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The Capture of the "Julia" and the "Prowler"

August 1813

On August 7th 1813 the much anticipated naval battle on Lake Ontario failed to materialize. However on that night in a heavy squall two American schooners the "Hamilton" and the "Scourge" did capsize. The sinking of these two vessels did not seriously hamper the American fleet, apart from the sad fact, that more than 80 lives were lost.

Sir James Yeo still would not maneuvre in close to Isaac Chauncey and the American fleet, he was hoping for a chance to cut off the American schooners. On August 9th Sir James Yeo took time to report to Sir George Prevost, he complained that the American commander would not engaged his fleet unless he had a clear advantage. He then went on to assess the American fleet stating, "the "Pike" was a very fine large ship", the "Madison" was similar to the "Wolfe" and the "Onieda" was small and had bad sails. The schooners in the American fleet did not impress Yeo, he said "they were fine in calm water but contemptible otherwise".

The Americans were making similar assessments, Commodore Arthur Sinclair wrote: "Instead of finding Sir James Yeo that desperate hot headed boy which reports have made him to appear, we found him a judicious, cautious and skillful commander". Sinclair went onto describe the British squadron as "six regular built vessels of war, all sailing alike and able to suppport each other in any weather - capable of keeping the sea and acting efficiently".

This game continued through August 8th and 9th until the evening of August 10th. The opportunity the Americans had been waiting for had finally arrived. The British ships came to a standstill six miles of Twelve Mile Creek, the Americans were only twenty miles to the northeast, here was their chance to attack.

The American squadron was ordered into two columns. One column led by the "Julia" leading the "Growler", "Asp", "Pert", "Ontario" and "Fair American". It was this line that was closest to the British squadron. The second column had the "Pike" leading the "Onieda", "Madison", "Governor Tompkins" and the "Conquest".

The Americans were only four miles away from the British when the wind shifted giving the British the handling advantage. The British ship "Wolfe" moved toward the American ships "Ontario" and "Fair American" who turned their long guns and aimed them at the "Wolfe". The Americans opened fire at about 11:00 p.m., it was 11:30 before the British ship returned fire. A short while later Commordore Chauncey signalled to the schooners to make a pre arranged move, the "Pert" along with the "Asp", "Ontario" and "Fair American" moved away luring Yeo into Chauncey's trap, but the "Julia" commanded by James Trant and the "Growler" commanded by Lieutenant David Deacon stayed on their heading. The American schooners ran so close to shore they could see the lights from the buildings, believing their gunboats could evade the British squadron they made a mad dash for open water. The British moved towards them quickly with their guns and cannonades blasting, the Americans returned the fire. Moments later the British were boarding the American schooners and taking her crews prisoner.

On Tuesday August 11th the American prisoners began their long march to imprisonment at Quebec City and Halifax, among them was U.S. seaman Ned Myers who had survived the sinking of the "Hamilton" and the "Scourge".

The loss of four schooners was, however, no great matter as they were only makeshift war vessels anyway. The Americans still had superiority over the British squadron on the Lake Ontario.

The British had anchored near York (modern day Toronto) and for the next couple of days made repairs to the "Growler" renamed the "Hamilton" and the "Julia" renamed the "Confiance". They also repaired one of the "Wolfe's" topmast's. The "Royal George" had a leak repaired and the same repair was made to the "Melville".

With the two captured schooners the total number of ships in the British squadron was now eight.