Category Archives: Project:1812

War of 1812 project related posts.

Project:1812 – Captain James Lawrence

While I have of late focused more on British personalities in the War of 1812 I will be making an effort to balance it out. James Lawrence is a tragic tale of the war. Born 1 October 1781 in Burlington, New Jersey. The young James was, for a majority of his youth raised in nearby Woodbury and grew up for the most part without his parents. His mother passed away while he was an infant and his father, a Loyalist to the British Crown fled to Upper Canada, leaving James behind to be raised by his half-sister. James originally planned to become a lawyer, but he ended up at the age of 17 as a midshipman in the United States Navy. He would see his first action during the Quasi-War with France aboard US Brig Ganges (26) as well as US Brig Adams (20) during his time in the American Caribean Squadron. Lawrence’s actions would earn him a promotion to Lieutenant in 1802 and transfer to US Schooner Enterprise (12) under Captain Stephen Decatur. The Enterprise would sail to join the Mediterranean Squadron and saw action during the American war against the Barbery Pirates. Lawrence would serve as the second-in-command during the mission to destroy the captured US Frigate Philidelphia (44) and would end up commanding the Enterprise during its actions against the Tripolitan Pirates. Lawerence would have his first encounter with the Royal Navy in 1805 that saw several members of his crew taken and pressed into the service of the British crown, an act that would stick with him for the remainder of his career.

Ironsides
The USS Constitution as it stands today was Lawrence’s ideal command.
Nikon D300 – AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm 1:2.8G

Lawerence would go on to command three more American naval ships before receiving command in 1810 of the US Sloop Hornet (20). When war broke out in 1812 with Great Britain Lawerence and the Hornet actively cruised against British ships both in the Royal Navy and merchant’s vessels. His service aboard the Hornet is best remembered for his action in February 1813 against HM Brig Peacock (18). The Royal Navy ship quickly succumbed to the American vessel and Lawrence left the action with a congressional gold medal and a sense of confidence should he meet another Royal Navy ship in open combat. Lawerence would receive a promotion to Captain; he immediately requested command of old Ironsides, theUS Frigate Constitution (52) still undergoing refitting in Boston harbour. His request fell on deaf ears at the Navy Department, and Lawrence received command of the ill-starred US Frigate Chesapeake (50).

Project:1812 - Oliver Hazard Perry
Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry would take Captain Lawrence’s final command and use it as his own battle flag
Pentax 645 – SMC Pentax A 645 35mm 1:3.5 – Kodak Tri-X Pan (320TXP) @ ASA-320 – HC-110 Dil. B 5:30 @ 20C

Upon his arrival on the Chesapeake, Lawrence found that he was commanding a mostly green crew. Many veteran seamen left the ship when it returned to Boston as their enlistments were up and those who remained kept complaining about the prize money owed to them. Lawrence took action immediately paying out the money out of his pocket and pulled several experienced crewmen off the Constitution. Not worrying about the British squadron off the east coast he put to sea on the first bright day and into infamy. He would give rousing speeches to the crew and hoist three American flags from the ship’s rigging as well as his battle flag, a white flag with blue text reading, Free Trade, and Sailor’s Rights. An appropriate phrase for the Chesapeake. On the 1st of June 1813, Lawrence met his match. He did not fear the gunners of the Royal Navy, but Captain Philip Broke and the HM Frigate Shannon (52) would quickly change his mind. Lawrence felt that the unassuming and sea-worn ship would make an easy target to bring up his crew’s morale and give them combat experience. It would but in all the wrong ways. The Shannon bested the Chesapeake in both a gunnery duel and in hand-to-hand combat, Lawrence would receive a mortal wound and while being carried to the surgeon gave one last order, for his men to not give up the ship! The Chesapeake’s, crew was in no state to save the ship. Lawrence would die on the cruise back to Halifax criticising the actions of the sailors and officers. One officer, Lieutenant Cox, would stand trial for his actions (the trial of Cox is discussed in detail in Robert Heinlein’s science-fiction novel Starship Troopers). For his actions during the battle, James Lawrence received full military honours as his body was laid to rest in Halifax with six Royal Navy Officers acting as pall bearers.

Project:1812 - The Capture of the Chesapeake
While Lawrence’s body was repatriated to the United States after the war, several of his crew remain in Halifax today
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – FA-1027 (1+14) 5:00 @ 20C

James Lawrence is a unique figure among the American officers during the War of 1812. Lawrence suffered a humiliating defeat and yet is hailed as a hero still to this day. While he never actually received the Congressional Gold Medal for his capture of the Peacock was stuck despite his death. Lawerence would be inducted into the New York Society of the Cincinnati, posthumously of course. There are twenty places in the United States named for Captain Lawrence including an elementary school in his birthplace of Burlington, New Jersey. Five United States Navy ships would be named after Lawrence, the final ship, USS Lawrence (DDG-4) a Charles F Adams class Destroyer would be commissioned in 1960 by his great-great-granddaughter, Mrs. Fernie C. Hubbard; it would be sold for scrap in 1994. But the phrase “Don’t Give up the Ship” still resonates in the Navy today, being affixed as the motto of the USS Lake Erie (CCG-7) a Ticonderoga class cruiser still on active service.

Written with files from:
Gleaves, Albert. James Lawrence, Captain, United States Navy, Commander of the “Chesapeake,” New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904. Print.
Parton, James. “James Lawrence.” People’s Book of Biography; Or, Short Lives of the Most Interesting Persons of All Ages and Countries. Hartford, CT: A.S. Hale, 1869. N. pag. Print.
Web: www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2013/01/wall_of_heroes_capt_james_lawr.html

Project:1812 – Rear Admiral Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, 1st Baronet, KCB

The history of the Royal Navy is filled with legendary figures both real and imagined. Names like Nelson and Hornblower, Pellew and Aubrey. But there is one name that stands out in the annals of the War of 1812, and that is Philip Broke, or as he became known as Broke of the Shannon. While Broke was one of many captains that served in the blockade of the American coast, his actions turned the luck of the Royal Navy and boosted the flagging morale of the service. Born on 9 September 1776 at Broke Hall in Nacton, England. As the eldest of eleven children, he decided early on to join the Navy. But unlike his peers, who would learn on the job aboard ships, Broke enrolled in the Royal Naval Academy at Portsmouth. He would be commissioned as a midshipman in 1792 and was assigned to HM Sloop Bull Dog (18). During his service aboard the Bull Dog, he impressed the captain of the ship enough that when he (the captain) was reassigned to HM Schooner Eclair (12), Broke would come along to help form the officer corps aboard the new ship. Broke would be promoted to Lieutenant and serve aboard HM Frigate Southampton (32) as the ship’s third lieutenant. His first taste of battle would come at Cape Vincent in 1797 then along the coast of Ireland and in the North Sea. By 1800 he was senior enough to be promoted to Commander and given command of HM Sloop Shark (16) it would not last long, peace with France and a promotion to post-captain would have Broke ashore and on half-pay. The peace did not last long, and Broke soon found himself in command of HM Frigate Druid (32) by 1804. The ship was too large to run and too small to fight. Despite this Broke busied himself dealing with French Privateers.

