The Hamilton and the Scourge 1813

Brigadier General John Boyd sent a ship with a dispatch to Commodore Isaac Chauncey on Lake Ontario informing him that he wanted to attack the British supply depot at Burlington Heights. Chauncey agreed that this was a worthwhile mission, and planned an attack.

The Americans had thirteen ships that anchored off the north shore of Burlington Bay on the evening of July 29th 1813. The next morning Colonel Winfield Scott and Commodore Chauncey with five hundred soldiers and sailors landed. Some of the force went looking for information while the other made a reconnaissance of Burlington Heights. They decided that they did not have the equipment to take the British position so they returned to their ships with a few head of cattle they had rounded up. They now sailed to York. (modern day Toronto)

The Americans landed at York without meeting any resistance at all. Most of the towns people had fled when they first heard that the Americans were about to land a force. They remembered the first visit, and the plundering and burning of private property that took place. Chauncey assured the frightened inhabitants that he was only after public property not private property. He also said that this raid was in retaliation for Sir James Yeo's raids on American towns.

The American commander did keep his word with the exception of the two private stores that were looted, then they sailed off. However, on August 1st the Americans came back, after gathering information that a flotilla of bateaux had been hidden up the Don River when they first approached York on the 31st of July. They landed and found this supply, and sailed away again this time with 400 barrels of pork and bread and a 24 - pdr. long gun. And when they left this time they burned the barracks and storehouses on Gibraltar Point.

Sir James Yeo had left Kingston on July 31st looking to engage the American commander Isaac Chauncey and his fleet. The British squadron consisted of the "Wolfe", "Royal George", "Earl of Moira", "Lord Melville", "Beresford and the "Sir Sidney Smith".

The American squadron consisted of the "Pike", "Madison", "Oneida", "Govenor Tompkins", "Conquest", "Ontario", "Fair American", "Asp", "Pert", "Hamilton", "Scourge", "Julia" and the "Growler".

August 7th 1813 the two squadrons had a brief encounter ten miles out from the Niagara River, in which they both fired one shot, both missed. The British and the American commanders would not engage each other unless they had a clear advantage.

Both fleets attempted to alternately retreat and to attack but neither had any success. By the evening of August 7th, the lake was calm and both fleets recalled their ships for the night into close groups. The British fleet was close to shore by York and the American fleet was across the lake just north of Twelve Mile Creek.

U.S. seaman Ned Myers was on board the the "Scourge", he remembers the night being very calm, there was not a cloud in the sky and the lake was as smooth as glass. After midnight the wind picked up and it began to rain. Myers knew the ship was in danger. The ship tipped on it's side and the guns, ammunition and other equipment came sliding down the deck.

Myers saw his shipmates struggle for their lives, some were pinned others tried to get out of the blocked hatchway. Although he could not swim Myers jumped into the rough lake, he flung his arms about trying to keep afloat. Fortunately he was able to climb into one of the boats being towed behind the schooner. He cut the tow line and from the safety of this boat Myers watched the "Scourge" go under.

When it was over the "Scourge" was not the only ship to sink that night. The "Hamilton" had been lost as well. The next morning the "Julia" arrived to pick up survivors. More than 80 men lost their lives that night, and as predicted many times before the "Scourge" had become a coffin to a large part of her crew.

CLICK HERE to see a website devoted to the "Hamilton" and the "Scourge".