2007. p. 334