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Re: Lake Erie squadron complements

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  • JimYaworsky Chairperson
    ... 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1 1:52 PM
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      >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
      >
      >Ibbo
      >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...

      Jim Yaworsky
      1/41
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