The Influence of the War of 1812 on Great Lakes Shipbuilding

ECU Author/Contributor (non-ECU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Nadine Kopp (Creator)
East Carolina University (ECU )
Web Site:
Bradley A. Rodgers

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to determine whether the War of 1812 influenced ship construction techniques on the Great Lakes. During the War of 1812 much of the fighting in the North American theater of war primarily took place along the Niagara frontier and later along the St. Lawrence River. From the outset both the Americans and British realized that gaining the upper hand in the conflict depended upon control of the Great Lakes. Critical to achieving the advantage was the development of a significant and powerful inland navy which led to a shipbuilding race on both shores. The primary question raised surrounding Great Lakes ship construction in the early nineteenth century is whether or not this large scale event the War of 1812 permanently influenced the way in which ships were constructed once the war was over. To answer this question this study examines diagnostic attributes of archaeologically examined wrecks from the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain from before during and after the War of 1812 to find similarities and difference in their design and construction The three time periods have been defined as the period before the War of 1812 from the French and Indian War (1754 to 1763) when British sailing ships first appeared on the Great Lakes up to 1811; the period of the War of 1812 itself (1812-1814); and the period after the war leading up to the opening of the Welland Canal (1829) and the widespread use of steam engines on the Great Lakes (1830s-1840s). By comparing the similarities and differences of construction traits between the three periods it is possible to gain an understanding of the changes that took place in ship design and construction. The second aim of this thesis is to compare these diagnostic attributes with the Navy Bay Wreck located in Kingston Ontario to attempt to determine when it was constructed. Tentative conclusions are drawn about the differences between ship construction techniques over time that determined that the Navy Bay Wreck most likely was constructed in the period prior to the War of 1812. Historical research alongside the archaeological analysis aided in determining the Earl of Moira as the most likely candidate for the identity of this vessel. While the War of 1812 had significant political and social implications the impact on ship construction on the Great Lakes was not as substantial. The War of 1812 did not completely revolutionize or transform ship construction on the Great Lakes but did have a minor impact on ship construction techniques employed during the early 19th century. 

Additional Information

Date: 2012
Archaeology, History, Great Lakes, Shipbuilding, War of 1812
Shipbuilding--Great Lakes (North America)--History--18th century
Shipbuilding--Great Lakes (North America)--History--19th century
Shipwrecks--Great Lakes (North America)
Underwater archaeology--Great Lakes (North America)
Underwater archaeology--Champlain, Lake
United States--History--War of 1812--Naval operations

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