Srodbro

Brigs Niagara and Lawrence

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I recently read Walter Rybka's Lake Erie Campaign of 1813.

The two brigs, Niagara and Lawrence, were built at the same time and fought in the same battle. Perry initially commanded the Lawrence which took the biggest battering by the British, then he transferred to Niagara

I wondered if there were any notable differences between the two craft. 

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They are described in more than one source as being exactly the same.

Dr. Usher Parsons: 'precisely alike...built and rigged precisely alike'.

They were also armed exactly alike, 2 12 pdrs. and 18 32 pdr. carronades for each vessel.

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One was full of holes :)

 

But seriously, there is a painting of the battle that shows possibly the hull colors might have been different. It's hard to tell. And we'll never know if that was actual or just the artist's rendering.

 

Joel, I think you posted that at one time or another.

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Never one to let an anthill go unmolested....

 

There are some that say the NIAGARA that was recovered and documented, and which all the models and replicas are based, is actually the QUEEN CHARLOTTE.

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I'll throw my two cents in here since I wondered the same and while both ships were likely identical, there is no reason why one couldn't use a bit of an artistic license to modify color schemes and certain deck fittings to offer a bit of distinction. Here is a model of Lawrence someone did which looks like Niagara and while the white stripe doesn't look accurate to me there are some minor differences here. I think one could approach model ship building as a "theory" project you want to complete sometimes research offers two or more plausible conclusions regarding how a ships detailing could have been laid out and you can build two totally similar yet different ships and call them sister ships. Noone may know how they really looked but both may be working theories of how they "could" have looked and in the process you enhance your own knowledge on how such ships may have functioned :) 

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The painting was done shortly after the battle by one of the British officers.  It shows Niagara from the stern and Lawrence from broadside.  I got a glimpse of it in color and there seems to be no stripe of any distinction on Lawrence's side.  She does show a typical head with headrails, billet with scroll, etc. which seems contraindicated by the textual information.

Chuck, everything I have seen tends to the belief that Niagara was raised in 1876 and sent to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition where she burned along with her protective enclosure.  The vessel presumed to be Queen Charlotte was destroyed in a flood at Buffalo after a career as a merchant vessel.  The Queen Charlotte herself was raised in 1913, identified as Niagara and restored and put on display.  The current restoration has no particular identity with that 1913 vessel and may be as close as we are going to get to the 1813 brig.

That's all off the top of my head and subject to change after consultation with my notes, but that's my take on it.

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Thanks for the comments. 

I recognize the pic that Mr. Zardoz included as a model at the Erie Maritime Museum. Clearly this differs from another model at the same museum, and of the full size vessel.  Looking at other pics online, I see at least two other variations in paint scheme (one with a narrow red stripe above the predominant yellow). 

Aside from paint schemes, I am not finding any information that clearly identifies differences. 

That being the case, I presume that nobody could have serious heartache if I called my in-progress build of a Niagara kit the Lawrence, in honor of the fallen commander of the Chesapeake?  

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The basis for a worthwhile ship model is an accurate set of hull lines.  Unless built to historically documented hull lines, you are really building a freelance model despite the accuracy of the paint scheme, rigging, etc.. See Howard Chapelle's "Ship Models That Should Not Be Built," or L. Francis Herreschoff's writings on model building.  The Lake Erie Brigs were a particular problem for Chapelle who in the early 1930's designed the predessor to the current Niagara replica.  Chapelle has written that he always had an uneasy feeling that the lines of the replica did not reflect the original vessel.  In particular he thought that was the bow lines might be too sharp.  The current vessel was a new design by Melbourne Smith.  Each of the three Niagara replicas 1913, 1933, and 1988 were built to a different set of principal dimensions.

 

Chapelle also described model builders as "stubborn cusses" who Insist on building models without sufficient documentation.  The Lake Erie battles were exciting events in our nation's history and from a naval architectural standpoint, the problem of designing these shallow draft gun vessels was an interesting one so the lure of building one of these brigs despite the existence of historical documentation is compelling.

 

Fortunately, an example of a shallow draft gun brig built by the same builders as the original Niagara exists and has been explored - the brig Eagle built to defend Lake Champlain.  Builders wishing to build an example of a shallow draft American gun brig designed for lake service during the war of 1812 would be better off choosing the Eagle than Niagara or Lawrence.

 

Roger

 

 

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Melbourne Smith made reference to others of the Brown brothers' works of which we have more information in his new design for Niagara.  He also made the hull long enough to accommodate the correct number of guns and carronades on deck, which the 1913 and 1933 versions did not, as Chapelle noted at the time.  The story of Smith's reconstruction is in Seaways' Ships in Scale, end of '91, start of '92, for those who have the magazines or CD.

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Steve - the ships boats configuration appears to be different. Not sure where the idea came from on the Lawrence model. The Niagara kit (and current replica) have all on davits. None sitting on deck. Again, who's right who's wrong ?????

 

I also see 11 gunports on the Lawrence build vs 10 on Niagara.

