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Julia I (Schooner)

(Sch: t. 53; cpl. 40; a. 2 guns)

Former names retained.


In September 1812, Lt. M. T. Woolsey purchased schooner Julia for the Navy on Lake Ontario. Julia, Sailing Master James Trant in command, sailed from Sackett's Harbor 8 November 1812 with Commodore Chauncey's flotilla. That afternoon lookouts on the American ships spotted HMS Royal George, the largest warship yet constructed on the Great Lakes, off False Ducks Island and sent her scurrying into the Bay of Quinte where she escaped in the rapidly falling night. The next morning they again sighted her and resumed the chase. When the British ship reached the shelter of the Canadian batteries at Kingston, Chauncey decided to follow her in to test the strength of the defenses and, if possible, to capture the warship. Led by Conquest and Julia, Chauncey's daring little vessels, defying the fire from ship and shore, stood toward the harbor entrance.

Approaching nightfall and threatening weather interrupted the raid by forcing Chauncey to haul off to deeper water where he anchored hoping to resume the action with the sunrise.

However, heavy weather on the morning of the 10th ruled out a renewal of the attack and dictated a return to the American base at Sackett's Harbor. As the little flotilla retired, their lookouts spied HMS Simcoe and chased her into shoal water. Although fire from Julia, Thompkins, and Hamilton damaged the British ship considerably, Simcoe managed to cross a reef to safety. The audacious attack on Kingston was excellent tonic for the spirit of the flotilla giving Chauncey confidence in the fighting ability of his officers and men and inspiring the crews with respect and admiration for their leaders. At this point a bitter winter interrupted operations until spring.

With the return of good weather, Chauncey's ships sortied from Sackett's Harbor 25 April 1813 for a raid on York (now Toronto), Canada. Two days later, after landing some 1,700 men under General Dearborn, Julia and her sister ships supported the American troops with grape at rapid fire, enabling them to beat off counterattacks by Indians and British sharpshooters while taking York. The American loot included large amounts of naval and military stores and British brig Duke of Gloucester. Moreover, a 24-gun ship nearing completion was burned at York.

On 8 May, bad weather, which had detained Chauncey at York, cleared enabling his ships to get under way beginning a fortnight's duty transporting and convoying troops and supplies for General Dearborn. On the 27th, Julia and Growler led the flotilla into the Niagara River to open an attack on Fort George by shelling a British battery dug in near the lighthouse. The other American ships took preassigned positions where they shelled targets ashore. Meanwhile Captain Oliver Hazzard Perry directed the disembarkation of troops. In 3 hours, the carefully coordinated attack drove the defenders from the field.

With Fort George in American hands, the British gave up their forts on the Niagara frontier leaving Chauncey and Dearborn in control of the entire Niagara River.

On the night of 7 and 8 August, Julia rescued a number of survivors of Scourge after that schooner had capsized and sunk in a heavy gale. During the next 3 days, the American flotilla and the British squadron maneuvered seeking to move into an advantageous position for a general engagement. On the 10th Julia and Growler were cut off from their sister ships and captured. The British renamed the schooners Confiance and Hamilton and used them as troop transports until Chauncey recaptured them near False Ducks Islands, 5 October. However, the schooners, having proven unstable in heavy seas, were soon retired from service.

Published: Fri Jul 24 07:07:59 EDT 2015