Project:1812 - The Capture of the Chesapeake
The Bell of the Shannon on display in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Fomapan 200 @ ASA-200 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 8:30 @ 20C

After two years commanding the Druid, Broke would assume command of the newly commissioned HM Frigate Shannon (52). The ship fresh from the stocks at Frindsburby was finally what the captain was looking for, a ship from which he could exersize his passion for naval gunnery. The Royal Navy at the time put more emphasis on seamanship than gunnery following the Battle of Trafalgar. Broke was among the minority who vauled both seamanship and gunnery his beliefs became clearly apparant and by the time the Shannon sailed for Halifax, Broke was drilling the crew on both the heavy guns and ship operations. The men of the Shannon were one of the more efficient fighting units in the Royal Navy, and Broke would go out of his way to keep them together. Broke would officially join the North American Squadron on 24 September 1811 and would begin to harras French and then American ships off the eastern seaboard of the United States. Broke’s efforts did not go to waste, but the captain did not want simple American privateers, he wanted one of the heavy frigates, the same ones that had on many occasions bested his fellow captains.

Project:1812 - The Capture of the Chesapeake
While Broke would go on to be buried in his home country, many of his crew remain still today in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – FA-1027 (1+14) 5:00 @ 20C

When the Shannon sailed from Halifax on 21 March 1813, Broke was spoiling for a fight, and he determined that if the Americans did not come out on their own, he would have to provoke the matter. With the month of May coming to a close, the Shannon was running low on supplies, so Broke sent a challenge to Boston for single combat, ship-to-ship to Captain James Lawrence aboard US Frigate Chesapeake (50). A challenge that never reached Lawrence as the messenger arrived too late only to see the American Frigate sailing out of Boston Harbor with flags flying. The two captains did meet on 1 June 1813 where the months of training saw the Shannon outfight and outgun her American opponent. But the action would prove deadly for Broke who survived the engagement but suffered a major head wound.

As the Chesapeake appears now ready for sea, I request you will do me the favour to meet the Shannon with her, ship to ship, to try the fortune of our respective flags. The Shannon mounts twenty-four guns upon her broadside and one light boat-gun; 18 pounders upon her maindeck, and 32-pounder carronades upon her quarterdeck and forecastle; and is manned with a complement of 300 men and boys, beside thirty seamen, boys, and passengers, who were taken out of recaptured vessels lately. I entreat you, sir, not to imagine that I am urged by mere personal vanity to the wish of meeting the Chesapeake, or that I depend only upon your personal ambition for your acceding to this invitation. We have both noble motives. You will feel it as a compliment if I say that the result of our meeting may be the most grateful service I can render to my country; and I doubt not that you, equally confident of success, will feel convinced that it is only by repeated triumphs in even combats that your little navy can now hope to console your country for the loss of that trade it can no longer protect. Favour me with a speedy reply. We are short of provisions and water, and cannot stay long here.

Broke and the Shannon would return in triumph, Broke hailed as a hero, as his victory resonated across both North America and through England. He would earn the name Broke of the Shannon as the Common Court of London would award him with a plate and cup as prizes, as well as the Freedom of the City of London, as the Court at St. James would make him a Baronet. Broke would recover enough to command the Shannon on her return voyage home. Further awards would come to him including the Naval Gold Medal, one of only eight awarded for single ship actions. While his head wound would preclude him from commanding again in his career, he would continue to serve the Royal Navy as a gunnery expert and would receive an appointment to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in January 1815. He would receive his final promotion to Rear Admiral of the Red in 1830. He would finally attempt to relieve the pain from his wound in 1840, but his body could not take the strain and at the age of 64 he would pass away. He would be buried at St. Martin’s Church near his family home of Broke Hall. But even today the name of Broke is far from forgotten, historical fiction author, Patrick O’Brien would bring Broke to life in two of his novels, The Fortunes of War and The Surgeon’s Mate where Broke was depicted as a cousin of O’Brien’s creation, Captain Jack Aubrey.

Written with Files From:
Brighton, J. G., and Philip Bowes Vere Broke. Admiral Sir P.B.V. Broke a Memoir. London: S. Low, Son, and Marston, 1866. Print.
Pullen, H. F. The Shannon and the Chesapeake. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970. Print.
Lossing, Benson John. The Pictorial Field-book of the War of 1812 Volume 2. Gretna, LA: Pelican Pub., 2003. Print.
Web: www.biographi.ca/en/bio/broke_philip_bowes_vere_7E.html
Web: ageofsail.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/rear-admiral-sir-philip-bowes-vere-broke/

Project:1812 – The Capture of the Chesapeake

When it comes to photographing sites connected with the naval actions of the war, it can be complicated. Most of the actions take place out on open water, and many don’t have much to photograph especially in the way of ships as many are long gone. Only one ship from the era exists in its original form while another is a rebuild of the historic ship. But if you know where to look there is plenty of things to photograph when it comes to the capture of the Chesapeake. By the summer of 1813, the spirits of the Royal Navy on the North American station was sinking as were their ships. They had lost all of their last major actions off the coast to the US Navy. But one man, Captain Philip Broke aimed to change the luck of his mighty Royal Navy. And he would at a fateful meeting on the 1st of June, 1813.

Project:1812 - The Capture of the Chesapeake
A typical heavy naval gun of the day, on display outside the Naval Museum of Halifax.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – FA-1027 (1+14) 5:00 @ 20C

The US Frigate Chesapeake (50) was not exactly a favored ship in the American Navy and many sailors and officers in the service considered her unlucky. The Chesapeake, of course, is the same ship that was at the center of the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair in 1807 that nearly lead to war and was a critical factor in the American declaration of war in 1812. The frigate’s cruise in the spring of 1813 had met with some success it left her captain, Samuel Evans in a bad health, to preserve himself and the sight in his one remaining good eye, he requested relief of his command. When she sailed into Boston Harbor, the matter of the crew also came to a head. For many the arrival in Boston marked the end of their enlistments and the ones who were left were disgruntled over the matter of their share of the prize money. Even Captain James Lawrence, freshly promoted off his successful capture and destruction of the HM Brig Peacock (18). Lawrence was none too keen on taking command of the Chesapeake hoping instead for the famous US Frigate Constitution (52). But the letter from the Secretary of the Navy was not a request but an order. Lawrence’s first order was to pay out the prize money to the crew; the second was to bring over able-bodied seamen from the Constitution to bring his numbers up.

