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Brigs Niagara and Lawrence

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On 5/11/2017 at 6:17 PM, achuck49 said:

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

Much less than a year, actually. Niagara was laid down in March of 1813 and launched in May, commissioned in August. Just took a couple months to do most of the construction work, with the rest being her fitting out. They were building these things fast and cheap (cheap as in a lack of decoration/prettiness). 

 

On the British side, the keel for the 42-gun 24-pdr frigate Psyche was laid down on Halloween 1814 and she was launched on Christmas Day of that year, though admittedly her frames were shipped in from England. Even the 112-gun three-decker Saint Lawrence had her keel laid in April, launched in early September, and was commissioned in October 1814.

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Given the short build period, remote build location, and need to build cheaper, and the intent to go directly into battle, would either ship have originally been painted anything but a basic coat of black all over, if at all?  

donrobinson and mtaylor like this

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Oohhh. Touchy subject :o

 

One thing almost for sure. It wasn't painted the colors of the MS kit - fire engine red and French's yellow.  Several paintings show both either all black or black and gray or buff at the gunwales.

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Pythagoras's model of lifting the brigs over the bar might be better appreciated in the context of this pic of Gull Point at Presque Isle. IMG_1003.thumb.JPG.2382531e895e00d2ab8cffb48275444b.JPG

Lots of sand to deal with around there!

 

Now that I've started my build of Niagara and am reading a bit more about the construction of the brigs, the picture is becoming much more clear that the originals were much more "rustic" (as someone said above). Given the time constraints, lack of materials and building talent, I wonder if they were just barely afloat?  Given all the constraints, I can't help believing that "shortcuts" were taken. How many trenails had to substitute for iron spikes, and how many of those were installed spaced farther apart? Was there a lot of time spent faring the hull?  How much did they plane the planking to get smooth surfaces? Was there enough oakum to fully caulk...were they really wet boats?  Since Lawrence was started before Niagara, did she get any preference in use of available materials?  Were they short of cordage, so the rigging they might not be as weatherly as desired?  If so, could that have affected Niagara's sailing abilities (and contribute to Elliot's tardy arrival to the battle)?  As far as the outward appearance, I'll bet they weren't too different looking than the gunboat (also built in a hurry) in the pic below. 

IMG_1004.JPG.886bd3e3828d3fdf1868797946cd737d.JPG

It would be interesting to build a model version of Niagara and Lawrence (as well as HMS Detroit) that focused on how deficient they may have been (compared to the "idealized" reconstructions we are familiar with). Which, IMHO, would only increase the appreciation of the battle. 

mtaylor likes this

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Oh, yeah. In my previous post that gunboat pic might be copyrighted by AP so if an administrator wants to pull it that's fine. 

My point is that the true appearance of Niagara may be more like the camels in Pathagoras's model than the Brig. (Love that display, by the way). 

mtaylor and pythagoras like this

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Thank you for the compliment, Steve. Last month the admiral and I visited Presque Isle and the Niagara Museum. The ship was not in port, so we continued to our destination--Rochester, NY-- to visit family and friends. Guess what ship was moored alongside the port of Rochester? You are right. I talked to a sailor in training, who happened to be from Erie, about the lifting exercise. He explained to me that it did not occur outside the bay, but over a bar that was inside. I have not had time to check that out, but it is interesting.

  btw, I have also built a model of the gunboat Philadelphia after visiting the replica boat at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, and the actual gunboat at the Smithsonian Institute.

 

Pythagoras (Tom)

 

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