Battle of Plattsburgh Recap

For anyone who wasn’t able to come by the celebration of the Battle of Plattsburgh, we wanted to share the event with you!

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Fife and Drum by Kevin MacLeod
Free download:
License (CC BY 4.0):
Artist website:

Artifact Corner: 19th Century Sailor’s Diet

Hi everyone! This weekend marks the 209th Anniversary of the Battle of Plattsburgh. Our annual commemoration is also happening this weekend, the museum is open and we will have early 19th Century life demonstrations. This event commemorates Thomas MacDonough’s incredible victory over the British fleet on September 11th, 1814. We thought it might be fun to look at what a sailor in US Navy’s diet would have been like. What did they consume, was it very different from what the average person ate? Let’s take a look at the diet of a sailor in the US Navy during the Battle of Plattsburgh.

Matthew Brenckle from the USS Constitution Museum has written a fantastic article titled “ Food and Drink in the US Navy, 1794 to 1820.” In his article he details the rations that were given to sailors in the United States Navy, and how the compared to the diets of the average Americans. Brenckle writes, “To modern stomachs accustomed to processed food and exotic delicacies on a daily basis, this menu may seem uninspiring at best. But when placed in the context of early 19th century foodways, one apprehends that the navy diet was in fact excellent. For the majority of the American population, whole grains formed the staple of their diet. Corn and wheat grew nearly everywhere, and were easily stored over the winter. Fresh fruits and vegetables were available only in certain seasons, although they could be dried or salted to preserve them for future use. While it is true that the average rural American consumed more meat than his European counterpart, only in certain meat-raising regions of the country did the urban poor eat beef or pork on days beyond holidays or other special occasions. The navy diet, with its abundance of protein – not to mention the daily spirit ration – appealed immensely to lower-class recruits who were accustomed to seasonal fluctuations in food sources and the concomitant hunger they produced. While he enjoyed more meat than most landsmen, a country-born sailor would have missed the dairy products like milk and soft cheese that comprised a large part of a farm family’s diet. Even if the navy diet seemed monotonous, it at least provided the hard-working seaman with the energy to survive at sea. The 1813 menu ensured that each man consumed approximately 4,240 calories per day (mostly from fat), 8 nearly double the daily recommended allowance for a full-grown male in modern America.”

So, what was a sailing ship likely provisioned with in the early 19th Century? Here is a list from a Court of Inquiry record, from Captain Charles Stewart, May of 1814. Here is the inventory of provisions: Bread, 84,456 pounds. Beef, 57,700 pounds. Pork, 50,600 pounds. Flour, 12,544 pounds. Suet, none. Cheese, 2,174 pounds. Raisins, 360 pounds. Peas/Beans, 1,932 pounds. Rice, 1,657 pounds. Molasses, 870 gallons. Vinegar, 870 gallons. Crout (or finely shredded and pickled cabbage), 800 gallons. Spirits, 9,546 gallons. Water, 47,265 gallons. Sailors were also provided with fishing nets, so that they could provide themselves with fresh fish and anything else they could gather in their nets.

Overall, despite the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, sailors ate quite well on board the Navy’s vessels. Sometimes better than their counterparts on land. If you are in the area this weekend, please come down to the museum. The museum is open from 10-4 on Saturday and 11-3 on Sunday. There are also so many other events happening around the city. For a full list of the activities check out the 1814 Commemoration Inc.’s website. We hope to see you this weekend and thanks so much for stopping by.

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Sunny Morning by MusicLFiles
Free download:
License (CC BY 4.0):
Artist website:

Battle of Plattsburgh Encampment 2021

We wanted to share a sense of what our Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration event was like for all those who were not able to make it by to see us this year. Thank you so much to the reenactors and demonstrators who made this event shine!

Music: United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
Found on Free Music Archive and licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Grape Shot

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to a special Battle of Plattsburgh edition of our artifact corner series. Today we will be looking at a 24 pound grape shot from the naval engagement on September 11th, 1814. Grape shot is a series of smaller metal balls tied around a metal post, held in place with cloth and rope. When it’s fired from a cannon it breaks up and the smaller balls scatter, almost like a shot gun. This type of shot is designed to be antipersonnel, not to sink a vessel. Both the American and British forces used grape shot during the battle, so, it’s hard to say which side these came from.

These pieces have been brought up from the bottom of Lake Champlain, and carefully conserved by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Let’s learn a bit more about how you conserve metal when it’s been underwater for over a hundred years. When a metal artifact has been under fresh water for hundreds of years, it is likely going to be covered in rust. The first step in conserving the artifact is to remove all of the rust. A very reliable method for removing rust is electrolysis. The iron piece is submerged in a tank of water with a measured amount of sodium carbonate in it. Then a positive electrical current is run through a piece of wire grate, while a negative electrical current is run through the artifact. The charge will then slough the rust off.

Once all of the rust is removed from the artifact, it’s time to remove any other impurities on the piece. It’s time to rinse the artifact in deionized water, and then you will need to put a protective layer over the artifact. Tannic acid is applied to the artifact, and it reacts to the iron oxide converting it to iron tannate, which forms a protective barrier over the piece. The last step is to create a seal over the iron artifact that will prevent moisture from creating more rust, therefore further damaging the piece. One of the best ways to do that is to seal the piece in a microcrystalline wax. Now your artifact is conserved and will last far longer than if the piece had not been treated.