Project:1812 - USS Constitution
The US Frigate Constitution, the command that Lawerence actually wanted.
Rolleiflex 2.8F – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Kodak TMax 100 – Blazinal 1+25 6:00 @ 20C

The HM Frigate Shannon (52) was a different ship entirely. The crew had been working together as a unit since before the start of the war. Her captain, Philip Broke, had gone to great lengths in ensuring that his crew remains intact even going as far as burning prize vessels. Broke prided himself on the fine art of naval gunnery. Using his funds, he equipped the Shannon’s guns with sights and the use of powder and ammunition for live gunnery practice, gun crews who hit their targets would be rewarded. The practice of live gun practice was largely abandoned by the Royal Navy following the Battle of Trafalgar, but the number of ship-to-ship actions on the North American station caused the Admiralty in London to reinstate the practice on the North American station. Broke also would present the crew with hypothetical situations to the crew and ask how they would go about defending the ship as well as plenty of practice with small arms. The one disadvantage that Broke had was that his ship had been on patrol for fifty-six days.

Project:1812 - The Capture of the Chesapeake
The final resting place of the dead from the Shannon. Old Royal Navy Burying Grounds, CFB Halifax
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – FA-1027 (1+14) 5:00 @ 20C

For Broke it wasn’t just his honor at stake but that of the whole Royal Navy. He sat just off Boston Harbor waiting for a chance to engage an American ship. The US Frigate President (55) had managed to slip past in the fog making it out to open water. The Constitution would be laid up for months. Only the Chesapeake remained, and Broke was of the mind that Lawrence would remain in the safety of the harbor until the Shannon’s supplies had run out. So Broke decided to force an action, penning a challenge directly to Lawrence to a ship-to-ship duel, under any condition that Lawrence wished, sending a paroled prisoner to deliver the challenge directly to Captain Lawrence, a challenge that never reached the captain. Lawrence had no intention of waiting out the Royal Navy. To inspire the crew on 1 June 1813 under full sail and flying three American flags as well as Lawrence’s personal battle flag, a white ensign emblazoned with the phrase “Free Trade and Sailor’s Rights” a matter both important to Lawrence and the Chesapeake. All the messenger could do is watch as the frigate sailed out.

Project:1812 - The Capture of the Chesapeake
The final resting place of the crew of the Chesapeake
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – FA-1027 (1+14) 5:00 @ 20C

The two ships were almost of the equal match in size, guns, and men. So when the two ships met, thirty-seven kilometers off the Boston light between Cape Anne and Cape Cod the two ships spotted each other. A sailor aboard the Shannon was taken by the three flags flying from the American frigate he requested to Broke if they (as in the Shannon) could have three ensigns as well. Broke just replied that they had always been an unassuming ship. And to the Americans, the Shannon would be an easy target as the long patrol had left the ship weather worn and shabby. The two ships took little time bearing down on the other and Lawrence, despite having the weather in his favor, refused to rake fire across the bow of the Shannon. Broke spoke to his gun crews; he didn’t want to destroy the enemy frigate; he wanted it as a prize. Don’t throw away a shot; he warned, their aim wasn’t to de-mast the ship but to kill the crew. It was the Shannon who scored the first hit sending iron though the forward gun decks were shattering both ship and crew. As the Chesapeake was moving faster, the British gun crews worked in deadly fashion firing shot-after-shot as the enemy sailed past. Despite the havoc being caused, Lawrence’s men responded in kind. While they suffered, as many American ships did, with poor powder, the underpowered shot would hit the water or bounce off the Shannon. But some hits were scored, taking out some of the enemy 12-pounders as well as damaging the rigging. Lawrence, realizing that if he kept up the speed, he would soon pass the British ship and ordered a short turn into the wind, a maneuver known as a pilot’s luff, to cut his speed. As the Chesapeake started her turn, her quarter deck was exposed to fire from the Shannon’s guns mounted on her quarter deck. Officer and crew fell to deadly fire; the helmsman perished as the ship’s wheel was shot away. In response, the Chesapeake, shot away the ship’s bell as well as destroying the bow chasers in the forecastle along with three crewmen. But with no way to maneuver the Chesapeake found herself trapped against the Shannon.

Project:1812 - The Capture of the Chesapeake
The headstone of two crew of the Shannon in St. Paul’s Church, Halifax.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – FA-1027 (1+14) 5:00 @ 20C

Both captains made the call for boarding parties. Lawrence was the only officer remaining above decks and the bugler he had requested to sound the call for boarding parties had hidden himself away out of fear. Soon even Lawrence fell, shot by a British sharp-shooter. Coming from below decks to answer the call, Lieutenant Cox found the captain wounded. As the wounded captain went below to the ship’s surgeon his order to the crew was “Don’t Give Up the Ship!” By comparison, the British were well organized, Broke taking the lead charged across to the enemy ship with the first party. The main decks by this point were deserted, most of the officers and the crew had taken refuge below deck. A pair of lieutenants took up the charge and poured out onto the main deck of the ship, nearly forcing the British back. It was the timely arrival of fresh men from the Shannon that saw the tide turn. Upon the tops, British and American sharpshooters had been exchanging sniper fire both with each other and the men below. A royal marine took a small party across the rigging and stormed the American tops killing the men there. A timely gust of wind separated the two ships, leaving Broke a small party of fifty sailors and Marines. While the numbers were not in his favor, most the Americans had given up. The only source of resistance was from the forecastle. Three sailors would jump Broke, the captain killing one before the second knocked him to the deck, a blow from the third opened up Broke’s head. Seeing their captain fall the remaining British stormed the forecastle, bayonetting the sailor before he could make the killing blow. With most of the Americans trapped below, a single shot echoed out killing a Marine. As the angered British began to fire indiscriminately into the trapped Sailors, a quick thinking officer prevented the massacre by threating death on the next man who fired a shot. The action had, according to the official report, taken a short fifteen minutes resulting in seventy-one dead, and one hundred and fifty-five wounded between the two ships. The Shannon quickly organized a prize crew, locking up the Americans in their restrants and keeping the rest at bay by pointing a pair of 18-pound cannon loaded with grapeshot at them through holes cut through the deck. The two ships sailed into Halifax harbor with much fanfare on the 6th of June, 1813.

Project:1812 - The Capture of the Chesapeake
The Original Bell of the Shannon on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, on loan from the Naval Museum of Halifax
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Fomapan 200 @ ASA-200 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 8:30 @ 20C

Captain James Lawrence would pass away on the 4th of June, 1813, complaining the whole way over the fact that the crew had surrendered. He was laid to rest with full honors at HM Dockyard Halifax (his body would later be moved to the Trinity Church Cemetary in New York City). The dead from both crews were laid to rest at the dockyard as well. The American prisoners were transferred to Dartmoor Prison in Portsmouth, England aboard the repaired HM Frigate Chesapeake (50). Captain Philip Broke would be named a hero and carried the title “Broke of the Shannon” but he would never command again, his head wound plaguing him the rest of his days. Lieutenant Provo Wallis would command the Shannon on her journey back to Halifax and earn a promotion to Commander and would eventually become Admiral of the Fleet and the longest serving member of the Royal Navy a record still held today. The Chesapeake despite the change in flag would retain her bad luck and was sold for timber in 1819; the Shannon would continue to serve until 1859 until she was broken up. Despite this, there is still plenty to see here in Canada from the Action.

