MEMORIALS OF FORT ERIE AND EARLY NAVIGATION ON LAKE ERIE.
By Brig-General E.A. Cruckshank.
The articles of capitulation signed at Montreal provided for the surrender of all the military and trading posts still occupied by the French to the westward of Niagara. The dlfficulty of maintaining garrisons in these distant posts at once became evident. Since the loss of the GRIFFON the French had contented themselves with the navigation of
the upper lakes in canoes and large flat-bottomed bateaux, capable only of transporting a few tons of cargo. This method of transport was slow, dangerous, and required the employment of many skilled boatmen. Writing from Fort Pitt to General Monckton on 30th June, 1761, Colonel Henry Bouquet, who had lately taken possession of Presqu'Isle on Lake Erie, said that "a Vessel upon Lake Erie would be of great service to support the advanced Posts." iAs a result of this recommendation and others, before the end of that year, a party of workmen with necessary tools and materials came from New York and established a small shipyard on what became known as Navy Island in the Niagara river above the Falls, Sir William Johnson gave some personal supervision to the work which was carried on under the direction of John Dease, his nephew. A considerable quantity of sawn timber and plank, prepared by the French was opportunely discovered in Chippawa creek, and a sloop or a schooner, named the HURON, was launched and rigged, and sailed for Detroit in October. During the next two years, the sloops BEAVER and CHARLOTTE, and the schooners BOSTON, GLADWIN, and VICTORY were built and equipped at Navy Island. All the stores for these ships and supplies for the western posts were laboriously brought over the portage on the east side of the river to the storehouse at the upper landing, which had received the name of Fort Schlosser, in honour of a Swiss officer of the Royal Americans, of that name, who was temporarily in command.
The HURON, commanded by Captain Thomas Robison, and the BEAVER were usefully employed in the exploration of Lake Erie and the river channels, and the transportation of provisions and troops but the BEAVER was wrecked on the 28th August, 1763, and the HURON was lost later in the same year. The hostilities begun by the western confederacy of Indians, usually called "the conspiracy of Pontiac," were at first amazingly successful. All the smaller military stations were either taken or abandoned by their garrisons, and Detroit and Fort Pitt were closely besieged.
The remaining ships on Lake Erie were employed in carrying supplies and a small reinforcement to the beleaguered garrison at Detroit, which had, been reduced to the greatest straits. Without that seasonable aid, it would seem that successful resistance would scarcely have been possible.
from page 1.
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General Gage wrote to Capt Browne, Commandant at Fort Niagara on Nov, 13, 1768, reprimanding him severely.
" Your letter without date gives me an account of the burning of the BOSTON schooner, and incloses a letter on that subject from Lieut. Poynton who commands at Fort Erie. This is the second vessel destroyed by fire since your command at Niagara, without you being able to discoverwhat means the accident happened, and therefore suspected to have been purposely st on fire by Indians. had you taken the precaution to have put a guard of four men only into them, these accidents could not have happened. And I cannot be otherwise than surprised to a great degree, that after the first vessel was destroyed, you should risk the loss of another by the same intention, as was shown to the preservation of the vessels from the beginning. It is of little purpose to build vessels if they are left to the mercy of every vagabond trader or Drunken Indian who shall be prompted by malice or disaffection to destroy them."
Memorials of Fort Erie and Early Navigation of Lake Erie
by Colonel Cruckshank p10.