Friday, January 19, 2018

John Dennis, Master Shipbuilder-- Part 2: Emigrated to Canada

After his father's death in 1782, John and his young family emigrated to Canada.  Eventually they settled in New Brunswick until fire destroyed his property there and they moved for a short time to Alexandria, Virginia.

The following year, John Dennis and family returned to Upper Canada, largely at the invitation of Lt. Governor John Grave Simcoe, who wanted him to build gunboats for the Provincial Marine (Navy).

Dennis set up a shipyard just west of York (now Toronto) at the Humber River where he built ships for the government.  One of them was the government schooner Toronto, which was called "one of the handsomest vessels, of her size, that ever swam upon the Ontario" by the Upper Canada Gazette in 1799.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

John Dennis, Master Shipbuilder-- Part 1: Took British Side in the Revolution

From the Geni. site

John Dennis  Born c. 1758 in Philadelphia.  Died August 25, 1832, Toronto York, Ontario, Canada.

Born to Henry Dennis, a prosperous Quaker in Philadelphia.  During the American Revolution, the Dennis family sided with the British.  When the British evacuated Philadelphia in 1778, the family fled to New York City where both Henry and John found work refitting and re-equipping British ships.

The younger John Dennis wanted to see more action than working on ships and joined the British Army and saw action at St. Lucia in December 1778.  While there, he contracted fever which left him incapable of doing any more hard service and he returned to New York City and shipbuilding.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

HMS St. Lawrence-- Part 7: British Control of Lake Ontario

The naval arms race on Lake Ontario involved British Commodore James Yeo versus his American counterpart, Isaac Chauncey.

As state before, gathering materials for construction was extremely hard.  Three smaller ships of  at Montreal were scavenged for parts.  And then, once the ship was built, there came another problem finding seasoned sailors.

The British lost the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813 and with that, control of that lake.  So, the British concentrated all their efforts on controlling Lake Ontario.

With the launch of the HMS St. Lawrence they had complete control of the lake.  The Americans, after the day it was launched, never challenged the ship.

The St. Lawrence never saw action.  But had the war continued into 1815, it probably would have.  The Americans were rapidly building two of their own ships of the line at Sackets Harbor.  The USS New Orleans was to mount 130 guns, but its construction was halted with the coming of peace.

The keel of the USS Chippewa (Chippawa) was laid, but also not completed with the coming of peace.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

HMS St. Lawrence-- Part 6: The Proverbial "Big Fish In a Small Pond"

It took master shipbuilder John Dennis just ten months to build the St. Lawrence.  It took the British Navy six years to build the HMS Victory.

The sole purpose of the St. Lawrence's construction was to assert the Crown's naval superiority on Lake Ontario.  Both the United States and Britain realized that whoever controlled the water would control the war.

As such, both sides "embarked on a naval arms race."  This took place both on Lake Ontario (and Lake Champlain) as well as Lake Erie.

Building warships is difficult at best, but doing it in areas considered to be frontier and isolated was a much bigger task.

This was true especially of the St. Lawrence.

And, the Americans were also building frigates and even had two ships of the line under construction as well.


HMS St. Lawrence-- Part 5: "The Mightiest Ship To Never Sail the Seas"

From Military History Now.

This site refers to the HMS St. Lawrence as "The Mightiest Ship To Never Sail the Seas."   That would refer to the fact that the ship never sailed in an ocean.

The St. Lawrence was a ship of the line, the most powerful warship during the Age of Sail.  She was five feet longer than Horatio Nelson's more famous HMS Victory and two feet wider.  It mounted 112 cannons, eight more than the Victory.

It was built, launched and served its whole short career on a fresh water lake, Lake Ontario.

It was the proverbial "Big Fish in a Small Pond."


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

See the Wreck of the HMS St. Lawrence

There is a good video of a dive on the shipwreck of the ship on You Tube.  Type in HMS St. Lawrence Exploration.

It is a little over three minutes long and you can clearly see the ship's keel.


HMS St. Lawrence-- Part 4: A Short-Lived Career

The arrival of the HMS St. Lawrence on Lake Ontario gave the British unchallenged domination of Lake Ontario.

But, it was short-lived as the war soon ended and the ship no longer needed.

After the war, the St. Lawrence was decommissioned.  In 1832, the hull was sold to Robert Drummond for 25 pounds.  Between May and August, the hull was towed out to Navy Bay.  It later formed part of the pier attached to Morton's Brewery in Kingston and was  used as storage for cordwood and other materials.

