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USS Niagara

Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

A brig is type of sailing ship that possesses two square-rigged masts. Used predominently in the the 18th and 19th centuries, brigs often were fast, maneuverable vessels and served in both naval and merchant marine roles. Armed brigs were popular in many navies due to their ability to mount a heavy broadside relative to their overall size, while requiring fewer men than a large frigate. Though potent warships, the small size of brigs limited the amount of provisions that could be carried thus limiting their range.

Armed brigs served in a variety of roles including convoy escort, maritime patrol, and commerce raiding. A versatile warship, the Royal Navy built large numbers of brigs during the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars. The Cruizer-class, mounting 18 guns, consisted of 110 vessels making it single-most built British class of warship of the conflict. Brigs fell from popular use in the mid-19th century with the advent of steam power.

USS Niagara
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