Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Why the Nancy Went Well Heeled: Schooner Days MCCLXXI (1271)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 2 Jun 1956
Full Text
Why the Nancy Went Well Heeled
Schooner Days MCCLXXI (1271)

by C. H. J. Snider

The NANCY's Story - 9

THOUGH intended as a peaceful trafficker in wilderness ways the fur trader Nancy, which had such an adventurous career, was well armed, probably from her first launching at Detroit on Nov. 24 1789.

Hon. John Richardson of Forsyth, Richardson & Co., Montreal who directed every detail of her building, had been through the American revolution. On a British deck, under the Union Jack, the deck of the Loyalist privateer Vengeance which had a snappy and more or less profitable career of three years.

He knew how helpless the peaceful trafficker was, with even one gun at her ribs-if she had none. The clear-sighted young Scot thought, like Simcoe and Brock, that Britain and the new United States would come to blows in his time.


He also knew that, 26 years before, British garrisons on the lakes had been massacred by Indians and Detroit had been besieged by redskins for a year. It had escaped the fate of the other posts because two small vessels, the sloop Beaver and schooner Gladwyn, armed to the teeth and covered to the crosstrees with boarding nettings. Though twice attacked and nearly captured, half their men being killed or wounded, they had kept communication open and saved the town. Indians could not face cannon.

Moreover, rival fur traders were almost as bad as the savages and would not stop at violence to strangle competition. Richardson was of no mind to lose this precious Nancy which had cost so much effort and outlay. So he got her guns. She was like the Scotch thistle "Nemo me impune lacessat." None touches me unscathed.

The survey made in 1800 of the possibility of arming the infant merchant marine in defense of Canada showed that she could mount six swivel guns and six 4 pounder carriage guns. It is improbable that she had all these, for her total crew of nine could not work so many, but she may have had the 4 pounder from the first.


When war did come in 1812, her "light brass guns" to quote Brigadier Cruickshank, were used to arm patrol boats rowing guard the Detroit River. Two of these were probably left aboard her for her own transport work. She had two on Oct. 6, 1813, when she fought her way out of the St. Clair River against the Michigan militia.

As already suggested, these two may have been the pair landed at Moy House, Canadian residence of the Hon. Angus McIntosh, and brought to Moy Hall in Scotland years afterwards by her master, Alexander Mackintosh, when he became chief of the clan. They are there now, two small beautifully turned guns, marked with the broad arrow and their weight, 200 pounds. They look to have been cast in the 18th century, perhaps for a privateer like the Vengeance in which John Richardson sailed before he built the Nancy.

Swivels were usually of iron short tubes set in forks or crotches on the ships rails or in swivel stocks, and weighed from 40 pounds upwards. Alexander Mackintosh does not once mention swivels in his log.

The Nancy had other guns, however, than the four-pounders. There is mention of a three pounder and a six-pounder, field pieces which she freighted for Procters futile attacks on Fort Stephenson and Fort Meigs.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
2 Jun 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.081944 Longitude: -83.125555
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.0030029617883 Longitude: -82.4207072902832
Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Why the Nancy Went Well Heeled: Schooner Days MCCLXXI (1271)