It later sank in 30 feet of water where its remains have since rotted away but the keel and ribs remain and are a favorite dive site.

The wreck of the St. Lawrence, along with those of the Princess Charlotte and Prince Regent were designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2015.


Monday, January 8, 2018

HMS St. Lawrence-- Part 3: The Power on Lake Ontario

The St. Lawrence cost the British government 500,000 pounds.  It immediately became Commodore Sir Francis Lucas Yeo's flagship.This ship gave the British Navy unmatched domination of Lake Ontario.  The day of the launch, the American fleet under Isaac Chauncey showed up off Kingston and offered battle, hoping to engage the St. Lawrence before the crew was properly trained.

But, the British declined.

The St. Lawrence put to sea October 19 and was struck by lightning with a mast damaged and several deaths.  Later, there was an American attempt to destroy the St. Lawrence with a "torpedo" in Kingston Harbor.

Nothing came of it.


HMS St. Lawrence-- Part 2: Just Ten Months to Build

The St. Lawrence was built by master shipbuilder John Dennis and nearly 200 shipwrights in just ten months.  It was not designed for ocean voyages so a considerable amount of space was saved in its construction.

The keel was laid 12 April 1814.  The 74-guns ships of the line HMS Ajax, Centaur and Warsprite were essentially stripped of all things in Montreal and the material brought with much difficulty to Kingston for the St. Lawrence.

Original plans for the ship had it being launched in June, put off to July, then August.  It was finally launched 10 September 1814.

--A fast Build.  --Brock-Perry

Sunday, January 7, 2018

HMS St. Lawrence-- Part 1: "Monster" Ship of the Lake

From Wikipedia.

Since I am on the subject of shipwrecks off Kingston, Ontario, on Lake Ontario, I will now turn attention to the "Monster" ship of the lake, the HMS St. Lawrence.

Stats:  2,304 tons, 184'2" length, 52'7" beam.  Crew of 700.  Mounted 112 guns:  thirty-two 32-pdrs. carronade, thirty-six 24-pdr. long guns, twenty-eight 32-pdr. long guns.

It was the only Royal Navy ship of the line ever launched on the Great Lakes.  Its arrival ended all naval action on Lake Ontario as the American fleet dared not challenge it.  Britain had won the naval arms race.

As powerful as it was, the St. Lawrence never went into battle.  It was laid up after the war and finally sold in 1832 to private interests and later sunk and is now a popular dive site.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Prince Regent, Canadian Provincial Marine

From Wikipedia.

This was another ship with the same name as the HMS Prince Regent, but served with the Canadian Provincial Marine.

16-gun ship launched 1812 for the Canadian Provincial Marine.  Re-rigged as a schooner and renamed Beresford (or General Beresford) in 1813.

Re-rigged as a brig and renamed HMS Netley in 1814 when the Royal Navy took over the Provincial Marine.  It was the Admiralty's policy not to name a vessel after living people.

In 1848, it was renamed the HMS Niagara while serving as a base ship. Later broken up.


HMS Prince Regent-- Part 3: More Action, Then Peace

Yeo again used his superiority in naval strength to sail to Niagara with his fleet.  On the way, the Prince Regent was hit by lightning.  With the approach of the British fleet, the U.S. fleet withdrew to Sackets Harbor.

November 1, the Prince Regent escorted a convoy with reinforcements for Fort George.

It was renamed the Kingston after the war.  In 1817, its crew was paid off and the ship put in ordinary as per the Rush-Bagot Treaty.  It was ordered sold in 1832, but no buyers were found and the ship was sunk in Deadman's Bay in the 1830s.

In 2015, the HMS Prince Regent, HMS St. Lawrence and HMS Princess Charlotte were designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.


Friday, January 5, 2018

HMS Prince Regent-- Part 2: Flagship of British Lake Erie Fleet

It became the flagship of Commodore Sir James Lucas Yeo and gave him the edge in the naval race so he immediately used it.  The British squadron departed Kingston 4 May 1814 to attack Fort Oswego, New York, which involved a landing operation.  The fort and town of Oswego were captured May 6.

On May 19, they set up a blockade of the US Navy at Sackets Harbor, New York.  After the defeat at Sandy Creek, they abandoned the blockade June 5 and returned to Kingston.

