August 26, 2000


The War of 1812 has now become the War of 1814. It will draw to an official end in December, but the smoke will not clear until the 8th day of the next year. This year will see the burning of Washington by the British in August, the unsuccessful siege of Fort McHenry in September (O, Say Can You See?), and the Treaty of Ghent in December. Interspersed between these will be large and small naval actions on New York lakes. The British will capture and destroy Fort Oswego in May. A raid on Pultneyville nine days later nets the British two prisoners and a supply of moldy flour. Several British ships are ambushed at Sandy Creek at month's end and are captured. In August British forces try an old favorite from the Revolution, sailing down Lake Champlain in an attempt to split enemy forces. It didn't work then; it doesn't work now. Both Lake Ontario navies go into hibernation in October, and will see no further action.

Robert Fulton keeps chugging along, as usual. On January 25th New Jersey governor Aaron Ogden petitions the New York State legislature to repeal or modify Fulton's steamboat monopoly. Hearings begin a month later, at the end of March the petition is voted down, 51 to 43. Meanwhile Fulton applies for patents on his steamship designs. In April he and three partners obtain incorporation status for a company to mine coal in the Ohio Valley and steamboat it to New York City by way of New Orleans. With his country at war, does he sense that De Witt Clinton's plans for a canal across the state are years in the future? Besides that, war is good for business. On May 9th Congress authorizes $320,000 for a floating battery based on his steam frigate design. The keel for the first frigate, Fulton I, is laid in August; the vessel launched on October 29th. Then in November it's towed by the Car of Neptune to the Jersey City workshops for further outfitting. He never will get that one right. Perhaps Fulton does sense the future. In December he makes out his will. Within two months he will be dead; his invention will go on.

Up in the Genesee Country civilization marches on. Canandaigua printer James D. Bemis issues The Farmer's Diary or Western Almanack, the first almanac in the area. In Rochesterville the eponymous Nathaniel Rochester (who will be chosen this year as an elector in U. S. Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections), along with partners Charles Carroll and William Fitzhugh, divide up their 100-Acre Tract. Gideon Cobb arrives, establishes a cattle and hay yard here. To the northeast Daniel Penfield builds a flour mill on Irondequoit Creek, and just to the south, Brighton and Pittsford are formed from the Smallwood tract.

Life in Manhattan grows more varied. The first grand encampment of the Knights Templar in the U. S. is held here. Castle Garden is built at the southern tip as a defensive battery. Charles Berrault founds a dancing school. And a tradition is begun with the building of a theater on Anthony Street, off-Broadway.

For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor


© 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte