A War Vessel for Lake Ontario
The Carthage Republican gives an interesting sketch of Sackets Harbor as it is and was during the War of 1812, mentioning its importance at the last named time, and the attack of the British upon it. Of the navy yard it says:
The principal object of interest about the navy yard is the ship house and its contents. Under its cove stands the unfinished line-of-battle ship New Orleans, which is remarkable both for its great size and the story of its origin.
You enter the building on the level of the ground, and find yourself immediately under the bow of the monster. You are obliged to strain your neck and eyes in looking up into the gloom, fifty feet or more to see the rail of the deck. You gaze with profound emotion at the gigantic mass and the gigantic proportions of every part - the solid oaken keel eighteen inches thick, the stalwart stern and the equally stalwart stern-post; the six inch planking, and the great bolts which fasten them to the frame.
The whole effect is one of overpowering and resistless strength, yet the lines are graceful and the proportions please the eye. Ascending by a staircase of several flights you reach the level of the deck. A few planks are laid for you to walk on, but otherwise the whole vast interior is open and is broken only by the huge 15 inch pine beams which cross the hull at intervals. Another staircase takes you down into the interior of the ship, where you see the beams above you instead of below.
It is hard to realize how great the vessel is. The watchman informs you that she is 187 feet keel, 212 feet over all, 56 feet wide, 27 feet draft, 3,500 tons burden, and requires 1,400 men for a crew. It is not a difficult task for imagination to people the silent spaces with with those 1,400 men; to station at each of those long ranks of dark port-holes a threatening dog of war, to see the hostile missiles crashing through those cedar and oaken ribs, carrying destruction and death in their path.
But how came they to build such a vessel and leave her in such an unfinished condition? At the time of the War of 1812, it became all-important to both parties to get control of Lake Ontario. So they set themselves to building, as fast as possible, ships of war. They kept increasing the size with each successive vessel.
The British had two "liners" building at Kingston. So our people began two a little larger, of which this was one. The other was named the "Chippewa," and was broken up a year ago. Henry Eckford was master builder then, and he promised to have them ready for action in sixty days.
The timber was then growing in the forest. They had been at work on this one twenty-eight days, and had brought her to her present state of completion, with every prospect of having her ready within the sixty days, when suddenly news came of the declaration of peace. Since then not a hammer has been lifted upon her.
Since then the government has kept her, thinking that she might be wanted. But she would be of no use now in these modern ways of fighting with steamers and ironclads. Besides age tells on her frame as well as on the human frame. "Rottenness is in her bones." She will never be "the bride of the gray old swea," who has been waiting so long for coming. She is kept only as a venerable relic whom anyone hates to touch.