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.    Lieutenant Colonel Michael D. Hughes  2001
 

September 1979 Mike Hughes submitted a short paper as part of his undergraduate
program to the State University of New York, Empire State College.
The paper provided the fundamental links between the Anson and Iroquoise even
though more information is now available on the subject.
 

(Appendix to be added)
 

OUR SEARCH FOR THE ENGLISH SCHOONER ANSON/FRENCH CORVETTE IROQUOISE

By Michael Hughes  © 1979-2003

In l962, while diving on Niagara Shoal in the St.
Lawrence River, divers from Alexandria Bay, New York
found an old sailing vessel in about 45 feet of water.
What was particularly interesting about this find was
the absence of ballast stones. Instead, they found two
iron cannons, both having a fleur-de-le marking on the
barrel. The fleur-de-le marking signifies that these
cannons belonged to the French military. The cannons
now belong to Jefferson County Community College. They
have been identified as cannons from the French and
Indian War period.

When I began diving in 1971, I was told about this
mystery wreck. It seems the wreck has become a ghost
ship since no one in our diving club has been able
to locate her for the past 12 years. Then last fall
(1978), Dennis McCarthy and I found the vessel in 90
feet of water. She is the most intact wreck of that
time period I have ever seen. If we could prove the
vessel's nationality and date we could do several
things. The first would be to publish our findings
and the second would be to apply for a permit to
photograph and measure the remains through the State
Education Department.

Our research began then. We first studied the French
and Indian War in this area through first-hand
accounts. We found that during the fall of New France
(1759-1760) the French were losing their new world
outposts. They lost Detroit, Niagara, Henderson
Harbor, as well as their fleets of war vessels on the
Great Lakes.

The British under General Amhurst became stalled at
Fort Niagara in the fall of 1758, staying there for
the winter. M. Pouchot, a French commander, took
command of a garrison at Fort Levis, which is now a
British fort just below present day Ogdensburg, New
York. There they prepared for the arrival of the
British by strengthening their fortifications. At
this time the French built their last war vessels on
the Great Lakes. They were the Outaouaise: a brig of 8
guns, the Iroquois: a corvette of 4 guns, and the new
Hull which was not yet completed.

The one vessel of importance to our mystery wreck is
the Iroquois. During the battle of Fort Levi, the
Outaouaise was captured and renamed the Williamson,
while the Iroquoise and the New Hull were scuttled at
Isle Royal (Fort Levi). This information was taken
from M. Pouchot's "The Late War" 1755-1760.

But this information in itself wasn't enough to
prove the vessels identify, let alone to convince the
State Education Department that the wreck has
historical importance. I now went to the public
archives of Canada in Ottawa. There I found in the
Amhurst Papers the fact that the Iroquoise was raised
sometime after August 30th, 1760. It was refitted and
the rigging changed to a schooner (a type of sailing
vessel of the time period). She was renamed the
Schooner Anson.

Orders from General Amherst to Lt. Deering
commanding the Anson identified her as the Iroquoise
(see Appendix A-page 199). In Appendix A it describes
what happened to all of the vessels after the Battle
for Fort Levi. The following is a list of vessels that
were engaged in that fight:

1 . SLOOP MISSASAGA- (no mention
of her during the battle by M. Pouchot or Captain
Williamson) .

2 . SLOOP ANSON: LATE THE IROQUOISE - M. Pouchot
identifies the Outauoise as the prize Williamson, the
New Hull, and Iroquoise scuttled.

3 . BRIG WILLIAMSON: LATE THE BRIG Outaouaise -It is
interesting to note Appendix A, page 201 "His
Majesty's brig the Williamson". During the battle it
was referred to as the Prize Williamson.

4 . SNOW ONONDAGE -Aground at the head of Isle
Royal
(Fort Levi).

5 . SNOW MOHAWK -Repaired and in service defending
Isle Royal (Fort Levi).

The British had the Anson in service from August
1760 until the fall of 1761. During that time period
she was primarily engaged as a supply transport. While
sailing out of Fort Ontario during the fall of 1760,
she ran aground and sustained considerable damage to
her bottom. This was evidently repaired during the
late winter and early spring of 1761 (See appendix B-
page 60).

Appendix pages 190 and 191 describe a schooner
loaded with supplies bound for Fort Ontario and Fort
Niagara. The date is October 25, 1761. The morning of
October 23, 1761 at 5:00 am they shove anchor down
river of Wellesley Island and entered the narrows on
the American side. The wind was out of the northeast
and blowing briskly. Somehow, through a gross lack of
communication, the pilot was below having breakfast.
The schooner's sails were lower than the quarter deck
(which is where the steer's man is located) and the
captain and the steersman could not clearly see where
they were actually steering her. Through poor seamanship
they nearly ran aground on Wellesley Island. The captain
straightened the vessel by ordering hard starboard, but the
sails were now in the starboard quarter and, with the wind
to their back at gale strength, they sailed across the river and
struck a submerged rock. The vessel sank in about 15
minutes; the time being 10:30 am. (See Appendix D for
all letters concerning the sinking of the Anson).

They located the vessel approximately 58 leagues
above Fort William Agustus. Using old original maps of
that time period together with the description of her
sinking, I believe I have positively identified her as
the HMS Anson/Iroquoise. It is interesting to note in
Appendix D the Court of Inquiry as to the loss of the
Anson. Everyone on board was questioned and accounts
of the accident were written. The last to testify was
her captain, McLoad, and his seemed to be the clearest
testimony.

Although I never have actually found the court's
written decision, I cannot see how they can blame the
loss of the vessel on the crew. Most of the crew were
army men and that's comparable to personnel from
today's army attempting to sail an aircraft carrier.

The importance of this vessel is varied. Firstly,
she was the last active French war vessel upon the
Great Lakes. Secondly, my research suggests she is the
last known French military vessel that was built for
use upon the Great Lakes. She is in fantastic shape
for her age. I sincerely hope the State of New York
will see fit to raise her and preserve her for ages to
come.

The provincial French had a distinctive way of
building ships and the British modifications would be
easily identified. This could be a major help to the
understanding of marine archeology today.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Late War 1755-1760 M. Pouchot

Translated 1835

The Amhurst Papers Mostly Volume 19, 34. 1760-1761

The George Williamson Papers (His Journal) copied by me
from the English version of Isle Royal. 1759

The Amhurst Papers are from the Canadian Archives.
Thank you to the History Department for their
cooperation with my research.