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Linnet: The History and Archaeology of a Brig from the War of 1812


Erika Lea Washburn
Thesis: May 1998
Chair: Dr. Kevin J. Crisman


In the summer of 1995, the hull of the War of 1812 brig Linnet was excavated from the banks of the Poultney River near Whitehall, New York. Linnet is the only known existing Royal Navy hull from the British squadron on Lake Champlain. This brig played an active, albeit relatively short, role in the War of 1812, participating in the final naval engagement on the lake, the Battle of Plattsburgh Bay. The British lost this battle at a crucial point in the war. Afterwards, Linnet became property of the U.S. Navy and was placed in ordinary with the rest of the squadron in the Poultney River. This thesis is a report of the archaeological and historical investigation of Linnet.

The War of 1812 was characterized by the struggle over political and economic power, short sightedness and miscommunication. These factors are examined in broad terms, to provide a background for the conflict and a clear picture of the setting in which Linnet was created. British North America and Lower (or eastern) Canada are initially discussed, followed by greater focus on British naval activity within the Lake Champlain theater. Key figures in the Royal Navy are introduced, followed by an examination of the naval establishment at Isle aux Noix, where Linnet was built. Certain people and policies became critical in the struggle for naval superiority on the lake. These individuals and their efforts led to orders for construction of Linnet, signaling the beginning of a shipbuilding race on Lake Champlain. The struggle for control of the lake would end at Plattsburgh Bay on September 11, 1814.

This thesis examines the deterioration of the lake's naval fleet, its abandonment by the U.S. Navy in 1825 and the 1949 salvage attempt on the hull of Linnet, which had a significant impact on the 1995 archaeological excavation. The excavation is discussed including the methodology and data recovered. Hull measurements, construction details, a hypothetical lines sketch and the small finds are included.

 

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