Project:1812 - The Capture of the Chesapeake
The two lonely tombstones of both crews, enemies in life, neighbors in death look out over Halifax Harbor.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – FA-1027 (1+14) 5:00 @ 20C

The Shannon’s Bell and pieces from the Chesapeake were saved by the Royal Navy and ended up in the collection of the Naval Museum of Halifax and are currently on loan to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. A gun from each ship was also saved and now sit outside Province House in Halifax, Nova Scotia, although when I was there, they had been removed for restoration. The dead from both ships still lay in the old Royal Navy Burying Ground on Canadian Forces Base Halifax (Stadacona), if you ask nicely you may even be allowed to visit. The timbers from the Chesapeake were turned into a mill that still stands in Wickham, England. And the sister ship of the Shannon the HM Frigate Trincomalee (52) is restored as a museum ship in Hartlepool, England. The capture is also represented in two pieces of fiction, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers discussing the court martial of Lieutenant Cox and in Patrick O’Brien’s The Fortune of War, where Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are present on the Shannon during the action as Captain Aubrey is cousin to Captain Broke.

Provo Wallis
The epauletts of Provo Wallis, on display at the Naval Museum of Halifax.
Sony a6000 – Sony E PZ 16-50mm 1:3.5-5.6 OSS

Special Thanks to Richard Sanderson, Director of the Naval Museum of Halifax and the men and women of CFB Halifax for assistance in writing this piece and granting me permission to photograph on the base. As well as Melissa Bellefeuille for showing me the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Written with Files from:
Hickey, Donald R. Don’t Give up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2006. Print.
Pullen, H. F. The Shannon and the Chesapeake. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970. Print.
Lossing, Benson John. The Pictorial Field-book of the War of 1812 Volume 2. Gretna, LA: Pelican Pub., 2003. Print.
Web: www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng/Topic/24
Web: www.1812privateers.org/NAVAL/shannon.html
Web: museum.novascotia.ca/resources/nova-scotia-and-war-1812/hms-shannon-and-uss-chesapeake

Project:1812 – The March of the 104th

While many regiments served with distinction during the Anglo-American War of 1812 on both sides of the fighting, I would not be able to share with you the tales of every single one. As many have histories that stretch well before and after the war and some even, have units that carry on these traditions still today. There is, however, one unit that stands out in the history of the war and of Canada. The 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot served their king and country both in combat and how they arrived at the main theater of the war.

Project:1812 - The March of the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot
The Fredericton Barracks while not original to the 1812 era, they were the center point of Military operations in Fredricton until the end of the 19th century.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 6:00 @ 20C

Raised in 1808 as the New Brunswick Regiment of Fencible Infantry, while dressed as a British regular infantry in red coats with buff coloured collars and cuffs the New Brunswick Regiment would never have to see service outside their home colony. Like other Provincial units, they were designed to serve in defense of their home colony reinforcing any British regular unit that was stationed there. But the staff of the regiment saw that they men could be more and appealed, several times, to Horse Guards to have their unit made a part of the regular army. While their request was turned down several times, it was finally accepted in 1810. The unit was taken into the British line at the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot. As tensions rose between England and the United States the 104th was deployed to the most important points throughout New Brunswick as the colony shared a land boundary with Massatuchettes, today is known as the State of Maine. After the first year of war and when word was received that the American Army was massing at Sacketts Harbor in the spring of 1813, Governor General George Prevost appealed to John Sherbrooke, Governor of Nova Scotia to send reinforcements in the form of the 104th.

Project:1812 - The March of the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot
Grand Falls, sadly due to lack of rain, they weren’t too grand when I visited. Today they serve to power a hydroelectric station..
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 6:00 @ 20C

The winter of 1813 was a particularly nasty one; the St. Lawrence River was frozen over so the 104th would need to complete an overland march if they were to be in Upper Canada in time to be of use. Sherbrooke ordered that the headquarters, grenadier, light, and four line battalions make preparations to march. The grenadier and headquarters companies left the military complex at Fredericton, New Brunswick on the 16th of February, 1813. Each successive day a company would depart with the light company leaving last on the 21st of February. The conditions were nothing short of brutal, snowshoes were the order of the day while squads of men would take turns dragging toboggans with their gear, temperatures would reach lows of -31C. They would, according to one officer’s journal, present a most unmilitary like appearance and would often march in single-file to prevent them from sinking into the deep snow. At night they would dig out shelters in the snow, covering the tops with felled trees that offered some shelter from the weather.

Project:1812 - The March of the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot
A plaque related to the Temiscouta Portage and the 104th located by the rebuilt Fort Ingall which defended Canada during the Aroostook War of the 1830s.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 6:00 @ 20C

The journey would take the regiment past Grand Falls, which you can see still today in Grand Falls, new Brunswick and across the Temiscouta Portage, which today is part of the Trans-Canada highway through Cabano, Quebec. With frostbite affecting almost all the men, they would begin to arrive in Quebec City on the 15th of March 1813 having traveled over five hundred kilometers over the course of twenty-four days. The regiment would rest and resupply for ten days before heading out again for Kingston. The journals of the officers would describe the jubilation when they finally arrived at Kingston and saw the now thawed lake. From Kingston the regiment found itself spread out across Upper Canada by way of Lake Ontario. They would go on to serve at Sacketts Harbor, Lundy’s Lane, Beavers Dam, Fort Erie, and Cook’s Mills. The unit would continue to serve in defense of the Canadas following the end of the War of 1812 and applied to be sent overseas. With the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, a sense of peace settled across the world which had been at war for many decades. The 104th would be stood down on the 24th of May 1817.

Project:1812 - The March of the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot
A commemorative marker at Officer’s Square in downtown Fredericton, NB for the bicentennial of the march.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 6:00 @ 20C

Today the lineage of the 104th is carried on by the Royal New Brunswick Regiment, raised in 1869, and carries the battle honour of NIAGARA for the service of the 104th during the Anglo-American War of 1812. The route of the 104th is drivable today from Kingston to Fredericton will take you a good day’s drive along good highways at good speeds. I have Eamonn O’Keefe to thank for introducing me to the actual march through a video he produced for a contest and a Historica Dominica minute. You can watch his video below.


The Video created by Eamonn O’Keeffe related to the march of the 104th

Written with Files from:
Web: www.warof1812.ca/march.htm
Web: www.warof1812.ca/104th.htm
Collins, Gilbert. Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812. Toronto: Dundurn, 2006. Print.

Project:1812 – William McKay

Fur Trader, Loyalist, Indian Agent, and Officer. William McKay was born in the Mohawk Valley of New York State in 1772. The son of former Non-Commissioned Officer Donald McKay. His father had seen service during the French-Indian War and fought during the assault on Quebec City. Remaining loyal to the crown the family moved to Upper Canada’s St. Lawerence Valley during the American Revolution settling in what would become Glengarry County in Ontario. William and his older brother, Alexander, joined the North West Company in 1790. McKay would begin to trade throughout the northwest of British North America spending much of his time in the Mississippi River Valley. Serving the company for over ten years, he retired to Montreal in 1807 as one of their more prominent partners. In Montreal, he was admitted to the illustrious Beaver Club and married Eliza Davidson in 1808. They would go on to have two sons, with only one surviving infancy.

