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The Eagle: An American Brig on Lake Champlain During the War of 1812

Kevin James Crisman
Thesis: December 1984
Chair: Steffy
Nautical Archaeology Program


The United States Navy brig Eagle was built at Vergennes, Vermont, and constituted the final addition to Commodore Thomas Macdonough's War of 1812 naval squadron on Lake Champlain. The 117-foot-long hull was constructed and launched by master shipwright Adam Brown in only 19 days during the summer 1814. Outfitted with two masts and 20 cannon, and manned by a crew of 150 men, the brig participated in Macdonough's defeat of an invading British naval fleet at the Battle of Plattsburgh Bay. The Eagle was maintained for several years after the war, until her timbers became decayed and she was abandoned by the Navy in 1825.

The submerged and partially-dismembered wreck of the Eagle was discovered in 1981 near Whitehall, New York. A two-year archaeological study of the vessel was sponsored by the Champlain Maritime Society, during which time the dimensions of the hull timbers were documented by divers. Archival research was also conducted on the history of the warship.

Wreck plans were prepared from the measurements recorded by the divers, and the techniques of hull construction employed by Adam Brown were examined. The wreck plans and contemporary construction information were then used to reconstruct the original appearance of the brig. The design and assembly of the Eagle were graphically depicted in the form of hull lines, construction plans, and rigging plans. The hull of the brig was compared to other War of 1812 warships on the oceans, and on Lakes Erie, Ontario, and Champlain.

The evaluation of the hull and the comparison with contemporary vessels have led to the conclusion that the Eagle was specially designed for accelerated construction and a career on the shallow, protected waters of Lake Champlain.

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