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No davits on sloops of war during the War-of-1812, at least according to an 1813 letter written by Jacob Jones of the Wasp I, following the battle with the Frolic. He saw an approaching British ship, bow on, which carried davits, and so he ran away because, according to him, davits meant a frigate or a ship-of-the-line. The ship was the 74-gun liner Poictiers, which captured him.

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Now that's an interesting point, frolick.  I had not heard that before.  I have read that davits were a fairly new thing, and the quarter davits came before the stern davits.  I suspect the qtr. davits on the replica vessel are as they are so a boat can be quickly launched in case of emergency (Coast Guard etc.).  The literature (and HMS Victory) show wooden qtr. davits (they are straight timbers with sheaves at the outer end for the boat falls) that are pivoted at the butt end and can 'retract' toward the shrouds, supported by tackle that goes to the upper portion of the mast.  Slacking off on this tackle allows the davits to reach further out, past the tumblehome, and the falls can then lower the boat to the water.  I did my version of Lawrence with only stern davits, so you have given me justification for what was only an instinctual decision.

The forward most port of eleven, Mike, would be mostly a bridle port, for handling the anchors.  There is a lot of length between the forward gun port and the stem, and, while it was apparently not uncommon or unknown for the anchors to be handled over the rail on these smallish vessels, there is nothing to preclude adding a bridle port to make the job easier.

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That makes sense Joel. Between the catheads, hatches and bowsprit it would have been difficulty to get a gun into that forwardmost port. Perhaps the new Niagara didn't have an 11th port because it doesn't need it. I imagine the anchors are wenched in with something motorized. Again, who knows?

 

This does make me wonder about something. We have next to no documentation on the original builds of Niagara/Lawrence. The Brits were always pretty anal about record keeping. Is there any better documentation on the building of Detroit?

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in re plans for Detroit, I don't think so.  She was not really completed when Barclay took the squadron out to meet the Americans, he lost, and his base was shortly thereafter taken by the American forces.  Like with the US brigs, I suspect if there were any plans and they got sent to Washington, the Navy Yard was burned the next summer.  Queen Charlotte was built a few years earlier and there is some information on her, but I think no specific as built plans.

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Well, Charlie, actually, since I believe that the Niagara was raised in 1876 and sent to Philadelphia where her exhibition building burned around her, all the original wood went up in flames.  There may be a few token pieces of the hull that was raised in 1913 on board (I heard as part of a door in the Capt's cabin) but nothing of any significance, and in any case that hull I believe to have been Queen Charlotte.

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On 4/17/2017 at 8:46 PM, jbshan said:

in re plans for Detroit, I don't think so.  She was not really completed when Barclay took the squadron out to meet the Americans, he lost, and his base was shortly thereafter taken by the American forces.  Like with the US brigs, I suspect if there were any plans and they got sent to Washington, the Navy Yard was burned the next summer.  Queen Charlotte was built a few years earlier and there is some information on her, but I think no specific as built plans.

Queen Charlotte was built as a merchant vessel first, wasn't it? I would not be surprised at all about the lack of plans. With Detroit, Winfield's "British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793-1817" has her comissioned in June 1813 and taken in September.

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Both brigs had to be kedged over the sand bar at the mouth of Erie harbor. I thought you might like to see my interpretation of the Niagaras' try.

Pythagoras  (Tom)

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Nice camels!

Queen Charlotte was built at Amherstburg specifically as a warship, for the Provincial Marine.  She was launched in 1810, a 'Corvette Brig to carry sixteen guns'.  She was built to a draught of William Bell for a ship rather than as a brig.  Robert Malcomson, Warships of the Great Lakes, quoting original documents.

She was somewhat smaller than Detroit and the US Brigs, and on the day carried 16 guns on the broadside plus one on a pivot.

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8 hours ago, jbshan said:

Nice camels!

Queen Charlotte was built at Amherstburg specifically as a warship, for the Provincial Marine.  She was launched in 1810, a 'Corvette Brig to carry sixteen guns'.  She was built to a draught of William Bell for a ship rather than as a brig.  Robert Malcomson, Warships of the Great Lakes, quoting original documents.

She was somewhat smaller than Detroit and the US Brigs, and on the day carried 16 guns on the broadside plus one on a pivot.

Yeah, I misread the entry Winfield had, where he described the ship as /later/ in merchant use. For whatever reason, I parsed it this morning as saying it was a merchant first. Sorry about that.

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6 hours ago, Talos said:

Yeah, I misread the entry Winfield had, where he described the ship as /later/ in merchant use. For whatever reason, I parsed it this morning as saying it was a merchant first. Sorry about that.

I keep my small change in my parse.

Queen Charlotte, if I have my time line right, was built in partial response to the US building of Oneida, which was a pure warship.  Oneida was, yes, on Lake Ontario, but the British boosted things to a higher level on Lake Erie as well.  The Provincial Marine was a quasi-navy service that performed the government's business up and down the lakes, but also was available to carry civilian merchants' goods and personnel when Govt. business didn't fill up the vessel.  You should perhaps think of a cross between the mail packet service and the East India Company that was well-armed but with fair cargo capacity and owned and operated by the Govt.