52:320TXP - Week 30 - The Last Blockhouse
The original 1781 LaColle Blockhouse in Quebec.
Modified Anniversary Speed Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Kodak Tri-X Pan (320TXP) – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 8:30 @ 20C

Despite his retirement, McKay answered the call, when the United States declared war on Britain and moved to invade the Canadas in 1812. McKay’s knowledge of the northwest terrain and peoples made him invaluable to Major General Sir Isaac Brock. McKay along with Robert Dickson became agents for the general and ferried messages from the Niagara Region and the colonial capital at York to the northern post at Fort St. Joseph near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. These early actions allowed the garrison to capture Mackinac Island at the beginning of the war. McKay would see his first combat in November 1812 at LaColle Mill. He was promoted to Captain and assigned to the 5th Select Embodied Militia of Lower Canada and dedicated himself to maintain the supply lines to the northwest specifically the British-allied Native tribes living there. His efforts saw him gain popularity among the natives and the fur traders living there. McKay would go on to command the Michigan Fencibles, a small provincial force raised from volunteers among the citizens of Mackinac Island.

Project:1812 - Fort Mackinac
One of several blockhouses that line the walls of Fort Mackinac
Rolleiflex 2.8F – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Kodak TMax 100 (100TMX) – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 10:00 @ 20C

In the summer of 1814, the Americans under the direction of Governor William Clark established a garrison at the small fur trading post of Praire du Chien. McKay, who had remained popular among the troops, local population, and native warriors, was giving a local promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel and assigned the task of taking the small community to maintain British control of the northwest fur trade. With an irregular force of 650 militia and native warriors, McKay forced the surrender of Fort Shelby taking it as his own in July of 1814 the post was renamed Fort McKay in his honour.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
A reconstruction of one of two blockhouses that stood at Fort Shelby/Fort McKay/Fort Crawford in Praire du Chien
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Photographer’s Formulary Developer 23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

McKay would be promoted the position of assistant superintendent for the Northwest in the British Indian Department (BID) and had the unfortunate task following the end of the War of counseling the local tribes that had remained allied to the British that they should seek friendly relation with the American government. McKay would continue to work out of the British outpost on Drumond Island as the regional superintendent for the BID from 1820 to 1828 and oversaw the creation of the reserve system in the region to provide land for the native tribes in the Northwest who wished to remain allies or rather wards of the British Crown. He would move back to Montreal in 1828 and take up the superintendent role for that region in the BID until his death in 1832. Today history barely remembers the efforts of William McKay, his efforts overshadowed by the larger, more public battles of the conflict. His efforts are non-the-less just as important in maintaining British control over the Northwest.

Written with Files from:
Berton, Pierre. Flames across the Border, 1813-1814. Markham, Ont.: Penguin, 1988. Print.
Web: www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mckay_william_6E.html

Project:1812 – Robert Dickson

One of the unsung heroes of the Anglo-American War of 1812, the burly red-haired Robert Dickson was born to a merchant father in Dumfries Scotland in 1765. After his father’s business had failed, Robert along with his two brothers travelled to Upper Canada to work for their uncle, Robert Hamilton. Hamilton was a wealthy gentleman in Upper Canada, and while the two brothers found success with Hamilton’s business the dull clerical work did not appeal to the adventurous Robert. Robert would find his element in the Northwest upon his posting to Mackinac Island. He expanded his trade network among the northern tribes in both Upper Canada and the Mississippi River. His travelled saw him marry the daughter of Sioux Chief Red Thunder in 1797. Robert and his wife Totowin would go on to have four children. Dickson would continue to trade through the early 19th century establishing his post on Lake Traverse in what is Minnesota. Among the native tribes, the Scotsman would earn the name Red Haired Man.

Project:1812 - Fort St. Joseph
Some of the remains of Fort St. Joseph as it stands today.
Rolleiflex 2.8F – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Kodak Tri-X 400 (400TX) – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 9:00 @ 20C

Upon the American declaration of war in 1812, Dickson’s allegiances and knowledge of the northern areas of Upper Canada and the natives who lived there made Dickson an ideal agent for Major General Sir Isaac Brock. Brock would employ Dickson along with other fur traders to ferry messages from his headquarters to Fort St. Joseph. But Dickson also recruited and secured native warriors for the general, ensuring their loyalty in the coming war. Dickson would command a large group of these warriors during the successful capture of Mackinac Island in 1812 and would fight alongside Brock and Tecumseh a few months later at the capture of Fort Detroit.

Project:1812 - Capture of Mackinac Island
The site of the British landing during 1812 that saw the capture of Mackinac Island.
Rolleiflex 2.8F – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Kodak TMax 100 (100TMX) – Kodak D-76 (1+1) 9:30 @ 20C

His actions saw an appointment to the British Indian Department in 1813. The trouble was that 1813 was not a good year for the native allies or the British. Dickson would serve at the successful captures of Fort Meigs and Fort Stephenson that same year and when Procter retreated from Amherstburg, Dickson would head north to attempt to regain and maintain the trust and allegiance of the northern tribes. He managed to hold on to some of the tribes by serving in the successful defence of Mackinac Island and the capture of the two US Schooners Tigress and Scorpion in 1814. During the winter of 1814 he was sent to support the British garrison at Prairie du Chien, this would cause an issue for the fur trader, accused of showing favouritism to the Sioux nation and usurping British military authority. While the case would go to court, Dickson would be cleared of all charges, granted the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and retired from the Indian Department with a full pension.

The Mighty Mississippi
The Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, Dickson spent much of his life on this river.
Intrepid – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 (Orange) – Kodak TMax 100 – FA-1027 (1+14) 9:30 @ 20C

The trouble was that Dickson had no desire to retire entirely. But the war had ruined his fur trade business. He did however still have his reputation. He would apply without success to the Indian Department’s vacant superintendent position at Amherstburg but would join up with Lord Selkirk and the Red River Colony. Dickson would try to supply the colony with beef and population, both without success after Lord Selkirk’s death. By 1818 he had returned to the Mississippi trading with Astor’s American Fur Company. He would continue to operate as an agent of Astor’s until his death on Drummond Island in 1823. Dickson like many fur traders are largely unknown in the greater story of the Anglo-American War of 1812, but they are no less important than the major players that history remembers. If it wasn’t for men like William McKay and Robert Dickson, the war might have gone differently for the British than what happened.

Written with files from:
Berton, Pierre. Flames across the Border, 1813-1814. Markham, Ont.: Penguin, 1988. Print.
Web: www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dickson_robert_6E.html

Project:1812 – Major-General Robert McDouall (CB)

Robert McDouall was born to a merchant father in March of 1774 in the town of Stranraer, Scotland. Educated at the Felsted School both his father and uncle hoped he would follow in the family trade as a merchant, placing young Robert at a business in London. Robert, however, was drawn to the military life much to his father’s dismay and with his reluctant approval purchased a commission as an ensign in the 49th (Hertfordshire) Regiment of Foot only to three days later purchase a lieutenant commission in the 8th (King’s) Regiment of foot in 1797. He served during the 1801 Egyptian Campaign against the army of France under Napoleon Bonaparte. His service earned him a promotion to Captain in 1804. He continued to fight France at Copenhagen in 1807 and the invasion of Martinique in 1809. During the action, McDouall met the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, General George Prevost. So when the 8th transferred to Quebec City in 1810, Prevost asked for McDouall to act as his aide-de-camp when war with America began in 1812.

Project:1812 - Fort Mackinac
One of Fort Mackinac’s blockhouses. The post was McDouall’s most notable command from 1814 to 1815.
Modified Anniversary Speed Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Efke PL25 – PMK Pyro (1+2+100) 7:30 @ 20C

During the first year of the war, the 8th Regiment of Foot remained in Quebec City. Following the Americans capture of the Niagara Penisula in the spring of 1813, McDouall accompanied General Prevost and his failed attack against the American naval post at Sacketts Harbor. McDouall went on to bring orders to General John Vincent at Burlington Heights and would go on to participate in the Battle of Stoney Creek, an action he would later claim to have suggested to General Vincent. For his efforts, he was granted a promotion to major and transferred to the Glengarry Light Infantry. The regiment was a locally raised provincial unit made up of mostly those of Scottish descent living in Upper Canada, and Prevost wanted officers of Scottish decent commanding the unit. McDouall would be sent back to London that summer with dispatches and be given a brevet (field) rank of Lieutenant-Colonel before returning to the Canadas later in 1813.

Project:1812 - The Battle of Stoney Creek
The Battle of Stoney Creek was McDouall’s first action in the War of 1812
Modified Anniversary Speed Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Ilford Ortho Copy Plus – PMK Pyro (1+2+100) 12:00 @ 20C

With the Americans in control of Lake Erie following the battle of Lake Erie, Prevost needed to create a new supply route to the far post on Mackinac Island. McDouall was selected to lead the expedition and carve a new road out of the wilderness in the winter and spring of 1814. McDouall’s force would bring Yonge Street from Lake Ontario out to Lake Simcoe, and up the Nottawasaga River to Georgen Bay. His connections to General Prevost would grant him command of the Mackinac Island post as well. This action allowed him to defend both the island post in the summer of 1814 from an American attempt to recapture it. He also authorized the capture of the fur trading post of Prarie Du Chien and two American schooners on Lake Huron ensuring British dominance in the Northwest for the remainder of the war.

Project:1812 - Battle of Mackinac Island
The Mackinanc battlefield (now a golf course) where McDouall turned back an American attempt to retake the island in 1814.
Modified Anniversary Speed Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 (Orange-22) – Efke PL25 – PMK Pyro (1+2+100) 7:30 @ 20C

McDouall was deeply concerned when word of the war’s end reached Mackinac Island; he felt that the British had been duped by their American counterparts when they were forced to return everything to how it was before the war began. While he continued to decry publicly the Treaty of Gent he oversaw the evacuation and restoration of Mackinac Island before taking up command of the small British post on nearby Drummond Island in 1815. He stayed for only a year before returning to his native Scotland and his hometown of Stranraer.

Project:1812 - Fort Holmes
The historic marker of Fort Holmes, originally constructed as Fort George on Mackinac Island’s high ground under orders from McDouall.
Rolleiflex 2.8F – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Kodak TMax 100 (100TMX) – Kodak D-76 (1+1) 9:30 @ 20C

For his actions, McDouall was invested as a Companion in the Order of Bath in 1817. He would receive a promotion to full Colonel then Major-General by 1841, but he never saw active service, effectively retired on half-pay. He focused his energies and finances with the support of the Free Church of Scotland, assisting both their colleges and libraries in Edinburgh and Toronto before his death in 1848. Despite playing a significant role in Upper Canada during the war, there is little to remember him through Ontario and Michigan. There is a historical plaque in the settlement of Glengarry Landing mentioning his actions of 1814, but the settlement took the name of his regiment rather than taking his name.

Glengarry Landing
Glengarry Landing near the Nottawasaga River along Highway 26 between Stayner and Barrie, Ontario
Intrepid – Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar-S 1:5.6/210 – Adox CHS 100 II – Blazinal (1+25) 5:00 @ 20C

Written with files from:
Web: www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcdouall_robert_7E.html

Project:1812 – Siege of Prairie du Chien

While one of the least known engagements during the War of 1812, the siege of Prarie du Chien, was part of the drama that happened during the entire span of the war and sealed British dominance in the northwest until the signing of the Treaty of Gent that ended the way. The battle was the only one fought on the soil of what would become the state of Wisconsin. Two hundred years ago the small fur trading post of Prarie du Chien was a part of the Illinois Territory. Founded by the French in the late 1600s, turned over to British control following the French-Indian War of the mid-1700s and became a part of the new United States of America until the Treaty of Paris in 1783. While officially the post and the small population of fewer than one hundred people were American citizens the post was British in all but name, and the population was mostly French.

The Mighty Mississippi
The Mississippi River as it stands today near the battlesite
Intrepid – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 (Orange) – Kodak TMax 100 – FA-1027 (1+14) 9:30 @ 20C

But the United States did see the value in the small settlement, but the start of the War of 1812 saw their energies focused elsewhere. But when William Clark (of Lewis & Clark Fame) became governor of the Missouri Territory in 1813 he started to see a problem with a very pro-British settlement to his north. Should the British decide to enforce their influence at Prarie du Chien there would be little to stop them from sailing south on the Mississippi and capturing St. Louis and gaining an even bigger foothold. Governor Clark became annoyed as the far-flung outpost received little support from Washington. Using his authority he spoke with two local leaders, Fredrick Yeizer and John Sullivan both captains in the local militia. Together they raised a volunteer force of 150 men on a sixty-day enlistment. The volunteer army gained strength by the arrival of 61 men of the 7th US Infantry under the command of Brevet Major Zachary Taylor (who would become President of the United States). Though destined for Fort Clark, Governor Clark presented his case, and Major Taylor agreed to head north to establish a garrison at Prarie du Chien. Three gunboats would provide transport north. Just as the expedition was to start, Taylor was recalled to Kentucky to attend a family member who was ill, in his place Lieutenant Joseph Perkins, who was in St. Louis recruiting for the 24th US Infantry was installed as the commander of the regulars. The expedition departed St. Louis on the 1st of May, with Governor Clark joining them a few days up-river. The flotilla saw minor action along the route but landed without resistance by early June. Using a local warehouse of the Mackinac Trading Company, Clark realized they would have to work fast as his volunteer force was already half-way through their enlistment period. Soon a wooden palisade fort with a pair of blockhouses rose on a mound to the north of the village proper. Governor Clark named the post, Fort Shelby, after Governor Isaac Shelby, the governor of his native territory of Kentucky. With the post’s construction well in hand, Governor Clark returned to St. Louis with much fanfare upon his return. But in the North Perkins realized that if he didn’t have the post done soon, he would lose a majority of his force. But by the 19th, the post was nearly complete.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
A reconstruction of a blockhouse that would have stood over Fort Shelby and later the first Fort Crawford.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Photographer’s Formulary Developer 23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

