Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Detroit I (Sloop-of-War)


The first U.S. Navy ship named for the city in Michigan. 

(Sloop-of-War: displacement 400; length 126'; beam 28'; draft 12'; complement 150; armament 2 long 24-pounders, 1 long 18-pounder, 6 long 12-pounders, 8 long 9-pounders, 1 24-pounder carronade, and 1 18-pounder columbiad; class Detroit

The first Detroit, a 19 gun sloop-of-war, was built by the British at Maiden (Amherstburg), Canada, in 1813. Cmdr. Robert H. Barclay, RN, broke his flag in her in command of a British squadron that fought the Americans in the Battle of Lake Erie on 10 September 1813. The Americans captured Detroit but the ship but was so badly damaged that they took her into Put-in-Bay, Ohio, to prevent her sinking. 

American and British negotiators finalized a treaty in Ghent, Belgium, on 24 December 1814.  Word of the peace reached Lake Erie on 14 February 1815. The end of the fighting removed the need for a large naval squadron on the Great Lakes, at the same time that Americans awakened to the possibilities of commercial shipping in the region. As such, the Navy sold off most of the Lake Erie fleet to ready local buyers. Capt. Arthur Sinclair strongly recommended to the department that it sink brigs Lawrence and Niagara, together with two prizes captured from the British, Detroit and Queen Charlotte, in Misery Bay for preservation. The brigs’ hasty construction and green timber meant that they would begin deteriorating very quickly, and the cold waters of Lake Erie offered the best chance to keep them intact for future use. On 5 April 1815 Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Crowninshield ordered Sinclair to lay the brigs in ordinary, leaving it to his discretion whether or not to sink them. While Sinclair did submerge Lawrence, Detroit, and Queen Charlotte side by side, he left Niagara afloat to welcome visitors to the station. 

On 8 August 1825, the navy formally shut down the Lake Erie Station altogether, and merchant Benjamin H. Brown of Rochester, N.Y., purchased all the ships on and under the water. Brown apparently concurred with Deacon that Niagara was too far gone to bother repairing, and he sank her in Misery Bay alongside the remains of Lawrence. On 20 June 1836 Brown sold off the ships to Capt. George Miles of Erie, who briefly raised Lawrence and Niagara before concluding that they required far too extensive repairs to be worth keeping. He sank both again. Brown fitted out Detroit as a trading bark, however, and the ship navigated the Great Lakes for some years, until she was sent over Niagara Falls as a spectacle by what the Navy reported as "speculators, showmen, and hotel keepers."


The screw steamer Detroit was laid down at New York Navy Yard in 1865 but canceled in 1866 and broken up on the stocks.


Updated by Mark L. Evans

14 September 2016

Published: Mon Oct 24 08:57:08 EDT 2016