The shot and post are in fantastic condition thanks to the conservation lab at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. They are also able to conserve other types of metals and wood, but the process for each material is different. If you’d like to learn more about the conservation lab, head on over to their website, for more information. We’d like to thank the Marine Research Institute for all of the help in making this special series possible. If you enjoyed this series, check out the rest of our videos commemorating the Battle of Plattsburgh, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Punch Bowl

Hi Everyone, and welcome to a special Battle of Plattsburgh edition of our Artifact Corner series. Today we will be looking at this exquisite punch bowl recovered from the bottom of Lake Champlain. This piece is obviously not completely intact, but a majority of the bowl has been recovered. This bowl is a piece of yellow ware, which is a vessel with a yellow to buff colored body, that is then glazed with lead or alkaline which gives the piece its yellow appearance. The size of this vessel helped us to determine its use as a punch bowl. Let’s learn a bit more about punch bowls, and punch in the early 19th Century.

Punch as a drink dates back to the early 17th Century. In 1638 a German adventurer named Johan Mandelslo wrote punch is a “kind of drink consisting of aqua vitae, rose-water, juice of citrons and sugar.” While recipes may vary most punch recipes are composed of a spirit or alcohol, citrus, water, sugar and spices. Punch drinking became insanely popular in the 18th Century, and spread far and wide throughout Europe and the newly former United States. Punch parties were very fashionable, and special vessels or punch bowls were made. Sometimes these bowls were made to commemorate important events, to celebrate sporting matches, or even to memorialize the passing of a friend. In social settings, a large punch bowl would be filled to the brim, and you would ladle out some punch into a smaller glass. If you were traveling, you might just make a large batch of punch in a bowl, and pass the bowl around, with everyone taking a sip from the bowl itself.

Now that we know a bit more about the history of punch, let’s learn a traditional punch recipe. This punch recipe is from Martha Washington’s own collection of receipts, and variations of it were very popular in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. What you will need to make this punch are the following ingredients:

  • 1 Pot of hot black tea
  • 1 Cup of raw sugar
  • 2 Cups of water
  • 1 Dash of nutmeg
  • 1 Dash of cinnamon
  • 12 Cloves
  • 2 to 3 Lemons
  • 1 to 2 Oranges
  • 12 oz of Dark Spiced Rum

To prepare the recipe, combine the water, sugar and spices over a medium to high heat to make a simple syrup. Allow the syrup to cool for about 15 minutes before adding it to the punch bowl. If you add it while it’s still boiling, you might crack your serving vessel. While your syrup is cooling, juice your citrus fruit, and remove any seeds. Now, add your syrup, citrus juice, tea, and of course rum to your punch bowl with some ice. Mix it all together, serve and enjoy!

This punch bowl is in good condition given its history, after all, it survived a naval battle! We are so grateful to the Marine Research Institute at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for all of their help in making this series possible. This punch bowl is one of hundreds of artifacts in their collections from the Battle of Plattsburgh. If you would like to learn more about them, go to their website, We hope you enjoy this Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration series, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Draft Markers

Hi everyone, and welcome to a special Battle of Plattsburgh edition of our Artifact Corner series. We will be doing three videos featuring artifacts that were recovered from the Battle of Plattsburgh. Today we will be looking at these two copper draught markers. One is an eight foot marker and the other is a twenty foot marker. Each are made of copper, and show some signs of aging. This is hardly surprising given amount of time they spent under water. We are not sure if these draught markers are British or American.

What is a draught marker? A draught marker is something affixed to the ship to indicate how deep the hull of a vessel is sitting in the water. As you load heavy things on to a boat, the boat will inevitably sit lower in the water. So if you are loading very heavy things, like cannons, and shot to be fired from said cannons, men, and provisions for the men on to a ship, the ship’s hull will sit deeper in the water. The draught marker is there to let you know how deep your hull is. This is very important because you do not want to strike bottom with your vessel. When you are sailing a vessel out at sea, if you are away from shore, the likelihood that you will hit the bottom with your ship is small, but on an inland body of water, like say Lake Champlain, there are many rocky outcroppings and shoals that may come up out of seemingly nowhere. By 1814 Lake Champlain had been mapped by Europeans for over 200 years, so the lake was fairly well mapped by both the Americans and the British. But, the American’s definitely had a home field advantage, since this was quite literally their neck of the woods. Still, it was very important for both sides to know how deep their boats were sitting in the water.

On September 11, 1814, the two fleets of vessels engaged on Lake Champlain, just past Cumberland Head. The British and American fleets were fairly similarly matched with the exception of the range of their guns. The British had more long range cannons than the Americans, but thanks to the skills of Thomas Macdonough, the commander of the American fleet, the British were out gunned and maneuvered. The American fleet had been well trained, while the British fleet had few trained seaman. The commander of the British fleet, Captain George Downie, had mostly French Canadian militia men, who did not have experience as sailors. The battle also began inauspiciously for the British when their commander Capt. Downie was decapitated by a 20 pound cannon ball fifteen minutes into the engagement. After two hours of fierce battle on the water, the British surrendered to the Americans. It was a hard fought battle. The British lost four of their warships, 168 of their men were killed and 220 were wounded. The Americans lost 104 men, and 116 men were wounded. The Americans lost none of their vessels.