The local population was not too pleased with the arrival of the Americans and three days later two men showed up at Mackinac Island with news for the commandant of the post, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert McDouall. McDouall was disturbed at the news of the American garrison and was even more troubled with natives brought rumors of violence against their tribes at the hands of the Americans at Prarie du Chien. These rumors reached McDouall as the native allies cried out for revenge. The main reason that McDouall was concerned was for the extensive fur trade network, and without Prarie du Chien it would be difficult to maintain the supply lines. McDouall had his problems with a limited force and word of an American attack against Mackinac, but he could not ignore his allies. Giving local militia captain a field promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel, William McKay, would take a force from his unit, the Michigan Fencibles along with local traders that formed a group called the Mississippi Volunteers, a single 3-pound field gun with a Royal Artillery crew was attached to McKay’s force as well. The local tribes provided warriors from the Sioux and Winnebago tribes commanded by two captains from the British Indian Department Thomas Anderson and Joseph Rolette. Departing on the 28th of June, McKay would gather more militia and native troops at Green Bay. When McKay’s force landed at Prarie du Chien on the 17th of July it numbered 650 troops. For Perkins he only saw his numbers drop as a majority of his volunteer force left with Captain Sullivan, Captain Yeizer was willing to stay with forty volunteers to man the gunboat Governor Clark. But the sudden arrival of McKay gave the American garrison a start when Captain Anderson approached Lieutenant Perkins, who was out on a ride with the order of surrender. The garrison refused the surrender order promising to fight to the last man.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
The historic plaque on site outlining the battle.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Photographer’s Formulary Developer 23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

McKay realizing that his biggest threat was the gunboat on the river ordered his lone artillery piece to fire on it first. The Royal Artillery crew worked fast, moving the gun around to give the crew aboard the gunboat the impression they were under attack by multiple guns and after a few hours had taken massive damage. Rather than risk the boat and the crew Captain Yeizer cut his moorings and headed south. The fort’s garrison watched in dismay, trying to call them back, as most of their supplies and ammunition were aboard the gunboat still. Both sides managed to fight to a stalemate, with both McKay and Perkins running low on ammunition, McKay going as far as to collect the American round shots and fire them back, of course, neither side realized this of the other. Inside the fort was another story, the well had run dry, and in an attempt to deepen it, the whole thing had collapsed. And while McKay was preparing heated shots to set Fort Shelby on fire, Lieutenant Perkins raises the white flag of truce, after two days of solid resistance. Both Perkins and McKay agree to delay a formal surrender for fear of retaliation against the Americans by the native warriors in light of the rumors. McKay would use his Michigan Fencibles to guard both the American prisoners and the native troops before the formal surrender the next day and then has the Americans escorted down-river without any incident. With a British flag flying over the fort, now named Fort McKay the northwest was firmly in British hands. The Americans would twice send a force to attempt to retake Prarie du Chien both would be stopped first at the Rock Island Rapids and again at the Battle of Credit Island. The British maintained the post at Prairie du Chien throughout the remainder of the war, destroying it in 1815 when they marched out to conform to the terms of the Treaty of Gent.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
Probably not the original well from the battle, but I figured it would be good to have a photo of one anyways.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Photographer’s Formulary Developer 23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

Today you can still visit the site of the battle, and while the town has moved over to the mainland, the battle site is open to the public as part of the Historic Villa Louis, a historic home built in the 1840s after the American Army abandoned the site completely for a mainland fort in 1832. But visitors can see the footings from the 1816 American fort (Fort Crawford) and a rebuilt blockhouse. The site also hosts a reenactment of the siege in July.

A special thanks to the volunteers at Villa Louis for helping me out and letting me freely wander the site for photographic purposes.

Written with files from:
Berton, Pierre. Flames across the Border, 1813-1814. Markham, Ont.: Penguin, 1988. Print.
Ferguson, Gillum. Illinois in the War of 1812. Champaign, IL.: University of Illinois Press, 2012. Print.
Collins, Gilbert. Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812. Toronto: Dundurn, 2006. Print.
Web: villalouis.wisconsinhistory.org/About/History.aspx

Project:1812 – Fort Shelby, Fort McKay, and Fort Crawford

The small fur trading post of Prairie du Chien was founded long before the British or Americans came to the old northwest. But rather the post was founded by the French in 1685 and soon became a small post along the Mississippi trade route. Even after the British gained the territory at the end of the French-Indian/Seven Years War in 1763 the population remained French, but the loyalties shifted to the British and remained there even after the Treaty of Paris ceded the territory to the newly formed United States of America.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
A reconstruction of one of the fort’s blockhouses

The first effort to fortify the town took place in 1814 when an expedition led by Governor William Clark (of Lewis & Clark Fame) established an American garrison in the small community. Governor Clark feared that the British may choose to enforce their influence in the community then march on St. Louis with nothing to stop them. While the community did nothing to resist the Americans they were not happy with the new garrison and alerted the nearest British outpost, Mackinac Island, of them. Clark’s fort; named after Isaac Shelby, governor of his native territory of Kentucky consisted of a warehouse annexed from the Mackinac Trading Company, two blockhouses and the northwest and southwest corners surrounded by a wooden palisade. The American garrison, under the command of Lieutenant Joseph Perkins of the 24th Regiment, was short lived in the fort. An expedition of militia and native troops dislodged the Americans after a three-day siege. The British were quick to rename the post after their commander, William McKay. For the rest of the War of 1812, the British remained watchful over Prarie du Chien from Fort McKay. The Americans would try, twice, to take the post back. Both efforts would fail far from the post. When word of peace reached the fort, and the terms of that peace the garrison was in shock. Everything was to return to how it was before the war. So the garrison followed the order to the letter and burned Fort McKay to the ground and marched out. The American army was quick to re-establish an outpost mirroring the original fort but this time naming it Fort Crawford in 1816. The garrison would serve the local population keeping the peace and enforcing trade regulations. It also served as the site for the signing of the Treaty of Prairie du Chien which would establish boundaries between tribal lands of the local natives. The fort was evacuated and abandoned in 1826 after the Mississippi River overflowed its banks. Two murders would see the army return to prevent the violence from turning into a full-blown conflict. And while it didn’t happen it was decided that the army would stay.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
Stone footings from the first Fort Crawford

