The Outaouaise/Williamson and the Iroquoise/Anson: A History of Two Ships

by John P. Walsh

The struggle between Great Britain and France for dominance in North America included control of Lake Ontario and its adjacent territory.  Governor General Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil was therefore motivated to order the building of two new ships to sail on Lake Ontario.  On April 9, 1759, the Iroquoise, rigged as a schooner, was launched.  A second vessel, the Outaouaise, rigged as a brig, was launched three days later on April 12, 1759.  Both ships were of equal size and were constructed at Pointe au Baril on the St. Lawrence River.  They were substantial vessels.  Based upon a tonnage of 160 tons, their length of keel has been estimated at 84 feet; their breadth of beam at 22 feet; and their depth of hold at 9 feet 2 inches.  Although their armament at times varied, each ship was designed to carry ten 12 pound guns.  The crew size of each ship was intended to be two officers and thirty four sailors.  If combat was anticipated, a complement of soldiers to act as marines could be added.

The presence of these French ships on Lake Ontario, however, did not ensure complete dominance in the area by the French.  The Iroquoise, commanded by René-Hyppolyte La Force, did not detect the large British force under Brigadier General John Prideaux and Sir William Johnson in early July 1759 while that force was traveling on the lake to lay siege to Fort Niagara.  At that time, the Outaouaise was at La Présentation for repairs to its mainmast and bowsprit which had been damaged in a squall.  This left the Iroquoise alone to patrol the lake.  Had the British been discovered on the lake in their unprotected bateaux and whaleboats, substantial damage could have been inflicted upon them by ships equipped with cannons.  As it was, the attacking British force was not detected by the French until it had completed the lake journey from Oswego to begin its successful siege of Fort Niagara.

Following the surrender of Fort Niagara on July 25, 1759, Captain Pierre Pouchot, the Fort’s French commandant, became a prisoner of war.  In November 1759, however, Pouchot was part of a prisoner exchange.  In March 1760, he was placed in command of Fort Levis, which was located near the present day Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge.  At this same time, the Iroquoise and the Outaouaise were also present in the area.  René La Force remained in command of the Iroquoise while Pierre Boucher de La Broquerie commanded the Outaouaise.

The Battle of the Thousand Islands was fought August 16 through August 24, 1760.  The much larger British force prevailed.  The now British Outaouaise was renamed Williamson in honor of Colonel George Williamson who captured her.  The Iroquoise was also captured and renamed Anson in honor of Admiral Lord Anson, First Lord of the Admiralty.

 

 

Both ships were used by the British to forward supplies from Fort William Augustus (formerly Fort Levis) to Oswego and Niagara.  After the fall of Montreal in September 1760, shipping large cargos on the St. Lawrence River and around Lake Ontario could be accomplished more easily.  This was true even though Lake Ontario navigation was relatively difficult especially during the latter part of the year.

As reported by Fort Niagara commandant, William Walters to Governor General Jeffery Amherst in correspondence from October 26, 1760, the Williamson developed a severe leak and was run ashore on Lake Ontario five miles east of the Fort.  While parts of the ship were salvaged, nothing remains of the Outaouaise/Williamson today.

The Iroquoise/Anson met its fate in October 1761 while transporting passengers and provisions from Fort William Augustus to Oswego and on to Fort Niagara.  The ship sank after striking the Niagara Shoal in the southern channel of the Upper Narrows of the St. Lawrence River, 2500 meters upstream from the modern Thousand Island Bridge.  This bridge is located between the present day villages of Clayton and Alexandria Bay, New York.  Sometime between its sinking in 1761 and the 20th century, the Iroqouise/Anson slid off the shoal on which it had foundered and now lies off the Niagara Shoal in the main channel of the St. Lawrence River just west of the American span of the Thousand Island Bridge.  

Sources

Dunnigan, Brian Leigh, Siege-1759 The Campaign Against Niagara Revised Edition Youngstown, New York: Old Fort Niagara Association, 1996.

Pouchot, Pierre, Memoirs on the Late War in North America Between France and England. Translated by Michael Cardy.  Edited and Annotated by Brian Leigh Dunnigan.  Youngstown, New York:  Old Fort Niagara Association, 1994.

Andrews, Robert J., Two Ships-Two Flags:  the Outaouaise/Williamson and the Iroquoise/Anson on Lake Ontario, 1759-1761.  The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord, XIV No 3, (July 2004), 41-55.

The Battle of the Thousand Islands, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia Retrieved 20:34, April 8, 2022.

 

Illustrations and Photographs

Find the English… Painting (segment} by Bert Ducey, Original gifted to the Old Fort Niagara Association by the artist, copyright Old Fort Niagara Association.

Thomas Davis watercolor showing the Outaouaise on August 16, 1760, Fort de La Presentation Association, fort1749.org

Underwater photograph, St Lawrence River Historical Foundation, Inc., srhf.info

 

Hours of Operation

September- December, Open Wednesday through Sunday (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays) 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

January through March, Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. (Closed Monday-Thursday) 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m

April- May, Open Wednesday through Sunday. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays) 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Memorial Day to Labor Day, Open 7 Days per week. 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. 

The fort will be open Christmas week, Monday through Friday, December 26 - 31. 

General Admission

Adults:

$17.00

Children (6 to 12 years) 

$12.00

Children (5 and under):

  FREE

 

 

 

 

Support the Fort

Old Fort Niagara is operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association, an independent, not-for-profit organization established in 1927. We do not rely on tax dollars. Instead, the Fort is funded through a combination of admission fees, museum shop sales, and charitable contributions.

Donate today!

 

Old Fort Niagara Logo

Newsletter Sign-Up

Keep up to date on Old Fort Niagara events and happenings! Sign up here for our e-newsletter.