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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

Including the capture of Kingston


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| | |Wt. of| |Casu- | Ship[1] |Commander |Guns|broad-|Crew|alties| Place and date | | |side | | | ------------------|----------|----|------|----|------|------------------- Constitution[2] |Hull | 54 | 684 |456 | 14 |750 miles east of | | | | | | Boston, Aug. 19, Guerriere (Brit.) |Dacres | 49 | 556 |272 | 79 | 1812. ------------------|----------|----|------|----|------|------------------- United States[2] |Decatur | 54 | 786 |478 | 12 |Off Canary Islands, Macedonian (Brit.)|Carden | 49 | 547 |301 | 104 | Oct. 25. 1812. ------------------|----------|----|------|----|------|------------------- Constitution[2] |Bainbridge| 52 | 654 |475 | 34 |Near Bahia, Dec. Java (Brit.) |Lambert | 49 | 576 |426 | 150 | 29, 1812. ------------------|----------|----|------|----|------|------------------- Chesapeake |Lawrence | 50 | 542 |379 | 148 |Off Boston, June 1, Shannon (Brit.)[2]|Broke | 52 | 550 |330 | 83 | 1813. ------------------|----------|----|------|----|------|-------------------

[Footnote 1: The figures are from Roosevelt's NAVAL WAR OF 1812, in which 7% is deducted for the short weight of American shot.]

[Footnote 2: Victorious.]

"It seems," said a writer in the London _Times_, "that the Americans have

some superior mode of firing." But when Broke with his crack crew in the _Shannon_ beat the _Chesapeake_ fresh out of port, he demonstrated, as had the Americans in other actions, that the superiority was primarily a matter of training and skill.

On the Great Lakes America's naval efforts should have centered, for here was her main objective and here she was on equal terms. Both sides were tremendously hampered in communications with their main sources of supply. But with an approach from the sea to Montreal, the British faced no more serious obstacle in the rapids of the St. Lawrence above than did the Americans on the long route up the Mohawk, over portages into Oneida Lake, and thence down the Oswego to Ontario, or else from eastern Pennsylvania over the mountains to Lake Erie. The wilderness waterways on both sides soon saw the strange spectacle of immense anchors, cables, cannon, and ship tackle of all kinds, as well as armies of sailors, shipwrights, and riggers, making their way to the new rival bases at Sackett's Harbor and Kingston, both near the foot of Lake Ontario.

Of the whole lake and river frontier, Ontario was of the most vital importance. A decisive American victory here, including the capture of Kingston, would cut enemy communications and settle the control of all western Canada. Kingston as an objective had the advantage over Montreal that it was beyond the direct reach of the British navy. The British, fully realizing the situation, made every effort to build up their naval forces on this lake, and gave Commodore Yeo, who was in command, strict orders to avoid action unless certain of success. On the other hand, the American commander, Chauncey, though an energetic organizer, made the mistake of assuming that his mission was also defensive. Hence when one fleet was strengthened by a new ship it went out and chased the other off the lake, but there was little fighting, both sides engaging in a grand shipbuilding rivalry and playing for a sure thing. Naval control remained unsettled and shifting throughout the war. It was fortunate, indeed, says the British historian, James, that the war ended when it did, or there would not have been room on the lake to maneuver the two fleets. The _St. Lawrence_, a 112-gun three-decker completed at Kingston in 1814, was at the time the largest man-of-war in the world.


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