An Idea Worth Considering!

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  • A proposal by Tim Fletcher of Grimsby in the 17 August 2019 edition of The Hamilton Spectator

Time to resurrect the Hamilton

A replica of the warship could help promote the true story of the War of 1812

A cannon on the deck of the sunken U.S. warship, the Hamilton, which sank during the War of 1812. Tim Fletcher argues someone should build a replica tall ship.

I enjoyed Cathy Coward’s image of Bob Williamson in period uniform visiting the graves of sailors from the Hamilton and Scourge. It was a most evocative image — in more ways than one. When Hamilton acquired ownership of the Hamilton and Scourge, I was excited at the possibilities. Sadly, none of them have been realized, forcing me to wonder what the point of acquiring their ownership was. The ships are in deep water, unseen by anyone except a few divers.

I was recently watching an episode of the TV drama, “Madam Secretary,” where the lead actor told the Canadian ambassador that the U.S. had won the War of 1812. In real life, I heard an American interpreter on Mackinac Island in Michigan say the same thing, despite the plain fact of Canada being an independent nation.

Hamilton has a major opportunity to help promote the true version of the War of 1812, as well as contribute economically to the city, through their ownership of the two sunken warships. It is time to consider building a replica of the Hamilton and joining the Tall Ships community. The Hamilton is a relatively small schooner and a replica could easily be constructed. Of course, it would cost money — I estimate about $3 million — but I think it would be offset, at least in major part, through tourism offshoots. The vessel could be housed in a special dock in winter, inside a boathouse built for the ship, allowing tours, including school tours, to continue all year. It could host harbour and lakefront cruises. Imagine a night on the water under full sail! The tall ship Empire Sandy out of Port Colborne offers an example of the possibilities.

It would be a living tribute to the sailors who died aboard the original vessel and its companion, the Scourge. It would be a memorial to all who died in that pointless conflict. It would be a reminder to American visitors that they did not win the War of 1812. Perhaps more importantly, it would be a major ambassador for Hamilton by cruising the Great Lakes alone or as part of any tall ship parade. Imagine a replicated Hamilton leading a dozen tall ships into Hamilton Harbour. These vessels are immensely popular, as evidenced by the crowds any time the Tall Ships Parade comes to town.

I am not sure if Hamilton has the facilities to have this replica constructed, but perhaps Mohawk College could be a partner, or other trade schools. Otherwise, there are capable shops in the Maritimes. As Hamilton moves toward construction of a real City of Hamilton Museum, it is time to consider all aspects of the past. Hamilton’s major maritime history has so far been mostly neglected and any commemoration takes place on land, not afloat. The Haida is now in Hamilton, but actually has no connection with the city. Although the Hamilton and Scourge also have little connection beyond a name, they are least in municipal ownership and do relate to actual events in and around the city, including Lake Ontario.

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