The trouble was that due to the location of the old fort. The flood had done serious damage to the work. There was additional flood danger not to mention a cesspool where diseases would flourish among the garrison. But the garrison would have to remain there while a new fort was built to the south of the town on the mainland under the watchful eye of Colonel Zachary Taylor, future President of the United States and Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, future President of the Confederate States of America. The garrison at the old fort was in good hands, Dr. William Beaumont was in charge of keeping the men in good health and took the opportunity to conduct research on the human digestive system, the knowledge he gained formed the basis of our modern understanding of the system, much of his work was conducted at the old Fort Crawford. The old fort was finally abandoned in 1832 when the garrison moved into their new stone barracks. The site would sit empty for a decade or so before being purchased by Hercules Louis Dousman. Hercules was a business owner and son of Michael Dousman, the man who helped keep the population of Mackinac Island safe during the British capture in the opening action of the War of 1812. Hercules would begin to establish a family estate on the site in the mid-1840s. The site would be passed along to his son H. Louis Dousman and his widow after his death in 1868. Under the junior Dousman, an Italian Styled villa was constructed on the property and occupied by his mother until her death in 1882. The Dousman family would continue to occupy the home, known as Villa Louis until 1913. The villa was restored and turned into a museum in 1930s thanks largely to the efforts of Hercules’ granddaughters, Victoria Dousman Bigelow, and Violet Dousman Young. The site was taken over by the state’s historical society in 1950.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
Villa Louis as it stands today

The new Fort Crawford on the mainland would continue to watch over the area through the mid-19th century. The garrison would participate in the Black Hawk War and the titular Chief Black Hawk would surrender and become a prisoner of Fort Crawford. With the force relocation of the area tribes to Iowa, of which the garrison would again be a part. The need for the post decreased with the last troops marching out in 1856. When the American Civil War began the fort was used as a recruit depot and training station. It was also selected as a site for a US Army General Hospital. The Swift Hospital opened in 1864 and would serve close to 1500 Union troops during its single year of operation. With the hospital’s closure in 1865, the fort would never see military service again. The land was sold off in parcels, the buildings were either sold as homes or simply torn down for building materials. The Swift Hospital building was turned into a Roman Catholic private girls school. When the twentieth-century dawned all that was left was the ruins of the fort’s old hospital. The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution started a fundraising campaign to purchase the ruins and the three-and-a-half parcels of land it sat on, and in 1925 they had raised all the needed funds. The old hospital was restored and rebuilt and in 1960 opened as a museum dedicated to the efforts of Dr. Beaumont and the fort’s history.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
The second Fort Crawford’s hospital as it stands today as a museum

Today you can visit both sites. Historic Villa Louis features the 1868 Italian villa as well visitors can see a restored Blockhouse similar to the ones that once stood over Fort Shelby/McKay/Crawford as well as ruins and footings that were discovered during the restoration of the site. The Fort Crawford Museum was turned over to the City of Prairie du Chien in 1996 and has expanded to include all local history as well as the original exhibits about the fort and the work of Dr. Beaumont. The Swift Hospital building has long since been demolished in its place is a prison.

For more details on visiting these history sites, please check out their websites:
Fort Crawford Museum: www.fortcrawfordmuseum.com
Historic Villa Louis: villalouis.wisconsinhistory.org

Written with files from:
Ferguson, Gillum. Illinois in the War of 1812. Champaign, IL.: University of Illinois Press, 2012. Print.
Collins, Gilbert. Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812. Toronto: Dundurn, 2006. Print.
Web: villalouis.wisconsinhistory.org/About/History.aspx
Web: www.fortcrawfordmuseum.com

Photos: Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Photographer’s Formulary Developer 23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

Project:1812 – Raid on Gananoque

The life blood of Upper Canada was the St. Lawrence River, long before it was the mighty seaway we know today it was just a river, often times areas of rapids and flowed past several loyalist settlements that were established following the American Revolution. The river was a link to the major centers of the colonies of British North American, the mighty fortress and administrative capital of Quebec City and the major seaport of Halifax to the smaller settlements in Upper Canada. It was also the weak point, cut off access to the river at either end and you could choke Upper Canada. In fact part of the initial plan of the American invasion was the take Montreal, cutting off access to troop and supply reinforcements from Quebec City in Halifax. But the General Dearborn attack on Montreal never materialized.

Project:1812 - Raid on Gananoque
The plaque commemorating the raid, it’s near the wonderful Gananoque Brewing Co.

But in September 1812 a new group of American soldiers were deployed to the frontier. The men of the 1st US Rifle Regiment, dressed in green and armed with rifles from the Harper’s Ferry arsenal and trained sharp shooters arrived in the St. Lawrence River Valley. A small detachment under Captain Benjamin Forsyth made their first foray into British territory in the early mornings of the 21st of September, 1812. Captain Forsyth’s detachment of seventy odd riflemen landed a good two miles west of the small settlement of Gananoque. Established shortly after the United Empire Loyalists were forced out of their homes in the newly formed United States of America, the settlement’s founder Colonel Joel Stone was fiercely anti-American and while the settlement was small in size it was a major stopping point for British supply flotillas.

Project:1812 - Raid on Gananoque
The King Road today, better known as King Street or Highway 2

Moving along the King’s Road (what is today Highway 2 or King Street in Gananoque), the group of riflemen were surprised to find a pair of local militia cavalry men of the 1st Leeds Militia, the first trooper was dropped by one of the riflemen but the second got away, surprise it seemed was no longer on the side of the American raiding party as they moved quickly to get into the town before the alarm could be raised. The trooper rode hard raising the alarm in the town before continuing on to Kingston to warn the British regular troops stationed there. The small force of citizen soldiers of the 2nd Leeds Militia gathered what they could. A rag-tag group of mostly farmers dressed in whatever they could find and armed with their own personal firelocks. The odd line of men formed up across the King’s Road to meet the small American raiding party managing only a single ragged volley. Forsyth’s Rifles unscathed charged in to engage the rag-tag militia troops at close quarters.

Project:1812 - Raid on Gananoque
The river that the militia were chased over.

The men of the 1st US Rifle Regiment had the town with the militia run off to their homes the men located and burned the government warehouse they also located the home of Colonel Joel Stone, ransacking it a stray bullet managed to injury Stone’s wife as well. The whole action took a half hour and by the time the reinforcements from Kingston arrived there was no sign of the American raiders. The British crossed the river burning a supply dump and the start of a blockhouse in retaliation. The raid did change the British attitude towards their supply lines, defenses were built up in Gananoque, Elizabethton (today Brockville), and Prescott (Fort Wellington). Also the young Lieutenant James FitzGibbon, student of General Sir Isaac Brock was assigned to arrange for escorts for the supply flotillas along the river.

Project:1812 - Raid on Gananoque
The plaque to the town’s founder Joel Stone, although there are conflicting reports if he was even present during the raid.

Today Gananoque is a busy tourist town and the western end of the 1000 Island Parkway, it also acts as the Canadian Gateway to the 1000 Island River tours. There is a small plaque at the west end of King Street (Highway 2) right near the river that the militia fled over. There are other plaques to Colonel Joel Stone located just across the street. If you do find yourself in the area it’s well worth a stop also pop into the Gananoque Brewery Co.

Written with Files from:
Web: www.warof1812.ca/gananoque.htm
Web: www.warof1812.ca/batgan.html

Photos:
Pentax 645 – SMC Pentax A 645 35mm 1:3.5 – Kodak Tri-X 400 @ ASA-200 – Pyrocat-HD (1+1+100) 10:00 @ 20C