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Newash and Tecumseth: Analysis of Two Post-War of 1812 Vessels on the Great Lakes

LeeAnne E. Gordon
Thesis: May 2009
Chair: Crisman
Nautical Archaeology Program

In 1953 the tangled, skeletal remains of a ship were pulled from the small harbor of Penetanguishene, Ontario. Local historians had hoped to raise the hull of a War of 1812 veteran, but the vessel pulled from the depths did not meet the criteria. Identified as H.M. Schooner Tecumseth, the vessel was built just after the War of 1812 had ended. Historical research of Tecumseth and her sister ship Newash, which remained in Penetanguishene harbor, illuminated the ships? shadowy past. Conceived and built after the war, the vessels sailed for only two years before being rendered obsolete by the terms of the Rush-Bagot disarmament agreement. Nevertheless, the two vessels offer a unique perspective from which to view the post-war period on the Great Lakes. The schooners? hulls were interpreted and analyzed using archaeological evidence. A theoretical rigging reconstruction was created, using contemporary texts and documentary evidence of the ships themselves. Architectural hull analysis was carried out to explore the nature of these vessels. From these varied approaches, a conception of Newash and Tecumseth has emerged, revealing ways in which the hulls were designed to fulfill their specific duties. The hulls were sharp, yet had capacious cargo areas. The rigs combined square-rigged and fore-and-aft sails for maximum flexibility. The designs of the hulls and rigging also reflect predominant attitudes of the period, in which naval vessels on the lakes gave way to merchant craft. Taken as a whole, Tecumseth and Newash illustrate how ships, while fluid in the nature of their work, are also singular entities that truly encapsulate a specific point in time and place.

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