Detroit, Lawrence and Niagara were all launched in 1813.

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I really enjoy the discussion.  Love the picture with the camels.  I might have moved them forward and put more pumps in them.

 

I'm waiting for an attic find from one of the descendants of Adam and Noah Brown to find the Lake Erie brig plans to settle the design question. :) 

 

The overwhelming design and build constraint was that these vessels were built in a rush, in a distant outpost, with drastic material shortages (except green timber),  for one battle.  I think the period vessel would have looked a lot more rustic than what is portrayed in the current sailing version or most models. 

 

That said, my own RC modified, scratch built (much delayed) 1/24 scale model is also my romanticized version of the vessel I crewed on.

 

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11 hours ago, Deperdussin1910 said:

The overwhelming design and build constraint was that these vessels were built in a rush, in a distant outpost, with drastic material shortages (except green timber),  for one battle.  I think the period vessel would have looked a lot more rustic than what is portrayed in the current sailing version or most models. 

 

I couldn't agree more. No frills. Only what was needed to sail the boat or fire the guns. I still chuckle when I remember Joel's comment regarding the skylight at the stern. He felt that was never built and "Commodore Perry would have to read by candle light". :)

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I've always found it interesting how small a world it was in American shipbuilding back then.   

The US Brigs Niagara and Lawrence were built by Noah Brown.  His brother Adam stayed back in New York City to assist in sending men and materials.

In 1806 Henry Eckford, who lived in NYC but had also lived Kingston, ON, was invited by Christian Bergh to assist in building the US Brig Oneida on Lake Ontario

Commodore Isaac Chauncey had been master of John Jacob Astor's Henry Eckford-built ship Beaver in 1806–1807 and had supervised Eckford & Beebe's construction of US Navy gunboats in 1808.

Chauncey visited New York City in the first week of September 1812 to meet with Eckford and his fellow shipbuilders Christian Bergh and Adam and Noah Brown about the problem of building a fleet of warships on Lake Ontario.  The Browns also agreed to head north to design and build Chauncey's fleet, while Bergh agreed to remain in New York City and oversee the transportation of men and material north to Lake Ontario.

In December 1812 Henry Eckford joined Chauncey in an inspection tour of American military and shipyard facilities on the Great Lakes and, finding the yards on Lake Erie at Erie, Pennsylvania, and Black Rock, New York, struggling, made suggestions to their staffs on how to improve their shipbuilding efforts. Chauncey wrote to Noah Brown to hurry north from New York City and take charge at Erie, which Brown did in February 1813 while his brother Adam remained in New York City to work with Christian Bergh in ensuring that Noah received the men and supplies he needed.

(side bar)  Jacob Aaron Westervelt was an apprentice to Christian Bergh.  Jacob Aaron Westervelt (January 20, 1800 – February 21, 1879) was a renowned and prolific shipbuilder who constructed 247 vessels[2]of all descriptions during his career of over 50 years. From 1853 until 1855 he was Mayor of New York City

Christian Bergh had a NYC shipyard from 1817 to 1836.  Among several notable craft, Bergh completed the build of he US Frigate President.  I’ve been looking at Bergh’s merchant ship on page 180 of Howard Chapelle’s The Search for Speed Under Sail 1700-1855 as an addition to my build list.  And now, there is a connection to the Niagara. :)

Just read this from above source, “The Brown brothers appear to have designed the vessels they built, for on 6 September 1819 the Navy Board wrote to ask for the plans of all the naval vessels they had built on the Great Lakes.” P.229

 

 

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And apparently the Brown's yard and Bergh's were adjacent to each other, about where the New York Navy Yard would be established in later years.  Maybe that was zoning or maybe that was just a good place to have a building slip.  Yes, a small world, and you keep running into the same individuals, or maybe I should say the usual suspects.

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If you know someone who has original archival materials from the Browns relative to the construction of the Lake Erie brigs, that would be a major find.

 

Roger

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On 5/1/2017 at 10:11 AM, jbshan said:

  Maybe that was zoning or maybe that was just a good place to have a building slip.  Yes, a small world, and you keep running into the same individuals, or maybe I should say the usual suspects.

Maybe a good tavern across the street? :P  I'm just glad they seemed to cooperate with each other. There had to be some egos floating around.

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How long would it take to build this type of ship given the conditions?  

 

Chuck  A

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According to a Wikipedia article...

 

Niagara was constructed from 1812 to 1813 to protect the vulnerable American coastline on Lake Erie from the British and played a pivotal role in the battle for the lake. Along with most warships that served in the war, Niagara was sunk for preservation on Presque Isle in 1820. Raised in 1913, it was rebuilt for the centennial of the Battle of Lake Erie.

 

I would never have thought that a ship this size could have been built in one year given the conditions of the time. 

 

Chuck A

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