With the launch of the first rate ship-of-the-line HMS St. Lawrence, Yeo transferred his flag to that ship and once again he had naval superiority


HMS Prince Regent-- Part 1: First Great Lakes Frigate

From Wikipedia.

56-gun, fourth rate frigate   155 feet long with a 43.1-foot bean, crew of 280.

In 1814, the lower deck had twenty-eight 24-pdrs.  Upper deck had four 68-pdr carronades and twenty-four 32-pdr. carronades.

It was the first frigate built on inland waters (Great Lakes).  This gave the British a temporary superiority over the Americans during the Naval Race of 1814.

Its construction was approved in September 1813 by the British commander-in-chief in North America, Sir George Provost.  Launched 14 April 1814.


Kingston's Fort Henry-- Part 2: Involved in the Royal George Fight

From Wikipedia.

At the beginning of the War of 1812, local militia erected a blockhouse and battery at Point Henry, Kingston.  On November 10, 1812, the battery was involved in turning away several American warships attacking the Provincial Marine sloop Royal George as it was taking refuge in Kingston Harbor.

Because of this, it became evident that a stronger fortification was needed and the militia and regular army began a more permanent fortification in 1813.  It was one of several defensive structures built in and around Kingston during the war.

In 1820, Fort Henry consisted of earth and stone ramparts, demi-bastions, redans, ditches, magazines, barracks, signal towers and support batteries.

It was determined that a much strong fortification was needed.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Kingston's Fort Henry-- Part 1: Two Forts On the Site

Earlier this week, I mentioned Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario.

From the Fort Henry Site.

The original Fort Henry was built during the War of 1812 and bears no resemblance to the structure standing there at present.  During the war,  the British anticipated an American attack on Point Henry due to its proximity to the Royal Navy Dockyards (at the site of the present-day Royal Military College) and the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

Between 1832-1837 a second fort was built on the site and this is what you see today.

It was abandoned by the British Army in 1870 and then garrisoned by Canadian troops until 1891.  After that, it fell into disrepair until 1936 when it was restored as a living history museum, opening August 1, 1938.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Kingston Shipwrecks Marked With Plaques-- Part 2

All three warships were built in the Kingston Dock Yard.

By the 1850s all of the ships had disappeared below the water and their identities forgotten other than the HMS St. Lawrence.

In the 1930s, artifacts from the two Deadman's Bay ships were retrieved and are still on display at Fort Henry.  Early in the 1950s archaeologists and divers identified the remains of the ships.

The ceremony began with the march of a re-enactment group, the Canadian Fencibles.


Shipwrecks To Be Marked With Plaques in Kingston, Ontario-- Part 1

From the October 19, 2017, Kingston, Ontario Whig by Ian MacAlpine.

Three Kingston underwater treasures will be marked in a ceremony to be held Wednesday at Fort Henry Discovery Centre.  Officials from Parks Canada and Historic Board of Canada announced that three War of 1812 shipwrecks at the bottom of Lake Ontario will be marked with plaques.

The HMS Prince Regent and HMS Princess Charlotte were decommissioned after the war and purposely sunk in Deadman's Bay just north of Fort Henry.  (They were sunk for preservation.)  The HMS St. Lawrence, the largest and most heavily armed warship in freshwater is off the Tell Centre.  After the war it served as a dock for the Mortroub Brewery and Distillery into the late 1800s.


Family Works to Save Cabin Built By War of 1812 Veteran

From the October 21, 2017, Go Dan (Virginia)  "Family works to save Gretna log cabin built in 1819 by John Crane.

Gretna, Pittsylvania County, Virginia

A family is making the effort to restore and preserve the cabin built by Cornelius McHaney George and his wife Anne Dove George.

He was a War of 1812 veteran and the captain of a company of Virginia militia who marched to Michigan to stop the British from capturing Detroit but the war ended before they arrived.

They raised 13 children in the cabin which has not been occupied for decades.  Some of the children fought for the Confederacy.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Plattsburgh Takes Step Toward War Memorial

From the October 22, 2017, Plattsburgh (NY) Press Republican  "Town of Plattsburgh takes step toward war memorial" Bob Bennett.

The town council voted to sign an agreement with the American Legion to establish a public recreation area and war memorial on Route 9 in the hamlet of Cliff Heaven near the Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

This is a part of the town's Local Waterfront Revitalization program.

The Legion will erect three war memorials:  Battle of Valcour during the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Vietnam War.