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The Last of Mr. Brown's Mosquito Fleet: A History and Archaeology of the American Row
Galley Allen on Lake Champlain, 1814-1 825. (August 2003)
Eric Brandon Emery, B.A., University of Vermont; M.A., University of Vermont
Chair of Advisory Committee: Dr. Kevin J. Crisman
The early nineteenth century witnessed a surge in oared warship production within the
U.S. Navy. Shipwrights modified hull and rigging plans in order to develop armed vessels
capable of navigating inland waterways under both canvas and sweeps. Unfortunately, primary
evidence of the materials and construction practices actually used to transform these designs into
reality has largely been lost, as well as information on the living and working conditions of the
men who served at the sails, guns, and oars.
Commodore Thomas Macdonough relied upon the versatility of row galleys and
gunboats to secure U.S. naval control of Lake Champlain during the War of 1812. Originally
intended to spearhead an amphibious offensive into British Canada via the Richelieu River, these
vessels were relegated to a support role by a shift in American military strategy. They helped
combat the smuggling of naval stores, performed reconnaissance missions, transported
communications, bombarded shore targets, and even provided a tow for the larger warships
when the winds failed.
This dissertation investigates the history and archaeology of Allen, an American row
galley built at Vergennes, Vermont, in 18 14 by Master Shipwright Noah Brown of New York
City. The galley cruised the waters of Lake Champlain in the final year of the war and
participated in the Battle of Plattsburgh Bay on 1 1 September 18 14. Abandoned in the Poultney
River, just above Whitehall, New York, Allen was rediscovered in 198 1 and subsequently made
the subject of an archaeological excavation in 1995.
The first half of the dissertation reviews the history of Allen and the Champlain galley
flotilla, while the second half describes the archaeological procedures used to document the
galley's hull and associated artifacts. The study concludes with a reconstruction of Allen, as it
would have appeared in 1814.
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