Military Subjects:  War of 1812


 

The War of 1812 Magazine

Issue 5: December 2006

Letter to the Editor

And Professor Hickey offers the following response … to Commander Tyrone G. Martin's Letter

Dear Sir:

I read with interest Ty Martin's letter on my article, "Leading Myths of the War of 1812."

1.  I may have misused the term "armored" when I said that the large American frigates were "heavily armored."  I simply meant that their wooden walls were thicker than those of the smaller frigates.  To me, a ship with an 18-inch hull is more heavily "armored" than one with a 12-inch hull, although I am happy to concede that this language may not

accord with the usage of naval historians.  I certainly did not mean to imply that their hulls were in any way plated.

2. Commander Martin is correct that the Navy Department barred foreign seamen from U.S. warships after the Chesapeake affair.  I made this point in my book, Don't Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812 (p. 102).  I also pointed out that, although this order may have been ignored on occasion, it probably did reduce the number of British seamen

on U.S. warships.

3.  I disagree with Commander Martin's claim that the Treaty of Ghent did not become effective until 30 days after both parties had ratified it so that each side could notify its far-flung naval combatants. Article 2 provided that "Immediately after the ratification of this Treaty by both parties . . . orders shall be sent . . . to cease all hostilities."  But "to prevent all causes of complaint which might arise on account of the prizes which may be taken at sea after the said Ratifications," only those prizes would be restored that were taken after a certain length of time had passed.  This ranged from 12 days in nearby waters to 120 days in distant waters.  I take this to mean that the war actually ended when both sides had ratified the treaty, which was on February 16, 1815, but that not all prizes taken after that date would be restored because of a recognition that it took time to get the

word out that the war was over.  Incidentally, Article 11 provided that the treaty would become binding on both sides only after instruments of ratification had been exchanged, which took place on February 17, 1815.  Thus, by my reading of the treaty, hostilities formally ended after the two sides ratified on February 16, but the treaty did not become binding until instruments of ratifications were exchanged in Washington the following day.  Again, I develop this point more fully in my book (pp. 295-96).  I also discuss the principal actions, on land as well as at sea, that took place after the war formally ended (pp.  287-89)

4.  I have read Commander Martin's work on the Constitution-Guerriere clash and considered including this as a myth in my book but concluded that Captain Isaac Hull was just simplifying his account and putting the best face on the battle.  But maybe I should have included it, if only to set the record straight on the course and length of the battle. 

Sincerely,

Don Hickey

Prof. Don Hickey
Department of History
Wayne State College
1111 Main Street
Wayne, NE  68787

 

 

 



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