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Sylph I (Sch)

(Sch.: t. 300; cpl. 70; a. 4 long 32-pdrs., 12 long 6-pdrs.)


The first Sylph, a schooner built to strengthen Commodore Isaac Chauncey's squadron on Lake Ontario, was laid down on 26 July 1813 at Sackett's Harbor, N.Y., by Henry Eckford; and launched on 18 August 1813.

Three days later, the new schooner reinforced Chauncey's little fleet on Lake Ontario. On the afternoon of 11 September, she began a long-range, running battle off the mouth of the Genessee River. During the three and one-half hour engagement, the American squadron suffered no casualties nor damage while the British had a midshipman and three seamen killed and seven wounded. One of their brigs was seriously damaged before the English squadron escaped into Amherst Bay.

Sylph got into action again on the 28th when the two fleets met in York Bay. However, since she was towing a slower schooner throughout the engagement, she was unable to get close to the fleeing British ships, and had to be content with firing at them from a great distance as her contribution to the American victory.

Chauncey broke off the pursuit about mid-afternoon, lest his fleet be endangered by a threatening storm. Bad weather lasted until the evening of the 31st. On 2 October, the British fleet got underway and escaped. Chauncy hunted for the English ships and, on the afternoon of the 5th, came upon seven vessels. The American ship captured five; one other was burned by her crew to prevent capture and one managed to escape. Two of the prizes proved to be Confiance and Hamilton, which were the former American ships Julia and Growler. Thereafter, the British fleet remained in Kingston, Ontario, where they were blockaded until the end of November when cold weather closed navigation on the lake for the winter.

During the off-season, both fleets engaged in a shipbuilding race in an effort to achieve naval superiority in 1814. During this period, Sylph was rerigged as a brig, and her armament was changed to 2 9-pounder and 6 24-pounder carronades.

In the spring of 1814, the British squadron was first to venture out upon the lake. On 5 May, they captured the American base at Oswego; and then proceeded to Sacketts Harbor which they blockaded until 6 June.

The American fleet got underway on 31 July and sailed up to the head of the lake where Chauncy intercepted British brig Magnet. He ordered Sylph to sail into shoal water to destroy the brig; but, before Sylph could perform the chore, the British vessel's crew ran her aground and burned her.

Chauncy then took his squadron to Kingston where he blockaded the British fleet until winter ended navigation.

The Treaty of Ghent obviated further naval operations on the Great Lakes. Sylph was laid up at Sacketts Harbor until 1823 when she was reported sunk and decayed. Her hulk was sold before 1825.

Published: Fri Sep 25 01:47:19 EDT 2015