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It was here, below the falls opposite the bend in the river, that Thomas Macdonough constructed the War of 1812 fleet that sailed down the Otter Creek to victory at Plattsburg.

War of 1812 shipyard
Vergennes, Vermont

By James P. Millard

macdonough.jpg (84094 bytes)

Simple monument to  Macdonough across the  street from the river  

People can accomplish amazing feats in time of war. Here at the falls on the Otter Creek, a young Lieutenant named Thomas Macdonough built a fleet of warships that would win a crucial victory against the world's foremost naval power, Great Britain, at the Battle of Plattsburgh.

Here, within 40 days after the first tree was cut down for her decks, was launched the 734 ton Brig Saratoga. Bristling with 26 guns, the Saratoga was 143' long and some 36' wide. Work was started on the ship on March 2, 1814. No doubt there was still snow on the ground and ice on the lake. By March 7th her keel had been laid. On April 11, 1814, the mighty Saratoga  was launched, pitch still oozing from her timbers.

Here was built the schooner Ticonderoga. 120' long, 26' wide, carrying 16 guns, she was built on the keel of an incomplete steamboat. 

Commodore Thomas Macdonough



View down Otter Creek from the site of the shipyard

Site of the shipyard, the  falls on Otter Creek at   Vergennes, Vermont 

Click on the thumbnails to see a larger image.

Also built at Vergennes was the Brig Eagle, aka Surprise and the 75' long and 15' wide gunboats named Allen, Burrows, Borer, Centipede, Nettle and Viper. The Gunboats, also known as Row Galleys, were quite unique in that they each had two masts with triangular sails, and they were equipped with 40 oars for rowing.

For an account of how these ships fared in the pivotal Battle of Plattsburgh, click HERE.

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