As I mentioned earlier, we don’t know if these draught markers are from and American vessel or from a British ship. One of the conundrums surrounding these pieces is the twenty foot draught marker. Neither the British or American fleets had a ship with a draught that deep, so why was it on a vessel? We may never know the answer. These two pieces have been carefully restored and preserved by the Conservation Lab at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, and are a part of their collections. We are so grateful for the generosity of the Marine Research Institute at LCMM. If you like to learn more, please check out their website, We hope you enjoyed this first video in our commemoration of the Battle of Plattsburgh series, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Imagining the Common Soldier’s Experience

As the final part of our Battle of Plattsburgh celebration for 2020, we bring a presentation by Cherilyn Gilligan, an archeologist from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. This research was part of an American Battlefield Protection Program grant won by the city of Plattsburgh. Cherilyn presented this live at the 2019 Battle of Plattsburgh event, hosted at the Kent Delord House Museum, and has provided a digital version for our 2020 season.

For the full transcript of this video, please look here.

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 6

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh Edition of Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at a piece of copper sheeting, that has seen some serious damage. This piece is British, and has been hit by a cannon ball. As you can see there are a bunch of arrows covering this piece. These are called broad arrows.
The first use of a broad arrow was believed to be under King Edward III in the 1330’s. It was used by the King to establish his ownership over an item. In 1544 the broad arrow was officially used by the Office of Ordinance, and in 1597 it became the Board of Ordinance. In the 18th and early 19th Century, the broad arrow was used to mark everything from cannon balls to trees.
The British Navy valued the Eastern White Pine Trees in our area. They grow very tall and very straight, and are perfect for the masts of tall ships. The Navy therefore wanted as many Eastern White Pine trees as they could get, and would have trees marked with the Broad Arrow.
The other defining feature of this copper plate is the damage it sustained during the Battle of Plattsburgh. You can clearly see the impression of the ball’s shape, as it slammed into this piece of copper. Copper is a softer metal. Unworked copper is inherently soft, but if it is worked cold, it hardens. You can see the copper was curved by a crafts person. They likely did this cold, and therefore, this piece would have been work hardened. The cannon ball crushed through this easily.
An eight pound cannon ball can travel more than 1,000 feet per second and exert 124,335 foot pounds of force when striking an object. A cannon ball could go through over three feet of oak. Clearly a piece of copper sheet was no match for such force.
This remarkable artifact is an example of just how damaging cannon balls could be. Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for allowing us access to their collections. This series could not have been possible without their generosity. You can learn more about them at Thanks so much for stopping by.

Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot
a href=””>

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 5

Hi everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh Edition of Artifact Corner. During the Summer of 1979, Craig Allen, a native of Peru, New York, discovered this cannon fragment (cascabel) in Lake Champlain’s Cumberland Bay during his very first open water SCUBA dive after receiving his PADI1 dive certification earlier the same year.
The cascabel segment of a cannon is the rearward portion of a muzzle-loading cannon, a knob-like feature of the cannon’s breach; and is intended for securing heavy ropes to and arresting the forceful recoil of a cannon after firing. This unique feature, having been fractured from the rest of a long gun, would have effectively rendered a cannon incapable of any further use.
The area of Cumberland Bay that the cannon cascabel/fragment was located and recovered from, was the approximate vicinity where Captain Thomas Macdonough had anchored the American naval squadron on the morning of September 11th, 1814. Macdonough, established this defensive position in advance of the British naval forces’ anticipated arrival, in what would later come to be known as the Battle of Plattsburgh. The late Dennis M. Lewis, local historian and author,2 a fellow friend and diver at the time; brought the cannon fragment to Fort Ticonderoga to be evaluated by museum personnel there. The cascabel was measured and compared to other cannons at Fort Ti and it was determined that the piece was likely fractured from a 24-pounder cannon. After carefully reviewing maps and drawings of the naval engagement and comparing triangulation bearings used for the dive that day, in addition to studying which vessels of Macdonough’s fleet mounted 24-pounder long guns, it is thought that the cannon fragment most likely came from the USS Saratoga (1814).The Saratoga is known to have eight 24-pounder long guns as part of her armament. In the Spring of 2003, Craig Allen gifted the cannon fragment to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, located in Vergennes, Vermont, for the purposes of conservation and inclusion into their collection of Battle of Plattsburgh artifacts. This was done with the hopes that others may be afforded the opportunity to view the cannon fragment and perhaps gain a little insight as to the devastation that commonly occurred aboard ships during naval battles in the 18th and 19th centuries.
We are very lucky that Craig wrote this description for us, and it is always a pleasure to work with him! He is a huge asset to the local historical community! Thanks again to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for allowing us access to their collections, and for helping to make these videos possible. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot