>From: "Ibbotson, Mark [LSS]" <m.ibbotson@...>
>Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2000 16:26:30 +0100
>I assumed that the battle of lake Erie was fought with british soldier
>slightly trained for the job of seamen against Perry and his mob, this mob
>been full of RN deserters. Does anyone have any real figures on this
>52 NIAGARA fld battery
Mark: there has been very detailed work done on this subject. There were,
for instance, 150 members of the 41st drafted on to the British flotilla, we
have their names. As well as the names of approximately 50 members of the
Royal Newfoundland Fencible Regiment. We also have the names of all the
Royal Navy and Provincial Marine personnel.
On the American squadron, there are a number of truly detailed and excellent
books analysing the components of Perry's command, authored by Gerry Altoff.
To simplify the picture, the British squadron did indeed have a large
component of landsmen and relatively few Royal Navy personnel. The lack of
trained men, plus the lack of time to integrate the crews and let them
practice handling their ships, undoubtedly played a role in the British
loss. At a crucial stage of the battle, the two major ships in the squadron
collided; presenting a perfect target for Perry's broadsides as delivered by
the Niagara, which had not been heavily engaged in the battle to that point.
The American squadron also had a large component of landsmen from the
Pennsylvania militia that were on duty guarding the base at Erie,
Pennslyvania; then, last-minute volunteers from the members of Harrison's
army once the flotilla reached its base at Put-In-Bay but a few days before
the battle. Altoff has also published an excellent book detailing the
significant numbers of blacks who were in Perry's crews. There were U.S.
marines on their squadron, but a significant proportion of them had just
joined up, once again, volunteering from the militia garrison at Erie
Pennsylvania: these were obviously not hardened Marine veterans!
As far as actual salt-water sailors go, both squadrons were sent the
"cast-offs" from the Lake Ontario squadrons by their superior officers on
that lake - a fact that both men resented intensely.
Having said all of the above, it is still true, to the best of my
recollection, that Perry had more sailors than Barclay, and his ships were
better armed. Altoff and Skaggs, in their book "Signal Victory" (one of the
finest and most balanced books on the War of 1812 ever written, IMHO) give
an excellent overview of the Battle and the strategic situation in the
entire Western theatre. Their conclusion: British resources were rightfully
concentrated on defending points farther east; the men actually deployed in
the west were "sacrificial lambs" used to divert American resources from
more important theatres: a strategy which worked beautifully.
Not fun, if you were one of the 'sacrificed lambs', however...
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